Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Piece-meal Movement

I recently attended the Pax Christi annual peace mass.  I had been invited, and considering myself somehow loosely connected to the peace movement, I thought I would attend and renew my commitment to advocate for non-violence.  I found what I expected, which was primarily a very old crowd rather confused about their own identity as a movement.  I suppose the peace movement was at its strongest during the Vietnam war, and at that time it was successful in many ways.  Dorothy Day is a nice example of a Catholic member of the movement, as is Thomas Merton.  The current movement seems to have lost focus, at least among Catholics.  As has been the case with many "Catholic" peace demonstrations, they seem to be collages of ideas from just about every tradition.  And they seem a bit confused about their own relationship with the Church.  

This particularly struck me.  For example, the woman who read the First Reading from Micah was obviously very conscientious about not ever using the word "Lord" in reference to God, no doubt because it carries medieval feudal connotations.  Ok, so she was being sensitive to subjugated peoples of all kinds, and making a philosophical-semantic point of some kind.  What was funny was that she replaced "Lord" at every instance with "Yahweh," a name that Jews are not allowed to use out of reverence for God's name, and that Benedict has asked not be used in any English translation.  So she replaced one insensitivity with another one.  It struck me as a nice parable for the movement itself:  Fairly confused about its roots and how it could better relate itself to Catholic Social Thought.  It has strong roots there I believe.  But it has no attraction at this point as a movement for many young John Paul II Catholics, since it is not sure whether the 60's anti-Vietnam movement or Catholic Social Thought is a deeper river from which its roots can draw water.  I think the answer is obvious, and for those who want to remember the good elements of the 60's, I'm with them.  But the Peace Movement would do better to look to John XXIII and John Paul II and to root itself there rather than in the Beatles. When it doesn't do so, it frustrates me and many other young Catholics who don't want to be branded as "liberals" and "hippies" for rejecting the Iraq war on just war principles.  

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ  


Anonymous said...

Stay away from hippies!

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

I kind of like hippies. They have the best stories, and my mom was kind of a hippie of the Christian variety. I have a definite soft spot for them.