NYT Religion Correspondent: Other People’s Religions Are Funny

I mean, come on. Aren't they? Admit it. Just look at what those people DO. So weird, amirite?

By John Zmirak Published on September 30, 2017

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times has written an anti-Semitic news story for that paper. The topic was Amy Coney Barrett, whom Donald Trump has appointed to a federal judicial court seat. The attack wasn’t actually on Judaism this time; it was on Barrett’s Catholicism. Still the piece used all the methods of classic anti-Semitism — the upper-crust, sneering sort of Jew-baiting you find between the lines of some T.S. Eliot poems.

Don’t think of mobs of German-American Bund members harassing Jewish peddlers here. Instead picture lily-white U.S. senators chortling over stogies as they agree to ban “those people” from fleeing to the U.S. from Nazi Europe. Nobody says words like “kike,” but the ships turn around and go back to Hamburg. That happened, of course, to thousands of Jews in the 1930s, real refugees with nowhere else to go.

Goodstein sneers and arches her eyebrows. She rolls her eyes and elbows her cronies. She gathers the pack to mock the religious outsider, while keeping her cosmopolitan credentials nicely intact. Goodstein as good as says: “I’ve nothing against Catholics per se. Why some of them are my best friends. Just look at the Kaines and the Bidens. They’re clean, articulate people. But these extremists in their midst. They’re so … un-American.”

Goodstein ferrets out and exposes for public view the most intimate spiritual and moral details of Ms. Barrett’s life. She writes them up in scare language, using dog whistles designed to whip secular readers into a panic.   

Some Religions Are More Equal Than Others

No New York Times piece would, or should, do something similar with an Orthodox Jewish or Sikh nominee. In fact, the Times never even gave adequate coverage to Huma Abedin’s close family ties to the terrorist-linked Muslim Brotherhood — though she came within a few electoral votes of becoming President Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff.

But an evangelical nominee would get this same treatment. In a heartbeat. The same paper that pretends there’s zero connection between Islam and sharia, much less terrorism, would treat a conservative Protestant with haughty alarm, squinting like a haughty British colonial governor at the “natives’ savage fetishes.”

This is ugly Americanism at its worst. Goodstein stalks around Barrett’s private religious beliefs and practices like a crass tourist in a Hindu temple, gnawing on a beef jerky and cracking elephant jokes. She can’t make a case that Barrett’s private religious preferences will in any way skew her reading of U.S. law.

No aspect of someone’s religion that doesn’t directly affect his view of citizenship or respect for the Constitution ought to be dragged out into the light and mocked by outsiders. No more should we hack into his email and read his love letters to his wife. Those can be pretty funny, too, to nasty strangers.

In fact, the only writing which Barrett’s critics could dig up to throw at her argued precisely the opposite — that if a Catholic judge found her conscience in conflict with the real intent of a law, she ought to recuse herself. That didn’t stop pro-choice senators like Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin from treating Barrett as likely some dangerous fanatic.

No aspect of someone’s religion that doesn’t directly affect his view of citizenship or respect for the Constitution ought to be dragged out into the light and mocked by outsiders. No more should we hack into his email and read his love letters to his wife. Those can be pretty funny, too, to nasty strangers.

Just Look at These People. Ew.

Now Goodstein has finished snooping around in the details of Barrett’s marriage, her friends and the sources of moral guidance that she leans on in private life. And she’s here in the nation’s newspaper of record to warn the rest of America how weird all the stuff she found is.

No, none of it is illegal. Nothing here is harmful to children. No one coerces anyone. Barrett belongs to a group of consenting adults that lean on each other for spiritual direction. They treat senior members of the group the way many people treat pastors or rabbis, turning to them for advice in key decisions. They take a traditional view of biblical marriage, and man and woman. And they take more literally than many Christians do the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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But a sneering journalist can make it all sound pretty creepy and cult-like. If you read it, it might be to you. Because here’s the thing: On a surface level, other people’s religions are funny. Even within the same faith, the practices of one group can look like flim-flam or fanaticism to others.

Hey, Let’s Beat Up the [fill-in-the-blank]

I don’t have to list examples. Just think of the members of your group that take your faith “further” than you’re comfortable with. Or in what seems to you an eccentric direction. Don’t you cringe just a little bit? Feel tempted to scoff? With religions we see as more alien, the temptation is even stronger. That reaction is natural, but it is very far from admirable. It’s a grown-up version of school kids in New York City mocking the Hasidic boy for his earcurls and his clothes. We’re meant to grow out of that, or at least to be ashamed of it.

This is ugly Americanism at its worst.

But Goodstein is shameless. She fights for a sacred cause — the creed of secular hedonism, whose sacrament is abortion. She is desperate to rally her co-religionists against a serious threat. The danger doesn’t lie in Catholicism, or Christianity, per se. There are plenty of tame Catholics and Methodists in Congress, who long ago sold their consciences for thirty pieces of silver.

No the danger is that Americans of every religious creed will see how empty and hollow our new civic religion is. We pretend that “choice” is sacred, but admit that human life isn’t. We invent new rights for every sexual victim group as it is discovered, but wink as doctors exterminate the handicapped in the womb. The freedom that the Constitution has guaranteed since Planned Parenthood v. Casey really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Conservatives really ought to start calling Anthony Kennedy “Justice Hefner” in public. Keep it up till he finally slinks off the court. Because it’s the haggard and flaccid Playboy Philosophy that now reigns supreme at the Court.

And Laurie Goodstein means to make sure things stay that way. She’ll fight as dirty as she needs to.

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