I suspect that if Joe Biden wins the presidential election, a hue and cry will arise from the far left that will impact everything from the monuments in Washington D.C. to the Hebrew Bible. The seeds have been planted here in San Francisco.
The school board proposes to rename 44 schools, including Washington High and Lincoln High. Washington owned slaves. Lincoln, say cancel proponents, mistreated native peoples.
Is political correctness running amok? One proscription involves James Lick Middle School, named for a local philanthropist. The model for an objectionable statue commemorating California was accepted by the trustees of Lick’s estate in 1890—14 years after his death.
Then there’s Mission High. It’s near Mission Dolores in, yes, the Mission District. And Presidio Middle. The Presidio, a block from my house and a national park, once was a military outpost established by New Spain then a U.S. Army installation. Really? And why should my city be named after a Catholic saint?
Since we’re on a roll, how about moving the Washington Monument to a theme park? Replacing the statue of Abe Lincoln in his memorial with Snow White? But no, “white” would be improper. Which is why the White House needs a new paint job.
Logically, the Hebrew Bible needs work. We’re now reading Genesis, which no doubt troubles some left-oriented, right-thinking Americans.
Start with Abraham, the first patriarch. He allowed his barren wife Sarah to mistreat his concubine Hagar, mother of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. Sarah finally conceived and bore Isaac. Abraham yielded to her and sent Hagar and Ishmael away. Abraham also was about to sacrifice Isaac when a messenger of God issued an order to cease and desist. Just a test.
Jacob, Isaac’s son, tricked his elder twin brother Esau out of his birthright then stole his birthright. Cancel Jacob.
What goes around comes around. Jacob’s sons cast their young 17-year-old brother Joseph—dad’s favorite—into a pit from which Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery. True, Joseph was a brat who tattled on the others and interpreted dreams to boast that they and his parents would bow down to him. He eventually saved the family in Egypt, and they did.
I could go further—Moses’ temper (he killed an Egyptian), David’s violence, Solomon’s lust for women and treasure—but my word count is limited.
The point: Jews, as well as Christians and Muslims, venerate these biblical figures for their contributions to monotheism. Yet, Jewish commentators long have taken our greatest ancestors to task for their faults. Still, examining the scales, Jewish tradition emphasizes their critically important deeds.
The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides wrote, “There are some merits that outweigh many sins” (Mishneh Torah—T’shuvah 3:2). One needn’t be perfect to attain a place in the World to Come. If God judges with context and perspective, and so accepts imperfection, perhaps we can, too.
That’s why I would never endorse yanking Martin Luther King’s name from schools and streets. MLK engaged in extra-marital affairs, according to sources including the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and the historian David Garrow. That’s not to his credit. But the good King did far outweighs his failings.
The Christian Bible offers sound advice. Paraphrasing John 8:7, Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Thinking on this, we might all unclench our fists.