Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing

By Dennis A. Jacobsen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Power

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon
you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and
Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“Then comes the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to
God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every author-
ity and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies
under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has
put all things in subjection under his feet.’” (1 Cor. 15:24–27)

Organizers tend to have a rather straightforward approach to power. They want power. They want the people with whom they work to have power. And they want to build power organizations. They see power as essentially neutral. It can be used in the service of justice or abused in the service of evil. They point to the fact that in Spanish the word for power is poder, which literally means “the ability to act” or “to be able.” Organizers see power as what is needed to get things done. Power is needed to combat discrimination, to rebuild cities, to fight urban sprawl, to reduce drug trafficking, to improve school systems. If a person wants to make such changes in the public arena, then he or she must decide to become a power person connected with a power organization.

Organizers are usually impatient with the ambiguity that most people of faith have with power. They think that this ambiguity serves the interests of politicians and the wealthy who want the rest of us to think of power as bad so that we will not threaten their status and position. Public officials call themselves “servants” in order to make us think that servanthood, not power, is the operative force for change. Organizers make note of Rollo May’s thesis in his book Power and Innocence, which claims that most people seek innocence to avoid the responsibility of power. They contend that those who avoid power out of fear of being corrupted are probably doing so to avoid the high cost of having power: conflict, controversy, ridicule, defeat. Those exercising such avoidance in order to remain “innocent” are making a virtue out of their cowardice. According

-38-

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Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter 1- The World as It Is 1
  • Chapter 2- The World as It Should Be 8
  • Chapter 3- Engaging the Public Arena 13
  • Chapter 4- Congregation-Based Community Organizing 23
  • Chapter 5- Power 38
  • Chapter 6- Self-Interest 50
  • Chapter 7- One-on-Ones 59
  • Chapter 8- Agitation 65
  • Chapter 9- Metropolitan Organizing 70
  • Chapter 10- Building and Sustaining An Organization 79
  • Chapter 11- Community 87
  • Chapter 12- A Spirituality for the Long Haul 96
  • Appendix 104
  • Notes 106
  • Study Guide 109
  • Index 139
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