“In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values” [Wikipedia, emphasis added]
The past several Shabbat Encouragements have discussed the value of life. In “Harambe” we struggled with the killing of the gorilla Harambe in order to save the life of the child. Although animal activists are strongly against keeping animals in captivity, thus creating a set-up for disasters not to mention the effect on the animals, most would agree the situation offered no choice given the threatening actions toward the little boy. Though people could disagree about how this situation could occur in the first place, at least there was some rational common ground. Last week we discussed the preciousness of the life of an ant, of flora and fauna. Maybe extreme to some but again, within rational analysis. The point of both messages was to sensitize us to the preciousness of life from various perspectives.
So how do we go from that space and process rationally the irrational killings in Orlando? Or the shocking alligator snatching of a two year old boy just enjoying vacation with his family? Or the killings in Israel last week? How can the random killing of people just harmlessly having fun line up in our minds with our appreciation for the sanctity of life, the processing further complicated by the terrorism wrinkle of the Orlando shooter? We have been reminding ourselves of the importance of becoming more sensitized to the preciousness of HaShem’s creations. The mass killing of so many cuts our psyches all the more once we have done just that.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when we try to make sense of the senselessness of these competing realities – mass murder and not killing even an insect. As opposed to psychology, however, which tries to create an orderly explanation or courses of action for coping, I would suggest that faith offers quite a different approach. We don’t even try to solve the mystery for it is just that. When one has faith that our Abba has a plan, that evil exists in this world, that He is capable of controlling everything but life is co-created by man’s choices, not just divine power, that sometimes people are victims, they die, and we can’t explain it today or tomorrow but have faith that someday all will be good in HaShem’s time, our cognitive dissonance begins to dissipate.
We live in times that are way out of control. Though I bet in the Middle Ages the ravages of the Black Death felt pretty horrible too. Random, horrific death happens. Each of us experiences the sorrow and grief of our collective human consciousness when such overwhelming tragedies occur. Yet especially at these times we also need to turn even more deeply to our Abba to hold us and remind us that He is still there. That as much as He would like to and can, He will not write man’s history, for His children as a civilization are here to live this tough stuff out and hopefully grow in the process, even if we cannot understand. Having faith in Him reminds us that there will be a day when there is no more suffering and pain, and no more death.
Although we try to embrace the mystery, as humans, we still have choices of ways to cope and to react. Otherwise a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness can work to overtake our faith. We do not have control or influence over the specifics of what went down. We can, however, cherish each day as a gift, reach out with love and compassion to others and, in particular, to those impacted by the tragedy. Love, love, love all the more to dissipate the darkness. As we collectively learn to live by loving our neighbors as ourselves, we as a people will have less dark days. And when the irrational act of one wreaks havoc on so many, we can still be strengthened knowing that love will prevail, ultimately. Faith is what brings us to the place of that reality.
Religion is not the opiate of the masses. Faith is proof that hope is real, that God is real. Yeshua as our Messiah, as the one who walks with our every step, as the one who brings our Abba to us viscerally, is our Protector that makes life livable. He knows our sins, He knows our pain, He loves us unconditionally. In Him we are at peace.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”