If we truly took the Bible seriously, we might never get past the first chapter. Push far enough down our respective family trees, the Bible teaches, and we will all end up with the same starting point, Adam. The Bible begins this way, the Talmudic Sages teach, "so that no person might say to another, 'My father was greater than yours.'"
One of the most fundamental claims Judaism makes about the world is that every human being on the face of the earth—black and white, male and female—is created in the image of God and is therefore infinitely valuable.
And yet day after day, century after century, human dignity is trodden and trampled upon in countless ways—by poverty and oppression, by hunger, illness, loneliness and abandonment. And by racism -- the insidious and utterly sinful belief that some people are somehow born worth more than others. Such bigotry is a direct affront to biblical thinking. Racism is an attack on humanity, but it is also an assault on God. (An attack on other people's humanity is by definition an assault on God. It is unconscionable that many participants in religion forget that.)
To be a religious person is to be forced to live with the gap between what the Bible insists is a core truth about the universe, and what we encounter (and often help to perpetuate) each day. Our theology says that people matter; the morning newspaper suggests that maybe we don't.
Living inside the gap is excruciating, but it is what religion—real religion, not the religion of complacency and self-satisfaction—requires of us. Living inside the gap also means committing to help close it by living in a way that affirms the dignity of all and working especially for the dignity of those who are exploited, abused and degraded. Jewish theology teaches that human beings cannot perfect the world, but we can and must improve it. God expects and demands no less of us.
Human dignity is (once again) under assault in America—a gruesome reality we saw on display in Charlottesville last weekend. We have a president who without shame (tragically, he appears incapable of shame) has emboldened the forces of hate in ways that are frankly terrifying.
We must commit to fighting him and them. African-Americans, Jews, immigrants and people of conscience everywhere—we are all in this fight together.
When human dignity is on the line, there are no innocent bystanders. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.