Monday, August 25, 2008

Why We Had to Set the Record Straight on God’s Vote

In the past three months I’ve begun to listen to right-wing radio, especially to Rush Limbaugh, mostly for the pain. Few things in our political culture are more rewarding nowadays than hearing Rush’s scrambling to build up a Republican candidate he basically despises, while at the same time trying to shoot down his sexy, imaginative, sure handed Democratic opponent who’s endowed with Reagan-strength Teflon. It’s desperate times for Republicans, the kind that bring about many desperate measures, including, naturally, enlisting God as the newest McCain surrogate.

David Klinghoffer’s How Would God Vote?: Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative is truly desperate, in its willingness to distort and misrepresent Jewish tradition, in hope of keeping a Republican in the White House for four more years. It’s not the first effort to manhandle the Divine for political gain – Republicans and Democrats have done it with equal doses of cynicism. But it’s the first such work I’m aware of that promotes itself as the views of an Orthodox Jew and hence, of the Bible.

Frankly, I don’t recall being this offended in a long time by an author claiming to be an Orthodox Jew.

If I had to pull the most infuriating quote out of the work, it would have to be Klinghoffer’s response to the YU Cardozo School of Law’s Innocence Project which, between 1989 and 2000, saved 28 death row inmates from wrongful executions. This effort, according to Klinghoffer, illustrates how “even traditional [Jewish] denominations have buckled” under the popular—and “liberal”—anti-Capital Punishment trend.

It boggles the mind: the idea that Jewish students in an Orthodox university are working hard to free inmates who were about to be killed for no good reason, is presented by Klinghoffer as a kind of failure of nerves, YU’s succumbing to the pressures of public opinion!

Regardless of their political inclinations, I believe Jews should celebrate the Innocence Project and the great service it does to society and to our national reputation as people who love the law. But to declare, on top of it, that God, too, would be somehow disappointed by the Innocence Project, because God is a registered Republican – that was classical blasphemy, and not even the fun kind.

Add to that the fact that Klinhoffer serves up such a mish mash of Jewish and Protestant ideas, misrepresents Biblical, Talmudic and post-Talmudic text, taking advantage of the limited Jewish schooling of his target audience – and the result is even more obnoxious than Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great, the other blithely dishonest book that pissed me off this year. For one thing, Hitchens wasn’t singling out Judaism for his hack job.

So when Larry Yudelson suggested the project I responded enthusiastically (although he’s still responsible for three quarters of the content). We divided up the Klinghoffer book between us, picked the dozen or so most outrageous chapters, and called him on his distortions, misrepresentations and fabrications, then inserted a few very good jokes (we thought) and stitched it together, the perfect Bar Mitzvah gift, just in time for the Democratic Convention.

Finally, if you’re a thinking Jew who is aware of our great prophets’ messages of social justice in the face of human frailty, do you really think God would ever possibly vote Republican? Why, even Pat Robertson is having second thoughts…

How Would God REALLY Vote?A Jewish Response to David Klinghoffer
by Larry Yudelson and Yori Yanover

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