Issue 34: Organizing

Fall 2022

Although the act of organizing can be an intensely personal imposition of order on things and ideas, there is often a sense in which organizing is something we do together. To protest wealth inequality, we gathered in city squares as part of the Occupy movement or took part in solitary acts, like investing in GameStop, that then became infused with improvisation and the power of communities.
And organizing is rarely glamorous. Conventional wisdom is that you don’t put glitzy lights around the word and make it the subject of an entire journal issue. True organizing is the slow, careful work of coalition-building, work that is forged through hours of conversation wherein parties seek common ground on which they can partner. It is an endless to-do list of emails and phone calls, door-knocking and pavement-pounding, exhausting work aimed at achieving only an approximation of an original goal or highest ideal. Organizing is the work of exchanging a faulty system for something better. It is rooted in particular places and serving particular people with particular unmet needs. It is the work of protecting people from the powerful forces that feel too big for anyone to confront on their own.

In this, the thirty-fourth issue of The Other Journal, we take up these ideas and more. For example, Daniel P. Rhodes helps us understand what organizing actually is, how it works, and why the church so desperately needs it. Claire McKeever-Burgett interviews Lindsey Krinks about her new book and her formative experiences running an interfaith homeless outreach program in Nashville, TN. Mtr. Claire Brown thinks about the relation (limits and possibilities alike) between priesthood and organizing, and Rebecca Edgren (writing in response to Julie Hembree’s photography series) calls us to see the unseeable.

These contributions—and others—tackle the theme of organizing with verve and slant, speaking to and from everything from tent camps to the Jesus Storybook Bible. They unsettle our received stories and challenge the unjust order. And I believe they will help us as we begin to build whatever messy wonder comes next.

Casie Dodd

Drink to the Dregs, Polish John

One year, I lived in a soup kitchen in Chicago. It happened almost by accident. As I considered masters programs near the end of my undergraduate program in Oklahoma, I felt pulled toward something completely unfamiliar to me—a full-time Catholic volunteer program at a Franciscan soup kitchen. That year became a rip in the veil […]

Diane Scholl

Reading The Nine Tailors in a Time of Flu, Fire, and Flood

In the first year of the COVID pandemic, my lockdown reading included that old chestnut, Dorothy Sayers’s The Nine Tailors. An inveterate mystery reader, I craved the familiarity and comfort of a well-worn paperback, and I welcomed the wintry setting of the novel’s opening scene. Maybe you remember: Lord Peter Wimsey and his loyal butler, […]

Myles Werntz

Will the Real Dorothy Day Please Stand Up? 

D. L. Mayfield, Unruly Saint: Dorothy Day’s Radical Vision and Its Challenge for Our Time (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf, 2022) When William Miller’s biography of Dorothy Day first appeared in 1982, a peculiar publishing enigma came into being: describing Dorothy Day in a single book. Miller’s book, a monumental work, suffered from the problem of trying […]

David Hunsicker

Ever in Tension

Christiane Tietz, Karl Barth: A Life in Conflict, trans. Victoria J. Barnett (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2021). Since its publication in 1975, Eberhard Busch’s Karl Barth has been the definitive biography of Karl Barth. Indeed, for many English readers, it has been the primary access point for a larger body of literature that was […]

Nicole Rollender

Change Me, O Ghost

My God, why does the bruised flower inside me cry Open? Shape-shifter birds, my daughter called skyward: flock of Holy Ghosts, can I fly with you? She’s my compass toward paradise. My human will, the only door for evil spirits to enter. Holy the purity of animals in forests and pastures, breath hymning outside my […]

Nicole Rollender

Mater Dolorosa

Again, the plague season returns. Again, horses live, and they die. Locusts descend, devour, disperse. All ashes. I watch you in the fields, drifting in and out of hinterland mists. A brindle foal learns to stand. Three times during my second pregnancy, we thought we lost our son—once in Gettysburg’s bee-buzzed peach orchard. How does […]

Katy Shedlock

Order as Sacrament

That we mainline denominational Christians face a crisis in the ways we have ordered ourselves is no secret. That the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated church closures and clergy burnout is no secret. And while everyone in the mainline church has been saying for quite some time that we cannot keep doing things the way we’ve […]

Justin R. Phillips

The Cure For the Pain is the Pain

Dominique Gilliard, Subversive Witness: Scripture’s Call to Leverage Privilege (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021). Stephen Preskill, Education in Black and White: Myles Horton and the Highlander Center’s Vision for Social Justice (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2021). I once asked my students at a largely white, evangelical private school whether they considered themselves privileged. […]

Ann Boaden

Killing Grandma

I killed my grandmother. At her request. “I’ve researched it,” she said. “It’s not a bad way to shuffle off.” She grinned. “As far as dying goes.” She was in her late nineties. Everything about her was old except her mind. Understanding and intimacy had skipped a generation in our family. I swapped wary circumlocutions […]

Julia Hembree Smith, Rebecca Edgren

Take My Eyes

Rebecca Edgren writes poetically in response to a Julia Hembree Smith photo series.

Zachary Thomas Settle

Exactly How Unspeakable?

Editor-in-Chief Zac Settle reviews the latest Christological contributions from Rowan Williams and Paul DeHart.

T. H. Yuan

Indiana Concrete

T. H. Yuan imagines the faith workers would place in a nuclear plant of the near future.

Andrew Lansdown

Restraint

Andrew Lansdown ponders the creative power of God.

Claire K. McKeever-Burgett, Justin R. Phillips, Lynn Domina, Preston Hill, Ryan Kelley, Zachary Thomas Settle

Knowing Your Place and the End of White Evangelicalism

Justin Phillips reflects on writing about the formative communities of his life—white, southern, evangelical—and on trying to live faithfully and speak prophetically in the context of his upbringing.

Claire Brown

Call to Action, Call to Prayer

Claire Brown reflects on her work as a priest and on community organizing through the life of the church.

Sean Beckett

When Moses Left

Sean Beckett asks what happened to that burning bush.

Jennifer M. Rosner

Every Story Whispers His Name

Jennifer M. Rosner argues that the Jesus Storybook Bible carries forward a historical streak of supersessionism that runs throughout Christian thought and theology.

Laurie Klein

Selvage

Laurie Klein stalks the secrets of selvage.

Claire K. McKeever-Burgett, Lindsey Krinks

For the Flames to Dance

Lindsey Krinks implores faith-adhering, justice-seeking Christians to pray with their feet on the streets and in the communities where they find themselves.

Daniel P. Rhodes

What’s the Deal with Organizing?

Dan Rhodes frames the act of organizing as essential for the church, describing a constellation of artful practices to help rehabilitate our political muscles and counter the fragmentation and injustice.

Robert Claps

Learning the Solar System

Mercury, Venus, the hottest ones first, then Earth, Mars, the planets’ names slipping from my lips. those nights in our cramped kitchen, while my father lit another Camel, and my mother wiped down the Formica, Jupiter the largest, Saturn with its rings, Uranus, a gaseous planet, I whispered, one of the bright stars in Sister […]