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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Unifying Our Communities in Response to Hate | by Rob Viso

On the evening of Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love, 200 people gathered to unite under the desire to disarm hate.  Prominent members of different religious communities spoke in response to the hate they have encountered. They each spoke with power and conviction, pushing for unity across all traditions while remaining firm in their beliefs.  The common thread across all speakers, was that we need to get to know one another. Without getting to know one another, common misconceptions are held which further drive apart communities.
Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers suggested that we get rid of the word hate and replace it with “H”. Rabbi Myers said (paraphrased), “violence is a manifestation of H speech.  It is these words that grow into actions. In order to address H, we must remove the root.” In reflecting on these profound words, I must agree. I believe the root of the problem is the heart.  I am reminded of a verse from the Hebrew Bible, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart” (Proverbs 27:19). It is our heart that gives rise to thoughts, thoughts to words, and words to action.
So how can we go about changing our hearts? Yes, I agree that one of the ways to change our heart is to get to know one another, but I believe the root is a bit deeper.  In order to remove H, we must come to the realization that as humans, we all have the same divine nature or essence that dwells within us. By getting to know one another, we can better know the heart of God and his love for all creation.
With so much darkness in the world, it is hard to imagine a world where this could be a reality.  In my realist and perhaps pessimistic way of thinking, I don’t see H going away any time soon. So how are we to respond to hate? Quoting from my own tradition, Jesus said “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!... If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” (Mt. 5:43-44,46-47)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Year of Civil Conversations Religious Leader Reflections: "Valuing Vulnerable Conversations" | by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer

Each week, I look forward to a new episode of On Being to download and accompany me to my local Planet Fitness. Lured by the promise of hearing a new installment of Krista Tippet’s show, I muster the discipline to dutifully pound the treadmill for fifty minutes. As I provide my aging muscles a modest work out, I also exercise—often  strenuously—my imagination, my empathy, and my spirit.

Tippett’s interview with poet Claudia Rankine (aired January 10, 2019) provides a perfect example. The two women held a candid, powerful conversation about the pain—often invisible to white people—that is woven into the everyday reality of people of color in this country. They did this in a way that avoided rancor, blame, and bitterness, even as they dove into a fraught topic—one that often divides people rather than bringing them closer together.

Rankine shared passages from her 2014 book Citizen: An American Lyric, a collection of poems that gives voice to and documents the cumulative imprint of the exhausting reality of being black in America. She writes about the times exchanges across race violate the space between two individuals: “Certain moments send adrenaline to the heart, dry out the tongue, and clog the lungs. Like thunder they drown you in sound, no, like lightning they strike you across the larynx.”

She describes the daily questions she and her black friends ask themselves after some encounters with white people, both strangers and intimates: “Did he say that? Did I hear that? Did she mean that?”
As I listened, I thought about how many ways I, as a white person, coast through life and how much work I still have to do to unlearn my habits of mind, or to put it more bluntly, my racism.

This episode of On Being made me consider what it means that I walk through the world without needing the armor some people must don just to get through every day. And worse, how many ways I have, through my own ignorance, shot arrows of pain toward others.

Rankine also related a story that gave me hope. Sitting on an airplane, she made friends with a white man. After some good conversation, the man said something that revealed he did not understand his own racism, did not see her. “That was not a good thing to say,” Rankine told him and explained why.

After which he asked, “Did I say anything else?”

The story went on. But I love ending it right there. Guilt ridden apologies will only prolong the injury; perhaps humility and willingness to learn can begin the process of repair.

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Year of Civil Conversations Religious Leader Reflections: "The Myth of Closure" | by Rev. Margaret Somerville

In a society in which we feed ourselves on goals accomplished, problems solved, and questions answered, how do we handle unresolved loss? How do we bear the weight of grief that does not find closure? Krista Tippett interviewed Pauline Boss in an episode of On Being that aired on December 13, 2018. Boss is a family therapist who coined the term “ambiguous loss” to describe the type of loss associated with situations such as divorce, mental illness, aging, a death without a body to bury, or immigration. Boss and Tippett talk about these types of personal grief as well the societal grief associated with genocide or slavery, the suffering that is built into the DNA of a race, religion, or nation that is transmitted through generations.

Pauline Boss discusses the fact that grief cannot always find closure. We do not all progress through the stages made popular by Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross until we reach acceptance. We cannot expect people to package up their grief and put it away because it has been long enough, or ask them to “move on” because it is easier for us to tick this off as another goal accomplished or problem solved. Instead, she asks us to normalize grief in our society. She urges us to treat the accompanying sadness with human connection.

As a Christian pastor, I am moved every time I attend Shabbat services and hear the Mourner’s Kaddish as part of the regular weekly liturgy. Those who mourn stand to recite this prayer. What a powerful acknowledgement of all those in the space who are holding grief! How do we normalize grief as a part of our worship - the grief that individuals are carrying, ambiguous or not, and the grief that we carry communally? How do we allow it to be present alongside our praise and thanksgiving?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Reflections on the Common Destiny of Humanity | by Moji Saberin, M.D.

As I am reading Robert Atkinson’s book “The Story of our Time; from Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness” I am pondering the importance of meaningful conversations, such as Krista Tippet’s “civil conversations” that need to take place in order to widen the stratosphere of the mind across the globe and make the knowledge of our common humanity a realization throughout all strata of society.

If we compare the four billion years of the history of our solar system to the distance of a mile, we see homo sapiens appearing 200,000 years ago, which is equivalent to less than an inch within this mile. During this span of time our ancestors came to successively see themselves as members of a family, a tribe, a village, a city, and a nation. The process of nation building has ended, and our world has in the past century and a half shrunk to a global village. We all breathe the same air, and we have become literally inter-connected economically, financially, scientifically, as well as through transportation and instant communication. We have had the opportunity to see our common fatherland from outer space.

This realization of our oneness will have revolutionary consequences in how we view the members of our human family and how we conduct the affairs of society and the entire world. Could it be that the stubborn adherence to outdated and outworn philosophical attitudes and institutional structures that are no longer capable of sustaining a world that is crying out for new ways of thinking and living is creating chaos and confusion and preventing humanity from achieving its long awaited maturity in its collective evolution?

Once we strip away the accidental parts of our beings such as zip code, skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender, earthly possessions, and recognize that, after our short span on earth, none of that really matters, and that in the end our essence is our soul, we will not be able to accept anything short of a civilization where each human is given their due dignity and rights.

To this end, conversations between people are necessary in order to bridge the imaginary gap between what we thought to be “us” and “them”.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
~Albert Einstein, 1950