"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Every Good Man is Free

William Sloan Coffin recently provided a trenchant analysis of why we have become weakened in our ability to resist hatred and war: "Something happened to our understanding of freedom. Centuries ago Saint Augustine called freedom of choice the "small freedom," libertas minor. Libertas Maior, the big freedom was to make the right choices, to be fearless and selfless enough to choose to serve the common good rather than to seek personal gain.

That understanding of freedom was not foreign to our eighteenth century forebears who were enormously influenced by Montesquieu, the French thinker who differentiated despotism, monarchy, and democracy. In each he found a special principle governing social life. For despotism the principle was fear; for monarch, honor; and for democracy, not freedom but virtue. In The Broken Covenant, Robert Bellah quotes him as writing that "it is this quality rather than fear or ambition, that makes things work in a democracy."

According to Bellah, Samuel Adams agreed: "We may look to armies for our defense, but virtue is our best security. It is not possible that any state should long remain free where virtue is not supremely honored." - William Sloan Coffin, "None of Us Have the Right to Avert Our Gaze", CounterPunch, Oct. 22, 2005.

Such words would make a fitting epitaph for the Bush Administration, whose slogan seems to be "Force creates honor." None of us, he says, and he is speaking particularly of those who profess Christ, "none of us have the right to avert our gaze" from the face of war. To do so does not make us more spiritual, but less human. We do not have the right to ignore the consequences of our obsequious silence in the face of the crimes ongoing in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. May the fresh air of freedom fill our hearts with the power to say "No!"

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