Faith Leadership in an Age of Tyranny

Faith Leadership in an Age of Tyranny
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good evening thanks so much for coming and joining us this is part of an ongoing series in transformational leadership in which we have over three and now four years invited leaders of faith communities and leaders informed by their faith to talk about their work to talk about their work in an intensive course with yd s students over two days and then to be part of a public conversation like this one on Friday evening so we're delighted to have you with us I want to just say a word about what's ahead one program that's not happening next weekend we were going to have a public conversation with lamell McMorris but that program unfortunately has has been cancelled however on the second and second of November the first weekend in November Norah Gallagher and Vincent Stanley who are the kind of moral and ethical voice in the corporation Patagonia are going to be our guests for a weekend class and for a Friday night conversation there's been a great deal of interest both at the School of Management and at the School of Forestry and of course at the Divinity School if in a conversation that's going to take seriously how it is that an that an ethical road can be shaped in the midst of a for-profit business and Patagonia has set pretty high standards and a model for both ecological responsibility and for fair business practices as an employer and I think it's going to be a fascinating conversation so that's the first Friday night in November in this same space at the same time we're so pleased tonight to welcome Jennifer Butler welcome Jennifer Jennifer's the founding executive director of faith in public life and before that was the chair of the White House Council on faith and neighborhood partnerships faith in public life which we'll hear a little bit more about has some 50,000 members around the country people of faith who are concerned about the issues of facing us in the United States and a political reality so she'll be talking well we will be talking together about that our model is that I'll begin by asking some questions to Jennifer and then invite you to join in asking those questions as well so think about what's on your mind as we begin to talk Jennifer spent ten years working in the field of international human rights representing the Presbyterian Church at the United Nations she's an ordained Presbyterian minister while mobilizing religious communities to address the AIDS pandemic and advocate for women's rights she grew passionate about the need to counter religious extremism with a strong religious argument for human rights her book born-again the Christian Rite globalized calls for a progressive religious response to the religious rights efforts to take the culture wars global Jennifer served in the Peace Corps in the Mayan and a Mayan village in Belize Central America where she discovered that at her heart she was a community organizer she's a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary of the School of Social Work at Rutgers and of the College of William and Mary Jennifer we're so glad to have you with us so you were a Princeton seminary student on your way to be a minute oh sorry a wonderful place on your way to be become become a Presbyterian minister and you found yourself in the midst of the work of faith and politics why I became a Christian in the south and I was actually the product of recently desegregated public schools and so I grew up with all African and yet among my relatives and I realized that although we claimed to be Christian we weren't and I studied the study I started to study scripture on that and I was really struck with Jesus mission statement where he says where that I've come to bring good news to the poor and freedom to the oppressed but that wasn't always a message that I heard in our churches and it was the 1980s and the only Christians I saw on television or Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who had founded a movement really to oppose the segregation of schools that was born out of resistance to ending and so I felt like as a Christian our values were being and and I started talking to people of color about that I had a couple of friends from Africa I go into the Peace Corps there I met a man named villager who and so from there I went off to seminary and for the first time in seminary I found words to actually express my real face I found the power of liberation theology and until that moment I really didn't have the theology expressed but actually believed and so so I wanted to go bring I wound up at the United Nations advancing human rights the Christian Right started organizing at the United Nations undermine women's rights and the most powerful tool that I had at my disposal was to speak on Christian terms about why women's rights should be honored and yet I had colleagues the UN really just colleagues so we're like oh we're not supposed to speak of religion and the public square religion supposed to be private there's a little bit of embarrassment about like bringing faith but meanwhile the Christian Right was making a moral case or a theological case at the United Nations to set back women's right I was like no we have to bring feminist theology to the United Nations imagine how strange that sounded the people at the time like what you're gonna have a theological conversation and that like modern the United Nations building with you know world governments it turned out we had standing room only like there were women from Africa fighting the AIDS pandemic we have to you know decrease the stigma of AIDS how can our theology help us do that how can we end violence against women so then I saw what was happening nationally and I got a call from DC to apply for a job and paint the public life and they they were trying to do that on the national scene it's like bring the theology that is this pearl of great price than in many ways for the constable decades have been buried under a rock we just you know the Christian Right was dominating the American media and we weren't bringing our faces values about that so when you when you're approaching a faith conversation in the midst of a democracy in these days what do you see as some of the threats there are so many threats so I think the biggest thing right now is to unite with other so that we can model diversity and pluralism and to draw moral bright lines because I think what's happening is it erosion of this ethic of love and human dignity these are two very basic concepts at the core of our faith and yet we hear you know from our president that we have to make our nation more secure by separating children from their moms and dads at the border and putting entire families and detention centers and imprison and if you don't know the administration right now has a plan to imprison 20 right now has 20,000 families locked up in prison like settings getting bad food recently died in detention so they have these horrible plans but they're justifying them with pragmatic reasons and trying to scare people into accepting them that as Christians or as people of faith we believe in the dignity of each and every person I found myself recently at a press conference saying I'm not an American first I'm a Christian first that's an important paradigm shift for Americans to ante here right now when white nationalism and Christian nationalism are on the rise I may love my country but I'm not American for some a Christian person and that shifts my identity so that those families fleeing Guatemala and Honduras a human being in need of help and if I start from that place rather than starting from my start from the place that I'm a child of God everybody's a child of God that really shifts the way you start to do your foreign policy international policies but right now we have a set of Christians who literally endorse everything this particular president says hook line and sinker and what is that that's my dog right well we put anything above God when we follow anything unquestioningly and put that thing first above God and what God has taught us that's idolatry aiming the sin of idolatry talking about what that is can help I think we've been we've our class began at 4:00 this afternoon and we've been talking a bit about working in congregations where they might not be quite so ready for that conversation talk a little bit about the organizing you're doing how is it that how is that that you draw people into this conversation how is it that they can feel empowered and ready to be part of it so in Georgia my home state working with us and there of all faiths there rural and urban they are Baptist in this cappella and Unitarian so they they run this the whole faith gamut and to give one example there was a discriminatory bill that was a discriminating against LGBT people it's been introduced for the past several years and it would discriminate under the guise of religious freedom you guys may have heard of some of these bills right and we were able to mobilize a broad coalition of faith leaders including churches that are still thinking about gay quality they're not sure about gay marriage but they really are sure that you shouldn't discriminate we're able to build a really broad coalition and even work with leaders of the governor's Church governor's Republicans to move folks along and you better to stand up front and say this is not religious freedom religious freedom it's beautiful and it is precious we denigrate it when we use it as a guise to discriminate against we were able to win that and the governor actually quoted a lot of our theology and our morality and his statement explaining why he was vetoing that piece of legislation so that's what we want to be about it's like calling people to their better angels and giving them the theological moral resources to do the right thing in organizing elected leaders you know that there's broad support is the movement entirely Christian so and Georgia Jewish leaders are really plentiful and they were able to speak to us from there and we have so we engage everybody it's interface so how do you find a theological language with which to speak that's a great question so I think one of the things we've often tried to do in the Interfaith or multi faith movement is to try to find like a consensus language right and so we take like our particular religious beliefs will water it down into like a common language and there's a time and a place for that but what we encourage people to do is speak as a Baptist speak as a Jew as a Muslim and that actually like creates a kind of richness to the conversation and ability to speak to each person's own community and we're expressing the same values but we have different ways and different scripture front ways of going about that I love it at some of our marches and rallies around the country we've had a rabbi out who blows the shofar you know the Horn of justice and starts us off that way like seeing spirituals and you know to have that sort of richness actually is the thing I think there were the time when we were afraid of that bringing that sort of particular tradition to the public square and not just because we were in her face but we felt like if we entered the public square to speak we had to sort of like take out a lot of the sort of biblical references I still put a press conference recently on snap cuts and snap ins through a program that used to be called food stamps and Congress was about to cut those and we stood up with signs that just said simply snap cuts rsn yeah drove like a really clear message now in our presentation and our remarks we were able to go deeper theologically and to say more but to be able to like further say that in the past I think that's something new we are your partners move more by their faith or by their love for country the part that people we work with yeah I think much more by their faith huh so the people we work with I think have relationships all over the world right and in their identity and they and so we're not rooted United in an exciting way with people around the world what's interesting about faith communities too is that we often are a part of a global community and that challenges people we work with an evangelical church in Ohio that has 80 different nationalities sitting in the pew when you have that that's the other thing we bring I'm talking a lot about theology and and ethics that can kind of like new people and their soul and their spirit but we also foster communities in our congregations of people of diverse political opinions diverse religions diverse immigrant statuses and so some of our churches one of our churches I in North Carolina that we've worked with Baptist Church one of their congregants was supported by the whole congregation and all of the faith communities are that region rallied to defend him and they're trying to bring him back so all of these policies impact us and impact the fabric of our community there's powerful I think thing we bring to these policy conversations and that changes people's hearts and minds you know I've seen people actually go from oh yeah you know we need to throw all them a grandson of the country etc throughout seeing wait my friend that sits next to me in the pew is an immigrant and is about to be deported in hearts and minds you change let's talk about tyranny kind of a provocative title faith in a time of tyranny and and it's a it's also a political stance to name tyranny why do you go so far out on that limb yeah and what does that mean yes I've done this work I've really begun to think so it's a you get American group growing up in that era that I grew up in I've often taken democracy for granted and has succumbed to a kind of progressive view of history but we're reading the author Timothy Snyder who was the book on tyranny and for the class and he writes about this because of the politics of inevitability that Americans have we just think things are gonna get progressively better and better and better right but that's not the case if you look at history democracy have to be protected we have to be vigilant about it when you go back and study the civil rights movement we need a lot of games in the 60s and 70s the school that I described that shaped me so much that was integrated because the Supreme Court decided to implement policies that would force the south to integrate at schools those schools are no longer integrated they're segregated now my niece and my nephew are now going to a mostly white public school that for me was half black most african-american teachers so we're going backwards in time right now and that's what led to Donald Trump isn't the disease itself the disease goes back decades resegregate UNS started happening in the eighties because of policies that we set wealth is getting concentrated we're becoming more of an oligarchy with a few families like the Murdochs and the koch brothers being able to buy off elections so if we don't reverse that if we don't get to the root of that problem which is several decades old if we don't speak up morally about what we wanted the people we're sliding in so too early Prabhas accelerating but part of I think what has enabled democracy to shift in various times in history shaping again with this idea of love of neighbor each and every person was created in them as a fad that leads a wholly different worldview then a white supremacist has white supremacist actually have an intellectual tradition tradition that they're drawing off of that is decades off old and goes back to the early 20th century maybe then further back I'm still reading and learning about it but that ethic is looks at the Christian judeo-christian ethic of love of neighbor as weak it's something that has to be eradicated from our democracy so we're actually at war with people who intellectually kind of justify and the strongest thing we have at our disposal to fight that is that we have to highlight that our public voice and get that up I've never been with religious people who don't struggle over what the next steps are yeah so how is it that you come to terms with with which which struggle to be part of next because you can't do everything you can't face all over the battle's organization than it is for a congregation for a congregation I really urge that the congregation look at where the majority of people have a passion and then lead on that issue it's possible for us as an organization we look at the faith communities were working with and we have we determine where God is leading them in this moment and in this moment it's been immigration and racism so when Jeff Sessions implemented the zero tolerance policy within a a week of that tape being released of the children crying and being the fun of in the detention center we were able to move like 500 women to gather in front of the Customs and Border Agency in Washington DC 500 women like literally the windows were battling on the customs and border agency offices and you know they were we were all over every major news outlet that day Jim the ending that the children be returned to the families and then into the policy and then several days later because of the organizing everybody did but the faith community was important in that they rescinded that order they started to reunite the children but the fight I think that's something we often don't anticipate the struggle is always going to continue it's always going to continue and we you know it's so often we have these fairy tales and they lived happily ever after right but we know the nature of human sin is not so so we basically decide you know what's more fun based on where the Spirit of God is leading people on the need where the sort of and where wonder if you talked a little about the Christian Right do you find yourself framing arguments in response to them I think it's important to be a counter voice to the religious right when they say something but at the same time I think we have to also it's important to be a corrective right if the Christian right you know certain policy is morally just then we absolutely have to issue a theological but but we also in terms of like the practice policies we want less we we actually great praise an argument based on moral values for example in Columbus Ohio Columbus has actually the highest per capita species of any city in the country the small town so a lot of people don't know that but it's the highest per capita and so we've been building a clergy Network this building and we've been working a plan with the mayor to actually implement but we we have to appeal to the cities that are angels essen an area where we're proactively working at strategy that's not it's a response to a crisis they're pretty good at getting pressed they're pretty good at commanding the theological conversation I think that's that's a combination of things anyone in the eighties the Republican Party decided that they needed to broaden the base of the policy their party and so they started to recruit Christian leaders into their coalition and they spent millions of dollars staffing and Jerry Falwell up to build the moral majority and helping Ralph rebuild and millions of corporate dollars went into that so corporations had a vested interest and expanding the pot with a party in building up the Christian Right so that they could win their economic takeover the Supreme Court so I think you know they have a massive infrastructure and we do too in the form of denominations but our denominations in the 80's and 90's one where they're attack from the Christian Right because the Christian Right was very astute they launched a strategy where they realized they had to undermine the social justice policy of Christian churches and denominations is that sent millions of dollars on that my first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church I watched the Christian right use political tactics undermine our General Assembly to gut our women's programs to kill the funding for them they use cell phone coordination on the floor of the General Assembly I found their war room they had ten computers in a war room with talking points that they printed out I later found out they had spent a hundred thousand dollars working to influence that General Assembly and it resulted in them cutting or women's ministry program and we on the progressive side weren't organizing that that's one and then I think the other was we sort of bought into this idea that society was going to secularize and that we ought to not have so loud as a public voice most of the denominations at that time I'm speaking from that experience I think there's a similar story in many of the other arenas but I know the Christian one well they they had their external media relations offices too so when I was working for the Presbyterian Church USA they didn't really have that's one thing we've tried to do it's a some public spaces to help sort of be the staff for denominational offices so they can speak out more and now they're starting to do that more and they do that on their own but when I first started this work years ago there was basically sort of the Christian Right had a massive PR strategy a lot of funding and those on the religious left so I see a lot of it is sort of it's not so much that they what they say and how they say there's also just the fact that they really think we're doing let me ask you about a couple of specific issues and then let's turn to everybody else and ask for your questions let's talk about sanctuary the sanctuary church movement the new sanctuary movement you're involved in in that issue tell us how yes so there's a church ohayo that is yeah I guess there are two cases I mean sanctuary is one way to go at this year we broadly immigration issues yeah there's a family woman Ohio and a lot of what we've done there is also help get press attention to her because that protects her there's a there's a timer which I mean you have to sort of calculate that but she basically getting attention to that also puts pressure on the elected officials and on ice not to try to engage the church you know that's the other thing Marybel Trujillo was a Catholic parishioner in Cincinnati who was about to be deported and so we launched massive faith rally called on the Senators and asked that she not be deported she was ultimately deported and separated from her family and her young daughter has a medical issue and because of the work that the faith community oh hi oh she recently came back for a hearing and was reunited with her family for the first time in months into both of those families our families that have been protected because of that advocacy work of the states and ultimately I think the faith community is serving as a witness for the kinds of policies that century we're talking in her the democracy journey we're talking about how the book on tyranny has these wonderful steps of preventing tyranny and one of them is that you have to show up early and often and so what we're doing is the faith view is showing up early and often and saying we see you we see what you're doing this is an inequality so we may have success in many faces and protecting actual families in your life at the same time we're lifting up a standard for who the country should be and then you share those stories with with the whole network is that the media attention I think you know it's pastors and it's a pity we often think of like the congregation from the pulpit you know as it's a place from which we preach but in this modern era we have to think of CNN our blogosphere and our way of reaching people I have pastors say to me that they preach they have their their congregation on Sundays but Fox News has them every single day of the week 24/7 and so we have to be out there 24/7 spreading and doing that in a way that models respect for all religions and all talk about race in America white supremacy rise of racism publicly it's been there how do you can have you contested that in that conversation so from the get-go at the start of the Trump administration you know a sharing with the class earlier today that a lot of people were sort of spinning their wheels everybody was in such shock that Trump had elected but right away you know we were everybody was wondering well is he going to be more moderate once you get the presidency after the crazy campaign season and maybe hold a sort of moderate a little bit but of course he appointed two white supremacists right away to his cabinet so we immediately put out a petition calling religious leaders to oppose the cabinet of bigotry and right away you know within 24 hours we got like you know 6,000 signatures on this letter we then took it and started went to every member of Congress every Democrat that was sort of on the fence about cabinet approvals in every Republican office we got religious leaders to sort of just storm the castle with this position to put Congress on nudists and put the country on you too that we were drawing a bright moral line in the sand against racism and bigotry we've got lots of media coverage of that and then our standing out on that so early also helped denominational leaders which was hard to do because normally we don't oppose cabinet positions so these were so radical we felt like and then I was really excited to see what's up the faith leaders in Charlottesville Virginia when the KKK and neo-nazis you know we're marching and the streets they're that community we worked with them a little bit but they have done some incredible organizing over because they saw this coming and they tried to lift it up to the officials in their town to make sure that they can a little bit in right way and they were prepared they did such great organizing here and as you saw and the news commentary state leaders weren't the front line the front lines of those marches we do they also knew that I think the important thing to think about too it's not you know we I focus on the media that's custom one of our four missions but it's important that this moment I think you think of spiritual strategies and spiritual disciplines that can help shift what's going on out there and the the community in Charlottesville really modeled that they had prayer vigils every week leading up to the white supremacist Southern days and then Charlotte spelled basically they had a worship service on the eve of that I was watching that live it's like the neo-nazi started marching around the churches and people couldn't even move while they were worshiping but the ability to worship together and unfold each other and to pray and to cleanse the space leading up to that that moment and to build relationships with everybody the community was critical when violence broke out because they were on the scene taking people to the hospital standing spiritually physically for healing what questions do you have for Jennifer Butler yes yeah thank you I love that so we work a lot with evangelical churches so often I make a distinction between the Christian Right which is a usually a political group and there are certain groups that kind of like organized the Christian right that's very different than like evangelical churches white Christian evangelical churches that aren't politicized that are just trying to follow God and have a strong sense of community and I believe and people will debate me on this all the time right there's some people who are so mad evangelicals for electing Trump that they feel like they just want to write the whole community off actually believe because it's where I'm from I have a lot of evangelical friends and family members and I've seen people change their hearts and minds over time and I see that especially in evangelical churches that have a lot of races and nationalities in their community I mean because evangelicals like to do outreach and they want to spread the gospel they often end up racially diverse not always but they often do and I think that helps this situation and so and I think that's again why our theological and moral language is so important because even joke was really hold the Bible closely right and so we need to make the scriptural case for why we should welcome the stranger which is really easy to do I mean there's over 200 passages in Scripture about welcoming the stranger and you were emigrants once and God loves immigrants and there were over 2,000 verses in the Bible about poverty and so being able to work from Scripture I think is really critical I've ly you know you know I'll find in sharing Scripture that they haven't heard that preached on in their congregation you know and so once you like walk through the scripture we've been able to do workshops and like get evangelical churches more engaged and being a sanctuary church you know and thinking about like you know is it okay to break the law you know doesn't God say to respectful laws well you know let's look at what Cheryl did and it was listed in Egypt and encountering Pharaoh's so I think laying out that scriptural basis is really powerful and it's funny you know we say bill broad coalition's and often people think that means oh go connect to the Muslim and the Jewish community and the Christian for me and make sure you have a broad but I'm always really explicit about go sit down with evangelical pastors to you know that for many people is more of a walk on the wild side than beating somebody from a whole different thing we do feel like we're from different faiths right but it's critical and you will be surprised you really might be surprised pick especially those that already have community ministries and start the relationship building there I wholeheartedly agree with you and that's how we're going to heal the country of literacy like being able to read and mm-hmm and so you're wondering it was specifically about how to do that like with different faith groups bringing them together or like how they take a theology of a particular tradition and put it into the public square I'm trying to get the nature the first I'm sorry yeah yeah yeah right yeah okay yeah so it's kind of like how do you take what you learn in seminary where big words like hermeneutics right and how do you translate that to the congregation or to a village in Africa that's fighting AIDS that kind of way to put it a little bit I don't want to take her question away or anything but yeah I love that question because what I learned from African women is how they were so the women and their society had to fight both so they wanted to fight the AIDS pandemic but they were also like disempowered within their society for taking leadership in the congregation so my friend on Tondo who was a theologian you those big fancy words like hermeneutics she worked with them on scriptures where the forgive me there's a story I think it's in numbers or a little bit Medicus of these women who are deprived of land and then they they go and reason that they should get in here at the land right so she used that to empower the women to challenge their pastor pastor to preach on AIDS HIV AIDS once they understood that scripture really well they felt the courage to be able to do that in my I used to work for the Presbyterian Church nationally and I used to begin my workshops on women's rights and what they were why women's rights are important I would begin them by talking about Luke chapter 4 and Jesus statement of bring good news to the poor and and say you know what is bringing good news to a poor woman who it doesn't have enough to feed her family what does that look like and actually put that scripture in the context of like how people in Jesus day would have heard it the velkan spiritualize scripture right and make it very esoteric and then one time I thought a workshop on like how do you view Scripture how do you sort of walk through Calvin and how sometimes we make an idol of Scripture like scriptures the point – god that's not God and how do you what does it hurt me Munich actually went over that and this workshop on global women's rights right like the expected me to start there but if you're gonna understand like how to apply a gender lens to the Bible and sort of the how to read scripture and then how to understand some of this theology and then why that's liberating you have to kind of start here so I think we should find ways to teach that to our congregations and I've heard a lot of you probably heard Reverend barber I heard him on MSNBC using the Greek word Cocos to describe you know poverty define that what I was like I can't believe I'm here at Patoka so I'm MSNBC right but he went through the whole thing and like explained poverty people and why we as Christians had to have to change things so I think there's a new way the the one you know there very few things I can find about this moment it's a very dark time in our country but what I love is how people are bringing their theology to the public square is really specific in deep ways the sermons if you go on our Facebook page and look at the sermons they're well they're not sermons their press conference statements all right we have these press conferences but they will knock your socks off in terms of their really sermons and they're really quite beautiful and so I I watch them sometimes you know if they're in Ohio or some other place in the country I can't be there and I just watch them and need some time to offer a variation on that question though the wisdom of communities who are not in divinity schools the the communities who understand a struggle for justice what do you wish seminaries were teaching what do you wish we were learning in a place like this from the place that you stand wrapped right now we need to be right we need to know how to reach out and I didn't learn this one area one of those around and it's the same skills that you use to organize your community or also skills that you use in organizing your congregation building consensus doing a power analysis that's sort of who's really in charge and learning how to shift that they can be incredibly helpful in terms of church planning developing leaders in your congregation else has a question yeah please mm yeah yeah yeah so it's like you you hear of a person preaching a sermon that denigrates another group what can you do about that and that's that's again why I find media so important because it is a way to reach a broader community with your theology and somebody that's being denigrated one needs to hear that love from a religious perspective otherwise they have damage done to their soul not just potentially to their bodies and their well-being but to their soul and so they need to hear it and there needs to be our corrective for those around I remember when I was a girl I went to visit another church with some friends and the pastor there was preaching against LGBT people and he actually it was really quite ugly this pastor was mocking them and you know as a child I I didn't know what to do but I felt very uncomfortable and fortunately I had a friend at the time who'd been well trained by her parents and she grabbed us and we walked out but the ability to now to you know I mean their bad side start our media and social media and and we were talking about in the class in the way we have to make sure we all detox from it because it's just too much but the benefit that it gives us is ability to reach over a particular pastor and reach people in the pews that need to be reached with a different theology that might rethink you know here I'm hearing this from the pastor as a young girl that somebody was able to reach over and like tell me what to do about it and that my discomfort was right it was real deep discomfort about it but I didn't know how to articulate it it's like an 11 year old the media you know can actually do that for people and that's why we have to write theological II because so many people they feel like they have to choose between what they to be right and their gut and their faith and we know that they're not in contradicting to contradiction to each other there's a young woman I met at the UN and it was just when I started to do a bunch of events around faith and women's rights I was basically bringing feminist theology to the UN and this young woman comes in my office and she's yelling at me and she's like Apple collecting I mean she just can't even express herself and she's muttering I'm Methodist and I worked for this women's organization and I keep my women's rights separate from my church and my church separate from my women's rights work and you're bringing them all together she was like really animated like I was like Kramer on Seinfeld or something she was like shaking and so I talked to her about that for a while and then I had a stack of um theology books and chanting then the seminary everything but I had like Dolores Williams sisters in the wilderness a lady Russell buck and I gave her a stack of these books so she goes off she comes back Emily I'm never gonna see those books again she comes back three months later and she's like I have been talking about these books everywhere my husband's afraid I'm gonna get kicked out of church you know but it was like the good news that was the gospel like what does good news mean that is the good news and so we have to be preaching that and teaching that and finding ways to reach people to give them the tools to overcome the oppression that they're hearing in their midst so give us some starting places we read those books we go off into congregations how to stay how is it that young clergy new clergy can stay connected can build networks can keep keep that sense of justice begin that struggle against tyranny it's really important to join a group they can sustain you whether that's around an issue or a faith so face in public life provides a lot of that we have an email list we work in every state in the country so we had you know offices in four states but we've also done work this past year in Alaska those senators have been really key on the health care bill and a lot of things can a connecticut pastor join a connecticut pastor we do webinars we do actually next month you're having a dialogue with Timothy Snyder who wrote on tyranny oh cool so we're actually inviting him to those down the block I think but you know when Trump was elected we had a big briefing with Southern Poverty Law Center on white supremacy of what is it and is that what we're up against and how did they get so strong and you know where's all this coming from so find a place you can plug in that can nurture you we also do media trainings and message trainings we can come so whether it's with us or another group what do you read I mean yeah times but what do you read and that keep the bills that puts these worlds together and then I'm reading a lot of so Snyder's new book Rhoda unfreedom I should like get paid as a promotional person or something but it puts together the subtitle is Europe Russia America so you can only imagine and I think in these times we feel like least I feel bombarded and kind of like what is a framework with which I can put everything that's happening into like everything so you and everything shifted like it's hard if you can't put things in an analytical meaningful framework then you can't come up with any sort of theory of change so reading reading some of the strings for understanding that Nexus of reading the words of other organizers listening to sermons actually work with around the country has been really important I'm reading a lot on racism and the great book I read recently is white rage it came out a while ago I finally got caught up with that but white rage for me put together the history of racism in this country and a really succinct way that just tied it all together into the present moment and I hear I've taken all these civil rights theology but I am stunned at how much I did not do so I think it's very important for all of us to be reading the history of race I just got a list of great books from out all the students here today queer theology I need I almost want to go over and give you a high-five I was like wow another infrastructure nerd I'm the probably the only person who ever uses that word in the Theologiae but um yeah I think that's a really good question so when I started this organization most progressive groups did not have very big email or mail lists it was really shocking to me I I was I wrote my first like well edited like magazine of church and society for the Presbyterian Church I was like how many people are gonna get this I'm so excited I worked on it for two years 2000 people were gonna get it and a three million member church so I think one piece of infrastructure if you're in a community wherever you are organizations learn how to use a database or even just Excel and I can show you a few quick trick tricks when we go over and get cake for whatever afterwards like it I love it you know love Excel love it so like be organized like that and like get to know the media in your area and it can be hard sometimes I think more now if reporters put their emails online and they want tips and Twitter is a great way to connect with the reporters but build your press lists early on and know who are the key reporters on the issues you care about and track what they read so you know what they're interested in and then sort of get to know them so if you're working on immigration know who covers immigration in your local town paper I know that people read local papers more than they read more important to be in the daily news than it is to be you know in New York Times or two but really the local paper counts so build your media infrastructure build your who are who are your partners in crime that will show up when there's a Muslim ban imposed and you guys need to go to the airport it's a so is being deported local ice office you know who those people are have coffee with them build that out so that's the infrastructure I think it's just like nerdy little detail stuff and it can be built slowly over time people get overwhelmed George you're so busy there's so much on them to do but if you can just do you know one thing a month to build that up that makes sense yeah we do have a wonderful reception and we hope that you'll stay for it as soon as we break Ross yeah so I got that um there's a thing called the poverty Bible that I think like sojourners and World Vision made a couple years ago and I ordered that it's got all the poverty and social justice scripture highlight in orange you guys know it right so like that's my like little devotional Bible and it's like every single page has orange on it right and you read this stuff and you're just like like every day I'm shocked you know by the scripture and it's relevant to what's happening now and I think the challenge of being able to preach in 10 seconds or 30 seconds to deliver like um sort of like a little homily outside Mitch McConnell's office or to know how to you know sorta get that point across in that moment has been a really sort of creative spiritual discipline and work I've been thinking a lot for example recently about Pontius Pilate and the way he said what is truth and we Rudy Giuliani recently when asked a question about something like what is truth and I write when hope was alike that I had a relative say to me we can't know truth anyway you know and I was telling the class how just like that was the one thing that made me ballistic I could tolerate anything else he said but not that but here is Pontius Pilate doing that he has a chance to like free an innocent man and he's been you know doing amazing things and healing people but he cynically he's either out of cynicism he says what is truth or maybe you know he's the proxy of an empire and so he's being facetious there what is truth I define truth you know and so thinking about that geologically I just hit me when Julian he said that so I turned that into an op-ed actually little blog post and and they got a lot of pickup and so I think people are hungry for that I mean it's amazing that a book written by so many communities so long ago can have so much Rowlett relevance right now but the cool thing about Scripture I've always thought is that scripture is the Living Word it is alive and it has an historical context and all that but it is alive today and it's speaking very loudly to me so let's make it speak to everybody Jennifer thank you so much for being with us we appreciate it [Applause]

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