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Examining which issues raise its organizational blood pressure, it is easy to see that the Anti-Defamation League chiefly represents two categories of Jews. One, Jews for whom the doctrines of secular fundamentalism and of the Democratic Party have replaced the authentic principles of Judaism. Two, Jews who consider Christian conservatives to be a far greater peril than Islamic extremism.

It now turns out that the ADL represents yet a third category of Jews: those passionately dedicated to defending Darwin. Once again, like a friendly and frolicsome puppy with a large, bushy tail that constantly knocks down expensive vases, the ADL, though filled with good intent, is utterly, completely clueless. Not only is it misrepresenting Judaism, but it may well be shattering the priceless vase of Jewish survival.

The ADL has just launched an intemperate and hysterical attack against Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This weekend, the ministry is releasing a television documentary entitled “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy.” It features prominent intellectuals like University of California law professor Phillip Johnson, and scientists with unimpeachable academic credentials like professors Michael Behe and Jonathan Wells.

This dazzling production shows how ideas always have consequences, often unintended, and how Darwinism has impacted American culture. It discusses how the philosophy of evolution can dehumanize people and how Adolf Hitler, on his own admission, was influenced by Darwinian thought.

This is how the ADL blasted the documentary (reportedly, before seeing it): “This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust.” ADL National Director Abe Foxman warns, “It must be remembered that D. James Kennedy is a leader among the distinct group of Christian supremacists who seek to reclaim America for Christ and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law.”

Serious people are asking these three questions:

  1. Why is a movie that shows how Darwinian thought helped shape Hitler’s murderous mind dangerous to Jews?

  2. Why is it necessary to insult so harshly one of America’s most prominent Christian leaders? Or to put it more bluntly, how exactly does it help Jews when the ADL humiliates an evangelical leader whom as many as 40 million Americans revere? Especially since Christian conservatives are virtually alone in acting benevolently toward Jews and standing with Jews in support of Israel.

  3. Finally, had some Protestant pastor said in 2000, “Vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman is a leader among a distinct group of Jewish supremacists who seek to eradicate Christianity from America and turn the U.S. into a secular society based upon their strange notions of Jewish socialism,” would Mr. Foxman not have decried it as anti-Semitic? Intellectual honesty, if not a sense of decency, surely compels us to acknowledge that if anti-Semitism is an evil, so is anti-Christianism – bigotry is, after all, bigotry.

I believe it appropriate for thoughtful Jews to support the Coral Ridge documentary and perhaps even for it to be shown in Jewish schools because there really are only two ways to account for human presence on our planet. One is that God created us in His image. The other is that by a lengthy and random process of totally unaided materialistic evolution, primitive protoplasm evolved into Bach, Brahms and Beethoven. This approach, ruling out any role for God, is simply incompatible with Jewish values.

Why a Jewish organization uses communal resources to defend Darwin is inexplicable. That Hitler embraced Darwinian views does not mean that Jews must support them any more than it means that Jews should support smoking because the Nazis set up stringent anti-smoking laws.

Jews should surely support all efforts to diminish the philosophical role of materialistic evolution on our culture. That doctrine violates the principles of Judaism and it threatens to coarsen the culture creating potential peril, just as it did in Germany 70 years ago. For his efforts, we Jews owe gratitude to Dr. Kennedy, not pejorative name-calling.

On behalf of all those American Jews who feel misrepresented by the ADL, I apologize to D. James Kennedy for Foxman’s ad hominem attack. Dr. Kennedy has always been friendly and supportive toward Jews and has courageously defended the biblical values shared by both Judaism and Christianity.

We harbor no bizarre fantasies about sinister machinations to use government power to turn America into a “Christian nation” because we know that Dr. Kennedy respects our American Constitution as much as we do. Both Dr. Kennedy and I are on record vigorously opposing hate-crime legislation because we fear giving government the power to tell people what to think or indeed to decide what they are thinking.

Some American Jews may believe that Christian conservatives pose the biggest threat to Judaism. Therefore Jews should insult and attack Christians and suppress dissent by constantly evoking the Holocaust while darkly implying anti-Semitism. God help Jews if America ever becomes a post-Christian society. Just think of Europe.

The rest of us Jews believe that today’s Islamic extremism is the real problem and that we must ally with religious Christians to defeat this mortal threat. We feel that the correct way to interact with all our fellow Americans is by generating genuine friendship, respect and, yes, even affection. I call this the politics of Kidush HaShem – encouraging Jews to interact with our non-Jewish fellow citizens in ways that bring credit to the God of Abraham.

Just which group of Jews does the ADL look out for? I think I know.


Scholar, author and Jewish community leader Rabbi Daniel Lapin is president of the national organization Toward Tradition .

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