Monday, March 29, 2010

Jesus and Alinsky ('04)

Link: "Jesus and Alinsky"
by Walter Wink

[Excerpted; Full text at the link above.]

...There are three general responses to evil: (1) violent opposition, (2) passivity, and (3) the third way of militant nonviolence articulated by Jesus....

[nice explanation / re-interpretation of "if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" omitted here...]

Jesus' Third Way

  • Seize the moral initiative.
  • Find a creative alternative to violence.
  • Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person.
  • Meet force with ridicule or humor.
  • Break the cycle of humiliation.
  • Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position.
  • Expose the injustice of the system.
  • Take control of the power dynamic.
  • Shame the oppressor into repentance.
  • Stand your ground.
  • Force the Powers into decisions for which they are not prepared.
  • Recognize your own power.
  • Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate.
  • Force the oppressor to see you in a new light.
  • Deprive the oppressor of a situation where force is effective.
  • Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws.

... Maybe it would help to juxtapose Jesus' teachings with legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky's principles for nonviolent community action (in his Rules for Radicals) to gain a clearer sense of their practicality and pertinence to the struggles of our time. Among rules Alinsky developed in his attempts to organize American workers and minority communities are these:

  • Power is not only what you have but what your enemy thinks you have.
  • Never go outside the experience of your people.
  • Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy.
  • Make your enemies live up to their own book of rules.
  • Ridicule is your most potent weapon.
  • A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
  • A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
  • Keep the pressure on.
  • The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
  • The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure on the opposition.
  • If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through to its counterside.
  • The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
  • Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.

... To Alinsky's list I would like to add another "rule" of my own: never adopt a strategy you would not want your opponents to use against you.

[This piece is reprinted from The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, edited by Paul Loeb]

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