Never Doubt the Power of One

Kabbalah entreats us to look for origins, to journey back and discover the source—the seed that starts the flow which results in an outcome.

When you square a number, it has an “exponential” effect (32 x32 =1024) but when you square the number one you return to the source—back to “square one” because 1×1 still equals one. There are times though that we can feel the exponential impact of one person’s ideas or actions—they cascade into a new way of perceiving reality, a new way that society responds.

Think civil rights and bring to mind Rosa Parks. Think of bending a paradigm and bring to mind Copernicus or bending a knee and bring to mind Colin Kaepernick. Think about women driving (in Saudi Arabia) and bring to mind Manal al-Sharif.

Sometimes change indeed comes from the exponential impact of numbers—but if we look for origins, if we journey back to source—it is often just one person who plants the seed that brings about an outcome.

Manal al-Sharif was arrested in 2011 for daring to drive in Saudi Arabia. It was not against the secular law—but it was an accepted and presumed violation of religious law which had created an unyielding taboo against women driving cars. Manal spent nine days in jail. She persisted in her activism, and other women, first a handful, then dozens, then hundreds joined in (driving despite the religious ban) and then thousands signed petitions.

Two weeks ago Manal—the one who started as one and alone, could get into her car in Saudi Arabia along with all the women of her country be behind the wheel—a driving force for gender equality, for gender freedom.

Margaret Mead is oft quoted for her brilliant observation:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

When we look for the source of those small (and large ) groups—the source of a movement come to realize that outcomes may need numbers, but they start with one.

“Never doubt that even one person, one thoughtful, committed citizen can change the world.”


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    Christians On The Left And Right Debate The Impact Of Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

    JUN 5, 2018

    Charlie Craig and David Mullins hold hands as they talk about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that sets aside a Colorado court decision against a baker who would not make a wedding cake for the same-sex couple, Monday, June 4, 2018.

    Even though the Supreme Court sided with Lakewood baker Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the decision steered away from larger questions about religious freedoms and gay rights.

    That narrow ruling has left the door open not just to future legal skirmishes, but also to conversations between Christians with different perspectives.

    The high court’s opinion was a stinging criticism of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which sided with the gay couple four years ago. The justices’ decision heavily hinged on statements made by the commission that they found to be hostile to Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs.

    In his opinion for the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy singled out one comment made by former commissioner Diann Rice:

    “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”

    Statements such as Rice’s moved the needle toward the baker in the court ruling. But they also narrowed the implications of the case, keeping anti-discrimination laws intact and thus protecting the LGBT community’s right to public accommodation.

    More: What Makes The Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling ‘Narrow,’ And What Are The Implications?
    But not all conservative Christians see the impact as limited, including Jeff Hunt, the director of the Centennial Institute, a think tank at Colorado Christian University.

    “This was seismic in its long-term effects when it comes to religious freedom,” Hunt said. “What this argued is that the government has to treat people of faith equally.”

    Hunt strongly disagrees not just with the content of Rice’s statement, but also that it belonged in a hearing.

    “You do not have that role in government to determine the validity or sincerity of someone’s religious beliefs,” he said. “Doesn’t matter. It does not matter.”

    But Miguel De La Torre, a social ethics professor at Iliff School of Theology and an ordained Southern Baptist minister, does not agree that Rice’s comment was irrelevant, or even untrue.

    “First of all, I think it does matter. And secondly, I think the commissioner was 100 percent correct. Religion, especially Eurocentric white Christianity, has been used in this nation’s history to genocide the Indians using the Book of Joshua, Manifest Destiny using the same book, slavery and Jim Crow laws based on Ephesians about ‘slaves obey your masters,'” De La Torre said.

    Hunt and De La Torre also have different perspectives on the legitimacy of Phillips’ defense. While Hunt maintains that Phillips was not using religion to discriminate and was exercising his “deeply held beliefs,” De La Torre finds those beliefs irrelevant if they cause others pain.

    “I can appreciate his sincere beliefs, but if those sincere beliefs are causing discrimination and oppression, I really could care less about how those beliefs are sincere,” De La Torre said.

    More: GOP Seizes On SCOTUS’ Masterpiece Rebuke Of Colorado Civil Rights Commission
    The Centennial Institute joined conservative members of the state legislature in debates over the funding and structure of the Civil Rights Commission in the last legislative session. Hunt draws the focus of the case away from gay rights and to the commission’s treatment of Phillips, saying it was “a sword by which it went after people of faith.”

    “This case was never about denying public accommodation rights to the LGBT community,” Hunt said. “This was about protecting his freedom of religion.”

    Both De La Torre and Hunt know that the battle is far from over, with similar legal cases across the county coming down the pipeline as more states adopt anti-discrimination laws.

    “We’re in the midst of this conversation of how in a free society you can hold intention, religious freedom, and also the protected rights of the LGBT community, so that they’re not treated as second class citizens,” Hunt said. “We need to work through that as a nation.”

    De La Torre questions the validity of the compromise Hunt presents.

    “Can you find common ground between a view that is based on the discrimination of a group of people, and those people demanding to be treated as human beings?” he said.

    Masterpiece CakeshopIliff School of TheologyWestern Conservative SummitReligionU.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS)
    Andrea Dukakis
    About Andrea Dukakis
    andrea.dukakis@cpr.org @adukakis
    Andrea Dukakis is a producer/reporter for Colorado Matters on CPR News. She has produced and reported for CPR for more than a decade and prior to joining CPR, she worked at NPR and ABC News’ 20/20.

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  2. M.A., speaker, sacred activist, author, biologist, conservationist, Zen practitioner and visionary, will share anecdotes, amazing stories and profound lessons gleaned from decades of activism in various justice movements. For example, when incarcerated for peace actions, Kristal learned that racial reconciliation and true oneness can happen when we take on the suffering of the other. Or majestic elephants are highly evolved and have a sense of humor and deep tenderness. Or being awed by a blade of grass inspired her to do nonviolent direct actions on Earth’s behalf.

    Kristal suggests that the current challenges we face are a momentous opportunity to participate with the ever evolving bio-spiritual Universe in the creation of a new paradigm; which takes its cues from Mother Earth, Indigenous people, science and non-human nations and is defined by celebration, awe, joy and justice; capable of seeing splendor reflected even in the tiniest ant.

    For two years Kristal lived as a hermit in the intimate embrace of a forest and what she learned there guides her vision. Also, she was a “human shield” for disappearing Mayans during Guatemala’s civil war; volunteered in refugee camps in South East Asia; helped end apartheid in South Africa; was imprisoned for peace actions; worked with Ecuadorian tribal people to protect the Amazon rain forest and collaborates with Indigenous people worldwide.

    In 2005, she founded Pachyderm Power! Love in Action for Elephants and worked to stop elephant genocide in Kenya for 10 years. Her pivotal work there successfully created a brigade of over 1,000 young people on fire to save elephants. Additionally, she worked 12 years to free Ringling Bros. circus elephants.

    Kristal weaves a tapestry of justice woven from the various shades, hues and strands of interconnected liberation movements.

    Kristal holds a B.Sc. in Biology and an M.A. in Justice, Peace and Social Transformation.

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