Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and I suppose I am feeling a little homesick at the moment, wishing I could be celebrating our feast with other men in my own order. The Marianists in my local community offered our liturgy this morning for Brothers of the Sacred Heart around the world, which was a really nice touch, but I wish I could sing the old songs and celebrate our community with my confreres in person.
The school year ended a couple of weeks ago, nicely capped off with a weekend trip to South Bend with the parents for my graduation ceremony (yes, I got the piece of paper in the mail back in September, but summer graduates don’t have a ceremony until May. Go figure.). Nice, easy weekend up there, apart from a few glitches related to driving between Chicago and South Bend (I took a bus every summer, so I never learned the roads!), and back to St. Louis just in time for…not much. Mind you, I’ve been very productive in the past couple of weeks since school let out, but there’s only so much campus ministry stuff that we can actually do at this point. My dorm is completely empty apart from the building coordinator (whom I never see), so I have spent some wonderful days in near-total silence – almost a paid retreat!
Now that I’m not in my office with students until midnight every evening, I’m able to get back to some of the stuff I have missed during such a busy year – catching a film with some of the Bro’s (Indiana Jones was fun but kinda hokey at the end, No Country for Old Men was brilliant but downright disturbing), a little rock climbing, plowing through a fraction of the backlog of books I have on my desk.
On that note, I am sure this one will come up again, but I have been working through a book called On Killing, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a psychologist and former Army Ranger. He discusses the incredibly low percentage of soldiers in World War II who actually fired their weapons (15-20%) compared with the percentage in later wars – roughly 50% in Korea, around 90% in Vietnam – to point to what he claims is an innate resistance people have to killing, even if their own lives are in danger, and how much of what is going on psychologically in modern military indoctrination is overcoming that innate resistance. What fascinates me about this guy is that he isn’t coming out of the agenda one might expect, given those claims. He is by no means a pacifist or a military-basher: he’s a career military man, believes in a strong military and the necessity and rightness of warfare in some circumstances. He believes that violence is sometimes a necessary thing and that soldiers can use it for good reasons, but he still claims that it causes well-adjusted people all kinds of psychic trauma to engage in it and that our culture is eroding that resistance to killing by flooding our media with violence. It would be fascinating to get him and Robert Jay Lifton to sit down and talk about psychology and violence – Grossman as a military man, Lifton as a pacifist, but both trained in psychology and examining the effects of violence upon the human psyche.
At the same time, I just started another one called (God) After Auschwitz by Zachary Braiterman. I am hoping to teach a class next spring on the problem of evil, and I would like to do something on post-Holocaust Jewish theology, so I’m reading through a few things looking for possible textbooks. I’m just at the beginning, but I go in with a sense that even though this book is written by a Jewish thinker, basically for a Jewish audience, using Jewish thinkers like Rubenstein, Heschel, and Fackenheim, theology after Auschwitz is a solidly Christian problem as well. What can we say about God after Auschwitz? What can we expect from God viz. horrific evil? Whether it happened to Christians is really immaterial – it happened, and the God whom Christians claim did not put on the emergency brakes and stop it. Hardly “enjoyable” reading, but intensely important.
On that note: Mercy within mercy within mercy…