The nice thing about being on the Left is that you can despise religion, except when you need to pronounce authoritatively on it. Then it becomes as Moses and the prophets. Not that Moses is listened to much. According to one survey, only sixty percent of Americans can name five of the Ten Commandments. This ought to be good for the Left, since the Ten Commandments have no business in public life therefore the less one knows of them, the better.
But no sooner does the broom sweep out than the Leftist broom sweeps in. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, at whose premises Bill Ayers is occasionally seen, reliably tells us that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas worships “some other God” outside of “Allah and Yahweh” (who are the “same”). He then explains that Thomas Jefferson was a pedophile and that one of the great historical crimes of history was the occupation of “Palestine” by Roman soldiers.
Well that’s good to know, since “Palestine” TV maintains that “Moses was a Muslim who led Muslims in Exodus from Egypt”, so maybe we’ll see the Ten Commandments, Muslim style, back in public life soon. You can’t be non-inclusive or hurtful these days.
The theologically confused can always turn to Andrew Sullivan for advice on what parts of Christianity to razor out. “Christianity itself is in crisis … I have no concrete idea how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis, of its distractions and temptations, and above all its enmeshment with the things of this world. But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than with the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God.”
You would have thought for a moment that Sullivan was denouncing himself. But it can’t be so because Wright, Palestinian TV and Andrew Sullivan have been nominated — somehow — to the megaphone. Why on earth is the press giving them a platform? Maybe because journalists don’t know better. After all, a newly-released study from the University of Southern California says that journalists admit they know nothing about the subject.
One-half of reporters say the biggest challenge to covering religion is a lack of knowledge about the subject. Only a fifth of reporters say they are “very knowledgeable” about religion, and most of these are mainly familiar with their own religious traditions, not the wider array of faiths and practices.
That should be a superlative qualification. But that doesn’t really stop them from finding holy men to express a Newer Testament, the latest canon, the final prophecy. Not only will they tell you that the Ten Commandments you remember has no place in life, they will hasten to add what the Ten Commandments are now or at any rate what they should have been.
It’s a full service operation. Out with the old parts and in with the new. And one of the first parts they apparently intend to remove is legitimacy of our ability to think for ourselves. Clarence Thomas, for example, should stop worshiping some other God. Assuming He existed, which He doesn’t according to the atheistic principle. But if he did then He’d be Yahweh and Allah all rolled in one according to the multicultural principle.
But how did Thomas miss the mark by so much? Maybe by thinking on the matter and studying the available traditions — always the wrong approach in a world where the Constitution is no longer relevant because it is more than a hundred years old. The great religious faiths are to a large extent communal constructs. Their roots in history and in civilizational experience — deriving from their very antiquity — give them the aspect of a kind of common law. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are what they have become from centuries of challenge and response. They’ve gone through a kind of memetic evolution and one hesitates to replace that wholesale with Andrew Sullivan’s ideas.
But he’s entitled to try. And just as few of us would attempt to tell Andrew Sullivan what to believe, symmetry means he is in no privileged position to tell us what to do either. We should be able to decide for ourselves whether Yahweh and Allah are the “same”; whether Moses was a Muslim or whether the Romans occupied “Palestine” in any meaningful modern connotation. Sullivan can make up his own mind on these matters and what directions Christianity should take. It’s just that his ideas are inherently no better than the postman who decides after due consideration that he wants to be a Christian, a Buddhist or a Jew.
Most of us express these choices by deciding what churches to attend or what practices to observe. And there’s an end to it. If “separation of Church and state” or “religious freedom” mean anything it is that there are no privileged points of view. Yet that’s the trouble. Some must always be more equal than others. Bill Ayers never loses an opportunity to tell people what they must and must not do. Recently he pronounced on the boarding sequence at airports:
We’ve got a militarized society and its become so common sense that, getting on the airplane coming out here, the first thing they said was let all the, uhh, let all the ya know, uniformed military get on first and thank you for your service. And I said as I always do: let’s let the teachers and nurses get on first and thank them for their service. I mean, why is it that everything military has got to be good and everything that has to do with actual work, real work, not jobs, real work for people, that stuff gets discouraged and marginalized.”
And that’s nothing. He gets up every day thinking “this is the day I end capitalism”. To replace it with what? A society in which gets to tell everyone what to do. The Vanguard of the Proletariat, i.e. him. Then he gets so say how much you can earn, what jobs you can apply for, how much you can keep. But for now determining boarding sequences will do.
Because who worries about the order of boarding among able-bodied passengers anyway? You might care about your seat number, whether aisle or window. Most assuredly you will care about whether you go economy or business. But boarding order in economy? The plane never leaves without every passenger accounted for at all events. Yet there probably some people who have to say the last word on everything. And I think one of these is Bill Ayers.
How about founding a new religion, one in which Bill Ayers is just another suit on the street with this for a creed? “I believe in freedom from Bill Ayers and from all his noisome obsessions. I believe in the freedom to worship ‘some other God’ than that specified by Jeremiah Wright. Forever and ever, maybe.”
Jose Rizal was right when he observed that we had the most to fear, not from the Father of all creation, but from the petty tyrants who strut about the earth. Before he died he expressed the belief that he was moving on to better company.
Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos ni opresores;
Donde la fe no mata, donde el que reina es Dios.
I go to a place without slaves, hangmen or tyrants.
Where faith does not condemn; beneath the smile of God.
I wonder how he would like Bill Ayer’s company?