Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power Politics

Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power Politics

Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power Politics

Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power Politics


Cold Anger is an important book about the empowerment of working-class communities through church-based social activism. Such activism is certainly not new, but the conscious merger of community organizing tactics with religious beliefs may be. The organizing approach comes from Saul Alinsky and his Industrial Areas Foundations (IAF).... The book is structured around the polifical life of Ernesto Cortes Jr., the lead IAF organizer who has earned recognition as one of the most powerful individuals in Texas (and who has been featured on Bill Moyers' "World of Ideas").... Cortes fashioned a hard-ball Alinsky approach onto the natural organizing ground of church-based comunities. The experiment began in San Antonio... and was successful in the transformation of San Antonio politics.

Such dramatic success... led to similar efforts in Houston, Fort Worth, El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and New York, to mention only a few sites. Expansion beyond San Antonio meant organizing among Protestant churches, among African American and white, and among middle-class communities. In short, these organizing efforts have transcended the particularistic limits of religion, ethnicity, and class while maintaining a church base and sense of spiritual mission....

Rogers's clearly written book will be of great value to the scholar, student, and layperson interested in urban politics, ethnic relations, social movements, or church activism.


As Mary Beth Rogers reminds us, when the magazine Texas Business published a list of the most powerful Texans a couple of years ago, it included H. Ross Perot and T. Boone Pickens, U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, and the then–Mayor of San Antonio, Henry Cisneros. It also listed Ernesto Cortes.

Ernesto Cortes?

Wait a minute. the man has no money and holds no public office. As Texans usually measure power, Ernie Cortes would be found wanting. He lives simply, talks softly, prays quietly, and is about as charismatic as a load of watermelons. Moreover, he spends altogether too much time in the company of poor people. As there are 32 million such folk in America, Ernie Cortes has little time for the television talk shows that swoon over celebrities, those bright, shining exemplars of contemporary American success. Richard Nixon gets more television exposure during his annual resurrections than 32 million poor people get in a decade. Ernie Cortes has not pitched his tent in the media spotlight.

So what is he doing on the list of most powerful Texans, this vagabond among the powerless? He is there because he empowers others. Ernie’s secret weapon is his conviction that power is not something one gathers for personal aggrandizement; it is what you teach others to get for themselves.

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