Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”
— Saint Augustine
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was born in a state of hope (Rhode Island) and grew up in a state of possibility. I was taught that if I saw an injustice, I was to speak out about it and work to change it. Although I no longer live there, I continue to practice the teachings of my state and my family and to work for justice.
In my work, which is reducing and preventing gun violence and illegal gun trafficking in the U.S., I work with many people who are angry. I, too, am angry, angry about our continued callousness and disregard of the sacred nature of human life; all life, every life; the life of the victim and the life of the shooter; the life of the prisoner and the life of the jailer; the life of the oppressed and the life of the oppressor. “What part,” I ask myself, “of thou shalt not kill, do we not get?”
And yet, anger as a catalyst is not enough. When we work for justice, march for justice, weep and pray for justice, we are engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. We have to have the nourishment to sustain us and the ability to get up every morning and do what needs to be done. As we move out into the world, we need to be sustained by faith and love. No one of us is ever good enough, or strong enough or ready enough to do the work we are called to do. We need the love and mercy of G-d* and the love and support of our community to build G-d’s kindom* here on earth. We need to preach forgiveness, practice reconciliation and ask ourselves how we make ourselves available to G-d, not just ask G-d to be available to us.
It has been my experience when we do that, we are then open to transformation, as individuals and communities and are given what is needed to undertake the work. We become the instruments, the face and the hands of G-d on earth.
One of the things from which I draw the greatest encouragement is the life of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth. His life, especially in the period of his public ministry, is an example and a lesson to me constantly. In his words of hope and his acts of healing, I draw strength, comfort and encouragement. I am reminded that with a small group of imperfect people, we can change the world, and redefine our relationship with each other and the Holy.
Perhaps the story that speaks most directly to me, which moves me beyond any other, is told by Luke, the physician and companion of Paul (Luke 22). The story begins on the night before his death, or early that morning, after praying and weeping blood in the garden; after being disappointed by his followers falling asleep and unable to pray with him; after being betrayed by a kiss from the one whom he trusted with his group’s money; and knowing that he was being asked to die for these and others; Jesus is seized and being led to the civil authorities by the servants of the priests. One of Jesus’ impetuous followers (Peter, according to John 18:10) grabs a soldier’s sword and slices the ear of one of the captors.
Does Jesus make a run for it? Does he urge his followers to break into a fight for his freedom? No, he tells his followers to put up the sword and he then heals the ear of his captor. He willingly submits to his trial.
I am inspired by this, and seek to emulate it. But, in this as in so much else, I will fall short. I will need the love and encouragement of my community, my chosen faith, to hold me and to hold me accountable. It is in this embracing and testing of each other that we find the courage and the grace to do what we are called to do. Listen, pray, obey. Test the leading and ask for help. It will be given to you. Have hope, for it is the anchor of the soul.
*Editor’s note: Out of respect for God, the author practices the Jewish custom of not writing the name of God. Jews interpret the law that was given by Moses (Deuteronomy 12) as a prohibition against the transcribing the name of God as the written word could be disrespected or defaced. Writing G-d is incomplete and runs no risk for defacement. The author requests that the word kindom be used instead of kingdom.
Leslie Manning is a member of the Durham Monthly Meeting in Maine, and serves as a representative from New England Yearly Meeting to the FUM General Board. Leslie was born and raised in Rhode Island, whose state motto is “Hope”. This motto served as a refuge of religious tolerance and freedom, welcoming all who chose to live in peace.