First of all, only the most malevolent of creatures dislike The Vandals. My deepest gratitude is extended to those witty punkers for writing two songs I scream along with every May 9th (“Bad Birthday Bash” and “Happy Birthday to Me”).
Second, my humblest apologies for being born on the same day as Peter Maurin and Daniel Berrigan. I’m inspired, and embarrassed, by that fact. Those guys make people like Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, and Zack de la Rocha look like Mary Poppins (of course, Mary Poppins makes Henry Rollins look like Mary Poppins, so I guess that’s not saying much).
Peter Maurin (5/9/1877-5/15/1949), along with Dorothy Day, was instrumental in creating The Catholic Worker Movement. Maurin called for a ‘green revolution’ (and this was back in the 30’s). His green revolution centered on the philosophy of personalism in which what is truly real, that which is ontological, is the person. The measure by which any institution is a good institution is its ability to enable the individual to embody their specific purpose as a human being. Maurin’s particular personalist revolution was underwritten by a theology of simplicity, decentralization, the sharing of goods, a return to the land, nonviolence, prayer, and the Eucharist. The caring of those most in need is a given, yet Maurin wished to do more than provide a salve–he wanted to cure the cause of such inequities. Such a cure, taught Maurin, required knowledge of agriculture, literature, and the liturgy. His revolution was a revolution in which farmers were scholars and scholars were farmers, and participation in the Eucharist demanded that there be no need among us.
Work out that bit of brilliance.
Daniel Berrigan (5/9/1921), while greatly influenced by Maurin, was a different kind of radical. Daniel and his brother Philip were the first priests in the U.S. to be arrested for acts of civil disobedience. These pacifist priests were, at one point, even on the FBI’s
Top Ten Most Wanted List. Why? For protesting racism, economic violence, the creation of nuclear weapons, and the Vietnam War–not least of which for burning draft cards (using homemade napalm). They went to prison for that one. You see, in a ferociously jingoistic and religious empire like ours if you burn paper you get time in prison; if you burn people you get a medal.
I’m told it’s complicated.
At least Fr. Berrigan was contrite: “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children…”
I guess there is still time to follow the example set forth by my heroes (and to read more about them, allow me to plug my rather poor excuse of a book, Living on Hope While Living in Babylon: The Christian Anarchists of the 20th Century—it’s my birthday, don’t make me beg, because I’ll do it). I would like to think I have their conviction, but I’m not so naive. Such a mentality would require one helluva conversion on my part.
So, until then, allow me to end with the oh-so-poetic musing of The Vandals:
“Happy Birthday to me . . . spank me, spank me, spank me!”
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.