Thursday, October 09, 2008

From your church to Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky 

It's time to follow a network. �My goal is to make more local this debate about the connections between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, and that connection runs through Saul Alinsky. �I find the local angle interesting; my guess is in many other cities, you could also make this connection; the result will impress upon you the vast network that the Obama campaign has built to get out the vote next month.

About twenty churches in the St. Cloud area help fund a group called Great River Interfaith Partnership or GRIP. �We've talked about them before here as creators of, among other things, an affordable housing ordinance in the St. Cloud area that, by supporting the creation of new houses, may have helped create the bubble in real estate. �They are meeting on October 14th as a follow-on to an event their parent organization is creating. �More on that event in a minute.

Their parent organization is ISAIAH, also a church-based coalition. �And in this we find:

ISAIAH is one of 60 similar organizations around the country affiliated with the Gamaliel Foundation in Chicago. Our national network provides training and resources for organizing far beyond what we would have available doing this work by ourselves. It also gives us a national powerbase to influence federal legislation on immigration, transportation, and housing.
I had not made that connection until fairly recently, when in reading about Barack Obama's ties in Chicago I ran across Gamaliel. In Stanley Kurtz' story from last month, we find that the Chicago Annenberg Center, self-described as a "founder-led foundation" whose founder was Bill Ayers but whose board chair was Obama, was a funder of Gamaliel institutions.
Ayers and Obama guided CAC money to community organizers, like ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and the Developing Communities Project (Part of the Gamaliel Foundation network), groups self-consciously working in the radical tradition of Saul Alinsky.

Kurtz notes elsewhere that though Ayers was not on the board -- to avoid the conflict of interest that would have come from Ayers receiving money from CAC -- he was as much in control as Obama.

Gamaliel is modeled on Alinsky principles. �Melanie Phillips works through the pathway that takes Obama from law school to Gamaliel and becoming a community organizer. �Part of that job involves spawning yourself and training other organizers.

One day at a church I was attending (it has since closed), I was invited to come to the formation of a church reading club that would look at secular works. I love to read and went. The woman who had invited me, who worked with GRIP, had a suggestion for a book: Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. (I never went back to that group.) �I'm sure this would have pleased Senator Obama, who many years ago had looked at churches as his way to power:

What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer, as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them? As an elected public official, for instance, I could bring church and community leaders together easier than I could as a community organizer or lawyer. We would come together to form concrete economic development strategies, take advantage of existing laws and structures, and create bridges and bonds within all sectors of the community. We must form grass-root structures that would hold me and other elected officials more accountable for their actions.

Anyone who has seen GRIP or ISAIAH in action, with its altar calls for political candidates to come forward and take a pledge, will no doubt recognize that scene in this paragraph. �I have already reported on the events they are organizing for next week.

Their agenda will include the altar call again:

We will:
  • Rejoice in our unity across denomination, faith, race and culture
  • Tell the truth about the challenges that face us as a society and as a community
  • Proclaim a path to a transformative and specific issue agenda
  • Challenge our public officials to walk with us and to face our common challenges with courage and imagination (this is the altar call)
  • Walk the Path through engaging with one another and our public officials around our Issue Agenda, aiming toward real change.

More accountable to what, though? It is reported that on a radio show Kurtz noted the book used by Gamaliel for its community organizers, Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing. �One does well to review this book, whose back cover tells that it "weaves the theological and biblical warrants for community organizing into concrete strategies for achieving justice in the public arena," suggests "agitation" as a "fundamental organizing principle" and that its author was head of the Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus. �His first sentence in the book (after a couple quotes of Scripture, one of which is the fall of Babylon from Revelations 18): �"The world, as it is, is the enemy of God." �

Their view is totalitarian and apocalyptic. �And it extends from Chicago to Minnesota and wants to reach all the world, to do battle with the enemy of God. �If you're not with them...

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