taking the words of Jesus seriously

This morning, at the National Prayer Breakfast, Barack Obama named Dorothy Day as a “great reformer in American history”. Who woulda thunk it?

I think President Hoover called her a threat to national security.

Here’s the exact quote from the President’s speech:

We can’t leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel — the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action — sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.

And here’s a quote from our sister, Dorothy Day:

“Our problems arise from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”

While we are at it, a few more quotes from Dorothy:

  • The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom 
that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose.
  • The true atheist is the one who denies God’s image in the ‘least of these’.
  • The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?
  • We are not expecting Utopia here on this earth. But God meant things to be much easier than we have made them. A man has a natural right to food, clothing, and shelter… A family needs work as well as bread… We must keep repeating these things… Eternal life begins now.
  • We are the nation the most powerful, the most armed and we are supplying arms and money to the rest of the world where we are not ourselves fighting. We are eating while there is famine in the world.
  • Most of our life is unimportant, filled with trivial things from morning 
till night. But when it is transformed by love it is of interest even to 
the angels.
  • I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.
  • Spend your life working on something that outlasts it.

And of course her classic line: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

So she didn’t want to be a saint, but she was named a national hero today by the President of the US of A. Fascinating.

Dorothy Day was the mother of the Catholic Worker movement, and indeed a great reformer and revolutionary. To read more about her, check out Dorothy Day: Selected Writings (edited by Robert Ellsberg). And last year marked 25 years since her death, so her diaries were released in a book titled, The Duty of Delight.

Shane Claiborne is a prominent author, speaker, activist, and founding member of the Simple Way. He is one of the compilers of Common Prayer, a new resource to unite people in prayer and action. Shane is also helping develop a network called Friends Without Borders which creates opportunities for folks to come together and work together for justice from around the world.

About The Author


Shane Claiborne is a best-selling author, renowned activist,
 sought-after speaker, and self-proclaimed “recovering sinner.” Shane writes and speaks around the world about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus, and is the author of several books, 
including "The Irresistible Revolution," "Jesus for President," "Executing Grace," "Beating Guns," and his newest book, "Rethinking Life (released in Feb 2023)." He is the visionary leader of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and co-director of Red Letter Christians. His work has been featured in Fox News, Esquire, SPIN, TIME, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and CNN.

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