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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Welcomes Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change

Jun22

by: Sunita Viswanath and Christopher Fici on June 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

An aerial shot of Herbert Volcano Caldera.

Credit: CreativeCommons / U.S. Geological Survey.

In his recent eco-encyclical (ecology and economy) Laudato Sii (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis invited every person on the planet into dialogue on the many pressing ecological issues facing humanity – and their impact on the poorest people of the world. The reality of climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (#25). Humankind is responsible for care of the natural world, and that responsibility extends toward protecting poor and vulnerable people and our children and grandchildren.

Pope Francis made five key points in this teaching document, a new foundation of Catholic teaching on the environment:

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Trump Join Narratives of Hate over Immigration Battles

Jun22

by: on June 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

Black and white shot of empty airport immigration lines.

Credit: CreativeCommons / lcars.

The gigantic cover banner headline, “CLOWN RUNS FOR PREZ,” appeared on the New York Daily News the morning following real estate mogul Donald Trump’s announced run for the office of the presidency. While apt in many ways, I would not represent Trump this way since clowns traditionally never speak. And as we know all too well, “silence” has never been a descriptor of Donald Trump. Such words I would use for Trump include adjectives like “narcissistic,” “egotistical, “xenophobic,” and “racist.”

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In-Between “Racialized” Category of European-Heritage Jews

Jun19

by: on June 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An older Jewish gentleman.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Thomas Hawk

Sometimes I don’t know which side of the wall I’m on.
—Wladylaw Szpilman, The Pianist

On numerous occasions, I have attended the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference, bringing together grass-roots activists from throughout North America as well as other countries around the world. At one of the conferences in the early 1990s, I was a participant in a well-attended workshop titled “Activists of Color/White Activists Dialogue” facilitated by two highly-respected activists: a woman of color and a white Christian man.

When the workshop began, the woman outlined the agenda for the next one-and-one-half hours: the workshop would concentrate on the concepts of “race” and dialogue across racial divides, and include two separate panels of participant volunteers: one composed of four people of color, the other of four white people. Panel members were to each, in turn, answer four questions put to them by the facilitators, first the people of color panelists followed by the white people panelists. The questions were: 1. “What do you love about being your racial identity?” 2. “What has been difficult for you growing up this racial identity?” 3. “What do you never want to hear said again about or seen done to people of your racial identity group?,” and 4. “How can people of other racial groups support you and be your allies?”

As she explained the intended focus and agenda, great confusion came over me: Should I volunteer? Well, maybe, but I really can’t because I’m not sure if either of the categories on which the panels are organized include me. I know for certain that I am not eligible to volunteer for the “persons of color” panel. But, also, I feel as if I somehow don’t belong on the “white persons” panel either. Maybe I should just listen to the panelists, which I did.

But, what caused my bewilderment? What got in my way of self-defining as “white”? From where was this feeling of not-belonging on either panel, or my feeling of in-betweenness coming? Thinking back, I came to realize that it stems, I believe, from both personal and collective experience.

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The Villain’s Advantage

Jun19

by: Norman Allen on June 19th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

I walked across Washington, DC, after the shooting in Charleston and was struck by how many good people I know. I spent the morning with a young playwright eager to bring his view of the world’s interconnectedness to an audience. I ran into a school counselor who was a great help to my family during a difficult time. And I chanced upon a former colleague who finds joy in teaching science to struggling high school students.

Gun control activists march in Washington, DC, January 2015.

Gun control activists march in Washington DC, January 2015. Credit: Creative Commons / Elvert Barnes Protest Photography

Living in Washington, I’m constantly meeting such people. My friends include advocates for education, arts funding, marriage equality, voting rights and affordable housing. The city overflows with folks eager to make a difference. This week, though, I was struck by how easy it is to bring all that potential to a sudden and tragic end.

Not usually one to categorize human beings as “good” or “bad,” I do recognize that some people have a more positive view of the world. They see the potential for goodness in others, and they work to nurture and strengthen it. And there are people who do the opposite. For a myriad of reasons, they live in anger and take an aggressive stance to the world around them.

Both groups hold enormous power. The folks able to see the good in people bring that goodness forth. The student who has been beaten down by life and chooses aggression as a defense is transformed by the teacher who recognizes that student’s unique potential and has the patience to wait for it to emerge. Similar scenarios are repeated in a million ways every day.

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The Pope Might Save the Planet… if You Would Join an Interfaith Effort to Support His Direction!

Jun18

by: on June 18th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

A portrait of Pope Francis.

Credit: Alberto Pizzoli via Getty Images.

The Pope issued a powerful letter to the world today, called Laudato Si, in which he called upon the people of the world as well as the members of the Catholic Church to make saving the planet from environmental destruction the major and urgent focus of our activity in the 21st century. And he highlighted how climate change will be particularly destructive to the poor. I want to share with you the following piece I wrote, which appeared on the front page of the Huffington Post today. If you prefer, you may read it there. Please never say “I didn’t know what to do in face of the environmental crisis,” because we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives are inviting you to become involved with us in some very specific steps you could take! Please read the article below!

Warm regards and blessings,

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

Pope Francis’ Laudato Si plea for environmental sanity and a serious recommitment to the Bible’s call for humanity to be stewards of this planet earth just might make a huge difference by puncturing through the emotional depression that keeps most of the people of the earth paralyzed in face of the growing crisis.

It is not that people don’t know about the environmental crisis that keeps us stuck in our current situation. It is rather that most people are unable to see any way out of the mess that global capitalism has created for us. Feeling hopeless about the possibility of the kinds of fundamental transformations needed to save the planet, much of humanity has chosen the ostrich strategy: deny the problem, and focus instead on getting as much as one can for oneself in the decades ahead as the planet whimpers under the increasing destructiveness of the capitalist imperative to growth without limits and accumulation of money, power or things as the only meaning to life. Yet it is this very growth and accumulation of things, produced at the expense of the earth, that guarantees earth-destruction if not of the planet than at least of its life-support-system that makes human life on it possible.

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Stop the Canonization of Friar Serra, Patron Saint of Colonizers and Racists!

Jun17

by: Matthew Fox on June 17th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Statue of Junipero Serra in profile

Credit: CreativeCommons/ millerm217.

Do we really need a Patron Saint of Colonizers? A Patron Saint of Racists? That is what is at stake in the dangerous canonization of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) that the Vatican is threatening during the papal visit to the United States in Fall 2015. We must stand with indigenous people everywhere and resist loudly this grave injustice. The native people I know are furious and fuming and for very good reasons. As one Native American leader named Toypurina put it, “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

Pope Francis has the support of many vis-à-vis his efforts to critique our failing economic system, clean up the Catholic Church, and pronounce about eco-theology and climate change. We all wish him well and extend him our prayers, but this canonization issue could seriously mar those efforts, as well as his soon-to-be-released encyclical on ecology. After all, indigenous wisdom, unlike most Western religion, has never forsaken the sense of the sacredness of the cosmos. Why continue to insult indigenous peoples? Isn’t their wisdom needed more than ever for an environmental awakening today?

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To Evangelicals: “Can We Forgive You?”

Jun15

by: on June 15th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A hand reaching towards a gray sky.

Credit: CreativeCommons / roujo.

I noticed with interest and, quite frankly, surprise an article headline on the front page of The New York Times dated Tuesday, June 8, 2015, which stated: “Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights.” Laurie Goodstein, the author, covers an apparent emerging trend, which she summarizes in paragraph 5:

“As acceptance of same-sex marriage has swept the country and as the Supreme Court prepares to release a landmark decision on the issue, a wide variety of evangelical churches, colleges and ministries are having the kinds of frank discussions about homosexuality that many of them say they had never had before.”

The article goes on to state that evangelical institutions are attempting to navigate a middle terrain between staying “true” to their previously stated positions on issues around homosexuality while simultaneously attempting not to alienate especially younger congregants who increasingly support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. This latter point cuts right (no pun intended) to the core of the questions of “Why this?” and “Why now?”. We can look for the answer in the work of Dr. Derrick Bell and his pioneering work in critical race theory.

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One Year Sick & Then Not: On the Social Construction of Homosexuality as “Disease”

Jun12

by: on June 12th, 2015 | No Comments »

City hall lite up in rainbow.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Tom Hilton

June is LGBTIQ Pride Month. I share with you a piece of our history in which I had the honor of participating- WJB.

We had been jointly planning our tactics over the past month. I and my compatriots of the Gay Liberation Front and Gay May Day collective, friends from the Mattachine Society, and members of the newly formed Gay Activists Alliance were to gather on this bright morning during the first week of May in 1971, and carpool up Connecticut Avenue in northwest Washington, DC to the Shoreham Hotel. Also uniting with us were people from out-of-town who joined us as part of “Gay May Day” as we attempted to shut down the federal government for what we considered as an illegal and immoral invasion into Vietnam.

We parked about a block away since we didn’t want hotel security and attendees at the annual American Psychiatric Association conference to notice a rather large group of activists sporting T-shirts and placards announcing “Gay Is Good,” “Psychiatry Is the Enemy,” and “Gay Revolution.” Half the men decked themselves in stunning drag wearing elegant wigs and shimmering lamé dresses, glittering fairy dust wafting their painted faces.

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Band of Brothers: Healing Wounded Hearts by Finding the Light Within

Jun11

by: on June 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

Sepia picture of soilders with "Band of Brothers" written above their heads.

Once again six combat veterans with PTSD realize their life has really been a QUEST to re-discover the light within themselves- in seven weeks- by participating in Healing The Wounded Heart (Band of Brothers) Workshop # 16. Through the power of love and gratitude their hearts are awakened from a long slumber as they realize their military experience, regardless of their individual trauma, has been another important step of service in preparation for the ultimate service from their soaring hearts: Allen L Roland, Ph.D.

“What happens when people open their hearts – They get better.”Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

In my role as a volunteer heart centered consultant, advisor and mentor, I have recently assisted in the heart felt inner healing of six more combat veterans with PTSD who found the courage to go within and beneath their pain and anguish and found, in the process, their original innocence, joy and delight as well as a need to be in service from that very same place of love and gratitude, and all within seven weeks.

Make no mistake about it, the keys to the magic kingdom of the soul as well as soul retrieval is gratefulness, and gratefulness and eventually forgiveness ends with our self. Each one of these participants with the assistance of their adjustment counselor complete a Life chart- a chart which clearly shows their whole life, relationships and war experience as a Quest or journey to where they are now.

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Jewish Beliefs About GMOs

Jun11

by: Robyn Purchia on June 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

A beautiful green field of wheat.
Credit: Flickr / Miran Rijave.

Like most environmental issues, the growing supply of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food raises many concerns. Although GMO crops can feed more people, they also put people’s health at risk and degrade the environment. Small farmers can make more money growing and selling more crops, but buying GMO seeds gives corporations a lot of power over these small farmers. Along with these ethical concerns, religious groups must also wrestle with the theological issues GMOs raise.

When religion tries to apply ancient texts to modern technology there is rarely a clear answer. Application of Jewish laws and ethical traditions has burdened the GMO debate with numerous contradictions. In figuring out Jewish beliefs on GMOs we may be left with only one theological question: Can humans make God’s creation more perfect?

Jewish Law as it Applies to GMOs

Consistent with the principle that anything not expressly prohibited by God is permitted, Jewish law, or halacha, generally takes a permissive position on GMO food. But just because halacha doesn’t expressly prohibit GMO food, doesn’t mean it’s entirely silent on the issue.

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