Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blessed Are the Peacemakers By Wendell Berry

Having been often enthralled with Berry's poetry about love between man and women and his living practice of caring for the earth - way before sustainability became popular, I notice when his name shows up.

So, I just finished a densely rich little booklet by this name written in 2005. This is perhaps the best short book I've read thus far on the impact of Christ's teachings about Love, Compassion and Forgiveness - thus about peace. My temptation is to start to write this in full (in parts) because each page and many sentences/phrases even are spoken with such power and clarity.

However, with time/space/priority limitations, I want at least to highlight here a few of the statements in the hopes that many of us will purchase this little book, find it or ask that it be placed in our libraries, start little discussion groups with it and make it's interpretation of Christ's teachings an essential part of what we do and who we are as spiritual people (regardless of our claimed religion or backgrounds).

I found this 67 page book by accident in our local library when looking for books on Hagar, the Genesis/Koran and other versions. I found a number of connections between Berry's understanding of Jesus' teachings and the deeper look into the meaning of Hagar for our time...


From Wendell Berry:

Any observer would have to say that Christianity is fashionable at present in the United States. This might be a good thing, except that the observer, observing more closely, would have to conclude that, to the extent that Christianity is fashionable, it is loosely fashionable. It seems to have remarkably little to do with the things that Jesus Christ actually taught.

...people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective "Christian." (For don't we know that everybody named Rose smells like a rose?)

This process appears to have been dominant among Christian heads of state ever since Christianity became politically respectable. From this accommodation has proceeded a monstrous history of Christian violence. War after war has been prosecuted by bloodthirsty Christians, and to the profit of greedy Christians, as if Christ had never been born and the Gospels never written. I may have missed something, but I know of no Christian nation and no Christian leader from whose conduct the teachings of Christ could be inferred.

One cannot be aware both of the history of Christian war and of the contents of the Gospels without feeling that something is amiss. One may feel that, in the name of honesty, Christians ought either to quit fighting or quit calling themselves Christians. One way to see how far belligerent Christians have strayed from the words of Christ is to make a list, like the one presented in the following pages, of the Gospel passages in which Christ addresses explicitly the issues of human strife, forgiveness, compassion, and peacemaking.

Christians have been reading for the last four hundred years (Christ's commandments) while disobeying or ignoring (them) and praying for His help in their wars.

They have justified their obedience on the grounds of the impracticality of obedience, though we have little proof of the practicality of disobedience, and precious few examples of obedience. ..The Christian followers of Caesar have thus committed themselves to an absurdity that they can neither resolve nor escape: the proposition that war can be made to serve peace; that you can make friends for love by hating and killing the enemies of love. This has never succeeded, and its failure is never acknowledged, which is a further absurdity.

...Christ told us how to survive when He answered the question, Who is my neighbor? In the tenth chapter of Luke He tells the story of a Samaritan who cared for a Jew who had been badly wounded by thieves. As we know from the preceding chapter, in which the Disciples suggest in effect the firebombing of a Samaritan village, the Samaritans and the Jews were enemies. To modernize the story, then, and so to understand Christ's answer, we may substitute any other pair of enemies: fundamentalist Christian and fundamentalist Muslim, Palestinian and Israeli, captor and prisoner. The answer: Your neighbor is any sufferer who needs your help...

Please get a hold of this book.


Often, I've seen and read of those who practice Christ's teachings - with or without recourse to His name nor to any other named spirituality.

One such example may be shown in this short video

Video of the Week on One World Many Peaces here See September 24, 2010 Cesar Chavez's Nonviolent Immigrant Worker Movement in the U. S.


  1. Seems an interesting booklet with such a beautiful new meaning for neigbhor in light of Christ's universal teaching.

  2. I find this universal teaching to be easy to see and quite related to your understandings. So sad that these are so difficult for so many who call themselves "Christians" to practice.