Pope Francis: Lincoln, King, Day, Merton

LKDM

Pope Francis: Lincoln, King, Day, Merton
Brian Zahnd

Pope Francis building his prophetic address to Congress around four Americans — Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton — was brilliant. Here were some of my favorite moments from the Pope’s speech.

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I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.

We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. … We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.

The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.

Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good. This common good also includes the earth.

In his autobiography Thomas Merton wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers.” Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church.”

Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

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Amen.

BZ

  • Gerald Lewis

    I am now and forever will be challenged by these words. I will mark this moment and remember it.

  • DavidS

    Lincoln and Liberty….really?

    The Pope refers to a mythical Lincoln as compared to the actual or historical Lincoln. The mythical Lincoln has been and is currently used to glorify and justify the power and violence of the empire to achieve “positive” ends.

    In reality, the historical Lincoln is much more a man of his times than the myths about him, especially regarding his attitude and stance toward African Americans. His violent and inhumane war wasn’t intended to end slavery, but to enforce the violent power of a state. Lincoln and his “civil” war birthed the American empire we see today and continues to give creedence to the demonic impulse to rule the world through violence. Brian’s oft spoken quote is something like “flags and monuments hide the bodies of the victims…”. The mythical Lincoln is also used to “hide the bodies” of what a violent state does.

    As followers of Jesus, we should reject the mythical Lincoln and point to Jesus.

  • Thank you for this.

  • Not only does business produce wealth and improve the world, Dinesh D’Souza claims that America actually invented the creation of wealth, as opposed to the Old World way of appropriation by force of arms.

  • I imagine Native Americans would say they fail to notice any difference between the Old World way and the American way.

  • Yet the Pequot in my state successfully run casinos.

  • What’s a little genocide if you get to run casinos.

  • Since genocide means the deliberate and systematic extermination of a racial or national group, “a little genocide” is a contradiction in terms.

  • colby

    Hi