Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lapin Looks Askance at Secularism, Birth Control, "Sexual Depravity"

On the February 7th edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk, Focus of the Family founder James Dobson interviewed Rabbi Daniel Lapin as part of "The Battle for Civilization" series. Lapin, president of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, reportedly had ties with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and participated in Glenn Beck's 2010 Divine Destiny revival. Additionally, he has a history of unkind comments about gaysanimal rights, and "secular liberal males," according to Right Wing Watch. Throughout Family Talk, Lapin painted secularism in ominous colors and decried the alleged role of changing sexual attitudes in societal decay.

Dobson set the tone of the interview at the 0:25 mark when described modern society as in decline.
"It is no secret to any of us that the American way of life such as it's been known for generations is under attack today. At least that's what we believe. The Judeo-Christian system of values on which this country, and truly much of Western civilization, have been founded are threatened on a number of different fronts."
Much of Lapin's talk revolved around the alleged dangers of secularism and the degeneration of society. For instance, at the 3:06 mark, Lapin explained that he and his wife homeschooled their seven children to shield them from "the sordid stain of secularism" in public schools.
"We realized that sending them off for the best part of every day to fall under the influence of a system that is fundamentally spreading the sordid stain of secularism, essentially a public educational system that has as one of its prime purposes the obliteration of faith, that seemed to me to be an incredibly self-destructive act after we've invested so much of ourselves ... into these children."
Throughout the show, Lapin's distaste for secularism was clear. At the 16:32 mark, he demonized secularism as a "sinister and aggressive religion" bent on the obliteration of faith.
"You don't see secularism as a sort of benign, comfortable absence of religion. On the contrary, when you see that secularism is actually a very sinister and aggressive religion all on its own ... if you are a secular fundamentalism, then yes, you do need to obliterate all evidence of competing religions, and Christianity of course is the most conspicuous of the competing religions. And so obviously a prayer to the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be removed from schools. Praying to Jesus Christ, yes, must be stopped and eliminated."
In line with Lapin's contempt for secularism was his positive opinion of school prayer, whose demise in the U.S. he lamented. At the 13:40 mark, he suggested that school prayer is not an assault on anyone's rights, stunned that anyone would be opposed to school prayer.
"Prior to the Supreme Court rulings in that period, it was unthinkable. I mean, nobody ever thought that there was anything problematic--I know so many Jews of that generation who said, 'Of course we all said prayer in public school. So what? It was wonderful. It was not a bad thing.' And all of a sudden, over a span of terrifyingly few decades, people have been trained to consider prayer as a violent assault that challenges your rights to, what? Secularism?"
Like other voices from the Religious Right, Lapin help up Biblical knowledge as paramount. At the 9:15 mark, Lapin lamented that "timeless truths" from the Torah have been rendered "unpopular" in modern society. Amusingly, he suggested that this is the first generation in all of human history that considers itself sophisticated despite its alleged lack of Biblical knowledge.
"Christians ... during the colonial period were deeply aware of the permanent principles and the timeless truths to be found in the Torah, and they implemented them to build the society. And as the society has become more secularized and these timeless truths have been stripped one by one from the culture and made unpopular, to the point where interestingly enough we are now in the very first generation in all of human history ... this is the first generation where people, there are people in America today who consider themselves educated and sophisticated ... and yet they are utterly and sublimely clueless about the Bible. There's never been people who dared to consider themselves educated and yet who were ignoramuses Biblically."
Um, Rabbi Lapin? You do know that countless societies existed long before the Bible was compiled? And that many non-Christian and non-Jewish societies have existed across the globe? Were they uneducated and unsophisticated by default, despite their impressive contributions to history? To boot, Lapin's assumption that well-read, cosmopolitan people aren't truly "educated and sophisticated" unless they are knowledgeable about the Bible was extremely condescending.

In keeping with Religious Right rhetoric, Lapin pointed to sexual practices he disagreed with as culprits for a host of social ills. During a discussion of the roots of societal decline, Lapin attributed the emergence of the birth control pill to the alleged rise of "perpetual male adolescence." At the 11:35 mark, he had this to say.
"Perhaps one of the notable events ... was the arrival of the birth control tablet in the 1960s. And what that did for the very first time is it created the possibility of perpetual male adolescence. It made it possible for the first time for men to really never grow up and essentially it transformed masculinity and with all the implications of honor and respect and courage and the ability to defer gratification, everything that we think of as responsible masculinity got transformed into a very simple question: did you remember to take your pill, honey?"
Lapin conflates male responsibility with delaying sex, and delaying sex with the absence of birth control. The idea that birth control use is a form of responsibility meant to prevent unwanted pregnancy was not considered, nor was the idea that men can embody "honor and respect and courage" and have non-procreative sex. To boot, Lapin neglects contraception's immensely positive impacts on women, allowing them to enjoy intimacy while postponing or foregoing childbearing. This, in turn, allows them to cultivate other realms of their lives such as education, career, and community life.

Similarly, Lapin claimed that removing faith and Biblical wisdom from society heralded a tide of abortion, homosexuality, and changing sexual attitudes. Describing "sexual depravity" as the "barometer of a failure of a culture to control its basic instincts," he had this to say at the 21:20 mark.
"There is only one force powerful enough to combat the pull toward sensuality. Only one force powerful enough to defeat the compelling urge of rising sap in adolescent bodies, and that is God's power, the power of faith, and the wisdom of the Bible. When you strip that out of a society, you start off gradually with the violation of sexual mores, which we found during the Sixties and Seventies. It follows on with abortion, which is of course just another way of furthering if you like the sexual revolution, and then finds full expression in homosexuality which is ultimately the freest form of sex there is."
In keeping with familiar right-wing tropes, Lapin looks askance at secularism, contraception, and homosexuality as supposedly corrosive to a sound society. Instead of recognizing church-state separation, reproductive autonomy, and LGBT inclusion as positive developments, Lapin excludes them from his vision of an ideal society.

To listen to the broadcast, click here

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch)


  1. That is incredible when you think about it. These folks literally leave me shaking my head when they speak.

    I would add to your fine smack-down of Lapin's statement about there never having been a people "who dared to consider themselves educated and yet who were ignoramuses Biblically" that it also displays a woeful ignorance of the fact that the Bible itself borrows heavily from the surrounding religious cultures.

    Once reason is tossed out and "faith" enshrined, there is no weapon left with which to battle the ensuing bigotry.

  2. Sometimes this kind of rhetoric is funny, and sometimes it's scary. I'm not sure how big a jump it is in their minds from believing that secularism is a sordid stain to believing that secular/nonreligious people are sordid stains.

    What an insult to men! The implication here is that men only grow up and develop positive traits when they impregnate women. Crazy.

  3. Good grief! To think I was so distracted by CPAC that I missed this sex-obsessed kook. Of course I - HATE - to disagree with Dr. Dobson, but I don't think there is such a thing as "a religion bent on obliterating faith." Also liberal secular men are hot.

  4. Where to start? The demonstrable ignorance Lapin manifests is simply stunning. And knowledge of the Bible equates with a society's level of sophistication? I've read the Bible a few times and all that tedious exercise did for me was increase my cognitive dissonance. I guess in that sense you can say it made me smarter, but only to the extent that it encouraged me to use my own reason and thereby reject the Bible as any kind of coherent authority.

  5. spreading the sordid stain of secularism

    He sounds like a nattering nabob of negativism.

    Christians ... during the colonial period were deeply aware of the permanent principles and the timeless truths to be found in the Torah, and they implemented them to build the society.

    I suppose that's why they did highly moral stuff like slavery and witch-hangings, unlike us secular moderns who have fallen into the profound immorality of tolerating fags and using the pill.

    Describing "sexual depravity" as the "barometer of a failure of a culture to control its basic instincts,"

    These people really are weirdly obsessed with sex, specifically with the thought of other people engaging in sex they disapprove of. Maybe they are really practicing what they preach, and therefore not getting much, and that's why they can't keep their minds off it.

    Seriously, these people have attained such an altitude over the shark that they've gone into orbit. Most people use birth control and will not take kindly to being told they're "depraved" for doing so.

    Keep talking, Lapin, and keep convincing the vast majority of Americans that you and your fellow fundies really are as crazy as we keep saying.

  6. Doug -- Indeed. His view suggests that the Bible is a source of knowledge that shapes culture, forgetting that the documents themselves (and their translation and interpretation) were SHAPED by many cultures.

    Michelle -- Agreed. I can see this kind of rhetoric being used to demonize real or perceived secularists, or even people perceived as insufficiently religious. And the birth control rhetoric is not kind to either sex!

    Infidel -- You are an energizing engine of enlightenment. Okay, I'll behave. Anyway, Lapin's idealized image of believers fails to account for the moral wrongs committed on large scales by religious societies, as you said. The fixation on repressing sex stuck out at me too. As for contraception, times have changed, but they refuse to acknowedge it.

    Cognitive Dissenter -- I found it patronizing. Okay, so you can have a PhD in astrophysics, or be a brilliant medical researcher who finds cures for diseases, but you're just an ignoramus if you don't know your Bible? What the--!?

    Donna -- Don't worry -- I've got a CPAC post coming up. With all the silliness coming out of CPAC, I wouldn't dare neglect it. As for the "obliterating religion" rhetoric, they forget that colonizers often intentionally obliterated indigenous religions.

    Oh, and secular liberal men KNOW they're hot.
    (:: smirks ::)

  7. Frankly I am searching for a liberal woman, who likes beer, books, bratwurst and football to engage in some "sexual depravity"with me. Maybe if I pray really really really hard Jesus will grant my wish. Or is it the Easter Bunny I should pray to. In truth, I get confused about the differences between the two.

  8. Okjimm -- May you find a nice liberal woman who could care less what Religious Right folks say about lovin'.

  9. "there are people in America today who consider themselves educated and sophisticated ... and yet they are utterly and sublimely clueless about the Bible."

    Yeah, and most of these type of people call themselves Christians. Pazzzaaaaamm!

    If anyone is clueless, it seems to be this guy in figuring out how to negotiate as opposed to blame.


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