Revolutionary Love Book Groups Starting – You Can Join Us!
National Working Groups
I’d like to invite you to a different kind of social change activism.
Like many of us who read articles from Tikkun, I am delighted at the many victories which have already be won by the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet the more those demonstrations moved beyond demands for reform of the police into an understanding of the need for structural change of all the ways our economic, political, and cultural systems contribute to racism, the more many have come to understand that we need a long-term strategy to make those changes.
The first step is to build a consciousness-raising movement that invites people to be part of challenging the selfishness, materialism, and me-firstism of capitalist society. And to challenge the notion that we live in a meritocracy (i.e., the fantasy that people who have more money or power somehow deserve it and the rest of us have no one to blame but ourselves for having less than what we need).
So no matter who wins the elections in 2020 (and yes, it really does matter who wins, and we encourage you to get involved in getting out the vote and encouraging people to actively support the candidates who most reflect your values), we have to understand the need for a longer-term struggle to promote different values that could underlie a caring society.
Cat Zavis, executive director of the NSP, has been leading a training on how to do this, and some of those who have gone through the training are now joining with us to invite you to take a step toward building the consciousness raising and actions that will still be needed no matter what the outcome in November. On Monday, July 13th, we held a call in which we introduced four different projects that are taking steps in this direction. You can watch the call here, or listen to it here. If after doing so, you feel inspired to join one of the working groups, you can do so by reading below and clicking on the embedded links to register for one or more of the group zoom meetings.
In these times full of change and enormous potential for progress, this is the perfect moment to launch our monthly working groups. We are so excited by the excitement of the many people who joined us on the call.
Love and Justice Circle/NSP Chapter
Revolutionary Love Book Group
Outreach Efforts – Sharing Unifying Principles with Other Organizations
Prophetic Empathy Practice Group
These four national working groups will be led by members from the NSP Leadership Team (click here to read their bios) and provide a space for NSP members to gather to brainstorm, strategize, learn, and co-create. These groups also offer guidance and support, and serve as a model of how to organize a local group in the focus area of the working group. For example, if you participate in the Revolutionary Love Book Group, you would both be participating in a national book group reading Rabbi Lerner’s book Revolutionary Love and as you gain confidence, be encouraged to start your own book group. You will have guidance and support from the national working group. This is true for all of the groups. You are welcome to participate in more than one group! Each group will meet once a month.
Participating in a national working group of the NSP is a unique opportunity for you to connect with like-minded people, be a spiritual activist, and help shape history.
Love and Justice Circle/NSP Chapter – visioning and action
This national group will both be a love and justice circle itself and will support participants in the group to start a local love and justice circle or NSP chapter. The group will explore how to deconstruct various institutions and sectors of community and economic life to re-imagine how they would function if based on love, generosity, empathy, justice and celebration and awe of the universe. The group will develop ways to apply the ideas of the NSP to different focus areas – prison reform, BLM, schools, etc., and create ways to bring the NBL, ESRA, and GMP into different entities, organizations, etc.
Eligar Sadeh, Susan Partnow, and Brian Tucker are leading this group. The first meeting of this group will be Wednesday, July 15th 4:00-6:00pm PT/7:00-9:00pm ET. Beginning on August 26th, this group will meet on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 4:00-6:00pm/7:00-9:00pm ET. Sign up here to join us.
Revolutionary Love Book Group – deepened learning
In this national book group, you will not only be a passive recipient of the book but will also try to implement some of the ideas with the support of the group. We will read Rabbi Lerner’s book Revolutionary Love using a study guide with questions and action steps for each chapter of the book that help readers to integrate the concepts and ideas in the book as well as to take what they’ve learned and bring it into action. As you gain confidence, you will be encouraged to start your own book group. You will be given both the questions for each chapter, a guide for how to facilitate a book group, and support from this national book group along the way. (Buy the book at www.tikkun.org/revlove).
Fred Clare and Roberth Koth are leading this group. The first meeting of this group will be on Monday, July 20th at 4:30-6:30pm PT/7:30-9:30pm ET. They will continue to meet on the 3rd Monday of each month at the same time. Sign-up here to join us.
Outreach Efforts – Bringing Unifying Principles to Organizations – organizing to create a unified whole
Like the other groups, this group will both be a learning group that discusses how to encourage organizations, faith and spiritual communities, and social change groups/organizations to adopt the NSP Unifying Principles, and an action group that supports and encourages participants to approach local organizations and communities. The group will develop strategies around how to seek endorsements,, how to approach groups, how to ask groups, etc.
Interfaith Communities: How do I move both my local community church, congregation, etc. as well as the entire national religious group (e.g., UCC, Unity Church, Reform Movement, etc) to sign onto and adopt these unifying principles and
Social Change or Environmental Organizations: How might we get local chapters of social change and environmental organizations as well as the national organizations to adopt these unifying principles?
Our outreach efforts will be an important step to join positive forces together in a unified whole and thus create a bigger impact.
Vanessa Fox, Marion Assenmacher, Kevin McCullough, Fred Clare, and Robert Koth are leading this group. The first meeting of this group is on Thursday, July 16th at 5:00-6:30pm PT/8:00-9:30pm ET. Beginning on August 19th, this group will meet regularly on 3rd Wednesday of the month 4:00pm PT/7:00pm ET. Sign up here to join us. The registration page will indicate that the first call is on August 19th and will not list the July call. That is because the July call is from 5-6:30pm PT and the rest of the calls, beginning on August 19th, begin at 4:00pm. Please note that there is a Thursday, July 16th call at 5:00pm PT. Once you register here, you will receive the link to join the call and can use that same link to join the call on July 16th. If you have any questions, you can email email@example.com.
Prophetic Empathy Group – skill building and practice
We will develop skills and practice how to use prophetic empathy in a variety of settings from sharing the New Bottom Line to raising concerns about the way the Left can shame or put people down to discussing the negative impacts of capitalism to challenging racism. We will work on interpersonal skills and shifting the discourse to the worldview of love when engaging in conversations with people, either individually or in groups.
Participants from the other groups are welcomed to drop-in to these calls to practice how to implement the strategies they are developing.
Susan Partnow and Cat Zavis are leading this group. Our first two meetings are Monday, July 27th and August 24th from 4:30-6:30pm PT/7:30-9:30pm ET. Beginning on September 9th, we will meet on the 2nd Wednesdays of the month 4:30-6:30pm PT/7:30-9:30pm ET. Sign-up here to join us.
We look forward to working together with you to make the world more loving and compassionate!
You can join the groups at anytime. To do so, just click on the registration link above in that group. If you have any problems, please email cat at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will put you in contact with one of the group leaders.
Tikkun and NSP Launch #LoveAndJusticeProject
Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives have been at the vanguard of speaking about the importance of integrating spirituality and politics for over 3 decades – yes, you read that right! We have been running trainings and workshops on Radical Love and Prophetic Empathy for over 5 years – workshops that help people understand how we got here and how we can turn our country around. And our work is paying off.
Today we are seeing politicians, social justice organizations, spiritual centers, magazines, podcasts, authors, and others embrace our approach, emphasizing the need to bring a moral voice to our politics and a political perspective to our spiritual work. To integrate and see what is sacred in our world within the mundane, regular aspects of life. We couldn’t be more thrilled.
We manifest our methodology of integrating spirituality and politics by putting forth a vision of the world we all want and providing steps to get us there. We advance some of the most sophisticated psychological and spiritual thinking and analysis that help us understand how the Right effectively manipulates people’s needs so they vote for politicians that actually harm them economically, politically, physically, and environmentally. We also promote radical, visionary policies and approaches that can ignite transformative changes, such as, our vision of a world based on a New Bottom Line of love, kindness, generosity, caring for each other, and caring for the earth. This New Bottom Line is a first major step toward shaping a progressive politics that actually underlies what motivates people to join liberal and progressive politics and social change efforts even when not so explicitly stated. Our research shows that explicitly stating this broader vision will expand the reach of progressive efforts to those who have been turned off or disengaged from progressive and Left politics.
We know that it will take time to make the long-term, lasting changes needed to truly create a loving and just society. It is not just this election cycle or that politician, this particular issue or that outrage that we need to address, but also the underlying fundamental worldview and teachings that are foundational to our understanding of what it means to be American, what it means to be a “man”, what it means to be “white”, and what it means to believe in capitalism.
To help build a long-term movement and reach a broader audience, as well as to make your engagement in these efforts more accessible, we have decided to embark on a new project that coincides with the launch of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s new book Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World. We’re calling it the Love and Justice Project. #LoveAndJusticeProject
And in order to jumpstart this project and expand our reach, we need your help.
There are a number of ways for you to plug into and get involved with the #LoveAndJusticeProject.
1. Create a Love and Justice Circle. Begin by reading Rabbi Michael Lerner’s new book, Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World. Start at the introduction and share reflections. Each week take on a new chapter. Like a book group. (You can learn more about how to create a Love and Justice Circle here. Please be sure to sign-up on that page so you receive updates, alerts, and opportunities for activism and support.)
2. Follow and tag Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives on all social media platforms. Send out clips from our YouTube page, links to our various proposals and policy platforms. #LoveAndJusticeProject
3. Donate what you can. Ours is not a short-term effort. Transforming the world takes time and unfortunately money! Even $10/month helps. Perhaps you can donate $1.00 a day ($30/month or $365 one time donation). People often say that they contribute to larger organizations that have a larger infrastructure, leaving smaller ones, such as ours, struggling to make ends meet. Your financial support helps ensure we will be here for many more years to come. After you’ve donated, share your donation on social media and tag us! #LoveAndJusticeProject
4. Make a video testimonial about the book Revolutionary Love and something in particular in the book that moved or inspired you, encourage others to read the book, and share it widely on social media. #LoveAndJusticeProject
5. Join us for our next training in Revolutionary Love and Prophetic Empathy. Sign-up to receive information about when our next training will be.
Whether you share our ideas one-on-one, create a Love and Justice Circle, go door-to-door to talk with your neighbors, or bring our visions and ideas to social change and justice organizations, you are helping to create a cultural shift in our society so that revolutionary love and prophetic empathy can become the path to a loving, sustainable, and just future.
Love Knows No Borders
We (Rabbi Lerner, Cat, and others from Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives) participated in an interfaith action in San Diego today with over 400 faith leaders and activists representing an extremely diverse range of spiritual traditions – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, and secular humanists.
The day began at the offices of the American Friends Services Committee, the organizers of the march and action. We met new and old friends alike, picked up supplies for the day, and took photos with our communities and friends before boarding buses to Border Field State Park.
The action began at the park with prayer led by a Native American and then a press conference with a few speakers. The demands of the group are:
— respect for the human right to migrate and seek asylum
— an end to the militarization of border communities (which was on vivid display today)
— an end to immigrant detention and deportation and the defunding of ICE and Border Patrol
During the press conference, we were happy to hear Imam Zakid Shakir speak about the need to deal with the influx of refugees (in our country and around the world) by addressing the root problems of poverty, violence, and oppressive regimes, in those countries, many of them created by the US and other western countries – the very reason why we have been advocating for the Global Marshall Plan. We were also inspired to hear many speakers throughout the day speak to the need to respond with generosity and care – aligning with our vision of a caring society based on a New Bottom Line.
Help support our work so we can continue to participate in actions such as these and share our vision.
We walked about a mile from the parking lot of Border Field State Park to the beach. The procession was over 400 people long. The energy was uplifting even while you could feel the power of what we were doing.
As we walked along the path to the beach, avoiding slippery mud and water, I felt a deep connection with the refugees who walk miles and miles through this terrain in the hopes of reaching a safe haven. May these waters become goddess-infused waters bringing us all to our liberation together. The reflections in the water are powerful reminders to ask ourselves when we look in the mirror, what is the image we see looking back at us? When we look at someone else, the ‘other’, are we able to see in their eyes, the reflection of the divine looking back at us? If not, what makes us harden our hearts to their humanity?
At the beach, those who were risking arrest participated in a prayer service and ointment of oil and the rest followed behind in support.
We walked another half mile along the beach to the border wall where faith activists sat, kneeled, and prayed together facing Border Patrol who were fully armed and wearing military gear to show solidarity with our sisters, brothers, and others who are seeking refugee here in the US like so many of our ancestors and family members did before us. We were standing close enough to the border to see people on the other side of the wall, blocked by barbed wire and the Border Patrol.
At one point an officer announced, “they are throwing stones from the other side; we’re just letting you know for your safety.” We looked up, no stones. I looked over to the other side of the border, no stones. Only birds with the freedom to fly over all boundaries, the same boundaries and borders that corporations cross with impunity. Corporations that trash our environment, exploit local workers, steal indigenous lands, and silence and sometimes participate in killing activists in those communities. The same boundaries and borders that our government crosses and invades daily to impose a capitalist and military order that will serve the interests of the ruling elite, here and abroad, giving rise to the refugee crisis we are “protecting” ourselves from.
As I stood near the activists with nothing but my phone to take photos and a backpack with a few provisions witnessing the activists sit in front of the officers towering over them with batons and weapons ready to fire pepper spray, tear gas canisters, and live bullets, I couldn’t help but notice our vulnerability. A vulnerability I could feel when sudden movements happened and we ended up in the water, or quickly moved back to avoid being pushed down as the officers pushed against the line. This vulnerability is nothing compared to the vulnerability the refugees experience everyday making a choice whether to stay in a dangerous situation or leave without knowing what lies ahead. This momentary shared vulnerability allows us to tap into our shared humanity and to realize that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and to be safe.
Looking in the eyes of some of the officers, I could see their humanity, imagine this is the job our country offers them with good wages and benefits and see how they too are caught in this military industrial complex, wishing for a way out. And then, when one of the officers shouted “move back,” I could see and feel the energy shift – perhaps in me, perhaps in them, likely both. Suddenly they’d lift their arms and put them across their chests, weapons and all, and begin pushing against the line of nonviolent protestors, forcing some back, arresting others – all in a very haphazard fashion. I wondered in that moment if their hearts hardened. Did their humanity leave their bodies and their robotic training take over. Were any of our peaceful protests, songs and prays able to break through their armor and touch their hearts? Or are their hearts so hardened and obstructed with their heavy weapons, masks, and gear. What does that do to them? To us? How do we stay in our hearts and open to the humanity of all of us?
This action, which ended with a closing prayer circle, was grounded in prayer and represented the best of spiritual activism – singing spiritual songs and prayers. It was deeply meaningful and moving to be there as a witness.
Help support our work so we can continue to participate in actions such as these and share our vision––click here.
Stand Up and Be Heard This Weekend and Beyond
by Cat Zavis
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, the Supreme Court upholds Trump’s Muslim ban, and guts public sector unions; and now, Supreme Court Justice Kennedy has announced his retirement, giving Trump the opportunity to appoint a more extreme rightist to the Court. These are dark times indeed.
Fascist ideas and racist practices are on the rise in our country and as soon as Trump appoints a new Supreme Court justice, many more of our basic freedoms will unravel and be eroded in the name of “limited government” and “judicial restraint.”
So, we must challenge these developments in every non-violent way we can. We must stand up. We must be counted. In the short-term, we must show up at protests and rallies. For example, there are rallies planned around the country this coming Saturday. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives will be joining with many others to insist that families belong together and to oppose the inhumane ways that the Trump Administration is dealing with people seeking refuge from oppression elsewhere. (Clickhereto find events near you).
Photo from recent immigration rally in Oakland, CA.
We have created flyers and posters you can print and bring to the events. (Clickherefor the flyer andherefor the posters.) Please send us photos (email@example.com) so we can share them with others. Knowing there are others joining our efforts uplifts us all. In addition, we need to help get out the vote in November and in many places in the U.S. it would be very valuable to have ordinary citizens going door-to-door and initiating conversations with our neighbors about what is happening to America and why we need to stand up and defend democracy, human rights, and basic human decency at this moment when they are all under attack. We know that doing that can sometimes feel scary and take a lot of energy, but that will be a whole lot less scary than what we will face if the U.S. continues down the path that the ultra-Right wing has been pushing forward in the past years.
And, as I’ve said before, none of this is enough. We must also work even harder to raise consciousness and build a spiritually progressive social change movement that puts forward a vision of the world we want based on a New Bottom Line of love, care, kindness, generosity, social/economic/environmental justice, compassion, and environmental sanity. It’s only when we can transform our own movements’ discourse so that it includes this larger vision of what we are for (and not just what we are against) that we have any chance of changing the political realities in the U.S. These are urgent times indeed and we must respond to the urgency with both immediate actions and long-term solutions.
We are in this for the long-haul and are grateful to be doing this work with you. There are millions and millions of people here and around the world who are horrified about what is happening and who yearn for a more loving and just world. We will get there, my friend. But the journey will take time and a lot of effort on our part.
Sending blessings for strengthened hearts and resilience so we can continue to rise and rise again. I will end by sharing a translation of Psalm 23 that I wrote from a social justice perspective.
A Messianic psalm
(1) YHVH, the Loving Transformative Power of the Universe, is my shepherd – my guardian
I shall not want fear
(2) Its energy causes me to lie down in green pastures, out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
Guiding me to restful waters
(3) Its compassion renews my soul’s life
Its call for righteousness encircles me and guides me on pathways of justice to what ought to be
For the sake of Transformation
(4) Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death
I fear no evil for You are with me
Your rod and Your staff – like a grounding stick – they comfort me and give me strength
(5) You spread before me a table in front of my enemies – those I’m bound up with – so we can break bread together
You anoint my head with oil, comforting me
My cup overflows
(6) Let only that which is life giving and loving kindness pursue me
All the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of YHVH
for many long years
Cat Zavis, J.D., a lawyer and mediator, is the Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, member of the inner editorial board of Tikkun magazine, and a rabbinic student of the Aleph Ordination Program. She leads an online training called: Spiritual Activism: Prophetic Empathy & Radical Love. Please consider joining that training by clicking here. You can reach Cat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Help #KeepFamiliesTogether
by Cat Zavis
So for a brief moment, when Trump announced he would sign an executive order ending snatching children from their parents, I let myself cry tears of relief. This is an important and immediate victory for families that would otherwise have been separated. While it is not enough, our voices do matter. It would be so easy to go into despair, but in fact, Trump backed down – that in itself seems miraculous.
Does it mean the struggle is over? Of course not. Not on this issue and not on transforming the world. We are living in truly surreal times. The depravity, heartlessness, and cruelty of this administration and Republican party cannot be better demonstrated than by Melania wearing a jacket when visiting the detention camps for children wearing a jacket that says, “I Really Don’t Care, Do You?” Yes, WE DO CARE. Thousands and thousands of us care a whole hell of a lot. And we will continue to care and oppose the unjust, inhumane, devastating policies of this administration, on this and so many other issues.
To keep pressure on this administration and Congress, here are four things you can do to continue to challenge the unjust detention camps that will hold families indefinitely.
- Attend a protest or rally. On June 30 there will be actions all over the country protesting Trump’s cruel and inhuman treatment of immigrant families. Click here to find the action nearest you. If you do participate, we encourage you to print out and bring the NSP Brochure to distribute at the events. We’ve also created some 8.5 x 11 posters that you’re welcome to print and display at rallies––you can find those here.
- Sign our petition to members of Congress – you can do so here (https://tinyurl.com/yalfpogk). Please share the link with your friends on social media. The more people who sign, the better we’ll be able to make our voices heard: #KeepFamiliesTogether&Free.
- Write your local paper about family separation. Here is a sample letter you can send to your local paper. Feel free to personalize it. If you do send a letter, whether it gets printed or not, please send it to us at email@example.com so we know!
- Pressure companies that are benefitting from these policies. Click here for a list of companies benefitting from these detention centers––boycott, call, and let them know you will not stand for these inhumane policies.
If making America great again means bringing us back to the time when we snatched kids from parents, set-up internment camps, saw women, people of color, and LGBTQ people as second-class citizens, and undermined environmental laws so our waters and earth are poisoned and animals become extinct, then we are certainly on our way. Yet, we know that while the voices of evil and destruction seem to be flourishing, this too will pass because so many more people deeply yearn for a loving and just world where kindness, generosity, care, and love prevail. So don’t lose hope!
In addition to fighting on each specific issue, we must remember that we need to put forth a vision of the world we want. Resistance is simply not enough. We, at the Network of Spiritual Progressives, are working to bring this vision and voice to social change movements and organizations around the country. We hope you will consider joining our efforts.
Want to support our work? Help Tikkun & the Network ofSpiritual Progressives continue to mobilize Jewish, interfaith, and secular-humanist communities to heal and transform the world. We pledge to continue to resist Trump’s agenda and put forward a positive, long-term strategy for social change. To do so, we need your help. Can we count on your support?
Yes, I’ll chip in $10 a month.
ICE’s Baby Snatching: Immediate Actions & Long-Term Strategy
By Cat Zavis
Some people have asked me what is a defining moment in your life that made you ‘you.’ And I always tell the following story. When I was 12 years old I was sitting in my living with my mom, dad, and older sister. We were watching the television show Roots. Whenever I tell this story, including now, I have a flashback to our living room. I can picture exactly where I am sitting, on the floor in front of the coffee table with my eyes glued to the screen. My parents and sister are sitting on our multi-colored velvet couches with white frames. For those of you who don’t know what Roots is or have never seen it (and if you don’t, I implore you to see it – there’s a modern version), it is the story of slavery as told through one family’s experience, namely that of its author, Alex Haley. (Roots was shown on national television for many days in a row during prime time, in the day when there were only a few channels from which to choose, and people throughout the country, like me, were glued to their television screens.) One of the lead characters, Kunta Kente, is ripped from his mother’s arms as a young child and put on a truck to be sold as a slave to a new master. They are both screaming and crying. I collapsed in a ball on the floor screaming and crying, my 12 year old being was completely unable to fathom something so completely horrific and inhumane. I have no idea how long I cried and screamed, but I know my parents were unable to console me. And I remember in that moment that I made a vow, I would spend my life working to help ensure things like this never happen again. This single scene of the entire episode is forever implanted in my memory; it haunts me and it motivates me. It is why I have worked my entire life for justice.
Flash forward to May 25, 2018. Children as young as 53 weeks (yes, you read that right) are being ripped from their parents arms when they try to enter this country seeking safety. I am immediately back in my childhood living room watching Kunta Kente yet again being ripped from his mother’s arms. I enter my shower on Shabbat evening, in preparation for entering a sacred time in which I re-insoul myself and give myself the time to envision the world that can be, and as the warm water washes over my body like a mikvah(a cleansing bath), I begin to shake and sob. Once again I cannot actually fathom how any person can possibly rip a child from a parent’s arms. What is it that allows us to dehumanize other people so deeply and so profoundly that even a child’s screams of agony do not breakthrough the armor in which we have wrapped ourselves? What fear lurks within that impedes our ability to see the harm of our ways? And how does engaging in this behavior dehumanize the person doing the bidding of the state?
I can certainly label this policy as racist, which it most definitely is, and inhumane, which it obviously is, but I am more interested in finding a way to understand the fear and stories people have told themselves to convince themselves that such a policy is not inhumane but necessary because I believe that this latter approach is what is more likely to create the sea change we need, not only in this horrific policy, but also in our country. Because really, why aren’t we all at immigration centers, at the borders, at the Whitehouse, etc. protesting this cruel policy? [For those of you who want to take action, there are rallies scheduled for Thursday, June 14th around the country. To learn more, click here – https://actionnetwork.org/forms/families-belong-together]
When I saw Kunta Kente being ripped from his mother’s arms, I imagined myself stepping in to prevent it. This is one of the things I love most about my younger, fearless, idealist self. I actually thought I would have intervened, that I would not have let that happen, and that I could have stopped it. And yet, exactly how to intervene effectively now and how to avoid getting burned out is not so easy to figure out. What is happening in our country right now is disheartening, to say the least. So many of us are completely horrified at the direction our country is headed and yet unlike during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights and Women’s Rights era, we are not filling our streets, we are not blocking ICE offices or vans, we are not laying our bodies on the line – at least not in numbers large enough to rouse the attention of the press or politicians or to grind the machinery of injustice to a halt. I am not criticizing us, I am simply reflecting upon the fact that the vast array of outrages throughout the country make it exceedingly difficult to know how or where to intervene in an effective way. There are so many simultaneous threats and attacks happening to the environment, immigrants, women, LBGTQ people, Muslims, and Jews (did I miss anyone or anything?) and so many of us are working to ward off attacks on one or more of these issues, yet we still seem unable to put a dent in the ongoing assaults and attacks on human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (not to the mention the environment).
In the Sunday Review section of the New York Times on May 27th, Katherine Stewart wrote an article “A Christian Nationalist Blitz” in which she explains the tactics of Christian nationalists for advancing their legislative goals in state capitols across the country, a tactic they call “Project Blitz.” The idea is to flood state legislatures with bills designed to overwhelm the Left. “It’s kind of like whack-a-mole for the other side; it’ll drive ‘em crazy that they’ll have to divide their resources in opposing this.” This has been the successful tactic of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Religious Right, and the capitalist moguls (the Koch brothers) for decades – they create model legislation on numerous issues and then ALEC-backed legislators introduce the legislation in statehouses throughout the country. We, on the Left, have no comprehensive strategy to respond to this rather brilliant approach. According to the NYT article, more than 70 bills are before state legislatures either based on the templates of or have similar objectives to those created by Project Blitz. According to Stewart, their aim is gain political power to be able to not only promote their biblical worldview but to actually have it be the worldview that controls and mediates all aspects of politics, culture, and society.
The unified response of organizations and activists reaching out to one another from their different silos to respond to this most recent outrage, just as they did in response to the Muslim ban, the neo-Nazi marches in Charleston, the threat to Obamacare, and the protests in support of #BlackLivesMatter, is a beautiful and powerful. Reaching across our silos, learning from each other about what is most needed and how to respond, and collaborating and supporting one another when urgent issues emerge that need our immediate attention is critical.
And, in addition to these efforts and acts of solidarity, we need to take it a step further by unifying our message and articulating what it is we are for rather than simply talking about what we are against. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives believe we have a simple message that can help us unify our message and we call it a New Bottom Line. Bishop Michael Curry most recently articulated this vision before the entire world at the wedding of Prince Harry and Princess Meghan when he spoke so eloquently and persuasively for a world based on love. He asked us to imagine what every facet of our society and the world would look like and could be if love was the guiding principle by which we made daily decisions not only in our personal lives, but also in our public lives. Love is a powerful force that can transform our world.
Just like Bishop Curry, we ask: what would it mean to have an economic system, an education system, a legal system, a political system, and an entire world based on love, kindness, generosity, justice, and peace? What might that world look like?The New Bottom Line is a way of ensuring that love actually becomes one of the determining factors we use when assessing the value of the work we do, the products we produce, the legislation we propose, the education and legal systems we create, and the lives we live. Currently in our society (and in most societies throughout the world) we determine the ‘success’ of our economic, political, and social systems based on whether they maximize money, profit, and power. You often hear people talk about the “bottom line.” A company makes decisions about what to produce, whether to hire or fire people, where and how to make their products or house their industries, and whether to move their factories overseas or to a new city based on the “bottom line,” namely how much money will it make their shareholders and/or owners. What is not asked is, what are the impacts of these decisions on our environment, on the well-being of our workers or people in the communities in which we operate our business or dispose of our waste. These questions are deemed unnecessary because they are not related to the bottom line – they are simply not part of the equation. The New Bottom Line puts these questions, questions of the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, front and center.
A New Bottom Line is one that judges the success of every sector, system, and institution of our society (our economy, government, schools, health care system, legal system, etc.) based not on the old bottom line of whether they maximize money, profit and power, but instead by the extent to which they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, empathy and compassion, social, economic and environmental justice, peace and nonviolence, and protection of the life support system of our planet, as well as encourage us to transcend a narrow utilitarian approach to nature and other human beings and enhance our capacity to respond with awe and wonder to the universe and to see the sacred in others and in all sentient beings.
I am suggesting that we need all social change organizations, movements, and activists to articulate this positive vision of the world we want as part of their platforms, on their websites, in their messaging, at protests, in press releases, and in speeches. Why? For a few different reasons. First, we will need to continue to be fight against far more attacks on our freedom, security, liberty, humanity, and environment than we can possibly respond to effectively. We know this is so because the vast majority of statehouses and governors’ offices, as well as all three branches of the federal government are currently run by people who are more closely aligned with the Christian nationalists than their actual popularity in our country as a whole. In other words, the Christian Right is winning and has been for a long time. As the NYT article points out, they have a long-term strategy to keep us distracted from being able to put forth a vision of the world we want and in the process, forcing us further and further into our silos and dividing our resources. We need to articulate “a dream” to counter their nightmare.
Second, we need to articulate our visionary and loving worldview in response to their biblical worldview. Resistance is not a worldview, it is a reaction. That is not to say that social change organizations do not have a worldview that underlies their motivations and work, they most certainly do. It is just that they do not articulate it. In a study of progressive grassroots religious activists in the 1990s, Stephen Hart summarized this dichotomy. “Progressives often fail to articulate, and sometimes even try to hide, the ethical values that ground their proposals. The right, meanwhile, engaging in discourse that is generally more passionate and transcendent, has seized the discursive high ground.” He elaborated this point by explaining that these activists act as if the following rules exist:
Don’t talk about anything other than the practical steps of achieving the immediate goals the organization is trying for! Don’t bring up any basic values (religious or political) that underlie your commitment to the organization! Don’t ask anyone to articulate their reasons for participating in the group! Don’t talk in terms that engage people’s passion! Discuss issues in purely instrumental terms whenever possible!
This reluctance, even strong resistance, to bringing one’s faith or spirituality into politics ensures that those who identify with spiritual and religious traditions will continue to be vulnerable to manipulations of those beliefs by the Right. We need to find a way to counter this tendency on the Left and the New Bottom Line is one such way because it draws on universal values that are accessible whether one is spiritual, religious, or atheist. All it requires is that you want a world based on love, kindness, and justice. The hard part is, however, is that it demands that we speak to these values openly, frequently, and powerfully.
Third, articulating a positive vision of a world based on love and justice will help motivate the masses we need to create a sea change. We live in a society that is morally bankrupt and there are enough moral outrages to arouse our rage and sense of injustice on a daily basis. We receive more calls for us to sign petitions, show up for protests, call on behalf of candidates, etc. than we can possibly respond to in any week, let alone day. And each one of these can feel so hopeless and overwhelmed such that people become discouraged and eventually stop participating or responding to the endless requests. We often feel that all these efforts are completely useless, particularly as things continue to exacerbate around us. So we need a way to respond to and talk about the fundamental distortions of our society and the New Bottom Line offers that possibility in the following way.
Our society is morally bankrupt because we seem to have forgotten the foundation of any society and humanity – that of caring about one another and recognizing that our individual well-being is intricately connected to the well-being everyone else and the planet as a whole. The distortion of our society is that we are taught to believe that the only way to ensure one’s own well-being is to prioritize our own self-interest, produce and consume as we desire without care for the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, and step over others on our way to the top. Greed, selfishness, and having more money than one possibly could ever need are glorified. We need to explicitly articulate a different fundamental message – namely that we care about each other and believe love, kindness, and justice are the social fabric of our society. Without this unifying message, I fear that we will be unable to move the masses we need to join our efforts. A vision of where we are going is what keeps people coming back and inspires people to be involved for the long haul. Otherwise, people will be involved when a particular issue either affects them personally or for some particular reason speaks to their heart or sense of injustice. But they are not going to show up again and again and again to fight against the never ending evils of the empire, at least not until their own personal lives are more deeply impacted. If we wait until that time arrives, we are in serious trouble.
Fourth, using the concrete language of the New Bottom Line helps people draw connections between the different areas of focus and silos in which we normally operate and helps us see where we are going.
Agreeing to unifying principles does not require that organizations change their focus or work, but rather highlight a shared commitment to certain values and practices that could build a sense of connection and solidarity amongst organizations working for social transformation. This would not only help people working in separate silos sometimes inhabited by social change movements to see their interconnection with all the other social change movements, but would also give those not yet part of our movements a sense of our positive vision for which what we stand (rather than what we are against). To see our proposed unifying principles and sign on to them, go to: https://spiritualprogressives.org/philosophy/unifying-principles/. It would be a powerful message if social change organizations locally and nationally signed-on in support of these fundamental principles. If you are able to support that effort, please share these with them.
If you are interested in learning more about these ideas and how you can join our efforts to share these and other visionary proposals please check out our training for Spiritual Activists at https://spiritualprogressives.org/get-involved/spiritual-activism-training/.
 Stephen Hart, Cultural Dilemmas of Progressive Politics: Styles of Engagement among Grassroots Activists(Chicago: University Chicago Press, 2001), 20.
 Hart, 15.
Integrating Spirituality and Activism – How to Change the World
by Cat Zavis
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when? – Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot 1:14
Our world is riddled with tragedies: the epidemic of killings by police in the U.S. of African Americans, boats capsizing with hundreds of people fleeing war-torn countries in search of security, safety and well-being, children dying from illnesses stemming from malnutrition at alarming rates, women and girls being raped as victims of wars, banning of people from largely Muslim countries from entering the U.S., departing untold numbers of undocumented people, separating families who have lived here their entire lives, and the list goes on. As spiritual seekers we desperately yearn for a day when peace and nonviolence, love and care, kindness and generosity as well as a deep connection with the sacred in one another and with the creative force of the universe reign. [Read more…]
Love Wins! Lessons from the Movement for Marriage Equality
An artistic rendering of The Statue of Liberty kissing a golden woman of justice. Wow. For a brief moment I am feeling such gratitude for our Supreme Court—well, at least for five justices of the court! This is a time to celebrate. Gay and lesbian couples are finally recognized for their commitment to love their partners just as any heterosexual couple does. What an amazing moment of honoring and respecting people who choose love and commitment. What an amazing moment of honoring the sanctity of marriage. I am overcome with joy and celebration. [Read more…]
Why the Right Keeps Winning and the Left Keeps Losing
In the wake of the 2014 elections, I see many people retreating into despair or denying that there really was a decisive loss in the midterms, but I have not seen many progressives offering new strategies to alter the political landscape. The strategy I outline below has not been tried during the last forty years of our country moving more to the right than to the left.