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The thought of  William Stringfellow is a major re- source for unmasking the powers. Walter Wink William Stringfellow: Theologian of the Next Millennium A Review Essay Keeper  of  the Word: Selected Writings of  William Stringfellow edited with an intro duction by Bill Wylie Kellermann. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. 434 pp. $22.95 (paper). A growing number of us are prepared to proclaim the writings of lawyer/theologian William Stringfellow to be the germinal articula tion of the theology of the third millennium. This brilliant anthology now makes Stringfellow freshly available, and in a systematic manner that greatly simplifies penetrating to the heart of his project. In addi tion, a Festschrift  has just appeared, edited by Andrew W. McThenia, Jr. entitled Radical Christian and Exemplary Lawyer.  Soon there will be an autobiography of Stringfellow by Wylie-Kellermann. With all these pieces in place, we can anticipate a renaissance of Stringfellow studies. The Principalities and Powers I first met Bill Stringfellow when I worked in the East Harlem Prot esta nt Par ish while a st ude nt at Union Seminar y in 1956. But my first introduction to his writings was in 1964, when the  Christian Century WALTER WINK is professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Semi nary in New York City and author of  Engaging the Powers (Fortress Press, 1992). His review-essay is adapted from "Stringfellow on the Powers" in  Radical Chris- tian and  Exemplary Lawyer, ed. Andrew W. McThenia, Jr., 1995, with permission from William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. SUMMER 1995 205

Stringfellow Theologian

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The thought of   William Stringfellow is a major re-source for unmasking the powers.

Walter Wink

William Stringfellow: Theologian of

the Next MillenniumA Review Essay

Keeper  of  the Word:  Selected Writings of  William Stringfellow  edited with an introduction by Bill Wylie Kellermann. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. 434 pp.$22.95 (paper).

A growing number of us are prepared to proclaim the writings oflawyer/theologian William Stringfellow to be the germinal articula

tion of the theology of the third millennium. This brilliant anthology

now makes Stringfellow freshly available, and in a systematic manner

that greatly simplifies penetrating to the heart of his project. In addi

tion, a  Festschrift   has just appeared, edited by Andrew W. McThenia,

Jr. entitled  Radical Christian and Exemplary Lawyer.  Soon there will be

an autobiography of Stringfellow by Wylie-Kellermann. With all these

pieces in place, we can anticipate a renaissance of Stringfellow studies.

The Principalities and Powers

I first met Bill Stringfellow when I worked in the East Harlem Prot

estant Par ish while a student at Union Seminary in 1956. But my first

introduction to his writings was in 1964, when the  Christian Century

WALTER WINK is professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City and author of  Engaging the Powers (Fortress Press, 1992).His review-essay is adapted from "Stringfellow on the Powers" in Radical Chris-tian and  Exemplary Lawyer, ed. Andrew W. McThenia, Jr., 1995, with permissionfrom William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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asked me to review two of his books, Free in Obedience and  My People

is the Enemy.  Chapter three of  Free in Obedience changed my life.

I had read studies on the Powers by Heinrich Schlier  {Principalities

and Powers in the New Testament,  1961) and Hendrick Berkhof   {Christ and

the Powers,  1962) while still in graduate school, and had already sensed

the remarkable fertility of this neglected concept for the development

of a Christian social ethic. It was a truism of New Testament studies

in that era that the New Testament possessed only an individualistic

ethic. Anyone in search of a social ethic would have to consult the Ex

odus narratives or the prophets. Neither Schlier nor Berkhof was able

to step firmly on the ground of the twentieth century and confess the

relevance of the Powers for life today. They both did so only by allu

sion, illustration, or cryptic association. They were themselves caught

in the principality of New Testament criticism, which had become as

dogmatic and stultified as the religious orthodoxy it had been invented

to overthrow.

What Stringfellow did in Free in Obedience was to demythologize the

Powers into three contemporary socio-political categories: ideologies,

institutions, and images. That he was not engaged in a systematic en

deavor is shown by the rank proliferation of terms that sedimented

around these key categories, many of which cannot be subsumed underany of them: money, folk heroes, sex, fashion, sports, motherhood,

patriotism, religion, race, class, nation, family, profession, Stalinism,

Marxism, Nazism, careerism, illness, denominationalism, the American

way of life (these he cites in Free in Obedience ), and war, violence, "all

movements, all causes, all corporations, all bureaucracies, all traditions,

all methods and routines, all conglomerates, all races, all nations, all


Thus,  the Pentagon or the Ford Motor Company or Harvard University

or the Hudson Institute or Consolidated Edison or the Diners Club orthe Olympics or the Methodist Church or the Teamsters Union are allprincipalities. So are capitalism, Maoism, humanism, Mormonism, astrology, the Puritan work ethic, science and scientism, white supremacy,patriotism  {78)

In short, all of social, political, and corporate reality, both in its vis

ible and invisible manifestations. The list runs the danger, however, of

including everything and therefore denoting nothing. Stringfellow him

self provides greater precision by the pungent examples he uses, so the

notion never empties into abstraction or becomes vapid. Still, his treat

ment of the powers cried out for systematic reflection, especially at the

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level of the New Testament language for power, and I tried to provide

that in the first volume of my trilogy on the principalities and powers,

 Naming the Powers  (Fortress, 1984).I had hoped to get Bill's comments on the manuscripts as they

emerged, but he was only able to scan volume one before he died. As

I look back over that completed project (which includes  Unmasking the

Powers,  1986, and  Engaging the Powers,  1992, both from Fortress), and

having now reread most of his opus (and a few of his books for the first

time),  I am able to see how very deeply I owe the strengths of my se

ries on the Powers to him, and how its weaknesses reveal my failure to

take him more seriously. (I also realize how much of his thought I had

internalized without giving him sufficient credit.)The Dominion of Death

Though he generally wrote for lay people and was widely read by

them, Stringfellow's writing is thought to be dense and difficult go

ing. Not that he cluttered his work with theological jargon; there is an

almost total absence of that. The difficulty was in part the concentrated-

ness of his style, wherein a paragraph might comprise a string of clauses

punctuated with semicolons, compacting into one thought what most of

us would have spread over a chapter.But the difficulty in reading Stringfellow goes far deeper. I suspect

that it has something to do with the fundamental structure of his theo

logical method. My own natural tendency (against which I have striven

mightily but with limited success) has always been to seek the  via media.

When it came to principalities and powers, I was inclined to think that

they are usually bad, but they also do good; therefore they are a mix of

good and evil and need a bit of reform here and a bit of rebuking there,

but they must not be demonized or rendered irremediably evil.

Stringfellow found such thinking reprehensible. His own approachwas paradoxical in the extreme. The Powers are fallen, unequivocally.

While some are less lethal, corrupting and venal than others, all are

equally fallen, all seek their own survival as the highest good, all are

complicit therefore in idolatry, all have thus become demonic. There

is no room here for amelioration, for a continuum between good and

bad. The Powers — all of them, without exception — participate in the

kingdom of death.

And at the same time, these very Powers have been rendered im

potent by the victory of God in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus Christ"has,  holds, and exercises power even over death in this world. And his

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Books by and about Stringfellow

Mentioned in this Essay

Bill Wyhe Kellermann, editor  Keeper of the Word Selected Writings of William

Stringfellow  Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1994

Andrew W McThenia, Jr, Editor  Radical Christian and Exemplary Lawyer  Grand

Rapids Eerdmans, 1995

William Stringfellow  An  Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land

Waco, Tex Word Books, 1973

Free in Obedience  New York Seabury Press, 1964

 Impostors of God   Washington, DC Witness Books, 1969

 Instead of Death  New York Seabury, 1963, 2nd expanded edition, 1976

 My People Is the Enemy  New York Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964

The Politics of Spirituality  Philadelph ia Westminster, 1984

with Anthony Towne  Suspect Tenderness  New York, Holt, Rinehart and

Winston, 1971

promise is that a person may be set free from bondage to death in this

life here and now"  {Instead of Death,  22).

That is, death rules the world, and yet death has been shorn of its

power and deprived of its victory by the cross. Those who participate in

that redemptive reality already experience the resurrection life, which

is nothing other than life lived in liberation from the moral power of

death in the present world.

Stringfellow provides, in Instead of  Death, one especially precise state

ment, in almost syllogistic form that illustrates the paradoxical quality

of his thought:

Loneliness is the most caustic, drastic, and fundamental repudiation ofGod Loneliness is the most elementary expression of original sin Thereis no one who does not know loneliness Yet there is no one who is alone.


Pause a moment over the rigor of this dialectic. In it is laid bare,

in breathtaking simplicity, the theoretical structure of Stringfellow's

thought. It is nothing less than Romans made programmatic for an en

tire theology: "For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall

short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift,

through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (3:22-24). Loneliness

is a state of sin; we are all lonely (and therefore in a state of sin); no

one is alone. Very few people can live with the tension created by those

three assertions. Our tendency is either to fall into the despair of the

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first two statements, or to embrace a kind of polyannish optimism with

the third. In the unexpected reversal of that final phrase we encounter

the gospel of grace where we least expect it — in a statement of universal culpability. Others have been able to deal eloquently with one side

of the dialectic or the other. I know of no one who was able to hold the

dialectic together so tightly.

The same rigor is apparent in his theological approach to politics:

• There is no politics that is not fallen and exemplary of the fact oforiginal sin.

• All of us are implicated in the fallenness of politics.

• There is no political situation that cannot be redeemed, even though itis a redemption that takes place within a fallen order and therefore willinevitably manifest that fallenness  itself.

It is the unexpectedness of redemption in that third term that made

his ethics so unpredictable, because it was premised, not on ideology,

but resurrection. And it was the sobriety of his understanding of sin

that shielded him from optimism about the epiphanies of resurrection

that do take place. Hence he was neither an optimist nor a pessimist.

For optimists cannot admit that things are as bad as they are, and pes

simists underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. (Though I cannotescape the feeling that Stringfellow would have phrased that last sen

tence, "Pessimists just don't realize how bad things are; optimists just

can't imagine how good things will be.")

The rigor of his dialectic made Stringfellow's message simultane

ously one of judgment and of grace. The good news to the world is

that we can stop living in thrall to the Powers now, even under the con

ditions of death. The gospel is that God sets us free from the dread

of death, the cajolery of death, and the seductiveness of death, even

though we are complicit with death's power. It is precisely the messageof this sovereign freedom from the moral power of death that identifies

Stringfellow as a theologian of hope despite the despair that surrounds

a world locked in the power of death.

The  Ubiquity of   the  Fall

Second in importance only to the category of dea th for Stringfellow's

thought is his notion of the fall. In a decade which has been happily

pursuing Matthew Fox's rejection of fall language in an attempt to re

dress an overemphasis on sin and redemption in Christian tradition(a correction which I support), Stringfellow's realism about the fall is

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scarcely ingratiating. Not only is he adamant about the fall's utter per

vasiveness, affecting everyone in every time equally, but he has the

effrontery to extend the fall to cover everything, including nonhumanbeings, the entire created order, even structures and ideologies and roles

and institutions and nations. Nothing escapes the power of death as it

is manifested in the fall.

The fall refers to the profound disorientation, affecting all relationshipsin the totality of creation, concerning identity, place, connection, purpose,vocation. The subject of the fall is not only the personal realm, in thesense of you or me, but the whole of creation and each and every item ofcreated life. The fall means the reign of chaos throughout creation now,so that even that which is ordained by the ruling powers as "order" is,

in truth, chaotic. {The Politics of  Spirituality,  38)It is part of the hubris of human sin that we humans believe ourselves

to be the sole cause of the fall. But the Powers, too, are fallen. Institu

tions and systems are not mere human contrivances; they are a part

of God's creative providence. They are indispensable to life. The Pow

ers are created in, through, and for the humanizing purposes of God

in Christ (Col.  1:15-20).  No huma n being can exist in isolation from

or prior to social structures. But they, too, are fallen. Not just some, or

sometimes, but all, always.

Americans particularly persevere in belaboring the illusion that at leastsome institutions are benign and viable and within human direction orcan be rendered so by discipline or reform or revolution or displacement. The principalities are, it is supposed, capable  of   being altered soas to respect and serve human life, instead of demeaning and dominating human life, provided there is a sufficient human will to accomplishthis.  {An Ethic for Christians, 83-84)

Stringfellow finds this view virtually incredible. "It really asserts that

the principalities are only somewhat or sometimes fallen and that the

Fall is not an essential condition of disorientation, morally equivalentto the estate of death, affecting the whole of Creation in time" (ibid.).

This dreadful conclusion is only one side of the paradox, however,

and if allowed to stand alone, would devastate all hope and initiatives

for justice. The other side of the paradox is that these very Powers are

capable of being reminded of their vocations and of manifesting, fleet-

ingly and partially, the presence of God's divine reign. "To put the same

differently, biblical spirituality concerns living in the midst of the era of

the Fall, wherein  all  relationships whatsoever have been lost or dam

aged or diminished or twisted or broken, in a way which is open totranscendence of the fallenness of each and every relationship and in

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which these very relationships are recovered or rendered new"  {Suspect

Tenderness, 20).

Prophetic discernment, which Stringfellow consciously but withoutvainglory understood to be his life's task, entails sensitivity to the

Word of God indwelling all Creation and transfiguring common his

tory, while remaining radically realistic about death's vitality in all that

happens. "The discernment of spirits refers to the talent to recognize

the Word of God in this world in principalities and persons despite the

distortion of fallenness... [it means] transcending the moral reality of

death permeating everything"  {Ethic for Christians,  139).

This sovereign transcendence of death is not just an eschatological

possibility, however, that will ultimately come upon us as a final vindication of God. It is a victory already won, in the death and resurrect ion

of Jesus. "Biblical living is watchful for that consummation but does

not strive to undo the power of death, knowing that death is already

undone and is in no way whatever to be feared and worshiped" (153).

"Engagement in specific and incessant struggle against death's rule ren

ders us human. Resistance to death  is  the only way to live humanly in

the midst of the Fall" (138).

At the heart of this paradox of grace-despite-death is the recognition

that we are able to look at evil steadily, and to name it, and to locateit, not in the occasional aberration of a system or the poor administra

tion of an institution, but in the very ubiquity of death's reign in the

world. And the more steadily we gaze on evil, the more we are able

to affirm God's grace as having already overcome the moral power of

death in the world. What our generation needs to learn from this un

flinching seer is that the doctrine of the fall is a blessed relief and, far

from depressing, is the sole foundation for affirming the transforming

power of God in the one and only real world. A truly radical notion

of the fall is only a consequence, after all, of a truly radical experience of grace. Only as we are delivered from the power of death —

including not only our own self-destructive behavior, or egocentricity,

or alienation from God, but also our complicity with the Powers, our

collusion in injustice and our blind acquiescence in delusion — are we

able for the first time to recognize the depth of our previous bondage.

The radicality of sin is known only in retrospect, from the vantage point

of faith. Only after we have been delivered from bondage do we rec

ognize how pervasive and utter the bondage has been. Stringfellow's

doctrine of the Fall is an outgrowth of the experience of grace, not its


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The Exclusivity of God's Judgment

If Stringfellow is adamant on the pervasiveness of the fall, he isequally stringent in his ascription of all judgment to God. God's judg

ment is a corollary of the doctrine of sin. If no creature is free of the

effects of the fall, if all, then, are sinners, and our sin lies precisely

in our acquiescence in the  morality  of a fallen estate, then who are we

to judge what is sinful and what is not? Traditional Christianity is

premised on obedience to laws which are primarily formulated to pro

tect the privileges of the powerful. Our very ideas of morality are often

artifacts of an alienating socialization.

Thus he can assert, "None of the acts of sex which society regardsas criminal or antisocial should necessarily be regarded as sin. On the

other hand, those forms of conduct that do not fall under the legal or

moral censure of society should not be considered free of sin. Soci

ety is not the judge of anyone's sin"  {Instead of Death,  52). Again, the

evenhanded paradox.

Sin is not what certain societies or religions declare sin to be. It is

bondage to the power of death. The public designation of certain kinds

of conduct as sin is, in fact, a usurpation of God's prerogative to judge

all human decisions and actions. And God's judgment is in no way mitigated, altered, or influenced by the opinions of people or the policy of

society. "To put it a bit differently, the Christian knows and confesses

that in all things — in every act and decision — humans are sinners

and in no way, by any ingenuity, piety, sanction, or social conformity,

may a person escape from the full burden of the power of sin over his

or her whole existence" (52-53). That might appear depressing at first

sight, but it is in fact liberation from the illusion that by being a little

bit better than you, I have an edge with God.

Far from being a negative evaluation of all human actions, this as

sertion of the sole prerogative of God in judgment is the basis for

utter freedom from all attempts at self-justification. If we can never

second guess the will of God, if we are simply left by God with the

moral responsibility of trying to live humanly in the world, then we

can scarcely declare what we do to be right or just or divinely willed.

Whether society dubs us saints or sinners, the truth of our standing be

fore God is that we have no standing whatever, that God alone is judge.

Since we cannot know where we stand, God has provided a standpoint:Jesus'  self-offering on the cross. In Christ , God declares us beloved,


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The ethical wisdom  of   human beings cannot,  and  need  not,  imitate  orpreempt  or  displace  the will of God, but is  magnificently, unabashedly,and merely human. The ethical discernment of  humans cannot anticipate

and must not usurp  the judgment of God, but is an existential event, anexercise  of  conscience — transient  and  fragile Moreover,  it is the dignity of   this ethical posture which frees human beings, in  their decisionsand tactics,  to summon  the powers  and principalities,  and  similar creatures, to their vocation — the enhancement of  human life in society.  {Ethic

 for  Christians, 57)

Again,  the  taut paradox:  it is  precisely because  only  God is  judge that

we  can  live free  of a  constant sense  of   being under judgment.

So  it is in the  very doctrines most distasteful  to the  cultural palate

that Stringfellow finds  the  greatest profundity.  Add to  these  his  asser

tions about resurrection, second coming, hell,  and his  fondness  for the

bizarre imagery  of the  Book   of   Revelation,  and it  becomes abundantly

clear why the circle of   Stringfellow admirers  is so small. And yet  many

in that small circle believe that  it is on  precisely  the  foundation that

Stringfellow  has  laid that  the theology  and praxis of the  future  is  being

built. Those only  a  little familiar with God's sense of   humor must savor

the irony  of   this slight, acerbic lawyer, ignored  by the  theologians  and

the academy, turning theology  on its ear!

I believe  we are  involved today  in the  reinvention  of   Christianity.

We  are  moving away from  a Christianity  of   individual sins, individual

salvation, and escape from  the world into an  afterlife, which ignores  the

systems  and  structures  and powers of the earth  and the earth  itself. We

are moving toward  a  more corporate understanding  of the  struggle  of

Christ with  the Powers,  and  God's victory over them. Forgiveness will

be understood not as our infraction of the Powers' moral commands, but

as release from  our  collusion with  the Powers. Salvation will be seen  as

being  set  free from bondage  to the  Powers  and to  death  itself, so  that

the very Powers themselves  can be  recalled  to  their divine vocations

and  the  earth itself   be  redeemed.

Well,  Yes,  Nonviolence

It is in the area of  nonviolence that I  find Stringfellow's writings most

problematic.  The  logic  of his own  understanding  of the  moral power

of death drove  him to  question  war and  violence.  He  perceived that

"a literally fatal idolatry  of   violence  has  been initiated"  {Politics, 71).

Those who  have once acclaimed violence  as  their method, he  cautioned,

must inexorably choose falsehood  as  their principle  {Ethic for Christians,107). While he affirmed  the nonviolence  of  Martin Luther King and saw

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clearly how black violence was merely the reactive mirroring of white

violence  {Imposters of  God, 86-87) , he was so sensitive to the postu ring

of pacifists who claimed to know the will of God that he spent most

of his ammuni tion attacking pacifist presumption rather than affirmingnonviolence.

Consequently, his treatment of violence tends to waffle; I miss here

the rigor of the paradox. There is no unequivocal condemnation fol

lowed by the word of grace, not enough gospel over-againstness, no

clean break with the ways of the world (which also evaluates violence

with an "on the one hand... but on the other" kind of thinking).

Thus he devotes a section of   An Ethic  to what he calls "The Bon-

hoeffer Dilemma." Stringfellow begins his argument by alluding to the

purported advocacy of violent tactics by some early Christians in sup

port of the Zealot revolt against Rome  {Ethic for Christians, 132). But there

is not one shred of evidence to support this statement. It is a supposi

tion created out of sheer imagination by S. G. F. Brandon in his brief for

a violent Christianity, Jesus and the Zealots (Scribner's, 1967). What we do

know as incontrovertible fact is that for its first three centuries the early

church stoutly maintained a consistent repudiation of war and violence,

despite recurrent persecution by the Roman empire.

Stringfellow attacks "doctrinaire or pietistic pacifism" for its attemptto ideologize the gospel by trying to ascertain idealistically whether a

projected action approximates the will of God.

It is a query which seeks assurance beforehand of how God will judgea decision or an act. It is a true conundrum which only betrays an unseemly anxiety for justification quite out of step with a biblical life-stylethat dares in each and every event to trust the grace of God. No decision, no deed, either violent or nonviolent, is capable of being confidentlyrationalized as a second-guessing of God's will. {Ethic for  Christians,  132)

No doubt this is true. But nowhere does Stringfellow aim a similar

invective at just war thinking. He merely dismisses it out of hand in an

aside. But very few people have held pacifist beliefs; they are scarcely in

danger of overwhelming the Christian church! Whereas just war think

ing has dominated Christian theology ever since Augustine. Two-thirds

of all people ever killed in war were European Christians, mostly in

the act of killing other European Christians. All that carnage was legiti

mated by appeal to just war principles. Advocates of nonviolence are in

no more danger of infringing on the prerogatives of God than any other

person advocating any other ethical position.Bonhoeffer's status as martyr must not prevent sober analysis of his

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position. The death plot, after all, did not succeed. Violence did not

work. All the participants were executed. One can only wonder, had

Bonhoeffer only known that his vain participation in the death plot

would be used by two generations of Christians as an excuse to avoidcommitting themselves to principled nonviolence, whether he would

have acted differently.

Stringfellow knew, of course, that violence and war were the final

sanctions of death in the world, and that the gospel was their ultimate

repudiation. On one occasion, Stringfellow circumscribes the option of

violence so thoroughly that it becomes all but impossible to choose:

... where Christians, in the same frailty and tension as any other humanbeings, become participants in specific violence they do so confession-ally, acknowledging throughout the sin of it. I suggest Christians donot, thereby, engage in violence casually or without aforethought or as afirst resort rather than last. (Admittedly, multitudes of professing Christians have become soldiers in practically every army without so muchas a pause. Moreover, they have done so with the same kind of   self-righteousness that, as I have just complained, often afflicts ideologicalpacifists.)

Christians become implicated in violence without any excuses forthe horror of violence, without any extenuations for the gravity of it,without sublimating the infidelity it symbolizes, without construing violence as justice, without illusions that  their  violence is less culpable than

that of anyone else, without special pleading, without vainglory, withoutridiculing the grace of God. (133)

What if we substituted for the word "violence" here, the word

"racism"? Would he have countenanced the statement, "I suggest Chris

tians do not, thereby, engage in  racism casually or without aforethought

or as a first resort rather than last"? Why, if he is so clear that the cross

has overcome the moral power of death, does he still concede to war

and violence the Bonhoeffer exemption? It is certainly true that we can

not infringe on the sovereignty of God by declaring any particular acts

God's will. But are there not some things which we must condemn   in

 principle,  even if in the moment our actions must remain ambiguous?

Would Stringfellow not agree that genocide, racism, or the slaughter of

children are flat out  wrong  ? So why is he reluctant to accord to war and

violence the same judgment?

I suspect that it was his profound solidarity with the oppressed that

prevented his condemning their recourse to violence. But there is no

need to condemn them. When the oppressed explode in violence, that is

an apocalyptic judgment on their ruler s, who squandered opportunit iesto redress their grievances. We must always side with the oppressed.

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But that does not mean we must remain silent as to their choice of   meth

ods.  On  purely pragmatic grounds, nonviolence commends itself   as

more likely  to  succeed than violence, with less casualties, and  with bet

ter prospects  for the  future (especially  in a  country where both victorsand vanquished will continue  to have  to  live together).

From conversations shortly before  his  death  (I was  team-teaching  a

two-part course with  him at  Auburn Seminary that  was  interrupted  by

his death)  I  drew  the  conclusion that  he had  moved  to a  more princi

pled embrace  of   nonviolence,  not as an  abstract moral absolute,  but as

the unavoidable logic  of his own  understanding  of the  dominion  and

ubiquity  of  death.  And  that  is, in  fact,  the  logic of his  entire enterprise.

It  is a measure  of his  resiliency  as a  thinker that  he was  still growing,

changing,  and  stretching  up to the day of his  death.Perhaps  he  thought  he had  been clear enough earlier,  in  Suspect


Meanwhile, where the ethics of  change condone or practice violence, thenrevolution — no matter  how idealistic, how necessary, or how seeminglyglorious — is  basically without viable hope even  if it  were  to  prevailempirically  In such circumstances, though we are not ideological pacifists — or, for that matter, ideologues of any species, we are persuaded, asare the Berrigans, that recourse  to violence, whether  to threaten or topplethe idol of  death in the State, is inherently a worship of the self-same idol.

And  so we  persevere,  as  Christians,  and,  simply,  as  human beings,in nonviolence  We do so  because nonviolence  has  become  the onlyway  in  America, today,  to  express hope  for  human life  in  society, and,transcending that,  to anticipate  an eschatological hope. (Ill)

Stringfellow needs  no  tributes,  no memorials,  no  markers. Attention

to  his  writings expresses  no  sentimentalism  or  desire  to  immortalize  a

friend.  It is the  time itself that cries out for his wisdom — a  time when

death  no  longer bothers  to  mask   itself, but  meets  us  everywhere,  de

manding  as  tribute every living thing,  and now  even  the  very earth

itself. No  thinker  of the  twentieth century understood better  the  depthof that assault, or saw more unflinchingly  the gospel's relevance and ur

gency.  If we  wish  to  recover  and  press forward Stringfellow's thought,

it  is not for his  sake that we do so, but for our own.

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