Monday, July 30, 2012

From Pain to Power

As I spend time this week at the PICO Network's National Training, I've been struggling with how to use principles of community organizing in my congregation and in coalition with others in organizing in suburban congregations.

One of the words, as I shared yesterday, that we've been working with is "power."  For many Christians, especially Christians living in suburban contexts, this isn't a topic of conversation.  Power is usually seen as having "coercive" tendencies, and we're not supposed to engage in such things.  But how do we engage the world in which we live without making use of power?  If we go talk to civic leaders we address power brokers, so if we don't have our own power, how are we to engage?  As we role-played civic conversations today, we recognized that persons in power will often try to distract or diminish our voice -- so how do we make them listen and take our concerns seriously?  

As you contemplate this question, consider another -- the foundation of our power.   Here's the question -- what is it that moves you to act?  What is it that will take you from being interested, curious, or even concerned, to be willing to commit your time and your life to transforming the situations in which you live?

We've talked about anger, grief, and pain.  As I consider the context in which I live and out of which I work, I have realized that we have a difficult time acknowledging anger, grief, or pain.  We've been taught to suppress such emotions.  We've been taught to just "get over it."  But when we do this, we lose something important -- we lose our edge.  We lose our voice.  So,to those of you who, like me, live in the suburbs, where life might not be perfect, but you're not dealing with life and death issues every day, what is your pain?  

As I listen to those who live in communities of color, communities of poverty, communities where violence is an ever present reality, communities where they face profiling from police and community officials, the pain is very vivid and apparent.  They have much less difficulty in taking hold of the pain and anger to build upon, but what is your pain if it's not nearly so apparent?  

Are you read and willing to name your pain so you can find the power to change things?  

4 comments:

David said...

I can't put my finger on the cause of the pain, but it's there. A feeling of failure, of hopelessness, of loss. That we could be happy without destroying the planet if we choose..
But choose not. Hey, but a trip to the pharmacy might cure that, so it must not be real.

I almost recognized it just a bit ago as I read this.

http://mobile.alternet.org/alternet/#!/entry/us-vs-them-a-simple-recipe-to-prevent-strong-society,501395a47af68a84dc42887f

We need to realize that our only power, is in shared power and vision. Unless we're extremely unique (I.e. stutus quo or about 400 in 140,000,000).

David said...

I was being too reactionary above. Obviously, the planet will do fine without us.

John said...

In our "Listening campaign" I spoke with one parishioner whose deep passion for addressing the current foreclosure crisis arises from his personal scarring as a child whose family was evicted from their home in the Great Depression, eighty years ago Adults carry stress and anxiety, Children carry scars.

Robert Cornwall said...

One of the things that became clear to me while at the training is that we will find it difficult to act until we are personally invested -- and that requires that we own our pain and our anger.

I need to reexamine the biblical texts on divine wrath/anger and see what they say to us about finding power to make a difference.

If we're concerned, we'll talk. If we're angry, perhaps we'll act.