Reconnecting to Our Roots

There are many who say that we no longer need to believe in God, after all, aren’t the Ten Commandments just common sense. Why would anyone think that murder was right?

Except, 3500 years ago, murder wasn’t thought of the way we think of it, today. Moses was speaking in a time of tribal culture where child sacrifice was the norm; revenge killing was expected and accepted; honour killings, the murder of women, were appropriate because nothing was more important than protecting the family’s honour and if that meant sacrificing their women, so be it. To understand that type of society we just have to look at the behaviour of tribal societies, today, in countries like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.

Humanists say we didn’t need Moses to come down from the mountain and tell us not to gossip, not to steal, not to commit adultery,  not to covet. It’s all common sense. And yet, we continue to fall from grace.

Before the revelation of ethical monotheism at Mount Sinai, there was no concept of the intrinsic value of a human being.  There was no concept of the sacredness of human life. Tribes were self-centred. Caring for the other was not a norm. The gifts of the revelations at Mount Sinai, given to us in the Wilderness were revolutionary. It has taken thousands of years to become part of the DNA of Western culture. Yet too many of us are taking those “self-evident” Ten Commandments for granted.

Unfortunately, by the time we wake up and realize that we have completely forgotten the Author and origin of our freedoms, including our right to choose based on free-will, a paradigm unheard of before ethical monotheism, it could be too late.

There is a story of a rabbi needing a miracle. He found a special spot in the woods, lit a special candle and recited a prayer. The next morning, his miracle appeared. Years later, a student of this rabbi needed a miracle. He remembered the special spot in the woods, but he did not have the special candle and he was only vaguely familiar with the prayer. He prayed the best he could. And the miracle took place. Years later, his disciple needed a miracle. He had no idea how to find the special place in the woods. He had no candle and he didn’t remember the prayer.  The story that was passed down through the generations was incomplete. Important information had been taken for granted and was lost.

We need to learn from that story. We need to reconnect Western culture to its roots-ethical monotheism, the Judeo-Christian ethic in order to safeguard the life and freedoms we take for granted, today. We cannot afford to forget. In 2011, Niall Ferguson wrote in Civilization, The West and the Rest:“Maybe the ultimate threat to the West comes from…our own lack of understanding of, and faith in, our own cultural heritage.”

The belief in the Judeo-Christian ethic as the foundation of Western culture does not mean that others are not welcome to their beliefs, their traditions. One does not need to be Jewish or Christian to live in this ethical system.The poet, Heinrich Heine wrote,“Moses created a nation that was to defy the centuries- a great eternal, holy people, the people of God, which could serve as the model for all humanity.”

Winston Churchill wrote that the Bible gave us: “a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together on that system and by that faith. There has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilization.”

The Judeo-Christian ethic is based on welcoming the stranger. We are in danger of losing this lifestyle to apathy, ignorance and an unprecedented sense of entitlement that ignores the teachings of ethical monotheism-social justice and prophetic law; do not do to others what is hateful to you.

Unlike many whom Allan Bloom described as living with “an open-ended future and the lack of a binding past” and are in “a condition like that of the first men in the state of nature-spiritually unclad, unconnected, isolated, with no inherited or unconditional connection with anything or anyone,” those of us who believe in the ethical teachings of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, have come to “see and know” that we are part of a larger truth that has stood the test of time.

There are those who could spend the next millennium philosophizing about purpose, reason, free-will, freedom, and analyzing, justifying, deconstructing and idealizing. For those of us who choose to believe, we find our purpose, our intellectual and spiritual connection to the world through the stories and wisdom of the Bible, the foundation  of Western civilization. It remains our obligation to protect and defend our roots.


About the Author
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto; She has a background in science and the humanities and writes about religion in the public square and mental illness on her blog: The Middle Ground:The Agora of the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to Convivium: Faith in our Community. "