Monday, June 01, 2009

Merton Again- On the Personhood of Others.

This was in an email i received this morning. It sums up a train of thought that has worked its way into my life during the last year. It squares nicely with some of what NT Wright had to say in Surprised by Hope, which I read last summer. Since then I have (not always very successfully) strived to recognize the humanness of others and to avoid dehumanizing them as a way to justify my sins against them.

Persons are known not by the intellect alone, nor by principles alone, but only by love. It is when we love the other, the enemy, that we obtain from God the key to an understanding of who he is and who we are. It is only this realization that can open to us the real nature of our duty, and of right action.

To shut out the person and to refuse to consider him as a person, as another self, we resort to the impersonal "law" and "nature." That is to say we block off the reality of the other, we cut the intercommunication of our nature and his nature, and we consider only our own nature with its rights, its claims, its demands. In effect, however, we are considering our nature in the concrete and his nature in the abstract. And we justify the evil we do to our brother because he is no longer a brother, he is merely an adversary, an accused, an evil being.

To restore communication, to see our oneness of nature with him, and to respect his personal rights, integrity, his worthiness of love, we have to see ourselves as accused along with him, condemned to death along with him, sinking into the abyss with him, and needing, with him, the ineffable gift of grace and mercy to be saved.

Thomas Merton. Seeds of Destruction (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1961): 254-255.