A friend’s question…

/ 8 June 2003

Today a friend and former student sent me this question: “If you had to counter Carl Rove’s PR strategy re: gaining support for Bush’s preemptive war policy and related policies…if you were encouraged to think way out of the box…to move folks sitting in their pews across the nation to get off their ass… to undertake an in-your-face, won’t-be-denied, everybody-will-know type challenge to these domestic and other injustices in a manner that contextualizes them here and globally as well as contrasts them with God’s true intensions for our nation/world…exactly what would you do and how would you do it?” I think this is a great question, and while I’ll suggest a few responses here, it occurred to me that it might be fun to see if anyone out there reading this wanted to chip in some answers. So here’s what I wrote back to her, and I hope you’ll share your own ideas!”Argh! That’s a hard one! And I wish I knew the answer… but I think there may be lots of smaller answers. Bush (Rove, et. al.) command the hegemonic media (ie. the mainstream broadcast and even mostly print journalism media), but to date (maybe only a little longer) they don’t control the web. So I think the web is a big engine that the hegemons don’t quite “get” yet.Look at what Moveon.org has been doing. They made a tremendous difference in the run-up to the war, and now are moving into further organizing. Look at what sojo.net is doing. Look at what Commondreams.org makes possible. Look at what Howard Dean (however you feel about his commitments) is doing using Meetup. I think weblogs are another alternative source that will be making a big difference. Imagine if pastors all over the country had their own weblogs, just writing about the things that matter to them in their own parishes, and perhaps a national office person regularly read them, too, and wrote a more “national” view of them.See, I think the big key is building an alternative “culture” if you will, within which people can slowly take steps away from the huge spin that Bush et. al. are putting on things. We need to organize for the long haul. I don’t think there will be a “one size fits all” kind of strategy out there. Even celebrities can’t control more than one small piece of the national lens for long. What we need to do is create a space where people’s own creative energy, moving with the Holy Spirit, imagines something different. That requires a community that can support them and help them celebrate something different. That’s what I think communities of faith can be about.We need to be about writing our own stories, not simply accepting the national spin doctors’ stories. We have a central narrative at our heart as Christians, and we need to be about engaging that one — but doing it with critical insight and energy, not with lockstep evangelism. We need to be engaging the movies and television and other creative resources that give us small footholds and turning them into ways to talk about our own Story. Apple Computer, for instance, has a lovely little commercial out right now (look at “nava’s”) that was entirely written for a “secular” audience, but which is moving in a quite spiritual way. We ought to be open to the ways of the Spirit in these contexts, and move with it!See… I’m starting to preach here. And to the choir!I’m glad that you are where you are, and that you are being asked these kinds of questions. I will keep you in my prayers!”