With all the violence in the world today, I turned to Merton for insight and to try and make sense of the whys of war. The streets are flooded in blood in many parts of the world as we sit in relative comfort, barely acknowledging the tragedy beyond a flick of the TV remote. Merton was reflecting on the Cold War of his day, but little has changed. Let’s, as Merton states, love God and other people above all and let their pain be our pain and our peace be their peace.
An Excerpt from Passion for Peace: Reflections on War and Nonviolence by Thomas Merton
“If men really wanted peace, they would sincerely ask God for it and He would give it to them. But why should He give the world a peace which it does not really desire? The peace the world pretends to desire is really no peace at all.
“To some men peace merely means the liberty to exploit other people without fear of retaliation or interference. To others peace means the freedom to rob brothers without interruption. To still others it means the leisure to devour the goods of the earth without being compelled to interrupt their pleasures to feed those whom their greed is starving. And to practically everybody peace simply means the absence of any physical violence that might cast a shadow over lives devoted to the satisfaction of their animal appetites for comfort and pleasure.
“Many men like these have asked God for what they thought was ‘peace’ and wondered why their prayer was not answered. They could not understand that it actually was answered. God left them with what they desired, for their idea of peace was only another form of war. The ‘cold war’ is simply the normal consequence of our corruption of peace based on a policy of ‘every man for himself’ in ethics, economics, and political life. It is absurd to hope for a solid peace based on fictions and illusions!
“So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed — but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”