Isaiah, a mixed-genre work, combines Daniel Berrigan’s modern poetic rendering of selected passages from the book of Isaiah with personal reflections on the text. Berrigan is a Jesuit priest and longtime activist and war resister, and his commentary originates in scripturally based contemplative prayer, formal and informal scripture study, and his experiences as a war resister and prisoner for peace combined with the impressions of an accomplished poet.
To fully savor Berrigan’s insights, familiarity with his biographical background is essential. The introduction, accompanied by one or more of the suggested readings, fulfills this need. As a Plowshares movement activist, he has engaged in liturgically influenced damage to components of nuclear weapons, which launched an international movement of more than fifty civil disobedience actions since 1980. From Isaiah’s time to the present, he sees war as a constant situation, a practice that denies God. Trust in weapons and murder, he argues, directly disrespects God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer. Isaiah briefly enjoyed a measure of popularity, but prophets are discarded by governments when their message challenges conventional power, an experience shared by Isaiah, Jesus, and the Plowshares activists, many of whom profess a radical Gospel Christianity grounded in Christ’s command to love God and each other, including enemies.
In chapter 1 Berrigan explains that God teaches ethics through visions and pronouncements of prophets, who express the highest standard of love. God speaks through the powerless, the poor, and outsiders because the powerful confuse their evil designs with justice and goodness. Isaiah’s clarion call to remake swords into plowshares maintains its validity over the centuries for people of faith because war making repeats the crime of Cain: killing one’s sibling. The Ten Commandments, Christ’s law of love, and Paul’s understanding of the church as the mystical body of...
(The entire section is 812 words.)