Self-Interest, Solidarity, and Power

These days all four of the big Alinsky-style associations are doing some version of church-based organizing, and yet there is very little theological reflection engaging this effort. Hence, Dennis Jacobsen's interesting-and probably important-Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing is a book wanted and long overdue.

Jacobsen, director of the Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus (one of those four associations) is himself an extraordinary urban pastor, tough to the powers and vulnerable to the pain in his own Milwaukee neighborhood. The illustrative stories are personal, even pastoral and confessional, populated with lives and faces from his own parish. Hence interesting.

However, the theological illustrations are populated by the likes of Merton, Dorothy Day, William Stringfellow and the Berrigans, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero, Martin King, and Francis of Assisi-not the ordinary pantheon of heroes for an Alinsky organizer. Something very interesting is going on with this book. One wonders if it isn't actually as much a conversation with organizers as it is a theological manual for church people becoming such. On a certain level the conversation is framed between two towering figures.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2001
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