Walter Wink, 76, one of the most creative and influential scholars of our day, died peacefully at his home in Sandisfield in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts on May 10, 2012. His health had been declining since he was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia.Walter Wink has been a formative person in my life. I spent a week with Walter and his wife June Keener-Wink at Kirkridge in 1996. He had finished his trilogy on The Powers and was working on the meaning of the phrase "the son of the man" as it applied to Jesus. He saw Jesus as embodying the authentic human. Jesus was not so much a myth of God, but a myth of the human. He was looking for a way to say it. We tried to help him come up with a phrase that was gender inclusive and captured the nuance of the phrase. Perhaps, the human one or the child of God, or the human child.
He finally decided on "The Human Being" that became the title of his 2001 book, The Human Being: The Enigma of the Son of the Man. We had the opportunity to explore with him the meaning of the figure of Jesus in light of the powers. As a testimony to his graciousness, he made us feel that we had ownership and a role to play in this collaborative work, which was of course, his book.
Wink was deeply spiritual. For him it wasn't enough to use categories from sociology or mythology to describe the Powers. Neither could a person simply take on the Powers without cultivating a deep spiritual center. We needed to break out of our left brain, our intellects, our lifeless ritual and become Human Beings. What do you do when the will of the military-industrial complex, corporate profits, and political deceit are so mind-numbing and soul-depleting that we accept without a whimper that the plunder of Earth's life and the violence and injustice inflicted on the poor around the globe is considered to be the normal way of living? What do you do when our presidents assure us that "the American way of life is non-negotiable?" You have to scream. We yelled the Lord's Prayer at the top of our lungs, shouting to God:
Thy kingdom come!In addition to studying Jesus and understanding him in ways I hadn't before, with the direction of his wife, June, we danced and made stuff with clay. It was a wild week. It was pivotal for me. Wink enabled me to find my voice and to find ways of understanding this world, this domination system that lives, dies, and mostly kills via the myth of redemptive violence.
Thy will be done!
That was his invitation.
What will it take to wake us from our stupor and become part of God's non-violent army?
Wink believed in the power of nonviolence. He saw it work. He envisioned it as our future. He challenged each of us to try it rather than abandon it because we haven't learned how to use it effectively.
I am sad today for the loss of one of our great teachers.
I am grateful for what he taught us.
I close with the best definition of prayer I have ever read from Engaging the Powers:
Prayer is rattling God’s cage and waking God up and setting God free and giving this famished God water and this starved God food and cutting the ropes off God’s hands and the manacles off God’s feet and washing the caked sweat from God’s eyes and then watching God swell with life and vitality and energy and following God wherever God goes.