God and Community Organizing
A Covenantal Approach
288 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: October 2020
For decades, the multiple, interlocking forces of technological advances, neoliberal capitalism, and globalization have been transforming the very moral fabric and institutional underpinnings of global society. The effects of these challenges include soaring economic inequality, a widely experienced social fragmentation, and increasing disenchantment with liberal democracy and its social arrangements. This unraveling can be seen in the rise of illiberal democracy, a deepening ecological crisis, and failures of governance in coping with natural disasters and social tumults alike.
In response to this crisis of democracy and eroding community, a growing number of people have been attracted to Saul D. Alinsky’s grassroots method of community organizing.
God and Community Organizing: A Covenantal Approach is written in this cultural milieu; it brings Alinsky’s community organizing into conversation with the biblical vision of of covenant. Hak Joon Lee argues that, theologically, covenant reflects the life of the triune God who eternally organizes Godself as the Father, Son, and Spirit, while politically, covenant captures the inherent passion for justice that underlies Jewish and Christian faith. At its heart is the attempt to structure a wholesome, close-knit community of love, justice, and power. He points out that not only is covenant instrumental in the formation of God’s people as a community, but the concept has also played an important role in the rise of modern Western ideas
of democracy, constitutionalism, and human rights.
To demonstrate the political plausibility of covenantal organizing, Lee incorporates four examples of covenantal organizing in different historical and social contexts: Exodus, Jesus, Puritans, and Martin Luther King Jr. Critically engaging with Saul Alinsky’s method, Lee seeks to highlight how the
two different streams of political praxis—covenantal organizing and Alinsky’s community organizing—can complement each other to develop a more vigorous and effective method of faith-based community organizing.
Finally, Lee explores the political and moral meanings and implications of his study for the current struggle against the neoliberal corporate oligarchy by presenting covenantal organizing as an alternative political philosophy and practice to secular liberal philosophy, postmodernism, identity politics, and communitarianism.
Foreword by Larry Rasmussen
The Maestro of Organizing
The Biblical Paradigm of Community Organizing
The Kingdom Organizer
Covenantal Politics and Democracy
5 Martin Luther King Jr.
Organizing for the Beloved Community
6 Saul Alinsky’s Community Organizing
A Brief Overview
7 Covenantal Organizing and Community Organizing
8 Covenantal Organizing Today
The Fight against Neoliberal Capitalism
The pièce de résistance in Hak Joon Lee's oeuvre, God and Community Organizing restores America’s broken covenant through faith-rooted organizing for a better tomorrow. Lee lucidly reveals that Christian Ethicists worth their salt are courageous watcher-warriors who ‘watch and pray’ for a restoration of revolutionary love!~Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Associate Professor of Theology, New York Theological Seminary
No single volume can do all that we must collectively undertake for much-needed systemic and structural reform today at many levels—conceptual, tactical, and otherwise. But this remarkable work fits the needs and circumstances of our moment as few others. It does so by zooming in on key elements that the author weaves together as 'covenantal organizing.'~Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary
Hak Joon Lee has written a fresh and compelling study of the practice of political power which deserves our close attention. Lee claims that covenant as expressed in the Bible constitutes a valuable map and guideline for the contemporary practice of community organizing. He shows the way in which the covenant of ancient Israel becomes a model for the exercise of social power in organizing a new moral community today. In this narrative account the pay-out of exposition is the singular work of Saul Alinsky who wisely acted out the ancient impulses of covenant. In the midst of this covenant-to-Alinsky exposition is Jesus who knowingly ‘trained his disciples into kingdom organizers.’ Serious faith can no longer be a passive head-trip. It is rather transformative action in the world. Lee exposits the biblical resources for just such a faith.~Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
God and Community Organizing: A Covenantal Approach is located in this very kairotic moment of history of multiple and interlocking crises that threaten the health and future of the human community. Lee argues convincingly for the appropriation of ‘covenant’ as the centerpiece of a public philosophy as well as a public theology of organizing—and that both are essential to building justice, restoring community, and redistributing power and resources. Written with exceptional clarity, Lee moves us forward in not only imagining a new public life but in finding a language and framework to get us there that is at once theological and publicly credible.~Katie Day, Charles A. Schieren Professor Emerita of Church and Society, United Lutheran Seminary