Let's imagine that some official in the U.S. government decided that for purposes of geopolitical strategy it would be a good idea to seek to change Judaism in some way. Perhaps encourage the Reform movement over the Conservative, Orthodox or Reconstructionist movement within that tradition.
My hunch is that most Americans, if they found out about it, would be outraged. It's not up to the U.S. government, after all, to regulate or define any religious tradition. And most Americans would be right to be outraged.
Well, it turns out that some U.S. government official did not suggest changing Judaism but, rather, Islam.
As this story from The Intercept reports, a State Department memo advised the White House last year to begin pushing for an "Islamic Reformation." Had the idea been adopted, that goal would have been made part of the National Security Strategy that the Trump administration announced in December.
The good news is that the idea didn't make the cut.
But don't count it out. As you know, the musical chairs tradition of the Trump administration means that several different people now have key positions to affect that National Security Strategy who weren't on the job when the Islam reforming idea was, finally, rejected. Speaking anonymously to The Intercept, a current U.S. government official noted that “(H.R.) McMaster (former national security adviser) and (Rex) Tillerson, former secretary of State, weren’t convinced of this [Islamic reformation] argument. Now you have (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo and (national security adviser John) Bolton who live and breathe this stuff.”
Bolton, whom I met and spoke with when he was in the George W. Bush administration, has historically had a serious anti-Islam streak to him. So is it possible that this Islam Reformation idea might come back to life?
What we do know is that the idea of "Reformation" comes from Christian history. To overlay it on another religion seems like a category error, though for sure all religions evolve and occasionally need the equivalent of a good spring cleaning or garage sale. But "Reformation" is almost certainly the wrong word to use for non-Christian changes.
What we also know is that no religion is going to welcome pressure from any government to change its theology or practices. That's not how such changes should occur. Rather, they should come about as a result of internal dissatisfaction with the status quo.
No doubt governments consider all sorts of wacko ideas just to make sure they haven't missed something. But when this Islam Reformation idea showed up, someone should have blown it off the table immediately. The fact that it got at least something of a hearing is not reassuring.
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FOCUSING ON EVERYTHING BUT THE FAMILY
This is odd. When I looked at this website of the Focus on the Family organization yesterday afternoon, I could find not a word about keeping families together at the border, the subject of 800 million (or so) news stories in the last week-plus. I even looked at its "Social Issues" page, thinking that this family advocacy group surely would want to say a word about why breaking up families is a terrible idea. Uh, no. Instead there were stories about baking cakes for gay couples, about how to talk to your kids about homosexuality (guess where that one goes), about talking to your kids about transgender issues (guess where that one goes) and so forth. Strange. The family advocacy vice president must be on vacation. Maybe in Mexico. Here's a Slate piece about Focus on the Family's seeming disinterest in the families at the border.