Letters | Pacifism, Seeking the Hidden God

PEACE, LOVE, AND HARMONY

As I read Mark J. Allman and Tobias Winright’s “Protect Thy Neighbor” (June 17), I thought of the slaves bought and sold by Jesuits. What those priests missed were Jesus’ command that “all may be one” and St. Paul’s similar words to the Galatians: “there is neither slave nor free…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Those intelligent, prayerful slaveholders missed the essential oneness of all creation and all creatures, a truth now supported by science as well as theology.

Allman and Wright seem to miss the foundation of humanity’s oneness that disallows killing another human being for any reason. Yes, when war seems the answer, it is difficult to absorb and live out the reality of this oneness. But Gandhi and Dr. King understood that protecting one’s neighbors included protecting and loving the neighbors on the other side, the enemy. These heroes of nonviolent peacemaking and their followers moved humanity closer to oneness and equality without killing anyone.

Thomas Merton, a pacifist, condemned the just-war doctrine, which he claimed blinded Christians to “the true horror” of war, the horror that “in war one assumes that it is not only right, but necessary, to kill.” I cannot picture Jesus killing anyone. Rather, like all nonviolent heroes he chose to lay down his life for everyone: neighbor, enemy, sinner.

Nonviolence is the only moral route to peace.

Francine Dempsey, CSJ
Chattanooga, N.Y.

 

THE HARDEST PART

I read Nathan Paxton’s “Why Keep Waiting?” (July 8) having just returned from the Anglican monastery about which he writes. The Society of St. John the Evangelist is the oldest Anglican monastic order for men. It exercises a lively ministry of prayer, retreats, spiritual direction, and publications, particularly to the academic communities around its monastery at the edge of Harvard Square, as well as to Episcopal and other clergy. I am always surprised at the way, even for the most mundane of the daily offices, the seats in the chapel fill with people off the street. Like Mr. Paxton, they have come to wait in “the beauty of holiness”—perhaps not sure what they seek. The brothers include a nice mix of younger and older men; their welcome is warm and unfailing. The monastery, and the Society’s country retreat center on the Merrimack River north of Boston, have been enriched in recent years by a program that welcomes men and women in their twenties for year-long internships seeking to explore their spiritual lives and the Christian faith.

I first entered the monastery chapel doors as a Harvard undergraduate more than fifty years ago, grateful to come to a place where prayer seemed to be taken with ultimate seriousness and they didn’t bother you to join a “youth group.” In the intervening years I have done a lot of waiting, there as elsewhere. Hiddenness is somehow central to the nature of God, as to our own deepest souls. The brothers have been instrumental over the years in helping me to do some important finding. Mr. Paxton might do worse than to book himself a stay in the monastery guest house and an appointment to talk with one of the monks. It could mean as much for him as it has for me.

I should add that Commonweal is far and away the best thing I read. Issue after issue, it never fails. Thanks so much!

Rev. John L. Mccausland
Weare, N.H.

Published in the September 9, 2016 issue: 
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