Why We Love Politics

By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, November 22, 2012

We live in an anti-political moment, when many people — young people especially — think politics is a low, nasty, corrupt and usually fruitless business…“Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. The movie portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way. It shows that you can do more good in politics than in any other sphereThe challenge of politics lies precisely in the marriage of high vision and low cunning…Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public good….

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We live in an anti-political moment, when many people — young people especially — think politics is a low, nasty, corrupt and usually fruitless business. It’s much nobler to do community service or just avoid all that putrid noise.

I hope everybody who shares this anti-political mood will go out to see “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. The movie portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way.

It shows that you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere. You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others — if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical.

The challenge of politics lies precisely in the marriage of high vision and low cunning. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gets this point. The hero has a high moral vision, but he also has the courage to take morally hazardous action in order to make that vision a reality.

To lead his country through a war, to finagle his ideas through Congress, Lincoln feels compelled to ignore court decisions, dole out patronage, play legalistic games, deceive his supporters and accept the fact that every time he addresses one problem he ends up creating others down the road.

Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public good. This is a self-restrained movie that celebrates people who are prudent, self-disciplined, ambitious and tough enough to do that work.

The movie also illustrates another thing: that politics is the best place to develop the highest virtues. Politics involves such a perilous stream of character tests: how low can you stoop to conquer without destroying yourself; when should you be loyal to your team and when should you break from it; how do you wrestle with the temptations of fame — that the people who can practice it and remain intact, like Lincoln, Washington or Churchill, are incredibly impressive.

The movie shows a character-building trajectory, common among great politicians, which you might call the trajectory from the Gettysburg Address to the Second Inaugural.

In the Gettysburg phase, a leader expresses grand ideas. This, frankly, is relatively easy. Lots of people embrace grand ideals or all-explaining ideologies. But satisfied with that they become morally infantile. They refuse to compromise, insult their opponents and isolate themselves on the perch of their own solipsism.

But a politician like Lincoln takes the next step in the trajectory. He has to deal with other people. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” does a nice job celebrating an underappreciated art, the art of legislating.

The movie is about pushing the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives. The political operatives Lincoln hires must pay acute attention to the individual congressmen in order to figure out which can be appealed to through the heart and which through the wallet.

Lincoln plays each potential convert like a musical instrument, appealing to one man’s sense of idealism, another’s fraternal loyalty. His toughest job is to get the true believers on his own side to suppress themselves, to say things they don’t believe in order not to offend the waverers who are needed to get the amendment passed.

That leads to the next step in the character-building trajectory, what you might call the loneliness of command. Toward the end of the civil war, Lincoln had to choose between two rival goods, immediate peace and the definitive end of slavery. He had to scuttle a peace process that would have saved thousands of lives in order to achieve a larger objective.

He had to discern the core good, legal equality, among a flurry of other issues. He had to use a constant stream of words, stories, allusions and arguments to cajole people. He had to live with a crowd of supplicants forever wanting things at the door without feeling haughty or superior to them.

If anything, the movie understates how hard politics can be. The moral issue here is a relatively clean one: slavery or no slavery. Most issues are not that simple. The bill in question here is a constitutional amendment. There’s no question of changing this or that subsection and then wondering how much you’ve destroyed the whole package.

Politicians who can navigate such challenges really do emerge with the sort of impressive weight expressed in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. It’s a speech that acknowledges that there is moral ambiguity on both sides. It’s a speech in which Lincoln, in the midst of the fray, is able to take a vantage point above it, embodying a tragic and biblical perspective on human affairs. Lincoln’s wisdom emerges precisely from the fact that he’s damaged goods.

Politics doesn’t produce many Lincolns, but it does produce some impressive people, and sometimes, great results. Take a few hours from the mall. See the movie.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/opinion/brooks-why-we-love-politics.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121123

Spiritual Politics

A Val­ues– and Vision-Based Polit­i­cal Dream by Ben­jamin Morde­cai Ben-Baruch, Tikkun, Win­ter 2011, We need lead­ers and orga­niz­ers to inspire peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties to act on their val­ues and hopes. We need help artic­u­lat­ing our val­ues and vision of the ideal future. Right-wing suc­cesses have been achieved by appeal­ing to peo­ples’ fears, hatreds and prej­u­dices. But the pol­i­tics of hope is stronger than pol­i­tics of fear. Imag­in­ing our future based on our high­est ideals can mobi­lize us to over­come the paral­y­sis of fear and hatred. The pol­i­tics of hope is not issue ori­ented, and peo­ple who share the same val­ues and vision often dis­agree on the issues…We need to go beyond issue-oriented pol­i­tics and the pol­i­tics of fear to a pub­lic dis­course focused on artic­u­lat­ing our vision for the ideal future and what that future would look like. We need a vision of a soci­ety with­out the injus­tices of poverty and social inequal­ity. We need a dream..

Idealism, Conscience And The Spiritual Left by William Horden, Huff­in­g­ton Post, March 1, 2010 …Spir­i­tual Left did not, of course, orig­i­nate with the 60s.…it dates back at least to 1838, when Emer­son and other Tran­scen­den­tal­ists began their quest for a path “away from the old ‘reli­gions of author­ity’ into a new ‘reli­gion of the spirit.’”…sought a first-hand expe­ri­ence of the divine grounded in nature and com­mu­nity rather than insti­tu­tion­al­ized dogma. Rooted deep in the grain of Amer­i­can cul­ture, the Spir­tual Left has long acted as the pro­gres­sive con­science of the nation, cham­pi­oning as it did from its very begin­ning unpop­u­lar causes like abo­li­tion and women’s rights…
While many in the Spir­i­tual Left are polit­i­cally active, many oth­ers eschew direct par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Polit­i­cal Left because it remains locked in a destruc­tive cycle of con­flict with the Polit­i­cal Right…
Amor­phous and anti-authoritarian, the Spir­i­tual Left is per­haps best defined as a bor­der­less asso­ci­a­tion of lead­ers. Free thinkers and inde­pen­dent seek­ers of spir­i­tu­al­ity beyond dogma, its mem­bers engage in–and dis­en­gage from–political activism as a mat­ter of per­sonal con­vic­tion, not ordained group­think…The Polit­i­cal Left will need to return to the moral high ground of pro­gres­sive Amer­i­can thought and give voice to the Amer­i­can con­science of com­pas­sion if it is to recap­ture the imag­i­na­tion and heart of its spir­i­tual coun­ter­part. It has to want to change the world for the bet­ter, not just get elected…

Six Reasons We Can’t Change the Future Without Progressive Religion

Rise of the Religious Left by Charles Blow, New York Times, July 2, 2010

The religious left – An old tradition for a new day by Daniel McKanan , Unitarian Universalist World, Winter 2009

On Ditching Illusion and Building Hope by Dave Belden, Tikkun/Network of Spiritual Progressives, October 30, 2010

Liberals Call for Spiritual Values in Public Policy, The Voice of America, By Susan Logue, Washington, May 24, 2006

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Network of Spiritual Progressives - loving and caring – the new bottom line

NSP was founded in 2005 by three of the most provocative public intellectuals active in the area of religion and American culture.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of TIKKUN magazine, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in Berkeley and San Francisco, CA, and the author of eleven books, including most recently The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right.
Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun and longtime social justice advocate, is the author of more than thirty books, including Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir. In addition to cochairing the Network of Spiritual Progressives, she is the executive director of BenetVision, a research center and clearinghouse for spiritual resources.
Cornel West is currently a professor of religion at Princeton University. Among his several books are Jews and Blacks: A Dialogue on Race, Religion, and Culture in America (with Rabbi Michael Lerner) and Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.

What is Spiritual?

Ethics, aesthetics, love, compassion, creativity, music, altruism, generosity, forgiveness, spontaneity, emergent phenomena, consciousness itself, and any other aspect of reality not subject to empirical verification or measurement. Many scientists are also spiritual: they understand that the scientific method is appropriate for describing regularities in the natural world, but not for understanding all of reality. Those aspects of reality that cannot be reduced to publicly observable and verifiable behavior we call spiritual.

What Is A Spiritual Progressive? (Hint:You don’t have to believe in God or Be Part of a Religion).

YOU are a spiritual progressive if you endorse the New Bottom Line: Institutions, corporations, government policies, legislation, our political system, our health care system, our educational system, our legal system, and even our personal behavior should be judged “efficient,” “productive” and/or “rational” not only to the extent that they maximize money, power, or fame (the OLD Bottom Line) but also to the extent that they maximize or help produce, sustain or enhance our abilities to be loving and kind, generous and caring for others, ethically and ecologically sensitive in our behavior, able to see others as embodiments of the sacred (or as deserving to be treated as ends and not as means to our own ends), and increasingly able to transcend the tendency to look at the physical world merely in utilitarian terms (how can we use it for human purposes) so that we can respond with awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of all that is. You don’t have to believe in God, deny science, or be part of a religion to be a spiritual progressive. Spiritual progressives use the New Bottom Line to assess the value of our economic, political, and social arrangements and seek to do tikkun (heal and transform the world), using tactics and strategies which themselves manifest that new bottom line (e.g. non-violence and non-violent communication). Or to put it in a short sound byte: we support The Caring Society—Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.

Network of Spiritual Progressives Minnesota - founded in 2005 by a group including this website’s editor, Phyllis Stenerson

We are part of a grassroots movement creating a culture of purpose and meaning
deeper than the mere pursuit of money and power.

We are working to We are part of a grassroots movement creating a culture of purpose and meaning
deeper than the mere pursuit of money and power.

We are working to reshape our economic, political, and social life in accord with a new bottom line
of love, compassion, community, fairness, peace, and awe and wonder at the universe.

We invite everyone who believes in the power of love and generosity
to join us in this process of healing and transformation.
reshape our economic, political, and social life in accord with a new bottom line
of love, compassion, community, fairness, peace, and awe and wonder at the universe.

We invite everyone who believes in the power of love and generosity
to join us in this process of healing and transformation.