Submitted by Rabbi Arthur Waskow on
The Shalom Center begins the new “civil year” with the profound hope that our new Administration will help make this a far more civil year in politics than the last one.
Even while we hope, we will ourselves act. We look at an honest picture of the truth: We are standing at the edge of a great abyss. Where we are, is a crescendo of Cruelty and Subjugation. Some of us—like Pharaoh’s Army at the edge of the Red Sea – want to force and cajole us back into what has been “normal” -- being subjugated with a few perks of tasty garlic and onions. Some want us to take small “incremental” steps that will meet no one’s needs and do what small steps at the edge of an abyss do --simply plunge us into the abyss. And some of us – as we at The Shalom Center have done – are encouraging us to leap across to create a new society beyond paralysis.
The constitutional structure we have inherited from an anti-democratic past did not, this past fall, deliver the necessary energy to leap the gap. The heritage of slavery is structurally slanted against democracy, and has not yet been transformed. Indeed, it informs many other versions of subjugation -- of the poor and more and more of what was the “middle class,” of women and GLBTQIA communities, of immigrants and refugees, of Muslims and perhaps of Jews, even of Earth our common home and mother.
The Electoral College is structurally slanted against democracy; the Senate is structurally slanted against democracy; and so is, for now, the Supreme Court – which has gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and gutted a century’s worth of law restraining corporate and hyperwealthy interventions of money into election campaigns.
A majority of Seven Million votes produced only a 50-50 balance of political power -- paralysis.
And it is now clear that this 50-50 balance is between one fairly normal mildly progressive political party not yet fully galvanized by an Earth-shaking planetary crisis -- pandemic, climate chaos, mass extinctions -- and a bitterly furious political current so desperate to hold power and prevent change -– especially change from being a corporate-controlled society with a male white Christian culture -- that it is willing to threaten its own state officials to get them to steal an election, as happened in a conversation between the President and the Secretary of State of Georgia just this past weekend.
We still have a couple of days to know whether the Senate will be able to legislate in a way that will even barely begin to meet our needs, or be utterly paralyzed by an attempt to prevent any forward action undertaken by a new President.
So what is our task at The Shalom Center? I believe we are called by the Spirit to map out how to leap across the abyss, not to fall into it. That is what happened in that ancient tale of the Red Sea: We plunged ahead into the Unknown. Would the Sea split, or drown us? We did not know. Would it swamp Pharaoh’s chariot army, or let it through to subjugate us again? We did not know. Would the Wilderness sustain us, or starve us? We did not know.
Here is what The Shalom Center plans:
- The Seventh Year of Shabbat Shabbaton, Sabbath to the exponential power of Sabbath, is by the Bible called “Shmita” or “Release.” Release for Earth from being overworked and poisoned, “Release” for our society from worsening economic and political inequality and subjugation.
- That Seventh Year begins, according to the ancient count, this coming fall. It is the Bible’s version of the “other side” of the Great Abyss. It is what we may today call the Great Turning. We cannot simply imitate the Bible’s regulations. But we can welcome the Spirit’s invitation to work out our own new version.
- Part of our Shmita task will be to heal Earth. There was more to the biblical Shmita, and we will add more as we celebrate our own -- addressing racism, the crush of debt, the need for public health, and more. Earth won't wait, as the pandemic, the fires, floods, and fanines, the asthma, insist.
- We can end the paralysis of fear and hatred that is preventing us from healing our neighborhoods, our country, and the great round Earth. We can leap past politicians to every American neighborhood to fund at the neighborly level solar and wind co-ops. We can save money, save lives, save dignity, save hope, heal Earth.
- We do not have to choose between the Globe and the Neighborhood. We can meet the needs of both, give new life to both..
- How? By a Green New Neighborhood Campaign: rural and small-town, big city and suburban. Climate Justice for every neighborhood, climate healing for Earth.
- The sacred festivals of every community were ultimately born from the love affair between our varied human communities and the dance of Earth, Moon, and Sun. Now Earth and human earthlings are suffering; how can we shape our offspring the festivals – the children of that love affair -- to heal us from our sickness?
- Sukkot, Hanukkah, the Advent Season => Christmas, Passover and its younger sibling the Holy Week of Christianity, the moonth of Ramadan – how can they become public actions to heal climate, prevent pandemics, end extinctions?
- The Shalom Center will create and share prayers, liturgies, vigils, nonviolent actions, voter turnout practices that any cluster of people, any congregation, can use.
And we are already planning a Multireligious Training Institute for Climate Activists.
We promise to do what we can to stir to wakefulness the sleepy giant of American social transformation – the communities of faith. “We” means all of us who read this and the friends we share it with. “We” will mean time, money, skill, passion, and compassion.
What I have written here is only a sketch, a skeleton. We will put flesh on these bones, breath into these bodies. With the help of the great Interbreathing Spirit of the world, in all Their Names, we will take the practical prophetic steps to heal us from our suffering.
Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste! -- Arthur