Yearning Americans: A Prayer for a Beloved Society
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
offered at the US Capitol Building as part of the Fact Coalition/JubileeUSA Tax and Transparency Days 2016
Audio of the Prayer can be found here: soundcloud.com/rabbicreditor/yearning-americans-a-prayer
We stand together tonight, arm in arm, sisters and brothers, Americans of faith and American atheists, small business owners and elected officials, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Black, Brown, and White, conservative and progressive, all of us Yearning Americans united in a sacred collective dream awaiting fulfillment, the dream of a beloved community where every person is considered worthy, a society in which every person is treated with respect by their leaders and neighbors.
The prophets of old denounced the idolatry of greed, calling out the construction of great and ornate buildings while people slept naked and hungry in the streets. We thought that, by now, we’d have learned. But, God, to our great shame, this country we call home has once again traded the biblical prophets for business profits, prioritizing, through law, self-interest over the common good, marginalizing, incarcerating, and forgetting those in need. We have forgotten to abide by the spirit of the law, as we manipulate the letter of the law. We have sinned.
When faceless corporations are considered people but not held to basic human standards of fairness, when we allow terror haven in the shadows of our own economy, every one of our traditions tells us we’ve lost our way, for all our faiths teach us that, in the end, law must embody Love.
Everywhere we look, on our streets, in our codes, in our campaigns, in our willingness to become polarized when we disagree, there is ample evidence, Dear God, that we have lost our way.
We have, too often, willfully closed our eyes to our most vulnerable neighbors and to the way our decisions and actions carry consequences far beyond our borders.
And so we look to You to remind us that the sacred obligation of citizenship compels us to act together, to repair our broken, fragmented society by being upstanders, by taking risks and bearing the burdens of our fellow women and men.
God, we look to You as we seek to repent the sin of structural selfishness, as we commit to bringing light where darkness masks our transactions and transgressions, to changing laws that commoditize and thereby devalue human worth. We are better than we’re being. We must do better.
God, we remember the ancient promise of a just society, a command that sears our hearts as we gaze upon the terrible effects of our own indifference.
Dear God, for all the statistics and policies and legal procedures, far too much information to hold, we know a few things for sure, values we feel deep in our bones.
We do know this: Turning away is the very worst kind of sin: a callous misallocation of the human capacity to do the right thing. We dare not turn away.
Dear God, we gather tonight in our Nation’s great capital, full of the knowledge that human dignity is the only bottom line that truly matters. We must as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr told us, "make a career of humanity."
Yes, each one of us is a fragment of You, dear God, but only when we stand together is Your Divine Image recognizable.
And so we pray:
May we, together, gain a clear vision of the world as it might be, and lift that vision an inch closer to reality. Then another inch. And then another.
God, when we feel like our failures have defined us, may we remember the teaching of the great American, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, that “to be only human is to be less than human.”
We can do better than we’ve done.
We must do better than we’ve done.
We will do better than we’ve done.
Dear God, we ask you to be with us as we do better than we’ve ever done before.