Back in September, Clinton — who’s married to banker Marc Mezvinsky — told Time of her desire to study faith and education: “With all candor, because my husband is Jewish and I’m Christian, and we’re both practicing, it’s something that’s quite close to home,” she said.I have never associated Chelsea Clinton with religion. She has a Master of Public Health degree from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health and she's been teaching graduate level classes there.
A rep for NYU told us that the Of Many program is not academic, but is a part of the university’s Center for Spiritual Life. NYU’s Web site says the institute has developed a “minor degree in multifaith and spiritual leadership” shared with the Silver School of Social Work and the Wagner School.
But maybe the NYU "Of Many" concept of religion really is about "public health." Let's think about the interwoven nature of public health and religion — especially as the Clintons might understand it. When Hillary Clinton first emerged on the national scene, she was associated with religion. I remember a magazine cover — was it Tikkun? — depicting her as "St. Hillary" and lots of talk about "the politics of meaning," which was some politics-and-religion theme back in the 90s. And Hillary segued into public health in a way that we were supposed to understand, but didn't.
So here comes Hillary II, Chelsea Clinton merging health and religion. What does it all mean? How well will this lay the groundwork for a career in politics? I strongly prefer the separation of government and religion, and I don't want government to wield the powers of religion or powers over the human mind that are too much like the power of religion. And though government is going to have some role in public health, its growing and over-intrusive activity is disturbing. A politician who builds a career in health and religion should scare us. This is wedging very deeply into the realm of the individual — mind and body.
Here's some background reading: "All Politics is Cosmic," a 1996 article in The Atlantic by Lee Siegel, reviewing Michael Lerner's book "The Politics of Meaning." Excerpt:
In the beginning there was a hunger for vision. And then came a great need for rhetoric. Soon President and Mrs. Clinton sensed representative vibrations in the quasi-mystical-socio-politico-psychological coat of crazy colors that the author and activist Michael Lerner calls the "politics of meaning." They must have felt that Lerner, with his talk of a universal inner pain and "hunger" for connection, might help them administer verbal balm to an America collectively turning inward amid social and economic disruptions....Health!
Lerner had come sprawling onto the public scene in 1986 with his magazine Tikkun . A licensed psychotherapist, he had spent the previous ten years in Oakland, California, treating patients at a clinic he co-founded called the Institute for Labor and Mental Health.
(Lerner has claimed that his vision for America came to him through his encounters with patients.) But problems have beset Tikkun from the start. A former leader of Students for a Democratic Society and co-editor of the ultraleft magazine Ramparts, Lerner seemed to long for the old confrontational days. He began to confront himself. He began to march on his own magazine.SDS!!
At its best Tikkun has tried to speak with a nonpartisan voice of common decency, outside the crumbling framework of left-right antitheses. But for Lerner, all politics is cosmic. And in his own offerings in the magazine, for page after page he has spluttered on like an old Volkswagen about "pain" and "healing," "misrecognition" of our true selves and "healing," "surplus powerlessness" and "healing," "healing" and . . . well, "healing."Religion! Leftist politics! Health!