"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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Covenant of Justice

“Sojourners is fundamentally mistaken, though, in their reading of our times. At this horrible juncture in history when crimes against humanity are committed daily by our government and in our names, it is not a lack of civility but the absence of outrage on the part of Christians and the Church that ‘is a sign of moral danger’ to our nation.” Brian Terrell, “A Convenant for Outrage”, 11/23/10.

Thomas Aquinas, the man who made reasoned debate a foundational theological principle had this to say about anger, or ‘incivility’ as Wallis defines it,: “Anger may be understood in two ways. On one way, as a simple movement of the will, whereby one inflicts punishment, not through passion, but in virtue of a judgment of the reason: and thus without doubt lack of anger is a sin. This is the sense in which anger is taken in the saying of Chrysostom, for he says: ‘Anger, when it has a cause, is not anger but judgment. For anger, properly speaking, denotes a movement of passion’: and when a man is angry with reason, his anger is no longer from passion: wherefore he is said to judge, not to be angry. On another way anger is taken for a movement of the sensitive appetite, which is with passion resulting from a bodily transmutation. This movement is a necessary sequel, in man, to the movement of his will, since the lower appetite necessarily follows the movement of the higher appetite, unless there be an obstacle. Hence the movement of anger in the sensitive appetite cannot be lacking altogether, unless the movement of the will be altogether lacking or weak. Consequently lack of the passion of anger is also a vice, even as the lack of movement in the will directed to punishment by the judgment of reason.” ST II-II, a. 158 “Whether there is a vice opposed to anger resulting from lack of anger?”

The Christian tradition does not condemn anger as such, but only anger that is not in accordance with the order of reason. When reason and the passion for justice accord in righteous anger, then to lack anger is a serious sin. In the light of the tradition of the saints and doctors of the Church, I would say that not to be outraged “at this horrible juncture” is a mortal sin. We should beg God for forgiveness for our lack of rage and implore him for this gift.

It is not “political polarization” that is the dangerous threat, but the numbing apathy of Christians and others of good will in the face structural sin on a scale unknown in history. Jim Wallis, who has battled against this apathy his entire life, should recognize this and is rightly rebuked for his neglect of the passion for truth. Terrell rightly points out that the political polarization which liberal commentators denounce is a smokescreen for an utter lack of creative tension rising from outrage at real injustice. We should be fanning the flames of this discontent in every way possible rather than embracing the nauseating piety of mere “tolerance.” This will not preserve our humanity, but give comfort to those who would destroy it.

“A covenant not to condemn their crimes in the name of civility, however, does not help these perpetrators or their victims.”

1 comment:

Dr. John said...

Would you allow me to copy this article (giving you credit of course) on my website, www.iquestionthat.com? What you are saying fits quite well with my own writing and action. I focus on the use of the example of the radical Jesus and the prophetic texts of the Bible to inform symbolic action against the powers.