humanly and carefully and nonviolently – the example of Dan Berrigan

[Rev. Dan Berrigan, hero of the resistance to the Vietnam War, died on April 30, 2016. The following is an excerpt from a tribute by Chris Hedges.]

Dan provided, for me, the most cogent definition of religious faith.

“The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere,” he told me. “I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where. I don’t think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”

A bagpiper played as Dan’s casket was loaded into the back of a silver and black hearse outside the basilica. Hundreds of mourners, their cheeks streaked by rain and tears, filled the street. I stood on the steps.

It was a few blocks from here, at the shrine of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, that Dan baptized my youngest daughter five years ago. He cradled her in his arms and spoke of faith as resistance. He reminisced about marching in Selma with Dr. King. He asked us to each say out loud what qualities we hoped my daughter would possess. Dan said he wished for “a sense of humor.”

The hearse moved slowly down the vacant street. A man held his fist in the air. Some in the crowd sang a hymn. When the hearse reached the end of the street, its luminous red taillight began to blink on and off in the drizzle, signaling a right turn. Then it was gone.

A change is coming. I can feel it.

– Chris Hedges, reflecting on his friendship with Rev. Daniel Berrigan who died on April 30

The following is from the statement Dan Berrigan wrote when a group known as the Catonsville Nine burned 378 draft files with homemade napalm to protest the war:

We could not so help us God do otherwise
For we are sick at heart
Our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children …
We say: Killing is disorder
life and gentleness and community and unselfishness
is the only order we recognize …
How long must the world’s resources
be raped in the service of legalized murder?
When at what point will you say no to this war?
We have chosen to say
with the gift of our liberty
if necessary our lives:
the violence stops here
the death stops here
the suppression of the truth stops here
this war stops here …

encouraging and supporting the inner teacher

[The faculty of SSU have been reading (or re-reading) Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach together this year. Here is a quote mentioned in our final discussion that seems fitting for what we are trying to embody in our education at SSU.]

…Quakers had to invent social structures that would allow their members to do such work with and for each other.

The ground rules for every social structure they invented had to honor a powerful and paradoxical pair of Quaker beliefs: each of us has an inner teacher that is an arbiter of truth, and each of us needs the give-and-take of community in order to hear that inner teacher speak. So Quaker social structures offer community to help a person discover the guidance that comes from within and ground rules to prevent that community from invading the individual’s inwardness with external agendas and advice.

– Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

sex and safety

[thinking of Ghomeshi made me think of the relevance of this quote from Wendell Berry – for those not familiar with Berry, be assured that the context here is the loss of community and the exploitation of consumerism much more than it is a loss of ‘public morals’]

Seeking to ‘free’ sexual love from its old communal restraints, we have ‘freed’ it also from its meaning, its responsibility, and its exaltation. And we have made it more dangerous. ‘Sexual liberation’ is as much a fraud and as great a failure as the ‘peaceful atom.’ We are now living in a sexual atmosphere so polluted and embittered that women must look on virtually any man as a potential assailant, and a man must look on virtually any woman as a potential accuser. The idea that this situation can be corrected by the courts and the police only compounds the disorder and the danger. And in the midst of this acid rainfall of predation and recrimination, we presume to teach our young people that sex can be made ‘safe’ – by the use, inevitably, of purchased drugs and devices. What a lie! Sex was never safe, and it is less safe now than it has ever been.

– Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community

finding sabbath

I’ve known many Christians who say they had to leave the church to discover Sabbath. Indeed, unplugging from a church can have the same effect as unplugging from the Internet or a demanding job. Suddenly the days seem longer, fuller, and more saturated with color. It’s like climbing out of a too-small space and drinking in fresh air again, or like rolling down the windows on an open road and letting the wind wreck your hair. You go on hikes and explore new spiritual practices involving prayer beads and meditation. You talk about how the oaks are your cathedral, the honeysuckles your incense, and the river over the rocks your hymn. You entertain the idea of taking up a new hobby—origami, perhaps, or yoga—and start writing poetry again. This lasts for a good three weeks until one morning you decide to try an episode of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix and the next thing you know, it’s dinnertime and you still haven’t put on a bra. Things can devolve rather quickly.

– Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

irony and vulnerability

[because I haven’t used enough quotes from literature…]

Sympathy I have failed in, stoicism I have barely passed. But I have made straight A in irony – that curse, that evasion, that armor, that way of staying safe while seeming wise. One thing I have learned hard, if indeed I have learned it now: it is a reduction of our humanity to hide from pain, our own or others’. To hide from anything. That was Marian’s text. Be open, be available, be exposed, be skinless. Skinless? Dance around in your  bones.

– Wallace Stegner, All the Little Live Things