Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Spirituality, Religion and Activism: What's the Connection?

"No matter how many projects and campaigns and initiatives and alliances we set in motion, we won't find fundamental solutions to societal ills until we learn how to approach this work with greater awareness, compassion, and humility."
- Seasons Fund for Social Transformation

Lately I've noticed a small, but steady stream of mentions about the connection between spirituality, religion, and activism.

In May 2008, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that six groups (Fetzer Institute, Ford Foundation, Hidden Leaf Foundation, Jewish Funds for Justice, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Seeds of Justice Foundation) had formed the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation. In December 2007, the Fund awarded grants to 15 organizations that, "represent pioneering efforts to integrate personal and social transformation throughout their organizations and movements."

One of the grant recipients, The Movement Strategy Center, is studying the impact of spiritual practice on social justice leaders, organizations and the progressive movement as part of its Spirit in Motion program. Another recipient, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, published a resource manual for social justice activists, The Activist's Ally: Contemplative Tools for Social Change.

In spring 2008 the Stanford Innovation Review article, "Praise the Lord, but Dim the Lights," featured the Regeneration Project's Interfaith Power and Light Campaign. The Interfaith Power and Light campaign is, "mobilizing a national religious response to global warming while promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation." You can download a copy of the article on the Regeneration Project site.

Most recently, this month the International Museum of Women's exhibition, "Women, Power and Politics" is examining the question, "What does religion have to do with it?" :
"Throughout history, religion has had a lot to do with women's personal and political lives. Religious women make change happen, whether seeking peace or inciting war. Belief can inspire social justice, or block a woman's access to freedom or equality. Join us this month as we explore how faith makes or breaks political women around the world."
I'm hoping that these examples are signs that people's beliefs about spirituality and religion will slowly make their way back from extremes to an integrated and middle way that recognizes, like the Global Oneness Project, we are all connected.

Flickr Photo Credit: Shining Treetops uploaded by Zest-pk


  1. There is absolutely a connection between spirituality and activism. The reason for this is that contemplative practice inevitably cultivates a strong sense of empathy. Be it prayer, meditation, yoga or whatever else, these paths all lead to an understanding that all humans are connected and responsible for each other. Once this understanding is integrated into the belief system, creating a better world becomes a priority automatically.

  2. Anonymous9:15 AM

    While in college, I interned for an organization called the Cathedral Heritage Foundation that held an annual week-long conference called the Festival of Faiths. The conference promoted the value of interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

    All major religions have some element of social justice to them. I think that the reasons why there may be more focus on the intersection of religion and activism may be twofol. In times of crisis, people tend to turn to religion more. Also, there are quite a few social issues that have come to the forefront that have increased activism overall.

  3. Vanessa,

    I think you are right about how people turn to religion or spirituality during crisis, or when they feel powerless to make change without help from something bigger than them. Great insight!


    Also a good point how contemplative practice leads to a greater understanding and feeling that we are all connected.

    Have Fun * Do Good sure has some wise readers!


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