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Jewish World Review
Dec. 27, 2006
/ 6 Teves, 5767
The culture war is about the authority of a Book
If you want to predict on which side an American will line up in the Culture War wracking America, virtually all you have to do is get an answer to this question: Does the person believe in the divinity and authority of the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah? ("Divinity" does not necessarily mean "literalism.")
I do not ask this about "the Bible" as a whole because the one book that is regarded as having divine authority by believing Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Mormons, among others, is not the entire Bible, but the Torah. Religious Jews do not believe in the Christian Bible and generally confine divine revelation even within the Hebrew Bible to the Torah and to verses where G-d is cited by the prophets, for example. But "Bible-believing" Christians and Jews do believe in the divinity of the Torah.
And they line up together on virtually every major social/moral issue.
Name the issue: same-sex marriage; the morality of medically unnecessary abortions; capital punishment for murder; the willingness to label certain actions, regimes, even people "evil"; skepticism regarding the United Nations and the World Court; strong support for Israel. While there are exceptions there are, for example, secular conservatives who share the Bible-believers' social views belief in a G-d-based authority of the Torah is as close to a predictable dividing line as exists.
That is why one speaks of Judeo-Christian values, but not of Judeo-Christian theology. Torah-believing Jews and Torah-believing Christians have very different theological beliefs, but they agree on almost all values issues largely because they share a belief in the divinity of the same text.
Many members of all these different religions have found it quite remarkable how similar their values are to those of members of these other religions. An evangelical Protestant who might regard Mormonism as nothing more than a heretical cult will find himself seated next to Mormons at a rally on behalf of the Boy Scouts. An Orthodox rabbi who might never set foot in a church will join a panel of Christians in opposing the redefining of marriage. And so on.
Very often the dividing line in America is portrayed as between those who believe in G-d and those who don't. But the vast majority of Americans believe in G-d, and belief in G-d alone rarely affects people's values. Many liberals believe in G-d; many conservatives do. What matters is not whether people believe in G-d but what text, if any, they believe to be divine. Those who believe that He has spoken through a given text will generally think differently from those who believe that no text is divine. Such people will usually get their values from other texts, or more likely from their conscience and heart.
That a belief or lack of belief in the divinity of a book dating back over 2,500 years is at the center of the Culture War in America and between religious America and secular Europe is almost unbelievable. But it not only explains these divisions; it also explains the hatred that much of the Left has for Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Mormon Bible-believers.
For the Left, such beliefs are irrational, absurd and immoral.
Which is exactly how most conservatives regard most leftist beliefs, such as: there is nothing inherently superior in a child being raised by a mother and father rather than by two fathers or two mothers; men and women are not basically different, but only socially influenced to be different; Marxism was scientific; that the Soviet Union was not an evil empire; it was immoral for Israel to bomb Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor; morality is relative to the individual or society; there is no moral judgment to be made about a woman aborting a healthy human fetus solely because she doesn't want a baby at this time; material poverty, not moral poverty, causes violent crime, etc.
This divide explains why the wrath of the Left has fallen on those of us who lament the exclusion of the Bible at a ceremonial swearing-in of an American congressman. The Left wants to see that book dethroned. And that, in a nutshell, is what the present civil war is about.
JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to comment on this column.
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© 2006, Creators Syndicate
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