Day 29 – Forty Days with Thomas Merton

Day 29

The real moral issue of violence in the twentieth century is obscured by archaic and mythical presuppositions. We tend to judge violence in terms of the individual, the messy, the physically disturbing, the personally frightening. The violence we want to see restrained is the violence of the hood waiting for us in the subway or the elevator. That is reasonable, but it tends to influence us too much. It makes us think that the problem of violence is limited to this very small scale, and it makes us unable to appreciate the far greater problem of the more abstract, more global, more organized presence of violence on a massive and corporate pattern. Violence today is white-collar violence, the systematically organized bureaucratic and technological destruction of man.

The theology of violence must not lose sight of the real problem which is not the individual with a revolver but death and even genocide as big business. But this big business of death is all the more innocent and effective because it involves a long chain of individuals, each of whom can feel himself absolved from responsibility, and each of whom can perhaps salve his conscience by contributing with a more meticulous efficiency to his part in the massive operation.

— Thomas Merton in Toward a Theology of Resistance in Thomas Merton: Essential Writings selected Christine M. Bochen

Today: Merton is suggesting that we tend to look at violence in terms of how it *affects* us personally.  He is offering us a shift in perspective.   Attempt to look at whatever part you play in this violent world. Maybe you watch violent movies….and like them. Maybe your violence is not of the physical nature, maybe your violence is with your tongue.

In the Kingdom of this world, we smash our competitors. In the Kingdom of God we cooperate and help one another.    Why do you suppose Merton is encouraging us to look at violence beyond our personal experience?  Write me your thoughts if you get a moment.

+Ed Jansen, OSB

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1 Response to Day 29 – Forty Days with Thomas Merton

  1. Violence is systemic and contagious. It is easy to hate a “good enemy” or one that we deem very different from ourselves. I believe that we can all affect the course of the river of violence in our response to what is right in front of us at any given moment, and that too becomes contagious. It depends on what each of us chooses to support…. is there really a neutral? I don’t think so, I think that we choose to lean in one direction or the other and that it matters..

    When the lives of those in theater in Aurora was blown apart last week it was reported that several Hollywood movies about to be released in the next week, would not be released before they were edited.. .BECAUSE they contained scenes that provided entertainment in the form of the same kind of anonymous, self-important perpetration of violence against innocent people – suddenly we SEE it??? We need to see it, and to step back from silent witnessing and vicarious enjoyment of aggression perpetrated on others by others, just because we can.

    This is not a very “spiritual” response is it? I am dumbstruck by the blindness I suppose… what we feed, grows. In some ways, it is that simple. It starts with the violence/aggression/justification/competition against others that lives in our own hearts.

    The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.
    ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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