Searching America’s Soul

Progressive Values e-letter October 25, 2013
Ideas we need to talk about        HTML version

Searching America's Soul

All of the various fields of human inquiry -- theology and philosophy and morality and psychology  - meet rather
beautifully in politics. And sometimes I wonder if politics isn't exactly that,it's the taking of all the sort of great ineffable and trying to make them have some meaning in the actually historical
moment on earth in which we live.
Tony Kushner - writer of the movie "Lincoln" - interview with Bill Moyers

To all Americans -
The shutdown debacle pulled back the curtain and revealed some deep
dark issues at the core of our crisis in American democracy. There
has been an outpouring of commentary from diverse voices on a broad
range of topics within this complex scenario raising issues that have
been under the radar until now. It's now indisputable that our
American democracy is in the greatest peril since the Civil War and
change must come effectively and rapidly from the grassroots up.

Especially revealing was coverage, particularly via social media, of
the values and ideas driving the political posturing and maneuvering.
The shutdown had little to do with the actual debt or deficit and
everything to do with a narrow ideology, toxic certitude, delusions
of superiority and lust for power . Widespread consensus that this
conservative extremist worldview is dangerous gives me the moral
energy needed to continue seeking dialogue and understanding among
the citizenry.

It has been common knowledge for some time that the Republican Party
is controlled by its Tea Party faction. An entrenched hatred for
secular government and liberals is a major force in the Tea Party

Ever-present racism and the threat of violence have grown
exponentially since the election of Barack Obama as President. The
passion of some in that fringe element is rooted in the conviction
that America is a "Christian nation" and should be ruled by Biblical
principles. This movement is called Dominionism or Reconstructionism
and has been part of the culture for many years. "End times" theology
is often a part of this mindset and came to the public's attention
during the candidacies of Gov. Sarah Palin and Gov. Rick Perry.

The fact that this faction calls themselves "Values Voters" while
they help the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, is
infuriating. Their false labeling of progressives as being "morally
deficient" and "depraved" makes me furious.

Close observers of the moral dimensions of politics have been
concerned about this right wing movement since its emergence in the
early 1980s. General awareness and alarm have been fairly low until
recently. There are many individuals and organizations within the
progressive movement and mainline Christians that are deeply involved
in confronting the hypocrisy and cruelty of this extremist ideology
but a cohesive strategy has not yet emerged. Liberals, Democrats and
Progressives have long been inept at articulating the moral values
grounding their political philosophy.

Americans treasure their democracy (even when complaining about the
government) and the principles upon which it founded. Freedom of, and
freedom from, religion along with free speech are precious to us.
Tolerance for a wide range of opinions and cultural diversity is an
American characteristic.

However, when a small faction - made up of big money, skilled
operatives, "grassroots" organizing and Members of Congress who are
motivated by this extremist right wing ideology - amasses enough
power to shut down the government, a line has been crossed.  (see
Robert Reich's comments at left).

It's critically important that citizens learn about this insurgency
and organize to fight back so that American democracy stays firmly
rooted in its inherently progressive values. There are many
components of this crisis with faith and values playing a major role.

The study of moral politics has been my priority for the past eight
years. I've collected more information than I ever thought possible
when this project began and have posted selected articles on the
internet for citizen education. All are welcome to use this body of
knowledge and those progressives with a bent for political philosophy
are strongly urged to dig in.
With audacious faith, Phyllis Stenerson

We must move ahead with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   * * *

There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A
person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that
diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a
nation's inner core. America's soul is in a fragile state...We see
that in the near hatred between the Republicans and Democrats,
between liberals and conservatives, between free-thinkers and
evangelicals that continues to fester...we now have a public that
cannot discern lies from truth... Crimes Against the Soul of America
by Carolyn Myss, published on Huffington Post,September 5, 2009 

Despite such terminology as "fiscal cliff" and "debt ceiling," the
great debate taking place in Washington now has relatively little to
do with financial issues. It is all about ideology. It is all about
economic winners and losers in American society. It is all about the
power of Big Money. It is all about the soul of America...We are
entering a pivotal moment in the modern history of our country. Do
the elected officials in Washington stand with ordinary Americans --
working families, children, the elderly, the poor -- or will the
extraordinary power of billionaire campaign contributors and Big
Money prevail? The American people, by the millions, must send
Congress the answer to that question. The Soul of America by Senator Bernie Sanders,
published by Common Dreams, January 9, 2013

* * *

We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness,
our selfishness and our pride. Deliver us from the hypocrisy of
attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.
Chaplain Barry C. Black in one of his daily opening prayers in United States Senate,
New York Times,October 7, 2013

Go to for articles,
excerpts, quotations and more. To receive this e-letter directly, go
to bottom left of home page and sign up.

We are, or at least we used to be,a nation of moral ideals.
Reclaiming America's Soul by Paul Krugman,New York Times, April 24, 2009

Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the
public good.
Why We Love Politics by David Brooks,New York Times, November 22, 2012

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world
revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of
values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society
to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit
motives and property rights, are considered more important than
people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and
militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do not retreat to the convenience of being overwhelmed.
Ruth W. Messinger

We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better
and more just world for our children.
CÉsar ChÁvez

Politics is what we create out of what we do, what we hope for,
what we dare to imagine.
Paul Wellstone

Religion without humanity is poor human stuff.
Sojourner Truth

From Robert Reich, posted on Facebook:
Suppose a relatively small group financed by a handful of
billionaires (1) takes over state governments in order to redistrict,
gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise
suppress the votes of the majority; (2) secretly bankrolls candidates
for these safe seats who pledge to shrink and dismember the
government; (3) then, once these candidates are elected, has them
shut down the government in order to repeal or amend laws the
plotters dislike; (4) then forces the nation to default on its debts
and thereby throws the economy into a tailspin in order to get their
way; and (5) runs a vast PR campaign to convince the American public
of big lies about laws the plotters dislike or policies they seek.
Would you call this an attempted coup d'etat? If not, what would you
call it? And what would you do about it?  Robert Reich, Facebook, October 7, 2013

Articles posted by topic include
- Seditious conspiracy
- Shutdown crisis
- Right wing religious extremism
- America's Soul
- Government's moral authority

The Spiritual Crisis Underlying American Politics By John Amodeo,, October 14, 2013    -
The shutdown of good governance by Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, October 6 , 2013
A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning by Sheryl Gay Solberg and - Mike McIntire, New York Times, October 5, 2013
Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown,, October 9, 2013   -
Ignore the Spin: This Debt Ceiling Crisis is Not Politics as Usual by John Light,, October 9, 2013   The Radicalization of the GOP is the Most Important Political Story Today by Joshua Holland, Bill, October 10, 2013
Many in G.O.P. Offer Theory: Default Wouldn't Be That Bad by Jonathan Weisman, New York Times, October 8, 2013
The American Public's Shocking Lack of Policy Knowledge is a Threat to Progress and Democracy By Justin Doolittle,Truthout, October 12, 2013 
Racism and Cruelty Drive GOP Health Care Agenda By Robert Scheer, Truthdig, October 13, 2013
The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government by Chris Hedges,, posted on, October 7, 2013
How Christian Delusions Are Driving the GOP Insane by Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, October 9, 2013

Recent e-letters

-  Status quo or change? 9/19/13
-  The battle for America's soul 10/4/13 

Phyllis Stenerson, Paideia LLC
- -
Paideia (pu-di'uh) is an ancient Greek philosophy of educating for
citizenship to create an ideal society

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