For too long the religious right has had a monopoly on political-spiritual discourse in the United States. Beginning in the late 1970s, right-wing preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (who helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House), began crafting a public narrative that equated being a religious person with being a conservative Republican.
That wasn’t always the case. A decade earlier, for example, before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. embodied a spiritual politics that was unabashedly on the left. In the years that followed, however, liberals developed a strange allergy to spiritual matters. Retreating even from talk of love, caring, and community (which all have a spiritual dimension), the left opened a moral vacuum in society that the religious right quickly occupied.
The problem with the religious right is that, ironically, they championed the very politicians who created the biggest wealth gap since the Gilded Age. How is it possible to believe in Jesus, who said to love the poor, when the economic policies you support led to 42 people having more wealth than the bottom half of humanity (3.7 billion people)?
Luckily, change is in the air—just in time for spring!—and the two most popular and trusted politicians in America, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are both socialists. Enter the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP). The California based group, helmed by Rabbi Michael Lerner and his partner Cat Zavis, is doing amazing work to advance a politics of love and caring. I recently joined a nationwide NSP phone conference call, led by Cat, and in its hopeful afterglow felt compelled to write this letter.
With its unique mixture of utopian ideals and rubber-hits-the-road practicality, NSP has crafted national legislation that would eliminate poverty worldwide (Global Marshall Plan), save the environment, educate students to be more caring and aware citizens, and—as incredible as this last one sounds—force corporations to be ethical by law. Once more people learn about these radical but feasible solutions, they may yet become the law of the land.
Other prominent figures in an emerging Spiritual Left include Rev. William Barber, who spoke eloquently at the 2016 Democratic Convention, Cornel West, and Marianne Williamson. Ironically, the Clintons once embraced Michael Lerner (in the early 90s), before they chose a more centrist, less visionary (and spiritual) path. In retrospect, it was not a wise choice.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been active with the NYC chapter of NSP. I often mention its planet saving work on a nonprofit TV show I host called Public Voice Salon. Later this month, I will host a town hall on this vital topic at Hoboken’s Symposia Bookstore. I invite all concerned citizens to attend. Your reactions to this letter are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.