Monday, January 23, 2006

Six Questions for American Jews

This afternoon I read an essay by David Klinghoffer, a columnist at the Forward and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, in which he challenges well meaning Christians to ask Jews six “simple but puzzling” questions regarding the labeling of Christians and other religious conservatives “zealots” and “bigots.” His essay comes on the heals of just such labeling by Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Union of Reform Judaism and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. Since I don’t know any Christians who read David’s essays, I thought I would ask myself these questions and see how I respond.

1. Is it not true that Jewish leaders have better things to worry about than the spiritual fate of Sponge Bob Square Pants?

Yes, they do. Where were they when fellow Jew Pee Wee Herman was being harassed and persecuted for his indiscretions? That said, I would ask why so many Christian leaders have nothing better to do that worry about Sponge Bob’s sexual preference? As far as I know sponges reproduce asexually by breaking off bits of themselves to form new sponges. Unless there is an epidemic of asexual reproduction among American youth, I think both Jewish and Christian clerics should leave Sponge Bob alone.

2. If conservative Christians were less politically powerful, would this help or hurt the security of the state of Israel?

Conservative Christians long for the return of all Jews to Israel, and I think their support of Israel is vital. Of course those same Christians long for the slaughter of those newly returned Jews as a prelude to the Second Coming of Christ. The key is not to lose Christian support by condemning their theology, but to ensure that most Jews do not return to Israel so as to perpetuate that support into the long term.

3. Practically, what positive ends could anti-Christian attacks possibly accomplish?

At a time when most American Jews find Judaism less than compelling, the only hope we have of surviving as a distinct people is anti-Semitism. As long as there is a “them” that hates us, there will be an “us” to hate. Since it isn’t PC to harp on Muslim anti-Semitism, and since American Muslims don’t have the clout that the Christian conservatives do, fomenting fear of the latter is a desperate effort to keep Jews Jewish.

4. If evangelicals seek to “Christianize America,” a phrase implying legal coercion, when is the last time anyone tried to Christianize you?

This question is a bit disingenuous. No law is going to bear the title: Christianizing America. Rather certain Christian values will be made into law even though they may violate values held by other American citizens. For example, abortion, even partial-birth abortion, when done to save the life of a mother is a high moral value in Judaism, yet many proposed anti-abortion laws do not carry such a provision. Passing such laws makes upholding this Jewish value a crime. That seems problematic to me.

More problematic, however, is the lack of consistency in the Christian conservative efforts. For example, Christian conservatives are eager to outlaw homosexuality because God calls it an abomination, yet they have compunction regarding the eating of shrimp, which their Bible also calls an abomination. I am not saying that the shrimp lobby is controlling the Christian right, only that if we are going to institute God’s values, let’s do so across the board.

5. How do you explain the fact that “bigoted” Christian political positions mirror the traditional views of your own religion, Judaism?

There is only one explanation: traditional Judaism must be bigoted. If we define bigot as one who hates homosexuals, despises other nationalities such as the Midianites, Canaanites, Amalikites, etc, and who refuses to allow women to testify in court, or initiate a divorce, or touch a man during their menstruation period, then, traditional Judaism is bigoted. Why David would remind us of this, I am not sure, but bigoted or not, at least they are consistent: traditional Jews hate shrimp as well as gays.

6. Have you considered the economics behind these anti-Christian attacks?

What David means is that Jewish leaders use anti-Semitism to motivate Jews to give to their respective causes. True. It may be that anti-Semitism is all they have left to offer. Certainly it is easier to scare Jews with a persecuted Sponge Bob, than it is to motivate them with a compelling vision of a vibrant and creative Jewish future.

So there are David’s six questions and my brief answers. I don’t know if anyone will actually ask me these things, but I am certainly glad I am prepared to answer them. And as for Sponge Bob, just remember that God loves asexuals, too.

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