We hear that ISIS is responsible for the carnage and horror in Paris. I think culpable and guilty are more appropriate words. Responsibility should imply duty or reliance more than criminal accountability. Acts of terror are not responsible behaviors. They are ruthless and evil demonstrations of hatred and inhumanity.
The responsible people and groups in Paris are those who help the victims, those who return quickly to their daily routines, those who model justice and compassion within a diverse society, those in leadership positions who debate and decide how to defend and protect their citizens. Those are the responsible people in this tragedy.
Our responsibility here in our community is to join with and support them. We live in a global age of information and awareness in which physical boundaries no longer separate us. Barriers protecting us from incivility are easily broken. Despotic rulers and corruption, poverty and ignorance fuel the fires of terror’s hatred and false visions for myriads of hopeless or misguided people around the globe.
We must speak clearly. Do not use your religious beliefs to justify evil acts or nefarious intentions. As our political and military leaders wage a war against you, the radical Islamist groups who are a threat to us all, then simultaneously we will wage a war of ideas out loud for the entire world to hear.
We understand that religion is about cherishing and celebrating life. Through religion we seek to find meaning and create just societies. Our belief in God is a challenge to our baser instincts. Faith enlightens our conscience. Reflecting about God inspires us. It may perplex us. Our religious thoughts never diminish our character or our sensitivity toward others, even those whom we see as being different.
Religion speaks to us in the voice of conscience. Religion lifts us up and draws us upward to be better. Religion draws us outward to be caring. Religion draws us forward to be gentle and gracious. Religious beliefs protect us from hopelessness, helplessness, and despair not allowing us to become self-absorbed or callous.
These are the ideas we will speak out loud and demonstrate to the world. Our response to the Paris attacks is to re-commit ourselves to the ideals of peace and religion’s highest vision for goodness in life. Religious fundamentalists, in this case radical Islamists, are too ethnocentric and intellectually isolated from others. Their religious fundamentalism doesn’t recognize legitimacy beyond its own limited and literal understandings. That’s why it threatens us.
The Biblical Prophet Isaiah speaks out against those who seek to do harm. “Hatch a plot, it will not succeed. Agree on action, it shall not succeed, for with us is God.” Isaiah speaks not of religious conflict, but of religious values. We cannot let those whose narrow view of humanity and society misrepresents what religion teaches in the name of God to distort God-like attributes of compassion, justice, and goodness.
In response to terror and challenge we find our responsibilities in the Bible’s Book of Proverbs. “Hold on to resourcefulness and foresight. They will give life to your spirit and grace to your throat. Then you will go your way safely and not injure your feet. When you lie down you will be unafraid; You will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. You will not fear sudden terror or the disaster that comes upon the wicked. For the Eternal God will be your trust; God will keep your feet from being caught.”
This is what we believe. Our leaders must use the resources available to them, planning ahead to the best of their abilities, so we and they don’t have to respond to sudden terror. We will live with conviction not fear.
In God’s name Judaism demands that we care for one another, believe in every person’s potential, and bring dignity and decency into every human encounter. We must speak out clearly against ideas and ideologies that hurt, destroy, or demean. We must oppose with passion and hope religious ideologies that corrupt the true meanings and aspirations of religious faith.
With all in Paris and throughout the world, we grieve the loss of lives, praying for solace and healing. Denouncing this terror, we accept responsibility for increasing compassion, goodness, and justice in our lives and for our world.