Regarding the Current Political Climate of the United States

The weaknesses in human nature appear more clearly in a storm than in the quiet flow of calmer times.  Among the overwhelming majority of people, anxiety, greed, lack of independence, and brutality show themselves to be the mainspring of behavior in the face of unexpected chance and threats.  At such a time the tyrannical despiser of humanity easily makes use of the meanness of the human heart by nourishing it and giving it other names.  Anxiety is called responsibility; greed is called industriousness; lack of independence becomes solidarity; brutality becomes masterfulness.  By this ingratiating treatment of human weaknesses, what is base and mean is generated and increased ever anew.  The basest contempt for humanity carries on its sinister business under the most holy assertions of love for humanity.  The meaner the baseness becomes, the more willing and pliant a tool it is in the hand of the tyrant.  The small number of upright people will be smeared with mud.  Their courage is called revolt, their discipline Pharisaism, their independence arbitrariness, and their masterfulness arrogance.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics, 85-86

The “tyrannical despiser of humanity” was, at the time of this writing, Adolf Hitler, but Hitler has been by no means alone in history.   Indeed, today he has more companions than ever.

The Lilliputians Discover Gulliver’s God

“There were two pockets which we could not enter: these he called his fobs; they were two large slits cut into the top of his middle cover, but squeezed close by the pressure of his belly. Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom. We directed him to draw out whatever was at the end of that chain; which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped by the lucid substance. He put this engine into our ears, which made an incessant noise, like that of a water-mill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said, it pointed out the time for every action of his life. . . .”

— Jonathan Swift
Gulliver’s Travels, Chapter II
From the Lilliputians Report on the Man Mountain

History and the Passion of Christ, 1965-2013

The bombing goes on in Vietnam.  The whole thinking of this country is awry on war:  basic conviction that force is the only thing that is effective.  That doubtless it is in many ways not “nice” but one must be realistic and use it, with moral justification so as not to be just gangsters as “they” are (the enemy).  Thus there is determination to settle everything by force and to make sure one’s force is verbally justified.

It is not altogether easy to make an act of faith that all of history is in God’s hands.  But history is in the hands of God, and the decisions of men lead infallibly to the full expression of what is hidden in them and in their society.  The actions of the U. S. in Asia are God’s judgment on the U. S.  We have decided that we will police the world — by the same tactics used by the police in Alabama:  beating “colored people” over the head because we believe they are “inferior.”  In the end, an accounting will be demanded.

We have to see history as a book that is sealed and opened by the Passion of Christ.  But we still read it from the viewpoint of the Beast.  Passion of Christ = the passion of the poor, the underprivileged, etc.  Viewpoint of the Beast:  self-righteousness and cruelty of power.  Hubris of human might and technological efficiency.  But the same cruelty is bred by this hubris in the weak, who grow strong by resisting it and overcoming it — to be proud in their turn.  Christ remains in agony until the end of time, and in His agony Christ triumphs over all power.

— Thomas Merton
Journals, 22 May 1965, V.249-250


Also available in Kindle format: A Year with Thomas Merton