Sandiego (Jan. 13)
— Two prominent scholars gave differing views on the political extremism of Evangelical and other religious groups to 400 American Jewish leaders here attending the 37th annual plenary session of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC).
Dr. Franklin Littell, Professor of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia, and a United Methodist minister, presented a mainline Christian view of the Evangelicals’ political activism. Dr. William Sanford LaSor, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena,
California and a leading fundamentalist theologian, defended the Evangelicals’ position on this issue.
“Whatever our differences with the political action of the so-called ‘Moral Majority,’ and with some of us those differences are substantial, we should argue them out openly in the public forum,” Littell said. “This is true as long as they debate honestly, and avoid violence or terrorism–which they do.”
LaSor disagreed with a phrase in the proposed NJCRAC position paper which called certain political activism by Church groups “profoundly violative” of the spirit of the Constitution. He argued that, for more than a century, liberals have dominated Church thinking in America, and for most of this century, they have dominated the political scene as well. “Is it any wonder that conservatives are beginning to feel that they are the ones whose Constitutional rights are being violated?” LaSor asked.
TERRORISTS, FREEDOM FIGHTERS DIFFERENTIATED
Littell elaborated upon his distinction between “terrorists” and “freedom fighters.” “Terrorists assassinate unarmed pilgrims, women and children, and freedom fighters are irregulars engaged in attacks on military targets, “he explained.
“The King David Hotel, attacked by Menachem Begin and his fellow freedom fighters (during the British Mandate in Palestine), was a military target. The PLO attacks children at Ma’alot, pilgrims at Ben-Gurion Airport, athletes at Munich, and Arab moderates wherever they are. These acts are not part of the public discussion: they should be suppressed by law, and so should the organizations responsible for them.”
LaSor said that homosexuality and unmarried couples living together are proscribed by the Bible, “yet are now being taught as alternatives and equally acceptable–life styles, in our public schools.” Such situations, LaSor said, give justification to the Evangelicals’ recent determination to get involved in the political process.
Littell stressed that Jews and Christians should work together for mutual political and social goals. He said that Jews tend to “revert to a ghetto mentality” of banding together to the exclusion of other religious groups in times of crisis. “We should be working together,” he said. “When swastikas are painted on synagogue walls, the next day’s headlines should not say, ‘Jews Appalled at Desecration’–they should say, ‘Jews and Christians Appalled at Desecration.”