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Rabbi Lerner on the Network of Spiritual Progressives
October 5, 2007

What is the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) - and its Approach to Building Peace, Social Justice and Ecological Sanity?

by Rabbi Michael Lerner

The NSP is an interfaith organization of progressives and liberals (both religious and atheists and agnostics who see themselves as "spiritual but not religious") who are seeking a "New Bottom Line" for the U.S. and other Western societies, a switch from the ethos of materialism and selfishness to an ethos of love, caring for others, generosity and kindness.

We want corporations, government institutions and social practices in our society to be judged "efficient," "rational," or "productive" not only to the extent that they accumulate money and power (the Old Bottom Line), but also to the extent that they encourage and support us to be loving and caring human beings, people who are ethically and ecologically sensitive, people who build loving relationships, people who treat others with generosity and kindness, people who can recognize each other as embodiments of the sacred and who respond to the grandeur and mystery of the universe, consciousness and our very existence with awe, wonder and radical amazement.

We fully support the progressive agenda for economic democracy and social justice, for inclusion of those who have been left out of equal rights and fair treatment, and for a world based on peace and non-violence and human rights. But we've discovered that one reason why the progressive agenda has not been more widely embraced is that most human beings have another set of needs that liberals and progressives rarely address: what we call spiritual or meaning needs.

People hunger to be able to connect their lives to some higher meaning and purpose beyond the endless struggle for money and power in the competitive marketplace—and this need for meaning in life is addressed by the religious right but not by the secular left. Similarly, people hunger for communities of meaning that can support rather than undermine loving relationships and families.

To address these needs, we need a spiritual politics—not imposing one particular religion on everyone, but rather providing progressive spiritual values and showing the radical consequences, for example, of transforming our global economy from the globalization of selfishness to the globalization of love and caring. In our Spiritual Covenant with America, and in my book The Left Hand of God, we show how religious values like "love the stranger" and "love your neighbor" could, if applied seriously in the contemporary world, provide a foundation for a radical critique of global capitalism and a vision of a very different kind of world. So, for example, while we support an immediate end to the war in Iraq and oppose any military strike at Iran, we believe that the anti-war movement must become a peace movement that knows not only what it is against, but also what it is for (and we've developed a Strategy of Generosity to replace the current Strategy of Domination in foreign policy—and we are advocating for a Global Marshall Plan to dedicate 1-2% of the GDP of the advanced industrial countries each year for the next twenty years to provide the funding to once and for all end global and domestic poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care). It's this positive vision that could make the peace movement much more successful in ending the war in Iraq.

We are simultaneously challenging the Religious Right and what we see as its misuse of the Bible and the religious heritage of the human race to support domination, militarism, and an unjust distribution of the world's resources.

And we support a two state solution for Israel/Palestine, but know that can only work when we overcome the tendency to demean either side in that struggle, recognize both peoples as suffering from intense post-traumatic-stress-disorder, and help them treat each other with the kindness and generosity that they rightly seek for themselves.

We believe that this world can be healed and transformed, and we challenge the "realists" who reduce their vision to minor reforms of the current world to recognize that much more can be accomplished when people stop allowing the media or the politicians to tell us what is realistic and instead put our life energies into struggle for our highest vision of the good.

We urge you to read about and the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) at www.spiritualprogressives.org.

--Rabbi Michael Lerner, co-chair of the NSP with Cornel West and Sister Joan Chittister).

Published on October 5, 2007

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