Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Once more with William Stringfellow

Okay, I promise this will be my last post on Stringfellow – here are some brief excerpts from four different essays on Stringfellow (by Stanley Hauerwas, Rowan Williams and others). Note especially the brilliant title of the second essay: “Speaking Nonsense to Power.” I think that’s a great way of summing up Stringfellow’s theology.

“Stringfellow sometimes comes over refreshingly as someone very short on common sense. He had massive imagination, massive depth, and some ways very little self-protective sense. What the world calls common sense was uncommonly lacking in much of what he did. This is characteristic of many of the servants of Jesus Christ throughout the ages, because it is not common sense that they are interested in, it is the uncommon sense of Christ himself.”
—Rowan Williams, “Being Biblical Persons,” in William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective, ed. Anthony Dancer (Ashgate 2005), p. 185.

“Whereas the whole 20th-century Christian theological project has been conditioned by multiple arguments about how biblical texts can fit into our way of seeing things (whether that way is one circumscribed by autonomous secular reason or by pluralistic religious expressivism), Stringfellow’s point of departure is to transform existing procedures and to invite us to re-encounter the world narrated biblically. As he said …, his purpose was to construe America biblically, not to construe the Bible Americanly.”
—Simon Barrow, “Speaking Nonsense to Power: The Mission of William Stringfellow,” in William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective, ed. Anthony Dancer (Ashgate 2005), p. 175.

“ ‘Translating’ Stringfellow’s apocalypticism … is a means of evading what he was saying and avoiding what really disturbs the reader about him – the uncompromising character of his criticisms, his refusal to leave any ‘common ground’ for dialogue…. What is so remarkable about Stringfellow’s use of apocalyptic is that he did not think it needed to be demythologized. Rather than seeing apocalyptic as an extravagant and overblown way of talking about matters that liberal politics and social science discuss more directly, Stringfellow … wanted to help us see how apocalyptic language narrates our world.”
—Stanley Hauerwas and Jeff Powell, “Creation as Apocalyptic: A Homage to William Stringfellow,” in Radical Christian and Exemplary Lawyer: Honoring William Stringfellow, ed. Andrew McThenia (Eerdmans 1995), p. 32.

“Stringfellow died before I could have known him personally. In the books, though, he draws us into his circle, mixing anecdotes about himself and his acquaintances in with theological tracts. He seems to offer himself as a friend, one with bits of crazy advice and carelessly-repeated stories. Beneath our cacophonous politics, his pages whisper about how to live in a world both consumed by the power of death and infused in every corner with, for what it is worth, the Word of God.”
—Nathan Schneider, “The Biblical Circus of William Stringfellow”, Religion Dispatches March 2008.


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