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Daniel Berrigan, Part 2-- Order and Disorder

by John K. Stoner  (March 5, 2018)

In last Friday's blog I quoted Dan Berrigan and the Catonsville Nine apologizing "for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children."  Perhaps you have reflected a moment on that.

Americans have a strong distaste for civil disobedience, and my readers may be like Americans in this.  (Principled civil disobedience, that is; I've noticed high tolerance for unprincipled civil disobedience such as disobeying speed limits.)

I'm featuring Dan Berrigan for several days because we live in a time and place where civil disobedience may be a much higher civil, moral and spiritual duty than we have been trained to think. How do we prepare our minds and spirits to do the unfamiliar and difficult?  One way is by paying attention to people who are experienced in what we need to learn.

For burning draft files the Catonsville Nine were charged with disrupting  public order.  The defendants spoke to this:

We say: killing is disorder, life and gentleness and community and unselfishness is the only order we recognize.  For the sake of that order we risk our liberty, our good name.  The time is past when good men may be silent."

In the future, perhaps not the very distant future, you will have opportunities, you will be invited, to participate in acts of civil disobedience which expose the evil of civil obedience, of going along to get along, of being silent in the face of blatant evil.  When the time comes for you, will you be ready?

I know, we tend to think that such behavior is for a few specially called people, like the prophets of the Bible.   Forgetting (rather conveniently, I guess) that Jesus blessed those who are persecuted for good behavior, and said that this was the experience "of the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5). I think he was saying, "My followers should expect to be like, and be treated like,  the prophets who were before you."   For us then, this could mean civil disobedience as it did for the prophets.  

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