It is a sad statement on how little progress we have made as people sharing one planet when nearly 51 years after the bombing of a place of worship, 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963, that we witnessed the bombing of another place of worship in Gaza - the historical Al-Omeri Mosque in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, on August 2, 2014. What makes this such a sad statement about our lack of progress in respect for human life, diversity, and the fundamental, religious rights of all people on this planet is not so much the violent and morally reprehensible act of destroying a house of worship as it is the muted response and lack of moral outrage to Israel’s bombing of Al-Omeri Mosque.
In the aftermath of the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church, that blew a hole in the church's rear wall, destroyed the back steps, and robbed four, young African American girls of their lives, we called it an act of white supremacist terrorism perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan. In contrast, in the aftermath of yesterday’s bombing of Al-Omeri Mosque in Gaza, many are calling it an act of the sovereign nation of Israel to defend itself against attacks by Hamas.
If, in 1963, the bombing of places of worship and the killing of innocent children in the United States were described as unconscionable and morally reprehensible acts of terrorism then why do we not, in 2014, describe the bombing of places of worship and the killing of innocent in children in Gaza as unconscionable and morally reprehensible acts of terrorism? Are we so afraid of being labeled Anti-Semitic that we excuse, for Israel, what we would not tolerate from others? The bombing of places of worship and the murder of innocent children is, in 2014, what it was in 1963 – an unconscionable and morally reprehensible act of terrorism.
If we refuse to be as morally outraged by the bombing places of worship and the murder of innocent children in 2014 as we were in 1963 then, we, as human beings have allowed our moral genius to get farther behind our scientific genius than it was in 1954 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. uttered these words:
The trouble isn't so much that we don't know enough, but it's as if we aren't good enough. The trouble isn't so much that our scientific genius lags behind, but our moral genius lags behind. The great problem facing modern man is that, that (sic) the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man's soul. We haven't learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem. The real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood (Rediscovering Lost Values, sermon delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on February 28, 1954 at Second Baptist Church, Detroit, MI).
Our challenge today is to close the gap between our scientific genius and our moral genius and reduce the distance between the means by which we live and the spiritual ends for which we live. We can close that gap and reduce that distance by expressing moral outrage at and holding our elected officials accountable for supporting a regime in Israel that bombs places of worship and murders innocent children.