📝 From my Depository Archive January 26, 2012
WARNING: This text contains strong language!
The character of the language used in this particular post is for study purposes only. Readers discretion adviced!
The Bystander’s Duty To Rescue In Jewish Law
The headline about the bystander, above, is important to consider. I borrowed it from an article on “ASSIA – Journal of Jewish Medical Ethics and Halacha” (see link at the end of this post.) Often times we hear and read stories about people being victimized and no one comes to help. How can Christians protest against hatred and violence against homosexuals without having to compromise on their religious beliefs that homosexuality is a mortal sin according to the Bible? That was the question which dr Michael Brown, a former Jewish, now a Messianic Christian believer, asked in his radio show “Line of Fire,” I happened to stumble upon this recording a long time ago (his podcast can be found on iTunes). Could be a really interesting topic! Here is my little essay, for which I did not find a proper headline. What do we call this phenomenon? Pure Thoughtlessness, maybe?
In this little reflection, I have stopped for a while for a moral dilemma;
a dilemma that has taken me on a journey far into the mind of the world’s obscure reality where madness and divine wisdom meet. Now, imagine with me the following scenario.
We are settled in a lovely park, it is a wonderful afternoon in the month of May. We see an Evangelical Christian person, who is, what we understand a good hearted, loving and caring fellow, taking a walk in this very park. Suddenly his thoughts are disturbed by loud cries and angry invectives. There is a fight going on just nearby. Our witness sees clearly that there are three guys bullying another guy who is laying on the ground and they scream insults at the guy, they call him “f**g gay”, “a*s-licker”, “sissy” “queer”, etc. Our Christian man understands that the underdog is a queer, a gay, a homo, a “one of them!”
Now, an average person who sees this happen may, of course, intervene without hesitation, to come to the poor lads rescue! But here is the tricky part of the problem. What is our good Christian’s thought as this far? Well, of course he can estimate the dangers with intervening in the fight, because he is all alone against three strong and angry guys, it is completely understandable. We must participate in his doubts about intervening. But, as we understand, he is fully clear about the problem, he has calculated the risks to intervene. Does he have a mobile phone, then he can use that to call for more help, if he sees other people around, he may call them for attention. But, read carefully what I particularly clear want to articulate with my question; what is our Christian friend’s first question in his mind? What a question and suggestion is rushing through his mind and Cerebrum? Well, before he can do anything, he must obey the signals from Cerebellum to make a move. But after that, do we see a symbiosis between Logical Thinking and Unio Mystica? Where in the brain does this person, our Christian Brother gets his “neurotheological signal” to ask himself the question, well, hold your hat, here is his question:
– “Can I save this poor devil without compromising my Christian faith and Theological belief in what the Bible says about homosexuality?”
That was about the question that dr Michael Brown asked in his radio show. His question was rather: “How can Christians fight against violence and bullying of young gay people without legitimate or normalizing homosexuality?”
It may perhaps be legitimate to ask such questions in general, but in this case, as described above, this question takes the prize, it is completely insane! I have emphasized certain aspects of this question, hence the small stage in the park, all in an attempt to more clearly illustrate the problem, the heart of the matter, and hopefully shed some light on this phenomenon. And the phenomenon in this case is NOT a persons hecitation to intervene, but to ask the question itself if the action to intervene is BIBLICAL to do if the victim is GAY?
– “No, I’m sorry, I can’t help you, you are gay, and G-d hates fags!”
When was that an issue? Why is that such a big issue within Christian faith? Now, to justify dr Brown, he almost came to the same conclusion as me (just almost), but just to bring up this topic to a whole 45 minute radio show, is an indication that there are people out there who seriously do not know how to act when someone gets hurt, especially if that poor devil of a victim happens to be GAY! Would you feel confident that this person will do his best to help you if you need help? Would you have confidence if such a person was working as a police officer or as a guardian? Or a heart surgeon?
Not to offend Christians, I love them, but why are they so afraid to be connected to homosexual people or other “awkward” groups of people in society? The reason is because the Christians have already pointed out these people as particularly reprehensible, and they find support in their Bible. As the saying goes:
“They call themselves homosexuals, their lives and behaviors show that they are living in Sin and the Bible says that homosexual acts is an abomination, so the gays must repent or die.”
Besides, who uses the word “Abomination” nowadays? When Christianity was young, they persecuted the Jews, throughout ancient time to the Middle Ages in all Europe until late 1800’s in Eastern Europe, Jews were scapegoated and had to run through the streets naked in a festival called Saturnalia, that was the forerunner of the Christmas tradition.
Throughout the 1700’s for most of the 1900’s, the Christians found in their Bible support for slavery and racism against Africans. Until now racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan has received great support from Christians or the klan members themselves are Christians. Christians read from a Bible that for 2,000 years have been misused, with their self-imposed holiness! In the same way, modern religiosity has been used in order to demonize homosexuals today as were the Jews in ancient times.
So what is the issue here? Concerning gay people, religious people rather show contempt for these particular individuals or groups of individuals because they see them as different. And it seems that it is in their interest to perpetuate these beliefs about gay people. It scares me when I see how the whole situation has developed. Of course, there are Christians who help bullied people, even if the subjects in question are homosexuals, but still, I can not get rid of the eerie feeling, that they still can not distinguish between the sin and the sinner, if that ever is an issue? Still, is it important if a person is homosexual or heterosexual, Jewish or Muslim, black or white middle class, Kurdish or Latino?
Why ever ask the question if it is okay for a Christian to help and protect a person who is bullied because he/she is homosexual? The question in itself shows a disrespect for a person, based on the assumption that certain traits in a person, such as ethnicity or sexual orientation, are wrong and homosexual persons are by this depraved and seen as second class citicens. Well, they have become the new scapegoats. Even the word “gay” has now been hijacked and is now used in a derogatory and offensive manner. That is never acceptable!
Sometimes I tend to amuse myself by asking questions to both religious and atheists in issues that I know they have a common basis of values. Those are questions of ethics and morality, about humanity and democracy, compassion and empathy. After having presented a lecture over issues and questions around it and asked them to respond, after one hour no one could come up with any answers to my questions.
Bible believers and other people, for that matter, often look down on someone with contempt because he or she does not reach certain expectations. There is no tolerance, because they have these preconceived views about things such as “sin” or even “inborn sin.” But follow me now what the Jewish oral tradition says about this dilemma. The question is asked: “Is it according to the Jewish Law permissible to save a person in distress, even if it is Sabbath?”
Well, my good brothers and sisters of all faiths, is it okay to save a gay person from bullies even when the Bible condemns the “gay behavior” as well as the gay person?
From the Talmudic texts:
According to Jewish belief it is a mitzvah (a positive commandment) to preserve life. In an attempt to transform the unconcerned bystander into a Good Samaritan, there are rules in the Scriptures. As I mentioned earlier, if there is a risk to get hurt, get more help. According to Jewish belief it is required to help when it is possible, but it is neighter required to give your life nor to place your life in substantial jeopardy to save a fellow human being. Here is how Maimonides explains it:
– “If one person is able to save another and does not save him, he transgresses the commandment ‘neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor’ (Leviticus 19:16). Similarly, if one person sees another drowning in the sea, or being attacked by bandits, or being attacked by wild animals, and, although able to rescue him either alone or by hiring others, does not rescue him; or if one hears heathens or informers plotting evil against another or laying a trap for him and does not call it to the other’s attention and let him know; or if one knows that a heathen or a violent person is going to attack another and although able to appease him on behalf of the other and make him change his mind, he does not do so; or if one acts in any similar way – he transgresses in each case the injunction, neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor…”
(Maimonides, Torts, “Murder and Preservation of Life” 1:14, 16).
– “About The Good Samaritan principle, the Tannaim (a Mishnaic Rabbi, the same as a sage) enlisted the law of lost articles, as follows:
“Whence do we know [that one must save his neighbor from] the loss of himself? From the verse (Deuteronomy 22:2) and thou shalt restore it to him”. (B. Sanhedrin 73a).
• The Bystander’s Duty To Rescue In Jewish Law
© 2012 Jonathan Axelsson
אתר הבית של יונתן