Faith-Rooted Organizing

● Organizing – “Bringing people together to create systemic community change.”

● Faith-Rooted – “Shaped and guided in every way by faith principles and practices.”

● Whereas traditional institution-based community organizing is grounded in American
pragmatism, faith-rooted organizing is formed by the worldview of particular faith traditions.

Origins

● Articulated by Alexia Salvatierra (a Lutheran pastor and veteran community organizer) and Peter Heltzel (an evangelical theologian and activist)

● Principles developed in the work of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) in California

● Informed by international faith and justice movements, particularly in Latin America and the Philippines

Distinctive Principles

Engaging Our Social Vision – Faith-rooted organizing goes beyond “winnable issues”
and ideological agnosticism to engage with our visions of what the world could and should
look like, informed by the Biblical vision of Shalom.

Serpent Power and Dove Power – In Matthew 10:16, Jesus instructs his followers to be
“wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Faith-rooted organizing distinguishes “serpent
power” (the domain of strategy and calculation) from “dove power” (Gandhi’s ahimsa, or
nonviolent love, the transforming power of the Spirit). Faith-rooted organizing seeks to
mobilize dove power in addition to serpent power.

A Biblical Anthropology – Faith-Rooted organizing sees human beings as both holy images of God and marked by sin. This has a number of implications:

● “Self-interest” is never taken as a given, but something that is formed through our engagement with others, disciplined and guided by our faith traditions.

● We pray for our enemies, never treating them as “targets.”

● Attentiveness to the whole person–resisting treating people as objects, even for a greater
good, and respecting the spiritual needs and development of every person.

Moving Beyond Self-Interest

● More than identifying issues of common self-interest, faith-rooted organizing discerns
kairos–the right time and season–of potentially transformative issues, including those
worth sacrificing our immediate self-interest for.

● Faith-rooted organizing approaches interfaith work not from the basis of common self-
interest or strength-in-numbers, but from the deep well of our particular faith traditions,
calling us to hospitality and active love for others.

Organizational Tools for Congregational Involvement

Here are some of the tools and tactics commonly used by faith-rooted organizers:

● Articulating a vision – Working together to connect our vision of the world with God’s.

● Discerning the kairos moment – Identifying an issue for action and organizing. This
includes identifying the lie which legitimizes injustice in a given place and time, and the
spiritual truth which may serve as an antidote.

● Power Analysis – Understanding the power relations at work, and our own resources for
action. This includes both serpent power and dove power.

● Mobilizing Spiritual Gifts – Recognizing, supporting, and unleashing the gifts of both
communities and individuals to change their communities. A central part of this task is the
identification, recruitment, and equipping of community leaders.

● Prophetic Action – Employing the full range of direct action, from legislative advocacy to
prophetic protest and civil disobedience.

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