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” It is not exaggeration to say that democratic society is founded on a kind of faith: on the conviction that each citizen is capable of, and assumes, complete political responsibility. ”

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (New York: Image) p 100

“We have taken for granted that we could be “bystanders” and that our quality as detached observers could preserve our innocence and relieve us of responsibility. ”

Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable (New York: New Directions)p 54


Bold face mine:

Can we be “bystanders” or is it our responsibility as Christians to participate in the affairs of our nation? Do we remain “innocent” by divorcing ourselves from politics?

I say, it is our responsibility to embrace political discourse.  Children are innocent; adults cannot be, though they may be ignorant.  I say, the Christian has no right to be ignorant. 

Please educate yourself and vote.

Many thanks to Michael Lee Johnson, who has posted a new interview with me on Interviews Poets, Writers.  Check it out.

Photo: BRILLIANT!  Thanks to OlaBetiku for sharing this graphic!

How do we befriend our inner enemies lust and anger? By listening to what they are saying. They say, “I have some unfulfilled needs” and “Who really loves me?” Instead of pushing our lust and anger away as unwelcome guests, we can recognize that our anxious, driven hearts need some healing. Our restlessness calls us to look for the true inner rest where lust and anger can be converted into a deeper way of loving.

There is a lot of unruly energy in lust and anger! When that energy can be directed toward loving well, we can transform not only ourselves but even those who might otherwise become the victims of our anger and lust. This takes patience, but it is possible.

Emphasis mine

So, do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6)
Our desire for God is the desire that should guide all other desires. Otherwise our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls become one another’s enemies and our inner lives become chaotic, leading us to despair and self destruction.

emphasis mine

Merton’s Voice:

Nirvana is the wisdom of perfect love grounded in itself and shining through everything, meeting with no opposition. The heart of brokenness is then seen for what it was: an illusion, but a persistent and invincible illusion of the isolated ego-self, setting itself up in opposition to love, demanding that its own desire be accepted as the law of the universe, and hence suffering from the fact that by its desire it is fractured in itself and cut off from the loving wisdom in which it should be grounded.

Merton, Thomas. Zen and the Birds of Appetite, (New York: New Directions, 1973) 84

Psalm 34: 18

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.

“Some of the people…were saying ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill?…Yet we all know where he comes from’. Then [Jesus] cried out , ‘ Yes you know me and you know where I came from, yet I have not come of myself…'” (John 7)

Nouwen’s Voice:

Your true identity is not in the hands of other people. Your identity can never be what some other person may think about you. You were fashioned by God in your mother’s womb. God knew you intimately before you were born. You are God’s beloved child. That is who you truly are.

House proposes ridiculous cuts. Senate refuses to vote for cuts. Threat to shut down government. House proposes short-term funding bill. Senate agrees.

House proposes ridiculous cuts.…

You don’t think this is a Republican ploy to keep from passing any of Obama’s proposed health care, etc., do you?

Here’s what Robert Abbate, author of Courage of Straw, said about Seriously Dangerous:

“With the keen observations of a naturalist and the reflective probing of a theologian, Losse’s poems unearth epiphanies from ordinary life. Seeing Queen Anne’s Lace or a Dried-Up River Bed become occasions for spiritual renewal and revelatory wonder. Losse invites her readers on a soul’s journey from mountain peaks to valleys. Her collection Seriously Dangerous is like the liturgical dancer that holds the candle, and whose performance rises like incense. Losse’s poems dance and sing the spirit alive.”


There’s still time to advance order Seriously Dangerous.   Please do.

Blacks don’t yet have equality. Things are “better.” “Improvement” is exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. said white people are satisfied with, in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (1964). Have you ever read a Black history book? I mean Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett or From Slavery to Freedom by John Hope Franklin?  Or even White Man’s Heaven by Kimberly Harper, a book I found just recently that explains why there are so few Blacks in the part of Missouri in which we both grew up.  At first, these books read like fiction, but they are NOT fiction. They are the story of Black people in America, the history we were not taught. They show American history from the underside.

I was thinking that my comment, left on your blog, wasn’t very meaningful, but I thought of an example. Suppose your young son came to you and said, “Dad, I want to go to college.” You would most likely praise his choice but remind him he has to go to elementary school and middle school and high school, so he’ll be ready for college when he gets there. And you would be right. It works that way for all but a few geniuses.

But white people in the main want to skip right over a few stages with respect to race relations. White Christians are especially bad when it comes to this. All they want to do is find a few nice Christian Black people (like Tony Evans) who believe mostly the same as they do (with respect to the Bible) and declare that race is not the issue.

Black people know race IS the issue. White people want to come together in spite of race. Black people want to come together (as equals) and wear their own skin. Black Christians (other than a few educated in white seminaries) want to celebrate their blackness as a part of their Christianity. White Christians declare that the church is above culture, but in reality it is steeped in culture–white culture. Only whiteness is a given so that culture isn’t recognizable as culture.

Picture here the Sunday morning services you have seen throughout your life on the Fourth of July. Why the pastor at the church you grew up in was even going to preach from a boat at the park down the street from your parents’ house on July 4, until it got so hot he gave up the idea and said a few words before the retreat to air conditioning. That’s an example of how white Christians spend a national holiday.

As you study Black history, you will encounter another attitude. You will read the speech: “The Meaning of July Fourth For the Negro: A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852” By Frederick Douglass. Now things have come a long way in race relations since 1852: Slaves have been freed only to endure the Jim Crow Era.  Blacks were give the right to vote but denied it just the same. The Civil Rights Movement of the 60s brought other legal changes. Things are better for Blacks; they have improved.

But Martin Luther King Jr. was quick to point out that the right to eat at a lunch counter is empty, if a person doesn’t have the money to buy a hamburger. Blacks still earn 75 cents for every dollar white people earn. Blacks don’t have equality.

But what does that have to do with the coming together of black and with Christians? Many churches pride themselves on innovative programs—youth leadership and modern worship songs. Okay. They present, or think they present, a clear gospel message, and they see no reason that ought not allow them to ignore race as an issue. But what they do not is that most Black Christians have come up through one of the churches that preaches the “social gospel.”

“The social gospel” is seldom defined by white Bible churches but it is always opposed. When it is defined, it is often defined as white theologians have defined it. Many Black preachers didn’t study white theologians. Martin Luther King Jr. is an exception; however, King also believed that Blacks had an obligation to work toward social equality.

If you put two Black people in a room, they will disagree about something. Same with white people. Cookie-cutters we’re not nor should we be! But Blacks have learned to work together across denominational lines in ways that white have not, due to necessity (read; racism). I’m not talking about pulpit-swap Sunday; I’m talking about working for freedom. Blacks use the terms equality and freedom pretty much interchangeably to mean the natural state in which God intended people to be.

Now back to 75 cents for a dollar idea. Without money one isn’t free to choose where he eats. Okay. Without works, one’s faith is dead. And that’s pretty much what Blacks mean by the “social gospel.”

When King took an open stand against the Viet Nam War, an action that drew wrath from both Black and white people, he did it because he “refused to segregate his conscience.” Likewise, when we take stands it should be because we think we are doing the right thing. The real question is, What is the right thing?

Does the right thing have only to do with eternity? Or does it also deal with the here and now? Is the question, Where will you spend eternity? Or does it have to do with life on this earth as a part of the will and the Kingdom of God?

I think the actual study of Black history can help us answer those questions, because Black history is really American history, too.  But then, I think the command to Christians: “Study to show yourselves approved” means more dissect Bible verses. I think it has to do with how we treat our fellow human beings on this earth, Christian or not.

Racism is more than a simple prejudice: It is a prejudice with the power to keep equality from ever happening. Christians should pray to rid their hearts of racism and every other –ism they can think of. And then they should work for equality, because “faith without works” doesn’t count for much.

This is not a condemnation of anyone. It is not an exercise in finger pointing. It is an invitation to everyone who reads it to learn from people whose points of view and whose history differs from ours.

Life in this world is full of pain. But pain, which is the contrary of pleasure, is not necessarily the contrary of happiness or joy. Because spiritual joy flowers in the full expansion of freedom that reaches out without obstacle to its supreme object, fulfilling itself in the perfect activity of disinterested love for which it was created…. True joy is found…in the intense and supple and free movement of our will rejoicing in what is good not merely for us but in Itself.

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books, 1961). p. 259.

Emphasis mine

January 2023