THE CHURCH, COMMUNITY ORGANIZING,
AND PUBLIC LIFE:
AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
The Reverend Paul W. Buckwalter
Arizona Interfaith Network
Revised Summer 2005
This annotated bibliography was prepared for clergy, lay leaders and community organizers in the member organizations of the Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN): Valley Interfaith Project (Phoenix and West Valley), Pima County Interfaith Council (Tucson and surrounding communities), East Valley Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (Tempe, Mesa and East Valley), Yuma County Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (Yuma, Somerton and San Luis) and Northern Arizona Interfaith Council Sponsoring Committee (Flagstaff, Sedona, Cottonwood and Prescott). All of these organizations are members of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).
Included are representative and selected books that provide underlying faith stories, theological
interpretation, and social analysis for the common work of "missio dei" in Arizona.
David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991.
Of all the books in this bibliography, this publication is the cornerstone for understanding mission
in the 21st century. This statement probably can be challenged, but no one else takes us through
both Gospel and Church History to come to grips on what mission, and its adjunct, evangelism,
means to the Church today. One has to go back to the works on mission by Kenneth Scott Latourette
at Yale to find such a deep and thorough description and analysis on what God is doing in the
world and how the church is called to react to God's action. Dr. Wright from Harvard is right
when he says that ultimately our God is a God who acts. We, the church, need to find out where
the action is. Bosch unpacks and puts back together the word "evangelism" to point out that our
work is Kingdom work, being present where God is. Most recent writers about the state of the church,
including Mike Regele in his book The Death of the Church, work off of Bosch's themes and thesis on
Mission as Kingdom Work. This work is seminal and the basis for the life of the church.
Walter Brueggemann, Hope Within History. Atlanta: Westminster John Knox Press, 1987 and The Prophetic Imagination. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978.
There are three major authors in this bibliography, Brueggemann, Horsley, and Wink, about whom it has been said that they did not have a thought which they did not write down, much less publish. Be that as it may, the three are the core for this bibliography, so a selection has been made from their works. However, their prolific writings have produced some very important thought for the 21st century church, so read on.
Hope Within History is the seminal work for community organizing in IAF. Brueggemann's
steps for faith development, which are rooted in the Exodus story, are the basis for congregational
development work in congregations connected to IAF. These steps, critique of ideology (culture),
public processing of pain, release of imagination, and action in the world, bring the church
immediately to "world life" rather than "church life" and get close to God's mission. The Prophetic
Imagination is the work that cuts through the project-oriented thinking of liberals. Critique of
culture requires understanding how power works in the culture. "The prophetic purpose is much more
radical than social change and second, because the issues that concern the Mosaic tradition are much
more profound than the matters we usually regard as social action." (p. 14) Real change for
Brueggemann will come when we empty our heads of the Pharaoh's power and culture to go through a
grief and death, in order to think of a new future that previously was unimaginable. Once we read
these two books, excellent for lay leadership, we can give ourselves permission to stop tinkering
with the church and look at what really needs to be done.
Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy, Abingdon Press, 2001.
Somewhere in this book, a commentary on Deuteronomy, or maybe in another of his books, (I just can't seem to find the exact quote), Walter Brueggemann says that the primary attribute of God is speech. And this book is about God talking, and Moses (well, someone like Moses), listening, and responding; or in fact not listening and not responding. But it is not about Moses so much, but about Israel itself which is claimed and reclaimed by God through conversation. There is of course the glorious, obedient, and faithful Israel. Then there is the dark side, murmuring, stiff necked, unresponsive, denying Israel.
Brueggemann states that Deuteronomy is in its primary casting an articulation of "public theology." It is about God speaking and acting in the world of politics, economics, religion, and prophecy. Deuteronomy is the story of God's power in the world and in particular God's power with Israel. " Deuteronomy looks both backward to rootage, and forward to crisis, and interprets at the precise place where rootage and crisis intersects. The book makes a case that the rootage of the past is the clue to understanding and faithfully living in the crisis." (p. 22)
The world is a glorious gift to Israel, but what counts is "in the context of such fecundity is the proper management of the community." (p. 28) In other words, social, political and economic justice.
Threaded throughout Deuteronomy is advice on how to do justice in the proper management of community. The most important step is for Israel "to listen." "In listening, Israel is summoned, commanded, assured by the One with authority who takes an initiative and imposes upon Israel a will, purpose, and identity other than any it might have taken for itself." (p. 83)
What is important about Brueggemann's commentary is that he lifts up the God-Israel conversation inside the whole of society, not just church. God speaks and acts in the world more than in the sanctuary, as important as the sanctuary is in the life of Israel, and in our lives, as well.
The Book of Deuteronomy unabashedly talks about how power works, and is connected to justice. This is a lesson for the Church that often rambles passionately about justice, but avoids the issue of power in society. We are reminded again of Saul Alinsky's words, "Justice without power is impotent; power without justice is tyranny." (Well, Pascal, Tillich and Martin Luther King, Jr. also said this but Alinsky says it best). The church needs to carefully make the connection between power (and powerlessness) and justice, thoughtfully do the political and economic analysis.....and then organize.
Michael Budde, The (Magic) Kingdom of God. Westview Press, 1997.
Walter Brueggemann, Hebrew Literature theologian, claims that the first step of transformation
for the church is critique of culture (ideology). Ok, agreed. Now comes Dr. Michael Budde,
Roman Catholic lay leader and professor of political science at De Paul University in Chicago.
In his book, The (Magic) Kingdom of God, Budde not only critiques our culture of consumerism, he critiques the church for failing to engage and analyze the impact of the consumer culture on our society, and ultimately the church.
According to this author, in the end the church needs to shed the consumer mentality that has
engulfed it and to develop a small, finely honed cadre of Christian disciples to witness to the
creativity and chaos in American culture. The task is daunting as Budde carefully examines the
effects of globalism and the seduction of consumers in the private market place. "The global
utilization of "culture" by transnational firms has radically altered the environment within
which the church exists, first in the advanced industrial regions, but increasingly in the third
world contexts as well. The new cultural environment, unlike anything the world or the church has
experienced before, increasingly undermines the preconditions for religious formation and praxis in
the contemporary world." (p. 18)
Budde is adamant about the need for radical reform in the church, and radical responses to transnational globalization. "I suggest that a Christianity drained of passion is no Christianity at all, the ultimate oxymoron, a pasty and thin gruel, 'neither hot nor cold', and thus rejected by God. Indifference to the Gospel, more than heresy, aberrant interpretations, or partisan politics is the greatest danger to the church today." (p. 2)
Budde continues. "Hans Frei (from Yale University) and others have argued that the passion accounts in the New Testament historically have constituted the central narrative of the Christian experience. Indeed, it seems fair that it was the specific historical passions of Jesus - for the poor and exploited, for a way of being that affirms life and not death, and against wealth, power, and privilege - that led the powers to be to set in motion his passion and execution. (p. 3) With that statement, the new church games begin in a transforming way.
Budde, a Roman Catholic homeboy, is very critical of his church. The Roman Catholic Church he claims is "loose" and sees no "fundamental incompatibilities between the gospel and the world and therefore sees no need to maintain a dominant distance from the culture." (p. 86)
Professor Budde looks for some answers and models to his own critique. Lifelong catechuminate work
is an internal discipline of the church and needs to start with different models that reflect the
passion to find and develop disciples (leaders). Along these lines, he likes the thinking of Michael
Warren. (See Warren's work in this bibliography.) Budde comes down on the side that a small group
of convened Christians is better than church growth just for the sake of numbers. He cites the Egido
Movement and the Neocatechuminate Movement in Europe as models and examples. They are small
disciplined prayerful reflective communities that address issues of social justice and seek power
for creative social change. These represent the author's concluding vision of the new radical church.
(Addendum: Budde analyzes the in-house (seminary) theological battles between the University of
Chicago and Yale. The former sees religion as primarily a universal experience most of which has
a common ground. Yale sees religion as mostly revealed in its particularity. Budde sides with
Lindbeck and Frei of Yale. Interesting material, even for non-scholars.)
Charles L. Campbell, The Word Before the Powers: An Ethic of Preaching, Westminster
John Knox Press, 2002; Roxanne Mountford, The Gendered Pulpit: Preaching in American Protestant Spaces, Southern Illinois University Press, 2003.
Can we take a look from the margins at two authors who raise the tempo and temperature of a central aspect of the life of the church, the Word spoken from the pulpit and related sacred spaces? Charles Campbell, a faculty mate of Walter Brueggemann at Columbia Theological Seminary, opens the discussion by commenting on the importance of addressing the whole issue of "principalities and powers" in preaching. He states first that "the ethical context of preaching is the activity of the principalities and powers." Secondly, "the preaching of the Word is a critical practice of resistance to the work of the principalities and powers." Thirdly, "the powers are engaged by a community or resistance which is shaped by a distinctive way of seeing the world and by peculiar practices and virtues." (pp. 2-3)
Campbell acknowledges the basis for his highly focused ethic of preaching are the works of Walter Wink and William Stringfellow. It is probably important to re-visit Wink to understand where Campbell is going in this provocative book. The basic assumption for this ethic is that Jesus' primary mission is talk and action against the domination of the "principalities and powers." Campbell quotes Walter Wink's words on the powers:
The "principalities and powers" are the inner and outer aspects of any given
manifestation of power. As the inner aspect, they are the spirituality of institutions,
the within' of corporate structures and systems, the inner essence of outer
organizations of power. As the outer aspect they are political systems, appointed
officials, "the chair of an organization, laws - - in short, all the tangible manifesta-
tions which power takes. Every Power tends to have a visible pole, an inner spirit
or driving force that animates, legitimates, and regulates its physical manifestation
in the world. Neither pole is the cause of the other. Both come into existence
together and cease to exist together.
People are veritably besieged, on all sides, at every moment simultaneously
by these claims and strivings of the various powers, each seeking to dominate,
usurp, or take a person's time, attention, abilities, effort; each grasping at
life itself, each demanding idolatrous service and loyalty. In such tumult,
it becomes very difficult for a human being even to identify the idols which
would possess him (or her).
With these views as his basis for a particular place for ethical preaching, Campbell focuses on the fallen powers which not only seek to survive, but to dominate. Quoting Wink again, "The Domination system is what obtains when an entire network of powers becomes hell-bent on control...equivalent to what the Bible so often means by the terms, "world", "aeon" and "flesh." (p. 26) The ultimate expression of the powers of dominance and the desire to control is violence. Domination/violence seeks silence above all, and one way to break domination of the powers is speech. Or in this particular focus, preaching.
The practice of preaching itself embodies this renunciation of the way
of violence and reenacts the non- violent way of Jesus....In other words the
that of preaching its fundamental character as an act of nonviolent resistance
shapes its ethical purpose, which is create the space and the possibility for a
community to engage in further resistance to the powers. Ethical preaching
thus involves building up the church as a community of non violent
resistance in the face of the powers. (pp. 75 & 90)
From this basis for ethical preaching, addressing principalities and powers that surround us and cause almost irreparable chaos, Campbell turns to the New Testament to recount
how Jesus in his ministry and word established the ground for this kind of preaching,
If Campbell frames the stance, and the ethical position for preaching, Roxanne Mountford,
Professor of English and Rhetoric at the University of Arizona, in her book, The Gendered Pulpit:
Preaching in American Protestant Spaces, gives us a concrete example how the "powers and principalities" have marginalized people who seek to preach the Gospel in the sanctuaries of our Protestant Churches. Although Mountford tells her story through a feminist lens, and although her work should be placed in the center of the recent feminist Christian canon, she goes beyond the argument that just women have been excluded from an entrenched male domain, the Christian pulpit to include issues of class, race, and gender.
(Such)assertions of the privilege of one gender or race over another
must be bolstered by efforts to develop the qualities that supposedly
make that gender or race superior. Such was the case of the masculinity
of the preacher which homileticians began to reassert in lectures and
textbooks on preaching in the last half of the nineteenth century. (p. 40)
Mountford goes on to document how little of that changed up until the late 20th century.
Mountford tells this story of exclusion and rejection of the female voice, body, and culture from the preaching pulpit by looking at language, fiction (Moby Dick, Beloved, and The Temple of Our Familiar), historical and sociological analysis, three stories of contemporary women clergy, and her own story in the life of the church. .
Mountford begins with some serious historical documentation on how and why the pulpit is a masculine space, and then proceeds to tell the story on how women recently have transformed the sacred space of the pulpit and the surrounding areas in the church sanctuary. Citing her women clergy stories, Mountford says, "My argument is that they enacted a transformation of the art of preaching in two key ways: by transgressing sacred space and by engaging in a local, populist theology" (p. 129) and "religion can be powerfully redefined when a woman preaches." (p. 154)
Mountford's work is short, readable, and well documented. The Gendered Pulpit is a sermon itself that primarily addresses the issue of male domination and control of the pulpit and thus, ironically, in Brueggemann's terms, where the Word is to be spoken to break the silence of domination has in fact become a place of male domination and control. Fortunately, over the last 30 years, women's voices have been heard from the pulpit and in new sacred spaces created by women. Transformation is the result according to Roxanne Mountford. Although the powers are legion, spilling chaos into creation, The Word coming from new people is breaking down these powers and principalities in dynamic new ways.
James H. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power. Orbis Books, 1999.
No up-to-date bibliography is complete without one of the works of Dr. James H. Cone, The Charles A.
Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Dr.
Cone has updated and reissued an earlier work, Black Theology and Black Power, a book that takes
Bruggemann to heart. Our first task, our very first step, in misseo dei is to critique culture,
both secular and church culture. Dr. Cone throws 98 miles an hour theological fastballs throughout
the entire book, brushing back many, but especially white liberals. If you can't stand the heat in
the kitchen, you might just want to pass this book up. Here are some samples of some of Dr. Cone's
thinking, hopefully agitational enough to make you go buy the book, read it, and then take a hard
look at your ministry in your congregation and community. "This work, then, is written with a
definite attitude, the attitude of an angry black man, disgusted with the oppression of black
people in America and with the scholarly demand to be objective' about it. Too many people have
died, and too many are on the edge of death.... I cannot allow myself to engage in dispassionate,
non-committed debate on the status of the black-white relations in America by assessing the pro and
con of Black Power. The scholarly demand for this kind of 'objectivity' has come to mean being
uninvolved or not taking sides." (p. 2) Carrying this argument to his assessment of the white
liberal, Cone cuts to the chase, "The liberal, then, is one who sees both sides' of the issue and
shies away from 'extremism' in any form. He wants to change the heart of the racist without ceasing
to be his friend; he wants progress without conflict. Therefore, when he sees blacks engaged in civil
disobedience ....... he is disturbed ...... but the liberal wants to be a friend, that is. enjoy the
rights and privileges pertaining to whiteness and also work for the 'Negro'. He wants change without
risk, victory without blood." (p. 27)
Cone's critique is wrapped around a deep theological basis, and is similar to the writing and thinking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The core and center of our human and god understanding is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus work is essentially one of liberation. Becoming a slave himself, he opens realities of human existence formerly closed to man(kind). Through an encounter with Jesus, man now knows the full meaning of God's action in history and man(kind)'s place within it. Cone is clear; our connection to God is not a religion, but a relationship with Jesus. (p. 35) Cone goes on about the Church. "The Church cannot remain aloof from the world because Christ is in the world. Theology, then, if it is to serve the need of the Church must become worldly theology'... American theology has failed to take that worldly risk. It has largely ignored its domestic problems on race. It has not called the Church to be involved in confronting this society with the meaning of the Kingdom in the light of Christ." (p. 84) Cone's concluding chapters are on the black church, an important read on its own. Cone's polemical style is stimulating, challenging, substantive, and sound. Dr. Cone is asking us to take a stand. See if we can handle it.
J. Severino Croatto, Exodus, A Hermeneutics of Freedom. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1981.
A small and early book in the canon of books on liberation theology, Dr. Croatto, a Roman Catholic
teaching in an evangelical seminary in Buenos Aires, carefully and consistently talks about God's
action in the world which is a liberating action leading to freedom. God's action in the world is
political and social action.
The liberation of the Israelites in Egypt was an event of political and social implications.
God did not begin saving in the spiritual order, not even from sin. God saves total human beings
whose human fulfillment can be impeded not only by themselves (sin), but also by other human beings
who abuse their power or their social status. (p. 18)
For the Israelites, there is first the affliction and the broken spirit (carrying the image of
themselves as being oppressed, the image given to them in Egypt), then the crying out to YHWH,
hoping for liberation (passive, regressive), and then the departure from Egypt, leading eventually
to action response from YHWH.
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1995.
Employing a three-vector methodology, cross-cultural anthropology, Greco-Roman and Jewish History,
and literary and textual analysis, Crossan looks at Jesus' story through the carpenter's position
in early 1st century Jewish society. Crossan's description of the Kingdom of God (pp. 54-74), and
its explicit message that Jesus was telling is very convincing. The Kingdom means "open commensality
is the symbol and embodiment of radical egalitarianism, of an absolute equality of people that denies
the validity of any discrimination between them and negates the necessity of any hierarchy among
them." (p. 71) And "...but for Jesus, the Kingdom of God is a community of radical or unbroken
equality in which individuals are in direct contact with on another and with God, unmediated by
any established brokers or fixed locations." (p. 101)
For a deeper read, try Crossan's The Historical Jesus, The Life of A Mediterranean Jewish Peasant.
San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991 (hardback). For an easier read, try Meeting Jesus Again for
the First Time by Marcus J. Borg, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994.
For those serious students of the first two centuries of church history who would like to understand
Crossan's three vector methodology, cross cultural anthropology, Greco-Roman and Jewish History, and
literary and textual analysis, dig into his most recent book, The Birth of Christianity:
Discovering What Happened In the Years Immediately After file Execution of Jesus. San Francisco:
Harper Collins, 1998. There Crossan not only presents his own arguments for looking at that
period through new lenses, and seeing Jesus in much more radical ways, but he presents the arguments
of other scholars who have been using the same methodology for the past 20 years or so. The most
interesting contesting views are between Crossan, a Roman Catholic at De Paul University, and his
comrade, John P. Meier, Professor of New Testament at Catholic University in Washington. D.C. Meier
is the author of A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Two Volumes, Doubleday. 1994.
Are we going to tell you the arguments? Nah, read the books, only about 1800 pages of good solid
reading for your summer holidays.
Miguel A. De la Torre, Reading the Bible from the Margins, Orbis Books, 2003
Why do Episcopal "Cardinal" Rectors from Greenwich, Weston, Lake Forest, and Darien, pulling down salaries of $85K or above, have such a difficult time understanding the thesis of Hope College Professor, Miguel A. De La Torre, that we approach biblical text from social station, place, and position? Or in his other words, no biblical interpretation is ever developed in a social or cultural vacuum. (p. 3)
De la Torre's best example of this thesis is the story from the Exodus text 20: 8-20: "Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. The seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God, you shall do no work that day." The Lake Forest suburban exegesis focuses on why the day of rest is a good idea (good for God, the family, the soul, for tennis recreation in the afternoon). For the marginalized in the inner city, clergy open the sermon with a question: How many of you within the congregation worked six days last week? Five days? Four days? Then the preacher asked how many would have wanted to work six days last week but were unable to find employment". All hands were raised.
By listening to the voices of the disenfranchised, we are confronted with our society's failure in keeping this commandment, De La Torre carefully explains. In many situations, the text is about unemployment in the richest society in the world...ever. Dr. De la Torre carefully takes a look at biblical texts, primarily the New Testament, on how Jesus/God always spoke from the margins, and if we are not there, we need to get to the margins and ...listen, so we can preach and act with some authenticity. De La Torre's biblical citations complement Robert Linthicum's Transforming Power and can be a useful tool for reflection on the rationale for community organizing.
Neil Elliott, Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1994.
Neil Elliott is an Anglican Priest who writes from within a community of women and men who seek to live out the gospel imperatives of the "little poor man of Assisi." His words about St. Francis, "Obeying Christ meant embracing poverty, standing in the place of the poor of the world; for just here the union of the love of God and the suffering of the world the mystery announced and celebrated in the Eucharist could be actualized," (p. 89) cuts to the core of the Gospel. Out of this core understanding, Mr. Elliott in this book critiques in depth the interpreters of Paul who called him a "social conservative." Mr. Elliott makes a substantial case that Paul's theology was in fact liberating. He recognizes and documents where Paul's letters have been used by systems of domination and oppression (slavery, women), but goes on to say that, "Paul would have recognized what liberation theologians call 'the preferential option of the poor' as an authentic expression of Israel's faith and consequently, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ of which he had been made a minister." (87) Elliott does extensive textual criticism in this work and is particularly helpful in describing the Christian communities, communities of discernment, in the context of Roman domination and power. He places emphasis on the turning upside down of the meaning of the cross for Paul and the early Christian community.
Carter Heyward, Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right: Rethinking What It Means To Be A Christian. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.
The Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward, Howard Chandler Robbins Professor of Theology at Episcopal Divinity School, is just going to agitate the heck out of any reader of her works. This slim volume addresses the question about being faithful to Jesus, and not being right about Jesus. "Christians are called more than anything to be faithful, not right'....Through his teaching, healing, and prophetic resistance to state sponsored and religious based legalism that disregarded human need, Jesus reflected the incarnate (embodied) spirit of One who was not then, and is not ever, contained solely in one human life or religion or historical event or moment," (p. XIV). God's love is about relational power . . . . . period. Heyward's piece on relational power (p. 65-69) is terrific. The Church is quick to talk about "justice" in society but reluctant to talk about power. Heyward cuts to the chase, "To think about Jesus is to think about power." Heyward goes on, "Power is ability; power is energy." Her analysis of the demonic and creative social power is superb. Her understanding of relational power is the root of community organizing. This is an important book. (The best definition of "justice" comes from the late Dr. Joseph Fletcher, from the same seminary. "Justice is the equitable distribution of love," a definition that would fit both Crossan's "radical egalitarianism," and Heyward's understanding of the uses of social, political, and economic power).
Heyward's book is part of a larger canon of recent theological writings (since the late 1960's)
that looks at biblical literature and church history through the lens of feminist scholars.
Some of this literature needs to be mentioned. Of particular note is Rosemary Radford Reuther's
Sexism and God Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Beacon, 1993 (reprint); Elizabeth Schussler
Fiorenza's classics, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Reconstruction of Church Origins. Crossroads,
1984 and Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation. Beacon Press,
1984; and Vanderbilt Theological Seminary's Sallie McFague's Metaphorical Theology: Modes of
God in Religious Language. Fortress, 1982 and Models of God for an Ecological Nuclear Age.
Fortress, 1987 are important readings. Mary Daly's Beyond God the Father: Towards a Philosophy
of Liberation. Beacon: 1973, 1985 is an early and challenging book. From the Jewish writings,
a brilliant well written work is Judith Plaskow's Standing Against Sinai: Judaism from A Feminist
Perspective. Harper Collins, 1990. Also, Lynn Gottlieb's She Who Dwells Within: A Feminists Vision of
a Renewed Judaism. Harper Collins, 1995 couples the first journey for a Jewish woman in the 1970's
to the rabbinate with theological description of the feminine in God, the Shekinah. Engendering
Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics by Rachel Adler, Beacon Press, 1998, is a recent
perspective. On the edge of feminist canon are two works by Elaine Pagel, The Gnostic Gospels,
Vintage Books, 1979, and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, Random House, 2003.
Richard A. Horsley and Neil Asher Silberman, The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul
Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World. New York: Grosset/Putnam Press, 1997.
Richard Horsley, at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has written extensively about the coming
of Jesus and the revelation of the Kingdom of God through a historical/cultural anthropology
view that in many ways culminates this approach to the New Testament that began about the mid
to late 1970s. His work is so important that a list of his other books will be included.
This book, with Neil Silberman, who writes about the archaeology of the Near East, is the summary of his arguments about why Jesus did what he did and why he received the ultimate reaction in those Roman times: crucifixion and death. Horsley and Silberman say it best themselves:
In this book we will argue that earliest Christianity was a movement that boldly challenged the heartlessness and arrogance of a vast government bureaucracy run on the unfairly apportioned tax burdens and guided by cynical special interests that preached about "opportunity", "self reliance", and "personal achievement" while denying all three to the vast majority of men, women, and children over whom it presumed to rule. Christianity arose in a remote and poverty-stricken region of the vast Roman Empire, among the struggling farm families of a frontier province that could only be called as "chronically underdeveloped" by modern economic criteria. Yet even after the movement's first great prophet was condemned as a threat to civil disorder and put to death for his preaching, his followers spread a coalescing gospel of resistance from the country to the city and from the eastern provinces of the empire to the far western edge of the Roman world. (p. 5)
Messrs. Horsley and Silberman proceed to take on directly those associated with the Jesus
Seminar who claim "the historical Jesus was a Galilean guru of non-political counterculture
wisdom and that his wandering followers were simply peasant versions of the Cynic philosophers of
the Greco-Roman world." (p. 58)
Horsley received a rebuttal worth reading. Dr. Paula Fredrickson, Professor of the Bible at Boston
University, in a carefully written book, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, Vintage Press, 1999,
argues against the premises, methodology, and criteria for analysis of those early days of the
Church by Horsley and others, claiming that it was really the "crowd in Jerusalem" in those hectic
Passover days that was the "straw" that caused Jesus' crucifixion. Along the way, as she builds her
argument against "social analysis" through intensive regional studies of Galilee without naming who
she is disagreeing with, Fredrickson seems to falter at the end by dismissing all those threads of
Jesus' ministry that challenged both the Jewish and Roman establishment.
Richard A. Horsley, ed. Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society. Harrisburg: Trinity Press, 1997.
This is an impressive book, cited because it addresses what politics, society, and culture were
like during the post Resurrection period in the Roman Empire. The interior story of the several
contributions is recognizing "three interrelated matters. First, the religious dimension of ancient
life and institutions was usually inseparable from others, such as the political, economic, and
ethnic." (p. 7) Secondly, there was not only one unitary Judaism, and that there was not a
"Christianity" in the mid-first century. Lastly, Paul's assemblies were political as well as
religious, somewhat as the Greek polis was both political and religious. Horsley comments in
The Message and the Kingdom about the word "liturgy." In its Greek connotations, "leitourgia"
meant any political economic service rendered for the common good by the citizens of a city,
the subjects of a king, or the devotees of a god. It was an active demonstration of power."
(p. 186) This book is excellent in describing the structural relationships of people in the
Mediterranean world through "patronage."
Neil Elliott's article in this volume, "The Anti-Imperial Message of the Cross," tells how Paul takes the primary symbol and tool of terrorism that the Romans used on the lower classes and turns it upside down to mean the power of victory and resurrection.
Dennis Jacobsen, Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing. Fortress Press, 2001.
A very short (about 100 pages) and easy read by a Lutheran Pastor in Milwaukee who outlines through story, biblical reflection, and social theory the basic working steps to find and develop leadership in the local parish and in the community. Reverend Jackson is connected to a sister (well, let's say a not-too-friendly stepsister) organization of IAF called Gamaliel. Both these organizations use the same methodology to build community: one-on-one conversations, house meetings, research actions, pressures on families workshops and community assemblies. Dennis Jacobsen does an excellent job in describing the importance of agitation in building community, explaining self-interest, and understanding with fearlessness how power works both in the community and our congregations. This material is woven throughout the book with personal story and biblical reflection. He provides a study guide and an excellent bibliography (Oh no .... more reading). This book should be read by pastors and primary lay leaders to understand the very basics on how to find and develop leadership. Jacobsen's work complements and supplements Mary Beth Rogers' Cold Anger, described later in this bibliography.
L. Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.
Gregory Jones, associate professor of theology at Loyola College, Maryland, revisits the topic of "cheap grace" in his book, Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis. Appropriately, he starts with the 20th century pastor and theologian who perhaps more than anyone has set the vision and standard for the life and work of the church for our times, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is reported that some of Bonhoeffer's final words before his execution were his vision for the church of the future, "The community that is willing to suffer together." Jones picks up on this vision, and goes right after how easily and cheaply the church provides "forgiveness" without the suffering. The standard for Bonhoeffer and Jones for forgiveness is captured in these words:
Christian forgiveness involves a high cost, both for God and for those who embody it. It requires the disciplines of dying and rising with Christ, disciplines for which there are no shortcuts, no handy techniques to replace the risk and vulnerability of giving up "possession" of one's self, which is done through the practices of forgiveness and repentance. This does not involve self-denial, or the "death" of selves through annihilation. Rather, it is learning to see one's self and one's life in the context of community. (p. 5-6)
Jones' second chapter, "Therapeutic Forgiveness," is his best, going after those of us who have been functioning as therapists and ecclesiastical managers of the institutional church. His critique is devastating for pastors and Christians who have lost their way. He buries one of the clergy's favorite toys, the Myers-Briggs tests, and one would assume also another favorite, the Enneagram.
Therapeutic forgiveness is divorced from Christian practices and doctrine; an individual's psychic health replaces the goal of substantive Christian community lived in faithfulness to the Triune God: sin though not named as such is something others do to me (typically despite their best intentions) rather than a more complex reality that pervades our lives and relations as well as afflicting specific behaviors; and a false compassion without attention to repentance and culpability reflects a failure to exercise a discerning judgment oriented toward graceful reconciliation. (p. 52-53)
To find out the right way, and find real forgiveness, read the book.
Robert Linthicum, Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community, InterVarsity Press, 2003
Bob Linthicum, a Presbyterian pastor from the evangelical wing of that denomination, has written a book that provides connection between Holy Scripture and the methods and strategies of IAF community organizing. One could say Dr. Linthicum lays the template of Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, Luke, and the Pauline letters on the basic methodology of IAF organizing: relationship meetings, house meetings, research actions, and assemblies, and makes sense interweaving the template with that methodology. Community organizers and church leaders need to reflect on Holy Scripture to understand who we are and why we are engaged with issues of social justice and economic parity. Linthicum provides this biblical analysis so that we can reflect on any scripture, and thus deepen our work and broaden our vision as organizers.
This is a readable book, and unlike some of the "deeper" books offered up by Wink, Brueggemann and Horsley, this book is a good starter for lay and clergy to get a fix on the issues of power as it relates to parish life and community organizing. Linthicum starts right off quoting Paul from I Corinthians 4:20, "For the Kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power." That sets the scene for Linthicum's exposition. "It is true that power has its dark side. But it also has its bright side. Power has the potential to either be very ruthless and destructive (unilateral or dominating power), or very strengthening and liberating (relational power). Therefore understanding power and knowing how to use it to set people free and to give them purpose, direction and joy is crucial" (page 12). In that light, Linthicum is excellent in relating how YHWH is active and engaged in the religious, political, and economic systems, basing his analysis on the Book of Deuteronomy. He effectively breaks down the false dualism of the religious world being in one place and the political/economic world in another. The Book of Deuteronomy is a story about how the world should be, a world built on relational power, and not on unilateral, dominating power.
Perhaps one of the more clear contemporary exegesis of Luke 4:16-21, "the pivotal passage of
the Gospel of Luke...the mission statement of Jesus" is offered to us by Linthicum in Chapter 6,
"What was Jesus About." "In this sermon, Jesus tells his listeners he has come to proclaim the
good news to the poor, set captives free, recover the sight of the blind, set at liberty those
who are oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (p. 58) Linthicum's brilliant and
succinct power analysis of the 1st century reveals the inevitable conflict between Jesus mission
and the dominating and controlling power structures Roman and Jewish - of those times. This book,
along with Dennis Jacobsen's Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing, are the best
primers on how congregations can and should engage their community, and how these same congregations
can use power to address issues of social and political justice.
M. Douglas Meeks, God, The Economist: The Doctrine of God and Political Economy. Fortress, 1989.
Clergy working as pastors inside of congregations have a dilemma. Trained in seminary to do
liturgical, pastoral, counseling and teaching work, pastors find that their vocational life
is not much different than their counterparts at IBM and Motorola. Clergy spend their time
either responding to crises in the institution or being a middle manager, working as a caretaker
of a small to large bureaucracy. Increasingly, clergy are asking, Is this where God's action
is? The traditional response to the cries from the world for mercy and justice are, for the
most part, miniscule acts of charity and social service from the local congregation. Is this
enough or should we be doing something else? M. Douglas Meeks, Professor of Systematic Theology
at Wesley Theological Seminary (Methodist), provides the groundwork to answer that question in
his book, God, The Economist: Thc Doctrine of God and Political Economy. He tells us in a
biblically grounded argument that God is hard at work in the politics and economy of life.
We need to think about how we can join God in this work.
Here is Meeks argument. The doctrine of the Church is the doctrine of the economy of God's household.
Because the church exists for the sake of God's love of the world, there can be no sound teaching
about the church that does not include thc relationship of the church to our society's economy,
and the world's economy. (p. 23) The scale and scope of this position tends to overpower us,
but Meeks scales it down so that we have a metaphor we can work with in our local congregations.
"The Greek word from which we derive economy, oikonomia, is a compound of oikos, household, and
nomos, law or management. Economy means literally "the law or the management of the household."
Household is connected with the production, distribution and consumption of the necessities of life.
When we use the word household, we shall mean not the modern notion of a family consuming unit,
but rather the site of economy, the site of human livelihood...we will refer to whole economies
as households." (p. 3)
Thus, for the church, if it is concerned with the poor, works of charity and mercy help us engage
the problems of the poor. But if we follow Meeks thinking, working for a living wage in our cities
is the appropriate justice response, especially in a society where the gap between the working class
and rich is exploding. Meeks goes on to warn that instead of transforming the economy, the Church
has modeled the marketplace thinking in its internal life as well in its attempts to address justice
issues in the local and national community. (See review of Michael Budde's book in this annotated
bibliography). Meeks does not tell us how to change our internal values to be more biblically driven,
nor how to change the economics in our society. He just identifies what needs to be done. This book
pushes our thinking to what we are all about in misseo dei, and makes us sit back and reflect on
what new strategies, broader and deeper, we can put to work in thc political economies that our
parishioners live with. The local parish cannot do this by itself if it is serious about strategies
that have power. Local parishes must think about building coalitions of organizations, if justice
issues of household economies are to be successfully addressed.
Charles R. Morris, American Catholic. New York: Random House, Time Books, 1997.
The fascinating story of the rise of the Roman Catholic Church from the mid-nineteenth up through the mid-20th century is a story not only of a church but also of a people. Morris writes by telling the story and anecdotes of the major players, Cardinal William O'Connell, Dorothy Day, Cardinal Francis Spellman, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and many minor players as well. He handles the ethnic character of the Roman Catholic Church with precision and tells the story of the shifting power amongst the various ethnic groups down through the years. Just as important is the story of the rise of the economic and political power of the Roman Catholic Church and its critical social and educational work during the early years of the immigration of the Irish and Eastern Europeans to this country. This book is enjoyable to read, and a must read for any Protestant clergy and church that is working with the Roman Catholic Church on an institutional basis (such as with IAF). This is an East Coast and Midwest story. Notably absent is the story and history of the rise of the Roman Catholic Church in the Southwest. For Protestants who want to go deeper and are interested in Roman Catholic Social Teachings, go to the Papal encyclicals starting with Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, 1891.
Ched Myers, ed., Say to This Mountain: Mark's Story of Discipleship. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1996.
This book is helpful for both Bible study of the Gospel of Mark and for exegesis background work for
sermons. It is written by first looking at the text, social context of the text, and taking the text
to reflect on what is happening in the world today. For example, the writers look at Jewish purity
and debt systems and say, "Jesus relentlessly critiqued the purity and debt systems of his day
because they tended to segregate and exclude rather than to integrate and restore.
The symbol for his confrontation of these systems was public exorcism." (p. 19) The contemporary
critique is "Around the world, the poor are kept poor by a crushing debt burden, by falling or
fluctuating prices on exportable commodities, by rising capital flight, by the economic legacies of
colonialism and neocolonialism" (21).
This book is particularly good on describing and analyzing the power of the kinship
(family and state) in both Roman and Jewish society. The analysis connects in with the
description of patronage in Horsley's work, Paul and Empire Religion, Etc. For those readers who
think this work is thin, try the book it was based on, Binding the Strong Man: A Political
Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Maryknoll: Orbis Press, 1988, written by Ched Myers, a Quaker
from Los Angeles. Another superb book is Hearing the Whole Story: The Politics of Plot in Mark's
Gospel" by Richard A. Horsley. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2001.
Anthony B. Pinn, The Black Church in the Post Civil Rights, Orbis Books, 2002.
Dr. Pinn, a professor of religious studies at Macalaster College, has written a general overview of
the black church with special emphasis on what is happening generally in the black church from the
1970's until today. This book is a contribution to the whole American Christian church. He sets the scene of his book in his introduction by quoting Gayraud Wilmore, a quote worth repeating here:
Black religion has always concerned itself with the fascination of an incorrigibly religious
people with the mystery of God, but it has been equally concerned with the yearning of a despised
and subjugated people for freedom freedom from the religious, economic, social, and political
domination that whites have exercised over blacks since the beginning of the African slave trade. It is this radical thrust of blacks for human liberation expressed in theological terms and religious institutions that is the defining characteristic of black Christianity and black religion in the United States.
Pinn's topics include Themes in Black Church History, Beliefs and Worship in the Black Church,
The Black Church on Economic Issues, The Black Church on Health and Sexuality, Sexism and Church
Ministry, and Future Considerations. Pinn traces the decline in the Black Church after Dr. King's
death through to the mid- 1980's when the black middle class began to reestablish their lives around
the Black Church. This also brought about a shift from traditional charismatic led congregations to
much more decentralized organization with authority being spread around the community. Pinn maintains that black churches thrived again primarily because of this new collective leadership. Dr. Pinn also notes that "much of the attention, however, given to young people centers on the rescue of young men and the promotion of masculinity as a core feature of the Black Church." Citing the statistics of the soaring number of black males in or going to prison, and the decline of black males enrollment in higher education, Pinn understands these efforts. However, he also sees the complexity of the struggles inside the Black Church and dedicates two chapters to human sexuality, (in particular the place of gays in the Black Church), and the role of women in the Black Church.
Two chapters that are particularly strong are the ones on worship and music, and economic development. The scope and shape of the community development projects of many Black Churches invites a direct visit to see what they are doing right. Mentioned is the Nehemiah Project, chaired by Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood, a housing development project in New York connected to IAF.
In sum, Pinn reveals the growth, changes, and strength of the Black Church and its important position in the lives of Black Americans and its contributions of social and political capital American society. A key reference by Pinn for further study are the two books: Black Theology: A Documentary History Volumes 1 and 2: 1966-1979 & 1980-1992, Orbis Books, 1979 and 1993.
Jonathon Sacks, Faith in the Future: The Ecology of Hope and the Restoration of Faith, Family, and Earth. Mercer Press, 1997
The importance of this book, a series of talks given by Jonathon Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, is the collective insight of a contemporary Jewish thinker on religion and society. For the Jewish community, "the religious path is not only land, but to a society built on human dignity, compassion and law governed by liberty and justice." (p. 5)
Sacks is concerned with the loss of faith in a rootless world, and the connection of this loss to the lack of engagement of religious people in civil society. Beyond law, which is important and central to faith, is the capacity to seek the common good in society, "Pessimism is an abdication of responsibility and we must reject it." (p. 66)
This common good is manifested through enduring relationships. "We can no more sustain relationships without shared rules of fidelity and trust than we can sustain communication without shared rules of grammar. And without a stable framework of relationships we are left confused, vulnerable, and alone." (p. 61)
These relationships need to be built on an interfaith foundation, according to Sacks, nothing less will work in a civil society. Being a Jew, he has witnessed the intolerance of faith competition, rejection, and oppression. His words on this point are significant for Christian readers.
His best essay is his talk on "Democracy and Religious Values." Here is some clarity for those struggling with the church-state conundrum, or those who claim that the Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing efforts are "too political".
"The Hebrew Bible (ed. note: also claimed by Christians) is intensely concerned with the political domain. A large part of it is devoted to what we might call political history. Jewish law covers the spectrum of social, economic and environmental concerns. Why does it not articulate an ideal form of government? The answer is surely this. Systems of government do not form a proper subject for revelation. Revelation is concerned with spiritual and moral truth, with principles that apply at all times and places. Political structures are not this kind. They are means, not ends." (p. 107) Sacks continues, "No authority is absolute in the Bible. How then is justice to be secured against inevitable corruption of power? The prophetic role (of the assembly, the prophets) is a corrective to this corruption of power".
On the other hand, "religions are at their best in constructing communities of shared vision, societies of the like minded." (p. 115) God again is a corrective to this like mind thinking because not only does he covenant with Israel (a willful agreement through mutual consent), but YHWH covenants with others as well. "Are you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites? says the Lord. Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Arameans from Kir?" (Amos 9:7). Sacks makes a strong case for religious pluralism. God is universal, religions are particular. But even in its particularity, Israel is called by God to be open to the stranger, to those different from them. In conclusion, Sacks comments that a plural society (democracy) tests to the limit our ability to see God in religious forms which are not our own." (p. 116) This tolerance can be addictive. So, opening up our hearts could be our response to Dr. Sacks' fine and compassionate writing.
Michael Warren, At This Time in This Place: The Spirit Embodied in the Local Assembly. Philadelphia: Trinity Press, 1999.
If Morris establishes the background for American Catholics up to Vatican II, then Michael Warren, Professor of Religious Education and Catechetical Ministry at St. John's University, New York, defines where the Gospel is to be lived out through congregational life in today's world. Restoring the assembly to true life through narrative, telling our stories, is central to Warren's book. His writing is obtuse, but he is searching out ways for authentic community life, focusing in on "cultural dislocation," meaning the church needs to engage the realities of culture and not just live out their life inside the "box." Warren goes to the Canadian Catholic bishops for their "pastoral methodology" for living out an authentic congregational life. This methodology presented in Ethical Choices and Political Challenges is worth quoting in its entirety:
This methodology is a match to Walter Brueggemann's understanding of the Exodus story of deliverance.
- Being present with and listening to the experiences of the poor, those on the margins, the oppressed in our society;
- Developing a critical analysis of the economic, political, and social structures that cause human suffering;
- Making judgments in the light of Gospel principles and the social teachings of the Church concerning social values and priorities;
- Stimulating creative thought and action regarding alternative visions and models for social and economic developments; and
- Acting in solidarity with popular groups in their struggles to transform economic, political, and social structures that cause social and economic injustices. (p. 172)
Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.
Dr. Wink's book reveals why the Church shouldn't only be in the charity business in responding to social needs, but should first be in the critique of culture business in response to God's actions of justice and love. If the Church is not counter cultural, seeing itself in Exile and acting in resistance to how power is used in society, then our work will not be Kingdom work. Wink focuses the first part of this book on how the power of domination, which leads quickly to violence, is the norm of societies throughout the world. The second part of the book is a treatise on nonviolence based on the actions and mission of Jesus. His work on the meaning of the cross matches Neil Elliott's implications of the cross for Paul. Wink's words:
The cross also exposes the Powers as unable to make Jesus become what they wanted him to be, or to stop being who he was. Here was a person able to live out to the fullest what he felt was God's will. He chose to die rather than compromise with violence . . . . Because they could not kill what was alive in him, the cross also revealed the impotence of death. (p. 141)
Wink also gives the faithful helpful tools for nonviolent action, action that runs counter to the dominant culture(s) of violence.
Jesus' Third Way (neither aggression nor passivity) of Action includes seizing the moral initiative, finding a creative alternative to violence, asserting personal humanity and dignity, meeting force with ridicule or humor, breaking the cycle of humiliation, refusing to submit to or to accept the inferior position, exposing the injustice of the system, shaming the oppressor into repentance, standing your ground, dying to fear of the old order and its rules, and seeking the oppressors' transformation. (p. 187)
These are the fundamental rules of nonviolence applied in the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, Wink talks of the importance of prayer in the midst of resistance.
Postscript: Other readable and important works: Horsley, Galilee: Jesus and the Spiral of Violence; Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs; and Brueggemann, Interpretation and Obedience: Hopeful Imagination: Abiding Astonishment. For the diversity of Judaism during the period of the early church, see E. R. Goodenough's By Light, Light-Mystic Gospel of Hellenistic Judaism and Jewish Symbols, Yale and Princeton Presses, respectively.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZING AND PUBLIC LIFE
Saul D. Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals. N. Y.: Vintage Press, 1946,1989; and Rules for Radicals. New York: Vintage Press, 1971, 1989.
As the Wisdom Literature and Prophetic Canon for community organizers, these two books are the primary core works
both for community organizing and, surprisingly enough, for conducting parish development as well. Not only do
these two books hold up over time, but both community organizers and clergy should also reread them each year as
a reminder of what we are about. Alinsky knows his American history, writes well and with good humor, and
interestingly does not take himself that seriously. For clergy who are chronic purveyors for the truth, quoting
Learned Hand, Alinsky says, "The mark of a freeman is that ever gnawing inner uncertainty as to whether or not
he is right." The community organizer, and hopefully more clergy, "having no fixed truth he has no final answers,
no dogma, no formula, no panacea." The consequence is that he is ever on the hunt for the causes of man's plight
and the general propositions that help to make sense out of an irrational world. His chapter in Reveille on "What is A Radical" defines as well as any what it means to search out and fight for root causes in American society. Alinsky is the true antidote for liberals, especially good church people who love their charity causes of feeding the poor and homeless and housing the marginal (Habitat for Humanity).
These two books basically are about power, and how to use it. He quotes Pascal (later reworked by Paul Tillich
and M. L. King, Jr.) "Justice without power is impotent; power without justice is tyranny." That is the anchor
for community organizing. In both books, Alinsky critiques the church, unions, and identity politics in their
use of power. Unions became tyrannical. Identity politics have not seen how limited goals fail to work in a
broad-based conflict ridden democracy. The church, fearful of power, comes up short as being impotent.
Some of Alinsky's words, written over 30 years ago to the Church, need to be quoted:
In essence what I have been saying here is that the church must now address itself to its role of being a vital catalyst in creating those circumstances which will combat the darkness of depersonalization and conceptualization. It must play an important part in the creation of those political, social, and economic circumstances whereby people will have the ability to act and the power to operate as free citizens in a free society so that our present civilization will not die. The central question that the church of today and tomorrow must face is no longer, "Is there life after death," but rather, "Is there life after birth." (Reveille, p. 227)
Is Alinsky optimistic?
Life is an adventure of passion, risk, danger, laughter beauty, love, a burning curiosity to go with the action to see what it is all about, to search for a pattern of meaning, to burn one's bridges, because you're never going to go back anyway and to live to the end. Terrified by this dramatic vista, most people just exist, they turn from the turbulence of change and try to hide in their private make believe harbors, called in politics conservatism; in the church prudence, and in everyday life being sensible." (Reveille, p. viii)
Hopeful? Only if we see life as an adventure that addresses the creation of a healthy public life for those people of good will who are not at the decision-making tables where social, political, and economic policy are being made. These two books should be required reading for all first year students in every seminary in the country, and reread annually by any active community organizer.
Addendum: For background on Saul D. Alinsky, read Sanford D. Horwitt's Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky,
His Life and Legacy, New York: Random House, 1989 (hardback); and see the video, The Democratic Promise: Saul
Alinsky and his Legacy, 1999 Media Process Educational Films and Chicago Video Project, Distributed by University
of California Extension Center for Media and Independent Learning, 2000 Center Street, Berkeley, California 94704.
Edward T. Chambers, Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action and Justice, Continuum Press, 2003.
Ed Chambers was and still is the heir apparent to Saul Alinsky, and Chambers' long awaited book,
Roots for Radicals, published in 2003, is really the major complement and supplement to Alinsky's
works, Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals. Increasingly,
IAF organizers and their leaders are writing books, but these three books serve as the canon for the history,
theory and work of IAF. With the assistance of Michael Cowan, Ed Chambers has written the next "practical theory" book on organizing, expanding and updating the thinking of Alinsky who wrote some fifty years ago.
Weaving story with theory and practice, Roots for Radicals is a clear exposition about how IAF organizes in the 21st century. It is advisable for the reader to start reading this book with Chapter 6, which is a summary of Ed Chambers' personal story. Ed, more than anyone else, carried the lineage of the 50's and 60's of IAF organizing into the 70's and 80's that provided the basis for other great organizers, like Ernesto Cortes, to establish themselves and to carry the tradition and work of organizing into the 21st century. Ed's Chapter headings tell us exactly what this book is about. To sample a few: The World As It Is and the World As It Should Be, The Relational Meeting, Broad Based Organizing: An Intentional Response to the Human Condition. His chapter on The Relational Meeting is the clearest and most defined description about the basis of organizing that I have ever read. It is worth the price of the whole book.
One cannot leave this review without citing some of Chambers' thoughts on the whys and what of organizing. "In the real world, democracy is dominated by the interests of the few wealthy and powerful institutions. A truly democratic public life requires the organization, education, and development of leaders who regard themselves as equal, sovereign citizens with the know-how to stand for the whole. We are not born with these civic skills and virtues, and today's instant gratification culture constantly undermines them. The radical question of this book is why not a different world." (. 14) The following short sentence separates the radicals and the liberals in this country. In the modern IAF, it's "connect and relate to others. Issues follow relationships. You don't pick target and mobilize first; you connect people in and around their interests" (p. 46) This is both a philosophical and strategic shift from the early Alinsky days on organizing, and Ed Chambers has bridged those two eras quite well.
On the mandate of civil society Chambers says this, "Civil society makes its contribution to humankind by being sufficiently well organized, meaning powerful enough, to hold the elected leaders of the state and the public officials they appoint, as well as the moguls of the market, accountable for the impact of their decisions on individuals, families and local communities." (p. 63)
So it may be a little much to call Ed Chambers an icon in the community organizing world, but we can say he is the prime bearer of the IAF tradition of organizing dating back to the late 1930's when the god father of all, Saul Alinsky, started organizing in south side Chicago's Back of the Yards
Clarke E. Cochran, Religion in Public and Private Life. N. Y.: Rutledge, 1990.
Cochran's book, Religion in Public and Private Life, is one of the recent and probably early books in the quest for the common good in American society. Others with the same quest are to be cited in this bibliography. Cochran's stance is as follows:
The perspective of religion reveals the person as a field of cross cutting tensions between the divine and culture in private and public life. Because it influences moral virtue and individual well being, religion can powerfully assist the state by inculcating and nourishing a moral foundation for culture. Yet this role is easily misunderstood and often converted into either theocracy or civil religion. I criticize these concepts as false resolution between religion and politics . . . . although I have stressed the intersection of religion and public life, religion fundamentally reminds us of the limits of politics and of the nonequivalence of politics and public life. We must remember that religion points resolutely to life beyond politics. It reminds us that public problems and their solutions are not entirely political. (p. x)
Cochran is very helpful in describing the differences between public and private life, a concept which is at the core of IAF's work. What is important for Cochran is the engagement in public life by religion. Quoting Hannah Arendt, who argued that religions that just stayed in the private realm endangered the public realm:
Once private life becomes primary, individuals are tempted to allow collective life to be made; that is administered by others, which places it in the realm of fabrication rather than action. Turned over to experts, the public realm loses its distinctive character, as the former citizens can gorge themselves on private consumption. (p. 27)
One can disagree with Cochran who maintains that a religious life can remain essentially private. (Christianity is after all a public event for people, not a private event for a person) However, the strength of this book is Cochran's careful description of how religion works the border between private and public life, making a sound argument that public life is much more than narrow politics. In this sense, he agrees with the Greeks, that politics is about life at the "agora," the marketplace, where religion and politics engage, merge, conflict, and act:
Religious persons or groups entering policy discourse must be casuists rather than dogmatists. Civil discourse by religious groups is not the logical application of religious dogmas to particular circumstances, but rather the clarification of policy in terms of basic religious principles, such as forgiveness, justice, mercy, and love. This discourse requires not abstract theory, but the judgment that comes from character immersed in the way of life of the community, including its political concerns. (p. 117)
Gary J. Dorrien, Reconstructing the Common Good. Maryknoll: Orbis Press, 1990.
One of Dorrien's main contributions in this book is a working definition of "the common good." First, quoting Chantel Mouffe, "the common good must be understood to refer exclusively to the shared political ends of a democratic political community, i.e., the principles of freedom and equality for all." Dorrien goes on:
The notion of the common good that is needed is therefore both pluralistic and egalitarian, focusing upon a limited range of political ends. The question of democracy itself, from this perspective, focuses upon the character of relationships than can be constructed on the principles of freedom and equality within political communities. (p. 4)
Further, a main argument of the book is "that the decentralized forms of economic democracy would better serve the common good than the truncated forms of democratic entitlement thus far created in modern capitalism." (p. 4-5). Decentralized search for the common good can be put to work through community organizations.
The author selects five 20th century theologians, Rauschenbusch, Tillich, Moltmann, Gutierrez, and Bonino, as examples of searchers for the common good in public life, those who insisted that the moral and political language of rights must be applied to the economic order. These essays are refreshing reminders of Rauschenbusch's and Tillich's thinking, but more important, Dorrien captures the essence of Gutierrez' liberation theology with the following comment:
Gutierrez therefore insists that it is no longer sufficient for liberationists to talk about joining the poor in their struggle. The objective of liberation is no longer to be the church of the poor, but to become the poor church. As long as the church preserves its stake in the existing social system . . . it will be prevented by its own material and cultural self-interests from actually joining the oppressed in their struggle for liberation. Liberation needs a theology of relinquishment. Following Bonhoeffer's thinking, Gutierrez contends that the church must relinquish its desire for power and respect if it intends to collectively follow Christ. (p. 124)
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Grove Press, 1968; Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Herder and Herder, 1970
Any clergy who was working in the slums of New York, Boston, Cleveland or Chicago during the 1960's and 1970's was reading Fanon and Freire. Fanon, a black French trained psychiatrist, was writing on his experiences in Algeria and the eight-year revolution there against French colonialism. Freire wrote from his experiences in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Fanon's discourse is mostly on the use of violence, and therefore an important reflection even today, maybe especially today. Fanon in his work in Algeria clearly identifies with those living under the oppressive thumb of the colonists. In his political analysis, he basically says that the violence of revolution is in response to the covert and overt violence of colonialism, and may be necessary as a catharsis to free people from bondage. "Colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield confronted with greater violence". Clergy living in American poor ghettos could make some connection to Fanon's thinking, especially after the riots in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Cincinnati and other cities during the late 1960's. Hot anger during that time burst into rage and violence. Living in those communities, clergy, having done their political and economic analysis of what was happening to poor families, had empathy with the outbreaks, which came from a result of the enormous gap between the world as it is and the world that people wanted. In those days, Fanon's work was attacked unmercifully by the establishment. He is worth another look.
Freire approaches oppression through an educator's eyes. Much of his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, runs parallel to some of Alinsky's early writings. "Those without power" is a match to Freire's word "oppressed" although Freire's work runs closer to a Marxist analysis. Some interesting thoughts about freedom include: "The fear' of freedom which afflicts the oppressed, a fear which may equally well lead them to desire the role of oppressor or bind them to the role should be examined...the oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea that becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion... true solidarity with the oppressed means fighting at their side to transform the objective reality which has made them these beings for another.'" (pp. 26 and 34)
The first step of working with the oppressed is the changing of consciousness and that is done through dialogue or listening to their stories. "Dialogue with the people is radically necessary to every authentic revolution. This is what makes it a revolution...sooner or later; a true revolution must initiate a courageous dialogue with the people. Its very legitimacy lies in that dialogue. It cannot fear the people, their expression their effective participation in power. It must be accountable to them, must speak frankly to them of its achievements, its mistakes, its miscalculations, and its difficulties." (p. 122) Freire also attacks the benevolent, paternalistic "good works" of the oppressor that keeps those without power in place, being "taken care of" rather than provided a process for freedom. He also is highly critical of a highly stratified social/political setting of a "banking system" "teacher tells" "I know, listen to me" type of education with those who live outside the system and unable to participate where political and economic decisions are made. Freire's work, rooted in the Third World, is a notable addition to the theory and practice.
Todd Gitlin, The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars. New York: Metropolitan Press, 1995.
Todd Gitlin, Professor of Sociology at NYU and former President of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society),
cites as the underlying premise for this book, The Twilight of Common Dreams, that the culture wars do not settle disputes or explain themselves. Gitlin's main contribution in this book is his critique of identity politics and its limitations in a competitive, moving, democratic culture. He sums up this position in his last chapter, "The Fate of the Commons:"
The mindset of identity politics including the panic against political correctness aborts necessary discussion. Cultivating unity within minority groups, the obsession with difference stands in the way of asking the right questions. To recognize diversity, more than diversity is needed. The commons is needed. To affirm the rights of minorities, majorities must be formed. Democracy is more than a license to celebrate and exaggerate differences. It cannot afford to live in the past anyone's past. It is a political system of mutual reliance and common moral obligations. Mutuality needs tending. If multiculturalism is not tempered by a stake in the commons, then centrifugal energy overwhelms any commitment to a larger good. This is where multiculturalism as a faith has proved a trap even or especially for people in the name of whom the partisans of identity politics purport to speak. Affirming the virtues of the margins, identity politics has left the centers of power uncontested. No wonder threatened partisans of normality have seized the offensive. (p. 236)
Alinsky could not have said it better. Some critics, particularly the environmentalists who are some of the few who are thinking about the common human condition and the earth, claim Gitlin's critique of how power as manifested and utilized in this society does not go deep or wide enough, but it is a start.
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001.
Ehrenreich's book is a perfect story to be shared in a typical middle class Episcopal church, probably best when done in a bible study of the Gospel of Mark, and Ched Myer's Say to This Mountain (see comments above). Given that annotated bibliographies are both interesting and tedious work, let us look at another author's review of Ehrenreich's book. Dorothy Gallagher reviewed Nickel and Dimed in the May 13, 2001, issue of the New York Times. She catches Ehrenreich really well:
In the good times of 1998 with the clock on welfare benefits running out, Barbara Ehrenreich had a question: "How, she wondered, would the four million (mostly with children) soon to be pushed off the rolls and into the labor market make their way on wages of $5 or $7 an hour an amount that it was universally agreed not a living wage?" So the author spent a summer in Key West, southern Maine, and Minneapolis working with those wages, and the story is more than frightening. A waitress, a house cleaner, and a few other similar jobs revealed the precipice the working poor are on in America. Ehrenreich comments, "Most civilized nations compensate for the inadequacy of wages by providing relatively generous public services such as health insurance, free or subsidized child care, subsidized housing, and effective public transportation. So what should we think about the fact that in America we are sending the poor out to make it on their own on little more than quarter of a living wage?"
Gallagher concludes her comments with:
Ehrenreich's picture of the working poor was taken during the best of times. Yet, the comforting economic cliches offered by our pundits failed even under those boom conditions: a rising tide does not lift all boats; trickle down economics stops just south of the middle class. So much for tall theories. Now we have entered a downward slide, with all economic indicators pointing to the toilet.
For those readers who find that Nickel and Dimed anecdote and story are not enough,
and want some serious corroboration to these stories, Dr. Paul Osterman, MIT economist, gives us his book,
Securing Prosperity: The American Labor Market How It Has Changed and What to Do About It. Princeton
University Press (paperback), 1999. Read them both and weep.
William Greider, Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
This is a must read for clergy and lay leadership who are interested in what is happening in God's Kingdom of the US of A. Although some of the stories and anecdotes are dated, Greider's political analysis of the decay of active participation in American politics by its citizens is just as true today as it was in the early 1990s if not more so. His thesis: The things that Americans were taught and still wish to believe about self government the articles of civic faith we loosely call democracy no longer fit the present reality. Like a good lawyer, Greider then builds his case point by point, which pushes the reader who cares to both anger and dismay. The issues are many: the concentration of political decision making in Washington, the connection of power to money, the disconnection of the public from the issues, and the politicals who are supposed to be and are not being responsible to the issues that affect the everyday American - health care, housing, a living wage, environmental controls, decay of the American city. As Greider comments:
This critique does not rely upon any idealized notions of what democracy means, but on the elementary principles everyone recognizes. Accountability of the governors to govern. Equal protection of the law, that is, laws that are free of political manipulation. A presumption of political equality among all citizens (though not equality of wealth or status). The guarantee of timely access to the public debate. A rough sense of honesty in the communication between the government and the people. These are not radical ideas, but basic tenets of the civic faith. (p. 14)
Greider gives IAF very high marks as an antidote to the present state of American democracy, stating:
This (IAF) politics starts with people not scandalous revelations or legislative crusades, not candidates or government agendas, but ordinary people. The overriding political objective, whatever else happens, is to change the people themselves to give them a new sense of their own potential. (p. 238)
But Greider warns, "IAF is still a long, long way from the centers of power," which underscores a maxim he quotes from Ernesto Cortes, IAF organizer:
Lord Acton's oft-quoted aphorism, "power tends to corrupt" works both ways. Powerlessness also corrupts. We have a lot of people who have never developed an understanding of power. They have been institutionally trained to be passive. Power is nothing more than the ability to act on your own behalf. In Spanish, we call the word "poder", to have capacity, to be able. (p. 20)
So, good church people who talk about justice need to take power seriously and to get out of the sanctuary into the midst of the blood and guts of God's Kingdom. William Greider tells us why this is important and that the imperative is now.
Avishat Margalit, The Decent Society. Harvard University Press, 1996.
Dr. Margalit's theme is as follows: "A decent society is one that fights conditions which constitute a justification for its dependents to consider themselves humiliated. A society is decent if its institutions do not act in ways that give people under their authority sound reasons to considered themselves humiliated." Dr. Margalit is Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This book's theme is a window to look at what is happening in the Middle East, Afghanistan, the barrios and ghettos of America's inner cities, and those living in rural isolation in this country. The experience of humiliation is a good place to start to understand both the anomie and alienation among millions of people here and around the world.
John Harmon McElroy, American Beliefs: What Keeps a Big Country and a Diverse People United. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1999.
Dr. McElroy, retired professor from the University of Arizona's history department, has written an upbeat book, almost a panacea, of how and why American culture does work together, a complement perhaps to Todd Gitlin's work. What is helpful in this book is McElroy's definition of culture, and then his description of how the different, diverse, conflicting pieces of American culture make us who we are as a people:
An historical culture can be formally defined as a unique set of extremely simple beliefs, formed and communicated through behavior over more than three generations. Cultural beliefs thus differ from other kinds of ideas in having been acted on for longer than the lifetime of the oldest person in a society. (p. 4)
Cultures satisfy an ineradicable human need for a shared sense of right behavior and make it possible for human beings to live together in society, that once a culture is formed it tends to persist unchanged because it satisfies a deeply felt human need; and that every culture is the best culture to those who participate in it. (p. 9)
McElroy's typologies of American cultural beliefs include:
McElroy is particularly good on the work belief. Much of what he says is "the world as we would like it to be" rather than the "world as it is," but the book is also a healthy tension for Greider's critique of how the American beliefs really work.
- Primary Beliefs (everyone must work, persons must benefit from their work, manual work is respectable);
- Immigrant Beliefs (improvement is possible freedom of movement is needed for success);
- Frontier Beliefs (each person is responsible for his own well being, helping others helps yourself, what has to be done will teach how to do it, and others);
- Religious and Moral Beliefs (God created a law of Right and Wrong, and others);
- Social Beliefs (society is a collection of individuals, achievement determines social rank, etc.);
- Political Beliefs (people are sovereign, the least government possible is best and others);
- Beliefs on Human Nature (almost all human beings want to do what is right; human beings will abuse power when they have it). (p. 227-228)
Michael J. Sandel, Democracy's Discontent, America in Search of a Public Philosophy. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard, 1996.
Dr. Sandel, Professor of Government at Harvard University, presents a persuasive argument for the restoration of the American republican position of seeking the common good. In doing so Sandel challenges present liberal philosophical thinking that permeates our present culture. What is his argument?
In the history of political theory, however, liberalism has a different broader meaning. In this historical sense, liberalism describes the tradition of thought that emphasizes toleration and respect for individual rights and that runs from John Lock, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill to John Rawls. The public philosophy of contemporary American politics is a version of this liberal tradition of thought, and most of our debates proceed within its terms . . . . its province is not limited to those known as liberals rather than conservatives in American politics; it can be found across the political spectrum . . . . both assume that freedom consists in the capacity of persons to choose their values and ends.
The counter philosophy, which Sandel argues well and convincingly was the bedrock in the thinking of our founders of the republic, is this:
Central to republican theory is the idea that liberty depends on sharing in self-government. This idea is not by itself inconsistent with liberal freedom. Participating in politics can be one among the ways in which people choose to pursue their ends. According to republican political theory, however, sharing in self-rule involves something more. It means deliberating with fellow citizens about the common good and helping to shape the destiny of the political community. But to deliberate well about the common good requires more than the capacity to choose one's ends and to respect others' rights to do the same. It requires knowledge of public affairs and also a sense of belonging, a concern for the whole, and a moral bond with the community whose fate is at stake. To share in self-rule therefore requires citizens to possess, or come to aspire to, certain qualities of character or civic virtues. (p. 5-6)
Sandel pursues his thinking and raises interest for people of faith when he says,
Republican politics regards moral character as a public, not a merely private, concern. In this sense, it attends to the identity, not just the interests (liberal philosophy), of its citizens, (p. 2).
Sandel explicates historically and defines clearly what Cochran and Gitlin as theologian and sociologist seek out in explaining what the "common good" is, and why it is important to seek in our society. The exegesis of liberalism and republicanism continues throughout the book. For example,
The liberal begins by asking how government should treat its citizens, and seeks principles of justice that treat persons fairly as they pursue their various interests and ends. The republican begins by asking how citizens can be capable of self-government, and seeks the political forms and social conditions that promote its meaningful exercise, (p. 27).
As one of his few examples of present active and successful "republican thinking" organizations, Sandel cites the work of the Industrial Areas Foundation, IAF. This book should be on every pastor's and rector's shelf. It is not a book for the faint of heart or slow of wit.
Lyle E. Schaller, Community Organizing: Conflict and Reconciliation, Abingdon Press, 1966.
OK, so this book is out of print. Lyle Schaller, noted Methodist urban planner and church development specialist, wrote this book in the mid 1960's when the church was struggling with community organizing and, in particular, with Saul Alinsky's fight and conflict tactics to obtain power. If you can find this book, it is a good read on the rationale for engaging the powers and principalities who hold political and economic power. Schaller agrees with Alinsky; no change without conflict. However, he recognizes the Church's penchant to vacillate when there is a good fight going on for social justice. His words, "In this (community) struggle, as in the labor movement and the civil rights battle, the weapons are chosen by those who engaged in the fighting, not by observers on the sidelines." (p. 87) Too often the Church is on the sidelines.
Schaller is helpful also at looking at the nuances of power. As most will not be able to read this book, here is his outline:
He goes on and on, but we get the picture. His outline is open to critique and criticism, but he offers up some interesting insights on different aspects of power. He is certainly right when he says holders of power prefer cooperation to conflict. Cooperation is easy and important when you have the power. Conflict is messy and requires a power shift to resolve the conflict.
- An important distinction exists between power and authority.
- There is often a distinction between power and leadership.
- The exercise of power is determined by values and relationships.
- The concept of a single community power structure is a myth.
- Power is necessary for anyone seeking to participate in the community decision making process.
- Authority can be granted or given, but power must be earned. Occasionally one hears the statement, All power must be taken, but no one can give you power'. This is true for Schaller only if the distinction is maintained between power and authority.
- There are many sources of power.
- he easiest power to acquire is the power of veto; the hardest power to acquire is the power to initiate and implement.
- The established holders of power generally prefer cooperation to conflict.
- The extent of power is usually overestimated.
- The acquisition and possession of power frequently changes the holder.
Schaller's most important contribution in this book is his critique of the churches which rush into a stance of being "bearers of reconciliation" where there is a power struggle and conflict. Recently, particularly in the Episcopal Church (where, ironically, rather small in numbers, Episcopalians are rich power holders in the secular society), there is the core value that our primary work is one of "reconciliation" between opposing forces. Schaller argues that the Church needs to do a power analysis (starting with itself) and a diagnosis of power distribution before assuming the role of "reconcilers." How often have we seen large corporate parishes, headed by cardinal rectors, moving into the "saving" and "reconciling" mode (the favorite are becoming trained as conflict managers and mediators) before looking at their own congregations, diocese, budgets, power holders and especially the clergy themselves.
Mary Beth Rogers, Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power in Action. North Texas State, 1990.
This collection of stories describes the Industrial Areas Foundation's organizing throughout the United States, particularly in Texas, New York, and Chicago, Illinois. It also serves as a review of the growing and changing philosophy about organizing since Alinsky's earlier books on Radicals. The person who captures this philosophy in this book is Ernesto Cortes, Jr., currently the Executive Director of the Southwest IAF Network, which includes Texas, Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa, Nebraska, and Louisiana. This region has approximately 21 IAF organizations. Rogers quotes Cortes, and this quote captures the essence behind the stories Rogers, a Texas political activist, shares with the reader:
Aristotle sees politics as discussion and decision making about family, about property, and about education. Aristotle talks about politics as public discourse that enables and ennobles a spirit because it allows you to cross the boundary between public and private and move beyond self centered into relationships with other people and engage them and bargain with them, fight and ultimately compromise with them. That's politics . . . . Real politics requires understanding of some other values, values like pluralism, compromise, discourse, quid pro quo, and most importantly, relationships how you begin to build relationships. Organizing is a fancy word for relationship building (p. 16-17).
Well, did we learn this in seminary or not, organizing = building relationships? If not, this book is an easy read, and its theory about building community aptly fits into how to build church.
Mark R. Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy. Princeton: Princeton Press 2001.
Mark Warren, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Fordham University brings to
us the most recent update on the work of Industrial Areas Foundation, IAF, with a particular focus on organizing
in the Southwest and Texas. Like Mary Beth Rogers' earlier work, Cold Anger, Warren's book is an apology for IAF as the national model for restoring civic responsibility and action to the local populaces of our towns and cities. "Many Americans have simply lost faith in the ability of traditional forms of democratic politics to address the most critical questions facing their families and communities. In response to our democratic malaise, Americans across the political spectrum have been looking for ways to revitalize American politics" (page ix) Enter the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). Warren gives an excellent summary of IAF's early years, the transitional years in the 1970's and 1980's under Ed Chambers and Ernesto Cortes' leadership, and an update on Rogers' book in terms of what has been happening in the Southwest during the 1990's. Warren spends time unpacking the religion politics conundrum, which is very helpful. He is particularly good in contrasting IAF's work with the work of the Christian Religious Right. "The question for Americans concerned about revitalizing American democracy, then, should not be whether faith enters politics, but how and to what political ends ....... The large majority of participants in the IAF look to three strains in the broader Christian tradition. Many Catholics ground their public work in Catholic social thought ....... Black Protestants draw upon the themes of liberation and justice embedded in African American Christianity and the civil rights movement in particular. Anglo Protestants root an understanding of their work in the social gospel tradition ...... The Christian Right grows out of the branch of evangelical Protestantism that explicitly rejected the social gospel's call for public responsibility .....The Christian Right attempts to pursue its particular moral agenda and make it the morality of the whole society ........ The Christian Right pursues the goal of legislating fundamentalist morality ....... IAF participants see their political work as deeply moral, but draw upon those values to inform an agenda of economic and social justice (and) to train leaders to legislate programs of social and economic development, not morality" (pages 242-243).
In this vein, Warren does an incisive analysis on how IAF trains and develops leaders, and is excellent in describing IAF's overall philosophy on organizing people for power.
Robert A. Slayton, Back of the Yards: The Making of a Local Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1986.
Back of the Yards tells IAF stories from Alinsky's first organizing project in the 1930's. This book by Robert Slayton, Professor of History at Chapman College, begins with IAF
organizing in the Back of the Yards community in Chicago. This story reveals the basics of how a community fights, and fights hard for the common good of this working class neighborhood. Organizing in the Back of the Yards started in the late 1930s, and Slayton carefully describes the interweaving and collaboration of the organizations that led the citizen fight to make this a better place to live. In particular, it shows how the Roman Catholic Church was the center of this fight. This book is excellent social history, and a good place to start understanding the roots of community organizing in the United States.
Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon Schuster-Touchstone, 2000.
Here is the book for the church person, the uninvolved intellectual who is living in a gated community in Arizona
(or anywhere like that), drives a BMW to church, and lives in Soren Kierkegaard's "Suspended Doubt" - everything
is just okay in the world (at least for me and my family). Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Makin Professor of
Public Policy at Harvard (what is it with these Harvard guys), carefully, coolly, if somewhat dryly documents
that everything is not okay in the "hood" in his book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.
The decline of civic participation at every level has dramatically risen since the 1950's, with the result of disappearance of social capital in our society. As community organizers and community leaders, we talk about social capital a lot. Putnam right at the beginning gives us a good working definition of what social capital means. Quoting a reformer from the Progressive era, L. J. Hunifan, this is the working definition:
...those tangible substances that count for most in the daily lives of people:
namely good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit...The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself... If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors.
The language of Hunifan may be somewhat dated, but we get the right idea of what social capital is.
Putnam documents, through some careful charting the decline of social capital in the church, the voluntary sector including public schools (PTA), unions, sports (a nation of watchers), politics (serious decline in voting), a decline in what he calls perceived honesty and trust both on the individual and community level. Putnam is careful and is not a prophet of doom, noting in his title and later explanation that decline and growth has its swings in American history. Positive signs are a tremendous growth in environmental groups and connections through telecommunications (which has its down side as well).
Who are the usual suspects causing this decline? Less leisure, more work, the economy, woman working,
urban sprawl, suburbanization, commuting, technology, the loosening of family structure, and
interesting enough, the generation gap. World War II citizens who were very active through the
1960s are dying off with no succeeding generation picking up the civic slack.
Although IAF is noted as one of the counterforces to civic decline, Putnam carefully notes that it
is the evangelical churches over the last 40 years which have shown the most civic engagement and
responsibility. Mainline churches ought to take a look at that and try and figure out why.
Putnam's chapters on Democracy; Lessons of History: The Gilded Age and the Progressive Era; and
Toward an Agenda for Social Capitalism are particularly important for church leaders and community
organizers. This book backs up what we already know. The documentation provides the bases for
thinking how to rebuild social capital and community life in our towns and cities.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America - Volume I. Vintage Books, Alfred Knopf.
Written in the 1830's, de Tocqueville's Democracy in America is the primer anthropological study
of American civil society viewed by a foreign visitor during a nine-month stay in this country.
It is still valuable as a reference point about our American peculiarities, and particulars on
how we go about building community in this country. A new translation is available by Harvey
Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago; Chicago University Press), and a new interpretation of
de Tocqueville's importance has been written by Sheldon Wolin, emeritus professor of politics at
Princeton, and published by Princeton University Press.
Dana Villa, Socratic Citizenship. Princeton University Press, 2001.
This book is about the philosophical roots to our understanding of public life, citizenship. Dr. Dana Villa, Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of California, Santa Barbara, provides us with a series of essays and analysis of the thinking of Socrates, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss on these matters. This is a quick refresher course on the roots of public participation in a democracy. Throughout this book, Villa makes a case for the "thinking dissident" in public discourse, drawing on the diverse thinking of the above political theorists. For Socrates, the ultimate moral choice is "the avoidance of injustice" and, to that end, questioning of the social and political structures in society is an end in itself.
On the one hand, the reader of this annotated bibliography might comment, "Etch, I read all this stuff in Political Philosophy/Ethics sophomore year in college." On the other hand, we might need some substantive arguments for our congregation members who insist that "the church should stay out of politics." These are not new thoughts in this book, but telling ones we can use for the argument that to be religious means to engage in public life at the edges of injustice with, if necessary, modulated voices of dissent.
STORIES OF ARIZONA
Every Bishop and judicatory executive in the State of Arizona needs to assign to all its
clergy and lay leaders, especially "newcomers," two books: The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction
by Linda Gordon, Harvard Press, 1999, and Copper Crucible: How the Arizona Miners Strike of
1983 Recast Labor Management Relations in America by Jonathon D. Rosenblum, IRL Press, 1995.
The first book, Orphan Abduction, is a story about orphans imported to Arizona from New York,
the Church, strikes, Phelps Dodge, the copper mining industry, all taking place in Morenci
and Clifton in Eastern Arizona at the turn of the 20th century. The second book, Copper Crucible,
is about the exact same topics without the orphan story (although the orphan's heirs are part of
the strike story of the 1980's), all taking place in Morenci and Clifton as well.
These books are parables of not only the politics and economics of Arizona, but also the frontier culture that still pervades the lives of the citizens of this state today. What is a parable? "A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson" according to Webster. Well, these two mining town stories are not simple, but they illustrate both moral and religious lessons for Arizonans. These two books are about how power is used and abused in the State of Arizona. The abuse comes from the State courts, the State government, and the private sector, particularly the copper industry. Beneath the stories of union-management conflict and inter-city conflict is the parable of race relations between Anglos and Mexican Americans in Arizona
To understand Arizona is to understand how Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Anglos "mix it up". These two books give us deep insight on how Arizona culture works in terms of race relations. The race relations story is wrapped around how two Eastern Arizona mining towns, Clifton and Morenci, struggle for self-understanding, for community and above all for power for the minority community, the Mexican and Mexican American people
If one wants a "light" version of Arizona history, then read Jay Wagoner's Early Arizona, University
of Arizona Press, 1985; or C. L Sonnichsen's Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City, Norman,
1982; or even Arizona: A Short History by Odie Faulk, Norman. However, if we want to get beneath the
history to Arizona's myths and beliefs, if we want to get to the blood and guts of Arizona life,
if we want to get to the raw racism in Arizona, then the Orphan Abduction and Copper Crucible will
be more than enough.
Linda Gordon's two chapters in Orphan Abduction, "Vigilantism" and "The Strike" of 1903 in
Clifton-Morenci are worth the price of admission. A rigorous reading of these two books will help
us understand the underlying issues facing immigration and the Mexican-United States border.
The books will also clarify who the immigrants really are in this state.
Furthermore, if readers want to deepen their learnings about power in Arizona and how it is abused,
read the history of labor's defeat in Bisbee in 1917 and the mass deportation of 1,100 Mexican
workers. Vigilantism ruled the day in this bleak episode in Eastern Arizona. Robert Houston,
a University of Arizona Professor of English, has written an eloquent novel about these events.
POSTSCRIPT AND POSTLUDE
The roots to this Annotated Bibliography: The Church, Community Organizing, and Public Life
go back forty years. In 1961, I was a student at Yale Divinity School. H. Richard Niebuhr
was my advisor and ethics professor. Dr Niebuhr at the personal level and his book, Christ
and Culture, influenced the direction of the bibliographer's ministry. The books in this
bibliography stand on Christ and Culture, particularly one of Niebuhr's final quotes of
Anglican Theologian F. D. Maurice, "The kingdom of God begins within, but it is to make
itself manifest without.... It is to penetrate the feelings, habits, thoughts, words, acts,
of him who is the subject of it. At last it is to penetrate our whole social existence"
(F. D. Maurice, The Lord's Prayer, p. 62). Niebuhr's theme at the end is that Christ
(The Anointed One) is alive and well, and transforming the world. All we need to do is
be there where the transformation takes place. This bibliography suggests that this transformation
takes place primarily in the agora, the market place, and the polis, the heart of the city.
All we clergy need to do is get out from behind our desks, altars, and busy church meetings,
and get out on the streets where Jesus is confronting the crisis of life. The lay people are
already there. We clergy need to help them focus on the Christ in the agora, and to train
and teach them on how to bring justice into the life of the polis, so that the Christ can
"penetrate our whole social existence".
The bibliographer is grateful to Dr. Art Evans, Research and Evaluation Coordinator, Arizona Institute for Public Life, for editing and for offering helpful advice to this document.