Led Down the Path of Protest and Dissent

roseDay 8 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech.

Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
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By Rose Marie Berger, a senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine

Between the first and second sentence of this paragraph, Brother Martin fully entered into his “vocation of agony.”

Between these two–the first, where he holds America accountable to the ideals of her founding and the second, where he begins his sharpest theological critique to date–King “sets his face like flint” (Luke 9:51; Isaiah 50:7) toward the center of military empire: Washington, D.C. Continue reading

Always on the Verge of Being Mesmerized by Uncertainty

rose-and-vincentToday, we begin our Lenten journey together, daily meditating on the words of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967.  

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, some of the most distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it’s always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit.

 I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.
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Highlights from Rose Berger’s April 2007 Sojourners Magazine interview with Vincent Harding (photo above: Rose with “Uncle Vincent”), the author of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech:

The Riverside speech (variously called “Beyond Vietnam” or “Breaking the Silence”) named the sickness eating the American soul as “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” It was a watershed moment. Continue reading

Welcome to the Resistance. Here’s Your Survival Guide.

rose.jpgBy Rose Marie Berger. Reposted from Sojo.net

Even during a constitutional crisis and a white nationalist assault on the executive branch of federal government, the kids still need to get to school, bills must be paid, homework done, groceries bought, clothes washed, church attended.

In addition to your regular job, you are now a full-time grassroots organizer and obstructionist, showing up for protests and rallies. You’re also trying to implement a full-time legislative strategy, calling representatives, signing petitions, encouraging others to do the same. And for some, your full-time government job or journalism job or advocacy job now requires a renewed understanding of the ethics of public service, while also developing strategies to implement or refuse unclear and possibly illegal directives.

How do you keep from flaming out? Continue reading

The Rim

silver-rim—Rose Marie Berger

The meaning is in the waiting. —R.S. Thomas

Like a silver goblet, Advent
slips round again      passing through heat

and the End of Days      a darkness
too searing for the lip. Smiths

engrave the old year beneath
the rim.      Tradition keeps memory

gradual. The pedestal base round
as the new year      full of what lies

ahead. Is it hope? Or simply
the exodus of this generation
into the flames of the one coming.

A Letter to Judge Wynn: Meditations on Breaking the Law

rose-berger

U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Dec. 7, 1995. Kneeling first row (left to right): Jim Wallis, Henri Nouwen, Eugene F. Rivers III, Graylan Hagler, Rose Marie Berger.

By Rose Marie Berger

If we could split ourselves
like a crack in the cement
(children’s names written when wet
a heart a flower a handprint)
like that mystical bread
(calloused hands holding up hunger
and night sweats and the one we once loved)

then we would say in our first voice: Law
and Order out of Chaos
we would listen and obey
teach our children hands up, look both ways
(pack them bubble-wrap safe
for shipping from this world to the next) Continue reading

For Botero, Who Looked at What I Could Not

boteroA poem by Rose Marie Berger, a peace activist, poet and the Senior Associate Editor of Sojourners Magazine. This piece was first published in Beltway Poetry Quarterly (Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 2006).
——————–
The bodies are fat
corpulent, like the seven-hundred-
pound man in Maryland
who hasn’t stood since 1998
and must lie on his stomach
or his weight will crush
his windpipe. They hang
upside down by a toe or ankle
these bodies,
faces wrapped in a red silk scarf—
Continue reading