Redemption, God, a Crip and the ‘Rapture index’

Redemption, God, a Crip and the ‘Rapture index’
By Diane Winston
Diane Winston, Knight chair of media and religion at USC, can be reached at:

October 23, 2005

IF, COME DECEMBER, California executes the man who reputedly founded the Crips street gang, I won’t take it as a sign of the apocalypse. But I will see it as a sign of failure.

Earthquakes, floods, mudslides, volcanoes, famine, war and pestilence have been front-page news. Deluged by deadlines, swamped by housework and overcome by cooking, class preps and committee meetings, I’d seen the apocalyptic photos but kept the effect at arm’s length.

That isn’t the case for those who track the “Rapture index” — an online “speedometer of end-time activity” ( Bad news is good news. Once the index hits 145 — it’s now at 159 — it’s advisable to fasten your seat belts for the final lap before the moment when some Christians believe that God will take them to Heaven.

For the rest of us, events in India, Pakistan, Guatemala, El Salvador, Niger, Darfur, Iraq and Louisiana present a more immediate spiritual crisis. With limited time and money, what difference can we make? When it seems we’ve followed Alice down the rabbit hole — my sense after learning that Congress planned to offset the costs of post-Katrina recovery efforts by slashing federal programs for the poor — how do we find our way out?

As it happens, the time of year when Jews reflect on who we are and what we’re about just ended. The 10 Days of Awe — framed by the celebratory New Year and the penitential Day of Atonement — are an opportunity for spiritual self-correction. This year I went to services thinking I’d focus on being nicer to my family.

On Yom Kippur morning, however, the rabbi said we all needed to take responsibility for the state of the world. She said that if you walked out of prayer services the same person you were when you walked in, you may as well not have gone in the first place.

I was still a revelation short of the transformation I had hoped for. But several friends had that revelation — or at least an “Aha!” moment — during an afternoon discussion of Isaiah and Jonah, the two prophets whose books are read that day.

Isaiah, the exemplar of love and justice, says that God’s people must share their bread with the hungry, welcome the poor into their homes and clothe the naked. Jonah is a whole other story. He flees rather than obey God’s command to preach to the Ninevites. Why should he care about them? They weren’t even Jews. God thought otherwise: Everyone counts and should have the opportunity to change. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, and the people repented.

The take-away is that the spark of the divine resides in each of us and that we are responsible for one another.

But what exactly does it mean to see the divine spark in every person and to be a force for spiritual change?

For Daniel Sokatch, discussion leader and executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, it means reconsidering capital punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear three final appeals from prisoners on California’s death row. On Dec. 13, the state will execute Stanley “Tookie” Williams, who has been imprisoned for 24 years for committing four murders.

Williams spends much of his time coauthoring books that tell young people not to ruin their lives as he did. Sokatch sees this as evidence of a spiritual change. For that reason, and for the sake of the divine spark within, Sokatch does not want Williams put to death in his name — that is, in the name of the people of California.

“The Book of Jonah tells us we are all responsible for each other,” he told worshippers at Ikar, a new Los Angeles congregation. “Even those we don’t like.”

Of the 45 categories that determine the Rapture index, there’s no mention of the death penalty. But my tradition has a different concept of the divine plan, and I hope that executing someone who may yet be redeemed would strike me as wrong even if I thought the world was ending tomorrow. So how am I responsible? Do I write a letter? Donate money? Knock on doors? Or do I let it become another what-can-I possibly-do-to-make-a-difference-so-maybe-I’ll-just-do-nothing scenario?

When the path to redeeming the world is made up of maddeningly perplexing dilemmas, it’s no wonder so many of us leave it all in God’s hands. The problem is — God has left it in ours.

stef Posted by on Oct 23 2005. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply


Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google

Photo Gallery

Log in |
  • Hispanic Gangs
  • Prison Gangs
  • Email
  • Other Cities
  • Crip Gangs
  • Blood Gangs
  • Asian Gangs
  • Forums
  • Shop
  • Injunctions
  • Contact
  • Resources