Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: December 1989

December 1989

Grasping Beauty

The first words in Will Hoyt’s article “All Along the Watchtower” (Oct.) are “The Dome of Heaven.” When I was a boy and we swam at night, we would, before disturbing the water of the great mirror of the swimming pool, look down at the stars, and then slowly topple in unison — for an instant rushing outward from earth.

I wish I knew all of what Hoyt wrote in his piece — it is so remarkable — but then I would have had to have written it, I guess. I’ve read the article three times. It is truly beautiful. What he speaks of is a beauty one can’t quite grasp — or can grasp but can’t quite hold.

Sheldon Vanauken

Department of Sociology, Central Missouri State University

Lynchburg, Virginia


God does not work within a cost/benefit framework. If He did, He would demand a re­turn on His investment. Exchange is not His way.

How can I repay the NOR for all it has given me? “Thanks” is my feeble attempt.

Greg K. Herr

Fullerton, California

Defending Michael Harrington's Lack of Faith

Soon after I started read­ing John Cort’s book Christian Socialism, I realized I had met a mind better than my own. But Cort’s loving tribute to Michael Harrington in your October issue is marred by his asides on Harrington’s lack of faith.

I believe in God quite often. But there are all too many opportunities to per­suade myself to the contrary. It would be an act of charity for the damned in Calcutta to say that He does not exist. For the Christians living there, calling God a mumbler would be a kind thing to say about a distracted shepherd.

Christopher Paul Fotos

Arlington, Virginia

Michael Harrington's Theological Blunder

John Cort’s sentimental ac­count of Michael Harrington’s “lost” Catholicity (Oct.) doesn’t square with Harrington’s bio­graphical record. That record contains a veritable scandal. Neither in his Catholic years (1928-1952) nor in the years of his spectacular apostasy (1952-1989) did Harrington succeed in freeing his mind from the spell of capitalism’s premier category, the category competi­tion.

So enthralled by this category was Harrington that, without visible resistance, he applied it to Christ’s relation to humankind as a whole. He argued that Christ’s suffering competes mimetically with the suffering of all humankind — and loses in the competition, the whole of humanity’s suf­fering being “so much greater” than Christ’s own.

What a misunderstanding! In truth, no mimetic rivalry alienates Christ’s redemptive suffering from our own co-re­demptive suffering; very much to the contrary. These suf­ferings are in intimate union, so much so that in the garden of Gethsemani the agonies of history (great mystery here) become Christ’s own.

Harrington’s socialism lacked what Charles Peguy’s socialism possessed: freedom from the invidious double. The claim that if America were half the nation she claims to be, there would be no “other America,” loses some of its moral force when it is coupled with the deeply stricken claim that if God “were half the God he claims to be” there would be no human suffering.

Prof. John F. Maguire

Warrensburg, Missouri

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