Jesus was a community organizer, Pilate a governor

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.

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10 years 4 months ago
Democrats need to focus on the issues and encourage others to learn from the past before it becomes the recurrent future. We need to respond to the “attack machine” regarding McCain’s own credentials and ask what he’s done for his home state of Arizona regarding illegal aliens entering through its borders. Has he made his home state more safe? How can we entrust a man with National Security when he can't protect the people in his own state from illegal invasions, especially after 911. He’s been an Arizona Senator (a Reagan foot soldier) for 21 years, one would think that something could have been done by now, what’s he waiting on? It all comes down to your perception of the direction taken by your beloved country during the last Eight (8) years. Copy and paste the following link in your browser and check out the voting record and determine for yourself if it resembles your values. For me, it's time for a significant and refreshing change. One who believes as Thomas Jefferson, ''When governments fear the people there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny.'' Keep in mind that SC is as red as it gets and my vote may be inconsequential, but ''I would rather risk my vote for a historical chance, than chance my vote for further historical risks''. May God Bless You and Yours!
10 years 4 months ago
One may disagree with the comments that the Republican nominee made about community organizing, but I don't think it proper to reciprocate by insulting her faith tradition. It may not suit me, but some very good Christian people might just come from their camp, and have something to teach us, even those of us with more ''depth.'' And I want to say how much I appreciated your posts regarding the Lambeth Conference.
10 years 4 months ago
Jesus did say that His kingdom was not of this world, but for the sake of argument He may have been a community organizer. But he would not have supported the radical organizers that Barcack Obama associated with and He would have organized a community that respected human life even at the moment of conception. He would have been appalled at Obama's opposition to a bill that would have protected babies that survived an abortion. Milbo
10 years 4 months ago
The GOP made a really dumb move attacking the idea of a community organizer. Especially puzzling for a party that thrives on the idea of limited government and grassroots community work. If they really wanted to get at the experience issue, they might have highlighted Sen. Obama's self-admitted failures in that post. That being said, about "Jesus was a community organizer": must we really reduce Our Lord and Savior to a bumper sticker slogan. What next, God is a republican and the Devil is a democrat (or vice versa)?
10 years 4 months ago
Actually the type of Community Organizing Barack Obama did was of the radical Saul Alinky mode who was his mentor in many ways and the creator of ACORN which is constantly involved in vote fraud. Community Organizing is a paid political position and is much more about politics than helping out a community. It would be much better if they got involved in Habitats for Humanity and other actual helpful services for communities. Funny thing about where Community Organizers are present the neighborhoods pretty much are getting worse. Even Obama's supervisor said that that he didn't achieve anything. There is a good reason why Obama doesn't brag about what he achieved as a community organizer. So this isn't about supporting something much deeper but valid criticism of something that has done little if anything to help revive neighborhoods. Calling Jesus a community organizer is something I find offensive. Just like when they called the Holy Family homeless for political reasons.
10 years 4 months ago
Thanks for recognizing the hypocritical venom coming from the Republican convention. Smearing community organizers is characteristic of the dishonesty of these Republican candidates.
10 years 4 months ago
Interesting comment, Jeff. No doubt you'd be surprised to know that Habitat for Humanity is itself in the business of community organizing -- indeed, it's probably the biggest "brand name" in the community organizing business. Perhaps you'll also be surprised to know that John McCain himself was scheduled to participate in a Habitat for Humanity build, but was sadly forced to cancel. No reason given. My first job out of college was, regrettably, in community organizing. I spent a completely useless year as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps helping to organize a nationwide community of family members of murder victims who oppose the death penalty, many of whom thought they were alone in that circumstance until they found our organization. We didn't abolish the death penalty that year or bring the murder rate to zero, so I usually don't talk about those twelve months of abject failure. Had I the opportunity to do it over again, I'd become a part-time local sportscaster.
10 years 4 months ago
The national press has finally picked up on the fact that Obama's ''community organizing'' was for our Catholic Campaign for Human Development. ''Starting at age 23, Obama ran a faith-based charity called the Developing Communities Project. It was made up of eight Catholic parishes when he got there and had one staff member. He was its director, meaning he was in charge. He made decisions about it, including staffing, budgets, etc. And when he left in 1988 to go to law school, he had grown its budget from $70,000 to $400,000, its staff from 1 to 13 people. More important, he created a job training program for this community and a college prep tutoring program.''
10 years 4 months ago
A correction, Geoff. Saul Alinsky was the creator of the IAF, not of ACORN. It's true that Alinksy's writings inspired Obama, as they did (and do) modern-day organizers. Alinsky was a secular Jew, but related to people of faith. Among his closest friends and greatest admirers was the great French scholastic philosopher Jacques Maritain, the father of European Christian Democracy. Radical, sure. It was Maritain who encouraged Alinsky to write his first book, Reveille for Radicals, in 1945. Alinsky had demonstrated, thought Maritain, that ''starting with selfish interests, [people can] succeed in giving rise to the sense of solidarity and finally to an unselfish devotion to the common task ... an internal moral awakening is linked with the awakening to the elementary requirements of true political life''. (Quoted in Sanford Horwitt's biography of Alinksy, Let them call be rebel.) For the record, I don't think Jesus was a community organizer, andymore than he was a Thomist philosopher. I think he was the Son of God.


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