We would’ve missed it had not been for The Jerusalem Post (Edelman Speaks About Judaism on ‘Late Show with Stephen Colbert), which alerted us to the fact that Stephen Colbert interviewed Julian Edelman, who “began discussing his Christian upbringing and then curtailed the discussion into his attempts to rekindle his Jewish heritage within himself over the past few years”. We expected great news –transcendental explanation, going beyond the limits of human knowledge, deliverance. Since there was nothing of the sort in the article just mentioned, we consulted the primary source, the interview itself (which accompanied the article) and were able to confirm that The Post’s piece was indeed a faithful transmission of the content of the interview:
Raised Christian – only his paternal great-grandfather was Jewish – he has strongly identified as a member of the tribe in recent years. He voiced support for victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and wore the hashtag #strongerthanhate on his cleats in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last December. He has visited Israel with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and pointed to his Jewish heritage on social media.
“I learned the stories of the Jews, the adversity they have always had to overcome, the underdogs that they were and it related to my story, my whole life up until that point and continuing – it connected with me a little bit, and I kind of like to practice it a little bit now.” (The Post)
Both the interview and the article also mention the documentary 100% Julian Edelman, which premiered on Showtime on June 28:
For much of the time he is interviewed on screen in the documentary, he wears a visible Star of David necklace, and the narrator refers to him at one point as a “short Jewish guy”. But the film doesn’t get into Edelman’s Jewish identity. (The Post)
A big mistake in our opinion, because “speaking about Judaism” does not connect well, in principle, with what the interview or the article speak about –such as visiting Israel in the company of billionaires or selling yarmulkes. Furthermore, it’s not clear why Edelman feels attracted to underdogs or how they relate to “his story” –he’s made his millions (playing, of all human activities, for the New England Patriots), is being interviewed, a documentary about him has just been released.
Feeling rather frustrated, we decided to elaborate on the important point which both Edelman and Colbert are in fact eluding.
Neither in the interview nor in the article the word religion is ever mentioned, which is annoying because it’s an important word and perfectly fits the context. On the other hand and to a certain extent, we can understand the reasons, or at least some of them. Over the centuries this word has been used, abused and misused until it got emptied of meaning or deformed, so perhaps it’s not a bad idea to put it back into perspective.
The term religion is delimited by three Latin words that describe it dynamically until its complete meaning and the process it implies are fully brought out.
The first one is religere, which can be rendered as bind, unite, associate –the first religious phase of every human being. At birth we get joined or related to a community, a cosmogony and a scale of values that for a time will be our religion; in other words our belief, our way of life and our idiosyncrasy. Everything else at this stage will be alien and will not exert on us any influence whatsoever.
With the passage of time the child turned young adult or adult would be expected to develop naturally the process defined by the second word –relegere, meaning to reread, which at the same time denotes the second religious phase –that of investigating what until then constituted their belief and ultimate truth. Here, the word reread has a much broader meaning than simply reading books. It´s a quest that can last for years, during which time reading but also travelling, discussing and arguing would be expected to take us to the great confrontation defined by the third Latin word –religio. It could not be otherwise since we have reread, investigated, analyzed and reflected; and now we are to choose carefully. Thus, religio is the opposite of negligio –negligence or unconcern. We have arrived at the third and last religious phase –the choice. We can no longer remain bound to an inherited cosmogony nor can we keep pretending we don´t know and simply follow what our parents followed. We are now facing the truth, and this truth requires we should react to it following a scrupulous, meditated and “religious” choice.
(22) They say: We found our fathers following a certain belief, and we guide ourselves by their footsteps.
Qur-an 43 – az Zukhruf
From this point of view the word religion would be synonymous with psychological maturity and would describe an internal process much ampler than mere adherence to a shamanic system based on priestly rites. To abandon religion or avoid religiosity ultimately implies withdrawal from the very essence of human nature and from the integral human development.
If we now confront the religious concept as described above with its current use, we realize that they are radically opposed. Its present-day use sets religion against atheism –a false dichotomy. Someone who has passed through the three stages previously described, choosing atheism, is as religious as someone who under the same circumstances chooses, let’s say, Catholicism, meaning that both individuals have been religious, that is not negligent, in so far as they have both gone through the complete process of religere, relegere and religio.
The religious factor is the truly educational factor; the one that teaches man how to find out, to reflect and to choose. It instructs man how to replace imitation and gregariousness with a religious process of analysis and choice, the process which should be implanted at all levels of social activity. By contrast, the religious factor in its present-day use turns it into an irritating and dissident element, entirely alien to human nature as such.
Therefore, it’s not the common present-day use of the word religion that we are advocating but rather its natural meaning which stems from its etymological roots and which adapts it to a typically human psychological process –that of correcting the beliefs and customs inherent in the religere phase, implanting in this way an idiosyncrasy of analysis and choice. If this condition is fulfilled, the religious factor acquires educational and illuminating dimension, capable of granting man his capacity for making the right choice and of situating him in a privileged place reserved for him in Creation.
(170) When it is said to them “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say “Nay, we shall follow the ways of our fathers”. What! Even if their parents would not reason about their worship nor were guided?”
Qur-an 2– al Baqarah
All of the above is missing from Julian Edelman’s story –at least as far as can be judged by the two sources we have quoted here. He just went from one religere to another religere; from one heritage to another; from practising Christianity a little bit to practising Judaism another little bit; from making money playing football to making more money playing a tribesman, and now he “kind of likes to practise it a little bit”. What he means is crystal clear. However, the choice we make here and now is a matter of life and death in the Hereafter because in fact there is only one choice, as there is only One God. So, in point of truth Julian has been and still is negligent as regards his choices, and as evidenced by the reasons he provides.
(113) The yahud (Jews) say: “The nasara (Christians) have nothing to stand on.” And the nasara say: “The yahud have nothing to stand on.”Yet, they profess to study the same Kitab (Book). The same is said by those with no knowledge, the same discourse. On the Day of Judgment Allah will judge between them as regards their disagreement.
Qur-an 2– al Baqarah