Tag Archives: Lerner

The Message of Michael Lerner and Matthew Fox

Michael Lerner and Matthew Fox are two visionary and courageous spiritual leaders whom I greatly admire. Their shared message of human unity, peace, and hope deserves the closest attention. Please read the epistle below and follow the links.—t.h.g.

Some Thoughts on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Beyond

Matthew Fox

Michael Lerner has asked me to write a few thoughts about the message of Good Friday and Easter.  I appreciate his invitation, a sign of the meaning of deep ecumenism and what we have to learn from each others faith traditions.

To me, the “paschal mystery” of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the rabbi is an archetypal reminder about how, as science now teaches us, all things in the cosmos live, die and resurrect.  Supernovas, galaxies, solar systems, planets, beings that inhabit our planet—we all have our time of existence and of passing out of existence.  But we leave something behind for further generations and that constitutes resurrection.  Supernovas leave elements behind in a great explosion that seed other solar systems, planets and ever our very bodies.  Every being leaves something behind as food for others—Einstein said no energy is lost in the universe and Hildegard of Bingen said no warmth is lost in the universe.  I like to say that no beauty is lost in the universe.  The universe has a memory for energy, warmth and beauty.   Nothing our ancestors accomplished is lost—so long as we remember.  Hopefully, as humans, we leave beauty behind and wise progeny, maybe books or paintings or scientific breakthroughs or insights, or healed souls or bodies, etc. etc.  Our resurrection is very much a part of our creativity.  Otto Rank: The artist is one who wants to leave behind a gift.

Jesus left behind the gift of his teachings, a distillation as I see it of the basic teachings of his Jewish ancestors: That compassion and justice are what link us to the Divine and that we are to look not to empires or to objects for the Kingdom of God but within ourselves and among others in community for the love that is at once our love of neighbor and our love of God, a love “that the world cannot give.”  In other words, to “all our relations.”  The fact of his being tortured and killed in a most ignominious way by the Roman Empire is a stark reminder that we do not take on the powers of darkness as our prophetic vocations require without paying a price.  But the story is that life triumphs over death, even if it has to succumb to powers of death at times and the form that a resurrected life takes is diverse.  It often surprises!

We do not die once.  We all die many times.  Life does that to us with our losses, our betrayals, our own mistakes and emptying out.  But we also resurrect on a regular basis as well.  We forgive, we are forgiven, we bottom out, we move on, we give birth anew thus that life and death are more synergetic that we usually imagine them to be.  “God’s exit is her entrance,” as Meister Eckhart put it.  The depths of the valley of death do not overcome the power of life which makes things new again.  Injustice seems to triumph so often but justice will have the last word provided we live and work for it.

To me these are some of the passages that the Good Friday/Easter Sunday archetype bring to awareness.  There is no resurrection without visiting Hades (the story is that Saturday following his death Jesus visited the underworld).  Good Friday rules for a short period.  But the longer period is the new life and the victory over death and the fear of death that Easter Sunday represents.  It is that hope that rises daily with every new sun.  Moving beyond the fear of death we can live fully again and cease our immortality projects, our empire building and pyramid constructing (wall street too) and get on with…living.  Which is sharing.  Heschel: “Just to be is holy; just to live is a blessing.”  Now our fear of death does not have to rule our lives.  Now we can live fully, generously and creatively.

Matthew Fox is author of 29 books on spirituality and culture including Original Blessing, A Spirituality Named Compassion, the Reinvention of Work.  His most recent books are Christian Mystics  and The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Imperiled the Church and What Can Be Saved (release date: May 3).  See also www.matthewfox.org.

Read Richard Rohr and Brian McLaren also. Click these connections!

More on Easter at  www.spiritualprogressives.org/newsite/?page_id=1026r

and more at www.tikkun.org/nextgen/a-european-revival-of-liberation-theology

and at www.tikkun.org/nextgen/christian-reflections-on-easter

web: www.spiritualprogressives.org

A post-election message of wisdom and hope, and a gameplan for progressives

This message from Rabbi Michael Lerner needs to be spread far and wide. Please pass it on. — t.h.g.

10 Commandments to Revive Progressives After the November Defeat

Rabbi Michael Lerner

Editor, Tikkun Magazine

1. Don’t let the media frame this as a defeat of progressives. Had Obama embraced and fought for a progressive agenda, even if he had passed none of it, he would have entered the 2010 elections as the champion of the huge idealism of the American people that was elicited in 2008 and which would have led the Democrats to an electoral sweep in 2010. Being seen as fighting for the needs of ordinary people — never letting anyone forget for a moment that he had inherited the mess that Republican and pro-corporate Democrats had created, positioning himself as the champion of those who resented the Wall Street and corporate interests — his popularity would have grown; he could have won a much bigger victory for the Democrats in 2010, and that would have allowed him to actually legislate the policies of a progressive vision.

Had Obama refused to give more money to the banks and Wall Street unless equal or greater amounts were allocated for a visionary New Deal-style program for jobs and a freeze on mortgage foreclosures; had the Democrats refused to fund the escalation of war in Afghanistan; had they advocated for “Medicare for Everyone” instead of passing a plan that forced 30 million people to buy health care, but puts no serious restraints on the costs that insurance companies or pharmaceutical can charge; had Obama fought courageously for a carbon tax and ended the bargain taxes for the wealthy; had the Democrats insisted on stopping the harassment of immigrants; had the Obama Administration called for a national effort to overturn Citizens United, such as the ESRA — Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Had Obama set up public forums at which his supporters could give him public feedback and used the web creatively to allow his supporters to weigh in, and had Obama consistently spoken honestly to Americans about the constraints he was facing and who was putting pressure on him to do what — there would have been no electoral defeat. It wasn’t the progressive agenda that got defeated, it was the corporate-military accommodation of the Democrats and Obama who couldn’t address popular outrage, not only at the economic problem, but at the way we had been manipulated in 2008; and the humiliation many felt at having allowed themselves to hope that someone in politics would fight for what they said they would fight for.

2. Challenge the elitism in the Left. Whenever you hear someone saying that it is the stupidity or reactionary nature of Americans that led to this defeat, remind them of why, absent any other voice that they would encounter expressing their outrage, it was rational for Americans to be attracted to the right-wing voices that were expressing that outrage (albeit with programs that will actually make things worse). When Americans thought they had a chance at progressive change, they voted for it in 2008 — so they are neither stupid nor reactionary.

3. Challenge the religo-phobia in the Left. As long as the progressive world seems to be aligned with those who think that anyone who believes in God must be either stupid or at a lower stage of psychological development, we will get nowhere with an American public sincerely committed to a spiritual worldview. Allow yourself to explore the various spiritual progressive communities and movements that currently exist.

4. Do not demean those who disagree with us. Act as though every person, no matter what their politics, is created in the image of God or deserves fundamental respect, and only challenge their ideas and policies, but without attributing bad motives to them. And do not demean your own leaders — stop the back-biting and competition that so often drives the most creative thinkers and activists out of the movement! Make the progressive world focus more on taking care of each other in its meetings and public events.

5. Take time every day to rejoice in the grandeur and awesome mystery of the universe — and remember that the world is filled with loving people who would be there with us if they knew that we took love as seriously as we take critique.

6. Build a unified political movement that calls for A New Bottom Line in American society so that instead of judging institutions, legislation or policies rational or productive only to the extent that they maximize money and power, they are judged by how much they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological behavior and awareness, and the extent to which they tend to encourage us to be more caring toward each other and the earth and more able to respond to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur of being and consciousness and to experience true gratitude at being alive.

7. Build within the Democratic Party an opposition to the corporate-oriented leaders of that party, from Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi to Diane Feinstein and Charles Schumner. Create a spiritual progressive caucus in every city. Run candidates in the primaries against that leadership — follow the example of the Tea Party in their effort to move the Republican party to the Right.

8. Build outside the Democratic Party a separate political party that talks about love, kindness, generosity, and The Caring Society — Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth. Let that party be based on the notion of A New Bottom Line as expressed in Commandment Six. Let this party talk explicitly about building a world that supports love and generosity! Stop speaking the language of the bureaucrats and the technical manipulators — start speaking the language of the heart. End the time in which Democrats believe that progressives have “no place to go” and hence will support their corporate-oriented candidates no matter how far they are from progressive ideals.

If the Greens are able to transform themselves to a party that puts love and caring and the language of the heart at the forefront of its public identification, rather than a primarily technocratic, issues-debating, hard-nosed “realistic” from the left, policy-but-not-love-generating social force, then it could be this. But at the moment it is not, and it may be easier to create something new than to reform the inner workings and political culture of the Greens,

9. Create a United Progressive Fund so that all the different progressive organizations stop competing with each other for funding and instead allocate according to how many people belong to any given progressive organization.

10. Don’t be realistic! The powers that be in the media, politics and economics define “realism.” The most important changes in our country have come about because people were willing to fight for what everyone supposedly knew to be “unrealistic” (e.g. ending segregation, ending ten thousand years of unchallenged male supremacy and sexism, legitimating gay and lesbian lives, building an environmental movement, and the list goes on).

Realism is idolatry — believing in God is believing that there is some Force in the Universe (some of us call it God) that makes possible the transformation from “that which is” to “that which could and should be.” Support a Global Marshall Plan to once and for all end global poverty, hunger, homelessness, insufficient education or health care — and pay for it through a Tobin tax on all international financial transactions of over $1 million. End the domination of money in politics and challenge the irresponsible environmental policies of corporations — through the ESRA — the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Follow these ten commandments and the progressive forces will finally be able to reshape this country before it is too late. If you wish to help us do this, please join and help create a local chapter of the Network of Spiritual Progressives here. But if you like these ideas but don’t want to work inside our organization, then bring these ideas into whatever organization you are already part of and insist that they debate these ideas, align with us in our campaign for the ESRA and for our proposed Global Marshall Plan, and insist that they develop the kind of broad strategy we are presenting here.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine, a Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society; chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue.