Carrying the Spirit from Prayer Houses into Public Space
For the past 3,000 years, all the Abrahamic religious communities have celebrated Biblical and Quranic, rabbinic and “church father” traditions that have treated as normal the subordination of women.
Even when the traditional texts (e.g. the Song of Songs) have pointed in a different direction as the goal of a grown-up human race that has yet to emerge, the day-to-day behaviors of most of those communities have treated that subordination as normal life.
And then, beginning little more than a century ago, wave after wave of women’s energy, with support from some men, has moved toward equality. But the assumption of inequality was and is so deeply ingrained that a backlash was and is inevitable.
And right now, in American society, we are seeing the backlash in all its entitled and affronted fury. Talk about “the personal is political!” We face a nominee for the Supreme Court who would be well positioned to control its 5-4 votes and carry into deeply engraved public policy his own deeply ingrained assumptions about sex and gender.
And we have seen that, faced with the possibility of a No from the Senate, he reacted with verbal violence, wild charges of conspiracy -- an attempt to shut the mouths of his critics and accusers (especially those who were women). A verbal analog of the physical violence he is accused of using in an attempt at rape.
He is not alone in this, and the liberation of women is not the only uprising that is facing attempts at subjugation. Today the New York Times reports in deep detail how Donald Trump and his father Fred cheated on billions of dollars of taxes they owed the federal government. Just as Kavanaugh resorted to rape when he wanted sex, so the Trump family resorted to fraud and theft when they wanted Money and more Money and couldn't get "enough" honestly. How many poverty-stricken women died of breast cancer because their govenment was starved of the money to provide medical care by Trump family thievery? How many children drank leaded water that ruined their brains because no government agency could or would do the tests? How many men were maimed or killed by an unsafe worksite because the "enforcers" of health and safety regulations had not enough agents to check? How many Americans were sickened by food poisoning because of the Trumps' theft of taxes they owed? (And now, holding the White House, they destroy whatever remaining regulations survive their tax frauds.)
As the women’s labor-union song “Bread and Roses” said a century ago,
As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing, bread and roses, bread and roses.
As we come marching, marching, we battle too, for men,
For they are in the struggle and together we shall win.
Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes,
Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread, but give us roses.
As we come marching, marching, un-numbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread,
Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew
Yes, it is bread we. fight for, but we fight for roses, too.
As we go marching, marching, we're standing proud and tall.
The rising of the women means the rising of us all.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories, bread and roses, bread and roses.
Five years ago this very month, Gloria Steinem said to a Shalom Center assemblage celebrating her 80th birthday, that American society as a whole was at the moment when an abused wife walks out of the house. It is the most promising and the most dangerous moment. If she is welcomed by a community of love and safety, she may be freed. If not, her infuriated husband may kill her.
Gloria thought she was teaching metaphor. But the metaphor itself has come to life with the bared teeth of an insulted, infuriated male tiger.
More even than when she spoke, abused Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, women, union workers, Jews, Arab-Americans, GLBTQ folk, the tormented, choking, trembling, quaking, burning Earth itself, have walked out of the abusive households where they had lived for centuries or decades.
And the abusive, ultra-wealthy, self-entitled, powerful men, faced with challenges to their prestige, their wealth, and above all their power – even the power to have sex whenever they want with whomever they want -- are brandishing at these rebels the threat of rape or disemployment when it’s sex, death when it’s hurricanes, prison when it’s a critical press and whistleblowers, fraud and theft with impunity when it's money, torture when it’s a war --
But in the airports, in the Capitol corridors and elevators, in the voting booths, in the “detention camps” of refugee children, in the frigid offices of ICE, in a million homes and offices and dormitory rooms, in the jails where they take us if we refuse to leave, they can be stopped.
If we build the communities to welcome and to shelter the resisters of abuse.
If we “spread over all of us the shelter of shalom.”
Right now, the most urgent task is to keep Trump and a gaggle of self-entitled arrogant Senators from poisoning the Supreme Court for the next thirty years for the sake of increasing their own wealth and power.
Today and tomorrow, this Wednesday and Thursday, we belong in our bodies or our phone calls in every Senatorial office, in Washington or in their home states. After 3,000 years, Time’s Up: Stop Kavanaugh!
If you can get to Washington DC tomorrow (Thursday) — that is THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY to be in DC to #CancelKavanaugh. Sign up here, now: bit.ly/WECANWIN
If you are too far away and prefer to take part in a vigil near you --
If you don’t find one nearby and are moved to create one, click here and ask for MoveOn’s help to plan it and recruit people to join with you::
And whatever the Senate does on Friday, the next step is the November election. At every house of worship in America, we should be working these next five weeks to “Grow the Vote.” Grow it in numbers, grow it in awareness of the issues and the values. And we should be calling together congregational meetings, community meetings—to talk about the religious values of according dignity, justice, healing -- accord and community itself -- to everyone. Every one.
If millions of new voters do vote, the next Congress can investigate perjuries by even a Supreme Court Justice. The next Congress can investtogate the hidden tax returns and frauds of even a President. IF we vote and also stay in the streets.
At https://theshalomcenter.org/ShareSukkotResources are links to several handbooks for growing the vote. Registering new voters, helping them to vote ahead of time where state laws make that possible, helping them get to the polls on Election Day.
And it won’t stop there. This is a 400-year crisis when it comes to racism in America. It is a 3,000-year crisis when it comes to the subjugation of women in Abrahamic communities. It is a 200,000-year crisis when it comes to the relationship between human beings and the Earth. Crises that deep don’t get solved in one election.
We are the heirs of those ancient traditions -- the heirs of their glories and their failings. It rests on us to transform them. In each of the American religious communities, some of us have struggled valiantly to transform them -- to end racism, sexism, militarism, greedy Earth-destroying materialism. As we look around at the changes we have wrought in some churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, shall we congratulate ourselves and sing our victories? Or shall we look at the convulsions of this past week’s America and carry our prophetic voices beyond our prayer halls into public spaces?
Now’s the time and now’s the hour!
See approach proud Greedy Power;
Shall we merely whimper, cower –
Or act to set us free?
Please help The Shalom Center continue its work to speak Truth to the powerful AND to the disempowered, by clicking on the maroon "Contribute” button on the left-hand margin on this age.
Thanks! And blessings to you of shalom, salaam, paz, peace, which will more likely come if we ourselves live them into being.