Social Justice Strikes Back; From Mizzou to Salt Lake SJ is on the move

For social justice advocates, the last week and a half has offered enough joyous squeal inducing content to last a lifetime. From Salt Lake to New York, Social Justice has been on the march smashing expectations, challenging institutions, and toppling regimes. The apparent victories serve only bolster the millennial activist core who continue to leverage social media as a brutal club with which they have, and will continue, to strike at every foe of their intended utopia. The question of course is, who is next?

For review, the Millennial Army enjoyed three major victories; Tarantino, Mormons, and Mizzou. First, Quentin Tarantino provided a much needed public boon to Black Lives Matter’s continued war on police. After marching alongside anti-police demonstrators at the Revcom sponsored “Rise Up October” rally in New York, Tarantino made headlines for his apparent support for “cop haters.” Police unions across the country rallied against Tarantino and called for boycotts against his upcoming film release. Instead of pulling a mea culpa, as would be the norm for loose-lipped Hollywood types, Tarantino doubled down on his criticism of police tactics. First on NBC where he declared himself a victim of police intimidation via the unions who want to shut him down. Then on November 6th, Tarantino furthered his stand on Bill Maher’s show where he explained cops should focus more on breaking the “blue wall” and outing bad cops. Regardless of his intent, Tarantino succeeded at keeping the anti-police rhetoric alive, which thrilled the throngs of social justice activists who see police brutality as their vector into destroying a system steeped in male patriarchy and white supremacy.

In stark contrast to the street level tactics seen at the Revcom rally, social justice soldiers used a subdued, and religious-centric approach to attack the Mormon church. The root of the latest surge of anti-Mormon sentiment came from the church’s “clarification memo” regarding the children of same-sex couples. In short, children in those families will not be allowed to be baptized until they are 18-years-old. Those opposed to the church used the policy to prove the church was homophobic and even went so far as to create the hashtag, #mormonhate. Despite the presence of popular provocateurs, like Gregory Lucero, the most surprising element in this fight was the number of church members who publicly decried the church. Social media exploded with accusations the policy was “not of God, but of man” and indicative of an old, white, male-led church. The amount of members who stood in opposition of the policy, and the silent hundreds who privately lost their faith, are evidence of social justice’s ability to transcend theological boundaries. Rumors are swirling of mass resignations from the church, similar to ones organized by “Ordain Women” earlier this year. Perhaps unwittingly, the LDS church just threw itself onto the social justice anvil, and only time will tell how they fair.

Finally, in what will be considered one of largest victories so far in the social justice war, Black Lives Matter, assembled under the umbrella of “Concerned Student 1950”,  and forced the ouster of President Tim Wolfe. The simmering tensions between the student body and the president came after a series of on and off-campus incidents involving racial slurs and at least one Swastika drawn with feces. A portion of the student body organized with the help of the long-time BLM leaders and leveraged social media, to highlight stories of injustice and racism, and call for his resignation. In solidarity, the Mizzou football team announced they would not play until Wolfe resigned. This coupled with the threats of a faculty walk-out, forced Wolfe to concede to the mob, and resign. Along with their calls to resign, the Concerned Student 1950 group demanded a series of concessions by the University. Some of them profoundly unrealistic, while other have nothing to do with academia. In the end, it does not matter, Black Lives Matter, and social justice army prevailed once again.

For the time being, the SJ army has their battle calendar full. They are targeting Cal-Poly, Ithicia, and of course Yale. In the background they will continue to press the LDS church, and of course they will always fall back to anti-police marches and calls for reform.

Ordain Women (History and Analysis)

 When a religious activist group rises to the main stage, it is nothing new or all that surprising. Internal theological activism however is surprising and worthy of examination. This is especially true when the activist group is able to break through the ceiling of obscurity and garner national attention. Thus is the case with the enigmatic Mormon activist group called, “Ordain Women.”

The group was formed in 2013 in Washington DC by Kate Kelly, a civil rights attorney in the District. Kelly was an accomplished law student having been named to several fellowships and worked in at least two different countries. Her connection to the LDS church is self-admitted and includes an education at BYU and a mission to Spain. Kelly formed “Ordain Women” along with several other women, some of whom have well-documented altercations with the LDS church.

Ordain Women’s first public action took place on April 6, 2013 in Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, UT. The original purpose of the gathering was to persuade the LDS church to allow the all-woman delegation to enter a lecture hall where male members of the church were holding a meeting. After the action failed, the group’s real purpose emerged; force a change in LDS theology. Ordain Women believe, as their name suggests, that female members of the LDS church should hold the Priesthood and serve in high clergy positions within the church. The group followed up with a similar action in October 2013, only to be rebuffed once again. As of 3/18/14, the group was planning yet another foray into the very same conference.

The first law of activism is “Gain the sympathy of your public.” When groups form and then act within and against their target audience, they tend to die out. A great example of this was “No Labels.” Ordain Women unabashedly acts within and against the LDS church while simultaneously trying to recruit members. Thus far they have been moderately successful through what can only be described as a bifurcated strategy. On the outside they are a soft worded, humble movement seeking equal blessings within the LDS church. This very soft, progressive, yet theologically comfortable argument resonates with some women, especially those who are disaffected with the church. The problem however with using such a soft approach is eventually it is going to come up against ideology. At that moment the true intentions of the group will need to take center stage and engage in a public ideological battle, which is where the second tier of their strategy comes into play.

Ordain Women, when distilled down to its base element, is a feminist anti-Mormon movement led by seasoned activists. Among the most influential are Lorie Winder Stromberg, Mary Ellen Robertson, and Margaret Toscano. Stromberg is a highly educated, ardent feminist, and former member of the Sunstone Education Foundation. Stromberg’s essays and speeches show she holds a great deal of animosity towards male members of the LDS church. He affiliation with Sunstone cannot be overlooked as the SEF has been dedicated to undermining the LDS church for many decades. Margaret Toscano is an anti-Mormon activist affiliated with the “September Six.” Toscano, her husband, and five other members directly challenged the church in 1993 through a series of lectures and publications. Six of the members were removed from the church through an internal removal process known as excommunication. It does not appear Margaret was removed. Toscano is a stalwart member of the Sunstone Education Foundation. Mary Ellen Robertson is the executive director of the Sunstone Education Foundation. She is also part of an interfaith activist group comprised of female activists seeking the ordination of female clergy. According to one of her bios, she became an ardent feminist while attending BYU.

The future of Ordain Women will be interesting. Many activist groups never see the type of attention they’ve received. With their plans of a third attempt at attending the Priesthood meeting in April, they have created a potential watershed moment. If they are denied entry they must evolve quickly to stay relevant. If they are allowed entry in April, they will experience a tremendous boost in popularity and will need to shift the focus to ordination. Either way, feminists and anti-Mormon groups will undoubtedly be watching the gates of Temple Square for signs of what is to come.


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