Happy New Year / Moral Theology of the Devil - Thomas Merton
A Happy New Year to everyone! May everyone find rich blessings irrespective of their faith tradition. May those without a faith tradition diligently seek and live truth as they understand it. As God is Love, so God is Truth.
As a committed Christian, I am the first to confess that the humans who embody my tradition have often failed (sometimes in spectacular ways) to live up to either Love or Truth. May God forgive us these failures and empower us to live according to God's Love and not according to our fears and pride.
As I write these words from Alaska, it is about 19 degrees (F) with winds up to 50mph. Sunrise is 8:46am and Sunset will be at 3:17pm. Mountains around my home cut off about an hour on either side of that figure. If I'm lucky enough to have readers, then PLEASE click on the comments links and let me know how the weather was on YOUR New Year's Day.
Ok. Now I'm ready to discuss "The Moral Theology of the Devil." This is Chapter 13 of Thomas Merton's "New Seeds of Contemplation." If I didn't support copyright as strongly as I do, I would key in the entire chapter into this blog, I think it is so important. As it is, I STRONGLY recommend that you consider ILL'ing the chapter if not the whole book. The citation for the book itself is:
Title: New Seeds of Contemplation
Author: Thomas Merton
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Company
Pub Year: 1961
LC Number: 61-17869
As I mentioned above. "Moral Theology of the Devil" is Chapter 13. I find this chapter important because it answers an important question about America's civil religion/nominal Christianity. How do we go from the radical love and self-sacrifice of Christ who healed his enemies to the fife-and-drum of the Presidential Prayer Team, which roots for a President to bring God's swift justice to the nations in the form of America's mailed fist?
Here are some quotes from Thomas Merton, written more than 40 years ago, that I think explain things:
"So, according to the devil, the first thing created was really hell--as if everything else were, in some sense, for the sake of hell. Therefore, the devotional life of those who are "faithful" to this kind of theology consists above all in an obsession with evil. As if there were not already enough evils in the world, they multiply prohibitions and make new rules, binding everything with thorns, so that man might not escape evil and punishment."
"Not love but punishment is the fulfillment of the Law. The Law must devour everything, even God. Such is this theology of punishment, hatred and revenge. He who would live by such a dogma must rejoice in punishment. He may, indeed sucessfully evade punishment himself by "playing ball" with the Law and the Lawgiver. But he must take good care that others do not avoid suffering. He must occupy his mind with their present and future punishment. The Law must triumph. There must be no mercy."
In referring to the "faith" that these sorts of people have as being a type of "magic" -- a "will power that is generated by 'profound convictions'", Merton writes:
"We will become popular because we have 'faith.' We will be rich because we have 'faith.' ALL OUR NATIONAL ENEMIES WILL COME AND LAY DOWN THEIR ARMS AT OUR FEET BECAUSE WE HAVE 'FAITH.' [Emphasis mine] Business will boom all over the world, and we will be able to make money out of everything and everyone under the sun because of the charmed live we lead. We have faith."
Is this not the public faith of the President, of Pat Robertson, and the backers of the Presidential Prayer Team? "God is ALLWAYS on our side, we have NO guilt whatsoever, and what we do, is good -- because it is of God?" If you disagree, click on the "comments" button and lets talk. Please look at my very first blog entry before posting.
Thanks for reading! I don't think most entries will be this long!