Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Fear, Alone

Written by: on March 1, 2021

Dorothy Day, in her earlier years an anarchist, in her memoir ‘A Long Loneliness’, often references the thought and political ideologies of 18th Century socialist revolutionary, Karl Marx. She reflects with a surprising tenderness on ‘the Marxist slogan, “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.’1 She felt connected to this call for action, writing ‘it made me feel one with the masses, apart from the bourgeoisie, the smug, and the satisfied.’2 Dorothy Day opposed classism and inequality, an attitude which resonated with Marxist political and social philosophies.

She was drawn to those who stood for the oppressed and broken worker, not only to those who spoke of social justice but to those who were active toward change and ‘making a difference’. Peter Maurin was one such friend and with affection recalled a few of his slogans, one being “Fire the bosses” which, later in her memoir she assured ‘meant “call no man master, for all ye are brothers.” It meant “Bear one another’s burdens.”’3Dorothy and Peter, believed in the way of voluntary poverty, a solidarity which called them close to the cry of the oppressed, a ‘Gospel simplicity’ which meant to Peter ‘that you begged when you were in need and by this gave the opportunity to the rich to become poor for Christ’s sake.’4

Karl Marx is an enigma. For most of my life, I have only known him by name. Almost every time that I have heard the name of Karl Marx mentioned it has been with negative connotation and a shudder of disgust, even bitter hatred. He is a person that has influenced people and politics in abundance. With regards to Liberation Theology, Marxism has been implied as inspiration. Karl Marx, Communism, Socialism and any structure or individual finding identity in relation to these entities are frowned upon and determine the immanence of division. I have felt the fear. Where there is fear, I tend to become curious.

There are many people who are scared to walk around downtown at night. Perhaps, this is natural and normal; this is fear. There are times that I have been running in the hills, on trails in the middle of the night and, seeing eyes shining out from darkness has created a deep concern in me; this is fear. I know the streets as a living room for many of my friends; I never know what to expect. Fear of the unknown, that which is lurking in the dark out beyond the margins the light of my headlamp could reach, created a preparedness for me to one day meet a cougar and respond well.

Fear seems to be drawing me deeper into learning of that which resides out there, in the unknown. One of those unknowns, seemingly a distant friend to a hero of the faith, Dorothy Day, is Karl Marx. I have ceased putting walls up and am becoming curious for the truth of one who has seemingly been blacklisted by the history that I was born into. So, what was the story of the history that I was born into that might find the thought of Karl Marx a threat? Another question that left me slightly befuddled the other day, who controls the history that I am offered as true history? Fear, I am curious. However, I find the pursuit for true history already so tiring.

Despite a growing interest in the subject of Karl Marx, I understand that I will not fully know the truth of his heart and hope for people and justice, truth and equality. I know that he said some things that don’t resonate with people who are wealthy (‘the possessor of labour-power’5) and religious. Karl Marx, as far as I have learned (which is not so far yet), had an issue with any systems and structures that he perceived were repressive and created a dynamic of exploitation and enslavement over people. Exposed, in his ‘Communist Manifesto’ was the struggle of the proletariat (of the working class) under the bourgeois class, ‘they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.’6 His encouragement, for the oppressed worker, was revolution.7

For those who have been oppressed under the tyranny of such an egoism as the bourgeoisie can express, strength to stand and revolt has been found in the writing of Marx. Therefore, I can understand the fear of Marx for the potential in his writing. I understand that there is more for me to learn with regards to the exploitation and negligent use of his work. Still, Day and Maurin, found belonging and voice in the battle cry of Marx for the dignity and just treatment of the worker. They would not have identified themselves as Marxist, perhaps, however tenants of Marxism most certainly inspired their Catholic Socialism and personalist ideals.

They lived with them, having assumed poverty voluntarily, ‘the unemployed, the sick, the unemployables.’8Their stories were lived, in the lives of Dorothy and Peter, every day. These were lives that they believed in, they were crushed for their crushing, and they stood for their liberation. Marx would have been proud of them, even, perhaps of their faith (which may be difficult for some to believe), as the true character and nature of Jesus inspired them in the pursuit of rest for the exploited worker. Their farms and houses continue to contain stories of healing and belonging for those beat out by stronger competition for position and broken by the demands of the ones who hold the wealth.

Jesus lived with them. Jesus understood poverty, he was born into it as he was born into a system that was oppressive. Dorothy spotlights Peter Maurin’s teaching on ‘Christ’s technique, of working from the bottom and with the few, of self-discipline and self-organization, of sacrifice rather than enlightened self-interest and of course, of the synthesis of cult, culture and cultivation.’9 She was ambitious for Jesus, committed to Him and the hope for an experience of a good life for everyone. This was her love and faithfulness. Her fear, that drew her into an ever-deepening curiosity, being alone and by her solidarity, ‘the long loneliness to be faced.’10



  1. Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist (New York, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1952), 42.
  2. Day, The Long Loneliness, 42.
  3. Day, The Long Loneliness, 227.
  4. Day, The Long Loneliness, 231.
  5. Karl Marx, “Capital: Volume One,” in Selected writings, ed. Lawrence H. Simon (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Pucblishing Company, Inc., 1994), 273.
  6. Karl Marx and Frederich Engles, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1888), 43.
  7. Marx and Engles, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 46.
  8. Day, The Long Loneliness, 215.
  9. Day, The Long Loneliness, 221.
  10. Day, The Long Loneliness, 273.

About the Author

Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

7 responses to “Fear, Alone”

  1. Shawn Cramer says:

    This line might be one of the most potent lines you’ve written in the last year-and-a-half. Finding your voice!

    “For those who have been oppressed under the tyranny of such an egoism as the bourgeoisie can express, strength to stand and revolt has been found in the writing of Marx.”

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    I’m so glad we have another week of Dorothy Day! It is striking to me how communism, socialism, and fascism all root for the common people, the working class, the marginalized, much like Christianity does. But what is also striking is that the hopes of these ideologies don’t quite play out the way their proponents envision. As you noted, many push back on these ideologies out of fear, ignorance, or a knowing that somehow that way of organizing societies doesn’t work. Thus we have democracy and republics, where classism and hierarchy dominate the landscape. The leaders of communism, socialism, and fascism were often corrupt, ruthless, and self-serving, thus their ideologies became something to be feared rather than embraced. But even with a leader such as Jesus, Christian ideologies fail to be embraced even in “Christian nations.” Is revolution the best option when subversive service (Christian socialism) has failed to take hold on a larger scale? Or are we destined as Christ followers to continue to do the small and grueling work of daily faithfulness to those on the margins, hoping that somehow systemic change will come for the betterment of all?

    • Chris Pollock says:

      Remember the call of Jesus’ leadership!

      To be last…
      To go the second mile…
      To wash feet…

      These are attitudes of next level leadership. Lacking in what the world deems ‘next level’ leadership, the extreme expression being that of the dictator (tyrant, authoritarian).

      Appreciate your insights and curiosity, Darcy. Makes me feel ‘at home’. Usually, I feel left to wandering, searching for ‘place’.

      Yearning to be in conversation and community where there’s less struggle, competition, striving. (Psalm 46:10).

      This is also week’s post 🙂 hoping to catch up on number 40, to be with the group that way, by tomorrow. Just lots going on. Thanks for reaching out 🙂

  3. Greg Reich says:

    The glorious thing about the Christian faith is it is not reliant on a specific style of government. It appears that Dorthy Day found the presence of God with in her political views. I would be interested to see how a biography of her would stack up to her autobiography. I also wonder if those who lived under Marxism would find the same comfort as she did in the writings of Marx.

  4. Jer Swigart says:

    Hey Chris. Really appreciate peering into your own struggle with fear and the questions it raises for you. As I read, I was struck, like it seems you were, at the reality that Marx has been blacklisted. For what reason, I’m not sure. I haven’t look into it. While that day will like come for me to explore him, I’m more pressed, at the moment, to interrogate the reasons behind why I blacklist others. Thanks for the push.

    • Chris Pollock says:

      Yes, I struggle with fear.

      I struggle-with-struggle and the fear of others, as they’re projected (onto me and others).

      It causes me angst to know that ‘perfect love casts out fear’ and that ‘there is no fear in love’. It causes me angst because I still struggle with fear.

      However, I know there is One who has overcome and, He is so with me and in me 🙂

      I see fear in Christians, for the unknown; toward that which is different. I think Marx may have felt this fear in those who are religious. This fear that keeps ones enslaved to systems and structures.

      Perhaps, it was such fear that turned the religious against Jesus?

  5. John McLarty says:

    Your post really went deep into some of the difficult tensions of being a Christian in a western democracy. We hear “socialist” and think about Venezuela, not Jesus. Yes, there are many differences between political constructs and discipleship, but when the vocabulary presents such a barrier, people are more prone to invent their own interpretations- the ones that spawn Christian nationalism and free market capitalist churches- that bear little to no resemblance to the way of Jesus.

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