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A report from Prairie Festival

Berry, a longtime Kentucky farmer and writer, and his daughter Mary, jointly discussed land use and the importance of people serving as caretakers of the natural world.

Wendell Berry noted that in the past year - because of record corn and soybean prices - he’s seen fields "that have been in grass all my life herbicided and planted in corn or soybeans."

That rolling land, hadn’t been planted in the past because it is so susceptible to erosion and ends up being bare through much of the year.

"We can take instruction from nature, to keep the ground covered," Berry said, while annual crops leave the ground bare much of the year.

"Annuals are nature’s emergency service, rushing in where there’s a scar to cover it as quickly as they can," Berry said. "You can’t run a landscape indefinitely as an emergency."


Wendell Berry's Jefferson Lecture is Published


Of course, Mr. Berry's Jefferson Lecture is available online as both text and video. Please visit or re-visit them at will.

But now Counterpoint has published the talk along with an interview by Jim Leach (also available online) and five other essays. And it all fell into my hands yesterday afternoon.

It is good to have the lecture between hard (paper) covers for easy reference, and the same is true of the insightful interview. I've yet to dive into the extra essays, but am looking forward to "Starting From Loss," "The Future of Agriculture," "A Man of Courage Constant to the End," "About Civil Disobedience," and "Maury Telleen, 1928-2011."

Blog Watch: "False Economies and False Gods"

This morning I was re-reading my favorite Wendell Berry essay, “Discipline and Hope,” which has become an essential text for me in trying to understand the meaning and implications of Slow Church. I was struck today by a short passage on the ways we have come to idolize the present economy. Berry writes:  

“If the Golden Rule were generally observed among us, the economy would not last a week. We have made our false economy a false god, and it has made blasphemy of the truth. So I have met the economy in the road, and am expected to yield it right of way. But I will not get over. My reason is that I am a man, and have a better right to the ground than the economy. The economy is no god for me, for I have had too close a look at its wheels. I have seen it at work in the strip mines and coal camps of Kentucky, and I know it has no moral limits.”


Wendell Berry influences band

How does the album title factor into all of this?

"The Peace of Wild Things" is a Wendell Berry poem. I think, thematically, Wendell Berry has kind of been a thread through our band from the start. "Absence" was a word that was used a lot in his book Jayber Crow. There's just a lot of him in our band. It just made sense. Making this album kind of saved us, in a lot of ways. That man in general ... I think he pretty much thinks all you need is God, a partner and the land. I think that's about as beautiful as it gets. Being in a band, especially in our current state, the highs are high and the lows are in the lake of fire. Jayber Crow is a long poem, it's a flowbook, but it doesn't get more beautiful than that book. It just helps you to realize that, you know, I'm in a really bad mood today, I don't want to be here, I have to sing tonight, but yet I have to invest in these people's lives. It just really kind of aligned the planets for us.


from "Wendell Berry and the Re-Incarnation of the Church"

One of the primary contemporary prophetic voices speaking to this corruption of our faith is the farmer and agrarian writer Wendell Berry. His voice is like a voice from another time calling us as Modern Christians to a New Materialism – one rooted in a Biblical understanding of this world that GOD has given us – one in which we return to resurrection (of Jesus and in turn Creation and the people of GOD as well) as the central reality of our faith. In his epic essay ‘Christianity and the Survival of Creation‘ he pinpoints the root issue (all excerpts taken from the collection of essays ‘The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry‘):

“I have been talking, of course, about a dualism that manifests itself in several ways: as a cleavage, a radical discontinuity, between Creator and creature, spirit and matter, religion and nature, religion and economy, worship and work, and so on. This dualism, I think, is the most destructive disease that afflicts us. In it’s best-known, it’s most dangerous, and perhaps its fundamental version, it is the dualism of body and soul. This is an issue as difficult as it is important, and so to deal with it we should start at the beginning…”