I was glad to see the rhetoric about an ostensible “war” on Christmas virtually gone this holiday cycle. Replacing it, however, seems to be an ostensible “war” on those who believe in the divinity of the Torah. Dennis Prager (my emphasis):
If you want to predict on which side an American will line up in the Culture War wracking America, virtually all you have to do is get an answer to this question: Does the person believe in the divinity and authority of the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah? (“Divinity” does not necessarily mean “literalism.”)
I do not ask this about “the Bible” as a whole because the one book that is regarded as having divine authority by believing Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Mormons, among others, is not the entire Bible, but the Torah. Religious Jews do not believe in the New Testament and generally confine divine revelation even within the Old Testament to the Torah and to verses where God is cited by the prophets, for example. But “Bible-believing” Christians and Jews do believe in the divinity of the Torah.
And they line up together on virtually every major social/moral issue.
Very often the dividing line in America is portrayed as between those who believe in God and those who don’t. But the vast majority of Americans believe in God, and belief in God alone rarely affects people’s values. Many liberals believe in God; many conservatives do. What matters is not whether people believe in God but what text, if any, they believe to be divine. Those who believe that He has spoken through a given text will generally think differently from those who believe that no text is divine. Such people will usually get their
values from other texts, or more likely from their conscience and heart.
That a belief or lack of belief in the divinity of a book dating back over 2,500 years is at the center of the Culture War in America and between religious America and secular Europe is almost unbelievable. But it not only explains these divisions; it also explains the hatred that much of the Left has for Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Mormon Bible-believers.
This divide explains why the wrath of the Left has fallen on those of us who lament the exclusion of the Bible at a ceremonial swearing-in of an American congressman. The Left wants to see that book dethroned. And that, in a nutshell, is what the present civil war is about.
What’s this all about? Muslim congressman-elect Keith Ellison’s plans to re-take his oath of office with a hand on the Quran. (Yes, all congress members are sworn in through a general oath, not related to any hand on any holy book; many congress members choose to have additional ceremonies with their hands on the bible, or the TaNak, or the Book of Mormon, or the like… Check out that very good NPR report…) Prager and some others (like congressman Virgil Goode) are apoplectic about this…a good example of Christian Fusspots.
And what exactly is the divinity of the Torah, specifically, or scripture generally, in Christian thought? Scripture may be considered “god-breathed,” or divinely-inspired, by most Christians. But divine? No. Thinking God speaks through a text (a medium) is not the same thing as regarding that medium, that revelation, as itself divine. Thinking that a text points uniquely, authoritatively, to the experience of human beings with a loving, covenantal God throughout human history is not the same thing as to deify the account of that experience. We worship Christ the Word made Flesh as one person of the trinity, of the one triune God. We don’t worship the text. It is not divine. And its authority isn’t, repeat, isn’t something that just conservatives subscribe to.
I don’t know what’s worse: calling the bible itself divine or saying that only my way of reading it is the only way to believe in its “authority.” Both smack of idolatry and hubris to me.
This is not even to get into the crap Prager deals about liberals and conservatives in that piece (and note earlier posts on this board about conservative Judaism ordaining gays and lesbians, for example; so much for that theory that “bible-believing” folk line up on every major social issue…)….
This is not to get into Prager’s isolation of the Torah within the Christian canon, or the elision of major interpretive, theological, and yes axiological differences we have with other “people of the book”.
And this is not even trying to parse out exactly what Prager means when he says his complaint about “divinity” does not “necessarily” mean something with regards to “literalism.”
Regardless of all this, this choosing which holy-book congress members are permitted to chose when taking their unofficial oaths business is loony. But then again, loony seems to sell, which is the sad thing to me.
(h/t Joshua Micah Marshall)