Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Jewish Man's Perspective on Anti-Christianity

I've discussed this horror cliché in the past, but certain points need amplifying in the wake of the Roseburg, Oregon shooting.  Some reports say that the murderer deliberately targeted Christians for death, though this is unclear.  Witness accounts can be undependable.

What's concerning is that even if it's untrue, it's plausible.

I want to tell you a story about something that happened at the reception of a friend's son's Bar Mitzvah.  The family was interfaith: one parent Jewish, the other secular Christian (that is, they celebrate Christmas with a tree and presents and Easter with Cadbury eggs).  Near the end of the party the secular mom of the Bar Mitzvah boy was telling a few off-color jokes about Christianity, which many other people laughed at.  I didn't think they were funny, but I let it go.  I was a guest, after all.

At one point, another guest walked up and said, "You might want to cool it with some of those jokes.  People'll think you're Jewish!"  

I opened my mouth to say, "You don't know me, lady, but I'm Jewish, and you don't see me laughing at this stuff or telling those kinds of jokes, do you?" But I closed it before the words came out.  As a virtual stranger I didn't see the value of setting her straight.  It's not likely I'll meet her again.  Not my faith, not my fight.  Still, I regret not saying something.

Months later, I told my younger brother this story and asked him if he makes anti-Christian jokes, or any religious jokes at all, and he told me no, of course not.  In fact, neither of us know any fellow Jews who do that.  No doubt there are some.  Many.  Lots.  But we don't and don't associate with the ones who do.  You want to make religious jokes, have at it.  I'm not against it.  I'm just not for it.  

There is a difference between lighthearted fun, especially in a small group, and nasty, stupid, mean memes and jokes.  We all know the difference, even the most anti-Christian among us.  That's not what I'm talking about.

It's become a cliché that religion is the new favorite punching bag in our culture, but that's just not true.  Christianity has become the punching bag.  The vast majority of anti-theists simply won't attack Judaism, for example.  This is not to say that anti-Semitism doesn't exist; a casual look at American college campuses, where the ancestral homeland of the Jews is factlessly and regularly called an apartheid state, proves anti-Semitism's existence, as does the UN and Obama administration's hostility to Israel.  Anti-Semitism has also found new respect among the fringe right: the internet trolls who throw around terms like "cuckservative" and openly wonder why American foreign aid should be sent to our only democratic ally in the Middle East.  

Nor do the anti-theists go after Hindus or Buddhists.  And, most notably, none of them go after Islam, which in its purest form is the most anti-science, anti-woman, anti-Enlightenment system of belief on the planet.  The reason why anti-theists don't attack Islam is simple: unlike fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims will try to kill you for disrespecting their beliefs.  

To call such people anti-theists is, then, a misnomer: they're anti-Christian.  They've got cover from Hollywood and the basest elements of our culture, and they don't have anything to fear from the people they attack, because Christians don't hit back and don't have the same cultural cachet as a Hollywood comedian.

That's cowardice, and I'm tired of it.  

I work hard to address issues of faith fairly and thoughtfully in my fiction, and while I do meticulous research, I don't claim particular wisdom.  In The Blessed Man and the Witch, when the characters are confronted with the stark reality of a Biblical apocalypse, they handle it as real people do, some of them better than others.  What I don't and won't do is address the material with contempt, as though I know something you don't, and  hence am smarter or more ethical.  I have my beliefs, you have your beliefs, and that's okay.  We can all get along.  My faith is strong enough to withstand disagreement and proselytizing from other faiths.

Like I've said before, it's no longer daring or cutting edge to portray Christians as deluded, hypocritical fools and priests as deviants in cassocks.  Attack my faith, if you've the courage to do so.  Attack Islam, if you've any courage at all.  Me, I'm done with that sort of fiction.

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