Prodding The Believers Into The Fray
"Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
Alder's Ledge is not affiliated with any given faith. However, the main author is Jewish and thus this post will contain aspects of his given faith. We advise those reading this post to apply their own judgement as to how this pertains to your own beliefs. "Screamer's Post" are op-ed style post and do directly reflect all our contributors' and authors' views or beliefs.
Over the past year I have had the opportunity to speak to many different men and women of G-d about the plight of the Rohingya in Burma. Ranging from pastors, rabbis, an imam, and a few other spiritual leaders of sorts. With every encounter I have had the results have surprisingly varied greatly from one individual to the next. Most have offered the usual response of admitting how terrible the crisis the Rohingya face really is. Others on the other hand deflect the crisis all together by hiding behind their G-d as an excuse for their apathy.
"We don't feel that G-d is calling us to help..."
My faith has always led me to believe that G-d's will for His people always aligns with helping those in need. At no point in my faith have I found it plausible to turn away for any reason from the downtrodden and oppressed. My G-d has led me from my own struggles, at times with me dragging my heels like a mule, and thus I cannot find it in me to close my eyes to the suffering of others. So when faced with the statement above I have only one reply...
When did He ever tell you not to help?
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
~ Galatians 6:2
"For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'"
~ Devarim (Deuteronomy) 15:11
"Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
~ Psalm 82:4
"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to G-d."
~ Hebrews 13:16
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."
~ Isaiah 1:17
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
~ Philippians 2:4
"Those who spend (in the cause of All-h) privately or publicly, by night and day, have their reward with their L-rd. And (on the Day of Resurrection) they shall neither fear nor grieve."
"You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the traveling alien; but do not be excessive, extravagant."
~ Qur'an 17:26-29
At no point has G-d commanded His believers to pick and choose to whom and to what causes they are to give their time and energy. For those who believe in giving charity (zakat) as a practice of their faith have no more claim to possessing their donation than they do in how it is spent from that point on. We were commanded by G-d to surrender a portion of everything and anything that He blesses us with so that it might benefit the L-rd and exult His name amongst the nations (the world). Our only duty is to give when and as He has directed us to.
As I have from one house of G-d after the other over this past year I have found however that most of us grasp to every last blessing that G-d bestows upon us greedily. We cling to our cash as though we will someday get to take it with us when we leave this miserable world behind. And yet in every one of our books Ad-ni has told us that we are to be separate from the treasures of this world. He has commanded us to use all that He has given to us to spread His glory.
So why this desire to collect our rewards in this life?
In nearly every verse dealing with what we write off as charity G-d has shown us that money and wealth have little to do with our reward. And in each verse He has told us that simply spending these things cannot gain us favor in His eyes. We are meant to work. We are meant to spend our wealth, our energy, and our time doing His work... showing His love.
There are no rewards in this life that we can take away from it with us. When we die all this is history. All the cars, the houses, the diplomas, the accomplishments... they all are meaningless once we return to the dust from which we came.
The only thing we have when we leave this world is the legacy that we leave behind. All we have is the mark we have left upon the lives of those we have touched in our short time on this planet. Once we are gone the only thing that will last is our legacy of showing G-d's grace, His mercy, His love, and His glory.
Everything else will fade... everything else will die with us.
So it has been a hard fought struggle to work my way into places I so desperately ran away from in my youth. To work my way back into the pews, behind the benches, and into the seats where I felt my spirit lead me away from so long ago. All in the name of tapping into the wealth that these houses of G-d cannot seem to put into action. In an attempt to wake the soul of a community that sets on the sidelines like terracotta warriors... void of life.
"...Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest."
It is difficult to force anyone into action when they have told themselves the lie so often that G-d has not commanded them to do so. Yet when dealing with genocide the "field" isn't just ready for harvest but the enemy is readily setting it ablaze. Despite being able to see this as a war, a struggle, in which the other side is using a scorched earth policy... the church's eyes are still fixed upon their feet.
For a screamer this means that we must be the iron, freshly pulled from the flames, that must be used to prod G-d's believers into the field. We must be relentless in our attempts to engage the wealth of the church (temple, mosque) and create workers to bring in the harvest before it is burnt away.
We face an enemy that prepares to make our brothers and sisters into burnt offerings. We face a holocaust. And for this reason all of us must stand up and fill the gap between despair and hope. Without that willingness to take upon the struggle of the oppressed we will otherwise be forced to watch our fellow man be ushered off to an early grave.
No, We Can't Help Them"
Then comes the second reality I have had to come to terms with over this past year. The reality that even amongst three linked faiths there are still divisions, prejudice, and even hatred. This is a reality that has come from hearing one man of G-d after the next turn away at the very hint that the people I was asking them to help were Muslims. As if they would have helped if the victims were from any other faith...
The other part of this bigoted response has been that from the other end of the spectrum.
"You're a Jew... why would you help them?"
It isn't the reality that the prejudice against Islam and Muslims still exist, that is one I have known for decades. It is the sudden reality that despite G-d's commands to love as He has loved us, so many believers still can't look past these minor differences and simply love one another. It is that we seem so stubborn in our decision to first see the other person as a Muslim, Jew, or Christian rather than the precious being that G-d created with all His love and heart.
For this reason, from this aspect of engaging the supposed righteous, I have found G-d's faithful to be the most challenging and exhausting group of people to address with Alder's Ledge's message. Creating screamers out of hearts that view the situation through such a narrow prism has been painful at best.
Yet the struggle has one reward that makes this struggle so vital to helping those suffering from genocide and ethnic cleansing in Burma (and around the world).
Setting in those pews are hearts that know a passion, a faith, and a love that is urgently needed. In those pews aren't just people who often prove to be charitable with their money, but rather have time and time again shown a willingness to put muscle behind their dollars. But first, they have always had to be driven from their prayer mats, their pews, and their alters to be dragged into the fight for justice.
Amongst them, as with any other group of people, there are so many untapped talents and abilities. All of which must be engaged through their religion while also overcoming the prejudices that may exist.
G-d has given us His commandments to help engage His faithful in this fight to save the Rohingya from the genocide that Burma has perpetrated against them. Now all we have to do is find ways to make the words G-d has given us break through the barriers that organized religion so often builds up around it's followers.
And perhaps it is due to my frustration in my own struggle to do so that has led to this article...
Do you have experience with this subject? Have advice for Alder's Ledge?
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