BOOKS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Rabbi's defence of the Judeo-Christian culture, Rabbi Daniel Lapin
, February 26, 2000
America's Real War
by Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Rec. price: US$19.95Rabbi Daniel Lapin's book is a call to arms, addressed to the Jewish community in America, to recognise that the moral and ethical foundations of the United States are under attack by secular humanism, and to make common cause with Christians to resist the process.
This is also a courageous book, because as Rabbi Lapin points out in his first chapter, he is suggesting that 'Jews should stop speaking and acting as if Christian America is their enemy'. He argues, moreover, that 'American Jews in particular, owe a debt of gratitude to Christians for the safe haven America has been since its founding.'
For most readers of News Weekly, Daniel Lapin's analysis of what is wrong with America is familar - and could be applied with at least equal validity to Australia.
He says that America is in crisis, because of an underlying spiritual malaise, whether called individualism, materialism or secularism, which has decisively shifted the country away from the Judeo-Christian foundations on which it was established, and became great.
Among the symptoms of this malaise, he argues, were a succession of US Supreme Court decisions: against prayer in public schools, the Larry Flynt case, and Roe v. Wade, the case which effectively legalised abortion in the US.
Coupled with this was the impact of secularism as the prevailing philosophy in the education system, which directly influenced what was taught in the biological sciences, particularly on the origins of life, on sex education, advocacy of homosexuality and lesbianism, anti-family policies including easy divorce, and a range of other issues.
He argues convincingly that 'anti-Christianism', hiding behind the rhetoric of freedom of speech, has become a major factor in imposing secular values in the United States, and this anti-Christianism is the moral equivalent of anti-Semitism.
Daniel Lapin examines, in detail, a number of issues which define the cultural divide in America, and in them, his treatment is masterly - though I suspect that those who disagree with the rabbi will gnash their teeth in resentment and frustration.
Nor does he flinch from the 'hard' issues, including the enforced belief in the theory of evolution, to the way in which freedom of religion has been transformed into freedom from religion, and the common ground between Orthodox Jews and Christians on fundamental life issues such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, sex, marriage and the family.
Some of his most pungent comments are directed at his fellow American Jews' response to the emergence of the Christian 'right'.
Answering the question, 'Why are Jews so liberal?', Rabbi Lapin gives a complex series of answers.
He points out that within the Jewish community, there have always been a significant number who reject the moral tenets of Judaism, and frequently adopt a secular 'God' in place of the one true God whom they have rejected or abandoned.
Additionally, he points out that no one person or group speaks for all Jews. 'Statements are constantly being made by organisations that have ÔJewish' in their name, but one should never assume that they reliably represent Jewish thought or that they even express the views of large numbers of Jews ...'
Among those actually born to Jewish parents, and among those converting to Judaism and retaining some connection to the Jewish community, there are countless categories.
'The oldest of the three main denominations is the Orthodox - the most traditional and socially conservative. Not surprisingly, they tend to vote for conservative politicians more than other Jews.
'The Conservative branch of Judaism (with a capital, not a lower case c) retains some fealty to selected Jewish laws but generally are politically and socially liberal.
'The Reform movement, founded originally in Germany in the 1800s, rejects Jewish law as authoritative and tends to be very liberal. These are, needless to say, generalisations,' but because it has the largest following and its Rabbinate is politically active on the left, non-Jews frequently identify this position as the Jewish position.
One additional issue is that many Americans with Jewish-sounding names are not Jewish. He says,
'Since Jewish men more frequently seek a non-Jewish mate than do Jewish women, the Jewish-sounding family name is kept in circulation, and thus many of these Cohens, Weisses and Goldbergs are generations removed from their Jewish heritage.
'A case in point is President Clinton's Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, who retains a Jewish name even though Judaism was long since abandoned by his family. One result of the above phenomenon is that many more people are thought of as Jews, than actually are Jewish.'
Rabbi Lapin concludes this book by putting forward a blueprint for recovery, basing it on a restoration of the Judeo-Christian foundations on which society was built.
This is a challenging and thought-provoking book, touching on many of the problems facing all Western societies - including Australia.