Thursday, September 09, 2010

Community Organizers

I currently receive e-mail from Sojourners.  Even if I disagree with an article, there is always food for thought.  The cover story for this month is about congregation-based "community organizers".  In another time in my life, I worked as a teacher in a poorer community in Arkansas.  I appreciate the work of those who bring communities together, empowering individuals and strengthening families.  Those folks are doing the Lord's work.  From the conclusion of the article...
That is what hundreds of thousands of Christians and others have found in congregation-based community organizing, a practical way to live the values of the kingdom of God, or “the world as it should be,” amid the messy realities of “the world as it is.” As Nolan said, “Organizing is a really great marriage of the pragmatic and the prophetic.”
Unfortunately, there are some organizers who only see the community as "haves" and "have-nots".  They reject the possibility of personal transformation, ignore the gifts already present in the community and treat the powerful as the enemy.  Rather than seek reconciliation, they perpetuate the divisions in society pitting one group against the other.  Others have a myopic view of the problems that communities face.  Clearly, encouraging political involvement is important, but politics is not a panacea.  Even Barack Obama, the former community organizer, has acknowledged, "...we know the government can't solve every problem."

Saul Alinsky is credited as the father of "community organizing" which I personally think is unfortunate.  Alinsky's writing gravitates toward the worst tendencies of community organizing.  However, the Sojourners' article suggests that things are changing...
When organizing moved into churches, it also started to lose some of the rough edges that were hallmarks of the Alinsky style. For instance, Alinsky’s method called for “personalizing” the issue, making one individual the face of the enemy. Today organizers are more likely to talk in terms of building relationships, even with public officials or business leaders who might be the current adversary.
Thank God that we are moving away from "personalizing" the issue...

...Never mind.

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