He is a Kentucky farmer, a writer, an activist, and a cultural critic. His theology isn’t that bad either.
Wendell Berry gave a talk to Baptist ministers in Kentucky on January 11th. I wish someone could sign him up to give the same talk to the USCCB at their next meeting.
“The Bible,” Berry reminded the Baptists, “… has a lot more to say against fornication and adultery than against homosexuality. If one accepts the 24th and 104th Psalms as scriptural norms, then surface mining and other forms of earth destruction are perversions.
“If we take the Gospels seriously, how can we not see industrial warfare — with its inevitable massacre of innocents — as a most shocking perversion?
“By the standard of all scriptures, neglect of the poor, of widows and orphans, of the sick, the homeless, the insane, is an abominable perversion.
Berry’s theology is unquestionably orthodox and Christo-centric. In principle it should delight any red-hated episcopal authority. “Jesus talked of hating your neighbor as tantamount to hating God,” Berry stressed. “Yet some Christians hate their neighbors by policy and are busy hunting biblical justifications for doing so,” he said. “Are they not perverts in the fullest and fairest sense of that term? And yet none of these offenses — not all of them together — has made as much political/religious noise as homosexual marriage.”
Wendell Berry is not gay. John Greenleaf, happily marred to the woman of his dreams for more than 40 years, isn’t either; but he resonates completely with Berry.
“If I were one of a homosexual couple — the same as I am one of a heterosexual couple — I would place my faith and hope in the mercy of Christ, not in the judgment of Christians,” Berry said.
“When I consider the hostility of political churches to homosexuality and homosexual marriage, I do so remembering the history of Christian war, torture, terror, slavery and annihilation against Jews, Muslims, black Africans, American Indians and others. And more of the same by Catholics against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics, Catholics against Catholics, Protestants against Protestants, as if by law requiring the love of God to be balanced by hatred of some neighbor for the sin of being unlike some divinely preferred us.”
My final citation from Berry’s ministerial lecture should be carved in stone and put on granite monuments in front of every seminary, chancery, and cathedral.
“Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred,” Berry said. “Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness – as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies, or any other group different from ourselves.”
After Ash Wednesday some thoughts about doing theology in a positive and enriching way.