New Orleans: So much for resting on the 7th day, since it now appears that the progressive forces need to do a much, much better job of crossing line that separates the altar from the curb. Our friends are putting out a story that seems credible thus far that indicates that the organizers on the other side can drop a dime and call up the forces of one-hundred thousand (100,000+) or more churches to send a message on mobilizing on the right.
No sense pretending. We can not do that. At least not today….
You would think that we could though?
We have strong local networks of church based community organizations aligned with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and the Gameliel Foundation both headquartered in Chicago, DART in Miami, and PICO based in Oakland each of which represents hundreds of churches. Problem though is that added together that is still only at best a consolidated network of thousands, and it is hardly consolidated. The other problem is that they can not do this. Virtually all of these organizations at the local and network level are tax exempt c3 or c4 organizations that can not transmit political messages, except to their members (in the case of a c4). Additionally, the sturdy backbone of most of these networks is still the Catholic Church, which is now much embattled and also rigorous in its posture on political action around abortion and similar issues. Nonetheless this is a place to start and should be part of the equation.
Recently, Steve Kest, ACORN’s national representative, and I met with Rev. Bob Edgar, the former Pennsylvania Congressman, who is now the head of the National Council of Churches headquartered in New York City. He seemed to be moving within his affiliates to look at what it took to build the list and know were to move an active network. The NCC should be a part of this new progressive configuration of religious.
Years ago we had helped set up something called People of Faith, which was also based in New York, but it never quite got traction. Kim Bobo and the Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice would know others in her network.
There is a long list to be made and a lot of work to be done.
The point is simple and clear though.
We can not surrender institutions with progressive potential or the local pieces of these larger institutions that may be ready and willing allies and places housing many people looking for a way to act on what they believe. We have to engage them on the full menu of issues from local to national that threaten and challenge our constituency. We have to make sure the debate is organized and joined about the proper place for the church and its people so that choices are clear and directions are set.
Plainly and simply, we looked the other way here and we got caught singing while others were running through the aisles and working the pews. We have a base here, now we have to make sure we are moving it — 7 days a week, 365 a year, and on election days.