Scalia v. History
Jeff Sharlet: My colleague Kathryn Joyce, who posted the item below about Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s imaginative ideas about church and state, has a dry sense of humor. I, meanwhile, am the type to belabor the obvious. Just in case anyone didn’t get it: Either Scalia is off his rocker, or New York Newsday, which reported on his remarks, is pulling a prank.

Newsday‘s Verena Dobnik writes that the Scalia told an orthodox Jewish synagogue that “official examples of the presence of faith go back to America’s Founding Fathers,” and that one such example is the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Did Dobnik think everyone would get the joke? A socialist named Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge in 1892; and as everyone who’s read a paper in the last year or two should know, “under God” wasn’t added until 1954. Which leaves us with the odd spectacle of Scalia — an unquestionably smart fellow — and Newsday — a great paper — playing Dumb and Dumber.

But what’s really dumb is Scalia’s perversely ahistorical read of Holocaust history. “‘Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America?'” Scalia asked the synagogue’s congregation. “‘I don’t think so.'”

Whenever I hear crap like this I think of a story a friend of mine told me about his shul, in liberal Northampton, Massachusetts. After listening to the rabbi deliver a Protestant sermon to the effect that any Jew who asked forgiveness before he died would have have his slate wiped clean by God, a cranky old man in the back stood and in thick, loud, Brooklynese, said, “What thehell are you talking about?”

Justice Scalia, Newsday: Europe did not then and for the most part does not now enjoy separation of church and state. That’s an American idea. An idea of the founders Scalia claims to revere.

More importantly: The Jews of Europe were not killed by secularists. They were killed, for the most part, by men and women who called themselves Christians. That certainly doesn’t make all Christians guilty for the Holocaust (nor for the centuries of massacres that preceded it), but statements such as Scalia’s are simply wrong.

Newsday had a responsibility to note Scalia’s errors.

You’ll Be Safe With Us
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking at an interfaith conference on religious freedom in an Orthodox, Manhattan synagogue that is home to America’s oldest Jewish congregation, argued against the idea of a “religion-neutral government” with this logic: “‘Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America? I don’t think so.'” Scalia, a self-described Constitutional “originalist,” also cited precedents for religion in government that “go back to America’s Founding Fathers,” such as having “God” on U.S. currency and “under God” in thePledge of Allegiance.
“Christiandar”
John Bogert, columnist for a California paper, Daily Breeze, goes to see Billy Graham: “A couple of weeks ago I was stopped by a nice, smiling, inner-peace-loudly-showing couple wanting to know if I planned to see the Rev. Billy Graham’s Rose Bowl revival. Actually, I was…But you know how some people say that they have ‘gaydar,’ the ability to spot gays a mile off? Well, I have ‘Christiandar.’…The couple handing me the Billy Graham materials both possessed ‘Catholicdar,’ the built-in ability to smell papists a mile off. Precisely because Catholics of my generation generally don’t go around proclaiming their acceptance of Jesus Christ as our personal savior, that’s usually the very first thing that comes up with people who want to save us from worshiping plaster statues and such. Only in this case it was the second thing that came up. When I joked, ‘It would be nice to see the Rev. Graham while we’re all alive,’ the woman corrected, ‘You mean, before we are all called home.'”
And the Rivers Ran Red…With Soil
Archaeologist may have found the skull of the oldest son of Rameses II, who is believed to be the ruler of Egypt during the time of the biblical story of the Exodus. If true, the skull was that of the son killed by the 10th plague — the death of the first-born sons — visited upon Egypt by God to convince the pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves. But Charles M. Sennott of The Boston Globe reports that a depressed fracture on the skull, which pathologists say occurred at the time of death, indicates that the son was killed by human hands, and that the story of the 10th plague might be a metaphor referring to this single death alone.
Episcopal Visitation
23 November 2004
In a move towards a looser Anglican federation, Canadian bishops have agreed to try a system of “flying bishops” to help keep the worldwide Communion from breaking apart over homosexual clergy, blessing same-sex unions, and the ordination of female priests. The “episcopal visitors” — bishops from outside the local church and often from overseas — would be allowed to perform rites such as ordinations and confirmations for traditionalist parishes that reject gay bishops and other liberal positions of the Church.
Hate Lessons With Shmuley
Celeb reb Shmuley Boteach, rabbi to Michael Jackson, tells the readers of the conservativeWorldNetDaily that hatred has been demonized. Saddam down, Arafat in the grave… we’re on a roll, here, baby, so don’t stop now: “It is time for moral people to learn how to hate.”
Pacino’s Passion
23 November 2004
The Merchant of Venice is coming to a theater near you, with Al Pacino as Shylock. James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare and the Jews and one of the definitive books on passion plays, is not happy. “‘This is Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion Part II,’ says [Shapiro.] ‘When you go down Gibson’s road, this is where you end up. You can’t have the demonization of Jews without seeing where it ends up — and it ends in ghettoization and persecution.'” More…
Religion Didn’t Fit in This Story
As part of a series on the “children of Africa” (a sentimental ploy we’ll forgive them for paying attention to Africa at all), The Boston Globe sent John Donnelly to Uganda, where he recounts in brutal, horrifying detail the story of a boy pressed into the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army. It’s a scary, worthwhile report, but we were confused by this graf: “[Rebel leader] Kony has said his goal is to seize power in Uganda and govern it according to the Ten Commandments. But no one outside his inner circle takes his religious talk seriously. He is more credible as a killer.” There’s no disputing that last statement — Kony is as murderous a man as walks the earth — but by disregarding his vicious theology, Donnelly does the reader a disservice. Nor does Donnelly pay any more attention to the evangelical revival sweeping Uganda, of which dictator Yowero Museveni is a leader. There are religious politics in Uganda’s awful war, but religion — like less-sympathetic adult Africans — is relegated to a few facts dutifully noted before the main event of a sad child made victim and killer.
Unclean Kabbalah
The Detroit News reports on a “Kabbalah” outbreak in Michigan. Why the scare quotes? Because the New Age spirituality described uncritically in the article bears as much relation to Kabbalah as my Uncle Morrie, satin-jacket maker for the stars, did to the Lubavitcher rebbe.The Detroit News, however, wants to be “balanced,” so they report only that “critics sayKabbalah is being distorted.” That’s not being objective; that’s misrepresenting the facts. The Kabbalah in question includes Jesus as a great leader and star of David overlaid with a cross and an Egyptian ankh. This critic says that ain’t kosher.