Practicing Democracy Guides

Democracy is more than a form of government. It is a way of life that can be strengthened through spiritual practices — both those traditionally considered to be “inner work” and those that encourage active engagement with our neighbors and communities. The Practicing Democracy Guides give you specific ways to practice democracy at home, at work, on the Internet, and in other settings.

  • Practicing Democracy at a Family Dinner or Reunion: This plan offers suggestions from a group of spiritual leaders about how to handle the common situation of sitting down at a family dinner or reunion when those of different opinions and worldviews may be present.
  • Practicing Democracy at a Local Meeting: Given the scenario of a group of people with very diverse opinions coming together at a governmental meeting, a group of spiritual teachers brainstormed hospitable and compassionate approached, which we matched to before, during, and after practices.
  • Practicing Democracy in Response to the News: Before, during, and after suggestions for expanding awareness, staying calm, and seeking guidance when you take in distressing news.
  • Practicing Democracy through Advocacy and Outreach: A fundamental value of American democracy is the common good: that which is beneficial for all members of the community. Upholding it is a goal of advocacy and outreach work. Here are some practices that encourage democratic virtues like fairness, social conscience, service, and civic engagement.
  • Practicing Democracy with Children: Children come naturally to some democratic values, like pursuit of happiness and love of freedom. Other ideals — like recognizing that we are all equal and seeking the common good — need practice. This guide encourages children's democratic engagement at home and in their communities.
  • Practicing Democracy with the Earth: A democratic approach to the Earth asserts that all humans are citizens of the Earth community, and other species also have rights that should be preserved. This guide encourages the strengthening of democratic values and virtues in our relationships to the Earth, its current inhabitants, and its future generations.
  • Practicing Democracy with Your Faith Community: Faith communities serve as pillars of light modeling civility and hospitality to the stranger; they boldly denounce injustice and offer programs to enhance the common good. Here are some ways your faith community can strengthen the bonds within our democracy.
  • Practicing Democracy at Home: "The human heart is the first home of democracy," observes American author Terry Tempest Williams. "It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous?" Here are some suggestions for approaching your everyday activities in ways that promote democratic values.
  • Practicing Democracy through Multifaith Engagement: Building multifaith relationships bolsters the stability of our communities and country, and it also sustains one of America’s most cherished values — freedom of religion. Here are some ways to engage with people of multiple traditions.
  • Practicing Democracy with Your Money: What factors determine how you earn, spend, invest, and give away your money? The answer reflects your cultural background, your values, your ideals, and even your perspective on democracy. Here are suggestions for approaching your finances in ways that promote democratic values and virtues.
  • Practicing Democracy in Your Neighborhood: Democracy begins locally — not only within the city or county government nearest you but even closer, within your neighborhood. Philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs observed that in living systems, change takes place "from many local actions occurring simultaneously." Here are some starting points for that process of change.
  • Practicing Democracy Online: An increasing number of our interactions about democracy occur online. We turn to our favorite websites, channels, and chat rooms for research, dialogue, and debate, often as a replacement for pursuing face-to-face opportunities. To help foster healthy engagements online, we offer these suggestions.
  • Practicing Democracy at Work: Americans spend a major portion of each week at work. The way we go about our jobs and how we relate to our colleagues — both in our own workplace and on behalf of the larger community of workers — reveals how we much we value the common good and the national motto “Out of many, one.

For more information about the Values, Virtues, and Spiritual Practices chart used in these guides, please see The Language of Democracy.

We the People Book Club Reading Guides

The We the People Book Club uses American literature to explore the values and visions of American life. The selections for the program chronicle the last century of American thought and explore such themes as individualism and communalism, difference and unity, law and justice, the "stranger," and the spiritual values of resilience, compassion, hospitality, freedom, equality, and civility.

Reading Guides to the selections are available for free download:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
Selected Poems of Walt Whitman and Maya Angelou
Tenth of December by George Saunders
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Partly-Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The We the People Book Club was offered as an e-course from September 2018 - August 2019. It is now available to schedule at your own pace or to have us create a custom group. You can also access the following modules as individual e-courses:

Exploring The Grapes of Wrath
Exploring The Underground Railroad
Exploring A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Exploring Selected Poems of Walt Whitman and Maya Angelou
Exploring Tenth of December
Exploring Gilead
Exploring Pudd'nhead Wilson
Exploring The Fire Next Time and Between the World and Me
Exploring Ceremony
Exploring The Sympathizer
Exploring The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Exploring Their Eyes Were Watching God

Other Program Plans

  • Student Activist Starter Guide: These self-assessment questions and pointers help those who are starting out on the path of social activism to develop clarity about personal connections with issues and intentions for justice work.
  • Practicing Democracy Conversation Program Plan: This plan provides detailed ideas for bringing together neighbors to develop and strengthen relationships.
  • Practicing Democracy in Sports: This program plan explores practices that encourage the strengthening of democratic values and virtues through the activities of athletes, sports leadership (including coaches, parents, and sports administration), and spectators.