Or so it is claimed by T-shirts printed off this week in the wake of the Republican VP nominee’s put-down of Barack Obama’s former profession in her speech last Wednesday.
Is this a new front in America’s faith-culture wars?
It seems odd for a party seeking the God vote to diss one of the great American democratic traditions -- and particularly one which serves as a vehicle for churches to engage in grassroots public life.
The term "community organizer" was referred to sneeringly at the gOP convention. The Republican Party strategists clearly think this is a winning line of attack.
A small-town mayor, said Sarah Palin of herself, is "sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."
Former Governor George Pataki said: “[Barack Obama] was a community organizer. What in God’s name is a community organizer? I don’t even know if that’s a job.”
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani had warmed up his state delegation earlier with similar barbs aimed at Obama: "He was a community organizer. . . . What do they do?"
Giuliani knows very well the answer to that question because there are some large community organizations in New York such as East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC) or Metro-IAF, affiliates of the Industrial Areas Foundation in Chicago for which Obama once worked. These are large citizen-power organisations which depend heavily on bringing churches into alliance with each other and with other civic organisations -- mostly faith-based ones -- to promote social justice.
According to the IAF website:
"The IAF builds a political base within society’s rich and complex third sector - the sector of voluntary institutions that includes religious congregations, labor locals, homeowner groups, recovery groups, parents associations, settlement houses, immigrant societies, schools, seminaries, orders of men and women religious, and others. And then the leaders use that base to compete at times, to confront at times, and to cooperate at times with leaders in the public and private sectors."
Community organizers are responsible for reviving blighted economic areas, persuading employers to pay a living wage, creating affordable housing for the very poor and campaigning to legalize long-resident immigrants. The sort of change which social Catholic teaching calls for, and which is imagined in the "kingdom" theology of black evangelicals. The bulk of IAF’s members are from these traditions.
So when the GOP pours scorn on community organizing, it is doing something risky -- rejecting a democratic urban radical tradition centered on America’s traditional Christian churches.
And giving voters a new choice: between Palin’s "God, guns’n babies" post-denominational Christianity -- and something much deeper and more rooted.