Elizabeth Gilbert’s Warped Understanding Of The Bible

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.

In her new book Committed, she writes on page 55:

…the Old Testament is such a family-centric, stranger abhorring, genealogical extravaganza… the driving narrative always concerns the progress and tribulations of the bloodline…

But the New Testament — which is to say, the arrival of Jesus Christ — invalidated all those old family loyalties to a degree that was truly socially revolutionary. Instead of perpetuating the tribal notion of “the chosen people against the world,” Jesus…taught that we are all chosen people, that we are all brothers and sisters united within one human family. Now, this was an utterly radical idea that could never possibly fly in a traditional tribal system. You cannot embrace a stranger as your brother, after all, unless you are willing to renounce your real biological brother, thus capsizing an ancient code that binds you in sacred obligation to your blood relatives while setting you in auto-opposition to the unclean outsider.

First. The Old Testament brought the idea of a universal creator God into the world. If all humanity has one father, then are we not all brothers? This is a gift of the Jews, not of Jesus Christ.

Second. The Old Testament is “stranger abhorring”? The Torah repeatedly commands, “You shall love the stranger because you were strangers in Egypt.”

The Torah created a system so that Jews could go around the world and bond with those who shared their values, Jew or non-Jew.

Jews have not been held back by fear of strangers, in dramatic contrast to the familism that dominates Christian South America, where people tend to only trust family. Jews have never suffered from familism.

Three. Gilbert claims that the narrative drive of the Old Testament is the progress of the bloodline, but the Old Testament keeps introducing prominent characters such as Ruth who are not part of the bloodline and yet it is from them that the Messiah will come.

Four. I fail to see anything that was socially revolutionary in the teachings of Jesus.

Five. The Old Testament did not put the Jew in “auto-opposition to the unclean outsider.” The Old Testament keeps enjoining, “Love the stranger.”

It seems clear that Elizabeth Gilbert holds primitive views of the Hebrew Bible.

Suzanne Venker writes:

We Greeks don’t feel comfortable sacrificing the Self upon the alter of Tradition; it just feels oppressive to us.

Ms. Gilbert’s Greek reference follows her analysis of politics in America. Rather than use the terms “conservative” and “liberal,” she uses the terms Greek vs. Hebrew.

The entire bedrock of Western culture is based on two rival worldviews — the Greek and the Hebrew — and whichever side you embrace more strongly determines to a large extent how you see life. The Greeks gave us our notions about democracy and equality and personal liberty and scientific reason and intellectual freedom and open-mindedness. The Greek take on life, therefore, is urban, sophisticated, and exploratory, always leaving plenty of room for doubt and debate.”

On the other hand, there is the Hebrew way of seeing the world. The Hebrew credo is clannish, patriarchal, authoritarian, moralistic, and suspicious of outsiders. Hebrew thinkers see the world as a clear play between good and evil, with God firmly on our side. Human actions are either right or wrong. There is no gray area. The collective is more important than happiness, and vows are inviolable.”

Liberals like Ms. Gilbert, by the way, are the reason media bias has become what it has. These folks truly, honestly believe their way of viewing the world is “sophisticated and open-minded” — and that people who are religious, or traditional, or who simply live by a set of principles (which is to say, most of America) aren’t “sophisticated,” “exploratory” or “intellectual.” This is a deep seated arrogance, bordering on disease. It’s one thing to believe you’re right and state your case (I do this all the time!) — and another to suggest you’re superior.

And this is my favorite passage from the book, as it truly sums up not just Ms. Gilbert — but every single modern liberal in existence:

My yearning to have everyone in the world be best friends, combined with my near pathological empathy for underdogs...”

According to Gilbert, the Hebrew credo is clannish, aka Jews stick together.

Here’s a good essay on this:

The stereotype that Jews are clannish, or that they tend to “stick together” also derives from the history of Jewish treatment by other ethnic groups.

…Jews developed clans and stuck together for one reason-persecution. Throughout the history of the Jewish population, they were constantly exiled and treated unfairly because they were different. After being exiled, is a group going to be allowed to reside with other ethnic groups? No. The Jews stuck together because they were forced to and most of the time had no other choice but to form ghettos and live in small quarters.

During World War II, Jews were forced into ghettos (often enclosed) and lived under miserable conditions. The Germans did this in order to control and segregate the Jews. The Nazis had created over 400 ghettos and due to such horrible conditions, disease and death spread rapidly. By 1942, all the ghettos were dissolved and the remaining Jews were sent to concentration, labor, or death camps. Would this not force a group to stick together and trust only themselves? How can it be said that being clannish is a stereotype when they were forced to live that way?

Elizabeth Gilbert writes: “Hebrew thinkers see the world as a clear play between good and evil, with God always firmly on our ‘our’ side.”

Has Elizabeth Gilbert ever read the Hebrew Bible? It is a record of the apostasy of Israel from God’s side. Isaiah 10:5 talks in God’s voice about Assyria being “the rod of my anger” against Israel.

Jews are the only group that has canonized its critics. We took our harshest critics — people like Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah — and put them in our Bible. There is no other religious group that has done this.

Jordie Gerson writes for Jewcy:

Maureen Farrell at The New York Post and other critics have complained that the spiritual activity Gilbert recounts in “Pray” proves only that she’s self-absorbed, vapid, and irresponsible. Her record of her passage to India, they say, is the height of American self-help narcissism—a self-involvement distinctly at odds with ‘true’ religiosity.

This is a fast and dirty critique – and I don’t buy it. Buddhist practice, in my experience, doesn’t make us more self-involved, but less. If there’s any reason to be critical of Gilbert’s time in India, it’s not because she’s engaging with another faith —but because she doesn’t engage with the world around her. Which is why the Buddhist in me loved Eat, Pray,Love, but the Jew couldn’t get behind it.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes on another topic:

Married men live longer than single men; married men accumulate more wealth than single men; married men excel at their careers above single men; married men are far less likely to die a violent death than single men; married men report themselves to be much happier than single men; and married men suffer less from alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression than do single men….

There doesn’t seem to be anything, statistically speaking, that a man does not gain by getting married.

Dishearteningly, the reverse is not true. Modern married women do not fare better in life than their single counterparts. Married women in America do not live longer than single women; married women do not accumulate as much wealth as single women…; Married women are not as successful in their careers as single women. Married women are arguably less healthy than single women. Married women, until recently, were more likely to die a violent death than single women — usually, at the hands of their own husbands.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been chronicled by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, 60 Minutes and Entertainment Tonight. I teach Alexander Technique in Los Angeles (see Alexander90210.com).
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One Response to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Warped Understanding Of The Bible

  1. Thank you for bringing us these comments, Luke. Nothing changes, does it. Spreading negative cliches and stereotypes about Judaism and Jews makes people (including many Jews) rich. Jews remain on the defensive. A lot of good that does them.

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