Keep religion out of presidential politics


Since last summer, when I volunteered for a Barack Obama event, I have received many nonsensical e-mails and heard many nonsensical arguments — from friends and family as well as on TV — about Sen. Obama’s alleged lack of allegiance to the United States of America. Bias and inaccurate conjecture have infiltrated the good judgment of many people I know regarding Obama’s disloyalty to this country through the avenue of his prior membership in his “radical church.” But before people tar and feather Obama, they should educate themselves further about what they are claiming.

The founding fathers of this country constructed an ideal for a society where religion would not be a roadblock to fair government representation. The intangible and the untestable were to remain in the completely separate sphere of church, while the practical and scientific were to constitute the sphere of state.

While our nation has made great strides toward the ultimate goal of a secular government, many Americans continue to associate morality with religion. Therefore, presidential candidates are rigorously scrutinized for their religious beliefs. After assertions that presumptive Democratic nominee Obama is a Muslim, his actual church, Trinity United Church of Christ, came under a series of attacks.

Indeed, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity Church has made ludicrous statements. For instance, Wright has preached that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a symbol of some sort of worldly karma when he stated: “America’s chickens have come home to roost!”

In addition, Wright continues to voice his opinion that the American government planted AIDS within the black community to sabotage its potential success and preserve the system of white supremacy.

But black liberation theology’s roots are deeper than one 21st-century preacher’s fiery sermons. The black community that has adopted this theology relates to Jesus through the common portal of struggle in the face of an unjust opposition, and it purports, whether figuratively or literally, that Jesus was black. There is much philosophical depth to this theology, but it is unpopular simply because it does not have as big a following as the other more thriving theologies in our society.

Interestingly enough, the same type of irrationality can be found among the most popular of theologies or religions throughout history — just look at crusades, jihad, the Spanish Inquisition, blood libels, witch hunts and countless other aspects of insanity in world history. Because religion, based on faith, often lacks rational credibility, yet its supposed absolute truths have been accepted as such, it has been endowed with the ability to create and support some of the most monstrous acts of human indecency in history.

As one of the leading Christian voices of support for Israel, the Rev. John Hagee has been invited to speak at pro-Israel venues many times. The presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, also successfully solicited, then recently renounced, the support of Hagee. But as I recently learned, Christian evangelical support for Israel rests largely on the idea that in order for Christian prophecy to be fulfilled, the Jews must retake Israel and have the Jewish Messiah arrive. This Jewish Messiah will then be demolished by the second coming of Jesus. Hagee’s backhanded support for Israel was confirmed with the resurfacing of his assertion that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jewish people back to Israel.

As a Jew, am I supposed to care that Hagee supports McCain and that he thinks the Holocaust was just another step in God’s plan for the second coming of Jesus? Or should I care more about Wright believing that Jesus was black? Should I care that every presidential nominee truly believes that I, a non-believer in Jesus, am denied eternal salvation? Absolutely not.

The fact is that irrational divisiveness is found in every religion. For this reason, it is simply unfair for the media and the American public to fault Obama for his religious affiliation. Given that any religious affiliation can be portrayed as ethically deleterious, let us not turn our backs on the separation between church and state. Let us not mix practical politics with irrelevant claims of religiosity. Let us not, as a nation with a conscience, shoot down Obama for his affiliation with a less popular form of absurdity.

Adam Deutsch will be a senior at YULA boys high school in the fall.



Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the August issue is July 15; deadline for the September issue is Aug. 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.



AIPAC, Persian tragedy, Christian support for Israel


AIPAC

Do You think it is fair and balanced news to print only Sen. John McCain’s comments to AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]?

I listened to Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hilary Clinton’s comments and feel they deserve the same coverage in The Jewish Journal (“McCain Raps Obama on Iran and Iraq at AIPAC“).

How do you justify not printing their comments? Not everyone has access to a Web site.

Charlotte Novatt
Los Angeles

Editor's Note: The Journal went to press before Clinton and Obama gave their speeches at the AIPAC conference. Sen. Obama's prepared remarks are online here, and Sen. Clinton's speech is online here.

Persian Tragedy

I think I speak for the entire Jewish community when I say that we are all saddened and in disbelief at the tragedy surrounding the death of Bianca Khalili (“Persian Tragedy,” June 13).

However, the horror is further exacerbated by the fact that we have not been able to stop the labeling of Jews. There are Russian, Moroccan, Mexican, Israeli, Sephardic, Ashkenazi and, yes, Persian Jews in our midst. Some of us are more or less observant; and, some of us are more or less accepted. Why? Persian Jews have been here since the late 1970s ,and I think that they have earned the right to be part of the entire community. Not Persian Jews, not separated from the rest of the Jewish community, but an integral, accepted and loved part of the Jewish community. Isn’t it time for all Jews to finally unite and stop putting up a mechitzah between us? This was not a Persian tragedy.

This was a Jewish tragedy.

Tamar Andrews
Los Angeles

I learned many huge lessons from the tragic events that recently occurred:
I will not allow myself the audacity to stand in judgment of another: will never “assume” anything about a person’s state of mind. No one knows who a person really is, what they are feeling or thinking at any given moment, what goes on in their homes, their hearts, their wallets…. I will not assign meanings to anyone’s behavior, or judge them to be anything, other than “an imperfect human being” just like me.

People talk, and that’s all it is: “talk.” You want facts? Good luck. I hear of lashon hara, I hear of police reports, of the “Jewish Way,” and you are one of the first to mention the human way.

I do not hear about “judgment,” or the law where you are innocent until proven guilty. I used to go to Beverly Hills High School; I have two teenagers, and I see what goes on … it can be brutal. However, I believe the real tragedy here is living within us, today.

There were two people there that night. One cannot ever talk again, and the other talks but no one wants to listen. The bottom line is none of us were there. None of us know what really happened, so for anyone to pass such cruel and dignified judgments is an utter tragedy of epic proportions, and a disgrace to logic and common sense.

I have spent three weeks at parties and gatherings listening to such ugly, baseless gossip, all of which was hearsay, illogical nonsense and just pure fantasy. People talked and talked, spewing words from their mouths so easily, as if they were reciting a poem, or reading street signs, without a moment’s hesitation to consider what they were saying, where it all came from, whether it was fact or hearsay … living their “C.S.I.” fantasy moment … well, because they just know everything and that makes it automatically a fact, of course; right?

The deceased is gone. Yet the living is left sinning, hurting, reeling, and lost. I only hope and pray that our people can find ourselves again, and learn from this.

It is time to stop, and put an end to this vicious cycle. Let the police and the courts take care of their business. Let us allow some breathing room for the families involved to grieve in peace and, God willing, someday heal.

Tannaz Rahbar
via e-mail

AIDS/HIV Supplement

I seldom miss an issue of The Jewish Journal, and I’m so glad I found the June 6 issue. Thanks so much for the supplement “AIDS and HIV” — it is fantastic and so important.

I have donated to AIDS Project Los Angeles and Project Angel Food but just learned of Project Chicken Soup.

GLSEN [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] is a fine group helping students and schools become inclusive for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students. They all need the same safe environments to study, learn and become productive, useful citizens, unharmed.

For me to realize (thru this supplement) that the Jewish community is open to helping is so rewarding and welcome. Please accept my sincere appreciation.

Dorothy L. Linder
Culver City

Christian Support for Israel

Thank you for finally publishing a positive article about Christian support for Israel in the May 30 article, “Interfaith Pep Rally For Israel Rocks the Forum.”

Instead of constantly looking for fault in Christian support for Israel we need to embrace their support, which is genuine and based on a shared belief in a common Bible and common God not just on a “common enemy in Islamic extremism.”

I have personally witnessed Christian pilgrimages to Israel on the Jewish holidays and seen their genuine love and devotion to the State of Israel and the Jewish people and we must never forget to appreciate their support.

Amanda Gelman
Los Angeles

Correction

Due to editing errors in "Orthodox Schools Share Concern For Greener World" (June 6), Master Solar and Madam Geothermal were erroneously attributed to David Chameides. Chameides is not associated with those characters or with the Big Mountain program at Camp Max Strauss. Chameides has not spoken at Yavneh, nor did he speak with Shalhevet parents, though he was invited to attend Shalhevet's trip to the landfill.

2008: The contest for the Jews


With Hillary Rodham Clinton’s