The Curse of Constantine

“One of history’s greatest lessons is that once the state embraces a religion, the nature of that religion changes radically. It loses its nonviolent component and becomes a force for war rather than peace. The state must make war, because without war it would have to drop its power politics and renege on its mission to seek advantage over other nations, enhancing itself at the expense of others. And so a religion is in the service of a state is a religion that not only accepts war but prays for victory. From Constantine to the Crusaders to the contemporary American Christian right, people who call themselves Christians have betrayed the teachings of Jesus while using His name in the pursuit of political power.”

–Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence

Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to just the Christian right. To some degree we all pursue our own power while ignoring the powerless. I know that often times I can be violently nonviolent. It’s fairly easy to consider yourself a proponent of nonviolence when the topic surrounds the Iraq or Afghanistan wars currently going on or the build up of nuclear weapons all around the world. But it gets a bit more difficult when considering our own thoughts, words and all the other daily choices that in some way or another commit violence on others, even those we love.

Driving Out The Merchants

“God is the truth and a light in himself. When he enters the temple, he drives out ignorance and darkness and reveals himself in light and truth. Then, when the truth is known, the merchants must be gone–for truth wants no merchandising!

God does not seek his own. In all his acts, he is innocent and free and acts only out of true love. That is why the person who is united to God acts that way–he, too, will be innocent and free, whatever he does, and will act out of love and without asking why, solely for the glory of God, seeking his own advantage in nothing–for God is at work in him.

And what is more, as long as a man is looking for pay for what he does, or wants to get from God anything that God could or would give, he is like a merchant. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, do all can in the way of good works, solely for the praise of God, and efface yourself completely as if you did not exist. Whatever you do, you shall not ask anything in return for it and then your efforts will be both spiritual and divine.”

–Meister Eckhart, Essential Writings of Meister Eckhart

What is my deepest identity?

“Love alone of all things is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own beginning, and its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. I love simply because I am love. That is my deepest identity. I am created in and for and because of love. I came forth from a God who is love (1 John 4:16), and share in that divine identity. Without love, I will never know who I am, or who God is, or why the universe was created.”

— Richard Rohr, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations

The Prejudice of God

“By acknowledging that all our readings are located in a cultural context and have certain prejudices, we understand that engaging the Bible can never mean that we simply extract meaning from it, but also that we read meaning into it. In being faithful to the text we must move away from the naive attempt to read it from some neutral, heavenly height and we must attempt to read it as one who has been born of God and thus born of love: for that is the prejudice of God. Here the ideal of scripture reading as a type of scientific objectivity is replaced by an approach that creatively interprets with love.”

–Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God

Contemplation in a World of Action

“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambitions, his delusion about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas. There is nothing more tragic in the modern world than the misuse of power and action to which men are driven by their own Faustian misunderstandings and misapprehensions.”

— Thomas Merton, Contemplation in a World of Action