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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The "spiritual left" speaks

Rabbi Michael Lerner doesn't like the idea that God somehow belongs to the political right. He wants to show that there's a "left hand of God," a "progressive spirituality." Lerner wants people on the left to know they don't have to be embarrassed to raise God questions. For one thing, Lerner says you don't even have to even believe in God or a "higher power" to embrace religion from the left. It's enough to be a "spiritually sensitive" secular person. Well, that's a relief. No bodily mortifications, intensive weekend prayer vigils or Habitat of Humanity housebuilding, or other strenuous stuff. But still — there's work to be done. In an interview with San Francisco Bay Area magazine Common Ground, Lerner lists these as the main immediate priorities facing progressive spiritual people:
  • "We are challenging the Religious Right — and organizing people to stand outside courthouses once a week to demonstrate in favor of an independent judiciary."
  • "What we need is a brand-new bottom line that shapes what corporations are all about."
  • "We need a whole different social reality, so that corporations can only retain their corporate charters if they can prove every ten years to a jury of ordinary citizens that their corporation has demonstrated a satisfactory history of social responsibility."
What a remarkable religious breakthrough. To break the Right's stranglehold on religious discourse, let's set up tribunals of "ordinary citizens" (maybe the Michael Jackson jurors, while they're still in a deliberative mood?) who will decide whether Acme Corporation is meeting the exacting standards of ... Michael Lerner, speaking for progressive spiritual people. Lerner adds:
"Those of us who want to build a politics based on love, generosity and awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation hope to emulate the accomplishments of feminism."
Well, sure. When I ponder those qualities — especially "love, generosity and awe" — my mind immediately goes to feminists. How about we offer leadership positions to the wonderful women scholars at Harvard who worked so hard to get Larry Summers fired because he forgot he was at a college campus and dared to think aloud about how men and women may be different. Let's ask those wonder-infused academics to pass judgment on whether corporations are meeting their "social responsibility." Yes! But first, we need to "challenge the misuse of God and religion by the Religious Right" and "stop blaming secular people for the decline of spiritual values in this society." Both are central to "changing liberal and progressive politics to make it more spiritually centered." First priority: Keep the Senate filibuster intact, so we can keep the judiciary "independent." What's that? You say the religious and spiritual underpinnings of all this aren't immediately clear? Not to worry. You're probably still in the grip of old-paradigm religious thinking — you know, the "higher power" and "God" stuff. As you focus on meeting your social responsibility requirements, your secular spiritual sensitivity will increase. A time will come when it will be easier to suspend disbelief, and ideas that today sound like complete gibberish will make sense. You'll say with excitement, "Rabbi Lerner's speaking in tongues tonight at the community center!" Remember: It may be too late to stop Janice Rogers Brown, but we can certainly make known our faith in matters Supreme — like that impending chief justice opening. So, see you at the courthouse!