Daniel Lapin, Mercer Island's jet-setting rabbi to the religious right, doesn't want to criticize Glenn Beck. "He's a friend," Lapin says of the conservative talk-show host, and the rabbi didn't hear Beck's pronouncement on Monday that the devastation in Japan was a "message from God." Still, Lapin says it would lack "sophistication" and "religious authenticity" to claim that God might be punishing the Japanese because they are Buddhists and Shintos (if that's indeed what Beck's vague ramblings were meant to imply).
No, the rabbi has a different theory. Japan isn't being punished. It's being rewarded! And that is because Japan, contrary to geography, is actually a product of "Western civilization."
Let's take this step by step. Lapin concedes that the disaster in Japan has been a killer. But he says the death toll would have been far worse were it not for one thing: the country's "wholesale adoption of the Western model" since General Douglas MacArthur helped rebuild the country after its defeat in World War II.
"The banks, the bathrooms, the public transport all resemble the banks, the bathrooms, and the public transport in London, New York and Boston," Lapin says. More to the point, he says Japan's building codes resemble those of the West.
The effect of natural disasters is actually a pet interest of Lapin's, developed after two earthquakes of roughly the same magnitude struck cities in California and Iran within days of each other in 2003. He noted that only two people died in California, while 26,000 did in Iran, and enlisted a mathematician friend of his to study disasters through history. Indeed, Western countries reliably fared better.
What does it all mean? Maybe that affluent countries--whether in the West or Asia---have had the financial wherewithal to modernize their infrastructure and mobilize in a crisis?
Not according to Lapin, who asserts that it is the value put on human life in the West that has produced better buildings. And the West, as he never tires of telling us through his religion-meets-politics organization Toward Tradition, "is based on the Judeo-Christian ethic." So really, it's the Jews and Christians who saved Japan!