Palms, Matzah, Our Planet, and the White House: A Religious Call to Civil Disobedience
At noon on March 21st, religiously and spiritually rooted Americans of all traditions will gather at the White House for a moral act of loving nonviolent civil disobedience. This action, organized by the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC), will make clear to President Obama that his inspired pledge to halt the destruction of the Earth from climate change requires that he take bold and courageous actions, including rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
As religious leaders and individuals who recognize the moral imperative of taking unified, visible action to ensure that our nation’s leaders act responsibly to address climate change, we invite you to join us at the White House on March 21st, either to engage in civil disobedience, or to stand with others in a circle of support for those who do choose to risk arrest.
Our March 21st action will occur at a critical moment: Many of our religious communities will be preparing for Passover and Holy Week, (Palm Sunday begins Holy Week on March 24; the first night of Passover is on Monday, March 25), even as our President faces a profound decision that will affect our planet – teetering on the edge of a climate tipping point – and the human communities throughout the Earth already suffering the effects of the climate crisis and threatened with more and worsening disasters.
As we observe the upcoming holy days, our ancient sacred wisdoms remind us that top-down power must be called to account for us to win through to the Promised Land, the Beloved Community.
Super-storm Sandy, the drastic droughts in our corn country, record-breaking Arctic ice melt, disasters in Australia, Russia, Pakistan and Africa, and the realization that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental United States all warn us: the disruption of our planet will not wait for our “normal” political paralysis to end.
We are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was among the leaders of a profoundly religious and spiritual movement to heal us from the great dangers of war and injustice in his day:
“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ’Too late’.”
And we take note that even a leading secular journalist, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, has called for civil disobedience to insist on strong measures to heal the climate crisis.
If we go over the Climate Cliff now, experiencing Plagues in our own generation as the Bible describes the Ten Plagues – all eco-disasters — long ago, our grandchildren will live in misery and suffering.
Today’s Plagues endanger the web of life upon our planet, including the human race – and inflict the greatest harm on the poorest and most vulnerable among us. We are especially concerned by the effects on local communities and our planetary future of destructive, extreme energy extraction: mountaintop removal, fracking, Arctic and deep sea offshore oil drilling, and tar sands mining.
Out of our moral commitment to protect and heal God’s Creation, our religious communities need to be calling for a set of first-step changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by committing the President and Congress to vigorous action.
As we prepare for civil disobedience at the White House, we address not only our government, but also religious communities throughout the country: In the name of Creator Spirit, Holy One of Being — JOIN US!
On Thursday, March 21st at 12:00 Noon, we will gather in Lafayette Park (directly across from the White House on Pennsylvania Ave., NW) carrying three sacred symbols:
- The Palms that greeted Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, — green fronds of life to challenge the deadliness of the Roman Empire;
- The Matzoh, unleavened bread that began as the food of the poor and afflicted but became the bread of life and freedom when the People of Israel hurried forth in the fierce urgency of Now.
- The Globe of the planet we share, God’s Creation — for all our traditions, a symbol of sharing and wholeness of the Earth for which we sing:
“We’ve got the whole world in our hands, We’ve got rivers and mountains in our hands, We’ve got frogs and polar bears in our hands, We’ve got our children and their children in our hands — We’ve got the whole world in our hands!”
What will we be urging that the President do to meet the needs of this critical hour in planetary time? He must take actions necessary to heal our communities and the Earth, such as these:
1. Permanently refuse permits for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, because tar-oil is among the most dangerous of the planet-heating forms of carbon.
2. Call now a National Summit Conference on the Climate Crisis to meet with the urgency that the crisis demands — including leaders of business, labor, academia, religious communities, governmental officialdom, science, and other relevant bodies.
3. Publicly support and advocate for a carbon fee that will generate hundreds of billions of dollars, with provisions to ensure that working families and the poor are not harmed by higher carbon prices; for an end to subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries; and for substantial subsidies for research, development, and use of renewable, sustainable and jobs-creating clean energy sources.
In the Name of the God whose Names are many, we invite and urge you to join us on March 21st at the White House. To endorse this action or indicate your intention to take part, please contact Cindy Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With blessings of shalom, salaam, pax, paz, peace,
IMAC Supporters* and Steering Committee Members
- *Asoka Bandarage, author, Sustainability and Well-Being: The Middle Path to Environment, Society and the Economy (Palgrave MacMillan, forthcoming).
- Rev. Tom Carr, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Hartford, CT, co-founder of Interreligious Eco Justice Network, CT,
- Rev. Terry Ellen, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice in the National Capital Region
- Ted Glick, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
- Cynthia Harris, IMAC Steering Committee
- Dr. Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation
- *Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Director, Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
- Fr. Paul Mayer, Climate Crisis Coalition
- Jacqueline Patterson, Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program, NAACP
- Ibrahim Ramey, Muslim American Freedom Society
- *Catherine Skopic, Chair, Environmental Task Force of the Congregation of Saint Saviour within the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine; Chair Environmental Committee, Episcopal Diocese of New York.
- Karen Scott, Center for Liberty of Conscience
- Lise Van Susteren, MD, Advisory Board Member, Center for Health and the Global Environment; National Wildlife Federation
- Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, Philadelphia
- *Dr. Donald Wheeler, New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability / Emmanuel Baptist Church
Learn more at InterfaithActionOnClimateChange.org.