Tuesday, February 21, 2006

God commands you to kill your baby

In the news today is the case of a woman in McKinney, Texas [a suburb of Dallas, right next to Plano, where George and Laura Bush used to live] — I'll call her "Abraham" — who is on trial for chopping off her baby daughter's arms — I'll call her "Isaac" — because God commanded her to do it. At issue is whether "Abraham" was legally insane when she killed "Isaac." Reportedly "Abraham" is angry and confused, not understanding why she is in jail for following God's will.

The legal definition of insane is quite different from the medical or colloquial use of the term. To be legally insane, you must be unable to distinguish right from wrong. The question is thus whether "Abraham" knew that she was doing something horribly wrong when she hacked off 10-month-old "Isaac's" arms with a knife and plunged the knife into her own shoulder as part of her Divine Plan to cut off her and her daughter's arms and heads and present them to God as an offering because she saw a tv news story about a boy who was mauled by a lion. No, I'm not kidding.

The original Abraham (אַבְרָהָם or ابراهيم) was commanded by God to offer his son (either Isaac [יִצְחָק] or Ishmael [إسماعيل], according to various accounts) as a sacrifice. Four thousand years later (give or take a couple of centuries), Abraham's unflinching willingness to lop off his son's head to satisfy God is celebrated [عيد الأضح]; today in Texas, the same circumstances lead us to a criminal trial. The Angel Gabriel stopped Abraham from chopping off his son's head, so he was able instead to chop off only his son's foreskin. If only our modern-day Abraham had first severed her own arms and head before sacrificing her daughter....

How do we distinguish God's commandment to Abraham 4,000 years ago from His commandment to "Abraham" in 2004? Myself, I don't see much difference.

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