Bill Wylie-Kellermann is a retired Methodist pastor, nonviolent community activist, teacher, and author. His next book is forthcoming this summer: Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection (Cascade, 2021).
Posts By This Author
Shadow, Mirror, and Mime
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness. —Ephesians 6:12
William Stringfellow, the theologian who may be justly credited with reviving in this country a theology of the principalities and powers, claimed to be first put onto them by his friends and legal clients in Harlem who experienced, among other things, the mafia and its network of dealers as a predatory force invading their families and neighborhoods. His years of lucid reflection began in a certain sense with their intuitive theological street wisdom.
It is thereby all the more remarkable that in the churches' struggle against drugs there has been such meager theological reflection. Indeed the notorious frustration and substantial failure of the church in confronting the drug problem, so-called, may be partially rooted in this fundamental shortcoming: the failure to comprehend drugs biblically; that is, as numbered among the principalities and powers.
The officially sponsored "Just Say No" approach—and its churchly equivalents—effectively masks the character of the drug powers. While intimating resistance ("say no"), it first reduces the struggle to ("just") an individual exchange, an illegal street-level deal. The principality in its economic, political, cultural, and above all spiritual aspects remains hidden and is given a free hand to go about its deadly business.
Because the church's approach is firstly (and rightly) pastoral, the individualist temptation predominates. It is, however, especially pastoral care that requires the fullest comprehension of the powers.
A principality, whatever its particular form and variety, is a living reality, distinguishable from human and other organic life. —William Stringfellow, Free in Obedience
A Gift of Voice
On the road together
The Machinery Of War
Technology and the powers that in-dwell
Light to the powers
Discerning the Angel of Detroit
The Spirits and Powers at Work in One City: A Parable for Our Time
A Confessing Church in America?
Spirits of the Age
Apologist of Power
The Long Shadow of Reinhold Niebuhr's Christian Realism
Wise as Serpents, Gentle as Doves
Examining Jesus' response to surveillance.
A Parable of Integrity
Bill Stringfellow and the Word of God.
O Holy Nightmare
Incarnation and apocalypse.
The Word in a Very Small Room
Celebrating Advent in a prison cell.
In the Boldness of the Spirit
Fellowship and risk before the authorities.
Freed to Follow
An Easter celebration of resurrection and healing.
A Confusion Before the Cross
A Subversive Calendar of the Heart
Inspiration for public witness.
Against All Odds
In the disarmament movement, history is more than meets the eye.
To Stir Up God's Good Trouble
John Wesley and the Methodist revival movement.
Barbed Wire and Beyond
A theology of trespass
The Hospitality of God
The theological and historical meaning of Christian sanctuary