Fathers and mothers in Israel: Joe Sobran...

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He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. (Matthew 10:41)

This past week, I exchanged several e-mails with a young man who's been reading Joe Sobran and loving it. The e-mails were because this brother is inclined to believe the trash-talk William F. Buckley unleashed against his old friend Sobran, smearing him as a Jew-hater.

I tried to defend Joe against Buckley and all his wealthy friends who lived with him on Israel's Amen Corner, but it was no use. Young men can't help underestimating the cost of discipleship, particularly when a man's apostolate is teaching, preaching, or writing. Do you remember as a young man thinking your cultural sophistication and close study of God's opponents would allow you to get rich being a truth-teller when all other men through the ages got poor and dead doing the same? Hope springs eternal from us human pests, doesn't it?

I'm guessing this was the hope Joe had when as a young man he first started writing. Maybe he could tell the truth and be published by Oxford or HarperCollins? Maybe he could write the truth and get rich doing it? Maybe he could expose Israel's abuse of these United States...

through men like Jonathan Pollard and still hold on to his mentor Buckley's applause and paychecks?

Each day truth-tellers sit down or stand up to do their work, they have to make the decision once more whether their goal is protecting their reputation and career or telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God? Every last day, and to the very end of their life. Joe kept making that decision in the right direction and so lost his friendship and the patronage of Buckley and his Amen Corner. This is why I loved Joe Sobran, and love him still. It's why I still love Francis Schaeffer and will always love my father, Joe Bayly. These men had lots of enemies because they kept on telling the truth, both in what they said and the way they said it. But back to Sobran.

It's sad. I would have thought death might have allowed Joe some relief from vicious personal attacks, but with amazing tenacity they live on. Joe was hated because he was an anti-Semite. He was hated because he bought too many books and left them strewn over his floor. He was hated because he didn't allow his editors to censor some of his articles that poked their publication's rich patrons in the eye. As Buckley said to him, "Joe, we need these people."

Poor Joe, he just didn't know which side of his bread was buttered. Such a shame, really. What talent! What a waste!

All he would have had to do was make a few small concessions for the sake of Buckley and his National Review's bottom line. Just let them pass on publishing crud like this:

According to Israel’s “amen corner” in this country, Israel can do no wrong, except to concede too much to the Palestinians. Israel is a heroic “democracy” even when it treats its minority like dirt, and a “reliable ally” of the United States even when it steals American military secrets and sells them to Communist countries.

It’s an article of faith among the Amen Corner that the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard – a national hero in Israel, by the way – has been punished far too harshly for his crimes, since the United States should have shared those secrets with Israel anyway. And far from recoiling from Sharon’s brutality, the Amen Corner defends him at every turn, just as Stalin’s fellow travellers in this country used to justify Uncle Joe – except that some in the Amen Corner think Sharon isn’t going far enough.

Not all the members of the Amen Corner are Jewish. Many are Christians – a shameful fact, since they never raise their voices in defense of Palestinian Christians. “See how these Christians love one another!” This kind of loyalty might make Judas Iscariot queasy.

The obvious danger is that the United States will once more be drawn into war with Israel’s enemies, chiefly Iraq. If that happens, we probably won’t be as lucky as in the 1991 Gulf War, which ended with an easy American victory and little cost until last September 11. This time the whole Middle East could erupt in war and revolution, leaving us with countless millions of bitter enemies on top of those we already have. It will be a boon to al-Qaeda recruitment.

Joe wrote this back in March of 2002—almost fifteen years ago.

Prophetic or pathetic, take your pick.

When Joe died, three of us drove to D.C. to attend his wake. In the ninety or so minutes we were in attendance, maybe seventy-five people talked in the very small funeral home where the wake was held. One of them was Joe's grandson. We talked with him and I conclude with this from an attorney-friend I made the trip with:

At the wake, Tim and I met Joe's adult grandson, the one who lived with Joe for a time. He denied there was an anti-semitic bone in his grandfather's body and served as a credible character witness, confirming for me what I've always seen in Joe's writings. Joe stood up to the Jewish/Neocon Monolith to protect this country and his sons from foreign wars and Muslim enmity and was flattened. It's hard for me to imagine any prophet making all the right tactical decisions and exercising the kind of self-protective instincts the rest of us have honed quite well. His mistakes and sins were mostly in the direction of serving as a true prophet, alone in a foxhole protecting us while the enemy's mortars and bullets rained down.

...no man has been more helpful to me in my work (law and government) by both teaching and example than Joe Sobran. I loved him (and still love him) so much, I sent him a thank you note and the electoral bribe, uh, I mean economic stimulus check, George W. Bush sent (my wife) and me in 2008. (Joe would probably have had a good horse laugh if he'd known the source of our gift.) Tom Bethell tells me that Joe blew it on CDs and books that he then promptly deposited in the landfill of a living room. Is that the lesson we need to learn from Joe's life, not to help our fathers and grandfathers after the world has kicked them to curb but instead shake our heads in pity and resolve not to be extremists?

Once I wrote and asked Joe for permission to reprint one of his pieces on the Resurrection. It was one of the most helpful meditations on the Resurrection I'd ever read, but there was a fly in the ointment: Joe had included a very brief reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary that I didn't want to include in my reprint, so I asked Joe for permission to remove it. Joe wrote back saying he was quite happy to give me permission to reprint the piece as long as I did not remove a single word from it. I was honored to get permission although my conscience didn't allow me to reprint the piece with Joe's dangerous reference to Mary intact.

Good reader, consider this post a garland on Joe's tomb. May God rest him in peace.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!