May, 2017

On the Road to Peace

 

 

Dear friends,

I’ve been criss-crossing the country every week this year, speaking on nonviolence, encouraging resistance to our unjust government, and organizing Campaign Nonviolence. On the weekend of April 28-30, I lead a weekend retreat at Kirkridge in Pennsylvania on the life and teachings of my friend Fr. Daniel Berrigan, to mark the first anniversary of Dan’s death. It was a beautiful weekend with friends, a good time to ponder Dan’s lessons of peace and fidelity in this terrible global moment.

 

In keeping with the weekend, I thought I’d share here below some of my favorite quotes from Dan’s writings, most of which can be found in my collection, Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings. I hope you enjoy them and I encourage you to take another step on your journey to peace. With blessings of peace, Fr. John

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“What are we to do with our lives? A question which seems to me is a peerless source of freedom to the one who dares pose it with seriousness. Anything short of confronting this question ends up sooner or later in a suffocating dead end. We have taken up one after another almost every question except the one which would liberate us: the question of our humanity. How is a human being to live today? How is he or she to live? Is it possible for a person to do something other than kill his brother or sister—the practically universal demand laid upon us by the state, approved by the silent church? Is there another way to live here and now, which will also allow future generations to live their lives in a different way from the one way sanctioned today?”—The Dark Night of Resistance

 

“Once there was a dead man, a criminal, a subject of capital punishment. And lo! He refused to stay dead. He stood up. As the authorities shortly came to sense, this was an earthquake in nature; in the nature of law and order, in the nature of death, the nature of war. For in the nature of things, as defined by the nation-state (a great one for deciding what the nature of things is)–dead men stay dead. The word from Big Brother, the word that gives him clout, inspires fear, is–A criminal, once disposed of, stays disposed! Not at all. Along come these crazies shouting in public, “Our man’s not dead, He’s risen!” Now I submit you can’t have such a word going around, and still run the state properly. The first nonviolent revolution was, of course, the Resurrection. The event had to include death as its first act. And also the command to Peter, “Put up your sword.” So that it might be clear, once and for all, that Christians suffer death rather than inflict it.” –Essential Writings

 

“I draw from the prophets a very strong bias in favor of the victim and a very strong sense of judgment of evil structures and those who run them. [They] talk about the God who stands at the bottom with the victims and with the ‘widows and orphans’ and witnesses with them in the world, from that terrifying vantage point which is like the bottom of the dry well that Jeremiah was thrown in. That vantage point defines the crime and sin; that point of view of the victim indicts the unjust, the oppressor, the killer, the warmaker. And the message is very clear. It’s a very clear indictment of every superpower from Babylon to Washington.” –Essential Writings

 

“Peacemaking is tough, unfinished, blood-ridden. Everything is worse now than when I started, but I’m at peace. We walk our hope and that’s the only way of keeping it going. We’ve got faith, we’ve got one another, we’ve got religious discipline and we’ve got some access that goes beyond the official wall.” —-Essential Writings

 

I was in Europe some time ago, speaking on the nuclear question. I came in the wake of an internationally known moral theologian. He said, “The Berrigans are off base. They are talking about the Sermon on the Mount as though it were realizable now. What we really need is an ethic of the interim.” An ethic of the interim as I understand it, would allow us to fill the gap between today and tomorrow with the bodies of all who must die, before we accept the word of Christ. On the contrary, I think the Sermon on the Mount concerns us here and now, or concerns us never. In whatever modest and clumsy a way, we are called to honor the preference of Christ for suffering rather than inflicting suffering, for dying rather than killing. In that sense, all “interim ethics” have been cast aside. The time to obey is now. –Essential Writings

 

“Some people today argue that equanimity achieved through inner spiritual work is a necessary condition for sustaining one’s ethical and political commitments. But to the prophets of the Bible, this would have been an absolutely foreign language and a foreign view of the human. The notion that one has to achieve peace of mind before stretching out one’s hand to one’s neighbor is a distortion of our human experience, and ultimately a dodge of our responsibility. Life is a rollercoaster and one had better buckle one’s belt and take the trip. This focus on equanimity is actually a narrow-minded, selfish approach to reality dressed up within the language of spirituality.” –Essential Writings

 

“I know that the prophetic vision is not popular today in some spiritual circles. But our task is not to be popular or to be seen as having an impact, but to speak the deepest truths that we know. We need to live our lives in accord with the deepest truths we know, even if doing so does not produce immediate results in the world.” –Essential Writings

 

“Open up the book of Jeremiah and you do not find a person looking for inner peace. Jeremiah goes through mountains and valleys. That kind of richness I find very appealing, whereas the kind of spirituality that looks for a flat emotional landscape brought on by the endless search for inner peace and equanimity I find disturbing, a quest that goes nowhere.” –Essential Writings

 

“I draw from the prophets a very strong bias in favor of the victim and a very strong sense of judgment of evil structures and those who run them. [The prophets and Christ talk] “about the God who stands at the bottom with the victims and with the ‘widows and orphans’ and witnesses with them in the world, from that terrifying vantage point which is like the bottom of the dry well that Jeremiah was thrown in. That vantage point defines the crime and sin; that point of view of the victim indicts the unjust, the oppressor, the killer, the warmaker. And the message is very clear. It’s a very clear indictment of every superpower from Babylon to Washington.” –Essential Writings

 

“I’ve been maintaining a new discipline. First, I get as little of the bad news as possible. I only look at the New York Times once a week, if that, and occasionally the BBC. Second, I spend more time than ever with the good news, reading and meditating on the Gospel every morning, to be with Jesus.” –Essential Writings

 

“The Word of God is spoken for the sake of today for ourselves. If not, it lies dead on the page. Lift the Word from the page, then–take it to heart. Make of it the very beat of the heart. Then the Word comes alive–it speaks to commonality and praxis. Do it—do the Word.” – The Kings and Their Gods

 

“The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere. 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 it goes, in what direction. 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.” –Essential Writings

 

“One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better.” –Essential Writings