Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 471–488 | Cite as

Political Dimensions of Pastoral Care in Community Disaster Responses

  • Larry Kent Graham


All caregiving takes place in multiple political contexts and assumes or actually furthers various political agendas, whether acknowledged or not. When strategically incorporated into pastoral and spiritual care, politically responsive actions may enhance the practice of care. When disaster strikes a community, ritual engagement of the larger public context provides a significant opportunity for pastoral caregivers to function as public pastoral theologians and to influence the corporate response to communal challenges. In these circumstances of community vulnerability, pastoral caregivers and communities of faith are positioned to provide spiritual care that combines solace and safety for the victims with guidance and shaping influence on the ritual practices and rhetorical interpretations called upon to assist the community to endure, respond, and heal. This article examines some central political aspects of the pastoral caregiver’s repertoire that might further a stricken community’s ritual and rhetorical resources necessary to sustain life, share loss, reclaim goodness, and rebuild for a strong future. Drawing upon a view of lamentation as a tri-partite process of sharing anguish, interrogating causes, and reinvesting in hope, I suggest how the spiritual and pastoral caregiver may collaboratively participate in a “disaster-response matrix” that organizes corporate responses to catastrophic disaster. This article pays particular attention to macro-, meso-, and micro-level political negotiations necessary to ensure respect for diversity and shared responsibility in creating rituals, memorials, and public narratives at the onset of disaster and in its aftermath over the generations. Illustrations from the experience of religious caregivers at Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Aurora, Newtown, and Boston are presented to guide pastoral engagement of civil society in disruptive times.


Disaster Political Lamentation Memorial Disaster-response matrix 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Iliff School of TheologyDenverUSA

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