Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For the 10 Year Anniversary of the Beginning of the Iraq War: Wisdom from John Howard Yoder and Wendell Berry

"We have always been taught to understand the nature of power in society so as to expect that the way to get useful things done is to find a place at the command posts of the state. We have suggested already that the man in power is not as free or as strong as he assumes, that he is the prisoner of the friends and the promises he made in order to get into office. But an even more basic observation is that he is not at the place in society where the greatest contribution can be made. The creativity of the 'pilot project' or of the critic is more significant for a social change than is the coercive power which generalizes a new idea. Those who are at the 'top' of society are occupied largely with the routine tasks of keeping in position and keeping balance in society. The dominant group in any society is the one which provides its judges and lawyers, teachers and prelates -- their effort is largely committed to keeping things as they are. This busyness of rulers with routine gives an exceptional leverage to the creative minority, sometimes because it can up the scales between two power blocs and sometimes because it can pioneer a new idea. In every rapidly changing society a disproportionate share of leadership is carried by cultural, racial, and religious minorities.

"What is said here about the cultural strength of the numerical and social minority could just as well be said with regard to political strength. The freedom of the Christian, or of the church, from needing to invest his best effort or the effort of the Christian community, in obtaining the capacity to coerce others, and exercising and holding on to this power, is precisely the key to the creativity of the unique Christian mission in society. The rejection of violence appears to be social withdrawal if we assume that violence is the key to all that happens in society. But the logic shifts if we recognize that the number of locks that can be opened with the key of violence is very limited. The renunciation of coercive violence is the prerequisite of a genuinely social responsibility and to the exercise of those kinds of social power which are less self-defeating."

—John Howard Yoder, "Christ, the Hope of the World," in The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1971), 171-72

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Now you know the worst

By Wendell Berry

To my granddaughters who visited the Holocaust Museum on the day of the burial of Yitzhak Rabin

Now you know the worst
we humans have to know
about ourselves, and I am sorry,

for I know that you will be afraid.
To those of our bodies given
without pity to be burned, I know

there is no answer
but loving one another,
even our enemies, and this is hard.

But remember:
when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he gives a light, divine

though it is also human.
When a man of peace is killed
by a man of war, he gives a light.

You do not have to walk in darkness.
If you will have the courage for love,
you may walk in light. It will be

the light of those who have suffered
for peace. It will be
your light.

1 comment:

  1. In regard to September 11th and the subsequent already pre-planned invasion of Iraq it seems to me that the three essays written by Wendell Berry in response to it are far more relevant. Essays which give a very concrete contextualised response to the whys and wherefors of why it may have happened.

    Google Wendell Berry - Thoughts In the Presence of Fear

    Meanwhile of course it now appears to be comletely certain that the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was an inside job.