I am writing this DM on Memorial Day, a day for remembering the courage of those who have given their lives for their country.
In our recent DM’s, we have been meditating on the reality of holiness –what Heschel calls the most “precious” word in religion and the ultimate antidote to evil. The meaning of holiness evolves as time and culture evolve.
So far we have named how Joy—especially in times of trial—and Courage are sure-fire signs of holiness in our time. The latter in a special way when powerful forces abound in media, politics and pseudo religion shouting about fear.
Recently Robert Ellsberg wrote a moving article about his father Daniel Ellsberg, who is now in the last days of his life.* Robert is the publisher of Orbis Books (transparency note–they published my most recent book edited by Charles Burack, Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality in their “Modern Spiritual Masters Series”).
It seems appropriate to be writing this on Memorial Day because all wars are not created equal and sacrifices are not made only on literal battlefields but often behind the lines. And the sacrifice Daniel Ellsberg dared was born of a deep moral concern.
Daniel Ellsberg, a former defense analyst, is remembered for copying the Pentagon Papers in 1971 which revealed the secret history of the Vietnam War. Charged with 12 felony counts, he was facing 115 years in prison. When asked by a reporter, “Are you concerned about going to jail?” he replied: “Wouldn’t you go to jail if it would help end this war?”
We are told his “conversion” occurred from spending two year in Vietnam and seeing up close and personal the suffering of the Vietnamese people. His perception of the war shifted from being “a problem to be solved” to being “a mistake to be ended.”
And as he dug deeper into the Pentagon Papers he came to realize it was a “crime to be resisted.”
It was young draft resisters inspired by Gandhian nonviolence who went to prison for opposing the war who moved Daniel to ask himself the question: “What could I do to end the war if I were willing to go to jail?”
His is another example of “loving something more than the fear of death”—death being going to jail—that MLK Jr. called for. We honor him and his willingness to sacrifice.
See Charles Burack, ed, Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, pp. 153-162, 169f, 198-202.
And Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 379-389.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Unidentified bodies near burning house. My Lai, Vietnam. March 16, 1968. Photo by Ronald Haeberle on Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.
Queries for Contemplation
Daniel Ellsberg poses two questions in this DM. How can we apply them today to asking the deepest moral questions of our time?
Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality
Selected with an Introduction by Charles Burack
To encapsulate the life and work of Matthew Fox would be a daunting task for any save his colleague Dr. Charles Burack, who had the full cooperation of his subject. Fox has devoted 50 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship. His more than 40 books, translated into 78 languages, are inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and have awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. Essential Writings begins by exploring the influences on Fox’s life and spirituality, then presents selections from all Fox’s major works in 10 sections.
“The critical insights, the creative connections, the centrality of Matthew Fox’s writings and teaching are second to none for the radical renewal of Christianity.” ~~ Richard Rohr, OFM.
Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society
Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science. A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics