Spiritual progressives, unlike their liberal counterparts, understand that political rights and economic entitlements while important are not what people are actually craving.
To successfully transform our society from its current obsession with acquiring material goods, we need to help connect people with their deepest yearnings for a world of meaning and purpose. Simultaneously, we need to provide a framework for concrete political proposals that are grounded in spiritual principles as a counter to the one-dimensionality of many liberal proposals.
We call this a New Bottom Line—one that counters the emphasis on money and power and instead judges the rationality, efficiency, and productivity of our institutions, corporations, legislation, social practices, health care system, schools, legal system, and social policies by how much love, compassion, kindness, generosity, and ethical and ecological sensitivity they inculcate within us. The New Bottom Line places priority on the extent to which institutions and policies nurture our capacity to respond to other human beings as embodiments of the sacred and to respond to the grandeur of the universe with gratitude, awe, and wonder. If we embrace this New Bottom Line as we interact with others, then instead of seeing others as a means to our own ends, we will create a world in which we see and value one another’s humanity. To the extent that our economic, political and social arrangements are in fact governed by this New Bottom Line, we will begin to rebuild trust in each other’s goodness and start to believe that compassion and kindness can flourish not only in our homes, but in our communities and workplaces as well.
Seeking a world that embodies this New Bottom Line is the central message of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP). Rejecting the “common sense” of capitalist society that human beings are primarily motivated by their narrow material self-interest (or as a prominent Democratic Party strategist put it, “it’s the economy stupid”) we call for liberals and progressives to affirm the psychological, ethical and spiritual dimensions of humanity which have been stymied and unfulfilled in self-described capitalist and socialist societies, and largely ignored by liberal and conservative public policies in most Western countries. Our Path to a World of Love and Justice is a way of establishing this New Bottom Line, which transcends traditional left/right dichotomies and enables us to envision a new kind of political movement that could actually win majority support for a program of healing and transforming our world.
Spiritual progressives know that progressive economic and political demands will never be fully embraced by the American majority until we address the feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness felt by so many people. To do so, we must become sensitive to the deep (though sometimes unconscious) hunger that people have for a loving world in which our lives have some higher meaning beyond the accumulation of money or power. Spiritual progressives seek to build a world that nurtures these fundamental yearnings. We recognize that doing so requires both internal transformation and a fundamental reshaping of our economic system, political system, and societal practices.
We affirm the deep desire and yearning of human beings to live in a world in which we are deeply appreciated, loved, cared for, respected and treated as embodiments of the sacred. But we recognize that human beings are complex and at times have competing and contradictory desires. We are sadly aware of the cruelty, hurtfulness, selfishness and pain that gets communicated from generation to generation, not only in the inheritance we have from parents who themselves felt under-recognized and without the love that they deserved and needed, but also from the institutions and social practices that often powerfully reproduce that cruelty and hurtfulness. We know that the changes we wish to see in the world require multiple levels of tikkun (the healing and transformation of our world) – psychological, spiritual, intellectual, economic and political. We are not Pollyannaish about how easy it will be to achieve these transformations.
But we have no choice but to try. Here’s why:
The current economic and political system has created an unprecedented environmental crisis that is wreaking havoc on peoples’ lives and has the potential to destroy the life support system of the planet. As the crisis intensifies, the powerful, rather than transforming the system that is destroying the planet, may instead rally support for their system by further undermining democratic and human rights and imposing authoritarian or even fascistic forms of rule. In the face of this reality, the struggle for a New Bottom Line becomes the most rational way to advance societal and global consciousness so we can build an effective movement to reshape political, economic and social structures.