Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Re: The Only Part of Christian Theology Everyone Really Needs

Peter, let me add a bit of Jewish ethics to your elegant post on applying the same standards to ourselves that we apply to others, and your followup on the need to give others the same chance for redemption we hope for ourselves. 

In the first volume of his Code of Jewish Ethics, Joseph Telushkin discusses the commandment in Leviticus 19:15 that “in justice shall you judge your fellow man.” He writes that it is understood in Jewish law not simply as an injunction to judges, but to everyone, and requires us to recognize our tendency to judge ourselves more fairly than others. As he notes: “One reason many of us have a higher regard for our character than that of others is that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their acts.” 

Telushkin gives this example: if we fail to visit someone in the hospital, we rationalize it (“I really did think of paying a visit. I just didn’t have enough time. But I wanted to go”). But if we are the one who is sick in the hospital, and someone does not show up, we conclude he was a fair-weather friend. 

Since character counts in a president, Gingrich’s infidelity is relevant (and for some may be determinative). In justice, his private failure was different from multiple instances of perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and concealment of evidence. But his prospects for a redemptive presidential run would be better had he not rendered such an easy judgment on himself (saying his problems were occasioned by working far too hard, driven by his passionate feelings for the country, with the result that “things happened”).  



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