This Rabbi Blessed The Nuns On The Bus
The Nuns ride again! Sister Simone Campbell and the Catholic Sisters of Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice kicked off their national “Nuns on the Bus Tax Justice Truth Tour” to highlight the economic injustice that persists in the United States. The nun tour, partly inspired by recent votes on health care and taxes, will end on Nov. 2 outside Mar-a-Lago in Florida with a “Fiesta for the Common Good.”
Dr. King famously said that the Kingdom of God as a universal reality remains “not yet.”
We’re gathered here today because we persist in believing in the Kingdom of God. For me, as a Jew, that looks like a world in which human dignity is real. In which every single person is treated as an image of God, with infinite worth, absolutely unique and precious in the eyes of God and humanity.
And the pain point of this era we’re living through is that every day we are reminded of how far we are from the realization of that vision.
We are, to say the least, not there yet.
We are not there yet, when a Supreme Court Justice is confirmed amid multiple credible accusations of sexual assault, messaging to women, trans and nonbinary folks, to men and boys who are victims of sexual violence that they, and their trauma, are a liability, an exaggeration, a hassle and a distraction, and can’t we just quiet down and let them get back to the business of securing partisan advantage?
No, the Kingdom of God is not at hand, when young mother who flees violence in El Salvador arrives at the US border and is given 5 minutes to say goodbye to her two small boys, who are then ripped from her arms in a policy of wanton cruelty. We’re not there yet, when we realize how little those with power in our country care that even those children who are reunited with their parents—the lucky ones—will be traumatized for many years to come.
We’re not there yet when the justice department actively works to roll back civil rights achievements and 23 of 50 states have adopted harsh voter suppression laws in the last eight years alone. When African-Americans and Mexicans and Muslims and all People of Color are monsterized and criminalized, when the President fuels antisemitism and then shrugs when a JCC in Virginia is covered in swastikas.
No, the Kingdom of God is not yet at hand, when Callie Greer from Alabama—whom I marched with in DC at the Poor People’s Campaign—wails in agony as she describes her daughter, Venus, dying in her arms from a cancer that could have been treated had Alabama not refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. We’re not there yet when a quarter of a million Americans die from poverty related issues in the US each year.
We’re not there yet when kids are afraid they might get shot in school. When the prison population has grown from 200,000 to 2.2 million in the last 40 years, and Puerto Rico is abandoned. When our planet aches under the weight of fossil fuels and even still, our government obsessively and furiously prioritizes deregulation.
We’re not there yet, because today our country is driven by fear, mired in a failed moral narrative, contaminated by corruption, hypocrisy and indecency. Our nation—the richest in the world, boasts 140 million who are poor or live in poverty (with women, children and those with disabilities disproportionately affected).
It’s almost too much to bear. Dr. King was right, the Kingdom of God is “not yet.”
But he didn’t leave it there. Dr. King also quoted the historian Charles Beard in saying, “when it is dark enough you can see the stars.”
We’re out here today to train our eyes to see the stars.
And here’s what they look like: they look like Sister Simone Campbell, and these holy sisters, who are “On the Road to Mar-a-Lago.” Who will engage thousands and thousands of Americans at 54 events in 21 states over the course of the next 27 days, and then will land at Mar-a-Lago, where they will speak truth to power.
These sisters and their supporters of all races and ethnicities and religious traditions, are calling us to seek out the stars in the night sky. Stand up, they’re saying, and fight for the America you know is waiting to be born. A new America, fierce, gorgeous and fair. An America built on justice, fairness, and mercy. An America that lifts up the widow, the orphan and the stranger, that stands not ON, but WITH the most vulnerable.
This message matters more now than ever before, because today it is supremely clear: either we work to dismantle oppressive systems, or our inaction becomes the mortar that sustains them.
The Kingdom of God has not yet arrived. We’re painfully far from our collective vision of a world redeemed. But each of us is called לְתַקֵּן עוֹלָם בְּמַלְכוּת שַׁדַּי – to do whatever we can to heal the world and bring about the Kingdom of God.
That’s why we need this movement; that’s why we bless this moment.
Sisters, we send you off on your journey with blessings.
Go, and help free us from a politics that invisibilizes, marginalizes, disenfranchises and steals from those who need most, a politics in which hatred, intolerance and heartlessness poison the water of our nation.
Go, and proclaim liberty throughout the land.
Go, and remind our nation, aching under the weight of injustice, that it is precisely in the dark of night that we can see the stars.
צֵאתְכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם—Go, go in peace.
Rabbi Sharon Brous is Senior Rabbi and Founder of IKAR and an Auburn Senior Fellow.