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I was reading a soon to be published biography of Thomas Merton this week. I got an early copy.
It told us again of Merton’s clear opposition to the Viet Nam war. Inspired by leaders like Thic Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther King, Jr. he was a peace activist, a pacifist, and a practitioner of o-violent protest and resistance.
The book cited his readings of the early church saints and mystics like Origen who wrote “we no longer take the sword against any nation nor do we learn war any more since we have become the sons of peace through Jesus.” Merton was among the few who argued there is no such thing as a just war. War in all its expressions is evil and to be resisted.
I mention this because just days ago war broke out – again. This time in Ukraine at the urging of the cold, calculating, heartless despot leading Russia right now.
Oh, how my heart aches every time this happens.
Men and their guns.
I am an avowed pacifist.
I spent enough time earning my degree in Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy to know what Aquinas’ theories about what makes for a just war are. I do not buy into that way of thinking and never have.
You who live by the sword will die by the sword.
We teach the ways of war every day to our children. We buy them toy guns and give them toy soldiers. We have them watch movies and cartoons that glorify the heroes whose guns fight for our causes and kill our enemies.
In his hauntingly prophetic piece “With God on Our Side” Dylan takes the voice of religious leaders who daily pray in ways that reinforce their jingoistic and xenophobic prejudices. His biting satire is never more poignant that it is in that song, in which he writes “but now we got weapons of chemical dust, if fire them we’re forced to then fire them we must. One push of the button and a shot the world-wide. And you never ask questions if God’s on your side.”
Putin has threatened use of the nuclear bombs as the world fears his warring madness.
Mothers are already weeping in Ukraine over slain children.
The world is once again holding its collective breath, having survived two World Wars and now a third threatening.
My spirit is agonizing over this – longing deeply for peace, praying fervently for peace, agitating my activist self to demonstrate and call for lasting peace.
There is no such thing as a just war. I believe that.
War is hell. I believe that.
St. Francis prayed make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred let me sow love. The nuns that first taught me that prayer have embedded the desire for peace deep within my bones and they will not rest until God’s vision of Shalom is realized.
I give the last word to Dylan, who in the last verse of the song already referenced sang: “So now as I’m leavin’ I’m weary as hell. The confusion I’m feelin’ ain’t no tongue can tell. The words fill my head and fall to the floor, that if God’s on our side he’ll stop the next war.”
Let the be peace on Earth on this, our journey Into the Mystic.
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