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

Revolution, heart.

Written by: on January 28, 2021


So, with that word, once read and, just let it sit in your mind for a second or two, look at it there, what comes to mind?

Now, say it out loud. Close your eyes and think about who comes to mind?

How do you feel about the word, the idea? I’m not comfortable with it. I have been there. I have had tours and met with people in jail. I don’t like it.

Any one of us could have found ourselves in a story of incarceration for making a big mistake, a mistake to flip life into utter destitution. Visiting someone in prison is a humbling experience.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to serve with prisoners who’ve received grace to volunteer in our community. They are not on their own, a guard is with them and evaluating (questioning and judging) their movements and engagements as they care for people-in-need along with us. These men, prisoners from the local minimum-security correctional institution, are not unaffected; they are not without feeling and, I can see that they are watching too.

They are watching to see if anyone notices them, they are hyper-sensitive as they find strength to exist in their guilt and shame. They are branded for life. It is a light place, the location of original compassion, a place where it’s dynamic offering and reception can restore life, redeem the sinner.

Dorothy Day ‘did some time’. Following a brief stay in a Chicago Jail, she recalls that she ‘could get away, but what of the others? I could get away, paying no penalty, because of my friends, my background, my education, my privilege. I suffered but was not part of it.’1 She believed that she benefitted from a grace that others didn’t, she felt this inequality as a result of her privilege and was deeply trouble by it, mentioning, ‘It was too much for me.’2

“You can jail a revolutionary, but you can’t jail the revolution.”
Huey Newton

It could be said that she was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’, to end up behind bars. She had been arrested before, in Washington, under different circumstance (less disgraceful, at least), of non-violent ‘protest’ and solidarity. Dorothy, in her memoir, describes her arrest and time awaiting trial as ‘an ugly experience as I’ve ever had to pass through, and a useful one.’3 She had to face herself as one accused, busted-broken, hateful, like a criminal because of the belief and by her own consciousness, she deserved it.4

Dorothy Day was sorrowfully impressed by the problem of structural inequality (classism) and she yearned to see change take shape that would correct systemic injustices or ‘worker’ enslavement and the perpetual experience of oppression (and, lack of societal belonging) felt by the poor. She surrounded herself with intelligent, mindful people who cared to pursue change on their feet, hearts enflamed and voices-not-silent. She referred to their movement as a ‘slow upheaval’ and that ‘among them was a stirring and a groping and they were beginning to feel within themselves a power and a possibility.’5

‘The thing I felt strongly was that there were changes taking place in the world. This was not just a social gathering, people of one nationality and background coming together for recreation. They were coming to listen to long and tiresome speeches. They were part of a movement, a ‘slow upheaval’ and ‘they were beginning to feel within themselves a power and a possibility.’5

The arrest took place at the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) house, alternately named the Wobbly Headquarters. She was there at the wrong time, in a disorderly place known for its loose moral standard (a place ‘normally’ not for women), quietly caring for a girl friend who was recovering from an overdose of prescription medication following a fit of depression. She blames herself ‘a victim of her own imprudence, of my own carelessness of convention’ knowing that their ‘presence there meant only one thing to the men who arrested us.’6

It is not a dignifying act, an undesired exposure, to be arrested, searched and stripped. The officers who were apprehending the women were concerned that they might have drugs.7 The absence of freedom was irrefutable, and Dorothy recalls her interest to be absolutely present to the ‘new indignities awaiting us.’ She writes that she ‘did not want to be spared one of them,’ that her being arrested was ‘a valid experience’ and, that she was sharing in, as she never had before, ‘the life of the poorest of the poor, the guilty, the dispossessed.’8 There was application, inspiration and credibility to come in this experience and, though she knew she wouldn’t be given the opportunity, of being aggressively dominated by the power of the state to its fullest extent, she desired to be absolutely present at least for the taste of it.


“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely                                             free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus


Dorothy witnessed suffering while she was briefly incarcerated. In the cell beside her, an individual who was in a deeper prison, an ‘unspeakable suffering…a drug addict who beat her head against the bars or against the metal walls of her cell and howled like a wild animal.’9 As if for the first time encountering the torturous misery of addiction, the dearth of relief, Dorothy collected her thoughts, ‘the madness, the perverseness of this seeking for pleasure that was bound to be accompanied by such mortal agony was hard to understand.’10 She felt ‘the disorder of the world’ in this moment, ‘the sadness of sin, the unspeakable dreariness of sin’ as she considered the setting of addiction, ‘from the first petty little self-indulgence to this colossal desire which howled through metal walls!’11

Day refers to a quote of Lenin as she imagines the focus and care of those of her companions-in-the-cause, who yearned for justice and were intent toward change, “There can be no revolution without a theory of revolution.”12 Her experiences, those she listened to and learned action from, in those she witnessed the horrors of systemic manipulation, oppressive exploitation and societal violence (the permissible and the impermissible), a revolution was ever-more-clearly coming to life within her. The amplitude of Rousseau’s encaptivating observation, within her screaming for freedom that ‘man is born free, but everywhere is in chains.’13



  1. Dorothy Day, A Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1952), 105.
  2. Day, The Long Loneliness, 105.
  3. Day, The Long Loneliness, 100.
  4. Day, The Long Loneliness, 100
  5. Day, The Long Loneliness, 97.
  6. Day, The Long Loneliness, 100.
  7. Day, The Long Loneliness, 101.
  8. Day, The Long Loneliness, 104.
  9. Day, The Long Loneliness, 104.
  10. Day, The Long Loneliness, 104.
  11. Day, The Long Loneliness, 104.
  12. Day, The Long Loneliness, 97
  13. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract (London, England: Penguin Group, 1968), 49.


About the Author

Chris Pollock

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

9 responses to “Revolution, heart.”

  1. Shawn Cramer says:

    I’m thinking of the irreplaceable texts written from prison – Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, Letters from a Birmingham Jail. There must be something stripped away that gives rise to raw, honest, holding-no-punches kind of thinking and writing.

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    It is so interesting to read how time in prison shaped Day in a way that moved her to more fully embrace those deemed less human. Mussolini also spent time in prison. His response was contrary to Day’s. He came out more hardened and determined to topple the forces that be, not so much to help the oppressed, but more to make a name for himself. I wonder what it is that lies within the depths of a human soul that once stripped of their humanity through suffering/imprisonment makes them either more human or increasingly less human? What dies in those spaces so something new can come to life? And what determines if that new thing is life-giving or life-taking? Fascinating.

  3. John McLarty says:

    One of my closest friends in ministry was sentenced 10 or so years ago to 14 years in Federal prison. I’ve kept in touch with him and visited several times. It has been truly fascinating to have witnessed his journey as he’s had several “dark nights of the soul” moments, as well as a handful of spiritual awakenings. But there’s also the harsh reality that he and his fellow inmates are seen by their guards and society as a bit less than human and not to be trusted. In some cases, incarcerated persons become worse while serving their time. What was it about Dorothy Day that enabled her to find greater strength and purpose during her time in jail?

    • Chris Pollock says:

      Dark nights, without hope, could be annihilating. Thankful for the foundations your friend has. And, that he has a friend in you. Hope.

      With Jesus, the Spirit of God in us, we can find application for the most horrible things and the most beautiful things. Taking heart in the One who endured and overcame.

      Dorothy was faced with subject matter and real situations that were deeply perplexing. With Jesus, she found life-giving application. Still, the struggle to remain true to the Truth as it was revealed to her. Solidarity can be a painful place. Jesus knows; thankfully, we will never be alone with the pain.

      Even, with aloneness in it, there’s Presence and Divine Reason (re: the movement of the Dark Night). What do you think about Dark Night endurance?

      • John McLarty says:

        You’re absolutely right- those whose hope is in Christ know that even the darkest nights are not spent in total solitude. Still, that’s a high level of faithfulness. The darkness is a place that is primed for the forces of evil to infiltrate. But when we persevere and emerge back into the light, there is an even greater joy- an absolute assurance that the promise is true- “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.”

  4. Greg Reich says:


    With the idea of jail comes shame and dishonor. To strip an individual of honor and dignity can be a devastating thing. Though I have never been in jail I have had a few cousins and friends who have. All of which would openly admit the sentence was deserved. I also have friends who have never spent a day in prison but are in prison due to addictions, bitterness or depression. I think each one of us faces our own prisons as we walk through life, even those who know Jesus. John 3:16 is a comfort to many but we fail to read further and see that sometimes people choose the darkness over the light despite the brightness of the light. I have found in my own experiences with the darkness of the soul that freedom is a daily choice. Galatians 5:1 states “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Some days its the standing firm park that is toughest.

  5. Dylan Branson says:

    Chris, thinking about prison I’m reminded of Bonhoeffer and his time there after his arrest. His time in prison was very different from what we would imagine due to his uncle being a major figure. He was given many privileges, but it was also a time of transformation for him as he continued to write and care fo the sick. He essentially acted as a pastor while being a prisoner. But what’s so fascinating to me is the presence he had while he was in prison and how he continued to impact people’s lives – from prison to prison guard. He used his his position to speak out against the injustices in the prison from within prison. Life doesn’t stop with incarceration; it continues to move even if we don’t see it. When I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would react and respond if I were in Bonhoeffer’s place.

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