William Stringfellow


American Lay Theologian, Lawyer

Author Quotes

Thus the vocation of the baptized person is a simple thing: it is to live from day to day, whatever the day brings, in this extraordinary unity, in this reconciliation with all people and all things, in this knowledge that death has no more power, in this truth of the resurrection. It does not really matter exactly what a Christian does from day to day. What matters is that whatever one does is done in honor of one?s own life, given to one by God and restored to one in Christ, and in honor of the life into which all humans and all things are called.

When I write that my own situation in those months of pain and decision can be described as prayer, I do not only recall that during that time I sometimes read the Psalms and they became my psalms, or that, as I have also mentioned, I occasionally cried Jesus and that name was my prayer, but I mean that I also at times would shout Fuck! and that was no obscenity, but a most earnest prayerful utterance. In the final analysis, no matter what the vocabulary of prayer, or where muteness displaces words in prayer, the content?what is communicated by a person in the world before God?in prayer is in each and every circumstance the same and it can be put plainly in one word: Help!

Being holy . . . does not mean being perfect but being whole; it does not mean being exceptionally religious or being religious at all; it means being liberated from religiosity and religious pietism of any sort; it does not mean being morally better, it means being exemplary; it does not mean being godly, but rather being truly human.

Where money is an idol, to be poor is a sin.

Dorothy Day, of blessed memory, did not like to be called (as she often was, for good reason) a saint, because it usually meant that she was not being taken seriously. She heard it as an accusation ? a device ostensibly distinguishing her from ordinary people so as to simultaneously discount her words and deeds while exempting others from moral responsibility to speak and act.

You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are pre-occupied with your appearance or with impressing the other, or are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or are debating about whether or not what is being said is true r relevant or agreeable. Such matters have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered.

It is the essence of human sin for us to boast of the power to discern what is good and what is evil, and thus be like God.

It is worse than you think it is and you are freer than you think you are. The powers are raging beyond your control and they are already overcome in Christ. The division is an uncrossable spiritual chasm and it has been crossed.

Listening is a primitive act of love in which a person gives himself to another?s word, making himself accessible and vulnerable to that word.

Listening is a rare happening among human beings. You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance or impressing the other, or if you are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or if you are debating about whether the word being spoken is true or relevant or agreeable. Such matters may have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered. Listening, in other words, is a primitive act of love, in which a person gives self to another?s word, making self-accessible and vulnerable to that word.

Perhaps the moral ambiguity of money is most plainly evidenced in the popular belief that money itself has value and that the worth of other things or of men is somehow measured in monetary terms, rather than the other way around.

Religion, too, grossly oversimplifies the reality of moral conflict in the world, including moral conflict within the private lives of individuals. Religion of this sort fails to apprehend the intense ambiguity of moral decision. This variety of religion contends that it is possible for an individual, in the sphere of his own immediate affairs, to discern what is right and wrong, and to implement a decision so informed with more or less discipline. But the truth is that the extent of any individual's insight into what is good or bad reaches only to that which is advantageous to ourselves. A person may, indeed, be able to figure out what is good, or bad, for him or his family. But that which is good for him, is bad for someone else, and, in principle, for everyone else in the world. The intensity and complexity of the moral conflict is the assertion and pursuit of each individual's own self-interest as over against that of every other person.

So long as religion is quiet about society it upholds whatever is the prevailing status quo in society. But if one benefits, or is persuaded that he benefits, from the preservation of the status quo, then so long as religion remains aloof from society, it is not controversial. It is only when religion disrupts or threatens one's self-interest that it is condemned as controversial.

Such matters have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered.

The biblical lifestyle is always a witness of resistance to the status quo in politics, economics, and all society. It is a witness of resurrection from death. Paradoxically, those who embark on the biblical witness constantly risk death - through execution, exile, imprisonment, persecution, defamation, or harassment - at the behest of the rulers of this age. Yet those who do not resist the rulers of the present darkness are consigned to a moral death, the death of their humanness. That, of all the ways of dying, is the most ignominious.

The characteristic place to find Christians is among their enemies. The first place to look for Christ is in Hell.

The Fall is where the nation is. The Fall is the locus of America.

The practice of the Christian life consists of the discernment of (the seeing and hearing), and the reliance upon (the reckless and uncalculating dependence), and the celebration (the ready and spontaneous enjoyment) of the presence of the Word of God in the common life of the world.

As I find it, religion in America is characteristically atheistic or agnostic. Religion has virtually nothing to do with God and has little to do with the practical lives of men and women in society. Religion seems, mainly, to have to do with religion. The churches--particularly of Protestantism--in the United States are, to a great extent, preoccupied with religion rather than with the gospel.

Prayer is nothing you do; prayer is someone you are. Prayer is not about doing, but about being. Prayer is about being alone in God's presence. Prayer is being so alone that God is the only witness to your existence. The secret of prayer is God affirming your life.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date
Death Date

American Lay Theologian, Lawyer