Thomas Merton And Bad Theology: Purposefully Pitting Ourselves, One Against The Other

Thomas Merton And Bad Theology: Purposefully Pitting Ourselves, One Against The Other April 24, 2016


I Give You A New Commandment: Love One Another. As I Have Loved You, So You Also Should Love One Another – John 13:34

We don’t love each other enough.

Or is it, in reality, that we too often don’t love each other at all?

So convinced are we of our own rightness in all things, that we fail, more times than not, to even notice the other. Instead of taking note of their humanity – as someone, too, created in God’s likeness and image – we see, instead, only positions. And it’s much easier to dismiss positions than persons, isn’t it?

Especially when they are so clearly . . . wrong.

Now, I’m not speaking here of moral relativism. We, each of us, were imbued with free will at birth. And we, most of us, have developed a pretty keen sense of what’s right and wrong ever since then.

We are confronted, daily, by choice. And while we remain free to pursue a path of either righteousness or corruption, the consequent fallout from our daily interactions and decisions are directly and tightly interwoven within and throughout our lives.

There may well be, one day, hell to pay. 

Or not.

(That finality is, mercifully, out of our narrow, circumscribed, and mortal hands.)

But our choices – neither the good ones, nor the bad ones – don’t change, subdue, or defeat our humanity. We were loved into existence, and we will be loved out of it too.

Our theology goes bad, though, whenever we claim territory, set boundaries, and then defend mightily, the very gateway to our hearts.

When we do those things, we reject, fully and without reserve, Christ’s invitation – His command, really – to love one another.

In the end, we need to understand and live the message that it’s not about us against them.

Rather, it’s about God with us – Emmanuel.

So if our theology leads us to lovelessness, as Thomas Merton has observed, it is not Christian. Lovelessness is a rejection of our faith:

The sin of bad theology has been precisely this – to set Christ up against man, and to regard all flesh and blood men as “not-Christ.”

Indeed to assume that many men, whole classes of men, nations, races, are in fact “anti-Christ.”

To divide men arbitrarily according to their conformity to our own limited disincarnate mental Christ, and to decide on this basis that most men are “anti-Christ” – this shows up our theology.

At such a moment, we have to question not mankind, but our theology.

A theology that ends in lovelessness cannot be Christian.

It’s important, I think, to keep this end result in mind everyday, during our hundreds of daily interactions with our family, our co-workers, and our neighbors.

Putting aside our very substantial, and perhaps very legitimate, differences for the moment, the next time that we feel compelled to respond to the person before us with spite, meanness, bullying, or out-and-out hatred – especially when we’re actively engaged on social media – we need to understand that whenever we act without love, not only do we mock our own faith, but we also reject the direct command of Christ Himself.

Let’s not willingly, and ever-so-impulsively, surrender our faith to our feelings just because we so easily can.


Image Credit:

Browse Our Archives