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Archive for the ‘Rethinking Religion’ Category



rEVOLution: NSP News and Happenings in April

Apr9

by: on April 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

Revolution: The NSP Newsletter, April 2015

What is inspiring about the NSP is its call to ground activism in moral and spiritual values. In this time where justice remains elusive, it’s easy to feel despair at the enormous task at hand.

In the spirit of Passover, I found myself reflecting upon the story of Moses’s life and the tremendous burning angst within him that he heard as a call to action. This is a call that we all hear and like Moses, do not believe we are up to the task.To read more about my interpretation of this epic story, please click here.Continue below to learn more about how you can join us in our own efforts to transform the world.

Cat Zavis, Executive Director of the NSP


 

Mark Your Calendars! We are excited to share with you that from May 19th – 21st we are hosting (with the Shift Network) a series of calls with activists, leaders, theologians, historians, authors and others who are working to create a world based on a New Bottom Line of love and justice in fields such as: Conscious Politics, Global Capitalism, Structural Injustice, the Environment, and Youth Activism. We will explore how the values of love and justice infuse their work and how we can build a movement of love and justice. The series is called:The Politics of Love and Justice: Integrating Spirituality and Activism to Build a Sustainable and Caring World. Keep your eyes open for an email in the next few weeks with information to register for the telesummit.


Happenings from Chapters
We are so excited by the outpouring of enthusiasm and support we’ve received as of late and the interest in building chapters and connections with others who share our vision. If you are interested in starting a chapter or project where you live, please click here to read our Starter Guide and then join our monthly calls – see below for details.

To join a local chapter or learn more, please contact the person listed below if you if you live in their neck of the woods. Click here to read more information from chapters throughout the country.

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Transformation Lessons from Moses and Passover

Apr8

by: on April 8th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A black figure kneeling in front of illuminated stained glass.

Credit: WikimediaCommons / Richard Simon.

There are many ways to interpret the epic story of Moses hearing God’s voice at the Burning Bush. For this Passover season, I share one way that I understand this story and its meaning to our lives in the present time.

Moses, who grew up as a prince of Egypt, had witnessed violence and abuse of the Israelite slaves and was horrified by it – as any person who has not hardened his/her heart would understandably be. Out of rage, horror and grief, Moses reacted by killing an Egyptian who was abusing the slaves. He is then forced to flee the palace (his life of privilege, the only life he has known). Though he was able to create a new and somewhat comfortable life for himself married to the daughter of one of the chief priests of Midian, he could not forget what he had experienced in Egypt. So while tending the sheep of his father-in-law’s house, one lamb wanders off and he chases it as it wanders up a mountain (that tradition later identifies as Sinai). There he experiences most fully the burning message in his heart that simply refuses to burn out. Moses envisions it as a burning bush that is not consumed, and from that fire within he hears a voice that tells him he is to return to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh let his people go.

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This Easter, forgo the eggs and, like Jesus, rise up for social justice

Apr4

by: Rev. Rich Lang on April 4th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A close-up of a statue of Jesus in despair.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Lisa.

This weekend, Christians will remember the last week of Jesus’ life. If you ask Christians what the significance of Jesus is, they will tell you that Jesus “died for our sins,” paving the way for our souls to go to heaven after we shed this mortal coil. This common view is really a rather odd answer.

Some Christians tell the story as if God, the spiritual source of the material world, is really angry with us human beings. We are a rebellious sort who eat apples off the wrong trees and have sex with the wrong people. God the spirit is so angry with us that when our mortal coil is shed, our own spiritual essence will descend into an eternal torture chamber for an afterlife marked by weeping and gnashing of teeth. But thankfully, Jesus takes one for the team, becoming the scapegoat that represents all of us filthy sinners, and in doing so, appeases the God who otherwise would roast and toast us like an eternal marshmallow at a campfire. If you don’t believe Christians talk this way, just ask one: “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”


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A Meditation on “Dayenu”

Apr4

by: Roxanne J. Fand on April 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A hand holding green onions/scallions.

Jews in Iran and Afghanistan hit each other with bundles of green onions during the Seder song 'Dayenu' to remember the Jewish people's yearning for food during exile from Egypt. Credit: CreativeCommons / Rachel Barenblat.

Ever since I could remember, I loved Passover Seders, especially the song, “Dayenu,” whatever it might mean. Perhaps the story of freedom from slavery appealed to me as a child “enslaved” by parental and school authority. When I was old enough to read the English translation, “It Would Suffice Us,” and followed along stanza by stanza, I simply recognized gratitude for all the benefits God gave to the Israelites, from being freed of their Egyptian servitude to their regaining the Promised Land.

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Why This Gay Jew Will Be A Liturgist in Church This Sunday

Apr3

by: on April 3rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi at their wedding in 1990. Credit: Craig Wiesner.

Twenty-five years ago, on April 8th, Palm Sunday, my husband Derrick and I were married at the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto. This Sunday he and I will be Easter liturgists in that same sanctuary which has been our spiritual home for all of these years.

Today as the world remembers Christ on the cross and awaits the good news on Sunday, pundits like Mike Huckabee, decrying the outrage Indiana’s religious “freedom” law spawned, are claiming that folks like Derrick and I are trying to destroy the church. According to the Huffington Post, Huckabee said “It won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel [...] and I’m talking now about the unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.”

No sir. The unabridged, unapologetic Gospel of the Jewish carpenter, executed because he dared to speak out against injustice and stood up for the poor, rings loudly in thousands of churches across this country. It is a message of love, hope, redemption, and absolute acceptance, with doors flung wide open proclaiming that all are welcome, and cursed be the one who puts up a stumbling block to the children trying to reach him.


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A Sikh and Hindu chai chat over progressive action and social justice

Apr3

by: Manpreet Teji and Murali Balaji on April 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »

A red Sikh symbol.Over the past decade, South Asian Americans of all faiths have become increasingly active in social justice causes, whether it’s been combating xenophobia and anti-Black racism, fighting for LGBT rights, religious tolerance, and for comprehensive environmental justice.

Sadly, even as the community comes together on these issues, interfaith dialogue among South Asian Americans continues to be a sore spot. As Sikh and Hindu activists, respectively, we seek a way forward in discussing how our communities – which have occasionally experienced tensions among advocacy groups – can work together to solve the problems we face together. Moreover, we need to talk about how Sikhs and Hindus – who both come from inherently progressive spiritual traditions -can present a united front in championing for social change.

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Torah Commentary: The Seder and Transformative Consciousness

Apr3

by: on April 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »

The Torah tells us of four sons…

One of the central passages of the seder involves a presentation of the questions of, and the responses to four paradigmatic sons. We are told of a wise son, a wicked son, an innocent or naive son, and the fourth described as one who does not know how to initiate a question. Each of these “sons”questions, in one way or another, is about the meaning of the ritual observances surrounding Passover, and for each one an appropriate answer is given, depending on the personality of the son. Each of these ‘sons’ questions and answers are constructed out of biblical proof texts which contain a reference to instructing one’s offspring. However, they are not presented, Powerpoint style, in order of their appearance in the Torah, and are used in a homiletic manner to teach certain points. What these points might be is also left unexplained in an almost zen koan like challenge to comprehension; we will see that loaded within this seemingly innocuous passage is a call to transformative consciousness.

The entire passage is unclear, for example, the question of the wise son and the wicked son are similar, while the answers they receive are curious; furthermore, the answer given to the wicked son and the non-questioning son are derived from the exact same verse. What do all these texts with their attributions to different types of children come to teach us on the first night of Passover, what does any of this have to do with liberation from oppression?

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The Tikkun Passover Seder Supplement

Apr1

by: on April 1st, 2015 | 2 Comments »

This is meant as a supplement to the traditional Haggadah. You can use it in addition to a traditional Haggadah, introducing whichever parts you like to your Seder to provoke a lively discussion, or you can use this as the basis for an alternative Haggadah, which can then be supplemented by the traditional Haggadah.

"Passover" by Lynne Feldman (lynnefeldman.com).

A Note to Non-Jews: You are very welcome at our Seder! Jesus was a Jew, and the Last Supper was a Seder. Our supplement affirms the liberatory message that is part of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is found in many other religious and spiritual traditions as well. You may find some of this ritual helpful if you create your own rite to celebrate the key insight of Easter or of any of the spring holidays of the world: that rebirth, renewal, and transformation are possible, and that we are not stuck in the dark, cold, and deadly energies of winter. Judaism builds on that universal experience of nature and adds another dimension: it suggests that the class structure (slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or neoliberal imperialism) can be overcome, and that we human beings, created in the image of the Transformative Power of the Universe (God), can create a world based on love, generosity, justice, and peace.

We understand God in part as the Transformative Power of the Universe – the force that makes possible the transformation from that which is to that which ought to be, the force that makes it possible to transcend the tendency of human beings to pass on to others the hurt and pain that has been done to us, the force that permeates every ounce of Being and unites all in one transcendent and imminent reality. In short, we understand God in part as the ultimate Unity of All with All, of whom we are always a part, even if we are not always conscious of the part of God we are, or the part of God that everyone and everything is. And you are welcome at our Seder even if you think all of this makes no sense and there is no God.

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Easter Lilies

Mar30

by: Susan Little on March 30th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A painting of two young girls holding lanterns in a garden of lilies.

Credit: CreativeCommons / John Singer Sargent.

When I was a young child nurtured in the Methodist Church in Earle, Arkansas, the word “dead” meant nothing to me. But “rose from the dead,” that was something captivating, a phrase I heard far, far more often than just the word. Every Sunday, in fact, I learned to proclaim as an article of faith that Jesus, on the third day, “rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.” Resurrection.

A six-year-old makes what she will of words and concepts she doesn’t understand. And that is what I did. Because “resurrection” was accompanied by pictures of a risen Christ in white robes, moving toward a light-filled heaven, arms reaching out for me, I could tell that the word meant “life.” I reached in return for Jesus, and for the promise. From the beginning, for me, Jesus was life.

My parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. Even now, I can hear my father saying it, again and again. At the same time, the church taught me that God loved me and would help me grow up into a good person, a loving individual, doing meaningful things, someone to be proud of. God was love. I believed in God. I believed in Jesus. Love and Life.

Much has changed since those days in Earle. Schools and degrees; jobs at home and overseas; marriages – two of those; children and grandchildren. Many joys; many hardships. Through it all, I have grown familiar with the word “dead.” Death, disappointment, disease – I know about them now. And, of course, I know more about life and love as well. Unlike the little girl in Earle, who had never met an atheist or a Jew or a Greek Orthodox or a Catholic or even an Episcopalian or a Lutheran, I have fallen in love with at least one of each of them in my adult life. I observed how their faiths – practicing or not – had molded their hearts in compassion. I could see the light of God shining through them, even as they might not have named it so. The circle of my understanding grew wide and my spirit began to throw off the bonds of exclusivity.

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“Let the Palestinian people go”: What younger Jews will be asking of Israel at Passover Seder this year

Mar27

by: on March 27th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

What makes this year’s Passover Seders unlike any others is that a majority of American Jews have been forced to face the fact that Palestinians today are asking Jews what Moses asked Pharaoh: “Let my people go.” The Israeli elections, and subsequent support for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s open racism and obstinate refusal to help create a Palestinian state, is not playing well with many younger Jews, and they will be challenging their elders to rethink their blind support for Israeli policies.

Increasingly, young Jews are on the Moses side, and see Netanyahu as the contemporary Pharaoh. So at the Seder more and more Jews will be asking Israel to “let the Palestinian people go.”

The easiest way ​for Israel ​to ​allow Palestinians their freedomis to create a politically and economically viable Palestinian state living in peace with Israel and based on the 1967 borders of Israel with slight border changes to allow Israel to incorporate the settlements in Gush Etzion and Jewish parts of Jerusalem that were built on conquered Arab land in 1967. The terms for that agreement were well worked out by “The Geneva Accord” developed by former Yitzhak Rabin aide (and Ehud Barak’s Minister of Justice) Yossi Beilin, and would include Jerusalem serving as the capital of both states, massive reparations to the Palestinian people to help fund such a state (paid in part by the international community), and joint police and military cooperation, supplemented by international help, to deal with the inevitable acts of terror from both Israeli and Palestinian terrorists who would want to block any such agreement.

Though Prime Minister Netanyahu has now sought to back away from his unequivocal election commitment in mid-March that he would never allow Palestinians to have a separate state, it is clear to most American Jews that he was telling the truth to his own community when he made that commitment. Only a fully unambiguous embrace of a detailed plan for ending the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, and major unilateral acts on Israel’s part to begin to implement the creation of a Palestinian state, would be believed by any Palestinians at this point. And who can blame them?

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