Like most people on election night, I stayed up late watching the results, realizing that something unexpected was happening: Trump was winning. Words from playwright William Gibson came to mind: “The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.” The shock of that night was realizing that the progressive values we hold so dear did not shape the future that was “here.” It was shaped by a populist uprising seemingly inspired by hate rhetoric, fake news and nostalgia for the days of white supremacy. I knew that such a sentiment was out there, even among my own family members and friends. But I underestimated the scale of the anger, the willingness of people to ignore the misogyny and racism regularly espoused by our President-elect, and the force of fear-based sound bites to overpower simple conversations about policy, competence, and temperament. The future is already here, and now we clearly see its distribution.
This “future” presents progressive faith leaders with interesting challenges: What shall we do in response? How shall we prepare? How did so many of us not see this coming?
While a number of faith leaders call for unity and “coming together,” I am not among them. I love the quote I recently saw online that said “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” I’m haunted by a sense that we are dealing with a new and very dangerous political reality that will demand a level of moral courage from us that we might underestimate today. I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but I do mean to state as strongly as I can that the voice of progressive faith leaders will matter going forward. We must prepare ourselves and our congregations for the hard work ahead.
To that end, here are some ideas to get us started:
Engage your congregation in 100 Days of Action.
Convergence and our partners have curated a congregational resource with liturgies, educational tools, sermons, songs and activities to mobilize people as a love movement in communities. This resource will be released in January 2017 and is designed to serve as a “workout regimen” for congregations to begin living out our faith through both devotional practices and public actions. We are both organized and organizing denominations. It’s time to start moving!
Connect big and small.
Register your church as a Progressive Faith Community in the national church locator map, and connect with churches across the country and across the world who share your values. Click here to list your church.
Don't forget to connect with your neighbors too:
Connect 4: Get together with 4 faith communities of different races and/or denominations and/or religions. Create groups of four individuals or families to have dinner in one another’s homes, following a set of questions and dialogue prompts we provide. After 4 weeks, have participants share their experience at each congregation, and invite others to keep the process going.
Turquoise Pick Nick Table: Here is a fun idea to get to know our neighbors. A woman named Kristin Schell came up with a creative way to invite people in her neighborhood to meet one another. Perhaps we can borrow the Turquoise Pick Nick Table model.
Sanctuary Churches: Congregations play a unique role in providing safety to people under threat of deportation. Should the Trump administration call for mass deportations, churches willing to provide sanctuary to people will need to be ready. Learn more about this by connecting with PICO.
Rapid Response: We need to pay attention to the legislation that is before our local, state and national legislative bodies and make our options known. Work with organizations like Faith in Public Life to coordinate.
Solidarity Conversations: Lots of folks are feeling threatened. Your congregation can equip its members to reach out to neighbors, friends, coworkers, etc., who are in threatened groups with a message of reassurance and a promise for support.
Let's educate ourselves.
We need to study movement theory, network theory, non-violent organizing, liberation theology, womanist theology, queer theology, political action strategies… Well, we need to learn a lot. Here are some texts to get us started:
- Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow by Daniel Hunter
- The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian McLaren
- Grounded by Diana Butler Bass
- Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley
- Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
- Reinventing Organizations by Fredrick Laloux and Ken Wilber
- Seventh Sense by Joshua Ramo
- Theory U by Otto Scharmer
- This is an Uprising by Mark Engle
- Syllabus for White People Wanting to Educate Themselves
- "Trump is bringing progressive Protestants back to church" by Emma Green, The Atlantic
- "How Trump is paving the way for a revival of the 'religious left'" by Jack Jenkins, The Washington Post
Join a School of Convergence Leadership cohort.
Consider your church participating in the School for Convergence Leadership: We need a new way to support and sustain congregations. Led by Brian McLaren, the focus of the School for Convergence Leadership is to liberate congregations from ignorance, superficiality, blame, and shame by helping them understand the complex causes of decline in “organized religion,” and to inspire participants with a fresh vision of Christian faith as “organizing religion” - a movement of spiritual activists organized for mission in their homes, neighborhoods, professions, communities, economies, and political arenas.
I don’t believe our future is set in stone. In fact, if William Gibson is right, the future that is here now shows us both the ugliness of what is possible but also the amazing opportunities for love, justice and the generosity of inclusion. We must get to work with our eyes wide open to the realities in which we live. We are a people of hope, and we are all in this together.
More to come,