Merton Monday 12 (w/ Martin Niemoller)

This post has an underlying complication, which to my mind is a rather large one, that I will try to address in a later post; one that I started this past week but have yet to finish.

In the vivid darkness of God within us there sometimes come deep movements of love that deliver us entirely, for a moment, from our old burden of selfishness, and number us among those little children of whom is the Kingdom of Heaven.

And when God allows us to fall back into our own confusion of desires and judgments and temptations, we carry a scar over the place where that joy exulted for moment in our hearts.

The scar burns us. The sore wound aches within us, and we remember that we have fallen back into what we are not, and are not yet allowed to remain where God would have us belong. We long for the place He has destined for us and weep with desire for the time when this pure poverty will catch us and hold us in its liberty and never let us go, when we will never fall back from the Paradise of the simple and the little children into the forum of prudence where the wise of this world go up and down in sorrow and set their traps for a happiness that cannot exist. —New Seeds, chapter 31

There are moments in God, beautiful, mind-numbing moments, where the Love of God is glimpsed and all of life becomes crystal clear in its profound simplicity. To the human mind God is full of paradoxes, and the profound nature of that simplicity is one of them. It’s an absolutely glorious thing. But true, the moment never lasts, and only the scar remains. And those scars, over time, remind us of God’s Love while we are in our normal everyday living. We remember, though we cannot feel at the moment, that it answers everything. We hold onto enough of our memory of those moments that our view of life is forver changed. Even though we fall back to our weakened states of self-absorption, we never forget that Love rules all, and that we are on this earth to be part of that Love.

The souvenirs brought back to our house this weekend include a book of poetry and a poster from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial. I was greatly touched that my wife and daughter would pick these two gifts for me. I like to think that, perhaps, they say something of what I try to stand for in life; that even though I am weak and frail and full of selfishness, I carry the scars and do not forget their pain. The poster is of a very famous quote by Martin Niemoller, a quote which exists in many variations:

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . and by that time there was no one left to speak up.

Niemoller is a very controversial figure because in the 1930’s he held anti-Semitic views. To be clear, I know almost nothing of Niemoller’s life, but it remains that this quote (or rather, versions of it) appear on walls at both the U.S. and New England Holocaust Memorials. For good or for bad, Niemoller has become somewhat of a hero in relation to the Holocaust. It may be that Niemoller serves as a perfect example of his poem. He didn’t speak up for those who were “different” from him, and in the end the system caught up with him—a lesson we should take to heart, I think. Do not believe that we stand alone, cherished and special, while others fall by the wayside. Hatred, fear and insanity are rarely satisfied in erasing only one or two “different” classes of people. Once a single class is done and gone, those who hate have nothing left to do, no one left to hate, until they can invent the next class that is not quite enough like them, and so must be eliminated. The poster I was given notes that the Nazi party created colored symbols to denote each class of people they needed to eliminate in order to cleanse society. Among them were the communists, the socialists, the Jews, the gypsies, the homosexuals, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the emigrants. Should this list give us pause? I think so. I think a list, period, should give us pause.

In those moments where one touches the Love of God, when one glimpses briefly through the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven, one learns that God’s love is about a Oneness; about a Love that gathers us one to another in God and makes us all one in God’s presence. To divide humans into groups, factions and classes is the antithesis of Loving them. A Christianity which divides and casts out, therefore and quite clearly, is really not much of a Christianity. Yet, to say so is to cause division, and here is where I will work on the complication—another day.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

20 − 6 =