CiviMail

Sen. Cruz: ”I’ll believe ...when Texas freezes over”

 

I misreported the "Cruz tweet." It was a fake, broadly circulated on social media to hundreds of thousands of people.  I apologize. He never promised to believe in "climate change" if Texas frose over. T

But this past week, Texas froze. All over. Dozens died, maybe hundreds.  Can we expect Senator Cruz to change, even thoigh he didn't promise to?

No, because his false and stubborn denial of climate crisis was not the product of stupidity or ignorance. It was the product of vicious corruption. It was the product of selling himself, body and soul, to the Carbon Pharaohs who brought this Plague upon Texas.

 If the years they and he imposed servitude to Coal and Oil had instead been used to emplace solar-energy co-ops, those years would have saved lives and limbs of Texans “lost” when Global Scorching, Weather Weirding, poured unprecedented cold and snow on Texas. Those lives and limbs and futures were not “lost,” like a stray quarter fallen on the ground by accident. Not “lost” but robbed, killed, destroyed, by the Greed of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Banking, and their toady senators and governors.

Did Cruz care? Not hardly. His money paid for a swift trip to Cancun, Mexico, because his own house was “freezing.”

What can we do? The Shalom Center is supporting a campaign initiated (just before the Texas Freeze) by Solar United Neighbors (SUN) for a federal program to fund the solarization of 30 million American homes.

There are two major ways in which Jewish and other faith communities can build this effort:

  1. Synagogues, churches, mosques, temples, and other congregations can direct their energy to organizing neighbor-based or congregant-based solar co-ops, just as they organize adult-study groups, tikkun-olam projects, and special observances of festivals. In other words, they can define solar co-ops as a religious expression or even a mitzvah -- an obligation, in order to save Earth and Humanity from climate chaos, save neighhborhoods from economic despair, and provide local resilience through co-ops already on the ground if disaster strikes.
  1. Congregations and their support denominations, clergy organizations, interfaith and multireligious organizations can organize to support the “30 Million Solar Homes” campaign. To prevent the Big Freeze in Texas, the Big Wildfire in California, unprecedented floods in the Midwest, climate chaos everywhere.

This approach is urged on us by the needs of today: the planetary need to shift from burning fossil fuels to drawing on energy from the sun, the neighborly need to meet the economic and spiritual needs of neighborhoods made desperate by the absence of jobs and the absence of a future. 

And let us respond to a teaching of hope from a crisis long ago that speaks even more boldly to a crisis of today: the astounding ancient words of the Prophet Malachi, spoken about 2500 years ago:

 "Here! The day is coming

That will flame like a furnace, “

Says the Infinite YHWH / Yahhhh,

The Breath of Life --...

“Yet for those of you who revere My Name,

Yes! My Name, Yahhhh, the Interbreath of Life!

a sun of justice will arise

with healing in its wings / its rays.”

                 (Malachi 3: 19-20)                

We indeed see the "solar energy" of the sun's rays as the healing of unbearable heating of Earth into a furnace. We see the solar solution as a sacred remedy -- not all we need to do, but crucial. Please write us at Solar@theshalomcenter.org if you want specific resources to work on this campaign in your own community.

For us, this did not begin overnight. The Shalom Center -- for reasons economic, ecological, and spiritual -- has been working with SUN for six years, and as a result The Shalom Center inspired and organized the creation of the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op.

Several months ago, we began urging a national program that would support solar and wind co-ops in every sort of neighborhood – farm and rural as well as big-city and suburban. We saw this partly as a way of dissolving some of the bitter hostility to the concept of renewable energy, just as  the reality of Obamacare dissolved much of he original bitter opposition to the idea.

Bill McKibben was excited by the proposal, and praised it in his New Yorker column. Then we discovered that SUN was developing a very similar proposal for national legislation.

In our Hanukkah 2020 webinar (for the festival of conserving energy –  one day’s worth of olive oil that served the sacred need for eight days) we reported the first stages of the SUN program. Beginning at a Tu B’Shvat webinar, we have worked closely with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) on what became SUN’s “30 Million Solar Homes” campaign.   

Last week, The Shalom Center started calling and emailing a number of Jewish groups to support the “30 Million” program.  COEJL, the Jewish Climate Action Network (JCAN)  of Boston, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, have already responded -- not only signing on but also ready to do the work of organizing. “Dayenu” agreed to sign as a symbol of support. We will keep working to bring more Jewish and multireligious support.

Moreover, we and COEJL have proposed the creation of a “Faith Collaborative” to work with SUN within the broad coalition.

Again: We see this as a major priority. Please write us at Solar@theshalomcenter.org if you want specific resources to work on this in your own community. And if you wish to help The Shalom Center do this work of prophetic organizing, please click on the “Contribute” banner in the left margin of  this page.

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste!  -- Arthur

When Life Reminds us of Torah; When Torah Reminds us of Life

Only seven Republican senators voted to convict the former president of inciting insurrection. That reminded me of the passage in the Book of Genesis (18:16-33) when Abraham argues with God: "Shall not the Judge of all the world do justice?” Should God really destroy all of Sodom for its sin of hating foreigners? What if there were decent people among its citizens who will die in the disaster? Abraham starts, “What if there were 50 decent people; would that be enough to spare the city?” God agrees to refrain. What about 40? 30? 20? 10?

 And then Abraham stops. He doesn’t ask God to save the city if there were seven decent citizens, or five, or one. Why not? Because Abraham and God both know it takes at least 10 people to transform an evil society for the good. Ten who will have each others’ backs, ten who will hold and heal each other when they are wounded, ten who will love each other, ten who will protect each other, ten who will help each other speak out against tyranny.

There were not ten Republican senators to stand together, and their absence portends the ruin of their party. May God grant its ruin will not bring down fire, flood, and famine on our lovely and beloved planet – – as Sodom went up in smoke.

*** ***

The Torah portion this Shabbat (Terumah, Exodus 25-27) describes Moses on the mountain listening to God describe the portable Mishkan or Shrine of the Presence that the Israelites would learn to carry in their journey through the wilderness. When Moses cannot quite understand the description given in words, God provides the first Power Point, showing pictures of golden implements, scarlet and purple hangings, the details of its beauty.

The people themselves were to gather, to sew, to smelt, to tie the pieces together with grommets, to untie and retie them when the Shrine of the Presence needed to move. 

For years, it seemed to me this was an overdoing of sacred Art. And then a member of my congregation came back from the first Gay Pride gathering in Washington DC. She described how thousands of people had sewn thousands of squares of cloth in gorgeous color or black mourning, each remembering someone who had died of AIDS, each with grommets at its corners to tie one square to another when the gigantic Quilt was ready for display, ready to be untied when the Quilt was ready to be moved to some new city.

The word "grommet" transfixed me. The Quilt was a Mishkan, a Shrine. The Mishkan was a Quilt. Each was the first defiant acts of beauty of people who had been closed in, in narrow slavery; of people who had been closed in, in narrow closets. The Quilt, the Mishkan, were triumphs of liberty. Each was portable, meant to be carried to those who had not yet heard the message: Freedom! Joy, even in the midst of sorrow. Beauty! 

The abence of ten made disgrace, threatened ruin. The Presence of thousands made beauty and freedom. Each a lesson for our time.

Healing a Split America -- & Healing Earth

Two truths: President Biden’s call for unity, versus the reality of bitter opposition between two halves of the effective political energy of the country. Can we wait for slow dickering and compromise to produce unity?

Not easy, when each half believes the other is itching to scrap the Constitution and the vision of a democratic America.  Worse: Not possible at all when one side has hard evidence that we are mired in an existential crisis of an Earth that does not wait for slow dickering and compromise – and the other side thinks the evidence is a hoax. The disagreement threatens paralysis.

Paralysis spells catastrophe.  Is there any way beyond it?

Action. Embodying the future in the present makes it possible for the change to become the present and the future. Just as large numbers of Americans bitterly opposed “Obamacare” when it was still mere ink on paper, yet came to support it once it went into operation and affected their lives,

Let us enact a program of Federal grants to neighborhood co-ops in all sorts of neighborhoods –- rural, small-town, metropolitan center, middle-sized cities, and suburban –- to initiate and support solar and wind energy co-ops. The new energy systems would radically reduce the costs of electricity; radically increase the rapid spread of renewable energy and its jobs; reduce asthma and cancer rates in neighborhoods near coal-burning plants and oil refineries; and greatly reduce the CO2 emissions that are poisoning and scorching all Earth.

 For some neighborhoods, the co-ops themselves might become grass-roots political challenges to the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are making hyperwealthy profits by burning Earth, sowing the anti-life seeds of enormous floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires, and famines. They might even for some secular folks bring back almost forgotten memories of biblical plagues they thought were only legends, until Covid 19 came along.

And for other neighborhoods, the co-ops might mean not global change but serious jobs and serious money in the pockets of people whose factories were shuttered, windows broken; who couldn’t afford the taxes to pay for the schools to educate their children; who couldn’t afford the seed to plant the crops next spring. Earth and human earthlings?

Perhaps for some farmers these solar or windmill co-ops would nourish a memory still vibrant, for some still present in their lives -- the Rural Electrification Act, by which the New Deal through farmer co-ops brought electricity for the first time to farms in the 1930s – would open some emotional and political doors. And perhaps in some situations, the REA co-ops themselves are ready for a revitalization through wind or solar power.

This approach might serve as a model of what a community-based, compassionate, justice-seeking America –- simultaneously “global” and “neighborly.” appealing as a Green Neighborhood New Deal to people who might have started out opposing the national top-down program for the Green New Deal, just as Obamacare when it actually went into effect appealed to people who started out opposing it.

The point would be to emphasize neighborhood co-ops. The possibility of energizing folks who live down the farm road instead of a suspect Federal bureaucrat who appears out of nowhere could make a great difference, and the same dynamic with different faces could make a similar difference in poverty-stricken North Philadelphia.

To look at this through eyes more attuned to conventional politics: With Democrats barely control the next Senate, could the initial money be appropriated at all?   Possibly, first of all if by using the majority-vote provisions of the “reconciliation” process in Congress; secondly, by shift agro money to that purpose by executive order without breaking the Constitution. Third, if enough grass-roots energy for such an infusion of money and jobs at the neighborhood level could be ginned up in the rural/ small-town areas in the states of Senators who are campaigning for reelection in 2022.  

Where could new energy come for such a change?  In some of the communities of faith that have at some momemts of the past empowered social change, there remains enough compassion to affirm those on the “other side” of the great political/ cultural/ social divide that has paralyzed us. Many of the faith communities that have brought great social change in the past have been not asleep but sleepy, facing a crisis bigger than human society, but endangering it. Add the desire of good pastors to heal the rift between “forgotten Americans” across the street.

There is a great teaching at the very end of the last of the classical Hebrew Prophets, Malachi. God proclaims that Elijah will come to turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of children to parents, so that the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, the Spirit of the World, will not come as a Hurricane to devastate all Earth. The children’s movements like Sunrise have turned their hearts to their parents and grandparents. Let us hope that in neighborhoods of every sort the elders can respond with neighborly and open hearts to heal the folks nearby, and all round Earth.

Blood or Tears? America’s Worst & Best

On  Tuesday afternoon I invested (not “spent”) time watching an hour of Impeachment II. The film of the attack on the Capitol  was agonizing: Violence, hatred, obscene slogans, torture of a cop caught in a doorway and screaming in pain, the deliberate inflicting of fear and terror for those elected representatives of the people who were fulfilling the Constitutional responsibility to ratify a presidential election.  The means the mob used fit well the end they sought: the overthrow of American democracy.

And then there was Jamie Raskin: Intellect mixed with tears.  A professor of constitutional law who won the respect of his neighbors, enough to elect and reelect him to Congress and then to win the respect of his congressional colleagues. A father who could bury a brilliantly shining son, shadowed by dark depression, who on the last day of 2020, the Year of Lonely Despair, wrote his family a note: “‘Please forgive me. My illness won today. Please look after each other, the animals, and the global poor for me. All my love, Tommy.” And killed himself.”

And a father who could still find the strength to do his constitutional duty to the people, and appear in Congress to complete the election process. And then to shed thears as he described his family’s and his own fear and horror as they hid from the rampaging mob.

That was the best version of American democracy: Love for both family and the Republic; intellect and emotion connected; a political leader unafraid of tears.

I need to pause here for full disclosure: I was a close friend for many years of Jamie’s father Marc Raskin. We worked together on a book about US “nuclear deterrence,”  arms control, and disarmament; we worked together to plan the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive center for thought and action; we co-authored “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority” that became a crucial manifesto to oppose the US war against Vietnam; we raised our kids, including Jamie, together on the same block in the heart of Washington’s most interracial and most progressive neighborhood.

And when the New York Times interviewed Jamie a month or so ago, he mentioned two childhood memories:

“The younger Mr. Raskin keeps a 1964 clipping from The Washington Post with a photo of him as a 2-year-old toting a placard at a protest. When he was 6, his father took him to the first Freedom Seder, a Passover meal that brought Jewish and Black people together a year after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” 

I had written that Freedom Seder, and it became the entry-point into my Jewish life for the next 50-some years, away from the Institute and away from Washington DC. For some years, away from Marc; but in the years before his death in 2017 we were in warm connection. So you need to know: I am not “neutral” about Jamie Raskin, any more than I am “neutral” about the democratic Amerca that gave him birth and grew him up and shaped him into one of its finest defenders.

 Here we are: the worst, most violent, most racist version of America – and its most devoted democrats. Its whole history, crystallized in the second impeachment trial of its first fascist President.

How do we make sure he is the last of  “It Can’t Happen Here,” of “The Plot Against America,” fictions no longer?  How do we make sure there are many Jamie Raskins, Congressmembers from the State of Truth, the Twenty-sixth District of Honor, the County of Love?

We must keep ourselves aware that the insurrectionist mob of January 5 was not an accident and not unique. Groups like them marched with rifles to the Michigan State House, planned to kidnap the Governor of Michigan. Henchmen of our would-be Pharaoh delighted in shedding the blood of other people: a sudden rush of deaths in Federal prisons in the last weeks of Trump, as if the White House could not bear to lose their power without staining their hands with blood. Almost half a million dead of the COVIV Plague, many of whom could have lived if the White House had not been obsessed with ignoring the danger in order to win an election – not imagining it could lose the election by ignoring the danger. Just people dying, and at that, disproportionately Blacks. Who would care? What could go wrong?

We need to be aware: As democracy sickens, more and more people turn against it. Some of our institutions are  built to be anti-democratic: the Electoral College. The Senate, and even worse, its filibuster.  The Supreme Court, which gutted the Voting Rights Act and the many laws of many years to limit the power of money in elections, but said that partisan gerrymandering was too complicated to forbid.

So we will need to exert ourselves to transform the institutions that  prevent democracy.

 It is not even just America that is at stake. We Americans  such an impact on the planet that democracy or the reign of Carbon Pharaohs here will determine the future of Earh and Homo-sapiens everywhere. So if we ever to save a million species, perhaps even our own; if we are to  restore a California that does not burn like a furnace, a Midwest that does not flood like the marshes around New Orleans, a Florida that does not sink into the sea  -- we must create many Raskins, many nonviolent marchers, many prayers and Freedom Seders taken into public space.  

The Capitol is a symbol of representative democracy, but it is not the seat of democracy: democracy sits in every neighborhood. In Shalom Reports coming soon, we will pursue the question: How do we affirm the Globe and the Neighborhood at the same time?

Become a Jubilee Justice Sower

This Shalom Report is my invitation to you to be among the first to join a committed community of Jubilee Justice Sowers. More about that below.

 First, why do we need such a group? 

In the last election, the American people brought together for ourselves just barely enough political will to choose a future of inclusive democracy and harmony with Earth, a jigsaw-puzzle society of unique lives that fit together – not a world of Pharaohs, Plagues, and slaves.

 But only barely. Some of us were so desperate, felt so hopeless and forgotten, as to follow a toxic egomaniacal would-be dictator. Either a fuller democracy meets their needs and invites them fully in, or they will in frustration wreck what democracy we have.

The need for humanity to “grow more up” is not new. Three thousand years ago, Torah tried to use a grand-sabbatical rhythm to teach us: Every seventh year, we could release Earth and the poor from oppression. The Torah knew that seven years were not enough.   It integrated the seven-year cycle into the seven-times-seven-plus-one cycle of the Jubilee. (See Lev. 25-26 and Deut. 15.)

 Today Earth is rebelling with such force as to make clear to us: we have many fewer than 50 years to grow up, but it will not happen in a simple rhythm. The year that begins next fall, next Rosh Hashanah, is by ancient count the year of release – in Hebrew, Shmita. But the whole year will not be enough to heal our wounded climate, to heal the human world so damaged by the COVID 19 virus, to heal the Scourge of Subjugation: of Blacks, Latinx, Indigenes, women, GLBTQIA communities, the immigrants, the sick, the disabled, the poor, the forgotten.

We do not have 50 years to prevent climate chaos, the extinction of a million species, and the human suffering that will go with them.  Some of that work has already begun, some could begin even sooner than the next Shmita year,  most will take more than yet another seven years.  But it will not take 50 years to learn to celebrate the Breath of Life, make Earth and Humanity joyful intertwined partners, make the Song of Songs our Prophetic goal as the Eden for a grown-up human race. We must start now, and give heart to others.

This is how we will start:

  • We welcome a committed group as Jubilee Justice Sowers. – to work for Earth and all its life-forms, for all the subjugated human earthlings. We ask you to join in a tentative way: To start, a donation ranging between $18 (for those who can’t afford more) and up to $90, and a commitment of 7 hours of your time a month. During Pesach in 2021 (March 28-April 4),  you decide to continue or drop out.

  • Our first project: We will start in a myriad different ways working for a national commitment to fund neighborhood solar and wind co-ops of farmers and small-town folk as well as neighborhoods in great cities and suburbs. Sharing policy programs, sometimes but not necessarily personal contacts, between “red” and “blue” Americans.
  •  
  • Two models for this effort: (a) In areas where at first there was opposition to “Obamacare,” once it actually began people found that it met their needs and the opposition withered. Just so, now: Where now there are furious denunciations of the “hoax” of global scorching, if solar co-ops actually begin people will see their value. (b) In 1930, huge numbers of American farms had no electricity. The New Deal’s Rural Electrification Act transformed rural life by working with new farmer co-ops. Many of those co-ops still exist, and new ones can begin. As happened almost a century ago, today neighborhood-based solar and wind co-ops can embody the future in the present.
  •  
  • The possibility of energizing folks who live down the road in Arkansas instead of a suspect Federal bureaucrat who appears out of nowhere could make a great difference, and the same dynamic with different faces could make a similar difference in poverty-stricken North Philadelphia. 

  • The attractions are multiple and diverse: For some, practically free electricity and well-paying jobs; for some, freedom from asthma and cancer epidemics caused by nearby oil refineries or coal dust; for some, healing Earth. 
  •  
  • We who become Jubilee Justice Sowers discuss how to deploy ourselves as best to draw on our unique skills and connections to achieve this result.

  • By volunteering, you join a work group which works, with help, to figure out what we need to know, how we can help one another, how we choose some steps to build active projects on solar/wind                          co-ops ( e.g. how they work. what they cost, how they protect participants, why they are important, how to finance them).

                    The work group also thinks through how to make the co-ops available nationally, everywhere -- for example, how to do outreach to faith communities and organizations to adopt them, sponsor future Jubilee Justice Sowers, organize to encourage supportive legislation, and commit to an ongoing Jubilee effort. 

     
    • Some of us explore other such projects: perhaps, for example, a group focused on dietary change and regenerative farming, Earth-friendly sources of protein, urban gardening – instead of factory farms and massive herds of methane-producing cattle.
    •  
    • We introduce new adventures in intergenerational learning, from transformative theology to activist training.  These might begin with the congregational book-conversations now being held for study of Dancing in God's Earthquake : The Coming Transformation of Religion, and plans for a Multifaith Institute for Eco-Justice Activists now being planned by The Shalom Center, Ruach HaAretz, and the Order of the Sacred Earth.
    •  
    • To join the Jubilee Justice Sowers, please click to register here: 
      https://theshalomcenter.org/civicrm/event/info?id=37&reset=1 

               (You will soon be guided to a "Slack" work-place for an initial get-together. "Slack"is an on-line way of carrying on a written conversation among a cooperative group of people pursuing a common project.)

Earth needs us. Humanity needs us. The Breath of Life, the Interbreathing Spirit of the world, needs us. Please join us. 

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste! -- Arthur

Noon, Jan 20: If we create the future in the present, the One from the differences that we can fit together ---

Baruch attah YHWH elohenu ruach ha’olam, sheh’hekhianu v’kimanu v‘higianu lazman hazeh.

 Blessed are you, breath of life, creative energy within us and beyond us, Interbreathing Spirit of the universe, who has filled us with life, lifted us up, and carried us to this moment.

 How do we unite the new President’s call for Unity we heard this noontime with the outcry for justice, for equality, for truth, for a healing peace not only with each other human beings but also with Earth that sustains all life – when so many among us doubt or decry those very values?

 Through action. Through making the future in the present. 

 As the reality of broadened health care convinced those who had denounced the law that made it happen when it still was merely words on paper ...

 As the presence of a gay or lesbian son or daughter gentled many a family that had raged against the blurring of the genders ...

 As worshipping next to a Jew or a Muslim, as silently meditating alongside a Hindu or a Buddhist,  had opened the hearts of many who had thought the Other mere idolators ...

 As moving their bodies to jazz or mastering words of spoken Spanish had shattered centuries of fear or hatred ...

 So the presence in every neighborhood of solar and wind co-ops, shaped by the neighbors down the block or in the nearest farm-house, can convince the people who had denounced the global-scorching science as a hoax.

 So playing in real life the ecological game of jigsaw puzzle can teach us that the very fact of our differences can become the facts that make it possible for us to fit together in a community, a One.

 If we choose, if we act, if we enact the practices and laws that allow us to fit ourselves together.

If we steadfastly refuse to be enemies without compromising our hope to be our fullest selves.

Noon, Jan 20: If we create the future in the present., the One from the differences that we can fit together ---

Baruch attah YHWH elohenu ruach ha’olam, sheh’hekhianu v’kimanu v‘higianu lazman hazeh.

 Blessed are you, breath of life, creative energy within us and beyond us, Interbreathing Spirit of the universe, who has filled us with life, lifted us up, and carried us to this moment.

 How do we unite the new President’s call for Unity we heard this noontime with the outcry for justice, for equality, for truth, for a healing peace not only with each other human beings but also with Earth that sustains all life – when so many among us doubt or decry those very values?

 Through action. Through making the future in the present. 

 As the reality of broadened health care convinced those who had denounced the law that made it happen when it still was merely words on paper ...

 As the presence of a gay or lesbian son or daughter gentled many a family that had raged against the blurring of the genders ...

 As worshipping next to a Jew or a Muslim, as silently meditating alongside a Hindu or a Buddhist,  had opened the hearts of many who had thought the Other mere idolators ...

 As moving their bodies to jazz or mastering words of spoken Spanish had shattered centuries of fear or hatred ...

 So the presence in every neighborhood of solar and wind co-ops, shaped by the neighbors down the block or in the nearest farm-house, can convince the people who had denounced the global-scorching science as a hoax.

 So playing in real life the ecological game of jigsaw puzzle can teach us that the very fact of our differences can become the facts that make it possible for us to fit together in a community, a One.

 If we choose, if we act, if we enact the practices and laws that allow us to fit ourselves together.

If we steadfastly refuse to be enemies without compromising our hope to be our fullest selves.

The Radical MLK: “BEYOND VIETNAM: A TIME TO BREAK SILENCE," April 4, 1967

“Radical” Means “Deeply Rooted, Going to the Root of Truth.” MLK was a true radical.

[Dr. King gave this speech at Riverside Church, New York City, 4 April 1967, exactly one year before he was murdered. He spoke to an assemblage called by "Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam." The first part of the speech focused on Dr. King’s profound critique of the Vietnam War on political, social, and moral grounds.  Though this analysis bears an important relation to US wars and militarism in our own generation and to war by all nations, I have not included most of it. I did this for two reasons -- because the title “Beyond Vietnam” was no accident, as the speech looked toward the future of America; and because making the long text shorter makes it easier to read and absorb. I want here to acknowledge what is known but rarely said: Much of the first draft of this speech was written by Vincent Harding, a close friend and co-worker of Dr. King. The use of masculine language where we would use much more gender-inclusive language was unfortunately still almost universal in 1967. Emphases have been added by the editor. -- AW]

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam..

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.

 

And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

...To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them..

We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

.

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated.

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.

This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.

Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says:

"Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on.

Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard?

Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

 

 

 

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Why & How to Bless the Breath of Life

 Please feel free to share this and discuss it with your friends and congregants . I’d be delighted to hear what responses, criticisms, and insights  you and they have. Write me at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org Shabbat shalom, Arthur  

 

This week’s Torah portion begins (Exodus 6: 1): “I am YHWH. I was seen by Abraham, by Isaac, and by Jacob as  El Shaddai [God Many-Breasted], but by my name YHWH I was not known to them.” The Voice says this in Egypt, adding this historical note to the God-Name that had come to Moses at the Burning Bush. It came just after Pharaoh had sneered at being told YHWH demanded Time Off for a Holy Gathering for the Israelites, and had made their forced labor much harder – “bricks without straw.” The enslaved Israelites had blamed Moses for their worsened plight.

 Why this historical footnote? It teaches us that a name of God is a way of thinking about the nature of the universe. “God Many-Breasted” meant that the job of the universe is to nourish Humanity. YHWH mean something more complicated. Those letters can only be “pronounced” by breathing. That means the universe is an intertwining of breath. 

 What human beings breathe out into the universe deeply affects what the universe breathes back. If Pharaoh pours cruelty into the world, the world will respond with cruelty – the Plagues. If Humanity pours more CO2 into planet Earth than all its vegetation can transmute to oxygen, the CO2 builds up and the world overheats into fire, floods, and famine. The Plagues that were about to come upon Egypt could not be explained by seeing the world as simply a nourishing breast.

 For about two thousand years, many of our religious communities have used the God-Names “King” and “Lord” to speak our sense of the world.  That legitimates Domination, Subjugation as the way the world is organized. But long ago farmers and shepherds knew that was not really true, and ecologists know it now. When we learn that trillions of microscopic creatures live in our guts and have a deep effect upon our brains, even though we cannot even see them, we must recognize that the world is not top down. The “Breath of life”” is far truer as a way of understanding the world.

One more learning from this verse. It comes just after the nascent “Brickmakers Union Local 1,”as A.J. Muste called the barely organized Israelite workers, had collapsed under the burden of Boss Pharaoh’s wrathful fury. Why just then, not at the Burning Bush when the YHWH Name first came to Moses?

 I think to tell him that his own soft-heartedness had led him to waffle about the new Name. That he had listened overmuch to Israelites who said they were comfortable with the Name they had learned as children, that surely it did not matter what Name they used. And Moses had shrugged: Perhaps it did not matter. But it did. We cannot transform the world, we will   be unable to press our case with vigorous determination, if we slip and slide into an older understanding of the world, no longer true. 

The warning is as true today as it was in the story of 3,000 years ago. To Name our world as built on Domination, Subjugation, is to collapse in the helplessness of “I Can’t Breathe” in the face of racist brutality, “We Can’t Breathe” in the face of a pandemic virus and its complicit rulers, “Earth Can’t Breathe” in the face of giant corporations that insist on making hyperwealth by pouring CO2 into our planet’s air.

It is time for us, NOW, to change our way of understanding. To Name God more truthfully than  “King” or “Lord”: “Breath of Life,  Interbreathing Spirit of the universe.”  Thus:

 Baruch attah YAHHH, elohenu ruach ha’olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvot, vitzvanu  la’asok b’divrei Torah. [Could also be in feminine, “Bruchah aht,” “kidshatnu,” and “vitzivatnu.”]

Blessed are you, Breath of Life, our creative energy, Interbreathing Spirit of the universe, who makes us holy through acts of connection and connects us through using the Breath we share with  all life to speak words with each other that aim toward wisdom, becoming our own words of Torah. 

Living Still lnside the Book of Exodus? What Now?

 Torah Still Coming

Last week our would-be Pharaoh Trump reached the crucial point of his reign: Should he mobilize the red-hat chariots and drown in the Reed Sea, or grumpily relinquish power? We know what he chose. But the danger of Pharaoh does not end with him. We ourselves have not yet crossed the Sea, chosen a new way of understanding World, affirmed a new Name of God. A Name that intertwines us, interbreathes us, not a Name of Domination, Subjugation.

In the old Egyptian culture, Pharaoh was already seen as a god. His power went to his head. Stiffened his heart. He began to believe his own propaganda about the dangerous Israelites, the Ivrim. They speak a different tongue, worship a different God. They come from somewhere else – globalists, cosmopolitans.

He decided it would be a guarantee of his own power to erase them as a separate community. He issued the order to separate new-born babies from their mothers.  Then murder them. Best to start there. Soon he can kill the grown-ups too.

But some people are horrified. Women -- two midwives and then his own daughter – begin creating a Resistance movement. They start saving children’s lives, including one Moses. Fearing the Pharaoh’s racist police, Moses disappears.

Years later he reappears, possessed of a burning new vision, announcing that the very Name of God must change. A new “Name of God” meant understanding the world in a new way, and then changing the world to embody the new vision. The old Name, “El Shaddai, God of many Breasts,” was about a human society always fed by the nourishing Nile. But now the people must learn that they are part of Earth, not separate from it, not the boss of it.

Every breath they took was interwoven with all other interbreathing life. If they acted cruel, Earth would act cruel toward them. Not a punishment, simply a consequence. The only way to prevent a plague was to breathe into Earth and let Earth breathe into them.  The new Name, just Breathing, YHWH, intertwined all people and all life-forms.

But Pharaoh sneers. “Breathing? That’s a God-Name? Can’t even hear it, it’s so weak. The Nile, Osiris, ME –- I am a God you can hear, you must obey!”

Bragging, he treats Nile and Earth and Sky like tools of his own power, bringing on disaster. Some of his advisers warn him. But by this time he has become addicted to his own power; he fires the advisers and hires sycophants. At each disaster, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and a growing number of critics warm him that he is fighting against the whole process of universal Consequence. At each disaster he first recoils and then returns to his own hubris: The disaster? “Stuff happens!” 

But then his arrogant treatment of Earth brings a devastating disease to afflict his own citizens, his wife, himself. At first he tries to dismiss it. But it grows so terrible that his own Egyptian supporters start denouncing him. He tells the “wetback” foreigners not only that they are free to Go, but they Must Depart. He tells his people to offer them gifts of gold and silver as reparations for hundreds of years of subjugation. 

The cosmopolitan Ivrim smear blood on their doorways as a symbol of going forth from blood-encircled wombs of rebirth, and leave. Many Egyptians sign petitions that he resign and allow his compassionate half-immigrant daughter to become Pharaoh.

And now comes the moment of fateful decision. Pharaoh wakes up the next morning. Should he accept his fall from power, or mobilize a new variety of brown-shirted, armed Egyptians to catch the Israelites at the edge of the Reed Sea, and force them back into slavery? Remind them that back in Egypt forced labor always came with the onions and garlic that they loved, whilst they will have only “God-knows-what?” = Mahn-hu” = “manna”” to eat if they cross the Sea into a wilderness. 

 

So he sends his brown-shirt bullies, legitimated by his own speeches anointing them as the real patriots but only if they will fight in wild melee against the corrupt old leadership. What will the people do? 

Choose the normalcy of slavery with garlic? Or make themselves a civil-disobedient Sea of Reeds, bending and swaying but always returning thick and bristly to block the path of Subjugation?

Announcing we will no longer obey this Pharaoh and his bully-boy brown-shirts? Reaching out to his frightened, despairing followers with new tools, windmills and solar collectors, to make peace with wounded Earth?  Choosing to hear our own ”still small Voice of Breath,” pointing our way toward a Loving and Beloved Community?

It’s up to us. It always has been.

At about 4 pm on Infamous Insurrection Wednesday, we were one of the very first  groups  to urge our members to call Congress and demand Trump be impeached. Done! Now, if you want to end the power of our would-be Pharaoh and prevent a future effort, call 1202-224-3121. Ask for your own Senators or Sen. McConnell, who says he is undecided. insist on removing  Trump and disqualifying him from future office. 

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