Dear friends, I promised that every Tuesday I would post a passage from my new book, Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion, This passage seems extraordinarily fitting, on the morning of the most important election in US history. It’s from Chapter 10, and it was written more than a year ago.
The king is not to multiply the horses he would need for aggressive imperial warfare. He must not pile up money for himself as a side-benefit for his service to the People. He is not to multiply wives for himself, lest the sexual overload distract him from the public good. And he must sit before the priests who are part of the tribe of Levi, to read aloud from Torah these passages that limit his power and other passages that protect the poor. (Deut. 17: 1-20)
The Torah “Constitution” may have thought that the priests could not be overawed. But there is no suggestion of how their supervision of the king’s recitation can become more than literally listening. Can they, do they, interrupt in public to say, “That last line you read about not equipping your army with chariots –- Have you obeyed it?”
Our Supreme Court seems less independent from the git-go than the ancient priesthood, because it is appointed by the President whose authority it judges. Does it defer to presidential power? Up to some limit, our experience shows that the Court draws on public confidence and its life-long terms of office to strike down presidential actions that go beyond the rules. But our experience also shows that beyond some “normal” limit, the more egregious the president is in breaking rules and limits on presidential power, the more likely he will be able to shape or overawe a Court so that it defers to him.
There was a king, Solomon's son, who told a group of protesting elders, "My father whipped you with whips. I will whip you with scorpions." There was a revolution against his illegitimate authority, and the kingdom was split in two.
There’s a lot more in the chapter about the choice to have a king in the first place, about nonviolent resistance to tyrannical actions by the king, and about limits on his power to fight wars.
The book is my sketch of the do-able , transformable future. Gloria Steinem, Ruth Messinger, Rev. William Barber; Rabbis Art Green, Jonah Pesner, and Jill Hammer; Bill McKibben, Marge Piercy, and Rev. Jim Wallis have all read and praised it. You can order it from The Shalom Center or from Orbis Books. See
https://theshalomcenter.org/content/ordering-dancing-gods-earthquake-rabbi-arthur This book is the harvest of my whole life-experience – and like a harvest, intended not only to draw on the past but to feed the future.
Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste! -- Arthur