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Responsibility In Religion

Jewish religion takes ownership of our congregation in acknowledging both the good with the bad. We strive to improve ourselves through education, good deeds, and hope to abide by a code of good conduct relative to our understanding of the paths set before us by G-d and the ways by it that we are supposed to relate to the world. We may not always meet each and every goal along this path. It may, indeed, be hypocritical to hold someone to task who has failed in that task, but we accept them as ours, and accept that they have failed. They will fail at some tasks set before them. This is life, and realistic expectations maintain that such will happen.


However, it is good to have a sense of the ideal to reach for, even when we can’t reach everything that we would hope to. Holding out high hopes gives someone a goal to strive for. We don’t like bad behavior, either. But, alas — Jewish people also commit bad deeds. And yes, it’s sad, but we have to acknowledge that one of ours did that particular thing of which he stands accused. It doesn’t mean we like it, or condone it, but we don’t pretend it was done by the “man on the moon”, or the “boogeyman”, or any number of irrelevant others toward which blame could be transferred. Only in the most blatant acts of physically trying to separate oneself from Judaism itself would a decree of ex-communication be issued, where we would then “disown” the person from the religious community. It is very rare for this to happen, as it is always held out for the Jew to return to the religion. Once issued, it is as if the person is dead to the community, and does not exist.


We are to abide by 613 mitzvot, both positive and negative — the “Do’s” and the “Don’ts” — in Jewish law. If you think that’s alot, one need only look at the laws inherent in a Democratic society, such as exist in the United States, to find that the Jewish laws are quantifiably a cakewalk, in comparison! How many laws actually exist in the U.S.? And how many more so might there be in a much older Western society, such as that of Great Britain, say? Do we really follow each and every law on the books, like a perfect citizen, each and every one of us?


Well, not to be pessimistic, but the answer, as borne out by the over-crowded prison system, is resoundedly negative, in that regard. Our jail cells are top-full with people who have been placed there with a verdict of guilt for various infractions, ranging from slight to great. A recent article (unread) even mentions a man serving a life sentence for the non-return of a library item!


Old laws still on the books are routinely contravened in today’s society, and would be seen as discriminatory through the progressive, prismatic lenses by which we view issues, especially social ones, today.


I could never concile, at least in the younger formulation of my self, the viewpoint of a religious perspective which could disavow the behaviors associated with an individual as separate from the religion to which they identify. The behaviors belong to the individual, and the individual belongs to a religion. The tendency for certain religions to disavow the individual, on and off like a spigot, when they commit bad acts, and only confirm “membership” to one in good standing, is absolutely disingenuous.


I hope that those of the Christian faith won’t be too upset with my feelings about a few aspects of their religion that I feel needs closer consideration, if one wants to be honest about the whole thing. I can understand the adage to “Love the sinner, but not the sin”. But it seems that every time a self-professed Christian commits a heinous act, it is suddenly said of them that they are not a “true Christian”, and that a “true Christian” would never do such things.


The hypocrisy I find in this statement is that the Christian dogma believes that mankind is imperfect and imbued with Original Sin. They believe that only one way exists to G-d via the corporeal intermediary, or triumvirate conception of the embodiment of this ideal.


If the person accepts Christianity, but falls prey to the temptations of the world, as is his wont, due to Original Sin (according to Christianity), then how can he suddenly be said to be not a “true Christian”? Isn’t that just what Christianity reports itself to be? Don’t they claim ALL people to be sinners? To use a concept from the religion, the sinner comes to the congregation and suddenly it’s as if they were never known to them?


I’m sorry, but if you think about it really hard, the hypocrisy in the statement is there. They HAVE sin. They are imperfect beings. That is the major tenet of the religion. They can’t suddenly be cast-off when they did something wrong, so as not to cast aspersion on the religion, itself.


You need to own up to it. There are people in your religion that do bad things. They do it as a member of the religion, and they do it sometimes in the name of the religion (by following edicts found in that particular religion). I find it annoying to this day that people of Christian faith always resort to this disownership each and every time somebody sins (usually rather badly).


In the Jewish religion, we teach that man is supposed to act responsibly. There may be 613 mitzvot, and that must seem like a lot of rules to follow. We are not supposed to consider them a burden. They are to be a joy to us, a source of guidance, for ways to enhance our lives and bring us into conformance to a better way of living. It is said that there are two types of sin: that against man,  and that against G-d. The worse one is that against man. We are to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged, to repent for our actions, and to try to make amends.


In Judaism, we are to teach children in the way that they should go, so that they will not depart from it. In later classes as we mature, we have hopefully, by then, received ethics and morality classes to help us think through further issues. Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of Our Fathers, is a book of Jewish consideration of the subject.


In Judaism, we have debated the question posed by Cain to G-d, when he replied in response to G-d’s query concerning Cain’s knowledge regarding where his brother, Abel, was (who he had just killed): “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the answer to that, is “Yes; I am my brother’s keeper” (I have failed you, my brother, Stephen). We have a responsibility to look after the welfare and actions of our brothers. This means guiding them, correcting them, caring for them, and more. It is our failure if we fail them.


We have standards to follow, and many times we fail to meet them. Christianity likes to make a main point out of this. They really like to ridicule the rules which we feel G-d set out before us to follow. We don’t presume to be superior because of this, and in fact it is noted in the Bible that we were considered “stiff-necked” people; but it is our religion and we believe the rules were never remanded.


Popular Christianity has changed through the Centuries on this matter: first teaching that only some of the rules applied; later teaching that the rules were replaced with the coming of J.C. Actually, even within the Christian Bible, it is stated by the man, J.C., himself, that he did not come to replace/do away with the (Jewish) Laws (of G-d). Yet, Christianity has done so, itself. As errors in Christian teaching become apparent throughout the Centuries, new dogma then begins to replace the old, changing in conformance to then-accepted precepts (until new errors are uncovered).


The religion of Islam is now taking a page from Christian teaching, using the same methodology which has worked so successfully, for so long, for the Christians. They now state that the people who are following the injunctions found in the teachings of their religion — whether by Imams, or by previous rulings of Hadith, or via new fatwas issued by religious councils — and who commit atrocities condoned in action just as verily by such, have actually “hijacked” their alleged-to-be “peaceful” religion.


The Hudabiyya agreement was a long-ago arrangement agreed to by the Muslims which allowed them time to build-up their resources to defeat at a later date those who had held the position of strength over them, at the time when the agreement had gone into effect. In today’s modern terms, we would call these “peace treaties” or “truces”, or the always-ongoing “peace process”. It has been determined that this sets the precedent whereby it is okay to lie to the enemy and make an agreement to any terms of peace, which can, later, conveniently be broken once they have gained sufficient strength. (Spoiler alert — too late!)


After writing yesterday that more Muslims need to stand against the violent acts perpetrated by those who come from their midst, I am happy to read a compilation of two instances translated by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) from Arabic into English today whereby Arabs of stature in certain communities have condemned these atrocities committed by Muslims, and fault their own culture and religion for producing such individuals. They give great credibility and consideration for their Muslim indoctrination into putting blame where it belongs: quite squarely on themselves.


Kudos for speaking up and out on behalf of truth. Now, however, you are two small voices in the wilderness, and the billion-plus others still beat to a different drummer. Have we the time to wait for their moderation conversion?


It’s been a very easy riposte to disqualify the sinner from the religion, then. As noted, though… It just so happens that it ISN’T “truly Christian” to do so.


Related: The article above deals with the collective responsibility, as I see it, of religion, as a whole. A recent article posted at the United with Israel website shares a thought about our responsibilities as individuals, told through the interpretation of religious teachings gleaned through a story in the Bible. If you would like to read this, I’ve connected the link to the site, here:




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