Monday, September 08, 2008

Public Leaders as Role Models

Much has been made of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Evangelical beliefs and how they are anathema to the interests of Jewry. The fear is that she will govern from pulpit rather than from the Constitution. This view is mostly espoused by liberal Jews who are not religious in the Orthodox sense, although there are plenty of Orthodox Jews who have this fear too.

I am in profound disagreement with this view. For me her religious views are a plus. Not because I agree with her religion. Obviously I don’t. She is an Evangelical Christian. I am an Orthodox Jew. Indeed some of her fundamentalist Christian views which might seem in line with Orthodox views are in fact different than mine. She is Pro-Life. I am Pro-Choice. She is opposed to stem cell research, I am in favor. She believes in allowing debate in the public school science classroom about creationism versus evolution. I am opposed.

I am not going to get into detail about my views on these issues. Been there and one that. Suffice it to say that on the issues of reproductive rights and stem cell research they are based solidly in Torah law. And to that end I support keeping the government out of my decisions on these issues

As for creationism, versus evolution - obviously I believe that God created the heavens an the earth. But I am also a believer in studying the discipline of science without injecting religion into the public school classroom. So in theory I would avoid any mention of any theology in the science classroom - including atheism. None of that belongs in a science classroom and any student that asks about God’s part in the evolutionary process - I would refer them to their parents and religious leaders.

So why do I support Sarah Palin so much? Because she is a religious woman. And that is far more important to me than single pieces of legislation that she might propose in theory.

I say in theory because I do not believe for a minute that she will overturn ‘Roe versus Wade’. And even in the outside chance she succeeded it will be because of a technicality in how the Supreme Court arrived at the decisions. New legislation can fix that. The right to have an abortion will not be taken away from the public. The overwhelming majority of American people support reproductive rights.

But I like her principled position on the sanctity of life. That means that she will never, for example, agree to a euthanasia law. This is a law that medical ethicists like Princeton University’s Peter Singer support. Without a religious view of the sanctity of life, euthanasia would generate much sympathy in certain cases. But of course euthanasia is still considered murder. I would much rather have someone like a Sarah Palin in office than someone like a Peter Singer.

I have said many times that I believe we are in the middle of a culture war in this country. On the one hand we have about half the population who are seriously committed to religious values. And about half the population that are basically secular humanists with an anything goes policy vis-à-vis sexual morals. Their attitudes reflect the sixties mantra of ‘If it feels good – do it’ as long as it doesn’t physically harm your neighbor. The body is beautiful and why not display it in artistic ways. In the entertainment industry the act of sexual intercourse if done artistically is a beautiful thing to watch on screen! If it offends you – well just don’t watch!

That attitude seems to be winning the culture war currently. When one cannot even watch a football game without having to look at the gyrations of scantily clad women on the sidelines cheering their team on – or a commercial about some TV program where sexual immorality is the subject of the show - our sexual morals have definitely declined.

In times like these we need someone whose values represent an entirely different mindset - whose values about sex in the media are more in line with our values than they are with the values of the ‘anything goes’ Hollywood crowd. Sarah Palin has those values. She lives them and is not afraid to promote them. God is a part of her life and it is God that guides her decisions. We could use a little more focus on God in this country.

This is not so say that secular politicians aren’t moral. Of course they are. But they tend to be govern more on public consensus than they do on their own moral convictions. The popular culture as it applies to sexual mores– as they perceive them – will probably dictate policy rather than their own moral judgments.

Ever since the advent of oral contraceptives in the sixties, there has been a decline in sexual morals in this country. A religious person will be more inclined to do something about it. They will be more inclined to insist on public standards of decency. And they will be more inclined to propose legislation to back it up.

They will also set more of a moral example by the way they lead their lives both publicly and privately. This includes the way they dress and the way they talk. They are in effect role models that will counter the mostly immoral role models of the entertainment industry.

Sarah Palin is a role model. She is a Tzanua - a modest women who is widely known as a religious woman. It’s time we had leaders like Sarah Palin rather than leaders like John Kennedy or Bill Clinton whose sexually immoral behavior has contributed to the decline of those values. It’s time that we had someone in high office who recognizes that there is a power greater than themselves that guides the world and acts accordingly.

I do not think for a minute that her Christian beliefs are any danger at all to my Jewish beliefs or practices. On the contrary, I think she probably feels more of a kinship with observant Jews than she does with Christians like Bill Clinton. We need a person like Sarah Palin now. She can only improve our culture by helping to raise our moral standards from their 40 year low.