Back in the 1990s when I was regularly covering the antics of TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, one part of the job was particularly distasteful: listening to speeches by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
Lapin headed a synagogue in Washington state and ran a small right-wing group called Toward Tradition, but he was best known for being the Religious Right’s token Jewish supporter. Unlike “Messianic Jews” who are really just converts to evangelical Christianity who rip off Jewish rituals, Lapin, a South African expatriate, is actually Jewish. He was a regular speaker at the Christian Coalition’s “Road to Victory” conferences, where his job was to convince attendees that real Jews love them some Religious Right.
Unfortunately, Lapin has just the exact combination of arrogance and thick-headedness that makes listening to him an excruciating experience. In my 2000 book, Close Encounters with the Religious Right, I explained it like this:
“Listening to Lapin rave, even for a mere twenty minutes, is almost too much to bear. Worse than that, it is the ultimate waste of perfectly good time that could be spent doing virtually anything else. When Lapin finally shuts up, one is acutely aware that the time just spent listening to him is gone, irrevocably gone. It will never be back, and it has been squandered. The thought is utterly depressing – every time.”
The Christian Coalition went into decline, and Lapin just sort of faded away. (There was some unpleasantness concerning Lapin’s relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.) But it looks like Lapin is trying to make a comeback. Bill Berkowitz at Buzzflash reports that Lapin recently appeared on the Family Research Council’s radio program where he offered up some unusual theories about liberals and their supposed love affair with Islamic terrorists. (Oh, you didn’t know that liberals love Islamic terrorists? Well, read on.)
“There are countless studies showing that feminine-type behavior produces an excess of estrogen in men and vice versa,” Lapin said. “Essentially, the left has fallen in love with the masculinity of Islam.”
Pretty dumb, right? Wait, it gets better.
Lapin continued: “Today, after a 30- or 40-year epidemic of leftism that has swept its sordid stain across America, we’ve become much more feminized, and we are attracted to the masculine strength and brutality of Islam. This is the girl in the high school being attracted to the bad, tough guy and that’s really what’s happening. There is no other way that I know of to explain this utterly irrational – and as soon as I said to myself that it’s irrational, I said, where else do you see irrational behavior? When people are sexually attracted you see irrational behavior. On a spiritual level, the feminized American left, show business, politicians, particularly academia, all the people who love Islam, when Christianity and Judaism are exactly the reverse.”
I’m glad we got that cleared up.
In just a few sentences, Lapin has managed to insult progressives, women and Muslims with a farrago of pseudoscience and pop psychology gobbledygook seasoned with the most pungent spices of the kook right. And the sad thing is, he undoubtedly believes it’s deep thinking.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Some people, like Frank Schaeffer and John W. Whitehead, do manage to break away from the extremism of the Religious Right. But that requires a spark of intelligence and integrity, qualities sorely lacking in most Religious Right toadies. For others – especially for obscure hangers-on like Lapin – cuddling up with the likes of Tony Perkins is the only way to get a little attention and a score a few extra bucks.
Yes, being smug and uninformed can actually pay dividends in the short run. But when you’re about to check out of this mortal coil and it comes time for the summing up, it can only be described as a sad and petty way to have lived.
See, a life marked by smugness, arrogance and willful ignorance is no life at all, really. Yet in the world of the Religious Right, those are highly prized qualities. Unfortunately, this probably means we’ll be hearing more from Lapin in the months to come.