Evil. It has always been there, pushed back in the United States by American exceptionalism and the Judeo Christian traditions of what Ronald Reagan famously called -- borrowing from the Bible -- a "shining City on a hill." "God bless America," Reagan would say, emphatically and often. But God is not in fashion among our political and media elites and, with the presidency of Barack Obama, the lights of the city are dimming and evil has been drawn from the shadows.
Now we have a leader in the vanguard of a malevolence pushing into the mainstream through a thousand barely perceptible actions and words. It is tiptoeing into our culture, permeating our homes and institutions, shaping lives and expectations and quietly remaking our worldview in the radical, leftist image favored by our educated elites. Such is the evil of Barack Obama, an incredibly soft evil that threatens the future of a nation that, for all of its existence, has led the world in freedom and opportunity.
Take that, Jews. Shut up, Christians. Move over, strivers. Give it up, tradition. Individual choice, responsibility, honor -- simply words in a dictionary. All are relative, says the professor in the White House, as are your rights. We know best how to do your lives, comes the voice from a thousand of his appointees in hundreds of federal agencies. American exceptionalism? Fugedaboutit!
It is a soft evil that comes from quietly abandoning the values and traditions that naturally follow from a nation founded on the fact that God created humanity with "unalienable rights" -- so said our founders. From this flows an exceptionally American and Biblical worldview that understands the need to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Bible stuff, sure; but also the Judeo-Christian virtues that have guided our national and private lives, lived much in the breach but nevertheless honored as worthy characteristics. Theologians tell us that it is typical of humanity to create evil by "missing the mark" in daily living. We miss the target of godly or righteous behavior in our relationships in innumerable and often minor ways: snubbing a neighbor, parking illegally, etc. But our saving grace is that we acknowledge that these transgressions, however small, are still wrong. But when we don't, when we miss the mark deliberately and as a matter of policy, then soft sin builds toward hard evil. And that is where we are with our federal government. Obama and his fellow Democrats, for example, push our children into debt, a soft evil that will grow hard when the bill comes due and whole generations are yoked to government. He promotes publically subsidized, racially selective abortions that target African-American women at three times the rate of the rest of the population, a soft evil that becomes hard when, as has happened, babies are born and then murdered, their spines snapped with scissors by a doctor paid by taxpayers. Ironically, it was the ancient Jews who first warned that the soft evil of "mark-missing" results in the same kind of evil produced by in-your-face sin such as murder or rape. Jews have always been the canary in the coal mine, the first to take it on the chin by assuming the unenviable task of reminding the powerful that there is, indeed, a higher power -- and that evil is the inevitable result of human arrogance. Hitler and his jack-booted hordes pursued power through a hard evil that began with the Jews and continued on to eliminate significant chunks of the human race; in the Arab world, Jews were the first murdered, but recent attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt remind us that it won't stop there. Obama and his allies offer a softer version, one easier to ignore but heading in the same direction. The Obama leftists don't wear jackboots; instead, they shuffle in on slippers, using the power of government to softly challenge and redefine right thinking and behavior. This quiet evil is most apparent in his treatment of the Jews. As Jackie Mason put it, in this life "three things are certain: Death, taxes, and anti-Semitism." And so we have the soft anti-Semitism of Barack Obama, who says it is okay to not like the Jews...oh, I mean Israel. "Take the Jews -- please," says the Obama White House, putting a Henny Youngman face on the ugly façade of an ancient hate. The symbolism is hard to miss. Quietly, surreptitiously, a hundred little acts of soft evil put us on the path to the hard evils of the tyrannies that plague other parts of the world. Palestinian government thugs murder both Jews and Arabs in territories littered with poverty and brutality. But it is Israel -- the prosperous and free Jewish state which welcomes Arabs -- that stands condemned as the administration unleashes what the New York Post called "a vile attack on Israel, using language far worse than anything" the notoriously anti-Semitic United Nations can dream up. At the same time, Obama ignores the vow of the Muslim Brotherhood to "kill the Jews -- to the very last one" and, instead of decrying their murderous intent, pronounces them worthy of friendship. Hard evil hates Jews; soft evil embraces their murderers. Soft evil inevitably leaches into public life. Harvard Law professor and liberal icon Alan Dershowitz, a frequent speaker on university campuses, traces the growing hate directed at Jewish students and faculty to the willingness of Obama to embrace and thereby legitimize the hard evil of those who hate, "thus blurring the line between legitimate political criticism and illegitimate bigotry."
Such is the nature of soft evil. In international affairs, in abortion, in healthcare, in millions of new regulations and taxes, in a thousand ways and relationships the lines between unalienable rights and illegitimate policy are blurred. Soft evil whispers "power" and Obama smiles.
Take a look around this country. Outside the Beltway, we are all Jews now.
Stuart Schwartz, a frequent AT contributor, is on the faculty at Liberty University in Virginia.