Why read this long statement of our Core Vision?
Because it is the absence of this vision that is the primary reason why liberals and progressives are failing to remake this society even at the moment six years ago when Obama was President, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, and the economic meltdown has given overwhelming evidence that the old system wasn’t working so well.
Absent a coherent world-view, the liberal and progressive forces fall back onto a non-ideological pragmatism which has nothing in it that is compelling to most Americans. So too many of them revert to the only worldview they’ve ever heard, and one that still seems to command the assent (however grudging) of the elected leadership of both major parties: the notion that the competitive marketplace, perhaps with some added guidelines or supervision from government agencies, is the only way to achieve societal well-being, and that military domination of the world is the only way to achieve “homeland security.” Thus, president Obama selected the champions of Wall Street special interests to run his economic bailout program (which then, not surprisingly, favored the interests of the banks and imagined a trickle down effect for the rest of the economy), escalated the war in Afghanistan and carried it to Pakistan, failed to include Single Payer as one of the options under consideration for Health Care, and backed down on pledges to end military tribunals for “enemy combatants” (leaving it to the military to decide who does or does not fit into that category). Escalating the deporting of immigrants way beyond what previous administrations sought, refusing to prosecute those who had tortured prisoners, condoning the widespread surveillance of American citizens by the NSA and other “intelligence” gathering branches of the government, escalating penalties on “whistle blowers” you disclose information vital for the public to know, legitimating the widespread use of drones, and continually capitulating to what the media and the professional politicians tell us is “realistic,” the Obama Administration turned the hope that so many people felt at the time of his election into deep cynicism that has paralyzed many of those most hopeful about change and provided a path for the most reactionary elements to command the public discourse. It’s not because there is something wrong with Obama or the Democrats—it is that the entire liberal and progressive world has no coherent worldview to which it educates the larger public and which it uses as its criterion for which policies and programs to support and which to oppose.
We have that alternative, articulated in part here, and in part in our Spiritual Covenant with America , our Domestic and Global Marshall Plan, and our ESRA–Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, all of which you can find at www.spiritualprogressives.org.
So the reason you should read this whole long analysis and program is because without it, the liberal and progressive forces are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. And you could help change that if you can fully internalize and then share with others the worldview articulated below and further developed in our Spiritual Covenant and our Domestic and Global Marshall Plan.
The Spiritual Dimension — Missing or Underemphasized in Social Change Movements
Many of us are involved in, or greatly admire the accomplishments of social change movements like the peace movement, the women’s movement, the movement for economic justice, the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, the GLBT rights movement, the labor movement, struggles for civil liberties, and the disability rights movement, to name just a few. Many of us hope that President Obama will be successful in moving our society toward a higher level of commitment to peace, social justice, and ecological sanity—and hope that he will find increasing bipartisan support among the American people.
And yet, we in the Tikkun Community and the NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) believe that these movements, and leaders like Obama who (rightly or wrongly) are identified in public consciousness as being the current spokespeople for liberals and progressives, have tended to underplay or even deny a very important dimension of human life-the spiritual dimension. People living in the advanced industrial societies of the West want economic well-being and political rights, to be sure, and we are a long way from securing that for women, gays, lesbians, and people of color.
Yet what we’ve discovered is that there is an equally strong set of needs that we call spiritual or meaning needs: people want their lives to have some higher meaning and purpose than simply accumulating money, power, sexual gratification and fame-they want their lives to be connected to something about which they can feel that it has transcendent value. And they hunger for personal relationships, families and communities in which they can experience themselves as being cared for and recognized in all of their specificity and uniqueness and spiritual beauty-not only for what they can “deliver” or “do” for others, not for how they will be “of use,” but simply because they are valuable and deserving of love and caring just for who they are as embodiments of the sacred. And many people want their ethical commitments to social justice, peace and ecological sanity to connect with achieving a life that is suffused with love, generosity, kindness, and awe, wonder & radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe and all being. Unfortunately, very few social change movements move beyond the first set of needs to actually understand and integrate into their thinking and program these spiritual or meaning needs (for an example of how to do that, please read our Spiritual Covenant with America—it is a detailed embodiment of a spiritual progressive politics, and read our plan for a Global Marshall Plan). In our editorials in Tikkun Magazine, and in books like Rabbi Michael Lerner’s The Left Hand of God (Harper San Francisco, 2006) and his Spirit Matters (Hampton Roads Publishers, 2000), we try to spell out our evolving conception of how to move in this direction under current conditions. We would love to see others around the world take the principles articulated there, and in what comes below, which we hope you will read now, and teach us how to apply them to political realities outside North America.
The absence of this consciousness and program in progressive and liberal movements and political parties of the West has limited the potential impact that all these movements could have. It will take a very different kind of movement-one founded on and giving central focus to a spiritual vision-to create a real alternative to the political Right, to the fundamentalists (religious and political), and to our society’s ethos of selfishness, materialism, and cynicism. Without that, we find ourselves in the following very peculiar position: even when we have won electoral victories for progressive or liberal candidates, the ideology of the Right continues to shape what these people do in office, because that ideology has a coherence that is rarely matched by the various and often intellectually incoherent or at least scattered and random measures introduced by these liberal and progressive governments. The defeat of Marxist ideologies, which now frees liberals and progressives to come up with a more comprehensive and psychologically and spiritually sophisticated worldview, was made possible in part because Marxism and the various weaker versions thereof gave no attention to these “meaning” or “spiritual” needs, and moreover often reflected a religiophobia that communicated contempt for those who take their own spiritual development or inner life seriously—thus making many people feel that they had to choose between being part of a progressive movement and being alive to the spiritual or religious dimensions of their consciousness. Too often liberals and progressives themselves have given the following message (either explicitly or implicitly) to spiritual or religious people: “We welcome you to vote for our candidates and come to our demonstrations, and if necessary, we will even tolerate our candidates for office tossing in a few references to holy texts or to God, but basically we think that you religious or spiritual people are on a lower level of intellectual development or are stuck in psychological needs for authority figures and have not worked through your neuroses from childhood, though we hope that by hanging out with us more enlightened types you will be encouraged to develop to a higher level of consciousness in which you can let go of all those intellectual muddles and psychological crutches that make you believe in God or in some anti-intellectual spirituality that has already been discarded by those of us who understand science and rationality.”
This message (not always consciously held by secularists, but often conveyed unconsciously) has pushed away tens of millions of people who would agree with liberals and progressives on much of their economic and political agenda, but who feel deeply disrespected and condescended to by most of the liberals and progressives they’ve met along the way. So our goal is to create a place that is equally welcoming to these people as it is to atheists or agnostics. We don’t seek to restrict this movement to people who believe in God or who have a spiritual practice or are part of a religious community—as long as those who join us are open to a movement that is affirming of the spiritual dimension of human reality and feels unashamed to talk about love, kindness, generosity and awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur of the universe and the mystery of all Being.
Creating the Movement We Need
We seek to create that alternative. We are a community of people from many faiths and traditions, called together by Tikkun magazine and its vision of healing and transforming our world. We include in this call both the outer transformation needed to achieve social justice, ecological sanity, and world peace, and the inner healing needed to foster loving relationships, a generous attitude toward the world and toward others unimpeded by the distortions of our egos. Our movement will encourage a habit of generosity and trust, and the ability to respond to the grandeur of creation with awe, wonder and radical amazement. Tikkun Magazine was started as “the liberal and progressive alternative to the voices of Jewish conservatism and the neo-cons” but it has become much more—a voice for a spiritual politics of meaning, and while it maintains its strong position as the most widely read and respected explicitly progressive Jewish magazine in the world, it also is a place where you can read some of the most creative Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist spiritual progressives as we together think out how to apply a spiritual progressive consciousness to the realities of the contemporary 21st century world. The Network of Spiritual Progressives was started by Tikkun as our activist organization that would not carry with it the association of being primarily for Jews, but rather explicitly interfaith—and would leave the term “Tikkun Community” for those who seek to identify specifically as Jews. Yet the reality is that both of these names refer to the same movement that grows from and is deeply connected to Tikkun magazine.
We are guided in our work by our belief in the principle of solidarity. For us, this principle has spiritual roots in the Jewish commandment to remember that we were all slaves in Egypt; we believe that we are all harmed by oppression directed at any group or individual. This is a message which is common to most of the religious and spiritual traditions of the human race for the past several thousand years, and is part of the tradition also of many secular and even “orthodox atheist” groups that came into existence in the past few hundred years when the religious and spiritual communities that supposedly were committed to these values actually failed to take them seriously and became, instead, embedded in economic and political realities that were oppressive.
What We Mean by “Spiritual”
We in the Tikkun Community use the word “spiritual” to include all those whose deepest values lead them to challenge the ethos of selfishness and materialism that has led people into a frantic search for money and power and away from a life that places love, kindness, generosity, peace, nonviolence, social justice, awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation, thanksgiving, humility and joy at the center of our lives.
We believe that many of the secular movements that exist in the world today actually have deep spiritual underpinnings, but often they are themselves unaware of those foundations, unable or unwilling to articulate them and sometimes even holding a knee-jerk antagonism to explicit spiritual or religious language.
This antagonism limits their effectiveness, though it derives from legitimate anger at the way that the language of spirituality and religion has been sometimes used to justify war, oppression, sexism, racism, homophobia, ecological indifference, or insensitivity to the suffering of the poor and the homeless of the world.
Solidarity means that we affirm our responsibility towards each other within our families, within our nation, and within our spiritual/religious community-and also beyond the narrow boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and geography. We affirm the obligation to actively resist injustice and refuse to take part in it even when we can’t prove that our resistance will produce change.
In solidarity with the oppressed, we wish to see the democratization of economic and political institutions and a redistribution of wealth so that all people can share equally and sustainably in the benefits of the planet. We hope to have the courage-in the tradition of the Jewish prophets and interpreters of Torah, in the spirit of Jesus and the early Christian communities of resistance to Rome, in the spirit of Muhammad, in the spirit of the activists of the labor & civil rights and feminist and gay rights movements-to speak truth to power. The Tikkun Community and the NSP are interfaith (and welcoming to agnostics and orthodox atheists as well).
At the same time, we will challenge the lack of a spiritual dimension in the agendas of our allies in progressive social change movements. That gap has allowed the Right to present itself as the force that cares about spiritual issues. And the Left’s failure to address spirituality has led many to believe their hunger for a larger framework of meaning and purpose must be separated from their involvement with social transformation. You need only compare Tikkun magazine and the way we approach issues with magazines like The Nation, The Progressive, Mother Jones, Z, the NY Review of Books, Huffington Post, Salon.com, or the emails from moveon.org to see the striking absence of our kind of perspective and approach to contemporary politics, economics, ecology, social change in most of the liberal and progressive publications and movements. Nor is this “by mistake”—we and other parts of the Spiritual and Religious Left have frequently approached the movements and publications of the secular left to ask that our perspective be included and have most of the time been rebuffed.
Imagine What We Could Be
Social change activity gets focused on a narrow political agenda that lacks the depth that can inspire sustained commitment or nourishing involvement. Imagine an international group of people who would see themselves as allies to each other in advancing this way of thinking, people who are unashamedly utopian and willing to fight for their highest ideals, yet unashamedly humble in knowing that we don’t know all that we need to know to do the healing that needs to be done.
Imagine that this group would help each other in our individual as well as group activities, affirming what is good and brainstorming with us about how to create a movement that gives equal priority to our inner lives and to social justice, that takes loving and caring as serious goals for social healing, and that rejects the utilitarian and materialistic assumptions of the contemporary world and actively fosters awe and wonder in its participants. Imagine that you could be part of creating that.
You can-by helping us create the Tikkun Community and the NSP. They start from this fundamental recognition: The sources of external injustice, suffering, and ecological numbness are to be found not only in economic and political arrangements, but also in our alienation from one another, in our inability to experience and recognize ourselves and each other as holy, in our inability to respond to the call of the universe which bids us to deeper levels of consciousness and love, and in our inability to overcome our own egos and see ourselves as part of the Unity of All Being.
We need a spiritual consciousness along with a political consciousness if we are to heal and transform the world. Some of us in this community are atheists or secularists, some of us belong to traditional religious communities, some of us are just beginning to work out our relationship to Spirit. But all of us understand that we need a movement that can address spiritual needs.
Social Change and Inner Change
It is our contention that social change and inner change go hand in hand. We are building a movement in which we can talk about love and caring for each other-and this is the only way we can overcome the old left/right dichotomies and dead policy debates that fill academic journals, leftie magazines, the insipid television confrontations between shouting talking heads, the vacuity of so many of the speeches at leftie anti-war demonstrations, and the rhetoric of elected officials. For too long these predictable slogans and divisions have paralyzed American politics and made most of us feel like withdrawing into a purely personal life. At this moment, we are particularly excited by and supportive of the upsurge of social justice activism aimed both at promoting environmental sanity and at challenging the destructive impact of globalization. But we hope to play a role in deepening those and other social change movements to integrate into their core the kind of spiritual awareness that can make it possible for them to reach a much wider audience and thus be able to actually achieve their social justice goals.
To do so we must talk at a far deeper level than merely repeating or reframing the traditional leftist demands for economic and political rights. While we support those demands and thus welcome any advances that provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, child care, and other basic rights, we also believe that these will only be won on a global level when the social change movements are able to address the spiritual consequences of the triumph of corporate globalization: a society-wide depression and repression of what we can variously call the life-force, eros, God-energy or Spirit.
This is Not a Reframing of Secular Ideas in Spiritual Clothing
Please note that this is very different from those who talk about spiritual politics but actually mean only this: that it would be politically advantageous and opportune to take the traditional liberal agenda and dress it up with some spiritual or “values” language. So they take the existing liberal/left agenda, with its primary focus on social justice, inclusion of those who have been left out, economic redistribution, and peace-and then they find some Biblical quotes to bolster the case for the pre-existing liberal/progressive agenda.
We support all that, but our movement goes much deeper. We don’t believe that the liberal agenda can be won simply by reframing it in spiritual language. For a large section of the American public, the primary source of pain in their lives is not about economic deprivation or non-inclusion, but about the way that the ethos of selfishness and materialism plays out in their personal lives and in the lives of people around them in ways that are destructive and feel terrible. They can’t stand being part of the manipulative, narrowly utilitarian way people treat each other and themselves and the earth. They want a framework of meaning to their lives and to the lives of those around them that speaks of higher meaning to life, shows a path to a life that is not only about maximizing money but is about maximizing a meaningful life. In short, they want and need a politics of meaning, and need a meaning-oriented movement that can counter the spiritual depression that surrounds them. Don’t confuse this with those who simply are trying to put some Biblical quotes in front of the same old Democratic Party or liberal agenda-we are seeking a much deeper change.
Our challenge is not only to the Right-but also to those liberals and progressives, Greens and Democrats, who have not allowed themselves to get beyond their knee-jerk antagonism to religion and spirituality, and whose openness to religious or spiritual people is only utilitarian and does not include a willingness to learn about the actual dimensions of the spiritual deprivation which is endemic to the way global capitalism functions today, and the ways that it generates a global emotional depression.
This spiritual depression and emotional repression that suffuse contemporary life are the near-universal responses to the globalization of a self-congratulatory individualism, obsessive materialism, and consumerism-all provided as compensation for the meaninglessness of our present-day culture.
The one-dimensional technocratic consciousness, speed-up of work, perception that we have “no time” to do what we really believe in, and our inability to recognize others in terms that go beyond what they can do for us to advance our own agendas as rational maximizers of self-interest-all these combine to create human beings who, if they don’t explode in violence or self-destructive alcohol and drug abuse, find themselves in varying degrees of disconnection to their inner selves, their feelings, and their capacities to be loving towards others and to respond to the universe with joy.
In contrast to this, we encourage an engagement with the Sacred, an Emancipatory Spirituality which affirms pleasure and joy and the recognition that “there is enough,” a replacement of postmodernist self-alienation with a renewal of Being based on awe, wonder and radical amazement at the mystery of the universe and the mystery of every human being on the planet as a manifestation of the sacred.
Our economic, social and political institutions need to be replaced and rethought not only because they are unjust, but because they foster a consciousness that keeps us from connecting to the deepest truths of the universe and make it harder for us to recognize each other as fully free, fully conscious, self-creating, loving beings. In this sense, the globalization of Spirit is the antidote to the globalization of Capital. We reach out for a spiritual dimension not as a replacement for, but as a deepening of, our understanding of social action, and not as a replacement for but a deepening of our understanding of informed science. Our spirituality does not reject the value of rational thought nor does it suspend scientific enquiry.
The Materialist Road
Why is it that people who live in the advanced industrial societies of North America, Europe and Japan, the richest societies that history has ever known, believe we “can’t afford” to share what we have with the rest of the world so as to eliminate poverty, hunger and homelessness? It is partly because of our collective paranoia that no one will be there for us if we should ever really need their help that leads us to think our only security lies in endless accumulation, to protect our isolated self-interest in face of a deep inner certainty that others can’t be counted on. And partly because we have a deep emptiness inside and we have come to believe that only material goods can fill it. We buy things to buy happiness, to compensate ourselves for the alienated work, the disconnection from each other, and the estrangement from our own inner selves that constitute the texture of our daily lives.
In our spiritually impoverished world, acquiring ever more things provides an illusion of fulfillment-and a replacement for the deep connection with each other and to the spiritual realities of the universe for which we both hunger and simultaneously deny to ourselves (lest we re-experience the pain and disappointment we had at earlier points in our lives when we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and then failed to receive the loving and recognition we needed but didn’t fully get).
In addition, almost every child in our culture gets strong messages to focus attention on that which can be useful, and away from the spiritual dimension which has no “practical application.” Indeed, this message has been so deeply ingrained in many of us that we instinctively shy away from the spiritual realm as though it were as dirty as not being toilet trained. We fear that were we to acknowledge to ourselves or others that we actually wish for connection with that which cannot be used or made practical, cannot be subject to empirical observation or turned into a commodity or something that will make us more attractive or salable on the job or relationship marketplace, we would subject ourselves to ridicule and humiliation.
Our Scaled-Down Sense of Possibility
Fearful that we will experience that pain once again, we often build strong external walls to keep ourselves out of touch with this deep yearning for connection to each other and to the universe. Instead of drawing on our own inner resources, we too often find ourselves looking to the media-dominated mass culture for fulfillment and reassurance that our scaled-down sense of possibility is “what everybody else is doing” and hence “the only possible path for us too.” The media is one of the many institutions that speeds up time-protecting us from the quiet moments in which we might doubt the whole way our lives are being lived.
Instead of finding our own pace, we find ourselves rushing about, seeking machines and gadgets that make things go faster, becoming accustomed to media and technology which speed the pace while “shallow-ing” the intellectual and emotional level of our daily consciousness. We learn to forget the past and focus only on the new while devaluing the old, which leads to decreasing literacy and an increasing difficulty in following a complex discussion, sustaining a long-term relationship, or committing to social goals that can’t be accomplished immediately.
Sadly, our social institutions only reinforce this materialist view. Our institutions provide us with the illusion of permanency (pretending we won’t die) and the illusion that the “real world” is the world of power and wealth. Compound this with the patriarchal assumption that we should be tough and ignore our feelings, and we are left with a “common sense” that dismisses the relevance of our inner lives. We are told that spirituality should be left in the home, relegated to the weekend, kept separate from the pragmatic decisions that should shape politics and the business world.
Spiritual Practices That Generate Possibility
In the Tikkun community and NSP, we refuse this kind of “realism.” We will unashamedly use and learn from the language and practices of spiritual communities. The spiritual life can give us a level of mindfulness, focus, and calm so that we can re-center ourselves and discover what we truly value.
One reason we are proud to draw upon the spiritual wisdom of Judaism is because we think that the spiritual practice of Shabbat, a twenty-five hour meditation focused on turning our energies from “getting things done” to a “celebration of all that is,” can empower us in the struggle to heal our planet. This is one example of the kinds of spiritual practices that we encourage among our members and for the larger world-even as we say this in a non-coercive way without implication that you must be doing a particular spiritual practice to be part of our community.
So too the Biblical idea of a Sabbatical Year so that one year out of seven the entire society would essentially shut down all non-essential production (and the debate about what is essential and what is not is itself part of what makes this focus a potentially rich topic for public discussion) and that year everyone would be provided food and other essential services for free, l and the Biblical idea of Jubilee with its call for a redistribution of land and wealth back to a basic equality once every fifty years provide us with inspiration for how to learn from the wisdom of sacred texts.
How We Can Best Be Interfaith
Although our organization will speak at times in the name of the best in the Jewish tradition, we will also honor all major spiritual traditions represented in our membership. We are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-spiritual community-and we believe that there are many paths to spiritual truth, and we want to honor all of those who are open to an Emancipatory Spirituality as presented in Tikkun. So we draw upon the richness of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, spiritual truths from indigenous peoples and from the often-ignored spiritual wisdom of women.
We do not believe that every particularistic tradition must be totally left behind in some new globalized spiritual mush. While we support the attempts within existing religious and spiritual traditions to renew their foundations, we do not seek a spiritual melting pot but a world in which plurality and difference can be respected, even as we affirm the Unity of All Being, the interconnectedness of all with all.
At the same time, we will challenge reactionary spirituality that privileges one group above all others while demeaning those who are not part of the group. We will challenge forms of spirituality that seek to impose racist, sexist, or homophobic values. And we will challenge forms of spirituality that lead people into quietism or a de facto accommodation to a world of oppression. In this and other respects we want to be clear that we do not embrace a vapid “tolerance” which refuses to make moral distinctions or a deconstructionist logic which sees all forms of discourse as little more than strategies for some group or other to gain power over others. We are not tolerant of religious reactionaries who manipulate the language of God in the service of an oppressive status quo or to restore patriarchy and authoritarian forms of government.
Our goal is to build a community of people who share a common intellectual/spiritual perspective-an intellectual/spiritual cadre of activist social healers-even as they retain their own particular religious and spiritual practices. We will work together to bring a progressive spiritual politics into the various arenas in which we work. For example, we will bring our perspective into existing social change movements in the hopes of strengthening them and making them more successful. Our task is to support each other as we bring ideas into the public sphere that are often dismissed as “too idealistic” or “too spiritual”-and to help each other sustain a commitment to a transformative agenda against all the pressures to be “more realistic” and settle for much less than we actually believe in.
In this work, we see ourselves as fundamentally connected to the thinking being done in Tikkun magazine. We connect with all who hope for a real Tikkun (the Hebrew word for healing, repair and transformation).
The Tikkun Community and Network of Spiritual Progressives
We are trying to create something that doesn’t have an exact analogue in contemporary life. The truth of the matter is, many of us are wary of any organization-they remain human institutions, susceptible to the ever-present reality of human frailty. The capacity to under-whelm, frustrate, disappoint, and madden is common to all human organizations, whether spiritual or secular, whether on the left or the right or in the middle.
Particularly when people start hoping for a loving reality, we often get so scared-because we have been so deeply shaped by the pathogenic belief that we don’t really deserve to be loved-that we try to prove to ourselves that a better world isn’t really possible. That’s when we find people in our organizations hurting each other in the name of love, being brutal and lacking compassion, creating endless fights over theoretical differences, or clinging to ego at the cost of finding real solidarity with others. We will do what we can to provide a supportive context, but we will also not hesitate to ask people to leave our organization who would prefer to fight with each other than to lovingly support each other. Creating an international community of people who start with agreement on the points in this document can generate generous amounts of comradely love and solidarity.
We expect that in The Tikkun Community we will find ourselves learning from our dialogue with each other, having intense conversations, listening to each other’s formal presentations but also, and equally importantly, each other’s life experiences and current struggles. Our community will only be sustainable if it provides many opportunities to laugh with each other, to meditate or pray together, to sing and dance together, and to experience each other as sources of surprise, joy and transcendence. So, our expectation is that this commitment will be fun and joyous.
If you are interested in joining us, please look over the fundamental principles printed below. Are they principles you share? If so, please become a dues-paying member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (you can join on-line here or by calling our national office at 510 644 1200). And we will contact you to find ways to integrate you into our growing organization.
1. INTERDEPENDENCE AND ECOLOGICAL SANITY
We are one mutually interdependent human race, and we have a responsibility to be stewards of the planet and of all other life forms. Our well-being depends on the well-being of every other human being on the planet and on the well-being of our environment. It is time to overcome all forms of national, religious, and ethnic chauvinism. It’s time to realize that it is in our own personal self-interest to ensure a world in which everyone is invited to be part of loving, spiritually deep, emotionally satisfying, and materially thriving communities of their own choice, and to live in a world in which mutual respect and care are the common sense truths by which we live.
As Americans we can no longer worry only about what is “best for America,” as Jews we can no longer worry only about what is “best for the Jews,” as Christians we can no longer worry only about what is “best for the Christians,” etc. We need to see ourselves as manifestations of Spirit-the unfolding of the love and goodness of the universe as it becomes conscious through us. The world is entering a new period in which this understanding of us as fundamentally aligned with all other human beings on the planet becomes the prerequisite for building a global political and economic movement capable of challenging corporate power and saving the planet from ecological destruction.
To recognize our mutual interdependence does not require us to abandon cultural difference. We reject the view that says that real peace can only be achieved if everyone is alike, part of a leveling universal culture fostered by a melting pot of preexisting cultures.
We do not seek to obliterate all differences, but to build a multi-cultural world based on mutual recognition and respect for difference. The world is better served by a diversity of religious, ethnic and cultural traditions-each of which has learned to respect and honor this diversity and to divest itself of those elements in its tradition that lead to hatred or the demeaning of others. Our responsibility to the planet requires us to make dramatic transformations in our patterns of production and consumption. We must:
- Take all necessary steps to halt and reverse global warming (really, global scorching)
- Encourage graceful simplicity in living. We must commit to sharing the resources of this planet equally with all six billion other human beings while also committing ourselves to the planet’s ecological sustainability. This commitment requires that we alter our notions of private property in ways that give adequate attention to the needs of the whole, rather than approaching the world first and foremost from the standpoint of our individual rights without sensitivity to the needs of others.
- Adopt a new attitude of caring toward animals and other life forms, and a recognition that stewardship implies responsibility to take all necessary steps to preserve the diversity and integrity of life forms on this planet, to the greatest extent possible consistent with protecting human life (we don’t “respect” the “rights” of cancer or forms of life that are aggressively destructive to human beings).
- Exercise extreme caution in the uses of biotechnology. We should immediately remove the profit motive and ensure that all significant decisions are made within a context of democratic control. A new sense of humility should govern any decision that might potentially alter the biosphere or the genetic structures of plants, animals or humans. Science must be harnessed to serve the highest values of the human race, not the profit-motives of corporations or the military needs of governments.
- Commit ourselves to Ethical Consumption or what the Jewish Renewal movement calls eco-kashrut, (building on the traditional Jewish concern with the origins of the food we eat as a tool to actualize the environmentalism of our tradition). Ethical Consumption requires that all purchasing decisions, including but not limited to those necessary for physical sustenance, be made in a way that has the least negative environmental impact. We hope to enlist many people in religious and spiritual communities to participate in the formulation of standards and the ongoing observance of ethical consumption. Ethical Consumption also means that we do not want to buy goods that have been produced by exploited workers. And we want to encourage ourselves to ask before any purchase: “do we really need this for our physical, psychological and/or spiritual well-being, or could I instead use this money to support a social change movement like the NSP or a organization that would use this money to directly feed the hungry around the world?”
Ethical Consumption is a direction for our communal aspiration, but in this area as in every other we are super-careful to not let our ideals become a club to beat each other up with (as in “you own an SUV so you can’t be part of our movement” or “you have too big a house” or “you shouldn’t take vacations”). As in all things, spiritual balance is critical: recognizing a direction for our energies, but being compassionate and tolerant of the different paces at which people move toward that goal. Tolerant to individuals-but not tolerant toward social and corporate policies that are environmentally destructive. Not tolerant of societal decisions like opposing sensible constraints on ozone destroying emissions and not tolerant of environmentally hazardous global trade accords.
2. A NEW BOTTOM LINE IN OUR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS
Productivity and efficiency must no longer be judged solely by the degree to which any corporation or institution maximizes profits or power, but also by the degree to which a corporation, school, government institution, or social practice tends to:
- support ethical, spiritual, and ecological sensitivity and to promote the sustainability of our environment
- support human beings to be loving, caring and capable of sustaining long-term loving relationships
- promote the well-being of everyone on the planet
- help people overcome a narrow utilitarian attitude toward each other or toward the universe and encourages them instead to see other people in a non-utilitarian way, and to view the physical world not primarily as something that can be used for human purposes but also through the lens of awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation.
Beyond all definitions of efficiency and productivity, we seek to shape a society in which there is time not only to Do and to Make but there is time also to Be and to Love—time for family, community, and spiritual exploration.
We want this New Bottom Line brought into all aspects of our public life, so that we can begin to reshape our schools and hospitals, our government, our professions, our media in ways that encourage people to see each other as fundamentally valuable and deserving of love and caring. We reject the notion that values should be kept out of public life, and instead seek to champion the values articulated in this statement, and to encourage social change that would foster these values throughout the society.
So, for example, we want schools to be assessed as successful or as failures not only to the extent that they produce students who can read and write but also to the extent that they tend to foster caring human beings who are ethically and ecologically sensitive, who excel at taking care of others and at developing their own inner resources, and who have developed the capacity to respond to the universe with awe and wonder.
We want corporate charters to be dependent on their ability to prove a history of social responsibility as measured by an Ethical Impact Report. We want all of our economic and social institutions to be judged successful to the extent that they foster caring and respect for all peoples and for the planet.
While some of the direction for this thinking has already been developed in Rabbi Michael Lerner’s books Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul, and his bestseller The Left Hand of God, (both of which can be bought here) we believe that a full vision can best emerge when people in their own workplaces and professions can form consciousness raising small groups which will develop concrete and detailed answers to the question: “What would this workplace or profession look like if it did in fact have a ‘New Bottom Line’ like that called for by The Tikkun Community — and how do we begin to take the first steps to struggle for that new bottom line, both in our own workplace and by uniting with others in other workplace and professions to seek support for these changes?” This conversation will become a central task of people in building a new spiritual politics in the coming decades.
There are some who believe that the New Bottom Line we seek can be instituted inside corporations and within the evolving framework of global capital. There are others who believe that it will take a whole new economic system to get a New Bottom Line. We welcome both within our organization — our commitment is to this New Bottom Line, and to encourage anyone who is serious about struggling for that New Bottom Line to be part of our organization as long as they don’t sacrifice that struggle to “realism” (which is a way of saying that they don’t give up the struggle in order to accommodate to the power of the capitalist system as currently constituted).
What matters to us is what happens when the decisions are actually being made: what are the criteria being used? If, in the heat of decision making, the decision makers put the development of loving and caring human beings above the maximization of profits, if they consistently use the criteria of our New Bottom Line specified above (not just in their language but in the actuality of their considerations and deliberations), we don’t care what you call the name of the economic system that is using these criteria or who formally owns the stocks in those companies.
3. SUPPORTING THE STRUGGLES FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND PEACE
We are committed to the efforts to create peace and social justice throughout the world. We insist that hunger and poverty can be eliminated-and that this be given a very high priority in allocating our taxes.
We support the struggles for adequate health care and access to medicine, for child care and elder care, and for other fundamental human rights including the right of working people to meaningful work with a living wage, the right to organize in defense of their own interests, the protection of children from exploitation, and the end to all forms of slavery, forced labor, and sweatshops.
We support efforts to give primacy to ecological and social justice concerns in all global economic arrangements. We align ourselves with the efforts to challenge the kind of globalization that is being forged by the world’s elites of wealth and power. We stand in strong opposition to the use of torture or violence, and all forms of abuse (physical, sexual, and emotional) and insist that children be treated with respect and nonviolence.
We call for an end to imprisoning drug users and for the creation of a sane drug policy that mixes prevention and treatment with a recognition that some of the psychedelic drugs currently illegal have positive medical and/or psychological benefits and should be made responsibly available rather than having their use criminalized. We oppose the War on Drugs and its use as an instrument of assault against young African Americans (jailing them for use of drugs that whites also use without facing similar penalties) and as an excuse to intervene in Colombia and other countries.
We support disarmament both on an international level and on a societal level. As a first step, we call for a global-wide disarmament of all nuclear weapons. We support the enforcement of international human rights. And we support efforts to create an international peace force to intervene with techniques of nonviolence to prevent wars and violence. But we insist that peace depends also on economic security and feelings of respect and open-heartedness toward “the Other,” and that these need to be an intrinsic part of our conception of international assistance and aid.
We join with the Jubilee 2000 in calling for a worldwide agreement to abolish all third world debt and instead call for a guarantee that loans in the future will go directly to the development of education, training, health care, and housing of the people in recipient countries. And we support massive funding from the Western world to fight AIDS, poverty, homelessness, and inadequate education and health care. (Editor’s note: the Domestic and Global Marshall Plan concept was developed after this text was written.)
We are committed to advancing the struggles of women in all spheres of life for full equality. Women’s experience and wisdom must become a shaping force as we build a more liberatory and more nurturing culture and work world. We support the struggles of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people who seek full equality, respect, and opportunity to live their lives without being bound to traditional ideas about gender and sexuality. We see the oppression of gender as inextricably linked to the oppression that takes place within the categories of race and class, so we support those who are seeking to build healing in all three realms simultaneously.
We call upon the United States to move toward an honest recognition, repentance and reparations for slavery, for post-slavery segregation, and for the long history of oppression and racism toward peoples of color, most particularly with regard to African Americans but also including its treatment of people from Mexico, Central and South America, its treatment of Japanese, Chinese and other Pacific Island immigrants, and its treatment of American Indians. In this regard a society-wide strategy must include education of the entire population on the realities of how racism functions in our society, as well as an honest and serious plan to provide a meaningful rectification of this history of oppression (which should include, for example, reparations to African Americans and to Native Americans).
Similarly, we call for reparations and rights of return (where doing so would not cause even greater levels of suffering) for all populations around the world who have been forced from their homes by war and oppression (we think particularly of the people of Central Africa, the people of Chechnya, the people of Tibet, and tens of millions of other refugees around the world). Where reparations or return are not the best means to rectify past oppression without creating new forms of dislocation and oppression, we commit to other strategies to provide rectification-and these must not only be economic, but involve public and systematic atonement on the part of societies that have materially benefited from the misuse of or oppression of others. This same principle should be applied in matters of class oppression as well as racial oppression.
We don’t seek here to list all forms of oppression that must end-that laundry list concept of politics usually leads nowhere. So we will resist the efforts of some to join our community and spend their time adding new issues to our list of oppression and claiming that somehow we are oppressing someone or some group if we didn’t mention them at this point. That kind of discourse is usually a way to avoid taking any of these principles seriously, by spending all of one’s time debating them.
On the other hand, we do at least want to give special attention in this founding statement to what has become a particularly egregious focus of right-wing energy: the assault on gays and lesbians. Tikkun magazine has long championed the transformation of Jewish practices that demean queers or that limit marriage to heterosexual unions. The NSP and the Tikkun community will oppose all use of state power, in the United States, Canada, England, Israel and other countries, to disadvantage queer relationships or to limit marriage or family to traditional heterosexual forms. We honor those who are developing what they call a “queer politics” that forces all of us to rethink gender relationships, even while rejecting any attempts to privilege any one approach as “the politically correct way” for sexual life. Our community also affirms support and honor to heterosexuality as an equally valid form of family and marriage. We seek to create a society that is supportive of families and of people making and sustaining long-term loving commitments, and we will do our best to support people to work through the inevitable difficulties that emerge in all loving relationships.
And we also will provide emotional support to those who have chosen to remain single or who have chosen communal forms of living. For those who are single but don’t wish to be, we believe that a community of caring people should give time and attention to helping such people find appropriate partners of whatever gender they seek, rather than abandoning them to face the problem of finding a partner as a kind of lone entrepreneur in a marketplace of relationships. Similarly, we will give warm welcome to bisexuals and those who are cross-gendered.
We also want to emphasize the central importance we give to creating a loving and spiritually rich environment for children, recognizing their right to have education that is stimulating and meaningful, to be involved in loving and caring relationships, and to be introduced to the spiritual practices and social transformation movements that can enrich their lives. In part, this means learning from our children, trusting them, and giving them opportunities to shape their own paths. In part, this means that we have an obligation to impart to the young (and not just our own children) all that we have learned about the joys and excitements of life, the joys and excitement of intellectual activity and the life of the mind, the joy of learning skills and disciplines. We have a responsibility to keep children from inflicting lasting hurt on themselves or others. Within that context of responsibility, we also wish to affirm pleasure, not only for ourselves but also for our children, as an important aspect of life. Similarly, we wish to create contexts for them to learn the wisdom of our elders, the wisdom and great knowledge accumulated in science and humanities. We also need to provide forms of support that show them respect and caring, affirm their right to deepen their own knowledge, affirm their right to pleasure and sexual and spiritual fulfillment, and provide opportunities to use their creativity in service to the community.
4. PEACE, JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION FOR ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
We are committed to full and complete reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinian people within the context of social justice for the Palestinians and security for Israel. We call upon Israel to end the Occupation, to return settlers to the pre-1967 borders of Israel (providing them with decent housing) or allowing settlers to stay in the West Bank but only by renouncing Israeli citizenship and agreeing to live as law-abiding citizens of a Palestinian state subject to Palestinian laws and courts and without any recourse to Israeli courts or Israeli military intervention, and to take major (though not total) responsibility for Palestinian refugees. We oppose Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and we insist that Israel adopt a strategy based on open-heartedness toward the Palestinians, repentance for past misdeeds, reparation, and genuine acknowledgement of the ways that some Israelis were oppressive, murderous, and oblivious to the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people. We call for an end to the teachings in Jewish and Israeli schools and media that demean or demonize the Palestinian people; instead we seek to replace those with teachings that emphasize the humanity and goodness of the Palestinian people, Arabs and Muslims. Although we affirm Israel as a Jewish state side by side with Palestine, we believe that all non-Jews in Israel, including most importantly Arab or Palestinian citizens of Israel, must have full civil rights in Israel and equal economic entitlements to any Israeli who has served in the army.
We call upon the Palestinian people to acknowledge the right of Jews to maintain their own homeland in the pre-1967 borders of the state of Israel, with Jewish control over the Jewish section of Jerusalem (including French Hill and Mt. Scopus and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City) and the Western Wall, and unimpeded access to the cemetery on the Mount of Olives. We call upon the Palestinian people to stop acts of terror against Israel and to listen and heed the growing number of Palestinian voices that are calling for a strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience. We call upon Palestinians to end all teachings in their schools and media that demean or demonize the Jewish people or Israel and to replace those with teachings that emphasize the humanity and goodness of the Jewish people.
We recognize that some Palestinians will respond by pointing out the structural violence inherent in the presence of the Israeli Occupation and the settlements. We agree with these points, but still believe that the breakthrough necessary to free Palestinians from Occupation will only come when the Israeli people feel enough safety to contemplate arrangements based on trust. Just as Israelis must demonstrate that they see Palestinians as created in the image of God and deserving of full respect, so the Palestinians must demonstrate that they see Israelis as created in the image of God and are deserving of full respect.
Both sides need to recognize a need for repentance for past deeds that were hurtful and oppressive. Jews must understand why Palestinians were fearful that the more highly organized and politically sophisticated Zionist movement that began to emerge in the period might lead to the disenfranchisement of Palestinians, and why Palestinians today feel that “the right to return” to their homes is no different from the right of return that was at the basis of Zionism.
Similarly, Palestinians need to acknowledge their own role in helping create the conflict by their armed resistance to Jewish immigration to Palestine in the years when Jews were being annihilated or when Jews were crawling out of the death camps and crematoria of Europe.
Telling the Other Side’s Story
This is just a sample of the stories we must learn from each other so that we can build reconciliation of the heart, based on genuine compassion for each other. Political arrangements cannot be trusted until there is a serious commitment on both sides to compassionate listening to each other. It’s only when both sides can tell the other side’s story with compassion and conviction, and both sides recognize that in some important respects both sides are wrong and both sides are right that we can hope to move to a real reconciliation of the heart.
All the fancy agreements and all the political maneuvering are secondary to developing an open-heartedness and generosity in both peoples to the legitimate needs of the other. We believe an important step in that process is for both sides to learn how to tell the other side’s narrative in a convincing and compassionate way. This has been done in part in Rabbi Michael Lerner’s book Healing Israel/Palestine, and in the works of various Israeli and Palestinian thinkers who are able to transcend their own community’s demand for proving that their side is the “righteous victim” and the other side is “the evil oppressor.”
We call upon the United States and other world powers to intervene with all their influence and economic power both to stop the cycle of violence and to achieve the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza (minus the most minimal border alterations), an end to the Occupation, and an end to acts of terror. We will support efforts to convince the United States to condition aid to Israel on the end of the Occupation. We call upon the peoples of the world to come to Israel and Palestine and actively interpose ourselves between the warring sides to provide protection to civilians on both sides. And we call for all parties to adopt the nonviolent philosophies and strategies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
Why We Support a Two-State Solution
Although we do not support any form of nationalism as an ultimate good, we understand why, in this historical moment, the Jewish people need a state of our own. With memories of the murder and genocide of our people still fresh and the perception that we would have been far less vulnerable had we had a state and an army-with the persistence of virulent anti-Semitism in the world today-the Jewish people cannot be asked to be the first to voluntarily eliminate the protections of the nation state. That’s why, at this point in time, the NSP and the Tikkun Community is supporting a two-state rather than a bi-national solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis, even though some members of our community believe that such a bi-national state is the only way to achieve social justice for Palestinians.
After what Jews have been through, it is not reasonable to expect them to be the first to give up the protections of an armed state. On the other hand, we see nationalism as a perverting influence in Jewish life-and one that must be overcome. So we do hope Israel will become one of the first 20 percent of countries of the world to overcome the trappings of national chauvinism, militarism, and excessive focus on boundaries—say, for example, after the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, India, Pakistan, England, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt, Poland, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Africa have pioneered that path by abolishing borders and accomplishing full disarmament. Until then, the Jewish people have a right to their own state, which we hope will eventually move in the direction of confederation with Palestine and Jordan for economic and political cooperation.
What is the Full Meaning of a Jewish State?
A state with many Jews in it is not a Jewish state unless it embodies an ethos of love and justice and becomes a living proof that healing and transformation is possible. Israel is not yet a Jewish state in this sense, so we will support the forces that will help it evolve in that direction. To make it possible for Jewish values of love, justice, and peace to triumph inside its own society, and to open the possibility that Israelis could rediscover the deep spiritual truths of Judaism, Israel will have to eliminate all forms of religious control of the state, end all religious coercion, and allow people to find their own religious and spiritual path, giving equal rights and treatment to non-Jews and to secular Jews.
We oppose all attempts by some sectors of the Orthodox world to use the Israeli government as a vehicle to impose their own particular perspective about Judaism, including who is “really” Jewish, what counts as a legitimate wedding, divorce or conversion, etc. We support instead the fostering of a climate of mutual tolerance and respect among all sectors of the Jewish people. We reject all practices that lead to unequal treatment of Palestinians or other non-Jewish minorities within the State of Israel.
So, when we affirm preserving “the Jewish character” of Israel, we do not mean merely a demographically Jewish state but a state which lives up to the highest Jewish values of “love the neighbor,” “love the stranger,” and “justice, justice shalt thou pursue.” In the short term, the greatest obstacle to the creation of a state living up to the values of an ethically and spiritually renewed Judaism are the Occupation, the settlements, and what is described in Michael Lerner’s book Jewish Renewal as the “Settler Judaism” mentality.
Settler Judaism sees the world as always against the Jews, always ready to hurt us-and hence rejects universal ethical standards and equates “good” with “what’s good for the Jews.” Similarly, settler Judaism assumes that Jewish interests can be achieved through the use of power and coercion, the obliteration of those with whom we disagree, and believes that Jews have some special right to the Land of Israel that allows them to be insensitive to others who live there.
The greatest obstacle to Jewish values in Israel as in the United States lies in the triumph of the ethos of selfishness and materialism. Those who respect Judaism and wish to see it retain its integrity in a Jewish state must reject the vision of an Israel that finds its ultimate mission in becoming “the globalization miracle and new technology and finance headquarters of the Middle East.” Rather, we support those who favor a genuinely Jewish society built on principles of love, justice, peace, and caring for others, including non-Jewish others. This path requires rejecting those themes and currents within the Jewish tradition or interpretations of Jewish history which tend to bring out chauvinism or a narrow focus on the well-being of Jews to the exclusion of others, and instead renewing Judaism to focus on those parts of the tradition and Jewish history that bring out in Jews greater empathy for others, and develop the capacities of Jews as loving, generous, open-hearted and compassionate human beings. And it is this same kind of renewal that we support in every other religious and spiritual tradition.
5. A SPIRITUAL MOVEMENT
The world we want to see cannot be created solely by external economic and political changes. We wish to see the democratization of our economic and political institutions, and a redistribution of wealth so that all people can share equally in the benefits of this planet. But as we indicated above, the sources of our worldwide economic and political problems are not solely external in nature, but reflect also distortions in how we experience each other and ourselves. So work on changing our inner selves and our ideas about the world is an important aspect of changing the world-not a diversion from the healing that is necessary, but an important component of it.
We need to engage in activity that aims at fostering a new consciousness and the development of an inner life that is not merely private and individual in nature, but is rather both social and spiritual in nature-an inner life that is also an interconnected life with other human beings and with the Unity of All Being.
In short, the political must have a spiritual dimension. This is a dimension of life that is rarely given attention in social change movements, but it is a central concern of the Tikkun Community.
Among the central building blocks of such a spiritual dimension:
- the development of a personal spiritual practice such as meditation or prayer
- the practice of generosity and sharing what we have with others, compassion toward others and toward ourselves, including the openhearted acceptance of our own and other’s flawsdeveloping the habit of affirming the being of others even when we may disagree with some of their beliefs or practices
- careful attention to one’s speech so as to not say hurtful things towards others
- joyfulness and the affirmation of pleasure
- treasuring our bodies through conscious eating and exercising (but without politically correct guilt trips)
- the practice of forgiveness and repentance
- giving to give and not to get
- letting go of fantasies that we can control everything, and recognizing that there is enough and that we are enough.
We are particularly sensitive to the ways that social movements in the past have used their own ideals as clubs with which to beat up themselves and those who are not part of the “in” group, so we want to insist that our movement have a compassionate attitude toward its own members as well as toward those who do not agree with us, while simultaneously rejecting a mindless moral relativism which makes everything OK or acceptable. Building this balance between compassion and striving for transformation requires practical wisdom, and so our movement rejects the anti-leadership tendencies that have often been associated with progressive politics and embraces the notion of spiritual leadership based on inner depth, compassionate understanding, practical wisdom, and a powerful sense of humor.
WHY CREATE A NEW ORGANIZATION?
There are many organizations doing good work in each of the areas discussed above, and we intend to support all of them. We especially encourage the creation and strengthening of truly transnational grassroots movements focused not only on resisting corporate globalism but also on creating a new democratic “globalization”-a planetary movement that is not controlled either by national governments or by corporations. We especially support efforts to require that corporations serve the public good such as the proposed Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
What does not exist is an organization that brings all these concerns together within the context of a unified worldview (there are many groups who have laundry lists of demands, but these demands do not flow from a shared theoretical perspective). As a result, many people involved in one or another of the concerns described above don’t really recognize themselves as part of a larger movement for healing and transformation of the planet, don’t see these others as their allies, and don’t inject into their own activities a larger understanding that could deepen their specific important work The Tikkun Community can provide that larger framework.
We are people who share the basic ideas of an Emancipatory Spirituality as described in Michael Lerner’s Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul and his The Left Hand of God which provide our basic framework.
We also see as foundational the writings of Peter Gabel, particularly as articulated in The Bank Teller and Other Essays on the Politics of Meaning, Judith Plaskow’s Standing Again at Sinai and Arthur Waskow’s Down to Earth Judaism. We draw upon the wisdom of many teachers, including the work of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Zalman Schachter Shalomi, Marcia Prager and Rachel Adler, Rumi and St. Francis and the Kabbalists, Susannah Heschel and Lawrence Kushner, Art Green and Judith Antonelli, Jerry Mander and David Korten, Ken Wilber and Jim Wallis, Thomas Merton and Matthew Fox and Zygmunt Bauman, Thich Nhat Hanh and The Dalai Lama, the Ishbitzer Rebbe and Teilhard de Chardin, Mordecai Kaplan and Adrienne Rich, Roger Gottlieb and Walter Bruegemann, and the work of Catholic liberation theologians, feminist theologians, Socially Engaged Buddhists, and many more.
What the NSP and Tikkun Community seeks to offer is a vision that positions the quest for economic and social justice, peace and ecological sanity within the framework of a spiritual consciousness and a practice of open-heartedness, generosity, caring for others and outpouring of loving kindness. The Tikkun community is for anyone who shares the perspective articulated here.
The Tikkun Community’s major organizational contribution to the worldwide movement for social justice and spiritual well-being will be:
- To provide a support mechanism for people who wish to bring this new way of thinking into the world. When people try to do this by themselves, they often find themselves burning out or becoming “realistic,” that is, adjusting to the frame of reference of the larger society. We will provide support to each other to remain focused on a larger and more utopian vision.
- To do consciousness-raising in the larger world and in social change movements, so that they can begin to incorporate our perspective and they strengthen their ability to survive the burnout, cynicism, and despair that often debilitate those who wish for social change.
- To change the intellectual framework within which most Americans view contemporary social reality and their own possibilities for a fulfilling life.
- To provide ongoing education and the development of theory and practice that could become models for social healing. We do not intend to replace or duplicate existing social change movements. But there are many arenas even in those movements where a more coherent worldview, and an organization linking them intellectually and spiritually would only strengthen rather than detract from their important work.
- To provide a context within which older and seasoned activists and those involved in social healing in their work can interact with the new and exciting generation of younger activists-and both can learn from each other.
- To be a national think-tank for social change movements-a think-tank that can help them move beyond narrow economic frameworks and begin to incorporate a spiritual wisdom and framework both in their conceptualizing the issues they address and in building a support community for their own activists.
- To be an information-gathering network that can provide an alternative to the polling done by establishment-oriented groups-and to ask the questions that reflect a psychological and spiritual sophistication rarely brought to the task of understanding what is happening in our society.
We see the educational, consciousness-raising, and linking work we do as a critical contribution to social healing.
We see ourselves as a corps of spiritual transformers-that is, a cadre of people who share a fundamentally similar perspective and wish to work more effectively by supporting each other, learning from each other’s experience, and more deeply internalizing the ideas and ideals we hold. This is one reason why we place a great deal of emphasis on agreement with the details of this founding document-because intellectual coherence is only possible if we start from the same place.
Like a new kind of non-sectarian spiritual Order, perhaps like the Franciscans fused with a Hasidic sect fused with the skills of a guild for social change and maybe even the willingness to commit to taking care of each other that is manifested by the Jesuits, the Franciscans, and by Skull and Bones and by some Native American tribes, we will make a life-long commitment to supporting the people who join and stay involved in the Tikkun Community, and do what we can to make sure that we help them in any way we can. For some, that may mean helping someone get a job or promotion, for others it may mean helping someone get the health care they need, or introducing someone to a life partner, or advancing their literary or political career, or assisting them in playing a leadership role. The commitment is based on the recognition that as members of The Tikkun Community people are themselves making a commitment to be involved in using our own talents, skills, and life energies to promote the kind of healing and transformation envisioned in this Core Vision. So of course we are going to want to do everything we reasonably and morally and legally can do to help each other advance through our lives, and give each other companionship, love, caring, generosity and compassion as we face life’s challenges from the time we are in college to the time we may be facing aging and death. It is this kind of commitment to each other that can only be made real by our own individual actions and which becomes the ultimate glue to holding together a vanguard of love.
We see Tikkun magazine, along with the Tikkun website and Tikkun email group, as the primary vehicle through which we can communicate with each other about the new thinking and activity that the Tikkun Community develops. As a community that is being called into existence by the efforts of Tikkun magazine, we will give special attention to building the readership of Tikkun, using it as a vehicle for our discussions, and supporting it with time and money.
So How Do I Get Involved?
There are many ways to be involved in the NSP and the Tikkun Community. We imagine that in a few years these will be the answers some of us will be giving about what we’ve been doing to build the Tikkun Community:
- Some of us are seeking to bring these ideas into our professional or workplace contexts and to campaign for a “New Bottom Line.”
- We are creating groups of like-minded people at our annual meetings of professional associations, at national conventions of unions and political parties, or at the national gatherings of our religious communities.
- Some of us are business people introducing these ideas into our businesses and experimenting with new ways to work-or we are developing communities of people who infuse their philanthropic activities with this kind of orientation.
- Some of us are working in foundations and some of us are working in universities and some of us are working in media and some of us are working in local churches and synagogues and mosques, and wherever we are, we are raising the kinds of issues raised in this founding statement.
- Some of us are creating local Tikkun communities — essentially chapters or salons of the Tikkun Community in which we can work to educate people in our local areas about this perspective and deepen our understanding of our principles in monthly conversations. Once chapters are formed, you will be able to choose to belong to the Tikkun Community as an individual member or as part of a local chapter.
- Some of us are participating by talking about these ideas in every context in which we find ourselves and by convincing others to read Tikkun magazine
- Some of us are students who are seeking to create campus chapters of the Tikkun Community.
- Some of us are engaged in solidarity work with the Israeli peace movement or in developing local initiatives to challenge the Occupation. Some of us are developing teach-ins about Israel-Palestinian peace, and in other ways challenging the mainstream interpretation of that struggle.
- Some of us are bringing these ideas into the anti-globalization, ecological, and social justice movements or affinity groups of which we are part. Some of us are trying to do that in the Democratic Party, the Natural Law Party, the Green Party and other political parties.
- Some of us are intellectuals working in academia or in policy institutes or in media and seeking to foster an understanding of this perspective.
- Some of us are artists, poets, writers, musicians and others who will be participating by using our skills and talents to advance the consciousness described here.
- Some of us are challenging local and national media, insisting that they recognize the distorted and cynical nature of their presentations, and educating the public to alternative ways to think about reality.
- Some of us are retirees who are making phone calls and writing letters to the media or to neighbors about these ideas.
- Some of us are trying to influence foundations to adopt and support this perspective. Others of us are involved in fundraising projects to support the Tikkun Community and fund educational work. Some of us are trying to change the way people think about philanthropy, or the way they use their charitable donations-so that they become a force to convince social change movements to incorporate this broader perspective.
- Some of us are working in communities of seniors and developing spiritual eldering projects to support the ways that retired people can provide spiritual leadership for the society. Others are working in schools and pushing for a new bottom line there. Still others are working to get the Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the ballots of local and state elections (requiring corporations to get a new charter which would only be rewarded if they could prove a history of social responsibility). Some of us are helping shape a spiritually oriented political party, while others are working within existing parties.
For all of us, the NSP and the Tikkun community is a place where we can talk about these ideas and give each other mutual support for being unequivocally utopian and committed to large scale Tikkun Olam (transformation of the world). We get this nurturance through Tikkun magazine, the Tikkun website and email group, and through annual Tikkun Community national gatherings.
We hope you join us. To build the NSP and the TIKKUN Community we need your financial support—by joining us here. Donations are tax-deductible. Please also write us into your will as a bequest to a non-profit. To serve members of this organization, we need a paid staff, and the economic meltdown of Western societies has left us without enough money to do much of the good we could do if we had organizers and a paid staff. So please put your money where your heart is—and if what we say makes sense to you, be generous and stretch a little to support us financially.
Meanwhile, we pray for guidance and wisdom, humor and love as we build this exciting venture.
Please take the time also to read our Spiritual Covenant With America.
You can join online at www.spiritualprogressives.org/join or contact us at: Tikkun Community/NSP, c/o Tikkun Magazine, 2342 Shattuck Avenue, Suite 1200, Berkeley, CA 94704. Tel: (call 510 644 1200 during business hours 9:00 a.m. -5:30 p.m. M-F, Pacific Time). Email: RabbiLerner,email@example.com