WASHINGTON - September 27 - Thousands will converge today for Appalachia Rising, the largest national protest to end mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Appalachian residents, retired coal miners, scientists and faith leaders are demanding that the Administration end the destructive practice that poisons communities and streams. Specifically, they are calling for the immediate veto of the Spruce Mine project and calling for sustainable economic diversification for the region.
[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
There are some folks here at Front Porch Republic who are well-acquainted with Wendell Berry. They’ve been to his home, stayed up late telling jokes with him, discussed profound ideas in his presence, really gotten to know the man. I’m not one of them. My encounters with Berry have been entirely through his written works–until Saturday. That morning, I drove to Salina, KS, to attend The Land Institute’s annual Prairie Festival, where Berry would be speaking. It was as crowded as the festival has ever been, but I managed to squeeze in close, so as to hear what Berry had to say. I never got to speak with him directly; there were too many others around him, all of whom knew him better than I. But still, I managed to draw near and sit before (well, on a folding chair) a teacher whom I respect enormously. He taught, and I learned.
We not only believe that we are entitled to more energy, but that we can get fatter and lazier on oil without consequences. The farmer and Christian poet Wendell Berry once noted that "The basic cause of the energy crisis is not scarcity: it is moral ignorance and weakness of character. We don't know how to use energy or what to use it for. And we cannot restrain ourselves. Our time is characterized as much by the abuse and waste of human energy as it is by the abuse and waste of fossil fuel energy."
I would like to share a few reflections about the book by Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (2000). This is not a book I would have chosen on my own. However, I am glad that the District Superintendent, Craig LaSuer, recommended it as reading material for pastors. I will offer my reflections in the form of a journal. Of course, as a pastor, I have special interest in the portions of the book that relate to the religious struggles of Jayber Crow.
Jayber Crow is the barber, and eventually, the janitor of the church and the grave digger, in the little town of Port William. His parents died when he was young. His aunt and uncle took him in, but they died by the time he was ten. He was placed in an orphanage, having used up his quota of such adults in his young life. He went to college, particularly interested in being a preacher. “The trouble started because I began to doubt the main rock of the faith, which was that the Bible was true in every word.”
I gave a sermon at my Congregation today about teaching environmental values in children's religious education, and the lessons I've learned about doing so. Since it's relevant to this blog, I'm copying it here. Of course, I would probably copy my sermons here even if they aren't relevant, so the relevancy is sort of a bonus in this case. If, for some incomprehensible reason, you'd prefer to listen to me give it rather than just read it, you can go to our podcast blog here, where it's uploaded.
Teaching Green Sermon
(Opening, transitional, and closing words all from Wendell Berry.)
Last evening we went down to hear Wendell Berry speak at Ferrum College. (Mr. Fuzzy took pictures to be posted, I hope, soon.)
Mostly he read a lovely parable set at the end of the days of using draft animals for farming but he did take a few questions at the end. One of those was about"greenwashing" and "sustainable living." His remarks were kind, humble and yet forceful.
Rumor has it there will be Front Porchers attending this year’s Prairie Festival (Sept. 24-26) at Wes Jackson’s Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. It so happens that two tutelary spirits of localism, Wendell Berry and Scott Russell Sanders, are on the ticket. This isn’t one to miss.
Sometimes pearls of hermeneutical wisdom can be found in unexpected places. I stumbled upon one the other night in Wendell Berry’s excellent novel Jayber Crow, and it has to do with the proper way to interpret stories. Jayber says it this way:
“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told.”
In this week's reading Berry, Leopold, and Abbey investigate the possibility of knowing the natural environment. Knowledge means a little more than geography and scientific fact here. It is more like communion and transcendence. Each author explores the possibility of breaking through human ideas about nature and getting to know nature as it is.
Wanting to remind us of the imaginative source of our conference title, I opened our time together by reading Wendell Berry’s poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” and then proceeded to offer my own prose/poem.
Those two words,
…the rallying cry of the Mad Farmer Liberation Front,
… the summation of the Manifesto,
those two words,
…the heart of Christian discipleship,
…the invitation and call of this weekend conference,
two subversive words spoken in the face of a culture of death.