Bill Wylie-Kellerman, a Sojourners contributing editor, is a pastor and community activist in Detroit. His most recent book is William Stringfellow: Essential Writings; his next forthcoming is Where the Waters Go Round: Beloved Detroit (Wipf and Stock).
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We Die Before We Live
On April 30, 2016, Catholic peacemaker and activist Daniel Berrigan entered life eternal. He was a teacher and friend to many in the Sojourners community. Read more reflections on Dan's life and legacy in the August 2016 issue.
I ONCE HAD a conversation with Dan about his death. We were talking late into the night at the Block Island hermitage that his friends William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne had built for him while he was two years in Danbury federal prison, a consequence of the 1968 Catonsville draft board action. He had by then foresworn scotch, on doctor’s orders, so I was being introduced to Manhattans dry, which were somehow allowed. The place suited the topic. On the wall above us was an exorcism poem that he’d hand-lettered in a style familiar to Catholic Worker and resistance houses across the country.
I’m certain it was I who broached the topic. When we met in the early ’70s, it was in the wake of notorious assassinations: Medgar Evers and Viola Liuzzo, the Panthers, Malcolm, King, the Kennedys. There was a certain youthful grandiosity in imagining that he or others who were such troublesome peacemakers would be similarly targeted. I braced my heart. I told him so. (Then he turns around and lives, thanks be, to 94!)
Bill Wylie-Kellermann responds
Thanks to Walter for this affirmation. Wink’s contribution was indeed enormous in my view and, in the end, well-received. After he was denied tenure, however, he could not find a job in the academy. I know it was a painful time for him.
Struggling to Become Human
In scholarship and life, Walter Wink sought the truth with passion.
Thanks so much to Rose Berger and her article “‘Why Are White People So Mean?’” She has become the first page to which I turn. She listens as a poet to the prophet on the street and sees and hears at a depth. I thought of Amos looking on a basket of fruit set before him and seeing the poor crushed like grapes.
From the Archives: April 1985
Authority Over Death
Blame for Blight: Bill Wylie-Kellerman Replies
Bill Wylie-Kellermann replies:
An Assault on Local Democracy
Michigan's "Emergency Manager" law and Detroit's future.
Walter Wink: Remembrance and Reflection
Walter Wink, 76, a world-class biblical scholar and non-violent practitioner, crossed over to God on May 10 at his home in Western Massachusetts. Following a slow decline, he had been in hospice for several weeks in the company of his beloved June and their family. (See "Confronting the Powers," Sojourners December 2010)
As a first year seminarian in New York City, more than 35 years ago, I was fortunate to have Walter as my New Testament instructor. In a seminar session on the "pearl of great price" in Matthew, I have a vivid memory of him breaking the discussion so we could go round the circle and each reply to the question: "For what would you be willing to die?" I don't so much recall my own halting answer, as the depth of the question he understood was put to us by the text. It's since become my conviction that no one should escape seminary (or baptismal preparation for that matter) without facing with that query.
Which is to say he was himself an engaged scholar, connecting the academy with the risk of the streets. While filling his first teaching post at Union Seminary in New York he was simultaneously serving on the national steering committee of Clergy and Laity Concerned about the War in Vietnam (1967-76).
He was notorious for foundation-shaking works. When I met him, Walter was a rising star in the biblical guild, on the fast track at Union. Then he published a little polemical book called The Bible in Human Transformation (1973) which made bold to declare, “Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt." It assailed the myth of scientific objectivity, the disembodied approach which kept the text at arms length and pre-empted commitment. In many respects it anticipated the contextualizing hermeneutics of feminist and liberation readings, but it didn't win him friends in the academic guild.
Harry and the Principalities
The 10-year pop culture love affair with Harry Potter leaves questions at the crux.
(for Daniel Berrigan on his ninetieth birthday)
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