Monday, March 14, 2022

Christian Action in World Crisis

Excerpts from Merton's essay, "Christian Action in World Crisis", published in 1962.

Merton's challenge is to build a culture of peace by doing the daily work of justice.  

"Two things are clear, first, the enemy is not one side or the other. The enemy is not just Russia, or China, or Communism, or Castro, or Krushchev, or capitalism, or imperialism. The enemy is both sides. The enemy is in all of us. The enemy is war itself, and the root of war is hatred, fear, selfishness, lust…As long as we arm only against Russia, we are fighting for the real enemy and against ourselves. We are fighting to release the monster in our own soul, which will destroy the world. We are fighting for the demon who strives to reassert his power over mankind. We have got to arm not against Russia but against war. Not only against war, but against hatred. Against lies. Against injustice. Against greed. Against every manifestation of those things, wherever they may be found, above all in our selves.

"…We must avoid two extremes: seeing all good on our side and all evil on their side, or, on the contrary, dismissing both sides as totally evil…

"…we must defend freedom and sanity against the bellicose fanaticism of all warmakers, whether “ours” or “theirs”…we must strive to do so not with force but with the spiritual weapons of Christian prayer and action. But this action must be at once non-violent and decisive. Good intentions and fond hopes are not enough.

"…We oversimplify. We seek the cause of evil and find it here or there in a particular nation, class, race, ideology, system. And we discharge upon this scapegoat all the virulent force of our hatred, compounded with fear and anguish, striving to rid ourselves of our fear by destroying the object we have arbitrarily singled out as the embodiment of all evil. Far from curing us this is only another paroxysm which aggravates our sickness…

"What is needed now is the Christian who manifests the truth  of the Gospel in social action, with or without explanation. Clear and decisive Christian action explains itself, and teaches in a way that words never can…

"Christians have got to speak by their actions. Their political actions must not be confined to the privacy of the polling booth. It must be clear and manifest to everybody. It must speak loudly and plainly the Christian truth, and it must be prepared to defend that truth with sacrifice, accepting misunderstanding, injustice, calumny, and even imprisonment or death. It is crucially important for Christians today to adopt a generally Christian position and support it with everything they have got. This means an unremitting fight for justice in every sphere – in labor, in race relations, in the “third world” and above all in international affairs."

(Passion for Peace, excerpts from p.81-84)

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From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.