Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “Dorothy Day”

A tale of two women

When the Roman Pope visited the USA last week, two women made the headlines, and were all over the social media. One was a celeb, the other a saint.

Guess which one got more attention?

Kim Davis

Kim Davis

Kim Davis, a minor celeb, met Pope Francis briefly at a function, and dominated Facebook for the next three days.

I’m not exactly sure what her claim to fame is, but clearly it was sufficiently well known to many people in the USA that it needed minimal explanation, though it seems that the Vatican was moved to give a great deal of explanation, to judge by all the clarifications and denials and explanations and whatever.

And these things were plastered all over Facebook in great profusion. I don’t know about anyone else, but they certainly dominated my newsfeed.

And it was apparent that this was related to the current obsession with sex — in the media, in many Christian denominations, and in many other places.

And it was also apparent that all the fuss over Kim David drew attention away from the other woman, whom Pope Francis had held up as an example to the American government and people — Dorothy Day.

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day

Dorothy who? asked the mainstream media, and many on social media as well.

Unlike Kim Davis she wasn’t a celeb, and nobody knew much about her.

If you’re reading this, and don’t know who Dorothy Day was, read here, and follow the links Love is the measure: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker | Khanya. I think she deserves more attention than Kim Davis, and I’m pretty sure Pope Francis thinks so too.

As I said, I don’t know much about Kim Davis and her claim to fame. It seems that a lot of people know enough, or think they do, to make judgements about whether she is a good person or a bad person, and think that that is sufficiently important to say so. I’m not saying anything about Kim Davis, and whether she is good or bad, or has done good or bad things. What does concern me, though, is that a lot of people seem to think it is worth making a mountain out of a molehill, stirring up a storm in a tea cup.

And this provides a marvellous distraction from the elephant in the room.

Dorothy Day was no saint, yet she is being considered for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. To understand why, you would need to read her biography Goodreads | All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest:

Dorothy Day (1897-1980), founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and one of the most prophetic voices in the American Catholic church, has recently been proposed as a candidate for canonization. In this lavishly illustrated biography, Jim Forest provides a compelling portrait of her heroic efforts to live out the radical message of the gospel for our time.

Hijacking words: Urban Dictionary: Communitarianism

Having at one time been an editor of academic texts I am interested in words and meaning, and especially in the way words are sometimes used to obscure and confuse meaning rather than to communicate meaning. Words can sometimes be “hijacked” or “skunked”. They are hijacked when their meaning is twisted or perverted to mean something else. They are “skunked” when they are used by so many people to mean so many different things that you can never be sure what a person means by them unless they give a definition every time they use it. One example is “liberal” and “liberalism”, and that these words have been skunked can be clearly seen in the two preceding posts.

“Communitarian” and “communitarianism”, on the other hand, have apparently been hijacked, at least by some people. I’ve blogged about this before here and here.

Communitarianism is a fairly new word, but the concept was developed by Catholic anarchists like Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and Ammon Hennessy to distinguish Christian anthropology from modernist secular anthropologies like individualism and collectivism. Even though there wasn’t a specific word for it, the concept has been around at least as long as Christianity has, and I’ve described it, with quotations from Orthodox theologians, in Love is the measure: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker | Khanya.

I didn’t realise how bad it had got, however, until I read this: Urban Dictionary: Communitarianism:

Communitarianism

buy communitarianism mugs, tshirts and magnets

n. The belief that a society is greater than the sum of its parts, and that the members of an organization ought to work toward improving the organization. Often accused to be ‘communist’ or ‘fascist’.

Communitarianism is perceived to be evil because it opposes the individualistic doctrine of our society.

I find it difficult to see how anyone could take such a “definition” seriously. For a start, “accused to be” is illiterate. The correct English idiom is “accused of being”, and “accused to be” is a solecism. Anyone who writes English that badly is not competent to write dictionary definitions.

The next problem is that we are not told the identity of those who make these accusations, nor are we told the identity of those who “perceive it to be evil”, nor are we told which society is meant by “our” society. But I think it is safe to assume that those who make the accusations and perceive communitarianism in this way are as ignorant as the writer of the definition.

My attention was drawn to this in a blog post by James Highham, whose blog I read fairly regularly, and find interesting, though I don’t always agree with everything he says, and in this instance, of course, I emphatically disagree.

nourishing obscurity : Four Great Lies:

The Fourth Lie – the “third way” – is an attempt to bring people in by the back door to the dark side of the duality and it utilizes the First Lie to good effect. Thus we get “communitarianism”, perverting the concept of local community and having a vast number of federalist controlled local communities, each under the influence and rubber stamping power of a Common Purpose graduate. Leading beyond authority, i.e. assuming powers which are not yours to assume and being answerable only to the oligarchy in the centre.

The thought of Dorothy Day being part of an “oligarchy at the centre” really is too much.

God is the only landlord | Lansbury’s Lido

Chris Hall posted a rather nice Anglo-Catholic socialist hymn for May Day – you can see the whole thing at God is the only landlord | Lansbury’s Lido:

3. Today the tyrants triumph
And bind us for their gains,
But Jesus Christ our Saviour
Will free us from our chains,
And love, the only master,
Will strive with might and greed,
Till might is right no longer,
And right is might indeed.

Lift up the people’s banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

4. God is the only Landlord
To whom our rents are due.
God made the earth for everyone
And not for just a few.
The four parts of creation —
Earth, water, air, and fire —
God made and ranked and stationed
For everyone’s desire.

Lift up the people’s banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

A couple of days ago I wrote something about Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker, and I can’t help thinking that she would have approved of that hymn.

Who is Glenn Beck?


I’d never heard of Glenn Beck until I began reading about him in blog posts by other people who had never heard of him until they read about him in e-mails or blog posts from other people who may have heard of him. But from what I’ve heard, he had been preaching a new gospel about some kind of false Christ.

Jim Forest, in the Netherlands, writes On Pilgrimage: Thank you, Glenn Beck:

I live a sheltered life, that is to say I watch very little TV. Until yesterday I had never heard of Glenn Beck. But when a friend in Kentucky sent me an e-mail asking if I was aware that Dorothy Day had been mentioned on Glenn Beck’s weekly TV show, I got curious. Via YouTube, I quickly discovered that Glenn Beck is more than willing to accuse anyone he doesn’t agree with of being a socialist, a communist, a marxist or a nazi, or even all four.

And Matt Stone, from Australia, writes Glenn Beck and Social Justice – Glocal Christianity:

Glenn Beck, an American radio and television host that I’d never heard of till this week, has set off a firestorm of web commentary after denouncing social justice as a ‘perversion of the gospel’. Well, what do I say to that? I’m lost for words.

It seems that Glenn Beck has mentioned Dorothy Day as a Marxist and someone Marxists knew, but whom he had never heard of. I suspect, however, that more Christians have heard of Dorothy Day than have ever heard of Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck also mentioned a book about Dorothy Day, which happens to have been written by Jim Forest, and that was why someone tipped Jim Forest off about the existence of Glenn Beck, hence his blog post. So it seems a suitable opportunity to mention the book and put it on my “to read” list: Love Is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day Love Is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest

Jim Forest is an Orthodox Christian, and bosser-up of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. Dorothy Day was an American Roman Catholic who cared for the poor and homeless, and along with Peter Maurin and Amon Hennessy founded the Catholic Worker movement and developed the philosophy of Communitarianism, which is similar to that expounded in the UK by G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc. So I’m sure Jim Forest’s biography of her is well worth reading.

Brethren, what shall we do?

In looking at other blogs this morning, I came across three in a row that dealt with questions about what Christians can do about injustice and suffereing in the world. Not just talk about it, not just deplore it, not just theologise about it, but DO something about it.

My friend Jim Forest writes in his blog On Pilgrimage: Works of mercy:

For many Protestants, the single criterion for salvation is making a “decision for Christ” — an intellectual affirmation that Christ is Lord. It has very little to do with how we live and everything to do with how we think. But Jesus, as we meet him in the New Testament, says very little about the criteria for salvation at the Last Judgment. Mainly the Gospel has to do with how we live here and now and how we relate to each other. Jesus sums up the law and the prophets in just a few words: to love God with all one’s heart, mind and soul, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Just one sentence.

and goes on to say

Main point? The works of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, etc.) connect us to the God of Mercy.

There are many works of art that give visual expression to this crucial aspect of the Gospel. Among those I find most impressive is a very local work of art made in 1504 by an artist who is known only as “the Master of Alkmaar.” Originally his seven-panel work hung in the Holy Spirit House of Hospitality in Alkmaar. Later it was moved to the town’s cathedral. In the last century, it became part of the Rijksmuseum collection in Amsterdam. Currently, while the Rijksmuseum is undergoing reconstruction, it hangs in Rotterdam at the Boijmans Museum, where Nancy and I visited it yesterday.

In five of the seven panels, Christ — without a halo — is present but unrecognized. In this first panel, he looks directly toward the viewer. Only in the panel of the burial of the dead, sitting on a rainbow, is Christ revealed as Pantocrator, Lord of the Cosmos.

And then Julie Clawson writes in Walking the Justice Walk: onehandclapping:

in the large sessions I attended at Urbana, I heard a lot about the pain in the world. I saw that there were starving and hurting people. I was also told that I am self-centered for Facebooking and Twittering. I heard the stories of immigrants who have nothing and are desperately trying to survive. I was shown the magnitude of my consumption habits. And Shane Claiborne even told me how evil it is to live in empire that hurts instead of helps the world. I got the message. I felt guilty. I understood that I should care for others. But nowhere did I hear what I should be doing instead. I heard loud and clear what is wrong with the world, but nothing about what I need to do to make it right.

Perhaps one possible answer is to be found at Margaret Pfeil: Tradition is a living thing | Faith & Leadership:

Catholic Worker houses were founded by Day (1897-1980) and seek to foster practice of the church’s traditional corporal works of mercy (to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit and ransom the captives, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and bury the dead) and spiritual works of mercy (to admonish sinners, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries and pray for the living and the dead). Catholic Worker houses also advocate for social justice in their local communities and beyond. Hat-tip to A Pinch of Salt: Margaret Pfeil on Dorothy Day

And I am reminded of a book I read more than 40 years ago, on the eve of writing a doctrine exam. It was far more interesting than my textbook, which I should have been reading. One way of escaping, as I said, is to theologise about it. We need a new theolo9gy of this or a new theology of that, people say. I know, I’ve been there, done that, made that excuse myself, and perhaps am guilty of that right now by blogging about it instead of doing something about it. And the book, by Colin Morris, a Methodist missionary in Zambia, put it in a nutshell:

That phrase Revolutionary Christianity is fashionable. But what it describes is more often a way of talking than a way of walking. It is revolution at the level of argument rather than action. We take daring liberties with the Christianity of the Creeds and the traditional ideas about God. We go into the fray armed to rend an Altizer or Woolwich apart of defend them to the death. We sup the heady wine of controversy and nail our colours to the mast — mixing our metaphors in the excitement! The Church, we cry, is in ferment. She has bestirred herself out of her defensive positions and is on the march! And so she is — on the march to the nearest bookshop or theological lecture room or avant garde church to expose herself to the latest hail of verbal or paper missiles. This is not revolution. It has more in common with the frenzied scratching of a dog to rid itself of fleas than an epic march on the Bastille or the Winter Palace. Revolutionary Christianity is so uncomplicated in comparison that it is almost embarassing to have to put it into words. It is simply doing costly things for Jesus’ sake.

Dorothy Day did that, and so did Methodist Bishop Paul Verryn, but what about the rest of us?

Dorothy Day’s anarcho-Catholicism:the way of love

Dorothy Day rejected Western individualism and collectivism, and proposed a new way: communitarianism

clipped from www.speroforum.com

Dorothy Day – a radical pacifist who had been a member of the I.W.W., met Leon Trotsky, had an abortion, and raised a daughter as a divorced single mother – may be the next American canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.

November 29th marks the anniversary of the passing of Dorothy Day, the foundress of the Catholic Worker Movement.

In 1933, she founded the Catholic Worker movement with the itinerant French illegal immigrant Peter Maurin, a sort of modern Holy Fool in the mode of Saint Francis of Assisi.

However politically heterodox Dorothy Day was, she was always religiously orthodox, saying, “When it comes to labor and politics, I am inclined to be sympathetic to the left, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, then I am far to the right.”

blog it

The author of this article on Dorothy Day has his own blog The Western Confucian, where you can also leave comments.

Anthropology – individualism, collectivism or communitarianism

A conservative blog for peace quotes, with apparent approval, an article that denounces communitarians as boring, bossy and fascist.

The mind boggles!

When I hear the word “communitarian” the first person who springs to mind is Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement, and anyone less boring, bossy and fascist I cannot imagine.

What is communitarianism?

To quote the Catholic Worker movement

We are working for the Communitarian revolution to oppose both the rugged individualism of the capitalist era, and the collectivism of the Communist revolution. We are working for the Personalist revolution because we believe in the dignity of man, the temple of the Holy Ghost, so beloved by God that He sent His son to take upon Himself our sins and die an ignominious and disgraceful death for us. We are Personalists because we believe that man , a person, a creature of body and soul, is greater than the State, of which as an individual he is a part. We are personalists because we oppose the vesting of all authority in the hands of the state instead of in the hands of Christ the King. We are Personalists because we believe in free will, and not in the economic determinism of the Communist philosophy.

If one sets aside the rather overblown rhetoric, this is not all that much different from the Zulu proverb frequently quoted as an example of ubuntu: “umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu” — a person is a person because of people.

There have been a few reported cases of children who have been separated from their parents at an early age, and raised by wild animals, but in spite of the romantic legend of Romulus and Remus, such children usually find it very difficult to relate to other human beings, and are very deficient in personal development.

This is also similar to Orthodox anthropology — see, for example, the following books, passim:

  • Vlachos, Hierotheos. 1999. The person in the Orthodox tradition. Nafpaktos: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery. ISBN: 960-7070-40-2
  • Yannaras, Christos. 1984. The freedom of morality. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. ISBN: 0-88141-028-4

 

Dorothy Day -- advocate of communitarianism

Dorothy Day — advocate of communitarianism

The young fogey often advocates libertarianism, as does the author he quotes. As far as I have been able to ascertain, libertarianism is liberalism on steroids, and libertarians are liberals with attitude. In other words, libertarians have turned liberalism from a political idea for governing a country into an ideology and a complete worldview. I must admit, however, that Stanley Fish has attempted to turn liberalism into such an ideology. Even though I can see what he is getting at, I am in fundamental disagreement with his thesis.

Liberals tend to see things in terms of practical politics, rather than a complete worldview. I was, briefly, a member of the Liberal Party of South Africa, at a time when its vision of a nonracial democratic South Africa was under extreme pressure from the government of the day. The Liberal Party had members of just about every racial and religious group in South Africa. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, pagans and Secular Humanists joined together in a common enterprise. Their theology and their anthropology, their understandings of human nature, may have been very different, but in spite of the differences, they were able to join in a common political vision of the kind of society they wanted South Africa to be — with freedom, justice, the rule of law, and a nonracial democracy in which all citizens would have a say in the government of the country.

Libertaranism, on the other hand, if I have correctly understood the article cited by the Young Fogey, seeks to impose a much wider worldview, and one that, as far as I can see, is essentially antithetical to a Christian one, in many ways as much so as the Communist worldview. It is based on a view of man that is fundamentally at odds with Orthodox Christian anthropology.

As Christians we have a model, the Holy Trinity, which is neither individualist nor collectivist. The persons of the Holy Trinity are neither three individuals, nor a collective. But libertarianism begins to look like a heresy.

Post Navigation