Monday, July 17, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane?

Here is a question that every Jew, somewhere in the recesses of his or her mind, asks on a regular basis: When will I know it is time to leave the country?

I heard this growing up and used to dismiss it out of hand. I am an American. America, from George Washington on, has been built on the principle of inclusion. Jews are part of the fabric of the United States, and while I am not blind to Anti-Semitism it has never been a governmental policy. For Jews America is not like Spain, or Germany, or England where we were summarily exiled or killed. American is more like Amsterdam where we were welcomed, albeit with some trepidation.

But things are changing. The Southern Baptist Convention turned back a move to pull their kids out of the public schools, and have called upon their members to take on the culture of public education with “godly influence.” I don’t know which is worse. The idea of millions of SBC kids freed from any public school influence and indoctrinated in SBC truths— mistaking myth for history, metaphor for fact, and theology for science— can only dim the future hopes of America in the world. But the idea of millions of SBC families applying “godly influence” on the public schools means imposing SBC ideology on the rest of us. Just as the Southern Baptists may worry about activist judges imposing liberalism, I worry about activist school boards imposing the inquisition. Extreme? Maybe. But I read Ann Coulter.

And then there is the move in Kentucky to replace the inclusive BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) with BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, Year of Our Lord). Of course the Jews, Chinese, and Muslims have their own calendars, and I have no problem with Christians using BC. and AD among themselves. My problem is that when we use godly influence to go from Common Era to Year of Our Lord we are making it clear that America is for those whose Lord is Jesus.

America is not a Christian country, but it is a country of Christians. There is a difference, but only if the Constitution and the principles of freedom upon which the country was founded remain intact. When people call for a return to Christian values and point to the piety of the early settlers as proof of America’s Christian roots, I shudder. Not because they are wrong to do so, but because the Christian values the early settlers brought to America included the expulsion of Christians whose Christianity differed from their own, an attempt to keep Jews out of the settlements, the Salem Witch Trials, and the killing and exploitation of the Native Peoples, to name but four.

Most Christians I know who want to see America return to its Christian values are right wing Republicans who mistake the Contract With America for the Sermon on the Mount. I can see them creating their own version of the Inquisition in the name of rooting out heresy. And for a Jew that spells trouble with a capital H.

So is it time to leave? Well I’m not packing my bags just yet, but I am keeping my passport up to date. And I sent a donation to the 700 Club just in case.

1 comment:

Peter Schogol said...

I've decided that leaving the country would mean leaving the country in the hands of a bush-league Taliban who won't rest until they nuke our secular Bamiyans and fill the niches with Ten Commandments.

I take my cue from Leo Baeck who stayed in Germany to be a rabbi to his people even as the Nazis were closing in on him. He was sent to Theresienstadt, true; but he emerged from the concentration camp experience very much the man of faith and conviction he was when he first arrived.

Someone has to stay and fight.