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Thursday, November 10, 2005

In Defense of Christian Conservatives [Answer to ADL Abe Foxman]

In Defense of Christian Conservatives [Answer to ADL Abe Foxman]
Toward Tradition
Nov. 9, 2005
Daniel Lapin

NEW YORK - Institutionalized Christianity in the U.S. has grown so extremist that it poses a tangible danger to the principle of separation of church and state and threatens to undermine the religious tolerance that characterizes the country, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, warned in his address to the League's national commission, meeting in New York City over the weekend. (Haaretz Newspaper, Israel.)

We Jews aren’t chic any longer. Not too many people care for Jews these days. Europe, including England, makes little secret of how it feels towards Jews. If possible, they care even less for Israel. All Moslem countries, more than a billion angry people frequently at one another’s necks, are magically unified over hatred for Jews and resentment over that little patch of sand in the Middle East which Jews turned into a country. Much of Africa and most of Russia feels the same way. Hate the Jews.

It is very challenging for a small group of people to survive with no friends.

But wait! There is one group of people who unconditionally love Jews and the Land of Israel.

These people are called Christian conservatives. They are made up of Catholics, and Protestants, Baptists and Lutherans and many others. Although theologies differ widely, they all share a deep conviction that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. They all fervently believe that in so doing, God presented humanity with a blueprint for life. Needless to say, these views should be shared by every Jew committed to his faith.

Yes, I know that some may have their own reasons for their friendship. However I ask you to remember that Jewish morality dictates we judge others by their actions not by what we believe lies in their hearts. Sometimes I am not too sure of what lies in my own heart, let alone in the hearts of others. We leave God to peer into other’s motivations and we are called to judge other people by how they act. And the overwhelming majority of Christian conservatives in America act with astounding goodness, generosity, and friendship.

A common understanding of the Bible, its promises and its directions, lies at the foundation of the special friendship the Christian Right has for Jews. Most Jews are profoundly grateful to have such faithful friends during a period when events are echoing frightening times of the past.

It is a remarkable thing, this friendship. Very different theologies, very different histories and backgrounds, and even different visions of the future, yet a shared recollection of our Biblical past assures the present in an atmosphere of trust and amity.

Into this delicate relationship strides an extremist demagogue whose intemperate denunciations this past weekend threaten to destroy friendships between Jews and Christians.

The director of the ADL, one of the large Jewish organizations in America, attacked Christianity as an intolerable threat to religious tolerance. He denounced several famous Evangelical organizations by name accusing them of wishing to implement their Christian worldview. He demonized Christians and assured his audience that “they intend to Christianize all aspects of American life…their vision of America is far different from ours.” (Just imagine what would happen to a Christian leader talking thus about Jews!)

Mr. Foxman has yet to apologize for how wrong were his dire predictions of what Mel Gibson’s Passion would bring in its wake. Yet off he goes again defaming the only people left on the face of the planet who actually love Jews.

There is one reliable rule that most people learn in grade school: If you consistently bully your friends and treat them disrespectfully, pretty soon you won’t have any friends left.

Leaving aside the fascinating analysis of the pathology that makes a Jew alienate our best and only friends, maybe the attack itself needs to be refuted.

The ADL has been attacking Christianity now for over ten years. It began with an embarrassing book the ADL published in 1994—The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance & Pluralism in America. It has never let up. Given the ADL’s obsessive preoccupation with Christians, anyone would think that on their way home from church every Sunday, most Christians engage in robbing and raping, mugging and murdering any Jews reckless enough to be out on the streets. Is it possible that this organization, originally founded to protect Jews, cannot find any greater threat to Judaism than America’s conservative Christians. Or is it possibly the threat they legitimately pose to secular liberalism that really bothers the ADL? If so, why pose as a Jewish organization? It would be more honest to identify as an activist arm of the Democratic Party.

This may be a good time for me to expose the five slanderous lies surrounding America’s most misunderstood movement:

1) The Christian Right wishes to impose a theocracy on America.

A hint for those of you out there planning on imposing a theocracy: In order to succeed, you would first need to subvert the entire United States Constitution. A word to the rest of you worried about a theocracy—if the Constitution goes, you have far bigger problems than a theocracy.

Who really does have a record of forcing their values down the throats of everyone else? Over the past forty years life in America has been made indescribably more squalid, expensive, and dangerous. Mocking moral standards and vulgarizing the culture has brought to any teenager’s ears the throbbing rhythms and hideously violent lyrics that would have brought a blush to the face of a convict in 1960. Back then, a family lived an enviable middle-class lifestyle on one salary. Today, high taxes, regulatory costs, and feminist propaganda have forced mothers into the workplace. Abolishing the Biblical idea of people being capable of evil, crime is now understood in terms of social problems. The result is a sharply diminished sense of safety and security. Forget city parks at night; we worry about children surviving a day at the local public school with its metal detectors and ludicrously unarmed guards. So who has more successfully forced its values down our throats? I think the record speaks for itself.

For Christian leaders to encourage conservative Americans of faith to vote for like-minded candidates is of course no different from Jewish leaders ardently having encouraged all Jews to vote for the Gore-Lieberman ticket in 2000 because “Joe is a Jew.” Secularism is as much a belief system as is Christianity and secularists who work to elect secularists shouldn’t complain when Christians try to elect Christians to public office. There is a good old-fashioned word for this activity and it is not theocracy. It is—democracy. Every group in America practices it. Christians should be able to do so too without being demonized by a Jewish organization.

2) The Christian right believes all who disagree with them are going to hell.

Even if some believe this, so what? Does our Constitution guarantee freedom of belief only to secularists? I am always amused by those who are most indignant that some Christians have this belief but are themselves secularists who firmly announce their disbelief in heaven or hell in the first place. Why should they care if someone else believes they are going somewhere they don’t believe exists? Go figure.

For me personally, it bothers me not at all that many of my Christian friends believe I am headed to hell. Frankly I am deeply grateful to be living among such wonderful Christian neighbors who do absolutely nothing to accelerate my arrival there. Does the phrase “Spanish Inquisition” mean anything to you?

For most Christians I know, it is not so much a belief as it is a genuine concern for my spiritual future. I appreciate that concern amidst ongoing friendship and generosity to me though I remain a firmly committed Orthodox Jew. It was not always so for Jews in other countries during the past two thousand years.

Israel’s safety belt is undoubtedly America’s Bible belt and I am sure that America has provided history’s safest and longest lasting haven for Jews, not in spite of, but precisely because of her deep Christian conviction.

Christian belief, no matter how difficult for non-Christians to accept, poses no threat to anyone. On the contrary, it has turned out to be the source of blessing for all who cherish the freedom and tranquility of the United States of America. The same George Washington who wrote “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants” was a George Washington who was a deeply religious and very conservative Christian.

One way for the descendants of Abraham to merit the goodwill of our Christian neighbors would be to stop Jewish organizations from endlessly insulting and attacking our friends.

3) Christian conservatives are anti-Semitic and racist.

This might be a good opportunity for me to point out the sheer evil of accusing someone of an undefined crime. You see, with no definition of the crime, it is impossible for the accused to defend himself. Think about it for a moment….do you know the definition of anti-Semitism? See, it isn’t so simple. Is it hurting Jews or their property? That doesn’t need the term anti-Semitism—it is already a crime called assault or vandalism. And in any event, is that really what they are accusing Christian conservatives of doing? I think not.

Does ant-Semitism mean harboring a dislike for Jews in one’s heart? Do we really want to criminalize thought? What about the old liberal disdain for “thought police?”

I do believe it might be time already for some Jewish leaders to abandon their Sharpton-tactics and graciously shelve the term anti-Semitism. It has become nothing but a bludgeon to silence dissent and cause resentment. When Jewish leaders accuse good and decent Christians of anti-Semitism because they oppose wholesale abortion and homosexual marriage, it is more of an indictment of the Jews hurling the epithet than it is of the victims.

The problem is that many Jews, having abandoned the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have embraced the alternative faith of secular liberalism. In do doing, they adopt the misleading equation that Judaism=Liberalism. Believing that the values of Judaism have nothing to do with the clearly expressed wishes of God in the Torah, they mistakenly assume that the values of Judaism are congruent with those of secular liberalism. Thus anyone who loathes the values of secular liberalism surely must hate the values of Judaism since they are the same. Therefore, any conservative is, by definition, an anti-Semite.

It thus becomes the holy duty of organizations like the ADL, originally formed to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism, to fight religious conservatives. This is tiresome, anachronistic, and just plain wrong. This is an error with potentially tragic consequences and it should stop.

I can only tell you that I regularly deliver speeches to audiences, often of thousands, for the very organizations listed by the ADL in its latest anti-Christian diatribe. I do so as an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and on the dais I wear the same black yarmulke I wore during my Torah studies in yeshiva. I talk of the same Biblical values I was taught in that yeshiva. After the speech I frequently enjoy a dinner brought by the organizers with considerable trouble and expense from a kosher restaurant, often from another city. I am received with enthusiasm and genuine warmth. If this be anti-Semitism, my grandfather in Europe would surely have welcomed it.

Oh, did I mention that many of the pastors making up the Christian Right are themselves black Americans? Of course, to many of the racial demagogues on the Secular Left, any black who becomes a conservative has renounced his blackness. I am accustomed to this because a representative of the Jewish Federation of a large west coast city recently told a friend of mine that “Rabbi Lapin isn’t a real Jew because he is friends with those Christians.” I estimate that at least ten percent of most every audience I address is African American. The charge that the Christian Right is racist is made exclusively by people whose antagonism is exceeded only by their ignorance.

4) Christian conservatives are poor, uneducated, and easy to command.

This allegation was first made by Washington Post journalist Michael Weisskopf in a front page story on February 1st, 1993. In reality, average annual income for Christian conservatives is well above the national average. Furthermore, the average net worth of conservative Christian families rockets ahead of the national average especially when corrected for age and income. This shouldn’t surprise anyone because the values of thrift and industry that build net worth are among the values encouraged by Biblical faith. Finally, the bountiful generosity in the form of charitable donations made by America’s religious conservatives in any year exceeds the gross domestic product of many nation members of the United Nations.

Most of the nation’s hundreds of Christian colleges, with their rigorous academic standards, routinely outperform state universities. Christian home schoolers win the national spelling bees year after year. In a 2003 article entitled God on the Quad, the Boston Globe described how well Christian Evangelical students are doing on New England’s liberal elite university campuses.

As for easy to command, well Evangelical judicial nominee Harriet Miers was forced to withdraw her nomination precisely because America’s religious conservatives are not easy to command.

5) The Christian right is anti-Scientific.

This charge emerges from secular America’s docile homage to the doctrines of Darwin. Wise and educated people today realize that the borderline between cutting-edge science and religious belief is fuzzy. One need only examine the work of cosmologist Stephen Hawking, British scientific philosopher Antony Flew, or Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder to hear the language of theology. Only propagandists and ideologues think that Darwin ended the discussion.

The truth is that two incompatible beliefs can account for mankind’s presence on the planet. The first is that God created us in His image and placed us here. The second is that through a lengthy process of unaided materialistic evolution, primitive protoplasm became Bach, Beethoven, and the Beatles.

Many scientists, including the 40% who are religious according to a University of Georgia study cited by the New York Times in February of this year, accept the first view. Many scientists accept the second view and some scientists await further evidence. The issue is hardly cut and dried because a great deal of modern science flows as much from scientific philosophy as it does from laboratory experiment. This is particularly true of non-replicable science such as that dealing with cosmology and origin of the universe questions.

This leaves only one question: Are secular liberals or Christian conservatives more dogmatic and closed-minded? To any fair-minded person, the answer is startlingly simple. It would be tough to find a single Christian high school, college, or university in the nation that does not treat Darwinian evolution seriously. However, it would be even tougher to find a single public high school or secular university that grants a respectful hearing to intelligent design, let alone a religious view of creation.

It is also only on secular campuses that truth is frequently suppressed in the interests of political correctness.

If science means being open to all ideas, judging those ideas on the basis of evidence rather than belief, and withholding judgment in the absence of evidence, there can be no doubt at all. Christian conservatives are far less anti-Scientific than others.

In conclusion, I am sure that the ADL’s Mr. Foxman cares for the Jewish people as much as I do. It is just that he has a radically different way of expressing it. To me, his frequent anti-Christian outbursts are incomprehensible and I am sure they jeopardize the future of Jews in America and ultimately, Jews everywhere. He, no doubt thinks much the same about my views.

In a spirit of respect for both him and for the traditional Jewish commitment to the truth and to open discussion that I am sure we share, I invite Mr. Foxman to a public debate on this topic. Let us debate one another in order to determine the direction for the future. Does Jewish survival lie with a fervent secularism that ceaselessly snaps at the heels of Christian America or does it lie within political alliance with those people who stand firm for the values God imparted to the Jews at the foot of Mount Sinai just over three thousand years ago. One way is right and the other is wrong. Which is it? A debate could help expose the true answer. C’mon Mr. Foxman, let’s do it.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Rabbi in Seattle, Washington, is author of Thou Shall Prosper, America's Real War and Buried Treasure ,is President of Toward Tradition and hosts his own television and radio shows.

Toward Tradition is America's leading bridge-builder between Jewish and Christian communities; spanning the divide between Christians and Jews by sculpting ancient solutions to modern problems in areas of family, faith, and fortune. Visit us on the web at: www.towardtradition.org


Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Interesting thoughts.

11/10/2005 1:01 PM  

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