Thursday, July 19, 2012

Community organizing and how we do it

TAMPA, Fla. -- This week I am at a training conference for "IMPACT," our coalition of faith congregations in Charlottesville that works on common issues in our community. We are here with 19 such organizations, most of them from the Southeast, all of us learning how to do this work a little better. Eleven of us from Charlottesville have come here and I am enjoying getting to know them.

They don't give us much time off here, hence I have not gotten to the space as soon as I thought I would.

One of the topics the organizers of this event talk about is how anger can be a motivator for change in the community. I get it that we need to get our dander up about poverty and injustice, and many other things in our communities. But anger can also corrode the soul and destroy our perspective. My friend Bishop Steven Charleston posted this on his Facebook this morning, and it comes at a good time:

Anger is a weight that keeps the soul from flying. It grounds us to walk the all too familiar paths of passion. We lose the ability to listen but wait impatiently to spring our next words like a trap. We feel the fire in the belly of blame and see through its heat only a distorted image of the truth we used to share. Anger seeks to control, to dominate, to demand. God save us from its dead power. God free us from its heavy hand. Let our souls regain their flight, light in spirit, open in mind, gentle in word and deed, that we may see and love more clearly in the clean air of your mercy.

1 comment:

MClaibourn said...

Is it anger that is problematic, or how (whether) it is channeled? Or, perhaps more correctly, whether it is bound to love.

I’d maintain (at least for the moment) that in the face of actual harm being done, love for those being harmed will (should) make us angry, and that anger should compel us to act, to stop the harm.

Certainly, anger that has no constructive outlet seems more likely to be destructive -- to the self and others; an outcome IMPACT and collectives like it appear designed to avoid. And anger that does not arise out of love for others may well be entirely unhelpful. And no doubt I’m neglecting many important nuances and subtleties.

But anger as a response to injustice seems a sign of love for the victims of injustice, a recognition of our mutual humanity and connection. And honoring that response requires action (perhaps there lies the rub; “righteous” anger without action may well be “dead power”).