Dennis the Dinosaur

Dennis Prager just can't help himself. First, he went off on one about newly-elected Congressman Keith Ellison being sworn into office on a Quran, claiming the act "undermines American civilization" and accusing Ellison of being unfit to serve in Congress if he would not swear on a Bible. Then, when people had the temerity to criticize him for holding such an absurd position, Prager blamed Ellison for the controversy: "[I]t was Keith Ellison who raised the entire issue of taking an oath on a Koran rather than a Bible. He did not make his announcement in the hopes that it would be ignored but to make a statement. I was responding to that statement. Critics who are unhappy with it becoming an issue should direct their ire at Mr. Ellison."

His latest column goes one step yet further, saying the "Culture War" is about the Bible's authority, and its two sides are delineated by the answer to this question: "Does the person believe in the divinity and authority of the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah?"

[Christians and Jews, who do believe in the divinity of the Torah] line up together on virtually every major social/moral issue.

Name the issue: same-sex marriage; the morality of medically unnecessary abortions; capital punishment for murder; the willingness to label certain actions, regimes, even people "evil"; skepticism regarding the United Nations and the World Court; strong support for Israel; or a willingness to criticize the moral state of Islamic societies. While there are exceptions -- there are, for example, secular conservatives who share the Bible-believers' social views -- belief in a God-based authority of the Torah is as close to a predictable dividing line as exists.

…This divide explains why the wrath of the Left has fallen on those of us who lament the exclusion of the Bible at a ceremonial swearing-in of an American congressman. The Left wants to see that book dethroned. And that, in a nutshell, is what the present civil war is about.
It's interesting that Prager used "capital punishment for murder" as an example for his (presumably non-comprehensive) list of "major social/moral issues" instead of, say, "murder." But just saying "murder" would have complicated his point a bit, considering that most secular progressives are, ya know, against murder, too. In fact, on the most basic "social/moral issues," there's not much disagreement among decent people, irrespective of their politics or religiosity—murder, rape, thievery, dishonesty, exploitation, bullying…there's a whole list of social and moral issues that are both far simpler and more immediate to most people's lives than "a willingness to criticize the moral state of Islamic societies." (Which itself references a bullshit dichotomy anyway, and says less about anyone's morality than about Prager and his peeps' contempt for those unwilling to make sweeping generalizations about whole societies.)

There are also some "major social/moral issues" Prager doesn't mention at all, like racism, sexism, homophobia (which includes discrimination beyond, simply, "same-sex marriage"), poverty, healthcare, labor rights, and environmental stewardship, just for a start, where you'll find that it's progressives (secular or religious) who seek to lift those suffering out of their torment and provide equality, opportunity, health, and compassion. It's no wonder Prager left those off his list, too. Nowadays it's not as acceptable to overtly defend segregation, the patriarchy, and social Darwinism, so best not to mention those "social/moral issues" at all, unless within an oblique reference to protecting tradition.

In the end, I don't totally disagree with Prager's conclusion that "the present civil war" (my word, conservatives love their hyperbolic warfare imagery, don't they?) centers around a conflict over the use of the Bible—although I certainly wouldn't define it the same way. I don't see progressives' resistance to the idea that everyone should be required to swear on the Bible as hostile to either the Bible or those who believe in it, but the only acceptable position to be held by anyone who claims to support religious freedom. And I don't see Prager et. al.'s insistence on the Bible's use at swearing-in ceremonies as indicative of the reverence he asserts, but instead just another tiresome example of their determination to use it as both sword and shield, as they wield (their interpretation of) its precepts to attack those they dislike and then deflect condemnation by invoking sacred sanction of their institutional discrimination. In the end, progressives are basically assuming the position of our nation's Founders, who saw fit to include in our Constitution a clause stating that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" (Article VI, Section 3), and Prager is just emitting more of the hallmark petulant whimpering that serves as the calling card of the doomed heirs of undeserved privilege, mourning their slow but inevitable extinction.

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