Monday, February 27, 2012

the God of Love

"Strong hate, the hate that takes joy in hating, is strong because it does not believe itself to be unworthy and alone. It feels the support of a justifying God, of an idol of war, an avenging and destroying spirit. From such blood-drinking gods the human race was once liberated, with great toil and terrible sorrow, by the death of a God Who delivered Himself to the Cross and suffered pathological cruelty of His own creatures out of pity for them. In conquering death He opened their eyes to the reality of a love which asks no questions about worthiness, a love which overcomes hatred and destroys death. But men have now come to reject this divine revelation of pardons and they are consequently returning to the old war gods, the gods that insatiably drink blood and eat the flesh of men. It is easier to serve the hate-gods because they thrive on the worship of collective fanaticism. To serve the hate-gods, one has only to be blinded by collective passion. To serve the God of Love one must be free, one must face the terrible responsibility of the decision to love in spite of all unworthiness whether in oneself or in one's neighbor."

-- Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation
New Directions, 1961
chapter 10 'A Body of Broken Bones', pp 73-74


  1. For me this quote speaks to the enormous challenge and personal struggle to not only "see it" (this truth), recognize it in oneself and for oneself but then how to let this recognition remain present in oneself in order to carry it out into one's world. The last two lines could easily have been written by Hammarsjkol; speaking simultaneously of a broader view as well as the more intimate personal responsibility that we have. So hard to have the grace to love what's not loveable. Robert

    1. I agree wholeheartedly Robert, sort of a "turn the other cheek" attitude when evil in its many forms is presemt and strikes. Sometimes oh so hard to do but a must for peace in our world & within ourselves.

  2. I don't know, Robert. Like you, I think it is an incredibly personal challenge - getting down to how and who you know what God is and who you are. I don't know that the challenge to carry it out to the world is ours, though. For years I have been trying to help prisoners, and have seemingly gotten nowhere. I've given up on feeling that this burden is mine. It's God's. I'll follow, do what is in front of me, but the burden is God's.

  3. There is nothing more dangerous than having an avenging, bloodthirsty God. True contemplation destroys such idols, and reveals to us a vulnerable God whose weakness gives us strength - to love in an unconditional manner...

  4. Good thoughts. The way I seem to think about taking it out in the world is that I just work on myself and take who that are out there. Not in any self rightous way but just try to at least see with eyes of compassion and forgiveness and understanding. I don't think any of us can really change another. Perhaps all we can be is an example of one way to travel. I don't know either. We both appreciate Lax yet he didn't go out to change anyone with his way. He just lived his way and somehow the simple act of his existence means something to people like us. Maybe the truest way to offer it is to just live the contemplative path as best as one can.
    Prisoners would be tough. I bow to your trying for sure. The film Dhamma Brothers comes to mind. Some level of hope there but hope for what I don't know. ??? Robert

  5. Thank you for this, which I am reading on Tuesday morning. Perhaps that is best, because last night I completed an assignment (with 2 other people) of leading our class in prayer. Each group has a person around whom their prayer is anchored and ours was Merton.

    Then we spent nearly 3 hours discussing Ignatius of Loyola and Ignatian spirituality. One of the things that we discussed was Ignatius' journey from mercenary solider to founder of the Jesuits. It really got me thinking about how one can choose to be at war for pay. It doesn't matter who the enemy is, disenfranchised violence can be purchased. We certainly see no shortage of that today.

    So, the concept of how some might be interested in random bloodthirst and a God who is so vengeful touches me in a particular way. I am especially disturbed by that bloodthirst and how it plays out on blogs, especially Catholic blogs. This is not just about the physical.

    Well how I wax on so early in the day. I am going to spend some time with these words from Merton and my own role in how I idolize anger all the time, without ever "meaning" to. Honestly, this requires such hard looks at oneself... with such honesty. Can I do this? I am not sure at all. It is this dance between God and me, where God is always doing the leading that I struggle with the most.

    Thank you for this invitation.

  6. I love your description of God as "vulnerable", Matt. It changes the whole picture. I agree that contemplative prayer (or some kind of meditation) is the way one can come to put down their own weapons and defensive mechanisms. We seem to always be in attack and panic mode, scared for our own survival.

    Thanks, Robert, for your thoughts on working on ourselves. I have to remind myself every day that I can't focus on the wrong of the other guy. Lax is a good mentor, I think. He stayed very true to who he was. But I have to remind myself, too, that his personality and gifts are not necessarily mine, and though I can be inspired by Lax, my path is my own.

    The prisoners are not near as tough as the people who are bound and determined to keep them locked up and as miserable as possible! A very difficult territory to muck around in. The darkest corner of America, if you ask me.

  7. I'm so delighted to see you "here", Fran!

    The very notion of violence for hire is probably nothing new in human history - paying people to kill - but it does seem to take it to another level. Talk about selling your soul.

    This Merton quote seems to get at the "collective passion and fanatacism" which people tap into when they go after others on the Catholic blogs. I wonder if the anonymity (not face to face) nature of the internet has something to do with this? Would they be so righteous and blood-thirsty in the living room? I kind of doubt it.

    Which gets back to hiring someone else to do your killing for you. That seems like not personally taking responsibility for your own violence, to me.

    Thanks for your comments, Fran. I hope the MErton generates some good reflection with those you are sharing it with.

  8. Rereading the MErton quote, I'm struck by the first line - how strong hate is the result of not knowing that you are unworthy and alone.

    Knowing that you are unworthy and alone takes some solitude and honesty. Away from the crowd. Honestly taking stock of one's predicament. And being left with nothing but the radical and raw need and dependance that is at the center of our being.

    It reminds me of what might (probably) happen at the moment of death.


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