As the keynote speaker at Healing the Culture, this year’s national pro-life conference in Vancouver Nov. 16-18, Rabbi Daniel Lapin is the founder and president of Toward Tradition (www.towardtradition.org), a U.S. organization working to advance that nation toward the Judeo-Christian values that defined its creation and served as the blueprint for its greatness. Lapin emigrated to the U.S. from South Africa in 1973, after studying theology, physics, economics and mathematics. He was founding rabbi of the Pacific Jewish Centre in Venice, Ca. and has written for a number of newspapers. He has also authored three books. He currently serves on the board of the Jewish Policy Centre and was recently appointed to a presidential commission. See the website www.2006prolifeconference.com for more information on the pro-life conference or call (604) 853-3425.
The Interim: What is Toward Tradition focusing on right now?
Lapin: What Toward Tradition is actively engaged in right now is essentially what captures the focus of almost any thinking person in North America, which is: we are facing a struggle where essentially Western civilization is at the stake … Again, anyone who has spent any time in Muslim countries recognizes that once again, this is a tussle between the forces of barbarism and darkness and the forces of enlightenment and civilization.
Interestingly enough, at the same time, Europe seems to be in the grip of an almost sinister secularism that has gripped the culture entirely. Perhaps what is most perilous of all is that the Islamic forces have made an almost common cause with the secular instincts of Europe.
In those sorts of circumstances, it seems to me that we’ve essentially got four players on the stage of world culture at the moment – secularism, Islamic fanaticism, Christianity and Judaism. Since Islamic Nazism and secularism (or socialism) seem to have come together, it seems to me that Judaism and Christianity need to come together if either is to survive. I think the essential focus of Toward Tradition now is building these bridges between Jews and Christians throughout North America for the defence of civilization. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Interim: What do you think the state of the battle is right now? Do you think things are improving a little?
Lapin: I would say it is at what Malcolm Gladwell would say is the tipping point – it could really go either way … The country is very evenly divided at the moment … between those who view the Judeo-Christian tradition as an impediment to progress and those of us who consider Judeo-Christian tradition to be absolutely vital for our nation’s survival. The challenge right now is to adequately educate the populace and the culture at large to why an expanded tendency toward abortion and homosexual marriage injure our future and damage our quality of life. For many people who have absorbed the notion of unfettered liberalism, the idea is: it’s nobody else’s business. Let people do whatever they want to do. Education becomes a vital aspect of this.
The Interim: How can we best ensure in the coming few years that the battle tips in the direction we’d like to see it go?
Lapin: Frankly, by being a lot less timid … The secular left is almost fanatical in its obsession with promoting its angle as normality … It’s terribly necessary for fervent Christians to recognize that it’s very appropriate for them to proudly proclaim their faith, their convictions and, above all, to carry those convictions with them into the ballot box, because we live in a society where change is brought about through the democratic process. To abandon that entire field of endeavour to the left is to embrace defeat.
The Interim: Do you see co-operation between conservative Christians and Jews increasing?
Lapin: Very much so. I think what everybody is recognizing is: look, I don’t doubt there are theological distinctions between Catholicism and Protestantism. I don’t doubt there are theological distinctions between Christianity and Judaism. One day, in God’s good time when our culture is secure, we are all able to raise our children as we choose and the threat of secularism and the stain of socialism has been beaten back, then by all means, let’s sit around and debate to our hearts’ content. But right now, we’re all in a lifeboat together and some folks at the other end of the lifeboat are busy drilling holes through the hull, letting in the water. I want to stop them and I need everybody’s help to stop them. I don’t really care right now about your theology or belief as long as you want to save the lifeboat. For heaven’s sake, help me stop these guys from drilling holes.
The Interim: How did American Judaism come to have the image of being predominantly liberal?
Lapin: The main clue can be determined from noticing that those Jews who are most committed to the practice of Judaism tend to be conservative. Those Jews who embrace liberalism tend to be those who have renounced the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … it’s not that Judaism is synonymous with liberalism. It’s rather that people of the Jewish faith who wish to turn their back on religion find in the practice of political liberalism an appropriate vehicle, or trap door, for escape.
The Interim: Would an affiliation with the U.S. Democratic party have something to do with it?
Lapin: Very much so. The question is: why do they embrace the Democratic party and that’s the reason. Right now, they’re getting a rude awakening, as they’re discovering that the Democratic party is allowing its anti-Semitic instincts to escape. This is terrifying large numbers of Jews. I’m actually enjoying this important opportunity in American
Jewish history. It’s an opportunity to welcome Jews back to their logical and traditional heritage.
The Interim: What message will you be bringing to Vancouver in November?
Lapin: I’ll be talking about why it is that literally, the future and safety of civilization – the ability of the West to defend itself militarily, culturally and economically – absolutely depends on success in the abortion struggle.