By Lauryl Hebenstreit
I am tired of pretending I am not angry.
Recently, I was asked to speak on what motivates me to help my community and be an advocate for others. At first, I was asked this question within the context of religion. How does religion play into being an advocate?
My initial thought? Religion doesn’t play a role. My second thought—lie and come up with a nice answer.
There were a million ways in which I could have lied at that moment. I could’ve laid out a neat answer about how hope for a better world and faith in the goodness of God’s covenant pushed me to help others. But the sticky sweet sappiness of those words rolling off my tongue would have left me with a toothache.
The reality, in my world at least, is that hope is a luxury.
There are many things to worry about. There are too many people without homes, too many climate catastrophes, too much preventable deaths. And with that comes an endless cycle of grief.
Last week, I watched the newly released body camera video of the death of Adam Toledo, a 13 year old Latino boy. A boy that looked a little too much like me. I tried to grieve that loss but it got lost in the grief for George Floyd, Daunte Wright, and the eight killed at a FedEx in Illinois. My grief was stopped at the thought of children in unlivable conditions at our border, at those unjustly imprisoned, at the woman fundraising for her cancer treatment while living in the richest country in the world.
I felt anger. And that is the answer I would give now to the question, “What motivates you to help your community?”
It is not that I don’t have a faith in God or that I don’t hold out hope for justice and peace.
My anger, and why I am an advocate for others, is born out of necessity. I can no longer afford to watch bodies like mine fall into graves too soon—another hashtag, another slogan for a movement.
I want to be clear that this anger, this truthful answer for my advocacy, is rooted in hope and faith. After all, Jesus was no stranger to righteous anger. He chased money-changers out of the Temple because he believed in its sacredness. With the tearing of the Temple curtain, that sacredness came to all things.
I have great faith and hope that this, this death and bleakness, is not us. That humans, made in God’s perfect image, are better than our history and this moment. We must shine the light of love in the world, and that love can sometimes be angry.