Posted tagged ‘Religion’

The new WASPs? Oy vey

January 18, 2011

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.”


With God on our side (or not)

January 13, 2011

I didn’t intend my post the other day about the Big Island Senate appointment to focus on religion.

I truly thought the county Democrats did a good job of making their nominations in an open and accessible manner and wanted to draw attention to it. That’s why I put the rather mild comment about the interviews being held at a hongwanji at the end.

That said, I thought some of the responses proved my point, which was that many church-and-state concerns expressed lately in Hawai‘i seem targeted specifically at Christianity rather than generally at religion in public life.

Several who commented on my post tried to justify this bias by drawing distinctions between the practices of Christianity and Buddhism. I don’t recall any fine print in the Constitution to the effect that religions can be treated differently under the law according to what faiths the cool kids favor.

Religion is an intensely personal and sensitive issue to people of all faiths (or lack thereof) and we need to be rigorously even-handed in addressing it.

In the wake of the Arizona tragedy, many of us have asked those who engage in inflammatory talk about guns and violence to please think about the consequences.

Insulting a person’s religion has the same potential to inflame, and we must be equally careful to choose our words with the consequences in mind.

The night before the holiday we don’t mention

December 16, 2010

I had a lovely time last night at my grandkids’ school Christmas show, which was actually called Winter Fest because you can’t say Christmas in public anymore without getting the PC police all up in your business.

Talk about a contrast; one of my girls played an elephant and the other played a kolea (which had a much more pleasant singing voice than I expected after some of the riffs I’ve heard around here).

It was very nicely done, with hula, Hawaiian legends and segments taken from “The Lion King” and “Rent,” but scarcely a mention of the 800-pound holiday in the room.

The sanitization has gone too far, and I can understand why it ticks Christians off. Nobody would blink at a slipped mention of Hannukah or Kwanzaa, and you can invoke the Dalai Lama until the cows come home. Putting a lot of religious dogma in these shows would be inappropriate, but the avoidance of mentioning Christmas at all is ridiculous.

I’m not a Christian myself, but I enjoyed it a lot when my grandson was at the school six or seven years ago and the shows ended with a UH music professor coming out to play Christmas carols on the piano while the audience sang along. Beautiful songs, beautiful moments.

And to my knowledge, nobody complained.

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