August 22, 2014
By Rabbi Aryeh Spero
“Children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hung and crucified. Entire Christian and non-Muslim communities are being decimated by the radical Muslim group, ISIS.” These are the words from reporters out of Iraq. What is our obligation to those under fire from Islamic terrorists? Prayer is good, but not enough. Words of support are welcome, but not enough. What can one do when terrorists are not moved by our prayers or words of support for the hunted? Our religious obligation is to fight.
We fight because self-defense is a mandate from the Bible — the Torah, called by many the Old Testament. We fight to defend life. Because life is precious, the ultimate, we must defend it. The very definition of self-defense is permission to kill the one who is coming toward you to kill you. Self-defense is not simply our right to pray or support with words, but do whatever is needed to stay alive and protect our families.
Those pacifists who are willing to personally die and would rather be butchered so as not to kill their butchers are free to so choose. But no one is allowed to demand or suggest that someone else allow himself to be killed so as to spare the life of the one presently doing murder.
A war to defend and stop those coming to kill you is a moral war. It is called a Just War. And we defend not only ourselves, we defend others. The Bible, the Torah that is, says, “Do not stand idly by while the blood our brother is being spilled”. We also have permission to kill those coming to rape a woman. The Bible, Old Testament, tells us so in Exodus. It is our obligation.
We have recently heard from some religious leaders that “No war is ever acceptable”. In contrast to some in today’s Catholic hierarchy, the Catholic college I went to 40 years ago talked about the Just War. My Protestant clergy friends used to agree about the right to self–defense. I call it more than simply a right, like the right to assemble. Indeed, it is a religious obligation, precisely because we venerate the life of those created in the image of God. Innocent life, that is, not the terrorist while terrorizing and killing. He must be stopped.
Pope Francis says that “violence is never the answer to violence”. I disagree: the justified war is the answer to wanton, barbaric slaughter. It is a religious obligation to eradicate the fire of Evil. Well, at least in the Torah it is.
Sending a papal emissary to Iraq is a nice gesture, but a better gesture is to affirm to the world that it is morally appropriate to physically fight so as to save tens of thousands who will otherwise surely be killed. Tell the world to take up arms. Instill the world with moral confidence to stop the barbarism of the Crescent before more Christian communities are wiped off the face of the earth.
Religion cannot simply be about the next world. It has to care about living life in this world as well. It can’t simply be about lofty spiritual concepts, but a flesh and blood willingness to defend and fight for one’s right tolive. It can’t only be about salvation and the Kingdom Come, but defense of the living in His earthly Kingdom here.
Over a million Christians have been slaughtered by those doing so in the name of Islam in Africa alone. The Church has had a decade to condemn this, and do more than pray. But, up until last week it has been much too silent. Entire Christian communities have been decimated by Islam in the Middle East and parts of Asia; hundreds of women have been raped with glee by young men feeling entitled to do so because the women are “infidels”. Nothing much was said. I hardly remember any protests throughout the last years in front of the White House.
What good is it to boast that one’s hands are pure if such purity allows the bloody massacre of tens of thousands of Christian victims? Before worrying about the purity of one’s own soul, it is important to worry about how one cansave the life of his brothers and sisters. Suchpacifism may be a comfort to those who wish to be above criticism, doing so at the expense of saving the lives of others. Thank God, the Israelis are willing to fight, physically fight in self-defense against the Islamist Hamas, which wants to destroy them. The Torah does not celebrate pacifism, it values innocent life. Innocent life is a category above these ersatz, high-sounding platitudes suited for ivory chambers.
Religion is more than doing the nice things such as visiting the sick and healing the wounded. That’s Religion 101. Religion demands that we be a whole person, capable of the gut-wrenching actions in saving people, to begin with, from those who would make us wounded and sick. At times, God describes Himself as a “Man of War” to let us know that He expects us to physically defend ourselves and vanquish evil. This contrasts with President Obama who recently remarked regarding bombing ISIS that “We should not want a victor and a vanquished.” That type of moral relativism is anti-Biblical, will doom the entire Western civilization, and makes us glad Mr. Obama was not around when we had to fight the Nazis and Communists.
We hear very often from the religious community regarding the absolute need to protect the life in the womb, the life of the unborn. Well, how about protecting the life of the already born, the living?
Who will be the Christian religious leader who will boldly assert that it is a Christian principle, a religious obligation, to wage war to defend oneself from merciless attackers? How many more millions of Christians must die at the hands of Islam until a leader arises and says “Love is not only about loving your enemy, but loving your life aswell. Love demands that you physically fight for your children, your family and your friends. ”
I cannot believe that God demands from his devotees that they allow others to kill them. Actually, Martyrdom in battle is the best form of martyrdom for a Cause. Leaders should not make others feel morally guilty or spiritually deficient for physically defending their loved ones.
Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a theologian, is author of Push Back and president of Caucus for America.