Rabbi Lerner has grand plan

by Patrick O'Neill

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COLUMBUS, GA Tikkun founder, Rabbi Michael Lerner has a grand plan -- The Global Marshall Plan -- “to end global and domestic homelessness, hunger, poverty, inadequate education, inadequate health care and repair the global environment,” and he needs the help of Catholics.

For the second straight year, Learner, who is launching his plan in cooperation with the Network of Spiritual Progressives, was at the SOA Watch weekend to present a workshop at the Ignatian Family Teach-In. “I’m here in part to appeal to the Catholic community to ask them to play a central role in building support for The Global Marshall Plan,” Lerner told NCR.

The p lan, which Lerner created, has been introduced into Congress, and it will be re-introduced next year. Written by Lerner, and co-introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, and co-sponsored by Rep. James P. Moran (D-VA), a Catholic, the plan has a total of 20 backers in the House.

The Global Marshall Plan would "replace our current strategy of homeland security, which is a strategy of domination and control, with a strategy of generosity and caring for others, based on our notion that you’re more likely to achieve security for the United States through generosity and caring for other people around the world then through dominating them,”

Lerner said as he waited in a line to get a free bowl of soup from Food Not Bombs, a group that prepared fresh, vegetarian food near Ft. Benning's south gate during the weekend activities. Learner has published his plan in a 32-page booklet, which he personally handed out to hundreds of people at the SOA Watch gathering.

The specific idea behind the plan is for the United States to dedicate one to two percent of its gross domestic product each year for the next 20 "to once and for all end global and domestic homelessness, hunger, poverty, inadequate education, inadequate health care and repair the global environment," Lerner said. Lerner, who is NSP co-chair with Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister and Princeton University Prof. Cornel West, is working to get local and state governments to endorse his plan, and to lobby Congress to pass it. Lerner plans to host an international conference of “spiritual progressives, that is interfaith people who are Catholics,

Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as people that we call spiritual, but not religious; people who don’t necessarily adhere to any particular religion but who understand that America needs a new bottom line to replace our materialism and selfishness with a ethos of love, caring and generosity.”

Lerner said he met with President-elect Barack Obama, who is supportive of the plan, “but says that in order for this pass in Washington we20need to build a very large national movement behind it, and we’re hoping that the progressives in the Catholic world will get behind this and help us get the local support that we need that will then convince Obama that it’s politically viable.” Lerner said his Global Marshall Plan “was very well-received here at the SOA. ... People were very enthusiastic about it.”

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