A Just Anger, A Powerful Hope

PCG hosted an Advocacy Workshop on Tuesday, August 14 at First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights. 35 representatives from congregations across the Chicagoland area shared their previous experiences with advocacy, engaged in an interactive legislative training, and learned about PCG’s current legislative priorities. Many committed to putting their faith into action by Joining our Advocacy Network. These are my reflections on that evening.

In her poem, “A Just Anger,” Marge Piercy writes:

“My rage is a cloud of flame

In which I walk

Seeking Justice

Like a precipice….

A good anger acted upon

Is beautiful as lightning

and swift with power.”

I thought about these lines as we gathered last Tuesday night —- especially as all of us in attendance were asked to share in one word what gifts we brought to advocacy work. The bounty of gifts offered up was truly inspiring: passion, compassion, empathy, persistence, the Word, justice, organization, hope, doggedness, prophecy, peace, fairness, power, dissatisfaction, and anger.

To do the work of advocacy, we need these gifts – we need them all. Anger at the world around us – at people in power, at our political system, at injustice. Hope about what we might do to change these hard facts. We each brought different gifts to the table, but everyone in the room was ready to act – to change the world as it is to the world that we believe it can be. Something better than what it is now.

So in the words of another poet, Denise Levertov:

“Don’t say– don’t say there is no water

to solace the dryness at our hearts….

…The fountain is there

among its scalloped green and gray stones,

it is still there and always there

with its quiet song and strange power

to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.”

There are many reasons to despair. We are facing a vitriolic election cycle where the wellbeing of God’s poor hangs in the balance. Thousands of Illinois residents have lost health coverage after Medicaid’s drastic cuts. Our city is mourning the loss of hundreds of young people to gun violence. When so many are in need of solace, it’s hard to know where to start – but it’s easy to say there is no water. In frustration, some folks throw their hands up and walk away.

But it’s then that we must remember “don’t say – don’t say” that there’s nothing to be done, or worse, too much work to get anything done. The fountain of hope, “with its quiet song and strange power to spring in us,” must be brought forth, even from our clouds of anger.

Hope is hard to have without its reflection in the faces of others; without realizing that those around us share our just anger, and the dryness at our hearts. This is why advocacy work must be done in concert with others. As people of faith, we have the fullness of our traditions to remind us that loving our neighbor, taking action in her favor, is not something only one of us is called to do. It is a call to all of us.

Drawing from a tradition that assumes that God has something to say about the way society should be structured and the way government should relate to individuals and communities, we join a historical community of people working together towards a shared vision – of advocates who join God’s work in this world by calling for justice. And we are never alone.

Gather together with people who are justly angry, who are powerfully hopeful, and get ready to live your faith.

Maggie Potthoff is a dual degree master’s student at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School and Harris School of Public Policy. She is completing the fieldwork component of her ministry degree here at Protestants for the Common Good, and will be serving as a Intern Minister throughout the school year at the Third Unitarian Church in Austin.

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