A group of interdenominational conservative Christian clergy (plus professor) quietly released a statement on Passover/Good Friday titled, “Now Is the Time to Talk About Religious Liberty.” Now? Really?
There’s no timestamp, but I’m tempted to believe it was posted at sundown when most Jews were seated at the Seder table.
The brief statement, from Archbishops Lori and Chaput, Princeton’s Robert George, and Southern Baptist bigwigs Al Mohler and Russell Moore, is largely a rehash of the same old “religious freedom” rhetoric. But sandwiched between their heavy hearts and a dubious call for civic harmony (as Patti Miller points out), is this:
In recent days we have heard claims that a belief central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that we are created male and female, and that marriage unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant—amounts to a form of bigotry.
Gee, thank you boys. Thank you for letting me, a Jew, know that I (along with all of Reform and Conservative Judaism, the two largest denominations by a landslide) am violating a central belief of my religion. You can toss Reconstructionist Jews (and probably every last nondenominational and/or unaffiliated Jew) into that camp since 83% of American Jews favor marriage equality, according to PRRI.
I confess to being surprised that these savvy communicators felt compelled to loop Jews and Muslims into their argument, rendering it that much more offensive. Not to mention humorless (humor is, in fact, far more Jewish than opposition to marriage equality).
Not surprisingly, this group of Christians misunderstand Jewish theology and American Jewish experience.
First, “bigotry” is not holding a belief, but denying someone else’s dignity as a result of that belief. For example, Christians for centuries believed that the Jews rejected Christ and should be punished. That belief, in itself, is not bigotry. But centuries of pogroms certainly is.
In the contemporary context, no one is saying a belief is bigotry. What is bigotry is opening a business and then denying some people service on the basis of their identities.
Second, as members of a minority religion, American Jews have long enjoyed constitutional protection from the Christian majority, which has sought to compel Jews to say Christian prayers, yield to Christian holy symbols in civic spaces, and conform to all sorts of Christian religious practices. To twist the meaning of “religious liberty,” from a shield against co-option of government by the majority religion, into a sword against minorities, would undo such protections.
What these writers are calling “religious liberty” is really Christian hegemony.