One of the most important events at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly is the Ware Lecture, where we invite an important thinker from outside our movement to speak to us on a topic of interest to Unitarian Universalists. Previous speakers include theologian Rheinhold Neibuhr, Martin Luther King, Jr., poet Mary Oliver, and scholar Elaine Pagels.
This year, the speaker was Van Jones, an activist working to tie issues of environmentalism and social justice, particularly poverty concerns, together to create real change, and he had a warning for Unitarian Universalists: “Y’all are about to mess up and be successful!” when it comes to needed social and environmental change.
A good description of his lecture can be found on the UUA website, along with a video (WMV format, or Real Media) of the event.
In this speech, given in July of 2005 to the Spiritual Activism conference, Mr. Jones sides with Rabbi Michael Lerner in calling for an alliance of spiritual progressives across the board to enact real changes in our society, and speaks particularly to the anti-religious bias that is a very real presence in many progressive organizations.
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The Religious Left Fights Back
by Van Jones
Rabbi Michael Lerner is stirring up trouble again—thank God.
Earlier this week, Lerner was the main organizer of a national gathering in Berkeley, California, for the religious Left. His “Spiritual Activism” conference was intended to help launch a much-needed new initiative: the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP).
Lerner has been the spark-plug for many progressive, faith-based undertakings over the years, including Tikkun magazine. But this latest effort is an order of magnitude more challenging than anything he has attempted thus far. And given the stakes for our ailing would-be democracy, the birthing of NSP may prove to be his most important calling.
Lerner wants to help forge a new alliance of “religious, secular and ’spiritual-but-not-religious’ progressives.” This alliance will someday expose and challenge the cancer of American consumerism. And it will oppose the religious Right’s abuse of scripture to promote war, intolerance and ugly corporate agendas.