But after a few days, the pit of press hell opened for Donohue. First there was the Daily News article on Wednesday that said, "Jewish viewers are still agog over Catholic League President William Donohue's comments on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" the other night." Then Frank Rich of the New York Times attacked Donohue for his anti-Semitic diatribe with the words, "For Shame," and Jon Stewart replayed the debate as a lead-in to his Daily Show and called Donohue an expletive.
For my part, I invited Donohue, with whom I normally share a warm and friendly relationship, onto my radio show twice, affording him the opportunity to retract the offensive slander. Sadly, he chose to defend and explain the accuracy of the comment instead.
Christians throughout the United States had better get used to the idea that much of what they say and do scares the hell out of Jews. And people like me, long defenders, apologists, and admirers of religious Christians, are losing our ability to convince the Jewish community that evangelical Christians are our brothers with whom we should work to create a more moral America.
Certainly, it does not help that evangelical Christians, who so love and support the State of Israel, also believe that Jews who lead exemplary lives but don't believe in Jesus are going to hell. It also doesn't help that all-too-many evangelicals are extremely vocal about this offensive belief, which utterly dismisses the Jewish faith as spiritually useless. Of course, every religion is entitled to its beliefs, and people should be judged by their actions rather than their dogma. But increasingly, since President Bush's election, religious Christians are showing an insensitivity to Jews and Judaism that is causing further distance between the two communities.
Are Christians really so tone-deaf to Jewish unwillingness to participate in Christian ritual? We're not Christian, for goodness sake, and while we respect and admire the Christian faith, we have no plans to join it. How would Christian parents feel if their children were forced to sing songs denying that Jesus was divine or the Messiah? And what would they feel toward those Jews who made it a campaign to force those tunes upon their kids in school? Likewise, Bill O'Reilly's comment to a Jewish caller that if he objected to Christmas he ought to move to Israel shocked a great many, particularly fans of O'Reilly's, like myself.
This disappointment was followed by a G-d-fearing Christian friend sending me an article by evangelical author Edgar Steele that was floating around the Internet accusing Jews of fighting to abolish Christmas in the United States. Here is the meat of the column: "We all know about the lawsuit to remove 'Under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance. Filed by a Jew. Remember the lawsuit to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse foyer, then to remove the judge who put it there? Filed by Jews. Remember the lawsuit last year to force New York public schools to take down colored lights? Filed by Jews. Remember the huge Jewish uproar about Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ? That backfired badly for Abe Foxman and company, but was of a piece with the overall strategy to deChristianize America. It's a Jewish strategy, of course. That's why the lawsuits are all brought by Jews."
It is imperative that evangelical Christians--whom I know to be good and G-dly people--repudiate this kind of drivel lest it spread. As more Christian representatives like William Donohue and Edgar Steele point an outrageous finger at Jews for secularizing America, Christian spokesmen must rise to the occasion and condemn this malicious garbage. The enemies of values in America are not secular Jews, lapsed Catholics, or apostate Christians, but any man or woman, regardless of how religious they claim to be, who doesn't condemn such horrendous bigotry.
Christianity in America will undermine its otherwise noble goals of spreading values and ethics if it sounds in any way bigoted, homophobic, or just downright nasty. It is possible to advocate for heterosexuality, and even for the sinfulness of homosexuality, without hating gays. After all, Christianity believes in the sinfulness of sex outside of marriage, but does not hate the 90 percent of heterosexuals who practice it.
There are far too many religious Christians who are undermining Christian aims with appalling public statements that deeply discredit the wholesomeness of the Christian message. Those fraudulent TV evangelists who are more interested in money than souls are obvious culprits, but so are abominable mutterings like that of Jerry Falwell, who said two days after 9/11 that the United States was being punished for its sins.
Religious Americans have a propensity for blaming the secularism of American society on atheists, but seem blind to how their own bad example can contribute to the public's rejection of a spiritual message.
I would love for our country to be more religious and for our lives to be more G-dcentric. Christianity has an absolutely central role to play in America in achieving that aim. But Christian leaders are far too savvy to believe that's this is going to happen by sounding judgmental, bigoted, and exclusionary.
In the TV debate with Donohue, I told Pat Buchanan, who moderated the debate, that "the reason why many Jews--I'm not among them--are fearful of Christianity is that they're tired of Christians saying that we're a bunch of Christ killers." It is time for Christian leaders to reach out to Jews as partners in faith rather than as perpetrators of a crime. Give those voices in the Jewish community who have championed the cause of Christian-Jewish brotherhood some proof that the real enemy of Judaism in the United States is not Christianity but secularism.