Tag: Reign of God

Micro & Macro

First let me remind you what I mentioned in the other sections on . I’m not trying to recruit you to be social workers. I’m merely using my background and training in social work, parts of which I think are transferable to how we can follow Jesus’ example as a change agent, both with individuals and larger social systems. Whether He was healing the sick, feeding the hungry, consoling those who were mourning, or advocating for justice and rights from the religious or secular systems of his day, I think we can apply social work change strategies to meeting the needs of the suffering and oppressed of our day.

More often than not, when we listen to an individual describe their problem, we find that there are at least three levels for intervention, , or a combination of both. In the previous sections on and change, we discussed various approaches to individual problems, which would include family problems (); and those problems that are presented as individual problems, but it soon becomes evident there is some larger system, that is not meeting the needs of the people they were meant to serve. For example, the welfare or health care systems, when for some bureaucratic reason a client is denied help and they have no other alternative. In those situations, the immediate need of the person and the need for the institution to be responsive are the foci of change ( and ).

Someone suggested that the difference between and is the difference between the choice of, “Swatting the mosquitoes or cleaning up the swamp.”

If a person is starving, you need to meet their immediate needs by providing food (). As I mentioned before, “you can’t eat retroactively”, people’s immediate needs for food, shelter, clothing, health care are urgent and need to be met. While practice focuses on “cleaning up the swamp”, by focusing activities on those institutions, social policies and underlying causes of problems that individuals face, there is a need in most situations to deal with both the and issues.

For example, when I first moved to Arizona in the late 1960ies, social agencies and the newspapers had an “annual back to school drive” that collected clothing, back packs and pencil boxes for “needy” children going back for a new school year. They also collected money each Christmas for a program called Christmas is for Caring

That is exactly what I meant when I wrote about the Person in (PIE) in the introduction to . We need to do both. Here is a website that has a number of good examples how this is being put to action

In the masters program at Fordham I was trained as a clinical social worker ( practice). In the doctoral program, I specialized in community organization, social policy and planning ( practice). For most of my professional life, I felt if I really wanted to follow Jesus’ example by applying what I learned as a social worker, I had to be involved on both the and level. So, in addition to my private practice, where I worked with individuals, families and groups as a therapist, my involvement on agency boards, professional organization, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), or by accepting appointments from three different governors of Arizona to different state boards, I used the skills I had learned in effecting change on larger social systems. I was, from a social work perspective a generalist.

As president of Parents Anonymous an agency that offered services to both parents who had abused their children, and to children who had been abused, at the same time we advocated for changes in the state’s Child Protective Service programs , when they were not effective in protecting children. Today I’m still involved at the level by serving as president of the board of Dillon Southwest, an international adoption agency. This gives me an opportunity to use my knowledge of adoption that goes back to the early 60ies, when I was executive director of Family Services in Schenectady, NY. Foster Care and adoption were two of the main services we provided.

The basic principle of generalist practice is that change agents are able to utilize a problem solving process to intervene with various size systems including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Working within the person-in-environment framework includes conceptualizing prevention and intervention within a process-oriented, systems model in lieu of traditional models that often limit interventions to the individual. For example, an intervention plan with a troubled adolescent might include his/her family, school, and others system that can be supportive to the adolescent.

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Here is a brief framework of the major concept that underlie the delivery system for any organization:

Levels of Intervention

Micro Level Intervention Targets

  • Individual
  • Family
  • Group

Some frameworks place family and group under mezzo and include only individuals under change.

Macro Level Intervention Targets

  • Organizations: Corporations, Agencies
  • Communities: Cities, Neighborhoods
  • Society: Global, National, Regional, States, Policies

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Change Participants

  • Change Agent: Persons(s) Carrying out the change. Could be an individual providing therapy or leading a group or a team writing policies, or team advocating for a cause.
  • Client or Target System: Persons Benefiting from the Change
  • Action System: All Those Involved in the Change Process
  • Stakeholders: Key Players in the Change Process

Finally, the knowledge and skills of the generalist are transferable from one setting to another and from one problem to another.

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Principle of Subsidiarity

One of the considerations, which underlie a decision to pursue change, is what theologians, philosophers, and politicians refer to as the Principle of Subsidiarity. If we consider social policy as “values in action”, this basically is a values issue. This principle is considered by many religious and secular organizations as the concept that a central authority should have a subsidiary function. That is, to provide only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. In other words, it means the State shall take action only if and insofar as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the communities -society- and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effect of the proposed action, be better achieved at the state level. It means that policies should always be made at the lowest possible level, and that the higher level should only legislate when there is unanimous agreement that uniform regulation is necessary.

For example, if an adult can’t provide for him or herself, ideally his family should be the first ones to care for her or him. In hard economic times we see many adult children moving back home to live with mom and dad. When I was working as an intern at Welfare Center 59 in Long Island City, New York in the early 60s, before any member of a family was considered eligible to receive welfare payments, there was a legal requirement that we had to prepare a “subsistence” budget for their closest relative. If it were considering an adult child for welfare, we had to have their parents provide information about their income and expenses, and if there income was over a certain amount, they had to pay the difference between what they made and what the welfare department determined was needed for them to live on and, the welfare department would deduct the parents’ contribution from payment the department had determined a single adult needed to live on. That policy was eliminated years ago, because they found that eventually the parents who had been providing the money ended up needing welfare assistance themselves. In cases where the parents weren’t able to contribute then the potential participant would have to approach a non-profit charity agency for money to live on.

Apparently, the Principle of Subsidiarity still has value today. I noticed recently that the principle was referred to in a four page letter that Congressman Paul Ryan sent to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of s, to alert him to some of the issues in House Budget Committee that he chairs and was passed by the House of Representatives for Fiscal Year 2012. I suspect that he was looking for an endorsement by the Archbishop, a fellow catholic. Ryan suggested that the Budget’s of Medicaid and other proposals were “…informed by the principle of subsidiarity” , and went on to quote from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church that instructs: “…it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what a lesser and subordinate can do.” The fact that the congressman used this quote surprised me because he has said on a number of occasions that he was inspired to go into politics by reading Ayn Rand books and, has instructed his staff to read Rand’s work if they wanted to understand how he thinks. As far as I know, Ayn Rand and her gospel of selfishness, is not included in the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church.

Be that as it may, to the Archbishops credit, he did remind the congressman that,

“A singularly significant part of our duty as pastors is to insist that the cries of the poor are heard, and that the much needed leading to financial discipline that is recognized by all never adds further burden upon those who are poor and most vulnerable, nor distracts us from our country’s historic consideration of the needs of the world’s suffering people.” Amen.

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Resources

    1. This is an academic article by Shari E. Miller, Carolyn J. Tice and Diane M. Harneh entitled: The Generalist Model: Where do the Micro and Macro Converge. Although the article is intended for professional social workers, I believe it can be useful for those of us who aren’t social workers, but wish to engage in at different levels. For further information contact Ms. Miller at her email address at the University of Georgia, Athens Georgia.
    1. Review by Michael Baxter of Charles E. Curran’s book , The Social Mission of the U.S. Church: A Theological Perspective. Published by Georgetown Press. As I was writing this section I thought, If Jesus, who shared our humanity, lived in the 21st century, he might have been a social worker. After all, during his three years of active ministry, he not only preached the essentials of loving your neighbor by responding to his/her corporal and spiritual needs, but he gave many examples of compassion for those who came to him in need ( change). Not only that, on a level he was crucified because he was seen by civil and religious leaders of the time, to be a threat to their positions of power. In the words of a slogan of anti-war, civil rights, and anti-poverty movements of the 60s, Jesus was preaching, power to the people.
    1. Interaction between Micro, Mezo, and Macro Levels by Linda Sturm. In addition the and , this article adds mezzo change.
    1. Poverty, Race Research & Action Council (PRRAC)—As the title of this website indicates, it focuses on community action in the areas of race and poverty. It lists links to projects on: Housing, Poverty, Health, Civil Rights and l Human Rights. On this page on this webpage there are complete copies of articles published from 1993 through 2009. There are 201 articles, mostly regarding poverty, racism, and other issues that Jesus preached about.

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    1. African American Models of Community Organizing [PDF]. This is a research article by, Bonnie Young Laing, PhD, from Virginia Commonwealth University. After describing the methodology for the paper, she presents her analysis of the results and five theoretical concepts describing African American approaches to community organization that emerged from the data:
      1. cultural dynamics;
      2. locus of the community;
      3. organizing goals;
      4. mobilization methods;
      5. change strategies.
    1. One of the areas that the has championed for years is Peace. From the time of my youth I can remember praying for peace at every Mass. One of the peace movements illustrious proponents is John Dear a Jesuit priest, peace activist, and the author of more than 20 books, most recently, A Persistent Peace, Put Down Your Sword, Transfiguration, You Will Be My Witnesses, Living Peace, The Questions of Jesus and Mohandas Gandhi. Here is a recent article of his that appeared on the National Reporters website. The title is, On the Galilee 72, by John Dear SJ.
    1. I believe the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes sums up Jesus’ and our mission as well as anything he taught in the gospels. The sermon clearly relates to social and individual change. Here are three articles by Jack Mahoney SJ that appeared on the website for Thinking Faith, a Jesuit magazine in the UK. I found each of these articles very thought provoking and nourishing. The author brings up issues that I never considered.

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    1. Making the Reign of God a Reality, by Thomas Gumbleton, National Reporter, July 22, 2011. Since Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom or , and it is our role as to acknowledge the that is within us an spread this throughout the, a and task indeed, I thought Gumbleton’s article said this as well as anyone could and would be inspirational for our
    1. How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule. “A Report from the New Economy Working Group”. As described on page 3, “This report addresses issues and options largely ignored by the current public conversation on financial . It confronts the need to not simply fix or Wall Street, but rather to create a Main Street-based money and banking system accountable to local communities and responsive to their needs. The intention is to redirect the conversation to deeper issues and options that the establishment has so far kept off the table. The essential issues are straightforward matters of values and power readily understood by most everyone—as this report intends to demonstrate.”The report was prepared by an ongoing New Economy Transitions discussion series organized by NEWGroup and the New Economy Network—an informal alliance of individuals and organizations. It is forty-one pages that are well worth reading, even though you might not agree with all their conclusions, our economy should be one of the major targets for change.
    2. Here’s a brief video of Keith Olberman interviewing Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. The topic is America’s Widening Wealth Gap. This gap between the very rich and the very poor was not what Jesus had in mind when preached on the shores of Galilee.
  1. We Didn’t Start the Fire, a song by Billy Joel. It alludes to headline events from March 1949 (Joel was born on May 9 of that year) to 1989, when the song was released on his album Storm Front. The song’s title and refrain mention “the fire,” an allusion to conflict and societal turmoil. This particular rendition on youtube focuses on the war in Vietnam and war in general; Joel asserts that social conflicts can’t be blamed on his generation alone, as “the fire” has been “always burning since the world’s been turning.” As I viewed this video, I felt as if my whole life was passing before my eyes. PEACE!

More resources will be added.

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Micro

Most of the courses I taught at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work were focused on helping smaller social systems: individuals, families and small groups, make changes in their lives (). I also continued a private practice, mainly to keep my skills up to date and relevant to what I was teaching. Although I only brought religion/spirituality into my work with clients if they presented it as something they wanted assistance with, I always felt that my work with clients on a one-to-one basis, with small groups or families, was my way of following Jesus’ admonition and example of showing compassion for those in need. Whether it was a person suffering from a chemical addiction; a couple struggling to keep their marriage together; stepparents, whose unrealistic expectations were rupturing the new family, or a group of teenagers who were going though the pains of adolescence, I had the opportunity and obligation to bring them Jesus’ healing love, without even mentioning Jesus.

At the same time, I was also working to effect change on those larger systems, that were impinging on people’ rights. Whether it was the welfare system that was ignoring the needs of the poor or elderly; the mental health system that was not providing services for people who were suffering from mental illnesses; businesses who were discriminating because of workers’ race or gender, these were the people that Jesus wanted us to help, the disenfranchised, (). Just as the early Christian communities based their communal lives on the teachings of Jesus by living lives of justice, nonviolence, generosity and hope, I believe that we who follow Jesus need to incorporate these virtues in our daily lives in the twenty-first century, by helping to create compassionate communities.

I will discuss change and a combination of and models on other web-pages on , but for now I want to focus on as a model for our following Jesus. I’m not suggesting everyone should become a social worker but that there is a wealth of ways that social work practices can be translated into our lives as followers of Jesus.

Let me start by suggesting a website that I think embodies what Jesus expects of us. (http://followingjesus.org) When you open the website you’ll find a beautiful musical presentation that spells out what Jesus taught before his death and expects of his followers. The rest of the website traces the historical development of Christianity from the very beginning to the present time, and also examines both the underlying rational for faith and beliefs and suggests ways for how we can become better followers of Jesus. I will be referring back to this website throughout other web-pages. For the time being, I’ll just focus on the initial musical presentation. When I have my Blog up and running, I’d appreciate your thoughts on this and other issues that I or others bring up. My hope is that this will be an interactive experience that we all can learn from. My personal philosophy as a professor was, “There are no teachers, there are only learners.”.

Social Change and Action and Small System As I mentioned earlier I see Jesus as a change agent, along with his other roles. What I intend to do now is to translate at the level from the social work model to how it can apply to our following Jesus the change agent. I’m not suggesting this is the only way to look at but is the one that I found most helpful.

Micro Social Work practice emphasizes change on small-social systems. The emphasis is on theories, methods, and techniques of practice within the contexts of individuals, families, and small social networks. When we look back at Jesus’ life during his three years of social ministry, there are a number of instances that come to mind where he healed individuals, e.g., when he healed the deaf or blind; with families e.g., when he came at the request of Lazarus’ family when they were grieving his death and he answered their pleas by bringing Lazarus back to life; with his apostles when he saved them from a storm at sea. Not that we are expected to physically heal the deaf and blind or bring someone back to life, but there are other signs of his compassion that are less dramatic. We show Jesus’ compassion in our daily lives e.g., by volunteering in agencies that feed the hungry; being involved in providing housing for the homeless, or taking advantage of so many opportunities to show our love for our neighbor, e.g. when a loved one dies by comforting those who mourn. We don’t have to be psychotherapists to show Jesus’ compassion. Nor do the followers of Jesus have the corner of the market on these virtues, but our motivation is the recognition that God is in all of us. “The is within us”. (Luke 7:21) Or, “Namaste,” a Hindu greeting translated as: The God/Goddess Spirit within me recognizes and honors the God/Goddess Spirit within you.

Suggested Readings on Social Change

    1. To put in perspective, here is a statement of US Conference of Catholic Bishops: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus [PDF], it addresses the and social issues and emphasizes the need to work at both levels. Based on catholic social teaching, it provides a model that differentiates Charity and Justice. Charity focusing on the needs of people, while justice focuses on the inalienable rights of individuals and what they can expect from their government and religious organizations.
    1. The social teaching of the Church is embedded in the encyclicals of the popes beginning with Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum: On the Condition of Workers. For the next 100 years s Pius XI, John XXIII, Paul VI all wrote encyclicals on social issues and John Paul II, wrote three encyclicals on the similar topics, his last social encyclical was , Centesimus Annus: The Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum in 1991.
    1. Religion and Social Justice in America, by Austin Cline—The author of this article acknowledges the role that religion has played in social justice, which generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights and recognizes the dignity and worth of every human being, while contemporary fundamentalists’ “…focus on private sexual morality to the exclusion of almost all else.” The article gives a different view of the traditional positions on the role of the Church described in the two previous articles.
    1. Why Self-compassion Trumps Self-esteem“—Article by Kristin Neff, in Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. This website offers views from science on how a meaningful life would be described, and achieved. It also includes responses from readers.
    1. Social Institutions: The Family—For those who are interested in a more sociological perspective on the family this website offers basic and advanced information on various aspects of the family, an institution that many sociologists think is a miniature replica of the society in itself. Its importance of lies in the fact, that it cements a nation together by providing it a past, a present and a future.
    1. Fausel, D. (1998), Collaborative Conversations for Change: A Solution Focused Approach to Family Centered Practice, Family Preservation Journal, 3,1, 59-74—Over the years, I took training and taught many types of therapy. I don’t believe one type of therapy fits every situation. As I continued to practice, I became more eclectic in my use of different models of therapy. I chose this article on solution focused brief therapy because I believe it is appropriate for multiple problems and deals with the “here and now” rather than the “there and then”. It doesn’t give prescriptions to those we wish to help, like many other forms of therapy, it asks questions about what is going well in their life or what they are doing differently when things are going well. I believe its principles can be adapted for non-therapists to use in helping others, not as therapists but as friends helping neighbors.
    1. Here is Module I of a training program I wrote for non-therapists, volunteers, or paraprofessionals , that adapts Collaborative Conversation for Change to working with families, which can also be used in our interactions with others, to help them with the day to day problems they are facing. Again, it’s not meant to make the reader a therapist, but to be a better communicator with those we meet, who have problems that we can help them with as a friend, as as a compassionate neighbor.

      Here’s an example of person I remember working with, who was very depressed: After listening for a while about how depressed he was, I asked him to “Tell me about those times when you aren’t depressed.” His immediate reaction was to respond, “I’m always depressed.” I followed-up with another question, “If you weren’t depressed, how would your life be different?” He thought for a few minutes and went on to tell me how much he enjoys classical music, and what a comfort it had been to him before all this depression. After exploring this a little, I asked, “Between now and the next time we meet would you be willing to spend some time listening to the music that you enjoy?” He agreed. The next time he came to see me he was feeling less depressed and willing to try some other suggestions, that were based on things he told me were what he enjoyed but had given up.

      I’m not suggesting that this type of interaction is magic and can ipso facto change the person over night. But it can put him/her on a different path. The thinking behind it is if something works, do more of it. If I just talked about a person’s depression with them, they would more likely than not leave more depressed and I probably would be more depressed too.

    2. Here is Module II of that same training.
    1. Since depression in the United States is of epidemic proportions, here are some other references that might be of interest and helpful. In addition to depression they contain information on other emotional and mental conditions.
    1. National Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect provides information on one of our major social problems, child abuse and neglect. In Luke (17:2), Jesus had some very harsh words for anyone who harmed a child. He suggested that they would be better off if a millstone were tied around their neck and were thrown into the sea. Working to protect children is one way of being a follower of Jesus. If you need convincing of the extent of this problem, this website should convince you. It also provides resources for agencies that deal with abuse and neglect.
    1. Worksops—Over the years I’ve offered a number of workshops for folks with problems that clients of mine were experiencing. The workshops gave the participants and me, the opportunity to interact with others who were struggling with the same problems as they were, and gave me an opportunity to learn more about the problems clients were dealing with.They say, “You teach what you need to learn” and looking back, I realized it also gave me the opportunity to choose topics that I was dealing with in my own life at that time. For example, the workshop, “Angry is as Angry Does”, as the title indicates, we (I) needed to recognize the fact that it’s not the anger that’s the problem, but how we deal with the anger that’s the problem. Once we realize that, we can begin to deal with our anger without feeling guilty. At that time in my life I was dealing with my own anger and needed to learn better ways to handle anger myself.Here’s one other example—In writing the workshop, “Be ye Perfect, Mission Impossible,” I realized that the biblical admonition, “Be ye Perfect,” often had been misunderstood and even abused. To strive for excellence, to achieve, to be successful, differs from an unhealthy . The more I looked at myself and my background, which taught me that I needed to be the perfect person, the more I listened to others with similar backgrounds, the more I realized that is at the root of many harmful messages many of us received as children, which carry over into our adult lives, producing guilt, anger, low self-esteem, addictions etc. The goal of the workshop was to help the participants, including me, to recover from those toxic, shaming messages we grew up with and carried into our adult lives.
    2. This webpage from the Self Help Magazine, covers “13 Signs of Anger and How to Deal with them in Sobriety.”
    1. This is an Anger Toolkit, in the website, “Anger Management.” Some of the topics it has are: Measure your Anger; Coping with Your Boss; Four Techniques for Managing Anger; Coping with Grief and Loss.
    1. An article from the Child Development Institute, entitled “Dealing with the Angry Child”.
    1. If you’ve read my book, you already know that I was a congenital codependent. In the 12 step programs they have a saying that we codependents were sicker that the addicted person in their lives. Here are several website that deal with codependency.

In case you’re wondering what codependency or has to do with following Jesus, let me try to give my rationale again. I believe the more knowledge we have from the social sciences or life experiences about problems that affect our relationships or out ability to help our neighbors in need, not necessarily as psychotherapists, the more we are putting into action what Jesus preached during his lifetime.

To use codependency as an example: one definition of a codependent is someone who’s drowning and going down for the third time and someone else’s life passes before their eyes. Obviously that’s not an academic definition but an attempt by some creative person to help codependents realize that spending too much time dealing with other people’s problems and ignoring their own issues, isn’t that helpful. As I congenital codependent, for years I was the “great enabler”.

A codependent is basically a person who enables. Applying this to addictions, an enabler is a person, who by their actions makes it easier for addicts to continue their self destructive behaviors, by consistently rescuing the addictive person in their lives. Often the behavior of the enabler satisfies a need that they have, and prolongs the problem of the person they might think they’re helping. The codependent person often doesn’t realize that their action satisfy their need to control and tends to keep the other person in a dependent relationship. The codependent then feels needed. They might think they have the other person’s best interest at heart, but they are actually meeting a need they have to be needed. If we really want to help our neighbor we need to know ourselves. For me it took regular meetings in Al-anon, to realize how my “good intentions” were not helping, they were prolonging the dysfunctional behavior of a loved one.

    1. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, located at Columbia University, offers a wide variety of topics related to both resources, treatment programs, content, economic data and statistics.
    1. Hazelden is a comprehensive treatment center, founded in 1949 in Minnesota. http://www.hazelden.org/web/public/about_hazelden.page . It is one of the pioneers in helping individuals, families, and communities struggling with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and drug addiction transform their lives. They have locations across the United States, where they help people at all stages of the treatment and recovery process, supporting them with our Twelve Step-based model that is the modern standard for addiction treatment and recovery services. Their programs include:
      • Substance abuse treatment and alcohol rehab
      • Recovery support services
      • Professional education
      • Addiction research
      • Prevention curriculum development
      • Publishing
      • Addiction awareness and public policy
    2. The family that many of us remember from the ’50s and ’60s is no longer the norm: Ossie and Harriet, sons David and Ricky, and dog Spot, are only fond memories of my youth. Surprisingly, according to the most recent statistics from the Census report of 2008, overall 7 out of 10 children live with two parents. Not necessarily biological parents, or married parents, but parents, never-the-less. There are an increasing number of step-parents or blended families as they are also known as (some 65% of remarriages include children). Here is a website with more statistics from an article in The New York Times.
  1. This resource is from a website called Family Corner. It provides information on different family structures: nuclear, step, single etc Each of which presents is own joys and sorrows and often needs healing and one called Help Guide that focuses more on blended families.By the way, it always bothers me when step families are called blended families. I understand that they want to get away from the bad image that the “wicked stepmother” has, but in real life, it would be more than awkward to introduce your step mother or father as my blended mother and father. Or, “Hi, I’d like you to meet my blended sister.”

Articles and presentations by Don Fausel, as well as resources from other links will be added in in the near future. Topics to be covered will be more on addictions, anger, parenting, step parenting, end of life issues etc.

Positive Social Change

Introduction

You’ve probably have heard many sermons over the years that bemoan the fact that there are too many in the congregation that are “Sunday ”. They come to regularly to worship, praise and adore Jesus and to give thanks to God for their many blessings, but as soon as the service is over and they rush to the parking lot, it’s every “man” for himself. What happened to their sense of community and resolve to follow Jesus’ example and his admonition to love thy neighbor? Not just at the Sunday service! Perhaps they just don’t know who their neighbor is.

They seem to have forgotten how Jesus replied when a lawyer asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus’ reply was that second to loving God, “To love your neighbor as yourself.” When asked who our neighbor is, He did not answer directly, He went on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember, it was the Samaritan, who demonstrated compassion and love by caring for a man dying in the ditch, beaten, naked and abandoned from an assault by robbers? It was not the priest or the Levite who saw him their beaten, naked and abandoned. They passed on to the other side of the road, ignoring the victim. But along came a Samaritan, who instinctively showed his compassion. Hearing this parable at that time in history, must have had an impact on those who questioned Jesus, because they would have been very aware that there was no love lost between the Samaritans, who came from the north and Priest and Levite who came from the south.

When asked, Jesus refuses to define who our neighbor is. Instead he asked a question. “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers hands?” The lawyer who asked the original question sheepishly responded, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” Jesus’ message is clear; loving our neighbor is not limited to family or friends. It’s showing the love of God to all who are in need, whoever they may be, whatever faith they belong to. His message to us is the same, “Go and do the same.”

For us to follow Jesus, we must reflect God’s love by loving one another. Not just in words, not just to those who share our same beliefs, but by our actions to friends and enemies alike. It’s often easier said than done. Jesus is more direct in Matthew, 25:35, when He reminded us who we needed to serve, “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me something to drink… I was naked and you gave me clothes…” etc. Then He was even more explicit in the Beatitudes (The Sermon on the Mountain), Matthew 5-6, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” And “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.” Etc. In our current vernacular, He was saying, If you want to follow me, you need to be a “change agent”.

I strongly recommend a website that deals with these issues in great depth, and has references for where to go to get involved in projects you might be interested in. The website is Following Jesus. It has examples of how we might follow Jesus almost two thousand years after his birth. For example, homelessness, visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for the environment, or working for peace and justice, all have excellent references.

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Types of Social Change

One of my good fortunes that I had on my life’s journey was to be sent by my bishop to study social work at Fordham University, so that I eventually could be director of Charities in Schenectady, NY. At that time I had no idea what social work as a profession was. I just obediently followed his orders. I soon was introduced and embraced social work, its values and it practice model for . It opened up a whole new world to me. It became my way of being a change agent and follow the social gospel.

I intend to use what I learned in my social work training as a model of change. It’s not the only model but it made sense to me. Social work is basically grounded in our Judaea/Christian heritage, which believes in the dignity and worth of every human being. It believes that we don’t have to become someone or belong to a certain religion, be of a certain gender or be heterosexual, or a member of a certain social cast or income level, rather just by being a human being we are already someone and we can thankfully accept our rights as outlined in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed…

For me, the social work practice model fits perfectly with my understanding of the type of action to affect change that Jesus might have had in mind for his followers in the 21st century. Social work doesn’t have the corner of the marked on the model I’m going to describe. Change theory is used by different organizational systems to achieve a higher degree of output or self-actualization. One of the differences with social work and other profession who are change orientated is that social work deals with both small and large systems, Micro and Macro. The underlying theory of social work practice for change is Person in (PIE). As the title indicates, the focus for change is both on smaller system, e.g. individuals, families and small social networks (Micro); while the focal point of Macro practice is on changing larger systems, such as neighborhoods, communities, governments, and other organizations. That is, those systems that impinge on individuals and other smaller systems. Macro practice encompasses a broad spectrum of practice, including planning, program development, community organizing, policy analysis, legislative , program evaluation, task-oriented group work, community education, and human services management.

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PIE is a holistic, since it is interested in effected change at different levels and takes into consideration cultural diversity. For example, a person who is homeless and hungry has an immediate need for shelter and food. Since a hungry person cannot eat retroactively, and has an immediate need for food, we follow Jesus’ example by providing food to the hungry person, but from a perspective we need to help change the other systems that might be causing the problem of hunger and homelessness. This could require advocating for jobs or job training, affordable housing, or programs to meet their needs until they can support themselves.  We need to play both the role of enabler, by helping the person become capable of coping with situations or transitional stress by meeting their immediate needs and advocating for the resources they need to be able to pursue what Franklin D. Roosevelt – The Four Freedoms in his address to Congress on June 6, 1941. The third and fourth freedoms are particularly appropriate for change:

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

FDR goes on to articulate what I believe is a mandate for our engaging in . A mandate that I believe Jesus would have given if he lived in America in the 21st century.

Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions—without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society. From Congressional Record, 1941, Vol. 87, Pt. I.

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For a powerpoint presentation on Social Change and Social Action that I developed when I was teaching at Walden University, click here. It provides:

  • A Definition of Social Change
  • Theories of Social Change
  • Roles of Social Change Agents
    • Ameliorator—Health and human service workers
    • Social Reformer—Legislative Activists
    • Social Actionists—Saul Alinski, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Rebel—Students for a Democratic Society
    • Revolutionaries—Simbinese Liberation Army
  • Strategies of Social Action

There are separate web-pages for both and with more in depth information under the headings of Micro and Macro Social Change.

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