Category Archives: Connection

To Die to White Supremacy - End Racism

Be Alive In Christ To Die To White Supremacy

White Christians Need To Recognize the Ingrained Racism That Keeps Them From Seeing God in Everyone

Spirited Sisters

September 13, 2022

When confronted with racist or nativist violence or policies, many white Americans respond with the assertion “This is not who we are!” Others claim that calling out white supremacy is an indictment of the very foundation of the United States. And this second group is actually right, though not in the way they intend. White supremacy is indeed the foundation of our nation, and it continues to show up in the attitudes of people as well as the policies and structures on which our society is built.

NETWORK Lobby Hosted a Discussion on White Supremacy and American Christianity with Father Massengale, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Chatelain“White supremacy is the non-rational, instinctual, visceral conviction that this country – its public spaces, its political institutions, its cultural heritage – that these belong to white people in a way that they do not and should not belong to others,” says Father Bryan Massingale of Fordham University. NETWORK’s April 9 conversation with Father Massingale, Dr. Robert P. Jones, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain laid bare that this is precisely who we are – and especially who white American Christians are.

Faced with the stark data from Jones’ research as founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), that just sitting in the pews (in a white congregation) increases your chances of holding racist views, what are Christians – and especially white Christians – to do? According to Jones, “The biggest problem is that white people think they have nothing at stake in this conversation.”

In other words, racism harms all of us. As an organizer, I talk about self-interest regularly, because self-interest can be a fruitful place for people to work together for a shared good. And in this case, that shared good is economic opportunity and a basic standard of living. My grandparents got it as beneficiaries of the GI Bill. Their wealth paid for much of my college (with significant tax benefits that are not granted to those who have to take out student loans).

But as soon as public goods started to open up to people of color, elite white people rebelled and began convincing poor and middle-class white people to choose their racial interests over their class interests – to ensure that Black people didn’t get access to public goods – and in doing so, to prevent themselves from accessing those same public goods. We need a multi-racial coalition to overturn that and build an economy that works for everyone and not just the ultra-wealthy elite. We can’t do that if we continue as we have been.

But this coalition has hurdles to overcome as, in the words of Father Massingale, “The Gospel of white supremacy is the functional religion of many white Christians and many white Catholics.” Which is to say, “white identity is the primary source of their locus, their commitment, their loyalty.”

This kind of truth-telling is critical if we want to move to real racial reconciliation. Conversion requires knowing we are wrong and acting to make amends. As St. Paul tells the Romans, “We’ve been buried with Jesus.” To be buried with Jesus is to be buried with the brown-skinned Jew in occupied Palestine. But we must be buried with Christ if we have any hope of being “alive to Christ.” We must embrace the death of white supremacy and act to bring about the death of white supremacy so that we can be alive to Beloved Community.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown University asked us if we could imagine a church that was seriously willing to give up power “in order to show that another world is possible.” Father Massingale asked us if we could imagine Jesus in Black and Brown bodies.

Imagination is a spiritual practice, especially when we want to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist. But the kin-dom of God doesn’t yet exist in its entirety, so we must imagine it. We must create and use images of Christ in Black and Brown bodies. Because if we only see God as a white man, then our subconscious will continue to tell us that only white men should be able to rule here “on earth as it is in heaven.”

All of this calls us to act. So what will you do this week?

Name it here: _________________________________

Now go do it.

Emily TeKolste, SP, is a Sister of Providence and NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Coordinator. Her article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Michigan Team in Action

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing with NETWORK Lobby

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing

Tools for Advocacy

September 6, 2022

NETWORK has worked for justice in our federal policies since 1972, and the Advocates Team model of uniting justice-seekers around the country has been with us since NETWORK’s inception. Today, NETWORK has more than 100,000 members and supporters across the country with a presence in nearly every congressional district.

This content is excerpted from the newly published NETWORK Advocates Handbook. Download the full handbook or order a copy in the NETWORK store.

Every time you make a phone call, send emails, sign petitions, attend town halls, or participate in lobby visits, your action increases NETWORK’s power on Capitol Hill. NETWORK’s work would not be possible without the commitment and persistence of our Spirit-filled advocates for justice.

NETWORK Advocates Teams

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Monroe Michigan Team Democracy Event - August 2021 If you live in a strategic building state, we invite you to join an existing Advocates Team or work with us to start a new team composed of people united by a shared passion for justice, desire to learn, and commitment to advocacy.

Advocates Teams welcome people with all different levels of experience and backgrounds. Some team members have been involved with NETWORK for decades, while others are new to advocacy.

With support from NETWORK staff and one another, team members grow in their understanding of federal policies that support the common good. They participate in strategies that have a national impact—at a level far beyond individual or uncoordinated efforts. Much of this impact can be attributed to the meaningful relationships team members develop with their Members of Congress and their staff.

Living Out Sister-Spirit

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Living Out Sister Spirit at the Supreme Court in Support of DreamersSince 1972, the NETWORK community has grown far beyond only those who are Catholic Sisters. Whether you are a Catholic Sister or not, everyone can live out Sister-Spirit, the radical, joyful, and inclusive energy that motivated NETWORK’s founding and continues to animate NETWORK’s political ministry today.

We live out Sister-Spirit when we…
  1. Listen with curiosity and humility and are open to learning.
  2. Root our understanding in encounter, not ideology.
  3. Approach situations and people with hope and welcome.
  4. Act out of a grounded spirituality rooted in contemplation and reflection.
  5. Pursue Gospel justice with joy and persistence.
  6. Prioritize the well-being of others, especially those at the margins.
  7. Work collaboratively in community, not “presiding over.”
  8. See everyone as people first, not just roles.
  9. Trust our instincts, are bold, and are willing to do the unpopular.

Celebrate together, use humor, and are feisty.

Centering Racial Justice

Because racism is embedded into our society’s systems and structures, we intentionally prioritize dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in our political systems as well as our economic and social structures. To do this work for racial justice effectively, advocates must engage in ongoing development and learning about racial justice and regular self-reflection. NETWORK resources are available to equip you to do the work of racial and economic justice, organize in solidarity with people of color, and educate yourselves and others in your community about racism.

Encounter-Based Advocacy

Pope Francis often speaks of the importance of creating a “culture of encounter” to bridge divides and Catholic Social Justice instructs advocates to be and act in solidarity with those who are most marginalized by our systems and structures. In other words, the best solutions to problems will not come from the outside but from those who are most directly impacted by the injustices.

Lived experiences are the most important component of the meaning-making that informs our advocacy, therefore, we strive to center the voices of those most directly impacted by the injustices we seek to end.

  • Look first to resources, skills, and perspectives held by impacted communities.
  • Reject a deficit-based approach; instead, recognize the assets already existing in communities.
  • Center peoples telling their own stories and sharing their lived experiences in our advocacy.
  • Involve impacted communities in devising solutions to the challenges they face.
  • Recognize that impact is more important than intent and approach each situation with intentionality and a commitment to recognizing and addressing unintended consequences.
The Power of Organizing

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Working in NeighborhoodsThe goal of organizing is to get other people to join us in working for a more just world. When we grow our community of justice-seekers, we strengthen our power. Organizing tactics include conducting one-on-ones, planning effective meetings and conference calls, canvassing, hosting a house party or site visit, holding town halls, planning a demonstration, organizing a group to contact elected officials, speaking to the media, or spreading your message online.

As we work for justice, how do we continue to learn and grow? Through feedback and reflection. NETWORK staff are available to help you debrief any meeting, event, or campaign so you can continue to improve your organizing skills. Whether it is talking through a challenge you have encountered or exploring training needs, we are here to help.

NETWORK also has a number of organizing workshops, and we are always working to add more. We offer both topic-based and skill-building workshops including:

  • About NETWORK
  • Catholic Social Justice
  • Intro to Faith-Based Advocacy
  • How to Lobby/Prep for Lobby Visit
  • Build Anew Policy Briefing
  • Racial Wealth and Income Gap
  • Human Bar Graph on Income Inequality
  • Town Hall for Tax Justice
  • Transformative Conversations to Bridge Divides
  • Tax Justice for All: Unveiling the Racial Inequity of the U.S. Tax Code

We encourage you, our members, to share your passion for justice by learning a new organizing skill or revisiting ones that you have used in the past, especially as we approach the 2022 midterm elections. This is a critical time to mobilize fellow justice-seekers to vote for candidates who will advance racial equity and economic justice.

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Whether you live in a state with a NETWORK Advocates team or not, we would love to brainstorm ways to multiply the effects of your advocacy with you. Contact the NETWORK staff by emailing info@networklobby.orgWe look forward to talking with you!

This article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.

This content is excerpted from the newly published NETWORK Advocates Handbook. Download the full handbook or order a copy in the NETWORK store.

Infrastructure Law Coordinator-Landrieu

The President’s Bridge Builder – Mitch Landrieu

The President’s Bridge Builder

Q&A With Mitch Landrieu

August 16, 2022

Mitch Landrieu, a senior adviser to the president and coordinator of implementation of the infrastructure law

Credit: Wikipedia

A major accomplishment of President Biden’s first year was the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion effort to modernize U.S. roads, bridges, transit, broadband, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Leading this effort is Mitch Landrieu, a Catholic and former mayor of New Orleans (2010-2018). As mayor, Landrieu performed an infrastructure improvement of sorts when he removed the city’s Confederate statues.

He shared with Connection about his work for the Administration and its importance in rebuilding solidarity in society.

Q: What makes an inherently nuts-and-bolts issue like infrastructure come alive for you?

Mitch Landrieu: Infrastructure can seem like a big word – what it is really is about is building a better America and helping people in their daily lives.

With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity – to rebuild our roads and bridges, so you can get where you need to go, quickly and safely; upgrade our ports and waterways, so you can get what you want quickly and cheaply; and expand access to high-speed internet to all Americans, so where you are from has no bearing on how high you go.

And when we do those things right, we can create millions of good-paying jobs. We can reduce costs for middle-class families. We can fight the greatest challenge of our time: climate change.

Most importantly, we can win the economic competition of the 21st century and shape a brighter future for the generations to come. That is what gets me really excited.

Q: What is the most significant aspect of the work you’ve so far overseen for the Administration?

ML: When President Biden asked me to lead infrastructure implementation, he was clear in his charge: Build a better America without unnecessary bureaucracy and delay while doing what is difficult for the sake of what is right.

And that is what we have done in the past seven months.

We have already pushed $110 billion out the door – money that is going towards cleaning up communities, fighting climate change, creating new and better jobs, a and building a bridge to our future economy. And we have got nearly 5000 projects all across the country – in every state, DC, and Puerto Rico – that are identified or are already underway.

I am also really excited about the work we’re doing to close the digital divide, both in terms of laying new broadband and providing affordable high speed internet for those who cannot afford it.

That’s real results where people live and where it really matters. And we are just getting started.

Q: What role does investing in infrastructure play in recovering a sense of solidarity in our society?

ML: President Biden often says that America can be defined in one word: possibilities.

And that’s what we are proving with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We, as Americans, can do big things again.

And we can work together to get things done.

This once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure is an opportunity to build a bridge – both literal and figurative – to the future. A bridge to a 21st century economy where every American has access to good-paying jobs. A bridge to a resilient nation that can withstand the natural disasters that tear our communities apart. A bridge to an America where no American is forgotten or left-behind – and we are more united than divided.

Bridges connect us – they connect people, communities, and the country – and that is exactly what we are doing with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Q: How does your faith inform how you approach this role?

ML: I am a big believer in the common good and lifting people up. It’s why I am so driven to racial equity work. It’s why I think we have to have a moral movement against poverty.

A Jesuit priest, Fr. Harry Tompson, who served as a mentor to so many in New Orleans, told me to “go where you can do the most good for the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time.”  That has always stuck with me.

I take that with me in my work each and every day.

Q: You removed Confederate statues as mayor of New Orleans. What did that experience teach you about community?

ML: A big part of removing the Confederate statues in New Orleans was about reconciling our past and choosing a better future for ourselves – making straight what had been crooked and making right what was wrong.

Sometimes inequity is right in front of us – like the statues were for me – but we do not see it.  Once you do see it, it is hard to look away.

The other thing that was more basic is that our public spaces belong to all of us. The names of buildings, the statues we erect, the way we remember our history do really matter. Making sure everyone is included is critical.

With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking a large step in the right direction. We are ensuring every community has access to safe and clean drinking water. We are ensuring every community has access to high-speed Internet. And we are ensuring every community is protected from the devastating effects of the climate crisis.

The future of our communities requires righting the past and building for the future. And that is what we will do with President Biden’s once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure.

This article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.