By Arthur Waskow, July 27, 2011 11:03 AM
Every major religious tradition on the planet has within it streaks of blood and hatred, even though its fabric as a whole is woven in compassion and justice. The question is: How do we acknowledge these bloody threads while struggling to cleanse the garment of them?
Note: I say “all.” In our own generation I am watching in horror as these bloody threads emerge in some of the Judaisms of today, claiming warrant in some strands of Judaism of the past. Even in Buddhism (see Japanese Buddhism of the 1930s and Sri Lanka of the past 20 years), there are such threads.
What we name these violent versions of compassionate truths may seem less important than what we do about them — but the names we give them matter, since they have a hand in shaping our actions.
My suggestion: Breirik should be called “a terrorist who claims roots in Crusader Christianity,” as Osama bin Laden was a “terrorist who claims roots in Salafist Islam” and Baruch/Aror Goldstein “a terrorist who claims roots in Joshuanic Judaism.”
These namings are truthful, and they simultaneously avoid tarring the whole community with terrorism and remind each community of its responsibility to address the terrorism that claims its roots in the broader tradition.
In 1995, on the first anniversary of Goldstein’s terrorist murders of Muslims prostrate in prayer in Hebron, our communities in Philadelphia brought together Jews, Christians, and Muslims to acknowledge the bloody streaks in all three of our traditions/ communities. By doing this in each other’s sight and hearing, we committed ourselves to cleanse our holy garments.
Photograph of Baruch Goldstein (1956 – 1994), an American-born Jewish Israeli physician who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Muslims at prayer there and wounding another 125. The inscription on his grave reads, “Here lies the saint, Dr. Baruch Kappel Goldstein, blessed be the memory of the righteous and holy man, may The Lord avenge his blood, who devoted his soul to The Jews, Jewish religion and Jewish land. His hands are innocent and his heart is pure. He was killed as a martyr of God on the 14th of Adar, Purim, in the year 5754.”