Wednesday, October 27, 2010


19 Heshvan, 5771
October 27th, 2010

I believe that we live in a time of anger. It is not, I think, that the beliefs that people hold are so radically different than those they’ve held in ages past, but that the expression of those beliefs is quick to extremism, that it flares hard and with vitriol. Every day I hear politicians screaming at each other. I see religionists whose finest expression of faith is to cause as many deaths as possible. I see a church whose divine messages are: “God hates fags,” “God hates Jews,” “God hates Muslims” grow popular. You can see its members too, mocking the funeral of an American soldier near you. These are some of the signs of our times.
 In the past month, three gay teenagers have committed suicide, all as a result of either school bullying, or, in the case of Tyler Clementi, massive public humiliation. Though such bullying has been around for a long time, I believe that their deaths are connected with the cycle of our anger. Collective anger is acted upon by a society’s youth, who have far fewer inhibitions about putting what they’ve learned into practice. When kids and teenagers abuse and demean they are enacting what they’ve absorbed from a broader society.
When the mark of our times is that we are quick to anger, lacking in patience (the opposite of God’s virtues, as an aside), we have a special responsibility. Our Talmud calls us rahmanim bnei rahmanim – the compassionate children of compassionate parents. We also say that one who is compassionate to cruelty, will end up being cruel to those who deserve our compassion. The arc of our compassion must increase dignity and deny cruelty. As long as there are gay and lesbian young people who feel that death is their only option, we are not as we have been blessed to be. 

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