Recently, while scouring my “people you may know tab” on Facebook, I found a few surprising suggestions. Not a relative or a new Drake student, Facebook was suggesting that I friend request one of the following people:
1. A director of a church justice organization
2. An activist nun
3. The author of my Contemporary Ethical Problems textbook
4. A prominent feminist theologian
Any guesses? Well, it’ s a trick question. Over the last few weeks, Facebook has actually suggested that I send a friend request to all of these people (and several combinations of the above categories). These suggestions revealed a truth that is becoming all the more evident to me-the church justice movement is full of surprising connections. Rather than playing 6 degrees of separation, I only need to play 2 or 3 in progressive Christian circles. In fact, if you “like” any of the following organizations on Facebook,
- Women’s Ordination Conference
- Call to Action
- The Religious Institute
- Catholics for Choice
- National Catholic Reporter
- Any member of the Equally Blessed Coalition
- Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
then it’s essentially guaranteed that we’ll have 5+ mutual friends. And these connections extend far beyond the digital sphere. Whether it’s scholarly connections through Drake’s Religion department or finding out that a CTA member is related to someone from my high school, I’m finding out that we church justice folks are a tight-knit community.
My desire for, and fascination with connections, largely stems from my current field of work: community and voter organizing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my fellow organizers, it’s that building connections in a movement is absolutely key. If you have a network of 10 who each know 5 other people, your network has instantly expanded to 60. If each of those people have a few friends who you can get involved, your movement will grow exponentially.
I’ve also recently seen the importance of building connections and bridges across issues. When we focus on a single issue, and don’t make our justice work intersectional, we shut out the voices of people who face multiple and intersecting forms of oppression. Whether it’s the HRC (and many others) disregarding the BTQ+ of LGBTQ+, or feminist groups who don’t acknowledge issues of race, class or ability, a failure to be intersectional and build connections leads to harm and exclusion being perpetrated by “well-intentioned” organizations. While we celebrate our connections, we must also create new ones, especially when they are difficult.
Whether it’s interfaith activism, intersectional justice, community organizing, or finding surprising mutual friends, connections fascinate me. Many times, it’s a lack of connection in our world that leads to isolation and dehumanization. If we continue to build just and meaningful connections, we can better live out our Gospel mandate to recognize the inherent dignity of each person, and together challenge and tear down structures that hinder this progress.