Battling for the Future

Part 2: Taking It to the Clergy

Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at

This article was written by a group of comrades who read reports from around the country on the huge effort last winter to distribute the RCP statement “The Battle for the Future Will Be Fought from Here Forward.” The statement is available online at

In Revolution #7 we began the story of Battling for the Future. Last winter, in the bleak days after Bush’s re-election, the Revolutionary Communist Party put out a manifesto that not only told the truth about the Bush regime but put forth a vision of communist revolution and let people know about a unique and outstanding revolutionary leader, RCP Chairman Bob Avakian.

The Party united with hundreds of people to reach thousands more, and distributed approximately two million statements. We aimed to engage and change the thinking of many and draw forward new revolutionary fighters and sympathizers. The idea was to radically affect the political terrain, working toward changing the bad polarization that now exists to one more favorable for revolution.

Here we will give a taste of some of our rich and varied experience and lessons in taking this statement out to the religious community.

“Yes they are fascist, and yes, Christian fascists. They want a theocratic state and morality that will take us back thousands of years and be no good for the vast majority of humanity. These people are very dangerous, and I think we have to resist them with all we have and all we are. I often feel like I am alone in this. I feel like I am waging an uphill battle and that another part of this battle is with people who agree with me but who are also not doing anything more than what they have already been doing.”

Progressive Black clergyman

Taking this statement (“The Battle for the Future Will Be Fought from Here Forward”) to the clergy, we found a deep outrage and anguish. Many were wrangling over the direction Bush and Co. were taking society and organizing against this. They expressed an urgency to fight this trajectory and a deep desire for a resistance movement that unites far beyond them. There was an ache for something better than what stands harshly in front of us.

As we talked to clergy about their fears, desires, dreams, and what we can all do about it, we began to see a great potential. Two members of the clergy on the East Coast wrote a letter to the religious community calling on them to wrangle with the statement. Several grappled with us over the statement and then took bundles for their congregations. Others used the statement to struggle with clergy members over traditional morality. Some donated money to the initiative and others invited us to speak at meetings. With some clergy we initiated or deepened our discussion of the works of RCP Chairman Bob Avakian and his re-envisioning of socialism and communism.

Up Against the Bushite Vision

Many of the clergy we approached seemed to have an acute understanding of the dangers of Christian fascism and the necessity to stop this trajectory. Most of those we spoke with felt the situation was dire. Some were in despair—describing this as looking over an abyss—while most expressed an urgency, desire, and willingness to act to change the dynamic.

The letter from the two East Coast clergy said in part:

“Some may ask why we, as religious, are urging other religious people to study [the statement] from the secular RCP? While there will be differences, we think it is important, especially in times like these, for people to engage and wrangle with various insights and world outlooks. And we firmly believe that there is a particular responsibility for members of the religious community to help build what the statement describes as a ’Resistance that will reach out and win over people who have been deceived by this madness but whose deepest interests are opposed to it. Resistance that will be united—but will still include space for dreams and debate’... We can and must help millions of people in the religious and secular ranks to wage a united battle against this New Rome empire and for a truly just and humane future. It is in this spirit that we send this letter and Statement.”

This letter was distributed across the country to scores of clergy at seminaries, churches, and religious events.

One clergy member who contacted us after receiving the statement said we were the only people he’s met talking so directly about the danger of these times. He wanted to talk about what to do to stop this. A lesbian minister told us that the world is so bleak right now that she is having trouble finding the words to inspire people in her sermons. She felt that more religious forces needed to be resisting this course.

Another clergyperson said he had the freedom to speak against this with his congregation—but what about everyone else? A pastor, after reading the statement, changed the subject of his talk at an event discussing the legacy of Black Panther Party. Instead of discussing faith, he talked of the extreme times we are facing.

The morality spoken of in the statement really resonated with some clergy. Some of them used the statement to struggle with other clergy who were being pulled into supporting Bush, even though they were progressive, on the basis of the supposed need for traditional morality.

For example, a group of mainly Asian ministers, after discussing the statement (and among other things drawing the links between the current times and the internment of Japanese people in WW2), were moved to struggle with a Black minister they knew who opposed gay marriage.

As one Unitarian clergy (engaging with another Black minister) put it,

“You need to seriously think about the kind of world these Christian fascists would bring into being—with no science, no diversity, no ACLU, and probably no church for the Black minister. You better talk to these folks [the RCP]. I may not agree with them, but they got some truth on their side. Bob Avakian is onto something that deserves some thinking about and listening to.”

These “interventions” (and the content of what was brought to the clergy—the comparing and contrasting of traditional morality versus a morality forged on humanity’s actual interests) were very significant and provide a model for more of what is needed.

Engaging with Bob Avakian’s Vision

As we wrangled with clergy members, we came to see a willingness to really delve into socialism and communism as re-envisioned by Bob Avakian. There was a ferment and a back-and-forth between discussion over how to resist the current Bush regime and engaging with Bob Avakian’s vision of the future.

One of the clergymen who wrote the letter to the religious community told us the reason he did this was because people need to engage with Bob Avakian’s vision of the future. He felt that people need to think more about how things could be different and better, and aboout how they can’t change things if they can’t envision how something better could be brought into being.

One Christian youth was intrigued by a line in the statement: “Chairman Avakian makes not just what he’s learned but how he analyses things the property of the people.” He found this very challenging and wanted to watch the Revolution DVD to learn more about this leader and how he thinks.

The progressive Black clergyman quoted above also said,

“We have to be prepared and bring forward the kind of resistance called for in the statement and from the perspective of the revolutionary society that encompasses millions of us. If you are talking about this kind of resistance based on this kind of society, then doesn’t Bob Avakian need to be a recognizable force in a huge way?”

In a New York church (where a Spanish-language showing of the DVD of Bob Avakian’s talk, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What’s It All About, was held last summer), statements and DVD samplers had gone out to the congregation. The priest of that church said, “I agree with 60% of what the DVD says and 40% of what the church says.” A visitor to this church described the situation this way: “A small church congregation in an oppressed area is conversing, and increasingly conversant, with Bob Avakian and the RCP.”

A rabbi (who took the statement out to Central American immigrants) spoke of the danger of the Christian fascists, the cohesion they have, and the fact that most people have no idea how deep this goes. He felt there is no one better than Bob Avakian to explain that—having watched the DVD he was genuninely inspired by, and wrangling with the Chairman’s vision.

He also said that he’s not sure how much he’d be engaging with communism if he thought there was a situation where the U.S. could go back to a time when science and reason more ruled the day. This relates to something that Bob Avakian has spoken to—that as deeply felt beliefs people have about bourgeois democracy and how society should function are being torn apart by the drive of the Christian fascists, many people on one hand rush to defend these principles while, at the same time, they begin to look deeper into and even question some of these very beliefs.

The effort among clergy showed the potential to affect and recast the thinking of people and the overall terrain to one more favorable for a revolutionary future, including the potential for individuals—even clergy—to make the break and cross over to fully embrace and popularize communist revolution.

No Hell Below Us...Above Us Only Sky

Not surprisingly, religion in its own right was a big question among the clergy and religious people distributing and receiving the statement. Some were concerned about the “place” in all this for their own beliefs.

One clergyperson said, “[Among] the left there is too much emphasis on Marx’s religion as the ’opiate of the masses’ and not enough on ’heartfelt cry of the oppressed.’”

We communists have to be truthful and bold here. We see religion as an “opiate” because we understand that the ultimate end to the “heartfelt cry of the oppressed” does not lie in “god’s tender mercy” but in throwing off the economic and social relations that have laid countless tracks of misery on the majority of humanity, including the weight of tradition’s chains.

To the degree this approach was part of the conversation, it was good—but this needs to be bolder and should increase in the context of resisting the current misery and horrors coming down.

The Story Continues...Next: Battling for the Future Among the Proletariat