The assumptions of democracy as an associational ethos of vulnerable life are, first, that we don't already know how best to order our common life and, second, that we don't know what the abstract ideals of empathy, emancipation, and equity entail in the concrete.

—Michael Hogue1

In American Immanence: Democracy for an Uncertain World, Michael S. Hogue grounds his proposal for a political theology in a critique of American exceptionalism and its supportive “redeemer symbolic.”2 In the Anthropocene era, Hogue states, American exceptionalism “legitimates the extraction of diverse forms of value and justifies the externalization of diverse costs” (29) with unconscionable costs to the natural environment and international justice. As indicated in the passage quoted above, Hogue's reaction to the rigid assumptions supportive of American exceptionalism is to offer a humble acknowledgement of political fallibility coupled with what he terms “a theopolitics of resilient democracy” (184; see also 3–6).

My concern in this essay is largely practical. I will focus on discerning what intellectual, emotional, and communal resources might be drawn upon to further develop and actually effect the needed changes that Hogue so ably points out. Relatedly, I will inquire into who the most likely candidates are to devote energy to the reconstruction of social structures and practices so that they express values that Americans at their best uphold. Finally, I will reflect upon the role that spiritual ideals and communal practices might play in energizing effective democratic action.

I. Hogue's Critical and Constructive Tasks

Hogue's overriding interest is to outline an epistemic/axiological/environmental/political stance that does not give rise to the various sorts of injustices and dysfunctions that mark the Anthropocene era, especially our allegiance to policies that eventuate in what he calls “climate wickedness.” The alternative vision he embraces develops pragmatic naturalism as a method of inquiry and exposition. His reflections are especially indebted to the thought of Dewey, James, and Whitehead (78–82). During a time when e-words are normally associated with forms of electronic communication, Hogue offers instead two trios of e-words with another sort of significance—one that signifies a stance he wishes to overcome and one that communicates what he hopes to achieve. Our current era is unfortunately in thrall, he says, to extraction, externalization, and exception, whereas what we should strive for is a society marked by empathy, emancipation, and equitability. Well put. He presupposes that democratic governance, deeply embedded in American history, ought to serve as the vehicle for achieving what the positive set of e-words promotes. To this end, Hogue quotes appreciatively from Dewey's article, “Democracy is Radical”: Democracy “is radical because it requires great change in existing social institutions, economic, legal and cultural” (170). This understanding of democracy slumbers now; what might it take to reawaken it? And if reawakened, what changes might be made to establish the more nearly equitable political influence that is basic to the promise of democracy?

Hogue, recognizing in good pragmatic fashion the importance of consequential change, states, “In contrast to foundationalist commitments to antecedents and precedents, pragmatic naturalism commits to a prospective concern with consequents” (80). Foundational commitments to antecedents may certainly impede needed change, but surely attention to the historical events and practices that gave rise to current problems is needed to avoid repeating previous errors. Hogue refers to Whitehead's vision of social symbolism, suggesting that “social change can be catalyzed by the improvised revision of existing symbolic repertoires or the innovative formation or subversive interjection of new symbols” (99). I'm not fully convinced by Whitehead's claim. I suspect that many of our social problems are rooted below the linguistic level in an array of affective issues that elude symbolic adjustment. New strategies are needed to counter the prevalence of fear and resentment in society as promoted for political and commercial reasons and tied to Hogue's strongly voiced recognition that we live in an uncertain world.

Here is my understanding of how Hogue both frames our current social and cultural situation and what he says might begin to remediate these circumstances. Knowledge of the moral and environmental evils inherent in our present practices must be presented in ways that stimulate action rather than simply evoke deep anxiety. They must also generate the courage to displace the old assumptions and activities that have led to the current dysfunctions. Dewey's melioristic naturalism, James's radical empiricism, and Whitehead's creative metaphysics are nominated by Hogue as philosophical resources that can be mined for the requisite conceptual shift required in the Anthropocene (12). Jointly these sources can help inspire a religious sensibility that is devoted to world-loyalty rather than world exploitation (114). Such world-loyalty is religious in a transfigured sense. For Dewey and Hogue, the religious is “a quality of experience that exists potentially within and across diverse registers of human life—intellectual, aesthetic, moral, political” (137). It is politically supported by what Hogue terms a “creatural democracy” (97) that challenges the idea that there is any one center of effective power, even if that center is named “God” or “the president.” Insofar as Hogue considers the concept of God to be potentially useful, it is in accordance with something like Bernard Loomer's notion of God as symbolizing the mysterious interconnected web of existence, the ultimacy within which humans are invited to dwell with awe and respect (129).

It is common practice now to decry American exceptionalism for its arrogant self-centeredness and lack of adjusting for negative impacts issuing from our global influence. But it must be asked: in relying upon the work of James, Dewey, and Whitehead, is not Hogue subtly expressing American exceptionalism? Have not these philosophers had considerable influence in the shaping of American culture? Hogue might reply that his philosophical sources are alert to social problems in America and write with a melioristic bent. American exceptionalism is the result of economic and political promotion rather than philosophical advocacy. American history is replete with reformers as well as with opportunists and exploiters. For example, at the secular and religious levels of culture, muckrakers and advocates of the social gospel helped to initiate reform of the economic excesses and inequitable distribution of wealth that marked the Gilded Age. Further, several American political leaders have expressed global ideals that have influenced positive change. I'm thinking of Wilson's Fourteen Points, FDR's Four Freedoms, and the Marshall Plan, for instance. My point is simply this: America has been exceptional globally in positive as well as negative senses, and this at the cultural and political levels as well as at the philosophical level. Hogue is correct in not being bashful in drawing upon American experience, philosophical and political. Hope and energy to change is often more inspired by recognizing positive models within one's realm of identification rather than from unrelenting self-critique or external censure.

Okay, a pragmatic naturalism with a pluralism of centers working through a creatural and resilient democracy toward world-loyalty—such is a summary of the tools, method, and goals Hogue reasonably lays out before us. He has creatively assembled a workshop for crafting social, cultural, and institutional changes. But three issues seem to be ignored in the workshop's itinerary. First, the problems to be ameliorated are not laid out with specificity. One wonders if the general changes Hogue advocates apply equally to the variety of problems that might be addressed. Secondly, his focus on structural and philosophical issues entails that much of the book's discussion remains quite abstract and difficult to evaluate because determinate actions to solve the vaguely indicated problems are not described. Third, where are the workers to be found who would devote themselves to solving the problems vaguely defined? I will attend most fully to the third question.

II. The Five Impediments

The current dysfunctional political climate and widespread cultural confusion has resulted in many Americans searching for reformation. Even if conditions now seem conducive to the sort of reformation Hogue advocates, I believe five related possible impediments to the realization of his open-ended program are worthy of notice.

First, the posture of democratic vulnerability he advocates “can trigger the creatural quest for security, which itself can trigger and intensify the quest for certainty” (175). Yes, indeed. The “human desire for belonging and stability in a changing world” (181) issues in a desire to join well defined communities. Unfortunately, though, communities, he notes, “tend to reinforce a politics of special interest when what we most need is a politics of common purpose” (181). As Hogue has pointed out to me, he quite emphatically relies upon David Hollinger's distinction between communities of shared identity and solidarities of purpose. “Solidarities, then,” Hogue writes, “are a special kind of association, an association that performatively answers the question of who they are” (182) in terms of seizing upon some significant social problem and organizing committed actions to resolve it. “The problem of solidarity emerges out of the challenge of justice in a pluralistic world and is an instance of the larger challenge of sustaining the systemically complex work of long-term revolution” (182). Hogue ‘s astute point is that in a world of many communities often embracing goals that are at cross-purposes, cross-cultural solidarities spread the power base for sustained enacting of needed foundational changes.

Second, if solidarities of purpose are adopted, the question arises as how to ensure that they embrace goals consistent with Hogue's vision rather than some scheme of narrow self-interest. Strategies are needed to counter widespread sociological and psychological tendencies. The all-too-human proclivity to prioritize short-term interests and be guided by emotional needs rather than rational insights brings into question the possibility of organizing effective cross-cultural solidarities that last. At the very least, Hogue is obliged to indicate what forces he calls upon to modify ongoing deleterious patterns of personal and social behavior.

Perhaps one should be cautious about prioritizing solidarities over stable communities, for well-formed communities of interpretation often are better organized and tend to last longer than associations to make the sort of changes for which Hogue argues. I suspect that what best evokes effective shared action is whether values typically regarded as transcendent or universal are honored by a group seeking desired change(s). Despite Hogue's stressing of immanence rather than transcendence, as indicated in the book's title, I don't see great differences between his theology and a tempered form of Transcendentalism rooted in nature. Indeed, on the last page of his text he praises the “natal power of a religiously transformative transcendent ideal” (184, my emphasis). I take it that Hogue's use of transcendence refers to a phenomenological attitude toward honorific standards and needed emergent novelty within the natural realm, not with a supernatural or broad metaphysical claim. The immanence he emphasizes has to do with the thoroughly naturalistic worldview he assumes. In that context, when spiritual values such as truth, justice, and compassion function as guiding forces for different groups, whether communities or solidarities, chances are increased that productive coalitions can be formed. In the light of such mutually affirmed values, those goals that make common purpose significant can more easily be recognized and become fruitful.

A third impediment to the realization of Hogue's vision besides the yearning for stability and resulting inertia relates to his advocacy of democracy as the political tool appropriate for rectification. Let us take democracy as currently practiced. Its idealized status as a voice of the people has been compromised by the power of corporations and the wealthy to influence elections by use of dark money, manipulation of the media, persuasion of lobbyists, and similar well-funded mechanisms.3 Promotion of fear-laden scenarios, demonization of opponents, and outright lying must not be allowed to clog the passing of laws consistent with Hogue's agenda. But beyond such obvious current political problems, it must be asked if it is reasonable to believe a citizenry can be fostered that is capable of appreciating and acting upon Hogue's abstract argumentation when it must almost inevitably buck entrenched competing concrete issues clearly linked to self-interest. To counter these realities by advocating Dewey's “idea of democracy as a fundamentally formless phenomenon” (171) seems like hoping a breeze will topple the US capitol building. The emergence of governments with autocratic tendencies around the world suggests many people hunger more for the seeming security of state power to resist change rather than for formless democracy.

A fourth impediment concerns his formulation of the ideal stance one dedicated to democracy should take. As indicated in the quotation from Hogue introducing this essay, he confesses ignorance about how our common life might best be organized. He also indicates he doesn't know what concrete implications follow from his professed ideals. Such acknowledgements of fallibility may truly describe our philosophical positions. But they do not translate into a vision that will mobilize followers and generate change. What most strongly motivates fundamental change are emotionally charged issues threatening people's welfare.

Despite Hogue's agnostic stance regarding the shape democracy might best take politically in the future, he sets forth a provocative claim concerning the usefulness of democratic participation in securing worthy goals. In a powerful chapter, he described how America's redeemer symbolic originated in religious origins connected with being a chosen nation and then, influenced by Enlightenment ideas, morphed into various secular forms capped by being monetized in neo-liberal practice. To rein in the destructive consequences of unfettered corporate power in today's world, he argues for “the internal democratization of businesses and corporations. For the American economy to become more truly democratic, workers and stakeholders, not merely executives and shareholders, should be granted power sufficient to ‘check and balance’ the tendency of the power of capital to concentrate” (50). The fairer distribution of power through democratic choice is an ideal now threatened by the influence of big money. As a political structure created to give voice in public affairs to all, democracy is best not seen as an end-in-itself. Rather, it is the best means available to secure those public values essential for lives well lived. And in viewing democracy as a tool rather than as an end requiring explication, perhaps the concern I registered in the third impediment needs clarification. The problem is not democracy, but what clogs up democracy. The problem in the fourth impediment is not Hogue's agnosticism about future political organization, but his lack of discussion of the procedures and source of emotional energy needed to transform the dysfunctions of our time.

Lastly, let me regretfully say that I don't believe Hogue's culminating aesthetic vision has the requisite clout to make the difference he so urgently and aptly advocates. Here is what he advocates:

The theopolitics of resilient democracy engages the problem of solidarity and foments revolutionary possibilities in the here and now by aiming for beauty. More precisely, rather than being oriented by a prespecified principle of justice, or by a preexisting concept of the good, a theopolitics of resilient democracy is normatively oriented by Whitehead's dipolar concept of beauty as the harmonization of contrast and the intensification of experience. Oriented by this concept of beauty, resilient democratic solidarities are associations of maximally diversified unity—not harmonized unities, but experientially enriching unities of contrast. (182)

I can understand why Hogue is wary of the usual reference to abstract values such as justice and the good (even though I find them helpful). Such concepts can be used to divide the world into problematic coteries of the positive and the negative. However, isn't there a risk that emphasizing diversity and intensity will more likely lead to fragmentation and conflict than unity? Because notions of beauty are culturally diverse, how likely is it that beauty will generate unity? But here is his claim: “It is precisely as potential, as unrealized possibility, that the aim for a more beautiful world has the generative, natal power of a religiously transformative transcendent ideal and the unitive power necessary to sustain political revolution” (183–84). I wish that aiming to create a more beautiful world had the attractive power of which Hogue dreams.4

Additionally, Hogue's privileging of Whiteheadian contrast and intensity in service to beauty seems lacking in that it does not offer an attractive means to the end of beauty. Later I will acknowledge that aesthetic concepts can play an important role in revisioning political assumptions and procedures. However, the goal of beauty alone does not connect in any obvious way with the problems, such as climate wickedness, that his vision is designed to meliorate.

Despite Hogue's understandable resistance to moral language, his vision of concern for the world seems to me to be a moral vision more than it is an aesthetic vision. Indeed, his earlier chapters are suffused with reference to immanent forms of morality. “Pragmatic naturalism embraces the idea that insofar as knowing and imagining are modes of doing, the work of knowing and imagining is always already moral work” (116). It is moral in the widest sense of that word—morality as a vision of respectful, mutually supportive relationships in all the registers of dynamic living and striving. Morality in this sense seems to be a stronger motivator for change than Hogue's understanding of telic beauty. A search for beauty not oriented by such moral concepts as justice and the good can easily wander into different patterns of subjective pleasure that have little or nothing to do with Hogue's theopolitical concerns.

Nevertheless, a danger associated with unrefined discourse about morality is indicated by Roger Gottlieb. He accurately observes that most current moral discourse adjudicates distinctions within the current realm of cultural assumptions rather than questions those assumptions as Hogue does. Utilitarianism, for instance:

accepts a fairly conventional understanding of happiness. The rights and freedoms on which other moral theories center generally understand people as separate individuals with interest, property and social position or as members of oppressed groups suffering from racism, sexism, homophobia, or the like. Even the morality of care favored by many feminist theorists . . . often accepts conventional emotional needs for recognition and reassurance as givens.5

For Hogue, the present social structures and beliefs about what is significant are what first need to be challenged and changed. Here it should be noted that American Immanence is concomitantly seeking to implement reform related to at least three domains of affirmation. Although they can be seen as internally related, lack of success in any one of the domains need not imply lack of success in the other domains.

Hogue's first domain of interest seems to be oriented around a love of the world and all its denizens. He thus calls for a revisioning of feelings, concepts, and actions so they better manifest world loyalty. A second domain is religious in the sense of Hogue's thoughtfully articulated religious naturalism. “Religious experiences within an immanental theological frame provoke questions about the meanings and values that ultimately orient life—they are interrogative rather than declarative” (149). The third domain centers on America's involvement in and responsibility for the dysfunctions resulting from such things as its exceptionalism, economic injustice, and climate wickedness. “Over the past few decades, as a result of globalized deregulatory, privatizing, and free trade policies, the financial system, once a subsystem embedded within and constrained by other economic, social, and ecological systems, has morphed into the metasystem that now interconnects all the others” (161). He offers a vison of a vulnerable, resilient democracy as the antidote.

Surely the most difficult challenge facing Hogue's vision is reforming the deeply embodied realm of basic attitudes and purposes attached to self-interest and emotional need. It may be possible to induce verbal acknowledgment of the need to reform theology and politics along lines consistent with Hogue's vision without significantly altering basic human inclinations, but without such revision it is doubtful that the religious and political reforms would take hold in any lasting way. Steps toward world loyalty, religious naturalism, and resilient democracy may be taken independently without support from the other domains of affirmation. Nevertheless, I think Hogue makes a good case for the deeply entwined interdependence of these three domains. But does this trio have the requisite allure to inspire committed action?

III. Who Might Enact Hogue's Vision?

Now it is time to bring into play a pragmatic concern that is largely missing in Hogue's analysis. What forces or structures exist to help bring about the transformations he seeks? Here I nominate a stance that Gottlieb advocates: emphasizing spirituality as a moral change agent. I believe Gottlieb is onto an important issue, and I will devote the remainder of this essay to exploring personal and communal spirituality as a motivating, guiding, and dynamic factor for bringing about the sorts of transformations Hogue seeks.6

To begin, let us briefly inspect our current context in the light of the relatively recent past. Earlier last century the social gospel and sermons by Fosdick, Niebuhr, Tillich, and others played an important role in shaping national policies. Now, however, we are living during an era in which the influence of theology and churches has waned. Our era is quite different from when America's classical pragmatists were formulating their immanent notions. Mainstream churches and now even evangelical churches are declining in membership and public influence. Gottlieb notes that in churches only rarely is a prophetic voice heard fomenting for fundamental change. Religious energy seems increasingly centered in issues of spiritual formation and private practices outside of formal institutional settings. But also emerging is a sense that something more than inner peace is needed for meaningful experience. While at the end of the twentieth century reference to the “spiritual” had an off-putting new-age-y ambiance, in recent decades a deeper appreciation of the spiritual aspect of human existence has developed. Whereas once “I'm spiritual but not religious” simply connoted an individualism that rejected institutional forms of religious authority, now its advocates often speak in terms of what spiritual beliefs and practices can accomplish for the greater good. Spiritual practices are increasingly seen not as retreats from the world but as methods of recharging one's energies to more successfully accomplish the ends of social justice. And embedded within emergent spirituality is openness to the beneficent novelty of otherness. It is spirituality's sensitivity to rich new possibilities that inspires me to explore its adherents’ potential as change agents attacking the problems that concern Hogue.

I have by now touched upon two aspects of pragmatic naturalism that are underrepresented in Hogue's aesthetic vision: the practical and the spiritual. Hogue is right to highlight the urgency of addressing the climate crisis, but it is its very urgency that deserves a less abstract and more immediate response. He is also prescient in thinking that religious sensibility can be a key to actively combating climate wickedness and other pressing problems. But more is needed than he supplies to identify how such religious sensitivity is to be linked to his vision. The often-untapped spiritual hungers nagging at the increasing number of Americans who identify themselves as spiritual but not religious or as “nones” having no religious interest seem to be a potential resource. Many within these groupings claim they are searching both for greater authenticity and significance in life and more just and compassionate policies in society. They are potential change agents. Plans to appeal to these folks should be developed, for many in these groups seem likely to identify with Hogue's concerns. Such plans to be effective would need to take into account two aspects of spirituality: the personal and the communal. More on that shortly.

I am launching into this discussion of spirituality without providing an overall definition of it. Partly this is because the term is used in many different senses. In accordance with the insights of Peirce (30) and Wittgenstein, it seems best to acknowledge spirituality's many uses rather than seek some elusive essence. But while I resist any temptation to offer a definition, I find the following statement by Marjorie Suchocki to be helpful in indicating in broad terms the aspect of spirituality that connects with Hogue's program of reformation. She writes, “Spirituality is ultimately about connection, relation. It entails a deepening and widening of one's inner experience that is only possible through opening oneself to that which is other.”7 I believe the inwardness Suchocki references is best regarded as self-understanding regarding what is significant to one—that which I will shortly describe as bearing existential meaning.

Now, what of the “opening oneself to that which is other” in Suchocki's description? Opening oneself to Hogue's work is illuminating, but in itself it is disconnected from specific strategies about how to achieve what he advocates. I find the following claim by Willis Jenkins to be wise in this regard:

Reckoning with Anthropocene power and unprecedented problems can tempt ethicists to dwell in moral cosmology, proposing foundational metaphors and symbols by which agents could better interpret the world of human responsibility. That approach, I worry, draws ethical attention away from concrete problems, scientific learning, pluralist negotiations, and the dynamics of cultural change.8

Rather than relying on abstract theories, Jenkins urges change agents to pick significant problems that seem amenable to change and attune inherited patterns of life to address the challenges. As is the case with Hogue, I will not in this paper delve into specific problems as Jenkins suggests. But I will move beyond Hogue's idealistic vision to a more pragmatic consideration of what the spiritual resources are that can be employed to bring about change followed by an investigation of how that change might best be consummated in a spiritually acceptable way.

What aspects of the wide domain of spirituality resonate most fully with Hogue's overarching aim of reforming society in general and democracy in particular? His stated goal, set forth in his Introduction, is to offer “a morally catalytic, spiritually invigorating, communally grounded, radically democratic intervention into the root contexts, causes, and conditions of our complex challenges” (6). Note that in this statement early in his book he does not mention beauty but rather acknowledges the crucial roles that morality and spirituality must play in accomplishing the reformation he seeks. My analysis develops his originally stated objective.

What I am suggesting, then, is that the recent upsurge of interest in unaffiliated spirituality may be nurtured as a locus for introducing and developing Hogue's theopolitical vision. The activities and findings of the Fetzer Institute can serve as an example of how the burgeoning interest in spirituality has much in common with Hogue's concerns. The Institute conducted a wide-ranging investigation of how people in the US understand spirituality and how it impacts the way they engage with others and their communities. Here are two instructive results of their inquiry:

  1. “Spirituality is connected with an engaged civic life: People who identify as highly spiritual are likely to say it is important to make a difference in their communities and contribute to greater good in the world. They are also more likely to be politically engaged.”

  2. “The study surfaced two bridges that connect spirituality and prosocial action; a strong sense of connection to all of humanity, and a sense of accountability to a higher power.”9

Hogue's thought connects most clearly to prosocial action as it affects humanity globally. Perhaps social media provide the best vehicles for identifying and interacting with currently unaffiliated people who express interest in the spiritual dimension of life as transformative for society as well as for themselves.

IV. What Aspects of Spirituality Seem Least Supportive of Social Change?

Among the many traits that people who claim to be spiritual articulate and honor, only some seem apposite for producing social change. I will attempt to ascertain what these are by a process of elimination. I'll first examine three aspects of spirituality that seem least promising.

1. Spirituality as an External Force

In preliterate societies, the natural world was envisioned as replete with spirits. An animistic view gave aboriginal people an appreciation of animals and respect for such natural entities as the sun, mountains, trees, and even rocks. But also the notions of demonic possession, witchcraft, and exorcism are grounded in the sense of spirits being active forces. Within Western culture, the Christian notion of the Holy Spirit is the most obvious example of a notion of spirituality as a transformative force. To be sure, Paul's writings exhibit an ambiguity with respect to whether by choosing to dwell in Christ one voluntarily indwells the Holy Spirit, or whether the Holy Spirit is a divine gift, one perhaps bestowed as an aspect of predestination. In either case, though, the Holy Spirit is seen as a power that transforms the way one lives. A pragmatic naturalist view would of course deny any form of supernaturalism, but it might acknowledge personal or social changes brought about through natural processes as conversions of spirit. However, a term like spirit describing changes wrought by forces beyond our control does not address our interest in learning how the changes can be brought about.

2. Spiritual Practices for Individual Blessing

I will take a book by Christine Valters Paintner as representative of a great many works dealing with spiritual practices. She urges that we “follow the threads of synchronicity, dreams, and serendipity” so that “we are each led to a life that is rich and honoring of the soul's rhythms, which is a slow ripening rather than a fast track to discernment.”10 The twelve practices outlined in the book describe different paths to a deeper, more serene life. “One of the best ways to practice,” she writes, “is to go on a contemplative walk, which is a walk where your sole focus is on being present to each moment's invitation as it unfolds, rather than setting out with a particular goal. There is nowhere to ‘get to.’”11 A life devoted solely to spiritual practices not centered on particular goals could evolve into a form of self-indulgence, although a devotee's presence and actions inspired by spiritual practices could be a blessing to those interacting with the person. Nevertheless, this path seems more focused on the self's immediate apprehension than on the goal-centered activism that is implied in Hogue's agenda. Some spiritual practices can energize agents of change, although I agree with John Cobb's observations about spiritual practices: “Faith frees us to practice a spiritual discipline. It also frees us not to practice any.”12

3. Spirituality as First Philosophy

Steven Smith sets forth this view as follows: “The philosophy of the spiritual is groundless because the others to whom it is offered are no ground to have or stand on. Like other forms of critical thought, it is defined by what it is for or to rather than by what it is on or from.”13 Smith's notion of the spiritual is something like pure subjective choice as the free and responsible source of who we are and what we believe and do. He calls spiritual existence “the medium and subject of all oughts, as a normative venture without describable foundation.”14 This view of spirituality can be criticized as overly relating human agency to the choices of rational consciousness when it is clear that much of who we are and how we act is based on complex biological, social, and experiential factors of which we are very often not conscious. Be that as it may, Smith applies his notion of the spirit to human thought and behavior in general, and in its universality, it lacks the specificity needed to affirm and develop Hogue's vision to the exclusion of other alternatives.

V. Potent Personal Spirituality: Five Characteristics

What positive aspects of spirituality, alternatives to the forms of spirituality just described, seem crucial for one who might aspire to transform our society into one marked by empathy, emancipation, and equitability? I nominate a person's strong commitment to realize existential meaning as the core and essential state of inwardness most likely to achieve foundational change. The experience of existential meaning differs from linguistic or signal meaning.15 It is an embodied feeling attuned to significance—to a meaningful life. Existential meaning is experienced in the announcement and measurement of spiritual significance in two interrelated ways. On the one hand, this dimension of spirituality communicates in an emotion loaded way how well one or more of our purposes or projects is faring. We experience satisfaction when a project is going well, frustration when it isn't. On the other hand, comparative experiences of existential meaning inform one about which projects one is involved with are most worthy and which ones are merely transitory and evanescent. The bare feeling of worthiness is linked with cognitive estimation of a project's long-term impact, its moral adequacy, and how it relates to the lessons one has learned, what one hopes, and what one's capabilities are. The satisfaction felt in existential meaning should not be confused with pleasure. Carrying out an unpleasant duty or even suffering for a cause deemed morally significant would likely produce a feeling of positive existential meaning. When one experiences the satisfaction of positive existential meaning, one is motivated to keep working to find solutions to problems even though obstacles may keep arising. It is the source of resilience and achievement.

Not all experiences of existential meaning are prosocial and desirable. No doubt Hitler had a strong sense of existential meaning. The inwardness of spirituality must stretch beyond self-interest if one is to be an effective change agent. That means that the purposeful existential meaning individuals experience must be constrained and guided by a suite of spiritual values and standards directing passions in socially productive directions. The social significance of existential meaning is tied to involvement in something larger and more consequential than what ordinary mundane life provides. Hence offering the possibility of experiencing existential meaning by working toward realization of some aspect of Hogue's vision has a quasi-religious quality to it. For those who are spiritual but not necessarily religious, working to expunge American exceptionalism, counter corporate externalization, or reform political dysfunction, among many other problems—such work grants those participants purpose and direction not unlike that which religious devotion ideally dispenses.

What are key spiritual standards and values that guide those seeking existential meaning consistent with Hogue's multi-faceted vision? I will list five qualities of spiritual expression emergent from inwardness that seem especially important for successful commitment to solving social problems in line with Hogue's overarching vision.

The first desirable quality is a deep-seated concern for justice. Children from a very young age have a strong sense of fairness. “Why does he have more than I do?” One of the tough lessons that children must learn is that fair distribution of benefits and woes is a rare phenomenon in the world. But reconciling oneself to the ways of the world does not mean that a yearning for greater justice has ebbed as a motivator. From a global perspective, the practices associated with American exceptionalism are a major source of international injustice. The increasing concentration of economic power accompanying corporate-led globalization not only suggests that justice can be bought, but it also threatens the viability of democracy itself. The securing of greater justice at all levels of society is at the heart of Hogue's vision of reordering American society. However, although securing greater justice in the world is at the heart of Hogue's vision, that does not mean that other values should be neglected. Programs suffused with general moral authority have a much greater chance of long-range success than those perceived to express narrow interests.

A second desirable quality is a thirst for learning and problem solving. Learning is not simply an intellectual feat. Because our daily lives are so immersed in ideas, we may overlook the fact that deep embodied, emotional learning and understanding are spiritual qualities that can be developed beyond everyday coping. Spiritual inwardness becomes infused with other-directed energy when it is curious and open to new ideas, new experiences. Openness is the key notion here—the openness beyond a person's fears and the resulting need for control. Such openness is a basic attribute of spirituality. Skill in listening is an important part of this openness. The requisite skill involves not only listening to others and to external information, but also listening to oneself. “If we are to be citizens of a democracy, we must spend time in conceptual spaces defined by personal experience, not by the mass media, spaces where we can get the news that comes from within.”16

Out of spiritual depths, imagination and inspiration can spring. Out of what we learn and what we feel, vision to heal the problems we face can emerge. The mastery of this trait provides inspiration to others. Indeed, the word “inspire”—insert spirit—captures an essential element in spirituality. The mentor, the teacher, the guru—such are typical exemplars of this spiritual trait. Through imaginative word and act the conveyer of inspiration can convert persons to a project and possibly create either community or solidarity.

An ecological sensitivity is a third desirable capacity providing the appropriate context for situating one's learning. Acuity of perception is one of the skills needed. By this term I mean to indicate a state of observing the natural, cultural, and interpersonal worlds as they reveal themselves apart from other-disregarding self-interest. While all the senses are involved in perceiving the natural world, vision dominates in gifting us with ecological insight and appreciation. Among the many persons whose work exemplifies this aspect of spirituality are Thoreau, Wordsworth, Monet, and more recently Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, and Mary Oliver. Lakoff and Johnson in Philosophy in the Flesh helpfully capture this spiritual skill from a philosophical angle.

The environment is not an “other” to us. It is not a collection of things that we encounter. Rather, it is part of our being. It is the locus of our existence and identity. We cannot and do not exist apart from it. It is through empathic projection that we come to know our environment, understand how we are part of it and how it is part of us. . . A mindful embodied spirituality is thus an ecological spirituality.17

This notion of spiritual attention to the natural world has some of the animist's felt appreciation of the world that fosters the desire to prevent the ravages on the land and its inhabitants that climate change will bring, and it does so without the animist's antiscientific ontological assumptions.18

The fourth aspect of spirituality I will note is an empathic ability to relate to people in all their complexity. Moral sensitivity, skill in learning, and perceptual proficiency are greatly reduced in value if the person with such abilities cannot communicate them to other people in an adroit manner. Ideally, such communication is permeated with a sense of care about the people involved and the issues being addressed. Again, skill in listening is an important aspect of communication. Miriam Jaffe writes that “conversations bring about change not only through one's sharing of experience or opinion, but through listening ‘to’ rather than listening ‘for.”19 Receptivity to other persons and their problems along with apt responses are each needed for developing productive relationships. Such personal acts as forgiving, encouraging, appreciating, and consoling can be seen as spiritual expressions within this category.

But beyond such expressions of compassion, maximal effectiveness in relating to people includes the ability to play and have fun. The notion of embodied expression, mentioned by Lakoff and Johnson in Philosophy in the Flesh, provides power lacking in many more traditional mentalistic interpretations of spirit. “It is the body that makes spiritual experience passionate, that brings to it intense desire and pleasure, pain, delight, and remorse. Without all these things, spirituality is bland. In the world's spiritual traditions, sex and art and music and dance and the taste of food have been for millennia forms of spiritual experience just as much as ritual practice, meditation, and prayer.”20 As embodied, spirituality is not merely a form of consciousness; it infuses all our being and acting with distinctive forms of normativity.

The fifth and final spiritual trait or state of mind I will mention is wisdom. The wise person is able to draw upon a wide array of information and connect it to the values and skills that promote appropriate future action. The all-too-common depiction of wisdom portrays a wise person on some remote mountain who offers profound although often enigmatic advice. But the sort of wisdom needed for enacting radical social change would best include, as suggested by Willis Jenkins, active strategizing for and involvement in specific social problems that lead incrementally toward the more wholesale transformations Hogue envisions. Thus, I suggest the Buddhist idea of upaya be added to the Western notion of sophia. Upaya as “skill in means” adds an active, engaged element to the largely mental image of wisdom. Moreover, upaya recognizes that in our uncertain world, the means may often be far from perfect. Long-range effectiveness is what counts. In any case, the spiritual skill of wisdom/upaya emerges from sensitivity to the circumstances advancing or blocking successful achievement of one's goals. The person with this spiritual skill also ideally has the ability to select and integrate into a solidarity the persons or groups with the various skills and energies that enable the desired results to be realized.

Well, some of the five traits just listed can be called “spiritual” only in the broadest sense of that term, that is, as modes of relating reflective inwardness to aspects of the sensate world. The traits are hardly discrete parts of some archetypal unity called spirituality. Many of them overlap, and surely some important categories of spiritual excellence are not listed. Whatever way one wishes to define spirituality, I believe each trait would be affirmed by the unaffiliated seeker after greater significance in life. Each indicates some quality useful for dealing effectively with the four impediments and advocating for specific projects that can make Hogue's still quite abstract vision more specific and concrete. However, personal spiritual qualities emanating from inwardness are only rarely vigorous enough to generate needed change by themselves. Even when charismatic leaders or dramatic events inspire reformation, collective engagement is needed to realize the change. To this I turn.

VI. The Spirituality of Collective Movements

To what type of organization advocating change might be most attractive to those who are spiritual but not religious? Probably some nonprofit or non-governmental organization. It is claimed that there are over one million nonprofit organizations that are part of the American economy, many of which attend to issues of social justice.21 It is not clear how many of these organizations manage to surmount the ongoing problem of generating income and attempting to gain influence so that they actually achieve significant social benefit. Those groups most likely to be effective generally employ some tactics of community organizing. I will briefly examine the philosophical beliefs directing the actions of several theoreticians of social change. This discussion will lead me to describe an approach to community organizing that I believe embodies a philosophy that expresses coherently the democratic and spiritual qualities articulated in the previous section.

Saul Alinsky has been without doubt the most influential figure articulating a theory of community organizing since World War Two. His tactics are pragmatic to the core, but is his brand of pragmatism compatible with the qualities of spirituality that have been listed? Several quotations from Alinsky's fascinating book, Rules for Radicals, will provide a basis for discussion. “The man of action asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. . . [I]n action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one's individual conscience and the good of mankind.”22 Alinsky offers some examples that support his points, such as asserting the legitimacy of murdering Hitler. But one must ask if in less extreme circumstances Alinsky's view about means isn't dangerous? Does one demean one's opponents in Congress, even to the point of spreading lies about how they operate, in order to pass a bill that promises financial help for the poor? Besides the personal danger of violating conscience, a social consequence of using sketchy means is that this gives opponents fertile grounds for blowback. There is a pragmatic benefit of adhering to commonly understood moral principles (a point that Alinsky acknowledges). Indeed, he adopts utilitarian ethics as a principle: “To me ethics is doing what is best for the most.”23 To be sure, he understands moral language as a tool to use rather than as the grounds for personal integrity, much less as exhibiting universal obligation. “The tenth rule of means and ends is that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.”24

It is evident that Alinsky's approach to community organizing is centered on achieving results rather than being centered in a spiritual inwardness that views means and ends as part of a spiritual whole. His confrontational posture devoted to winning above all else might well prove to be a problem for many of the spiritual but not religious. Possible evidence for opposition to his style is Alinsky's admitted weakness in attracting community organizers who both identified with his approach and remained committed to it long term. “This has been the major problem of my years of organizational experience: the finding of potential organizers and their training.”25 However, a more likely reason for his lack of success in attracting long-term organizers is that he unnecessarily promoted the spartan view that organizers must work long, unpredictable hours and not get paid or have a life outside of organizing. When one scans the list of qualities he seeks in an organizer, many corelate with qualities listed in this essay, but some do not. Qualities like “irreverence,” “a bit of a blurred vision of an ideal world,” being enough of a “schizoid” to polarize issues even though one agrees with 90% of what one's opponent believes26—such would likely be off-putting to the spiritual idealist.

Alinsky's assertion that he “who fears corruption fears life” (25) would be especially objectionable to the spiritual person if it was interpreted as granting permission to be corrupt if that would accomplish the mission. More accurate to Alinsky's intended meaning, though, is his admonition to the organizer not to get stuck in some idealistic worldview. Success in organizing requires that one faces imperfect human motives and actions honestly (even one's own) and takes them into account when developing strategy for advancing one's cause.

The organizing theory of Marshall Ganz at the Harvard Kennedy School would probably be much more attractive than Alinsky's theoretical position to the spiritual but not religious. Ganz's understanding of how significant change can occur is different from Hogue's visionary approach, perhaps different in a complementary way. “Change is specific, concrete, and significant. It requires focus on a goal that will make a real difference that we can see. It is not about ‘creating awareness’, having a meaningful conversation, or giving a great speech.”27 Further, “If your constituents win, achieving this goal will result in visible, significant change in their daily lives. This is the difference between ‘our goal is to win reproductive justice’ and ‘our goal is to ensure that every student has access to free, around the clock contraception on campus.’”28

Ganz extends my emphasis on existential meaning as the motivational core of spirituality by stressing the impact that emotion-laden, value-driven stories can have on facilitating change. Articulation of the current dysfunctions is relatively easy. What is difficult is envisioning the solutions and expressing them in ways that elicit commitment, organization, and action. Stories are needed that persuasively demonstrate the disastrous outcomes of current practices. More importantly, though, these stories must move beyond relatively abstract visions (as in Hogue's work) to presenting more specific goals packed with emotional attractiveness. Such stories must be enticing and inspiring. They must offer those who identify with the needed work feelings of existential meaning that facilitate the active involvement required for success. And to be consistent with the resilient democratic structure Hogue advocates, they must encourage bottom-up communal grassroots action.

Ganz believes that developing deep value-based relationships with people involved in an issue matters more for success than developing issue-centered strategies. All potent strategies, he suggests, are grounded in and develop out of the value-based relationships that have been established. In this regard, his approach is a shade different than what Jenkins emphasizes.29 From Ganz's viewpoint, the leadership of an organizer should unfurl from “the perspective of a ‘learner’—one who has learned to ask the right questions—rather than that of a ‘knower’—one who thinks he or she knows all the answers.”30 Ganz's theory of organizing is consistent with the values of the spiritual but not religious I highlighted, especially the importance of empathic relations with stakeholders and the passion for learning.

Despite minor differences, Alinsky and Ganz agree regarding most aspects of organizing. Both see issues of power to be essential to the achievement of transformation. Social change requires those with the power to make decisions regarding society to overcome their natural inertia and commitment to vested interests. People without power have to build it, and this requires protest against unjust structures, laws, and processes. Conflict creates pain among some. Resolution of that conflict requires the presentation of a winsome solution that salves the pain created. The need to create conflict and pain will eliminate from community organizing those who seek inner peace in spirituality. But this need will be embraced by those who understand the dynamics of change toward greater justice. The most famous declaration of these concepts is by neither Alinsky nor Ganz, but by Frederick Douglas, who said:

Power concedes nothing without a demand. . .If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.31

I am a member of Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC), an organization that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. Its original concerns focused on coal strip mining and land reclamation, natural resource tax policy, groundwater contamination, and refinery air pollution. The interests of its grassroots members soon expanded to include such issues as the monopolization of agricultural markets, the negative impacts of electrical industry deregulation, the championing of renewable energy, and the impact of residential sprawl. During a time when one's vote in political elections seems to give people little power, the achievements of NPRC and other similar groups have led to the creation of new groups that would benefit from higher level sharing of information, resources, and training. The formation in 1979 of Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) was a response to that need. It now includes eight member organizations in seven states. From its own experience and the materials of similar organizations, WORC has assembled a training manual for dedicated members entitled Applying the Principles of Community Organizing: A Practical Notebook (POCO) from which I will quote within the balance of this paragraph.32 The ideas and practices described in the manual have much in common with what Ganz articulated. The structure of NPRC as a member of WORC is thoroughly democratic. This is consistent with Hogue's call for the internal democratization of organizations. “We work together to affirm people's abilities, develop their own talents and speak and act for themselves” (xxvi). Power rests with the people working together to achieve goals beyond what government accomplishes and sometimes in conflict with what government legalizes. Members, not paid staff organizers, are the primary formulators of issues to be addressed. Together, members and staff devise strategies to be employed and work together to achieve two fundamental goals: to win issues and build organizations and their power. “Individuals are important, but groups get things done” (xxii). In common with Alinsky and Ganz, WORC organizations emphasize developing meaningful relationships through one-on-one meetings between organizer and member. “We promote bottom-up philosophy and process” (xxvi). During a four-day POCO training session, members are equipped with the same information that organizers have access to. There is information about how to lobby, how to organize a coalition, how bills become law, how to research corporate functioning, how to use the freedom of information act, how to run a good meeting, and so forth. “We value action over rhetoric” (xxvii).

In sum, the practices of NPRC and WORC involve the seeking after justice in public affairs, encourage learning among members, advocate changes consistent with ecological attention, are rooted in the striving for empathic relations, and aspire to wisdom in our complex world. These are precisely the personal spiritual virtues earlier listed that have the potential to build toward many of the changes Hogue advocates. Furthermore, each campaign organized by a WORC-member organization functions like a solidarity of purpose as described by Hogue, but with the added benefit of being guided by an organization with experience in successful actions expressive of the spiritual values resident in the organization's ongoing culture.

VII. Conclusion

Michael Hogue is to be commended for the rich, comprehensive vision he expresses in American Immanence. It is that very richness that calls for critique of details and urges further development that moves toward implementation of his most significant ideas. I am not convinced that Hogue's proposed path from justice to beauty (180) has the power to generate the desired changes he argues for. Beauty seems to me not to be the requisite aim of resilient democracy, but rather to contribute to the evocative aspects of the needed spirit-infused stories. Vividness, coherence, harmony, elegance, proportion, profundity, unity, and yes, beauty—such are among the aesthetic notions that contribute to the stories that inspire and move one to action. More specifically, stories are needed to explain both why certain situations and procedures are problematic and what winsome actions will remediate the troublesome issue.

A gap exists between such large-scale issues as pervasive American exceptionalism and the smaller scale issues community organizers deal with. Therefore, it seems important to reflect on whether opting to concentrate energy on solving local problems as advocated by Jenkins, Alinsky, Ganz, and WORC is relevant to the large-scale changes Hogue wants to institute.

One of Hogue's goals is to correct the “wickedness” of global climate change. It would seem that this is an issue that affects everyone. So why has it been so difficult to generate action changing the factors creating climate change? Perhaps the major reason is that climate change does not impact most people's lives in any immediate way that can't be adjusted to incrementally. Moreover, the issue is so complex and daunting. The appeal to the impact on future generations carries some wide-scale weight, but not enough to counter the inertia of most current economic and social ways of functioning. So here is where the importance of a local approach fits in. Climate change is creating relatively local problems in California as wildfires in drought conditions threaten the welfare of many citizens. The rising sea level is creating problems for those with housing near the ocean as well as for such low-lying places as certain Pacific islands and Bangladesh. Increasing heat and drought is stressing the Mediterranean countries in Europe. The list of climate-related problems disrupting relatively local social welfare could be greatly extended. The negative consequences of such impacts have the power to inspire the creation of local groups to demand change in the factors creating their specific problem. The severity of the various climate-related issues mobilizes groups to form and attack a common causal source: human-caused climate change. Recognition of this commonality provides the opportunity for these groups to integrate themselves into a broad-based movement with a united voice that has the power to force change. The grudging, slow movement away from non-renewable energy sources is seeming to gain momentum because of such recognition. Thus it is that a local approach to problem solving has in select cases the capacity to generate comprehensive change that visionary analysis lacks by itself. Furthermore, the problem-solving focus of such groups exemplifies the communal solidarities of purpose that Hogue argues have unidirectional vigor lacking in most communities of identity.

I recognize that some aspects of my analysis of American Immanence may be unfair. After all, Michael Hogue has articulated thoughtful philosophical conjectures and reflections about assumptions supporting a problematic worldview. His work is not intended to be a detailed manual for change. But because his work offers a needed cry for personal and social reform, my concern about exploring who might be candidates for actually instituting changes and how this might be done takes on some urgency as next steps are plotted to give his work greater impact and efficacy. For here is a basic critique we pragmatists and progressives need to face. In relying upon the thought of the classical American pragmatic and process thinkers and their disciples, many of the ideas Hogue sets forth have been publicly available for a century or more, as he candidly admits (78). Indeed, Hogue's basic themes place his thought in the near vicinity of the nineteenth century tradition of romanticism with its emphasis on feeling, nature, and personal experience. Accordingly, some related forms of Hogue's program have been available to influence American society for a long time. But to date our American philosophical heritage has sometimes been drawn upon in ways that allowed if not promoted the problems America now faces. Too often the reforming voice of Dewey, for instance, has been ignored. Consequently, reinstitution of our philosophical heritage requires, at least, reactivation of its prophetic edge linked with consideration of how needed changes might be enacted.

I have argued that spiritual inspiration and the successes of community organizing are valuable resources for realizing the sorts of changes for which Hogue argues. The resilient democracy he advocates remains the best vehicle for instituting needed changes if its practice can be extended beyond politics alone, and within the political realm, current money-influenced corruption can be cleaned up. Perhaps remediation of democracy so that appropriate debates can take place and result in value-based compromise is the most important and most needed preliminary political change that needs to occur before far-reaching reformation can take place. At local and state levels of governance, community organizing has a role in revitalizing democracy. Maybe then such efforts can be amalgamated and change at the national level can be realized. Maybe. My belief is that spiritual values such as listed herein, whether embedded in religious or secular institutions, are the necessary sources for the inspiring stories and visions that motivate reformation. Thanks be to Michael Hogue for offering some of those visions.



Michael Hogue, American Immanence: Democracy for an Uncertain World (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 177. Future references to this work will be cited as page numbers in the text.


Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence develop the redeemer theme in two provocative books. See The American Monomyth (New York: Anchor Press, 1977), and Captain America and the Crusade against Evil: The Dilemma of Zealous Nationalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).


Within the voluminous literature attesting to the causes of the political dysfunction I sketch in this paragraph, I especially have found persuasive and useful Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right (New York: Doubleday, 2016), and Sarah Chayes, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (New York: Norton, 2015).


Robert Neville notes that “imagination is the experiential foundation on which our more critical interpretive and moral faculties are erected.” Reconstruction of Thinking (Albany: SUNY Press, 1981), 258. He views beauty as the chief norm relevant to all acts of imagination (118). Consequently, he would likely applaud Hogue's culminating claim that any adequate vision of political revitalization, as grounded in imagination, must display beauty.


Roger S. Gottlieb, Spirituality: What It Is and Why It Matters (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 45.


Hogue acknowledges the importance of the “spiritual-but-not-religious” as an aspect of what he terms “postsecular” developments in society (10–11), but he does not really explore the forms of spirituality as a resource that might be used to effect the personal and social transformations for which he argues.


Marjorie Suchocki, “Introduction.” In John Cobb, Jr., Bruce C. Epperly, and Paul S. Nancarrow, The Call of the Spirit: Process Spirituality in a Relational World (Claremont, CA: P&F Press, 2005), x.


Willis Jenkins, The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013), 4.


Fetzer Institute, “What Does Spirituality Mean to Us? A Study of Spirituality in the United States,” available for downloading at, 6.


Christine Valters Paintner, The Soul's Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2018), xviii.


Paintner, 159.


John B. Cobb, Jr., “Whitehead's Model and Multiple Spiritualities,” in John B. Cobb, Jr., Bruce G. Epperly, and Paul S. Nancarrow, The Call of the Spirit: Process Spirituality in a Relational World (Claremont, CA: P&F Press, 2005), 33.


Steven G. Smith, The Concept of the Spiritual: An Essay in First Philosophy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988), 152.


Smith, 182.


See my “A Polanyian Semiotic: Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Meaning,” Polanyiana 31 (2022): 3–37 for a discussion online of how existential meaning is related to other aspects of meaning. See also Walter B. Gulick, “The Thousand and First Face,” in Daniel C. Noel, ed. Paths to the Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell and the Study of Religion (New York: Crossroad, 1994), 29–44, especially 40–43, for a discussion of the relation between existential meaning and religious meaning.


Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011), 154.


George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 566.


Among contemporary authors, perhaps none is as committed to promoting the virtues of a preliterate, animistic sensibility as David Abram. See his The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (New York: Vintage Books, 1997), and Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (New York: Vintage Books, 2011).


Miriam Jaffe, “Preface” in Spirituality in Mental Health Practice: A Narrative Casebook, Miriam Jaffe, Widian Nicola, Jerry Floersch, and Jeffrey Longhofer, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2020), xxiii.


Lakoff and Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh, 567.


Wylin Dassie, “Revitalizing Local Communities,” in Pamela K. Brubaker, Rebecca Todd Peters, and Laura A Stivers, eds., Justice in a Global Economy: Strategies for Home, Community, and World (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 97.


Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals (New York: Vintage, 1989 [1971]), 25.


Alinsky, 32.


Alinsky, 35; Alinsky's emphasis. In response to those who understandably view Alinsky as advocating a Machiavellian stance for the poor rather than for the prince, it should be noted that Alinsky responds to Machiavelli's claim that “politics has no relation to morals” as follows: “Machiavelli's blindness to the necessity for moral clothing to all acts and motives . . . was his major weakness” (41).


Alinsky, 59.


Alinsky, see the list ending on p. 76.


“Marshall Ganz’ Framework: PEOPLE, POWER AND CHANGE.” Online at, p. 4. This work contains material “originally adapted from the works of Marshall Ganz of Harvard University.”


Ganz’ Framewok, 20.


Ganz states, “Values-based organizing—in contrast to issue-based organizing—invites people to escape their ‘issue silos’ and come together so that their diversity becomes an asset, rather than an obstacle” (4). I tend to side with Jenkins on this issue. Persons valuing justice can often have quite diverse views as to what justice entails, whereas attention to integrated solving of an issue usually would unite affected person apart from what their unconnected interests might be. But if people valuing justice can be brought together around a unifying vision of what justice entails, this does indeed generate additional dedication to achieving the goal.


Ganz, 2.


Frederick Douglass, “If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress.” Quotation included in a West India Emancipation speech of August 3, 1857. In the original speech, the first quoted sentence follows the rest of the material I quoted.


For his suggestions concerning several aspects of community organizing and his reference to the quotation from Douglass, I am indebted to John Smillie, who recently retired from his position as Executive Director of WORC.