Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Good Must Associate

Heaven & Humanity


“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. ’ ”
—Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 3:10-12

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
Edmund Burke
Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770); Volume i, page 526


The New Testament says that no one, no human, is good. Thus, this suggests, on first reading, that the default human position is to not seek righteousness, and by implication no human goodness exists in the world—a thought that leaves the world without any hope for humanity. The point of such a polemic is that Christians ought to first place their faith not in humanity, but in heaven, which is the source of all goodness. Yet, this is only part of the story, since a faith is bereft of good for humanity if it does not lead to righteous actions.  A faith without knowledge is blind, indeed.

Is it not possible to believe in the merits of heaven while also believing in the merits of humanity? Does the former annul the latter? I do not think so. One can have a faith in heavenly ideas as the inspiration for human justice and apply these accordingly, rightly and with knowledge. Edmund Burke, the eighteenth century philosopher, said that good people do make a difference, and their absence in confronting evil leads to failure. That is, inaction in the face of evil naturally leads to its continuance.  This is never good. For Burke, a conservative Christian, Wikipedia says, “religion is the foundation of civil society.”

In many cases, humans desire to do good, especially when it seems in short supply, when the world seems overrun by evil men with their evil plans. This is the case in many parts of the world, the places on which the news media focus, sometimes unintentionally (or unwittingly) aiding the very evil they are supposed to stop by not discouraging (and thus emboldening) the evil-doers. What is evil, but the absence of good. Evil flourishes when good is not present, when good is asleep.

This brings to mind Israel and the failure of most of the world’s media and western nations, led by the United States and western Europe. This is a failure in getting the story right, portraying Israel’s attempts to protect its citizens from Palestinian terrorists as wrong and “disproportionate.” Is it wrong to stop men and women with evil intentions, with murder on their minds and hearts. Or is it wrong only for Israel, the world’s only Jewish nation, to protect its citizens? Some things beg for simplicity; such is one case.

If you substitute America or Britain or France or Germany for Israel and read the same news reports, would you have the same response? Somehow, I doubt it. One nation is viewed more harshly than others; one nation has a majority Jewish population; one nation has been given rules of engagement to ensure its failure.

How does someone from the outside, residing safely a long distance away from the scenes of incitement and terror, decide how much force another nation must use to protect its citizens from violent and dangerous attacks? There is no calculation or equation to determine this, as far as I know. The response of the international community in regards to Israel and its Jewish People is remarkable, not only for its failure to understand the situation “on the ground,” but equally important, for its failure to support a long-standing and faithful ally.

There is a lack of desire to get the facts, a lack of desire to separate fact from fiction and a lack of desire to support good. There is a belief, a faith, if you will, in the Palestinian narrative, no matter how much it deviates from reality and historical evidence. One can almost come to the conclusion that this is not so much support for the Palestinians as it is animus for Israel and for its Jewish citizens. Recently, hundreds of British academics decided to boycott Israel. Such describes a blind faith, a failure in knowledge.“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18: 15).

This is a requirement to do good, to ensure that evil does not continue unabated. And, until good men unite and associate themselves with what is right, the evil in the Middle East will continue. It is in the interest of those “Christian nations” to do what is good and right. It is time for those Christians who say they “love Israel and the Jewish People” to come out of the closet and declare publicly what they say privately.

Perhaps some think this is asking too much, but moral choices have to be made, which means taking sides. Neutrality is not an option in the face of evil; in such cases neutrality is a sign of consent. Otherwise Christianity, as a religion of love, of compassion and of tolerance, will fail once again to pass the test of goodness.

Or, then again, Christians could emulate the righteous example of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during during the Second World War, notes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
From December 1940 to September 1944, the inhabitants of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (population 5,000) and the villages on the surrounding plateau (population 24,000) provided refuge for an estimated 5,000 people. This number included an estimated 3,000–3,500 Jews who were fleeing from the Vichy authorities and the Germans.
Led by Pastor André Trocmé of the Reformed Church of France, his wife Magda, and his assistant, Pastor Edouard Theis, the residents of these villages offered shelter in private homes, in hotels, on farms, and in schools. They forged identification and ration cards for the refugees, and in some cases guided them across the border to neutral Switzerland. These actions of rescue were unusual during the period of the Holocaust insofar as they involved the majority of the population of an entire region.
The State of Israel recognized the collective actions of the village, and in particular the pastor and his wife, deeming the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon as“Righteous Among the Nations.” The citizens of the village downplayed their actions as heroic, only deeming them as necessary, Yad Vashem says, “as having empathy for Jews as the people of the Old Testament,” summing up their convictions as follows “Things had to be done and we happened to be there to do them. It was the most natural thing in the world to help these people.”

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