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Posted November 18, 2004

Book: Thomas Merton: Peace in the Post-Christian Era
Author: Thomas Merton
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, pp.165

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

“In this long-withheld manuscript, Thomas Merton identifies the readiness of many nations – led by our own – to prepare for and threaten mass murder as the most urgent moral crisis of our time. Ringing across four decades, his profound warning is more timely than tomorrow’s headlines.” Daniel Ellsberg

An Excerpt from the Book:

(Click here to read the Forward to the book)

This then in conclusion: the Christian is bound to work for peace by working against global dissolution and anarchy. Due to nationalist and revolutionary ideologies (for Communism is in fact exploiting the intense nationalism of backward peoples), a worldwide spirit of confusion and disorder is breaking up the unity and the order of civilized society.

It is true that we live in an epoch of revolution, and that the break-up and re-formation of society is inevitable. But the Christian must see that his mission is not to contribute to the blind destructive forces of annihilation which tend to destroy civilization and mankind together. He must seek to build rather than to destroy. He most orient his efforts towards world unity and not towards world division. Anyone who promotes policies of hatred and of war is working for the division and destruction of civilized mankind.

We have to be convinced that there are certain violences which the moral law absolutely forbids to all men, such as the use of torture, the killing of hostages, genocide (or the mass extermination of racial, national or other groups for no reason than that they belong to an “undesirable” category). The destruction of civilian centers by nuclear annihilation is genocide.

We have to become aware of the poisonous effect of the mass media that keep violence, cruelty and sadism constantly present to the minds of unformed and irresponsible people. We have to recognize the danger to the whole world in the fact that today the economic life of the more highly developed nations is in large part centered on the production of weapons, missiles and other engines of destruction.

We have to consider that hate propaganda, and the consistent heckling of one government by another, has always inevitably led to violent conflect. We have to recognize the implications of voting for extremist politicians who promote policies of hate. We must consider the dire effect of fanaticism and witch-hunting within our own nation. We must never forget that our most ordinary decisions may have terrible consequences.

It is no longer reasonable or right to leave all decisions to a largely anonymous power elite that is driving us all, in our passivity, towards ruin. We have to make ourselves heard.

Every individual Christian has a grave responsibility to protest clearly and forcibly against trends that lead inevitably to crimes which the Church deplores and condemns. Ambiguity, hesitation and compromise are no longer permissible. We must find some new and constructive way of settling international disputes.

It is clearly the mind of the Church that every possible effort must be made for the abolition of war, even though the theory of the “just war” and the right of legitimate self-defense remain intact. But appeal to this right must not blind us to the much higher and more urgent duty of working with all our power for peace.

This may be extraordinarily difficult. Obviously war cannot be abolished by mere wishing.

We have still time to do something about it, but the time is rapidly running out.

Table of Contents:

1. Preamble: Peace – A religious responsibility

2. Can we choose peace?

3. The dance of death

4. The Christian as peacemaker

5. War in Origen and St. Augustine

6. The legacy of Machiavelli

7. Justice in modern war

8. Religious problems of the cold war

9. Theologians an defense

10. Working for peace

11. Beyond east and west

12. Moral passivity and demonic activism

13. The scientists and nuclear war

14. Red or dead? The anatomy of a cliche

15. Christian perspectives in world crisis

16. Christian conscience and national defense

17. The Christian choice