Category Archives: Conscientious Objection

Christians and the Temptations of Nationalism

“When in the 1950s I asked my (then orthodox and rigidly catechized) American Catholic students: ‘Are you an American who happens to be a Catholic, or are you a Catholic who happens to be an American?’ all of them chose the former.”

“When Germany invaded Russia, Hitler ex­pected Catholics to support his ‘crusade’ against atheistic Bolshevism. No matter how wrong the ideas and the practices of Commu­nism, Jaegerstaetter said, this was but another invasion wrought upon innocent people. There was nothing in the practices and doctrines of Nazism that was preferable to those of Communism.”

The following article is very relevant to our times even though it was written in 1992. It is reposted with the kind permission of the folks at the New Oxford Review — D.F.

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The “God and Country” Trap

Christians and the Temptations of Nationalism

By John Lukacs
November 1992

John Lukacs is Professor of History at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and a Contributing Editor of the NOR. His latest book is The Duel, 10 May-31 July 1940: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler.

This article is adapted with permission of Ticknor & Fields from his book The End of the Twentieth Century, forthcoming in early 1993.

The decline of religion, and of the influ­ence of the churches, became more and more evident during the 18th century, at the end of which it seemed as if that decline were irre­versible. (In 2,000 years of history, the prestige of the papacy was never as low as in 1799.) Then there came an unexpected Catholic and ultramontane revival; but the decline, by and large, went on during the 19th century, and continued during the 20th. Even some atheists and agnostics regretted this on occasion: Orwell once wrote that the greatest loss for Western civilization was the vanishing of the belief in the immortality of the soul. That is a difficult subject, because it is not as ascertain­able how men and women (how, rather than how much) believed in the immortality of the soul 250 years ago. But Orwell was right when he wrote that faith and credulity are different things.

Most people (including intellectuals, theo­logians, ecclesiastical historians) think that the decline of religious belief has been due to the rise of the belief in science. That may have been true in the 19th century, but even then the evidence is not clear. The decline of re­ligious belief did not necessarily correspond to the rise of belief in science. Samuel Butler’s vehement rejection of Darwin did not lead to the recovery of his religion. Henry Adams’s discovery of the Virgin did not lead to his re­jection of his own mechanistic-deterministic view of history. Now, at the end of the 20th century, many people respect religion as well as science, together; but respect for the former is faint. This has something to do with the fact that we have declined to a stage lower than hypocrisy, the problem being no longer the difference between what people say and what they believe; now the difference seems to be between what people think they believe and what they really believe.

Actually, the great threat to religious faith in our time — more precisely, to the quality and meaning of faith — is nationalism. The democratization of the churches has led to that; but that is only secondary to the demo­cratization of entire societies. The primary element is that the religion of the nation, the sentimental symbols of the nation, are more powerful than religious faith, especially when they are commingled. Nationalism, I repeat, is the only popular religio (religion: binding be­lief) in our times. That won’t last forever; but there it is. Continue reading

Interfaith Antiwar Movement: War in Vietnam

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 2017 documentary The Vietnam War is a brilliant antiwar film that humanizes the enemy and laments the brutal slaughter of roughly three million soldiers and civilians for absolutely nothing. It is also a ringing indictment of those American presidents who waged the war, consistently lied to the American public about how they were waging it, and sent tens of thousands of young American soldiers to fight knowing it could not be won. As such, it also offers an urgent warning about the nature of the wars we continue to wage.

Yet The Vietnam War has some blind spots…

Peaceful Solidarity, Commonweal Magazine, Jan. 24, 2018

 

Bishop Barron’s Clever Dismissal

The following was written by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy:

Friends,

This eight minute video presentation by Bishop Robert Barron is an example of the clever dismissal of Jesus’ teaching of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, which the average Catholic is subjected to ceaselessly in thousands of different ways by the violence justifying institutional Church through its senior personnel and its various avenues of communication. It is a example of the traditional ecclesiastical tactic of damning Gospel Nonviolence by faint praise, saying—in stark opposition to Jesus’ “new commandment”—that all sane minded, realistic Christians certainly do not want all Christians to be nonviolent, although it is nice to have a few Christians around who follow that Way in order to remind us what heaven will be like.

https://youtu.be/Y-0z2m_NtS8

In this video Cardinal George and Bishop Barron have strayed a long way from what  Jesus teaches in the Gospels. Their statements equating celibacy with Gospel Nonviolence are erroneous and meant to teach the majority of Christians to ignore Jesus’ teaching of nonviolence, while they give it a backhanded tribute.

To undo some of their obfuscation it must be stated without equivocation that celibacy is not the will of God as revealed by Jesus in the Gospels, but Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies is. Celibacy is an option within the will of God as revealed by Jesus. Violence and enmity— the quintessential components of every war—are explicitly rejected as options within the will of God as revealed by Jesus, who is God Incarnate. Contrary to Bishop Barron’s talk rejecting Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies in imitation of Jesus is not an option granted to any Christian by Jesus. The analogy of Barron and George comparing celibacy with Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence is an invalid, self-serving, misleading and anti-evangelical effort. It appears to be the work not of two learned Christians who do not know that Nonviolent Love is a teaching of Jesus applicable to all Christians at all times, but rather the work of two highly educated Christians who do not want to know and/or to admit it, and who want to proselytize others into following a non-existing just war Jesus as they follow a never existing just war Jesus—as if there were spiritual safety in numbers.

Their duplicitousness in proselytizing is chilling because while comparing nonviolence in the Church to celibacy in the Church and simultaneously effusively praising both, their statements in the minds of most Catholics, marginalize to the position of useful Catholic gadflies, those who proclaim Jesus’ teaching of Nonviolence Love of friends and enemies. Their statements are intended to obscure or undermine the fact that those who proclaim Gospel Nonviolence are proclaiming, not an optional Church discipline, but rather an essential dimension of God, of Divine Love, of that power, the only power, which in truth saves. As the Catholic Biblical scholar, the late Rev. John L. McKenzie, wrote in his book The Power and the Wisdom (Imprimatur, 1966), “The power which destroys all other powers is the power of love, the love of God revealed and active in Jesus Christ. God revealed in Jesus that He loves man and will deliver him through love and through nothing else… Jesus presents in His words and life not only a good way of doing things, not only an ideal to be executed whenever it is convenient, but the only way of doing what He did.”

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

P.S. Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in following the Way of Nonviolence was not following Gandhi, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day as Robert Barron claims. He was following Jesus. There is an infinite difference between following the Creator and following another creature like yourself.

Letter to Pope Francis

The following was written by Mark Scibilia-Carver

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Dear Pope Francis,

Greetings from Trumansburg, New York and Mary, Mother of Mercy Parish.

Many U.S. Catholics agree with your assessment that we are already in the midst of World War III, given the open, covert and proxy wars that are ongoing.  The U.S. is the world’s greatest arms merchant and has bombed, invaded and occupied Muslim countries for at least the last 25 years.  This  “jubilee of mercilessness” is motivated by the greed and arrogance of the wealthy who covet the world’s resources.  These wars have resulted in the deaths of millions of poor souls, to mention one of the costs.  There is no doubt that thousands of women have been killed, along with their children, including the unborn.

No one should be surprised that a group like ISIS has arisen to resist this “crusade” of the west but it is the U.S. with its military that is, by far, the world’s greatest terrorist.

Please note that this February 15 marks 87 years since the death of Benjamin Joseph Salmon, a Catholic of Denver, Colorado.  Ben Salmon refused to fight and kill his “brothers” in WWI years before Gandhi, Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, Dorothy Day or Martin Luther King.  For his conscientious objection to a war in which millions of baptized Christians killed each other, he was first sentenced to death and later to 25 years in prison.  After 2 ½ years in prison he wrote a 235 page treatise based on his Catholic faith and his reading of Christian scripture and concluded that there was “no such animal as a just war”.  This treatise and much more can be seen at www.bensalmon.org.

February 19 is the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   The Gospel is Matthew 5: 38-48, from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus commands that we love our enemies.  The same command is pronounced twice in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain.  Both sermons end with Jesus insisting that his disciples put these commands into action.

The U.S. has seen the rise of a peculiar “Christian” fascism in support of our imperial wars.  This is a time that seems right to place the light and truth of Jesus’ nonviolence on a lamp stand and not under a bushel basket.  Pope Benedict was right, “it is no longer licit to even speak of a just war.”  Pope St. John Paul II was right, “violence is a lie”.  You were right, “to be a true follower today, it is necessary to embrace Jesus’ nonviolence”  Now we need more than words.  We need an authoritative teaching of the gospel truth.  The teaching must be so clear that our Catholic youth, who are constantly targeted for military recruitment, cannot mistake it.

As you already know the nonviolent truth about Jesus, please consider February 19 as the day to give an ex cathedra teaching to end the “just war” era of Catholicism!  With Jesus and the Gospel there is no justified killing, no “just war.”

In solidarity with the suffering such a witness will entail,

Mark Scibilia-Carver