Reaching The Believers

You’ve got to call out evil and lift up justice. ~Rev. Martha Morales (pastor at Claremont United Methodist church, whose nativity scene depicted a separated holy family)

Religion has been in the news this week.

And not just because it’s the holiday season.

You’ve no doubt heard about the Christianity Today editorial that advocated for Trump’s removal, concerned that by supporting Trump in all his immoral glory, Evangelicals are sending the wrong message to a secular world. (It’s interesting that the Ukraine scandal was the straw that broke this camel’s back, but I’ll take it.)

On Sunday that editorial was echoed in the “voices” section of another evangelical publication, the Christian Post, where a writer argued that not reining Trump in invites future pro-choice presidents to overstep. (An astute observation.) On Monday, an editor left the Christian Post after CP published a pro-Trump piece lambasting Christianity Today, and calling it “elitist.” CP has around 6 million views per month.

Meanwhile, churches have been busily preparing for the Christmas holiday. And this year, some of those preparations have been making a stir. In California, one church’s nativity showcases Jesus, Mary and Joseph separated from each other, isolated to their own chain link cages. A podium reads: “What if this family sought refuge in our country today?”

A security guard parks nearby, due to the controversy of the scene. When people visit, they often weep.

Another nativity in Boston shows rising, plastic-filled flood waters swirling around the holy family. Some of the animals are already submerged in the water. “For God So Loved The World,” reads the sign. “Will We?”

Nativity scenes as modern art; editorials calling for Trump’s removal… It got me thinking.

Is something shifting?

It’s hard to say, isn’t it? After all, over 200 Evangelical pastors banded together supporting Trump after the CT editorial. They cobbled their support back together and surrounded Trump, horns out, like a herd of bison.

But even if Trump’s support among white Evangelicals isn’t in danger (and it’s probably not), all of this news got me thinking about just how easy it is to lump people together. And even if that’s understandable in the case of white Evangelicals (and let’s face it – it is) it’s also not fair, and it means we’re leaving a whole bunch of people out of the conversation.

I was personally surprised by the recent editorials and nativity scenes. The fact that they’re all considered newsworthy means that I’m not the only one that was surprised.

It’s gotten me to check myself. To reconsider my assumptions. To realize that “they’re too far gone” isn’t really accurate. It’s my excuse for not doing some seriously hard work getting out of my own bubble and understanding other people’s perspectives. It’s really hard to listen objectively and with compassion to people that you think are acting hypocritically (at least, it is for me).

So this holiday, I’m going to honor the bravery of the editorial writers and the outspoken Christians who created such moving nativity scenes … by quieting myself a bit. I’ll be listening more closely to my family members (some of whom are, in fact, evangelicals. I KNOW, RIGHT??). I’m going to give them the room to speak that they might not afford me. I’m not going to be singing “holly jolly christmas” in my head while they talk.

I’m going to shut off the voices in my head. And listen.

It is the least I can do.

There may not be space to convince anyone. I may not learn anything new. But how are we to know if we don’t open ourselves to the conversation?

I’ll report back. Wish me luck.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday week.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the week of December 24

Tuesday: Spread the word!

Sister District is going to bring on some organizing fellows, beginning in February and going through the spring. These folks will work REMOTELY about 5.5 hours per week. Anyone can apply – if you enjoy talking to people (and especially if you’re a good writer); no experience necessary. And there’s a $500 stipend! Check it out, apply, and spread the word: WWW.SISTERDISTRICT.COM

Wednesday: Create a Sleeping Mat!

We’re all interested in actions we can take to help the environment, and things we can do to help other people.

Well, those two intentions collided with this project.

I learned about a group in my area that’s creating sleeping mats for the homeless out of plastic shopping bags. Amazing! The mats are lightweight but keep people warm and dry. It’s a great use for those plastic shopping bags that you keep forgetting to recycle. Each mat takes between 500-700 shopping bags to make. (!!)

There are apparently lots of groups that are creating these mats. You can watch a short video of one group of women who make mats HERE. Bags to Beds is an aspiring nonprofit based in Utah; they have instructions on their website here (www.bagstobeds.org).

So put those plastic bags to good use. Create your own mat or donate your bags to a group near you that needs them. Don’t have a group you can donate to? Well, there’s a lot that you can make with the plastic “yarn” (or “plarn,” as it’s referred to). Check out some ideas here: www.craftingagreenworld.com

Thursday: Research around those roasting chestnuts

If you celebrate Christmas, you might have some family holiday events this week. If you and your loved ones don’t share the same political views, it might be a tricky time of year. (I feel your pain.)

So this year, let’s use those conversations as insights. Marketing research around mashed potatoes, if you will. If we are going to persuade people to not vote for Trump, we need to get a very good sense for what’s going on in their heads. That starts with listening. So try to put a researcher hat on while you’re listening. (And then – pretty please! – send your family’s crazy comments to me!)

We’ll be able to use those conversations in future weeks when we talk about what’s going on in the minds of the GOP rank-and-file, and how we might go about talking to them.

Friday: Leave A Message for Your Senators

This week it’s just hard to reach people in offices. I get that. But we need to recapture the level of outrage we all had when the ACA was at risk.

That the Senate has already rigged Trump’s trial is NOT okay. And we – YOU and ME – need to be on the horn about it just as much as we were on the horn about people losing healthcare.

This is super serious, folks, and all we need are four Senators to help us ensure there are witnesses and real processes at Trump’s trial, rather than the sham “up or down” vote that McConnell wants.

Do not make it easy for them to shirk their constitutional duties!

So give both of your Senators a call this week. I think Friday might be the best day to actually reach someone, but you know the drill!

WHEW! GO, TEAM! SUPER PROUD OF YOU!

P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

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