This "Stringfellow reader" collects the most significant of William Stringfellow's works--currently all out of print--plus important material not previously published. A thorough bibliography of his writings is appended.
It was to Harlem that I came from the Harvard Law School. I came to Harlem to live, to work there as a lawyer, to take some part in the politics of the neighborhood, to be a layman in the Church there. It is now seven years later. In what I now relate about Harlem, I do not wish to indulge in horror stories, though that would be easy enough to do.Ó In this extraordinary and passionate book, William Stringfellow relates his deep concern with the ugly reality of being black and being poor. As a white Anglo-Saxon, Mr. Stringfellow does not try to speak for African Americans and Puerto Ricans in the Harlem ghetto, but, as a lawyer, he graphically underlines the failure of the American legal system to provide equal justice for the poor. And, as a Christian who lived for seven years on what the New York Times called the worst block in New York City, he challenges the reluctance of the churches to be involved in the racial crisis beyond the point of pontification.Ó
An astute, outspoken lay theologian talks to Christians about how they can today find freedom in obedience to Christ's gospel and about the urgent necessity of trying to live this kind of freedom now. He insists that his readers look realistically and relentlessly at their own condition, at the condition of the church -- and that they see how these relate and compare to Christ's gospel. His book, based on certain passages from Hebrews, thus becomes a call to freedom and a call to revolutionary Christianity. William Stringfellow begins by spelling out, in impressive and telling detail, how the church has become mired in secular idolatries and ideologies, both economic and political. Then, in constrast to this situation, he examines Christ's resistance to the temptations of worldly power. Stringfellow ends his book by emphasizing the meaning of the resurrection as the exercise of the freedom of God and sets forth the victory over death and bondage given in Christ. Only in that gift is the Christian free to offer his own life to the world. Only thus is he free in obedience.
In 1980, lawyer/theologian William Stringfellow experienced the loss of his close friend and companion, poet Anthony Towne. Totally unexpected, Towne's death brought Stringfellow face-to-face with his most personal encounter with grief. These pages eloquently record his year of mourning, thus becoming both a tribute to Towne and a way of celebrating life--past and future. Five of Towne's poems appear here, brilliantly capturing the mood and tone of Stringfellow's text. Through the course of Stringfellow's dialogue with grief, he teaches us that bereavement can be a special source of inner peace. We discover that to know life in its fullest is to know and face death. 'A Simplicity of Faith' is a spiritual odyssey of rare intensity. It is a convincing argument that biography, reflected upon, becomes theology. Though in many aspects focused on death, it is a powerful statement of what it means to be totally alive.
'A Private and Public Faith' is a heartfelt protest against the self-serving religiosity that characterizes so much of religion in contemporary American society, and which affects to such a large degree the life of the churches of American Protestantism. Stringfellow's protest is motivated by a passionate concern that the authentic life of the Word of God should operate freely in the church and in the world. His exposition of this life for individual, church, and society is profound yet simple. An excerpt on discerning God's presence: In other words, the most notorious, plain, and victorious truth of God is that God participates in our history -- even yours and mine. Our history -- all our anxieties -- have become the scene of His presence and the matter of His care. We are safe. We are free. Wherever we turn we shall discover that God is already there. Therefore, wherever it be, fear not, be thankful, rejoice, and boast of God.Ó
Spirituality, according to William Stringfellow, represents the ordinary experience of partaking in politics - the activity of the Word of God in judgment over all that belongs to human history. He criticizes religiosity, advocating instead for a biblical holiness that implies wholeness for all creation. He takes a prophetic and somber view of the present dark ages, characterized as they are by hypocrisy, profligate consumption, disregard for human life, and dependence on nuclear force. Speaking from a lifetime of experience and reflection, Stringfellow issues a call to conscience and sanity, a reaffirmation of the incarnation, and belief in the grace of the Word of God who transcends the injustice of the present age and agitates the resilience of those who struggle to expose and rebuke injustice.
From 'An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land': America is a fallen nation. Americans exist in time, in the era biblically called the Fall. America is a demonic principality, or conglomeration of principalities and powers in which death furnishes the meaning, in which death is the reigning idol. Enshrined in multifarious forms and guises, it enslaves human beings, exacts human sacrifices, captures and captivates Presidents as well as intimidating and dehumanizing ordinary citizens. Strong statements, yes, but timely in the biblical context which forms William Stringfellow's perspective of our contemporary situation. Identifying America as a fallen nation with the parable of Babylon in the Book of Revelation - not with Jerusalem the holy nation, as Americans are naively and vainly wont to do - Dr. Stringfellow issues as trenchant an indictment of our society as has been made since Philip Wylie's 'Generation of Vipers'. Shockingly prophetic, dismaying, and sobering, William Stringfellow's rigorous biblical theology will surely offend the self-righteous. But the citizen of Jerusalem, alien in Babylon, will welcome the bluntness and insight with which he speaks.
ÒTo endure pain is to suffer anticipation of death, in both mind and body. It must be acknowledged, confronted, suffered, and survived on its own terms, as it were, as the very aggression of death against life. What must be faced and felt, in the uttermost of a person's being, is that assault of the power of death feigning to be sovereign over life--over the particular life of a particular person and over all of existence throughout all of history. ÒIt is, so to speak, only then and there--where there is no equivocation or escape possible from the fullness of death's vigor and brutality, when a person is exposed to absolute vulnerability--that life can be beheld and welcomed as the gift wh...
Based upon lectures given at the 1962 Ecumenical Study Conference of the United Christian Youth Movement, 'Count It All Joy' offers meditations on major themes from the book of James, such as the juxtaposition of faith and good works in the Christian life.
The first edition of 'Instead of Death', a critique of both the institutions of the Church and the more secular but no less destructive institutions of the state, became a small classic. After its publication, Stringfellow's life was deeply affected by a serious illness, his work in East Harlen, and his efforts on behalf of the cause of women's ordination to the priesthood. Thus, although a substantial portion of the original text was unchanged, his experiences had given him added insights that were expressed in two new chapters: one on money and the struggle for security, the other on the politics of death and life. A long preface dealing with Stringfellow's motivations for writing this expanded version of 'Instead of Death' is also included.