People of Faith in Netroots Nation
I admit that as I prepared to moderate the panel on Common Values: Building Bridges with People of Faith to Win Progressive Change at Netroots Nation, one of my assumptions was that progressives might be uncomfortable sharing their “tent” with people of faith. I heard these same thoughts from the panelists the night before our presentation, wondering if we might face fiery objections from Netroots folk. This possibility was also discussed by commenters on this blog who kindly shared their wisdom before I left for Vegas.
However, three things happened during the course of the conference that rocked this assumption for me. First, at Netroots Nation 2009 in Pittsburgh, I was the only one at the people of faith caucus. This year there was a good group of eight during the time I was there. There were people from many faiths who brought wonderful questions and a good spirit of fellowship as progressives together.
Second, Tikkun had sent me a box of the current edition of their magazine, whose cover story is on GLBT inclusion as a basic religious issue. I took a bagful of these to the GLBT caucus and asked Pam Spaulding, one of the caucus leaders, if I could offer them to the group. She said, “Sure, hand them around.” Every single one was taken, as were copies I placed on tables around the exhibition hall and the entrance to the convention center.
Finally, it came time for the workshop I moderated. The panelists offered practical tools to involve people of faith in progressive action, both for specific issues and political candidates. And the commitment of the speakers to progressive causes shone through, demonstrating clearly that we, progressive people of faith, have an active place within the progressive movement. All of this was as we had planned.
What made such an impression on me were the questions that came after the presentation, which made it clear that our audience, too, was ready to work together for progressive change. Implicit in their questions was the understanding that the situation is not one of progressives reaching outside the tent to work with people of faith. Everyone at the workshop seemed to agree that people of faith are firmly inside the tent of progressive activists, just as much as union organizers, community organizers, online organizers and all the rest.
For those of you who have struggled to find common ground with other progressive activists, I hope this gives you all hope. Try again to engage with other progressive groups in your world to win progressive change where you are. It may be that our assumptions about other progressives no longer hold. It may be that change has come where you are, as well, and cooperation has become possible for the good of all. I saw this at Netroots Nation. May it be so for you as well.