An Idolatry of Fear and Hatred
March 15, 2019
To enter a house of worship to pray is an act of sanctity. It is an effort to enhance one’s relationship with God, in whatever way one finds meaningful. It is an attempt to connect with that which is sacred.
To enter a house of worship to kill is an act of defilement. It is an embodiment of vile hatred. It is a desecration of that which is sacred, of human decency, of God. It is an act of evil.
As children of Abraham, we grieve with our Muslim cousins at the horrific attack on the mosques in New Zealand. With people of decency of every religion and no religion, we abhor the taking of life that is motivated by senseless hatred. The Talmud teaches, “If you destroy a single life, it is as if you have destroyed an entire world.” We mourn the loss of the worlds destroyed while their progenitors were at prayer.
Make no mistake about it – the same venal, poisonous ideology that propelled the murderer to slay 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh is apparent in the manifesto posted by the terrorist who attacked the al Noor and Linwood mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. It is a belief that anyone who is believes something different, anyone who looks or acts or prays or loves or lives differently, anyone who is “other,” is somehow less than worthy of life. It manifests as antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, and any other believe in self-supremacy. It is an odious idolatry of fear and hatred.
This ideology is not new to our world. This coming week, we will read the words of Haman, the wicked villain of the Purim story, one of the first to propose a Jewish genocide. In the Book of Esther, he snidely advises the king: “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other people in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not observe the king’s laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them … Let an edict be drawn for their destruction.” It is horrifying to note the echoes of his words in some elements of political discourse today.
Haman’s deadly plan ultimately fails due to the courage and heroism of those who confront it. Let us follow the example of Esther and Mordechai and refuse to bow down to the hatred and fear that take too many forms in our world today. Even as we mourn the deaths of those gunned down while at worship, we dedicate ourselves to working in our world for peace and love and dignity and respect for all of God’s children.