Loving In The Loser’s Club: The Gospel According To Stephen King’s IT

“A frightening possibility suddenly occurred to him: maybe sometimes things didn’t just go wrong and then stop; maybe sometimes they just kept going wronger and wronger until everything was totally fucked up.”

“OH SHIT! I BELIEVE IN ALL OF THOSE THINGS!” he shouted, and it was true: even at eleven he had observed that things turned out right a ridiculous amount of the time.”

“There was power in that music, a power which seemed to most rightfully belong to all the skinny kids, fat kids, ugly kids, shy kids—the world’s losers, in short.”

One of my favorite things about Autumn is October because, well, Halloween. I mean, Hallowen. HALLO-FREAKING-WEEN. As I wrote elsewhere, I believe Halloween can be observed in a very Christocentric manner, all month long.

My main way to observe this sacred time has been to reread through Stephen King’s masterpiece, IT, once again. I cannot rave about this book enough. If you are even vaguely interested in reading it, please for the love of everything holy and uholy, read it. Haha, get it? IT. What’s that? Puns are evil? Nah.. oh.. okay..

If you haven’t read IT and are still interested in reading this post, please check out this brief plot summary so as to make sense of this gibberish I’m conveying. However, if you’ve seen the original film adaptation, that should be sufficient. If you’ve only seen the first part of the recent remake, be aware there are spoilers ahead.

There are many themes I would love to draw out, but for the sake of brevity let’s tie some random threads together and hope we acquire something sensible! Seriously, though, this book conveys many beautiful truths: the Christocentric gospel, mimetic theory, death anxiety,  and the centrality of love (here I mean agape, not eros) in living a satisfactory life. To name a few.

The first thing I’d like to point out about this book is that Stephen King manipulates the ‘haunted house’ horror trope. He expands this common microcosm from haunted house to haunted town (ie: Derry). Pennywise doesn’t live in a house, It lives in Derry.  Pennywise appears to be an almost omnipresent being in Derry. It can appear just about anytime and anywhere. Derry is Its town – one could say It owns Derry. It influences people and events. In this way, Pennywise is symbolic of the zeitgeist of a town. Now, the dictionary definition of zeitgeist reads as such:

the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time

and while I am using it in this way, I’d like to expand a bit. The zeitgeist is not simply covering a particular period of history, although it certainly embodies that. It can also mean the cultural atmosphere of any place, period of time, or group of people . For example, here are some questions that can get at the zeitgeist of one’s workplace: how casual is one permitted to dress, what goals does one’s workplace have and how does it seek to implement them, and what are the policies for showing up early or late? In relatively simple terms, I’m referring to culture. On a smaller scale this means the culture of a house, a workplace, a family, a person (ie: one’s psyche and way of thinking). On a larger scale, this could look like a county, a state, a nation, a non-geographically connected group of people.

The thing about culture is it is very real, and many ways even tangible, but it is often overlooked. People live in it, and often follow its mandates, without consciously thinking, “I’m obeying the rules of my culture.” Those who don’t obey get punished whether most explicitly via prison, mental asylums, or social stigmatization. Most people do not go through life self-examining themselves to choose what they want to consciously absorb and meld into and what they don’t. People just go with the flow.

Some, though, consciously follow the rules for fear of being cast out. They may theoretically disagree with an aspect of their culture, but we live in the postmodern age, and who knows what the hell is right…right? Let’s just do this thing, or go with this motion – why stir the pot and be looked down upon?

This is Pennywise. It manipulates Derry through apathetic ignorance and fear, just like the zeitgeist. Pennywise is simultaneously Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann. It is in-your-face evil, but It is also the type of evil that apathetically pushes papers and blindly follows orders, irregardless of compassion and empathy.  It is not mere malice, it is willful ignorance, which, I would argue, is just as heinous.

“I started after him…and the clown looked back. I saw Its eyes, and all at
once I understood who It was.”
“Who was it, Don?” Harold Gardner asked softly.
It was Derry,” Don Hagarty said. “It was this town.”

See, almost all of the residents of Derry ignore Its presence. It is implied they are all very well aware of It, but they refuse to really acknowledge It, think about It, talk about It. They quite literally just live with It. But they can’t just ignore the mass murder of children. They have to put the blame on someone or something, even if that blame is not directly or consciously related to the initial problem. In other words, the people of Derry conjure up some form of scapegoat.

This sort of thing plays out everyday in a multitude of ways. On a microcosmic scale, imagine a father having a terribly stressful day at work, not dealing with the problem directly and consciously, but instead taking out his frustrations on his unassuming child. The child becomes the scapegoat for something unrelated to him, and the father’s stress may be relieved (sort of…not to speak of the guilt that should come from within). On a macrocosmic scale, one need only look at the current state of American politics – we have two generalized political bodies blaming the other for seemingly every problem in the nation state. It’s scapegoating on a broader scale.

More specifically I am referring to the Mimetic Theory proposed by Rene Girard. If you are unfamiliar, please read here. Briefly, the scapegoat functions as the guilty person/party, whether directly involved with the issue at hand or not. The scapegoat may be a person of blemish, embarrassment, quirkiness, etc… they just have to be an easy target which the larger body of people can unify against. In Christian theology, the scapegoat is Jesus Christ. On a practical, socio-politic-historical level, the political powers of His day (ie: Caesar) and the religious authorities (ie: the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc…) used Jesus’ crucifixion as a means to unify the people in the midst of political and religious crisis. On a theological metanarrative level, the Trinitarian God lets humanity kill Him in order that His love may be known, and the absurdity of violence and vengeance is shown. In other words, Jesus Christ functions as the scapegoat for humanity’s own self-inflicted harm. However, unlike other scapegoats, the victimization of Jesus Christ leads to the eventual end of violence and the absolution of sin, therefore ending the need for a scapegoat mechanism.

Now, in Stephen King It, the scapegoat just happens to be The Loser’s Club. As stated above, this scapegoat process is hardly conscious. There isn’t the clear and coherent thought: “We have to ignore Pennywise, but deal with this problem. Let’s indirectly take out our frustrations and qualms with the inhumane aspects of our zeitgeist (personified in Pennywise) on these weird kids.” I’d like to point out, as well, that The Loser’s Club may not be the only scapegoats. Because the narrative is centralized around this group of people, they are the scapegoats given, but that does not mean they are the only people of blemish in Derry. For example, King writes that Derry is extremely hostile to the LGBTQ+ population. This group of people are also scapegoats in Derry’s zeitgeist.

The Loser’s Club consists of a ragtag band of outcast kids who all have some sort of turmoil or social abnormality that makes them just not quite…right. These social quirks make them easy targets. Many would consider them to be a curse – but it is these very oddities that bring The Loser’s Club together in the first place. They bond over them, gain the strength to face Pennywise, and learn to love themselves and each other in the process. (Blessed are the persecuted.) The Loser’s Club comes together over their own insecurities and abnormalities to form a community. This community is guided by the gentle voice of the Turtle. The Turtle appears to be an omniscient Being of benevolence. The Turtle occasionally steps in to guide and assist The Loser’s Club toward agape love and victory of evil personified. The Turtle represents the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit.

In Christian theology, the Holy Spirit guides humanity toward truth, holiness, and love. The Turtle in It does the same, and while I think this comparison is the biggest stretch I provide in this analysis, I still think it works. Some Christians may argue it is a bit blasphemous because the emphasis in the narrative is obviously on the power of love as found in The Loser’s Club and the Turtle is only in the background helping out. The kid’s do not explicitly worship the Turtle, and care far more about loving those around them. But that’s just it – Christ himself calls the Church his body, and therefore any true agape love found in the Church is also the love of Christ manifested on Earth.

Which leads me to my next point: The Loser’s Club is the Church. Now, you may be thinking, “hold on a minute. You’re comparing the scapegoat, outcast, loser group with one of the most powerful religions in the history of mankind?” but just bear with me a second. I do not in any way mean the powerful church, lower case c. I mean the Church, capital C.

Okay, that probably doesn’t clear things up all that much. I’m sorry. What I mean is that I believe the Church is always powerless. If the Church has political power or privilege, it is not the Church, just some piece-o-shit sham. In fact, that church is Pennywise. A modern day example: Pennywise embodies many aspects of the American Evangelical Church movement. This movement, culture, zeitgeist, is full of middle/upper class, white privileged, cisgender, powerful men and blindly submissive women that knowingly (or often more common: willfully and blindly) use their power to oppress many groups of people and spit in the face of Christ. Now, I’m not saying that if you or someone you know considers themselves to be an Evangelical in America that they (or you) are equivalent with Pennywise. But I’m definitely saying there is some truth to the claim that, by and large, American Evangelicalism is heinous, blasphemous, and evil.

Before you flip and get pissed at my statement, I’m not saying that other forms of Christianity aren’t evil, either. I’m pinpointing a group of people I myself am a part of. I’m not singling it out to, well.. scapegoat it. I’m using American Evangelicalism as an example because I am well acquainted with it, and feel more comfortable critiquing my own circle than another’s.

But what does this mean for the real Church? The real Church is, according to the precepts of the ‘world,’ powerless. It is all those Christians who consciously attempt non-conformance to the evils found in the institution of Christianity. It is those who refuse to simply go through the motions to make themselves feel better – to numb themselves with the opiate of the masses, as Marx so eloquently put it. Those actively working against the principalities and powers of the zeitgeist – they are Its explicit enemies. But they don’t work against people, they work for people, all people, seeking the reconciliation of everyone.

The real Church is often oppressed, sometimes willfully so. Oppressed not by “happy holidays,” or some non-existent Islamic overlord, but by choosing to live with the oppressed. The real Church works to end the oppression of peoples everywhere, all the while taking residence with them, if the oppressed are so willing to accept them into their community. The real Church gives up its power to become one with the powerless. The real Church is a co-suffering Loser’s Club. And just like the Loser’s Club, the real Church flips the principalities and powers on their head to reveal it holds true Power, thanks to the co-suffering love given by the Trinity.

The Loser’s Club overcomes the evil of Pennywise twice. The first time is while the members are children. During this period they defeat It, but don’t kill It. However, they hope it is over and finished. They promise each other if It ever comes back, they will reunite and fight It again. Almost 30 years pass, and It resurfaces as strong as ever. They reunite and fight It, of course succeeding because, c’mon, all you need is (co-suffering) love.

All this is sweet and thematic, but the thing I’d really like to point out here is the 30 year gap. King tells us that The Loser’s Club almost completely forget about It as they ‘mature’ into adulthood. Only one original member stays in Derry, and while he does his best to remember and stay vigilant, he eventually forgets. The perspectives of all members as adults are shown to us one by one. Some of them appear content while others appear discontent. All of them are comfortable though – even those in abusive relationships. They are comfortable in what they know, or refuse to admit. But none of them remember any of the others, and life has completely moved on.

Until Pennywise’s activity is made aware to Mike by the Turtle. Once Mike remembers he reluctantly phones each of them. The individual club members are forced out of apathy to confront the zeitgeist, to confront the true way the world works. It wrecks one of them, driving him to the point of suicide. He simply couldn’t deal with the difficult journey of non-conformity.  The rest forcibly move out of the comfort of their blind stagnant lives, and decide to face the current.

But for about 30 freaking years they conformed. They grew into the adults society told them they should be. Self-absorbed, afraid, loveless (agape-less). Despite a very explicit face-to-face victory against evil incarnate, they succumbed to blind ignorance. They assumed one battle, one victory was enough. But that’s not how the zeitgeist works. Evil is paradoxically constant and malleable. As soon as it is conquered (if it ever truly is this side of life), it manifests itself anew. This is why political revolutions just never work. The Church always trips up here. It justifiably stops to celebrate a victory, but quickly gets lost in said victory and loses focus. It quickly conforms to the status quo and trots forward.

Herein lies one of the most important lessons of King’s masterpiece: as a unified group, we are able to maintain our focus. We are able to encourage each other to keep moving, to stay the course. Separated, we become weaker, the temptation toward apathy grows stronger, and we lose sight of everything we once strove for. Agape becomes impossible if we are isolated – there is no one to love.

The other important bit we cannot forget lest our undoing ensue is found in a simple quote from It:

“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”

The point is we are all, always, a little bit apathetic, a little bit compassionate. A little bit evil, a little bit good. One may outweigh the other at a given point in time, but we are ever-moving creatures, always growing, always changing. We are nuanced and beautiful, even at our worst. The person you have demonized as evil is still a person, there is still some good in there somewhere. The person you have glorified as divine is still a person, there is still some evil in there somewhere.

In the novel, people are not the problem that must be overcome. The evil is Pennywise. As stated above, Pennywise is the zeitgeist incarnate. Evil manifested. One must work to lovingly change and challenge the cultural zeitgeist of one’s place. One must fight those things, not people. Love people. Our enemies are institutions, principalities, cultures. Our enemy is Pennywise. Not the people It manipulates. People are always precious. No nuance about that.

While King himself may not agree with this interpretation, and while I have taken some liberties, this shows only a fraction of why I love this piece of literature so friggin’ much.  It’s the gospel in horror narrative form. Many Christians I know find it to be abhorrent, find horror and Halloween to be abhorrent. They’re missing out.

Perhaps they’re too blind to see that

“…God favors drunks, small children, and the cataclysmically stoned…”

 

Peace be unto you this spooky season. May you learn to overcome the ego and the fear of death so as to truly live a life in and for Love. ❤

Halloween: A Holy Holiday

As far as I am aware, Halloween is an ambivalent subject among Christians. Some dislike it for the ‘demonic’ activity it inspires. While I don’t deny Halloween does bring out devious behavior in some, I believe it also manifests saintly behavior in others – whether the actor be aware or not.

What do I mean?

First of all, we need to explore one of the most explicit themes of Halloween: death. Death is an ever-present moral power in the lives of humanity. All human action is motivated by the fear and/or knowledge of death. For example: why do we go to work? To be given money. Why do we need money? To buy shelter and food. Why do we need those amenities? So we don’t die.

Another example, which is a bit more cryptic: we seek self-esteem so that we can convince ourselves we are worth more than simple mortal beings destined for death. If our self-esteem falters, we feel bad. We sometimes feel worthless. Why are worth and meaning so important to us? Because, with such a fragile existence, we have to convince ourselves there is more to this life than a measly 70 years of life. Self-esteem helps us cope with the immense amount of anxiety that comes with being a mortal.

Almost all, if not all, human activity is spurred on by physical or psychological survival. And these things are motivated by a fear/knowledge of death.

This is why I think Halloween offers such a beautiful way to interact with the thing that subconsciously motivates and scares us. Halloween deals explicitly with death – it brings it out of our subconscious and forces us to face it. Usually, this manifests by wearing costumes and making a fool of it, by watching scaring movies, by going through simulated haunted houses. As a collective society, we poke fun at death, we show that death doesn’t have ultimate power – we can still find joy amidst decay. We realize, for a night, that death, albeit powerful, doesn’t have the final say. It is a mockery of death, similar to Christ’s resurrection. This is why I consider Halloween a “Christian” holiday in the same vein as Christmas or Easter.

You may be thinking: Halloween? A “Christian” holiday? But what about all the criminal activity? My first response is: criminal activity occurs during the Christmas season, too. It is generally known that armed robberies increase around the Christmas and New Years season, although crime rates for all three holidays show no discernible pattern statistically speaking.

That said, don’t participate in the criminal activity. Not all ways to celebrate a holiday are equal. To assume so is like saying one will not go to church because they are all like Westboro Baptist Church. And don’t let the criminal activity dissuade you. The possibility of being robbed while you go visit grandmother’s house generally doesn’t prevent you from traveling for the Christmas holidays – often for days on end. So why let it dissuade you for one night?

I know many Christians who are frustrated that Christmas has become so commercialized and taken captive by the consumer spirit. They loathe it while still celebrating and observing many of its ritualistic and cultural imperatives – many of which don’t even stem from a Christian root. Yet these same people will not partake in the joy of Halloween due to similar reasoning. I suppose commercialized death isn’t as appealing as commercialized salvation.

Regardless, Halloween speaks to our physio-psychological need to know that death holds no ultimate power. While it may be the ruling principality of this day and age, its victory is an illusion – it deserves to be mocked. It is a sign of the coming Eschaton – where the dead are permanently given life. It is a conflagration of the already and the not yet – the time between our Lord’s resurrection and the Second Coming. I mean, it is the night where the dead walk among the living after all – and that is precisely why I like it.

Universalism by John Wesley Hanson

I just finished reading John Wesley Hanson’s Universalism. It was a short and easy read. Well, easy insofar as it wasn’t very theologically academic. It was difficult in that the edition I purchased was a print-on-demand from Amazon…the transcription was so poor I found typos and grammatical errors every few sentences. This lead to a lot of double takes, but honestly didn’t interfere too terribly with the process.

I’d like to share the last couple pages of Hanson’s book, because he basically outlines the previous 200 pages in a very succinct and compact way. A way that is potentially more palatable to my social media friends who have no time to sit down and read a dry book on universalism. I added a few thoughts of my own to his points, and tried to clarify some things that my be confusing, but for the most part, this is quoted from his work. I believe his work is now considered in the public domain. Please inform me if this isn’t the case, as I will swiftly remove this.

The whole premise of Hanson’s book is that universalism, as manifested in Christian theology, is not, and was not, considered heretical to Christians from 0-500 A.D. He outlines the history of the belief among prominent and minor Church Fathers (and Mothers) and shows that universalism was actually the dominant belief of Christians, and if we are going to be honest with ourselves, we cannot truly claim the belief to be heretical.

“If we want to be true and honest Christians, we must go back to those earliest ante-Nicene authorities, the true fathers of the church.” ~ Max Muller

1) During the First Century the primitive Christians did not dwell on matters of eschatology, but devoted their attention to apologetics; they were chiefly anxious to establish the fact of Christ’s advent, and of its blessings to the world. Possibly the question of destiny was an open one, till Paganism and Judaism introduced erroneous ideas, when the New Testament doctrine of the apokatastasis was asserted, and universal restoration became an accepted belief, as stated later by Clement and Origen, A.D. 180-230.

2) The Catacombs give us the views of the unlearned, as Clement and Origen state the doctrine of scholars and teachers. Not a syllable is found hinting at the horrors Augustinian endless terror, but the inscription on every monument harmonizes with the Universalism of the early fathers.

3) Clement declares that all punishment, however severe, is purificatory; that even the ‘torments of the damned’ are curative. Origen explains even Gehenna as signifying limited and curative punishment, and both, as all the other ancient Universalists, declare that ‘everleasting’ (aionion) punishment, is consonant with universal salvation. So that it is no proof that other primitive Christians who are less explicit as to the final result, taught endless punishment when they employ the same terms.

4) Like our Lord and his Apostles, the primitive Christians avoided the words with which the Pagans and Jews defined their versions of endless punishmen: aidios or adialeiopton timoria (endless torment), a doctrine the latter believed, and knew how to describe; but they, the early Christians, call punishment, as did our Lord, kolasis aionios, discipline, chastisement, of indefinitie, limited duration.

5) The early Christians taught that Christ preached the Gospel to the dead, and for that purpose descended into Hades. Many held that he released all who were in ward. This shows that repentance beyond the grave, perpetual probation, was then accepted, which precludes the modern error that the soul’s destiny is decided at death.

6) Prayers for the dead were universal in the early church, which would be absurd, if their condition is unalterably fixed at the grave.

7) The idea that false threats were necessary to keep the common people in check, and that the truth might be held esoterically, prevailed among the earlier Christians, so that there can be no doubt that many who seem to teach endless punishment, really held the broad universalistic views in more academic works, as we know the most did, and preached terrors pedagogically to the laypersons.

8) The first comparatively complete systematic statement of Christian doctrine ever given to the world was by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 180, and universal salvation was one of the tenets.

9) The first complete presentation of Christianity as a system was by Origen (A.D. 220) and universal salvation was explicitly contained in it.

10) Universal salvation was the prevailing doctrine in Christendom as long as Greek, the language of the New Testament and its writers, was the language of Christendom, rather than Latin, as used by Augustinians.

11) Universalism was generally believed in the first three centuries, when Christians were most remarkable for simplicity, goodness, and missionary zeal, giving communally to all, freely sacrificing their lives as martyrs (thus, one does not need the fear of eternal torment to evangelize or love others).

12) Universalism was least known when Greek, the language of the New Testament was least known, and when Latin was the language of the Church in its darkest, most ignorant, and corrupt ages (ie: medieval period).

13) Not a writer among those who describe the heresies of the first three hundred years intimates that Universalism was then a heresy, though it was believed by many, if not by the majority, and certainly the greatest of the fathers (Origen, the Gregorys, Clement, Basil, etc.)

14) Not a single creed for five hundred years expresses any idea contrary to universal restoration, or in favor of endless punishment. All of the creeds we use in modern times, that were written in the Patristic period, were created and written by proponents of universal salvation. These are some of the very creeds biblical inerrantists use to claim in our contemporary times that universal salvation is a damnable belief.

15) With the exception of the arguments of Augustin (A.D. 420), there is not an argument known to have been framed against Universalism for at least four hundred years after Christ, by any of the ancient fathers, even those who did not believe Universalism.

16) While the councils that assembled in various parts of Christendom, anathematized every kind of doctrine supposed to be heretical, no oecumenical council, for more than five hundred years, condemned Universalism, though it had been advocated in every century by the principal scholars and most revered saints.

17) As late as A.D. 400, Jerome says ‘most people’ (plerique) and Augustine says ‘very many’ (quam plurimi), believed in Universalism, notwithstanding that the tremendous influence of Augustine, and the mighty power of the semi-pagan secular arm were arrayed against it.

18) The principal ancient Universalists were Christian born and reared, and were among the most scholarly and saintly of all the ancient saints, as many were the founders of famous seminaries, theological/philosophical libraries, and conducted
themselves in a loving manner, as testified by contemporaries and historians.

19) The most celebrated of the earlier advocates of endless punishment were heathen/pagan born, and led corrupt lives in their youth. Tertullian, one of the first, and Augustine, the greatest of them, confess to having been among the most vile, and believed they deserved to be punished for it.

20) The first advocates of endless punishment, Minucious Felix, Tertullian, and Augustine, were Latins, ignorant of Greek, and less competent to interpret the original meaning of Greek Scriptures than were the Greek universalistic scholars. The prior relied on faulty and erroneous Latin translations.

21) The first advocates of Universalism, after the Apostles, were Greeks, in whose mother-tongue the New Testament was written. They found their Universalism in the Greek Bible and passed down through disciples of the Apostles. Who should be correct, they or the Latins?

22) The Greek Fathers announced the great truth of universal restoration in an age of darkness, sin and corruption. There was nothing to suggest it to them in the world’s literature or religion. It was wholly contrary to everything around them. Where else could they have found it, but where they say they did, in the Gospel? Many in these modern times think universalism is paganistic, but that is quite the opposite: Christian theology is the first to have birthed universalism.

23) All ecclesiastical historians and the best Biblical critics and scholars agree to the prevalence of Universalism in the earlier centuries. Many scholars who once wrote of the lack of Universalism have corrected themselves apologetically after further research and discovery.

24) From the days of Clement of Alexandria to those of Gregory of Nyssa and Theodore of Mopsuestia (A.D. 180-428), the great theologians and teachers, almost without exception, were Universalists. No equal number in the same centuries were comparable to them for learning and goodness in Christian theology.

25) The first theological school in Christendom, that in Alexandria, taught Universalism for more than two hundred years.

26) In all Christendom, from A.D. 170 to 430, there were six Christian schools. Of these four, the only strictly theological schools, taught Universalism, and but one endless punishment.

27) The three earliest Gnostic sects, the Basilidians, the Carpocratians and the Valentinians (A.D. 117-132) are condemned by Christian writers, and their heresies pointed out, but though they taught Universalism, that doctrine is never condemned by those who oppose them. Irenaeus, in his famous ‘Against Heresies’ condemned the errors of the Carpocratians, but does not reprehend their Universalism, though he ascribes the doctrine to them.

28) The first defense of Christianity against Infidelity (Origen against Celsus) puts the defense on Universalistic grounds. Celsus charged the Christians’ God with cruelty because he punished with fire. Origen replied that God’s fire is curative; that he is a ‘Consuming Fire’ because he consumes sin, but not the sinner. The sinner, he saves.

29) Origen, the chief representative of Universalism in the ancient centuries, was bitterly opposed and condemned for various heresies by ignorant and cruel fanatics. He was accused of opposing Episcopacy, believing in pre-existence, etc., but never was condemned for his Universalism. The very council that anathematized ‘Origenism’ eulogized Gregory of Nyssa, who was explicitly a Universalist as was Origen. Lists of his errors are given by Methodius, Pamphilus, Eusebius, Marcellus, Eustathius, and Jerome, but Universalism is never named by one of his opponents. Fancy a list of Ballou’s errors and his Universalism omitted; Hippolytus (A.D. 320) names thirty-two known heresies, but Universalism is not mentioned once. Epiphanius, ‘the hammer that crushes heretics,’ describes eighty heresies, but he does not mention universal salvation, though Gregory of Nyssa, who as we have said, was a strong universalist, was, at the time Epiphanius wrote, the most conspicuous figure in Christendom. Why, if Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, two of the most influential figures of their time, who were both strong universalists, were never called out for their universalism if it was considered heresy?

30) Justinian, a half-pagan emperor, who attempted to have universalism officially condemned, lived in the most corrupt epoch of the Christian centuries. He closed the theological schools, and demanded the condemnation of Universalism by law; but the doctrine was so prevalent in the church that the council refused to obey his edict to suppress it. Lecky says the age of Justinian was ‘the worst form of civilization has assumed.’

31) The first clear and definite statement of human destiny by any Christian writer after the days of the Apostles, includes universal restoration, and that doctrine was advocated by most of the greatest and best (here meaning the most influential, those we know lived their lives according to the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, those who did not want to persecute heretics [such as the likes of the vicious Augustine], etc.) of the Christian Fathers for the first five hundred years of the Christian Era.

In one word, a careful study of the early history of the Christian religion, will show that the doctrine of universal restoration was least prevalent in the darkest, and prevailed most in the most enlightened of the earliest centuries — that it was the prevailing doctrine of the Primitive Christian Church.

~John Wesley Hanson, Universalism~

Let Us Remember: Slavery Built America

American slaves are veterans just as much as those who have served in the military.

Today is Memorial Day. A day where we celebrate our ‘victories’ and mourn our losses, while respecting those who have sacrificed their lives. The past two years, I have written pieces regarding my frustrations and moral qualms with Memorial Day. While I could write further on the subject, this year I don’t want to be re-writing the same old thing. What I want to do, instead, is show how if we demand to participate in this day of remembering what our ‘freedom’ costs, we must remember the black slaves and anti-Black culture that dominates America. Without our racist practices, and without the free labor that slavery provided, our capitalist society, our war machine (and therefore military), and the ‘liberties’ we have today would be nonexistent at the level we have them. Our heinous, evil practice of dehumanization is what got us to where we are today. Freedom costs us, yea – it costs us our conscience. Which begs the question – are we really free?

Much ink has been spilled to show that without slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, the economic strength of America would be much less robust. When one wants power, one must take it from someone else. Whether that be nationally, culturally, or individually. America is great at it!

The point: we are not the good guy. Remembering sacrifices today should not look like the sacrifices on a battlefield in Iraq to gain more oil to shine the shoes of the 1%. No, let us remember our heinous, wholly evil acts. We have enslaved. We have pillaged. We have raped. We have destroyed. We have murdered. All for our own desire – no questions asked. How dare we celebrate that? To do so is to spit in the face of Christ – The Suffering. The One who would rather die than kill. Who would rather carry a cross than a gun. It is to spit in the face of the 20 million Africans enslaved in the making of the American Empire. Without their forced free labor, without their lives totally given to the American machine, without any say on their part, the American experiment would not have been nearly as successful as it is, economically speaking. Without the 200-300 years of explicit slavery (slavery still exists in America, it is much more implicit. Look up mass incarceration), we would not have had the resources to ‘win’ the wars we did. The irony of a country that celebrates the “self-made man.” No such thing. If you’ve made it, you’ve made it because we have a history resting on a precedent of human bondage.

May God have mercy on us.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful (okay, maybe I do), but in the broader narrative of American history, these black slaves, so dearly unappreciated, gave at least as much as veterans in the military, if not moreso. They didn’t give a year or two to a morally questionable war effort – they gave the entirety of their fucking existence. Hundreds of years later, to this day, American culture is such that we have to raucously scream over the sea of white: Black Lives Matter! When we don’t make a noise, we forget. Hell, when we do, we’re deaf, dumb, and blind. Black people are the unsung heroes of this nation. They built it. We forced them to. They gave us our ‘victories.’ They are veterans. They deserve to be recognized. So goddamn, celebrate Blackness this Memorial Day, not greed, not war, not murder!

As I always try to do, I want to be clear: I am not trying to de-value American veterans. While I think war is anti-Christ in nature, and to participate in killing is contrary to the message of Jesus Christ, I respect veterans, insofar as I am morally capable. They are truly an underappreciated, disregarded piece of American society. I appreciate that they have sacrificed their time, their energy, their limbs, their minds. They have given a lot. I would just argue, they did so for all the wrong reasons. They did so for America, not for Christ. Christ has absolutely nothing to do with allegiance to a nation, especially an empire as oppressive as America. That does not, however, diminish their importance as human beings. That does not mean Christ does not love them, nor does it mean I do not wish to try to myself, in my own frail way. That does not mean when they come back home injured, bleeding, scared, alone, that we should discard them. We should care for them, help them along – welcome them with open arms. If you have served in the military, whether for this country, for North Korea, or the Nazi regime – you are beloved to Christ. But…so is the person you were sent to fight. Therein lies an issue.

Below are some articles regarding how 300 years of slavery made our capitalist system possible, and therefore, our victories at war (given our economic abilities) possible. I encourage you to research, research, research. Ask questions. Seek to understand the world outside your own experience. And for Christ’s sake – celebrate Blackness today. Not war.

Peace be unto you.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2017/05/03/the-clear-connection-between-slavery-and-american-capitalism/#597eac097bd3

https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-slavery-gave-capitalism-its-start

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/slavery_n_4847105.html

https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787

https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/slavery-and-rise-capitalism

https://isreview.org/issue/99/slavery-capitalism-and-imperialism

https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/18/how-slaves-built-american-capitalism/

http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15556.html

 

 

A Perfect Cocktail of Disgusting Lies!: Matthew Distefano’s “Heretic!”

What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned.

Attending a Conservative Christian university while visiting about one hundred urban churches after having grown up in the conservative Midwest, I have been well acquainted with the dominant manifestations of North American Evangelical Christianity.

I have found it wanting.

My relationship with it still exists, largely due to my introvert personality and general lack of verbally sharing what I truly believe with my conservative peers which make up a significant portion of my circle. One must pick their battles.

That said, Matthew Distefano’s newest book, Heretic! An LGBTQ-Affirming, Diving-Violence Denying, Christian Universalist’s Response to Some of Evangelical Christianity’s Most Pressing Concerns, resonates with me, as I believe it does an ever-increasing number of, for lack of better term, Post-Evangelicals. As the mouthful-of-a-title makes clear, it tackles some of the most heated topics among Evangelical Christians in the North American context with some tongue-in-cheek humor and signature Distefano wit to boot. Also, take the Parental Advisory warning seriously – Distefano uses some, ahem, colorful language.

Now, if you’re an Evangelical Christian, you may be thinking, “Universalism?? LGBTQ?? God as totally and wholistically nonviolent? Are you on pot? (A topic which Distefano has covered elsewhere) Of course he’s a heretic!” Except you’d be wrong, at least according to Christian tradition. Distefano still adheres to the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds (which were largely influenced by theologians who believe a variety of things that Distefano proposes in his book). The term heretic, historically, is less referring to what someone believes within the Christian tradition, and more about being divisive – someone who tears a community apart, often intentionally so.

For example, when an Evangelical church shuns a practicing homosexual – that congregation is being heretical, according to historical definition. When churches separate over minute doctrinal differences such as full or partial immersive baptism. Protestantism is about the most heretical manifestation of Christianity in the 2,000 year history of the religion – it just can’t agree on anything.

What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned: those who refuse to believe that God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is an abusive father who wants to torment 99% of the human population forever, to those who don’t maintain heterosexual relations or feelings, to those who believe violence is a never-ending self-perpetuating cycle. It seeks to cultivate community, not divide it. As far as I can tell, Distefano is even inviting those whom disagree with him to participate – if they can do so without themselves being divisive.

If you’re interested, Distefano’s book officially releases April 1, 2018. For the entire month of April, the Kindle edition will be 99 cents and all proceeds will go to the Preemptive Love Coalition. Check it out!

Distefano was kind enough to send a signed copy of Heretic! to me himself. Of course, I gave a donation to him in return. Being a shunned theologian certainly does not pay the bills very well!

Visit Matthew Distefano’s website!

We’re Neurotic: Nonviolent Reflections on Memorial Day – Year 2

The solutions are very straightforward. For a fraction of the expense that the U.S. taxpayer put into destroying Laos, you could clear the unexploded ordnance. So the first step would be to do what we claim the Japanese can’t do: take responsibility. Maybe that would be a start. So let’s overcome this strange defect and accept responsibility. That defect is not in the American public. It’s in American educated elites. They [have the ability] to find this out. If they don’t know it already, they can easily find out. It’s not like learning quantum physics. It takes no time to find out. They can use their position to make sure everybody knows about it.

When the editors of the New York Times and the rest take responsibility – which they condemn the Japanese for not taking – that will be step one. Step two will be to put in the resources that are required to overcome this U.S. atrocity and stop killing Laotian children. It’s not a big step. It’s not like bombing somebody. It would cost a lot less than bombing Iraq or Sudan. So there are some easy answers. Very easy answers.

~ Noam Chomsky in an interview with David Barsamian about how to deal with the undetonated ordnance issue in Laos, 1999

Last year I wrote a post called Let Us Remember: Nonviolent Reflections on Memorial Day. In it, I compared Fascist Nazi Germany to the United States. I wrote,

America’s military cause is no more justified than Nazi Germany’s. Both were/are fueled by ideological assumptions, paradigms, and worldviews that seek world domination through whatever means necessary. This is, of course, not to downplay the horrors of the Nazi regime. I am still highlighting those. However, I am also highlighting the horrors of the American empire. Both are Satanic: both treated their own (white male) people well, but the rest of the world as a rag doll.

But let’s stop a moment. Today is Memorial Day. A day off work dedicated to honor those veterans who lived, and possibly died, for our “freedom.” This generally means the “freedom” and “liberties” of the citizens of the United States. As we well know, however, in actuality, it simply means the “liberties” of middle/upper class straight white men (and whomever they choose to share their almighty ‘liberty’ with). (Let’s not get into how a country cannot truly be ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ if other countries live in poverty and bondage. *ahem*) Yet, somehow, we gather the whole country to celebrate (half-heartedly) the mass murder of other nations (in the name of God), viewing it as honorable and as if it were the right thing to do.

People get upset about the commercialization of Christmas as a holiday. They get upset that Jesus has been turned into a commodity by capitalism and consumerism – that the spirit of Christmas goes from one to giving to one of consumption. I feel similarly about Memorial Day – a day about honoring those before us is actually a day gripped tightly by the military industrial complex to inundate U.S. citizens to reality and how the world views us. As I’ve written elsewhere, I am an advocate of nonviolence. I believe any type of killing is murder. So, while I can respect veterans for doing what they think is right, especially when it is a difficult choice, I still think they were wrong.  Especially on a day like Memorial Day.

This ‘holiday’ is used as propaganda to romanticize the horrors men, women, and children experienced (both in the U.S. and other countries) so that the general populace doesn’t really question what the heck was going on. Rather than mourn the deaths of all humans involved in armed conflict, we celebrate and honor those who come from the U.S. Rather than talk about and remember the unjust horrors the U.S. inflicted (and still inflicts) in many countries around the world with its military industrial complex and innumerable coups, we pretend we’re the savior of the world (when in actuality most of the world hates us, even if they obey us out of fear). Whereas Germany mourns what it did in The Good War, we exalt ourselves for any war we’re involved in – or just don’t talk about it if it went terribly. We repress, we forget, we hush hush. As Carl Jung said, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” In this case, neurosis is a substitute for admitting we are wrong, we are not the heroes. We feed ourselves lies of glory and create within our collective psyche a savior-complex.

In other words, we’re neurotic.

So, today, I want to remember some of the terrible things the United States has done. Specifically, two key incidents during the period historians refer to as The Long Sixties (1950-1970s). This is not to say the sacrifice U.S. veterans made is not worthy of remembrance, but to say that the innumerable foreign citizens, soldiers, and societal institutions the United States has destroyed and ruined are worth remembering just as much, if not more so, on a day such as Memorial Day. It is, put concisely, trying to add nuance to a society which likes it’s ‘facts’ in black and white.

1) Cambodian Bombing and Genocide

Between the years 1965 and 1973, the United States dropped, at the very least, 500,000 tons of bombs on the country of Cambodia. Some historians argue far more. Either way, that is equal to the amount the United States used in the entire Pacific theater during World War II – I believe this is counting the atomic bombs.

Why the massive amount of bombing on such a small, neutral country? Viet Cong troops, and eventually Khmer Rouge rebels were stationed there, even if against Cambodia’s wishes. Thus, the US took this as justification for the bombing – even if there was intentional disregard for civilian life.

Intentional. Richard Nixon told Henry Kissenger (who somehow won a Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize…), “They have got to go in there and I mean really go in. I don’t want the gunships, I want the helicopter ships. I want everything that can fly to go in there and crack the hell out of them. There is no limitation on mileage and there is no limitation on budget. Is that clear?” This was all a part of Nixon’s “Madman” Theory of War: be as crazy and violent as possible so that your enemy doesn’t want to mess with you. Basically like deterrence but super violent either way. Kissenger then relayed to Alexander Haig, “He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything. It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.” These bombing raids were kept secret from the general public. The US doesn’t like its evil to be known.

unitedstatesbombingpointsincambodia
Area of Cambodia bombed by US – almost half the country.

Ben Kiernan, leading Cambodian Genocide scholar, estimates civilian casualties caused by US bombing to be 150,000.

On top of the bombing, the US was involved in a coup in 1970 to remove Sihanouk from power. The coup in conjunction with the bombing obliterated an already destabilized government. The US, China, Vietnam, and various political groups within Cambodia kept pulling the leading government officials (the prominent leader being Sihanouk) in multiple directions. After the removal of Sihanouk with right-wing replacement Lon Nol, Cambodia quickly became polarized.

The bombings created enough turmoil that the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which is what became the infamous Khmer Rouge, with Pol Pot as its primary leader, gained prominence. The Samluat Rebellion, a peasant uprising in Cambodia, helped pave the way to give Pol Pot power. Peasants were basically forced to give their rice to government workers (technically they ‘sold’ it, but it was so cheap they might as well have given it away for free). To make sure this continued, armed soldiers were placed near peasant farms and in villages. Peasants, being pissed off, killed two soldiers in rebellion to show they wouldn’t be treated as less-than-human any longer.

Pol Pot jumped on this opportunity to organize the frustrated peasants and gathered them into the Khmer Rouge movement. The Khmer Rouge began attacking military outposts and taking over Cambodia.

It wasn’t until the coup that Cambodia began associating with Vietnam’s Communist movement. From that point on, the two began collaborating, frustrated that the US played god. The Vietnamese viewed Sihanouk as the true leader of Cambodia, and offered their full support while Sihanouk and Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge joined forces against the US-backed government.

What began as a country which tried desperately to remain neutral (and arguably democratic) ended up as opposing and hating the US and pursuing communism.

The irony of the situation is that Pol Pot probably would not have been able to gain power in Cambodia if it weren’t for the illegal and covert US bombing/coup.

As a 1973 Intelligence Information Cable from the CIA’s Directorate of Operations explained:

Khmer insurgent (KI) [Khmer Rouge] cadre have begun an intensified proselyting campaign among ethnic Cambodian residents . . . in an effort to recruit young men and women for KI military organizations. They are using damage caused by B-52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda.

The narrative goes on and on with more and more destruction: the US puts its hand in something, screws it up, then has to kill more people to clean up its mess and make sure it still comes out looking like the hero rather than the villain. If you want to read a fuller narrative about the US involvement with Cambodia and how we ended up supporting the people we had, a decade before, tried killing, please refer to the many sources I provided below.

Before I continue, I’d like to share a quote from one of my main sources for this section, in which he parallels the Cambodian coup with the Iraq coup.

Any lessons to be drawn about the consequences of US intervention in Cambodia do not appear to have been learned: as the journalist John Pilger has pointed out, just as the massive destruction of Cambodia by the US bombing campaign helped create the conditions for the KR’s ascension, the US invasion of Iraq similarly destroyed a society and set the stage for the rise of ISIS. And just as the United States supported its former enemies in Cambodia against Vietnam throughout the 1980s, Washington entered into a tacit alliance with jihadist groups in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Indeed, if we can expect anything from US foreign policy, it’s atrocities and complicity, cloaked in the language of democracy and human rights.

2) Laos

We’ve briefly discussed Cambodia. We’re going to even more briefly discuss Laos. If you want more in depth information, I will provide plenty of sources, and you can obviously do more research as needed. I’d love to provide fuller narratives, but alas, I don’t get paid to do this, and unfortunately just don’t have the time.

“From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.”*

laosbombing
Total area of Laos bombed by US.

The US was trying to wipe out the Pathet Lao and pro-communist/socialist Vietnamese forces in Laos. While trying to do so, they murdered countless civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped – 80 million did not immediately detonate. They were intentionally manufactured so that all would not detonate upon first impact. To this day, Laotian people are still murdered by hidden bombs dropped many decades ago. The legacy of the US-backed murder of Laotian civilians continues on our day of relaxation/celebration: Memorial Day. For us, we eat hamburgers and potato chips. For the Laotians, they lose a few limbs and a child to bombs, since it happens almost, if not, everyday.

In fact, over 20,000 people have been killed in Laos from the undetonated US-dropped bombs. “Nearly 40 years on, less than 1% of these munitions have been destroyed. More than half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world have occurred in Laos.”

“The first group to try to do something about this issue was the Mennonites. The Mennonite Central Committee has had volunteers working in Laos since 1977 and has been trying to publicize the problem and get people interested in it…there is a British volunteer mine-detection group – composed of professionals, but not the British government…They have some Laotians working with them. The Americans are notable by their absence, as the British press puts it.” – Chomsky in Propaganda and the Public Mind by David Barsamian, 1999

“Furthermore, according to the right-wing Sunday Telegraph, the British mine-clearance group claims that the Pentagon will not even give them technical information that would allow them to defuse the bombs. There’s some technique you can use to make sure they don’t go off, but they won’t give them that information. So the British mine clearers themselves are at risk because this is secret information. The U.S. is not there clearing the bomblets and won’t give the British who are doing it information about how to do it safely.” – Chomsky

Despite this being our fault, we have generally refused to help clean up the mess. For example, “between 1993 and 2016, the U.S. contributed on average $4.9M per year for UXO clearance in Laos; the U.S. spent $13.3M per day (in 2013 dollars) for nine years bombing Laos.” We spent $13.3 million a day (in 2013 dollars) to bomb Laos for nine years straight. We can’t even manage to spend half that per year to help clean up the mess. We’re too busy making other messes! “In just ten days of bombing Laos, the U.S. spent $130M (in 2013 dollars), or more than it has spent in clean up over the past 24 years ($118M).” So much for being savior of the world.

3) 20-30 Million Murders…and then some: Are we the terrorists?

Cambodia. Laos. East Timor. Syria. Guatemala. Nicaragua. Afghanistan. Iraq. Angola. Bolivia. Argentina. Brazil. Vietnam. Chad. Colombia. Chile. Korea. China. Cuba. Democratic Republic of Congo. Dominican Republic. El Salvador. Grenada. Haiti. Honduras. Hungary. Iran. Indonesia. Palestine. Nepal. Pakistan. Paraguay. Panama. Philippines. Sudan. Uruguay. Yugoslavia.   The list goes on and on. The US has made quite a mess of the world. Don’t get me wrong, its not the only perpetrator. But it is a perpetrator that refuses to take responsibility. Instead, it wears a facade of heroism.

You may still be thinking, “this isn’t as bad as Nazi Germany.” Well, first of all, comparing death tolls and statistics feels so…inhumane. The murder of a single human should affect us, let alone a million or ten. But, it helps to do so…thus, the United States has murdered more than 20 million people in 37 “Victim Nations” since the end of WWII. The linked article begs a very important question: “how many September 11ths has the United States caused in other nations since WWII?” The answer is far too many, and leads me to a state of surprise that the US has only experienced one 9/11 itself – and that its own confrontation with terrorism didn’t lead it to empathy but rather more destruction. Not that it should experience more. As I’ve said, I advocate nonviolence both in the personal and political spectrum. War, murder, terrorism, and the like will get us no where.

Is this what we had in mind? Take down Hitler so we can do what he wanted to do – but a lot more covert and under the radar, stretched over a couple generations so it looked less wrong?

Either way, let that sink in. The beloved savior of the world, the United States, has been responsible for the unjust murder of at least, but probably more, than 20 million people – not counting WWII. Depending on how you look at the numbers, that’s more than Nazi Germany.

God bless America.

 

Sources:

Cambodia:

I borrowed a lot from this jacobinmag source. It was my primary go-to for the Cambodian part of this article. Credit goes to that writer for the information and chronological order of mine.
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/04/khmer-rouge-cambodian-genocide-united-states/

http://johnpilger.com/videos/year-zero-the-silent-death-of-cambodia

http://gsp.yale.edu/case-studies/cambodian-genocide-program/us-involvement-cambodian-war-and-genocide

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/refugee/war_cambodia.html

Killing Hope by William Blum

Laos:

http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21714972-how-unremitting-decade-long-bombing-campaign-affected-small-southeast-asian

http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/01/30/512449534/how-the-u-s-war-in-laos-was-key-to-the-birth-of-a-military-cia

http://legaciesofwar.org/about-laos/secret-war-laos/

http://alphahistory.com/vietnamwar/laos-during-vietnam-war/

Propaganda and the Public Mind: Conversations with Noam Chomsky Interviews by David Barsamian

Other:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-has-killed-more-than-20-million-people-in-37-victim-nations-since-world-war-ii/5492051

Death is Dead

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

Death, in other words, is what all men truly have in common with each other and with the whole of creation. Death is what you have essentially in common with me and the only reality, it seems, that we have in common with everyone else and everything else in this world.

~ William Stringfellow

I’m a busy man these days. No busier than others, I suppose. I like to blame my illness and many life transitions for my lack of writing and rigorous intellectual thought as of late. But I am without excuse. Regardless, I want to write something, anything, about this Easter weekend. What better to write about than death? The greater meaning associated with this arbitrary weekend is that death is truly the only lifeless creature in this reality.

Yet death pervades all aspects of our lives. From desiring the next and greatest technological gadget, to watching television, to spending quality time with those we cherish – to live is to live with, avoid, or fight against death. It is the ever-present moral problem, the shadow behind us on a sunny day, the clouds above us on a rainy day – it is, in a sense, as omnipresent as the Greeks like to think of God.

You may be wondering what exactly death has to do with every facet of your life. Take a basic example: work. You go to work to make money. Why do you make money? To pay for housing, food, transportation, and all the other amenities that keep the cycle of your life flowing – work, pay, leisure, work, pay, leisure. Why do you do these? In essence, so you do not die. If you stopped working, there is a good chance you would die in many forms: you might become homeless and lack proper shelter, food, and healthcare. You could physically die. If you don’t physically die, your social life might pass away – it is hard to keep up with the Jones’s if you don’t have a job or a home. Eventually, then, your self-esteem will probably die.

What about all the little things at work? Promotions, getting along with co-workers, enjoying the job. Why are these important and how are they related to death? Well, if you get a promotion, you make more money. Physically, you may be better off and more able to avoid death. Socially, your status may go up and you may acquire more social power, thus feeding the ego and preventing a death of the self-esteem. What of relationships? Faring well with co-workers could lead to a promotion, it could feed the self-esteem/ego, and help one’s life feel meaningful. Rewind. Why is meaning important? And how is it related to death? Well, we are mortal beings. More specifically, we are mortal beings who are aware that we are mortal beings. Unlike most, if not all, other animals, we know we are eventually going to die. Yet, we also have the ability to see beauty, to consciously love, to make moral decisions. With this kind of power, coupled with our mortality, we begin to want to make our lives matter – otherwise it appears all for naught. Why have these abilities if we eventually die? The question is agonizing – it produces in us our anxieties. Thus, we seek to give meaning to our lives, however fragile – regardless of culture we find ourselves in. This does not mean that for our lives to have “meaning” we must continue to live on physically – for example, certain cultures, such as the Japanese, have found a certain kind of meaning and honor in suicide. The search for meaning drives humans to do much of what they do. At its root, then, avoiding or fighting death drives humanity.

This is not necessarily bad. All aspects of culture are not inherently ugly, or disdainful, or terrible. There is much beauty and wonder created in the name of death. That said, much of it, at root, comes out of a spirit of fear.

But there is no fear in love, as we are told by Jesus’ disciple John.

And this is precisely where Jesus and his resurrection becomes intrinsic to us as human beings.

Jesus’ resurrection shows us that there is no more to fear. He has conquered death. He has made it so we no longer have anything to fear – we are free to give up our lives to sacrifice for another, because in reality, we are not really losing our life. We are free to love fearlessly and selflessly, without secretly trying to feed our ego. We are free to be rid of need from another human, from idolizing each other, so that we can more accurately and lovingly care for one another.

This does not mean, of course, we will be successful. Some people who have foolishly believed they have conquered the fear of death may commit themselves to suicide so they can simply skip to the coming eschaton. This however, is not truly freedom from the fear of death – what drives a person to such impatience or theatrical measures? Either feeding the ego (“look at me and how I’ve conquered death!!”) or unconscious fear of not maintaining fearlessness in the face of death (“I must prove I’ve conquered death by physically killing myself!”). Both are illusions of fearlessness – both motivated by the fear of death. In other words, to live in Christ is not intentionally killing oneself for selfish sake (because that is still fearing death), but to lay down one’s life for the betterment of others, without fearing what may come of one’s own well being.

And we can do this, because “[Jesus] himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14b-15) 

Christus victor.

Grace and peace.

 

 

 

That Holy Anarchist: 5 Insights from Mark van Steenwyk

I just finished reading fellow MennoNerd, Mark van Steenwyk’s book, That Holy Anarchist. It was a quick, informative read that I wish was longer. Not many people in my circles are familiar with anarchism (or frankly Anabaptism), so while I will probably not be adding any new information that cannot be found in Mark’s book, I hope to share five insights that stood out to me, using my own flavour. Mark’s book is roughly 70 pages in length, but I will be interacting with only a few pages. This is in hopes of helping those unfamiliar with the relationship between Christianity and anarchism understand it more clearly. I also hope this whets your appetite to read his whole work.

I think the first thing worth noting is that anarchism is not monolithic. Mark points out that anarchism is stereotypically associated with a nihilistic high school student who just wants to see the world burn. In other words, think of The Joker from the film Batman: The Dark Knight. However, Steenwyk suggests that association with anarchism is not fair, because while sometimes true, it is not always true, and most certainly not true of traditional anarchism. In other words, just as Christianity, with its plethora of traditions and manifestations, is not monolithic, neither is anarchism. Both offer ‘good’ and ‘bad’ features. To reiterate: anarchism is not monolithic.

While anarchism is not monolithic, it does have an anchoring point. As Mark writes, ” ‘An-arch’ means contrary to authority or without ruler. So ‘anarchism’ is the name given to the principle under which a collectivity – a group of people – may be conceived without rule. Specifically, anarchism is traditionally understood to be a critique of the ‘state’ while promoting a stateless society.” To be contrary to authority. To be without a ruler. This is the focal point for the various streams of anarchism. Whether the anarchism critiques sexism, racism, classism, empire, or any combination of oppressive isms, anarchism at root is about living contrary to oppression and attempting to not participate in it. Succinctly, anarchism is resistance to oppression.

Although implied in the above paragraph, I want to explicitly bring to light that while anarchism is resistance to oppression, it does something else of great importance. As anarcho-primitivism shows, “oppression and domination go much deeper than a critique of the State or of corporations or of any powerful elite. Rather, it goes deeper into the fabric of our social structures.” While Mark doesn’t think anarcho-primitivism has gone far enough with this sentiment, he does believe that it is headed in the right direction. Anarcho-primitivism, and anarchism in general, needs to learn to address the interdependency of the various forces of oppression if it is to successfully resist them. He continues,

“’empire’ [is] a manifestation of inter-related oppressions. Empire is, in our context, that social reality (or unreality, depending upon how you look at it) that globally reaches out to manage all of creation (including humanity) into a system of exploitation wherein only the elite ultimately benefit.”

Anarchism works to reveal hidden forms of oppression and create novel ways to resist them.

Because oppression manifests itself differently in different eras and social contexts, anarchism should be considered more a posture and an attitude than a body of theory or doctrines. It is a general stance toward authority, power, and the corruption that very often comes with them. For this reason it “tends to be praxis-oriented, rather than theoretically oriented…at its best, anarchism isn’t theoretical, with all its abstract-thought-ducks lined up in a row, but rather an evolving endeavor where thought flows out of experiment and practice.” To reiterate, anarchism is generally more about practices than about theoryMark refers to this as the “anarchic impulse.”

Finally, anarchism, according to Mark’s representation, is not only compatible with various manifestations of Christianity, but has shown itself in many Christian traditions throughout Christian history. Mark provides a list of examples for his readers. For our purposes I will point out two, which I think are rather obvious.

The first is the early church. Mark writes,

The Jerusalem group, as described in Acts, shared their money and labor equally and fairly among members. There are also indications of consensus decision making (Acts 15). Within Pauline Christianity, we see glimpses of mutual submission rather than hierarchy (Ephesians 5), a charismatic understanding of authority and power wherein spiritual authority isn’t located within any one person but, instead, any person could manifest the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12-14), and a fundamental egalitarianism (Galatians 3 and Colossians 3).

Many theologians and denominations claim that the early church lived out or practiced their version of Christianity, so appealing to the early church is not always the most powerful argument. That said, I think Mark makes many good points.

The other instance I want to share is Mark’s reference to the Anabaptists. Apparently, according to Mark, Peter Kropotkin, in his essay on anarchism for the Encyclopedia Britannica, “traces the birth of anarchist thought in Europe to early Anabaptist communities. This makes sense, since traditional Anabaptists separated themselves from the functions and practices of the State. In addition, Anabaptists past and present have generally embraced pacifism and some groups have held property in common.” In other words, those ‘radical reformers’ during the Reformation, the ones so despised by the Protestants and Catholics alike, were prototypes (albeit not the earliest ones) for anarchism defined.

The point here, if not clear, is that anarchism and Christianity are compatible.

From here Mark suggest ways anarchism manifests itself in Scripture, and the fact that “Jesus is calling for a loving anarchy. An unkingdom. Of which he is the unking.”

In other words:

Grace and peace.

(Go read Mark’s book!)

William, Whiteness, and I

This is an article I wrote to submit to The Mennonite. It did not get published. I figured I’d go ahead and post it here.

William Stringfellow did not consider himself a Mennonite. However it is well known he had many Anabaptist sympathies. He deserves a place in the collective history of Mennonites and Anabaptists. For those unfamiliar with Stringfellow, he was a white lawyer who moved to Harlem, New York in the 1960s as an advocate for minorities. Almost all of his written work is simultaneously autobiographical and theological. In other words, it is incarnational. In the tradition of Stringfellow, I hope to offer a simultaneously autobiographical and theological reflection on my own whiteness and how I must mentally and spiritually work with it.

I grew up in a small town in rural Ohio amidst a largely white population. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few non-white families…but they could be counted with fingers on one hand. Imaginably, I did not have much exposure to the rest of the world during my first 18 years of life. Thankfully, through the process of studying Church history, I discovered the empathy and inclusiveness of Anabaptists. I participated in an Urban Ministry program in Philadelphia during my freshman year of undergraduate studies. I learned, and am learning, a lot about the world, other people, and my own whiteness. In the learning process, the most important thing I must remember, and not be ashamed of, is: I don’t know as much as I think I do—a lesson which is part of the foundation for working with my whiteness.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being white. My whiteness does not make me less human or precious. Just as being a minority does not make someone less human or precious. We are all human. We are all caught up in a complex, interdependent world with problems and issues that extend deeper than our own individuality. In the words of Walter Wink, “we are not individuals but interbeings.” The color of my skin is not the issue. The problem is a sickness in the collective psyche of a largely white culture—lackluster empathy infused with a surge of apathy. Simply put: I will never be able to love my minority brothers and sisters if I think less of myself because of my whiteness.

One of the best ways to stave apathy is keeping attune to the experiences of my minority sisters and brothers. I ought to be open to conversation with them, and seek to be a person they can trust to converse about racial issues. I should learn to listen. William Stringfellow, in his book Count It All Joy, describes the sacredness of listening to another:

“Listening is a rare happening among human beings.  You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance or impressing the other, or if you are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or if you are debating about whether the word being spoken is true or relevant or agreeable…Listening, in other words, is a primitive act of love, in which a person gives self to another’s word, making self accessible and vulnerable to that word.”

In other words, listening to my sisters and brothers puts them before myself. I am duty-bound to seek comprehension of their experiences to the best of my ability. At the same time, I need to realize they are under no obligation to answer my questions, to agree to the difficult work of moving toward unity, or to trust me. I must make myself vulnerable, and face the possibility of being rejected by the other, who may have been hurt too many times by their own other.

I must not fear failure. As Stringfellow wrote, “biblical spirituality means powerlessness, living without embellishment or pretense, free to be faithful in the gospel, and free from anxiety about effectiveness or similar illusions of success.” Intercultural dialogue, communication, and community are difficult. They take a lot of energy. There are no guarantees they will work out well, or in the ways one expects. The hope is to succeed, but the underlying motivation is to keep trying even if failure rears its ugly head. The overall point is to love and unite with my brothers and sisters. If I don’t succeed the first time, the second, or the third, I must get up—after much reflection, wisdom seeking, and prayer.

Not fearing failure, I must also realize that there is a large possibility I could be wrong in my understanding of how to reconcile with my brothers and sisters. I ought to hold my tenets loosely so that I do not make them more important than the people I am trying to love. I should allow my brothers and sisters to guide me into their versions of reconciliation, so that I do not force my own ideals onto them. I must verbalize this desire explicitly and implicitly, so that others may know I value their thoughts, and so that I can be held accountable to this standard. If I enter into intercultural communication with the assumption (either conscious or unconscious) that I am always right about everything, communication will never truly happen.

If I do fail or become arrogant, the proper response is repentance via seeking reconciliation and forgiveness. I must not do this for the sake of my brothers and sisters but for myself. My brothers and sisters have no obligation to offer me forgiveness or seek to reconcile with me even after only a single offense. As Stringfellow wrote, “acceptance of another person is acceptance of the other as he is, without entailing any demands that he change in any empirical way.” I cannot force reconciliation on anyone. Dare I never think, though, that means I do not have an obligation and responsibility to attempt reconciliation. To think such a thing would be blasphemy.

Most importantly, I need to thrive on the fact that I have inherent value as a human being. To quote Stringfellow a final time,

“Now you can love. Love yourself. That is the rudiment of all other loves. Love yourself: that means your final acceptance of and active participation in God’s love of you. Love yourself. If you love yourself you will become and be one who can love another. Love yourself and then your love of others will be neither suicidal nor destructive, neither jealous nor possessive, but then your love of yourself will enable, embody, enrich, and elucidate your love of others, and your other loves will do the same to your self-love. And when you love others–tell them so–celebrate it–not only by some words but by your life toward them and toward the whole of the world. Your specific love of another is verified and supported in your love of all others and all things, even those that which seem to be unlovable, which seem unworthy to be loved. Let that be the manner of your witness to the One who loves all though none are worthy, not even one.”

If I cannot love myself by coming to terms with my own imperfections and complicity, I will never be able to fully love another. If I cannot move past white guilt, I will seek reconciliation for the wrong reason: making myself feel better. If I cannot see how valuable I am regardless of whether I ‘succeed’ or ‘fail,’ I will sink further into self-loathing when I believe I have failed. If I cannot find worth outside of my voice being heard, then fighting against racism may become more about being trendy (it’s rather trendy with us ‘social justice warriors!’) than about truly seeking the best for my minority brothers and sisters.

In summation, I have inherent value as a human being, and my response must be centered on repentance. There is a high probability of failure, implicit bias, and apathy. I must keep in mind that I am repenting not of my whiteness or skin color, but of those characteristics which do not adequately incarnate Christ in the world. I ought to remember that I am repenting of 1) apathy toward fellow people and 2) complicity to unjust systems. I have to recall that I am to work individually and collectively against this demon we know as racism—I am not in this alone. Ultimately, Christ is victorious. Christ’s victory permits me to love myself, and therefore to love others.

Some may think these convictions and this pursuit is extreme and placing too much responsibility on myself. Some may think that this is being overly sensitive to the needs and desires of minorities. In fact, I have heard such comments before. I disagree with that sentiment because minorities must accommodate to a primarily white culture every waking minute. The least we can do is seek to accommodate the predominant culture to others’. If we truly seek to love God, and therefore love our brothers and sisters, we should want to engage in intercultural dialogue, communication, and community—even if it is difficult and daunting.

Vandalism for Jesus

We Came To Be Arrested: The Catonsville Nine & William Stringfellow as Incarnational Criminals

Unfortunately, history is written by the victors: culturally, politically, racially, militarily, religiously, and psychologically. In relation to this, George Mische, member of the Catonsville Nine, wrote, “we should write our own movement’s history. Because if we don’t, somebody who was not part of it will come along with preconceived notions and their own agenda — and get it wrong(1).” An arguable case for this statement is the very existence of the Catonsville Nine, which is a lesser known group of nine self-proclaiming Catholics who protested the Vietnam War by burning draft files with homemade napalm – all in the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Catonsville Nine, in conjunction with supporters such as William Stringfellow, changed the way antiwar demonstrations would be enacted for generations to come.

1968 was a year when the Vietnam War, under the supervision of president Lyndon B. Johnson, was at its height. In January, the infamous Tet Offensive occurred, which horrified thousands by being displayed on television screens(2). During this event, over 500,000 American troops were in Vietnam(3), quite needlessly, according to many antiwar protesters, especially considering that most of the soldiers were drafted. As many as 35,000 men were being drafted per month as of 1965, all the while the trend continued to rise in the coming years.(4) These monstrous facts outraged many people, which led to frequent manifestations of antiwar protest, generally in the form of nonviolent and nonvandal marches.

It was amidst this growing antiwar movement that in the spring of 1967, a Josephite priest, Philip Berrigan, wrote in a letter to Walt Whitman Rostow, a special assistant to the president, that he and his colleagues “believe[d] the Vietnam war to be an enormous moral, political and economic disaster to both Vietnamese and Americans, and a criminal threat to world peace(5).” Eventually this belief inspired him to, in the fall of 1967, transform his abstract Catholic confessions into creative practical action by seeking new, more emphatic ways of protest. With Jesus Christ as his anchor point, he gathered three other Catholics in Baltimore, Maryland: Tom Lewis, David Eberhardt, and James Mengel. Their goal was to craft a plan to protest the draft in such a way that a peaceful, loving statement would be made, that would, at the same time, force the public to reconsider the war and approach to protests. The four decided to pour blood on draft files to ruin them and symbolically call out the political institutions that they viewed as responsible for the vast amount of pointless murder splattered throughout Vietnam. These four men, and their actions, became known as the Baltimore Four. The action made the front page on local newspapers, which is exactly what the Four wanted.(6) After the initial protest, the Four patiently waited to be arrested and tried for their crimes – they simply wanted their motivations to be properly understood. After the trial, the Four were eventually sentenced to prison for terms lasting from 2 to 6 years(7).

Eventually, Philip Berrigan was released on bail, and he, along with his friends George Mische and Tom Lewis(8), decided to continue the protest, while searching for more people to join them. Philip’s goal was to find people that “[were] privileged, middle class [and]  that are viewed favorably by society…that is the type of person…that should act on civil disobedience(9).”  Part of his reasoning for this was that he became convinced of “the uselessness of legitimate dissent,”(10) and therefore sought more drastic forms of protest that would effect lasting change. Eventually, Phil, Tom, and George gathered five more people: David Darst, John Hogan, Marjorie Melville, Thomas Melville, Mary Moylan(11). The eight conspired together the most loving and dramatic action they could throughout the course of the Spring. Their main goal: get arrested and burn draft files(12). The reasoning: an overly dramatic and theatrical trial would be a powerful platform to be heard and inspire others, and burning draft files would prevent the persons each file represented from being drafted(13). A few days before the act, Phil traveled to Cornell University in an attempt to recruit his brother, Daniel, for the action. He succeeded, and the group grew to its final number: nine(14).

May 17, 1968 was the fateful day of the protest. The nine members traveled to the Selective Service office in Catonsville Maryland. Upon making it to the second floor of the building, the group shocked a few employees and darted for the draft files stored along the wall. Forcing open the filing cabinets, each member loaded  wire baskets full of A-1 draft files, and quickly ran out the building. In no time at all, the nine dumped the files out in a large pile outside the building, drenched the files in homemade napalm and set them ablaze(15). As David Arst said in regard to the homemade napalm, “we all had a hand in making the napalm used here today(16).” While the papers burned, the nine members held hands and prayed the Lord’s prayer. Phil Berrigan was caught on camera as saying, “we sincerely hope we didn’t injure anyone(17).” Daniel Berrigan, in explaining the motivations of the group on film said, “we have chosen to be powerless criminals in a time of criminal power. We have chosen to be branded as peace criminals by war criminals…to be found guilty under the rules you worship is an honor(18).” He would later go on to say, “our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children…And yet, and yet the times are inexhaustibly good…the truth rules, Christ is not forsaken(19).” Dan’s words were sharp like a sword, and bombastic like napalm – but he, nor the rest of the nine, ever resorted to violence or the use of bombs. Although, for a time, Philip Berrigan flirted with the idea of using bombs as forms of protest, but eventually concluded bombs too violent(20).

Within a few minutes, a small group of police officers showed up and arrested the nine, amidst firefighters hosing down the fire with water. The entire protest action took less than fifteen minutes(21).  The news of the napalm action spread around the United States like the fire induced by napalm in Vietnam. However, the press mostly focused on the two brothers: Philip and Daniel Berrigan, who became the poster children of the group. This is especially evidenced in Time magazine’s treatment of the event in its January 25th, 1971 issue, in which the Berrigan brothers overshadow the other seven members, despite the very late participation of Daniel Berrigan.

A major part of why Daniel Berrigan and his brother overshadowed the other members in the press coverage is that Daniel Berrigan was an extremely elusive man. While most of the Catonsville Nine, such as newlywed Melvilles, willingly turned themselves in after the trial, Dan refused to be imprisoned. Without telling his family or Cornell colleagues, he disappeared(22). Unlike most of the nine, Dan struggled with the notion of turning himself in because he wondered if that would tarnish and trivialize the statement the Nine made. Rather than showing the inferiority of the state, he feared such an action would only feed into the common belief the state was the end all be all(23). Within the first few hours of being an “underground” fugitive, Berrigan reflected on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his nonviolent resistance to another political tyranny: the Nazi regime. Berrigan hoped and prayed he could maintain the same resilience that Bonhoeffer portrayed decades earlier.

Originally planning on turning himself in after ten days of hiding, Berrigan read his friend, Howard Zinn’s book Disobedience and Democracy, which influenced him to stay underground much longer than he anticipated(24). With such statements as “the slow workings of American reform, the limitations on protest and disobedience and innovation…are simply not adequate…the demands of our time will not be met by [a] narrow approach to civil disobedience,” one can see how Zinn’s book would have affected Berrigan’s thought at the time. Eventually, after almost a year of being on the run, Daniel went to Rhode Island to visit his friends William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne, whom he knew would willingly accept him, despite his fugitive status. With Stringfellow writing statements as, “it is unambiguous in each of the gospel accounts that Jesus Christ was a criminal….it is easy for us to gainsay the criminality of Jesus and to ignore entirely what his status as a criminal may mean for those who profess to affirm and to follow him…Jesus was….a criminal: not a mere nonconformist, not just a protester, more than a militant, not only a dissident, not simply a dissenter, but a criminal….from the point of view of the State and of the ecclesiastical authorities as well – from the view of the Establishment – Jesus was the most dangerous and reprehensible sort of criminal…a subversive,”(25) in articles with titles such as Jesus the Criminal which referenced contemporary civil disobedience protests such as the Catonsville Nine demonstration, Berrigan knew he could find a safe place. And find a safe place he did – upon his arrival at Stringfellow and Towne’s home, the two friends greeted him with a hospitable feast(26).

In conjunction with the hospitality, Anthony Towne offered sharp criticisms of Berrigan’s treatment of the whole situation. Towne said, “the movement badly [needs] depersonalization….from the time of the Catonsville action the movement [has] depended too much upon the personalities of [you and your brother], and during [this] fugitive era it depended almost entirely on [your] personality.” Towne thought that if the FBI were to capture Dan, the entire movement and momentum would be decapitated and stunted(27). Despite the strong desire of both Stringfellow and Towne to protect Dan, staying with his two friends would eventually be his ruin. On August 11, Stringfellow noticed a strange man on the property. After a brief conversation with the man, he stated he was there for Berrigan. Dan, who made no effort to flee, exited the house and said, “I suppose you’re wondering who I am. I am Daniel Berrigan(28).” He was immediately frisked, handcuffed, and arrested. As he entered the car to be taken away, he lifted his handcuffed hands in a gesture of endearment to his friends and said, “God bless.” He kept his peace and graciousness amidst the whole situation.

Despite his capture and the imprisonment of the Nine (minus Mary Molan who stayed underground for nine years and was never caught…rather, she turned herself in), the legacy of the Catonsville Nine lives on. With such protest acts as the DC 9, the Beaver 55, the Boston 8, and the Milwaukee 14, the Catonsville Nine influenced many people and organizations to not only think more intently and creatively about protest, but also about war, life, and death. The dramatic narrative of the Nine can also be experienced in the form of a play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, as a documentary in Hit & Stay, and in historical literature in The Catonsville Nine.

The theological, biographical, and philosophical elements continue on in the work of William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne who co-authored a book called Suspect Tenderness: The Ethics of the Berrigan Witness about the time Daniel Berrigan spent with them before his arrest. The Catonsville Nine also greatly influenced William Stringfellow’s seminal piece, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, which he was writing upon the eve of Berrigan’s arrest at Stringfellow’s home(29). This became the book that Daniel Berrigan later recommended to students at Union Theological Seminary, amidst plans to launch an underground seminary(30). Stringfellow’s An Ethic also played an integral role in the overall work of political theologian Walter Wink, meaning that many aspects of contemporary political theology can be traced back to the protest of nine Catholic priests(31). The Catonsville Nine and the Berrigan hospitality incident also indirectly influenced Stringfellow’s work, Conscience and Obedience: The Politics of Romans 13 and Revelation 13 in Light of the Second Coming, which he wrote specifically because of a conversation with an FBI agent who was interrogating him about Berrigan. The agent asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say you must obey the Emperor?” Conscience and Obedience is Stringfellow’s response to his question. Stringfellow wrote in the preface that he “could not concede the simplistic premise about the Bible that [the agent’s] question assumed, and rebuked him about [it], taking perhaps forty-five minutes to do so(32).” Traces of the occurrence can be seen throughout other works published under Stringfellow’s name, such as The Politics of Spirituality. 

Berrigan and the Catonsville Nine have also received acclaim from intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, the latter of which said, “in this modern world we have this fetish about property and about things much more than we have about people….people are more important than pieces of paper – people are being burned and killed(33).”  To Zinn, the Catonsville Nine offered a proper perspective and revaluation of human life. Even Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground said, “religion is boring and kind of a bummer, but these folks are different. One of the reasons is because they carry out their politics, their faith, and their moral principles in action. It’s the action that makes their principles comes to life(34).” While it remains up for debate, the evidence is strong that the Catonsville Nine did more than prevent a few hundred potential draftees from being forced into combat. They created a monumental shift in the realm of theology and Christian thought (whether the recipients of the legacy realize it or not). Not mere abstract academic theology – but pragmatic, down-to-earth, gritty, incarnational theology. In some respect, the Nine brought a little bit of the Kingdom to Earth(35).

Footnotes:

1 http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/inattention-accuracy-about-catonsville-nine-distorts-history 

2 http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/tet-offensive 

3 A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn p.477 

4 The Portable Sixties Reader; The Sixties: A Chronology, p. xxx 

5 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/artifact.cfm?ID=CUCN016 

6 Hit & Stay documentary. 

7 A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, p.488 

8 https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

9 Dean Pappas in Hit or Stay documentary. 

10 Philip Berrigan as quoted in https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

11 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=36 

12 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=1 

13 George Mische explained in the documentary Hit & Stay that each individual only had one draft file representing himself. If that file were destroyed, that man would not be able to be drafted. Thus, burning the draft files had a significant impact on many lives. 

14 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=4 

15 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=2 

16 David Arst, quoted in Hit & Stay documentary. 

17 Phil Berrigan as quoted on footage shown in Hit & Stay documentary. 

18 Daniel Berrigan as quoted on footage shown in Hit & Stay documentary. 

19 Daniel Berrigan quoted in https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

20 https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

21 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=2 

22 The Catonsville Nine p. 269 

23 Ibid. 269 

24 Ibid. 270 

25 Jesus the Criminal by William Stringfellow, Christian Century 

26  Suspect Tenderness: The Ethics of the Berrigan Witness by William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne, 1971.

27 The Catonsville Nine  p. 283 

28  Ibid. p. 284

29 From the Preface to Conscience and Obedience, William Stringfellow, 1977 p.15 

30 From the Preface to William Stringfellow: Essential Writings, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, p. xii-xiii 

31 Ibid, p. xiii 

32 From the Preface to Conscience and Obedience, William Stringfellow, 1977 p. 16 

33 As quoted in Hit & Stay documentary. 

34 Ibid. 

35 The Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 6 verses 9-13. 

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