Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s Midrash for Election Day

I am a manThe Torah of our Choosing by Rabbi Arthur Waskow (A midrashic interpretation of Deuteronomy 17: 14-20):

You may set, yes, set over you some to hold office
Who are aware that the Breath of Life is One,
Uniting all, breathing into life all God’s Creation.
You may not give power to those so alienated
As not to feel that you are kin to them.

Indeed! — the officials whom you choose
must not multiply the horses of a cavalry,
a standing army to invade other nations and oppress our own;
Your choice must not return the people
to living in a Tight and Narrow Place – that’s slavery!
For the Breath of Life has said to you:
You must not return yourself or others
to ignorance, to poverty, to subservience, or despair –-
all slavery!

The ones you choose must not become addicted to sexual obsessions,
Or to taking bribes or favors from the wealthy
For in these ways their hearts will be turned aside
From wisdom and compassion.

But it shall be when they sit in the halls and seats of power,
They are to clarify their understanding of Most Sacred Wisdom
And face the caring public; share their vision
in ways that could with honor
face the wisdom of our wisest forebears,
prophets and holy teachers,
and so be worthy of our trust.

Their understanding of the Sacred Wisdom
is to remain beside them,
to read it and rewrite it as each day, each dawn,
Brings new knowledge and new insight to our lives —
To make certain that the rulers whom we choose
Will remain steadfast in knowing that all Creation
deserves, demands, our wonder and our healing,
so that their hearts not rise in arrogance above their kinfolk,
all Earth and all her life-forms –
that they not turn-aside from what connects us all.

Only in this way can we prolong our days
among all peoples, all life-forms
we and all our children.–Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Read more from Rabbi Waskow at The Shalom Report.

Catholics and Obama

The Tablet, the leading Catholic newspaper in the U.K., ran an interesting bit of analysis by David Gibson on Obama’s election:

Obama’s election is another important step towards what the Founding Fathers – all white men, many of them slaveowners – called “a more perfect union”. As Obama said in his speech on election day, “This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.”

And that is where the path once again grows steep. Now the prophetic rhetoric gives way to the cold reality of a country that cannot afford a New Deal or a Great Society. But the challenges facing America are, historians say, every bit as grave as those that faced Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression, and the desire for fundamental change – Obama’s campaign mantra – as strong as that which coursed through America in the 1960s.

Additionally, the Pew Forum on Religion and Politics report How the Faithful Voted (5 Nov. 2008) said this about the Catholic vote:

Catholics, too, moved noticeably in a Democratic direction in 2008; overall, Catholics supported Obama over McCain by a nine-point margin (54% vs. 45%). By contrast, four years ago, Catholics favored Republican incumbent George W. Bush over Kerry by a five-point margin (52% to 47%).

Though precise figures are not available, early exit poll data suggests that Obama performed particularly well among Latino Catholics. Overall, the national exit poll shows that two-thirds of Latinos voted for Obama over McCain, a 13-point Democratic gain over estimates from the 2004 national exit poll. Meanwhile, Obama’s four-point gain among white Catholics (compared with their vote for Kerry) is smaller than the gain seen among Catholics overall. In fact, as in 2004, white Catholics once again favored the Republican candidate, though by a much smaller margin (13-point Republican advantage in 2004 vs. five-point advantage in 2008).

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Biden: First Catholic Vice President

Another historic “first” that hasn’t been too highlighted in the news is that Obama’s victory brings with it Joe Biden as the first Catholic vice president of the United States. Biden is a good representative of most American Catholics. He loves his church. He respects its traditions. He listens carefully to its teachings and to the bishops who are its shepherds. He tries his best to live out his faith in the midst of the world. He forms his own conscience. He tries to act with mercy. He also demands that bishops provide real pastoral answers to contemporary issues, not simply archaic legalism. Sometimes this puts him into creative dissent with some aspects of the Catholic hierarchy.

Oh well. That’s like most of us. We say our prayers and get up the next morning and try to follow Jesus.

I pray that there will be an American bishop who is strong enough and secure enough to engage Joe Biden in an authentic, intellectual, compassionate, public dialogue on the role of the church and the state, the way scripture shapes and guides our values, the centrality of respect for human life and dignity, the role of forgiveness in public life, the way churches and governments can participate in God’s loving vision for the world beyond denominations, creeds, or nationalism. But this needs to be a bishop who respects Biden and his role, not one who is trying to punish him, humiliate him, or use him as a foil for what’s wrong with “liberalism.”.