Can I Get a Witness: Daniel Berrigan

Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017 Author Series

The SILT 16/17: Can I Get a Witness? author series introduces the SILT participant authors and the historical figures they will be illuminating in their narratives. This week’s featured writers is David Dark, whose figure is Daniel Berrigan.


David Dark Ι Figure: daniel berrigan, S.J. (1921-2016)

Daniel Berrigan“There is no peace because there are no peacemakers. There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war – at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison, and death in its wake.” Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan, S.J. was a Catholic priest whose life was punctuated with bold acts of nonviolent social action. Born in 1921, he grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Minnesota and joined a Jesuit seminary after high school. He became an ordained priest and traveled to France where he was influenced by the worker-priest movement and ideas of civil disobedience. Berrigan returned to the U.S. in 1954 and began teaching in colleges, including Le Moyne College in Syracuse, Cornell, and Yale. Another European tour ending in 1964 inspired him to join the protest against America’s burgeoning intervention in Vietnam and become one of the Catonsville Nine, a group of Catholic activists who destroyed draft records in 1968 Maryland. Avoiding his prison date earned him a spot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, but he eventually served two years in prison and was released in 1972. Other protests followed, leading to more arrests and prosecutions. From 1970 to 1995, Berrigan spent a total of nearly seven years in prison. He continued his peace activism, co-organizing the antinuclear Plowshares Movement and protesting against the 1991 Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the U.S invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Berrigan spent his last years living in a Jesuit community in New York City where he continued to conduct retreats, speak publicly, and write before his passing on April 30, 2016.

David Dark is an assistant professor at Belmont University in the College of Theology and Christian Ministry and also teaches at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. His publications include Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious (2016), The Sacredness of Questioning Everything (2009) and The Gospel according to America: A Meditation on a God-blessed, Christ-haunted Idea (2005).



SILT 16/17: Can I Get a Witness? is a two-part SILT that will celebrate scholars, activists, laypeople, and religious leaders whose lived theologies produced and inspired social justice in the United States and will produce a single volume entitled Can I Get a Witness? Stories of Radical Christians in the U.S., 1900-2014. The first meeting will be held at the University of Virginia in June 2016; the second meeting will follow at Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus in June 2017.

For more details about the Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017: Can I Get A Witness? initiative, click here. We also post updates online using #SILT. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.