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Rules For Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul Alinsky, recommended to me by one of the most effective evangelist/organizers I’ve ever met, includes this aside:

“Each year for a number of years, the activists in the graduating class from a major Catholic seminary near Chicago would visit me for a day just before their ordination, with questions about values, revolutionary tactics, and such.  Once, at the end of such a day, one of the seminarians said, ‘Mr. Alinsky, before we came here we met and agreed that there was one question we particularly wanted to put to you.  We’re going to be ordained, and then we’ll be assigned to different parishes, as assistants to — frankly — stuffy, reactionary, old pastors.  They will disapprove of a lot of what you and we believe in, and we will be put into a killing routine.  Our question is: how do we keep our faith in the true Christian values, everything we hope to do to change the system?’  That was easy.  I answered, ‘When you go out that door, just make your own personal decision about whether you want to be a bishop or a priest, and everything else will follow.'”

Saul Alinsky, Rules For Radicals (New York, 1971), page 13.

How to be insignificant: reach for your own self-defined significance.  Big-deal-ness undermines itself.  Ambition demotes.

How to be significant: forget about your big plans and obey Jesus radically in sacrificial ways that make no sense unless he himself is the reward.

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2 thoughts on “What is your goal?”

  1. Tyler Smith says:

    Ha! I just finished reading this last night. I had heard a quote in one of my Social Work classes from Alinsky, and decided to give the book a go. The particular quote I liked (which wasn’t from Rules from Radicals) is,

    “They come to the people of the slums not to help them rebel and fight their way out of the muck … most social work does not even reach the sub-merged masses. Social work is largely a middle class activity and guided by a middle class psychology. In the rare instances where it reaches the slum dwellers it seeks to get them adjusted to their environment so they will live in hell and like it. A higher form of social treason would be difficult to conceive.”

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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