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More on the Network of Spiritual Progressives

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Another bit on the new Network of Spiritual Progressives that is pretty good... Here are snippets from Byron Williams post over at Working for Change, who is the Pastor of the Resurrection Community Church in Oakland, California. He is clearly right about the need for us to listen to and encourage the voice of the black religious community, as I've blogged about before...

"The Network of Spiritual Progressives, founded by Tikkun magazine, assembled 1,200 left-leaning spiritual activists from across the country last week in Berkeley for its inaugural conference.

The conference cited three goals:

# To challenge the misuse of God by the right to justify militarism, dismantling of social justice and ecological programs, and assaults on the rights of women and gays and lesbians.

# To challenge anti-spiritual biases within parts of the left.

# To support a new bottom line of kindness, generosity, ecological sensitivity -- and to replace the dominant one of selfishness and materialism.

It would be easy to assume that the efforts of this conference are merely the flip side of the alliance between the Republican Party and conservative Christians.

But there were several aspects to the contrary. In addition to the 1,200 attendees, every speaker who participated, regardless of location, did so at his or her expense.

We want to challenge the religiophobia in the left and the Democratic Party, to challenge the demeaning of spirituality, the reduction of spiritual consciousness to either new age trivia on the one hand or to reactionary politics on the other hand, says Tikkun founder Rabbi Michael Lerner.

For Lerner, all of the religious rituals are meaningless if there is not a corresponding commitment to social justice...But calls for inclusion, noble as they may be, are not enough. During the Thursday morning plenary session, at which I was one of the speakers, there were no more than 15 African Americans present in the otherwise packed ballroom.

There are probably myriad reasons, but lack of outreach was not among them. Unfortunately, the Network of Spiritual Progressives still bears the face of a predominately white organization.

This is problematic for two reasons.

First, it cannot be inclusive if everyone is not present. Second, there has never been a successful social movement that did not include the active participation of African Americans, Prohibition notwithstanding.

The immediate plan is to repeat such an effort in Washington, D.C., in February. It will be the challenge of those who participated in last week's conference to do more to ensure that inclusivity means exactly that.

But the seeds of hope have been planted. The Network of Spiritual Progressives has emerged, and not a moment too soon.

We have already witnessed that without a viable alternative, a thirsty person will drink muddy water."
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