Self-Defense Against Jihadist Killing Is Religious Obligation

by Rabbi Aryeh Spero –

“Children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hung and crucified. Entire Christian and non-Muslim communities are being decimated by the radical Muslim group, ISIS.”

These are the words from reporters out of Iraq. What is our obligation to those under fire from Islamic terrorists? Prayer is good, but not enough. Words of support are welcome, but not enough. What can one do when terrorists are not moved by our prayers or words of support? Our religious obligation is to fight.

We fight because self-defense is a mandate from the Bible. Well, at least a mandate from the Torah, called by many the Old Testament. We fight to defend life. Because life is precious, the ultimate, we must defend it. The very definition of self-defense is permission to kill the one who is coming toward you to kill you. Self-defense is not simply our right to pray or support with words, but do whatever is needed to keep us alive.

Those who are willing to personally die and would rather be butchered so as not to kill their butcher are free to so choose. But no one is allowed to demand or suggest that someone else allow himself to be killed so as to spare the life of the one presently doing murder.

A war to defend and stop those coming to kill you is a moral war. It is called a Just War. And we defend not only ourselves, we defend others. The Bible, the Torah that is, says, “Do not stand idly by while the blood of your brother is being spilled.” We also have permission to kill those coming to rape a woman. The Bible, Old Testament, tells us so in Exodus. It is our obligation.

We have heard from Pope Francis recently that “No war is ever acceptable.” The Catholic college I went to 40 years ago talked about the Just War. My Protestant clergy friends used to agree in the right to self-defense. I call it more than a mere right, like the right to assemble. Indeed, it is a religious obligation, precisely because we venerate the life of those created in the image of God. Innocent life, that is, not the terrorist while terrorizing and killing. He must be stopped.

Pope Francis says that violence is never the answer to violence. However, the justified war is the answer to wanton, barbaric slaughter. It is a religious obligation to eradicate the fire of Evil. Well, at least in the Torah it is.
Sending a papal emissary to Iraq is a nice gesture, but a better gesture is to affirm to the world that it is morally appropriate to physically fight so as to save tens of thousands who will otherwise surely be killed. Tell the world to take up arms. Instill the world with moral confidence to stop the barbarism of the Crescent before more Christian communities are wiped off the face of the earth.

Religion cannot simply be about the next world. It has to care about living life in this world as well. It can’t simply be about lofty spiritual concepts, but a flesh and blood willingness to defend and fight for one’s right to live. It can’t only be about salvation and the Kingdom Come, but defense of the living in His earthly Kingdom here.

Over a million Christians have been slaughtered by those doing so in the name of Islam… in Africa alone. The Church has had a decade to condemn this, and do more than pray. But, up until this week it has been much too silent. Entire Christian communities have been decimated by Islam in the Middle East and parts of Asia; hundreds of women have been raped with glee by young men feeling entitled to do so because the women are “infidels”. Nothing much was said. I hardly remember any protests throughout the last years in front of the White House.

What good is it to boast that one’s hands are pure if such purity allows the bloody massacre of tens of thousands of Christian victims? Before worrying about the purity of one’s own soul, it is important to worry about how one can save the life of his brothers and sisters. Such pacifism may be a comfort to those who wish to be above criticism, doing so at the expense of saving the lives of others. Thank God, the Israelis are willing to fight, physically fight in self-defense against the Islamists, Hamas, who want to destroy them. The Torah does not celebrate pacifism.

We hear very often from the religious community regarding the absolute need to protect the life in the womb, the life of the unborn. Well, how about protecting the life of the already born, the living?

Who will be the Christian religious leader who will boldly assert that it is a Christian principle, a religious obligation, to wage war to defend oneself from merciless attackers? How many more millions of Christians must die at the hands of Islam until a leader arises and says “Love is not only about loving your enemy, but loving your life as well. Love demands that you physically fight for your children, your family and your friends.

I cannot believe that God demands from his devotees that they allow others to kill them. Martyrdom in battle is the best form of martyrdom for a Cause. Leaders should not make others feel morally guilty for physically defending their loved ones.

[This article was originally published in CNS News.]

About Rabbi Aryeh Spero

Rabbi Spero is a theologian and social and political commentator. He is author ofPush Back: Reclaiming Our American Judeo-Christian Spirit, and was a pulpit rabbi for almost forty years.

Rabbi Spero is available for interviews and speaking engagements, and can be reached at (212) 252-6861 or

Republished with the permission of Rabbi Aryeh Spero.


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