Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dorothy Day, the Anarchist

I began this study of Day by admitting that my interest in, and therefore my knowledge of, her had always been limited to my focus on the history and thought of Christian anarchism. That narrow-mindedness has been corrected to such a degree that I am ashamed of many of the uninformed musings I have blithely made about Day in the past. Yet, for all that, I return now to Day and her place in Christian anarchism, though my intent is less to stand as ideological judge than it is to situate her within the broader realm of my thought. I find that I have has as much to learn from Day as a Christian anarchist as I have learned from her simply as a Christian. Some of this has just been to put a more gifted voice than I possess to common thoughts that ought to inspire all Christians, particularly those of us reading (or writing) this comfortably in our middle-class affluence:

I recall this tiny incident [where she slapped a man who made a pass at her] now because it illustrates a point that has since come up many times in our work with others. Our desire for justice for ourselves and for others often complicates the issue, builds up factions and quarrels. Worldly justice and unworldly justice are quite different things. The supernatural approach when understood is to turn the other cheek, to give up what one has, willingly, gladly, with no spirit of martyrdom, to rejoice in being the least, to be unrecognized, the slighted.

Other times, Day brought new dimensions to my thoughts as a Christian anarchists. Growing up in the deeply Baconian Stone-Campbell Restoration, my thoughts on power and on evil have always been more rational than emotional, tinged though they more than occasionally are by Orthodox mysticism. Day reminded me, however, that there is an emotive side to anarchism, one that may form the basis for more pragmatic cooperation between me and my ilk and those who either do not know or do not care to class themselves as anarchists.

Anarchism has been called an emotional state of mind, denouncing injustice and extolling freedom, rather than a movement.

Even so, I came away knowing that somewhere in our thinking Day and I diverge. At some point she conceives of power, and the violence inherent in exercising it, differently than I do.

The spiritual works of mercy include enlightening the ignorant, rebuking the sinner, consoling the afflicted, as well as bearing wrongs patiently, and we have always classed picket lines and the distribution of literature among these works.

The most dramatic change for me, however, is to read that now and see more our spiritual affinity than our categorical difference. I hope that Day is recognized as a saint by the Catholic church, but, for my part, I can rest easy in the knowledge that, as a Protestant, I am empowered by the hubris that mine is the only judgment that matters when it comes to seeking profound spiritual guidance from the holy departed.

No comments:

Post a Comment