different communities: similarities in organizing

I can’t help but notice the similarity of the tone and demeanor of the speakers at last week’s National Republican convention to opponents of full inclusion and welcoming of LGBT people in the mainstream Christian churches. As I read press coverage, I thought, “Wow, I have heard those arguments before!” It’s from the same playbook.

Almost all speakers last week lamented and downplayed the role of community activism and organization. It is a rather obvious attempt to demean the background of Barack Obama who did this quite effectively. Sarah Palin questioned if community organizers had “actual responsibilities”. Rudy Guiliani questioned if these organizers “work” in their roles. These two speeches give real insight into the Republican mindset. The message is loud and clear, “No change is needed, and those advocating change are trouble makers.”

At Churchwide and synod assemblies, I have seen many people with similar views. They also question the motives and work of full inclusion workers. How soon have these folks forgotten that similar activists brought about the ordination of women in the ELCA and worked to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s impossible to deny that society has progressed due to their work. I believe the same logic can be applied to the fight for the rights of LGBT people in the Lutheran Church.

Interestingly enough, polls show a nation divided during this election. The similar situation exists in the ELCA. Through almost 10 years of Churchwide and Synod assemblies, the vote runs neck and neck for the support or non-support of LGBT inclusion. Many assumed that the 2008 election would not be bogged down in cultural wars. With the selection of Sarah Palin, the rule book changed. She electrified the right wing evangelicals and threw fear into those aligned with the left.

Another characteristic I see in many Republicans is their claiming that they are being discriminated by the press and liberals. They try to claim words like “inclusive”. This tactic is also seen in anti-inclusion folks in the Church. The tactic is to redefine the words to cast themselves as being unjustly treated and thus being the oppressed.

As you watch the election speeches, debates and coverage, be sure to look for the similarities of people who work for and against full inclusion in the Church. It is one and the same. And the answer to Guiliani and Palin is, “Yes, these community organizers are often paid, they do a tremendous amount of work for the good of this nation, and community activism is what has made this nation the country that it is.

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