The Network of Spiritual Progressives
An Alternative to the Religious Right And a New Direction for the Left
What is the NSP?
The Network of Spiritual Progressives has 3 objectives:
1. Changing the Bottom Line in America
oday, institutions and social practices are judged efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power. That's the Old Bottom Line. Here is the NEW BOTTOM LINE for which we advocate: We believe that institutions and social practices should be judged rational, efficient and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and caring, ethical and ecological sensitivity and behavior, kindness and generosity, nonviolence and peace. Institutions and social practices should also enhance our capacity to respond to other human beings in a way that honors them as embodiments of the sacred, and to respond to the earth and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement. This belief challenges the extreme individualism and me-first-ism that permeate the global market culture.
2. Challenging the misuse of religion, God and Spirit by the Religious Right
serious commitment to God, religion and spiritual life manifests not only in inner changes but also in tikkun: social activism and world transformation and healing. A true connection to God will hopefully lead people to align with the struggles for peace, universal disarmament, social justice with a preferential option for the needs of the poor and the oppressed, and an end to poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and inadequate health care. Those who take God and spirituality seriously must also give high priority to environmental protection and repair of the damage done to the planet by 150 years of environmental irresponsibility. This will require a dramatic transformation in the way the global economy is structured.
he NSP provides a voice for many religious and spiritual people who know that the Religious Right does not speak for them. We challenge the media to present these voices to the American public, so that religion is no longer discredited by its association with only the most reactionary and morally insensitive religious voices. We insist that the views of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and secular spiritual people whose spiritual commitments lead them to support peace and social justice be given greater attention in the public sphere and the media.
3. Challenging the anti-religious and antispiritual biases within liberal culture • We will educate liberals and progressives to carefully distinguish between their legitimate critiques of the Religious Right and their illegitimate generalizations about all religious and spiritual beliefs. • We will challenge the elitist notion that secular people are intellectually or morally on a higher plane than people who believe in God or participate in a spiritual or religious community—a popular prejudice in many corners of academia and in liberal and progressive culture. • We will help social change activists become more conscious of, and less afraid to affirm, their own inner spiritual yearnings. The more they articulate the spiritual vision that underlies their activism, the more effective they will be. • We are not affiliated with any particular political party, but we do urge our members to create a spiritual caucus in any political party to which they are affiliated. Whatever party they choose, we will help them brainstorm about how to most effectively raise our ideas.
an international network of people working as allies to advance global consciousness, who understand that our personal well-being and the well-being of our country depends entirely on the well-being of everyone on this planet.
• Imagine a community of people
working for social and economic justice, peace, nonviolence, and ecological sensitivity.
• Imagine a community of people
who will not be embarrassed to fight for ideals that others dismiss as utopian, yet who retain a deep humility and recognition that our means must be consonant with our ends.
magine a movement that gives equal priority to our inner lives Iand to social justice.
The Network of Spiritual Progressives is an international community of people from many faiths and traditions who have responded to the call for global democratization, economic justice, and individual freedom—all in the context of new structures of work, caring communities, democratic social and economic arrangements, and families that foster generosity and trust, loving relationships, and the ability to respond to life with awe. NSP’s membership is made up of people from most of the major religious and spiritual communities in the world, and includes secular people who are “spiritual but not religious” as well. In each religious tradition we affirm and support the emerging spiritual renewal movements that seek to overcome tribalism, chauvinism, behavior that demeans others, and the isolation of spiritual life from the struggles for social and political transformation. We build on universal values implicit in most of the major spiritual and religious traditions: love, justice, freedom, humility, transcendence of ego, the Unity of All Being, open-heartedness, joyful thanksgiving for all the good in the universe, repentance and atonement when we have strayed from our highest ideals, and affirmation of pleasure, playfulness, humor, sensual aliveness and compassion for all life.
Global Peace and Security he human race is bursting with the need for a new global ethos T of solidarity and for a recognition of our mutual interdependence. Yet we are constantly constrained by the political and economic institutions of the past. We need to free ourselves from those parts of religious systems, national myths and popular culture which generate or sustain an attitude of superiority, chauvinism, hatred, war or the old paradigm, which encourages fear of the “other”—whoever that “other” might be.
Old Paradigm: “Political Realism” he T world is a fundamentally scary place, filled with people who will he old paradigm asserts that t
hurt us unless we hurt them first, and the only way to achieve real security is to have power over the other—be it economic power, military power, formidable police forces, gated communities, or strong borders. If we don’t take advantage of the other and find a way to dominate them, they will dominate us. Doug Webb
New Paradigm: Mutual Interconnectedness
ur individual and societal well-being depends upon the wellbeing of everyone else on the planet. There can be no safety or security for us without safety and security for everyone, including economic security and a sense of living in a world that is fair and nurturing. There is no way for Americans or anyone else to be safe in a world filled with people in pain, facing starvation, political oppression, economic devastation and ecological destruction. Safety will come when the world’s economically prosperous countries are perceived to be leading forces championing an ethos of global generosity and sharing of resources, ecological responsibility, and spiritual and ethical sensitivity.
Global Consciousness &
nce we recognize that we are all interdependent and that our well-being depends on the well-being of the entire planet, we realize that the human race can no longer tolerate tribalism, national chauvinism, economic injustice, and the irresponsible use of the world's resources. Developing global and bio-regional planning to ensure preservation of resources and protection of air and water, fostering a new ethos of voluntary simplicity and reduction in consumption (particularly by those in the advanced industrial societies who have previously consumed a disproportionate amount of the world's resources), promoting economic justice and implementing emergency measures to reverse global warming and other immediate threats to the environment—these efforts become the central manifestations of a new global consciousness based on a recognition of the equal sanctity of every human being and of our communal task to act as stewards of the magnificent world in which we live.
Developing an Inner Life
© Caren Belle Loebel-Fried www.carenloebelfried.com
ocial change movements frequently fail because they don’t pay enough attention to nurturing people’s inner lives so that they can maintain hope even when things look gloomy. Tikkun (the healing and transformation of the planet) will take a long time, and in the meantime we need to take care of each other, encourage each other to develop an inner life, a spiritual practice, or a connection to Spirit (however that is conceived or encountered), and to care for our bodies and affirm pleasure and fun.
Rejecting Cynical Realism most people Although would like to live in a
ll Carbone Santiago
world based on love, kindness, and generosity, many of us have accepted society's dominant cynicism about people’s motives. We think others are fundamentally selfish and uncaring, and we feel that in order to protect ourselves we need to be equally selfish and uncaring. Adopting cynical advice to “be realistic,” we accommodate to a rapidly deteriorating environment, to world hunger and poverty and to wild inequalities of wealth. We act as though we have no choice because we suppose ourselves to be living in a dog-eat-dog world in which ideals are mere fantasies. The Network of Spiritual Progressives rejects cynical realism. We seek a world based on love, generosity, open-heartedness, compassion, and celebration of all the goodness and wonder in life. There are moments in pursuit of this kind of healing and transformation when we may only be able to take small steps. We will celebrate these small victories, but will continually assert our larger vision and judge each particular advance as successful to the extent that it creates more love, generosity, peace, justice, ecological sanity and spiritual centeredness.
Cultivating Compassion e are all deeply flawed, are likely to disappoint each other, and will not W always live up to our own highest ideals. We need to have compassion for each other even as we gently assist one another in reaching new heights of generosity, open-heartedness, and joy. We know that even these highest of ideals can be used as clubs to beat each other up, so our organizational “bottom line” must be kindness, gentleness and real caring for each other’s well-being. At the same time, we must not let provocateurs distract us from our vision, divert us from our commitment to nonviolence, or sow the seeds of dissent by pitting us against each other.
Sacred Work & Sacred Professions work is little more than a necessary evil endured solely to When earn a livelihood, it becomes a monumental burden. Many
people dread going to work each day and, once home, do their best to forget about it. This is the situation facing the overwhelming majority of working people in American society. Yet there are others, an elite of professionals, who find work deeply engaging and at times even exhilarating. Even when they have altruistic urges, entrants into these high-flying careers quickly discover that relentless pressure for more productivity greatly limits the possibility for more than token pro bono work or other civic involvements. The increasingly international scope of competition focuses attention on staying viable, leaving little psychic energy for considering the long-term or larger significance of dayto-day decisions. Who has time for values discussions when so much pressing business awaits us in our unanswered e-mails? This business is what is considered “real”—whereas the talk about values and ultimate goals is seen as abstract philosophy or theology, not the kind of thing that we have time for in daily life. Religious and spiritual people find that they have to compartmentalize their spirituality, keeping it out of the “real world” of our workplaces.
Not having enough time is the shared condition of most working people today. Those with low-paying jobs often work two shifts a day, and the shifts often do not mesh with those of their spouses. Those in higher-paid or professional work often feel pressure, frequently internalized, to work long hours and to bring home their work. The frenetic pace of our lives leads to an inability to find time to do the things that we profess to believe in. We have less time to play, to volunteer for community activities or charities, to read and develop our minds, to be active in fighting for the causes we believe in, and to meditate, relax or celebrate the glory of the universe. The NSP is organizing people within professions or lines of work to envision what their workplaces or professions could look like if we actually had the New Bottom Line that NSP champions (see above). We are affirming that work can have higher purpose, that work can and should be restructured so that it can be more fulfilling and have greater individual, social and spiritual meaning. We seek to help you create a spiritual caucus in your professional organization or union and to connect with others who also want a New Bottom Line. Our goal is to transform work into a sacred vocation in which you get to serve the common good and fulfill your highest purpose in life—to be an embodiment of the loving and generous spiritual energy of the universe.
Progressive Pro-Families Initiative he Right alleges that the very real problem of family breakdown is T caused by gays and lesbians, feminists, secularists and liberals who together have created an ethos of selfishness that permeates the society and undermines loving relationships. Well, the Right is partly correct—the problem is the ethos of selfishness (and, we’d add, materialism) but it does not come from gays and lesbians, feminists, secularists or liberals, but rather from the Old Bottom Line of our economic order. Spend all day in a workplace in which you are taught that your self-worth is entirely to be measured by how much you can maximize the Old Bottom Line of money and power, live in an economic world where “looking out for number one” is “common sense,” and you learn that success is achieved by those who are best at manipulating others to do their will. Eventually you begin to internalize those values as “reality.” But when you bring those values home, they begin to shape your personal life in ways that are inherently unstable.
© Caren Belle Loebel-Fried • www.carenloebelfried.com
and lasting relationship. Moreover, they often see other people in terms of “what can you do for me to advance my interests?” Families need full employment, universal free health care (including fully covered extended care for the elderly) and 24-hour high quality child care, flexible work schedules that allow parents to be with children when they are most needed (e.g. when a child is sick or going through an emotional crisis). They need neighborhood recreation, sports, and quality entertainment facilities in which they can have fun together. Our progressive pro-family movement helps people understand why we need to replace the ethos of selfishness and materialism with a New Bottom Line. It challenges the commercialization of childhood and corporate and media attempts to shape children into passive consumers and obedient workers in a global system that frustrates our aspirations for a life with higher meaning. We educate for violence-free childhood and family life. And we unashamedly promote love and caring for others as the central values to be taught in schools.
Van Jones Photo courtesy of Jerry Meshulam
eople who believe that the only realistic way to operate in the P world is to be a rational maximizer of self-interest find it very hard to make sacrifices and compromises that will build a healthy
How to Get Involved 1. Become a Member. Join the NSP.
ur annual dues are structured on a sliding-fee scale. You can join online at www.spiritualprogressives.org, fill out the response section at the end of this brochure, or call us at 510-644 -1200. With your annual membership you get a one-year subscription to TIKKUN magazine. The NSP is an interfaith project of the Tikkun Community, and members of the Tikkun Community are automatically members of the NSP as long as their national Tikkun Community dues are paid. Even if you don’t want to become an activist, we are very grateful for your membership, which is an important form of support. If you do want to be actively involved, you can either: NSP Conference Attendees. Photo courtesy of Jerry Meshulam.
Van Jones. Photo courtesy of Jerry Meshulam
2. Join or Help Form a Local NSP Chapter. e’ll send you a packet of informaW tion about how to get started. Just let us know that you want to be involved by emailing us at NSP@tikkun.org.
3. Work on One of our
National Projects. e’ve already mentioned some of them above. New projects continW ue to develop. For example, while we do not endorse any particular political party or candidate, we do urge people to form NSP Spiritual Caucuses within any party you might be involved with. We know that some people have already begun such a caucus within the Democratic Party (Progressive Spiritual Dems) and within the Green Party (Spiritual Greens). Let us know if you’d like to become involved with these efforts or with bringing the NSP into any other political party or social change movement. We also have people working on bringing these ideas into local and national community organizations, the anti-war movement, the ecology movement and more. After you join, tell us your interests and we will connect you with others who share them.
Join the NSP!
CO-FOUNDERS OF THE NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES Cornel West, Sister Joan Chittister, and Michael Lerner
YES. I want to become part of the NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES (a project of the Tikkun Community)—and get a free subscription to TIKKUN magazine with my membership.
SIGN ME UP!
Students and incomes under $40k/year: $40/year
Associate Member: $300
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World Transformer: $1000 or more
Founding Member: $500
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