Submitted by Rabbi Arthur Waskow on
Dear companions, I have already started circulating the essay and proposal below to various leaders of eco-religious organizations, asking for their thoughts about it. Beginning with Bill McKibben, many of the responses have been excited. I would be glad for you to share it with others, and I would be doubly glad to hear what you and they think of it, including criticisms and concerns. Please send the responses you receive to me. Warm regards, and Blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace -- Arthur
Next April is the Holiest Month, Stirring ---
By Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow*
April is the cruellest month,
breeding lilacs out of the dead land,
mixing memory and desire,
stirring dull roots with spring rain.
----T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
Next April is the holiest month,
Breathing us to heal the dying Earth,
Mixing sorrow with fierce urgency,
Confronting dulled rulers with spring joy.
Two weeks ago, a loose alliance of people from a wide spectrum of American faith communities proved we could come together in a strong act of civil disobedience. at the White House.
While many Americans were agonizing over the Congressional collapse of the climate-healing programs of the Reconciliation/ Build Back Better Budget, we focused on what the President has power to do on his own – cancel not just one but all the pipelines that endanger sacred Native water and land, and all our planet.
I am happy about the moment last week when a Native leader and an activist Rabbi could honor each other. Raymond Kingfisher has helped mobilize his peoples into a force capable of inspiring Americans who used to treat the Native wisdom with contempt. I have spent decades translating into policy for our own generation the ancient Earth-based biblical wisdom about how Earth-born humans could live in harmony with Mother Earth.
I was happier about that meeting even than the moment of my arrest as the crowd sang me “Happy Birthday” for my 88th.
Now what? Some climate—concerned organizations are preaching that it’s “Right now or never ever.” In trying to mobilize the US government to take a bold step before the Glasgow world-wide climate conference, they run the risk of turning frustration into despair. Instead, we propose to turn frustration into much stronger, broader, deeper action. It is true that every day lost makes the job harder. But every day "lost" can also inspire more commitment.
We at The Shalom Center are looking six months ahead. Next April can be remarkable.
First of all, our American government will have failed to take the bold actions necessary to end the climate crisis – and in Glasgow, the rest of the world will have dithered as well.
Yet we will still know the need. Uncontrollable wildfires, extreme heat waves, droughts, famines, urban and rural floods, asthma and cancer epidemics in Black, Native, and other communities subjected to coal dust and oil fumes and chemicalized fracking-water have taught us the need.
Our frustration can be met not by despair but by a great reservoir of active hope – from communities of faith. And that is why next April matters.
For in this coming April there is an unusual confluence of holydays -- Jewish (Passover, starting April 15), Christian (Holy Week, starting April 10) , and Muslim (Ramadan, starting April2).
And in the hearts if not the formal religious calendars of many people of faith are two other April dates: April 4 – the death-anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King and the date of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech a year earlier, in which he named racism, militarism, and materialism the dangerous triplets afflicting America –- and April 22, Earth Day..
In April, here in the United States we will be in the thick of primary elections. Faith communities in nonviolent action can lift the need to save Earth and Humanity beyond partisan politics not with “moderation” but with prophetic boldness. We can do it not just in Washington DCnbut everywhere there is a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, meeting-house.. – We can transform that debate into a sacred nonviolent crusade – not against each other but against the greed and cruelty of Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are bringing Plagues upon all Earth.
We sense that the faith communities’ attention to climate/ fossil-fuel issues are a saturated solution that needs a crystal dropped to crystallize with a new intensity. Multireligious commitments to act in April could be the crystal of change.
I do not mean that we abandon our sacred practices and symbols and ceremonies to take this action. No – we deepen them, we transform them.
- We might turn Palm Sunday back into what it was in the beginning -- the nonviolent march to face the pyramids of power in our cities. We wave the Palm branches as we walk.
- We might deepen the fasts of Ramadan and of Lent and of the Jewish avoidance of swollen chametz (leavening) into boycotting the products that burn our people and our Earth.
- We might take a third-day Passover Seder into the streets, waving the Matzah and the Bitter Herb outside or inside the branches of the Chase Bank that is the #1 investor in destroying Earth, our common home. “Move Our Money – Protect Our Planet” becomes our slogan.
- We might shape the Quaker silence into silent marches against death to the campaign offices of candidates for Congress from every party-- silent till we shout the name of an elder killed by heat stroke, a child dying of famine, a family drowned in a flood that invades their own home.
And so forth, on dates carefully chosen during April to highlight and share the sacred practices of many different religious and spiritual communities.
These are my own imaginings of what we could do. But the decisions of a coalition of faith communities will have to work out an agreed repertoire of actions and demands. Perhaps a coalition body lists a number and range of possible demands, and leaves each participating group free to choose.
How do we begin?
Several weeks ago, we decided to try the idea out with Bill McKibben, and this is what he answered: “this is very smart indeed. shall i ask the people at greenfaith what they think?”
GreenFaith has been an effective center for multireligious action on climate. It was the managing organization of the October 11-13 rallies in Washington during which I was arrested. So of course I said to McKibben “Yes!” He wrote GreenFaith, and they wrote me, “We were intrigued by the idea! Maybe we can take some time to discuss while we're together in DC. I do think it could be the next course of action for our multi-faith crew.”
But of course a great movement of faith-filled Americans cannot depend on any one organization. What we can do is spread the idea. And by “we” here I mean not just us at the offices of The Shalom Center or GreenFaith but all of us who see the truth of danger and seek to transform it with the Truth of passion, compassion, love, and unity.
Will you make five copies of this letter from me and send each one to a friend of yours, maybe a fellow-congregant who’s a go-getter, maybe your clergyperson or spiritual leader., maybe an activist nun. Add a note saying, “What do you think of this multi-faith April Action idea?”
And then ask them over for coffee and cookies. Talk about it. What could you-all do on April 4? Om the third day of Passover? For Palm Sunday? For the fast days of Ramadan? Let us know what you think. Write us!
And we will be creating some ideas and actions for you to choose from, that honor your religious life by drawing on it to heal our neighborhoods, our country and our planet.
With blessings for you to use well the sacred Truth that leads to sacred action – Arthur
(Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow founded (1983) and directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds, for eco/ social justice, peace, and healing of our wounded Earth. His 28 books include The Limits of Defense, From Race Riot to Sit-in, The Freedom Seder, Seasons of our Joy, and Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion .He has been arrested 28 times in protests against many forms of injustice and oppression. You can reach him by writing Office@theshalomcenter.org with “April Action” as the subject line and you can reach, read, subscribe, and support The Shalom Center at <https://theshalomcenter.org>)