Religious Minorities

We Have To Keep Paying Attention: Engaging With Church-State Separation Beyond When It’s Trending

  We Have To Keep Paying Attention: Engaging With Church-State Separation Beyond When It’s Trending

By Katherine Yordy

As the dust settled following the midterm elections, several things became clear: We achieved major victories protecting the right to abortion access, the prophesied “red wave” fueled by Christian nationalism never fully coalesced, and we still have lots of work to do. No matter how your local elections turned out, it’s vital to stay engaged and informed year-round.

By virtue of the types of people I surround myself with, most of my acquaintances are on some level politically active. They stay updated on the latest trending news, they sometimes volunteer for a campaign or attend a protest and they almost always vote – but many aren’t dedicating themselves in an ongoing way to advocacy. In the weeks before the midterms, my social media feeds were filled with shared posts about policy, encouragements to vote and warnings about what was at stake. Now, the political content has dwindled, and, barring major tragedies or immediate news, discussions of the current political environment happen mostly on dedicated pages or by people who work in those spaces.

Does the dwindling of advocacy content post-elections make all the post-sharing my friends did in October performative? No. Advocacy is hard work, and it looks different for everyone. Sharing information online is one of the quickest ways to bring people up to speed on what’s happening. Social media can amplify the voices of the oppressed, organize entire movements and spotlight injustice when we share and engage with posts. Just because it’s quick and easy, however, doesn’t mean we should not be intentional in our usage.

Staying Engaged Beyond The Election Cycle Is Crucial

It’s always a good time to engage with the issues and encourage others to get involved, not just during elections. As a resident of Texas, there was little to celebrate for my home state waking up the morning after the election. But we have to keep paying attention: Unsurprisingly, when Texas state legislators began filing bills for the January legislative session, it wasn’t a trending topic. Yet buried in the 900+ proposals were dozens of harmful bills. Child abuse charges for parents who support their transgender child through any level of medical transition? Check. Restrictions of books in school libraries? Check. Providing public funds to private religious schools through voucher and tuition-reimbursement programs? Check. The list goes on.

I mentioned one of the above bills to a friend of mine, and she was appalled. When she asked why no one was talking about it, all I could do was shrug. The news cycle moves fast, but the cycle of trending topics on social media moves faster. We can only contend with so many things at once, and when an injustice or act of oppression doesn’t become a trending topic, trying to get others to acknowledge it can feel like screaming into a void. Politicians capitalize on this combination of burnout, desensitization and chaos to quietly pass swathes of legislation that contradict our rights like the freedom of religion.

Social Media Plays A Key Role In Engagement

It can be easy to tune out, or not realize, what’s happening outside of the election cycle or major headlines. So how do we stay engaged? I learned about the filed bills for the 2023 Texas legislative session on social media. As part of the generation born with technology practically shoved in our hands, I’ll be the first to admit I spend the same (read: more) amount of time scrolling through Instagram and Twitter as I do reading The New York Times, but for good reason – media coverage in all forms is imperfect, and finding the balance between in-depth reporting, breaking news and quick fact summaries is difficult. Because of this, I curate who I follow based on the type of content they produce and the issues I care about. I follow Americans United for information about church-state separation. I follow the ACLU of Texas so I know the state of civil liberties violations and the actions the ACLU is taking to protect people in Texas. Social media is a powerful tool and using it intentionally can make us more informed activists.

This is your call to action: Take stock of the issues you care most about. Next, take stock of who you already follow across platforms. Accounts that only post about trending topics are useful but cannot replace issue-specific ones. Then, research people and organizations who are focused on the issues you care about and follow them – like Americans United on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

Finally, continue sharing posts and encouraging people to educate themselves on what is happening at all levels of government. Election results are important, but so is what happens after them.

Katherine Yordy is a member of Americans United’s Youth Organizing Fellowship.

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