Wendell Berry Says, "Take Your Medicine!"

It’s good for you, and it will make you think.

Every Christian leader should take a dose of Wendell Berry about once a year. Here is a plain-spoken, earnest Christian man, who asks good questions about Christian living in a complex world, helps us to focus on serving Christ in the world immediately around us, demonstrates and teaches the kind of stewardship of creation that understands how much God loves His world, and doesn’t hesitate to criticize all the sacred cows of our secular and material age. 

Berry’s book, What Are People For?, is a collection of essays from the 80s on all his favorite topics – the land, community, stewardship of the earth, the importance of character, the failure of our materialistic economy, the shallowness of education, and the rapacious ways of corporate America. Berry makes you want to get closer to the creation, simplify your life, appreciate your neighbors, learn about the world, and do all things with as much excellence as you can, while, at the same time, exposing the emperor’s new clothes wherever possible.

Berry is a sincere Christian, and these essays demonstrate the subtlety and depth of his grasp of Scripture, especially as these bear on living the Christian life in our immediate surroundings. He insists that love is the great need of the day, and he knows that Christians should be a more reliable source of this Kingdom currency than at present. He ranges over a wide agenda in these essays, extolling the character of honest men, calling for a return to local community and culture, analyzing poems and books, sharing personal stories, and staunchly defending his simplified way of life and the decisions he has made to stand against our increasingly materialistic and narcissistic age.

Berry is not so much an apologist for an agrarian and simple life as he is a contemporary example and exponent. He is not out to change the world; he seems content to explain his reasons for living as he does in terms that cause readers to think about their own chosen way of life in new ways. Berry makes me think, and he creates a longing in me to be a better steward of my life, in my space and time, and to provide a more consistent example of seeking the Kingdom and glory of God.