By Bill Wylie-Kellermann. A review of Jim Forest’s At Play in the Lion’s Den: A Biography and Spiritual Memoir of Daniel Berrigan (Orbis books 2017). A shorter version of this was published in the November 2018 issue of Sojourners Magazine.
When Fa. Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip, along with AJ Muste, John Howard Yoder, and a handful of budding Catholic radicals gathered in 1964 with Thomas Merton at Gethsemani Abbey for a retreat concerning the Spiritual Roots of Protest, the intercessions of that meeting, I am convinced, not only seeded a movement, but fell upon me, summoning my vocation.
Four years later when the Berrigan brothers with seven others entered the draft board in Catonsville, MD, removed the 1A files (of those eligible for sending to the Vietnam War) and burned them with homemade napalm, those ashes too would eventually anoint my life and pastoral calling. Daniel turned that action toward liturgy, toward poetry. He edited the transcript of their conviction in Federal Court into a play of international repute, refused induction into the prison system, and went notoriously underground for four months writing and speaking from the “most wanted list,” before being captured by the FBI at the Block Island home of his friend William Stringfellow. When he was released after two years in the Federal system, Berrigan came to New York City and taught a course on the Apocalypse of St. John when I was a student at Union Seminary. Full disclosure: Dan Berrigan became to me not merely teacher, but mentor and friend. Continue reading
An excerpt from the first chapter of Howard Zinn’s classic A People’s History of the United States of America (1980):
Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between Europe and Asia–the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water. They saw flocks of birds. Continue reading
By Will O’Brien, executive director of Project H.O.M.E. in Philly and the curator of the Alternative Seminary
*This Saturday, September 29, the Alternative Seminary and a group of Mennonite pastors are hosting a gathering in Philadelphia to deepen understanding and discern a call to respond to the Doctrine of Discovery
Of the many crimes perpetrated through history in the name of an imperialized Christ, one of the most pernicious is also one of least known.
The “Doctrine of Discovery” is a philosophical and legal framework dating to the 15th century that gave “Christian” governments in Europe the moral and legal rights to invade and seize indigenous lands and dominate indigenous peoples. For more than five centuries, this doctrine and the laws based upon it have legalized the theft of land, labor, and resources from across the world – crimes that continue to this day. Continue reading
Thanks to Detroit-based law student Cait De Mott Grady for passing along this profound interview Derrick Jensen did with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark way back in 2000. His reflections are more relevant than ever. This is an excerpt, but the entire interview deserves a read.
Jensen: So how do we maintain our national self-image as God’s gift to the world, the great bastion of democracy?
Clark: But we’re not a democracy. It’s a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we’re a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy. Wealth has its way. The concentration of wealth and the division between rich and poor in the U.S. are unequaled anywhere. And think of whom we admire most: the Rockefellers and Morgans, the Bill Gateses and Donald Trumps. Would any moral person accumulate a billion dollars when there are 10 million infants dying of starvation every year? Is that the best thing you can find to do with your time? Continue reading
A compelling charge from the late-and-still-very-present Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon (January 3, 1950 to August 8, 2018):
…it’s an abomination for those of us that hear, to be as smart as we are, trained as we are and to not know how to make it clear and gettable for anybody who wants know what we know. Theology is holy work, it’s a sacred vocation. It is our job to make it available to the masses of the congregation. To anybody who wants to be able to read what I know, I should be able to write so they can get it.
Detroit legend Queen Mother Helen Moore orders a table for one from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (PC: Jennifer Teed)
By Tommy Airey
This is the sequel to The Ways, posted on the day after the Spring Equinox 2018.
I won’t apologize. But I must confess. I am a “biblical Christian.” Yet, in this post-colonial conversation, I know I can’t just testify. I must specify. The spiritual movement of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus is fundamentally a descent. The bible, like a broken record ever-resisting imperial feedback, plays a prejudiced tune that sides with the poor and oppressed and demonized and scapegoated. To be clear, the way of Jesus does not have the patent on the prophetic path less plodded. It is simply the route I’ve chosen. Or perhaps it has chosen me. Continue reading
May the eulogies for James Cone continue to rise among us. This is an excerpt from Cornel West’s tribute at Dr. Cone’s funeral on May 7, 2018. The entire transcript can be accessed here.
James Cone was not just an academic theologian. He lived life-or-death. His theology was grounded in the cry of black blood, the wailing of black suffering, the moans and groans of black hurt and black pain, and it was trying to convince us not just to have courage, but fortitude. A Nazi soldier can be courageous and still be a thug; fortitude is courage connected to magnanimity and greatness of character. That is what we are looking for. James Cone served, he sacrificed for the least of these, he tried to hold up the bloodstained banner with a level of spiritual nobility and moral royalty already enacted by Lucy, already enacted by Charlie, already enacted by the best of his church by the time he began to interact with vanilla brothers and sisters. He was misunderstood, he was misconstrued. But just because he was mad and enraged, because he was focusing on the sin, that didn’t make him a hater. He had charitable Christian hatred: he hated the sin, but still tried to love the sinner. And the problem is so easy. Others look at black folk and ask, How come they’re so mad? How come they’re so angry? Well, if your children were treated that way, if your children were going to jail, your children were receiving a decrepit education, you’d be upset. But you don’t expect us to be upset?