In a previous post, I introduced you to The Network of Spiritual Progressives and its pro-compassion agenda and call for a new Bottom Line for America. Today I was fortunate to catch part of the NSP's presentation of The Global Marshall Plan: A National Security Strategy of Generosity and Care.
The NSP names this plan after George Marshall, who was Secretary of State when he convinced the U.S. to launch a plan to rebuild Europe after the Second World War, a plan that is widely credited with having stimulated European economies so that they became successful and could eventually stand on their own without direct aid from the U.S. The NSP says the Marshall Plan stands as a reminder that government financed plans can be successful in alleviating suffering and stimulating economic well-being, if run with intelligence and sensitivity.
Today Rabbi Michael Lerner and activist professor Peter Gabel were joined by the Honorable Keith Ellison (D-MN) and spiritual teacher Tony Campolo to present this plan. And it's more than just a theoretical hope. It has actually made its way to its incarnation as House Resolution 1078, endorsed by Representative Ellison and many others.
Radical Abundance. Representative Ellison expressed a message of what he called "radical abundance." He called the fact that more than 1 billion people on our planet struggle to survive on less than $1 per day, and another 1.6 billion people on less than $2 a day an "obscenity" and an "outrage." He urges citizens to stand up, challenge the mentality of lack and say, "there's enough in this World for everybody." He challenges the system that blatantly allows people to starve to death while a small percentage of the world holds the majority of the world's wealth. He urges the adoption of The Marshall Plan.
And he's not alone. Twenty other Democratic Representatives have joined him in endorsing House Resolution 1078.
After Representative Ellison, Tony Campolo addressed the group. If you've never heard Tony Campolo speak, you're missing out. Vivacious and outspoken, he is a Christian who challenges the fundamental beliefs of poverty and lack that permeate our society. He also said that he doesn't call himself "Evangelical" anymore because that term has become synonomous with the Religious Right, and he does not fully align with many of their opinions.
Apathy and Misplaced Outrage Must Go. Campolo relayed an interesting story illustrating the apathy so many citizens feel. As he lectured a college class, he said "45,000 children died last night as a result of poverty." There was no response. So he said loudly, "SHIT, 45,000 children died last night as a result of poverty." The students were outraged that he used the word "shit." He asks where the outrage is that thousands of children die of poverty every day.
Surprisingly, he said that he is not happy with Obama right now, as he views Obama moving toward the right in an effort to woo voters. Colorfully, he encouraged citizens to "put the screws" to the Democrats and to hold Obama to commitments he made when he accepted the task of running for president.
But there is hope. Campolo said that in the past 20 years, the number of children who die of poverty daily decreased from 45,000 to 30,000. Still not good, but a huge step in the right direction. He also has hope in The Marshall Plan given the reactions of other world leaders. He said that Great Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown "has embraced" the plan, and Campolo is hopeful that other world leaders will follow suit.
Here's a zinger. Campolo says that he and his students calculated the cost of the Iraq war. He asked them to reduce it down to a per minute figure, because it's just too hard to conceptualize trillions of dollars. He says the war is costing us $250,000 a minute. Yes, a minute.
He also urged citizens not to blame the Republicans alone. He said we all are to blame to some degree, but that God hears our cries and will deliver the poor and oppressed in their struggles for dignity and self-worth.
A Challenge to The Left. Rabbi Michael Lerner also challenged the Left to give up its deeply held fears of religion and to distinguish between a domination-oriented, Right-Hand-of-God tradition and a more compassionate and hope-oriented Left-Hand-of-God worldview. Rabbi Lerner urged the Democratic Party to rethink its relationship to God, champion a progressive spiritual vision, reject the old bottom line that promotes the globalization of selfishness, and deal head-on-with the very real spiritual crisis that many Americans experience every day.
For more information on The Marshall Plan, see http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php?story=2008020819394578