Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Greetings, everyone. I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year. I see we survived the scare of the Mayan calendar apocalypse, the idea that the world would end on December 21, 2012. People actually believed this idea, circulating among New Age circles and websites, and made such preparations as building their own arks, like Noah, and their own bunkers with food, power generators, and water filtration systems. We've been through this before, last year, with the evangelist Harold Camping predicting the end of the world on May 21st. (Always the twenty-first of the month-why?) I, on the other hand, believe in Tikkun Olam, the repair and healing of the world. The doomsday scenarios talk about the destruction of the world, and what to you should to do disengage yourself from it when it occurs; I believe in engaging the world fully, to work towards fixing what needs to be fixed, such as seeing that all workers have good jobs with good pay and benefits, and that health insurance, food, and education are provided for to all, and not treated like luxuries. In last year's Yom Kippur service, I had the honor of giving the D'var Torah on the Book of Isaiah, Chapters 57 and 58, where the Prophet condemns: Because on your fast day You see to your business And oppress your laborers! Because you fast in strife and contention And you strike with a wicked fist! And the Prophet continues: No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin. This is appropriate to think about, with the upcoming celebration of the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. This is a great time to perform acts of Tikkun Olam, such as helping a returning veteran write his resume so he can get a job, or helping any unemployed worker find a job, or working at a food bank passing food out to low-income people, or helping at a battered women’s shelter. You need to see what a social problem looks like-it’s not statistics or theories, it’s living, breathing people having troubles. But then you have to ask-why can’t this veteran who served his/her country, or this perfectly competent worker, find a job? Why do decent people have to ask for food in this so-called wealthy nation? Why does a man strike his wife? This is the idea of Tikkun Olam, to repair the world so that none of this happens. we must concern ourselves with the well-being of our fellow humans, and that requires being engaged in it. Religion-real, effective religion-is what we do outside the sanctuary of our house of worship. It’s how we treat the poor and oppressed, the powerless in our community, and help them find their power to change things. As Dr. King put it, “A religion true to its nature must...be concerned about man's social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself. This means, at bottom, that the Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so that the soul will have a chance after it is changed. Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion. Such a religion is the kind that Marxists like to see - an opiate of the people.” (This is the Martin Luther King Jr. we have to understand, not the sanitized saint put forth by our brain-damaged media, but the man who challenged his nation, and his religion, to live up to their professed ideas.) The apocalyptic idea has played out after the presidential election, with the futile political game playing about the “fiscal cliff,” the impending disaster that would come if the House, Senate and President did not come to an agreement on spending and taxes. The goal of the “Tea Party” hard-liners would be to save millionaires and billionaires from having to pay their fair share of taxes, even though so many of the multi-billion corporations, such as Exxon-Mobil and Whirlpool have paid ZERO in taxes-and, in spite of the rightist propaganda, have NOT created any new jobs or plants in this country to hire America workers, but have treated their CEOs, no matter how incompetent they proved to be, with bonuses and raises, among many other perks. (Unfortunately, the political squabbling and horse-trading dominated the news, while the needs of the people, the effect of cuts in funding worthwhile programs and the effect on the people they help, never came up. Oh, yes, we do SO need our own people’s media.) The Republicans thought they could use the Tea Party “movement” to motivate their base and reclaim power; but the Tea Party-ites refused to go along with any compromise on the budget and the fiscal cliff, determined to make Obama look bad, even though they instead made the Congress look bad, with approval ratings lower than those of the Communist Party. They have even been plotting to remove John Boehner from the Speaker’s chair, believing that no one in far enough to the right for them. And what are the things the Tea Party crew getting steamed about? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and funding for relief for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. It’s purely out of dogma that they behave this way. Yet, through gerrymandering of congressional districts by their home state legislatures, they have a safe berth in Congress, enjoying the free health care and other benefits our taxes provide for them-unless, of course, we educate ourselves and our neighbors about what goes on in the world, in Congress, and our neighborhoods; yes, we ARE our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Again, have a safe and prosperous new year-bye!