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Short Description: Genocide, pedophilia, rape, how can a loving God allow such inhumanity? Listen to these expert's view and decide for yourself.


  
Dwight Nelson:

On September 11, 2001, 2,752 civilians lost their lives in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City. The ensuing war in Afghanistan and Iraq has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths. In the Vietnam War 1,700,000 civilians died. World War II - 55 million civilians died. World War I, the number of civilian dead stands at around 15 million.

This has been going on forever. Back in the 13th century, the Mongol conquest of Genghis Khan resulted in the deaths of 40 million civilians. During the fall of ancient Rome, 8 million civilians died.

Now, remember, these staggering numbers are civilian deaths. They do not include the deaths of soldiers.

So, if God exists, why does He allow such inhumanity?

I'm Dwight Nelson. Welcome to The Evidence.

Dwight Nelson:

Rabbi Ed Feinstein is senior rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Los Angeles. He's on the faculty of Zeigler Rabbinical School at the University of Judaism. He's the author of the book
Tough Questions Jews Ask.
Rabbi Ed, good to have you -

Ed Feinstein:

Thank you.

Dwight Nelson:

--on The Evidence. Now, let's go to New York City. Mayor Rudy Guliani - the tragedy- the September 11 horrific tragedy. Guliani, before the numbers came in, said, "Whatever the numbers are, they would be more than we can bear." It turns out it's 2,752 lost.

Six million Jews perished during Hitler's Final Solution. Man's brutal inhumanity to man. What do numbers like this, and a history like this, tell us about the human being?

Ed Feinstein:

That's only half the story, Dwight. Three hundred to four hundred firefighters and policemen from New York City's finest went rushing into those buildings, knowing there was imminent danger because human life was on the line.

Six million Jews were murdered in Hitler's Final Solution, but 150,000 Jews were saved by Christian heroes who risked their lives and the lives of their children and their families to shelter and protect and hide Jews from the Nazi murderers, not to mention hundreds, thousands, millions of Allied soldiers who left their lives and their families and their livelihoods to go across the ocean and to liberate Europe.

Dwight Nelson:

So there's -

Ed Feinstein:

--There's evil and there's good, and human beings have an enormous capacity for both. And that is the way God has intended it. We have a choice in life.

Dwight Nelson:

So every time we run into, uh, human brutality to humans — genocides and, and all — we just simply flip the coin over and say — There's a good side to the Human Race as well.

Ed Feinstein:

We say that we have a responsibility to do something.

Dwight Nelson:

Um.

Ed Feinstein:

We say that this tragedy calls me to step up and take responsibility for the conditions that created the tragedy.

Dwight Nelson:

Um.

Ed Feinstein:

It's not that all of us are guilty, but in some way, all of us are responsible - for the World Trade Center, a group of murderous, evil terrorists came to rob life and destroy property. But there were conditions before that built on years and years of neglect that we ignored, that we paid no attention to, that we responded not to, and that fed that evil; that nurtured that evil.

It's not that we're guilty, but we are responsible in some way and we're called to responsibility. That's the Divine Call.

Dwight Nelson:

Yeah, but what does this say about God? I mean you have, ah, ah, I'm assuming you believe in a benevolent God, and to - but He stands by and just lets it all happen?

Ed Feinstein:

No, He sends you, Dwight, and He sends me, and he sends people of conscience and care. He sent those firemen and those police officers and those rescue workers.

Dwight Nelson:

A little late for the 6 million, didn't they? And they got there a little late for the 2,752.

Ed Feinstein:

They did, they did in so many ways, but —

Dwight Nelson:

--Could God have stopped that in advance?

Ed Feinstein:

God doesn't work that way in the world. God has given us responsibility and the tools and resources to carry out that responsibility. And we are called upon to do that. And it's disingenuous to say - Well, where was God?

The question was — Where were we? What were we doing while hate and evil festered and built in the Islamic world to produce those 19 terrorists? What were we doing in the 1930's — the early 1930's, when Hitler was a fledgling, beginning movement, when Nazism was a beginning movement — Where were the Allies at that point?

Dwight Nelson:

So, you contend there is moral evil.

Ed Feinstein:

Absolutely, yeah. There is moral evil and there is a human responsibility to fight against it — and that's the Divine Call. That's the Divine responsibility, but when I was five years old, probably much like you, they brought us to school, we lined up and they each gave us in a small paper cup a tiny sugar cube — soaked in medicine.

Dwight Nelson:

Um hum.

Ed Feinstein:

And my mother said — this will cure polio. This is the genius of Dr. Salk, and Dr. Sabin. Human beings have that capacity to think ahead, to work ahead — to the capacity, the resources to heal, and to bring goodness. And we have the capacity to destroy. The same hands that built Auschwitz can build healing in the world.

Dwight Nelson:

Now that's a fascinating position. I—I want to reflect a little bit more on that when we bring some others around this table; we'll keep the conversation going. In just a moment we're going to meet Dr. Elke Rechberger, a clinical psychologist who worked with the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center, and we're also going to talk to Dr. Richard Rice, who wrote the book God's Foreknowledge and Man's Free Will. Stay with us, we'll be right back.
(Commercial)

Dwight Nelson:

Welcome back to The Evidence. We've been talking with Rabbi Feinstein about man's inhumanity to man, and what that tells us about ourselves and about God.

Joining us now is Dr. Richard Rice, who has written a number of books including God's Foreknowledge and Man's Free Will. Good to have you Rick.

Dr. Richard Rice:

Thank you.

Dwight Nelson:

Also joining us is Dr. Elke Rechberger, a clinical psychologist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center. That is a long title. Good to have you here — all three of you.

We want to keep this conversation going, and Elke, maybe — maybe I could just turn to you, because you have worked in a setting where this — the reality of man's inhumanity is so rife, so very impressive.

Dr. Elke Rechberger:

It's the kind of thing that you see when you walk inside of a prison door, as you see all of the corrupt and negative behaviors that humans do to each other.

Dwight Nelson:

Uh huh.

Dr. Elke Rechberger:

And I think the reasons why those happen is for two main parts. The first thing that helps in that pattern is we come to the world with a genetic map. We may be predisposed to heart failure, we may be predisposed to breast cancer, we also may be predisposed to anger or substance use, and some other things that, in that complex map and that picture sets the stage for some things that happen—

Dwight Nelson:

--Those bags are all packed. I can't help it; I'm stuck with those suitcases.

Dr. Elke Rechberger: Right. I come to the table with that.
Dwight Nelson:

So that's number one.

Dr. Elke Rechberger:

The second thing is the learned behavior that we have as a result of our environment — Who our parents were, what was going on in our community, the economic conditions that we were living in — desperate people engage in desperate behaviors, and you see people enacting the same behaviors that they saw modeled for them. And that, coupled with their predisposition, can make for a very ugly picture.

Dwight Nelson:

So, we opened up this program with these horrific numbers — I mean millions and millions, just in — just in conflict and war. Those two realities might explain these — these — these terrible, terrible statistics as it were.

Dr. Elke Rechberger:

I think it helps to explain them. I think it's very easy to look at the behavior and say that it's wrong or morally evil and destructive, and it certainly is destructive. However, if we isolate that from the context in which those behaviors developed, then we're missing the full picture.

Dwight Nelson:

Dr. Reiss, so we have — so we have got in the midst of this humanity, warts and all, what does this say about God?

Dr. Richard Rice:

Well, it obviously raises tremendous questions. In fact, anybody who objects to the existence of God is probably going to list at the top of his reasons the fact that there is suffering in the world. How could God possibly allow this?

I remember reading this piece in The Los Angeles Times in response to the tragedy at the World Trade Center that said — Well, this ought to basically settle the question for everybody. I don't know how anybody can believe in God after this. What was God doing? Was He on holiday or taking a coffee break or something like that?

So, we can't avoid addressing that question. It is a real challenge. It's the number one challenge.

Intellectually, now I was listening to what Rabbi Feinstein said earlier, and I think there are two sorts of questions — one is — How could this happen in God's world? Another is — How should we respond to this?

Somebody put it very simply — There's the what-if question, and then there's the what-now question.

And I liked your focus on the fact that we ought to think now about what we should do in response to this and look at what good people did in response to the tragedy, and not just at the tragedy itself.

However, if you do try to make sense out of the world in light of the Faith that it is the object of a God who loved it and created it and brought it into existence and had a purpose for it — you have to address this question somehow along the way.

I think it has to do with the kind of world that God created and the kind of God who created the world.

Dwight Nelson:

Okay, because He could prevent — He could prevent — horrific genocide from taking place, couldn't He?

Dr. Richard Rice:

That's an interesting question to ask. It seems to me that God could have created a different kind of world from the world He did. He could have created, as I understand it, a world where everything would follow exactly the wanted it to — a kind of a blue-print model, as one theologian puts it, of the world, so everything happened exactly the way He wanted it to.

There are values available in that kind of world, but there are other values that aren't, and those would be the values of genuine personal relationship, and, uh, Christian faith believes that God created beings in His image that were capable of interacting with Him and with others in very significant ways. In other words, He made us genuinely free, and God ran a risk when He did that.

That is to say He decided not to decide everything, but to let human beings make significant decisions, and making that commitment, God committed Himself to accept the consequences of their choices.

Dwight Nelson:

Rabbi, are you comfortable with, uh, Rick's theory?

Ed Feinstein:

Very comfortable with his commitment to free choice, and I would add one piece which I don't believe that he would find difficult, which is that we are mandated to carry forward Divine work in the world; that the choice is given to human beings, but there is a clear Divine preference, a command, a mitzvah, in the Bible's language that we carry righteousness, that we carry forward a Divine dream of a world that is free of evil, and that's the mandate given to human beings.

Now, carrying that out has been the work that Dr. Reckburger has been working with so diligently, because it's so very difficult with the human material that we're given.

Dwight Nelson:

It's clear, Rabbi Ed that this dream that you speak of is still moving towards fulfillment. In other words, we're not there yet.

When we come back, let's move to the heart of what could be holding the dream back. Let's explore the issue of free will — human freedom of choice.

Stay right there, right after break, the four of us will be back.

(Commercial)

Dwight Nelson:

So we have three of you sitting here — all believers in God. I'm assuming a fairly powerful God. A God who,perhaps, is able to anticipate what is yet ahead — so here's the question — Knowing that the human creature has been endowed with this free will — this free choice — Why would God go ahead, this Creator, with the human race knowing these cataclysms, these human catastrophes would result from the exercise of free choice?

Dr. Richard Rice:

I think there's a big difference between saying that God knew what would happen and God knew what could happen. I think giving creatures significant freedom, God recognized there were all sorts of things that could go wrong, but He didn't know what human beings would do with their freedom, and I think He committed Himself to giving them freedom and to living with the consequences, but also doing everything He possibly could to guide them in ways that would lead them only into positive, ah, uses of their freedom.

So, for me, there's a big difference between saying God knew what could happen, and knew what would happen. We all take risks; we all undertake ventures where we know there are possibilities of things going really wrong. If we knew for sure they were going to happen, we wouldn't get started in the first place.

Dwight Nelson:

None of us would be a parent.

Dr. Richard Rice:

Right — perhaps, yes. And I think, you know, the people that Elke works with, you know, that if you could back things up, you might do things differently. So, it seems to me that freedom involves openness in the future. God, realizing that things could go one way, but doing everything He could consistent with giving human beings freedom to send them in another direction.

Dwight Nelson:

So freedom of choice becomes kind of the ultimate, uh, Divine legacy — the highest gift?

Dr. Richard Rice:

It's not that freedom is the highest value, it's that love is the highest value, and freedom is the necessary condition for love to be real.

Dwight Nelson:

And yet, is it not true that this whole issue of man's inhumanity to man, and a God apparently allowing such rampant heartache, is a major stumbling block for skeptics who say — Hey, I don't want this Guy. And let me be the skeptic, all right?

And between me and your God is this massive conundrum that the tragedy of human inhumanity to humans. How are you going to get me, as a skeptic, beyond that hurdle to meet this God that you speak so highly of? Rabbi Ed?

Ed Feinstein:

Well, the first thing that I'm impressed with is that you care about the pain of the world. And you haven't turned a blind eye and cold shoulder to people's suffering. That's a remarkable statement about the character that you bring to the world.

And the second thing I would respond to you is that your skepticism is hard earned and well earned —

Dwight Nelson:

Uh hum.

Ed Feinstein:

--And it's appropriate. And then my third response is — Now do something. There was a great traditional teacher, a Jewish teacher, over the last century who said that — When you lose your faith in God, the thing you do is go out in the world and heal, and undo the hurt of the world, and feed someone, and lift someone —

Dwight Nelson:

Show compassion —

Ed Feinstein:

And he said — In the course of that you will feel God's presence in your own hands. That's the response.

Dwight Nelson:

Yeah.

Ed Feinstein:

The active compassion as He draws me, and out of the act of compassion, and out of your struggle with the darkness of the world, you'll begin to understand what we mean by Faith.

Dwight Nelson:

Umm, all right, thank you. Elke?

Dr. Elke Rechberger

I like the idea that we are active in this series of the best message that the Rabbi Jesus ever said which was — Love one another and forgive your enemies. That's a radical message and that shapes everything that you do, and when you model that behavior to somebody who's a victim, and you don't respond with anger, or you respond to a perpetrator in that way, instead of with shame and guilt, then there is the power of transformation and redemption that isn't there before.

Dwight Nelson:

Thank you, Elke. Rick, something to add to these two?

Dr. Richard Rice:

Well, they're excellent answers. I like what the rabbi said. I think if the door of belief seems closed; open the door of service and the things you can do there. It does seem to me there's a paradox of — involved in moral outrage at the terrible things that happen along the lines that you were mentioning, and that is — On what basis would you object to all this happening?

And it seems to me that you could develop something like an argument of outrage for the reality of God, because if you don't have some moral standard that's being violated and someone behind the moral standard, well, then, you just have behavior — this is what some human beings choose to do to one another.

Dwight Nelson:

So the fact that I respond —

Dr. Richard Rice:

Yeah, exactly, exactly —

Dwight Nelson:

--To the evil — suggests that there is something reaching out —

Dr. Richard Rice:

I remember a story that I read some time ago about a Jewish rabbi who went with his family as a missionary to Israel and lost one of his children in an act of, uh, of terrorism. And the interviewer gently approached the topic as — Has this shaken your Faith in God.

And he said — No. He said — The world is filled with suffering, but without God, it's only suffering.

So, if we want something to have any kind of meaning, you know, I think we've got to affirm the reality of some source of meaning and goodness that we're tapping into that's not just leaving suffering lying there, unresponded to, negatively, but somehow bringing meaning to it.

Dwight Nelson:

Elke, let me ask you — This inhumanity that we've been talking about out there, when does it ever hit you as a reality? And how do you deal with it?

Dr. Elke Rechberger

Anytime I walk through the door and work with a trauma survivor, it hits me in the face, because I listen to their pain, I listen to their trauma, I listen to their stories and I watch them cry. And you can't help but grieve when you have a child sitting across from you whose parents were taken out in front of them in an execution.

Dwight Nelson:

Uh Hum.

Dr. Elke Rechberger

Or when you have somebody who was tortured sitting there talking about the abuse they suffered at the hands of their perpetrator — their questions become my questions as I'm sitting there listening and trying to walk a path of healing with them, and a part of understanding for them — a pal.

Dwight Nelson:

And how did you deal — Where do you end up?

Dr. Elke Rechberger

I end up asking some of the questions that we've talked about here today — Where is God? What is the nature of God, and God's character? What is my place in the world? Is it my role to step in and help? What do I do on a public scale? What do I do on a private scale? How do I transform my community? What message do I send out?

I find that what is effective or me is to sit in that room and give that person who has had that experience a kernel of hope when all hope is lost and all they have is despair. And to say — I'm here for you now. I stand beside you. I bear witness to your pain, and let's look for a place for us to go together from here. And then they're able to go out into their communities and to their families with something different than they walked in my door with.

And if I can do that there, and if I can do that in my neighborhood, and if I can do that to the homeless person who I see on the street corner when I get off the freeway at night, then I've really made a difference in the world. And it's only one light, and it's only one moment, but that's what shapes, I think, our world in a positive way.

Dwight Nelson:

Beautiful, thank you, Elke, for sharing that. Elke, Ed and Rick — obviously a conversation that needs to continue and continue and continue. When we come back, I'll have some final thoughts.
(Commercial)

Dwight Nelson:

Sometimes when we sorrow over the state of our world, we forget that God gave us free choice altogether. If every time we step off the path, the Almighty pushes us back on, then freedom doesn't really exist, does it? Freedom means that we live with the consequences of our decisions, and those consequences can be tragic both for ourselves and others.

But, if we think that human suffering is too high a price to pay for liberty, we should listen to those who have lost theirs. Fredrick Douglas, while a plantation slave, secretly learned to read and write, even though that meant his master would beat him severely, Douglas went on to gain his freedom and become a leader in the emancipation movement.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn defied the power of the Soviet Union in order to write about the truths he believed in. Even though that sent him to the brutal Gulag, he was willing to risk his life to share those beliefs.

Without freedom you can forget about all that is most precious in human relationships; all that is most precious in Life itself.

Love can only exist in a universe where there is genuinely free choice. I'm Dwight Nelson, and that's what I believe.

Join us next time for more of The Evidence.








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