Iā€™m Going In!

A Manifesto

The Opportunity

Let's study three successful single-issue movements in American history:

  1. Abolition in the 1850s-60s
  2. Women's suffrage in the 1910s
  3. Civil rights & desegregation in the 1950s-60s

These three notable movements have some things in common. Each one was crowned by constitutional amendments and/or landmark Supreme Court cases. Each one expanded human freedoms and recognized the value and dignity of ever-broader sectors of the American populace. Each movement was active and simmering in small ways, among radicals, for many decades before "tipping": exploding into national prominence and forever changing the political landscape and public opinion in a few short years. Each of these movements involved many people being arrested for civil disobedience or other trumped-up charges, at the very least, and successfully using these sufferings to generate public support and advance the cause. Lastly, each of these movements had so exploded in its final years that the ultimate desired outcome was widely perceived as inevitable, even by the opposition, before it came to fruition. Consider President Lincoln's 1864 State of the Union address, in which he asked Congress, not for the first time, to pass the 13th amendment and abolish slavery: "There is only a question of time as to when the proposed amendment will go to the States for their action. And as it is to so go, at all events, may we not agree that the sooner the better?" This speech came almost two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The amendment was ratified one year later.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell delves into the factors and influences that contribute to epidemics, not just of illness, but any phenomena that follow the same patterns - for instance, fashion trends, brand popularity, and crime waves. Public opinion on a political issue will follow the same pattern, both as to the basic belief (pro-life or pro-"choice") and as to the perceived importance and urgency of that issue (which is more important this year, tax cuts or right to life?) Gladwell identifies three key factors that must co-exist in order to "tip" an underlying phenomenon, e.g., an opinion held by a small group of radicals, and turn it into an epidemic:

  1. The Law of the Few: "The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts." Consider President Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  2. The Stickiness Factor: "That quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea." "I have a dream" is a very sticky message. For our movement, "I'm Going In" is a sticky message.
  3. The Power of Context: Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur. For instance, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, permitting the expansion of slavery farther north than before, outraged the North and triggered the death of the Whig Party and the formation of the Republican Party. This was instrumental to abolition.

Each of the three movements discussed tipped. The right things fell into place, and then within a few short years the desired reforms were no longer one issue among many but the national issue, then reform became "inevitable", then the reform was completed. The Pro-Life Movement must tip. The thing that must be made to tip is not the underlying belief in either the pro-life or the pro-choice position, but rather the belief in the urgency and importance of ending abortion in the hearts and minds of those who are already pro-life. Pro-life voters, politicians, judges, and others must be persuaded that no other issue takes precedence. The movement must force the conversation as a national issue. Those who say that they are single-issue voters on abortion and that abortion is a tragedy and a blight on our country must look and act like it, every day, not just on election day.

The Law of the Few and The Stickiness Factor are products of deliberate intention and effort. My hope is that uniting the troops behind the sticky "I'm Going In!" rallying cry will help us find more leaders who meet the requirements of "The Law of the Few"; especially post-abortive women, former abortion clinic workers, and others who have been personally hurt by abortion.

Context, however, is left to chance (or to God). The context, as it happens, is ripe. Trump could do anything on any given day - including forcing the issue to SCOTUS by issuing an executive order restricting access to abortion. SCOTUS is likely to be more conservative within the next three years than it has been since Roe v. Wade. The Catholic Church is growing quickly in America. The Census won't show that, because so many people call themselves Catholic who really are not - but the true Church, the numbers of orthodox laymen and priests, are rapidly growing.

In the broader culture, there is a movement among millennials to return to "genuine" experiences, to tear down this plasticized, falsified, fat, lazy world, and to experience something real. Most of them do not know what they are looking for and are not finding religion as they search for this, but some are, and even those who are not are ripe for a different message than what the culture is giving them. The human heart has an innate longing to give everything they have to some cause worth giving everything for, and Catholics have the answer to that, as there has only ever been one such cause: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Millennials, more than preceding generations, act like they want to give everything to something - millennials don't have the attitude that "work is work"; rather, they generally go out of their way to find employers that promise, and deliver, a compelling mission and fulfilling work. Catholic millennials are the same way, and need only to be shown that spiritual and social warfare is accessible to them and necessary, and be asked in a compelling way to go in with everything they have - in order to start putting their faith before their work, their friendships, and the like.

Douglas Hyde, a Communist who converted to Catholicism in 1940s Britain, reflected on the Party's success in recruiting Catholics: "The Communists' appeal to idealism is direct and audacious. They say that if you make mean little demands upon people, you will get a mean little response which is all you deserve, but, if you make big demands on them, you will get an heroic response." That is, people left the Church not because the Church asked for too much, but because the Church asked for too little. I was discussing this with Fr. Stephen Imbarrato, the Protest Priest, some months ago and he summed up the problem beautifully: "The Church never misses an opportunity to remind people that they can do less."