Progressives at Washington Conference Seek to Inspire Spiritual Activism

May 19, 2006

Source: Religion News Service

On May 19, 2006 Religion News Service reported, "After wandering the political desert for nearly 40 years, organizers of a 'Spiritual Activism' conference here [in Washington D.C.] this week said that the religious left is taking tentative steps toward the Promised Land. 'We're talking about first, baby steps here,' said Rabbi Michael Lerner, head of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and editor of the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun. For the first time since the Vietnam War, according to Lerner, the 'spiritual' or 'religious' left is building a viable political coalition. The goal is not to tip elections toward Democrats in 2006, or even 2008, but to develop a grass-roots network that all politicians must reckon with for years to come, Lerner said. About 1,200 people from 39 states are attending the gathering, which runs through Saturday (May 20), according to conference organizers. Once here, the sundry peaceniks, green thumbs, poverty busters and civil rights activists were armed with a 'spiritual covenant' and talking points with which to engage elected representatives. They heard speeches by liberal evangelicals like Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourners social justice movement. And they met in small workshops to talk about topics such as global warming, 'moving the movable middle' and 'using feminine principles to change the world.' Lerner, author of the new book 'The Left Hand of God,' said he learned from experience that 'it doesn't matter to whisper in the ears of the powerful.' During the 1990s, the rabbi said, both Bill and Hillary Clinton regularly employed his rhetoric in political speeches. But without an army of activists to lobby lawmakers, words seldom translated into deeds, according to the rabbi. 'It was meaningless,' he said... Lerner wrote the covenant and has said it is partly inspired by Republicans' 1994 'Contract With America.' But instead of the GOP's conservative platform, Lerner's covenant includes liberal measures, such as adding a 'social responsibility' clause to government contracts."