A clear call for a "Day of Turning"
BEYOND VA. TECH, IRAQ, & STREET GUN MURDERS:
NATIONWIDE DAY TO REPENT FROM VIOLENCE??
In the wake of Virginia Tech, death-a-day murder rates
in our major cities, and the Iraq war, America needs a
National Day of Turning ("tshuvah, repentance") away
from our addiction to violence and its tools.
For the past few years, The Shalom Center has worked
with the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah and with a
number of diverse religious and "secular-spiritual"
organizations and communities to encourage shared
observances of the Sacred Season of Sacred Seasons.
This year the cluster of the 9/11 anniversary, Rosh
Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, Ramadan, Worldwide
Communion Sunday, and the Feast Day of St. Francis of
Assisi falls in the period from September 11 to
Perhaps this time of year is the best in which to
fashion a shared Day of Turning.
During the past week, I have of course wrestled with
the Virginia Tech massacre. As I was invited to take
part in a number of radio interviews about it (one
with Rev. Jim Forbes, whose nephew is a student at Va.
Tech) , I began seeing it in the context of a more
systemic disease: American addiction to violence,
expressed also through the Iraq war, the use of
torture by the US government as an act of public
policy, and the gunshot murders of one person a day on
the streets of my city of Philadelphia (and numbers
like that in other major cities).
This terrible event at Virginia Tech was like losing
an eye from some terrible illness. But my own
diagnosis is that we lost the eye because the WHOLE
American body is sick, and we are already losing other
limbs as well to the systemic illness of addiction to
So it is my own assessment that only by addressing the
whole disease can we save ourselves. It is wise for us
to mourn our lost eye, but if we do ONLY that instead
of addressing the disease as a whole, we are far more
likely to lose legs, arms, genitals, hearts, and
souls, as well. (Indeed, we already are.)
We need to be addressing as skilled spiritual
therapists and social activists the plague of violence
in our country.
We could begin imagining, planning, how to seed into
the American universe a day of widespread repentance
for our easy recourse --- I would say, addiction -- to
lethal violence. Guns, bombs, ecocide.
Perhaps we could choose one day in the forthcoming
Ramadan/ Tishrei/ Assisi etc time as a good time for
such a nation-wide self-assessment, a review of what
is corrupting our souls and a profound ritual of
Such a day could include some aspect of fasting,
prayer and meditation, relearning of our visceral
reactions to fear, sorrow, ambition -- and an
outpouring of firm and gentle action toward ending the
war and putting sensible controls on hand guns and
The Shalom Center has already begun to explore this
with some major leaders in several religious
communities, and the proposal has won interest for
I welcome your thoughts about what it would mean to
put our heads and hearts together to sow the seeds of
such a day.
I invite anyone who is prepared to invest serious time
in working on this, to write me NOT at this return
address but at --
Shalom, salaam, peace -- Arthur
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, co-author, The Tent of Abraham;
director, The Shalom Center www.shalomctr.org, which
voices a new prophetic agenda in Jewish,
multireligious, and American life. To receive the
weekly on-line Shalom Report, click on --