Wendell Berry on Responsibilities and Priorities

“The only thing that a government requirement assures is a prolongation of government supervision.” Wendell Berry

Tonight I’ve been reading some essays by Wendell Berry.  Berry is a Baptist conservationist, farmer, professor, poet, novelist and gift to all of us.  I was first introduced to Berry’s writings by one of my professors.  He poked the coals of love in my heart for neighbor and environment.  He articulates what I fear we are losing in the American consciousness and that is our connection to place as commonwealth and community.  Here are some quotes from one of his agrarian essays.  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

“There are two ways by which individual success and security can be made (within mortal limits) successful and secure: they must rest on a sound understanding and practice of economic justice; and they must involve and be involved in the success and security of the community.”

Economic justice includes the understanding of a Free Market Economy that works for a win win for individuals, families, communities. DC

“The first principle of economic justice, however, is that good work will be paid.”

Good work like good cooking is personal, creative and takes time.  Have we become so seduced by the mass marketing of shiny but poorly made products that we no longer appreciate the craftsmanship of people who love the tools, materials and products they produce for people they know?  Should we rethink this?  DC

“The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth.  This alignment destroys the commonwealth – that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community – and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.”

Like Berry, I appreciate small local government.  Further I shudder at the continued aggrandizement of power and wealth seized by state and federal governments.  We must come to appreciate the natural wealth of the places we live in together (people, nature, natural resources, etc.) and responsible leaders we elect. DC

“If we are looking for insurance against want and oppression, we will find it only in our neighbor’s prosperity and goodwill and, beyond that, in the good health of our worldly places, our homelands.  If we were sincerely looking for a place of safety, for real security and success, then we would begin to turn to our communities – and not to the community simply of human neighbors, but also of the water, earth, and air, the plants and animals, all the creatures with whom our local life is shared.  … Our present idea of freedom is only the freedom to do as we please … The other kind of freedom is the freedom to take care of ourselves and each other.”

The vision of community health for my township, our church is wonderful expressed in this paragraph.  We are free to take care of ourselves and one another.  Jesus taught us to love one another!  DC

“Many people now feel more at home, and more at ease socially, at a professional convention than in the streets of their own neighborhoods.”

I admit that this has been a personal challenge for me.  It has been my goal to know and serve my neighbors as well as my family and congregation. How are you doing here?  DC

“I assume that it is good for people to know each other.  I assume, especially that it is good for people to know each other across the lines of economy and vocation.”

One of the beauties of the wonderful congregation I pastor is the witness of people doing life across vocational and economic lines. To God be the Glory! DC

“The only thing that a government requirement assures is a prolongation of government supervision.”

It seems these days that a growing number of people demand of their government to take care of them not realizing that the government will demand to supervise more of our lives.  It will not be a paternal government of fatherly love or maternal government of motherly love.  Instead it will be a co-op of the powerful and wealthy dictating what those who surrender their opportunity to be self and community sufficient. DC

“A proper community , we should remember is also a commonwealth: a place, a resource, and an economy.  It answer the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members, among them the need to need one another.”

Your thoughts?


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