Resistance Prayers for Defeating Trumpism
About a year ago, Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons made a post on Facebook asking if anyone else was interested in a daily devotional dedicated to spirituality and defeating Trumpism. Sparked by that question, the volunteer-run The Resistance Prays, has accomplished Graves-Fitzsimmons’ ask, providing daily news, prayer and meditation, and action items for the religious left who want to see Trump out of office. Every day, The Resistance Prays offers timely information and spiritual guidance with the goal of not just navigating a Trump presidency and what Graves-Fitzsimmons called “Trumpism”, but ending it.
Managing editor Ashleigh Hill spoke with Graves-Fitzsimmons about his project.
Ashleigh Hill: Your project, Resistance Prayers, launched in the summer of 2017. When did you initially have the idea for it and how has it changed since then?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: I had the idea on July 16, 2017. I posted to Facebook to see if anyone would be interested in a devotional- a daily devotional- to defeat Trump. People were interested so I started it the next day on July 17. The idea from the beginning has stayed consistent: We look at something in the news each day, we then ground ourselves in scripture. There’s a brief analysis, it’s not very long, and then there’s an action people can take to do something related to the news and the call in scripture to do something. Then there’s a prayer. That has stayed consistent the entire time.
What’s changed really has just been the amazing involvement of so many people. Over 60 people have contributed in different ways- some people writing, some people editing. We now have editors every day of the week, which is amazing. What started out as me every day, kind of doing this as a passion project, has turned into something real. I just took a week off for vacation and it went out every day. That’s been the biggest change.
Other than the news, and our general political landscape right now, was there another inspiration for this project or your work surrounding it?
I wanted people to be equipped in real time. There are other devotionals that have to do with social justice and a lot of good publications but I sensed an opportunity and a gap to do something that was literally responding in time. Sometimes within an hour of an event happening, we’ll have a devotional out that day, responding to it. It really is the timeliness.
I was inspired by Politico Playbook, which Mike Allen used to write. It was just a very timely, what’s-going-on-today [publication], and he would send that every morning. With The Resistance Prays, we don’t always get it out every morning, because we all have full time jobs and we’re all doing other things. Some days it’s a struggle to get it out by even midnight. I’ve been up at like 11:30 at night trying to get it out. But we do respond right away and everything is super timely. So, it was a sense that we couldn’t wait, given how fast the news cycle [moves], especially under Trump. If we were to wait and write about something that happened a few days ago, he’s already tweeted something crazier that people are now talking about. We wanted to be a part of the conversation as it happened.
The format for this project offers a news item, a scripture and very short commentary, a prayer, and an action. Why did you make that specific choice?
In my analysis of our political climate, there are conservatives who want to pray, and progressives who want to act, and they often scream at each other, you know? The progressives will be like “This is not a time for prayer!” after a tragedy, for instance, or gun violence, while the conservative call is to prayer, like, “Let’s let God fix this.” There is a reluctance to act in addition to prayer.
What we think is that people should be doing both. Prayer and action: the prayer grounds us, connects us to each other and to God. The action makes a concrete difference. To us they are two sides of the same coin and we don’t buy into that idea that you can’t pray and act. I grew up in a very politically active family. My parents are labor union organizers. But I also grew up with a family [who] went to church. I remember my grandfather, who was a missionary, would always write some scripture down on his signs when he went to anti-war protests. He was involved in the anti-Iraq war protests. Those two things have always been very closely aligned for me. That’s the idea of doing the prayer and action piece and I think it’s missing from a lot of our discourse and from how people talk about the resistance. It’s amazing there’s an organized force that’s sustained for so long, but people don’t often see it in religious terms. I know so many people who are resisting because of their faith, so [this project] was also to raise awareness of that, and help equip people who are feeling doubly down- both about Trump and about how the religious right has fully embraced him.
I love that right up front it’s stated that these devotionals are for readers: “to receive a once-daily email focused on spiritually and politically defeating Trumpism.” Why did you make such a clear statement, instead of just leaving it at “Resistance Prayers”?
We don’t pull our punches; we want Trump to go. We are praying for the day the disease of Trumpism–and that’s why we say “Trumpism," because it’s the whole mixture of the religious right and very anti-immigrant, xenophobic Republicans. The ugliest of ugly in the Republican party combined with the religious right that has created and given us Trumpism. So just impeaching Trump wouldn’t solve the problem, we have to look at the whole phenomenon and defeat it politically.
It’s also a spiritual problem because if we [have to] address the idea that Christianity, specifically in the United States, is so corrupted by the religious right- they are the ones that have, largely, stood by Trump through pussy-grabbing, Charlottesville, baby cages… so we have to address it on both levels. That’s the unique thing that we’re adding to the conversation. Most other resistance groups are just thinking about it politically.
Like you said earlier, you have over 60 contributors to Resistance Prayers now. Talk about how that happened.
In my initial call, again I wrote it just as a Facebook post, seeing if people would be interested, and I initially asked if people would want to help create a thing. I realized it was a huge undertaking. And it’s been a mix of people- people that I know personally - the youth pastor at my church writes every friday, and friends from seminary- I went to Union Seminary in New York City, which is a very politically active school- and then readers. I have consistently asked people who are reading the newsletter to get involved [because] we’re not some institution that’s backed by funding or some organization, it’s all volunteer. So readers have said, “Sure, I’ll write,” or some people aren’t as comfortable writing so we have a team of people who post on our Facebook account… and then the editors who copy edit and do the technical stuff on the back end. That’s been a whole organic development.
Someone was asking me what I was most surprised about recently, because we just celebrated our first year anniversary. And it was that people have really not said no to me. I’ll ask somebody to write because I think they have a unique perspective, whether it’s on Puerto Rico or refugees, and people always say yes, they’re really interested in this. Obviously I can’t pay people, like a lot of others pay their writers, and we’re just a complete volunteer organization. But people have really stepped up, which has been the most heartening thing for me. I actually don’t write that much anymore. We have writers for every day and I fill in for people if they’re on vacation or gone but we have somebody set for every day of the month. So I enjoy just reading it [now] mostly.
That’s a lot in a year to put together!
It’s been amazing to see it, but it’s simple. It’s manageable and the same thing every day. And Trump always gives us something to write about, sadly.
What is affirming about this project, for you and for other people?
That there are other progressive people of faith who are resisting Trump. Most of what we see on the news and in our culture points to the religious right and Trump and that whole idea. So just knowing [there are other people]. I get messages all the time on Facebook from people responding to the letters saying “I felt so alone, being a Christian and being against Trump,” or being in a part of the country outside a major city. The newsletter connects people in a way that shows that there are many others who have shared values. It gives us that sense of people working together and we’re all praying the same thing. Like you have in a church- that kind of collective witness makes people feel less alone.
You don’t have to have an answer to this question, but is there one prayer in this collection that you keep coming back to?
That’s a good question… I don’t really. I’m so focused on [how] every day is something new, that I don’t really look back very often. But I should. One of our editors recently suggested putting a book together of just the prayers. I thought that was a beautiful idea. Of course, who is gonna do that, is the question.
Have you received any type of pushback from this project?
We did a campaign after [the 2017 Unite the Right rally in] Charlottesville. We called on Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board to resign. At the time, if you remember, the business leaders were resigning. He had a Business Advisory Council and they all quit after Charlottesville. There is no religious advisory board, just an Evangelical Advisory Board, and just one person quit. I spent a Saturday afternoon compiling all of their contact information into a Google spreadsheet and made it public so thousands of people contacted them, asking them to resign. Sojourners did a thing about it, and the Atlantic and Huffington Post. That was the only time I really got pushback. Not from any of the people [on the Board] but people who were one-step removed from some of the Advisors. They thought they could push Trump in a good direction by being good advisors and I reject that completely.
What resistance are you seeing that motivates you right now?
What resistance am I seeing? I’m really inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the new sense of boldness [people have] for running for office, young people especially. The idea that you can’t just call her a Socialist and that’s gonna shut her up and make her outside the limits of what’s acceptable in U.S. politics. She wrote something for America Magazine... and I was even surprised to see, after she won her primary, she wrote a big thing for [a Catholic] magazine about criminal justice reform and how she’s inspired by her Catholic faith. I was like wow! I’m even surprised because I’ve so internalized this [idea] that the left is not religious.
So it’s a boldness that we’re not all just going to say we’re against Trump, but we’re [also] going to start not doing the moderate middle and try and win people over. We’re going to stake out a positive vision. [The call to] abolish ICE is inspiring: we’re not just against baby cages, we’re staking out what I would call a prophetic position, but what we would call in U.S. politics, a far-left position.
When it’s religious it just inspires me even more because it resonates with me at a deeper level. Seeing her primary victory and then her Catholic faith discussion? That sustained me for another year, at least.