Wendell Berry on the Practice of Resurrection: The Mad Farm Liberation Front

I do not love poetry, typically, when it is not set to music. Wendell Berry is one notable exception, and this happens to be one of my favorites. I’m always struck by how clearly Berry is able to see and describe the consequences of the way we choose to act as a society. I love even more that his version of redemption always involves a little madness. “Be like the fox” he tells us, “who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.” And then the Easter blessing to “Practice resurrection.”

His methodology may seem a bit unorthodox, but it is a manifesto after all:

“So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.”

I especially love that he always pays attention to the small things, and the people who, despite our attempts to make them small, loom large:

“Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.”

So for your resurrection Sunday, here’s Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” from The Country of Marriage.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X