This activity is occurring at a time when religious conservatives have gained influence politically and embraced issues that traditionally were championed by the religious left. Evangelicals have made statements on global warming and are working on worldwide AIDS and poverty. While Evangelicals for Social Action has long been active on social justice issues, a much wider group of evangelicals appears to be gaining traction and visibility on a variety of social causes. In addition, issues such as immigration and poverty have drawn religious groups into partnerships across conservative-liberal lines.
Why It Matters
Terms such as values, morality and Christianity have come to be popularly identified with a Republican partisan view in contemporary American politics. More voices, and more prominent voices, are objecting to this association. With Democrats now in control of both houses of Congress, liberal religious voices are pushing for action on issues they care about.
• Michael Lerner is a rabbi who is editor of Tikkun magazine and national co-chairman of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. His most recent book, The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right, was a best seller. Contact 510-528-6250, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Jim Wallis is founder and editor of Sojourners and author of The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America (2008). Contact through Tim King, 202-745-4636 or email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
• George Lakoff is co-founder and senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute, which is “dedicated to strengthening our democracy by providing intellectual support to the progressive community.” It has sponsored conferences for spiritual progressives. He is also a professor of linguistics at the University of California-Berkeley and author of Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate – The Essential Guide for Progressives. Contact email@example.com.
• Tim Carpenter is national director of Progressive Democrats of America, a co-sponsor of the Conference on Spiritual Activism. It provides links to chapters across the country. It’s based in Phoenix, Ariz. Contact 877-368-9221, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Ron Sider is president and founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, which has been promoting social justice issues among evangelicals for more than 30 years. Contact 610-645-9390, email@example.com.
• Ahmed Nassef is chairman of the board of directors of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America and editor of MWU!, an online magazine. The Progressive Muslim Union posts its statement of principles. Contact 646-485-1163, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Alexia Kelley is executive director of the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, founded in 2005. Based in Washington, D.C., it is “dedicated to defending and promoting the fullness of the Catholic social tradition in the American public square” and networks Catholic organizations, community leaders, scholars and individual throughout the county. Contact 202-822-5105.
• Iva Caruthers is general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, founded in 2003 to network the African-American faith community to address the needs of those it serves. It includes progressive faith leaders from around the country and is based in Chicago. Contact 773-548-6675.
• Kendra Brodin is administrative director of the Plymouth Center for Progressive Christian Faith in Minneapolis. It is sponsoring “Voting Justice, Voting Hope: A National Symposium on Faith and Politics” April 11-13, 2008. Contact 612-817-9938, email@example.com.
• Philip E. Jenks is director of interpretation for Faithful America, an interfaith advocacy project of the National Council of Churches that is based in Washington, D.C. Contact 212-870-2228, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Rev. Jennifer Butler is executive director of Faith in Public Life, which provides organizing and communications resources on issues of justice and “the common good.” Contact through communications director Katie Barge, 202-481-8147, email@example.com.
• William McKinney is president and professor of American religion at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. It encourages progressive Christianity through a Web site, the Progressive Christian Witness, and other programs. Contact 510-849-8223, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Rev. Timothy F. Simpson is interim president of the Christian Alliance for Progress, which says its mission is to “reclaim Christianity and transform American politics.” It’s based in Jacksonville, Fla. Contact 888-381-0108.
• Stephen Swecker is editor of The Progressive Christian magazine. He lives in North Berwick, Maine. Contact 207-676-9700, email@example.com.
• The Rev. Mark Farr is board president of the Institute for Progressive Christianity. It sponsors a Web site promoting activism called CrossLeft. Contact through the Web site.
• Robert Jensen is a an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas-Austin, where he teaches media law, ethics and politics. He is the author of the 2009 book, All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, which recounts his return to church and his commitment to progressive social activism. Contact 512-471-1990, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Robin Meyers is pastor of Mayflower
Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., and author of Why the
Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith,
Your Flag, Your Future (Jossey-Bass, 2006). Meyers gave a
criticizing religious conservatives as un-Christian that became an Internet
phenomenon. Contact 405-842-8897,
• Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, lecturer and writer, has been especially active on peace issues. She was a guest on an April 16 Meet the Press panel about faith and politics. Contact her through Benetvision, 814-459-5994 or 814-459-0314, email@example.com.
• Tony Campolo has long been active on social justice issues. He is a professor emeritus at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa. Contact 610-341-1722, or through his executive assistant, James Warren, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Jan G. Linn is author of Big Christianity: What’s Right with the Religious Left (Westminster John Knox, 2006) and a co-pastor of Spirit of Joy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis. A former college and seminary professor, Linn calls himself a “recovering fundamentalist” who wants to reclaim the idea of Christianity as generous, or liberal, and tolerant. Contact 952-985-0424, Jan@JanGLinn.com.
• John C. Danforth, a Republican, is a former U.S. senator and U.N. ambassador. He is also an Episcopal priest. His book Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together (Viking) will be released in September 2006. In the June 17, 2005, New York Times op-ed piece “Onward, Modern Christian Soldiers,” Danforth called on Christian moderates to speak out in the debate on religion and politics. Contact 314-259-2980, email@example.com.
• Leigh Eric Schmidt is a professor of religion at Princeton University and author of Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality from Emerson to Oprah (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), which links American interest in mysticism and spirituality with political liberalism. He traced that connection at the 2005 Pew forum “Spirit Wars: American Religion in Progressive Politics.” Contact 609-258-5285, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Michael N. Nagler founded the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is an emeritus professor. He is the author most recently of The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families and Our World (Inner Ocean, 2004), and he is a follower of the Indian meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran. Contact email@example.com.
• Randall Balmer is an evangelical professor of American religious history at Barnard College and Columbia University. In Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America (Basic, in press), he blasts “a right-wing takeover” that he says has poisoned public discourse and distorted faith. Contact 212-854-3292, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• See Beliefnet’s
guide to leaders of the Religious Left.
• The Religious Left: It Is Fruitful and Has Multiplied by Steven Waldman was published by Slate on April 5, 2006, and analyzes factions and priorities among groups on the Religious Left.
• Read the Rockridge Institute’s report on its May 2005 online conference of spiritual progressives.
• Read a June 4, 2007, Miami Herald story about the “religious left.”
• Read a June 3, 2007, Chicago Tribune story, “Will poverty make a political comeback?”
• Read a 2006 article on spiritual progressives from Yes! Magazine.
• Read an essay on spiritual progressives by Rabbi Michael Lerner in the April 6, 2006, The Nation.
• Read coverage of the 2005 Network of Spiritual Progressives conference.
• Read former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth’s June 17, 2005, New York Times op-ed piece, “Onward Moderate Christian Soldiers,” posted by Speaking of Faith.
Dan Wakefield is a
veteran writer and Unitarian in Boston whose newest book is The
Hijacking of Jesus: How the Religious Right Distorts Christianity and
Promotes Prejudice and Hate (Nation Books, 2006). Read an
excerpt in the April
24, 2006, issue of The Nation. Contact him through book publicist
• Ian Markham, dean of Hartford Seminary and professor of theology and ethics, is co-editor of Why Liberal Churches are Growing (T. & T. Clark Publishers, 2006). Contact 860-509-9553, email@example.com.
IN THE EAST
• Interfaith Impact of New York is a statewide coalition of congregations and individuals from mainline Protestant, Reform Jewish, Unitarian Universalist and other faith traditions that work for compassion and justice in New York state public policies. Contact executive director Robb Smith, 518-463-5652.
• Spiritual Progressives of the Hudson Valley aims to “put values back into progressive politics.” Contact 845-758-4119, firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN THE SOUTHEAST
• Faith and the City was created to nurture community and shared responsibility in Atlanta. It is made up of the executive leadership of Candler School of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary, and the Interdenominational Theological Center, all in Atlanta, and also works with the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and the Professions at Emory University. Contact co-chairs James T. Laney and Andrew Young, 404-523-5554.
IN THE SOUTH
• The Rev. Rebekah Jordan is executive director of the Mid-South Interfaith Network for Economic Justice, which partners with people of faith to work toward improved wages, benefits and working conditions. It’s based in Memphis, Tenn. Contact 901-332-3570.
IN THE MIDWEST
• Formed in November 2005, We Believe Ohio includes 100 racially and theologically diverse clergy interested in social justice. Media contact is Eric McFadden, 614-551-8907, email@example.com.
• Greg Boyd is senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church, in which he says American Christians should seek to build the kingdom of God instead of building political power. Contact 651-287-2079, firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN THE SOUTHWEST
• The Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance, formed in November 2005, is concerned with social justice and the 2006 election. Contact 214-333-7577.
• Kathy Miller is president of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization whose mission is to advance “a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right.” Founded in 1995, it is a network of more than 23,000 religious and community leaders. It includes the Texas Faith Network, made up of 600 religious leaders across the state. Contact 512-322-0545.
IN THE WEST/NORTHWEST
• Kety Esquivel is the founder of CrossLeft, a web-based clearinghouse begun in the San Francisco area in 2005 for grassroots activism by progressive Christians. Contact email@example.com.
• Daniel Sokatch is executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, founded in “to assert an authentic progressive Jewish presence in the campaigns for social justice in Southern California, home to the nation’s second largest city and second largest Jewish community.” Contact 323-761-8350, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Peter Laarman of Los Angeles is executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting and an ordained United Church of Christ minister. He is editor of the just-published Getting on Message: Challenging the Christian Right from the Heart of the Gospel (Beacon Press, 2006) and knows a lot of other groups active on this subject. Contact 213-989-1630.
• Fred Plumer, a retired minister, is head of The Center for Progressive Christianity, a web-based network of progressive faith communities. It is based in Gig Harbor, Wash. Contact 253-303-0022, email@example.com.
•Jim Burklo is pastor of Sausalito Presbyterian Church and author of Open Christianity: Home by Another Road, a primer on the progressive Christian movement. Read his blog. Contact 415-332-3790, firstname.lastname@example.org.