Many of the world’s religious leaders in attendance at the
Parliament of World Religions taking place in Melbourne, Australia,
are in partial mourning for the dream of a new world that President
Obama promised, and decisively torpedoed in his announcement of major
escalation of military forces in Afghanistan.
activists, the issue is often framed in terms of Obama’s failure to
learn the lessons of Vietnam: one cannot win a war against a
population that has been fighting for many decades for its own
independence. No matter what America’s stated war aims, the people of
Afghanistan perceive the American military presence as generating far
more violence and destruction than they faced before the U.S. got
For feminists anxious to protect the rights of
women, the capitulation to Islamic fundamentalism in its treatment and
denial of rights to women by the current Afghani government which
America is pledged to support undermines any picture of the US actually
providing a long-term strategy that would defend women’s rights.
for working and poor people in the US who are told that serious health
care reform would not only hurt the interests of the health insurance
corporations and the medical profiteers (poor dears!) but also increase
the deficit at a time when it must be reduced, the willingness to put
hundreds of billions of dollars into war making with the deficit
suddenly forgotten makes many wonder about distorted priorities once
For the religious leaders of the world assembled in
Melbourne Australia for the Parliament, all these issues are quite
salient. Yet what comes most directly to mind for many is the
fundamental warp in the Obama Administration’s understanding of what
could actually succeed in providing homeland security.
reason many global religious leaders celebrated the outcome of the 2008
election was the perception fostered by the Obama campaign that the new
President really understood that militarism and the use of force to
achieve American objectives should be relegated to the dustbin of
history, at least until every non-violent strategy has been
exhaustively tried. We believed we had heard a clear message that Obama
recognized the need to end global poverty and the suffering it has
generated as the first step that must be given time to work before
military options are embraced.
That approach was given teeth by
the vice chair of the Progressive Caucus of the House of
Representatives, Keith Ellison, who has worked with the Network of
Spiritual Progressives to develop a Domestic and Global Marshall Plan
(DGMP). The DGMP would have the US take the leadership in bringing the
advanced industrial societies of the world to commit 1-2% of their
Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty to once and for
all end global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education
inadequate health care, and to repair the global environment.
seemed obvious to religious leaders that the meltdown of the global
economy and the obvious role played by the ethos of selfishness and
materialism presented the new President with a once in a lifetime
opportunity to remake the global economy in ways that would
redistribute wealth to the poor, thereby generating the very consumer
demands that could rebuild the global marketplace by taking the monies
that were not being spent and putting it in the hands of those whose
immediate needs for food, clothing, housing and basic material needs
would generate a global economic revival and end unemployment.
the only way that could happen would be for the Obama Administration to
have put its full energy behind a new approach to homeland security.
Obama would have had to teach Americans that lasting security could
come from generosity, whereas the strategy of domination of others had
proved futile and a guaranteed loser.
Even when Obama started
pouring trillions into the hands of Wall Street banks and investment
firms there was still a hope in the religious world that he would
remain faithful to the peace-oriented insights he had articulated
during his campaign.
No wonder then that the global religious
leaders convening in Melbourne are expressing dismay to each other.
They have long known what Obama seems not yet to have absorbed in a
serious way: that the path to peace must be a path of peace, and that
you cannot bomb and kill your way to security. This simple insight is
the one thing shared by most of the world’s religious traditions, and
it is to testify to the path of peace that thousands of religious
leaders are assembled here to affirm a truth that Obama and the world
must take seriously,.
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun
Magazine www.tikkun.org, chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives
www.spiritualprogressives.org, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in
San Francisco, California. He is the author of 11 books, most recently
The Left Hand of God (Harper San Francisco, 2006) a national best
seller in the U.S.
If you agree with this perspective:
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2. Attend the Tikkun Conference to “Support Obama to BE the Obama
Americans Voted For” *in San Francisco, University of San Francisco,
mini-conference, President’s Day, Monday, February 15, 2010 *in
Washington D.C. Full conference June 11-14, 2010. Put aside the
dates now. More info:
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