The new WASPs? Oy vey

Who would have guessed, but it seems Judaism is becoming the “in” religion among progressives and conservatives alike — not the message I’ve been used to getting all of my life.

One pundit even declared that “Jews are the new WASPs,” with three justices on the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time and some polls showing Judaism to be the best regarded among major religions in America.

You saw in our spirited discussion here last week how some on the left are speaking well of us because we don’t proselytize like the fundamentalist Christians they’re battling on a wide range of issues.

Then I came across a piece in Politics Daily about the Sarah Palin “blood libel” controversy in the aftermath of the Tucson tragedy suggesting Judaism is a hot commodity on the right, as well.

The article by David Gibson explained why some conservatives are so taken with Jewish symbolism:

The “blood libel” phrase arose in the Middle Ages when European anti-Semitism was on the rise. It refers to rumors circulated among Christians that Jews were sacrificing Christian babies and children to use their blood to make matzo bread at Passover. The charges were patently absurd but they grew out of the longstanding charge of “deicide” against the Jews, that is, that the Jews were responsible for killing Christ. And they were enough to spark brutal pogroms and create policies targeting Jews.

That model of persecution is appealing for many contemporary conservatives in that it reinforces their self-image as the underdog in America’s political wars and as the victims of an overbearing secular and liberal culture. In fact, the popular conservative blogger and professor Glenn Reynolds used the “blood libel” analogy in a Wall Street Journal article on Monday from which Palin may have drawn inspiration.

Much the same dynamic has also been at work with the rising use of Nazi metaphors by the right, notably since the 2008 campaign and the election of Barack Obama. In that view, Obama is Hitler, Democrats and liberals are “fascists,” and any disagreeable new policy or op-ed column augurs a coming “Holocaust” or pogrom.

But wait, there’s more — it’s a cultural trend as well as a political tool:

A more ambiguous trend is the enthusiastic new strain of “philo-Semitism” that many American Christians are displaying.

Conservative believers in particular have gone from rejecting all things Jewish to celebrating “Christianized” Passover seder meals or wearing tallit, the traditional Jewish prayer shawl. There are Christian bar mitzvahs, and there is even a growing trend toward appropriating Yom Kippur, the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar, for a Christian day of atonement. And Sarah Palin and other evangelical women increasingly like to compare themselves to Queen Esther, the Jewish beauty from the Book of Esther who saves her people from destruction.

It goes to show that if you live long enough, you’ll see everything.

Of course, as in much of our history, there may not be a happy ending. According to Gibson, the new conservative affinity for Judaism “is often born out of a belief that Israel’s refounding is a sign of the imminent Second Coming of Jesus in an apocalypse that will center on Jerusalem and will convert some Jews to Christianity while eliminating the rest.”

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3 Comments on “The new WASPs? Oy vey”

  1. Alan R. Spector Says:

    Never before did I think that we Jews would be viewed like WASPs. How times are changing.

    And yes, the evangelicals have become very philo-Semitic and some of the strongest supporters of Israel in the USA. At the same time we receive this support, it is correct of you to report that this support often comes for the wrong reasons……..reasons that are an inherent example of theological Christian anti-Semitism that has existed ever since the early Jewish Christians eventually broke away from the Jewish community all together and had a political motivation to portray the Jewish community poorly in the gospels (in order to survive under the Romans).

    Finally, these “philo-Semitic” evangelicals are pretty much opposed to most all other issues supported by the Jewish community. The Jewish community in the USA remains majority Democrat and majority liberal to moderate. Jewish neo-conservatives are among the minority within the Jewish community.

  2. Mitch Kahle Says:

    Dave! You see? Criticism and humor directed at one specific faith is indeed the correct thing to do. Wasn’t that fun? I love how you nailed the apocalyptic crowd there in the end. The end is near!

    In the interest of fairness, however, (as you wrote last week) we must criticize all religions equally. I don’t envy you, since there are literally thousands, if not millions, of contradictory sectarian creeds awaiting your scrutiny. You best get started first thing tomorrow and forever more … Have fun!

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