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Note: This page is taken from the PICO website - www.piconetwork.org

Excerpts from Ideology and the Prophetic Tradition

by Warren Adams-Leavitt, Executive Director
Kansas City Church Community Organization (CCO) 
Wyandotte Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (WISC)


In the parlance of faith-based community organization, research actions are planned meetings between community organization leaders and representatives of government,. private industry, media or non-profits to develop relationships and learn about a particular issue. We call them "actions" because they produce movement. They teach people about an issue; they develop public relationships between community organization leaders and other institutions. They often help to develop a consensus regarding direction.

"And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go’". (Exodus 4:21)

Now why would God choose to harden Pharaoh’s heart? I have often wondered exactly that in research actions when I see our people exploring reasonable avenues to address the pain of their people and some official says, "No, you can’t have that", or "That won’t work because…"

Organizers say, "the action is in the reaction". Pharaoh’s first reaction to Moses and Aaron was to tell his taskmasters, "you shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words." (Exodus 5: 7-9)

Beyond our concern for tangible solutions to serious issues, research actions are a process of testing our people: their capacity for public dialog and debate; their ability to negotiate; their clarity regarding public issues. Research actions provide praxis for the development of public skills. The research phase of our organizing process is crucial to forming the discipline and sense of solidarity among our leaders that leads to effective organization. In the early stages of research, each sign of the Kingdom we produce is met and negated by the technical experts at Pharaoh’s court. If the victory comes too easily, without testing the people, they will not break free of prevailing ideologies and they will never leave Egypt. In the early parts of the plague cycle, the people are tested.


     The focus of our public meetings, at their best, leave the people with a sense of amazement or awe. I can tell when individuals in WISC or CCO begin to attend each other’s actions. They just like coming; it gives them hope. Our symbols cannot be empty symbols; they must tap into deep values. They must also be accompanied by tangible progress in addressing issues, both local and county-wide. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake for organizers to allow faith communities to move into major actions without challenging them to probe in a deep way the reasons why they are doing what they do.

When actions go well, in the midst of all our work and preparation, there is a tremendous sense of grace present, of God working among us. The Exodus story leading up to and following the parting of the Red Sea presents God interceding in history with awesome power. Not all of it was very pretty or comfortable. Not all of the Israelites present could handle the tension of the conflict as it was underway,

"Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." Exodus 14:12 (At least there I had a job and they didn’t whip me too often before you came along!) ...

In order for people to find their own power and grow as people, they need not only skills, but a change in perspective, a set of ideas and beliefs that support their growth. The methodology of faith-based community organizing provides people with tools and skills.

But faith-based community organizing can only reach its full potential in the United States in the context of deep and sustained reflection on our faith. That is where people will find the internal resources to overcome obstacles and grow both as individuals and as communities.

I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my salvation;

This is my God, and I will praise him,

My father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15:1-2)

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