Rabbi: Secularism in retreat

By UWE SIEMON-NETTO, UPI Religion Editor  |  March 13, 2003 at 8:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- Prominent Orthodox rabbi Daniel Lapin hailed Thursday's Senate vote banning partial-birth abortions as further evidence that secularism in the United States is in retreat. He said this development affected both the Jewish and the Christian communities.

Lapin and Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed have just announced a "new paradigm of partnership between Jews and Christians." At an Atlanta dialogue between adherents of the two faiths they stressed the need Tuesday "to embrace each other as moral and political allies."

This was all the more imperative "amidst the threat of terrorism and potential war," they went on. "We are generating secular liberalism's worst nightmare," Lapin told United Press International in an interview Thursday.

According to the rabbi, this nightmare is manifest in the "political, social and economic collaboration between Jews and Christians who believe that the traditional faith as envisaged by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the founders of modern America is vital for our nation's survival."

Lapin is founder and president of Toward Tradition, a nationwide 20,000-member coalition of Jews and Christians. One of its key messages is that "America's Bible belt is the Jewish safety belt," as Lapin phrased it.

"It would be churlish and un-Jewish to reject the friendship of America's Christians," he explained, adding that this message is now being heard. At the Atlanta dialogue titled, Toward a New Common Ground, 60 percent of the participants were Jewish.

"This was a reverse to the previous pattern at such events," the rabbi noted with satisfaction. Similar dialogues are now planned in nine more cities.

Lapin made it clear that the need for Jews to accept the friendship and support of Christians should not result in papering over theological differences.

On the one hand, he said, faithful Jews and Christians realized that they had more in common with one another than each did with the liberal branches of their communities. On the other hand, "praying together would only blur the theological distinctions between two proud and noble faiths."

Lapin related that during a question-and-answer session he was asked, "How can Jews cooperate with people who think they will go to hell (as some evangelicals do)?" He replied, "Christians are perfectly entitled to believe that I will go to hell, as long as they do not accelerate my arrival there."

This, he reminded his audience, was not happening "in this blessed country we live in." At any rate, he went on, "According to Judeo-Christian theology only God knows what is in each of our hearts. Let the Lord God announce his decision on Judgment Day."

According to Lapin, 25 to 35 percent of America's Jews "are irredeemably committed to the fundamentalist faith of secular liberalism." An equal share "is orthodox and traditionalist and extremely comfortable with the alliance for which we stand, and the rest is up for grabs."

But he added that like its evangelical counterpart, the orthodox wing is growing. "Just as evangelical churches are proliferating like mushrooms after a rainstorm, so Orthodox synagogues and kosher restaurants can now be found everywhere." At the same time, he continued, liberal temples were often as empty as their mainline Christian equivalents.

Although he regularly receives threats to his life because of his religious orthodoxy, Lapin concluded cheerfully, "We are living through insipient stages of America's third great religious reawakening."

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