Truth and Transformation: A Vision for the New Year

This could become a year of Truth and Transformation. Truth about the painful past, the promising past. Transformation of the future toward making real the Beloved Community.

Just as I sat down to write you-all a letter on my sense of what we face and how we can take action in 2018, I received an oddly, ironically  relevant link to an article in the New Yorker, just appearing.

In it I am quoted from a recent interview for the New Yorker story --  about a conference I took part in 50 years ago. The Foreign Policy Association, which sponsored the conference, aimed at predicting what life would be like 50 years afterward –-  that is, this year.  Then they published a book of predictive essays --  with not a single woman author, nothing on race  relations,  and no author under 35 years old. 

Were their predictions on target? One participant warned that “large-scale climate modification will be effected inadvertently” from rising levels of carbon dioxide. A few others foresaw the rise of complex “big data” computers.

Otherwise, no worthwhile predictions. No one foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union, the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage , or the election of a fascist President of the United States.

The article, by Paul Collins, quotes me:

For Waskow, such omissions were no accident. “That’s what I ended up feeling about this whole cluster of people,” he remembers today:

 “They were trying to figure out how to describe the future, and mostly in ways that would have them still in charge of it. Their technology was all stuff that would fit within the basic framework of corporate capitalism of the sixties and seventies.”

 “I was interested in changing the world—not trying to predict the future, but to create the future.”

I still am.  The prophetic voice does not predict the future, it “possidicts” the future with a strong ethical dimension to the vision. If you do x, you will get x-squared. If you do y, you will get y-cubed. What you sow is what you will reap. All the prophetic voice can do is warn of danger if we do x and offer transformation if we do y.     If is the word of truth.

If you want to read the whole article, click to --

If you want to hear a prophetic voice, not predictions, keep tuned here:

  1. 1.     Oligarchy

There are three crucial aspects to the present effort to turn a precariously democratic society into an Oligarchy of the Hyper-Wealthy:

a. Personal egomania and paranoia, well positioned to evoke the same responses in fear and disgust toward  Blacks, Browns, immigrants, the poor, students and teachers,  elders, women, LGBTQ people, Muslims, maybe Jews, the Earth itself and those who  try to protect water, air, food, land, national parks, from poisoning and corporate take-over. The desired result: emotional distress and economic misery among these folks, enough to keep them so busy surviving and so suspicious of each other that they cannot take time to organize an insurgent politics

b. Shifting enormous amounts of wealth and power to those already Hyper-Wealthy.


 c. Preparing to choke off debate and dissent. The goals: –- taking over the FBI and “re-Hooverizing” it as a politically repressive force; ending Net Neutrality; bashing and ultimately limiting independent judges and the critical press; defining networks like Black Lives Matter as proto-terrorist, etc. This part of the process is so far mostly at the “shouting” rather than the “choking” stage

2.     Resistance

We have seen the emergence of larger and broader grass-roots opposition. Much of it has been single-issue from different sectors of American society, each responding to the pressure on itself. But there has been an increasing recognition that “we are all in this together,” that subjugation is the DNA that all the different pressures share, that democracy itself is in serious danger.

a. Many thousands of women have been moved into action beyond anything before, even in the movement to win the right to vote. Many women have seen the links between political threats to the right to choose birth control and abortion,  with individual, personal, and intimate attacks on their bodies and dignity.

b. From a seed planted in North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” movement has grown the organizing of a new Poor People’s Campaign, drawing on memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, reaching across racial and regional boundaries as King was hoping to do when he was murdered, and enlivened now by the prophetic intelligence and eloquence of Rev. Dr.  William Barber.

Barber has called for a “fusion politics” that brings together  not only economic issues and resistance to racism but also the threats to newly won freedom for women and varied sexual and gender minorities, exploitation of the Earth, the extreme weather events caused by global scorching and the climate crisis.

 c. There are three dates that will arise this year that will test the strength and courage of the movements to renew American democracy. One of these dates we do not yet know. It will come if the present powers in control of the US government respond to growing opposition with a crack-down. That might take the form of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It might take the form of a war unleashed –- the classic resort of a frightened politician. It might take the form of a violent attack on civil liberties in response to a terrorist attack.  These possible events may not arise, but IF they do, widespread rapid-response grass-roots resistance will be crucial.

d. This coming April 4 is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. It is also the 51st anniversary of his most profound speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” in which he named “racism, militarism, and materialism” as the deadly “triplets” afflicting America, and warned of the “fierce urgency of Now.”  (See the website <> for a wealth of wisdom from him and about him for our generation.) 
The National Council of Churches is planning a large gathering on April 4 on the National Mall in Washington DC;  Dr. Barber will be in Memphis where Dr. King was killed as he worked to support the rights of garbage workers. This day comes shortly after Easter (April 1) and in the midst of Passover (the 5th day).

The week or so preceding it and April 4 itself could be the occasion for a myriad “MLK50” actions all across the country –--  teach-ins and prayer vigils, marches and sit-ins, voter-registration  campaigns and strikes for a $15 minimum wage and a four-day work week with no cuts in take-home pay, blockages of oil and gas pipelines that threaten both local towns and neighborhoods and the planet as a whole -- and many other forms of united resistance.

Those days could also be the moment to begin work on democratic alternatives --  neighborhood food co-ops, neighborhood and congregational solar and wind energy co-ops, “B Corporations” legally committed to the common good, “freedom schools” to teach about participatory democracy in the past and future, newspaper-sponsored  dialogues on American democracy open to all, with the grass-roots conversations then published by the papers, and many more.

e. The next crucial date for the renewal of American democracy will be the November elections for Congress and many state and local offices. Voter turn-out of Black and Latino communities, of women and GLBTQ folk, of labor-union members and un-unionized workers, of students and young people, of elders alert to attacks on Social Security and Medicare –- all these will be crucial. It is not that a renewed and vigorously progressive Congress and city councils will be enough –- but without them, the task of resisting the Oligarchy will be much harder.

f. The values and authenticity of America’s myriad religious traditions are in question. Are they – we! -- ready to act on the values we claim of compassion and community, of love for our neighbors and for our Mother Earth? Are we willing to see the varied strands of religious practice as evidence of God’s Infinity to be cherished, rather than as evidence of bad faith and wickedness?

Prophetic activism: Truth and Transformation

In a time of crisis 50 years ago, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that ““Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism and falsehood.” Do our religious communities affirm that vision?

The subjugation of human beings and the destruction of our increasingly fragile planet go hand in hand. We cannot return to the rapacious past and still survive. The threats to our hope of creating the Beloved Community are rooted in greed and in fear. Can our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples both call for and in themselves live out a loving world?

These are the worst of times, these are the best of times. For all of us, in the worlds where we have lived in comfort or discomfort, that world is coming to an end. What world we shape instead is up to us. What we sow is what we then will reap.  As was true in 1968, still true is it today: Our task is not to predict but to create.  IF is the word of truth.  Truth and Transformation? It is up to us.

Blessings to each of you and all of us that we can shape this newest year for shalom, salaam, paz, peace, for Earth and all her myriad earthlings --  Arthur



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