Can faith and violence exist side by side? Do the “faithful” indulge in violence? Much more often than not says Thomas Merton in his latest and perhaps his most controversial work from the Abbey of Gethsemani.
In “Toward a Theology of Resistance” he states, “The population of the affluent world is nourished by a steady diet of brutal mythology and hallucination, kept at a constant pitch of high tension by a life that is intrinsically violent in that it forces a large part of the population to submit to an existence which is humanly intolerable. . . . Crime that breaks out of the ghetto is only the fruit of a greater and more pervasive violence: the injustice which forces people to live in the ghetto in the first place.”
He continues: “Violence today is white-collar violence, the systematically organized bureaucratic and technological destruction of man.”
And, "it is a curious fact that in this present century there have been two world ward of unparalleled savagery in which Christians, on both sides, were exhorted to go out and kill each other if not in the name of Christ and faith, then at least in the name of ‘Christian duty.’ "
On the Vietnam war: “. . . a Buddhist nun said in Vietnam: ‘You Americans come to help the Vietnamese people, but bring only death and destruction. Most of us Vietnamese hate from the bottom of our hearts the Americans who have brought the suffering of this war. . . .’ After which she burned herself to death.”
In “From Non-Violence to Black Power” Thoman Merton writes that the Montgomery bus strike and the Birmingham demonstrations provided an image of Negro dignity, maturity, and integri8ty. Yet, “Northern liberals might admire black dignity at a distance, but they still did not want all that nobility right next door. It might affect property values.”
This is an incisive and fascinating insight into the many problems facing American and the world.
“Thomas Merton’s courage, honesty and concern for all humanity and for his own people particularly is so terrifyingly positive that many of his own country and faith might find him extremely disconcerting. That surely is his strength. Faith and Violence is a meaningful book—direct and powerful—to which young minds in schools and colleges of this country should be exposed, both for its profound ideas and for the rich variety of its English prose style.” —The Courier-Journal & Times
“Although it comes from a man who has chosen a life of silence and contemplation, this is an impassioned book, showing that the cloister may be a retreat from, but not necessarily an escape from the world, if one is genuinely committed to the Christian faith. Merton’s chief concern is not with the haphazard violence of oppressed individuals that is expressed in riots but with what he calls ‘white-collar violence, the systematically organized bureaucratic and technological destruction of man . . . His thinking is radical, but unless one is committed to the belief that the status quo is the will of God, what he proposes deserves serious consideration.” —Pulpit Digest
“ Faith and Violence is a Merton reader for our time. . . . Its thrust is simple: that ‘theology today needs to focus carefully upon the crucial problem of violence.’ Carefully and crucial are the key words there—the ones that interiorly bind together the pieces collected in the volume. The pieces, in turn, attempt to give a wide, interior acquaintance with the violence that Christianity has made peace with in the West. . . . Merton’s ability to mine [his themes] is often startling—and taken as a whole his is a valuable sourcebook in an area (theology and violence) that inspires much alarm and dogmatism, but little open and perdurable thought.” — New Book Review