Merton On "Conservatives and Progressives"
Another reason to revere him. A reader writes:
So happens this Methodist minister is leaving for Fort Smith, Ark. in a couple of hours for a "Praying the Hours with Thomas Merton" retreat at the St. Scholastica monastery there. What I love about Merton is that while progressives and peace activists and social activists have always loved and embraced him and found inspiration in him, he was always suspicious and often very critical of their motives and excesses. Consider this journal entry of his from July 3, 1968, not long before his bizarre death from electrocution in Asia:
"One thing is very clear: all that passes for aggiornamento is not necessarily good or healthy. One has to remain pretty critical and independent about all ideas ... Both the conservatives and the progressives seem to me to be full of the same kind of intolerance, arrogance, empty-headedness, and to be dominated by different kinds of conformism; in either case the dread of being left out of their reference group."
That is the right approach of a man of faith to church politics - let alone the secular, partisan kind.
One word on his untimely death: he was electrocuted at the age of 53 when getting out of the bath. It seems awful, unseemly, almost humiliating at first. And yet what a merciful way to be brought back to God. No anxiety; no fear of death; no forewarning. Are there any moments you'd be less expecting to die than getting out of a bath? Merton was so close to God I doubt God needed any last confession or contrition from him. So He took him instantly. Yes, Hitch and Sam can now laugh out loud.