Hat-tip to Brent: Dennis Prager, of “letting Keith Ellison swear on the Qur’an is anathema to American values” fame, is fielding a weak response to his critics. I’m not going to talk about the response – I’d rather just call him a cultural supremacist idiot who eighty years ago would’ve lauded Harvard’s changing of its entire admission system to keep Jews out. Rather, there’s one paragraph in his response that touches a nerve.
[Link] “Bigoted”: Bigoted against whom? Against non-Christians? I am a non-Christian. Am I bigoted against myself as a Jew? I happen to be one of the most active individuals in American Jewish life and co-author of probably the most widely used English-language introduction to Judaism of the last 30 years.
In fact, it is as a Jew that I am so aware of the fragility of all civilizations, including ours. I am therefore aware of how uniquely good America has been for all its citizens, including and especially its Jews. This uniqueness does not stem from secularism alone, but from an extraordinary Judeo-Christian value system that has been our civic religion. Europe is secular and is a failing civilization, one that is also increasingly judenrein (empty of Jews) because of its anti-Semitism.
Discussions of a lot of cultural and religious subjects brim with references to Jews, and people freely play the Jew card. I’ll admit to being somewhat guilty of that myself, though I think my post about Islam and the West is relatively free of that.
But Prager’s really crossing a line with the “Jews can’t oppress Muslims” line, which I’m sure Belledame would have a few words to say about. Not all bigotry comes from a single master group oppressing minorities; traditional Brooklyn was filled with different groups of immigrants that hated one another.
In the last 60 years, guilt-ridden American Christians have trained themselves to think of Judaism as another Christian denomination; hence “Judeo-Christian,” the most ubiquitous term in the West that needs to be immediately retired from public use. Kingdom Coming suggests that it’s about to change – I presume due to the Christmas Wars, which require conservative Christians to assert the supremacy of Christmas rather than of Christmas and Hanuka – but Prager still belongs to a wave of fascism that is firmly pro-Semitic.
In other words, any claim American Jews have to being an oppressed religious minority that can’t possibly oppress atheists or Muslims or Hindus is bunk, unless it predates the late 1940s. The problem is, of course, the treatment of Jews in pre-1945 America is eerily similar to the treatment of Muslims in post-2001 America.
As for the US and anti-Semitism, crediting American Christianity to the relative lack of anti-Semitism in the US is stupid. Western Europe may be secular now, but it wasn’t always that secular. The wave of persecution beginning in the 1870s coincided with the rise of conservative nationalist values, which as a rule involved religion; in fact, most Jewish immigrants to the US came from Eastern Europe, which was even more religious than the US. What’s more, in Russia, the religious Czarists incited pogroms, while Lenin and Trotsky were unusually pro-Semitic.
In North America, any correlation between Christian values and anti-Semitism is positive rather than negative. Mildly secular Canada is no more anti-Semitic than the very religious US. Jews face less persecution in religiously pluralist New York and mildly secular California than in the Christian-dominated Southeast, where as far north as Delaware, Christian fundamentalists are engaging in anti-Semitic oppression that bears too much resemblence to anti-black sentiments in the South right after Brown vs. Board of Education.
The US is not less bigoted than Europe because of Christian values. Otherwise Poland would be a heaven of tolerance, France would be the most racist country in the West, and Canada would have average levels of racism. Rather, the US and Canada have less bigotry because their policies toward immigrants have generally been the opposite of what people like Prager advocate, whereas Europe’s has been of doing all but forcibly Christianizing them.