[The two [Pope Francis and Wendell Berry] also offer extended criticism of what the Pope calls a “deified market” and Berry deems “an opposing religion, assigning to technological progress and ‘the market’ the same omnipotence, omniscience, unquestionability, even the same beneficence that the Christian teachings assign to God.” Moving on from the shared renunciations, they each praise the actions often taken by small landowners and local peoples and affirm the value of physical work and artistic beauty. In short, both men refuse to swallow the myth of progress or, conversely, diagnose humanity as a planetary cancer.
– John Murdock, from an article, “The Pope and the Plowman” in First Things
[In what is considered to be the first encyclical on creation care, Pope Francis speaks out strongly on behalf of “care for our common home”]:
We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves…..
The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage.
– Pope Francis, Laudate Si
(Or you can check out a response from Wired here.)
[Jayber Crow, the wise bachelor barber of Berry’s favourite fictional town of Port William, ponders the young preachers who get sent their way]:
The preachers were always young students from the seminary who wore, you might say, the mantle of power but not the mantle of knowledge. They wouldn’t stay long enough to know where they were, for one thing. Some were wise and some were foolish, but none, so far as Port William knew, was ever old…. They were not going to school to learn where they were, let alone the pleasures and the pains of being there, or what ought to be said there. You couldn’t learn those things in school. They went to school, apparently, to learn to say over and over again, regardless of where they were, what had already been said too often. They learned to have a very high opinion of God and a very low opinion of His works – although they could tell you that this world had been made by God Himself.
What they didn’t see was that it is beautiful, and that some of the greatest beauties are the briefest. They had imagined the church, which is an organization, but not the world, which is an order and a mystery. To them the church did not exist in the world where people earn their living and have their being, but rather in the world where they fear death and Hell, which is not much of a world. To them, the soul was something dark and musty, stuck away for later. In their brief passage through or over it, most of the young preachers knew Port William only as it theoretically was (“lost”) and as it theoretically might be (“saved”). And they wanted us to do our part to spread the bad news to others who had not heard it – the Catholics, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Buddhists, and the others – or else they (and maybe we) would go to Hell. I did not believe it….
In Port William, more than anyplace I had been, this religion that scorned the beauty and goodness of this world was a puzzle to me. To begin with, I didn’t think anybody believed it. I still don’t think so.
– Wendell Berry (in Jayber Crow)
We know this much instinctively, as the Greeks did analytically: Beauty speaks to us of wholeness, of harmony, of order, of grace or gracefulness. We know what is meant when someone is praised for doing a “beautiful thing” for someone else; the deed was full of light and goodness. For a moment the world was in order again, and the life of the ages, eternal life, the life of Jesus risen and glorified, had touched down at a point in time and space….
Let me sum up by saying that I sense that the focal points of spiritual life in community which I have identified here are all part of one fabric: worship as the daily ingathering of the people of God under the blood of Jesus, surrounded by the host of heaven and issuing in praise and mutual service; healing of the ancient rifts between the heart and the mind in the accountability of shared daily life and intense study; and the remarkable demonstration of the transforming and character-shaping power of Christ upon ordinary people made extraordinary by the beauty of holiness that rests upon them in the freedom of obedience
– David Stewart (1931-2014), professor at SSU from 1991 to 2000, from a 1998 article, (“Which Way to the Oasis? Reflections on Learning in Community“)
As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.
~A Traditional Navajo Prayer