On Sunday, I journeyed to Lafayette Park, across from the White House, for a rally called by faith leaders (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) to tell Congress and the president not to solve the deficit problem on the backs of those who are poor and most vulnerable. It is called the Faithful Budget Campaign.
The topic is relevant, in the news and important. The weather was surprisingly good. The program was inspiring: readings from the Qu'ran, the Torah and the New Testament, brief and stirring speeches by leaders of all three Abrahamic traditions, and a wonderful song about greed from Bernice Johnson Reagon, one of the founders of "Sweet Honey and the Rock."
The problem was this: There were only about 100 people assembled to hear it and participate. I saw one of my friends from NETWORK there, and I wondered, "Why so few with a topic so important?" She didn't know.
I felt disheartened. I doubt that our friends who champion more conservative or traditional causes would have staged an event without strong organizing to produce a much larger turnout.
I learned of it from an email without any pizzazz or color ... nothing to draw my special attention except for the topic itself. That may get me and a few others there, but not the general public. I wondered if anyone had spread the word with colorful, compelling emails. I thought about all the religious denominations represented on the platform, and I wondered if anyone had thought to spread the word via the hundreds of local congregations represented by those speakers. Preaching? Bulletins? I rather doubt it.
It's doubtful that anyone informed "Occupy DC," with an encampment only a couple blocks away.
It's not that such events have a decisive impact, but they do give heart to those who champion a cause. And they certainly give heart to those who are poor and vulnerable because they know they have allies. The progressive religious community is trying, but there's a long way to go.