Tikkun Magazine May/June 2010
A NOTE ON LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
We welcome your responses to our articles. Send your letters to the editor to Letters@Tikkun.org. Please remember, however, not to attribute to Tikkun views other than those expressed in our editorials. We email, post, and print many articles with which we have strong disagreements, because that is what makes Tikkun a location for a true diversity of ideas. Tikkun reserves the right to edit your letters to fit available space in the magazine.
GOD AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Thank you for putting together the special section on God and the Twenty-First Century in the March/April 2010 issue of Tikkun. The perspectives and insights of Arthur Green and several of the other contributors resonate with my own experience. They speak of deep experiences of the wonder and immensity of the whole of creation and the realization that we, personally, are integral parts of it; that what we may call God, Allah, or whatever is within all of nature and in ourselves and others. These experiences interrupt and transcend our normal day-to-day consciousness of intellectual thinking and physical doing.
In trips to the mountains I have had these experiences myself. I have been totally overwhelmed by the beauty and wonder of my surroundings and the fact of my being there. I have realized that, in spite of my imperfections, this has been given to me in a profoundly personal and real sense. Then I have realized that I have even been made part of this wonderful reality -- the ultimate blessing beyond words.
These experiences have shaped my spiritual and personal life. It has become my aim, as is that of the authors, to find ways to help spread this way of thinking and knowing: of seeing the world and others in this light and acting accordingly. Perhaps this series will be the catalyst to start some projects I have been considering.
El Cerrito, CA
"I think they will find my language to represent a Judaism closer to those teachings than they might have expected." So ends Rabbi Green his article, referring to those who left Judaism in favor of Eastern religions and came or are coming back. As one of those who spent ten years with an Adwaita-Vedanta teacher, came back, studied Kabbalah, and now serves as a cantor, I find the article disappointing. Rabbi Green is considered to be a leading theologian of non-Orthodox Judaism and as such, I expected to read a true mystical, non-dualistic theology that, so I believe, should lead us in the future. However that is not what I found.
Of the three main universal theologies -- God is separated from man/world (duality), God is within man/world (modified duality), and God and man/world are One in experience (nonduality) -- Rabbi Green firmly establishes himself in the second. He accepts the scientific view of the universe as a linear process in time and space, organized according to the principle of cause and effect. He applies the term existence to the apparent world of diversity and he suggests that we see evolution as sacred.
Adwaita-Vedanta (the teaching of nondualism based on the Hindu Upanishads, which conclude the Vedas) teaches us that the appearance of the world of diversity is a mental process imposed on Unity. Unity is changeless and beyond time, space and causality (which are mere mental concepts). Doing is in time (and space, unless it is on the level of thinking only) and therefore there is no doing in Unity. Creation is a constantly repeated event that is solely dependent on a waking state. (It is entirely different in a dream state).
For a nondualist, the past and future are mere mental concepts and dwelling on them is a hindrance to the spiritual attempt to be established in Unity that is the real Here and Now.
How does the nondualist know all of that? Knowledge, according to him, is not a collection of "facts" on the level of time, space and causality. What he knows is what he experiences. Unity is that pure experience, when diversity is dropped and vanishes. It is the real Existence or Being or the true and only Reality. On the human level it is also experienced as life, love, holiness, wisdom, courage, humility, compassion, and goodness.
Indeed, as Rabbi Green has asserted, the spiritual path is a shift of perspective. A shift from the identification of the I with the mind and body (the ego) to the real I, the identification of the I with pure experience, which is Unity, known in the Western world as Truth or God.
Humans are able to have glimpses of this reality but otherwise mostly live their lives from the ego perspective. As the characteristics of the ego are fear, hate, pride, and greed, the world looks accordingly.
A mystic is a person with a strong and constant urge to unify. Naturally, his/her focus is not on the world of diversity but on the Unity, which is the only level where the sacred can be experienced. Worship is used as a means to reach this goal because directing one's heart and mind to this Unity is the only way to overcome the ego, which at times can be very tricky ... Coming out of this worship, he/she is filled with the presence of the Godly Unity and the thoughts, feelings, and actions that follow are in harmony with it.
Is this Jewish? All I can tell you from my experience is that I know without a doubt that if you dig hard enough through layers upon layers of Jewish texts and interpretations you will find it to be so, and when you do, you will be able to elevate your worship to unimaginable levels. In this way, when more and more are in harmony with the divine, the world will be repaired.
Of course, only a few can be mystics or sages, but the rest of us must pray to be led by one. As the history of religions shows, the true mystics have been those who founded new religions or led needed new shifts in direction in existing ones.
CANTOR DR. AARON VITELLS
Arthur Green in "Sacred Evolution" describes himself as thinker and teacher, not activist, pursuing a radicalism with its core in the realm of a mystic's mysterious sense of an awesome presence, a deeper reality than ordinary experience. Yet, he sees us as partners of the One, in the planet's survival, concurring we cannot discover God if we are hungry, homeless, or degraded by poverty. Are Green's thoughts in conflict?
Not in Judaism's tradition.
Activist Abraham bargained with God to save Sodom; Jacob wrestled with his angels of conscience to become father of a future nation; Moses understood oppression yields nothing without a struggle. My mentally ill son survives after two decades only because I challenge a psychiatric health care system that refused to recognize spirituality as a major component of mental distress.
I lead an Interfaith community in an agenda including jobs, education, health care, immigration, prison reform, and the death penalty. The essence of sacred evolution is the unity between our prophet's divine mysticism and today's commonplace, everyday struggle for social and economic justice. In this struggle, nothing is ordinary.
I joyfully resonate with the inspiring article by Rabbi Arthur Green, "Sacred Evolution," in the latest edition of Tikkun. It is time for us to reformulate the creation story that underlies the Jewish perspective of who we are, why we are here and where we are going that we have gifted to the world community. As a woman, I cannot help but believe we start by retelling the story of Eve, not as a disobedient temptress but as the courageous and intuitive energy that resides within us all, women and men. She is the archetypal energy that moves humanity's story forward into the physical plane. Retelling this poetic myth in a new voice sets the stage for unimagined possibilities and potentials in a quantum age.
Rabbi Green responds on a deeply personal level to the question "Ayeka /Where are you?" that calls to him from the pages of Genesis, spurring his most meaningful spiritual quest. My call comes from the pages of Exodus in which we find the awe-inspiring and limitless name of God. Eheyeh asher eheyeh -- "I become that I become" -- is a refrain that sings in my soul. It is the reminder of a Divinity that is constantly present and continually changing in response to our spiritual growth and maturity that enables us to ask ever-deepening and evolving questions about who we are in relation to the Oneness of Being. Created as we are in the image of the evolutionary impulse to emerge that for me is Divinity, we are being called at this moment of crisis and potential.
As a Jewish community, are we ready? Are we willing to let go of a painful past of separation and exclusivity in order to visualize a future of inclusivity and a celebration of the diversity of the human family in which we have a valued part to play? There are countless Jewish individuals already engaged in the work, who have responded to the question, "Where are you?" with the word "Hineini" -- I am fully present and ready for the challenge. As a community are we ready to similarly respond?
Arthur Green's wonderful exploration into how we may need to change our very perception of God is almost eerily parallel to my work in 2004 in a graduate paper on urban ministries at Martin University, Indianapolis.
Martin is a historically black university, founded as a nondenominational Christian college by a remarkable man, Father Boniface Hardin, a Catholic priest whose love and open-mindedness offered me, of that paler ethnicity, the chance of a lifetime -- to learn of and further become part of the black experience in Indianapolis' inner city life. And this, thanks to God, only through joining the city's second largest black church and being recruited there by Martin.
Now, it is as if this spiritual journey I find myself on is coming full circle in becoming part of Tikkun and having my mind opened further to Mr. Green's incredible thinking about who, and what, God is or may be in his "Sacred Evolution" essay.
Similar to Green's positing himself as a "mystical panentheist" who believes that God is present throughout all of existence, I take a more pantheistic view that God, or Allah, or by whatever name he/she/it is known, that God is not only present in all of existence, but is all of existence!
To me, science and faith need not be seen as moving in opposite directions. Rather, they are converging, as in Satinover's Cracking the Bible Code, or Braden's The God Code, in which we find a universe filled with "waves of active intelligence" or the knowledge of God embedded in our genetic codes, or Piperov's From Genesis to Genetics and Back where he speaks of DNA as a three-dimensional projection linked to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
In my initial inquiries and brief exchanges with Rabbi Lerner, I was blown away by Tikkun's scope and the breadth of its Jewish progressive spirituality, that is, in welcoming all strains of faith, agnosticism, and even atheistic thought into this very interesting "religious stew."
I have engaged in many such conversations with friends on BlackSingles.com and on a spinoff site started by a Muslim friend, Elias. I'm a Christian by background who steps outside my Christian roots to embrace truths that can be found in all faiths, for I believe no single religion has all the truth, but that our Creator (God, Allah, the Great Spirit, YHWH, etc) has given us all pieces of the truth, all shaped a little differently, and that all of creation is a great puzzle, a grand mosaic authored by the Creator. It seems we need to reach out to each other, recognizing our pieces of the truth (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Kinetic Molecular Theory, Hinduism, Native American religions, Buddhism, African religions, etc.) are all shaped a little differently. God created this diversity which I try to understand and honor in order to learn the beauty of our differences, to appreciate them as the glue that also holds us together in our common bonds of humanity.
At the same time, I find so much agreement with Mr. Green's thinking at so many levels. There are so many other sources to contemplate: the Essenes, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Kemetics, a lovely young Ph.D. scientist at Harvard who is Lucumí with Afrocentric thinking, matters of, say, Jesus's ethnicity, the man in the Shroud -- so much history and culture yet unearthed. These are all signposts left to us by God, as if perfectly timed for us to discover the awesomeness of all of creation, of God, and ourselves as intimate conscious beings, with God as a part of it all.
In your special section, "God and the Twenty-First Century," Bruce Ledewitz is completely correct about the growth of secularism and he is also correct that Hitchens and Dawkins identify God as a supernatural being. So do the vast majority of believers in the world. This ongoing attempt to redefine God is becoming tiresome. What is the point of Arthur Green's or David Nelson's God? Why praise it? Why petition it? To paraphrase Lucretius, why call this God? It's time for us to grow up and find new poetry. Instead of honestly dealing with the consequences of scientific discovery, the way people like the brilliant Greg Epstein has done in his Good Without God, we have Jewish theologians still trying to build an acceptable naturalistic god out of shreds of biblical and kabbalistic poetry. Green writes, "A God who has no place in this process is a God who begins in the human mind," and then proceeds to make up a god in his human mind. In the quote-mining theistic spirit of our rabbinical forebears, he offers us Deuteronomy 4:39. What's the verse's context? That Yahweh will drive out the less deserving nations for Israel's sake. I doubt Green's mystical panentheist God would do that.
In fact, his entire thesis that evolution is a "sacred story" represents a common misunderstanding of evolution. The notion that humans are more complex or highly developed is not a scientific one. Evolution is not goal-oriented. Bacteria are just as highly evolved and complex as we are. Since 99.9 percent of all species that have ever existed are extinct, what counts is survivability, a result of successful adaptation to environment. Humans are far, far away from the success of bacteria, sponges or sharks. We have been on the edge of extinction before and we could be there again. The true next step in human development will come when we can give up our gods and religious language, no matter how scientifically compatible we fancy them to be, and start finding meaning in the real secular lives that we lead. That next step is called humanism.
RABBI JEFFREY FALICK
(Jewish secular humanist)
Miami Beach, FL
Tikkun magazine continues to be a very good, thought-provoking medium for controversial issues -- and the current (March/April 2010) issue is no exception!
Arthur Green begins with a very practical position of where many people are these days. Unfortunately, I think that it's on the wrong foot. We do need to work our own truths with the God-given talents that we have -- and for which we'll be held accountable at the final judgment. Then, our prophet of choice can help provide guidance for conduct in life. But, while it is natural, and encouraged by the prophets to spread the word, our "certainty" cannot be used to impose our view at the cost of respect for other views. Perhaps, Mr. Green is saying that radical literalism is problematic when our "certainty" becomes judgmental and arrogant. None of the prophets encouraged this. Rather, the various foundational scriptures need to be taken within context and literary interpretation with a realization of, and even appreciation for, sincerity in subjective, differing views.
Perhaps, we need to start the God-and-science issue on a different premise -- that there really is no conflict! This is, in fact, as it was back in the Renaissance (not withstanding the age old political issues). Have we now gotten "too (scientifically) smart" for ourselves -- in creating a new form of god (e.g. equations)? Creation (or origins) fits well with evolution if we understand that different disciplines give us different (wider) perspectives in answering different questions. This should, in fact, allow us a greater understanding of the (scientifically) unknown, the divine, or God. But, unfortunately, the modern paradigm, on the wrong foot, is one of opposition, conflict, or separation coming from our self-righteousness. This is a systemic American problem that pervades our politics, social groups, and (even) religions. Can't people, even with so-called religious or spiritual foundation, do better to live in harmony?
San Jose, CA
Arthur Green Responds:
I am delighted that the excerpt from my new book Radical Judaism (Tikkun, March/April 2010) has engendered such a lively and interesting conversation. I am grateful for the accolades from some readers and am also happy to have stimulated the thinking of those who disagree.
Let me clarify one or two general points. Regarding evolution, I am trying to tread a line between teleology and intentionality. By the former I mean a sense that evolution is moving toward the goal of greater self-manifestation through increased diversity of forms. The One pours itself forth, as it were, into as many forms as its mechanisms of mutation permit. These tend toward complexity, including (but not limited to) the processes that have led to the emergence of higher consciousness. While consciousness as we know it, as well as infinitely higher frequencies of awareness, are potentially present in the One from the moment of being's inception, this does not mean that their emergence is the intended goal of a self-conscious process. Nevertheless, Y-H-W-H, the subject of my worship, embraces past, present, and future in a single unity, and thus contains them all.
A few remarks to specific readers, all of whom I thank for writing. To Jon Shafer, I am more a believer in genetic codes than in "Bible codes" and am concerned about placing them together. The Bible constantly serves as a font of insight to me, but not by following a specific code. To Don Jones, I would say that the "final judgment" that concerns me is an earthly one, a self-destructive environmental catastrophe that will soon engulf us unless we learn to change our behavior. Let's focus our energies on that one. Aaron Vitells recounts a most interesting journey. Although serving now as a (non-Orthodox, I presume) cantor, he remains quite orthodox in his Advaita Vedanta philosophy. He is right in characterizing my path as a middle road on the monism/dualism spectrum, one that embraces his insight while still leaving open a channel of communication to the Western mind, including my own. I urge him to read on in my book, where I address these questions more fully.
Only "Jewish secular humanist" Rabbi Jeffrey Falick seems angry, and I am trying to understand why. "Why call it God?" he asks, and suggests that "It's time to grow up and find new poetry." I am quite grown up, thank you, and have been through a secularist phase. I returned to the language of tradition precisely because I felt that all of us heirs have a claim on the old poetry, with all its power and resonance of antiquity. I am not willing to abandon the tradition, including its God-language, to the literalists and primitives. "Why call it rabbi," after all?
Those of us who truly care about Israel know that President Barack Obama is right to confront Israel over its approval of a new settlement construction plan in East Jerusalem. Settlement expansion undermines the prospects of peace. And Israel's future is dependent on reaching a
Americans are smart. We know that peace for Israel is more important than the expansion of settlements. We also know that our interests are directly tied to Middle East peace and to Israel.
Peace talks will not succeed without genuine, sustained American leadership. All sides must know that there will be a price to pay for frustrating peace efforts. President Obama enjoys my support when he demonstrates such leadership.
Stop trying to shape the world for the benefit of people identified as Jews! We are simply human beings, like every other member of the species homo sapiens. Identifying ourselves as different from all others (the goyim) is a fatal mistake. Religions are a curse, all religions.
I'm sick of hearing about Jews who are in agony about the Zionists' destruction of the Palestinians, who want the Jewish Israelis to share the territory in peace and friendship with the Palestinians, allowing them to live decent lives. I now think the state of Israel should be abolished and the vast majority of the Jews in Israel-Palestine should leave. Jews who went there "to build a Jewish nation" should get the fuck out. The rotting fruits of British imperialism and Balfourism should be discarded, the sooner the better. Thanks to the internet the whole world knows that Jewish Nazis are no different in their hearts and sick value system than German Nazis were. Germany now is certainly far more civilized than Israel. Time for another Nuremberg! Time to give up trying to recapture the Ottoman Empire. Fuck colonialism!
Once the post-1600 settlers in North America and their descendents return to Europe, and the gringos and the descendents of Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors and their fellow Spaniards and Portuguese living in Oaxaca Mexico and throughout Central and South America leave there, it may be reasonable to ask Israelis to find a better location for a Jewish state. Email me when that happens.
AN INDEPENDENT PALESTINIAN STATE
I was a volunteer in the Israel milchemet atzma'ut -- they call it the War of Liberation, for the Palestinians it was the Naqbah -- served as a platoon sergeant in the notorious gdud 42. Read Benny Morris for details.
So any argument about our "Right' to build in East Jerusalem is so much sophistry. I am with Amos Oz who is for an Independent Palestinian state including sharing Jerusalem as a capital for us and for them, with both embassies in close proximity so they can negotiate for peace through open windows. (The latter is my addition.)
I love Israel. When I visit, I weep.
Below I am adding a true story that should be a paradigm of, what at the time we aimed to be a light unto the nation. Instead we have become oppressors and grown a generation of young Israelis who are insensitive, cruel, racist, militaristic.
A Knock at the Door
In 1967 someone knocked at the door of a house in Talbye, a formerly affluent Arab quarter of Jerusalem that had been occupied by Israel in the 1948 war. The Israeli woman who lived there now, opened the door. She saw that the visitor was not an Israeli but an Arab.
"How can I help you?" she asked.
In broken English the Arab woman replied, "Please pardon me, but would you allow me to look around the house. I used to live here before the Israeli army came in, during the Naqba in 1948."
"Certainly, come in," said the Israeli woman. The Palestinian entered, looked around and nodded. "Yes," she said, "it's all so familiar." She hesitated. "There is something else. Before we left I buried my jewels under the floor of the bedroom. If I find them, you may have half."
"Oh no!" said the Israeli, "if we find them they are yours. I don't have any right to them."
They pulled up a plank from the bedroom floor and there, in a space, were the jewels, intact.
Haltingly, in a whisper, the Palestinian woman confessed, "there is something worse." She had difficulty controlling her voice. "On that terrible day when the Israelis stormed in, we had to flee for our lives. My husband left before me with the two boys. I followed an hour after him, taking the two girls. I thought he had the baby with him and he thought the baby was with me. When I arrived in Nablus, the baby was missing." Her voice broke. Between tears she blurted out, "I have really come to find out if anybody knows what happened to the child."
The Israeli woman too, was shaken. "In 1948 my husband was an officer in the Israel army. He died three years ago. When he came to this house he heard a baby crying and when he went in he found the child on the floor, wet and hungry. He changed it and cleaned it and had the baby fed. He liked the house very much and requested permission from the army's command to come and live here and bring up the child as his own. We had three older children ourselves."
"What happened to the child, what happened to the child?" the Palestinian asked with a quaking, urgent voice.
At that moment the door opened and a young Israeli soldier walked in. "Imah, ani babayit leyomayim, Mother, I'm home for two days."
"There is your son..."
Both women now live in the house together, widows both, sharing their lives, sharing their son.
You want socialism? How about hopping a plane to Russia? You don't have a clue what it means to be an American, so you have my blessing to move elsewhere and stay put.
This country was founded on free enterprise and capitalism, where each individual works for a living and takes pride in himself. To base a country on handouts is to say that the people receiving them are not worthy or intelligent enough to work or get a job.
Sir, with this drivel that you sent, you are so far out of line that you make a circle.
My only hope for you is that your children and grandchildren experience the enormous debt we are taking on, and struggle with it mightily, pointing their fingers at greedy folks like grandpa who wanted health care as a freebee. And my only hope for you is that you and your family experience the hideousness of socialized medicine.
May you and your children reap what you sow, my good man, and then you, like the rest of the fools in this country who voted for this massive indebtedness to mediocre healthcare, will understand what has just transpired.
Best you stick to prayer, rabbi, and leave reality to the realists.
Michael Lerner Replies:
Well, at least nobody can reasonably claim that Tikkun is "preaching to the choir."
I live in Belgium, a small country, where we have a very good healthcare system. We just don't understand all the fuss in the states. What kind of a retarded, ultra-right-wing society is this to call a just system for all "socialist" and a danger to "freedom." What is wrong with "social justice"?
I'll give you an example: I'm a diabetic -- all my medication, instruments, and insulin are free! If I visit my doctor I pay 25$ and get 15$ refunded.
We have a system that is linked to the Unions: socialist-, Catholic-, and liberal-inspired.... Even illegal immigrants can't be denied healthcare. Not with a doctor, not in a hospital for it is a human right to receive care when ill! Can you imagine the way people mock America over here when they say it is an example and a mirror for the rest of the world. To us the American Dream looks much more like an American Nightmare! But indeed let's celebrate this first step of victory!
Sint Niklaas, Belgium
I find it hard to see this as even a partial victory. It looks to me more like a victory for the insurance companies, not the people. It's a horrible piece of legislation. Banks, insurance companies, oil companies, and military contractors and their thugs are running the country with a knife to our throats. What's to celebrate?
INTERFAITH AND JEWISH
While it is true that Tikkun is an interfaith magazine, which I deeply appreciate, I am happy that you still are the voice of Jewish progressives. I need to hear Jewish voices grappling with many of the concerns that confront us, both societal and spiritual. I am currently reading and enjoying the article, "Sacred Evolution" by Arthur Green. I don't know where else I would have a chance to read a piece like this. I love to hear Jews grapple with the Mystery in a way that is inclusive, humble, thoughtful, and unencumbered by an attachment to ritual for its own sake (even though I love some ritual for its own sake) but not tossing it all aside either. I find that in Tikkun.
We live in a nation that has a black president. His election was made possible due to a large number of white voters who chose to vote for him. In fact, without the white vote, Obama could not have been elected. This should have put to rest the constant cries of racism in America. But, it hasn't. If we disagree with our president we are immediately labeled racist.
There is an old saying to the effect that if you can't stop the message, then shoot the messenger. When people come up with legitimate objections to our present administration's policies, there are those who will shoot them down with the cries of racism.
Martin Luther King's most famous dream was that there would come a day when people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. The policies of an administration represent the character of that administration. The constant cries of racism are doing more to destroy King's dream than to bring it to reality. In fact, if we are not allowed to disagree with someone's policy because of his race, then King's dream has died. It has been shot down by the very people who will support a person because of his race with no consideration of his character.
I have concerns about all of the very intense opposition and extremely negative feelings against President Barack Obama, and how so many people seem to "look the other way," minimize the level of Republican obstructionism, yet harshly criticize President Obama for not fulfilling many of his major campaign promises.
I find it extraordinarily amazing that people who voted for President Obama act like they expected him to "wave a magic wand" and fix all of the horrific, catastrophic problems that the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leadership enabled. The Republican senators and congressmen have decided to erect a wall of solid opposition (while telling their constituents the exact opposite information, not caring that the distortions were blatant lies, and also not caring the severe damage their wall of opposition was doing to our country) just to defeat any effort President Obama made to fulfill the job he was elected by a majority of the people to do, to cause his "waterloo".
What former Democratic vice-president waged a vigorous, aggressive, and negative attack against the newly elected president similar to the behavior of Dick Cheney? What former presidential candidate, now president, had so many incidents of people carrying loaded rifles and guns to his speeches, claiming their constitutional rights, while our secret service refused to challenge these people and the national security they were violating?
What presidential candidate, now president, has had hurled at him, like spaghetti at the kitchen wall, every innuendo, epithet, illusion, distortion, demagoguery, to challenge his authority, his authenticity, as the legally elected president of the United States of America: critics call him a fascist, a socialist, a communist, not a citizen, like Hitler, a "monkey," and "Barack, the magic Negro," sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon."
Were the Reagan-deregulated Wall Street profiteers, the tax-payer bailed out bonus-glutton bankers, the 5-4 social program-rollback Supreme Court, the corporate lobbyists, the insurance senators/congressmen going to just cooperate in the best interest of the citizens of our country, hand over their greed and corruption, stop paying themselves unearned and undeserved bonuses, without a nasty, dirty fight to maintain their elite privilege and exclusive power?
Criticize President Barack Obama as not the president you thought you were electing, but do not pretend, minimize, deny, or "look the other way" at the deliberate almost total lack of cooperation from the Republicans, the deliberate fanning and stoking of ideologies by the Republicans, the deliberate encouraging of disrespect for the authority of a legally elected president of our country, the deliberate ambushing of most of his efforts of bipartisanship by the Republicans, and then criticize him for not achieving much.
What President Barack Obama learned from the inside is that our country was in far worse financial shape than publicly revealed (revealing this would probably have caused a national panic and "run on the banks," causing a true financial collapse similar to that of the Great Depression); that we are waging two false wars based on trumped-up, fictitious "weapons of mass destruction" quasi-intelligence that are never going to end; that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should have been impeached; that the falsity of these wars has caused a deep hatred against the United States, encouraging an army of new "terrorists" dedicated to getting revenge; that terms like "public option" have been deliberately misrepresented to Republican base ideology as welfare; that people who passed past laws benefitting themselves would rather see our country destroyed than allow all of our citizens be protected with benefits similar to theirs.
President Barack Obama has been far from perfect in his first year in office. Cooperation from the Republicans, the "minority" party (ouch), has also been far from perfect. Support from President Barack Obama's base, in challenging, instead of looking the other way at, the massive misinformation and distortions deliberately published by the Republicans has also been far from perfect--all of us need to do a much better job.
CATHY C. CHAPMAN
Michael Lerner Responds:
Although I believe Dick Cheney should be in prison for the war crimes and violations of the Constitution that he helped engineer, his behavior after leaving office his been exemplary of what a political leader should be doing: namely, fiercely and persistently representing the ideas of the constituency that elected him, and linking his critique of particular policies to the worldview that his party advocates. It is Barack Obama's failure to do that for the liberal and progressive causes he claimed to support, and to use the power of the presidency in instances where his policy does not need the approval of the Congress, that forms the core of progressives' complaints about the direction of his administration.
One cannot blame the opposition for why Obama did not bring into his inner circle any representatives of the very movements that made his presidency possible and to whom he consistently sought to portray himself as their advocate when he sought our votes during the Democratic primaries: civil libertarians, peace and social justice advocates, environmental activists, and the women's, gay, and civil rights movements. One can't blame the Republicans for why he chose to keep President Bush's secretary of Defense and then chose to escalate the war in Afghanistan into a major U.S. involvement, why he continued Bush era violations of civil liberties that he had explicitly criticized during the election campaign, why he acceded to the oil companies' program of offshore drilling that he had critiqued during the election campaign, why he quickly abandoned the public option for health care reform that would have provided the only (weak) restraint on rising prices and profits of the health care profiteers.
We cannot expect Obama to win all or even most of his battles. We could have expected Obama to fight the battles, and to use his bully pulpit to challenge the worldview of the Right that has been dominant for the past thirty years in US political discourse. This was in his power to do, and criticism of his failure to do so is both realistic and necessary.
Those to the left of the DLC Democratic Party in the broad spectrum Left (who don't already fully grasp the fact) need to be brought to the crucial realization that most of the rest of the American political spectrum is infected with the false doctrine that a mythological capitalist "free market" solves complex social problems better than organized political movements in support of effective, efficient government policies. The tens of millions of Americans befuddled by the "free market" mythology contain some very wealthy and dangerous interests within them who are expert at subverting and co-opting any political movement which seeks to expose the self-seeking "free market" charade puppeteered by the plutocrats.
The only way an authentic progressive movement can persuade some of the struggling working-class and poorer segments of those "free marketers" to budge their hardened ideology Left-wards is by matching our words to our actions, and by setting examples of superior governance when our candidates get into office. But we do not have time or money to proselytize to the Ron Paul dupes, confused and brainwashed Tea-Party "independents" and other right-wing quislings
until our movement is fully organized, up and running and has sufficient people in office who have established a track record of examples to which we can all proudly point.
WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
Many thanks again for your editorial in the January/February 2010 Tikkun magazine. The rhetoric of the war makers, now with Obama, proclaims that the only alternative to military action is "non-violence" which for them means doing nothing. "We can't sit back and do nothing. So we have to bomb and shoot sense into them." They gloss over the complete non sequitur in this argument, refusing to admit that any other alternatives exist or that you cannot actually bomb sense into people. They distort the path of non-violent resistance, which is far from doing nothing. Non-violence is doing a great deal, bravely confronting injustice without causing harm to the perpetrators of injustice. Your championing non-violence was much needed, and I trust will be widely read.
Another way also exists, about which I have written before: the Way of Law. The war-makers' greatest distortion is that they pretend that this potent option does not exist. Seek to bring the terrorists to trial. Have them indicted in the International Criminal Court, issue arrest warrants. Mobilize and equip police forces, or even a new international police force, to track down the terrorist criminals and bring them to justice. (If people feel this is not ‘American' enough, issue bounty rewards for anyone who helps to bring the villains to justice, alive.) This approach is being half used in Sudan and with the LRA from Uganda, now in Congo. Those labeled criminals, with arrest warrants out for them, complain loud and long. They are well aware that this is not "doing nothing." Joseph Kony of the LRA would rather die fighting than rot in jail after a trial in the International Criminal Court. Fully committing to and resourcing this alternative is needed.
Those of us who are against making war need to promote the Way of Law more. Nonviolence will always only be supported by a small minority. Sometimes this minority is potent and well placed, but in the US and the UK this small minority is now simply sidelined. If we continue to press for non-violent resistance we will strengthen the argument of the war-makers that military intervention is the only other workable option. Presenting the option of the Way of Law is far more powerful.
The Way of Law is also, as I see it, more Jewish. The Law is the glory of the Jewish people, a Law even Kings must follow, or ignore at their peril. Human conflict naturally escalates, each side outraged and petrified, justifying greater force against the other. The Law says one eye for one eye, one tooth for one tooth, checking the escalation, while recognizing that a price has to be paid. We need now to affirm that perpetrators of terrorism must and will pay for their crimes, in a calm, sane, well-researched framework. The Law is the credible, workable, alternative to the War.
You also refer to the way that some, particularly religious, Americans justify military action because of the evil nature of the ‘enemy.' You are, I am sure, aware that the teaching of the New Testament provides no such justification, rather the opposite. Because we are fighting against evil, wrote Paul,"we do not use the weapons of ordinary warfare" (Ephesians 6). You cannot defeat evil with swords or smart missiles. Violence will beat the demons in, not drive them out. Identifying the enemy as evil means, for Christians, that a non-violent response is needed. Those who call for a military response to evil are, in New Testament thinking, working with the devil, not against him. See Bob Ekblad's wonderful New Christian Manifesto (Westminster John Knox 2008).
Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England
Rabbi Lerner Responds:
I very much agree with what you say, and in fact if you go to www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php/20100216184209682 you'll see that the petition we are circulating (which I hope you'll sign) calls on Congress and the President to end the "war on terror" and to redefine terror as a police issue and terrorists as criminals, not a threat to our national survival. My one worry about an international police force is how to be sure that it doesn't become an instrument of repression against dissenters -- in the US there is at least in principle the capacity of the population to vote out a particularly bad government like that of Bush/Cheney, but how would we exercise checks and balances against an international police force unless we create first an international democratically elected government (because I wouldn't count on the Security Council to represent my democratic impulses). And anyone who wants to go the path of an international government has some important issues to face: how to ensure that the issues are framed in ways that genuinely represent the range of options facing the human race, how to ensure that legitimate anger against previous oppressors (e.g. against all white people or other global minorities) doesn't turn into repressive policies, how to help people worry about the well-being of everyone and not just of their own particular country or ethnic or religious group. I hope some of our brightest and most love-filled scholars will start to address these and related questions.
THE UPCOMING NSP CONFERENCE:
I recently began reading Tikkun and I'm liking a lot of what I see. I've even put in my two cents in comments about some of the articles.
But I think this series of meetings you're organizing is based upon a faulty premise: The title of the conference -- "How To Support Obama to BE the Obama Americans Thought We Elected" -- says, essentially, that Obama is not who he is acting like.
You believe, wrongly, I submit, that the person who is operating a Guantanamo in Bagram; who is detaining people without trial, or, even, evidence; who is coming to support nuclear power; who took over Bush's attitude toward Iran; who supports the CEO's bonuses; who chose his advisors from among the old-school crowd; who feels it is legitimate to kill innocent people using drones in a country we are not even at war with (and I don't mean Afghanistan); who took over Bush's war in Afghanistan and is enlarging it, who ...
I, myself, never had this illusion: I voted for Cynthia McKinney.
I suggest that you abandon Obama and have a series of conferences around "How Should We Deal with the Cynicism Engendered by Obama's Being Who He Is" (not who you wish he was).
Rabbi Lerner Responds:
Politics, like life, is about dialectical processes in which consciousness becomes more and more aware of itself as part of the totality of all being. Each of us has the task of assisting in that process.
My particular task in 2010 is to move people from the illusions about the global capitalist system so that they can understand the need for a fundamental transformation -- what I call a New Bottom Line (please do read my book The Left Hand of God).
I know that there is a vanguard of people who have thought that the way to move that consciousness in others is to proclaim the need for socialism or anti-capitalism. I bless their efforts. But in my humble assessment, that has not been a very successful strategy.
Our way of assisting in the evolution of consciousness involves two key elements: a. getting people into a big tent in which they are able to hear transformative ideas to which they would never have exposed themselves if the condition for walking into the tent was that they already had to believe that capitalism is evil, the Democrats unsalvageable, and Obama a tool of the capitalist class; and b. framing the transformation that is needed in the spiritual and religious language that is actually, in my view, the most transformative and deepest truth of the kind of system we need -- hence my call for A New Bottom Line and the globalization of love and generosity.
It is with these terms that I've found more people listening and opening themselves up to a new consciousness, rather than simply speaking to those who already understand how badly we need a different kind of system.
But, and I stress this, my goal is NOT simply to sell the traditional Left solutions with a different framing or a manipulative use of religious or spiritual categories. Rather, I believe that the solutions to a global transformation require elements that a traditional Left consciousness cannot and has not been able to adequately develop -- including a focus on developing our capacities to be caring, loving and generous; to build economic, political, and social institutions that have that as a primary goal; to create in us a willingness to give up on the supposed need to consume more and more; and to reject the goal of "growth" of the economy and of the population and instead learn to live more simply and more in tune with the needs of planetary environmental sustainability, a capacity for humility, forgiveness of those who have hurt us, joyousness, and thanksgiving and celebration of the grandeur and mystery of the universe and of consciousness and of Being Itself (which for me gets best expressed in religious terms, but for others in non-religious or secular or atheistic terms), and a capacity to see each and every human being, no matter how distorted, as still embodying the sacred and hence equally valuable with every other human being on the planet.
I believe that it is this approach that will most likely be the one that could bring the most people into a transformative movement, but I know enough to know that I don't really know, that there are probably dozens and dozens of paths that may work for different sections of the global population, so I welcome as allies anyone who really seeks to save our planet and to end the needless suffering that is caused partly by our global economic system, and partly by the unconscious ways that each of us passes on to others the pain that has been passed on to us from the generations of suffering in the past and through social institutions that continually frustrate our human yearnings for a more loving and kind and generous world.
I hope this gives you some idea of why I move more cautiously in relationship to Obama and the Democrats than you, while welcoming you into the Tikkun world and hoping that you will support us by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (for secular humanists as well as religious people) and help us develop the parts of our program like the Global Marshall Plan that you might support even if you don't support our efforts to reach out to Democrats and to those still enamored of Barack Obama.
AN AMENDMENT TO LIMIT CORPORATE POWER
In your March/April 2010 editorial, "Passing a Constitutional Amendment to Challenge the Supreme Court's Obeisance to Corporate Power," you wrote: "if we are to engage in the massive campaign necessary to amend the Constitution. . ." I believe the sentence should have continued: "then that amendment should eliminate the millions and millions of dollars required today for election campaign ads on television, radio, and billboards." Thanks to the Supreme Court, big corporations will now bankroll even more TV ads.
And the voter gets what? The ads tell the voter nothing more than to vote for the candidate or measure desired by the moneyed interests. The typical ad does nothing to educate the voter, much less provide in-depth analysis. In fact, the voter is involuntarily and passively subjected to such ads by virtue of watching TV shows, listening to the radio, or simply looking out a car window.
Those who advocate "public financing" need to be reminded that if such funds reach network corporate headquarters, the funds will be received by Rupert Murdoch, Disney, Comcast, or American Entertainment. No, thank you. Our tax dollars should benefit all Americans.
The constitutional amendment we desperately need will first, declare that the First Amendment freedom of speech no longer protects campaign ads on TV, radio, and billboards and, second, prohibit such ads outright. After ratification voters shall educate themselves about elections as the Founding Fathers intended in 1789. The voter can attend live debates, participate in discussions, and, due to "freedom of the press," read campaign advocacy in fliers, mailers, newspapers, magazines, and books. The voter can also take advantage of post-18th century phenomena such as broadcast debates, internet ads, and telephone messages.
My proposed amendment will clearly eliminate the need for hundreds of millions of dollars for campaigns and will be the best first step for bringing democracy back to ordinary Americans.
LEO W. QUIRK
Perhaps we need to step back to before Britain, France and the United States divided up the Middle East in 1948. The whole concept is unnatural and I don't think Israeli or Palestinians really want a two-state solution. It is something that was forced upon them to solve a European problem. The Palestinians I've spoken to would rather have a single state even with Jewish control and Israel is already treating it as a single state. Perhaps they should have an agreed upon Jewish-based Constitution with a House and Senate like we have, the Senate would have a large number of smaller states with high Jewish majorities and the House would have larger states with high Palestinian majorities. No one wants two states, that's why no one can agree.
Although you say that you support the existence of Israel, how come when I visit your site, I can get linked to the most vicious, distorted, hate-filled anti-Israel (and thinly veneered anti-Semitic) propaganda that I have ever read? The viciousness of the "Zionism is Nazism" crowd that is just one click away from your web site should give you great pause as to what type of people and ideology you are in bed with.
By the way, Rachel Corrie was not Jewish.
Michael Lerner responds:
I do my best to stay out of bed with anyone but my wife, thank you. No one who writes for Tikkun holds that Zionism is Nazism.
NO PRO-PALESTINIAN LOBBY?
Stewart Mills (Tikkun, March/April 2010) argues disingenuously that there is no serious pro-Palestinian lobby in Australia. Yet he conveniently failed to point out that he is an active supporter of the leading pro-Palestinian lobby group, Australians for Palestine (AFP). This hard-line group have recently organized "Israel apartheid" weeks on campus, and actively lobbied for a racist boycott of all Israeli academics.
A brief visit to the AFP website would also locate a letter addressed to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd implying that his pro-Israel views are the result of lobbying from wealthy Zionists. Another member of AFP is known for writing to any commentators who defend Israel's existence in public debates, querying whether or not they are Jewish. Not surprisingly, Mills did not reveal these embarrassing facts in his letter.
Stewart Mills responds:
What can Philip Mendes and I agree on? Yes, there are both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups on university campuses in Australia. Are either of those communities a well-organized lobby? This is where we differ. Looking at the "Students for Palestine" website would not leave you with that impression. On the other hand the "Australian Union of Jewish Students" website certainly has more structure and has clearly defined office bearers and greater content.
What then is the basis for Mr. Mendes' lobby? Well apart from two events on campus he mentioned he has not really provided much evidence. In contrast I would see the ground swell change that is happening on campuses in relation to the Israel and Palestine debate amongst academics and in Australian society is occurring more organically than arising from a Palestinian lobby.
The Palestinian community is a very marginal community in Australia. ‘Australians for Palestine' which is open to both a two-state solution as evidence by its website and a unitary multinational democratic state (as opposed to a Greater Arab Palestine as Mendes disingenuously suggested). But this one state solution has only reappeared in recent times (apart from the pre-1948 propositions) given the continued settlement expansion and the concern that Israel will not allow Palestine to have a viable state because of security concerns. In terms of staffing, 'Australians for Palestine' has just 3 full-time staff. Not really good grounds for a strong well-organized lobby. An alternate voice yes, a well-organized lobby no.
I would see that the change in Australia is a result of ordinary people of conscience from a wide variety of backgrounds being sick and tired of seeing, year in and year out, Israel behave with impunity to their neighbors, whether they are Palestinian or Lebanese; the endless talks with no results; the continued settlement expansion; and continued death and misery for civilians on all sides.
Despite this slow grass roots change, the Palestinian voice has yet to gain any substantial access to political policy makers. When has a network like Australians for Palestine met the Minister of Foreign Affairs [i.e. Secretary of State] or the Prime Minister [President]; or Deputy Prime Minister [Vice President]? How does what they advocate reflect in Australia's voting at the United Nations? Take for example Australia's voting record in the United Nations with Australia's decision to vote against the Goldstone report (which has now become an abstention in the past weeks), and to boycott the Anti-racism summit in Geneva last year. Australia's voting record on Israel was a source of praise for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. In contrast, Australians for Palestine opposed much of Australia's vote on Israel and has no access to key decision makers.
Just try searching the Australian Parliamentary website (i.e. the equivalent to the US Congress) with the following terms "Australians for Palestine" and you will produce 29 results, but none of these are from Parliamentary debate, only from newspaper articles. The one exception is if you search "Sonja Karkar" (the cofounder of Australians for Palestine and founder of Women for Palestine) you get 1 mention in a Parliamentary debate and it was critical of her. Mind you Sonja has worked 40 years on this issue.
On the other hand, search "Executive Council of Australian Jewry" and you will get 518 results: of this 40 mentions in Parliament, 79 mentions in Committees and 221 results in media. Similarly, search "board of deputies" and "Israel" and you will get 171 results: of this 95 Media articles, 2 parliamentary results and 4 from Committees. Search Jeremy Jones (the former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry) and you get 249 results. Searching Zionist Federation of Australia gives 101 results with 12 mentions in Parliament. Searching "Colin Rubenstein" of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council gives 14 Parliamentary results and 19 Committee mentions. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council gives 175 results.
All of these show that the Jewish community in Australia does have reasonable access to political policy makers of the day; whereas the Palestinian community, despite recent public outcry, still has limited access to Parliamentary debate and cannot be said to be a well-organized lobby either on student campuses or in Parliament.
In terms of Mr. Mendes's comment about my involvement with Australians for Palestine, I have no direct link. Any letters I have published on their website in no way limits my involvement to anything other than my pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian position, i.e. pro-humanity position.
Mr. Mendes is incorrect in asserting my letter implies that the Prime Minister's pro-Israel views are the result of lobbying from wealthy Zionists; and I would ask him to tell me where he got this from. The Prime Minister has developed his position on Israel and Palestine from a variety of factors, which have not been expressly made by the Prime Minister neither to Mr. Mendes or myself.
On Mr. Mendes' comment about an AFP member who is known for writing to any commentators who defend Israel's existence in public debates, querying whether or not they are Jewish: I do not have any idea what Mr. Mendes is talking about. I am disappointed he would resort to try and sling mud on another person by an association that is not validly connected.
I am sure there is much Mr. Mendes and I can agree on, I hope this is one step to finding further points of agreement.
RISKS FOR PEACE
"The Palestinians must take risks for peace." Why do we never hear this?
For many years now we have heard American Presidents, Secretaries of State, scholars, NGOs and politically correct pundits and politicians repeat the familiar slogan that "Israel must be willing to take risks for peace" in the Middle East. This means that Israel must withdraw from land it captured in the Six Day War of 1967, the West Bank and the Golan Heights (it already withdrew from the Gaza Strip), if there is ever to be peace between Israel and the Arab world.
These people are convinced that the major barrier to peace in the Middle East are the Israeli settlements in these areas. If only Israel would withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, peace and harmony would reign in the region. Therefore, Israel is to blame for the lack of peace in the region and the ongoing conflict between itself and the Palestinians.
This is obviously the position of the Obama Administration. (The Obama Administration is nothing if not politically correct.) This is why President Obama instructed his Secretary of State to publicly criticize Israel for the announcement of its intention to build apartment buildings in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem during Vice President Biden's recent visit there.
Of course, Israel did take a "risk for peace" when it completely and unilaterally withdrew all of its settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005. In response, the Palestinians fired literally thousands of missiles into Israel and carried out many terrorist attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli men, women, and children.
These missile attacks and suicide bombings were obviously acts of war, as well as war crimes, intended to kill and terrorize as many Israelis as possible; They were carried out by Hamas and other groups that have declared war on Israel. These groups publicly and proudly proclaim that their goal is the destruction of the State of Israel, and the death of every Jew in Israel. They have publicly rejected the possibility of a "Two-State Solution" at every opportunity.
When Israel finally undertook a military operation to try, to the best of its ability, to stop these missile and suicide attacks, the politically correct world community (including this magazine) reacted with horror and outrage ¾ not against those who attacked Israeli civilians for years, but against Israel for taking any military action to defend its citizens.
The world community, politicians, scholars and politically correct pundits, all of whom remained silent while missiles flew into Israel by the thousands, uniformly condemned Israel for using "disproportionate force" and inflicting "collective punishment" on the Palestinians. Of course, every missile fired into Israel from Gaza and every suicide bombing is obviously "collective punishment" of Jews for the perceived crime of simply being alive and living in Israel. But we never heard that in the press or from any politician, pundit, or NGO.
The world community demanded that Israel act with "restraint" so as not to "upset the Peace Process." No matter how many Israeli citizens are killed or terrorized by Palestinian missiles or suicide attacks, the Palestinians must not lose any territory. They must not have their electricity cut off. They must not suffer any shortages of food, water, or medical supplies. Buildings that provide shelter for tunnels, terrorists or weapons must not be destroyed. The Palestinian economy must not be harmed. Unemployment must not increase. Those attacking Israel must not be attacked, for fear of harming civilians. Checkpoints and fences designed to deter suicide bombers must be dismantled. Border crossings must be opened.
In essence the Palestinians have convinced the world, and now the Obama Administration, that they not only have the right to wage war against Israel and kill Jews as they wish, but also that they must suffer no adverse consequences as a result of their actions. Theirs is perhaps the first risk-free war.
This is of course absurd. Any group that can wage a risk-free war has no incentive to stop its efforts until its goals are achieved. The Palestinians get to continue to kill and terrorize Jews as they please, or, if Israel responds militarily, pictures of wounded Palestinians will be all over the news, the world community will condemn Israel for the conflict, pressure Israel to take further "risks for peace" in the form of concessions and give the Palestinians billions for reconstruction. Why would the Palestinians ever agree to peace with Israel if they know that, no matter how many missiles they fire or terrorist attacks they commit, Israel will be blamed for perpetuating the conflict, and they will never do worse than a "two-state solution based on the 1967 borders"?
We have never heard any pundit, politician, or anyone in the Obama Administration say, "The Palestinians must take risks for peace." There is a reason for this: The only thing the Palestinians risk by making peace with Israel is their dream of destroying Israel. Clearly, this is simply too much for them to contemplate, and too much for the world community, this magazine or the Obama Administration, to expect.
MICHAEL S. KOLKER
I appreciate your unflinching look in the Jewish mirror and your understanding of the impact of Israeli oppression on Palestinian response. But there is too little focus on the positive elements of the struggle: the openness to self-criticism within Israel (which vastly exceeds that in US media) and, on the Palestinian side, the massive nonviolent resistance to the occupation. While condemning the violence on both sides (asymmetrical as it is) we should celebrate not only the Israeli refusniks but also the daily nonviolent Palestinian protests (and those of the ISM and the CPT) at the Apartheid Wall and, like Rachel Corrie's, protection against home demolitions, and like RHR's against olive tree uprootings. Do not allow a focus on the violent resistance of the few drown out recognition of the nonviolent response of the many.
RESPONSES TO SACRED EVOLUTION:
Tikkun Magazine continues to be a very good, thought-provoking medium for controversial issues -- and the current (March/April 2010) issue is no exception!
Arthur Green begins with a very practical position of where many people are these days. Unfortunately, I think that it's on the wrong foot. We do need to work our own truths with the God-given talents that we have -- and for which we'll be held accountable at the final judgment. Then, our prophet of choice can help provide guidance for conduct in life. But, while it is natural, and encouraged by the prophets to spread the word, our "certainty" cannot be used to impose our view at the cost of respect for other views. Perhaps, Mr. Green is saying that radical literalism is problematic when our "certainty" becomes judgmental and arrogant. None of the prophets encouraged this. Rather, the various foundational scriptures need to be taken within context and literary interpretation with a realization of, and even appreciation for, sincerely subjective, differing views.
Perhaps, we need to start the God and science issue on a different premise -- that there really is no conflict! This is, in fact, as it was back in the Renaissance (not withstanding the age old political issues). Have we now gotten "too (scientifically) smart" for ourselves -- in creating a new form of god (e.g. equations)? Creation (or origins) fits well with evolution if we understand that different disciplines give us different (wider) perspectives in answering different questions. This should, in fact, allow us a greater understanding of the (scientifically) unknown, the divine, or the God. But, unfortunately, the modern paradigm, on the wrong foot, is one of opposition, conflict, or separation coming from our self-righteousness. This is a systemic American problem that pervades our politics, social groups, and (even) religions. Can't people, even with so-called religious or spiritual foundation, do better to live in harmony?
San Jose, CA
Dear Rabbi Lerner, I thank you very much for the soul's courage you have to say and do everything you know is for the sake of the people.
Could you make more visible for the people of the USA the way we can repair and transform our dependency on oil towards a total freedom from animal fossils fuels, as Denmark did? Below there's an article from the New York Times, that maybe you have not read.
I flew back to Denmark. After appointments here in Copenhagen, I was riding in a car back to my hotel at the 6 p.m. rush hour. And boy, you knew it was rush hour because 50 percent of the traffic in every intersection was bicycles. That is roughly the percentage of Danes who use two-wheelers to go to and from work or school every day here. If I lived in a city that had dedicated bike lanes everywhere, including one to the airport, I'd go to work that way, too. It means less traffic, less pollution and less obesity.
What was most impressive about this day, though, was that it was raining. No matter. The Danes simply donned rain jackets and pants for biking. If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark!
Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn't happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)
What was the trick? To be sure, Denmark is much smaller than us and was lucky to discover some oil in the North Sea. But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy -- while barely growing their energy consumption -- and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from wind. America? About 1 percent.
And did Danes suffer from their government shaping the market with energy taxes to stimulate innovations in clean power? In one word, said Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's minister of climate and energy: "No." It just forced them to innovate more -- like the way Danes recycle waste heat from their coal-fired power plants and use it for home heating and hot water, or the way they incinerate their trash in central stations to provide home heating. (There are virtually no landfills here.)
There is little whining here about Denmark having $10-a-gallon gasoline because of high energy taxes. The shaping of the market with high energy standards and taxes on fossil fuels by the Danish government has actually had "a positive impact on job creation," added Hedegaard. "For example, the wind industry -- it was nothing in the 1970s. Today, one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark." In the last 10 years, Denmark's exports of energy efficiency products have tripled. Energy technology exports rose 8 percent in 2007 to more than $10.5 billion in 2006, compared with a 2 percent rise in 2007 for Danish exports as a whole.
"It is one of our fastest-growing export areas," said Hedegaard. It is one reason that unemployment in Denmark today is 1.6 percent. In 1973, said Hedegaard, "we got 99 percent of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero."
Frankly, when you compare how America has responded to the 1973 oil shock and how Denmark has responded, we look pathetic.
"I have observed that in all other countries, including in America, people are complaining about how prices of [gasoline] are going up," Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me. "The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income -- so we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy."
Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas -- Denmark's and the world's biggest wind turbine company -- told me that he simply can't understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.
Why should you care?
"We've had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months," said Engel, "and not one out of the U.S."
Have you read the best-seller book The Medical Mafia? It was written by a French Ph.D., Ghislaine Lanctôt. She wrote about the Great Mafias that kill because of the greed of money and power. The first and biggest one is the OMS, then follow the doctors, laboratories, security companies, pharmacies, even universities, for they are owned by very rich men with globalized interests. . Maybe you can find the book in English or one of your associates can translate some thoughts in the annex, coming from the author during an interview with the Spanish magazine Discovery Salud.
Besides, in relation to a free health system for everybody, I happened to read the story of the Premier of Saskatchewan, Canada, (about 10 years ago, I don't remember his name) who could bring a free health system for all, medicines, dentistry, retiring fees for the old, and the list goes on, at no cost; he was a good administrator and manager of the money of the people. First it was only his dream, an ideal, but he brought it into manifestation on Earth, and he was reelected many times until he was so old that he retired. Governments should, as he could, work for common welfare, for they are for the people. He proved it could be done. Greed for gold, money and power doesn't lead us to joy. Brotherhood in love does. A better world, a new Earth is possible where natural resources that belong to nobody can be shared, and where no one lives in poverty. Humanity needs spiritual people that love humanity and all sub-human kingdoms, in a way that they work for their well-being. Maybe you can form a party of Spiritual Progressives, or a Spiritual Caucus inside the Democratic Party to take it away from its corporate control; you have the power to do this. We all pray for a big change, and if it is God's will someone may give you the money needed to do so.
Mankind is going to be led throughout this crisis by the most powerful governments of the world. Governments have the power to condition their people. We need to investigate about this matter.There are progressive types of clean energy available in the ether discovered by The Correas, scientists that live in Vancouver who already have 9 patents there and in the USA. Have you read about Nikola Testla? Some say he was murdered because he wanted to get free clean energy for mankind. This energy is free and expecting your investigation not for the sake of some, but for common welfare.
Science as everything on earth is evolving, too. Nothing can stand still. There are some articles about Paulo and Alexandra Correa that you can download to learn about their inventions.