Politics & Policy

Religion, The Public Square & Me

RELIGION, THE PUBLIC SQUARE & ME“I normally don’t like Jews, but I think you’re great!” That’s what one reader told me in an e-mail a couple of weeks ago. I am still trying to figure out what the right response is.

I get a lot of anti-Semitic e-mail, of the “we white Christians know what you people are up to” variety. Actually, in numerical terms I get very little anti-Semitic e-mail. But, considering how little experience I had with such sentiments, it feels like a lot. After all, until I went to college Jews were the majority culture as far as I was concerned. Gosh, it was great. We used to sit around the fire — stoked by hard-working, white Christian laborers — and toss around ideas about interest rates and which subtle pro-gay messages we would sneak into Hollywood films or The Merv Griffin Show. On Chanukah we would head over to the Trilateral Commission for the annual party where we put that secret chemical in Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Before this goes any further, let me get something else off my chest. I think we should get rid of the word “anti-Semitism.” My understanding is that a “Semite” is any member of a group of Semitic-speaking people including Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Phoenicians, and of course, my peeps, the Greenbergs, er, the Hebrews. However there is another definition. A Semite can also mean a descendent of Shem — Noah’s oldest son — and the dashboard saint of dentists and actuaries.

Now, when was the last time some pasty Warrior against ZOG, sitting in his steamy little apartment, with newspaper clippings and burrito wrappers dripping from every surface, said, “If we could only get those damn Carthaginians out of the Federal Reserve!” Or, do you think that when Louis Farrakhan, discovered the secret meaning of the fact that a nine upside down looks like a six, screamed, “Brothers! Let us go forth and punish the descendents of Shem!”

Bodyguard: Shem?

Minister F.: Yes, Shem!

Bodyguard: Um, you want we should beat up the kids of that funny white guy from the Three Stooges?

Minister F.: Actually, yes, but not just them. All descendents of Shem.

Bodyguard: What, he’s got grandkids too?

All right, enough of that (my couch wrote that anyway — and please no corrections telling me its Shemp, not Shem). When we say anti-Semitism we mean anti-Jew. That’s how we got the word in the first place. A German guy named Wilhem Marr came up with the phrase in 1879 to describe all the anti-Jewish movements in Eastern Europe.

Fortunately, in the United States there aren’t many, if any, major anti-Jewish movements of even the 19th century variety. The handful of so-called Christian-identity hate groups are so marginal that if knee-jerk Dateline and 20/20 producers would stop “exposing” them, nobody would know they existed. As Irving Kristol has pointed out, the greatest threat gentiles pose to Jews today is that they want to marry them, not kill them.

In fact, if the past is any indication, I’ll probably get a couple dozen e-mails from very kind, very intelligent, and very Christian readers about how upset they are that a few bigots are claiming to speak for them. Don’t worry about it. I’m white — so white I’d probably bite clear through my chin if I tried to dance to a Ricky Martin song. I don’t think these hateful bigots speak for my fellow white people; why should I think they speak for Christians?

Which gets us to stuff actually in the news. Sometimes I wish non-Jews would worry slightly less about Jewish sensitivities. For example, the hullabaloo about George Bush saying the most inspiring person in his life was Jesus Christ, “because he changed my heart.” I don’t see why that’s a big deal. The normally astute Chris Matthews couldn’t contain his shock and dismay, calling Bush’s “sectarian” response unprecedented in American politics. Maureen Dowd, that snarky oracle of all things East Coast and conventional, calls Bush’s answer “offensive.”

When asked to explain his answer he said, “well, if they don’t know it will be hard to explain. When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the Savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life. And that’s what happened to me.”

Dowd translates that to mean “You’re either in the Christ club or out of it, on the J.C. team or off.” This, she says, is an “exclusionary attitude” that is “so offensive to those with different beliefs…”

Really? Well, I’m one of those people with different beliefs. I still believe in that wrathful and vengeful God of Israel — you know, the God who does all that smiting — and it doesn’t bother me one bit that the GOP front-runner is proud of his religion. More to the point, isn’t that what a born-again Christian is supposed to say? I mean, if he is sincere in his faith, ain’t he supposed to say so? Would Dowd be upset if a Jewish candidate answered the question by saying “Moses” or “Maimonides?”

And what’s wrong with the fact that he thinks it would be “hard to explain” to people like me what it’s like to give your heart to Jesus? It’s supposed to be one of the more indescribable events, according to what I’ve read. Would you rather someone were so polished in professing his faith that he could explain it in a soundbite?

I can understand feeling squeamish about people who wear their faith on their sleeve — that was the reaction of most of my Christian friends, most of them Catholics and mainliners. But among my Jewish friends, nobody seemed particularly disturbed one way or another. Jews know that Christians are not Jews. So, by the way, do Muslims.

Secular liberals, who think “diversity” is a constitutional principle, but any reference to God must be a typo, believe calling attention to one’s religion is somehow un-American. That, of course, is moronic ignorance. This is a very religious country, founded by very religious people. Saying that religion has no place in politics is a credible position. Saying that religious people have no place in politics is the real bigotry.

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