“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” Isa 5:20
We live in a time when things often seem very mixed up. Good is called evil and evil is called good and that can happen in the same house or neighborhood or small collection of people. What’s good to one may be evil to another.
We are seeing this play out in the world around us after Hamas attacked Israel this past week. Hamas initiated the most deadly mass killing of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust. Surprisingly, after civilians were targeted and brutally killed in their homes and at a public event, and after innocent people were kidnapped, tortured, raped, beheaded, and murdered, the response has been mixed. Some call it evil and others “good”.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York made this statement: “We are grieved and deeply concerned at the violence in Israel and Gaza, and we unequivocally condemn the attacks by Hamas. We pray for those who are mourning, those who are injured, and all those fearing for their safety.”
Thirty student groups from Harvard condemned Israel. Protestors in Sydney chanted “Gas the Jews.” Others in New York City wore swastikas and chanted,“Resistance is justified when people are occupied.” At Columbia University, two groups of hundreds of students faced off in dueling protests, some Pro-Israel and some Pro-Palestine. Many students, on both sides, are afraid.
President Biden stated that Hamas is a group whose stated purpose for being is to kill Jews. He said. “There is never a justification for terrorist attacks.” The U.S. State Department has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization since 1997.
Pope Francis and others have reminded us that one who is attacked has the right of self-defense. Pope Francis also said, "Terrorism and extremism will not help reach a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but only increase hatred, violence, and vengeance and only make each other suffer.”
As the tide of public outcry sways to one side and the other, Russell Moore, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, pointed out that both sides are harmed by what has happened and the inevitable war to follow. Moore observes that “both sides cannot be blamed for what happened. Hamas is responsible for the attack and targeting innocent civilians…That’s one of the reasons we shouldn’t think of this as a war between Israel and “the Palestinians”, but, exactly as Israel defined it, a war on Hamas, in response to a vicious and unprecedented attack….For those of you who are Americans, I don't think many of us would have responded to September 11 by suggesting we side with al-Qaeda or that “both sides” ought to call a ceasefire.” *
Jean Bethke Elshtain writes “If we could not distinguish between an accidental death resulting from a car accident and an intentional murder, our criminal justice system would fall apart. And if we can’t distinguish the killing of combatants from the intended targeting of peaceable civilians, we live in a world of moral nihilism.”
Russell Moore said, “There are several senses in which an appeal to ‘both sides’ of the reality here are completely right. For one, both sides - all sides - are human beings created in the image of God. We ought to care about the lives and deaths of Israelis and of the Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, or anywhere else. An Israeli life is of no more value in the eyes of God than a Palestinian life, and vice versa.”
A basic sense of humanity requires that we value each human life. We must value a person more than a cause. C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals who we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horror and everlasting splendors.” ***
This article was written on Oct. 13, 2023.
*Russell Moore, “Bothsideism” About Hamas Is A Moral Failure
** Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World as quoted by Bernard N. Howard and Ivan Mesa in "Israel" 9/11: The Need for Moral Clarity"
***C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory