Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ben Stein's Confession--- on Christian Religion in the Public Sphere

Ben Stein is always worth listening to, even when one strongly disagrees with him. The following is a column of his from CBS Morning News Commentary, and appears to be genuine, for all you Snopes fans out there. I find myself quite agreeing with this little confession. BW3

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a Church it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away .

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.

She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says . Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards .
Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein


Deb said...


Always enjoy your blog

Pls check this post


Who to believe?


Dan White said...

I really like that Ben Stine; the more dry the tone, the better. Here's what Ben S. actually wrote



Bill Barnwell said...

Part of this piece is authentic from Stein, the second half of it primarily isn't. The whole "forward this to your friends" bit at the end is an obvious addition. And speaking of Snopes, here's there article on the subject:


I like Snopes for the most part. They are basically accurate for the most part though they certainly don't come at things from a Biblical worldview as I think they are agnostics, so that will affect their views on some things.

Maybe we should open up a new field of study, perhaps an MA in "Literary/E-Textual Criticism" as it pertains to emails and columns like this...what has and hasn't been redacted. A "JEDP" type source analysis for these sorts of things. It might be more interesting than Graf-Wellhausen studies and develop an equally geeky following online.

All that to say, yeah, most of this came from Stein, and cool column.

James Gregory said...

What's Snopes?

And, please forgive my ignorance, is this confession really from Ben Stein?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, is Ben open to Shairia Law, where woman are stoned, brutally circumcised, and de-valued and have no rights? And all in the name of God's Standard!!!
Does he believe that this would be a different country if we didn't allow difference? Surely, he must...as he said he appreciates "difference".

This is why whenever there is a political agenda, such as with Islam, we must take note, because their views are not compatible in any way to ours....

John I. said...

A reader:

It really hurts the credibility of your blog to post things that aren't accurate and take less than 15 seconds of searching to confirm. How about, before posting something (and instead of merely referring to snopes), you actually take the time to type a google search "ben stein cbs snopes" and read the top entry. You'd find out in less time than it took to type your intro that he wrote part of the entry (but started it differently) and didn't write the majority of what you posted (the last half). I expect that you write your books differently, but if your blogs are off the cuff like this I'll have to start using additional grains of salt when I read them (e.g., your interaction with the Pagan Church guy).


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Bill, I thought what you suggested was interesting, in regards to the sources...the priestly, versus the prophetic...different perspectives,roles,functions....but I think it would be interesting to do both the Welhausen view in light of the Welhausen view...developmental and different functions...one maintaining Tradition, the other changing or challenging Tradition...

Ben Witherington said...

Hi reader: I did check it, and for your information, the substance of the post is correct, except for the last paragraph, which changes nothing of the substance of this post. How about since I am probably busier than six of you put together I continue to allow ya'll to do the more detailed checking... as you obviously don't have two and half jobs.


Ben W.

Ben Witherington said...

One more thing Reader:

Blogs are not a viable source for any sort of scholarly work or research most of the time. They are essentially chat rooms for those who want to discuss anything ranging from important issues to trivial things, and the degree of scrutiny required before posting a non-academic post meets a much lower standard of course than a scholarly post.

This particular post is certainly not of the scholarly sort in any way, and in no way affects my personal credibility. It may reflect on the credibility of the person who originally said it, and the other person who modified it, but I put the ideas out there simply for discussion as ideas. I don't much care which particular person said this, as this is not that sort of discussion.

One more thing. I do not generally allow anonymous comments on this blog. If you don't have the courage of your own convictions to identify yourself when I click on your tag, and it takes me to no real information about you, then I don't tend to post what you say, for those of you wondering why some entries did not get posted.



Mr. Axworthy said...

Note: I am not "reader." My name is Jonathan. All said, I do value the blog because of your clear-sightedness, so I can see how one might muddle the two worlds of "scholarly" and "non-scholarly blog that happens to be run by scholar" (and I greatly value your aid as a scholar). It's an unfortunate sign of the time that any comment or post we can be associated with will most likely be used against us in a court of public opinion... that does seem to be how our elections are run anyway. After researching the helpful links given here, I would have to say that I am relieved that some of the final comments were not actually by Ben Stein - since they would have lowered my opinion of him. The parts that can be traced back to him (should we cast colored beads?) demonstrate a clear statement of the stress that one feels as a Christian (and probably Jew or Muslim as well) living in a country where policies are actively hostile to the sharing of what we believe is actually most essential to life. We can challenge conventional views with vulgarity... laugh our way to accepting sexual immorality as "the normal way of things." Yet when one stands up to proclaim that God has spoken to us and will hold us accountable for what we do with that revelation - in public at least - and one feels the weight powerful influences saying, "you must not speak that name here!"
I understand that the issue is complicated - but the double-standards applied when it comes to disseminating one's worldviews have the distinct odor of a deep-rooted phobia of God having actual control of an individual(for an example listen to a candidates answer "how will your personal beliefs affect your decisions about policy as president?" - an entertaining, though sad dance to watch). One often feels as though we are being herded somewhere... and I don't much care for it. It is either: "Be rational and humanistic... or at least hyper-cautious about what we share" or "Stand over here with the other religious fundamentalists... there's a place for them too, just not with the thinkers or policy makers."
Anyway, all that to say that I found the post interesting and thought provoking. Thanks!

dave said...

Thanks for you great ministry.

Actually the last several paragraphs (14 or so) are fake



This just took me a second to google. I have three jobs!

and one of the most delightful parts was the wonderful...and genuine....intro your version left out, but can be read at the link


Anonymous said...


C'mon, they took prayer out of schools and wam-bam Katrina, scool shootings and terrorism. That sounds like the schlock of bad tv evangelists, not the type of stuff I expect to see a theologian I really respect tipping his hat to on his blog.


Anonymous said...

We probably should allow for the possibility that there are some of us that take "confessions" of Ben Stein and Snopes.com a little less seriously than "A reader", don't you think :)

I mean, BW3 loses credibility as a scholar because he posted a blog post "off the cuff"?


Unknown said...

Interesting theology ("I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?")

Do you really believe that some subset of the human race can persuade God to stand down as the Lord of the Earth and intentionally allow others (some of whom presumably didnt't want God to recede from the scene to suffer unprotected? Seems an odd mix of a view of God as one who intervenes in day to day operations management of the world and the ususally competing view of God as one who simply sets her in motion and lets her spin.

Its a convenient point maker but it was sloppy theology when she said it, sloppy when Stein endorsed it and too sloppy for me to believe you are letting it by uncommented upon!

I really enjoy your blog but this one seems to have come in under your radar.

Unknown said...

I like your blog. That's definitely not Ben Stein's work. I've read that chain e-mail at least 10 times.
good luck with all the controversy you seem to have started with this post.

zefiriel said...


I know it's hard breaking the comfort bubble, but I think as with this post, you should take ANYTHING by ANYONE with a pinch of salt. I know it's hard. I too like to be spoon fed.

Regrettably, Ben's writings, whether here or his books are not totally inerrant (no disrespect intended). We shouldn't be treating his thoughts and his writings as divine and authoritative. ;)

zefiriel said...

Uh, btw, the part about Madeleine being murdered is true, but not Spock's son's suicide. Well, wiki-true anyway.

I was getting a weird feeling when I reach the part "funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says."

It's good that you guys made a quick search on snopes and google and the likes, but what would've happen if all these didn't exist? And do you just rely on sites like snopes.com or wikipedia or google search's result to establish what is factual and what is not? Funnily, that doesn't seem any different from just accepting this post at face value.

Is that what we call irony, or hypocrisy?

Mr. Axworthy said...

Zefiriel: First, I really am not "reader." I appreciate your concern, though. I was merely trying to state that I understand why the post might have evoked such a response from "reader" (whoever he/she may be). I do try to take the good with the bad and realize the fallibility of even my favorite authors and scholars. I was in no way offended to find out that the post was not completely accurate (merely relieved for Mr. Stein's sake). My main purpose for commenting was to actually address the thought process that the post initiated for me.
I apologize for the confusing introduction to my previous comment.
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Ugh... I LOATHE the saying "They took God out of our schools".

King David said "where can I flee from Your presence... If I go to the depths you are there..." God was evident during Israel's exile, New Testament persecution, the Third Reich's reign of terror and in communist China. Are we now saying that God can't do his redeeming work because of of a few laws and metal detectors? Historically the gospel has spread faster, not slower during times of oppression or persecution.

Since Jesus' death and resurrection took place, God's kingdom is no longer restricted by geopolitical or locational boundaries. Not in groups or on this mountain or that building, but in people who worship Him in spirit and in truth. He is present in hearts every believer wherever they may be - whether their Bible is with them or not - whether their teacher can lead them in prayer or whether the students has to pray silently in their own hearts.

The real problem is not that God or state-approved prayer is out of the schools. It is that the life-giving, transformational Spirit of God is and the accompanying fruit is not evident in the hearts of His people. "Against such there is no law."