Recently I have been accused of being Torahphobic. The intent of the accuser(s) was to suggest that I am biased against “Torah.” A buzz word in media today is “Islamophobia.” I hear this word disparaged all of the time on Christian and conservative talk radio. I had to laugh once when I heard Janet Parshall, host of conservative Christian radio station Moody Radio’s In the Market with Janet Parshall, state that “Islamphobic” is a “made-up word.” Huh, I guess she would have a problem then with every word she speaks for being likewise made up.
Though her word choice might suggest otherwise, no doubt Parshall did not mean that the word was “made up” but that the concept of Islamophobia is fabricated or fictional. I would like to challenge Parshall to walk about most anywhere in America dressed as a conspicuous minority—say with a hijab on (as her very own Bible would have her cover her head I Cor 11:1-16). Have her do so for an hour in rural America or a day in a metropolitan suburb. In her white, majority culture Christian cultural identity, she has no idea, no concept of what if feels like to be a conspicuous minority, and, in her asinine myopia, she shrugs the concept off as an idea that somehow threatens her as a Christian. If she were trying to be funny, she succeeded.
However, this post is not about Janet Parshall and her fundamentalist intolerance; it is about my being called a Torahphobe. If I can again defer to the very-real concept of Islamophobia, I would like to illustrate how the accusation that I am a Torahphobe is heavily flawed. Islamophobia is characterized largely by an uneven-handed treatment of Islam. It is characterized by the common human tendency to be graceful, forgiving, and even-handed with one’s own in-group but to be intolerant, unforgiving, and overly general and critical of an out-group. There is plenty more that can be added to this, but I will stop here.
Torahphobia, as used by my accuser(s), assumes a misleading definition of “Torah.” Though the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch or the Chumash, are often called “Torah,” the concept of Torah in Jewish use is expansive. Jews consider the entire legal process, anchored in the Pentateuch and in the Peoplehood of Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) to be Torah. When my accuser(s) call me Torahphobic, they are defining Torah in a non-Jewish, Christian, Protestant, minimalist manner that rejects the Jewish legal process and Jewish peoplehood. Ironically, I accept the integrity of the Jewish legal process, but my accuser(s) do not. For them Torah is biblical texts, specifically the Pentateuch.
I have read the Pentateuch through over thirteen times. At least five of those reads were done in Hebrew with rabbinic Jewish commentaries to accompany and elucidate the read. Each read also lead me to look heavily into historical critical commentaries both from conservative and “liberal” commentators. I have a sustained fascination with the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch, and there is no body of literature that I study more than the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch. I am particularly caught up in the legal minutia and law codes present in the Pentateuch, and I think about them at a nearly compulsive level. Yet, I find the Pentateuch to contain ethical atrocities that any modern person should first of all recognize and then reject.
Who is the person that is “Torahphobic?” Using the definition of Torah that my accuser(s) assume, the Torahphobe is the one who is afraid to recognize the swine carcass in the Holy of Holies. The Torahphobe is the one who refuses to study the Pentateuch and to understand. The Torahphobe denies the swine carcasses and pretends they are holy cows who should not be touched.