Monday, May 12, 2008

Tom Perriello: Politics as Community Service

Teacherken, one of my favorite Virginia bloggers, has a great diary at Raising Kaine, highlighting Tom Perriello, congressional candidate from the 5th CD, who is running against Virgil Goode. Tom has made a unique proposal. He will tithe ten percent of volunteer hours from his campaign to the community.

From a press release Perriello sent out, here's the explanation:
May 12, 2008—Danville, Charlottesville, and Collinsville, VA—With events in Danville, Collinsville, and Charlottesville, the Perriello for Congress campaign launched its volunteer tithing initiative, unprecedented for a political campaign. The campaign will tithe 10% of all its volunteer hours to community service projects around the district. The campaign has logged more than 1,700 volunteer hours in total; over the weekend, volunteers kicked off the initiative by tithing 42 volunteer hours and moving forward, will tithe 10% of its hours.

"I was raised to believe that a strong faith is a lived faith that must be made clear by our deeds. I want my campaign for Congress to reflect those same values," said Tom Perriello. "That is why we are asking our campaign team to commit 10% of their volunteer hours to local charities to reflect the value of service to community and to country."

Perriello campaign volunteers launched the volunteer tithing initiative in three locations around the district. In Charlottesville, volunteers worked on constructing a house for Habitat for Humanity. In Collinsville, they brought groceries to the local post office for the "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive. In Danville, they served food to the hungry at a local church.

Tom Perriello is the Democratic candidate for Virginia's fifth congressional district. Born and raised in the district, he is a national security analyst and has founded faith-based organizations
In his own words, here's Tom Perriello explaining it in a video he released to further elaborate on his novel plan to incorporate his faith into his politics.

Teacherken, who is one of the most knowledgeable bloggers when it comes to religion; ethics; and politics, explained it this way:
The 5th CD, which stretches from the Charlottesville area to the NC border, is an area with a strong commitment to religion. But Tom's taking this action is in no way a pander - it is symptomatic of how Tom has approached a life of living his deep Catholic faith, which has included working to end atrocities in the West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, which had suffered long civil wars fueled by blood diamonds, and serving as a national security analyst for the Century Foundation. He has worked inside Darfur and twice in Afghanistan.

It is not unusual for our Congressional candidates to be so involved with their communities - after all, we all remember our own Ron Shepston fighting a forest fire near his home, and perhaps a few remember like I do how Pat Murphy used his campaign website and office to help gather and coordinate assistance to people who suffered from heavy floods in Bucks County in 2006.
I can only add to that my own observation that faith must be observed in tangible action. It's not enough to invoke God and to talk about good intentions, or even to quote Scripture. Real faith must be lived daily in the trenches where real life, real suffering, and real hope abide.

What Tom is doing is part of the Prophet Tradition, shared by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faith traditions alike. For a Catholic, nobody summed it up better than Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, who is one of my heroes.
"The mystery of the poor is this: That they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him. It is the only way we have of knowing and believing in our love. The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love."

—"The Mystery of the Poor" by Dorothy Day. The Catholic Worker, April 1964. Found in "Dorothy Day Library on the
Giving back to the community, as Tom is proposing to do, is acknowledging that which is of God in all, even the most humble.

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