Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Camping for Haredi Christians

During Tisha B'Av afternoon, I watched a documentary titled Jesus Camp. It was about a Christian fundamentalist summer camp. It was a scary film. You get to see kids being indoctrinated to reject evolution, global warming and Harry Potter. These kids were being trained to missionize their friends and neighbors. You could just see, and this was the film's main point, an army of future Republican foot soldiers ready to go out and fight to ban abortion, put prayer back in public schools, nominate conservative judges and make this a "Christian" country.
I admit that this film scared me and made me uncomfortable, which was is what this film was supposed to do. But here is the difficult issue. What was it about the people in the film that bothered me? Was it that they are trying to turn this country into a theocracy or was it that their beliefs were so opposed to mine?
An atheist friend of mine, a while back, made the argument that the university allowing a group of anti-abortion protesters onto the campus violated the first amendment since these protesters were clearly Christians. His thinking was that because these people opposed abortion for religious reasons they were attempting to overthrow the separation between Church and State. I countered that if we were to follow through with his thinking then it would be almost impossible for a religious person to take an active role in politics. Religion tends to affect how you handle just about any issue your life. In my mind there is a difference between making a law that bans abortion and a law that says that people most go to church on Sundays. Abortion in of itself has nothing to do with advancing the cause of religion. It is quite plausible for one to be an atheist and still believe that abortion is murder and it is plausible for one to be a theist and be pro-choice.
To go back to our Christian summer camp, is there a difference between Christians seeking to be politically active as Christians and Christians seeking to create a theocracy. I admit that the line between these two is blurry nevertheless I believe that it is very real.
Saying that these people are out to create a theocracy is the easy way out. It means that you can force them out of the political arena and everyone will be protected from their "wrong" ideas. You have to ask yourself what are these people doing to force people to believe like they do? Unlike the kids in Palestinian summer camps, these kids are not being trained to use firearms or to kill unbelievers. What is the worst that they can do to me? Walk over to me and ask me if I believe in Jesus. Maybe they will succeed in putting prayer back in public schools and outlawing abortion. I may oppose such things but such policies do not interfere with my ability to live as a Jew and raise my kids as Jews. Living in a free society means having to put up with people whose ideas make you uncomfortable.

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