From efforts to counter homophobia to campaigns for more caring immigration policies, social justice struggles all rely on a similar leap of faith – the idea that, on a mass scale, we can shift our collective sense of what is possible and transform the world around us.
In this unsettling era of drone strikes, mass shootings, and impending climate disaster, it’s not hard to find information in the progressive mediascape about everything we are doing wrong. What’s harder to find is an analysis that combines an uncompromising commitment to exposing injustice with an insistent faith in our power to create empathy where hatred once festered, to heal from trauma, and to find meaningful ways to resist the crushing transnational economic forces that shape our lives.
That’s why Tikkun‘s fierce and full-hearted critiques are so urgently needed right now. Our authors reject despair. Instead, they actively articulate a vision of the world we want to live in, even as they offer unflinching analyses of human rights abuses against Palestinians, mass incarceration in the United States, and the violence of deportation.
We can’t continue publishing these articles on our own. Readers like you are critical to keeping this magazine alive. We need your help to sustain Tikkun‘s vision of social transformation.
If you don’t yet subscribe to the print magazine, that’s a great place to start. You can subscribe here. Or if you already have a subscription for yourself, you can buy a gift subscription as a present for your friends and loved ones.
During my five years on Tikkun‘s editorial staff thus far, I’ve led the magazine in dynamic new directions, redesigning our website, putting together a special interfaith issue on Queer Spirituality and Politics, working with former managing editor David Belden to produce a powerful introduction to Restorative Justice practices, commissioning articles for a special issue on Embracing Immigration and Ending Deportation, and shaping the direction of our recent Identity Politics, Class Politics, Spiritual Politics issue to center the voices of younger writers, queer writers, and writers of color.
If I thought I was treading difficult territory when starting to write about money, writing about sex feels even more risky. It’s even more private, in some ways more charged, and equally considered off limits. I am only doing it because the conversation I had with a dear friend was so inspiring to us, that it seemed to me that what emerged might offer something of value to others, and I was encouraged by my friend’s enthusiastic response. I hope I don’t live to regret this choice.
The starting point of our conversation was a recognition of a peculiar way in which so much that is related to sex gets talked about as if we have no power or choice: either sexual attraction is “there,” and we “must” follow it; or it’s not, and we “can’t” enter a sexual relationship.
Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Erotic
For years I have felt a persistent discomfort when people around me talk about sex. One of the most important things in the world for me is something about honoring human dignity. Within this, I’ve always wanted speaking about or engaging in sexual relationships to be done in a way that honors that human dignity.
I often wonder what life was like in earlier cultures, before the split between the sexual and the spiritual was institutionalized, before the body became the site of sin, before being spiritual became associated with celibacy, asceticism, and withdrawal from the world. Were the conversations different? Did the experience of being sexual feel different?
When we have a powerful desire for something that has been associated with sin, or is seen as “animal-like,” this creates a strong tension. If, on top of that, we have been trained to believe that in order to sustain the social order we need to suppress what we want, the complexity of what happens can easily lead to a complex response that allows us to choose to follow the desire by playing with the edge of “badness” while telling ourselves that we have no choice, that the very experience of sexual desire takes us out of control.
Jews love and loved Nelson Mandela. He inspired us with his insistence that the old regime of apartheid would crumble more quickly and fully when faced with revolutionary love and compassion than when faced with anger and violence.
Mandela also challenged us to think deeply about whether the current situation in Israel/Palestine reflects the ethic of compassion that is so central to Judaism.
Credit: Creative Commons/Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Some people on the Left reject Mandela’s strategy. “How can one be openhearted toward one’s oppressors?” they say. “Fostering compassion toward oppressors will undermine the revolutionary spirit needed to defeat the evil ones.”
Yet Mandela showed us the opposite – that one can generate more solidarity and more willingness to take risks in struggle when one can clearly present one’s own movement as morally superior to the actions of the oppressors. Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement claimed this moral superiority through being able to respond to the oppressors’ hatred with great love. When Che Guevara said, “A true revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love,” he was alluding to this same truth. And this is what the Torah teaches when it instructs us to “love the stranger” (the “other”).
Mandela with Desmond Tutu
Back in the early 1960s, black South African lawyer and activist Oliver Tambo was asked to describe a colleague who had just gone to prison for resisting white minority rule in that country. He replied that this man is “passionate, emotional, sensitive, quickly stung to bitterness and retaliation by insult and patronage.” Tambo was talkingabout his law-firm partner, Nelson Mandela – remembered today for his grace, humor, and empathy, as well as his remarkable courage and leadership.
What happened to Mandela in prison, what changed him so radically, is still a bit of mystery in my mind. He was often asked about a slice of this question – how he let go of the anger he felt specifically toward whites – and his responses were usually of a fairly standard therapeutic variety. Bill Clinton, in an interview aired last night by CBS Evening News, related one such exchange with Mandela.
Why the enduring “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel? Cultural historians, who look at symbols and stories more than politics and policies, say a big part of it goes back to the late 1950s, when Leon Uris’ novel Exodus reached the top of the bestseller list and was then turned into a blockbuster film, with an all-star cast headed by Paul Newman.
Scholar Rachel Weissbrod called it a “Zionist melodrama.” M.M. Silver devoted a whole book to the phenomenon: Our Exodus, with the subtitle, The Americanization of Israel’s Founding Story.
A preeminent historian of American Judaism, Jonathan Sarna, came closest to the truth in his blurb for Silver’s book: Exodus “consciously linked brawny Zionist pioneers with the heroes of traditional American westerns.” The protagonist, Ari ben Canaan (“lion, son of Canaan”), is the Jewish Shane, the cowboy of impeccable virtue who kills only because he must to save decent people — especially the gentile woman he loves — and civilize a savage land.
by: Sigfried Gold on December 4th, 2013 | No Comments »
Economic and power relations are the place where any set of lofty religious or humanistic ideals come to ground, where the rubber hits the road. And for those atheists who care about making a better world (rather than just making religious people look dumb) this is a place where atheists and the religious can help each other face a most formidable, perennial, intractable challenge: how to structure institutions for the benefit of their members or the public at large while discouraging exploitation and the use of institutional power for the private gain of trusted leaders.
My current favorite of the atheist religions–which don’t generally consider themselves religions–is Nonviolent Communication or NVC, and I was confirmed in my positive regard for the NVC movement when I came upon this piece by Miki Kashtan on Tikkun’s blog addressing crucial questions of money, higher values and inner peace. Kashtan attacks the problem of money in a mode of full-fledged utopian dreamery, offering ideas and experiments that point toward the reform of our society’s whole economic exchange structure. She summarizes some of her intentions thus:
In how I engage with money and resources, I continually strive to move closer to my vision of how I want to see these operate in the world at large. I aim to move from considering exchange value to valuing people and life; from seeing relationships through the lens of exchange to participating in a flow of generosity; from allocating resources based on output equity to caring for everyone’s needs; from making things happen based on the ever-s-subtle coercion of money incentive to complete and wholehearted willingness; from thinking about our merit to sharing our gifts; and from wondering about what someone “deserves” to contributing to everyone receiving all we need. (Miki Kashtan, personal communication)
But I want to focus on a specific problem she raises: how can she offer her services as a trained NVC teacher and practitioner in a way that is consistent with her values? She is, from what I can gather, in considerable demand in the NVC world, but many of the people and organizations who would like her help have little money to pay for it. Does she sell her services only to those who can afford it? No, that would not fit her values. But how can she meet her own financial needs otherwise?
by: Jack Gabriel on December 3rd, 2013 | No Comments »
You can usually tell if a recording is inspired from the opening twenty seconds. There is a certain energy, a certain élan, that takes you from the ordinary to the special, from genesis to realization, quite quickly, perhaps in two dozen heartbeats.
There are many such songs on the new CD ,”The Human Project”, the first solo release by Gabriel Meyer Halevy. There are striking anthems, which celebrate the diversity and harmony of humanity. There are delicate ballads, and gracefully rhythmic pieces, that mesh South American, Arabic, Mizrachi and Far Eastern nuances. Their fusion sounds organic and natural. Paul Simon’s Afro-Gospel-Doo Wop and Idan Raichel’s Ethiopean-Spanish-Israeli pieces come to mind. The lyrics very much support the music. It is as if the words and melodies are passed from voice to voice, in Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic, effortlessly enriching songs with multiple translations. It draws you into a sweet and exciting space. That’s no easy feat, and that’s what makes this recording so successful and special.
by: Allen L Roland on December 3rd, 2013 | 1 Comment »
(Permafrost in Siberia. Methane emissions from the Arctic permafrost increased by 31% from 2003-07/ Photograph: Francis Latreille/Corbis)
Experts say methane emissions from the Arctic have risen by almost one-third in just five years, and that sharply rising temperatures are to blame.What very few people understand are both the short and long range consequences for the planet in regards to a sudden increase in Methane emissions.
As the Guardian points out:
This recent discovery follows a string of reports from the region in recent years that previously frozen boggy soils are melting and releasing methane in greater quantities. Such Arctic soils currently lock away billions of tons of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,leading some scientists to describe melting permafrost as a ticking time bomb that could overwhelm efforts to tackle climate change.
Text: Isaiah 1: 10-18; Matthew 24: 36-44
Whoever means to be serious about the possibility that there is a God somewhere needs to be serious about the possibility that the way we worship is no good. Please don’t hear me wrong. This word is not a secret message I want to pass around to some Riversiders about some aspects of worship here. No, this word is for all churches everywhere, and therefore for our church, too. It is a waking word, a buzzing, persistent word come down from the prophets like locusts on the field at harvest. It is a word which, after centuries of silence, shivered again to life in Prophet Jesus, who would not relent from uttering woe on the way they worshiped.
Now Christians have an easy out if they want it. They can always claim that the prophets and Jesus had in mind Temple worship, and that Christian worship is not Temple worship, but true worship, and so we’re in the clear. But that is plain denial. Isaiah presses the point to the flesh.
Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your religious games: weekly Sabbaths, meetings, meetings, meetings – I can’t stand one more! I hate them! You’ve worn me out! . . . Do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless. Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.
(CC-BY-NC-SA by Creative Commons)
Work is so important. For most of us, it takes up the best hours of the great majority of our days. And most everything else gets organized around it.
When it comes to Radical Decency – being habitually decent to our selves, others, and the world – this is a big problem. Why? Because, at work, the culture’s predominant values – compete and win, dominate and control – are typically rehearsed with unrestrained virulence. And there it sits, at the center of our lives, a constant impediment to our ability to give ourselves over to more decent ways of living.
While no one is exempt from this unforgiving equation, it is, without question, much tougher on people with salaried and hourly jobs. In this blog, I address the special challenges these people face and offer a number of strategies to deal with them.
The problem for salaried and hourly workers begins with the most basic notions of freedom. While we seldom think of it in this way, they are, effectively, indentured servants. They work from 9 to 5 – or longer if the boss demands it – get an hour for lunch, 2 vacation weeks, and “x” number of sick days. That’s it. No choice.
Compounding the situation is the highly authoritarian nature of the organizations for which they work. In the workplace, supervisors have enormous control over workers’ lives. And so long as they are making money for the company and are not causing problems for their bosses, their power is virtually unchecked.