Wendell Berry’s body of writing—spanning over 50 books of poetry, essays, novels, and short stories—can be rather overwhelming to those who’ve merely seen his name on the wall of a farmers’ market or the menu of a hipster cafe. Too many Christians still have only a vague sense of who he is or why he is important, and Ragan Sutterfield’s book, Wendell Berry and the Given Life, prepares readers to explore Berry’s work for themselves.
Sutterfield is well-suited for this task. He is ordained in the Episcopal Church, a former small-scale farmer, and the author of several books, including This Is My Body: From Obesity to Ironman, My Journey into the True Meaning of Flesh, Spirit, and Deeper Faith (2015).
Berry has been an important voice for the last 40 years, but I can see at least two reasons why we should particularly heed his wisdom now. The first is the election of Donald Trump, which many have interpreted as rural America rejecting the country’s reigning economic and political orthodoxies. Berry has spent decades criticizing the industrial assumptions that shape the policies of both major parties, but the local, humane, sustainable economies for which he advocates could not be more different from Trump’s bigger-is-better rhetoric. As Bill McKibben writes in the foreword to Sutterfield’s book, “if there were a literal opposite to Donald Trump on the planet, it would be Wendell Berry.” Perhaps this is the moment to listen carefully to Berry’s vision for creaturely economies.
Sutterfield’s introduction to Berry is also timely given the conversations sparked by Rod Dreher’s new book, The Benedict Option. (It was Dreher, after all, who in a ...1
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