Faith, Politics, and the Parable of the Kosher Deli: Explorations of Narrative in a Congressional Hearing
This paper takes a discourse analytic approach in exploring how a short narrative, delivered in the testimony of a panel-witness during a 2011 US congressional hearing investigating potential violations of religious liberty in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Ã¢â¬ÅObamacareÃ¢â¬Â), shapes and reflects the larger political conflict over the legislation.ÃÂ Exploring the so-called Ã¢â¬Åparable of the kosher deliÃ¢â¬Â from a structuralist, functionalist, and post-structuralist perspective reveals several key elements of how narratives can function in such a context.ÃÂ The choice of genre not only facilitates communication via a culturally familiar structure, but also positions the communicator reflexively, and in strategic fashion.ÃÂ This choice also provides an efficient means for glossing over the adversaryÃ¢â¬â¢s most significant concerns: because parables are abstractions meant to reflect back on real situations, one can choose which elements to incorporate, and which to ignore about those situations in oneÃ¢â¬â¢s interpretation.
ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ Additionally, I observe how the parable is an effective means for positioning an opposing side (Davies and HarrÃÂ©, 1990), as the narrative takes aim at not only the government, positioned as an illegitimate disciplinarian, and an inappropriate judge, but also at advocates of the legislation generally, characterized as Ã¢â¬Åoff-topicÃ¢â¬Â or else blind to the most important issue.ÃÂ Finally, from a post-structuralist perspective, I note that the narrative, reflecting the general stance of the majority members of committee overseeing the hearing, construes the opposing side as a Ã¢â¬Ågeneralized otherÃ¢â¬Â (Benhabib, 1992), ignoring the role of individual experience, needs, motivations, and desires in the attempt to make a case for broader exemptions to the proposed legislation.ÃÂ Such a move short-circuited any possibility of Ã¢â¬ÅelaborationÃ¢â¬Â (Cobb, 2006) in which both sides might have worked toward a mutually agreeable narrative which contained both of the moral perspectives presented.ÃÂ ÃÂ
I would like to thank Sara Cobb as well as the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.ÃÂ
Copyright (c) 2016 Joshua Kraut
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