January 6, 2005

by Andrew Silow-Carroll
Toward what tradition, exactly?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, recycles his thesis that third-world countries get what they deserve because they lack the "influence of Biblical culture":

Western civilizationís second distinctive cultural imperative is the importance of preserving human life. This too derives directly from our Biblical roots and distinguishes us from the peculiar fatalism toward death found in so many other cultures.....Many of the deaths are attributable to slowness in adopting the western values that promote technical and economic development along with profound respect for each human life.

As I asked last year, didn't most of the scientific advances he credits to "Judeo-Christian" culture occur after the church relinquished its stanglehold on the West? Did the Inquisition, the Crusades, slavery, and the exploitation of African and Asian colonies by the West display "a profound respect for each human life"? I'm not even going to play the Holocaust card, because Lapin and his apologists will insist that Nazism was anti-Christian and pagan. But it didn't take root in Hindu or Buddhist culture, did it?


Andy, the Torah does seem to prefer high places to low places -- which is certainly sound advice when it comes to dealing with Tsunami. And certainly if Jerusalem consisted only of tents, the next earthquake will have fewer casualties than did the one in the beginning of the 20th century.

What's intriguing is how much faith Lappin is putting into his present moment of Salvation.

I read about the tsunami, and then I read about the threat of a megatsunami which could wipe out the entire eastern seaboard, and I reflected on how precious life is. You know the drill: Take the time to play with the children, smell the flowers, and shoot the damn squirrels who hog the bird feeder.

For Lappin, though, the lesson is somehow on his unique moral superiority.

One question for the rabbi: Given your "scientific" mindset, is there a particular reason you live in an earthquake zone only 85 miles away from an active volcano?

Posted by: Reb Yudel at January 6, 2005 3:19 PM

And it's not just Lapin. http://amcop.blogspot.com/2005/01/choice-words.html reports that Tom DeLay took the mike at the 109th Congressional Prayer Service and said the following:

"A reading of the Gospel, in Matthew 7:21 through 27.

Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?

"Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you: depart from me, you evil doers.'"

Everyone who listens to these words of mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man, who built his house on a rock:

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, but it did not collapse; it has been set solidly on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand:

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined."Apparently that was all he said before he sat down.

Posted by: Silow-Carroll at January 6, 2005 3:40 PM

There is a major difference between "biblical roots" and the "church." I don't think the Rabbi is discussing the "church" but the opening of Bereishis which Christians were allowed to read for the first time for themselves after the Reformation in the 16th Century. It was also after the Reformation that Christians were first widely exposed to Rambam who had major influence on Western Civilization through Hugo Grotius, John Selden, and Issac Newton to name a few.

Posted by: Barbara at January 23, 2005 8:04 PM

You have obviously not read Rabbi Lapin's remarks concerning the tsunami victims.
The whole point of what was written by Rabbi Lapin
had everything to do with his very right contention that God is not at fault for their
untimely deaths.
Also he also very rightly pointed out that the human race is in some measure the cause,in part because there wasnt an early warning system in place that would have spared thousands of lives.
About the worst part is it would have taken very old technology to save them & nothing hi-tech at all.

Posted by: David Doggett at January 31, 2005 3:51 PM
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