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Archive for the ‘General News’ Category



On Earth as it Is in Heaven

Mar31

by: on March 31st, 2018 | 4 Comments »

I say and say again that in the eyes of the Roman government and of the religious authorities of his day, Jesus was not an innocent man. For the most part, Christian theology says that Jesus was a sinless man, a perfect sacrifice, who died for the propitiation of the sins of humankind. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The Christian witness to a call to believe that Jesus lived a perfect sinless life, that he died on the cross to save humanity, and was raised on the third day with all power and authority in his hands. When we believe, we are saved from hell. We are saved through faith alone. This is the soteriology of Jesus’ story.

I want to consider the ethics of his life and death. I want to consider the possibility of bringing heaven to earth.

Jesus was condemned to death by the Roman authorities because he was a threat to their power. He was handed over by religious authorities because he was a threat to their position and authority. The story of the last days of Jesus’ life is a story of the result of economic, religious and political power coming together to preserve itself. It is a warning of what happens when religious authorities stop speaking truth to power and seek to use the power of the state to maintain their traditions. It is a story of what happens when people begin to worship the idol of tradition.

Jesus was not a Christian. He was born into a Jewish household and raised to understand the law and the prophets. However, his ministry was about teaching people to observe the spirit of the law and the prophets and not only the letter of the law. He came to teach a radical love as demonstrated in compassion and living the Golden Rule that says: “IN EVERYTHING do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He taught that human beings ought to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. As ourselves. There is no them and us, there is only us. When we read the Sermon on the Mount, we ought to read it as a guide to living in this world.

Some theologians think that it is meant in a symbolic and spiritual sense. I disagree. When Jesus instructs his audiences to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile, to give up coat and cloak, to love enemies, to stop worrying about the future and what we will eat and wear, he is talking about a new way to live in this world. Jesus advocated a radical love economy where everyone entered into an obligation to help those who needed help when they needed it. In the model prayer known as “The Lord’s Prayer”, he prays that the heavenly Father would forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors. He instructed at least one rich man to sell all he owed and give it to the poor.

Jesus instructed his followers to leave their gifts at the altar if someone has something against us. We are to make peace with the person then return to give our gifts. He taught secrecy in giving, prayer, and fasting. He taught that what the Father sees in secret, he rewards openly. So much for public piety.

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Never Again! Protest is Our Prayer

Mar27

by: on March 27th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

United Methodist Building, Washington DC

 

When people step out of their comfort zones and take a stand for peace, justice, and environmental sanity, it is a form of prayer. It is an embodied form of hope for transformation and faith in the future. Yet people who take such stands are often dismissed or persecuted, just as prophets have been persecuted through the ages.

Today it is our youth. Some are congratulating them for their activism, but they are also being insulted and called names for marching for their lives, standing up to the ruling Powers, and demanding reasonable gun laws and safe schools. When these demonstrations of active democracy are maligned or called naïve, while our political process is dominated by corporate front groups like the NRA, we are in dark times indeed. Meanwhile, gun manufacturers and their political advocates accept very minor gun-control policies that they know will increase gun sales. (See the March 2nd Time Magazine report: Gun Maker Says Sales are Plunging.)

Nevertheless, young people are stepping into leadership, raising their voices, calling for an end to gun violence, including shooting deaths (often of young black men) by police. They demand that adults act and that lawmakers establish policies to protect them from being shot and killed in their own schools.

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Enough is Enough. It’sTime for a Change. Never Again.

Mar24

by: on March 24th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Image Courtesy of Mathias Wasik

The last time I wrote about gun violence was in October of 2017 after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The essay I wrote at that time was titled “I Surrender.” (https://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2017/10/02/i-surrender/) In that essay, I stated that after so many mass shootings, after several essays that I had written over a number of years, at least since the mass shooting that nearly killed Gabby Giffords, I had nothing more to say. Valentine’s Day this year saw another mass shooting, this time at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and teachers were killed and another 17 were injured, making it one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.

The day it happened, I had nothing more to say. Just as in the Las Vegas shooting, I had no words, no tears, only a sick, sinking resignation that I live in a country that has lost both its mind and its soul. I expected the usual ritual. Politicians would offer thoughts and prayers. We would see candle light vigils and memorials made of candles and teddy bears and stuffed toys. The media would be on the ground for a day or two. We would hear the life stories of the people who died, and some information about the shooter, who was captured alive. Then the nation would move on until the next mass shooting.

However, this time was different. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School decided this time would be different. They rallied, appeared on television, met with the president of the United States, and appeared on a CNN town hall. They called out politicians for their unwillingness to pass gun regulations. They called out politicians who take money from the National Rifle Association. They travelled to Tallahassee, the Florida state capital to demand gun regulations. They organized a walk out of school to protest gun violence, and students from schools around the nation walked out in solidarity.

Saturday, March, 24, 2018, the students organized a march on Washington that brought more than half a million people to the nation’s capital to protest gun violence and to demand gun regulations. Some 800 sibling marches were planned throughout the United States and across the globe. The young people were astonishing. In the DC march, only young people spoke. They were beautiful, passionate, articulate and moving. More than that, they were strategic.

I say and say again that the powers that be in the United States cannot stand unity. It is a frightening thing when We the People of the United States decide that we will not be divided according to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion or a myriad other ways we have to identify our particular tribe. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that organized this event understand the power of unity, so they invited young people of color from Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, and New York City and other places to speak. We heard from a young Latina who told about ducking bullets before she learned to read. We heard from a young black woman from Chicago who was present at an armed robbery, the memory of which stays with her every day. There were two young black men from Chicago who called themselves warriors for peace. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s granddaughter spoke about her dream of the end of guns. Period. We heard from a young black man from Washington, DC who had lost his twin brother to gun violence. And, we heard from young people who had been on lock down at another school down the street during the mass shooting at Sandy Hook. These young people understand the power of unity.

These young people were fearless. They called out the NRA. Senator Marco Rubio took heat for the amount of money he has taken from the NRA. The students divided the number of students in Florida into the amount of money that Rubio has taken from the NRA and concluded that Rubio has sold out the students for $1.05 per student.

There were elders in the crowd. One woman carried a sign saying Nana marches for and named her grandchildren. I saw at least one woman in a hat from the Woman’s March. And another woman wearing a Nasty Woman tee shirt. One man carried a sign reminding us that John Lennon had been killed by gun violence. Paul McCartney marched in New York City in honor of Lennon.

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How to Respond to the Opioid Crisis: Re-conceptualizing Shooting Galleries

Feb23

by: Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot on February 23rd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

“It’s a way we all look out for each other, like, to make sure you got your clean cooker, your clean water, and alcohol.” It was 2007 and Charles (a pseudonym) and I were sitting in the back of Prevention Point Philadelphia’s mobile syringe exchange, a retrofitted RV containing safer injection supplies and a private room for HIV testing. Charles, a middle-aged African American man who had been injecting heroin since the early 1970s, was telling me about the shooting gallery that he ran in an abandoned row house in North Central Philadelphia.

As a harm reduction and HIV counselor at Prevention Point, I was learning from Charles about how people who use drugs have long taken measures to protect themselves – and their families, friends, and communities – from risks associated with drug injection and syringe sharing, including HIV and Hepatitis C transmission and fatal overdose. Over the next three years, I spent up to twenty hours per week doing ethnographic fieldwork: hanging out in informal settings with homeless and transiently-housed people who inject drugs to learn how they cope with the myriad dangers and stresses of being marginalized, poor, criminalized, and sick.

As the opioid crisis generates media, public health, and government attention, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to legalize “supervised injection facilities” (SIFs) – and Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and New York are not far behind. SIFs are legal facilities where people who use drugs can inject (pre-obtained) drugs under medical supervision. SIFs have been lauded for reducing overdose deaths, connecting people to medical care, housing, and drug treatment, and reducing public drug injection. SIFs have also been shown to have no effect on neighborhood “crime,” although ending the war on drugs and decriminalizing drugs (and poverty) would be the most meaningful way to reduce drug crime.

Meanwhile, shooting galleries – private spaces, overseen by a manager, where people use drugs – have been represented in public imagination and public health literature as high-risk places that facilitate syringe sharing, drug trafficking, and neighborhood decay. But what if shooting galleries function like underground SIFs? During the course of my research, I learned that shooting galleries can act as distribution centers for sterile injection equipment and harm reduction knowledge. Moreover, shooting galleries don’t necessarily increase public drug nuisances – like discarded syringes and public drug use – in the neighborhoods where they’re located.

Charles’s shooting gallery, located on a narrow street connecting the neighborhood thoroughfare on one end with the public housing complex on the other, was outfitted with an illegal electric hookup, kerosene space heaters, couches, and a complete array of injection supplies courtesy of Prevention Point Philadelphia, including sterile syringes, distilled water, cotton filters, alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, and a “sharps” container for disposing used syringes. Charles – and Lady, June, Martin, Linda, and the other shooting gallery managers and patrons that I knew – saw distributing sterile injection equipment as an extension of their responsibility to their black, working-class community.

Although shooting galleries nominally charge an entrance-and-sterile-syringe fee – $2 during the course of my research – this fee was routinely waived when the patron lacked funds and the alternative was sharing syringes or leaving to inject somewhere else. As Charles explained, “All we got out here is each other, and we’ve gotta look out for each other because there ain’t no one else doing it for us.” Tonya, a young black woman who had come to Philadelphia leaving an abusive relationship, said that in Charles’s shooting gallery she found a sense of safety: “Charles is the first person to really look out for me since I came to Philadelphia and not want anything back from me. [...] Since I’m staying here I know that I’ll be safer.”

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Thoughts and Prayers? What the Prophet Isaiah Said

Feb16

by: on February 16th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

17 more dead. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Sackcloth, ashes, bowing your head… Actually, on the night 17 people were killed in Florida, I thought to myself that maybe my husband and I should fast. We didn’t. We did sit and watch the news as details of the mass shooting at a high school in Florida were slowly revealed. We closed our eyes in prayer, feeling helpless, angry, sad.

17 dead, the shooter in custody, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbors, grieving. A chorus rings out “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Two words come to mind when I hear or read that phrase coming from people in power who could do so much more than think and pray. Then, yesterday, the pastor of our church asked me if I would lead the Time for the Child in us all at church this Sunday. “What’s the scripture?” I asked. Curious? Read on!


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Help us celebrate Rabbi Lerner’s 75th birthday!

Feb5

by: on February 5th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Rabbi Lerner is turning 75 this coming Wednesday, February 7. Let’s celebrate him and ensure a legacy forTikkunfor decades to come! Here’s how you can help:

1. Create a short 1-2 minute video(you can do this on your cell phone, tablet, computer or other device) telling people (both friends and others whom you don’t know) something you particularly celebrate or appreciate about Rabbi Lerner and his work, aboutTikkun, and/or the Network of Spiritual Progressives (which he envisioned and then created). At the end of the video please be sure to ask folks to support our efforts to raise $18,000 in honor of his birthday, and most important, to help secure the legacy ofTikkunlong into the future by funding the creation of a new website.

We are asking you to both share the video on your own social media, using the hashtags #TikkunLegacy, #Tikkun, #NSP, and tagging Rabbi Michael Lerner, Michael Lerner,Tikkunand Network of Spiritual Progressives and then also send the video to us at chris@tikkun.org. We will then share the videos on social media and send them out to our supporters. Time is of the essence and this will only take 5 minutes of your time (and hopefully a generous donation as well!) – worth it, don’t you think?!

Will you join us and participate in this fun effort to both celebrate Michael and help ensure the longevity of our very important work in the world? If so, here’s all you have to do:

Make a short video (1-2 minutes) expressing your appreciation of Rabbi Lerner,Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives and/or his work. You can make the recording on your computer or even your cell phone (or tablet). Please be sure to hold a sign that says #TikkunLegacy and to both post the statement below with the video and end the video with the following statement:

“Please join me in giving Rabbi Michael Lerner a birthday gift that will celebrate him and impact our communities, and our society for generations to come.Tikkunis in the midst of creating a new website and social media strategy to help it engage with the next generation ofTikkun-nicks. We are aiming to raise $18,000 in honor of Rabbi Lerner’s 75th birthday to help secure the legacy ofTikkunmagazine long into the future. Will you join me? To donate, go to: tikkun.org/tikkunlegacy or click on the shared link above or below with this video.”

In addition to sharing the video (as explained above) on your social media, please also send the video (or any questions you have) to Chris at chris@tikkun.org.

Click here for an example video!

2. Donate to support Tikkun’s legacy, go to: www.tikkun.org/tikkunlegacy.

 

Thanks for your support!

Cat, Chris, & Simon at Tikkun and NSP

The Dangerous Unity in Community

Jan17

by: on January 17th, 2018 | Comments Off

Image Courtesy of Phil Roeder

This Martin Luther King holiday, I attended an annual community celebration in East St. Louis that, this year, commemorated the 50th anniversary of King’s death. Its theme was “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” which is also the title of a book King published in 1967. This King holiday found the public discourse a buzz with the question of whether or not the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is a racist because of remarks he made calling Haiti along with African and Latin American countries “shitholes.” In a meeting with congress-members regarding legislation around immigration, he also expressed a preference for people from countries such as Norway to immigrate to the United States.

Many political pundits expressed outrage at the comments, and some told the stories of their families who had come from places that could have been considered “shitholes” at the time their ancestors left. The story of the United States is the story of people who had the get up and go to get up and go, searching for a better life. Trump’s grandfather was a German immigrant, and his mother was an immigrant from Scotland. However, the questions that kept coming to my mind, other than the obvious racial question, are: what is the definition of a “shithole” place? What are its characteristics? How do we know it when we see it?

Is a “shithole” place a place where poor people live? Does it lack basic infrastructure? Is there a high unemployment rate? Do young people leave because there are no decent job opportunities? Is there poor education, poor medical care, and high rates of violence because people make their living through an underground economy?

If this is the description of a “shithole” place, Trump ought to look at the states where people voted for him. He ought to concern himself about “shithole” America. The ten poorest states in the United States including the District of Columbia measured by the percent of its population who are living in poverty are: Mississippi 20.8; New Mexico 19.1; Kentucky 18.3; Arizona 18.2; West Virginia 17.7; District of Columbia 17.3; Alabama 16.8; Arkansas 16.8; Georgia 16.8; Florida 15.3. Trump carried all of these places except New Mexico and the District of Columbia. (United States Census Bureau)

East St. Louis is a poor small city. It needs infrastructure repairs. Our young people leave because there are not many good job opportunities here. They move to the suburbs or to other cities because there is not much decent housing. The underground economy thrives, and there are far too many gunshots in the night. However, we are also the City of Champions, East Boogie, and the 89 blocks. We have a great spirit of civic pride because we have produced significant figures in various aspects of human endeavor, including jazz great Miles Davis and Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee. A documentary about the championship season of the East St. Louis High School Football team – “89 Blocks” – aired recently on the Fox Sports channel.

Many people see East St. Louis as a “shithole” place. But, they would be looking with eyes that do not see its potential clearly. One reason that I believe Senator Dick Durbin was so deeply offended by Trump’s remarks is that he was reared in East St. Louis and now represents us in the United States Senate. He could recognize the vile racism of the remarks that were an insult not only to Africa, Haiti and Latin America, but were an insult to poor people all over the nation. Why did not Tom Cotton who represents Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the nation, and David Perdue of Georgia, also one of the poorest states in the nation recognize the insult? They did not recognize the insult because they were blinded by their own racism.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrated his 39th and last birthday in Atlanta with a multi-racial group of people who were in the early stages of planning a poor people’s campaign. King and the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had decided to shift its work from racial desegregation to attacking the problem of poverty. Poverty cuts across all races in America. It bares its teeth in every section of the country. King saw it as a part of the tripartite evils of America – racism, militarism, and materialism. King, one of the few leaders in America with the moral authority to bring people together across racial lines for nonviolent direct action with the aim of calling attention to and ending systemic poverty, became more of a threat.

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It’s a Sin to Build a Nuclear Weapon

Jan14

by: on January 14th, 2018 | 12 Comments »

 

I pulled out this old “historic” poster and put it up on our refrigerator today, after the false alarm went out to Hawaiians that an incoming (presumably nuclear) missile was on its way. My grown children will recognize the poster, because it was on our refrigerator for years. I began my career as an activist in 1979, when I realized the extent of the very real danger of nuclear war.I was engaged in the peace and anti-nuclear movement the whole time they were growing up. They remember carrying candles and walking from Pioneer Park to the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City each year on August 6, Hiroshima Day. During the election year of 1984, I was a paid organizer for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign’s Political Action Committee (PAC), Freeze Voter ’84, which I worked on here in Nevada County. (Read here aboutThe Nuclear Freeze and its Impact.)

One morning, I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldicott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha. Listening to their stories about what they had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and I began to weep.

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Star Wars: Where Are the Black Women?

Dec26

by: on December 26th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away there was a world where there could be found no black woman who could speak more than a sentence. It was a world of the most strange creatures and robots and technologies, but black women could only be seen in the background, usually at a bar or some place of entertainment. It was a period of civil war where rebels were fighting a war of resistance against evil forces in the universe. It was a world where The Force, a power that holds all things together in balance, both the good and the evil, the light and the dark could be summoned for the sake of restoring justice and peace to the galaxy. But, there were no black women of any consequence to be found.

On Christmas Day, my children and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie. We have been going to see these movies since they were children. I suppose I have become inured to the absence of black women until this movie when it came to the casino scene. There were black women represented in the latest version of the Star Wars bar, then it occurred to me: There was no black woman character of any consequence. I started to pay attention, and I started to look for the black women. C-3PO has more lines than any black woman in the movie. I left the movie livid.

So, I came home to think about the presence of black people as main characters in the films. I could think of only three black men – Billy D. Williams as Lando Calrissian in “Empire Strikes Back: Return of the Jedi”; Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu in “Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace”; and John Boyega as Finn Galfridian in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”. I am not counting James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader or Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata. They are black actors who did not play identifiable black characters.

Star Wars has been a multi-billion dollar franchise for movies, toys, and other merchandise for 40 years. Yet, the Star Wars imagination does not stretch to include black women in any major way. Why is this?

Perhaps the creative minds that created the Star Wars world are not familiar with human history and the place of black women in it. As of this writing, science tells us that all of humanity descends from a black woman in East Africa. Black women have been queens in Africa one of the most famous of which is Hatshepsut in ancient Egypt. Amina is a 15th century warrior queen of Zaria, Nigeria. Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Kingdom in Ghana fought against British colonization. Ana Nzinga Mbanda of what is now Angola resisted the Portuguese slave trade and colonization. The Dahomey warrior women are renowned for being fierce fighters and the last line of defense to protect the king.

Perhaps African history is too obscure to expect the creative minds behind Star Wars to know. They ought to know that there was a black woman who was Queen of England, Queen Charlotte the wife of George III, having descended from the Africans in the Portuguese royal line. Josephine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, the first Empress of the French, was born to a wealthy Creole family in Martinique.

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An Angel Tree Christmas

Dec25

by: on December 25th, 2017 | Comments Off

As I write this, NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has tracked Santa somewhere over Texas. As you know Christmas Eve is a long day for all four Santas. The northern hemisphere Santa starts east and travels west to work the time zones. Sometimes, if he has time, he will stop by my house of coffee and cornbread. But, not this year. He knows that my schedule is jammed with my own efforts of resistance against Trump, and Santa approves.

I did not even go to the North Pole to help in my usual capacity of address verification. There is a group of us who go every year to help Santa locate children who may have moved or become homeless or who have been displaced for some other reason. When I told Santa that I would not be able to come this year. He gave me a local assignment. “I want you to visit the Angel Tree program at your church,” he said. Santa never commands, but it is very difficult to say no to him.

I have been familiar with the Angel Tree program for years. It is a program sponsored by Prison Fellowship where parents in prison sign their children up to receive Christmas presents from them. Local churches take the names and buy, wrap, and distribute the gifts. My mother was committed to Angel Tree. My Christmas memories of her include her shopping for and wrapping the presents in our basement. And she did it all with such joy. I find Christmas tedious. I am bah humbug about the whole thing. I consider the holidays female slave days full of shopping, cooking and cleaning until I hear the Messiah, especially the Quincy Jones adaptation, and then I can breathe in the true meaning of the season. This was not the case with my mother. She seemed to enjoy all the shopping, cooking, and even the cleaning for the holidays.

So, I did not mind going to the Angel Tree program. At our church, the Angel Tree families are invited to come and have breakfast and lunch. We break into groups for Bible study after breakfast, and then return for lunch and the distribution of the gifts. This year when I went, I asked how I could help and it turned out that the person who was supposed to work with children six and under may not be able to make it. So, here I was saying yes to working with little children.

Once upon a time in my life, I was a teacher, but I taught adults. Post graduate adults. Most were young adults, but adults none-the-less. I taught my first Sunday School class when I was sixteen- years- old, but the students were eight-years-old. This was way out of my comfort zone. Two other women and I took a group of ten to fifteen children into the nursery to play and to talk about the Christmas story. The older children sat with me at a table and we talked about the nativity. They had the experience of going on a road trip and having to stay at a motel. They could imagine how scary it would be not to have a room at the end of the day. When I told them Mary was about to have her baby and that the only place she and Joseph could go was the stable were the animals were, the six-year-old girl in the group was horrified.

I have become so accustomed to the Christmas story that it has become rote. It is routine. This little girl’s shock reminded me that the idea of a human being having to give birth in a stable is a shocking, horrible, heartless thing.

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