Authentic Ways of Peace – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Nonviolent Alternative

by Mark Votava

22847301. Blind and disciplined servitude

“Only if human nature is radically good can a concept of authority based on the natural law and on human liberty be conceived as also at the same time rooted in the will of God. If human nature is evil, then obviously all God-given authority has no other function than to take up arms against it, to restrict it, punish it and imprison it in blind and disciplined servitude.”

2. A total interior revolution

“Christ Our Lord did not come to bring peace to the world as a kind of spiritual tranquilizer. He brought to His disciples a vocation and a task, to struggle in the world of violence to establish His peace not only in their own hearts but in society itself. This was to be done not by wishing and fair words but by a total interior revolution in which we abandoned the human prudence that is subordinated to the quest for power, and followed the higher wisdom of love and of the Cross.”

3. A concept of sanity that excludes love

“And so I ask myself: what is the meaning of a concept of sanity that excludes love, considers it irrelevant, and destroys our capacity to love other human beings, to respond to their needs and their sufferings, to recognize them also as persons, to apprehend their pain as one’s own? Evidently this is not necessary for ‘sanity’ at all… What business have we to equate ‘sanity’ with ‘Christianity’? None at all, obviously. The worst error is to imagine that a Christian must try to be ‘sane’ like everybody else, that we belong in our kind of society. That we must be ‘realistic’ about it. We must develop a sane Christianity: and there have been plenty of sane Christians in the past. Torture is nothing new, is it? We ought to be able to rationalize a little brainwashing, and genocide, and find a place for nuclear war, or at least napalm bombs, in our moral theology. Certainly some of us are doing our best along those lines already. There are hopes! Even Christians can shake off their sentimental prejudices about charity, and become sane like Eichmann. They can even cling to a certain set of Christian formulas, and fit them into a Totalist Ideology. Let them talk about justice, charity, love, and the rest. These words have not stopped some sane men from acting very sanely and cleverly in the past…”

4. Regulate our whole life by the eternal law of love

“’Jesus died in vain,’ said Gandhi, ‘if he did not teach us to regulate the whole life by the eternal law of love.’ Strange that he should use this expression. It seems to imply at once concern and accusation. As Asians sometimes do, Gandhi did not hesitate to confront Christendom with the principles of Christ. Not that he judged Christianity, but he suggested that the professedly Christian civilization of the West was in fact judging itself by its own acts and its own fruits…”

5. Authentic ways of peace

“I do believe that the Christian is obligated, by his commitment to Christ, to seek out effective and authentic ways of peace in the midst of violence. But merely to demand support and obedience to an established disorder which is essentially violent through and through will not qualify as ‘peacemaking.’”

6. The basic unity of man

“Christian nonviolence is not built on a presupposed division, but on the basic unity of man…”

7. The basis of nonviolence

“For the Christian, the basis of nonviolence is the Gospel message of salvation for all men and of the Kingdom of God to which all are summoned…”

8. Dishonest, violent, inhuman, or unreasonable means

“To fight for truth by dishonest, violent, inhuman, or unreasonable means would simply betray the truth one is trying to vindicate…”

How have you been practicing authentic ways of peace?

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