What’s Gaddafi Got to Do With It?

by: Kara Crawford

I woke up on October 20th pretty much the same way as any other day, after hitting the “snooze” button twice. I got out of bed, got my breakfast, showered, then began scrambling through my closet for every purple article of clothing I could find to wear today – with the exception of my purple flip flops, as the Bogota weather was too cold and wet for them. I was participating in GLAAD Spirit Day to speak out against LGBTQ bullying. Of course, in Colombia, where I’m stationed for the next year with the NGO I volunteer for, wearing purple for GLAAD Spirit Day doesn’t quite have the context it does when I’m in the US.  However, I chose to participate anyway. Speaking out against the bullying and harassment that too many LGBTQ folks face on a daily basis still matters, even while I’m here.

I kept an eye on Twitter.  Articles circulated about LGBTQ-related issues and people tweeted pictures of their purple outfits all day. Practically all of my Facebook friends who changed their profile pictures that day changed them to something purple. Clearly, people were celebrating.  One of the articles I came across was a Huffington Post Religion slide show of 15 Inspiring LGBT Religious Leaders, and while it was great to think about how far the efforts for queer inclusion have come in certain religious communities, it also made me think about how far my own, The United Methodist Church, has yet to come.

In The UMC, “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained as clergy, according to official church policy[1]. Worse yet, the denomination’s Social Principles consider the “practice of homosexuality” to be “incompatible with Christian teaching.”[2] However, a growing movement, the Reconciling Ministries Network, is working to change these policies and make The UMC a more just and inclusive denomination for all people. The RMC hopes that the 2012 General Conference  — a quadrennial meeting of church leaders to make decisions about official church policy and the Social Principles – will be the one that changes the United Methodist Church for the better, and they are organizing and mobilizing its support in order to make that a reality.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, my feed exploded with articles about how Muammar Gaddafi was killed by the civil war against his regime in Libya. This was a continuation of what began as an uprising in the country during the “Arab Spring,” a movement that escalated into a civil war. Like many of the other Arab Spring uprisings and protests, the Libyan civil war sought and continues to seek to bring an end to unjust and oppressive regimes.

And on Facebook, I saw that a friend had been arrested in the Occupy Chicago protests. He had chosen to take this step as an act of support for the movement. On the surface, the Occupy movement seems fragmented, as people have joined in the occupations for any number of reasons (When asked, participants of Occupy Chicago cited their motivations with reasons ranging from support of health care reform to banking reform and gay marriage). However, this is what I believe to be the strength of the movement: it shows people’s recognition that something is wrong and requires change, and their willingness to take action.

So where do these three seemingly unrelated movements connect? According to a recent article from Colorlines, we are in a “movement moment,” where concurrent events and factors allow for a social movement to really take off, specifically as it relates to the Occupy movement. In the past year, a confluence of factors has created the perfect political and social atmosphere to allow for such a large and widespread movement to take root. But it made me wonder: is the movement moment we seem to be witnessing limited solely to the Occupy protests? Or is it a larger movement moment, making possible many different efforts to end oppression? Are we experiencing a global movement moment at the intersections of oppression and marginality?

I think we are. I’m not sure what all the factors are that fuel these individual movements, and I’m sure that those factors are not the exact same in all cases. However, I do think that there must be some connecting thread helping to fuel this larger movement moment. On the whole, we’re living in a rather turbulent time. We have seen a great number of changes in recent years – politically, economically, technologically and socially. I think that this turbulence and the shifts that have come about because of it might afford us access to the opportune moment to stand up, a moment when social movements can truly take root, a moment when we might be able to truly create lasting chance.

However, one thing which I think is critical to the potential strength of this movement moment is that the seemingly isolated movements must work together. Solidarity is critical, especially in our increasingly globalized world. All of these movements seek to end oppression of various forms and are working to create a more just, equal, and inclusive world. Of course, these individual movements need to flourish in their own ways, but they must also seek ways to support one another as they pursue their individual, yet intricately interconnected goals. The opportunity is set before us in this movement moment.  The choice is ours and the time is now.

Will we step up as part of the movements for justice, or will we simply stand by and wait for change to happen?

Kara Johansen Crawford is a graduate of DePaul University, with a BA in International Studies and Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies. Kara has been actively involved in both activism and community service for much of her life and is particularly passionate about labor justice, issues involving Latin America, LGBTQ-related issues, and engaging faith communities on social issues. Kara is currently serving as a Mission Intern with The United Methodist Church, serving initially with Centro Popular para América Latina de Comunicación (CEPALC), based in Bogotá, Colombia.

[1] United Methodist Book of Discipline 2008,  Paragraph 304.3

[2] United Methodist Book of Discipline 2008,  Paragraph 161 F.

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One response to “What’s Gaddafi Got to Do With It?

  1. Pingback: Reclaiming Christianity: Building Solidarity Between the Religious and Non-Religious « In Our Words·

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