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The Kings and Their Gods: The Pathology of Power [Paperback]

By Daniel Berrigan (Author)
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Item description for The Kings and Their Gods: The Pathology of Power by Daniel Berrigan...

The scenario that confronts us in First and Second Kings is one of turbulence. Daniel Berrigan minces no words in his assessment of this biblical era. Prophets, kings, and the gods they worship - all are found wanting. In seven chapters of The Kings and Their Gods he examines the complex terrain of these two biblical books, opening our eyes to the stories of these characters that we have not seen before. He further forces us to see that this dark time in biblical history is in many ways repeating itself today. The wars of these kings, he says, are our wars today, and we are fashioning our own gods to approve our misdeeds. These two books come to vivid life with the realization of their similarity to our own time. With these parallels, Berrigan incisively indicts us, not excluding himself in this judgment. However, he also points to the light that is possible from this darkness, enjoining us to speak and do the Word, making it alive in the world today. The Kings and Their Gods reveals Berrigan in stunning form. Here this modern-day prophet distills the wisdom of his life, his learning, and his remarkable experience. It is both a masterful biblical commentary and a clarion call to action. This is truly a midrash for our troubled times - both an indictment of the horror that is and an invitation to the great goodness that may be.

Publishers Description
The scenario that confronts us in the biblical text of 1 and 2 Kings is a turbulent one. Daniel Berrigan minces no words in his assessment of that biblical era. Prophets, kings, and the gods they worship - all are found wanting.

Berrigan examines the complex terrain of these two biblical books, opening our eyes to the deep flaws of their oft-praised characters. He shows that this dark time in biblical history is in many ways repeating itself today. The wars of these kings, Berrigan says, are our wars now, and we are fashioning our own gods to approve our misdeeds. These two books of Scripture come to vivid - and sometimes terrifying - life when we recognize these undeniable similarities.

The Kings and Their Gods reveals Berrigan in stunning form. Here this modern-day prophet distills the wisdom gained from his long learning and his remarkable life experiences. The book is both a masterful biblical commentary and a clarion call to action. It balances polemics and poetry, despair and joy. It is truly a midrash for our troubled times - both an indictment of the horror that is and an invitation to the great goodness that may be.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   202
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.99" Width: 6.05" Height: 0.57"
Weight:   1.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 1, 2008
ISBN  0802860435  
ISBN13  9780802860439  

Availability  1 units.
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More About Daniel Berrigan

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! A renowned poet, Jesuit priest, and antiwar activist, Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016) has been called "the conscience of a generation." He became a household name in 1968, when he seized draft records at Catonsville, Maryland, and burned them with napalm, galvanizing a protest movement and igniting widespread religious opposition to the Vietnam War. "Better the burning of paper than of children," he told the judge. Berrigan published over fifty books of poetry, essays, and scripture commentaries in his lifetime. He was also arrested more than fifty times for creative acts of nonviolent civil disobedience and spent several years in prison.

Daniel Berrigan has an academic affiliation as follows - Poet in Residence, Fordham University.

Daniel Berrigan has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Spiritual Masters

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Old Testament
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament > Old Testament
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > Old Testament
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Church & State

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Kings and Their Gods: The Pathology of Power?

Great Commentary on a Contemporary Subject  Feb 3, 2009
The Kings and Their Gods is Daniel Berrigan's poetic commentary on the First and Second Book of Kings. Berrigan diagrams each chapter, though not verse by verse. It is more like getting an overview of the stories that you are told during Sunday school, only with a different perspective and an edge that could rub some people the wrong way.

Berrigan confronts the characters in Kings that are usually the subject of glory and hero worship. He does not see David as a man after God's own heart. He views David as a warmonger and schemer. Solomon gets the same treatment. His exegesis is completely opposite of mainstream Christianity, which presents these two men as pillars of faith in God. Not Berrigan. He sees a David with bloody hands and vendettas, a Solomon that is a cruel taskmaster, and an Elijah that is arrogant. The surprising part is that it all sounds true. I was constantly grabbing my Bible and flipping through Kings I and II, reading the text in a different light. Berrigan then draws a comparison to our leaders today, who despite our advancement in technology, behave exactly the same as the kings of the Bible, calling upon deities to help them win wars.

The only problem with this book is that it is at times too poetic. I often lost track of what Berrigan was trying to get across. There are instances when the author seems to get lost inside his own mind. Add in the fact that I had to have a dictionary handy while reading(which may be a positive, since I expanded my vocabulary immensely), and it can be a tough read. But it is one of the most interesting books I have ever read.
difficult to read  Sep 13, 2008
This book is not for everyone. I couldnt follow the authors expressions and ideas. His vocabulary was way beyond me.
Let's hear it for what is never read!  Aug 27, 2008
Daniel Berrigan's "The Kings and Their Gods" is a wonderfully prophetic and
poetic piece that deserves a spot among the other commentaries on one's
biblical bookshelf. Berrigan's ability to connect the dots over the span of almost three thousand years is truly phenomenal. But what I appreciate most was his adroit handling of two incidents which are not contained in the lectionary and so are never read before the congregation as part of our regular liturgical discipline: the story of Micaiah (1 Kings 22:8ff) during the time of Elijah and the incident of cannibalism (2 Kings 6:24ff) during the time of Elisha. Berrigan's commentary on these two segments alone would have made the book worth reading. On top of the full
panoply he unfolds before the reader renders it a real blessing.

ancient texts, modern contexts  Jun 10, 2008
In her memoir Things Seen and Unseen, Nora Gallagher recalls meeting Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921) in the spring of 1986. When she asked how many times he had been jailed, he responded, "Not enough." Poet, playwright, peace activist, and Jesuit priest, Daniel Berrigan has spent a long life obeying the good news of Jesus rather than the bad news of caesar. He and his brother Philip did time on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. In 1968 he and eight other activists stole 378 draft files of young men who were about to be sent packing to Vietnam, dumped them into two garbage cans, poured homemade napalm on them, and burned them in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board. In 1980, he trespassed into General Electric's nuclear missile plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, poured blood on some warhead nose cones, then hammered away to punctuate his prophetic point.

Now eighty-seven, age has not extinguished Berrigan's fire. Death row, smart bombs, Iraq, and what he calls "abortion mills" still provoke his ire. These meditations reflect on the books of 1-2 Kings and, as you would expect, draw parallels to our own pathologies of political power today. How should we read these ancient texts about a territorial god who slaughtered his pagan enemies? In what sense are these pages inspired?

Berrigan reads 1-2 Kings as self-serving imperial records that portray Israel's kings as they saw themselves and wanted others to see them -- God is with us and against our enemies. He blesses us with their booty. No war crime is too heinous as a means to these delusional ends. And so on page after page we see hell explode on earth. There is one political end: extra imperium nulla salus, "outside the empire there is no salvation." There are many pathological means to this end: untrammeled imperial ego, political power with absolute impunity, military might, revisionist history, manipulation of memory and time, grandiose building projects, economic exploitation, virulent nationalism, and, sanctioning it all with divine approval, religious legitimation. In 1-2 Kings, says Berrigan, the Bible is thus "deconstructing" itself; "the medium itself is the message." A few dissenting voices object to imperial power, but they are silenced as unpatriotic and seditious. Only with the eighth-century prophets are these "official" texts amended so that we see and hear the real perspective of Yahweh about justice, kindness, and humility for all peoples everywhere.

1-2 Kings also function as mirrors in which we see our own reflection today. "Do our leaders differ, in any large degree, from the rulers of old? They are hardly different at all." Drawing upon the poetry of Czeslaw Milosz, letters from his friend Thomas Merton, and revealing snippets from the NY Times, Berrigan joins the hermeneutical horizons of ancient text and contemporary context. The last word on his final page? "One must urge (to his own soul first) a firm rebutting midrash; bring Christ to bear. Read the gospel closely, obediently. Welcome no enticements, no other claim on conscience. Mourn the preachers and priests whose silence and collusion signal plain revolt against the gospel. Enter the maelstrom, the wilderness; flee the claim that would possess your soul. Earn the blessing; pay up. Blessed -- and lonely and powerless and intent on the Master -- and, if must be, despised, scorned, locked up -- blessed are the makers of peace."
As this most recent installment of the Reverend Father Daniel Berrigan's exegetical Old Testament series falls upon this current year of presidential appointment (dare we yet nor ever again write election?) in direct response to such anointments this millennium and their bloody, bitter fruit, we must not avoid its careful contemplation as lectio divina, as reading the writing upon the wall, as warning and as holy prophecy. Other essential readings from this great series include Isaiah: Spirit of Courage, Gift of Tears, Jeremiah: The World, the Wound of God, Job: And Death No Dominion and Ezekiel: Vision in the Dust.

Indeed we read upon the cover the words of the great Jim Wallis (author of Faith Works: How to Live Your Beliefs and Ignite Positive Social Change and Living God's Politics: A Guide to Putting Your Faith into Action): "Part biblical commentary, part poetry, and part prophecy - this is Berrigan at his best."

Again, upon its book this sacred text bears these blazing and true words of the Reverend Father Andrew Greeley (author of A Stupid, Unjust, and Criminal War: Iraq, 2001-2007): "In this powerful and disturbing meditation on the books of Kings, Father Daniel Berrigan, with all his usual prophetic fervor and scalding wit, compares Israel in the time between David and Isaiah with the United States today."

Our beloved and revered Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister (author most recently of The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully) joins this holy chorus with these instructive words: The Reverend Father "Daniel Berrigan's Kings and Their Gods is not one book but three. The first book in question is scripture's two books of Kings, which most people ignore. The second book is Berrigan's own poetic, piercing interpretation of the books of Kings. The third book is about us - our country, our times, ourselves. In each case, the language is elegant and the narrative is dramatic and chilling. Most of all, Berrigan's interpretation is disturbingly real, frighteningly true. My advice is to read this book with the scripture in one hand and the newspaper in the other. But whatever you do, read it. Once you do, you'll never think of the books of Kings as useless history again. On the contrary, you may think of them all the time."

Like the great and grim Samuel Beckett curled seriously in a corner of a gay Parisian cocktail party when invited to join the fun responded he was drearily thinking about Dante, you might arouse from your deep meditations with the weary wail, you think only of Berrigan's Kings and their prophetic revelations within today's newspaper.

We have an octogenarian papacy in Rome continuing weakly to emit encyclicals which oddly fail to resonate, such as Spe Salvi Salvados En La Esperanza, Benedicto XVI which paints as grim and despairing a picture of human efforts as anything in Jean Paul Sartre. At least Camus granted Sisyphus the dignity of his existential efforts.

Here in Berrigan's Kings we find our Roman Catholic octogenarian prophet and priest of peace inscribing with the same profound clarity and concision, elegant grace and unsparing, courageous truth as when he wrote over forty years ago his monumental ode to peace and universal compassion Night Flight To Hanoi - War Diary With 11 Poems or his own chronicle from the court records The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.

This book calls us forth to individual repentance. This book encourages us bravely as Virgil along our way from darkness unto God's peace, stability and unity. This book calls us forth like Lazarus from the busy groaning grave of avarice and lust, of bloodletting and war, unto the fulfillment of the commandments of Love and of the blessings of Peace. The Reverend Father Berrigan speaks with authority and with truth, with courage and wisdom, with guidance as wise counselor, as merciful and compassionate father seeing us all so lost, and scattered, and eagerly pursuing that which leads to no peace.

To quote the great Catholic nun, Sister Joan, "But whatever you do, read it." You must read this book. Even if you have not seen the rest of his great and holy and prophetic opus, we must all now today, and forever, read this book, if we are to discover once more peace, and real hope.

Near the end of this great and holy book, the Reverend Father Dan Berrigan writes: "There came an interruption. A stick was driven in the chariot spokes of empire. The impediment was thrust in place by the hands of prophets, the great disequilabrists of self-interest and murder. They denounced the old order as inept, intolerable. They defended and cherished the poor, challenged and rebuked the oppressors. To Isaiah and his like, all praise (p. 201)."

Father Dan then soon recalls the first words of public ministry of Jesus, read from the scroll of Isaiah: "What we find in the Gospels is hardly reassuring: a strict repudiation of the wars of the Hebrew Bible. No word indicates admiration or empathy for the violence of Saul, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and the others. Jesus never draws on them, even by way of rebuttal, to enlarge or illustrate his teachings. The contempt, the silence are deafening. In place of the kings, images of the prophets loom large. In the synagogue of Nazareth, through the words of Isaiah, Christ conveys the substance of his vocation. Works of mercy and mitigation will mark his days: 'Good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty for the oppressed . . . (pp. 201-202)"

"Blessed - and lonely and powerless and intent on the Master - and, if must be, despised and scorned, locked up - blessed are the makers of peace."

Read this book; whatever you do, read it.

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