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William Stringfellow, Part 4: The sanctification of this world

“Christ of the Breadlines,” Fritz Eichenberg (1953)

Continuing my series of excerpts from and reflections on Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973).

Empirical and Nonempirical

Here is where William Stringfellow begins to hold our feet to the fire, we who are often proud “professors” of our religious traditions yet feeble “practitioners.” He challenges us with his special use of the term “empirical” as he applies biblical political ethics to present-day America.

For Stringfellow, “nonempirical” connotes belief

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“So who is this ‘Bright Cow,’ anyway?” – from April 13, 2008

Flying crow (1024px)

Occasionally people wonder where I got the totem name Bright Crow that I use in my email address. Here’s the story I wrote to explain it in the voice of Walhydra’s amanuensis in 2008.


Walhydra likes to tease her amanuensis about a typo he makes occasionally with his totem name, Bright Crow.

Since he’s been typing for forty years, often to earn a living, he just shrugs and laughs. Nonetheless, she thinks the question

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“Walhydra’s salutary moment” – from October 25, 2006

Latte art at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, Jacksonville, FL

Walhydra likes to believe that her nostalgia is not as tacky and self-deceptive as some people’s.

*ahem*

She thinks back on her youth—sometime in another century—as a time when she and her peers were profoundly affected by the liberation movements and communal aspirations of their era. Not to mention their discovery of sex…and those other two things.

This present Calvinist age mixes sensationalizing with trivializing of that earlier time, in order to sneer at the heartfelt cries of its

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William Stringfellow, Part 3: “The Demoralization of America”

: “War crimes (old crematorium at the former Dachau concentration camp)," by Ilias Bartolini on flickr

Autobiographical introduction

I began reading William Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973) because, in the midst of our 21st century American horror story, I remembered how profoundly he changed my adolescent view of the world during “Race, War, and Poverty,” the Lutheran Youth Expo (now called ELCA Youth Gathering) at Lenoire Rhyne College in August of 1968.

My senior year of high school in Columbia, SC, had climaxed, not

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William Stringfellow, Part 2: “The Fall” as metaphor for American political reality

"We the People" text from the US Constitution

Last week I posted excerpts from the preface to William Stringfellow’s 1973 book, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land.  Central to Stringfellow’s argument is his assertion that Americans are “grossly naive or remarkably misinformed” about the biblical concept of “the Fall.”

Christian ideology, in particular Protestant Christian ideology, has dominated the nation’s distorted self-image and consequent hurtful policies and culture from the beginning.  The churches project “too mean, too trivial, too narrow, too

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Vivian Gornick on “the ever-enlivening fellowship of suffering”

The following excerpts are from “Why Some of Us Thrive in a Crisis,”
by Vivian Gornick, in The Atlantic, June 2020, pp.18-20.


Vivian Gornick has observed a wide-spread phenomenon in the midst of the pandemic: “Loners who sped into public service faster than altruism could explain. These were people who trusted no one, joined nothing, signed nothing; yet here they were making masks, checking on neighbors, bagging groceries.”

As she delves into

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William Stringfellow, Part 1: Against interpreting the Bible for the convenience of America

The following is excerpted from the preface to An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land , by William Stringfellow (1973).


“My concern is to understand America biblically…. The task is to treat the nation within the tradition of biblical politics—to understand America biblically—not the other way around, not (to put it in an appropriately awkward way) to construe the Bible Americanly.

“Th"An Ethic for Christians and</a></p><a href=

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It’s about us, not the police

Primary Border Fence with Mexico (BBC World)

If we are concerned about use of force by the police, then we need to shine the light on the depths of our own brutality, brutality that we have projected onto them over the past century or so.

As America has become urbanized, we have handed over more and more responsibility for maintaining civil society to the “rule of law” and the “arm of the law.” Increasingly, instead of doing the personal work of neighbors and community, we

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The personal, not the political

Prosperous couple & bag lady on a bench

There is nobody on the planet, neither those whom we see as the oppressed nor those whom we see as the oppressor, who doesn’t have what it takes to wake up.The Pocket Pema Chödrön (156)

Human change is always personal, not political.

Yes, all social concerns are in some way “political” concerns (Greek politikos, from politēs “citizen’,” from polis “city”). But our feelings about a concern are personal reactions to the concern, not pragmatic steps toward remedies. And

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