What if you looked in a mirror but couldn’t see yourself? That’s standard for Dracula. Also for Jews. We’re recognizable as one of the nation’s most accomplished ethnic groups and yet so easy to overlook. Three recent experiences illustrate what I mean.
The April 9 issue of Newsweek featured a cover-story headline bristling with imperatives (italics mine): “Forget the Church: Follow Jesus.” Inside, the article’s headline started with a more journalistic approach: “The Forgotten Jesus.” Cool. I love reading about religion. The subhead continued: “Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists.” There’s a point of view here. Okay. But then comes another imperative: “Ignore them, writes Andrew Sullivan, and embrace Him.” Who, me?
Sullivan told readers, “Christianity itself is in a crisis” and delineated where it has gone wrong. Many evangelical leaders, he stated, have hijacked Jesus for their own purposes. Interesting. But Sullivan didn’t cite Catholic or Protestant leaders or academics. He was his own source (with help from Thomas Jefferson, who rejected most of the wording in the Christian Bible).
Suddenly, Newsweek wasn’t reporting on religion. Instead, it provided a soapbox for a preacher with no clue I subscribe. Sullivan revealed, “I’ve pondered the Incarnation my whole life. I’ve read theology and history. I think I grasp what it means to be both God and human—but I don’t think my understanding is any richer than my Irish grandmother’s.” I’ve read theology and history—and I have no clue how anyone could be both God and human. But I’m a Jew. So I guess Newsweek screwed up and sent me its Christian edition—unless the magazine is now a blog. Perhaps in late May—at Shavuot, marking the giving of the Torah at Sinai—I’ll see a cover head reading, “Forget Your Rabbi: Follow Moses.” But I doubt it will roll out nationally.
Ross Douthat also had something important to say in his April 7 column in The New York Times. In “Divided by God,” he referred to the varied theologies of Barak Obama, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, writing, “These divergences reflect America as it actually is: We’re neither traditionally Christian nor straightforwardly secular. Instead, we’re a nation of heretics in which most people still associate themselves with Christianity but revise its doctrines as they see fit, and nobody can agree on even the most basic definitions of what Christian faith should mean.” I don’t propose that Ross Douthat has it in for Jews. But we’re just not in the conversation. America remains a “Christian nation.”
Finally, Carolyn and I shopped at the Marina Safeway. The last two items scanned by our smiling checker were Passover matzoh and Shabbat candles. He handed Carolyn the receipt and wished us both, “Happy Easter.”
At least the cartoonist Hilary B. Price (Jewish) offered a Passover-themed strip in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle. The media mention for the week. And Wednesday night, when we declined bread at the Clement Street Bar & Grill, our waitress, Baseball Mary, asked if we’d like matzoh then brought us some.
This morning, I thought I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. But I suspect I’m delusional.
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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at email@example.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.