Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity

Religion is constantly maligned and David Brog takes it upon himself in the book, In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity, to defend the Judeo-Christian legacy as it has impacted the West. He begins with the most basic of all ideas, that of the sanctity of human life. Making a very powerful case for the fact that it is not innate or genetic or rational or even obvious that all human life should be valued on the basis solely of its existence, he states that it is culture which tells us which humans are worthy of value. The Judeo-Christian belief in the sanctity of ALL human life is a not universal by any means. It stems from the very beginning of the Bible in which God made man in His image. It is for this reason alone, and no other that all human life is to be valued. No other culture has come to the conclusion that all human life is sacred apart from this basic Biblical tenet. One need look no further than Nazi Germany to see that if Christianity is rejected, even a modern civilized society can devolve very quickly into an us and them society. And where there is a “them” there are no limits to the amount of dehumanizing possible. This scenario plays out throughout all cultures and all times.

Brog states, “We will neither inherit nor evolve a broader zone of altruism; we must teach it. Only when our culture instructs us to love and value all humans no matter what their clan or country will our compassion extend more broadly. It is our culture, not our genes, that we must vigilantly guard from contamination.” Without the preservation of the Judeo-Christian ethic of the universality of the value of human life, we will revert to our tribal roots of limited human compassion.

Not only do Christians believe in the inherent sanctity of human life, but they put it into practice through observable action. While Christianity has undergone a tug of war theologically between faith-based or works-based salvation, those who take the faith seriously have always seen a need to act in ways described as “disinterested benevolence.” Brog gives example after example of serious Christians standing up for the Native Americans in what was to be the world’s most horrific genocide. While the perpetrators of the atrocities called themselves Christians, those who took the Biblical command to love your neighbor as yourself to heart repeatedly and against great odds stood up for the beleaguered and oppressed natives. He makes a compelling case that although their actions largely failed to protect those most vulnerable people, these brave believers were motivated by their Judeo-Christian principles. All others without such firm beliefs succumbed to the prevailing mores of the day – rape and pillage in order to gain more wealth.

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