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Daniel Berrigan: To Dwell in Peace
General Assembly 1999 Event 344
Unitarian Universalist Peace Fellowship Lecture
Speakers: Daniel Berrigan and Rev. Dennis Davidson
Rev. Denny Davidson, president of Unitarian Universalist (UU) Peace Fellowship, introduced Father Daniel Berrigan, well-known Jesuit priest, and since the 60's, a impassioned practitioner of nonviolent direct action. The humble, contemplative priest was chosen by the UU Peace Fellowship to receive this year's Ballou Peace Award. As Father Berrigan received the award from Rev. Davidson, he said, "If it had to be a Berrigan tonight, it should have been Phillip, he's the real one, and I'm the reasonable facsimile...but you'll have to put up with me." His brother is serving a lengthy prison sentence due to an act of nonviolent direct action in Portsmouth, NH a few years ago, in which he and a group of associates poured their own blood on the hatches of a destroyer that was in harbor.
Father Berrigan started out by quoting from a recent Catholic Worker paper from Birmingham, AL, which said, "Our culture has debased God. What we call God is unworthy of the worship of free men and women, because we know not what to worship, we worship the state, or the military, or the dollar, or the race, or our own appetite and compulsions, and in these things we have found no happiness. Now, if revolutions of right and left are shallow, if they are too narrow to satisfy, if each exercises only tyranny, if political means have demonstrated their uselessness, and military means their criminality, is it not perhaps [true] that we have left unexplored whole areas of thought and deed?" Berrigan thinks this might reward reflection and effort, and even perhaps provide some relief in these times.
In his 35-minute acceptance speech, he shared his thinking about the relationship between a caring community and a life of commitment to opposition to violence. Father Berrigan said, "In 1980 and frequently since, groups of us have labored to break the clutch on our souls of wars and rumors of wars, of 'inevitable' wars, of 'just' wars, of 'necessary' wars, of 'victorious 'wars. For us, repeated arrests, and the discipline of nonviolence in a religious tradition, have been summed up in the ethic of the resurrection surpassing all ideologies and justifications. Simply put, and daring to speak for others, some of whom are in jail tonight [including his brother, Phillip], we have longed to taste the resurrection. We have longed to welcome its thunders and quakes, and to echo its great gifts. We want to test the resurrection in our bones. We want to see if we might live in hope instead of in the...twilight thicket of cultural despair in which standing implies many are lost. May I add that in all this, we have not been disappointed."
His speech was followed by an extensive discussion involving members of the audience which lasted for almost an hour.
For more information about the UU Peace Fellowship, contact Rev. Dennis Davidson at 48365 Prairie Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260. For more information about reconciliation and nonviolent anti-war work, start with The International Fellowship of Reconciliation or The War Resisters League.
Reported by Dwight Ernest.