Passover/Holy Week: Challenging Climate Pharaohs, Climate Caesars

Drawing on an initiative from The Shalom Center, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) has undertaken an effort to encourage interfaith groups to take climate action during the week of Passover/ Holy Week all across the country  -- perhaps on Wednesday, March 27 of that week -- or possibly during the week before.  

On the Shalom Center's website is "Palms & Passover: Interfaith Healing Seder for the Earth." The Seder integrates a Palm Procession drawn from Christian tradition for Palm Sunday with a Seder drawn from Jewish tradition for the first two nights of Passover.

We invite you to draw on that "template" for an action, modifying it as best meets the needs and outlook of your community. We believe this is a promising approach to grass-roots multi-religious follow-up to the amazing "Forward on Climate" Rally last week.  

The religious roots of Passover and the Christian Holy Week that is so closely associated with it are deeply connected with challenging the top-down, arrogant rulers who -- especially in the Exodus story -- bring on ecological disasters that we call the Ten Plagues.

What is religiously authentic is also politically powerful. Engaging the grass roots of American religious communities would be extraordinarily important in building the political base for climate action. The model of Passover/Holy Week action that we have created opens the possibility of mobilizing grass-roots religious communities around actions ranging from household energy-conservation to demands for institutional divestment from Big Carbon, and reinvestment in renewable energy companies.

Some excerpts from the "template" follow:



The people gather at a central point, perhaps a synagogue or  church. Each takes a frond of the palm tree, and in pairs they bless each other ...


The people move into the streets. Chanting and singing as they go, carrying a portable large-sized globe of Planet Earth, waving the Palm branches, they walk toward a Pyramid of Power of our own day: perhaps an office of Exxon or BP, or a coal-fired power station, or a bank that invests in a coal company that is destroying the mountains of West Virginia,  or a religious or academic or governmental institution which they could call on to end its investments in Big Carbon and invest in renewable energy companies instead.

And as they walk they sing:
We've got the sun and the rain in our hands,
We've got the wind and the clouds in our hands,
We've got the whole world in our hands.
We've got the whole world in our hands!

We've got the rivers and the mountains in our hands,
We've got the lakes and the oceans in our hands
We've got you and we've got me in our hands,
We've got the whole world in our hands.

As they arrive at the point they have chosen, they share in this reading, each person reading a passage and then passing it on to another:

Rabbi Jesus and his companions called upon their followers to "Occupy Jerusalem, " "Challenge the money-changers," "Lift high the Green faces of God, the Palms of Possibility."

"Gather," they said, "on the eve of Passover to recall the fall of Pharaoh. For in every generation there is a Pharaoh who arises to enslave us and destroy us. In every generation we must all see ourselves: It is we who must go forth from slavery to freedom, not our forebears only." [Quotation from the Passover Haggadah]

Defenders of the status quo told Rabbi Jesus to tell his followers to shut up.  
And the Gospel  (Luke 19:40) says: "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out."  

In our own generation, the stones are crying out.

The frozen stones we call glaciers are groaning as they melt. The rivers cry out by flooding one-fifth of Pakistan and the entire City of New Orleans, by washing out the sturdy bridges of Vermont and flooding the subways of Manhattan.

The rains cry out in silence as they fail to fall, bringing unheard-of droughts to central Africa, Australia, Russia, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa.

As the planet scorches
and the corn parches,
the price of food climbs.
Those who were hungry, starve.
The children whose bellies swelled from hunger,
whose voices wailed from famine,
grow silent.

And all these silent, silenced voices call on us to speak.
Not only to speak but to act.


After singing and a few short talks/conversation about the reason they are there, they return to the original gathering-place for an --


We take into ourselves the foods and meanings of the Seder.


PART I. Celebration of God's Earth

Take sprigs of parsley,  dip them in salt water, pass them around the table, and say:
Question: "Why do we eat these greens, and why do we dip them in salt water?  
"Because in the spring the Earth sprouts green and fertile, and in the salt seas life began."
Blessed are you, Yahh our God, Breathing Spirit of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.
 [Everyone then eats this sprig of parsley.]

Question: Why do we eat charoset? --  

"Because by mixing apples, apricots, and raisins, nuts and cinnamon, wine and cloves, we embody the tastes and smells of the Song of Songs, the earthy poem of love and eros --  the springtime when flowers rise up against winter --  
Come with me, my love, come away,/ For the long wet months are past, The rains have fed the earth And left it bright with blossoms. Birds wing in the low sky, Dove and songbird singing In the open air above, Earth nourishing tree and vine,/ Green fig and tender grape, Green and tender fragrance.

Come with me, my love, come away.


Part II  -- Lament for the Wounded Earth: symbols, the Bitter Herb and the Blood-red Beet; recitation of Ten Plagues of our world (e..g. Superstorm Sandy, corn-belt drought, Australian fires, etc.)

Part III: Covenant of Action: symbol,  matzah: the bread of affliction becomes the bread of liberation. Ten Healings we can undertake  (e.g divestment /reinvestment campaign, support for mass transit, etc.)

Full text here.