Really Biblical: Take your oath while holding your male member

There has been an outcry about what's the proper way to swear in a America, a country that some say must be united by the bible. We've written about it several times in this blog.

Of course if you really want to perform a biblical oath you might want to consider this manner, as summarized by R. David Freedman.

"Put Your Hand Under My Thigh" - The Patriarchal Oath

By R. David Freedman
In Genesis 24:2-9 Abraham has his servant Eliezer put his hand under the Patriarch's thigh to swear "by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth" that the servant will not arrange a marriage for Abraham's son Isaac with a Canaanite woman. Similarly, in Genesis 47:29-31 the dying Patriarch Jacob has his son Joseph swear to him that he will bury Jacob not in Egypt, but alongside Jacob's own parents in the Cave of Machpelah; and the oath-taking ritual again calls for putting a hand under the Patriarch's thigh.
Talmudic tradition1 takes these verses to indicate that the oath was sworn while the circumcised membrum of the Patriarch was held in hand, and derives from this interpretation the rule that all Jewish oaths must be sworn while some ritual object is held in hand. Ordinary people must hold a Torah scroll; scholars may hold any ritual object.

In the Times Herald Record today (New York's Hudson Valley and the Catskills) there is an opinion by Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist that she calls, "The wolf who cried racist."

It is a balanced column that rightly notes with criticism the showboating aspect of Dennis Prager's crusade against Keith Ellison for his desire to swear on the Koran. She also notes with praise the desire by Prager, a Jew, to live in a bible based culture rather than a Koran governed society.

In multi-culti America, there's no worse offense than being a "racist," and no word has suffered more abuse.

We've had a taste of that recently as Muslim and Jew have slugged it out over whether a Koran can be used at a private swearing-in ceremony for Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.

Dennis Prager, a popular talk show host and columnist, who happens to be Jewish - as well as a thoroughly decent fellow - wrote a column recently protesting Ellison's insistence on injecting his religious preference into an American tradition:

"Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. ... If you are incapable of taking oath on that book (the Bible), don't serve in Congress."

Prager has been pilloried from all sides. In the blogosphere, he's been called everything from racist to Islamophobic. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch called Prager a "bigot" and a "schmuck," and is demanding his resignation or removal from the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, on which both men serve.

Most entertaining has been a similar demand from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), lest Muslims worldwide get a negative impression about "America's commitment to religious tolerance."

Irony must be basking.

CAIR routinely demonstrates intolerance for any opinion deemed insensitive to its views and targets individuals and institutions for cyber-posses and technomobs. Ask any cartoonist who has drawn an image of you-know-who.

Back through the looking glass, Prager says his objections have nothing to do with race or religious intolerance but with a concern for American solidarity. His premise is that the country is in danger of unraveling if we continue to erode traditions that are the common threads of the republic.

Prager asserts that the Bible has been used for swearing-in ceremonies since George Washington. Which is true, except when it isn't.

Not every elected official has used the Bible, including some Jews (Koch, a U.S. representative from 1969-77, used a Hebrew Bible for his initial swearing-in) and some Quakers, including Herbert Hoover, whose beliefs prohibit the swearing of oaths.

The U.S. Constitution, meanwhile, leaves plenty of wiggle room for those who prefer not to make religious statements. Eugene Volokh, constitutional law professor at UCLA, has written that requiring someone to swear on the Bible would violate the Constitution's provision that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

It appears that Prager is, at least technically, wrong. But his concerns are not those of a hatemonger. Prager is merely the quarterback in the latest scrimmage over ideas in post-9/11 America.

There is a growing sense, both here and in Europe, that Western civilization is under siege by the radical Muslim world, the expressed goal of which is to convert the rest of us. There's not much wiggle room in Sharia law for optional religious practices. Or, we note, accessorizing wardrobes.

On a certain level, one can understand Prager's view that introducing the Koran into American government is a taunt to traditional values.

On another level, those same values allow us to see Ellison's legitimate wish to swear on the holy book of his choosing. What Christian or Jew duly elected in a predominantly Muslim country would want to be forced to swear on a Koran?

The punch line, of course, is that our religious tolerance is shared by few Muslim nations, some of which won't allow a Bible to enter the country. Our better angels may yet be our worst enemies.

Obviously, Ellison could forgo the Koran and affirm as others have. That he insists on the Koran is probable cause to infer that he's trying to make a statement and assert himself as a Muslim in the U.S. Congress.

Before 9/11, that singular act might not have drawn attention. But that was then.

Hoisting the red flag, as Prager has done, isn't an act of bigotry ? or even schmuckery. It is the understandable reflex of a man, who, as Prager himself puts it, knows that a Bible-swearing nation has been, and will be, a better place for Jews to live than one that swears on the Koran.

Genius is not required to grasp that concept, but civility is critical to debating these issues. Name-calling and showboating righteousness - or demanding punitive action against those who voice an unpopular opinion ? is the wrong way up a dead-end street.

Radical Islam loves that sort of dogmatic intransigence.

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist. Her e-mail address is kparker@kparker.-com.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think If I ever get elected to office I will use a Tananch and keep my fly closed