Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Wednesday Sermon

Say, you’re a believing Christian of the twentieth century and you’re transported by time machine back into ancient Rome. You’re walking around the main squares and it’s all pretty impressive. Big marble cathedrals with columns. Huge statutes all over the place, and folks crowding into the temples, genuflecting and bringing offerings. Plenty of priests and acolytes in fancy dress, the whole society rests on this spectacular stuff.

And then you ask what’s behind it, what’s it all about. You sit down with a couple of these ancient Romans and they start telling you it’s Jupiter, the god who lives up in the sky and runs the world. And you think, Jupiter? Jupiter? What’s Jupiter? There isn’t any Jupiter, it’s all imagination, it’s all some made-up idea.

You know damn well that this sacred Jupiter that everyone’s so devoted to, that everyone’s dependent on, that everyone praises and carries on about, and writes epics and treatises and holy books about, and mutters prayers to . . . you know damn well that their Jupiter is air, their Jupiter is a phantom, there isn’t any Jupiter, no Jupiter of any kind, the whole religion’s a sham and a fake and a delusion, no matter how many poets and intellectuals adhere to it, no matter how many thrills and epiphanies people get out of it.

Then you come back to the twentieth century, and what you’ve seen and understood doesn’t mean a thing, you’re blind as a bat, you figure you’ve got the goods on Jupiter but Jesus is different, Jesus is for real, Jupiter is a vast communal lie but Jesus is a vast transcendent truth . . .

That, my freinds, is the very great Cynthia Ozik in Heir to the Glimmering World It came to my mind because yet another of my friendly neighborhood GOP-Jews tried to win me over to his cause by praising the president's religion. His case went something like this: "Bush is a believing Christian; you're a believing Jew. Therefore, you're on the same side."

As I hope Ozik makes clear, this all-too-common argument is rediculous. All beliefs are not created equal. A believing Christian believes in air. He worships smoke. A shadow. A fleeting dream.

Now its true that some of his values coincide with Jewish values, but so what? There are values on the left which also coincide with our own. The mere fact that the president is a Christian seems no more convincing a case for Jewish support, than does the fact that there are atheists on the left. The atheist believes in nothing, but by our lights, the president does, too.

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