We all know that Florida is a critical swing state in the coming election. According to Sam Stein of The Huffington Post, it’s more in play than ever and the Obama campaign knows it. That’s all fine. But the idea that a central reason for the shift is the increasing number of Jews who don’t like Sarah Palin because she is a Christian is far from fine.
The Alaska governor may be a boost to conservative hopes throughout the country, but in the Sunshine State her candidacy may be a liability. There is a sense of skepticism within the Jewish community over her religious affiliations…. The Jewish community’s concerns (stoked, it should be noted, by the Obama campaign) could prove the difference in what is shaping up to be yet another closely fought election.
There are many reasons not to support Sarah Palin, but the fact of her religious affiliation is not one of them. In fact, I am actually a little ashamed of Jews who object to Sara Palin because of what she believes. How did it feel when we heard that people were uncomfortable supporting Joe Lieberman, not because he was a Democrat, but because he was a Jew? In fact, Jews worried about that phenomenon far more than it ever materialized, but that’s another story.
And please don’t write and tell me, “but that’s different, we don’t believe the outrageous things that they do” because that just isn’t so. With the exception of the identification of Jesus as the messiah, there is no belief in Evangelical Christian thought that can not be found in traditional Jewish thought as well. Bodily resurrection? We got that. In fact, traditional Jews, including yours truly, pray for it three times a day. The Bible as the revealed word of God? We’ve got that in spades. We just disagree about what’s included in the revelation, not the idea of a personal God who gave us a library. That one group is God’s chosen people? I won’t even start.
Don’t get me wrong. One can create a meaningful Jewish life without these concepts, or do so by reinterpreting them in new ways. And the same can be said for a meaningful Christianity. But if not believing those things were a barrier to office, then Joe should have been disqualified as well.
I find it particularly ironic that the same Jews in Florida, often elderly and relatively secular, supported Lieberman but use religion as their excuse for not supporting Palin. They are actually doing to her precisely what they fear she will do to the rest of us i.e. using a theological litmus test for gaining office in a nation which separates church and state. Not a road I want to travel down with any group.
Why? If for no other reason than there are more of them than there are of us, so we will ultimately lose. But mostly because this election should be about issues, including the role of personal faith in the making of public policy, not the theology which we presume a candidate holds. If we used that test, then Obama would fail on the basis of Jeremiah Wright, which would also be wrong.