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What’s Happening in NC? Faith-Rooted Organizing is Bearing Fruit

Mar11

by: on March 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

A few times a week these days I get a call or email from friends around the country who all ask me the same question: so, what’s happening down there in North Carolina?

I’ve taken to telling them that the Civil Rights Movement is getting born again.

Most of them have read a news story or seen coverage of protests against the extremist takeover of NC government in the past year. (If you have an hour, Bill Moyer’s “State of Conflict” is probably the most informative intro.)

But big business is funding quiet extremism everywhere. What my friends want to know is what happened to inspire over a hundred thousand people to rally at the NC Legislature last summer. How in one summer did half as many people (945) get arrested in one state as were arrested nationwide in 1960′s sit-in movement. And how, many have wondered over the past few weeks, did more than 80,000 people march on a state capitol to demand change?

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The CIA May Have Just Ticked Off the Wrong Senator

Mar11

by: on March 11th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Senator Feinstein

Photo courtesy office of Senator Dianne Feinstein

“If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.” These are words that the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) will be pleased to have heard from Senator Dianne Feinstein. People of faith across the country (including the Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson and I) have been calling on her to pressure President Obama and the CIA to finish their review of the Senate’s comprehensive report on the CIA’s treatment of detainees since September 11th so that the report could be declassified and made public. Today, Senator Feinstein took to the floor of the Senate to reveal details about the CIA potentially having spied on the Senate AND the CIA seeking criminal charges against intelligence committee staffers.

Are we about to see Congress finally stand up and assert its power? Let’s hope so.

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Neocons Now Pushing For War With Russia

Mar10

by: on March 10th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

President Obama is not, apparently, going to be steamrolled into acting as if Russia is the Soviet Union and Ukraine is Czechoslovakia. (Not that we did anything in 1968.)

And I’m grateful for that. Just imagine if that crazed warmonger John McCain was president or even Mitt Romney (although Romney is not unstable so I don’t suggest they are the same).

Instead, we have Obama who seems to understand that the United States is limited in what we can do about Ukraine. And not just logistically either.

We are also limited by the fact that the U.S. has acted precisely the way Russia has dozens of times in the last century alone. Ukraine is on the Russian border. How far are we from Guatemala, El Salavador or Chile? How far away was Iran when we overthrew its government in 1953? How far away is Iraq which we invaded and destroyed or Afghanistan where we provided the arms to put the mujaheddin in power who are now the Taliban, a curse from which that country is unlikely ever to recover?

Not surprisingly, the same people who promoted the Iraq war and now want the U.S. to bomb Iran (or let Israel do it) or pushing for action against Russia. You can call them the neocons or the Kristol-Joe Lieberman-Dershowitz-Krauthammer-Perle-Feith-Peretz gang, who always want us to be tough, lest someday we won’t defend Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. (These guys are all about Israel, nothing else.)

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The Soul of Medicine

Mar10

by: on March 10th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Know any physicians or other health care professionals who might want A New Bottom Line in Medicine – one that is more about love, caring and recognition of the humanity of those whom they treat? If so, introduce them to The Network of Spiritual Progressives’ Transformative Medicine Taskforce. Here I offer an idea of what Transformative Medicine could be about. So send this to any doctors you know, post this on your Facebook or other social media, and invite docs (including chiropractors etc.) to contact Cat@spiritualprogressives.org if they are in agreement and want to work with our Transformative Medicine.

There are two dimensions of medicine and health care that will be transformed when the New Bottom Line of the NSP–Network of Spiritual Progressives– becomes the guiding principle for our society: how medical services are distributed and what the content of a spiritually informed medicine will be (that is, how we sustain and repair health).


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Israel’s U.S Jewish Cheering Section Is Over Age 70, Writes Ari Shavit

Mar8

by: on March 8th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Ari Shavit, the Israeli journalist, has been traveling the United States recently (promoting his book) and has discovered what those of us who live here already know: Israel is a cause for Jews over 70 (and not most of them either). Below that general cutoff, most Jews have strayed from the reservation. And that cutoff will slip even further back soon. In 2016, the first baby-boomers turn 70. At the point, Shavit will need to revise his age cutoff to 71, then 72, etc. The Woodstock/McGovern Jews/Viet war protestors are not that into Israel.

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5 Big Problems With Compassion-Baiting

Mar7

by: Katie Loncke on March 7th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Unfortunately, we spiritual-progressive types, including but not limited to dharma heads, seem to be particularly prone to something I call compassion-baiting.

General compassion-baiting sounds something like:

Try having more compassion. If you did, you’d see things my way.

And in social justice situations, specifically, compassion-baiting often sounds like:

You’re more upset / loud / angry about social harm than I, arbiter, deem appropriate. You must therefore be lacking in wisdom or compassion.

F**k that noise, for real.

Why so touchy, you ask? Let’s break it down: 5 major fails associated with compassion-baiting.

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Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and the American Jewish Community

Mar7

by: Donna Nevel on March 7th, 2014 | 40 Comments »

Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace

Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.

The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”

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Torah Commentary: Perashat Vayikra- Who is Ritual For?

Mar6

by: on March 6th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

There is a lot of discussion these days in religious circles about “protecting halacha”, protecting the law, that if certain positions are taken by communities (usually issues related to the role of women, or modern scholarship these days), then “halacha” will be in “danger”.  I find this a curious new position. Is the role of Torah law to protect /elevate the people or is it some independent divine phenomenon that requires “protection”? Perhaps discussion of a more neutral set of Torah laws, those of sacrifice, neutral because they are no longer operative (itself an interesting development, and not without controversy at the time animal sacrifice was transmuted into prayer and other allegorical motifs). So how do we understand the purpose and function of the Temple rites and sacrifices?

My initial temptation was to play the phenomenologist, to compare our conceptions of sacrifice with those of other cultures, the use of language in Indian ritual, etc., but I was wary of the danger of explaining “away”, that is trying to give a good “excuse” for all this talk of korbanot, sacrifices. Rather than attempting to justify practices out of practice for two thousand years, and keeping in mind the suggestions of R. Kook that we may never sacrifice animals again, I would like to transform the question into one about the meaning of ritual in the human experience. So let us ask the central question of these questions, as does the Mei HaShiloach directly:

How can it be that if a person sins, he or she gets absolved from the sin by killing an animal?

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Happy Sabbath to You Too

Mar6

by: Zehra Bapir on March 6th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

It all started six months ago when my husband and I first moved to Brooklyn. We had been living in South-East Turkey surrounded by family members and friends in the same complex. I wanted to bring that sense of “neighborliness” with me when we moved to the U.S. and I also wanted the neighbors to know that even though I covered and looked like a terrorist from the desert, at least I was clean and friendly.

cookies

Credit: Creative Commons/rottnapples.

The first week we moved in, I made chocolate chip cookies. I know Americans — every one of them loves home-made chocolate chip cookies. That’s like a given. Every culture has a deep love and appreciation for something – English love chips. Turks love tea. Irish love…etcetera.

I was probably the first person to do this in the 21st century but that’s okay. I was going to be assertive in being a neighbor. My new neighbors were going to like me AND my chocolate chip cookies.

The first few doors I knocked on in the building gave me surprised but polite responses “What a nice idea, but I’m on a diet.” “Thank you so much, I’ll give these to my sons.” “This was so thoughtful! Unfortunately I have to watch my sugar intake you know because…” I had a feeling this would happen. I knew from movies a lot of New Yorkers were on diets, especially if they were old.

It wasn’t until I knocked on the last door that I realized most of them weren’t actually on diets.

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Ash Wednesday Worship and Arrests at Beale

Mar5

by: on March 5th, 2014 | No Comments »

Ash Wednesday Arrestees at Beale

Today, on Ash Wednesday, I participated in a deeply meaningful worship service and nonviolent direct action against drones at the gate of Beale Air Force Base. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “My body is tired but my soul is rested.” Actions of faith and conscience are good for the soul. You can see KCRA’s coverage here and a video of the arrests here.

The worship service was exquisite. Although today is a Christian holy day and we used traditional Christian symbols in worship, the service was unique in that it was open to and inclusive of people of all faiths and philosophies. It included a prayer in the four directions based on Indigenous spirituality, the World Peace Prayer (from the Hindu religion), and a Hebrew song introduced by Rabbi Seth Castleman. I was reminded of the passover we celebrated in the same spot outside the same Beale gate last year.

Today’s Ash Wednesday service included both personal and national repentance, particularly related to U.S. militarism and drone warfare. We celebrated Holy Communion and used ashes as a sign of repentance and mortality. The “passing of the peace” included some people carrying the message of peace to the TV crew and Beale officers. Several participants told me that it was the most meaningful Ash Wednesday service they had ever attended.

Following the service, five of us, including two other ordained ministers, walked across the boundary line onto base property. We sprinkled ashes that represented the ashes of children killed by U.S. drones. Some of us carried crosses with artistic renditions of some of these children, with their names, ages, and countries of origin.

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