Charleston Murders vs Pope Francis, Rabbis, Ramadan

Eight of the 9 murdered in Charleston

We have hung our heads and cried, Cried for the ones who had to die, Died for you and died for me, Died for the cost of equality. But we'll never turn back Until we all have been freed And we’ll have equality.

No, we'll never turn back, No, we'll never turn back.  

The song is from 50 years ago. And 200 years before that. And today.

The mass murders in Charleston came –

  • just at the beginning of Ramadan  -- the Muslim month of fasting, self-reflection, and spiritual self- assessment;
  • just as Pope Francis celebrated and enriched the loving teachings of St. Francis of Assisi by sending forth to all the world his encyclical on the need for all humanity to protect the Earth and the poor from the climate crisis and from other destructive uses of technology;
  • just as 360 rabbis sent forth “to the Jewish People, to all Communities of Spirit, and to the World” the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis.

What a day of profound contradiction! The worst expression of hatred and racism together with the most loving expressions of care and active healing for all humanity and all the life-forms that make up Mother Earth!

 I think we face a central question: What would it mean for all American society to repent —— in prayer, tears, fasting, and also action — for our historic lethal arrogance in slavery, racism, & genocide; in aggressive & oppressive wars in Central America, Vietnam, & Iraq;  and in our destruction of the Earth?

Can we name a specific day when all Americans would be invited to join in an act of penance?

Could we as a nation bear – could we dare – to pause, fast, pray, meditate on July 3 to reflect on and atone for our history of lethal arrogance – and then turn on July 4 to celebrate our efforts to grow into compassion and community, and act to do the deeds and sow the seeds of change?

As the Prophet Isaiah taught --  Fasting, to be a real act of transformation, must be accompanied by “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and breaking off the hand-cuffs” forced upon those imprisoned by the violence of irresponsible power.

 The truth that the USA is ALSO an experiment in growing freedom, community, and democracy calls on us precisely not to ignore but to embrace the need for repentance of these our society’s sins.

AND — As the Rabbinic Letter and the Encyclical both say, the real issue is eco-social justice, for

the climate crisis, racism,  and gross inequality of wealth and power  — all are linked. The Rabbinic Letter, like the action in NYC before Passover & Palm Sunday this past spring that was sponsored both by The Shalom Center and Interfaith Moral Action on Climate,  speaks of Carbon Pharaohs, oppressing human beings and bringing plagues upon all Earth like the biblical Pharaoh.

Indeed, let us think about that story, central to Judaism & to Christianity (through the Passover events of Holy Week as well as through what Christians call “the Old Testament”) and important though not as central to Islam. Think about what “Pharaoh" meant:

•Top-down, unaccountable, oppressive power •Idolatrous claim to be a god, & rejection of YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Interbreath of Life. The Name that is within and beyond  all human languages, the Name that unites by interbreathing all animals and vegetation. •Racism •Fear & hatred of immigrants •Oppression of workers & efforts to break what A.J Muste called “Brickmakers Union Number 1” •Militarism  (Pharaoh’s  imperial chariot army) •Police brutality (the Bible calls them “overseers”— think about their role in controlling the Hebrew  people  [in Egyptian context, as slaves, analogous to  the  Black community in America??? } •Plagues that were ecological disasters How do we begin? I suggest we set aside, this coming week, time in all our religious and spiritual gatherings to say  prayers in memory of the dead of Charleston and all their predecessors in the centuries of terrorism directed by some white Americans against the Black community.

One such prayer we offer, below,  as an interpretive translation of the Jewish Mourners  Kaddish – specially designed to mourn those who suffer and die from war, violence, and terrorism – among them, the dead of Charleston, slain as an act of explicit racist terrorism.

 There are two others. One is the solemn, determined anthem of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, facing the death of civil-rights workers at the hands of white Southern terrorists. It is especially poignant and appropriate now.

The other is “Lift every voice and sing,” the poetic song that has been called “the Negro National Anthem.” Like the Kaddish, it affirms life and hope in the midst of grief. 

Shalom, salaam, pax, peace, Earth!---  Arthur

 MOURNERS' KADDISH  FOR ALL

WHO SUFFER AND DIE IN TIME OF WAR & TERROR

Susie Jackson; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton;

DePayne Doctor; Ethel Lance;

Tywanza Sanders; Cynthia Hurd;

Clementa Pinckney;

Daniel Simmons Sr.; Myra Thompson.

Yitgadal V’yit’kadash Shmei Rabah –

May Your Great Name, through our own expanding awareness and our fuller action, lift You and us to become still higher and more holy.

For Your Great Name weaves together all the names of all the beings in the universe, among them our own names -- and the names of those who have touched our lives deeply though we can no longer touch them --   (Cong: Amein)

--- Throughout the world that You have offered us, a world of majestic peaceful order that gives life through time and through eternity ---- And let's say, Amein

So may the Great Name be blessed, through every Mystery and Mastery of every universe.

May Your Name be blessed and celebrated, Its beauty honored and raised high, may It be lifted and carried, may Its radiance be praised in all Its Holiness –--  Blessed be!

Even though we cannot give You enough blessing, enough song, enough praise, enough consolation to match what we wish to lay before you –

And though we know that today there is no way to console You when among us some who bear Your Image in our being are killing others who bear Your Image in our being ---

Still we yearn that from the unity of Your Great Name will come to flow a great and joyful harmony and life for all of us.   (Cong: Amein) 

You who make harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe, teach us to make harmony within our selves, among ourselves --  and shalom, salaam, pax, peace for all who dwell upon this planet.  (Cong: Amein)

Oseh Shalom bim’romav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael v'al kol yishmael v'al kol yoshvei tevel -- v’imru: Amein.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

"Never Turn Back" (traditionally sung standing). You can hear it sung at --

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-vUQHbevhM

We've been 'buked and we've been scorned, We've been talked about, sure 's you're born. But we'll never turn back, No,  we 'll never turn back Until we all have been freed. And we’ll have equality.

We have hung our heads and cried, Cried for the ones who had to die, Died for you and died for me, Died for the cost of equality. But we'll never turn back Until we all have been freed And we’ll have equality.

No, we'll never turn back, No, we'll never turn back.

["Lift Every Voice and Sing" was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words. Several years later, the NAACP proclaimed it the “Negro National Anthem." Traditionally, it is sung standing. The melody, created by James Weldon Johnson’s brother John, is sung at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya7Bn7kPkLo ]

Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us, sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; facing the rising sun of a  new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast'ning rod, felt in the day that hope unborn had died; yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet, come to the place for which our fathers sighed? we have come over a way that with tears has been watered, we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last where the light gleam of our star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; thou who hast by thy might, led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee, shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand, true to our God, True to our native land.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Once again, the central question:

What would it mean for all American society to repent in prayer, tears, fasting, and also action — for our historic lethal arrogance in slavery, racism, & genocide; in aggressive & oppressive wars in Central America, Vietnam, & Iraq;  and in our destruction of the Earth?

The truth that the USA is ALSO an experiment in growing freedom,  community, and democracy calls on us precisely not to ignore but to embrace the need for repentance of these our society’s sins.

Could we as a nation bear? – could we dare? – to pause, fast, pray, meditate on July 3 to reflect on and atone for our history of lethal arrogance – and then turn on July 4 to celebrate our efforts to grow into compassion and community, and act to sow the seeds of change?

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