Wednesday 11 March 2009

William Stringfellow on prayer and profanity

“The event of prayer, certain acts called prayer, the very word ‘prayer’ have gathered such ridiculous associations. That is not only the case with the obscene performances, which pass as public prayer, at inaugurations, in locker rooms, before Rotary luncheons, and in many churchly sanctuaries, but also the practice of private prayer is attended by gross profanity, the most primitive superstitions, and sentimentality which is truly asinine…. When I write that my own situation [during my illness] in those months of pain and decision can be described as prayer, I do not only recall that during that time I sometimes read the Psalms and they became my psalms, or that, as I have also mentioned, I occasionally cried ‘Jesus’ and that name was my prayer, but I mean that I also at times would shout ‘Fuck!’ and that was no obscenity, but a most earnest prayerful utterance” (A Second Birthday, pp. 99, 108-9).


gbroughto said...

Stringfellow is not the F & T Messiah, he is just a very naughty boy ;-)

Anonymous said...

New prayer posture: don't relax, tense up, extend right arm, clinch fist, raise middle finger.

::aaron g:: said...

Fucking brilliant…and I mean that in the most pious way.

Brian Lugioyo said...

Ben, I am really enjoying these Stringfellow posts. Thank you for introducing him to me.


Logan said...

After this post, it is official. I need to read Stringfellow. He didn't do any work on nonviolence did he?

Anonymous said...

Hi Logan,

In a 1970 essay, Stringfellow wrote:

"I am not an ideological pacifist, or, for that matter, an ideological person of any species, but, with the Berrigans, I am persuaded as a Christian that resort to violence to topple the idol of death in the state and in society invariably results in idolatry of death in some refurbished form. This is, in truth, the central, contemporary, theological issue. It is the point at which ethics and eschatology meet, for if the practice of violence, even in the name of revolution, is hopeless, the practice of non-violence, even where it seems unavailing, represents a most extraordinary hope."

Ben Myers said...

THanks for that passage, Kim. On the topic of nonviolence, in one place Stringfellow also offers this brief but suggestive comment: "Actually, I believe any violence is inherently suicidal."

gbroughto said...

Hey Ben,

Have you seen the Ph.D on Stringfellow entitled "Bombast, Blasphemy, and the Bastard Gospel:
William Stringfellow and American Exceptionalism" by
Marshall Ron Johnston, Ph.D.??

I have the .pdf if you'd like me to send it to you. I also have .pdfs of a few of his early articles if you don't already have copies.



Ben Myers said...

Hi Geoff — thanks for the offer! I don't have any of these, and I'd love it if you could email me a copy... Thanks!

gbroughto said...

email sent

Anonymous said...

great stuff ben...thanks

Anonymous said...

Any way to get a hold of that PHD dissertation?


w_d_hoffer at

Anonymous said...

Greetings. I'm new to the site and have just recently been introduced to Stringfellow. I just finished "A Public and Private Faith" and have just ordered some of his other titles on line, as many seem to be out of print. Is there any possiblity of a copy of that disertation? Stringfellow was mentioned in passing at seminary, but I didn't have the time then to read everything that sounded promising. I'm trying to catch up now. Thanks for the site and conversation. C

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