U.S. Jews vs. U.S. Christianity

It’s not something that Americans mention in public. And it may not even be something many note in private. But a Jew writing in a Jewish journal ought to point out a fact that, no matter how much ignored, is significant.

On May 5, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in “Town of Greece v. Galloway” that the town’s practice of beginning legislative sessions with prayers does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

As summarized in the opening words of the ruling:

“Since 1999, the monthly town board meetings in Greece, New York, have opened with a roll call, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer given by clergy selected from the congregations listed in a local directory. While the prayer program is open to all creeds, nearly all of the local congregations are Christian; thus, nearly all of the participating prayer givers have been too.”

I believe it is significant that three of the four dissenting justices are the three Jews on the Supreme Court — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. So, too, one of the two women (the “respondents” at the Supreme Court level) who filed the original lawsuit against the town of Greece is a Jew. And Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Union for Reform Judaism, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Anti-Defamation League, had filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the women.

This is all significant because the Jewish justices, the Jewish woman who brought the suit against the New York town and all the Jewish organizations that filed briefs in support of the two respondents represent a battle that many American Jews and Jewish organizations have been waging for decades against public expressions of God and religion. American Jews have become the most active ethnic or religious group in America attempting to remove God and religion from the public square.

Why is this the case? Why have American Jews been so active in fighting any expressions of God and religion in the country that has been the most hospitable to us in our long history?

Nearly every Jew who does so will give this answer: In order to fight for the separation of church and state in America.

But let’s be honest. If there were no such concept in America — and in fact, the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the Constitution — most American Jews would be just as opposed to public expressions of faith.

So, then, once again: Why are American Jews so opposed to public religious expressions? Moreover, this opposition exists not only to government-sponsored religious expression. For example, many Jews are avid supporters of substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” or “holiday party” for “Christmas party.”

I think there are four reasons.

One is antipathy to Christianity. Most Jews just don’t like Christianity. They associate it with centuries of anti-Semitism, and therefore believe that a de-Christianized America will be a much more secure place for them.

Second, many American Jews feel “excluded” when Christianity is expressed in public.

A third reason is antipathy to religion generally. Most Jews are little more positively disposed to Orthodox Judaism than they are to traditional Christianity.

That leads to reason four: a fervent belief in secularism. Most American Jews believe in secularism as fervently as Orthodox Jews believe in the Torah or traditional Christians believe in Christ.

Regarding reason one, it is foolish, and even immoral, to associate American Christians with European Christianity. They have virtually nothing in common. American Christianity has treated Jews not only well, and not only as equals, but has revered Jews and Judaism. European Christianity claimed to replace the Jews as the Chosen People; American Christianity claimed America was a Second Chosen People, the First Chosen continuing to be the Jews. 

A de-Christianized America would be an entirely different America from the one it has been since 1776. And we Jews would not be more secure; we would be less so. The special status we have held as Jews would be gone; and the moral basis of American society — Judeo-Christian values — would be gone. America would be exactly like Western Europe. Ask the Jews of Europe how good that is.

As for feeling “excluded,” I can only say that having lived among Christians most of my adult life, I don’t know on what basis other than ethnic insularity any American Jew would feel that way. 

Reasons three and four represent Jewish tragedies. The people that brought God and God-based morality into the world now believe in man and in man-based values. Instead of bringing mankind to ethical monotheism, most American Jews now believe it is their mission to bring the world to secularism. It is difficult to overstate how sad — and suicidal — that transformation is.