Abstract Progressive faith communities joined the hundreds of thousands of others who took to the streets in downtown Chicago on January 21, 2017 to protest the Trump regime. The Women’s March on Chicago (WMC) provides an opportunity to shed new light on religious resistance given its unique features. Unlike protests in prior studies of progressive faith-based activism, the WMC was a secular event, involving little costs and risks, and for which religious communities did not have to cultivate grievances. Drawing on and analyzing in-depth interviews with clergy and laity who participated in the WMC, our study complicates the established scholarly view of progressive religious activism in three main ways. First, for the Trump resistance, faith was a secondary rather than a primary motivation for progressive religious marchers. Second, clergy did not mainly drive mobilizing efforts in that laity played a key role. Last, while many progressive faith communities self-identified at the event to show the world they were there in solidarity, they eschewed strong, distinctively religious expressions during the WMC. On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. Some of his strongest support came from white evangelical Protestants. At 81%, a sizable majority of this group voted for Trump (Smith and Martinez 2016). This should come as no surprise. From recent Tea Party rallying (e.g., Braunstein 2017a) to the older Religious Right movement (e.g., Wilcox 1992), scholars have long observed an affinity between conservative religion and conservative politics. But this is not the only side to religion. Despite receiving less attention, faith can also promote progressive social activism. Examples of religion doing so include the U.S. civil rights movement (Harris 1999; Morris 1984), immigrant and refugee rights (Nepstad 2004; Smith 1996), nuclear weapon disarmament (Nepstad 2008), and community organizing (Braunstein 2017b; Wood 2002; Wood and Fulton 2015). Progressive faith communities also mobilized to resist Trump. In this article, we explicate how and why they did so for the Women’s March on Chicago (WMC). Joining women and their allies in over 600 cities across the United States, 250,000 people took to the streets in downtown Chicago on January 21, 2017 (Crowd Counting Consortium 2017). Only Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. had larger turnouts (Crowd Counting Consortium 2017). Of the official supportive organizations, more than 30 were religious groups or congregations from progressive denominations such as the Episcopal Church, Reformed Judaism, the United Church of Christ, and the Unitarian Universalist Association (Women’s March on Chicago 2017). Many more congregations showed up to march than were publicly listed. Furthermore, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders were also among the speakers and an African American ministry group was one of the musical performers. At the same time, faith-based groups were in the minority, representing only 14% of all official supportive organizations (Women’s March on Chicago 2017). In addition, no religious leaders were among the organizers of the WMC. Nor did its mission invoke religious beliefs or commitments. In other words, progressive faith communities participated in a secular protest event to resist Trump. This is a departure from extant literature on progressive religious activism in that, as discussed in the next section, faith is a significant—if not defining—feature of the broader social movement. As a result, our study of progressive religious activism embedded in the secular setting of the WMC constitutes an opportunity to break new ground by investigating a number of unexplored research questions. How did marchers from progressive religious communities represent themselves on January 21, 2017? Was faith on full display to draw distinction and exert moral authority as in other cases of progressive religious groups’ public protests? How did the broadly secular audience at the WMC respond to progressive religious marchers? What were the consequences, if any, of participating in the secular protest event for these marchers and their faith communities? The WMC also differs in two other important ways from existing research on progressive religious activism. First, while this research generally focuses on high-cost/risk protest, the WMC was a low-cost/risk activity—a one-time event lasting several hours in a relatively safe space. In the case of the U.S. civil rights movement, for example, black religious activists constantly encountered violence from white Southerners in their decade long struggle for racial justice. Second, previous work shows that before progressive faith communities became mobilizable for the cause, it was necessary that they engage in consciousness-raising. By contrast, Trump’s election was an immediate “moral shock” (Jasper 1997) to clergy and laity in Chicago’s progressive congregations. These congregations, then, did not have to cultivate grievances before organizing for the WMC. The low-cost/risk nature of the WMC and the fact that progressive religious communities were already aggrieved allows us to examine longstanding questions about these communities’ protest motivations and mobilization efforts under different conditions. Like prior research, was faith the impetus for why progressive religious people took to streets on January 21, 2017? Were clergy the main mobilizers for the WMC as scholars have generally observed in other cases of progressive religious activism? Or, alternatively, did laity lead the charge in progressive faith communities to resist Trump? WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT PROGRESSIVE RELIGIOUS ACTIVISM Over the years, scholars have produced various case studies on progressive religious activism. While their causes differ—for example, civil rights versus worker rights—they have a number of similarities. The first is the significance of religious institutions. In the 1980s U.S. Central America peace movement, nearly 90% of all Sanctuary groups were faith-based organizations, with churches and synagogues being the majority (Smith 1996). More recently, Wood and Fulton (2015) showed that congregations comprise more than three-quarters of all member institutions in today’s community organizing field. We also know that black churches were crucial infrastructures for the U.S. civil rights movement, providing skilled leaders, networks, meeting places, and pools of potential activists (Morris 1984). Catholic parishes played a similar role in the 2006 immigrant rights marches (Davis et al. 2010; Heredia 2010) as have Christian and Jewish congregations for worker justice over the last two decades (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008). A second commonality in prior scholarship relates to the centrality of religious motivations for progressive religious activists. In many movements, moral commitments rooted in religious traditions have served as a primary motivator for religious activists (Nepstad 2004; Smith 1996). Clergy fight for immigrant rights, for example, as a direct extension of their faith (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008). In addition to helping shape and sustain moral and normative beliefs and values, religion can serve as the basis for powerful social identities—and all the obligations, social routines, and interpersonal maintenance such identities imply. In his research on U.S. civil rights movement, McAdam (1999) argues that the same set of “solidary incentives” motivating many black Protestants to participate in church activities also compelled them to take part in protests and demonstrations, with their social actions serving as an extension of their commitment to maintain a particular religious or congregational identity. Finally, religion has been conceptualized as a motivational resource to the extent that it increases a sense of political efficacy among activists (Harris 1999). In the sense that religion can connect social action to transcendent realities, it has been theorized to increase confidence in the potential fruitfulness of political efforts. Though frameworks for how and why religion matters for motivations have varied, it has largely played a central, if not dominant, role in the extant literature on social movement mobilization within progressive communities of faith. Third, extant case studies find that progressive faith communities needed to cultivate grievances among members—which sometimes involved framing (or reframing) religion to legitimate social activism—for them to become part of the mobilization potential (e.g., Klandermans and Oegema 1987). For the U.S. Central America peace movement, it was a matter of personally exposing and connecting North American churchgoers to the situation in Central America (Nepstad 2004; Smith 1996). Through solidarity trips, they experienced first-hand the severity of repression and violence and witnessed human suffering on a massive scale. Additionally, as North American congregations hosted refugees, members heard their stories and developed relationships with them. Because of established theologies emphasizing peace, justice, and liberation in progressive faith traditions, these encounters at home and aboard generated a critical mass of willing religious activists across the United States. Before the black church could be activated to fight racial injustice in the American South, it was necessary for King to revive and institutionalize the social-justice and protest tradition of black religion to eradicate the opiate view (Morris 1984). In other consciousness-raising efforts, immigrants and workers give testimonies in progressive congregations and clergy connect religious themes to issues of discrimination, exploitation, and suffering (Davis et al. 2010; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008). While the reasons vary, the outcome is the same: progressive faith communities needed to do work before they were ready to take to the streets. Prior studies of progressive religious activism also share an emphasis on clergy in the mobilization process. As leaders of faith communities, clergy have authority and respect. In addition, they understand group dynamics and are often charismatic speakers. It is thus not surprising that scholars have identified clergy as the main mobilizers for numerous cases of progressive religious activism (e.g., Davis et al. 2010; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008; Morris 1984). In fact, conservative laity often block progressive pastors from activating congregations for social activism. We observe this not only in the 1960s (Hadden 1969; Quinley 1970), but also in recent years around immigrant rights (Davis et al. 2010). One exception to the general pattern of clergy-led mobilizing comes from community organizing. Pastors are still important, and arguably have the most influence since they are gatekeepers of congregations (Wood 2002). But laity are also significant as they conduct most of the “one-to-ones,” which are a key recruitment mechanism. A fifth similarity across the case studies is the generally high-cost/risk nature of progressive religious activism. McAdam (1986:67) conceptualizes costs as “expenditures of time, money, and energy,” while risks are “anticipated dangers—whether legal, social, physical, financial, and so forth.” In the U.S. civil rights movement, black religious activists and their faith communities regularly faced violence from white supremacists and law officers. Risks were also high during the U.S. Central America peace movement as the government infiltrated progressive faith communities, harassed those traveling aboard, surveilled and prosecuted members at home, among other repressive tactics (Smith 1996). Arrests and lengthy prison sentences were common as well as leftist Catholics waged war on weapons of mass destruction (Nepstad 2008). Sometimes police also jailed clergy who took action for worker justice (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008). Because all these cases of progressive religious activism were sustained campaigns consisting of multiple events over time, they were also high cost. For individuals, this meant spending a lot of time and energy organizing and participating in events year after year. At the organizational-level, congregations and religious groups had to commit many resources—leaders, funds, volunteers, etc.—over the long haul. While community organizing is high cost, it is low risk. It thus only fits one of the dimensions with other cases of progressive religious activism. The explicit and overt religious character of progressive faith communities’ public actions is another feature case studies share. In her study of progressive religious activism for worker justice, Hondagneu-Sotelo (2008) observed that as clergy took to streets they wore religious clothing, offered blessings, engaged in prayer, referenced sacred texts, and deployed spiritual symbols. By doing so, they made sure others knew they were faith leaders and that their cause had religious significance. Moreover, clergy used their religious authority as moral authority to condemn the evils of exploitative employers. Turning to the annual School of the Americas (SOA) Watch, Nepstad (2004:150) shows that it “blurs the lines between worship and protest.” Many participants are dressed in formal religious attire and carry incense. Signifying Christ’s resurrection, the event begins with a procession in which activists carry crosses with the names of people that SOA trainees killed. A priest gives a homily for the slain martyrs, invoking feelings of solidarity and a shared religious identity. Then, reflecting a baptism, religious leaders bless those who will soon trespass onto the military base. Once inside, protesters pray and disperse a red-liquid substance representing blood. As these and still more examples (see Morris  and Wood  for public religious practices and rituals during the U.S. civil rights movement and community organizing, respectively) demonstrate, progressive faith-based activism enters the public square with distinctive religious features. Not only is this done to unify and inspire participants, but as moral leverage to compel those targeted to change their ways. Finally, several of the extant case studies highlight the consequences of progressive religion activism. For participants in faith-based worker justice, they experienced spiritual renewal and transformation. As Hondagneu-Sotelo (2008:106) observed, “[Involved] clergy feel more religious, more authentic and in touch with the roots of their various faith traditions.” As members of progressive faith communities joined and stayed active in the U.S. Central America peace movement, they developed activist identities that could be employed in future mobilizing efforts for social justice (Smith 1996). THE WOMEN’S MARCH ON CHICAGO The context of the WMC differed in three main ways from that in prior case studies of progressive religious activism. First, it was a secular protest event. Progressive faith-based groups were present, but they were only 14% of the total number of official supportive organizations (Women’s March on Chicago 2017). Additionally, none of the WMC organizers were faith leaders. Other than saying that people from all backgrounds were welcome, its mission did not include any religious language or references to sacred texts or figures. Second, in contrast to other cases of progressive religious activism, the WMC was a low-cost/risk activity. This event was a single protest action (no follow-up events or anniversary marches were planned at the time) on a Saturday (when most people were off work), planned to last approximately two and a half hours at a location (downtown Chicago) that was accessible by public transportation throughout the city. For most Chicagoans, participation required walking a short distance from their house to an “L” station, buying a ticket for $2.50 (or cheaper if they had a pass), and riding the train to the event site. Because WMC attendance was much larger than expected, trains ended up being very crowded and wait times often long. This unforeseen development the day of event was an inconvenience but not a significant cost to joining the Trump resistance. Turning to risks, in the weeks and days leading up to the event, members of progressive faith communities were not fearful of police repression or harassment from counterdemonstrators. For most, the basis of this safety expectation was the projection that white women would be the main demographic attending. Had the WMC been instead, for instance, a Black Lives Matter demonstration, many would have felt differently. Some members of progressive faith communities did mention that, like any large public gathering, the WMC could be a target of terrorism. But this possible security concern was not a strong deterrent. While participation generally involved little cost and risk, timing made the mobilizing potentially challenging. The first announcement of the WMC came through Facebook on November 12, 2016, generating 1,000 followers by the end of the day (Schmich 2017). Though an impressive response, it likely took days if not weeks for the news to reach the hundreds of progressive faith communities across Chicago, especially since religious leaders were not part of the organizing team. As a result, if these communities were going to participate in the WMC, they could not wait long to start mobilizing and would be doing so over the busy Hanukkah and Christmas seasons. With that said, the situation would have been much more difficult had progressive congregations in Chicago organizing for the WMC been targets of violence and government infiltration, as progressive faith-based mobilizing has experienced in the past (Harris 1999; Morris 1984; Smith 1996). Third, unlike prior studies of progressive religious activism, Chicago’s progressive congregations did not the face the arduous task of fostering sympathy for the cause. Trump’s election created an instant pool of potential resisters in these congregations. Had progressive faith communities had to first generate grievances among members—for example, by preaching sermons about how misogyny violates religious values—this likely would have prevented them from organizing for the WMC. Past studies of progressive activism have shown that paving the way for mobilization takes considerable time and energy (Davis et al. 2010; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008; Morris 1984; Nepstad 2004; Smith 1996). Both were in short supply given that January 21, 2017 was rapidly approaching and progressive faith communities were in the midst of holiday preparations, services, and celebrations. Together, the WMC’s secular nature, its low-cost/risk, and the fact that grievances were already in place represents a unique case to study progressive religious activism. Before turning to our findings, we discuss the data collected and method of analysis. DATA AND METHODOLOGY This article draws on data from a larger project on progressive religion and the WMC. For that project, we conducted over 125 semi-structured interviews with marchers and nonmarchers from 44 different Chicago-area progressive congregations in the months following the WMC. The entire sample included clergy and laity, men and women, officially and unofficially mobilized as well as nonmobilized congregations, and a variety of religious traditions, including mainline Protestants, Muslims, Catholics, Unitarian Universalists, and Reformed Jews. Marchers who were not members of any congregation as well as those who attended the Women’s March on Washington were also included for comparative purposes. The first wave of interviews were with clergy from congregations listed as official supportive WMC organizations, excluding those located a significant distance away from the event site. At the end of these interviews, we asked clergy to nominate marching and nonmarching laity from their congregation as well as other congregations in the area that mobilized or were expected to have done so. These nominated laity and congregations (usually their head clergyperson) were then interviewed. From this second wave of interviews, we collected information about more progressive religious marchers (from respondents’ congregations or other ones) and secular participants (friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.) and then interviewed them. We also conducted online searches of progressive congregations in the Chicago area to identify additional sympathetic and mobilized congregations. Clergy and laity from these congregations were the final wave of interviews for our larger project. The results that follow draw on a subset of interviews from this project. Given our previously stated research questions and analytical focus, nonmarchers, secular marchers, and progressive religious marchers who attended the national event were excluded. Among the remaining interviews, we selected clergy and laity (mainly pairs from the same congregation) of various religious traditions to represent the diversity of progressive faith present in downtown Chicago on January 21, 2017. Attention was also given to different types of congregation-based mobilizing in this selection. Based on these criteria, 40 interviews were chosen for an intensive analysis, which was conducted in two stages. First, we deductively developed an initial coding scheme based on theoretical themes—such as grievances, motivations, and mobilizing efforts. In the second stage, codes connected to these themes in the interviews were added that our initial coding scheme did not pick up. We used ATLAS.ti 8 for all of our coding and analysis. MORAL SHOCKS, BIOGRAPHIES, AND EMOTIONS Leaders and members of Chicago’s progressive faith communities experienced Trump’s election on November 9, 2016 as a moral shock. Most were stunned, saddened, angered, discouraged, disgusted, or afraid. Some “couldn’t believe” this had happened, while others were “traumatized” or “heartbroken.” A few exhibited what could be characterized as depressive symptoms: an inability to work the next day, trouble sleeping the night of the election, or difficulty watching the news. Consistent with Jasper’s (1997: 409) argument that moral shocks happen when “an unexpected event or piece of information raises such a sense of outrage in a person that she becomes inclined toward political action,” Trump’s election jarred respondents. For many, the fact that large numbers of people voted for a candidate whose values they fundamentally opposed challenged previously held assumptions about the moral and political views of those around them. As one female mainline Protestant lay member described: It felt like I had been living in a world where like everybody was … more or less on my side, doing good stuff, and then all of a sudden everybody was back stabbing me for years [laughs]. I was like … we’ve been working for this and now we lost our shot. And like, how could everybody do this to me? Of course, moral shocks do not occur in a vacuum. Respondents experienced the election in this way largely because of their previous social and political commitments. With few exceptions, respondents identified with the Democratic Party. All described themselves politically as “progressive,” “liberal,” or “left.” When asked whether there were any issues for which they felt strongly, protection for immigrants and refugees, racial justice, and women’s rights were most commonly discussed. Healthcare, the environment, and LGBTQ equality were also major areas of concern. None of our respondents appeared narrowly focused on a single issue. A frequent response to the question, in fact, was humor or exasperation at the sheer number of political or social issues they felt compelled to emphasize. The political viewpoints of respondents were not categorically distinct from their religious identities. When asked whether respondents felt any teachings or practices from their religious tradition were “essential,” they frequently mentioned morality and respect for others, a loving God, a faith rooted in social justice, and an evolving religious understanding that allowed for critical thinking. Social involvement, or an “active faith,” was repeatedly emphasized. More “traditional” theological points referenced in our sample, such as the Trinity, creation, or the Eucharist, were commonly mentioned in connection to one of these other, more primary themes. In short, a sense of civic purpose and social justice were generally seen as central and integral to the religious, as well as the political, lives of our respondents. The majority described a continuity in their religious and political beliefs over time. Experiences overseas were cited in several cases as responsible for an intensified political or civic awareness. College experiences were also mentioned as points of transition. For the few who were raised in more conservative contexts, this was typically their moment of political realignment. For many others, it represented an awakening to a new set of social justice issues. For those who were children or college students in the 1960s era, the social movements of those times were also deeply impactful in terms of their political awakening. Without socialization into a particular social, political, and religious worldview respondents would not have experienced the election as a moral shock. For those with no prior history of social activism, it helped propel them to protest. For many of those with some experience taking to the streets, the moral shock of the election brought a renewed sense of urgency to engage in dissent. CONGREGATION-BASED MOBILIZING In the prior section, we showed that Trump’s election instantly created a pool of potential protesters in Chicago’s progressive faith communities. These communities, then, did not have to engage in consciousness-raising before they could mobilize for the WMC. But they did need to make sure that the felt grievances were not paralyzing (Jasper 1997). For some members, the emotional response from the election was so severe that they required immediate help to process it. As with other traumatic events, these members often turned to their faith communities to do so. One female mainline Protestant pastor mentioned having to keep her sanctuary open the day after the election and that people there were “sobbing.” A male rabbi noted that he had received more calls from concerned lay members than he had on 9/11. Given that congregations are places of healing, they were well equipped to deal with the Trump-election-induced sorrow and could pivot from a place of grieving to a state of mobilization. As one mainline Protestant clergyman said, “There were a lot of, a lot of tears shed that week, and we kind of worked through that grieving process, but then, you know, moved into a thing where well, it’s now time to march. Now it’s time to not just lament, but it’s time to organize.” Although not every progressive congregation was comfortable addressing the election directly, or mentioning Trump by name, a number of them served as important social contexts in which members collectively grieved. Without these contexts, progressive faith’s grievances about the election may have been counterproductive to taking political action to resist Trump. Progressive congregations in Chicago were ready to mobilize, and the WMC was an opportunity to do so in the convenience of their backyard. However, an important question remained. On January 21, 2017, would they participate as individuals or groups representing their respective faith communities? The decision hinged on whether progressive religious groups believed that the WMC fit their values or not. Frame alignment (Snow et al. 1986), for these groups, was in place. As one mainline Protestant clergyman said: Well, I think this congregation deeply respects the dignity of all human beings, that’s why it’s an open and affirming congregation. Any group of people that have been denigrated by conversation, I think this congregation steps up and wants to speak out against that, so, the Women’s March was part of that. A female rabbi added: I think they are hand in hand. I think they, you know, we’re about trying to make sure that we have equality and equity in all facets of our communities, whether they directly affect us or not. That is our Jewish right and our Jewish values and our human values and those voices that come together to say we need to create equal, systemic, justice. For progressive congregations, the fit with the WMC was obvious. As a mainline Protestant clergyman stated, “this was a march for women. And, you know, we have powerful feminists in this congregation … given the context of the March and what it stood for, it’s like, of course we want to be a part of that.” Progressive faith communities, then, were organizationally behind the WMC because it reflected their core principles, especially women’s equality. Trump’s election had primed progressive congregations for resistance and the WMC provided an ideal setting—convenient location and consistent values—for them to take action. But mobilization does not happen by magic. People must step up and put in the work of disseminating information, coordinating actions, and planning logistics if groups are to take to the streets. In the case of the WMC, progressive faith communities took three distinctive mobilizing pathways. Clergy Driven Supporting the typical mobilization model of progressive religious activism discussed above, clergy led the WMC charge in five congregations in our sample. All but one of these cases involved head clergy and the gender distribution was three male and two female clergy. Common WMC mobilizing efforts among clergy were making announcements during religious services, printing information in bulletins and newsletters, posting materials on social media (such as the congregation’s Facebook page), circulating sign-up sheets, and talking informally to and sometimes inviting others to get involved during coffee or fellowship hour. These efforts took some energy and time, but clergy knew exactly what had to be done. As a female pastor of a mainline Protestant congregation said, “So, I mean it wasn’t rocket science or even all that complicated. I just said I wanted to go, who wanted to go with me. We had a sign-up.” While such activity may seem simple, without clergy doing it, five fewer progressive faith communities would likely not have been present at the WMC as groups. Clergy did not take WMC mobilizing lightly, realizing it was a delicate matter. “Church and state … so we were very cautious about that” as a female rabbi said. Moreover, they knew the appropriate parameters and stayed within them. A male pastor of a mainline Protestant church put it this way: It has to be free association in the congregation. Congregations have to walk a really neat tight rope around being seen as endorsing one political party affiliation versus another. So, I think it happening organic is the way I would’ve wanted it to happen... Now, if there were some lay folks who wanted to organize it, I would support them in all I could, but for the pastor, I’m juggling boundaries here. In their WMC mobilizing efforts within congregations, then, progressive clergy took into account U.S. norms about the political activity of religious organizations. While clergy-led mobilizing efforts were cautious and carefully implemented, they were intended to represent congregations as a whole, with one exception. In this case, not only was the congregation cautious about organizing for any cause, but as the female associate pastor explained, “We’re kind of timid about you know about taking political action, and that has a history.” The first piece of this history was when the congregation opened its doors in 1968 to offer hospitality to Democratic Convention protesters whom the police were violently repressing. She said, “Some … in the congregation … were so angry about inviting these communist young people in that they left the church, and that started this sort of sense of caution.” The 1980s U.S. Central America peace movement was the second piece of the history: “we had a discussion and vote on whether to become a sanctuary congregation, this was before my time, but it lived on … they voted it down by a very small margin, again because no one wanted to offend the people who might not want to do that or be associated with that. They didn’t want to be divisive.” Despite the fact that the female associate pastor perceived nearly universal support for the WMC in her mainline Protestant church, a precedent had been established against congregation-wide mobilizing. But she knew of the growing sentiment that wanted the church to be socially engaged in the world as a prophetic witness. Recently, a group consisting mostly of women had formed around this focus and the female associate pastor saw the WMC as timely opportunity. She thus mobilized out of this group “to say that it was this group of women, not representing the whole church.” In this way, she respected the established precedent, while at the same time guiding her flock to the social action they desired. Importantly, since the head clergyman was not involved in any WMC mobilizing within the congregation, her doing so was crucial. Jointly Driven Next are six cases in which clergy and laity worked together to mobilize congregations. In these cases, all of the laity were female, while an equal number of male and female clergy were involved. For some of the joint-mobilizing ventures, clergy waited for laity to raise the issue. As one male Rabbi explained: Everything that happens [here], it’s not my goal to bring it, it’s my goal to support it and facilitate it, and so there were other people, who wanted [mobilizing for the WMC] to happen, and it was a matter of a conversation with one of them, and I was like okay let’s just do this and we have it happen. In others, leadership reached out to laity, asking them not only to be involved in the WMC mobilizing, but also to lead it. As a female member of a progressive synagogue stated, “the board president emailed me and said, ‘You had mentioned you wanted to go and get a group together. You should lead the group’.” Whether leadership made formal requests or not, laity often became the primary mobilizers within congregations. As a male mainline Protestant pastor noted: So, a lot of the support that came around for the Women’s March came from a couple of key lay members that were just excited about it, heard that we were doing it, and rallied around it and got other people involved in it to show up. Even though laity often led the WMC mobilizing within congregations, it was still very much a team effort. One example of this is the initial impetus of action originating in a lay-led women’s group and then leadership picking it up and disseminating it. As the female rabbi said, “Yeah, we put out something and that actually came from our sisterhood, but it went out to the entire congregation and went out multiple times as far as encouraging people to go.” Another example of mutual mobilizing came from a progressive Christian church. As the male pastor explained: Yeah so, really it was by word of mouth, it was during coffee hours, during some of our groups. It was during, like, we have a Sunday night dinner that happens twice a month … which is communal in conversation. I mean, it’s guided conversation … and so, it was around issues that people raised there. They would say “oh, ya know, we’re marching” and so invite them to be part of that with us. As these statements make clear, the means of joint WMC mobilizing within congregations were similar to those observed in the clergy-driven cases. But they were carried out by two actors instead of one. In addition to being involved in the nitty-gritty work of mobilizing, clergy contextualized it in a significant way. As one female rabbi stated, You know, I think part of what we do as a congregation is and I see as our role as a synagogue is to give religious, spiritual, Jewish context to why it is that we’re supporting this. Many people would do it on their own. Why go down and participate with this congregation and to think about how we can give people those tools and ... awarenesses and understanding to bring down there ... you know they’re not just marching with, you know, the energized women movement, they’re marching with the synagogue and what does that mean and how do we give Jewish teachings and how do we give Jewish language to what we’re doing? In sum, sharing the labor of WMC mobilizing increased efficiency within congregations and drew on and out the strengths of both clergy and laity. Laity Driven Lay members of congregations solely initiated and directed the final set of WMC-mobilizing cases. For a variety of reasons, clergy were not at all involved. In one case, it could not have been otherwise as the church was between pastors and the interim was not in place until after the WMC. In the other cases, clergy were present and supportive, but prior commitments rendered them unavailable. Two were working on doctorates, while the other was preparing for a religious pilgrim. Without laity, then, these congregations would not have mobilized. All but one of the organizing laity in these cases were women. In one instance, two female lay members collaborated and worked through their congregation’s peace and justice committee—for which they were co-chairs—to mobilize for the WMC. They employed similar methods to those we have seen before. As one of them stated: Well, we have a meeting once a month and we have a table at fellowship. We have a—the website, we have a community forum, we have a bulletin, and it was in everything like that. It was us that did it—it was Peace and Justice who kind of led that. For laity in other congregations, they could not rely on subgroups to launch WMC mobilizing. As a male Unitarian Universalist member said, “I … felt like we needed to do something. And, that in the normal group that would do this was kinda in a state of disorganization. And so like, okay, you know if it’s gonna get done, you know, this is what you’re on the board to do.” Being a board member, he knew that the leadership was supportive. I wrote a piece [for the newsletter] plugging participation in the Women’s March, and then … communicated via email, and basically just said meet at this spot.” In addition, he did some direct recruiting, including making phone calls to members. MOTIVATIONS Religion With very few exceptions, when asked about their motivations in general terms, respondents did not mention religion. When asked a follow-up question about whether their religious or spiritual beliefs and values motivated them in any way to participate in the WMC, however, nearly all answered that they did. Members of progressive faith communities described four ways in which religion was relevant to their motivations: (1) by far the most common response was that religion served as the basis of their moral and political worldviews; (2) some respondents saw themselves as being motivated by religion because their religious social group was under threat; (3) others saw their own congregations or denominations as part of the problem when it came to gender or LGBTQ equality; and (4) a few indicated that religion gave them the optimism or sense of efficacy that they required to engage in social justice causes. Consistent with much of the previous literature on progressive religious activists, many of our respondents saw religion as essential to their moral and political worldview. When asked if they were motivated by religion, for example, one female Jewish lay member stated: That’s a good question. Not consciously. I think yes, from the standpoint of—it kind of meshes together my religious views in terms of how we take care of each other as a society very much influenced—my Judaism influences that. It’s part of my DNA…. So, it’s just sort of second nature to what I do and how I was raised. So yeah, I think on some level it’s always influencing me, but I don’t know how consciously. Others saw faith as relevant to their motivations because their religious social group was under threat. When asked whether religion motivated them to participate, for example, one male Jewish respondent mentioned seeing parallels between Trump’s rise to power and Hitler’s. A female Muslim respondent was similarly motivated out of concern over the treatment of her co-religionists in the United States: My religious beliefs are justice for all and all those things and this march, I felt like it, it stands for that. And also, from a political point of view how Muslims have been portrayed in the whole campaign. That made me worried also, so … that was one of the reasons to go out there. Religion motivated a few respondents in the sense that they saw their own congregations, denominations, or other religious traditions as part of the problem. Rather than solely motivating them to action as a moral force, religion motivated them through exposure to patriarchal practices within their traditions they found objectionable. Denominations, congregations, and other religious bodies, from this perspective, needed to hear the message of the march, rather than just politicians or society at large. When asked whether religion was a motivating force, for example, one female pastor mentioned the exclusion of women from leadership positions in the church: You know, we’ve only been ordaining women in the Presbyterian church since the mid-1950s and there was a whole group of men who had to vote okay for that. So, I don’t take that for granted at all that women make up most of churches and women in leadership in churches is not a given. A lot of churches still don’t. Finally, consistent with theoretical frameworks that emphasize religion’s role in creating a sense of political efficacy (Harris 1999), some respondents saw their religion not just as an underlying moral belief system, but specifically as a call to action. For example, one female mainline Protestant attender suggested that religion helped her take a proactive stance: Well, religion motivates me to care for people around me and motivates me to take action, and feel like change is possible. So, it helps me to have hope. So I would say, if I were not a religious person I would have been more likely to be like, just throw my hands up in the air [laughs] and be done. But, religion motivates me to constantly be looking for little ways to make a tiny, tiny difference. Religion was neither irrelevant to the motives of progressive religious marchers nor the primary reason they joined the Trump resistance in downtown Chicago on January 21, 2017. Instead, most respondents saw religion as creating a moral and socially-conscious framework that guided political action. Others saw religion as relevant to their motivations based on a sense of threat to their religious groups, as a resource for their sense of self efficacy, or because they saw their own congregations or denominations as not upholding gender or LGBTQ equality. Primary If religion was for most people from progressive faith communities a secondary, rather than a primary, motive to participate in the WMC, what were their main reasons for attending? Three themes emerged: (1) A visceral, negative reaction to the election of Donald Trump was of central importance to many participants. (2) Social justice causes, particularly women’s rights, motivated participation even if specific policy outcomes were almost never mentioned. (3) Finally, many participants saw the march as a means through which they could process their unresolved emotions from the November election. They wanted either to simply “do something” that gave them a sense of agency, connect with like-minded individuals as reassurance that they were not alone in their outrage and grief, or seek out positive emotions for themselves or their significant others, such as their children. Seeing the WMC as an opportunity to express their outrage over Trump and the November 2016 election was a primary motivation for respondents. This was sometimes expressed in relation to specific threats they felt a Trump administration might represent in terms of policy outcomes and sometimes more narrowly focused on Trump as an individual. When asked about his motivations, one mainline Protestant pastor responded: Anger [laughs] … I mean, just the whole campaign was so destructive, I think, for community and for people, and I was just angry about that. I don’t care who won, that was just terrible. And now, you know, what I have feared from the Trump campaign folk, the campaign that they ran, and now the presidency is rolling back every, just about every civil rights movement that we made forward in the last 30 years, and it is painfully angering to me to watch that happen. Although respondents were focused on expressing their discontent, rather than specific policy outcomes they wanted to achieve, various social movement causes inspired them to march. Women’s rights featured prominently, and a smaller number of respondents mentioned reproductive rights in particular as a motivator. Other social movement causes frequently mentioned as motivators included racial justice, LGBTQ equality, the environment, healthcare, and rights for immigrants and refugees. Some respondents were motivated by a personal desire to process the results of the election. As the election represented a significantly negative emotional event in their recent past, they sought out a positive event to serve as a counterweight. For years now, social movement scholars have talked about the “pleasures of protest,” including being motivated to join a march, protest, or demonstration because they want to develop or sustain personally rewarding relationships with fellow activists (Jasper 1997), or because they enjoyed expressing moral outrage or agency (Wood 2001). Our respondents, however, were not so much pleasure-seeking as they were looking for coping mechanisms. Because the election left them feeling discouraged, they wanted to feel empowered. Because the election created, for some, a new awareness of people who were very morally and politically dissimilar to them, they wanted to renew their understanding of the moral order by joining together with like-minded individuals. As one female Muslim respondent explained: I would say personally, I needed to connect and come out of that shock and see how other people are coping and you know sometimes you see other people and you feel a little bit better about it. And honestly, I’m glad I did that…. It lifted my spirit, it fulfilled me, it’s a … you know, it gave me hope that no I don’t have to start looking—relocating to Canada yet, there is still hope so, yeah, we are all in it together kind of feeling. In sum, individuals belonging to progressive faith communities were motivated to participate in the WMC primarily as a response to the election. The negative emotions stirred up against Trump’s policies, or Trump as an individual, compelled them to protest. Respondents, in some cases, also proactively sought out a positive experience to counteract the negative emotions they felt in electoral defeat. Respondents were also motivated by specific social movement causes, particularly women’s rights, to the extent that the election was seen as a threat to future aspirations or previous gains. RELIGION AT THE MARCH Progressive religious marchers were well aware of the secular nature of the WMC. As a female parishioner of a mainline Protestant congregation said, To me, the [WMC] was strictly a political march. It wasn’t our church saying that this was wrong. It’s Americans saying it was wrong and there were a lot of people at that march that weren’t Christian, that didn’t belong to a church organization. So, this really wasn’t the … church saying we’re gonna take a stand, this was people in the country saying we’re taking a stand. Or, in the words of a male rabbi, “[the WMC] wasn’t a religious march, yet religious people needed to be there.” In being there, members of progressive faith communities had no desire to disrupt the scene with prayers or other religious rituals. Doing so, in the words of a mainline Protestant clergywomen, “would have felt showy.” Moreover, a female member of a progressive synagogue stated: We didn’t want to do anything to be different from anybody else because the whole point was to be together and fighting for the same things. But if we had been praying … that [would] have set us apart from the rest of th[e] crowd and would have been not along with the goals of why we were there. In a similar vein, a female pastor of a mainline Protestant church explained, “it’s not necessary to display your faith. And to me that could be divisive. I would not want a Muslim woman to think that I think Christianity’s the way to go, so in general I don’t display my faith outside.” For most progressive faith groups, the thought of engaging in religious practices the day of the WMC never occurred to them. But given that it was Shabbat, it was on the mind of Jewish religious leaders going. Because they did not want to force their religion on others or distract from focus of the WMC, they held a prayer service before the event. In addition, a few individual Protestant church groups prayed before traveling to the WMC, “for silenced voices, for women’s rights, and for the group to kind of serve as the hands offering to Christ.” In this way, progressive faith communities that felt it was important to perform religious ritual on January 21, 2017, did so behind the scenes and before the event began. Publicly identifying their faith communities was a different matter. While this rarely happened when people marched outside of congregation groups, this was the norm when they did. As members of progressive faith communities entered the WMC crowd together, most identified their respective congregations through banners, signs, and t-shirts. Moreover, some clergy wore collars. Why did they do so? On the one hand, because, in the words of progressive religious marcher, “I think it’s important … as a statement to ourselves, you know, this is what we believe, and we’re pursuing this March you know, for the reasons of our values.” On the other hand, they wanted to let other marchers know that not all religious communities align with the right. As a Unitarian Universalist said, “I’d say it’s good to show that you know, Trump was pretty well, his support was well-known from the religious right, so it’s good to show that not all churches think that way, you know? ... there are churches in disagreement with very different viewpoints.” How did other marchers respond when they encountered people from progressive faith communities? None of our respondents mentioned any negative reactions. Some reported the surprise of others at the sight of religious actors because, in the words of one male mainline Protestant minister, “the relevance of church is up for question for a lot of younger people … and I think they were surprised to see ‘Oh, this is what church is? Church can be this?’” Upon this realization, many people thanked members of progressive faith communities for being present. Moreover, leaders appreciated the opportunity to interact with others to tell them about their faith communities. As another male mainline Protestant pastor said, “I would love for people to say, hey, who are you? What church do you belong to? This is great that you’re here. So I had a few of those exchanges at the March, you know, and so I think that’s cool.” Despite the huge crowd, members of progressive faith communities occasionally saw each other. The joint encounters were reassuring. As one female attender of a mainline Protestant church stated, “Because the alt-right has such a strong religious, I don’t know, base I guess, I was really pleased whenever I saw church representatives there, anyone wearing a collar, because I thought yes, this is what we should be pushing.” At the same time, members of progressive faith communities were disappointed that even more of their brother and sisters did not turn out for the WMC. As a male Unitarian Universalist lay member said, “I was surprised there weren’t more church groups, frankly…. Just seemed like a natural, you know … if you’re concerned about ... the person who represents the country to be a humane person.” In many cases, surprise toward into frustration and people wished that more progressive religious groups would have participated in the WMC to correct public perception about religion. As a female rabbi said: I think the religious right too often speaks as like they’re the voice of religion. So, I think it’s really important that we’re countering that voice and doing so in the name of—very authentically in our religious spaces and in our public spaces on behalf of religion. Along similar lines, one mainline Protestant clergyman explained: I’m very sensitive that the institution is under great … anxiety right now. Who’s gonna be and how it’s gonna be relevant. So, I wanted more institutional presence to say “this is who the Church is.” In my opinion, the church has been hijacked since the Reagan administration around the religious right gets to define what Christianity is, particularly, and that’s very disturbing to me. To conclude, while progressive faith communities did not want to transform the WMC into a sacred site through public displays of religious practices and rituals, they did want the world to notice their presence to disabuse conventional wisdom that religion is synonymous with conservatism and Trump support. SHORT-TERM RESPONSES In the days and weeks following the WMC, participating faith communities had the opportunity to debrief and share their experiences with others in their congregations. Because the march occurred on a Saturday, the following day progressive Christian communities gathered as they did other Sundays throughout the year for religious services and fellowship. Many capitalized on this opportunity to build, celebrate, discuss, and reflect on the day before. As one male mainline Protestant pastor said: We did you know, pray afterwards on Sunday that the spirit expressed in the streets might continue to flow onward and that you know, justice in the voices of women might be continued to be heard. So, we did offer some prayers of thanksgiving after the march on Sunday. Testimonies were also common. As a mainline Protestant clergywoman explained, “Almost everybody who was at the [WMC] was in church, so they wanted to come back the next day and tell people about their experience. So, that’s where most of the testimony … was happening in the thanksgivings about glad to be a part of it.” Additionally, sharing happened outside of religious services. A mainline Protestant clergy recalled: Yeah. I mean, we put a little blurb in the newsletter. There was a lot of buzz afterwards, cause we marched on Saturday and then were in church on Sunday. And, you know, lot of conversation. We have a very robust fellowship time where basically the whole church just goes downstairs and drinks coffee for an hour. So there was a lot of buzz around that and, you know, people tagging each other on Facebook from this picture and that picture, so, you know, there was a lot of buzz after that. As the “buzz” traveled throughout congregation circles, members were proud to learn that their faith community was represented on January 21, 2017. At the same time, members who did not participate expressed disappointment. As a male mainline Protestant pastor in a mobilized congregation expressed, “I know a lot of people didn’t go and then afterwards like, damn it why didn’t I go to that, it was like the event of the year and I had a chance to go.” Experiences were also shared in mobilized synagogues. As a female rabbi stated, “People shared experiences, you know, through different Shabbat services, people told stories, people shared with one another.” A common theme expressed in progressive faith communities was “how empowered [members] felt to be showing up to hundreds of thousands of people.” Similarly, a mainline Protestant lay member stated, “definitely felt encouraged and empowered, inspired that we can overcome this, that which is very, very wrong, the injustices that—here, getting to know these other people in that capacity was definitely—contributed to a stronger relationship as a Christian community.” This was not the only effect that the WMC had on progressive faith communities. In several cases, lay WMC marchers organized a social justice group. As a male minster of progressive Christian church stated: The social justice group that formed after that was really because a couple of people who marched said “we wish we could do something more than just this” and I said “if you start it, we will be happy to talk about it,” but I mean you’ve got to start it. So, they started it. For others, WMC participation motivated staying the course and bringing new members into the fold. As a female rabbi explained, “really it sparked the continued work that we’ve been doing, we have seventeen different social justice task forces that do all different kinds of work in all different kinds of ways. And so, you know we, it really sparked more people to be involved.” Finally, progressive congregations’ WMC mobilizing solidified for some laity that they were in the right place. As a female attender of a progressive Jewish synagogue stated: I am even more sure now than I was before the march that my community is the right one for me and that there’s value in continuing to be a leader in that community and to help shape where it goes because it’s a community that will stand up for people who have no voice and that will show up when the going gets tough. In this and other ways, the WMC affected progressive faith communities. As a result, we observe a reversing of the standard causal arrow pointing from religion to activism (but see Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008, Munson 2008). DISCUSSION Given the dominant narrative about conservative religion and conservative politics in the United States, few people would have been surprised—and many may have even expected—to find fundamentalist Protestants among counterdemonstrators at the WMC. But it was progressive faith that significantly turned out in downtown Chicago on January 21, 2017 for the Trump resistance. Progressive religious activism has a long history and scholars are increasingly paying attention to it (for recent examples, see Braunstein, Fuist and Williams 2017). The unique features of the WMC—pre-existing grievances, low-cost/risk activism, and secular protest context—provided an opportunity to study progressive faith-based protest in a new light and expand our knowledge about its dynamics. Extant case studies show that before progressive religious groups are ready to take action, they need to engage in consciousness-raising. This is generally a time-intensive and challenging endeavor. By contrast, progressive faith communities in Chicago did not have to cultivate grievances before mobilizing for the WMC as they experienced a “moral shock” (Jasper 1997) the morning of November 9, 2016. When they learned of Trump’s election, they were appalled, devastated, and outraged. As a result, members of Chicago’s progressive congregations constituted an instant pool of potential Trump resisters. While grief could have been paralyzing (Jasper 1997), as faith communities, they had experience counseling and healing. Not having to nurture sympathy for the cause simplified the mobilization process. When progressive congregations became aware of the call to action, they did not have to spend precious resources on the first stage of this process (e.g., Klandermans and Oegema 1987). Rather, they could devote all of their attention to disseminating information, connecting members, and coordinating travel and meet-up plans for the WMC. Being able to do so was particularly important given that congregational responsibilities during the Hanukah and Christmas season put a strain on their time leading up to January 21, 2017. Further reducing complications, progressive faith communities were not facing government repression or attacks from angry citizens. Nor was the WMC a high-cost/risk activity. These are also important differences from prior research on progressive religious activism. Another contrast from previous literature is the importance of laity in mobilizing progressive congregations for the WMC. Typically, clergy are the sole or main mobilizers of social activism (but see Wood (2002) on community organizing for an important exception). In fact, some research finds that parishioners actively constrain religious leaders from organizing for progressive causes (Davis et al. 2010; Hadden 1969; Quinley 1974). For the Trump resistance, however, two out of the three identified mobilizing pathways featured laity. They either led the charge alone or worked alongside clergy. One pathway was clergy-driven, supporting the traditional model of congregation-based protest action. But laity were involved in the majority of mobilizing efforts for the resistance. Like clergy, Trump’s election angered them and primed them for action. They were thus not dependent on clergy to cultivate grievances, as other case studies of progressive religious activism tend to observe. Moreover, laity did not encounter structural barriers to mobilizing given the egalitarian norms in most progressive congregations. Turning to progressive faith members’ reasons for participating in the WMC, religious convictions were not their dominant motivations. In many different cases of progressive religious activism they are (e.g., Harris 1999; Morris 1984, Nepstad 2004, 2008; Smith 1996). Analyzing a sample of Women’s March on Washington participants, Fisher et al. (2017) found that only 5% mentioned religion as one of the reasons they attended. Even in our sample of progressive religious marchers, few cited religion as their primary motive. But this did not mean that religion was insignificant for explaining why clergy and laity from Chicago’s progressive faith communities participated in the WMC. The vast majority of our respondents insisted that they could not neatly disentangle their motives from their religious commitments. For many, this was because they saw their religious worldview as foundational to their moral framework, which included an emphasis on social justice. Just as they saw their ethical treatment of others as rooted in their religious beliefs and values, so too was their taking to the streets on January 21, 2017. Similar logic is apparent among progressive religious activists fighting for immigrant and worker rights, though faith is a central motivator in these cases (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008; Nepstad 2004; Smith 1996). In addition, consistent with research on the role of religion during the U.S. civil rights movement (Harris 1999), several respondents credited their faith with giving them the hope and fortitude needed to formulate an active, rather than a passive, response to Trump’s election. Religion also motivated a few respondents in ways existing literature does not generally capture. Participants occasionally mentioned that they took part in the WMC because their religious social group was under threat—as was the case for Muslims and Jews. It is possible that an overemphasis on North American Christians in prior case studies of progressive religious activism has limited our understanding of threat as a motivation for targeted religious minorities. Finally, religion spurred some respondents to participate in the Trump resistance because of the patriarchy and sexism they had previously experienced within religious contexts. For them, oppressive religious organizations needed to hear the message of the WMC. While scholarship exists on conflicts for sexual equality within religious institutions (Chaves 1997), our study indicates that these conflicts can spill over and motivate people of faith to participate in a secular protest focused on women’s rights. The secular nature of the WMC is a stark juxtaposition to the sacred character of other studies of progressive religious activism’s public protest actions. As a result, it provided an opportunity to analyze religious mobilization in a very different context. In prior research, when progressive religious activism enters the public square, it does so in a distinctively religious fashion. Participants are dressed in formal clerical attire, engage in religious rituals, deploy spiritual symbols, and reference sacred texts and stories. They leave no doubt in the minds of others that they are people of faith and of the religious significance of their cause. Furthermore, progressive faith-based activists use religious authority as moral authority in the hope of bringing about social change. Progressive faith at the WMC looked very different. Participants avoided religious rituals during the event. They had no interest in transforming it into a sacred site. Marchers from progressive faith communities did not want to set themselves apart from other activists or cause division. These marchers did identify their faith communities, however, with congregation banners, signs, or t-shirts, but this was not to exert moral authority. Instead, clergy and laity from Chicago’s progressive congregations did so to let others know they were there in solidarity to show the world that the right does not have a monopoly on religion. In addition to their public witness, progressive faith communities internally discussed and processed the WMC. In the days and weeks following the event, they shared stories and experiences of hope and offered prayers of thanksgivings that they were part of the Trump resistance. Progressive religious activists also looked to build on the momentum of January 21, 2017, and many did, creating, renewing, or revving-up congregation-based social justice efforts. Last, for some lay members, progressive congregations’ WMC mobilizing was strong affirmation that they were in the right religious community. These findings are important as prior research observing the consequences of faith-based activism have been limited to social movements in which religion was an integral, if not exclusive, part. Our study demonstrates that the culture and context of activism need not be religious for it to have powerful effects on progressive faith communities. FUNDING This work was supported by a University of Notre Dame Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts Small Research and Creative Work grant and a Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Jack Shand Research Award. ACKNOWLEDGMENT Order of authorship is alphabetical to denote equal contribution. For helpful comments on prior drafts, we thank the editor and anonymous reviewers. REFERENCES Braunstein , Ruth . 2017a . “ Is the Tea Party a Religious Movement? 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Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Sociology of Religion – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 28, 2018
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