Protect the innocents

Published November 9, 2023

By Lib Campbell

The mezuzah attached to the front door frame of our house has a little rolled scroll inside that has been blessed by a Rabbi. It was a gift from my dear brother-in-law, a third-generation immigrant of Russian Jewish descent. The words on the scroll are called The Shema, a statement of faith and fidelity, a covenant between the Jews and God, recorded in Deuteronomy 6:5. 
In the Jewish tradition, the mezuzah is hung to mark our going and coming, speaking words that bind us to God. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
When Jesus speaks the words to his disciples in Matthew 22, he is responding to a question he has been asked about what is the greatest commandment? He speaks the Shema to them and adds this additional command, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
As a person grounded in the Judeo-Christian faith, I speak the words aloud, wondering since this is the way we are called to be in relationship with one another, why are so many innocents being killed around the world? 
The headline this week was that over 10,000 have been killed in the Hamas-Israeli War. Many of those are the innocents – women, children, the sick and the elderly. The old “Eye for an eye” speaks to proportional response. Annihilation from both sides seems to be the objective. And the children die. 
When I called my brother-in-law to ask his position on the war, he responded matter-of-factly, “These people have been fighting with each other for over five-thousand years.” He is right. War is nothing new. It is just on TV wall-to-wall now. We see the pain and suffering on a daily basis. In Israel and Gaza, in Ukraine, and all the hot spots where evil is poking through the veneer of civility. 
One of the challenges in war is we don’t always know who the enemy is. In Gaza, Hamas is deeply embedded within the civilian population. It would take a tribunal or a  surgical tactician to identify who the bad guys are. Terrorists often infect civilian populations, living next door, just the average Joe hiding nefarious intent. This is the way home grown terrorists are living in the United States. That’s how a six-year-old boy gets killed in his living room by his own neighbor.
Bad guys clean up real good. They dress in three-piece suits. Write books. Go on TV riling up a crowd. They get elected to office and find themselves on a big enough stage, having garnered enough power, to do great harm. 
It’s hard to hide intent. It’s hard to perpetuate lie after lie. It’s like juggling, at some point the balls drop. Truth is so much easier. Fewer people get hurt when truth prevails. 
For Halloween this year, Tom and I dressed as American Avengers seeking “Love, Justice, Peace. Everywhere. Every day.” Wonder Woman and Captain America won prizes twice for the positive message of protecting the innocents. Be kind. Love your neighbor. Seek peace. It works when we try it. 
There are no easy answers in Gaza and Israel. No easy answers in Ukraine. But destruction and death only fuel more destruction and death. What if we stepped up our game as peacemakers in the world? Who would lead the way? What would that look like? 
Another image from the Old Testament book of Isaiah speaks to the image of the wolf lying down with the lamb, the Peaceful Kingdom the prophets foretold. A vision where enemies and enmity cool down. Animus is tucked away, lost to goodness, trust, and love. 
The past thirty years or so have been filled with endless, unwinnable wars, and a growing mistrust that there are any leaders who can actually lead. Blame is the game. Negative opposition campaigning is a winner in politics. And the innocents suffer. 
History will not be kind to the ways adopted that skewer inclusion, unravel safety nets, and repeal rights. Even the courts are entering the corruption game now. Protecting the innocents is righteousness with skin on it. We need that skin in the game. 
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at