Honest Perplexity – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice

by Mark Votava

download (12)1. The sin of religiosity

“The sin of religiosity is that it has turned God, peace, happiness, salvation and all that man desires into products to be marketed in a speciously attractive package deal…”

2. Struggle along with everybody else and collaborate with them

“In fact we are learning that we are as other men are, that we are not a special kind of privileged being, that our faith does not exempt us from facing the mysterious realities of the world with the same limitations as everybody else, and with the same capacity for human failure.  Our Christian calling does not make us superior to other men, does not entitle us to judge everyone and decide everything for everybody.  We do not have answers to every social problem, and all conflicts have not been decided beforehand in favor of our side.  Our job is to struggle along with everybody else and collaborate with them in the difficult, frustrating task of seeking a solution to common problems, which are entirely new and strange to us all.”

3. The violent repression of others

“’Freedom’ cannot retain its meaning if it continues to be only freedom for some based on the violent repression of others.”

4. A deplorable cult of idols

“It is certain that much in our supposed Christianity is in fact a deplorable cult of idols…”

5. Arrogant dictation

“So I am apologizing to you for the inadequacy and impertinence of so much that has been inflicted on you in the name of religion, not only because it has embarrassed me, and others like me, but because it seems to me to be a falsification of religious truth.  In fact, I am secretly grateful to you for refusing to accept so much of the arrogant dictation that they have tried to foist on you.  And here you notice that I have a tendency to slip out of my rank among the capital B-Believers, and even to edge over a little toward your side, not because I don’t believe, but just because things sometimes seem to me a little quieter and more thoughtful where you are.”

6. Honest perplexity

“My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety.  In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything.  It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith.  On this level, the division between Believer and Unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear.  It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity.  Everybody is an Unbeliever more or less!  Only when this fact is fully experienced, accepted and lived with, does one become fit to hear the simple message of the Gospel…”

Which quote do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.