Jews Violate Their Own Beliefs, Conservative Christians Say

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).

As for the statement as a whole, Rabbi Jay Michaelson (author of the report, “Redefining Religious Liberty“) had this to say, via email:

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.

  • DKeane123

    Pots calling kettle black. The number of commandments or shall nots that each of the Abrahamic religions has to ignore or rationalize away is large. To put in writing that some other religion is not fully living up to their book requires such a lack of self-awareness as to be staggering.

  • Jim Reed

    ” 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 have to have an appreciation of the power that comes from having a group to discriminate against.

  • bruceewilson

    Conservative Christians have said much worse. For example John Hagee, head of Christians United For Israel (which often partners in sponsoring campus events with Hillel International), claims (in a book still sold by CUFI), that Hitler was “partially Jewish” and part of a lineage of evil “half-breed” Jews tracing back to Esau. In the same book (Jerusalem Countdown), Hagee also repeats the claim that Hitler was sent by God to punish the jewish people, for their disobedience.

    As you may recall, back in 2008 I exposed that Hagee claim, which in turn

    led John McCain to renounce Hagee’s political endorsement.

    Hagee has also, from 1996 to 2003, engaged in the international promotion of the “classic anti-Semitic myth” (as defined by the Anti-Defamation League, see:
    http://archive.adl.org/special_reports/control_of_fed/fed_rothschild.html#.VSZViGZcZo4
    ) that Rothschild bankers are scheming to bankrupt average people.

    ( See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-wilson/netanyahu-ally-john-hagee_b_6848226.html )

  • Evan Derkacz

    True enough, Bruce. But for all his political connections and book sales, Hagee is a far more fringe figure than the 5 who signed this statement.

  • An obvious rhetorical strategy that doesn’t seem to me to deserve much comment. This sort of rhetorical dishonesty is *very* common.

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  • Elizabeth

    Oh, honest to Ethel! Why do we even give these antediluvian knuckleheads any air time whatsoever?

  • Jim Reed

    Because they are a powerful political force, and if we don’t say anything it works to their advantage. It is kind of like Jon Stewart giving so much time to Fox News. If he ignored them, he would be wasting a lot of potential for humor.

  • Veritas

    Unfortunate to make such a public statenment. Better a private appeal to speak out in unity. But, it is no different than the load of politicians who insist Islam is a religion of peace and jihadists are not practicing Islam. It is up to the followers of a faith to define that faith by their practice.

  • I have no idea how the majority of the billion or so Muslims think of their religion. Given the number, I suspect that most are not jihadists.

    The fact, however, is that in the US, the majority of Jews — including practicing Jews — do not agree with the Robert P. Georges and Al Mohlers of the world on this subject, so the statement, beyond being public, is also untrue.

  • Richard White

    You are not alone. The United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, according to these same people, are “violating a central belief of Christianity” for supporting marriage equality.

    One of the main agents in this war of attrition has been the Washington, DC-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), funded by the same group of conservative foundations that brought the likes of the Heritage Foundation to Washington, DC. IRD has been primarily funded by neoconservative interests that view the mainline churches as obstacles to their regressive, and sometimes overtly theocratic, political agendas.
    To paraphrase Niemoller “First they came for the United Church of Christ, then they came for the Episcopalians, then they came for the Lutherans, then they came for the Presbyterians – and now they are coming for the Jews”.

  • JCF

    FTW!

  • cranefly

    I hope you keep in mind how staggering it is the next time you hear an atheist explain the Koran to us.

  • DKeane123

    I’m not sure what you are getting at. Atheists don’t have any ancient books full of violence and misogyny to rationalize away.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    I let Haroon Moghul do the interpretation for me. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

    http://religiondispatches.org/the-blasphemy-of-isis-a-7-point-pro-guide-to-islamism/

  • DKeane123

    Yes I have heard of him and think he is a fine person. You seemed to miss my point. If he was as influential as the cleric I referenced, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I don’t think Haroon has nearly as many people getting religious guidance from him as either of us would like.

  • DKeane123

    Just checked. 12 thousand Twitter followers. Not bad at all. But not in the 10’s of millions.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    He’s also not the first (or last) Muslim on earth to say what he says. You’d think the way Bill Maher et al talked that every mosque and masjid would be a terror cell, but alas, no. I think the government actually made that assumption a few times only to be very embarrassed.

  • DKeane123

    And what does this have to do with my comments?

  • cranefly

    I can make the exact same argument yield to the orthodox Jews who stood next to the Indiana governor as he signed the discrimination law, for my interpretation of the Torah. Then I could easily agree with the Christians who wrote this staggeringly presumptuous homophobic statement we all don’t like. A little less extreme of an example, exact same principle.

    We can always listen to the worst people and judge their demographic as a whole accordingly.

  • DKeane123

    Are we switching over to which religious group is most homophobic? A little less extreme is the understatement of the year. Look at the numbers for the views on homosexuality. It is literally the Entire demographic- there is no “judging the whole by their worst of their members. ”

    http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-morality/

    And the Quran supports these views and gives them moral legitimacy. Quran 26:165-66 and 7:80-4).

    BTW. Secularists/atheists win this competition of acceptance by a landslide. And again, somehow speaking out issues with Islam will get you painted as a bigot, the recent Quartz article by CJW is a perfect example.

  • cranefly

    No, we’re not. Yet again, you’re making a monolith out of a group of people who are not monolithic. Yet again, you think like a fundamentalist and talk like a fundamentalist.

    I’m just pointing out your obvious double standard, and your obvious willingness to see Jews as individuals who can express themselves for themselves, but Muslims as a sinister tribal enemy with no credible distinction between members. That is the essence of racism, not how right or wrong you are that there are problems within Islam. I don’t have time to bring up every issue rank every religion by how much I hate them. Go ahead and keep telling yourself how great you are.

  • DKeane123

    You misinterpreted my entire conversation. Please note a previous statement where I even suggest that Muslims are a monolithic sinister tribal enemy.

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  • BobSF_94117

    Every time I hear a “Christian” assert that he/she can’t accept SSM because accommodating SSM violates a core tenet of their faith, I’m tempted to ask them how they can tolerate and accommodate folks who reject an even more fundamental aspect of Christianity like, say, Christ. But I bite my tongue cuz I’d hate to point that out to them and have them return to the 1700 years of killing folks they didn’t agree with. I’m mean, they’ve just recently stopped, more or less…

  • It’s called the mote-beam problem.

    -dlj.

  • DKeane123

    Hadn’t heard that term and looked it up. Thanks.

  • Conservative Christians are pretty crazy. However, it is true from the progressive perspective, that Israeli Jews definitely violate the beliefs of Judaism on an ongoing basis with the occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians. Anyone can verify this for themselves by reading the Book of Micah to see what the Hebrew God said was a violation then is exactly what the Israeli Jews are continuing to do today.

  • Fortunately research at Technion has established the correct way of celebrating Passover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG7ll8g6mcs

    Chag Sameach (belatedly) to all!

    -dlj.

  • Wondering

    Pardon me, but what am I missing in your ” 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.” (?) A little clarification about the offensive nature please.

  • Jim Reed

    Jews have always tried to work with their history and traditions and scriptures, and interpret them to still have meaning today as times evolve. These Christians are being assholes by applying their unchangable interpretations of ancient scriptures to other more advanced civilizations.

  • Jim Reed

    You could also look at Jews and Israelis as two different sets of people with two different sets of instructions from God. The Israelis are pretty much told to kill everyone when they move on the land.