Friday, January 22, 2016

Learning Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as Ways of Living

Reflecting on the state of America at the end of 2001, Wendell Berry rightly pointed out one way of sticking to the difficult path that leads to life (Matthew 7:14):
We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam, then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and languages of the Islamic nations. And our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of those people have for hating us (In the Presence of Fear, The Orion Society, 2001, p. 8).

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Freedom for Local Self-Reliance

Reflecting on the state of America at the end of 2001, Wendell Berry rightly clarified the choice Americans then faced:
We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited “free trade” among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide…and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation.
Or we can promote a decentralized world economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local needs had been met (In the Presence of Fear, The Orion Society, 2001, p. 4).

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Where Our Pleasure Is, There Our Hearts Will Also Be

At the end of 2001, Wendell Berry reflected on the state of America. When he did so, he couldn’t help but notice that our devotion to Vulcan, god of technology, led inescapably to a fatal indifference toward all things past.
The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to “grow” [2] and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things superseded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been, were discounted as of no value at all (In the Presence of Fear, The Orion Society, 2001, pp. 2-3).

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Vulcan: Progress Is Technological Advancement Despite Appalling Destruction

Reflecting on the state of the union at the end of 2001, Wendell Berry believed that recent events had ended America’s technological optimism. He then explored where that optimism had come from.
The “developed” nations had given to the “free market” the status of a god, and were sacrificing their farmers, farmlands, and rural communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business (In the Presence of Fear, The Orion Society, 2001, p. 2).
Wendell rightly puts the word “developed” in quotation marks. Like many other words, its meaning depends on its context: Olympian or Christian.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

An Alternative Christian Society as Our Creative Response to the Global Technological System

In response to four large coordinated acts of violence in 2001, Wendell Berry wrote “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear.” That essay was reprinted in a booklet entitled, In the Presence of Fear, by The Orion Society later that year.
Wendell makes a point in that essay that may help us to better understand how we might more creatively respond, as faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ, to Olympian challenges we still face today.
[D]ominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors…did not acknowledge that…prosperity was limited to a tiny percentage of the world’s people, and to an ever [1] smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life… (pages 1-2).

Friday, January 1, 2016

Bullshit: A Greater Threat to Truth than Lies

Bullshit is a vulgar term. Worse, it is a vulgar and destructive reality. We will attempt to understand it more clearly by reflecting today on the book, On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton University Press, 2005).
Lies. To better understand the meaning of bullshit, we will contrast it with lies and bombast. A lie is a statement made with the intention to deceive. A speaker lies to misrepresent what they believe to be true either of their own subjective reality, or of our shared objective reality, or both.