Doing Justice


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I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.  Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.

Habakkuk 2:1-2

Dennis A. Jacobsen chose Habakkuk to open his book, Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing.  The vision that the Lord wants written down is His promise to bring justice to Israel and to punish the Babylonians, Israel’s oppressors.

Jacobsen is the modern-day herald, emphatically stating that a congregation-organized community is a vehicle of justice.  Doing Justice is jarring.  It’s the shock you get when you leave a warm comfortable apartment and realize it’s colder than you think outside.  He doesn’t mince any words in criticizing the church.  He relates a conversation with a bishop about community organizing:

“He said, ‘The role of the church in society is not to engage systemic injustice but to fill in the gaps.’  This view is, of course, the practical, working theology of most churches in the United States whose social ministry, if it exists at all, is devoted to food pantries, homeless shelters, or walk-a-thons to generate money for this or that cause. . . . Society is pleased to have the church exhaust itself in being merciful toward the casualties of unjust systems.” (pp. 18-19)

Doing Justice made me wonder if my church and I were really serious about justice.  My church feeds people, gives out clothing, funds affordable housing, etc.  Jacobsen says that’s nice, but not enough.  To go further, we’d have to ask questions like, “Why can’t people buy enough groceries for themselves?”  In answering that question, we’d have to confront the systems that maintain economic injustice.

Doing Justice includes a 12-week study guide, which is not “a jumping off point for random conversation.  It is written for those persons inside faith communities who continue to look for the practical handles that will make the presence of creativity, justice, and hope more evident in the culture” (p. 110)  It’s list of national organizations that help develop congregation-based community organizing institutions include:

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development

Direct Action & Research Training Center (DART)

The Gamaliel Foundation

Pacific Institute for Community Organization

Doing Justice was a great find.  It’s a quick & clear read that I picked it up for $5.00, but it’s worth a lot more.

“Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high,

to escape the clutches of ruin! 

You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,

shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.”

Habakkuk 2:9-10

BOW is my first experience in blogging, and my writing has undergone an evolution since I started. I use If I Knew Then What I Know Now to think aloud about my Christian walk. When you read it, my hope is that WE (the BOW community & friends) then discuss how to apply God's word into our everyday lives in a practical manner. As Christian lay-theologians, we'll talk about our world, and how we can be in it but not of it. So whatever your thoughts are about what you read, PLEASE share.
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1 comment

  1. pelicanflies

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