Left-leaning journalists and politicians are exploiting Israel’s trouble to further their own domestic agenda. They warn that a faith centered world view encourages people to shoot abortionists and also contributed to the Rabin assassination. This jeremiad combines three fallacies.
The first we reject even from a five-year-old when he claims, “My sister made me do it.” It is fundamental to civilization that each person must accept responsibility for his own actions. Jewish law proclaims unequivocally that nobody can claim to be an agent when committing a sin. God rejected Adam’s cry, “The woman made me do it.” Society depends upon the belief that people have the free choice to obey laws or to flout them.
Like so many other Old Testament rules, this principle became enshrined in Judeo-Christian thought, where it helped make possible the triumphs of Western civilization. It came under attack during recent years when American criminal law began to widely deploy the doctrine that a murderer could be declared innocent by reason of insanity. Earlier, his insanity had only been the reason we declined to execute him after finding him guilty. Now, however, we must suffer judges who leave no stone unturned in their zealousness to find someone or something that made the young thug torture and kill his victim. Upon locating this external cause, our judge is now free to turn villain into victim. The UCLA psychologist who recently announced that he had discovered the nervous system dysfunction that causes criminal behavior is simply delivering more of the same. Their goal is to eliminate free moral choice from American society.
The second fallacy is that religious conservatism is by its very nature, intrinsically evil. This is done by subtle use of terms such as fundamentalist, extremist, and right-wing. It is almost as if to suggest that Americans with passionate conviction about anything beyond baseball should not be trusted. Anyone with deep feelings about ideas is suspect. Anyone seriously contemplating good and evil and God in the context of public policy is half a step from becoming a dangerous zealot. Anyone who actually believes that God once revealed himself to the world and disclosed the basics of the system by means of which humans could best structure their society is over the edge—he is scary. That last word is one of the newer ways to disparage those who believe that secularization has damaged America. “They scare me” is the phrase of choice.
This misconception, that certainty about any idea threatens social harmony, entirely ignores all the good that has been created by those devoted to an idea. Many life saving medical and technological advances came into being because one individual insisted it could be done. Buildings that house people and businesses that employ them come into being because of single-minded humans willing to endure the birth pains that afflict those who try to convert an idea into a tangible reality. America was discovered, colonized, and developed by men and women who couldn’t be deflected from an ideal. Americans devoted to the idea that their faith should inform their political choices are today seen as religious conservatives. Like most people, sometimes they act virtuously and at other times, less so. The passion they feel for their vision of a more traditional America is neither evil nor dangerous. To suggest otherwise is misleading.
American religious conservatives derive enormous psychic strength from the knowledge that they are the authentic spiritual heirs of our Founding Fathers. Even many liberals suspect this to be true, recognizing that George Washington would probably feel more comfortable in the home of Clarence Thomas than in that of Ted Kennedy.
But Modern Israel was established by anti-religious socialists. Much of Israel’s population descends spiritually from these founders and views religious conservatives as interlopers. Furthermore, religious conservatives and their sympathizers in Israel amount to a far smaller percentage of the population than the 50 percent or more of Americans sympathetic to religious conservatism. And, for the most part, they are geographically segregated, living in religious neighborhoods, in towns like Bnei Brach or in West Bank settlements. America’s religious conservatives are everywhere. It is hard to know how things will go in Israel, but in America, demographics dictate. A cultural revolution is taking place, fueled by religious conservatism. Attempts to retard or suppress America’s religious reawakening by exploiting Israel’s problems are doomed. The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.