Tag Archives: Bishop Maurice Dingman

God and the bomb

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when Jesus on a mountain top (possibly Mount Tabor) with Peter, James, and John was “transfigured.”

As Mark (9:3) put it in a homey image: “his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.“ Moses and Elijah appeared with him and, according to Luke’s account (9:31), they spoke of Jesus’ upcoming death.

On this day, the US dropped a bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing up to 166,000 and leaving tens of thousands more with debilitating radiation sickness. This bombing and the bombing three days later of Nagasaki are the only uses of nuclear weapons in war – and they were used against cities and killed civilians.

President Truman showed no remorse for the use of these weapons of mass destruction. According to Eduardo Galeano, in Children of the Days, Truman said: “We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

How different was the response of Pope Paul VI (who incidentally died on August 6, 1978), who called it a “butchery of untold magnitude.”

The light of the mount of Transfiguration and the blinding light of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima provide striking contrasts. Des Moines bishop Maurice Dingman wrote of this in a pastoral letter in 1978:

“The very existence of the human race is in jeopardy. We must halt the arms race in the spirit of Tabor or proceed with the armaments race and face annihilation in the spirit of Hiroshima.”

The light of Tabor was not a light of destruction but of self-giving. Jesus was discussing his upcoming death with Moses and Elijah. And as he came down the mountain he told his disciples to keep this secret until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.

The difference is, for me, clear.

Will we let ourselves be transfigured, transformed, by the Lord who gave his life for us and calls us to take up the cross in order to live?

Or will we impose a cross of war and injustice on others in order to preserve our “way of living”?

And so, it is not “God and the bomb.” It is God or the bomb.

 

Mustard seeds

The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,
that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest
of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up
and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.
Mark 4: 30-32

 Jesus used this and other agricultural images to speak of his work and how God makes it grow despite our small efforts.

Today we remember Bishop Maurice Dingman who had been the bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, who died on February 1, 1992. A beloved bishop I met him and heard him a few times; I was especially impressed by his simplicity. He was a great pastoral man who was also outspoken in his defense of the family farmer, especially in the 1980s when the farm crisis hit many families in Iowa. But he was also not afraid to speak out against war, in particular against nuclear weapons and against the US-sponsored wars in Central America.

In many ways he combined the prophetic and the pastoral in his ministry.

He was a man of vision:

 You are to look forward to the future. Make the work of the future your task. It is an immense task, and you do this in three ways: be a spark of light, a center of love, and a leaven in the world in which you live. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. All we really have to do is to open ourselves to these possibilities. I ask you to continue to search for truth. I urge you to continue your lives in a fashion so you can hear the word of God, put it into your own idiom, and then live it out.

May his inspiration move us to pray and work for peace with justice and  to be in solidarity with all the farmers of the world, especially those who struggle to make ends meet in order to feed their families.

 

Bringing Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom to life

The wolf did with the lambkin dwell in peace
His grim carnivorous nature there did cease;
The leopard with the harmless kid laid down
And not one savage beast was seen to frown
The lion with the fatling on did move
A little child was leading them in love:
When the great PENN his famous treaty made
With indian chiefs beneath the Elm-tree’s shade.

 These words, adapted from today’s first lectionary reading, Isaiah 11: 1-10, are written on the frame around one of Edward Hick’s paintings of the Peaceable Kingdom.

Edward Hicks was a Quaker artist  who lived in Pennsylvania between 1780 and 1849 and is most known for his many paintings of the peaceable kingdom.

But what is distinctive about most of these paintings is that he not only has the Isaiah scene on the right but in the left background you can see William Penn signing his treaty with the Delaware Lenape Indians in 1683. Unlike other English colonists Penn sought to have good relationships with the native peoples.

The artist Hick, by combining the vision of Isaiah and the treaty of Penn and the native peoples, is suggesting  that not only is the peaceable kingdom a dream; it is something that we can – and should – begin to make real in our world.

Too often the vision of Isaiah 11 is taken as an unrealizable dream that only God can bring about.

Yet I think we should see it as a vision, a hope, that we should work for, putting it into practice in our daily lives and demanding that nations begin to live in peace.

Sadly our world continues to be divided into groups that will not even sit together, much less live together in peace, respecting the lives of others.

But each of us must try to do what we can to make this vision a reality.

As the late Des Moines Bishop Maurice Dingman, a advocate of peace, nonviolence, and the family farmer, once wrote:

You are to look forward to the future. Make the work of the future your task. It is an immense task, and you do this in three ways: be a spark of light, a center of love, and a leaven in the world in which you live. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. All we really have to do is to open ourselves to these possibilities. I ask you to continue to search for truth. I urge you to continue your lives in a fashion so you can hear the word of God, put it into your own idiom, and then live it out.

A bishop for peace and the family farm

Twenty years ago, on February 1, 1992, Bishop Maurice Dingman of Des Moines, died.

Bishop Dingman was a champion for the family farm and spoke, wrote, and stood by family farmers, especially as the 1980 farm crisis affected many farmers in Iowa.

He was also an outspoken advocate of peace, speaking out against nuclear weapons and other threats to peace. he even demonstrated against a nearby military base.

In addition, Bishop Dingman had a concern for Central America, during the 1980s when US back wars raged in El Salvador and Nicaragua and a genocidal war continued in Guatemala.

He saw the links between the farm crisis and the inequality and injustice in Central America. I remember that he once spoke of the centralamericanization of agriculture in the US – referring to the concentration of land ownership which still ravages Honduras and other countries in the Americas.

Once he wrote:

“You are to look forward to the future. Make the work of the future your task. It is an immense task, and you do this in three ways: be a spark of light, a center of love, and a leaven in the world in which you live. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. All we really have to do is to open ourselves to these possibilities. I ask you to continue to search for truth. I urge you to continue your lives in a fashion so you can hear the word of God, put it into your own idiom, and then live it out.”

I met him a few times and was impressed by his gentleness. He was a great witness to the love of God for all, especially for the poor, and for God’s Kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

May more of us followers of Christ listen to the wisdom of Bishop Dingman and other like him.