They are distant relations, these three believers. Not by blood, but by the kinship of sharing a religion that has strengthened each to remain resoundingly faithful to his Christian commitments. "We come into this world with sealed orders," Kierkegaard said, and these three have been obedient to theirs.
Gretchen Quie is the first lady of Minnesota. For 33 years she has been the whither-thou-goest wife of Al Quie, a Republican congressman for 20 years and now in his fourth and final year as governor of Minnesota.
Jim Wallis is a pastor in Sojourners, a Washington religious community that includes among its good works the monthly publication of Sojourners magazine. He is a Protestant tired of easy pulpit protests against the devil and sin. For a number of years, he has been moving away from a church grown too cozy with Caesar and urging it to be a church that demands costly faith.
Daniel Berrigan is the Jesuit priest who as part of the Catonsville Nine, Plowshares Eight and the Human Race Four Billion has brought honor to himself and hope to others for his generous persistence in civil disobedience. Author John Deedy, formerly a Commonweal editor, believes, along with many others, that Berrigan is one of 20th-century Christendom's strongest moral leaders.
For Gretchen Quie, the taking of a moral stance has meant forgoing what we have come to know of late as "opportunities for growth." By the new rules, she should be giving us a manifesto, not a gentle autobiography. She should be explaining how her shackles--all the years of housework, raising the children while her husband was out raising a war chest for his next campaign, being 50 before she learned how to handle her husband's habit of dominating conversations--have been finally cast off.
But instead of bolting for freedom, or what usually turns out to be the illusion of freedom, she finds joy in the pleasures close by in her family. To read her simply told account of marriage to one man and belief in one God is to understand that today's female heroes may be the hidden women who have resisted the con of easy liberation.
Quie's prose may seem plodding compared to some, but beauty can be seen beneath the ordinary words that reveal her feelings: "Although I am not overly fond of politics, Al is a politician; therefore much of my life is affected. But even though I have on rare occasions been near desperation, I have been tested and stretched, and I have grown. I have called on my Lord, and he has been my strength."
A similar calling was made by Jim Wallis. In gratefulness for God's gifts to him, he lives by an evangelical creed that puts his life in stark contrast to the Jerry Falwells and Billy Grahams. "Evangelicals in this century," he writes, "have a history of going with the culture on the big issues and taking their stands on the smaller issues." Wallis has reversed that, or at least has given himself the goal of moral consistency. The pursuit of this evenness--as it has taken him into a poor neighborhood to live, into magazine publishing, into conflict with the state as a war-resister--is forcefully told in what is likely to be an enduring book.
John Deedy's exploration of Daniel Berrigan's life and thought is, as he willingly acknowledges, an interim probing. Fuller biographies are sure to follow. But this one has surprises.
It is known, for example, that a strong bond exists between Daniel and his brother Philip. But among the six sons of Thomas and Frida Berrigan, John and Thomas, the two oldest, were bitter critics of the antiwar protests of the two youngest, Daniel and Philip.
In the early 1960s, when liturgical reforms were beginning, Berrigan was something of an innovator. His Jesuit superiors in New York told him to go easy. Surprisingly, he did. "If I am to be removed some day from the New York scene," he said, "it should be on a real issue, something having to do with the man in the ditch, rather than on the issue of liturgy."
A real issue was not long in coming--Vietnam heated up, and Berrigan with it. The Jesuits packed him off to Latin America in the mid-1960s. He sought sympathy from Thomas Merton, but the Trappist wrote back suggesting that exile had its benefits. Latin America, Merton astutely predicted, is where "everything is going to happen."
Deedy reminds us that Berrigan is now 61 years old and has been a Jesuit for 43 years. "Of late," Deedy writes, "there appears to be a quality of Buddhist patience and resignation about the man, as if he sensed that the future belonged to his kind, if only by sorry vindication."
I can't imagine that Gretchen Quie, Jim Wallis and Daniel Berrigan have ever been together in the same room. But it's enough that they are in the same church, each offering a unique expression of faith.