Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ask a Jew

One Sunday past I traveled out to Pasadena with good buddy Jersey George to attend a show billed as “Religion on the Line” but promoted by the performers as “Ask a Jew.” Longtime friends and KRLA Radio hosts Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt put on quite a show for the 700+ religious conservatives gathered in the Hilton Hotel ballroom.

Throughout the performance Hugh played the straight man to Dennis’ wise man. At the start Hugh asked the audience how many were Jewish (about one quarter), Roman Catholic (same), Evangelical (half), Muslim (none) and atheist (1). It is interesting that three fourths were Christian and that Mainline Protestant was not polled, perhaps signifying the conservatism of the audience.

Hugh asked questions of Dennis for two hours, dealing mostly with what it means to be Jewish in America. Prager was ever-ready with insightful and, frequently hysterical, responses, having spoken on the topic hundreds of times and written several best-selling books, including “Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism” with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

Just a sample question dealt with the afterlife. Dennis explained that most Jews do not believe in heaven or hell, in spite of what the Torah says. Judaism preaches an afterlife, including the resurrection of the body, but Jews say -- whatever?

In describing the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform branches of Judaism, Dennis mentioned that the Orthodox Jews do not generally accept converts. You may be an Orthodox Jew only if your mother was born a Jew. I thought what a wonderful place America is, where there can be three radically different forms of a single religion, and no one bats an eye. It reminded me of an incident that occurred in England last year that was not so wonderful.

Europe’s largest Orthodox Jewish school is in London and it has long accepted only Jewish students. Last year, when it denied entry to the son of a Jewish father and convert Jewish mother, the parents sued. In a scary decision, the British court found for the parents and against the school on the grounds that the basis for Orthodox Judaism is “racist.” In his bizarre opinion, the chief justice equated the Jewish doctrine of matrilineal descent with South African apartheid. Britain’s chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, was apoplectic: “An English court has declared the religious definition of Jewish status to be racist,… in effect declaring Judaism racist.” (David Goldman, First Things magazine, Jan. 2010)

Just last week the British courts again interjected themselves in religious matters. A black Christian couple was denied the right to continue raising foster children because their views on homosexuality were in conflict with gay rights, which take precedence over their religious beliefs. The grandparents, Owen and Eunice Johns, have already fostered 15 children and were praised by social workers as “kind and hospitable people” who “respond sensitively” to youngsters.

But social workers raised concerns that their attitudes to homosexuality would conflict with the new Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations. During the case, the Equality and Human Rights Commission argued that the children risk being “infected by Christian moral views.”

Outside court, Mr. and Mrs. Johns, aged 65 and 62, said they were “extremely distressed and had only wanted to offer a loving home to a child in need.” They believe homosexuality is “against God’s law and morals” – but said they are not homophobic and would “accept and love” any child. (
Tamara Cohen, UK Mail Online, 1st March 2011)

Meanwhile, Islamic religious (sharia) courts have been established in Britain to operate in parallel to British courts. A report entitled “
Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights” begins with Suhaib Hasan, Secretary General of the Islamic Sharia Council, saying, “If Sharia law is implemented, then you can turn this country into a haven of peace because once a thief's hand is cut off nobody is going to steal.” There are presently over 85 Islamic sharia courts operating in Britain, sanctioned by the British government that has declared their rulings “enforceable with the full power of the judicial system.”

Thus far the Islamic courts deal with civil matters only. Still the “sharia courts threaten the integrity of law in the British democracy, by promoting the unequal treatment of women in the British Islamic community.” For example, “in disputes over child custody, sharia recognizes the absoluteness of a father's ownership if the child is over seven years old.” (Ellen Toplansky, Sharia Law in Canada and Britain.)

This unholy trifecta reveals the sad state of religious freedom in Great Britain. Of course, these things could never happen in America. Or could they? (Obama appointee
Dalia Mogahed is a sharia law advocate.)

Toward the end of the show Dennis stated that the essence of Judaism is fighting evil. Hugh responded that the essence of Christianity is forgiveness. On the way home after the show, George and I had plenty to gab about over Sicilian pizza and Italian beer at a great place just off Colorado.


Anonymous Theo said...

This is great!

12:16 AM  

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