Thursday, May 11, 2006

National Conference of Spiritual Progressives


Spiritual Activism Conference, May 17-20
An interfaith gathering of the Spiritual Left in Washington, D.C.


Want an alternative to the Religious Right, to the materialism and selfishness of the competitive marketplace, and to the religio-phobia and tone-deafness to spiritual concerns on the Left?

Come to the Spiritual Activism Conference, celebrate the release of Rabbi Michael Lerner's new book The Left Hand of God, and join the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP).

For more information or to register on-line, visit:

http://www.tikkun.org/community/spiritual_activism_conference

About the Spiritual Activism Conference

Building on the July, 2005 conference in Berkeley, this will be the national conference to launch a prophetic spiritual politics agenda to the media and the politicians in D.C. and to train organizers who will take the agenda into their communities. The conference will also celebrate the release of Rabbi Michael Lerner's new book The Left Hand of God, with its proposed Spiritual Covenant for America and the release of the paperback version of Jim Wallis' God's Politics.

We will bring the Spiritual Covenant for America (based in part on the conversations that took place at the July 2005 conference and developed into a platform in Rabbi Lerner's The Left Hand of God) to the attention of the U.S. Congress and the liberal and progressive forces headquartered in D.C.

The Religious Right has dominated public discourse because it has managed to portray itself as the force that genuinely cares about the spiritual crisis that permeates American life. Yet the Religious Right uses the legitimacy it gets from articulating spiritual needs to support a political program that includes militarism and the war in Iraq, reducing the taxes on rich people while eliminating badly needed social programs for the poor, rejecting international agreements to combat global warming (thereby contributing to a series of environmental disasters like the increased ferocity and frequency of destructive hurricanes), and divisive assaults on the rights of women and homosexuals.

Unfortunately, liberals and progressives, even when they try to articulate an alternative program, too often revert to technocratic and economistic alternatives that miss the spiritual dimension of human needs. That is why we are building a movement of spiritual progressives that is a challenge both to the Right and to the anti-religious and anti-spiritual tendencies within some parts of the Left.

Our conference is part of that process, and we will be highlighting a Spiritual Covenant with America that is as much an alternative to the tepid and visionless rhetoric of some sections of establishment liberals as it is to the moral insensitivity of some sections of the Right. Our perspective is unabashedly visionary and "unrealistic" in the sense that it challenges the contemporary denizens of political realism and insists that the challenges facing the human race today require a major jump in consciousness and political courage. We are honored to be working with All Souls Church, which has a rich history of social justice ministry.

Spiritual Activism Conference, May 17-20, All Souls Church, Unitarian, 1500 Harvard St NW, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Not whether but how we speak about faith and the common good.

This blog about faith and the common good has as a foundation a belief in the democratic process. And that is a messy process. To clean up the dialogue in the public arena, an etiquette has been established that dictates we don't speak about religious beliefs in the public debate. Religious affiliation is appreciated, but not shared or used as a justification of one's position.

We are challenging the premise that the conversation on policy has to be based in strictly secular terms. There is a role for using the language and values and traditions of faith. What is necessary for that conversation to work is respect, tolerance, and taking turns. This blog welcomes different views and attitudes and discourages language that leads to flaming others. The etiquette of not speaking about faith is one way of avoiding conflict. A better way that doesn't require silence on faith is to speak and listen with care and concern. It is not whether we are speaking too much or too little about faith and politics, but how well are we having the conversation. Welcome.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pulling the Religious Wool on Global Warming


Since Focus on the Family is one of America’s most well-funded, influential religious right groups, it’s no surprise they’re leading the charge against any stirrings of the faith-based left. In February, the Evangelical Climate Initiative was launched by 86 religious leaders. This campaign advocates personal, religious and commercial action to combat global warming, and is the latest sign that clergy members are getting serious about saving creation.

Now, Focus on the Family has struck back, cooking up a propaganda offensive designed to retake the moral high ground on climate change. Enter the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, a deceptively named coalition supported by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, with an advisory board stacked with other stalwarts of the right like Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. On April 19, the ISA announced its Cornwall Network of Churches campaign will provide information intended to influence sermons and fool churchgoers into thinking global warming’s not so bad.

Clearly, it’s getting hot in here and the religious right is worried about the faith-based left threatening its monopoly on the values debate.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why I am proud to be a Bible Toting, Scripture Quoting Liberal Democrat

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8

As a Christian, Liberal Democrat, both the left and the right attack me. Too many Liberal Democrats equate a strong and fervent belief in Jesus Christ with ignorance and intolerance. Too many Evangelical Christians equate membership in the Democratic Party and Liberalism with secular humanism and an abandonment of Jesus Christ and His principles. Too many Democrats who are believers have remained silent as both sides waged war. I stand silent no more. I believe that GOD calls upon us as Christians to speak truth to power and to stand against injustice. I want to share with you why I am proud to be a Bible toting, Scripture quoting, liberal Democrat.

I am proud to say THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS MY SAVIOR, LORD AND REDEEMER and HE DIED AT CALVARY ON THE CROSS FOR MY SINS, AND ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AND I AM SAVED BY HIS GRACE AND MERCY.

I believe that GOD commands us to act on our values. Dan Martins wrote, “Among people of good faith, it is possible for gospel values to lead one to embrace either of the major parties (and probably most or all of the minor ones), and espouse liberal or conservative positions. The only option not available to us as Christians is to make our political decisions purely (or even substantially) on the basis of our own self-interest. The gospel values of truth, peace, justice, and love must lie at the root of a Christian's political action.” It is my personal belief that the Democratic Party best reflects these Christian values.

1 Thus says the LORD: "Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, 2 and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O King of Judah, who sit on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. - Jeremiah 22:1-3
As a Christian, it is my duty to speak up for the homeless, to stand against intolerance, and to stand against the shedding of innocent blood. The Democratic Party is the place where I can ACT on my beliefs. The Democratic Party fights for funding and programs to provide shelter to the homeless, to provide quality education for our children, to provide healthcare to families under stress, to provide a social and economic safety net to the widow and the orphan. It is the Democratic Party that fights for equality and justice for all people. It is the Democratic Party who fights against corporate greed and for the rights of the workers. It is the Democratic Party that fights to protect children from economic exploitation. It is the Democratic Party that fights to right the wrongs that plague our society. It is the Democratic Party that gives a voice to the voiceless.

The Republican Party is often intolerant of differences, the Republican Party eagerly imposes its will on all people and if you believe differently then your faith and your patriotism are called into question. The Republican Party say invidious discrimination is wrong but, don’t worry it no longer exists and proceeds to decimate the agencies charged with fighting unlawful discrimination. The Republican Party under the current administration has slashed housing programs for the poor, and increased healthcare costs to our elderly. The Republican Party stands with corrupt corporate powers that abuse workers oversees, migrate jobs offshore, and steal the pensions of the elderly. The Republican Party calls for the ultimate sacrifice from the children of the poor whose only option is military service. The Republican Party has eroded our civil rights and civil liberties in the name of Freedom. The Republican Party in the name of justice have tortured, maimed and invaded a sovereign nation. The Republican Party provides shelter to the payday lender, the predatory lender and to financial institutions that would take our deposits and do business only with the rich.

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing, and does not give him his wages; -Jeremiah 22:13

Our HEAVENLY FATHER, gave to each of us the gift of freewill. As true evangelists, we are commanded to let our light so shine before men that they CHOOSE Jesus Christ because they see in us his transforming power, justice and mercy. JESUS CHRIST spent his time ministering to prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, the unclean and unwashed of society. I pray nightly for many of my evangelical Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I fear that in their zeal to embrace the Republican Party that they have become as the Pharisees.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. -Matthew 23:23

You can judge a tree by its fruit; I have chosen to plant my tree within the Democratic Party. I believe that this is fertile ground to carry out the mandates of my calling. I prepared this commentary because I believe many Christians have difficulty standing on their faith in the world of politics and many Democrats have difficulty expressing their political view in the world of faith. I'd be well judged in either world if I were able to fulfill the words of this scripture.

18 "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. Matthew 12:18

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Conversation Continues

On March 3, 2006, over 700 community members, students, & faith leaders gathered in Durham, NC to join an important conversation on redefining the values debate. The American Values Summit, held at Duke University, brought a diverse gathering of North Carolinians together to explore how a broader conception of morality can reshape public policy. Powerful keynote addresses by Rev. Jim Wallis, nationally known activist and editor of Sojourners Magazine, and Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the NC NAACP, highlighted a daylong schedule of enlightening workshops and panels. The American Values Summit’s success has steered the conversation one step closer in this direction.

Many of you have expressed interest in obtaining transcripts of the event. A DVD documentary compilation of the Summit’s highlights is in production, and will be available soon for distribution. The Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina (CRA-NC) will also be making arrangements to broadcast this video statewide and beyond on public access cable channels.

Additionally, this blog is being launched to provide a place to continue the conversation. We want to hear from you, whether you attended the summit or not, and together discuss the next steps in expanding the public debate on the intersection of politics and faith.

Rev. Jim Wallis’ keynote address at Duke Chapel is currently available for downloading.

In order to listen to this file, you need RealPlayer, which can be downloaded here.

Sincerely,

Peter Skillern (CRA-NC Executive Director)
American Values Summit Co-Coordinator