Sunday, May 20, 2007

Boteach, Falwell and Me, the Balabusta

Don't read this unless you're willing to plow through lots of quotes and me being snarky.

First, some disclaimers. The Balabusta does not like Shmuley Boteach. This is not totally because I'm still slightly unclear on how he pronounces his name. He annoys me. He seems like a lighweight thinker who thinks he's doing everyone else a huge favor, especially women, by sharing his great insights into human sexuality, and whatever else he decides to know about.

The Balabusta, however, is mildly annoyed by Rabbi Boteach. She actively despises Jerry Falwell, a situation that has not lessened with his death. Hence, this rant on Boteach's strange 'more in sorrow than in anger' eulogy/apologia for Falwell's twisted philosophy of paranoia and hatred.

Yes, I had more important things to do this morning, but heck, it's Sunday. The Boteach quotes are in purple. Jerry would have wanted it like that.

Falwell, right and wrong


The Reverend Jerry Falwell justly deserves credit as one of the key individuals who brought the values of religion to contemporary American politics. Prior to Falwell, spiritual values were best thought confined to the church or synagogue, not the political party convention or the halls of

After Falwell, of course, things got much better in American politics.

...Falwell ensured that the voice of religion was heard. People of faith like myself are indebted to Rev. Falwell for making sure that religion in America carries real influence.

Yeah, religion always had a hard time in America before Jerry Falwell.

But perhaps Falwell can also be criticized for dividing America.

Possibly. Just possibly. Huh. Falwell?

He fought the religious wars which he felt were necessary against the secularists. Falwell built a religious barricade against the atheist barbarians at the gate. The religious-secular wars that have become so prevalent in modern America can be said to be one of Falwell's enduring legacies. Disunity was the price of creating a more moral America. It was no accident that Falwell called the organization he founded in 1979 The Moral Majority, implying that he would stand up to the immoral minority which was poisoning the country.

BUT COULD not a universal morality have been promulgated that even secularists could have signed on to? Don't non-religious people also believe in ethics?

Well, you see, Shmuley, while it's nice of you to suggest that now, the answer to Falwell and the brethren was and is NO. And since any 'universal morality' Falwell could have come up with would have been disgusting and immoral by the standards of not only secularists but many religious people, myself most emphatically included, I'm having a little trouble imagining this working. Falwell was, emphatically, a divider, not a uniter. If you imagine something else happening you're imagining SOMEONE else. (Maybe a man whose initials are SB?)

Falwell's main error, and that of many of my Christian evangelical brethren, was to so narrowly define morality that it came to mean principally opposition to abortion and gay marriage. He could easily have given morality a far more universal definition that would have had much broader appeal.

First, Falwell and the brethren did not define morality to oppose gay marriage. He defined morality to oppose gay people everywhere. Saying 'gay marriage', a concept that gained no common support until long after the height of Falwell's reign makes it sound as though this was a refined opposition to changing the common social understanding of marriage. Falwell just hated all gays everywhere, and saw them lurking under every bed. He didn't want them to be allowed to own property or vote, much less get married.

And I quote: "AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." That was Jerry for ya.

Second, no, he couldn't, Shmuley. Falwell would have rejected that concept, because it would have been giving in to the atheist hordes, speaking not the truth, but the watered down truth that would keep the evil ones in power while things got worse and worse. So basically, this is your idea, not Falwell's idea. You are able to have it because you, like me, are sane. So we can talk about 'universal' morality, but Falwell didn't believe in such an animal.

For example, rather than speak of abortion, he could have spoken of the modern culture of male womanizing which is the principle cause of abortion, men selfishly and irresponsibly using women for their own pleasure and abandoning them when they get pregnant. Even left-wing radical feminists agree that a society that portrays women as the libidinous man's plaything has seriously lost its way.

Even? Even left-wing radical feminists? This one is special. Shmuley, slowly, and from the top here. The second wave of feminism responded, in large part, to a society that "portrays women as the libidinous man's plaything". There were other issues as well, lots of them, but all tied back to the definition of women as sexual and reproductive objects common to American (and world) society prior to the early nineteen-seventies. Falwell did not give a damn about women abandoned by men with pregnancies (and I'm not sure your statistics on the primary cause of abortion are correct, actually), he would have blamed those women for being immoral enough to get in such a fix.

Abortion is the direct product of the misogyny in our culture which encourages young men to use women to indulge their hormonal urges without the commitment of marriage.

I note that young women are assumed here to have no hormonal urges to indulge, and not enough guts to tell the young men to shove it. No, wait, if girls were taught that they didn't have to negotiate sexually for a man's love, they might turn into FEMINISTS!....bwahaha!

Falwell could have reasoned with secularists and told them that even if we can't agree on a woman's right to choose, we can surely agree that a woman shouldn't be put into a situation where she is forced to choose. Women need to be educated to value themselves and demand commitment from a man whose claim to love them is all words and no action.

First, you can't reason with secularists, you should know that, Shmuley. Second, I'm thrilled to find out what women need to be educated to do, by you and Jerry Falwell. Third...oh, never mind. I sort of agree, but my agreement comes out of, among other things, my feminism, and I know how little you and Jerry like the part where I say "And if you do decide to sleep with him, after you know him really well, and both of you understand the possiblities of the relationship, here's your condom supply. Planned Parenthood will give you more."

THE SAME is true of gay marriage. Falwell and other evangelical leaders argued that this is the defining moral issue of our time and, if allowed, would destroy the institution of marriage. But with a 50-percent divorce rate in nearly every Western country, how much of marriage is there left to destroy anyway?

No, once again, get this straight (so to speak) gay marriage was late to the party. Jerry and the brethren believed that homosexuality, a perverse choice to him, was going to destroy civilization as we know it.

Lemme give you Pat Robertson on this: “The concept, the word for homosexual behavior is sodomy. That is what is used in the official documents. It is sodomy. It is repugnant. It has been prohibited and proscribed by sane society throughout countless millennia, centuries. People have understood that it is wrong. Now in America, not only is it happening, it is getting civil rights protection in the law, and these people are invading churches.”

Heterosexuals need no help from gays in eviscerating marriage. We have done a fine job on our own. If the intention was to save the American family, Falwell could have created a broader and more meaningful tent by making the enemy divorce rather than gays; and in the process he would have united both religious and secular to strengthen families rather than divide a nation.

Oh, God, Shmuley, you don't want to see what Jerry would have done with a war on divorce. Here's Pat again, on divorce:

"Why are so many marriages falling apart? Why is the divorce rate so high? ...Why is there such a tragedy in marriage?...Now the basic answer to the basic [problem of marriages today is a question of leadership. The wife actually makes the husband the head of the household and she looks to him and she says 'now you pray, and I'm going to pray for you that the Lord will speak to you."

Shmuley, I am begging you, don't even go there.

I understand how passionately opponents of abortion and gay marriage feel. When it comes to abortion, they believe lives are being destroyed, and they are. But then why don't we see the same adamant religious outcry over Darfur?

From the people we're talking about here, the wacka-wacka religious right? Same reason we hear about Israel but not Darfur from the wacka-wacka religious left. Improving the world is not the actual agenda here.

...NOW, IT'S one thing when politicians drive a wedge in society. But when religion uses the same tactics, it's sacrilege. God, above all else, desires love and unity among this earthly children. America needs unity and who better than religious leaders to provide it?

Cool. Who gets to choose the religious leaders?

Rather than choosing the most divisive moral issues to tear our country asunder, what is needed are religious leaders who use logic, persuasion, and inspiration to argue for a universal morality that even secularists promote. That moral code is the Ten Commandments.

Ohh, ow, my head. Shmuley, gimme a break.

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

"You shall not make for yourself an image, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Shmuley, atheists are not going to get on board that, neither are agnostic secularists, neither are polytheists of any variety, neither will religious Americans who believe that you don't try to impose a national religious belief (we like to call that the "Establishment Clause")...and that's before we start arguing about my grandma's statue of the Virgin, or whether yelling "Jesus!" when you stub your toe is wrongful use of the name, or even IS the name.

Most of the rest of the ten are now enshrined in law in some form. (Including Shabbos, although that had to be fought for against union-busting goons who were doing God's work by supporting the bosses against the atheist leftists who were trying to destroy America.) All you're talking about is trying to promote a bunch of workshops where you preach to the choir

Don't religious and secular both agree that respect for parents and elders creates order in a chaotic society? Do we not also agree that living in jealousy for another's possessions or success is the quickest way to destroy one's life? That society is becoming too consumer-oriented and money has become a
currency by which people purchase self-esteem?

Sure, but we also agree that in America you can pursue happiness, and even self-esteem more or less how you want to. I agree, to an extent, about consumerism. I just disagree with the whole underpinnings of this argument.

And if so, should we not create one day a week - a Sabbath - devoted to family and community rather than shopping malls and impulse purchases?

Most Americans actually do this. Some go to church, others to soccer games, some to the mall, yes, but we do actually devote our weekends overwhelmingly to family and community. Just as a point of interest, Rabbi, were we gonna use our Shabbos or theirs for this national escapade?

The Ten Commandments' demands for sexual faithfulness means respect for women, the desexualization of children, teenagers, and other vulnerables.

OK, there's coded messages and dripping condescension here, but also a core message I can respect. It's just that I don't want it in the damn courthouse.

The code demands love of truth, a commitment to family, a respect for other's property, and a devotion to a cause higher than ourselves. Why we ever needed to create an alternate code is beyond me.

Uh, is that the legal code of the United States of America we're talking about here? Please refer to "Massachusetts theocracy", assaults on Quakers, and the Constitution of the United States of America.

America needs unity, now more than ever, and religion should lead the way by creating a universal morality which guarantees shared values.We religious people have seen the enemy and it is not the secular. Often, it is ourselves. And when we fail at motivating people to lead moral lives we should not blame their sinfulness, but our own lack of persuasiveness.

Good argument, and I agree, again to a point. And then...

Shmuley, I don't think there's such an animal out there as a 'universal morality'. Falwell got that, to some extent. I believe, with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my strength, and all my being, that gay couples should be allowed to live openly and freely, and that their love should be honored with the title of marriage, and their children told that their parents are pure and holy people just like Susie's mommy and daddy. That is my religious belief. I also believe, just as strongly, that Jerry Falwell had a right to run around the country talking about the coming of judgement day on account of these folks. That is my political belief. We could not be reconciled religiously, but we coexisted in a secular political structure that made it possible for us both to live and thrive. That is the treasure of America, and that is what I will not give up to the likes of you and Michael Lerner, burbling around and talking about national values and the like, and what I would not give up to the likes of Falwell, who wanted to bring his religion into the halls of government.

One last quote from Jerry for the day: Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.

That's his true legacy. I was raised, taught and inspired by Christians who do not agree.


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elf said...

Thanks for reminding us all that there are sane people out there, even if they don't often get their own TV shows.

Amishav said...

I'm sort of amazed that Shmuley would think such (mostly) nice thoughts about Falwell- after all Falwell said, "G-d does not listen to Jews." What in the world was Shmuley thinking