I Am a Religious Extremist

I am a religious extremist:

I believe that God created the universe, even though I’m still figuring out how the concept of six days squares with evolution.

I believe that God created all women and men in the image of God, which means we are all equal, so I must fight against discriminatory laws and policies.  When I come waving my flag against religious coercion, it is not despite my faith, but because of it, because of my obligation to oppose laws that discriminate against those with different beliefs, and to defend the right of all human beings to freely choose their faith – or lack thereof.

I believe that human life is holy, because it was created by God. This means that I take concerns about safety and self-defense extremely seriously. But it also means that I won’t support laws enacted in the name of safety that are clearly using fear as a justification for intolerance.

I believe we were promised the land of Israel by God, because self-autonomy is a prerequisite for the type of freedom a nation needs in order to establish a holy society. When we failed to use our autonomy for that purpose, God kicked us out – twice. The State of Israel is our third time trying to implement the ancient project of creating a society that honors God’s name.

I believe that looking to the prophets and the rabbis regarding the reasons we were kicked out the first two times is instructive when considering how to prevent a third destruction. Most of those reasons are related to social justice – so by striving for a more socially just State of Israel, I am also taking steps to ensure that the Jewish national project doesn’t fail this time around.

I am not the type of extremist who resorts to violence.

But I am the type of extremist who will come to your house with a hundred cookies and a thousand words to engage in dialogue, because we are both created in God’s image, and that means that, by understanding you a little better, I understand God a little better as well.

But it also means that I’m not going to stop advocating for my beliefs, even if you call me a bad Zionist.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.