Monday, January 25, 2010

"Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that"

I'm aware that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was a week ago, but this is just how far I am on my blogging.  I still found it important to blog on this topic, which is why I finished this posting.

This Martin Luther King quote was the inspiration for my alma mater's MLK celebration when they decided to bring Rev. Wanda Washington from the United Church of Christ to speak and elaborate on it.  [FYI: In the Christian world, UCC is about as far to the Left as one can go, which is why it's not all that big of a surprise that she would be the only kind, i.e. of the liberal liberal variety, of clergy that Lawrence would ever sponsor]  The topic of the speech was "hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."  This was an MLK quote, and she spoke about how to go about that.  I will avoid elaborating on her usage of social justice, which is just another way of saying "Big Government, socialist policies that only exacerbate the very problems they try to solve."  If you want to read how the Left has perverted the very notion of "social justice" by invoking His name for Leftist, anti-Biblical ideas, just read this article by Michael Novak. What I really would like to focus on is the quote itself and Rev. Washington's interpretation of it.

There are two points of her speech I would like to focus on.  The first is, as best expressed by the Beatles, "All you need is love."  The second point I would like to bring up is "accept people just the way they are." 

The first is love alone will heal this world.  Anger can never be an acceptable response because "it's too ugly."  Under normal circumstances, I would agree. Anger, particularly when it is uncontrolled and untamed, as well as coupled with hatred, is moshighly destructive.  It's why Cain murdered Abel, and why Simeon and Levi justified murdering Shechem and his entire town (Genesis 34:25-26).  The Sages say that "When one becomes rageful, G-d becomes of no consequence to him (Nedarim 22b)."  Furthermore, love is also an important force within Torah.  We are commanded to love G-d (Deut. 6:5), to love our neighbor (Lev. 19:18), and no less than on thirty-six occasions, we are commanded to love the stranger.  In normal situations, love is the default and anger should be avoided.

However, when the anger is controlled and channelled into something known as moral outrage, it becomes much more justifiable.  Just a few Biblical examples: HaShem gets angry at Balaam for using his gift of prophecy for evil (Number 22:22).  Moses was "angry" at those who spoke slander (Numbers 16:15).  Isaiah was morally outraged at those who mistreated the poor (Isaiah 3:14-15).  HaShem is furious at King Solomon for building idols in Israel (I Kings 11:9).  Rabbi Benjamin Blech briefly explains why anger is sometimes justifiable.  The Torah is about love.  HaShem teaches us to love and focus on that attribute.  If we are truly supposed to love love, and to walk in His ways by showing loving-kindness, we cannot tolerate evil.  As a matter of fact, we are supposed to be such beacons of love and hope that we are supposed to hate evil and injustice because it is so anathematic to Torah.  Why? Such evil cannot be drawn out with love; only an eradication of such evil is the antidote.

The second point I found to be against Jewish teachings is "you're fine just the way you are."  For those of you who think that the Bible is solely about this touchy-feely version of love are sorely misguided.  First of all, Leviticus 19:18 ultimately teaches us that the verse of "love thy neighbor" is about doing acts of loving-kindness.  Second, the verse right before it (i.e., 19:17) teaches us to rebuke our neighbor. Love without rebuke is flabby at best.  This is so hard for many Americans to imagine, let alone actualize, because rebuking is "politically incorrect" because by doing so, you're "intolerant."  Let's say that you have a relative you care about that is partaking in a self-destructive habit, such as gambling or snorting crack.  Would you honestly just sit there and say, "Oh, he's fine just the way he is, and doesn't need to change?"  I don't think so!  If you honestly cared about him, you wouldn't stand idly by his blood (ibid, 19:16).  You would intervene.  You would get him into rehab and make sure he recovers.  The same applies for anybody you care about who is doing something wrong.  Torah teaches that we are meant to overcome our evil inclination (Genesis 4:7) in order to walk in His ways (Deut. 11:22, 28:9).  The fact that we are not automatically inclined to do good (Genesis 8:21) means that we have to improve ourselves through mussar, or character trait development.  Wisdom, kindness, compassion, discipline, and many other traits all need to be cultivated and always can use improvement, even if they are seemingly in "tip-top shape."  G-d wants us to constantly participate in self-improvement as a way of becoming closer to Him. If you think you're fine just the way you are, you never reach the full potential that G-d had intended for you.

Conclusion:  Love is important in Jewish thought, but embracing everybody "as is" is not kosher.  Being able to rebuke is an essential facet of true love, as is knowing where to draw the line with evil.  Without these elements, you have underminded the very love you claim to embrace.  My hope is that people learn about rebuke and intolerance of evil so they may better learn how to love others in life.

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