Separating truth from half-truth

In the mail today from the Merton Institute. Timely writing here.

“Though there are certainly more ways than one of preserving the freedom of the sons of God, the way to which I was called and which I have chosen is that of the monastic life.

Paul’s view of the “elements” and the “powers of the air” was couched in the language of the cosmology of his day. Translated into the language of our own time, I would say these mysterious realities are to be sought where we least expect them, not in what is remote and mysterious, but in what is most familiar, what is near at hand, what is at our elbow all day long-what speaks or sings in our ear, and practically does our thinking for us. The “powers” and “elements” are precisely what stand between the world and Christ. It is they who stand in the way of reconciliation. It is they who, by influencing all our thinking and behavior in so many unsuspected ways, dispose us to decide for the world as against Christ, thus making reconciliation impossible.

Clearly the “powers” and the “elements,” which in Paul’s day dominated men’s minds through pagan religion or through religious legalism, today dominate us in the confusion and the ambiguity of the Babel of tongues that we call mass-society. Certainly I do not condemn everything in the mass-media. But how does one stop to separate the truth from the half- truth, the event form the pseudo-event, reality from the manufactured image? It is in this confusion of images and myths, superstitions and ideologies that the “powers of the air” govern our thinking-even our thinking about religion! Where there is no critical perspective, no detached observation, to time to ask the pertinent questions, how can one avoid being deluded and confused?”

Thomas Merton. Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968: 150.

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