Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community by Wendell Berry

When the world seems to be, in my observation, spinning hopelessly out of control, I read a Wendell Berry book. I read a book of his because it comforts me. Berry is definitely not a Pollyanna optimist, he agrees that the world is spinning hopelessly out of control. The books comfort because they show why we are and how we got in this place. They also comfort because they may inspire one person to be living in a more reasonable way - growth like a mustard seed and expansion like yeast in dough. I also suspect the Mr. Berry understands more about the kingdom of God than most preachers, teachers, and academicians that are tasked with proclaiming this kingdom.

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community was a good, quick read and soothing to my soul. It is good to hear a voice of reason.

One of the things that astonished me about this collection of essays was its age, they were written in the early 1990's. Props to Mr. Berry for recognizing the problems and consistently proclaiming his message through today. Here are my dog-ears, asterisks, underlines, and brackets:

  • Preface, xii - the 16 (false) principles of the new commercial education
  • Preface, xv - Political packages that will ensure a prosperous and safe future for all involved
  • pg. 4 - a surefire way to destroy a nation (hint, has to do with agriculture & community)
  • pg. 16 - a healthy community cannot be one that exports its raw materials and imports all of its necessities and pleasures
  • pg. 19 - Chapter Two - Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse. The whole chapter is very good - 27 propositions about global thinking and the sustainability of cities
  • pg. 50 - the great and beneficial diversity of our world
  • pg. 69 - Chapter Six - Peaceableness Towards Enemies - a discussion on our first attack on Iraq in the 1990's. A very thought provoking chapter and challenging to those whose theology is draped with an American flag.
  • pg. 93 - Chapter Seven - Christianity and the Survival of Creation - this chapter alone makes the entire book worthwhile. Christians should be on the leading edge of environmentalism. Period.
  • pg. 98 - destruction of nature as bad stewardship, stupid economics, betrayal of family responsibility, AND the most horrid blasphemy against the God who created and loves it.
  • pg. 103 - turning water into wine; turning water, soil, sunlight into grapes!
  • pg. 106 - Genesis 2.7 - soul referring to the whole creature not the dualistic formula of man = soul + body
  • pg. 109 - ourselves as merely biological creatures driven by self concern; ourselves as lofty souls trapped in lowly bodies despising the creation for Heaven's sake. 
  • pg. 114 - OUCH! - "modern Christianity, then, has become as specialized in its organizations as other modern organizations, wholly concentrated on the industrial shibboleths of "growth," counting its success in numbers, and on the very strange enterprise of "saving" the individual, isolated, and disembodied soul."
  • pg. 114 - OUCH #2! - "It (modern American Christianity) presumes moreover to save the souls of people in other countries and religious traditions, who are often saner and more religious than we are."
  • pg. 132 - the triumph of technological determinism is the defeat of community
  • pg. 133 - when community falls, so fall the things that only it can care for - care of the old, care and education of children, family life, neighborly work, the handing down of memory, and care of the earth.
  • pg. 143 - the powerful and risky joy of sex - not only venereal disease and unwanted pregnancy but the real risk of "giving away of the self that if not honored and reciprocated, inevitably reduces dignity and self-respect." 
  • pg. 162 - destroying community by destroying respect for personal dignity and by destroying compassion. Undisciplined sex and malicious gossip given as examples.
  • pg. 165 - the sweetness and intimacy of sex - "can we imagine the sweetness and intimacy continuing on through the joys and difficulties and joy of homemaking, the births and upbringing of children, the death of parents and friends - disagreements, hardships, quarrels, aging, and death?"
  • pg. 167 - "to destroy the dignity of the body - the dignity of any and every body - is to prepare the way for the enslaver, the rapist, the torturer, the user of cannon fodder."
  • pg. 168 - superficial pluralism vs. genuine and beneficial pluralism
Once again, well done Mr. Berry! You may one day convince me to live a simpler and better life...

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