Moving toward the Hanukkah of Light
Despite the Darkness
For years, The Shalom Center has talked about “Corporate Carbon Pharaohs” that make huge profits out of deeply wounding – scorching -- Mother Earth and the web of life that sustains us all. Their greed has been killing human beings in floods and famines, droughts and the spread of tropical diseases. And these Corporate Carbon Pharaohs have devoted a small proportion of their profits to buying elections -- making sure that democracy cannot halt their business plan for burning Earth. In the last few weeks, we have learned both how vile the behavior of these Carbon Pharaohs has actually become, and how dogged, creative organizing can stop them. On the one hand, now we know that beginning in 1977, Exxon, one of the biggest of the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs, knew from its own scientists that the massive burning of oil was overheating the planet and would lead to deep destruction, many deaths. And they lied about their knowledge in order to continue and cover up this crime. If Exxon were an ordinary person, its behavior might be called conspiracy to murder. And on the other hand, after seven years of organizing in many forms – rallies, prayer services, huge marches, nonviolent arrests, persistent lobbying – President Obama has just “buried” the XL Tar Sands Pipeline before the Pipeline could literally bury cowboys, Indians, farmers, prairies, ice fields, and human communities. So now we know –- even though Exxon lied, even though people died, it is still true that we can decide – if we choose to. Now that we know about Exxon’s criminal cover-up, what should we do? Now that possibly the most important gathering of human leaders in human history is about to gather in Paris to face the truth that Exxon tried to hide, what should we do? We need two levels of response. One is to act to end the burning of our Mother Earth that Exxon tried to cover up. To end the burning of all fossil fuels, and quickly. The other is to change the systematic process that turns decent human beings into Corporate Carbon Pharaohs. No doubt most of the flesh-and-blood human beings who controlled Exxon would in their personal lives and loves hasten to act compassionately toward people in danger. If they had unintentionally run over a person who then lay bleeding in the street, few would have driven away. Most would have stopped to bind up the person’s wounds. If Exxon as a corporate body had behaved that way, back in 1977 it would have announced the truth and begun shifting its business toward renewable energy. Instead Exxon looked at the way Big Tobacco had bamboozled the public about the lethal effects of cigarette smoking – and copied the Tobacco Trick. Exxon bought the services of so-called scientists who publicly claimed there was no solid evidence that fossil fuels were burning our common home – our planet. It is hard not to call this Science Prostitution, hard not to call what Exxon did the worst case of arson in all history. Hundreds died in Superstorm Sandy, because Exxon lied. Thousands died in the Philippines in the most powerful typhoon ever recorded, because Exxon lied. Hundreds of thousands have died in African famines, because Exxon lied. What does all this have to do with Hanukkah, which begins Sunday evening, December 6? In a few days I will write you with some specific resources for action and celebration of Hanukkah. Today let me share with you four ways of understanding its several dimensions: (1) There is the Hanukkah that remembers how the overbearing power of Antiochus, the imperial “pharaoh” of his generation, who ordered the desecration of the Holy Temple, was dissolved by the rising of the “weak” against the mighty. In that Hanukkah, these “weak” were able to rededicate the Temple to the service of the One Who unites all nations, all species, all Earth. That Hanukkah reminds us that the First Nations and Native Peoples, Cowboys and Indians, who were aghast at what the Pipeline would do to their immediate lives in their own Western homes and regions, joined with urban Jews and Christians and Buddhists and Muslims, scientists and grandparents and college students, who were aghast at what the Tar Sands would do to the planet -- against the arrogant corporate powers and their governmental hirelings that never imagined that anyone could keep them from triumphing. Joining in Love across old barricades. And now -- what shall we join in Love to do? First, to insist that in every state and in the US govnment, Attorneys-General thoroughly investigate what Exxon did, bring criminal charges against executive decision-makers, and sue for billions pf dollars in damages. And then, to rewrite the laws of corporations to make them fully and transarently accountable to the public.
(2) There is the profoundly spiritual Hanukkah of lighting Light in the midst of darkness, lighting Truth to dispel lies, lighting Active Hope to vanquish despair: the Prophetic vision of Zechariah that we read on the Shabbat of Hanukkah: “Not by might and not by power but by My Breath, My Wind, My Spirit, says YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Breath of Life!”
That Hanukkah calls on us to celebrate the amazing spiritual courage and creativity of all who gathered these seven years to say No. Joining in Awe.
(3) There is the Hanukkah that celebrates the Temple Menorah and remembers that when the Torah describes how human hands should shape it, Torah speaks of a Tree with branches and buds and blossoms; the Hanukkah that remembers that Zechariah looked forward to a new Temple with a new Menorah that would be flanked with olive trees that will feed their sacred oil straight into the Menorah.
That Hanukkah calls on us to renew our oft-forgotten knowing of the connection between adam and adamah, human earthlings and the Earth; that our most sacred covenant is with the Earth that birthed us as well as with the Wind that breathes us. Joining in Wisdom.
(4) And there is the Hanukkah that remembers that to rededicate the Temple to the Holy One, one day’s oil met eight days’ needs.
That Hanukkah calls on us to act to conserve energy in the temples of our homes, our workplaces, our holy gathering-places, and in all of Temple Earth. It calls on us to replace the oil and coal and unnatural gas and radioactive/ explosive uranium that endanger us, with the beneficent power of the wind and sun.
It calls us to demand that by seven years from now, when we next meet the Sabbatical/ Shmita Year of Releasing Earth from servitude, every nation reduce its burning of oil by seven-eighths, so that one day’s oil can meet eight days’ needs.
It calls us to make changes in our own lives regardless of what governments decide -– turning our neighborhoods into coops of sharing energy conservation and sharing solar energy that we produce together. Joining in Action.
Love, Awe, Wisdom, Action. Hanukkah for grown-ups, in Four Worlds.
With joy for the past and determination for the future, I invite you to look at two brief videos. In one of them, two of us from The Shalom Center are getting arrested at the White House in 2013 in a multireligious protest against the Tar Sands Pipeline. We drew on the symbols and meaning of Passover and Palm Sunday.
In the other, you can see a broad sweep of the seven years of action that have just won a victory for Earth and human life.
For the Shalom Center multireligious action, please click to <https://theshalomcenter.org/video> and scroll down to the second video.
For the broad sweep, please click to <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kov-XcQlBlA>
And once you have seen what we can accomplish –-- have already accomplished! –-- please help us grow the future. Please click on the “Donate” button in the left margin,and give a gift of your own future, the future of all our children and their children, by helping The Shalom Center do this sacred work.