cover image JERUSALEM CALLING: A Homeless Conscience in a Post-Everything World

JERUSALEM CALLING: A Homeless Conscience in a Post-Everything World

Joel Schalit, . . Akashic, $14.95 (218pp) ISBN 978-1-888451-17-7

Schalit, a secular Jew who spent his high school years in an Episcopal boarding school in Portland, Ore., stormed out of a lecture on sex when the liberal Protestant minister declared that if students were going to have premarital sex, they should "at the very least, invite Christ into [their] sexual activities as an active third partner." It wasn't just that the advice ignored other faiths, but that, to Schalit, it sentimentalized religion. This remarkable collection of essays by an astute young writer covers a wide range of topics—the political ethic of punk, the nature of secular Jewish identity, the dangerous place, according to Schalit, that politicized Christianity plays in the U.S., the legacy of the Cold War in the ability to imagine freedom—almost always hitting his mark. Originally appearing in such diverse publications as Punk Planet and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, these five lengthy essays provide an overview of contemporary critical, radical thinking. Schalit—who describes himself as "a Marxist, a Jew, and a satirist"—draws on such traditional left thinkers as Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, bringing them into a "post-everything" world in which the lessons of the Gulf War, Bosnia and the destruction of the World Trade Center are far from clear and the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys explain as much as postmodern philosophers Derrida and Bourdieu. Schalit is terrific at explicating what he sees as the entrenchment of fundamentalist Christianity in U.S. thought—from the Southern Baptists boycotting of Disneyland over their "gay day" policy to how extreme acts stemming from Christian belief, however twisted (such as the murder of abortion clinic workers), are described as pathology rather than considered as acts of faith. This is the debut of a new and original thinker. (Feb.)