One of the Bible’s most resounding commandments is “do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse lately.
I’ve thought about it in the context of gun violence. But it’s also challenged me on a deeper level. Does anyone care about the bloodshed happening in Syria?
While admitting lack of knowledge of the variables of foreign policy, I was saddened that President Obama did not mention it in his otherwise moving inaugural address.
Who will speak up for the tens of thousands of students and families slaughtered by one dictator? Are they our neighbors? And if so, can we continue to stand idly by?
Some might say that they are not our neighbors. They live in a different part of the world, with different rules and cultures. We only create more problems when we get involved in other people’s affairs.
The Last Best Hope of Man
I respect that point of view. Yet, we can still speak out. American influence does not rest solely in tanks and dollars. It derives from our moral stature, our history as what Abraham Lincoln called the “last best hope of man on earth.”
I write not as a diplomat, soldier or politician. Their points of view must shape our thinking.
Yet, I speak as someone who knows that so many failed to speak out when millions were slaughtered in Nazi Germany, in Armenia, in Rwanda. How can we stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds?
Love Your Neighbor
How do we know the Syrians are our neighbors? The answer can be found in a famous debate in the Talmud, the book of Jewish law, written 1500 years ago.
Quoting the biblical verse, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” the talmudic sages asked the question, “Who is our neighbor? Is it just someone who lives in the same community? Is it someone of our religion or ethnicity?”
Their answer: Your neighbor is your fellow human being, created in the image of God.
God Is Bigger Than Any One Religion
In other words, God is bigger than any one religion. God is larger than any one group. Each person created in the image of God is our neighbor.
We have responsibilities to our neighbors. When we feel their pain, we begin to open our hearts. It’s time to open our hearts to Syria. It’s time to speak out.
By Evan Moffic
Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey has left many people wondering. Was it genuine? Why did he wait so long? Can those he hurt forgive him? Will he ever compete again?
Each of us probably has differing responses to these questions. As a member of the clergy, what interests me is two-fold. Why did Lance Armstrong decide to confess publicly to Opera Winfrey? And , assuming he is genuine, can those he hurt forgive him?
Lance Armstrong was very wise to decide to make his public confession to Oprah. She represents a peculiarly American kind of secular religion, where people can try to find forgiveness and work through pain and sorrow. She is kind and understanding, but not obsequious.
In a way, Oprah acts as a corrective to what is often wrong with religion in America today. So often we focus on the fire and brimstone message of religion. What must you believe? Are you saved or not? What did you do to deserve your suffering?
Oprah’s message is more hopeful. She includes rather than excludes, and seeks to understand rather than condemn. She offers encouragement rather than blame. Without watering down our faith, we pastors, priests and rabbis need to do the same thing.
Trust Comes Before Forgiveness
Then question of forgiveness is more complicated. Both Christianity and Judaism teach forgiveness. It is a religious duty and helps build a more dignified and godly world.
It also takes time. And it takes an acceptance of responsibility. What makes it difficult for many to forgive Armstrong is that he denied the doping charges so vociferously and for so long!
Finding forgiveness begins with regaining trust. People need to trust Lance Armstrong; trust that he has changed, and trust that his remorse is genuine.
He is an extraordinary man with a lot to give. Will he have the character to do so? I pray that he does, but the jury is still out.
By Evan Moffic
Friends, I had a fabulous conversation on Fox News with my friend Father Jonathan Morris. We touched on not only on gun violence, but on the role of God and religion in politics. I thought you might enjoy the clip. Articles coming soon on Lance Armstrong and forgiveness. All the best, Evan
What do you think? Leave your thoughts below in the Comments Section.
By Evan Moffic
We have become a deeply polarized nations, with ideology trumping practicality at every turn. We saw this in the fiscal cliff debate. We are seeing it in the gun control battle.
Does politics have to be this divisive? Can it fulfill Aristotle’s ancient ideal of lifting up our national conversation and morale, rather than weakening and cheapening it? Can we still speak of the idea of the common good?
Jewish tradition has some useful wisdom and insight to address this challenge. We love debate, but we also love meaningful solutions. Here are some guidelines for achieving them:
1. Civility is sacred: We do not gain points by pushing another down. Rather, we gain respect when listening, understanding and responding thoughtfully to an opponent’s point of view.
2. Words are sacred: Among the greatest Jewish transgressions we can commit is engaging in Lashon Harah, which is a Hebrew phrase meaning “malicious conversation.” Lashon Harah does not refer only to gossip or overt lying. It encompasses language that shames another. It includes words that incite conflict rather than invite cooperation.
3. Life is sacred: In the next few weeks, we will likely hear many debates about background checks, assault rifle capacity, and the Second Amendment. These are important issues. Yet, our underlying moral concern must always be the presevation of life.
It’s Not Just About Gun Control
Preserving life is a moral imperative speaks not only to gun control.
It demands a focus on what we watch on TV and what games we let our children play.
It challenges us to think about those who feel no sense of hope or purpose and turn to violence for attention or glory.
It urges us to ask ourselves what we are doing to build a culture where help is available to those who need it and parents and mentors are there for children who desperately need them.
The Role of Politics
Not all problems can be solved through politics. Sometimes legislation creates more problems than it solves. Even so, we need to take sensible measures that can help protect our most vulnerable. And we need leaders who think not only of campaign cash but of the common good.
The Bible tells us that “we cannot stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds.” Now is the time to stop the bleeding.
Friends, I will be on Fox News Live Friday at 1:00 PM EST discussing Religion and Gun Control. Tune in and let me know what you think!
By Evan Moffic