2012-08-09 / Faith
Basic religious tenet needs refresher
Do unto others
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” — Leviticus 19:18
The above words are what we always try to teach our children. Often known as the “Golden Rule,” the tenet is basic to nearly every philosophy and religion in the world.
Rabbi Akiva (first and second century sage) says that it is “the great commandment in the Torah,” and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke agree that Jesus taught it as one of his most important commandments.
Mohammed tells his disciples that “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself” (40th Hadith 13); Confucius teaches to “never impose on others what you would not want yourself”; the Ibo people of Nigeria teach that “the secret to life is respect”; and the Buddha reminds us “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
If it is such a universally accepted foundation of behavior, how could the tragedy that happened at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin have occurred?
No one wants their church or temple vandalized, terrorized or destroyed, so how could someone go into a house of worship and gun down so many people? How can any crimes like this be committed against others if we really take to heart this crosscultural teaching of respect?
As we now learn about the shooter—a member of “white supremacist” bands called “Defi- nite Hate” and “End Apathy,” which played music that called for the genocide of Jews and other minorities—we have to wonder: How did this all happen?
The answer is as simple as it is sad. The important values taught by the world’s religions haven’t really been taught, especially to children. We’re not practicing what we preach.
Children hear about the Golden Rule but see their parents and teachers treat other people with disdain. Whether it is a sideways comment that the child hears about the bad driving of (fill in the blank with the name of a minority) when their parent is cut off on the freeway or a blatant comment about how one minority or another constantly cheats in business, we demonstrate a value system to our children that is often in direct opposition to what is said in our church or synagogue.
Maybe the saddest example is how often we hear a young child remind their parent or teacher that they should live the way they are taught in religious school, but the adult reacts by saying, “This is the real world and those teachings are nice but . . .”
Or worse yet, when the elder responds, “This isn’t church, and I’m doing the best I can.”
I have one response to that comment for all of us: Let’s all do better.
Let’s choose to hear this great commandment from all traditions and take it to heart. Let’s stop talking about it and make a conscious choice to live it. Let’s do better. Let’s take this Golden Rule and apply it in every moment of life.
Since no one likes being gossiped about, we need to show our children that we don’t accept gossip. If you don’t like people swearing at you, then stop swearing at others, especially in front of children.
Remember that children take the values that they see much more to heart than the values that are preached to them. Let’s just commit to doing better.
As part of doing better, we need to accept each other. If God can accept how we each choose to worship and believe, shouldn’t we do the same?
Most importantly, we all need to be active educators for the children around us. When you see an injustice, actively fight it.
Let’s all commit to guaranteeing that our children not only learn about this great commandment but see us living it. We need to make sure that we are not just sending our children to good schools, learning music or math or sports, but that they learn the invaluable lesson of this Golden Rule so that it becomes an integrated aspect of their lives.
Maybe if we start to really be conscious of this teaching and live it in a daily way, now, the next generation really will treat each other with love and caring. And if that happens, then with God’s help the types of horrors we’ve so recently seen in places like Wisconsin and Colorado can be removed from our world in the future.
There are more than 6,000 hate crimes reported every year in this country. It’s clear that we all need to do better at practicing the great spiritual teaching of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The Sikh tradition is a rich and beautiful religion with an ancient history. In honor of their loss, I hope that we all remember some of the words from their holy teachings: “Whom should I despise since the One Lord made us all. . . . I am a friend to all” (Guru Granth Sahib 1237, 1299).
May we all be blessed to act in ways that demonstrate respect, caring and love for each other, and to do better . . . if not for ourselves, then for our children.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the spiritual leader of The New Shul (www.TNSConejo.org) in Agoura Hills and can be reached at RabbiBarclay@aol.com.