From “Christianity and the Survival of Creation”

From “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” (1993) by Wendell Berry.  (Read the entire essay HERE)

Despite its protests to the contrary, modern Christianity has become willy-nilly the religion of the state and the economic status quo. Because it has been so exclusively dedicated to incanting anemic souls into heaven, it has, by a kind of ignorance, been made the tool of much earthly villainy. It has, for the most part, stood silently by, while a predatory economy has ravaged the world, destroyed its natural beauty and health, divided and plundered its human communities and households. It has flown the flag and chanted the slogans of empire. It has assumed with the economists that “economic forces” automatically work for good, and has assumed with the industrialists and militarists that technology determines history. It has assumed with almost everybody that “progress” is good, that it is good to be modern and up with the times. It has admired Caesar and comforted him in his depredations and defaults. But in its de facto alliance with Caesar, Christianity connives directly in the murder of Creation. For, in these days, Caesar is no longer a mere destroyer of armies, cities, and nations. He is a contradictor of the fundamental miracle of life. A part of the normal practice of his power is his willingness to destroy the world. He prays, he says, and churches everywhere compliantly pray with him. But he is praying to a God whose works he is prepared at any moment to destroy. What could be more wicked than that, or more mad?

The religion of the Bible, on the contrary, is a religion of the state and the status quo only in brief moments. In practice, it is a religion for the correction equally of people and of kings. And Christ’s life, from the manger to the cross, was an affront to the established powers of his time, as it is to the established powers of our time. Much is made in churches of the “good news” of the gospels. Less is said of the gospel’s bad news, which is that Jesus would have been horrified by just about every “Christian” government the world has ever seen. He would be horrified by our government and its works, and it would be horrified by him. Surely no sane and thoughtful person can imagine any government of our time sitting comfortably at the feet of Jesus, who is telling them to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. . . ” (Matt. 5:44).

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7 comments on “From “Christianity and the Survival of Creation”

  1. DM says:

    I love your heart. This really jumped off the page: “The religion of the Bible, on the contrary, is a religion of the state and the status quo only in brief moments. In practice, it is a religion for the correction equally of people and of kings. And Christ’s life, from the manger to the cross, was an affront to the established powers of his time, as it is to the established powers of our time.” And it only makes sense. He does this same thing in my heart (corrects, rebukes, and on occasion, brings me my knees for my ultimate best) Deep stuff, but right on. DM

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks DM. I come back to this essay often. Wendell Berry was at the forefront as an advocate of what we now call “Creation Care.” It has often been said that he speaks with a prophetic voice (in his essays particularly). He’s not reluctant to challenge the state, the church, or any unholy alliance between the two. But as he has said elsewhere:

      “I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”

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  2. Jeff says:

    If you had the time to delve deeply into Berry’s thought, you’d be led to a very different world than the one we live in now. Walter Shewring, for example, is linked to Eric Gill, who is linked to Ananda Coomaraswamy, who is linked to William Morris, who is linked to the Pre-Raphaelites, who are linked to William Blake …. it goes on and on. Berry is a remarkable man. I wonder how many people, investigate, in depth, the world he lives in … if his thoughts on Christianity draw people’s attention, that is a good thing. Now, take hold of the string and start pulling.

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    • Bill says:

      Well said. Such an investigation could be a lifetime’s work. By now I think I’ve read most of everything Mr. Berry has written, much of it more than once. But I never grow tired of it, never cease being challenged, and never cease learning. I see his writing (or most of it at least) as a call to resist the tug of the industrial world and to live differently.

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  3. shoreacres says:

    Caesar is no longer a mere destroyer of armies, cities, and nations. He is a contradictor of the fundamental miracle of life. A part of the normal practice of his power is his willingness to destroy the world…

    And anyone who has been watching the news of late sees that the new “Ceasar” is a strange and terrible amalgam of bureaucracies, media, hustlers and race-baiters who are leading this country inexorably toward a truly terrible destruction.

    My personal hope is that pure, unadulterated laziness and lack of focus may give more reasonable voices a chance to speak and be heard. After all, the good folks who blocked the Houston freeway yesterday only lasted fifteen minutes. It started to rain, don’t you know…. 😉

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    • Bill says:

      Caesar’s “bread and circuses” come to mind.

      It helps not to watch the news. 24 hour a day news sources need to keep us tuned in so they can sell advertising.

      But the “news” is hard to escape. I have found the last few days an opportune time to edit out a lot of my facebook friends.

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      • Jeff says:

        I haven’t had a TV for almost 20 years and I’ve not read the paper for a good number of years, either. I’m not bragging – I just have better things to do than to focus on the oh-so-predictable “news” that sells advertising. I’d much rather read Wendell Berry or someone else who has something to say that is worth knowing about. Bread and circuses, indeed! Sheldon Wolin wrote Inverted Totalitarianism and then there is Manufacturing Consent by Herman and Chomsky …

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