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Saturday, December 03, 2005

"Must Reads," December 2005

To get the ball rolling this month, I'm happy to note that the embattled Christian minority in America is finally getting a little help as they struggle to defend their little-known, little-celebrated holiday, "Christmas." Soon I'll do a post outlining a neoprogressive framework for honestly and sincerely discussing religious issues, but until then here's grist for the mill: a story about what goes wrong when spirituality is distorted by politics, propaganda and just plain ignorance.


“Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation was organized because we recognize that Christians are the last remaining obstacle to the moral deconstruction of America.” – Don Feder

[I]f the Ku Klux Klan was marching with a symbol that said 'Merry Christmas,' it certainly wouldn’t be allowed.” – Comedian Jackie Mason


Flipping channels last night, I landed on a Christian Broadcasting Network News story on how the "war over Christmas" is heating up and introducing a group called Jews Against Anti Christian Defamation that came out on December 1 "defending" Christmas against liberal attack.

So, I googled, and here's what I found:

The founder is former Boston Herald columnist Don Feder, author of A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America and Who's Afraid of the Religious Right?, who describes himself as follows:

“I’m to the right of Sharon on Zionism, to the right of Pat Buchanan on immigration and Americanism, to the right of Mother Angelica on abortion, to the right of Chuck Heston on Second-Amendment rights, and generally make the legendary Atilla look like a limousine liberal.”

The same article notes a strong anti-Islamic tilt to the organization.

Others involved with the group include “popular talk-show host Barry Farber,” David Horowitz (Center for the Study of Popular Culture), Morton Klein (Zionist Organization of America), “syndicated talk-show host Michael Medved”; and Ted Baehr, who runs a site called Movieguide ("a ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles").

Other great quotes:

Feder: "Particularly pernicious is the leftist idea that it's legitimate to base your politics on anything EXCEPT religion. You can say that my politics are based on the views of Marx or Jan [sic] Fonda, but as soon as you say your worldview is based on the Bible, that's considered an illegitimate basis for embracing certain political views. Part of America's future hinges on whether or not Christians - and I mean authentic Christians (in other words, not the Religious Left) succeed in the political arena."

(So a non-Christian is judging which Christians are "authentic" and which aren't. Hint: Pat Robertson is; I'm not, at least according to Feder. Funny: I've never had the gall to decide whether Conservative, Reformed, or Orthodox Judaism is better... but I suppose Feder is wiser than I.)

Feder: “[B]y and large, Israel today is getting more support from Christians than from the Jewish community in this country. Now, I want to make it clear that we're not doing this as a quid pro quo. This is not our way of thanking Christians for supporting Israel, although we do appreciate Christian support for Israel. If evangelical Christians weren't pro-Israel, then the Jewish state would really be in a perilous positioneven more than it is. We're appreciative of Christians' support for Israel on a scriptural basis.”

(So a man who describes himself as "to the right of [Ariel] Sharon" on Zionism is not trying to reward or encourage conservative Christians' support for Israel, but is acting simply to show the extent to which conservative Jews appreciate conservative Christians theologically. Um hmm...)

From a blog about the group: "Jews can now understand that there actually ARE two kinds of Christians--those who love them and those who do not. To reach this point has taken hundreds of years."

(Don't even know where to begin on the substance of this one, so I'll settle for a passing, snarky question: isn't it thousands of years?)

And the full Jackie Mason quote, from above:

“Mason is also perplexed by the different treatment afforded to patently offensive forms of speech and religious expression. He noted that the First Amendment protects the right of the Ku Klux Klan to march. ‘But,’ Mason observed, ‘if the Ku Klux Klan was marching with a symbol that said 'Merry Christmas,' it certainly wouldn’t be allowed.’

(Legal note: wrong. Just plain, first-year-law-students-know-this wrong. We need to get a pro-Christmas Klan parade organized to prove it. Email me if you have the connections...)

Further resources:

Article about the group's "defense of Christmas" press conference on Dec. 1

Anti-Defamation League response (opposition) to this group

SUPPLEMENT, DECEMBER 9, 2005: Both above and in a subsequent post on the so-called "War On Christmas," I've passingly noted the fact that some Zionist Jews are articulating support for conservative Christianity, not, imho, out of sincere love for Jesus' followers, but to curry favor with a politically powerful group that strongly supports Israel. Don Feder's denial of any connection between Jews Against Anti Christian Defamation and his desire for continued conservative Christian support for his pro-Israel agenda is particularly laughable.

It's merely human for people to curry favor with those who are politically more powerful than they are; a little sad, but understandable. It's not OK, though, for those with power to demand subservience. That crosses the line from toadyism to oppression, and neither conservatives nor liberals, not Christians nor Jews nor atheists, can morally stand by and do nothing while it happens.

But intolerance and oppression are exactly what are starting to happen (which, of course, is why toadyism like Feder's and Prelutsky's tends to be self-defeating: people who demean themselves are more readily demeaned by others):

Donald E. Wildmon, founder and chairman of the American Family Association (AFA), used the occasion of the December 5 broadcast of AFA Report, his daily program on AFA-operated American Family Radio (AFR), to suggest that some members of the religious right would withdraw support for Israel if a prominent activist against anti-Semitism did not cease his criticism of it.

During the broadcast, Wildmon stated that Anti-Defamation League (ADL) President Abraham H. Foxman "got himself kind of in a bind" by criticizing the religious right. "[T]he strongest supporters Israel has are members of the religious right -- the people he's fighting," Wildmon said. "[T]he more he says that 'you people are destroying this country,' you know, some people are going to begin to get fed up with this and say, 'Well, all right then. If that's the way you feel, then we just won't support Israel anymore.'"

Shame on Wildmon. Is his support for Israel based on his faith and his reading of the Bible? Then it should be unmovable. If it can be altered, then it's just a ploy to increase his political base and suppress those who disagree with him. Either way, Wildmon is a hypocrite. And people who truly believe that Jews want to be wished a Merry Christmas, or that people like Wildmon hold sincere beliefs, need to wake up.


Blogger OsakaJack said...

From what I remember of Feder, he's the kinda guy who likes to stir things up because its cheap self-promotion. He's the kid in class who always takes the extreme view so he stands out more even though everybody would rather he just shut up.

And old Jackie has cleaned up his comedy routine over the years. He has some really smart funny that got lost on the Rodney Dangerfield-isms of the 70s and 80s. You should check him out.

On the topic: I'm suspicious of extremists. They don't want to discuss, they want to rant. And that's wrong. Its how fights break out.

12/03/2005 3:28 PM  
Anonymous r@d@r said...

grossly overplaying the "i'm an oppressed victim!" hand is often attributed to minority groups, but is in fact resorted to more frequently these days by people that are in fact the opposite. so what is it that motivates people who are demonstrably [even definitively] at the top of the food chain to attempt to stake their claim to the bottom? whose sympathy are they trying to appropriate? or is it because they hope to amass more followers to their cause by appealing to people's self-pity? certainly it underscores the concept we have read so much about of "privilege" - that certain people expect to be automatically placed at the top of society due to their circumstances of birth, and are outraged to find it not so.

12/06/2005 10:38 AM  
Blogger OsakaJack said...

Hear, hear r@d@r. And before anyone screams 'republican', I do NOT see your comment as patently conservative. It is pragmatic.

Case in point, the city of San Francisco tested a program where a kid who ran away from home to "hang out" in SF could get a free one way ticket back home. There were success stories about this because there really was a need to give these poor misguided youth a chance to reset. There is no shame in admitting reality didn't jibe with your fantasy, that you grow up a little and go back home to put the pieces back together. BUT!

This program is being attacked by people who feel these kids are entitled to the money, not the tickets. The critics say the money should be distributed freely, upon request (not making this up) to the kids. Who want to drop out and pretend to be hippies. When in reality they are homeless and cold. More money to perpetuate their existence in this manner, but not a solution to their problem.

There are times when I fucking hate American culture because so much of it is self-entitlement. Ergo, Thersites post.

12/06/2005 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NEW MUST-READ: When a Marine dies in battle, he is brought home in honor -- cared for and presented to his family in a flag-vocered casket with an honor guard. Right?

Nah. The President still has not attended even one of the over 2,100 Iraq War soldiers' funerals. And when our soldiers fall, they are sent to Dover in a midnight flight so the unloading caskets can't be photographed -- might demoralize the voters!

And then their bodies are shipped to their families as commercial cargo, so they can pick them up at the airport cargo counter.

I keep repeating myself: this is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is an American issue. America honors its fallen. It treats their families with sensitivity and honor. And this Administration is not acting as Americans have a right to expect. Why should Barbara Boxer treat our fallen with more respect than the President? Something is wrong.

12/11/2005 10:07 AM  
Blogger OsakaJack said...

Pop quiz: R.W. Emerson or Thoreau have a famous quote regarding exactly what you have just said. What was the quote? (No googling.)

Whitman has one: "Whoever degrades another degrades me/And whatever is done or said returns at last to me."

God bless Leaves.

12/11/2005 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really a must read, just a great quote from mutual fund manager David Tice:

"If you continue to goose the economy with more debt it's like keeping an eight-year-old on a sugar high," he said.

12/13/2005 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proving that the current political parties aren't pleasing anyone (and that a new bipartisan Progressive movement is needed to get them both to shape up?): a new Reuters survey says:

President George W. Bush ranks as the least popular and most bellicose of the last ten U.S. presidents, according to a new survey.

Only nine percent of the 662 people polled picked Bush as their favorite among the last 10 presidents. John F. Kennedy topped that part of the survey, with 26 percent, closely followed by Bill Clinton (25 percent) and Ronald Reagan (23 percent).

Bush was also viewed as the most warlike president (43 percent), the worst for the economy (42 percent) and the least effective (33 percent). But he was rated most highly in response to a question on who would do the right thing even if it were unpopular.

This suggests to me that even people who voted Republican in the last two elections are less than enthused with the party's current platform. (Why do I say they're unhappy with the platform, rather than with the current party leader? Because they score him more highly on a personal virtue -- willingness to do the right thing even when it's unpopular -- than they do on any other criteria.)

And why is this an indictment of current Democratic leaders? Because, frankly, many current leading Democrats are still compromisers -- Republican light, or Vichy Democrats -- instead of having the courage of their convictions. Most Congressional Democrats would score very poorly on the "do the right but unpopular thing" question. But historical Democrats who HAVE had the courage of their convictions score very high -- higher even than Ronald Reagan, whom many Republicans like to pretend was the most popular President in history.

Ultimate lessons for the parties? Republicans should focus less on their candidate's personal qualities and focus more on matching their platform to the issues voters care about -- even if some of those issues are classified as "liberal", like health care.

And Democrats should stop positioning themselves to the center all the time -- Hillary, why are you wasting your time on anti-flag-burning laws? -- and instead start acting like Kennedy and Clinton, intelligent, "give 'em hell" Democrats whose strong personalities overcame the voters' doubts about whether Democrats are forceful enough to lead.

12/16/2005 6:25 PM  

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