Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: May 1989

May 1989

Community Without Boundaries?

The analysis of personalism by James G. Hanink (March) re­solves the conflict between indi­vidualism and community. He says in effect that it is the impor­tance of the person that makes community relevant. Depersonalized community gives us the ma­terialism of Marxism and capital­ism.

Yet, the concept of com­munity needs to be criticized. It carries with it boundaries, and the minute boundaries are form­ed, divisiveness and strife result.

Christ spoke in universal terms. There were no group boun­daries in anything Christ taught. A Samaritan was as good as a Jew, a sinner as important as a nonsinner.

Gary Novak

Highmore, South Dakota

Of Saints & Social Structures

James G. Hanink’s “A Personalist Vision” (March) seems to attempt to make practical the Holy Father’s vision for man and society as disclosed in his The Acting Person, as well as in his other writings and in the docu­ments of the Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul’s writ­ings urge us to find practical ap­plications of his vision (I’m sorry that John Hellman, in his response to Hanink, gave up; the “almost impenetrable turgidity” becomes light if you stay with it).

But something happened in Hanink’s sentence, “What per­sonalism seeks…is that social structures….” We now have a new subject: the stamping of so­cial structures with the personalist vision. I wonder if that sen­tence should instead read, “What personalism seeks is saints at work in the world.”

I think we have a special du­ty that must precede and accom­pany the transformation of struc­tures: to grasp the marvel of the human person, both in nature and grace, by — among other things — many rereadings of The Acting Person. The respect for the gift of the person (correctly identified as crucial by Hanink) and for the gift of participation must be brought to flower in thousands of persons before it can bear fruit in sanctified social structures.

We must realize, too, that there is not going to be just one “right” way to put these things into practice; there are going to be as many practical applications as there are inspired Christians. We will continue to get in each other’s hair. Jean Bethke Elshtain’s clarification of Hanink is correct: the personalist vision is not a uto­pian vision. It is the exercise, in grace, of solidarity or authentic opposition in every situation in which we find ourselves. The suc­cesses will sparkle in the history of salvation, but remember: the lights will be the saints produced, not necessarily the structures.

Judy Echaniz

Rochester, New York

Uneasy With Avery Dulles

I have consistently enjoyed the NOR for several years now. I appreciate the balance you strike between radical (i.e., papabppo­litical thought and orthodox the­ology.

Among your regular writers I usually agree with Christopher Derrick, and I enjoy his witty and penetrating style. And while essentially agreeing with him in his “Humanity’s Ancient & Pas­sionate Love Affair with War” (Jan.-Feb.), I would add that there seems to be an irony to warfare — i.e., in its ability to generate some high human values.

Derrick hints at this, but his main theme is the hypocrisy and destructiveness of war. I would acknowledge the negatives of war, but the dangers of mortal combat can also stimulate the most in­tense forms of courage, loyalty, endurance, sense of purpose, and fraternal love.

I agree that there seems to be a popular — if unstated — and obscene passion for war in na­tionalistic societies, and that the two greatest excitements on earth may well be adultery and combat. I don’t especially like this state of affairs either. But the passion and destruction and overheated glory of Mars can also be seen as aberrations from the deeper love and courage which can at times be found in — or perhaps be stim­ulated by — whatever nightmare the raging gods happen to be fo­menting.

Fred Juul

Oakland, California

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