"Like Martin Luther King, Saul Alinsky spoke in what can best be called a 'prophetic mode.' The prophet is not an outsider: he or she stands ardently in a tradition, claiming its insights, charging that present-day activities, leaders, or the society as a whole are tarnishing or destroying its own best ideals. Prophets challenge certain traditions and values at the the same time that they invoke others. And the act of recalling the past for present-day action also transforms the traditions invoked, adding nuance and new dimensions. Alinsky had located his efforts in a dynamic democratic tradition that he argued represented the best values and spirit of the country. He had also sketched new strategies for effective poor people's organizing for power in a world where experts made the poor into dependent clients."
-Harry Boyte, Commonwealth
This striking passage suggests something profound about the prophets temporal vision: the prophet does not see the future as a radical break (i.e. revolution) between the present and the yet-to-be; rather, the future becomes an amalgamation of the best features of the past fused to, or reinvigorated by, and creatively multiplied in the immediate or near immediate present. The vision of the prophet is a perception of the present as an interpolated textured moment in which time apparently collapses in a sensual experience. This "prophecy" is not radically different from the present because it is the future, it is radically different from the present because it cuts to the root (which etymologically relates to radical) in a historical and communitarian sense (Ed Chambers, Roots for Radicals). Through this interpretation, sight, vision, prophecy is as much about the past as it is about the future in that the present is perceived as "close" to a real past critical excellence--easily romanticized or nostalgically narrated but by no means necessarily so--that shares a temporal proximity or collapsed moment with a preferred future potentiality--non-utopian but rich, valuable, and progressive (Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern). I read this as relating to a "beloved community" that bases action on the collective spiritual experience of a group. That experience is infused with a radical (i.e. rooted) relation around or into that community (a perceived movement of self into spirit, self into collectivity); a relation of each individual to the experience of the spiritual text, song, enactment, understanding, or practice (Charles Marsh, "The Beloved Community"). The religious event--however it forms and however many forms it takes--returns the experience of the participant to the root of the community, to the source of their collectivity in order to reconceptualize the group as one body, as a religious host, acting in one name (God's name, the spirit of community, the illumination or fire that is shared in all participants). Such identification liberates the community from its oppression in the present world--material, political, economic, even potentially cultural (in constructive or deconstructive ways)--and precipitates action by the group to act in one liberating struggle. Boyte goes on to mention that young social critics of the 1960s placed themselves outside of the culture. This gesture--likely overblown and definitely ill-conceived--would divorce these critics from the sustaining root needed to build community and culture capable of turning a tide of economic injustice and political oppression. In lacking a "root" to community and to history would prevent identification with liberatory collectivities and a critical prophetic vision--not simply a utopian one--that would bridge a vision of the past, present, and future in generative ways.
Now to write the rest of it and figure out where this fits.