What is a Spiritual Progressive?

Fierce Light Visionary Van Jones speaking at the founding conference of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVE?

The Network of Spiritual Progressives, co-chaired by Rabbi Michael Lerner, Dr. Cornel West, and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister seeks to promote a spiritual progressive agenda. Below is their explanation of what a spiritual progressive politics is:

We in the NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) use the word “spiritual” to include all those whose deepest values lead them to challenge the ethos of selfishness and materialism that has led people into a frantic search for money and power and away from a life that places love, kindness, generosity, peace, non-violence, social justice, awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation, thanksgiving, humility and joy at the center of our lives.

So we include in our meaning of “spiritual” all dimensions of life that cannot fit into a scientistic or narrowly empiricist frame. We reject the notion that all that is real or all that can be known is that which can be subject to emprirical justifiction or can be measured. On the contrary, we know that love, kindngess, generosity, awe and wonder, art, ethics, and music are just some of the obvious parts of life that cannot be understood or adequately captured by scientism and which we value. We call those aspects spiritual. So it’s easy to understand that someone can be spiritual and yet not be particularly interested in most existing conceptions of God or religion. Of course, there are many others, including some of the founders and leaders of the NSP (but not by any means all of them) who do find their spiritual nourishment in their relationship to God or their religious tradition, and they too are part of our community.

But there is a huge problem when social change movements stay away from anything that calls itself spiritual.

We believe that many of the secular movements that exist in the world today actually have deep spiritual underpinnings, but often they are themselves unaware of those foundations, unable or unwilling to articulate them and sometimes even holding a knee-jerk antagonism to explicit spiritual or religious language. This antagonism limits their effectiveness, though it derives from legitimate anger at the way that the language of spirituality and religion has been sometimes used to justify war, oppression, sexism, racism, homophobia, ecological indifference, or insensitivity to the suffering of the poor and the homeless of the world.

Solidarity means that we affirm our responsibility towards each other within our families, within our nation, and within our spiritual/religious community–and also beyond the narrow boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and geography.

We affirm the obligation to actively resist injustice and refuse to take part in it even when we can’t prove that our resistance will produce change. In solidarity with the oppressed, we wish to see the democratization of economic and political institutions and a redistribution of wealth so that all people can share equally and sustainably in the benefits of the planet.

At the same time, we will challenge the lack of a spiritual dimension in the agendas of our allies in progressive social change movements. That gap has allowed the Right to present itself as the force that cares about spiritual issues. And the Left’s failure to address spirituality has led many to believe their hunger for a larger framework of meaning and purpose must be separated from their involvement with social transformation.

Social change activity gets focused on a narrow political agenda that lacks the depth that can inspire sustained commitment or nourishing involvement. Imagine an international group of people who would see themselves as allies to each other in advancing this way of thinking, people who are unashamedly utopian and willing to fight for their highest ideals, yet unashamedly humble in knowing that we don’t know all that we need to know to do the healing that needs to be done.

Imagine that this group would help each other in our individual as well as group activities, affirming what is good and brainstorming with us about how to create a movement that gives equal priority to our inner lives and to social justice, that takes loving and caring as serious goals for social healing, and that rejects the utilitarian and materialistic assumptions of the contemporary world and actively fosters awe and wonder in its participants. Imagine that you could be part of creating that.

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1 Comment

  1. Hey people, it is Thanksgiving Day! I’m happy with my extra day off, and I am planning to make something fun that will probably involve a moto trip and seeing something new in Lake Havasu City I haven’t seen yet.
    You write new post at Thanksgiving?


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