A Simple Civic and Spiritual Faith for the 21st Century

Practical civic transformation, one community at a time

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” – Martin Luther King

“We can build a society grounded on friendship and our common humanity – a society founded on tolerance. That is the only road open to us.” – Nelson Mandela

“One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.” – Hannah Senesh

A simple civic and spiritual faith underlies our work:

We are all deeply connected to one another and to something beyond ourselves. This is the essence of most religious faiths and the essence of the humanist and civic faiths of great leaders from Lincoln to King and Mandela.

Each of us needs to trust these intuitions of an “oceanic feeling,” of being part of a spiritual or “moral universe” beyond oneself; of having a purpose in life beyond oneself; and of our deep interconnectedness.

And we each need to take time to understand with head and heart how to act wisely on these intuitions.

These small changes in our mindset can lead to changes in how we organize our lives and in the decisions we make, both small and large. Those in turn can lead to transformative change in the larger world if substantially more people can feel, think, and act from this faith.

We must trust that progress down this path toward greater individual and collective wisdom, compassion, courage, energy, and perseverance is possible. And we must work actively to make it a reality because, as Dr. King said, “We must all learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or we will all perish together as fools.”

– January 2019

Other Perspectives

The Elders

Initially led by Nelson Mandela, the Elders have included Jimmy Carter, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and other independent world leaders working for a better world:

“Our vision is of a world where people live in peace, conscious of their common humanity and their shared responsibilities for each other, for the planet and for future generations.

We envisage a world in which there is universal respect for human rights; in which poverty has been eliminated; in which people are free from fear and oppression and are able to fulfil their true potential.”

Rev. Michael Curry

Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church:
“Think and imagine a world where love is the way.
Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way.
Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children.
Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well… like we are actually family.
When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.” – Sermon at wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (2018)

Barry Andrews

A Unitarian-Universalist Minister, he has written widely on Thoreau, Emerson and the American Transcendentalists:
“[T]here are aspects of nature and human experience that… have a spiritual quality. They give rise to religions and notions of deity, but they are prior to them. They are intimations of a reality that eludes any final and conclusive definition, either scientifically or theologically. Gods and religions are examples of what philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called “misplaced concreteness.”
If I prefer the term “religious naturalism” [to humanism], it is … because the word humanism seems to put humankind on a pedestal. We are and must be concerned for the welfare of humanity, but we must be aware of our shortcomings as well as our achievements as a species. We are not set apart from the rest of nature; we are part and parcel of it. We are co-dependent, not only with the whole of nature, but also with the rest of humanity. We rise or fall together. And if there is any meaningful sense of morality it consists in allying ourselves with the creative forces that uphold our world and not the negative ones that threaten to destroy it.” – What Does Humanism Mean Today? (2019)

John Dewey

American education reformer and philosopher:
“The ideal ends to which we attach our faith are not shadowy and wavering. They assume concrete form in our understanding of our relations to one another and the values contained in these relations. We who now live are parts of a humanity that extends into the remote past, a humanity that has interacted with nature. The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it. Here are all the elements for a religious faith that shall not be confined to sect, class, or race. Such a faith has always been implicitly the common faith of mankind. It remains to make it explicit and militant.” – A Common Faith (1934)

Dalai Lama

“The problems we face today, violent conflicts, destruction of nature, poverty, hunger, and so on, are human-created problems which can be resolved through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.” – Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1989: The 14th Dalai Lama

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

A scholar, he survived the Holocaust and became a key supporter of Martin Luther King in the Jewish community:
“There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty.
The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” – The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement (1972); later included in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity (1996)