…not away from but toward! What we learned from the recent November 7 election is that our kind of activism, the grassroots kind, can have tremendous power and influence. Dedicated, inspired, fired up people, even when little known in activist circles or the media, can achieve amazing victories if they only take the chance and let their voices be heard, if they keep running toward challenges and never give up. No matter how tired they are, no matter how often they have hit walls – or infamous “closed doors” – no matter how much they believe it’s all been said before and to no avail; they just never give up.
Screenshot from MSNBC
That was one of the strongest messages of the recent election, especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A change in sixteen seats in the Virginia House of Delegates had to happen to flip the power from one party to another. The word among political experts was: Maybe a few might flip but the status quo would most likely prevail; the prevailing party was just too entrenched. Yet, as of this writing, eleven seats had definitely changed; three or four have probably changed (results are being reviewed); one seat change is being challenged.
As surprising as this victory was, however, that was not its most significant outcome. The seats that flipped went from almost all white male to many, many more women and more ethnically and racially diverse candidates, and even to one person who is openly transgender. These were not high profile people. Most of them had never run for office before and some had made incredible sacrifices to do so. They just believed in their mission and never gave up. They ran toward the gauntlet, not away.
Now, of course, in making an analogy, we have the Catholic Church problem. No one gets “elected” as part of a grassroots activism; no one gets elected period – except by “selected” men in red caps. Our influence for church renewal, therefore, has to be more creative and much more fervent.
Luckily, many creative and fervent people from many Catholic renewal grassroots organizations have led, and continue to lead, us in this endeavor. Most refreshingly, there are new, young people with fresh ideas leading them. Most excitingly, many, like the leaders of Call to Action as one example, are applying the latest community organizing and recruitment tactics, the strategies the wins in Virginia taught us are most effective.
They are running toward, not away, from challenges and taking us with them. They are renewing the renewers just when we needed it most.