Some Walked and Walked and Walked

Prophets and poets read the times and tell us of the world to come. Neither the poet or the prophet are readily understood. A poet is without honor in his hometown. One such polarizing prophet and poet was Daniel Berrigan, SJ (1921-2016).

A Jesuit priest, he was active in the civil rights movement, marching with Martin Luther King in Selma and visiting South Africa during Apartheid. He achieved notoriety in the Vietnam war when he traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi during the Tet Offensive. But it was his action on May 17, 1968, which landed him on America’s Most Wanted list, and later prison. He and 8 other Catholic activists (including his younger brother Philip, also a priest), broke into the draft office in Catonsville, Maryland. They destroyed 378 draft files in the parking lot while singing and saying the Lord’s prayer, making their prayer in the name of  the God “whose name is peace and decency and unity and love.” After this Berrigan was a fugitive of the law. He and his co-conspirators were arrested and convicted, spending three years in prison (Berrigan immortalized the trial with his play, The Trial of the  Catonsville 9, 1971).

Daniel Berrigan was passionate and willing to put his life and reputation on the line to pursue the peace of God. He was later was the Plowshares 8 in 1980, breaking into a General Electric Nuclear plant, damaging warheads and pouring blood on documents. He was also an Aids activist and opposed American intervention abroad, and capital punishment, advocating for a consistent-life ethic. 

Berrigan’s poetry intertwined with his sense of  call as prophet and priest. His poem Some is dedicated to the Plowshares 8 with love:

Some stood up once, and sat down.
Some walked a mile, and walked away.

Some stood up twice, then sat down.
“It’s too much,” they cried.
Some walked two miles, then walked away.
“I’ve had it,” they cried,

Some stood and stood and stood.
They were taken for fools,
they were taken for being taken in.

Some walked and walked and walked –
they walked the earth,
they walked the waters,
they walked the air.

“Why do you stand?” they were asked, and
“Why do you walk?”

“Because of the children,” they said, and
“Because of the heart, and
“Because of the bread,”

“Because the cause is
the heart’s beat, and
the children born, and
the risen bread.”

Ezekiel describes the judgment of God against false prophets of Israel that cried peace, peace when there was no peace” (Ezekiel 13:10). Ezekiel was a post-exilic prophet. He denounces both those who had given Israel and Judah a false sense of security before the nation was carried into exile and those in the midst of empire who tried to tickle the ears and tell the people what they wanted to hear.

We live in an era that should have no pretension of peace. War is in the water. Violence is everywhere. Another Berrigan poem The Earth Prison Poems, Viking Press, 1973, p, 82) describes the state of the world under empire:

When earth yielded up to our arms
the multitudinous children of her invention —
streams, starlight, storms — we were the pampered lovers then
of those who loved us, one flesh and blood, one bone.
O that embrace the state’s steel gauntlet
raced down on like a wild fire.  Wounded
in the nearest parts, part men only,
we wind, unwind our bloodied limbs
feverish, icy, swept by what sighs and tides . . .

This is where we live. Some may claim peace, a strong economy prosperity, but this is a world of violence, of suffering, of pain.

The poets and prophets tell us about the state of the world. They also tell us of the world to come. Berrigan was a faithful witness to the peace of God. When other’s walked away he walked and walked and walked. He stood. He spoke. He took pen in hand. May we also walk and write and stand and speak. 

The Lifestyle of a Prophet: a book review

James Goll is a well known voice among charismatic-prophetic types. He has written several books  on the ministry of prophecy, which among charismatics amounts to exhorative words of knowledge given to build up and encourage the church (as opposed to the ‘social critic’ understanding of prophecy–I am not saying that Goll doesn’t also affirm this function of prophecy but there is less emphasis on it).  In The Lifestyle of a Prophet, Goll has written a 21 day manual which distills some of his earlier volume, The Coming Prophetic Revolution (Chosen books, 2001). This book is intended to help those called and gifted for prophetic ministry to make the most of their calling.

The 21-day-format enables Goll to divide his book into three one-week-long sections. The first section describes ‘the lifestyle of intimacy,’ the second, ‘the lifestyle of wisdom,’ and the third, ‘the lifestyle of revelation.’ While charismatic prophetic types occasionally reverse this order, Goll exhorts prophets to first develop an intimate relationship with God and the character appropriate for this charism. Likewise wisdom (i.e. knowing how and when to share prophetic words) is an important part of effective ministry. The final section, gives some practical advice for prophets to exercise their gift.

This book is not really written for non-prophets. I am a non-prophet with some questions about the contemporary practice ( I am not dismissive, just have some bad experiences). So much of this book was talking past me. However I thought Goll was evenhanded in his presentation and offered some good advice.  He obviously affirms and celebrates ‘the prophetic’ but he cautions against chasing prophetic words instead of being rooted in scripture.  Likewise his approach of first cultivating our relationship with God and the practice of wisdom before delving into the experience of the gifts is correct.

I happily give this book four stars for what it is: a practical manual for charismatic prophets. As an introduction to those exploring the prophetic gifts, other books are better. But this is the sort of grounded book you want prophets to read. It doesn’t hurt that Goll is a good writer.  So prophet friends, I commend this book.

Thank you to Chosen books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Hometown Prophet: a book review

While I have had opportunity to review Christian fiction in the past, I haven’t until now. I have my reasons.  I don’t think that all Christian fiction is bad, I sort of put it in the category of ‘church coffee.’ You might get a decent cup of coffee after a church service, but you can’t expect it and the odds are your next couple will be god-awful (that is the technical term).  I also am just not that into Amish Romance or whatever the kids are reading these days.

Why I am I so biased against religious fiction? Well I think the problem is that the genre category means that it is usually written with either didactic or apologetic intent (to teach you something or to stylistically vomit the gospel on you). This sometimes means that there is a compromise in  the artistic integrity of Christian novels (but yes there are also good ones).

But despite my biases and suspicions I liked Hometown Prophet a lot. The premise behind the story is this: Thirty-something Peter Quill moves back home to Nashville to live with his mom. He begins receiving prophetic dreams where he correctly predicts the future. Soon the visions he has put him at enmity with the Christian community in Nashville, especially when he calls into question people’s economic and  ecological commitments and challenges them to regard Muslims as their neighbors.

Author Jeff Fulmer describes how he grew up in a conservative, charismatic household but became increasingly ill-at-ease with how Christianity was misrepresented ‘for personal and political gain.’ He wrote Hometown Prophet out of that frustration. But while this book is a book with a message, it doesn’t strike me as overly preachy. The main character, Peter Quill becomes increasingly confrontational in his prophecies and says a lot of things really strongly. Fulmer balances this by describing Peter’s inadequacies and shortcomings.  He is a complex character, and the story is well crafted.

In this book Fulmer challenges us to pay attention to those around us, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to look for creative ways for God to use us (even if we never hear a prophetic word).  People on the far right may be challenged and offended by elements of this story, but I think challenge is good. This is a fun read which I recommend. Now if I could just get some decent church coffee.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.