How to be More Effective at a Thanksgiving Gathering This Year

Often at Thanksgiving gatherings people share gratitudes with one another about various aspects of their lives. Spiritual Progressives have a practice that we invite you to consider using at your Thanksgiving table, or by yourself (perhaps when you take a walk outside or seek quiet space sometime Thanksgiving day).

At the bottom of this email we included some prayers/poems/meditations you might want to share with others.

It is helpful to prepare in advance by letting others know that what you’dlike to have included in your Thanksgiving gathering (and if you are invited to someone else’s home, be sure to ask them in advance for permission to include some of these or other ideas at their home).

1. Write down the things, relationships, experiences, etc. for which you are grateful in your life, the life of your family, the reality of any community of which you are part, any aspect of life on this planet you genuinely appreciate.

2. Bring (and ask others to bring) favorite poems and creative readings to share. If you are alone, drench yourself in the poems that give you the most pleasure.

3. Rejoice in the opportunity you have to connect with other people who share your desire for a world that is less shaped by the those who promote fear, hatred, and militarism and instead yearn for a world filled with love, caring for each other, and caring for “the Other” (for example, refugees, victims of hate crimes, sexual harassment, or abuse, and those who are victims of racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and every other form of xenophobia).

4. Thanksgiving 2018 is the last of the 30 days of mourning for the eleven Jews murdered while at prayer in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a right-wing nationalist extremist who said he wanted to murder as many Jews as possible. Please consider reading the following:

We assembled here today hope and pray for the recovery of those who were wounded as well as for the recovery and easing of the pain of families of those whose loved ones were murdered because they were Jews. We commit ourselves to do all that we can to challenge anti-Semitism in every form that it takes and to defending Jews, African Americans, LGBTQ people, Muslims, Latinos, and every other group of people being demeaned, demonized, or identified as evil by the white nationalism that has been developing in the U.S. and around the world. Help Christians recognize the hateful portrayals of Jews (a.k.a. “Pharisees”) in the New Testament’s Gospels (particularly the Gospel of John), urge them to learn the history of Christian practices and teachings about Jews that involved for at least 1500 years infecting Christian societies with a deep hatred of Jews which became so deep in the culture that it persisted even when people no longer thought of themselves as Christian, and help them teach this to their children so that they can understand where the anti-Semitism came from rather than blaming it on something wrong about Jews. On the other hand, don’t accept the notion that all who criticize Israel are anti-Semites. Israel is a nation state, and not all Jews think it is acting appropriately in the way it deals with Palestinians. Yet there are ways to detect legitimate criticisms from anti-Semitic criticisms. Read the Tikkun book The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on the Left to learn how to distinguish between the two.

5. Please remember and give some attention to the fact that 2.5 billion people on the earth don’t have enough to eat and are in fact in deep crisis. Please also share with your friends, neighbors and those at your Thanksgiving celebration fhe following thought: those who are seeking refuge in the U.S. (this Thanksgiving through caravans of refugees from Honduras and other Central and South American economies devastated by U.S. trade policies) are doing so not because of our “mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam” (as the “God Bless America” song written by a descendent of a Jewish refugee family put it) but rather to escape the wrecked societies that American economic policies generated and to escape the resulting extremes of poverty, joblessness, hunger, violence, and in many cases actual or potential rape and murder. These are the refugees that the political Right tells us we should fear, while the best in the American tradition and the heritage of most religions teach us we should be welcoming and providing support. And to be fair, we have to recognize that this wrong-headed and selfishness-oriented response was also the policy of the Obama Administration which deported over 2 million undocumented working people—more than all the previous presidents of the U.S. combined.

Some friends or family members might argue that the U.S. can’t take in everyone in the world who’d want to have access to American wealth. They are right, though we could easily bring in millions more, but not billions more. Our response: the rational way to deal with the refugee issue is to do what we can to make life in the countries where people are suffering safe, fulfilling and economically and environmentally sustainable. Tikkun and our interfaith and secular-humanist-and-atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives have a way to deal with this—our proposed Global Marshall Plan (check it out at www.tikkun.org/GMP). So one concrete thing you can do at your Thanksgiving celebration is see if you can get a few of the people there to either send a letter to your Congressional representative asking that he/she/they endorse it (H.Res. 87 introduced into the House by Keith Ellison of Minnesota, elected 2 weeks ago to be the Attorney General of Minnesota), or ask to meet with your newly elected representative to ask that they introduce a similar endorsement in the 2019 Congress!

And then do the same with the deepening destruction of the planet. Again, we have a strategy that begins with taking money out of politics and demanding corporate environmental responsibility–the ESRA (Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution–please re-read it at www.tikkun.org/ESRA and discuss it with others on Thanksgiving.

Please explore with your friends if they’d be willing to spend one night each month with you reading some of the articles in Tikkun (we’ll have them online) and creating a local activist chapter of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org).

And do not let anyone at your celebration convince you that somehow talking about healing and transforming our planet is “too political” and hence has no place at Thanksgiving. On the contrary, one of the most powerful ways to celebrate the freedoms that the Trump Administration has not yet removed from us (though we worry about the future) is to exercise that freedom by thinking about and engaging in activities that explore how best to preserve and protect the earth as we celebrate the miraculous universe of which we are all a small part. So political discourse and action are both totally relevant to Thanksgiving.

In addition to the suggestions above, we encourage you to also do the following:

A. Challenge liberal and progressive friends who condemn all Trump supporters as “racist and stupid”. First, if we ever want to get enough political support to implement a liberal and progressive agenda then we need to win back to a progressive worldview some of those who helped increase the number of right-wing U.S. Senators in the 2018 election—and that won’t happen as long as what those people perceive to be the elitist dismissal of them for “not being good enough.” Yes, there is a core racist, sexist, homophobes, anti-Semites, etc. in the Right, but not everyone who failed to vote for liberals or progressives fits into that category. In my newest book, Revolutionary Love (to be published in Fall 2019), I show how that kind of shaming and blaming is part of the reason people don’t give the liberal and progressive forces the support we need if we are to save the life-support-system of the planet from destruction. So that put-down of the American people is a big mistake.

B. Isn’t Thanksgiving a perfect time to celebrate all of the

millions of Americans \who did come out to vote for progressive initiatives and for candidates who want a world of justice, peace, and environmental sanity? Try to be empathic with people with whom you disagree, engaging in genuine curiosity to explore what fears or needs they have that you can validate, rather than jumping to make them wrong.

Please feel free to use the prayers/meditations below to further enrich your holiday celebration. And if you happen to be in the Bay Area, you are invited to study Torah with me in English at 951 Cragmont Ave, Berkeley, starting at 10:30am Saturday, December 1st.

The Thanksgiving Meditation, Prayer or Guided Visualization  

Today we give thanks to this incredible universe for all the beauty, the goodness and the miracles that surround us every day and to which we have given too little conscious attention. And we celebrate the ability to be with friends, neighbors, family, or others on this holy day of joyful appreciation of all the good in our lives.

Our beautiful and life-sustaining planet is in danger, so on this Thanksgiving we recommit ourselves to taking all steps necessary to reverse the processes that threaten the life-support systems of the planet, and to preserve the rich diversity of life forms and of beauty that we experience daily on planet earth. We are part of the unity of all being, a manifestation of God’s or Goddesses’ love, or of the loving energy of the universe that brought together our parents to bring us into life. While we are alive, we recommit ourselves to making every day a mini thanksgiving in which we take time to celebrate the grandeur and mystery of being itself.

This is the right moment, then, for us to also put forward our prayers or intentions for a world of peace, justice, and environmental sanity. We recognize that our ability to live today was achieved, in part, as a result of the genocide of native peoples of this land, and we are not willing to live through another period in which other peoples may be losing their lands to settlers, oppressive colonization, or through brutal wars. The shameful U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia which has given military and political support to the genocidal war in Yemen, that is killing much of the unarmed population, is just the latest in a long series of wars, colonial and imperialist ventures that have characterized much of the past two hundred years of Western power.

Again this year we express our dismay at the Israeli governments dispossession of Palestinian lands, destruction of Palestinian villages, shooting of non-violent protestors, and ongoing daily oppression and we are disheartened by the violent response of Hamas and some Palestinians. This Thanksgiving some of us commit to doing all we can to stop the conflict and to start the process of non-violent open-hearted reconciliation and peace. We reject the advice of the “political realists” who tell us that this struggle will go on forever, at untold levels of human suffering. First step: end the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza while providing an international peace force that will prevent any further acts of violence toward Israel or toward Palestine or insist that Israel implement a core practice that makes a country a democracy, namely: one person, one vote for anyone living under the control of a particular government—in this case, giving West Bank Palestinians a vote for Knesset members (the rest of the terms of what a lasting peace agreement would look like are already worked out in the Tikkun book Embracing Israel/Palestine). Second step, reject domination as a strategy and adopt instead the strategy of generosity by beginning to implement a Global Marshall Plan to once and for all end domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health dare, and to repair the global environment.

Some of us, whether or not we believe in God or Goddess or Spirit, are Spiritual Progressives. Spiritual Progressives want the world to be reorganized in ways that promote love, kindness, generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, and awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of all that is.

We believe that the real source of strength for any country or people will come from the degree to which its neighbors and the people of the world see that country as a source of generous love, social justice, peace, non-violence and generosity toward all and environmental sanity toward the earth. We reject the hate-oriented forms of nationalism growing in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, and instead endorse what France’s President Emmanuel Macron told U.S. President Trump: Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism” Macron said. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying our interests first, who cares about the others, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values.

We must join him in challenging the “America First” ideology that first developed in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s as a cover for explicit pro-Nazi forces, and which again provides cover today to the growth of fascistic forces.

So on this Thanksgiving we call upon the world to actively involve itself with bringing peace and prosperity to all places where violence and wars continue to be waged\

We know that this approach will require major political changes, and that is why we support the Network of Spiritual Progressives’ “Money out of Politics” campaign that goes way beyond affirming that corporations are not people and money is not speech. The ESRA also bans all private and corporate monies from national and state elections (check it out at www.spiritualprogressives.org/esra). And we affirm the Unity of All Being, the oneness of all with all, and the fundamental interdependence of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving with all other people on the planet and commit ourselves to save this planet from environmental destruction.

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we affirm our dedication to being “unrealistic” for peace, social justice, environmental sanity, and a world based on love, caring, kindness and generosity. In so doing, we will make realistic what at first seemedto be unrealistic. And so it is. Amen.

Written by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of TikkunRabbiLerner.tikkun@gmail.com

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, co-chair with Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He is the author of eleven books, including two national bestsellers—The Left Hand of God and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. His most recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine, is available on Kindle from Amazon.com and in hard copy from tikkun.org/eip. He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership comes with a subscription to Tikkun magazine). You can contact him at rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com.
 
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