Monday, May 02, 2016

Father Dan - prophet and poet of outraged and outrageous love

There are lots of prophets, outraged at injustice – many of them acerbic and angry. There are a few poets who really touch the heart. But it is rare to find a prophet-poet.

The Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan  who died last Saturday was  one of these.

In my work for justice and peace I have encountered many angry people who are outraged at injustice. They are, many times, overwhelmed by their anger and attack anyone who doesn’t totally agree with them. I have been on the receiving end of such anger any number of times. It comes from left, right, center. But the driving force is anger.

Today I read in a Facebook message of Jim Forest that Fr. Dan used the phrase “outraged love.”

I have encountered some people who really exhibit this “outraged love” who respond to persons with love, even in the midst of serious conflict. They are overcoming hate and injustice with love and a desire for reconciliation.

I recall a young man whom I know since he was an undergraduate at Iowa State University and I was in campus ministry. He was an advocate of Palestinians – partly because his mother was a Palestinian whose family fled their home during the Nakba, when his mother was less than a year old. He was also an advocate of peace – partly because of a grandfather who had worked for peace all his life. What I remember of him is his efforts to cross borders, to dialogue with supporters of Israel. He has a passion for people – and is now living in Palestine with his family, teaching at a university.

I think Father Dan would have loved spending time with my friend. What they have in common is a lack of ideological narrowness and rigidity. Outrage doesn’t lead to hate or anger – but to creative love.

I suspect that Fr. Dan could do this because he was not only a prophet but also a poet – one who could see beyond caricatures and see the creativity that God has given people. His reflections on various books of the bible are exercises in creative encounters with God through the scriptures.

I met Fr. Dan several times – at a retreat at Kirkridge Retreat Center in the late 1970s, at various events in the 1980s. I have read a good number of his books. Though some might find him a bit naïve, I think he saw things in a different light, a light that can illumine the darkness of our age.

In the late 1960s I bought a poster of Fr. Dan that included this quote:

Don’t just do something; stand there.

Don’t just get involved in causes, demonstrations, civil disobedience. Rather, BE there; accompany the people; accept the consequences with them. But above all, love them with an “outrageous love.”

1 comment:

Charles said...

I asked my pastor to give thanks for his life as part of the prayers. Either baffled by my handwriting or unfamiliar with the man, what emerged was "thanks for the life of Daniel Bergen."

I hope Father Dan knows from the next life that we appreciate his sometimes quixotic encounters with militarism, even if we mispronounce his name. Truly, from the perspective of the Kingdom of Heaven, what materialistic humanity does is very strange.