The Left Hand of God, by Rabbi Michael Lerner

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The Left Hand of God, by Rabbi Michael Lerner

Intro, ch.s 1 & 2

The first part of the book describes the spiritual malaise that is permeating America today, due to rampant materialism. People want to be spiritual. They want to believe that their lives are about more than just going to work, eating, and sleeping - that their lives have meaning. Instead, society tells them that it's every person for him/herself and the bottom line is how productive you can be and what you can get from others. The real insight of the book is in showing us how this spiritual malaise leads to people voting for the political right even if they don't agree with its policies. The political right is linked with the religious right and together they acknowledge the existence this spiritual malaise, and they blame the cause of it on the left. The political left has ignored this spiritual malaise, thereby failing to acknowledge the highest concern of the voter. More importantly, the political left has ignored spirituality altogether; thus our policies and our candidates are led by poll numbers and expediency instead of what we truly believe is right. We too are buying into the mentality that the only thing that matters is how productive you can be and what you can get from others. But people can see through this and the political left gets rightfully perceived as untrustworthy, leaving only the option of conservatism, or opting out of the political process altogether. It is a very compassionate view of the American voter.

For some reason, Rabbi Lerner seems to assume that convincing us of this spiritual malaise will be a hard sell, as he spends a lot of time in chapter one saying essentially 'you may not believe it but I've done years of research on this and here is the evidence.' I got a little impatient with this because I had no problem believing it, but I did find the first person testimonies to be very moving.

Chapter two expands on this idea out of the workplace into the family/home. People want to teach their children the values of kindness/empathy/compassion, but they are torn because they believe that in the real world these values put one at a disadvantage. So children get a mixed message and their parents seem hypocritical. Also, this belief that people are only worth what they can contribute negatively impacts spousal relationships, as people are always worried that their spouse will find someone who can satisfy their needs better. All in all, Rabbi Lerner describes a society of deeply alienated individuals who want something higher in life but don't see a way out.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative