Is American Being Punished for Its Sinfulness?

 

Last week the United States witnessed two extreme acts of religious arrogance. The first was the catastrophic terror attack against New York, presumably carried out by religious extremists for whom the United States is the Great Satan. But the second was in some ways even more heinous, as it came from within. Two of this country's most respected religious leaders asserted that the attacks came about because `G-d had removed his protection from the United States' due to the sinfulness of its citizens. These ministers cited gay and abortion rights, as well as the denial of prayer in public schools and the American Civil Liberties Union, as being indirectly responsible for the terrorist atrocities by making America deserving of divine retribution like Sodom and Gomorrah.



Firstly, the utter conceit of any person, be they cleric or laity, to know the mind of G-d is staggering, especially when G-d Himself tells us that "the hidden things belong to G-d, but the revealed things are for us humans and our children to understand, now and forever." Furthermore, what magnitude of arrogance do these clerics have to condemn six thousand victims, none of whom they knew, and affirm that they deserved to be punished? Had they ever met them? Did they know their hearts? But the over-roasted religious chestnut of man deserving the horrible things that befall him due to his sinfulness, deserves greater examination.



Whereas

Islam

means 'submission to G-d', and Christianity advocates faith above all else, the word `Israel' translates as

he who wrestles with G-d

. As human beings, it is not our role to concern ourselves with G-d's affairs and offer rationalizations for other people's suffering by saying that it carries an internal, albeit latent good. The moral imperative beholden upon us when witnessing the suffering of another individual is simply to cause it to cease, not to attempt to understand it. The reason that Judaism has traditionally had such weak

theodicies

is that we have always viewed it as immoral to try and rationalize suffering. Every rationalization is an attempt to make peace, to accept, to come to terms with. And there should be no coming to terms with human suffering. Man was created to challenge G-d, not to submit his head in blind obedience when innocent victims suffer.



The real question which should be posed to G-d upon witnessing a child with leukemia, or a staggering human tragedy like the destruction of the World Trade Center, is not, 'Please G-d, explain to us why this happens and how it fits into Your overall plan for creation?', but rather, 'Master of the Universe, how could You allow this to happen?! Was is not you who taught us in Your Bible that life is sacred and must be preserved at all costs? So where is that life now?! Was is not you who also promised that the good deserve goodness, and not pain? Where is your promise now? By everything which is sacred to You, I demand that this cease, and that these people recover, now!'



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