Today I would like to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart: community organizing. My entire life I’ve fought for justice by helping groups galvanize support for their respective agendas. I’ve done both online and offline organizing, and even spent 9 months organizing for President Obama in Florida this past election cycle. What I discovered on the campaign trail is that it takes a special person to fight day and night, and in many cases for low wages, on behalf of a cause. There were many sleepless nights and long days in which I felt that I was hitting a brick wall and that my work wasn’t helping. Then one afternoon after failing to meet my goal of registering 500 voters in one week before the notorious voter registration deadline in Florida, I sat down and read a few passages from the Bible to provide myself with a sense of solace. One scripture that I came across was Philippians 3:13 ,“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I realized soon thereafter, that I wasn’t alone in my struggle because the ultimate community organizer had paved the way for me.
(Me speaking at a rally with Vice President Joe Biden in Sarasota, Florida 6 days before the election when I was field organizer for the Obama campaign)
Black liberation theology tells us that Jesus Christ was a community activist. Many of my self-proclaimed “educated” brethren consider themselves to be above religious teachings, especially Christianity, because they believe that it is a religion that was imposed on African-Americans, the same way Malcolm X said, “Plymouth Rock landed on us”. Some have expressed to me that it preaches passivity, especially in the face of oppression. However, Black liberation theology deals primarily with the African-American community, to make Christianity real for blacks. It explains Christianity as a matter of emancipation here and now, rather than in an afterlife. The goal of black theology is not for special treatment. Instead, “All Black theologians are asking for is for freedom and justice. No more, and no less.”
(Dr. Anthony Bradley explaining Black Liberation Theology)
From the Gospel of Matthew, the 10th chapter, the 34th verse, “Don’t think that I have come to bring peace on Earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” Jesus came to an oppressed people who were in bondage to the Gentiles, exploited by the Roman government and policed by the Roman army. As the Messiah, he came to offer people a way of organizing against their oppression, by banding together and becoming a nation.
Jesus was far from passive. He was a threat to Rome, not in the sense that he was organizing an army, but in the sense that he brought people to a place where they were willing to struggle, enter conflict, and face an enemy. All through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke we see indication of the kind of revolutionary ministry in which Jesus was engaged.
For Jesus, the whole idea of unity had to do with brotherhood and love in the nation of Israel. He gave people the gravitas to stand up against a system that relegated them to a second class position. His message was the simple fact that power lay in people’s unity, in their willingness to forgive each other and fight the struggle together.
Conflict is a matter of basic importance to us today because, we like the nation of Israel more than 2,000 years ago, are engaged in struggles against oppression, discrimination, injustice, and exploitation. People are still on the margins fighting for a basic quality of life. As Dr. King stated, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” While this post wasn’t meant to indoctrinate or proselytize I did want to make clear that the story of Jesus Christ is one activism and love for the community.