Some Words of Thomas Merton

Last night I was reading Thomas Merton’s small book entitled, “Contemplative Prayer.” In it Merton wrote about Christian meditation in the context of how monks within a monastery practice it.

At the end I came upon some interesting words. Interesting because they were written about 50 years ago just before Merton died in 1968.

“One thing is quite certain: the humility of faith, if it is followed by the proper consequences-by the acceptance of the work and sacrifice demanded by our providential task-will do far more to launch us into the full current of historical reality than the pompous rationalizations of politicians who think they are somehow the directors and manipulators of history. Politicians may indeed make history, but the meaning of what they are making turns our, inexorably, to have been something in a language they will never understand, which contradicts their own programs and turns all their achievements into an absurd parody of their promises and ideals.

Of course, it is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and to God, easily comes to serve as the ‘opium of the people.’ And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with him. When religion becomes a mere artificial facade to justify a social or economic system-when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandist, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for  a purely secular ideological program-then religion does tend to become and opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for this truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race. His ethic ceases to be the law of God and of love, and becomes the law that might-makes-right: established privilege justifies everything. God is the status quo.” *

As I read these words, they seemed to foresee the future in which we now live. People who lay claim to the historic faith of the Church pervert the way of God and bend it to their own will. They worship their own image. And, we end up with abominations like the Nashville Statement. So-called religious people use their false-faith to tear down and destroy through political means every good thing that God truly builds.

If our religion does not lead us to God for God’s own sake and love, then it is false religion. We have a responsibility to call this out as ‘fake faith.’ Period. End of story.

*Merton, Thomas, “Contemplative Prayer,” Image Books, 1969, p. 91.

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