Glenn had a wide ranging conversation with Rabbi Lapin on radio today, covering everything from praying in the name of Jesus to why mainstream churches are shrinking and more. Lapin also recounts one of the more interesting interactions he had with atheist Penn Jillette.
GLENN: He's Orthodox Jew, and I'm telling you, he lives it. He's great. He just moved to New York City, which if we have time, I have to figure out how that is working out for you. An orthodox Jewish person --
RABBI: In New York City, the most recent study and survey showed something that most Jews in the country found profoundly disturbing. The majority of Jews in New York City at the moment are in fact orthodox. Never happened before in the history of America. That is really extraordinary. Our side is winning, as it is elsewhere as well. The seriously committed evangelical community is growing by leaps and bounds. The old mainstream denominations that lean left are shrinking. Their churches are empty.
GLENN: Because they don't stand for anything.
GLENN: For instance, I have no problem -- someone says Happy Hanukkah to me, thank you. That's great.
RABBI: I think of Hanukkah as the let's use more fossil fuels holiday. Yes.
GLENN: That's what makes you more popular in New York.
RABBI: There you go.
But let's talk about the praying in the name of Jesus for a moment. You have a large proportion of American Jews -- a majority of American Jews that have -- that have -- I mean, let's be frank, have forsaken and abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they've adopted something else. I call it the sacred sacrament of secular fundamentalism. It's a religion. And I can explain why.
But for the moment, the point is that, it's just fascinating, but I often pose this question to nonobservant Jews who are very remote from their faith. If an invisible private detective followed you around 24/7, how long would it take him to discover that you are Jewish as opposed to a loyal member of the Democrat party. It's a tough question to answer. Because if you don't live or do Jewish, then what is it exactly? And almost every Jew will tell you, I'm proud to be Jewish. Well, about what? Like you're proud of a racial accident? A genetic accident? What does that mean? What they'll usually answer, well, I am Jewish. I don't believe in Jesus. That's become the moral slogan.
STU: Penn Jillette doesn't believe in Jesus --
GLENN: The Dalai Lama doesn't believe in Jesus.
RABBI: He should be Jewish.
STU: I'll let him when he's around next time.
RABBI: By the way, you'll remember what a stunning display of intellectual integrity Penn Jillette did when we were together on the show. It was extraordinary.
GLENN: Yeah, Penn Jillette was on, along with Rabbi Lapin. And it was an experiment. I said to the rabbi and I said to Penn, let's get on. I'm Christian, he's a Jewish, you're an atheist. Let's model for the American people the three people who have wildly different points of view on theology, that they can actually have a conversation. And at one point, the rabbi said --
RABBI: I said if a billion -- what was happening, Penn was saying there's no difference between faiths. They're all the same. Suggesting they're all equally bad. I said if a billion Muslims became evangelical Christians tomorrow, would the world be a better place or worst place? He paused. That pause felt like a week.
GLENN: It was amazing. What went through my mind was, oh, my gosh, this guy might answer this question.
RABBI: What went through my mind, I said to myself, you know, I straight away, I can think of three ways to put me down, get a lot of the and move to the next topic. If I can think of three ways to put me away, Penn probably thought of five.
GLENN: What would you have said of that?
RABBI: I would like to think I would have said what he said, but I'm not sure. I know most people would have come back with something, oh, yeah, right, a million Muslims are going to turn into evangelical Christians. They might as well turn into Jews.
He thought about it and said, all things being equal, I have to say, yes, it would be a better place.
GLENN: That's extraordinary.
RABBI: He paid a price for that because many of his atheist followers were terribly upset.
So Jews who don't believe in Jesus, at that point, their entire identity is not I'm Jewish because I believe this, I'm Jewish because I don't believe in Jesus. And, therefore, Jesus becomes this cross to the vampire. This frightening thing which has to be kept out of my sight because if I allow it in my sight, it is violating my last lingering remnant of connection to the Jewish faith.
STU: You see this in politics too. It's always a danger when you belong to something because you don't believe in something. I think that a lot of times has happened in politics and a lot of other things.
GLENN: I was sitting in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, sitting in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. Gone to a couple of synagogues. They had the choir and everything. It was really amazing.
RABBI: We call that high church.
GLENN: Okay. And it was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. And my wife was sitting upstairs. I was sitting downstairs. And I'm just observing and I don't understand -- I don't understand anything he's saying. And I had just been over in Europe. So I had just been over at the Vatican. And I hear the music start. And I'm thinking to myself, this is Gregorian chant.
RABBI: All that music is derived indirectly from the music we have on tradition that was played by the Levites in the temple.
GLENN: Now, let me speak as somebody who is observant. I love going and observing other religions. And I love -- because I'm not -- I celebrate other religions. I really love it, and I love people who are really deeply into their traditions. And you can learn so much, and you can also -- my father taught me, he said, Glenn, you search everything, and you look for the intersection points. There's a line of theology and a line of theology, but where they intersect, that's where you know there's truth. There's something there that's truth. And so I love that.
And I'm sitting there in the Great Synagogue. And I'm hearing this music. Now I'm hearing Gregorian chant. I'm hearing the essence of it. Then I'm looking at the way they're dressed. I'm seeing, now that's a catechism. The Catholic's have taken the catechism. Now I'm starting to think, if I'm a Jew, and I put myself back in time, you know, declare your support for Jesus Christ or you're dead, and I would think to myself, my gosh, they have taken all of our rituals. They have taken away all our most sacred stuff. Back in the time they may have done it. But they perverted it and declared them theirs and said if you don't accept it now -- it's almost a mockery if you hold onto that anger. It becomes almost a mockery.
I thought to myself, if I was Jewish, I would have a hard time if I knew my culture, I loved my culture, and I loved my faith, I would have a very hard time letting go of the past, because most Christians don't know. Most Christians don't look at the history of what Christians did to Jews. And I don't -- past is past. We can't correct that. But we can recognize the strife that has been there and open up our hearts to one another. Wow, I see -- and maybe you don't see, where that rub comes from, you know.
RABBI: It's dangerous to drive with your eyes only in the rearview mirror. It's equally difficult to run affairs, whether it's society, a family with an eye only on the past and what happened back then.
The sad truth when we had our Sabbath table a couple of years ago, a judge sitting on the bench in New York. A very sophisticated and educated woman. And she said to me, she said, and she spat these words out with fury after eating my food, if you don't mind -- how can you be friends with Pat Robinson? If he has his way, the pope will be in charge of America.
GLENN: Pat Robinson, but he's not a Catholic.
RABBI: No. I said to her, what do the words Protestant Reformation mean to you? She had no idea. This is a woman who grew up as a college, went to college -- in New York. In New York, there are only two kinds of people: Jews and Catholic. You go to Brooklyn, you got Italians and Jews. She never knew anything else.
GLENN: Here's the amazing thing, and I didn't know this. So many -- just like Christians don't know about Judaism, so many Jews really don't know about the reformation. They really don't --
RABBI: Jews did not know that there has never been an instance of Protestants committing anything against Jews, never happened in history.
Now Martin Luther certainly wrote some unpleasant things about Jews. Nobody ever acted on that. There are no records of Protestant killing Jews. There have been fights between Protestant and Catholics. Most Jews are totally unaware that there's that enormous difference historically.
One of the things that brought about the reformation, of course, was the popularization of the Bible that came about because finally translating become acceptable. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450. Fifty years later, you have a Protestant Reformation.
People are saying, you know what, we need to go back to the roots. We need to go back to the Bible.
GLENN: Let me jump off a bit. I'm listening to you say mistranslation, we got to get back to the Bible. I'm looking at you. Behind you it says peace on earth. To men of good will. Most time in the holiday people say peace on earth. Good will toward men. The actual phrase is peace on earth to men of good will. That's totally different.
RABBI: Oh, sure it is.
GLENN: What do you think the most mistranslated or misunderstood phrase in the scriptures or the Torah that jumps out at you, if people understood -- maybe not mistranslated --
STU: What is the most misunderstood scripture? We have one minute. Go ahead.
RABBI: If I'm put on the spot -- I wish we did more rehearsal or something.
GLENN: I tell you what --
RABBI: It's very simple. Something called "Tikkun olam". I don't know if you've heard that phrase. It's improving the world. I wish people wouldn't improve the world. Just don't wreck it. That's all. Stop improving it. That's all. And it's interesting, that's the spirit of the socialist revolution. We're improving it. Just stop improving it. That phrase doesn't appear in that way. The correct Hebrew phrase is to improve the world in accordance with God's blueprint.