Yesterday, when Fox News personality Glenn Beck compared Reform Judaism to “radicalized Islam” in the two “faiths’” emphasis on politics over religion, I joked about it. I don’t regret that—I’ve tried anger before when dealing with far more explicitly and undeniably anti-Semitic comments made by Beck, and it’s gotten me nowhere. And this was not as outrageous as the time Beck cited the avowedly anti-Semitic former prime minister of Malaysia to argue that George Soros maliciously controls the world’s financial and currency systems. It’s not even as bad as the time he said the Jews killed Jesus.
Beck basically sounds ignorant: “Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature,” he says (it’s Reform, not reformed, but that’s more a symptom than an offense). “It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just—radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the Reform Judaism, it is more about politics.” Mark Pelavin, of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, clarified for me this morning that Beck’s attack yesterday on Reform Judaism has less to do with his beef with Judaism and more to do with his beef with certain faiths that see social justice as part of their movements: “We are outraged and yet not surprised,” Pelavin told me. “I think that his attack is of a piece with his attack on folks in the Christian community who have social justice as part of their ministries.” He added, “There are plenty of people who get into public policy work because of their faith. It’s their faith that compels them to take the positions they do. Beck fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between people’s faiths and their religious beliefs.”
Of course, there is still the part where he compared Reform Judaism to radical Islam. I’m sure Abe Foxman won’t be on the case in no time.