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Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Posted: October 4, 2010 08:51 PM

The organizers of the Oct. 2 "One Nation Working Together" rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. asked me to give one of three five-minute mini-sermons at the interfaith service that kicked off the rally.  I was asked to speak on justice.

When we began at 11:30 a.m., my sense was that there were about 10,000 people. When the interfaith service ended at 12:30 p.m., there were about 50,000. When I left the rally at 2:00 p.m. to get back to Philadelphia, the crowd seemed to me about as large as the one I was part of in 1963, the Great March for Jobs and Freedom, at which Dr. King gave his great "I Have a Dream" speech. That was about 240,000.

I have included a transcript of my mini-sermon, entitled "Justice Is Still Denied, So We Are Still Not Satisfied," below.

Shalom,
Arthur

Shalom! [Crowd responds, "Shalom!"] Salaam! [Crowd responds, "Salaam!"] Peace! [Crowd responds, "Peace!"]

On behalf of all of us  here today who were at the Great March for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, "Blessed is the Holy One, the Interbreathing of all life, who has kept us alive and has filled us with life,  lifted us up, and carried us to this moment. Sheh'hekianu, v'kimanu, v'higianu, lazman hazeh!"
 
Almost 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, standing at this very place, cried out, "We will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.'" He was quoting the Prophet Amos, who cried out those words almost 3000 years ago.

Today we are still denied justice, and we are still not satisfied. Today the waters themselves, the mightiest of streams, the great onrushing rivers and oceans that Prophet Martin and Prophet Amos thought the very standards of mighty justice, of empowered justice, of Eternal justice -- these mighty waters are themselves being poisoned, polluted, raped, reduced to mere victims of unjust power.
 
The earth itself and all its waters, the skies above us, the climate that sustains us are all denied justice, and like the Prophet Martin, we are still not satisfied.

When the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, perturbed by Hurricane Katrina, overwhelmed the wetlands that had been decimated by profit-hungry Big Oil and overwhelmed the levees negligently misbuilt by the Corps of Engineers and then overwhelmed, drowned, and dispossessed the poorest, blackest neighborhoods of New Orleans while our government fiddled as the city drowned, we were all denied justice. So like the Prophet Martin, we are still not satisfied.

When the Gulf of Mexico is poisoned by a volcanic eruption of an oil rig, by the negligence, greed, and power of Big Oil and by the corruption of politicians purchased by Big Oil, not only is the Gulf itself and all its citizens -- petrels, pelicans, fish beyond number --  denied justice, but so are the human beings who live by the bounty of the Gulf. They are denied justice, and like the Prophet Martin, we are still not satisfied.

When  Senators threaten to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency, it is our lives, our breath, our health that they are threatening to cripple. They aim to deny us justice, and like the Prophet Martin, we are not satisfied.
 
When our government abjectly surrenders to  malefactors of great wealth  so that neither President nor Congress  can make jobs real for 15 million desperate Americans, then we are all denied justice, and we are not satisfied.

When neither President nor Congress can safeguard from foreclosure the homes of millions of Americans,  then we are all denied justice, and we are not satisfied.

When neither President nor Congress can provide an independent source of health insurance that will guarantee affordable health care for all, then we are all denied justice, and we are not satisfied.

When neither President nor Congress can make it possible for hardworking immigrants to become our fellow citizens, then we are all denied justice, and we are not satisfied.
 
When neither President nor Congress can ensure that gay and lesbian Americans can freely marry and freely serve in the armed forces, then we are all denied justice, and we are not satisfied.
 
When neither President nor Congress will end the wars that are shedding the blood and maiming the minds and souls of thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of overseas civilians, and are spilling the treasure that could help create justice in America, then we are all denied justice, and we are not satisfied.
 
When neither President nor Congress can ensure that our elections are indeed expressions of democracy, not overwhelmed by the wealth of global corporations, then we are all denied justice, and we are not satisfied!
 
I have drawn on the Prophet Martin, who was deeply rooted in Christianity, and the Prophet Amos, who was deeply rooted in the community of Yisrael -- the Godwrestlers.
 
Today in an America where fear and anger about our future, as individuals and as a nation, have led to a surge of fear and anger toward Islam, I want also to draw on the call to justice of the Prophet Muhammad, in the Quran:

"O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice. If  ye distort justice or decline to do justice, truly, God is well-acquainted with all that ye do" (An-Nisa 4:35).

"Let not the hatred of others toward you make you swerve to do wrong and depart from justice. Be just: For indeed God is well-acquainted with all that ye do" (Al-Maidah 5:8).

Wisdom for us all!   Let us indeed not let attacks upon us, or disemployment thrust upon us, or poisonous pollution poured out upon us, drive us to wrongdoing and injustice. Let us reach out once more to become what the Prophet Martin called '"the Beloved Community!"

Let us not be satisfied until the great streams of water, air, and earth of our planet themselves have justice, and along with them, for all our people. May "justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."
 
Till then, we will not be satisfied!
 
 
 
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