A Better Future?

This weekend is a rare confluence of Easter and Passover, holidays with different but compatible messages. Each memorializes a sort of victory over an oppressive and unjust tyrant—Easter through resurrection, Passover through escape. Both hold out the hope of a better future, whether in the here and now or an afterlife.

My acquaintance with Christian theology is minimal, and I’ve forgotten much of what I learned about my own Jewish heritage in Sunday school. I do remember exhortations about the need to make this world more just. To paraphrase a Talmudic injunction: God doesn’t expect us to perfect the world in our generation, but we are not free to desist from the task. We are not free not to try.

Americans have very different definitions of justice, of what a “perfect” world would look like, and right now, those differences are pretty stark. What many of us see is a national administration dismantling hard-won progress—reversing measures to protect the environment, ensure fairer administration of justice and extend civil rights protections to people who had previously been marginalized. We see norms of democratic and ethical behavior, not to mention civility, being violated daily. We see a President who encourages tribalism and ancient hatreds.

And nowhere–not in the Administration, or in Congressional leadership–do we see any concern for “the least of us.” There’s lots of bible thumping, but evidently very little bible reading.

Those who support this administration applaud what they see as an overdue defense of white Christian male dominance and rejection of an (ill-defined) globalism.

Clearly, today’s Americans have dramatically different worldviews. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that we inhabit different realities. We appear to have lost the ability to actually debate policy, perhaps because our differences are tribal, not philosophical.

So what do “hope” and “justice” look like in our divided America? What should sincere Christians and Jews—together with Muslims and atheists and others—conclude about the forces of division and resentment that challenge our ability to build an inclusive and tolerant society?

A not insignificant number of political scientists have recently characterized average Americans as uninformed and politically apathetic– one recent book calls deliberative democracy a “folk tale”–  but I’m not ready to write Americans off, because the one truly positive outcome of the 2016 election has been the degree of civic activism it has generated. That activism should give us all hope.

A non-exhaustive list of examples:

  • A number of Christian churches have emerged to challenge the Christian Right and its claim to represent “true” Christianity. Congregations and denominations that haven’t been socially active since the heyday of the social gospel have joined with with other faith communities to demand a fairer, more inclusive, more humane country. (As one pastor was moved to observe “When Episcopalians take to the streets, it’s serious!”)
  • Across both rural and urban America, women are refusing to return to second-class status and back-alley abortions, refusing to accept sexual harassment and unequal pay as the price they must pay for the privilege of employment.  Those women are putting on their “pussy hats” and running for public office in unprecedented numbers.
  • Most of all, it’s the kids who give me hope. The Parkland survivors were awe-inspiring, but what is even more impressive is the fact that they didn’t produce the March for Our Lives single-handedly. Thousands of young people, most of them high school students and many even younger, planned and coordinated one of the largest civic demonstrations in the nation’s history—a demonstration remarkable for its lack of violence or lawlessness, and for the measured and reasonable demands of its speakers. They show promise of being a genuinely civic generation.

Even those of us who are secular Americans can be encouraged by religious observances  celebrating victories over those who have misused the powers of government. They remind us that we are not free to desist from the fight for a fairer and more just America.


  1. “This weekend is a rare confluence of Easter and Passover, holidays with different but compatible messages. Each memorializes a sort of victory over an oppressive and unjust tyrant—Easter through resurrection, Passover through escape.”

    And while Jews celebrate their escape by Passover and those of us who remember who and why the Resurrection celebration of Easter originated; we are all once again seeking escape from an oppressive and unjust tyrant here in this country.

    “Even those of us who are secular Americans can be encouraged by religious observances celebrating victories over those who have misused the powers of government. They remind us that we are not free to desist from the fight for a fairer and more just America.”

    Is today what is meant by the saying, “What goes around, comes around.”? For we are again at a point in time when we must fight for freedom and justice; but today we as Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists as well as all races, must band together for we are no longer in opposition but basically believe in the same goal. The true meaning of “Christianity” has been bastardized by a small contingent who are in a position of power to enact laws to force their judgmental and controlling form of christianity on all of us; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist and Atheist alike in America.

    This weekend appears to have become, not only a confluence of Easter and Passover but a confluence and escalation of oppression and tyranny. We have returned to again being in a Cold War; rapidly headed to WWIII, led by only THREE men who have been given this power by the people in each of their nations. Donald Trump has been the catalyst to where we are today; joined, for very different reasons and relationships, with Vladimar Putin and Kim Jong Un. A frightening Triangular Confluence of power with death the only outcome unless they are stopped.

    Hope I haven’t rained (or in the case of locale weather forecast, snowed) on everyone’s religious celebrations, whatever they may be; but the danger hasn’t taken this weekend off to spend a peaceful time at family dinners.

  2. I feel more and more like George Bernard Shaw who ” began to feel that the human race’s failure to progress was genetic, that the human beings as presently constituted were a mere unsatisfactory stage in a continuing evolutionary process.” Simon Callow in NY Review April 19, 2018.

    And there is no greater expression of that failure than religion.

  3. John Neal,

    “And there is no greater expression of that failure than religion.”

    Humanities core beliefs, especially with respect to religion, are contaminated, much of it originating from the U.S. Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished until a successful CLEAN-UP CAMPAIGN is initiated which there is a good chance that it will never happen.

    Consequently, just a reminder this Easter and don’t forget it: Make sure you DUCK AND COVER.

  4. I’ll just quote Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” We cannot stop trying to make it better.

  5. … on top of it all, you have a reader that has been working for 20 years in the Hebrew Torah text(s) and has rediscovered something that could wind up proving iconoclastic to everything Christiantiy, Judaism and Islam are based on… (no this is not a joke.) I have found some things pertaining to important points to all these religions that – is totally rewritten in the text – but you cannot find it by just reading. I found the answer to what the Book of Concealment speaks of (the mystical book included in the Zohar collection)… I have found most of it in images formed by patterns of letters. And it is all based on a mathematical process, from letter 1 to letter 304,805… No there are answers but – I really have to say at this time in our history, I may just destroy all my work – it would cause a war for sure. I think that feeling comes from looking around at all the Philistines we have engendered. We sit in a world of minds that cannot settle on a level understanding that we ALL are HUMAN and that we all have a desire to live and just be… but how we do that – is also explained. In fact it is the first image up – LAW, you know the image of the High Priestess in the TAROT (look it up – good example is the Rider Waite Deck) She is from the TORAH as are all the images of the TAROT – ‘tarot’ in Hebrew when you reverse the ‘o’ and ‘a’ means ‘Laws’. Those images come from the TORAH, and there is a lot more than that.
    Yes, Ms. Kennedy – there is something to the origin of it all – everything that we see of Judaism, Christianity and Islam sprang from the stories and histories in the TORAH, (not the Tanakh in its entirety ‘the Hebrew Bible’) just the first five books of Moses – it is all there in the start of it all. And for 20 years I have been making Rabbi’s, Mathematicians, Bible Scholars aware of it – with NO response. Knowing what I do know, this has led to a great deal of depression – on my part which I deal with every morn when I awake. However my enthusiasm for the work goes on, I just cannot let ignorance win. Have a good holiday everyone. – Rev. Manuel Colunga-Hernandez, rural Deer River MN.

  6. Well said, everyone! In Rebecca Costa’s outstanding book, “The Watchman’s Rattle”, she concludes that humans have evolved much faster socially than they have biologically. It seems to be a true statement in that we allow so many of our fears to cloud the progress of our societies and our exploding population, with religion being the most formidable of those clouds.

    Religion is based on fear of the unknown. Yes, scholars talk around that basis, but in the end religion becomes a folly of the human mind. When religion is injected into governance, however, it becomes a tool of all the primitive, tribal instincts of a terribly flawed, but clever species.

    The best thing to come out of our social evolution is baseball, and I’m going to watch the games today. Have a nice day today no matter who and what you are.

  7. Vernon,

    “The best thing to come out of our social evolution is baseball, and I’m going to watch the games today.”

    I strongly disagree. Basketball TRUMP(s) baseball.

  8. Thanks for this hopeful message Shiela. It’s my understanding that Milo Smith is retiring. Yes?
    I hope that David Hogg’s generation is going to create positive social changes along with Black lives Matter, and “Me Too”.

  9. I think the full text of your Talmudic quote goes: “The day is short and the work is long. It is not thy task to complete the work, but neither art thou free to desist from it.” A good reminder for us all.

  10. “…everything that we see of Judaism, Christianity and Islam sprang from the stories and histories in the TORAH,…”

    Manuel; WOW, some enlightening reminders in your comments, reminders of the beginning of all belief. Thank you! The pseudo-christians, such as Pence, appear to have no idea they are preaching old Jewish laws to base their sermons on, calling themselves good christians and their followers have even less idea as to what they are supporting. This would appear to be a “joke on them” if their anti-Semitism were not so dangerous to all of us in this country. I refuse to capitalize the word christian when referring to those far right-wing conservatives who, in truth, are supporting no one but themselves and getting richer as they do so. They would be the “money changers thrown from the temple” by Jesus.

  11. Marv,

    Well, the NBA certainly tries to satisfy your desires by playing into summer. The NCAA tournament of indentured servants has leaked into April. Basketball is dominated by very tall guys who can do things you and I only dreamed about. The pros make obscene amounts of money for an 82 game schedule while universities and colleges who make it to the tournament make obscene amounts of money for their athletic departments and alumni.

    Baseball players are more human in their physical disposition. They also play a 162 game schedule for obscene amounts of money. Baseball is a better value and is closer to our hearts. LOL.

  12. Plato told us the price of apathy… “we will be led by our inferiors.”

    How insightful.

    We don’t have to go back and gather all the religious documents from 5,000 years or 2,000 years ago to discern what is needed, Martin Luther King, Jr. laid down the vision before his assassination with the “I Have a Dream” speech.

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

    Denial is a negative coping skill used to remain complacent. “I don’t want to take a stand against this injustice.” Why?

    It might cost me something. Fear.

    All emotions are derived from two basic emotions: love and fear. Therefore, I’d suggest that all actions are derived from love or fear.

    Why are Americans so fearful?

  13. The Reactionary Right Wing and the “Family Values” Theocrats have rallied around The Trumpet (Agent Orange). The Trumpet should be by all normal logic anathema to the Theocrats and Evangelicals. Yet, the Trumpet holds onto his base. Perhaps the Trumpet’s base likes the way he has bitch slapped woman.

    The Trumpet has been silent on the March for Lives, he seems to be letting his surrogates carry the toxic water for him like Laura Ingraham of Faux News, and fellow draft dodger the repulsive Ted Nugent.

    One thing John Bolton , Mike Pompeo and the Trumpet have the marching orders from Saudi Arabia and Israel to dismantle the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Bolton, one of the architects of the Iraq invasion, is a persistent advocate of military action. He wrote a New York Times commentary in 2015, the year the JCPOA was signed, titled To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.

    Neither Trump and Bolton have ever experienced war. Both avoided service in Vietnam: Trump on account of “bone spurs” on his feet, Bolton joining the national guard. Both The Trumpet and Bolton are chicken hawks, i.e., their bravery increases as they distance themselves from actual combat.

  14. I want to remind everyone reading that today “You can be Good Without God”.

    And that’s not an April Fool’s joke.

  15. Americans tend to be fearful, because they’ve been trained to be fearful. First it was the “Indians” who would do us in on the frontier. Then it was the bandits and the Mexicans. All the while, southerners feared slave uprisings. Churches in America, of course, spewed fire and brimstone, guilt and more fear.

    Capitalists perpetuate war to make money. They do this by sowing fear…which leads to war based on lies and creates more enemies which create more fear. The NRA is a relative late-comer to the fear-mongering set, but they have been allowed to be in full throat for a few decades now.

    So, Todd, fear of the “other” and all the spinoffs of “those people” have created this culture of fear. If you understand it, you tend not to be so fearful.

  16. Liberals want freedom from everyone, authoritarians want wealth concentration for themselves at the expense of everyone. To say that we aren’t on the same page is an understatement.

    Happy/Easter Passover to everyone.

  17. Thank you for another great blog post. I too was greatly inspired by the the young people from Parkland and their your supporters. It gives me great hope for the future and I hope the future truly starts now.

    Just to add to the cultural diversity of Sheila’s readers, March 31 was Hanuman Jayanti, the Hindu celebration of the God Hanuman.

  18. Outstanding food for thought today with your offering, Sheila, and if fear and escape are the models humanity lives by, let’s not forget the fear of the pharaoh with Moses’ escape to a promised land he never reached. That failure in the Judeo-Christian story could be an object lesson in how we should per the Torah) heroize those who fall short of their goals but die trying, and serves as a backdrop to a mutual promise I have with a friend of mine, to wit: “That we will change the world or die trying – probably the latter.”

    That same sort of resolve can be translated into political losses, divorce, grief counseling and other diverse areas of human interaction. We may be down but never out. Yogi was right; it ain’t over till it’s over – and until the race is no more, it ain’t ever over. Happy Holidays to all my believing and non-believing fellow commentators as well as those those who deny belief or lack thereof is an issue worth discussion.

  19. Every day, but especially on Easter, it is my faith that sustains me and gives me complete confidence in the unavoidable victory of love. Not without effort, frustration, disappointment, even grief. But the end has been written, and good prevails. Can’t imagine a day without that knowledge.

  20. Never been a huge Moses fan but on the other hand he did seem to sell the point that we’ll all make it together or not at all.

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