“The ideal subject for totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
— Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
In certain respects the discussion following my last post seems to have veered off topic and into the weedy realm of politics, as was almost guaranteed to happen. I have already made it clear that I am not interested in politics.
My old pal James Jones says, “I don’t think I know anyone who likes him, but when put next to Hillary …?” The answer to this is simple: If you don’t like him, don’t support him. You don’t have to support any of these people. You are free not to participate. There is another way, as Terri Moon indicated in her reference to “a different kingdom.”
Please do not misunderstand the following as the expression of a political perspective on my part. I detest politics. Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative — it’s all bosh as far as I’m concerned. My problem is that I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can find anything to “like” about a person who can only be described as a coarse, crude, crass, cruel, unfeeling, greedy, materialistic, power-hungry, egotistical megalomaniac; a loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed, self-aggrandizing, blustering, boasting, bullying braggart; a willfully ignorant, cheerfully unlettered, anti-intellectual boor; a philanderer, an adulterer, and a debauchee. “Baffling” is the only word that comes to mind.
(Originally published January 22, 2015)
The renunciation of power is infinitely broader and harder than nonviolence (which it includes). For nonviolence allows of a social theory, and in general it has an objective. The same is not true of nonpower.
– Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the brave men and women who served alongside him as architects of the Civil Rights Movement were people of high ideals. In every situation they strove to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of truth and virtue. Their words and actions were chosen with grace. They kept a constant eye on the quality of their witness for Christ. They cared deeply about individual integrity and collective responsibility. And yet it would be neither unfair nor inaccurate to say that their decision to make nonresistance the keystone of their social and political strategy was never a matter of mere principle. It was also a pragmatic consideration. They were convinced that nonviolence would work. They knew it could work because they had seen it work for Ghandi. They adopted it because, for all the pain and anguish it entailed, it was still the plan most likely to succeed.
The case is very different with the Pilgrim. The Pilgrim has no good earthly reason for embracing weakness. He embraces it because it is central to who he is. He gets nothing by turning the other cheek – nothing but a lashing and a cross. He has no worldly goals. His only objective is to identify with his Master. He belongs to that looking-glass kingdom where reality is a mirror-image of the kosmos and heaven simply the world turned upside-down. He shuns force as a means to noble ends. He rejects the notion that truth, in order to be true, must have the backing of the state, the validation of the law, and the endorsement of film stars. He cares nothing for the pillars or powers that be. Presidents and kings in his estimation are merely marginal. He has no network, no connections, no lobbyists in Congress. The definitions in his dictionary have all been turned inside-out: loss is gain, debility is power, failure is success, ignominy is glory, and death the pathway to life. He is the wisest of fools and the most foolish of the wise.
In the first century the oppressed inhabitants of Judea were still dreaming of Judas Maccabaeus. In their deception they looked for a hero to smash the Roman yoke. What they got was a baby in a manger. They looked for a political strongman to set the world to rights. What they got was an itinerant poet-preacher. They looked for a king to lead a liberating army. What they got was a convict on a cross. Many never grasped the point. But there were a few who eventually fell under the spell of the devastating, earth-shattering truth: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.
It was of such the poet was thinking when he wrote, “They went forth to battle, but they always fell:”
Their might was not the might of lifted spears …
Their wreaths are willows and their tribute, tears;
Their names are old sad stories in men’s ears;
Yet they will scatter the red hordes of Hell,
Who went to battle forth and always fell.*
This is why the Pilgrim, if he boasts at all, will always boast exclusively about his weakness. In contradistinction to political operatives, cultural strategists, and ambitious men and women of every stripe, he understands that to fulfill his true destiny he must learn to be content with infirmities, insults, distresses, and difficulties; for when he is weak – and on no other occasion – then he is strong.
* Shaemus O’Sheel, “They Went Forth To Battle But They Always Fell.”
Public service announcement to anyone who cares:
Due to an apparent lack of interest, new Pilgrimagination posts will be appearing far less frequently from this point forward — at least for the time being.
Meanwhile, all previously published materials will remain available on the Pilgrimagination website at pilgrimagination.com.
“The idolatry of patriotism, believing that any one nation’s or people’s cause is so worthy that to it human lives — whether “friend” or “foe” — should be sacrificed, must be unveiled not first when it has actually led to open warfare but already when the possibility of such slaughter has been accepted into government plans. Not taking of life, but the idolizing of one’s interest which leads finally to killing, is the deepest sin of militarism. Whether or not the sixth commandment forbids all killing is still debated; in any case the first forbids nationalism.”
— John Howard Yoder