The Network of Spiritual Progressives grew out of a desire to bring the ideas and values discussed in Tikkun Magazine into the world of social change. Tikkun is the voice for the prophetic vision – calling forth the dream of the world we want. After 20 years, Rabbi Lerner realized that it was necessary to not only have a magazine that raises prophetic visions but also that we needed to build a movement to bring these visions and values into the world. From that dream, the Network of Spiritual Progressives was born.

The NSP was formally launched with founding conferences in Berkeley in 2005 and Washington, D.C. in 2006, attracting together approximately 3,000 people interested in spiritual activism. In the next two years we grew to approximately 100 chapters around the U.S. from Seattle to Miami.

Unfortunately, the Great Recession of 2008-2012 made it difficult for us to maintain a full-time organizer. Our members have primarily been drawn from middle-income working people and retired people, and as their funds dried up, so did the funds to retain even one national organizer. This coincided with another debilitating development, namely, the disillusionment that followed upon Barack Obama’s presidency. Many of our members, while excited by our unapologetically utopian vision, dropped away from the NSP, believing that if they could only elect Obama much of what we wanted in the world would be achieved through his presidency. Instead, Obama tilted toward the interests of Wall Street and the major corporations. Instead of returning to membership in the NSP, many of our previous members became disillusioned with politics altogether, and didn’t return to it until the Bernie Sanders campaign of 2016.

We began our own “recovery” of the NSP in 2015 when Cat Zavis was hired half-time as our executive director. Cat together with NSP chair Rabbi Michael Lerner conducted trainings to communicate our worldview and began the long path of rebuilding.

NSP Co-Founders

We were founded by three of the most provocative public intellectuals active in the area of religion and American culture.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of TIKKUN magazine, founding rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in Berkeley, CA, and the author of eleven books, including most recently The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right.

Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun and longtime social justice advocate, is the author of more than thirty books, including Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir. In addition to co-chairing the Network of Spiritual Progressives, she is the executive director of BenetVision, a research center and clearinghouse for spiritual resources.

Cornel West is currently a professor at Harvard University. Among his several books are Jews and Blacks: A Dialogue on Race, Religion, and Culture in America (with Rabbi Michael Lerner) and Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.