SHJ Calls for Civil Dialogue, Not Violence



As Jews and Humanists, we abhor violent extremism.  The Society for Humanistic Judaism therefore condemns the June 14, 2017 shootings of Republicans in Alexandra, VA, who were apparently targeted deliberately and because they were Republicans. This is a reprehensible act in any rational view of the world and of our politics.  We abhor it just as we abhor the hate crimes of white nationalists and white supremacists.


While we may disagree very strongly with many of the policies of the current administration and condemn discriminatory comments and generalizations made about Muslims, Mexicans, and others, we believe in the tenets of democracy – that differences ought to be addressed and resolved through reasoned argument among informed citizens and their freely elected representatives, and by civil discourse as the means of conducting that argument.   


We also believe that there are few higher callings than being humane toward one’s fellow human beings, including – perhaps especially – toward those with whom we disagree.  Violence is not the answer, regardless of how polarized a nation may become, how desperate some may feel, or how right some may believe they are.  Indeed, history has shown far too many times how dangerous such righteousness can be. Indeed, one of the strong arguments for democracy is that reasoned and civil debate between differing views can help prevent the more violent extremes from holding sway.  And we recognize that today there are extremists, and they exist on both ends of the political spectrum.   


 If the reasoned and civil debate we call democracy were to fail, we would face a troubled future indeed.  We urge all politicians and citizens to re-commit to informed, reasoned and civil debate, and not to encourage the violent extremes. The more a nation becomes polarized, the stronger the extremes become, and the greater the tendency is to see the extremes on the other side as representing the fundamental character of those with whom we disagree.  This is a very dangerous development, which will likely lead to more widespread violence. We therefore ask our politicians and fellow citizens to think very hard about how they choose to speak and to act and to treat even those with whom we disagree with civility and respect.


– June 2017