Sep 17 2008

Hide the Nails, the Community Organizers Are Coming

By John Immel

“Jesus was a community organizer, Pontius Pilate was a governor….”

I heard this adorable one-liner, quirked a corresponding smile, and blew it off assuming it would get the attention it deserved: coverage from the usual suspects and eye roll from Christians.

Suuuuprise, suuuuuprise, suuuuprise…  The hue and cry is being “organized” across the blog “community” like a medieval village pursuing a thief between the Crofts and Tofts: Earth to everybody, Jesus really was a community organizer and who would dare suggest otherwise.

It must be true, because Susan Sarandon and other Celebs are behind the bull horn affirming the gospel truth:  Rose of Sharon, Root of Jessie, Alpha and Omega, “Community Organizer.”

Hum! Who knew!

What exactly is a community organizer?

Well, part of the problem with this particular adorable one-liner is there doesn’t seem to be a strict definition. Or maybe better said, the definition is elastic fitting just about anyone talking to more than themselves about like-minded things. It seems that anyone who thinks their community effort is valuable in principle wants to be lumped in with Jesus and his rather extraordinary coattails. The result: I’ve read posts that insist the lofty title should be applied to everyone from Ant Farmers to Zoo Curators.

Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration. But I was going for the A to Z motif.

The Free Range Librarian seems to think that Vets and librarians are community organizers…

As a Christian, I know Jesus was a community organizer. It’s hard work–he had a lot of trouble toward the end of his term of service–and it’s the kind of effort measured in agonizing small sips (not in honking big earmarks for projects you will later thrice disavow).

(Because Jesus did hard work, that makes him a “community organizer”?)

Still others suggest that his community organizing was because he was preaching the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ “community” was the church.

One poster on a blog said: “Jesus gave people hope, and that is what community organizers do.”

Others insist that since Jesus hung out with the poor and the social outcasts, that makes the King of Kings a “community organizer.”

Bryan McAffee’s blog www.rightpundits.com had a lively conversation about this topic.  One of his posters had this to add:

Chris: post 31 had this to add, “Jesus Christ took stood up for the little guy. He stood up for the people no one else would. He organized them towards a better life. He forgave them and never judged them. Jesus Christ WAS a community organizer, despite the biased opinion of the editor of this article.

Philosophically speaking, when words can mean anything, language means nothing. And yeah…that is a bad place for a culture to be.

I googled “what is a community organizer” to get an effective definition. Objectively and specifically, they are political reformers: people who set out to rally the masses towards political ends, social reform from the government. What is that social reform? It varies, but the common denominator is securing money/power FROM those who have it TO those who don’t.

The definition of what Senator Obama did in his mid to late 20s is exactly that:  he organized Chicago inner city folks for the express purpose of affecting government policy that would take money/power from those who have it and give it to those who don’t. This is the definition of “community organizer” in context to our 21st century thinking, and certainly the definition in context to our country’s unfolding political debate.

Senator Obama is an admitted disciple of Saul Alinsky, considered the historic mentor for social engineering, and grassroots community activism. Here is a quote from Saul about what it means to organize a community:

“… taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution.”

In other words, Mr. Alinsky thought it his job to drive people to despair so they would accept any change, accept any idea, make any sacrifice, to bring about revolution.      Hummm… where have I written about that before?

To divorce the words “Community Organizer” from there current contemporary usage is at the top of the list of linguistic fraud.

Just to be clear, what folks think of Governor Palin or Senator Obama doesn’t matter to me at this point. As long as you can articulate the whys and wherefores that drive your vote casting, then go be about that. But this post is not about one candidate or the other.  The political realities are objective. The two candidates cannot divorce themselves from their own history. They have defined themselves by that history and words mean things.

This post is about evaluating a hijacked bible assertion and draping it around modern political discourse like so much tinsel: trying to put lipstick on a pig…or something like that.

There is a reason the Bible Scholars of old quit interpreting by allegory. It opens a whole Pandora’s thingy when you start applying similes to bible ideas.

For those of you wanting to interpret Jesus in light of the “Community Organizer” simile….caveat emptor.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know, you’ve read the book. Lots of people have. Reading the bible is an outcome of literacy. But Bible UNDERSTANDING is exponentially more than mere literacy of the “See Spot run,” variety.

The moment one starts applying interpretive methods to assert the “meaning” and “intent” of bible ideas, they have transcended the mere rigor of reading. By ascribing to Jesus the MODERN title of “community organizer,” folks have sped deep down the hermeneutical path. Hermeneutical is a big word that means: you’ve applied modern understanding to bible ideas, and in this case, done that not well at all.

Because Jesus gave people hope, that makes him a “community organizer”?

How short we have sold HOPE. Bible hope is on par with Faith… Bible Faith heals the sick, raises the dead, and moves mountains. I don’t care that we haven’t figured out how to do such things with regularity; THAT is the standard that Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated. HOPE and FAITH are twins of the outcomes of the Kingdom. To reduce hope to the level of Church socials and political action reveals a stunning amount of reductionism.

Of course, Jesus hung around the poor and the social outcasts. He also hung out with the social elite. And both classes accepted and rejected him with the same impunity. But by no definition did Jesus organize a group of people to bring about social reform even vaguely similar to modern parlance. Jesus certainly addressed the masses in the middle of their pain, but he did not advocate political thuggery to extract money/power from the haves to feed the have-nots. Jesus did not set out to emulate the Alinski model: “They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future.” Jesus did NOT set out to “organize” the pre-Marxist revolt of 30 AD by infusing the masses with despair.

Jesus did create social reform, but not in the manner of 2008 political speak. The “change” was the product of his ideas. Those ideas that transformed the thinking of humanity; his sacrifice transformed the physical bondage of humanity to Death.

He liberated by the power of the Anointing:  Luke 4:18-19

18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

And to demonstrate this anointing, Jesus did just that: he healed the blind, the halt and the maimed.  Liberation was a function of the event of FAITH mixed with God’s liberating word, NOT the political machinations of an organized populace.

Jesus did give hope; but not because people were going to link arms and sing Kumbaya while pressuring the government to give yet another handout.

And for those of you who have a mystical notion of “community” as something sacrosanct and virtuous, the penultimate location of fraternity of human existence, history proves a very different reality and this cute bible simile is about to bite you where the sun don’t shine.

It occurs to me that if Jesus really was a “community organizer,” he did a pi–oops… wrong crowd–a really bad job of it.

When Jesus was out “community organizing”–oops, I mean preaching and teaching–the “community” wanted to FORCE him to be president…oops, I mean king.  Leave it to the sacrosanct, virtuous, “community” to compel people by force. (John 6:14-15)

And then, insult to injury, when Jesus’ term of service was at an end, the “community” he was “organizing” killed him, which leads me to the rather obvious application of the “community organizer” simile.

Let’s see. Are there any bible characters that fit the objective definition of someone setting out to engage in political reform by applying mass pressure?

Think first century. Think Jerusalem. Think first century Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, Doctors of Torah, Chief priests and Sanhedrin. Judas was paid some silver coins by whom? The Chief priests AKA the Jewish “Community Organizers.” The soldiers took Jesus to the Sanhedrin? What was the Sanhedrin?

Sanhedrin: Greek meaning “sitting together” or council. The Sanhedrin is both a Jewish judicial and administrative body. The Sanhedrin was composed of local elites–including members of the high-priestly family, scribes (religious experts), and lay elders.

Said another way, the Sanhedrin was a cross between a Chicago-wide church leaders’ meeting and the Cook County Appellate Court.

Oh, this is rich… remember this is YOUR simile.

Pontius Pilate, the governor, said, “Why? What evil has He done?” But they [the Jews] cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” — Matt 27:23-24 (see also Lk 23:13-16)

Notice that when Pilate saw a tumult rising, he relented. How many riots have been orchestrated by “community organizers” to influence government officials over the centuries?

By the definition of our modern language and objective understanding, the “community organizers” were the guys that turned Jesus over to Pilate.

And the sacrosanct, virtuous, pure, community that is the source of fraternity released a murderer. “Barabas! Barabas! Barabas!” The community shouted

When offered Jesus, they, “community organizers,” demanded: “Crucify him!”

The power of the mob is always the power to take and destroy. It is always the power to kill at the point of a sword or with the tip of a nail.

For those of you who want to be community organizers of the bible variety…I’ll hide the nails…

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    1. 1


      “And then, insult to injury, when Jesus’ term of service was at an end, the “community” he was “organizing” killed him, which leads me to the rather obvious application of the “community organizer” simile.”

      That is the best! I love it when you break it down like that. I was just reading in Isaiah today about idolatry and how the men that made false gods out of wood then used the same wood to make a fire and cook their dinner.   You have to love logic!

    2. 2


      The title of your post is great and made me laugh. I hardly noticed it when I started reading, but then seeing it after reading your post – made me laugh out loud.

      Great writing!

    3. 3
      John Immel

      LOL… gotta love Logic…

      Now there is an interesting word applied to Christianity. 

      That is the mission: infuse as much logic into public conversation as possible!
      And BTW, Butterfly… thanks much for the compliment. 

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