Love is Unstoppable: Faith Action Kit

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)

LOVE IS UNSTOPPABLE

May 14-15, 2016 Weekend of Action Toolkit 

Compiled by many members of SURJ’s Faith Working Group. Contact Rev. Anne Dunlap if you wish to get involved with the Faith Working Group (adunlap70@gmail.com). Questions, Feedback, or want support with your action? Contact Rev. Cathy Rion Starr (crionstarr@uuma.org / 541-390-7553) 

Join (mostly) white faith communities across the country to show up for deep, fierce and abiding love for our communities and against hate and fear.

Be sure to Register your action:

1) Click here to register your action - So we know you’re planning and can support you

2) Click here to list your action on SURJ’s action page so others can find it. Click “Host an action” and create a login)

Get updates when we add more resources at the Facebook event and on the Love Is Unstoppable webpage.

 

Love_is_Unstoppable_-_MN_SURJ.jpg

 

PART I  - CALL TO ACTION

The Presidential Campaign continues to to raise the bar on racist rhetoric with attacks on immigrant communities, Black communities, Muslim communities, women- the list goes on and on. Messages of hate are sadly finding support among many white people, and the entire slate of candidates across parties have failed to fully embrace a comprehensive and accountable racial justice agenda.   

We refuse to join a political agenda founded on hate. White supremacy and racism are not a partisan issue. Using racism to divide people who have every reason to stand together is not new. It is an age old way to keep poor and working people divided by race. 

What this campaign season has made clear is the necessity to deeply commit ourselves to the work of racial justice. Right now, people of color, locally and nationally, are calling on white people and primarily white organizations, to show up in a much bigger way, to take on more risk, to be more open and public in our opposition to white supremacy.   

SURJ has developed a new model: leading not with guilt and shame, but with helping white people identify our stake in ending racism. We can use this moment to build a base of white people deeply engaged in racial justice organizing for the long haul.

White people of faith can and must be a part of this organizing! Faith communities are particularly positioned to lift up alternative visions for community that are rooted in love, justice, and collective liberation. Love in action is an unstoppable force in the face of hate. 

White people of faith have a special responsibility to interrupt a process that seeks to mobilize our community against our neighbors of color. Thus we are calling for ongoing interventions and a National Weekend of Action May 14-15.  We hope for 100 communities to take public action to say Love Is Unstoppable.

Let us take VISIBLE  PUBLIC LOVING action

Public Liturgy, Love Ins, & Love Letters

Let us hold spirited, visible actions that call all our presidential candidates and elected officials to a higher moral standard that puts

LOVE and LIBERATION at the center,

which is what our faith/spiritual traditions call us to do.

 

Current Context

From “How the Hell Did We Get Here,” by Austin Channing

[Channing is a Black Christian writer writing in her own context of the Christian Church - we think and hope these words resonate beyond the Christian Church] 

“We the Church can no longer afford to remain silent (or apolitical or any other fancy terms for ignoring what's happening). The Church must be on the forefront of combating white supremacy and the fear, resentment and scarcity that white supremacy nurtures. Or else we will continue to pay a heavy price for the burdens  and violence of racism, nativism, exclusion, resentment and fear. All these lead to violence. Every time. It is the only place they lead.

...The flames of anger, fear and resentment...have been stoked unabated...And truth be told, [all] candidates are tapping into it to one degree or another on both sides of the aisle. Race has been and will continue to be a political pawn for as long as we have a race problem. The exploitation of race is real, yo.”

Why Black Lives Matter isn’t endorsing any candidate by Melina Abdullah, Black Lives Matter

“So I think there’s three reasons why we’re not endorsing any candidate. The first is that neither Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton...have been willing to really invest the time or energy to develop plans that really get black folks free. So, we don’t have a whole lot of faith in either of the Democratic candidates. And absolutely, we don’t have any faith in Donald Trump…

And...when we think about what democracy is, democracy being rule by the people, we need to really kind of redefine what that means...recognizing that where we want to put our time and energy is in the development of people to act in their own interests and on their own behalf. And so, we are pushing the real revolution. We know that the revolution won’t come at the ballot box and the revolution won’t be televised. The revolution will be on the ground, when the people rise up and demand something better, something more imaginative and something more visionary.”

From the #BlackLivesMatter Haggadah Supplement from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

They cried to Moses, “What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt ...

it is better to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12)

“When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, it was a moment of great risk and great change. As the passage above shows us, though life under Pharaoh was cruel and crushing, it was also familiar — a known fear. After a century of servitude, freedom. What changed? It was the Jewish people daring to imagine for themselves something greater. Daring to take great risks and face great fears to find liberation. This willingness to stand up for justice is a strength we have found again and again. When the oppression of economic exploitation demanded it, our grandparents found it in the labor movement; when the civil rights movement demanded it, our parents traveled to the South to register voters. Now this moment demands again that we take risks for justice.

What our neighbors in communities of color are asking — what the Jews of color in our own

communities need from their fellow Jews — is that we push past the comfortable and move to action. In the streets, in our synagogues and homes, with our voices, our bodies, our money and resources, with our imaginations. In doing so we must center the voices and the leadership of Jews of color and other communities of color, while forming deep partnerships and long-term commitments to fight for lasting change.

Passover is a time of remembrance but also one of renewal — of looking ahead toward the spring and new growth that will sustain us through the seasons to come. Once we spent spring in the desert. It was harsh and difficult but from that journey grew a people who have endured for centuries. What would happen if we took that journey again, not alone in the wilderness but surrounded by friends and allies, leaving no one behind?” 

Holy Week Statement from the Episcopal Church House of Bishops, co-signed by all United Church of Christ Conference Ministers:

"On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.

In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us."

PART II - Action Proposal

 We often do “die ins” to make a point and claim space, but for these Love Is Unstoppable actions, we encourage you to hold “Love Ins” in your community.  Let your immigrant, Muslim, refugee, Black etc. neighbors know you love them and will show up for them, and join with them in building up a different world.  With messages of hate and division swirling around us, be a visible force for liberating love in your community.     

As you consider options, think about what will help your action have the greatest visibility possible.  

Key Considerations:

1. Accountability

One of SURJ’s core values is Accountability to people of color through Collective Action. As you consider action, especially higher-risk actions, please also be building accountable relationships to People of Color-led groups and communities. A great way to find action opportunities in your community is to look to People of Color (POC)-led organizations and campaigns and seek ways to support their efforts.

2. What is your Action Comfort Zone?

Congregations and spiritual communities should choose an action that feels appropriate for their region and relationships. As you consider what action you/your faith community might take, think about what is already in your comfort zone, and how you might make one move beyond that. We’ll support you to do it! This worksheet offers a framing for why we should explore bolder actions that require more personal risk-taking, and helps with taking an inventory of our personal and organizational action comfort zones. Action Comfort Zone Worksheet -  via Dropbox

As you consider what level of risk feels like an appropriate stretch for your community, here are a few publicly Visible “Love In” Action Plan Options:  

Higher Risk: Fill The Streets with a  “Love-In”

Similar to a “die in,” fill up the streets in a major high-trafficked spot (“Main Street” or another area) in your community, or identify a location that holds high symbolic value.  Work with multiple faith communities (and secular groups) in your area to join together for an even bigger impact. 

Medium/Low Risk: Surround Your Community “Love-In”

Hold a Love In on the sidewalk at your spiritual home or in a major high-trafficked spot (“Main Street” or another area) in your community. Be publicly visible, outside your buildings or promoted visibly/publicly.

Minimal Risk: Love Letters: No Hate in Our State

Write love letters to local or state party leadership to urge them to condemn hate and racism and support racial justice. Note that as long as you include all the political parties in your action, then you are within your legal rights as a non-profit legal entity.

If you’re not able to organize a Love In, or you want to do more, here are a few other options for action:

  • Public Conversations:  Hold a neighborhood canvass (resources can be found here), or a “house meeting” with your spiritual community

  • Social Media -- Share your spiritual community’s commitments with group photos and individuals with signs (see messaging ideas below).

  • Preach or speak in your tradition about “Love is Unstoppable.” Here are some ideas for how to craft a sermon.

  • Use your collection this week to support a local People of Color-led organization doing grassroots justice work, and/or providing for their development and healing.

PART III  - Love-In Action Specifics

How To Plan Your Action:

We’re suggesting the following framework to get you started:

  • Build your team: The time is short, but you can’t do this alone! Who else can you work with to make this an effective action? We recommend having 3-5 people at the core, ideally with a balance of skills and perspectives (eg, clergy/lay, families, class diversity). You may consider roles such as logistics, media, recruitment/outreach, accountability, faith messaging, accessibility & inclusion, etc. 

  • Touch base with your local Black Lives Matter organization or other efforts led by people of color in your community to ensure that your actions align with their vision and values. If you are planning a higher-risk action with the possibility of police contact, be sure to discuss this. Be aware that increased police presence can have a harsh impact on communities of color.

    • We are not encouraging “symbolic arrests” for this weekend of action. Arrests take immense amounts of resources, financially, physically, and emotionally. Nevertheless higher risk actions can result in police/security contact.

  • Invite and Engage other spiritual communities, including white faith leaders as well as laypeople and families in the planning of this action. Be sure to be in touch with your local SURJ chapter, if you’re not already! This will help to engage people of faith within your community to show up for actions and empower them to show up more for leadership in mobilizing other mostly White spiritual communities. They can help to foster empathy within faith communities by speaking from a place of mutual interest about the love we have for one another and the importance of creating safe spaces and structures of protection for people/children of color in particular.

  • Pick a visible location, ideally on “Main Street” or other prominent location (or you could choose to go to both Democratic and Republican party headquarters) You will want to visit it in advance to ensure that there will be foot traffic and people to engage with, and to get a sense of the street layout. If you prefer to do your action near your spiritual home, consider the visibility of your location: if you walked outside of your place, is there traffic? Would a nearby intersection be better?

  • Identify who you’ll be focusing your love on: Find the contacts for Republican, Democratic & other party officials for your state and/or town. You may wish to focus on the Governor, Mayor, etc if that makes sense in your community. Remember that 501c3 Non-Profits, including churches, can lobby public officials about policy advocacy but cannot be involved in partisan election campaigns.

  • Consider what symbols and rituals from your faith tradition would make sense to include as part of your action. What are the powerful symbols of your faith/spiritual tradition? How will passersby know that you are taking spiritual & religious action? 

  • Recruit for and Publicize your action! Send it to your email list/s, post it on your webpage, create a Facebook event, use other social media, click here to list your action on SURJ’s action page so others can find it (Click “Host an action” and create a login).

  • Make signs and banners -- have a sign-making party beforehand, and publicize it! Messaging ideas below.

  • Contact local media to get media coverage of your Love-In. We have a sample press release you can adapt below.

  • Gather at at your chosen location.

  • Begin your “Love In,” in the street or on the sidewalk.  

    • Be sure to have roles assigned. At a minimum: photographers, social media people, media spokespersons, marshalls, and chant/song leaders.

    • We can provide coaching for deeper action planning for higher-risk actions. This involves additional roles such as marshals, police liaisons, medics, etc.

  • Pass out fliers and have conversations with bystanders around you. Take a good photo of your group and clearly visible messaging (see below). On your sign, you should use the hashtag #LoveIsUnstoppable and #NoHateInOurState

  • Use the “Love In Litany” [pending, check back soon!]

  • Email a photo of your action to faith@showup4rj.org or tweet to @ShowUp4RJ. Include the hashtag #LoveIsUnstoppable in your tweets.

Love Letters: No Hate in Our State

Write love letters to local or state party leadership to urge them to condemn hate and racism and support racial justice. Note that as long as you include all the political parties in your action, then you are within your legal rights as a non-profit legal entity.

Write letters & deliver them or photos of putting them in the mailbox. CC your local newspaper/s and post on your congregation’s Facebook page - these are all ways to have your love letters be more public!

Get creative -- make valentines with stickers and hearts and doilies, make a huge love letter and have everyone sign it (take photos!), etc! 

  • Sample “love letter”

  • Here’s a petition that SURJ-Denver sent to their state Republican committee. Note that this is partisan because it only addresses the Republicans. You may wish to use pieces of it in a non-partisan way, or perhaps you’re with a group like SURJ-Denver that has the flexibility to be partisan.

PART IV - Faith-Rooted Messaging

Press & Messaging/Framing:  

See “Talk the Walk” below under “Resources” for a great tool to creating messaging rooted in your own faith tradition.

Sample Press Release [pending, check back soon!]

General Framing:

  • Love is unstoppable, another world is possible.

  • Our faith/spiritual traditions teach us that another world, one full of unstoppable love, is possible, and we as white people of faith call on all our presidential candidates and political parties to renounce racism and embrace racial justice deeply and fully.

  • No matter what political party is in power, the struggle for racial justice will continue.  We as white faith communities commit to upholding the dignity of all people, fighting against racism, and working for an America that honors the dignity of all.

  • Today we recommit to lift up our voices, our hearts, our call for racial justice as white people of faith.

  • Unstoppable love is not about being “civil” or “nice,” but about resisting racist systems and policies with our actions, our bodies, our lives, and working in solidarity with communities of color to build up a world together which is grounded in that same unstoppable love.   

  • Faith communities and ethical commitments transcend political parties. As white people of faith we are committed to the power of unstoppable love and justice for the long haul.  We must acknowledge the harsh realities of the past and present - from Michael Brown and Sandra Bland to immigrant families split apart and refugees denied basic rights.  We mourn these realities, and we envision a future that is different: a future where everyone’s needs are met, where everyone is treated with respect, and where everyone is loved.

Banner/Sign Messages and Social Media HashTags:

Note:  #LoveIsUnstoppableis the primary hashtag for these actions.

Other hashtags/ messages you can use:

  • #NoHateInOurState

  • #AnotherWorldIsPossible

  • #RacismDividesLoveUnites

  • #FaithForRacialJustice

  • #WhiteSupremacyEndsWithUs

  • #RisingAgainstRacism

  • White People of Faith Showing Up for Racial Justice

  • White People of Faith [or insert your tradition] Against White Hate

  • Power of Love Overcoming Love of Power - Love-in Against Racism in Our Political System

  • Our Mamas Taught Us Better / Our Mamas Taught Us to Love

  • We ❤ Our Muslim Neighbors, Refugees are Welcome Here

  • #Not1More, #BlackLivesMatter

  • #BuildCommunitiesNotWalls

  • “Love is LifeForce” - June Jordan (please credit June Jordan if using this)

  • Standing on the Side of Love

  • First They Came for Muslims…

  • First They Came for Immigrants…

  • First They Came for LGBTQ people…

  • Racism Stops with Us / Stops Here

  • Unite Whites Against Racism

  • Hate Divides - God Loves - People of Faith Showing Up for Racial Justice

  • White Silence is Violence

  • Breaking White Silence

  • Love Knows No borders

Theological Framing Resources:

Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous statement/s:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Note: According to Wikipedia, “Niemöller created multiple versions of the text during his career. The earliest speeches, written in 1946, list thecommunists, incurable patients, Jews or Jehovah's Witnesses, and civilians in countries occupied byNazi Germany. In all versions, the impact is carefully built up, by going from the "smallest, most distant" group to the largest, Jewish, group, .... and then finally to himself as a by then outspoken critic of Nazism.”

Jewish:

An Anti-Racist Omer Counter from Kolot Chayeinu (The Weekend of Action falls during the Counting of the Omer)

“This Omer Counter offers a special reflection for each of the Omer’s seven weeks based on the kabbalists’ themes for the Omer and the larger themes of anti-racism.  Our writers are white and people of color, rabbis, organizational leaders -- seven people who have been thinking deeply.  They will focus on two primary questions:  1) After freedom from slavery, what? And 2) What can and will white people, white Jews, do about racism?”

Christian:

“Love is Unstoppable,” A Christian Pentecost Reflection from Rev. Will Green, United Methodist clergy:

On Sunday May 15th, many in the Christian will celebrate the feast of Pentecost and remember a story found in the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. In this story Jesus’ followers are endowed with the promised Holy Spirit and find themselves performing a disruptive public action that communicates a compelling message to a gathering crowd that is surprised at the disciples’ ability to communicate so clearly. This event is consistent with and a direct continuation of Jesus’ message (his teaching, life, death, resurrection and promises). As God directs and enables the disciples to enact this miracle, the disciples are faithful to the gospel.

This summary of Pentecost suggests many connections for those of us in the Christian tradition who will participate in Love Is Unstoppable actions. Like the promised Holy Spirit that entered the room, we believe that our anti-racism work has been initiated by God. Engaging in the work of dismantling white privilege is a gift from God. This project is not something new, but God’s faithful fulfillment of the promises we have received in Jesus and that God has bestowed through the law and the prophets. Our faithful response to God’s initiative is to act: committing ourselves to word and deed that shows our lives are vehicles for the gospel.

But although this action is consistent with our faith, it is not ‘business as usual’ by any means. We who participate in Love Is Unstoppable need Pentecostal courage. This is not time to just tell another Bible story or pretend that what we have done in the past is enough. Pentecost is a time for something new and bold. And yet it is not merely the novelty or the inner-conviction of participants that is most impressive. Recall that a crowd gathered around the disciples and began to interact with the Spirit because God was delivering a message that could be understood by a surprised world. This element of the story can be helpfully compared with SURJ’s core principle of “calling people in, not out.” (Indeed, for many Christians this formulation is a gracefully grounded expression of the very nature of evangelism itself.)

Imagine followers of Jesus who share their truth in a way that people in the world can actually understand and desire to participate more deeply. Such an event (Christians acting bravely and clearly, grounded in the message of Jesus, such that others are drawn closer) would in a way be more miraculous than all of the supernatural fireworks in the Bible. And this is the vision we ground ourselves in this Pentecost. This message both begins and ends with the unstoppable reality of Love that is inspiring us again.

PART V - Other Resources

Candidate Campaigns and 501c3 Status

This UCC Resource outlines IRS rules for 501c3 groups.  501c3 organizations, including faith/spiritual communities (churches, synagogues, etc.), cannot participate in partisan politics or political campaigns.  This means as congregations , we cannot target or take a stance for/against any candidates or political parties.  However, individuals who  clearly state they are not representing any institution and only themselves may do so.   For these reasons our Weekend of Action is about naming the entire system as problematic, and taking advantage of this historical moment to urge more white people to join the struggle for racial justice.

More SURJ-Faith Action Toolkits

More resources for faith-rooted racial justice work can be found here.  See in particular the Faith Action Kit.

Talk the Walk: Speak for Justice From Your Faith, by Rev. Kathleen McTigue, Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice

How do we “Talk our Walk” and speak out for justice in the language of our faiths? And why is it important that we learn to do this more consistently?

The voices that are speaking in the public sphere today in ways that reinforce racism are often doing so from a religious perspective. Voices that call for the centrality of Christianity and the exclusion of Islam, for instance, are ones that we hear as xenophobic and exclusionary, but they are often framed in the language of faith. Countering them with only a political assertion — such as equal protection under the law — makes our claims weaker than they need to be. Couching our truths in the language of our own faith elevates our core values and gives a moral power to what we say. 

Here is a simple exercise to craft your own faith-rooted message for these actions:

1) Imagine that a reporter picks you out of the crowd at your Love Is Unstoppable action, puts a microphone in your face and says, “Please tell me in one sentence why you’re here”.

2) Write out your one sentence, without agonizing over it too much — just say as simply as you can what you would generally say in response to such a question.

3) Finally, take a look at what you wrote and ask: How would I change this one sentence in order to make it absolutely clear that I’m speaking as a person of faith? 

A few good things to remember, when we are trying to speak from our faith:

  • Start with yourself: dig into your own heart and mind and take the time to identify and articulate your core moral and spiritual values

  • Then ask: what is it within my most deeply-held religious values that leads me to take a stand on this issue? Take your language from that place rather than simply from political convictions.

  • Keep it personal: you are not trying to speak for your whole faith community!

  • Keep it simple:no theological treatise is required, just a core statement of faith 

Here are a few examples:

  • I’m here because I am dismayed by the racist rhetoric in the presidential campaign and I long for a world where love and inclusion abound.  My faith calls us to build the Beloved Community, and we are calling on our political leadership to join us in that call for abundant Love, to renounce racism and embrace justice

  • My faith teaches that we are all children of one God who each deserve respect, dignity and safety, and we don’t see that reflected in the presidential campaign.   

  • At the core of my Christian faith is the demand to love God and to love my neighbor as myself — especially when that neighbor is fleeing life-threatening violence;  so my faith requires me to do all that I can to change these laws that are literally costing my neighbors their lives.  We  call on all our presidential candidates to commit to opening the doors to refugees.

  • As Unitarian Universalists, one of our core beliefs is that all life is connected, so it is a moral imperative that we shift our  political priorities to  prioritize those most marginalized, to the benefit of all of us and the very life of our planet.

About SURJ

SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills, and political analysis to act for change.  For more information and get on our mailing list, please visit our website: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed your time, energy, work, and feedback to create this Action Kit. It would not have been possible without you!


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