July 20 – 21: Tisha B’Av, Temple Earth 

I receive weekly emails from Rabbi Arthur Wascow (theshalomcenter.org). These include essays and suggestions connecting religious and spiritual themes to peace and eco-social justice.

A recent one informed me about Tisha B’Av, the annual Jewish day of mourning  for the destruction of Holy Temples in Jerusalem, celebrated this year from July 21 evening through July 22 evening. 

Rabbi Wascow noted that we can also mourn what is happening to our beloved planet, Temple Earth, now under attack by Carbon Pharaohs, just as the Temple in Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonian and Roman Empires. As with the original intent of Tisha B’Av, we bring hope for the future to this mourning. 

Recognizing the sacredness of each atom of our interconnected Universe, the time it took for biosystems to evolve and develop, and the various cultures under attack, we might wish to join in this ritual, in whole or in part. 

Tamara Cohen (Barbara Bick Memorial Fellow of The Shalom Center) has written a reinterpretation of the ancient Book of Lamentation for this special day: Eichah / Lament for the Earth: Tisha B’Av.  Anyone who wishes to commemorate this Jewish fast day of mourning can access her ritual by clicking https://theshalomcenter.org/node/1733.

We can adapt and use the text, alone or with a group, to challenge the greed of corporate powers that are destroying Creation, to renew our appreciation of Our Mother Earth, and to deepen our commitment to care for her.

World Refugee Day June 20, 2018

Where do they come from, these human beings who so upset “natives” of many countries who themselves might date to immigrants?

They are escaping from war and persecution in Syria; they are fleeing genocide in Myanmar (Burma), overwhelming resources in Bangladesh; they are leaving El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to escape gangs  — ironically, the same gangs some are accused to being members of, but with no evidence — drugs and rapes; they are among the  millions of displaced people fleeing civil war in South Sudan. Many are displaced from climate catastrophes and/or the inability to care for their families due to the global economy. Who among us would choose to stay?

Rarely do they want to leave their countries, which they love. They leave loved ones, homes and neighborhoods, jobs or professions, native languages, food and culture, because their situations are desperate. They are willing to take any work and face any risk, including death. 

Fear of “the other” sometimes stems from fear that migrants will alter their culture. This is especially ironic if they consider their culture Christian. Welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, loving the enemy are intrinsic to practicing that religion. Stopping criminals in any group is essential, of course, but assuming all immigrants are dangerous is irrational at best.

Migrants and refugees fear for their lives and the welfare of their children. I fear that the Western world is forming a culture of hate and exclusion, where only certain people are valued — or even recognized as humans. The Universe Story affirms that we are all one. Evolution proves the advantages of biodiversity.

Many countries deny refugees entrance, even when groups within the country are eager to practice their religion by caring for them. They are stereotyped and labeled negatively, as governments have done for centuries to justify inhumane actions. The ancestors of many in the United States were stereotyped and labeled when they first arrived. (“Irish needn’t apply,” and so on.) Billions of dollars that could be spent to help them is spent on walls to keep them — and animals and insects that need to roam — out. In a particularly inhumane response, children are separated from parents and kept from families – and getting lost in the system. How would we react if our children or grandchildren were taken from their parents and warehoused?

Like many, I am taking various actions in response. My reaction also overflowed with this poem:

Welcome to America

What happens to interbeing
when policies separate parents from children
whose only crime was escaping
death, gangs, and violence?

What happens to the atoms we all share
making us one? How do they choose
between good and evil when rival groups
are so sure others are wrong?

Scripture is unequivocal:
Care for the homeless,
the displaced, the poor regardless of origin,
regardless of ability to pay.

“See how these Christians love one another”
has morphed to “You can’t come.
You’ll be badly punished if you try.”
Forget “Do unto others….”

Wrong skin. Wrong language. Wrong pedigree.
For you, no refuge, no medical care,
no education, no compassion
despite our need for youth and labor.

The Irish learned they needed
more than white potatoes. Prairie farmers,
seeding only wheat, grew sandstorms.
What happens when we plant mono-life?

Laudato Si’ Anniversary and Media Update

Recently a friend, trying to locate my video trilogy “Wake to Wonderment,” alerted me that I placed my eight original videos on a page titled “Media,” and never included them on my “Suggested Videos” page. These original videos either reinforce the message of global interconnectedness in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home or refer to it directly. June 8, 2018 is the third anniversary of the release of that document.

In honor of the anniversary and also to correct my original oversight, I am adding the following to the “Suggested Videos” page:
I certainly suggest the following videos, which are found by clicking the Media page:
– Time for an Energy Change
– Wake to Wonderment: Matins, Lauds, Vespers
– Unless the Seed Dies
– Joy of New Life
– In/sight
– October celebrations related to Laudato Si’ 

I wrote the text of all eight and am responsible for the video creation of a few. I gratefully acknowledge the contributions of those who created the others or shared narration tasks.

“Time for an Energy Change” was created for Sisters of the Holy Child in 2012, Sadly, it is still very needed — even more so now that the United States is officially rejecting the Paris Climate Agreement and changing regulations intended to lower the causes of climate change.

One statistic in “Time for an Energy Change” needs updating. It originally showed CO2 at 394 ppm, well above the safe upper limit of 350 ppm. In 2013  updated to show that we had reached 400 ppm. As of May 2018, the world has surpassed 410 ppm and we — humans, flora, fauna — are all experiencing the results of this alarming increase.

No time like the present to reread Laudato Si’, view related videos, and ponder what they call each of us to do.