The Problems of Domination Intrinsic to Capitalism

Today we celebrate the retirement of Dr. Bruce Rogers-Vaughn from Vanderbilt Divinity School with an excerpt from his book Caring For Souls in a Neoliberal Age (2016), a vital resource for pastors, parents, social workers, therapists and community organizers.

A corollary of the claim that neoliberalism is now globally hegemonic is that pastoral care, as well as other forms of the care of souls, must undergo revision in order to have some hope adequate for both healing and protest. In this book, I will argue that the theories corresponding to this care, including pastoral theology, are generally constrained within postmodern cognitive models, as well as dwelling largely within the fabric of neoliberal versions of identity politics. Any substantial innovation in the fields of pastoral theology and the care of souls today, therefore, will require us to reaffirm our commitment to a common ground that unifies us as diverse people, and to the public good. It will also demand that we extend our analyses and critiques of oppression due to difference (identity) to include the problems of domination intrinsic to capitalism. Indeed, it will mean that subjugations rooted in difference will now be understood, and appreciated more profoundly, in light of capitalism’s current global hegemony. The time has arrived, then, to work toward a post-capitalist pastoral theology, by which I mean a pastoral theology that does not assume the normativity of capitalism.

Stop to Smell the Lilacs: A Mother’s Day Reflection

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

I keep clearing space to write this piece and then finding a dozen other things to do instead. Perhaps a sign that I need to write this and perhaps a  that it is harder to do than I expected.

Over the last few years, I’ve spent hours and hours gathering a book on parenting. Although I don’t write much about my mom within, she breathes there from beginning to end. I have so much love and appreciation for how she nurtured who I am in both her living and her dying.

I know that Mother’s Day is complicated. There is joy and love and celebration, but there is also grief and pain and longing.

It has been 16 Mother’s Days without my mom now.

Continue reading “Stop to Smell the Lilacs: A Mother’s Day Reflection”

Learning from the Laughter and the Trees: Tell me about Lent

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

I consider myself a lover of liturgical seasons. I might even go as far as to call myself a geek. I love the rhythm of it in my body. The way it coincides with the changing earthly seasons. The cries for justice and stillness and singing and baking. I love it all!

Yet, I have never understood Lent. I can get it with my head, but I don’t feel it in my body. I haven’t found traditions or practices that summon me deeper.

So, I began the season this year with the question “what do you love about Lent?” I threw it out in trusted circles and on social media. I didn’t have a lot of capacity to try much, but I could spend the season listening. I scratched down quotes in the margins of notebooks. I collected wisdom and words.

Continue reading “Learning from the Laughter and the Trees: Tell me about Lent”

These Intersections: On Writing Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection

By Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Society had developed and perfected a whole lexicon as ways of stigmatizing the wrong that threatened its wrongs. You know the phrases: to the poor – wrong side of the tracks; to a child in school – wrong question, wrong answer; to the people’s spectrum – wrong color; to the women – wrong sex; to the gays – wrong ecstasy.

  • Daniel Berrigan March 15, 1974, “All Honor to the Wrong People.”

In 1974 the War Resisters League Peace Award was given to Daniel Berrigan. The honor was conscious counternarrative, an audacious act of love and respect. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was the formal presenter, reading, “To Daniel Berrigan, for his irritating vocation as a prophet in our times, angering us in our complacency, embracing us in our humanity. Leaping beyond his own limits, he has led us beyond ours.”

The year prior Berrigan had been invited to address the Association of Arab-American University Graduates in D.C. But then the October/Yom Kippur War broke. He kept the date, speaking as the bombs fell. Confessing his own inexpertise, and excoriating all sides of the war for violence (including our own U.S, and Christian “sides”), he nonetheless came down firm in outraged love for Israel’s betrayal of what he read as its own history and tradition – one akin to his own. He did not mince words. A firestorm broke. He was accused of being wrong in every way or other. Invitations were withdrawn, awards cancelled. Hence, WRL’s honor and his own words to embrace being wrong.

Continue reading “These Intersections: On Writing Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection”

Do I Believe in the Resurrection?

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, Editorial from Geez magazine’s Signs of Dawn.

Many years ago now, when I was still a teenager, I fell upon my mother’s dead body and wept. I clung onto her when the life was gone, but the warmth still remained on her skin.

We carried her body downstairs and then into the living room. With the help of women in our neighbourhood, I washed her body. I ran my fingers along her surgery-scarred head, her eyes that had loved me so well, and her mouth that I would never again hear sing. Behind the blur of tears, I can still smell burning sage and hear Taizé chants playing on the CD player. She lay on dry ice there for two days and nights. We told stories. We prayed. We cried. We vigiled.

Several months later as we approached Easter, scripture shapeshifted before my weary eyes. My heart clung to the women as they carried spices and travelled toward Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body. Violated and brutalized on the cross, his body was now guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet, here came these women full of bravery, carrying grief and love, to honour his body and ritualize their mourning.

Continue reading “Do I Believe in the Resurrection?”

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.

Continue reading “Countering Myths”

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!

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.”

Continue reading “The Bone Lodged in Our Throats”

The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for Just World

Dear friends,

I am waking up this morning on the birthday of a project I’ve been laboring and loving into being for several years. Today The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World takes some baby steps out into the world looking for homes where it can me nurtured, challenged, and grow deeper.

This book was dreamed up in the middle of long nights as I sat rocking and nursing my beautiful babies. I was exhausted and lonely. And I was terrified about the future these children would be walking into. I had so many questions and a deep hunger for community. I wanted to gather a circle of beloveds who were not afraid to tenderly hold, engage, and live into the questions. What does it mean to be human and how do we invite children into this messy, beautiful work?

Continue reading “The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for Just World”