Fresh Air was Stale Today
I’m not a huge fan of Terry Gross, but my heart really went out to her today as she appeared to struggle openly in an interview with John Hagee of “Christians United for Israel,” a right-wing end-of-days evangelical mess of an individual with delusions of grandeur, a condescending attitude toward Jews, and a loathing of all things Islam. He’s one in a growing number of loud voices arguing that Islam is an inherently hateful religion advocating the slaughter of Christians and Jews. Now you can guess how I feel, as a Jew, about Christians who champion Israel with even louder voices than Jews. And you can imagine my bafflement at the idea that Islam is a violent religion when the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. Old Testament for my Christian friends and nemeses) is so full of examples of eye-for-an-eye justice and giddy stonings. But this idea that the wrongs in today’s world can all be laid at the door of Islam is horrifically disturbing. By all means pay attention to “radicals,” to fundamentalism – but let’s have that across the board. Any group that sees only one path to the Truth that requires dismissing, banishing, or destroying other ways of living is dangerous to all. And we all know Islam by no means has a corner on the claim to Truth market nor on the wishing or doing ill to others. As Hagee mouthed off his nonsense about the second coming and the protection of Israel, his belief that the Christian Bible has greater authority than the U.S. government and that there can be no compromise on that score, and his open disrespect for “Islamists” (you just knew he wanted to use Bush’s new favorite term “Islamofascists”), all I could think of was how poignant were Terry Gross’s silences after she asked each question. One or two follow-ups to try to get him to clarify the depth and breadth of his judgmentalism, his closed-mindedness, his ignorance, his overconfidence in every word out of his mouth, and the rest was silence or quick movement to the next topic. I felt dirty just listening to all the vile nastiness spewing from this man’s rhetoric, rhetoric he may even believe. I can only imagine how it must have felt to sit beside him and know with certainty that nothing you could say would shake this man’s “faith” in his own Superiority, his own Rightness, his own—in the words of Stephen Colbert—Truthiness. Just keep saying it, preaching it, praying it, writing it, forwarding it in little vicious “true” stories via email chain letters to family members you know damn well don’t agree with a word out of your mouth. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll silence the little voice in your head that reminds you that loving your neighbor will do more to stop hatred in the world than any doom-and-gloom gospel you care to make up from your arbitrary personal interpretation of that gloriously confounding and partial mistranslated text called the Bible. Me? I need to not listen to you, to try to forget you exist, for as long as possible, so I can find peace and love in whatever small spaces they still exist on this glorious and terrible planet.