Martin Luther King Jr NYWTS.jpg

2014 May 26 Pershing State Park : Boardwalk Trail 1.5 miles 

For our first walk, an irony presents itself in that the non-competitive, I would claim nonviolent, nature of walking, is juxtaposed in Missouri with walking trails and parks named after men who marched. Jack Pershing is credited with creating the modern US Army in preparation for WWI and would march thousands to their death in the most useless war ever fought (reducing the world’s population by some 2%). Yet, for all the generals Missouri has produced there are no marching trails. Marching into the woods would miss the point of both marching and walking. Marching is impervious to its surroundings and does not constitute a form of life. One cannot walk and march at the same time either physically or spiritually. The marcher has relinquished his will and direction in the cause of the state. Marching is to achieve peace through war, where walking is already an activity of peace whose end is in the act. A Christianity that imagines state purposes can organize the body, but leave the mind and heart free, has missed the holistic embodied point of the Christian walk and the means by which the kingdom of peace is established.  

Where walking as Christ walked describes the narrative of a life, marching does not constitute narrative or life but consumes and takes it. Marching compulsively repeats the same act with the same end. The goose step or march bespeaks a machine running over every obstacle. In this, marching might seem to be the more powerful activity, but inasmuch as it is consumptive it is limited by the violence which gives it purpose. Kingdoms established through marching depend upon death and each in its turn is consumed by that which fuels it. Walking is an enduring activity, a form of life that can be repeated without end as it is productive of both physical and spiritual health.  

Walking exercises a different sort of power – as demonstrated by Gandhi’s walk to the sea to make salt, Martin Luther King’s walk from Selma to Montgomery, and Cesar Chavez’s walk from Delano to Sacramento on behalf of migrant labor. Though each of these have been referred to as marches they were walks that accomplished what a violent confrontation (a march) could not. The walkers made themselves completely vulnerable and though they met resistance the method itself proved unstoppable. The British Empire was undone, and civil rights and fair wages established as the walking, in each instance, demonstrated a life force resistant to the very methods of violence which would oppose it.  

Neither is God’s kingdom established by those who would march, but only by those practicing the walk, the form of life that institutes its end in the means. Jesus does not bid that we march in his steps as this would obscure the way he has trod.

[Field Guide: This particular wetland is home to two endangeredspecies of snake (both brown . . .) and one of which we sighted but which had a damaged tail so I did not determine what it was. We arrived at Pershing State Park midmorning and since it was slightly overcast it made for a good walk.

What I would like to be able to record – We were able to identify over 20 species of grass and trees. The Johnson grass was a lush green, while the prairie thistles, Timothy and Saw Grass was thick along the rivers and Marsh. The White Oak, Maple and small numbers of Lumbering Pine created a forest canopy that only thinned out as we walked into the prairie. We spotted Common Thrush, Catbirds, heard the call of the Spotted Dog Bird, along with hammering of the Grey Woodpecker.

Unfortunately this is all made up as I cannot name one grass, only a few trees, and a couple of birds. We saw many plants and heard a variety of birds.]




  1. Tyler Sims

    I have been doing a lot of walking in the South East Bronx among South Asians, Latinos and others. During one of my walks yesterday I ended up having a conversation with a Bangladeshi Muslim and an Imam from Mali. We then had a Quran study and I learned their view of Jesus. It was a good walk. 🙂


  2. Matthew Welch

    HaHa you had me totally convinced of your impressive knowledge of the different types of trees, grasses & birds! I thought “Wow, I didn’t know Paul knew about ‘The Spotted Dog Bird.'” MLK often referred to his ‘walks’ as ‘marches’ but I think that was because he viewed his walks as having an express purpose: nonviolent action. He wasn’t just ‘walking to walk’ his walk had a destination: social equality, etc. But aside from MLK’s ‘theological march’ isn’t marching of any other kind a sort of parody of the type of walking you are describing? Comical even? Tragic, to be sure, but in Zizek’s sense of the overwhelming outburst of anger of the father: the fear is of the power behind the law, but once the law is enacted, its powerlessness becomes evident & even comical ‘goose-stepping.’ While you describe a ‘walk towards life’, the powers can only offer a tragi-comical ‘march towards death.’



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