Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Merton’

With the 50th anniversary remembrance of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd, I heard, yet again, that on that date “America lost its innocence”.  This is a pervasive reflection by the secularists.  It’s a bunch of fantastical  nonsense.

A Roman Catholic monk, Thomas Merton, wrote a semi-autobiographical work, he  tellingly entitled,  The Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.  There was no time that America was “innocent”, as no country on earth has been innocent, that is free from sin.  I think in this hackneyed observation indicates a confusion between innocence and naiveté.  I think we as a people have an incredible talent in being naïve about the nature of evil, but that only came about with the wholesale rejection of Biblical understanding of original sin,  sin and evil and it’s depths.  The Lord in His Word has  no trouble calling a thing what it is, see  Romans 3:  9-20.  A heretical Roman Catholic theologian wrote there is no original sin but “original goodness”.  He must have lived in a different world than the proverbial real world. Our naiveté is such that somehow there was, as in the case of President Kennedy’s short three years as president, a kind of a “Camelot”,  a national innocence… and that fantasy was promulgated  after the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, the Korean War, slavery, the subjugation of the native Indians etc.  Then in the early ’60s,  we were prevented at the time of knowing much about that President’s adulteries, his own incompentencies,  his father’s absolute lust for power and the like.

The founding fathers of this country knew the desire for a king and tried to stop it by writing The Constitution. Thomas Paine wrote that there are governments because men are not angels.  President Lincoln wrote in his proclamation of the first Thanksgiving Day about our “national perverseness”.  I think they all had in common was the real Biblical  understanding again of the depths of evil.  It is only our age that conveniently jettisoned it.

There is a part of the Constitution that says no one in government can receive royal titles.  Thomas Paine commented on this:

“Dignities and high sounding names have different effects on different beholders. The lustre of the Star and the title of My Lord, over-awe the superstitious vulgar, and forbid them to inquire into the character of the possessor: Nay more, they are, as it were, bewitched to admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves. This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”

That is a frightening assessment of our fallen tendency to actually admire the  vices in dignitaries with the luster of “star” and “lord”.  Let’s face it:  President Kennedy and his wife looked good, in fact great and this occurred right at the cusp of the television age. Personally,  I think he wanted to do good.    After old President Eisenhower, a “vital man” as President, young, handsome and rich.  I could say we were “innocent” of knowing the idolic hold of the television image on us…but note: we have not gotten over it. We get the gods of our desires and lusts. This is more a  reflection on us and false doctrine than it is on a national day of grief and sorrow.  Like a comedian said in one of his characters:  “It’s better to look good than to feel good”. We could just as well quip, “It’s better to look good than be good.”  It sure doesn’t look good. So we can no longer call vice a vice, virtue a virtue and call upon the Savior of us all.  May the Lord save us from our naïve idolatries which are never the less our own dead ends which stop  us from living out of liberty.

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What is it that has made me evil and hateful to myself? It is my own folly, my own darkness, which have divided me, by sin, against the light which God has placed in my soul to be the reflection of His goodness and the witness of His mercy.

Shall I drive evil out of my soul by wrestling with my own darkness? This is not what God has planned for me. It is sufficient to turn away from my darkness to His light. I do not have to run away from myself; it is sufficient that I find myself, not as I have made myself, by my own stupidity, but as He has made me in His wisdom and remade me in His infinite mercy. For it is His will that my body and soul should be the Temple of His Holy Spirit, that my life should reflect the radiance of His love and my whole being repose in His peace. Then will I truly know Him, since I am in Him and He is truly in me.

 Eternal and most glorious God, You have stamped the soul of humanity with Your image, received it into your revenue, and made it part of your treasure; do not allow us to undervalue ourselves, so to impoverish You as to give away these souls for nothing, and all the world is nothing if the soul must be given for it. Do this, O God, for His sake who knows our natural infirmities, for He had them,and knows the weight of our sins, for He paid a dear price for them; Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.  (John Donne, Poet and Priest, 1572-1631)

(The above are cited in For All the Saints:  A Prayer Book For and By the Church, The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau)

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