News that Karen McCarthy Brown passed away after years of deteriorating illness reached me earlier this month. I kept it to myself. When more official announcements from Drew University–where she was Professor Emerita of anthropology and sociology of religion — showed up on my Facebook feed this past Sunday, I shared it with the following comment:
Reading Karen’s Mama Lola kept me in grad school. Vodou got a human face from her. A tremendous loss, indeed.
Last night in Downtown Oakland, supported by dozens of lay Buddhist practitioners, Buddhist monks, and interfaith allies, nine people sat in silent meditation, blocking the doors of the Marriott Hotel, which will host Urban Shield this week. Urban Shield is a militarized police expo and SWAT Team training where police forces from around the country come to learn about and purchase militarized weapons that they will then use on citizenry, as we saw so vividly in Ferguson recently.
by: Warren J. Blumenfeld on May 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
American politicians have prayed before public gatherings since the Founding Fathers crowded into a stuffy Philadelphia room to crank out the Constitution. The inaugural and emphatically Christian prayer at the First Continental Congress was delivered by an Anglican minister, who overcame objections from the assembled Quakers, Anabaptists and Presbyterians. The prayer united the mostly Christian Founding Fathers, and the rest is history.
Indeed, as U. S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy write in the 5-4 majority opinion in The Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway , “…the rest is history.”
Church Ave and State Street intersect in Knoxville, Tennessee. Credit: Creative Commons/ Wyoming_Jackrabbit
While a strict separation of synagogue and state, mosque and state, Hindu and Buddhist temple and state, and separation of atheists and state and virtually all the other approximately 5000 religions and state has been enacted, on the other hand, church – predominantly Protestant denominations, but also Catholic – and state, have connected virtually seamlessly to the affairs and policies of what we call the United States of America, from the first invasion of Europeans in the 15th century on the Christian Julian to the Christian Gregorian Calendars up to 2014 Anno Domini (short for Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi – “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”).
In the court case, two local women from Greece, New York filed suit against city officials for approving invocations with primarily overtly Christian content at monthly public sessions held on government property. However, according to Kennedy, “The town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition, and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.”
I’m on my way home from Philadelphia and the annual meeting of The Shalom Center, where I have the privilege of serving as president. The organization has a long history of peace and justice activism, increasingly arcing toward peace and justice for the Earth, which is to say the healing of global scorching (as our beloved director Rabbi Arthur Waskow calls it), which also entails rebuking the broken spirits who profit from the planet’s suffering.
Last month, when Arthur was given the first Lifetime Achievement Award by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, he pointed beyond human rights to The Shalom Center’s crucial work to heal and protect from the climate crisis: not just human rights, but the rights of the web of life on this planet, encompassing human and other living beings.
One of our chief topics at this year’s meeting was how to awaken Jewish activism on this burning issue. To date, The Shalom Center is the only organization grounded in the Jewish community that has taken this on as a central cause. We spent considerable time devising a new national initiative that you’ll be hearing about soon.
by: Sharon Delgado on February 13th, 2013 | Comments Off
An Ash Wednesday Reflection
"Spirit of the River," Yuba River near Nevada City, California
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In Christian tradition, on this day ashes are used to symbolize two things: repentance and mortality.
As we consider the destruction of the earth and the suffering of our fellow creatures, both human and nonhuman, repentance and humble acceptance of our own mortality seem appropriate. In Ash Wednesday services the imposition of ashes is a way to show our repentance, our intention to turn away from harmful actions and to turn back toward God. As we consider harm to the earth we are called to repent of our own violence, greed, and over-consumption, our participation in ecological destruction and human misery, our complicity in the harm caused by the institutions and systems of which we are a part.
On Wednesday, January 9, nearly 2,000 people rallied against fracking outside of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, in Albany, New York.
Folks danced, chanted, shouted, drummed, and waved signs. Pete Seeger sang, the Reverend Billy Talen shook and shouted halleluyah, Sandra Steingraber, Debra Winger, and Natalie Merchant spoke. Voices of the thousands rang out loudly for hours.
Activists called (and call) for a permanent ban on fracking in the state of New York.
Geologists, chemists, biologists, and medical doctors argue that fracking is a threat to public health, will produce hazardous air and water pollution, and will endanger the state’s food supply. It contributes negatively to climate change as well, according to Phil Aroneanu, campaign director of 350.org. Of additional concern to many, as reported by Treehugger and the New York Times, among others, is the release of dangerous radiaoactive materials into the ecosystem through the fracking process. As of now, the gas industry has no means or plan to contain such radioactive waste.
by: Gabriel Crane on October 12th, 2012 | 3 Comments »
Here at Tikkun we receive many advance copies of books from amazing authors, artists, and activists every day. It’s encouraging to encounter the powerful work our peers are engaged in, not to mention inspiring to see the sheer volume of it. Unfortunately, as with most small non-profits, we are stretched pretty thin and often don’t have the time to read or review the vast majority of what comes in.
One book that did catch my eye this week, though, was a title by Gregg Braden, Deep Truth: Igniting the Memory of Our Origin, History, Destiny, and Fate (you can check it out online here). While I haven’t had a chance to read it through all the way, I was fascinated by Braden’s presentation of emerging scientific evidence that suggests our classic understanding of human history, which posits that civilization developed roughly 5,000 years ago out of the “Fertile Crescent” that spans the intersection of Africa and Asia, is incomplete and flawed.
Today, I’m thinking a lot about Occupy.
No, I’m not simply being late to the party – I know that Occupy Wall Street celebrated its one-year anniversary some weeks ago with a glorious 135 or so arrests in New York and a smattering of media attention. But today, October 10th, marks the one-year anniversary of Occupy Oakland– the most notorious and widely controversial “Occupy” of the nation. And, in spite of all of its many challenges and inadequacies, the one closest to my heart.
A year ago, Occupy Oakland started as a dozen or two dozen folks sleeping in a park – which is nothing much to shake a stick at, believe me, because people sleeping in parks is hardly news in downtown Oakland. as far as political activities go, I’ve attended dozens of actions with more organization, more arrests, more media, more puppets and far wittier banners. But somehow, in a matter of months, Occupy Oakland became a driving force that helped sweep this apathetic nation off its feet.
A little pinpoint of light that became a spark, and then a movement. Like a wildfire. Like falling in love.
Falling in love is about making a connection – and Occupy did that, it made the connection between the unemployed steel workers and the students drowning in debt and homeowners facing foreclosure in the face of nation-wide corporate bailouts.
by: Yigal Deutscher on September 16th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
For what many of us happens to be a subconscious pattern, at every single moment our bodies are set to move with an internal rhythm, a frequency of flow. It is so obvious, so integral, and so taken for granted that it is most likely not something we pay that much attention to. This rhythm is breath, and without this beat, there is no life in the bodies we reside in. The beautiful thing about this simple and subtle, often forgotten, internal movement is that when you pay it some attention, it can take on the force of powerful winds, of strong waves. It creates its own gravity and momentum, each movement taking on an exaggerated expression. Each inhale lifts your lungs and belly, inflating what now feels like elastic skin. Each exhale becomes a gratifying release and surrender, an emptying of something you never knew could ever be so full.
by: Megan Dowdell on April 17th, 2012 | Comments Off
On Saturday, April 21, Sacred Snapshots, a day-long Sampler for the Spirit, will invite participants to experience the divine, celebrate spiritual practices from a range of religions and traditions at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) Whether exploring religion in pop culture, engaging 12-step spirituality, or experiencing Hindu ritual, attendees will create a multi-religious, multicultural and international community for one day. Rumi wrote that “there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” and at Sacred Snapshots, you will have the chance to try at least a dozen.