I arrived at Creating Change, the annual winter gathering of LGBTQ and ally activists organized by The National LGBTQ Taskforce, feeling broken and frightened. I worked hard for Hillary and felt shattered by the election. Every Donald Trump cabinet appointment since then confirmed my fears of coming harm to so many. And now he is President; the Congress is in the hands of the Tea Party.
And yet, I left the conference focused and energized to work.
The keynote address at the opening plenary was a rousing sermon by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, an African American North Carolina pastor and President of the North Carolina NAACP. He is the guiding spirit of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina. His words rose loud and clear from his faithful experience: we must work together.
By “we” he meant all of us who work so hard for particular causes—of course, a heartfelt cause of all of us at Creating Change is LGBTQ well-being. But it’s simple: in the time of Trump, we of many causes must come together, work with and for each other. We gave the preacher a standing ovation at the end.
And scheduled into the conference, as the Saturday plenary, was marching in the Philadelphia Women’s March. We stepped out into the street at 12:30, heading to the Oval about a mile away as the thousands who started earlier were heading home. They cheered us on, and we roared for them.
We chanted together: “No justice, no peace!”
There were signs in the crowd for every possible cause: women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, economic equity, immigrant rights, ending Islamophobia, disability rights, international cooperation, environmental justice—and yes, justice for LGBTQ people. All of these groups and goals are in serious harm’s way.
After hearing Barber’s call for “intersectionality,” a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw that describes the ways multiple oppressions compound and intersect, we lived into it as we joined with others in the international Women’s March. Our contingent included people of many genders, races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations. Our journey together, on the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, was an initiation into communal resistance.
But what will sustain our commitment to one another as we rejoin our particular communities and organizations? What will happen now?
How can I get out of bed ready—no, eager—day after day, to share my power to help my neighbors?
Through their faith work, the National LGBTQ Task Force models the way. By far the loudest and most powerful force threatening the LGBTQ community (as well as others) arises from a faith group, American conservative Christians.
Recognizing this, the Task Force has devoted substantial resources to faith organizing through the years. They have also recognized the swiftly transforming landscape of faith in America, steadily adjusting their faith work to be more intentionally interfaith.
There were many workshops at Creating Change on organizing in the face of the Religious Right’s campaign against LGBTQ people. There were also two worship services, one at the time of the Inauguration on Friday, called the Multifaith Inauguration Day Ritual, and the second before the close, called An Interfaith Gathering, Trans* Revolutionary Love.
Leaders from many different faith traditions shared at these gatherings.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, African heritage, Native American, Celtic Spirituality are the ones I remember. There was respect for many pathways to that which is beyond us, the mystery with many names.
During the Multifaith Inauguration Day Ritual, there was an opportunity at the moment of Trump’s assumption of power to shine, to lament, to heal, to commit ourselves, to sing, to chant and to pray together.
I experienced in these sacred spaces both respect for each of our faith homes and also a commitment to our shared sense of the heart of the matter: a love that becomes justice when we witness to that love together in the world.
I believe such sharing—at the heart of our interfaith and intersectional work—is a spiritual discipline.
This sharing can empower our passionate causes, too. All our particular causes have a shared heart of the matter: care for the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, every bit of this amazing creation. The organizations and communities we move and serve in are various aspects of human experience, of life, that, in my tradition, I would say is made and loved by God.
So here’s how I see this working for me. Yes, I continue to work hard for the communities and causes that touch my spirit most deeply. At the same time, I keep an ear open for any cry for help from those impacted in different ways than myself. And when the call comes—as it did from the Women’s March—I will step up and out with them, as I trust others will step out for LGBTQ people when our moment comes, when we send out that call.
Here’s what I am adding to my daily spiritual practice: I will devote half an hour each day to calling and emailing my representatives, at the local, state and national levels, to inform them of my opinion on legislation and public policy. I will know what to call about by keeping myself informed through the power of social media, both about my own causes and also about others.
I believe the source of passion for all our causes, the worth and dignity of all, will keep me from burning out.
I will give myself to this work because (as the Women’s March proved), we have the power we need when we come together.
Will you join me in this spiritual discipline? Please say yes.
Photo by Alison Amyx