Countering Myths

From The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After The Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Racism, Poverty, The War Economy/Militarism and Our National Morality (April 2018).

The Souls of Poor Folk is an assessment of the conditions today and trends of the past 50 years in the United States. In 1967 and 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., alongside a multiracial coalition of grassroots leaders, religious leaders, and other public figures, began organizing with poor and marginalized communities across racial and geographic divides. Together, they aimed to confront the underlying structures that perpetuated misery in their midst. The move towards a Poor People’s Campaign was a challenge to the national morality: it was a movement to expose the injustice of the economic, political, and social systems in the U.S. during their time.


50 years later, The Souls of Poor Folk challenges us to take a look at how these conditions have changed since 1968. The stark findings draw from a wide variety of sources, including primary and secondary data as well as interviews with and testimonies by people who have been living through and responding to these changes on the ground. Their words offer deep insight for understanding these conditions and why these leaders feel compelled to call for a Poor People’s Campaign today.

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Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection  

NEW from Bill Wylie-Kellermann and Cascade Books Celebrant’s Flame Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection  

After two years in federal prison for his part in an anti-war protest, Jesuit priest Dan Berrigan agreed to teach a seminary class in the fall of 1972.   That’s where Bill Wylie-Kellermann, then a young ministry student at Union Theological Seminary, met Berrigan and where the story of Celebrant’s Flame, Kellermann’s new title from Cascade Books, begins.   Pre-Order Special Offer: For a limited time — now through May 1 — Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection is available for a 40% discount when you purchase with a coupon code. Learn more and request the coupon here.  

Through a series of essays and personal letters, Wylie-Kellermann explores the many identities of his teacher and friend, Dan Berrigan — from fugitive priest to prisoner-poet to confessor to evangelist of nonviolence to chaplain with the dying.   Celebrant’s Flame is a fond reflection on Wylie-Kellermann’s lifelong friendship with Berrigan and a fascinating, accessible retelling of Berrigan’s life and impact on the church and the world.   Well-researched (including a four-page bibliography), the book covers Berrigan’s journey from young seminarian during World War II, his participation in the civil rights movement, his opposition (and eventual arrest and imprisonment) to the war in Vietnam, his anti-nuclear activism, his life as a poet and scholar, and, at the end of his life, his ministry as a chaplain to New York City’s dying AIDs patients.  

In Celebrant’s Flame, Wylie-Kellermann shares reflections and personal letters from his own collection and from other friends of Berrigan. Included in this 174-page tribute are:  
– Reflections from author and scholar Eric Martin on the decades-long correspondence that Dan kept with his brother, Philip, and Dan’s insatiable hunger for learning
– A personal letter from Dan’s fellow inmate, John Bach, about the Great Books class Dan and Phil led at Danbury prison and the resulting hunger strike and underground newspaper
– Peace activist Kathy Kelly’s memories of hearing from other activists – as far away as in the deserts of Iraq – about how profoundly they had been influenced by Berrigan’s message and example
– Jim Reale’s recounting of how Berrigan’s deep commitment to friendship transformed Reale’s own life and vocation from day laborer to Plowshares activist to hospice nurse.

Plus Wylie-Kellermann’s reflections on his time as Dan’s student, in contemplation and conversation about death and dying, as co-conspirator in activism and ministry, and their connected lives of faith and justice-seeking   Celebrant’s Flame is an inviting read for anyone familiar with Berrigan’s ministry or for those just learning about this remarkable priest, poet, and prophet for the first time.

Written with Berrigan’s upcoming 100th birthday (May 9) in mind, these reflections help keep the flame of this beloved celebrant burning for a new movement generation arising among us. (This book is just one of several centennial celebrations: DePaul University’s inauguration of the Berrigan-McAlister Award for Christian nonviolence, and film director Susan Hagedorn’s premier of Berrigans: Devout and Dangerous.)  

What people are saying about Celebrant’s Flame:  

“Here we have one of the best Christian writers of our time reflecting on one of the best Christians of our time, or any time. Bill has a rare, gentle thoughtfulness and insight that helps us unpack the profound word and witness of Daniel Berrigan. I hope this book inspires many to study Dan’s life and writings anew and to deepen our own witness to peace and nonviolence, that we might become, like Daniel Berrigan, disciples, apostles, and prophets of the nonviolent Jesus to our broken world.”
— John Dear, editor of Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings

“In these relentlessly compelling pages, Dan Berrigan keeps coming at us. We get Dan’s wisdom, courage, passion, honesty, good humor, faith, joy, and eloquent gracefulness. And besides all of that, we get the imagery and testimony of his wide circle of friends who shared his passionate vocation of justice. We get all of this because of the generous gifts of Bill Wylie-Kellermann, gifts of poetic cadence, good memory, strong imagination, a close friendship with Dan, and a passion for justice not unlike that of Berrigan himself. This deeply moving book consists of poems, memories, sermons, speeches, and testimonies that will keep Dan’s singular legacy alive for time to come. The book is a welcome gift to us. It is indeed compelling in ways that will both unnerve and give nerve to an attentive reader.”
— Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

“Beneath all the lives of the saints there lives the mycelium of friendship. In Celebrant’s Flame, Wylie-Kellermann orates Daniel Berrigan’s sacred story. Yes, as Catholic priest, social prophet, and liturgical poet, but first and foremost as friend. Wylie-Kellermann’s intimate and wry turn of phrase allows their holy friendship to again do its alchemical work: transforming readers of the Word into its creative witnesses.”
— Rose Marie Berger, senior editor at Sojourners and author of Bending the Arch: Poems

Learn more and get 40% off your copy!

Conjuring Freedom

From Johari Jabir’s Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army” (2017).

Conjure is the black cultural practice of summoning spiritual power as an intentional means of transforming reality and involves a belief in an invisible magical power that can be used for healing and/or harm…

…For soldiers in black regiments during the Civil War, freedom was not simply found, it had to be forged. They found themselves forced to conjure freedom out of the materials made available to them as soldiers who had been slaves but were not yet citizens. In much the same way that the coping religion of the slaveocracy became transformed into the enabling religion of the slaves, the forms of soldiering and citizenship made available to former slaves that were designed to assimilate them into a masculinist hierarchical, exploitative, and racist society became something else in practice. These tools of domination became conjured into new forms of masculinity, solidarity, and social membership that promoted democratic and egalitarian change in society at large. Just as conjurers healed the slave body with a mixture of efficacious materials, newly free Africans in America attempted to heal the body politic and cure society’s ills through a tradition of organized protest with musical accompaniment that expressed alternate social visions of democracy.

An Eternal Quality

By Matthew Wheelock

At the beginning of March of 2020, just before the nation and the world began shutting down due to the pandemic, I was able to realize a long held desire to visit the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY. My wife and I had planned to visit the Abbey one afternoon and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University the next day. While our visits to each were brief, they made a lasting impression and especially informed the direction I saw myself going with creative projects. 

My spiritual and creative journeys seem to have been closely intertwined throughout my life. I had gone from chanting with the devotees of the Hare Krishna movement as a teenager to sitting silently with the Quakers, as well as entering into the deep quiet of the Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox church. I grew attached to certain images and themes in all of these paths: the two headed clay drum called a mridanga, used in the Krishna Bhatki tradition; the rhythms of the liturgical calendar, prayer ropes and the veneration of icons in the Orthodox church; from Quaker spirituality and later Centering Prayer, a love of silence in many forms. I began experimenting with drawing and touching on some of these themes, especially ideas of rhythm and repetition, back in 2015. Using a kind of spontaneous process, I connected lines on the page. Patterns emerged, but also nods to experience. More recently, I’ve committed to a series of ‘prayer rope’ drawings. While these pieces do have a visual beginning and end, I’ve also understood them to have an eternal quality. Seeing that kind of changed everything about how and what I do as an artist.

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The Bone Lodged in Our Throats

By Darryl Brown

By Ruby Sales, First printed in Geez 59: Powers and Principalities

As a people and as a nation, we are experiencing a deep troubling in the land wrought by the enduring and dehumanizing practice and spiritual malformation of racism. It is a troubling that requires each of us to name and face the lies that we tell about ourselves and others. A country that dines on lies will ultimately choke to death on them.d

To this point, Vincent Harding, a scout and interpreter of our struggle, offered this explanation that explains the heart of the matter. He said, “Race is like a bone stuck in our throat, refusing both digestion and expulsion, endangering our life. […] It is the unmistakable need and desire of our nation to deal with its terrifying and compelling history, to exorcise the demons of our racial past and present, perhaps even to discover the healing possibilities that reside in our many-hued and wounded variations on the human theme.”

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In Spite Of

By Ric Hudgens, a sermon for North Suburban Mennonite Church in Libertyville, Illinois

During this quarantine, I’ve been listening to music from an earlier period of my life. I’ve been going through my music collection and replaying songs from a time that was not bound by seclusion, confinement, vulnerability. My daughter observed that it’s been good medicine for me.

Last night I was listening to an old album by the Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn with the line “got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” This is an image of Easter “in spite of.”

When a martial artist wants to break a board, they envision punching through the board. The target is not the board itself but a spot just past the board. If you target the board you will pull your punch. To break the board, you have to punch through the board.

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NO MORE STATE-SPONSORED CRUCIFIXIONS IN THE NAME OF “SAFETY”

StephonA Holy Week Declaration From First Congregational Church of Oakland.
Issued on Good Friday, March 30, 2018. More relevant than ever. 

As followers of Jesus, we recognize:

That Lent is a season of spiritual searching and wilderness wandering when we recommit ourselves to following the way of Jesus Christ.  

That we face temptations that threaten to make us complicit with violence against our neighbors and ourselves, including the temptation to try to secure our own safety, survival, and comfort at the expense of other human beings and the planet. Continue reading “NO MORE STATE-SPONSORED CRUCIFIXIONS IN THE NAME OF “SAFETY””

Land Day

A Holy Week check-in from Ched Myers, movement elder, author and activist.

Holy Tuesday was Land Day in Israel/Palestine, always the occasion for protests and police violence (see here). Almost a decade ago, in 2012, I had the privilege of being on the streets with Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center staff Omar Haramy (pictured) during Land Day demonstrations in east Jerusalem. It was a poignant catechism in what our friends are up against (see my blog from that memorable day at https://chedmyers.org/…/blog-2012-03-31-friday-reality…/). Please keep Sabeel folks and all Palestinians organizing for justice especially in your prayers this week.

The Sandbox Revolution

Today, we celebrate the release of The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World, a beautiful anthology of collective wisdom for those whose lives are wrapped up with children and who are hungering for a more just world. This collection is edited by our very own Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, co-founder of RadicalDiscipleship.net.

You can purchase the book through Broadleaf Books, IndieboundBarnes and Nobles, or Amazon. You can also find additional resources on the website including a Study Guide and a list of recommended children books. Please reach out to me if there is a way I can connect with your communities or help spread the word on the book. We are available for podcasts, writing, sermons, talks, etc.

It is a complex time to be a parent. Our climate is in crisis, and economic inequality is deepening. Racialized violence is spreading, and school shootings are escalating. How do we, as parents, cultivate in our children a love of the earth, a cry for justice, and a commitment to nonviolence? Where do we place our bodies so we teach our kids that resistance is crucial and change is possible? What practices do we hold as a family to encourage them to work with their hands, honor their hearts, and nurture their spirits?

The Sandbox Revolution calls upon our collective wisdom to wrestle with the questions, navigate the challenges, offer concrete practices, and remind parents of the sacredness of the work. Written by parents who are also writers, pastors, teachers, organizers, artists, gardeners, and activists, this anthology offers a diversity of voices and experiences on topics that include education, money, anti-racism, resistance, spirituality, disability justice, and earth care.

Contributors include Frida Berrigan, Leona Brown, Jennifer Castro, Laurel Dykstra, Janice Fialka, Kate Foran, Jennifer Harvey, Sarah and Nathan Holst, Michelle Martinez, Nick Peterson, Dee Dee Risher, en sawyer and Marcia Lee, Susan Taylor, Randy Woodley, and Bill Wylie-Kellermann.