The Gift of New Possibilities after Coronavirus

By Rabbi Michael Lerner, special for

The Coronavirus pandemic has revealed the deep spiritual crisis in our world and given us this moment to deal with it. Will we come out of this period of social distancing by feeling that we are surrounded by selfish people who have absorbed the capitalist value of “looking out for number one,” hoarding the toilet paper and healthy food, medications, face masks and gloves and other consumer items—meanwhile depriving others of what they need?

Or will we focus globally and in the U.S. on the hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses and others who risking their lives to help those who are or may be afflicted by the coronavirus, people they don’t know.

It should be no surprise if tens of millions of Americans feel that their experience of isolation and social media on each other’s selfishness taught them to put their own interests above everyone else, because they will be returning to a work world in which looking out for number one is in fact what gets most rewarded.

We should not let the ethos of selfishness win out.

New Possibilities of Care in the Time of Coronavirus

We need to use the weeks and months ahead to encourage our fellow Americans to join with each other to embrace a totally different way of organizing our society—Revolutionary Love in which we build a caring society—caring for each other, and caring for the earth. Inspired by the prophets of ancient Israel, by Jesus, Gandhi, Sister Joan Chittister, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, the Sufis, Bell Hooks, Riane Eisler, Carol Gilligan and so many other secular humanists and religious progressives, there is reason to believe that many people can can respond to a different vision if they see enough people rallying around the same vision.

The first step is to insist that our society embrace a “New Bottom Line.” Instead of judging every aspect of our lives together by how much money, wealth or power gets accumulated, we should judge our economy, our corporations, our government policies, our legal system, our educational system, our cultural systems and our own personal behavior to be rational, productive, and efficient to the extent they maximize our capacities to be loving and generous, kind and forgiving, caring for each other and caring for the earth, joyous and compassionate, promoting environmental sanity and social justice, ethical behavior and spiritual depth, treating others as manifestations of the sacred rather than valuing them to the extent that they are actually or potentially useful to us, and responding to Earth and the larger universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement (rather than simply as something that can be turned into a commodity to make a profit.)

 Almost every progressive movement holds these values, but sadly never articulates them publicly. That is part of what we can do through zoom and social media and through everyone on your personal email lists.

For the 98% who will survive coronavirus, the opportunity to be away from oppressive or alienating or meaningless work, the opportunity to be with our families who normally don’t get enough of our time, the opportunity to think about our own inner life, our soul, the short time that we as humans have before we die, can open up deep questions about whether we want to return to the same lives we had before this plague.

Based on the research the Institute for LABOR AND MENTAL HEALTH did with American middle income workers and families, we know that there is a deep pain in the lives of many Americans.

People hunger for a life in which they feel respected, cared for by others, and connected to some higher meaning for their lives beyond the accumulation of money or power. Seeing no way to get this, many try to bury the pain of this great deprivation by turning to drugs, alcohol, embracing extremist versions of right wing politics or religion.

A Progressive Response to Troubled Times

A progressive movement that talked about love and caring and embodied that in its daily activities could provide a healthy alternative and alleviate much of this suffering.

We can do this now by building a movement for love and justice that calls for a New Bottom.

Now is the time for us to act, precisely at the moment when we ourselves, our friends and neighbors have been ripped from our immersion in “business as usual.” Send this, please, to everyone you can reach on zoom or email or social media, and help them see what a great opportunity this pandemic is giving us—if we choose to use it that way.

In the final analysis, it is our capacity for love, hope and generosity that will help us heal from the fears that so many of us have experienced these past weeks.


Would you like to organize for action?
Topic: COVID 19 Emergency Working Group
Time: Mar 27, 2020 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 267 935 095

About the author: Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of Tikkun and chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives. His vision is spelled out his newest book Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World.

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