Chris Wallace, is the Fox News Sunday host and son of the legendary 60 Minutes journalist .In 1981 Wallace interviewed Dan Berrigan. the following clip says it all aboutAmerican celebrity culture and its almost total inability to fathom the life of the spirit, in this case the depth of a man such as Dan Berrigan. The interview was at the time of the Ploughshares action when Dan and Phil and six others broke into a nuclear plant a General Electric factory in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. They invoked the prophet Isaiah’s words as they hammered on an inert Mark 12 A nuclear warhead.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 2: 4
CHRIS WALLACE: Back in the Vietnam days, the Berrigan brothers were big. You attracted tens of thousands of people. Now you’re not as big. You do not attract the same attention.
FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN: Mm-hmm.
CHRIS WALLACE: Is that hard for you?
FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN: No, I don’t think we ever felt our conscience was tied to the other end of a TV cord. I think we’ve tried for a number of years to do what was right, because it was right.
This was a cardinal Berrigan insight, one which points to the belief that nothing is ever lost. In Dan’s words,”If the good is done in the right spirit, the good will go somewhere. I don’t think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome.I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”
Wallace and too many others were sadly tethered to an observable, immediate outcome.Life is not like that.
Mother Teresa put it well: we are called not to be successful but faithful.
A great atheist friend of mine the late Norman Alcock had a similar response when he quit playing nuclear games at Chalk River the Canadian nuclear facility. Norm gave it all up. His conscience led him in `1961`to open a small peace institute in Dundas Ontario. Like Berrigan, Norm was called a fool and a dreamer.
Why would he give up such a prestigious job as one of Canada’s pre-eminent physicists to work for peace?
Like Berrigan Norman understood that the atomic bomb made war obsolete. “We were just not smart enough to realize it.” Like Berrigan he spent his life challenging nuclear proliferation.
Norms’ line was similar to Dan’s.
Alcock simply said “I do it because it might give somebody else permission to come on the stage.”
We all need cues to enter history seriously. The Disney culture will give you an abundance of death-dealing cues, tickets to irrelevance, a perennial spectator in the fashioning of a better future for humanity. One needs a deeper grounding to say no to the idols. Dan Berrigan listened to a profound cue-giver the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton who told him, ”You’re not going to survive America unless you are faithful to your discipline and tradition.” Dan was steeped deeply in the best of the Catholic tradition. Norm drank from the wells of a grounded humanism. They resisted the American Kool-aid.
The lives of Dan Berrigan and Norm Alcock went way beyond “the end of a TV cord.” Many of us came onto the stage because of people like them.