This past Thursday I had the honor of being part of a multi-religious panel at Fairchild Air Force Base to discuss how to better address the religious needs of Jewish and other minorities who are serving in the military. Part of the panel was an atheist, an American Indian, a Pagan, a Muslim and a Buddhist.
Of course, the topic of the horrific killing of the Jordanian pilot came up and the question was asked how we can combat the wave of lunatics that are threatening the world.
I would like to share with you my thoughts on this matter and connect this to this week’s Torah portion.
What became very clear to me was that everyone feels discriminated against. The atheist is offended by the religious person, the white Christian male is offended by the atheist and the list goes on.
Is this mission impossible?
Is there any hope for us to live in peace?
Then the question came up about the extremism and how we should respond to it.
The questioner defined an extremist as someone who holds steadfast in his/her beliefs.
The Muslim representative explained the desperation and anger of those who commit these atrocities. The Atheist representative backed his words with data etc.
I had to strongly disagree. Just as the world has advanced morally, the world can reverse back, G-D forbid. The moment we accept and condition certain basic human values on another person’s feelings, emotions or rationale, the world as we know it is in great peril.
The difference between a human being and an animal is the ability to act as a human being, even at a time when one doesn’t feel like it, or it just doesn’t make sense.
We are not animals. Certain basic values should never be compromised. There should never be a reason to rationalize murder and the like.
What’s also interesting to note is that we were all in agreement that if someone is standing with a loaded gun and threatening you, that you must protect your life and your family’s life. The explanation according to Judaism is that one is prohibited from killing another because man is created in G-D’s image; when one behaves in a way that threatens you, he has lost his divine image.
What’s fascinating about the Ten Commandments is that they contain some common sense laws such as do not murder, do not steal etc. Why does G-D have to command us about laws that you would expect people to understand on their own - let alone include it in the Ten Commandments?
If you let man draw his own understanding of what is right and wrong, even when it comes to something as basic as do not murder, there will come a time when in his mind the same logic that told him not to murder, will tell him to murder.
You see the only way to fight extremism is with extremism; we need values that are not a product of our understanding and therefore are negotiable at times. Rather we need values that are absolute.