The Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) was founded in 2005 by Tikkun magazine editor Michael Lerner, who now serves as co-chair of the organization along with Cornel West and Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun whom NSP describes as a “longtime social justice advocate.” As of September 2011, NSP had chapters in 35 U.S. states as well as in Canada, Australia, Costa Rica, and India.
Citing God's declaration in the Torah that “the whole earth is Mine,” NSP's work rests on the foundational premise that “from the divine perspective there is no such thing as a right to private property” for human beings; rather, says the organization, all “inequalities of wealth [should] get abolished.”
Condemning “the ethos of selfishness and materialism in American society,” NSP seeks to “chang[e] the Bottom Line in America” – calling for institutions and social practices to be judged not by “the extent [to which] they maximize money and power,” but rather by how much they “maximize love and caring, ethical and ecological sensitivity and behavior, kindness and generosity, non-violence and peace.” Moreover, NSP rejects “the fantasies of meritocracy” which “obscur[e] the structural reality that only a handful of people in any given enterprise” can succeed under capitalism, “given the hierarchical structure of rewards that concentrate power and success in the hands of a relatively small part of the population.”
By NSP's reckoning, much of the “massive suffering” results from the “widened ... gap between the rich and the poor” in American society, which “doesn’t provide the minimum material and health care benefits” necessary for a decent quality of life. To address this problem, NSP outlines a “prophetic agenda” that would institute:
A living wage: guaranteeing that every worker could support his or her family with a single income
An anti-poverty program: consisting of wealth redistribution, an extension of unemployment benefits, an end to “tax cuts for millionaires,” and massive spending on public “job-creating programs to repair the nation’s roads, schools and rail and water systems”
Family support networks: NSP calls for the proliferation of support groups, “model[ed] on the 12-step programs,” to help families resolve their interpersonal problems. But these groups would have a political component as well, fostering “a progressive spiritual politics” in such realms as “social justice,” “peace,” and “ecological responsibility.” NSP urges Democrats to create such networks, so as to help make the Democratic Party “one of the most powerful forces in American political history.”
Government-run health care: Rejecting the “conservative” vision which “place[s] private profit over public need,” NSP supports “a single-payer national health care plan,” claiming that such a system would “decrease the total amount spent on health care by the U.S.”
NSP maintains that the key to international peace is “winning the hearts and minds of people” by treating them with “caring” and “respect.” In this regard, the organization claims that “[t]he United States has a long way to go to win the world’s trust back.” It believes that the U.S. has “organized global trade agreements that work to enrich the rich and to further impoverish the poor.” This has allegedly spawned “increasingly global resentment” against “the ills created by capitalist globalization.” Moreover, NSP identifies capitalism as a root cause of Islamic “fundamentalism in the third world,” a phenomenon which can be viewed as “a form of resistance” to the free market's depredations. This, says NSP, explains “why at least some people would be attracted to Al Queda [sic] or other violent forms of resistance to the globalization of capital.”
To advance the cause of peace, NSP counsels the U.S. to openly express “a willingness to atone for past misdeeds” and “to approach other countries in a spirit of cooperation and repentance”:
The U.S. should lead “all the advanced industrial societies” in launching “a Global Marshall Plan that would dedicate hundreds of billions of dollars each year for the next thirty years to the cause of eliminating hunger, homelessness, inadequate education, and inadequate health care in under-developed countries.” Every American citizen should be required to “give at least two years of national service” to this plan.
The U.S. should “use the full weight of its resources and power to push Israel to end the Occupation of the West Bank and to then fund the development of a Palestinian state that is economically and politically viable, while [leading] an international cartel committed to providing compensation to Palestinian refugees for their years of refugee-hood ...”
The U.S. should adopt a Social Responsibiity Amendment, where every corporation doing business in America, and with an annual income exceeding $50 million, would “receive a new corporate charter every ten years.” These charters “will only be granted to corporations who can prove a history of social responsibility” as judged by “Social Responsibility Grand Juries composed of 25 citizens.” (Click here for further details.)
While NSP officially welcomes people of all faiths to participate in its endeavors, it is harshly critical of “right-wing forces” and “religious reactionaries” who “manipulate the language of God in the service of an oppressive status quo” characterized by “patriarchy,” “authoritarian forms of government,” militarism, and “hard-lines against homosexuals and other 'outsiders.'” “[A] serious commitment to God, religion and spirit,” says NSP, “should manifest in social activism aimed at peace, universal disarmament, social justice with a preferential option for the needs of the poor and the oppressed, a commitment to end poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and inadequate health care all around the world, and a commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, [and] environmental protection and repair ...”