Obama has made his experience as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side the centerpiece of his campaign for President. Backers of his campaign expressed offense in response to Sarah Palin’s remark in her speech at the Republican Convention, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”
The morning after Palin’s speech, Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe sent out a fund-raising e-mail. In it he said, “They insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process. Let’s clarify something for them right now. Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.”
That may be effective campaign rhetoric but it sheds little light on the activities or goals of the professional “community organizer”. In fact, it is somewhat misleading. When a citizen gets fed up with conditions in his or her community, whether caused by the local school board or neighborhood gangs, or when they get enough of the neglect by their local governments and decide to join with their neighbors in demanding action on the problems from their elected officials, that is legitimate “community organizing”. This type of organizing is American to the core and is protected by our Constitution.
However, that is not the type of community organizing Barack Obama was engaged in. The professional community organizer is not so concerned with problem solving as with the act of organizing. In fact, many times the organizer has no prior connection to the community being organized and has no idea what the problems are that need solving before canvassing the neighborhood to see what they can stir up. So it was with the organizing career of Obama.
Community organizing as a profession originated from the settlement houses made popular in the early part of the twentieth century to aid immigrants in their acclimation to the American culture. Jane Addams, (1860-1935) is credited with being the founder of the settlement house movement. Counselors for these centers came to be known as “social workers” and provided a recognized and valuable service to their communities.
Community organizing is an offshoot of the original profession of social worker. From the beginning, it has been closely associated with the socialist movement in America. The Democratic Socialists of America lists community organizing, along with feminism, environmentalists and the Congressional Progressive Caucus as being among the groups making up the socialist coalition.
Saul Alinsky of Chicago is credited with being the originator of the term “community organizer”. His 1971 handbook, “Rules for Radicals” has become the “bible” for organizers who apply his methods to their work. Most professional organizers today are part of a national network of groups carrying out various “community organizing” activities. Some of the best-known groups making up this network are the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART) and the Industrial Areas Foundation.
Obama worked for a group affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, a direct outgrowth of Saul Alinsky’s Chicago efforts. After graduating from Columbia, Obama set his sights on becoming a community organizer. He was eventually hired by Jerry Kellman of the Developing Communities Group in Chicago. When Kellman left the group a year later, Obama became the director.
After two years as director, Obama decided that the most effective means for reaching his goals was through politics and law. Consequently, he enrolled in Harvard Law School. After earning his degree, he returned to Chicago and entered politics through a “get out the vote” drive while working for a law firm representing community organizing groups.
You will notice that whenever mentioning Obama’s work as a community organizer he is said to have worked for a “church based group”. This is common with community organizers. Among the first task a community organizer undertakes is to organize the local churches and business establishments as a part of their efforts. In Obama’s case, the church organizational structure already existed from the efforts of Saul Alinsky and those who came after him.
The association between churches and community organizers serve two purposes. It opens up doors to the community at large and provides a spiritual element to their work. Often organizers who may or may not be religious in their own lives will join a leading church in the community to add legitimacy to their efforts. That is what brought Obama to be a member of Trinity Church.
It is common for left wing groups to use Christian jargon to promote their agenda, while at the same time, condemning any expression of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the public square. They routinely appeal to Christian principles for promoting their socialist programs, implying that to oppose them is non-Christian. In the past couple of weeks a new mantra has gained currency among Obama supporters; “Jesus was a community organizer”.
I do not presume to know the mind of Jesus although I have been a Christian since the age of twenty, fifty-four years ago. However, based on the biographies written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the early history of the Christian Church written by Luke in the Book of Acts, and the epistles of Paul, Mark, Peter, John and Jude, I can safely say without fear of contradiction, Jesus was no socialist and certainly was no community organizer.
There is no record of Jesus or any of the Apostles ever asking anything from government. Great crowds followed Jesus wherever he went, but he never encouraged them to petition Caesar to solve their problems. The ministry of Jesus was directed toward turning men and women to God and the acceptance of himself as personal savior and messiah.
He did teach the Christian duty of helping those less fortunate, giving to the poor and coming to the aid of those in need. However, this was taught as the personal duty of Christians as individuals, or collectively of the Church. Never did he suggest taking from “rich” non-believers and distributing to the poor, or taking from Christians and distributing to non-believers. The concept of “wealth redistribution” is a socialist concept not Christian.
Christians in the early church did practice a form of wealth sharing for a short time. In Acts 2:44 Luke records “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Again in Acts 4:32 we read, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed were his own; but they had all things common.”
This arrangement, however, due to the fallen nature of man, did not work out too well and had to be eventually abandoned. There were too many who took advantage of the largess and instead of working depended on others for their sustenance.
By the time Paul penned his second epistle to the Thessalonians the practice had been abandoned and Paul wrote to the Church, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” ~II Thess. 3:10-12.
In addition to not being a Christian principle, socialism and “community organizing” as practiced by the professional organizers is not sanctioned by the Hebrew Bible either. It is a direct violation of the Tenth Commandment: “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” ~ Deuteronomy 5:21
Socialism and community organizing depends on the envy and resentment of the success of others in order to succeed. The primary goal of the community organizer is to agitate this resentment to the point where members of the target community are ready to take action. In the words of Saul Alinsky in his Rules for Radicals, the objective is to “rub raw the sores of discontent”. By the way, Alinsky dedicated his book to “Lucifer, the First Radical”.