Ideology vs. Compassion

Ideology vs. Compassion

by David Hoffman — January 23, 2015

One of the deepest areas of uncertainty I have, in my efforts to advance peace and humane justice through interfaith engagement, is the question “What does it mean, that some people knowingly prioritize ideology above Compassion?” The two most common instances I see of this perspective are the subordination of Compassion to some construct of Righteousness, and the subordination of Compassion to some construct of Obedience.

These patterns of thought and behavior are widespread. They produce both explicit cruelties by some, and the acceptance (or even active condoning) of cruelties by many other people who probably wouldn’t initiate those cruelties themselves. The prospect of so many people prioritizing ideology above Compassion leaves me fearful that my and others’ best efforts to establish more humane local and global social and cultural orders will be swept away by inhumane and draconian forces and groups.

The widespread prioritization of ideology above Compassion sometimes leaves me wondering whether I’m in denial regarding the realities of human nature and human relations. When I insistently maintain that Compassion is an essential and all-pervasive aspect of the nature, intentions and will of our Creator, am I over-generalizing a sanitized, “feel-good” set of assumptions? When I repeatedly remind myself and tell others that

“G-d* is all-merciful, and that Compassion is an essential aspect of our Creator’s very nature and being, and therefore every truly spiritual endeavor is – in some sense – aimed at embracing and implementing humane values”,

Is this merely wishful thinking on my part?

Are there valid spiritualities which prioritize ideology over Compassion? Is it sometimes valid and consistent with G-d’s nature and intention, to prioritizing Obedience, Righteousness, or some other value over Compassion? Or am I correct in saying that elevating other values above Compassion is an invalid human construct, which mis-comprehends the ultimate essence of spirituality,and the ultimate nature of G-d*?

What do others here think about this question?

* NOTE: I use the spelling “G-d” out of respect for those who consider it a sacrilege to spell out the full name of our Creator. I do not consider spelling out the Creator’s name to be a sacrilege, but I recognize and honor the integrity of those who do.