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What’s So Funny About Community Organizing?

Sarah Palin went off the deep end during her convention speech. Perhaps in her time in five colleges in six years she didn’t have a chance to review her civil rights history, but her attack on community organizers (as being like mayors, sans responsibility) reveals a deep ignorance of American history, much less how thousands of Christians put their faith into action.

In graduate school I attended classes with a number of Jesuit Volunteers Corps souls who would relate stories of years spent on interfaith worker justice coordination and teaching in South-Central Los Angeles.

In fact, unbeknown to Gov. Palin (who seems like a nice person) while the Catholic Church has a long tradition of raising up powerful community organizers, many Christian folks from all stripes have – like Barack Obama – sidestepped promising careers to serve in urban environments organizing and increasing education for the under-advantaged.

But perhaps Gov. Palin is just nervous about her own thin record of service. If all her great works can be distilled into a few sound bytes about putting her jet on eBay (it never sold) or fighting the bureaucracy (in order to expand drilling in ANWR), then it seems that something is missing in her definition of responsibility.

Van Jones nails it when he writes, “Sarah Palin Would Hate Rosa Parks.”

Rosa Parks was a community organizer. The PTA moms (with whom Sarah Palin loves to associate herself) are community organizers. Today, organizers are powering our democracy — registering millions of young people, disadvantaged people and senior citizens to vote for the first time. They do the invaluable and thankless labor of making democracy work.

And Jim Wallis reveals more about what Sarah misses about America:

Faith-based organizing is the critical factor in many low-income communities in the country’s poorest urban and rural areas, and church leaders are often the biggest supporters of community organizers. And many of them felt deeply offended by Sarah Palin.

Of course, the GOP convention crowd laughed when she and Giuliani both read off their talking points in attacking those who serve our country in our communities.

It seems that in Palin’s Dobson-approved faith and works confusion, she missed the words of Jesus: “whatever you do unto the least of these you do unto me.” I think that it applies both ways.

Yeah, young Adventist community organizers and missionaries aren’t all beauty queens or big-time governors and mayors, but by mocking and reviling the least and those who tend to the needs of the least, Palin fits the age-old pattern of those who go around publicly proclaiming that they are more important than the publicans and sinners and those who pray and work with them.

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