Between the years 1942 and 1949 Mohandas K. Gandhi wrote volumes one and two of Non-Violence In Peace And War. In 1964 Thomas Merton wrote a type of commentary on this work of Gandhi, which included numerous quotes from both volumes. Merton’s book is simply called: Gandhi On Non-Violence.
I have always been intrigued by Gandhi, and even more so by Merton. In fact, I’ve said before that there is no other author that has impacted my life more than Thomas Merton. I am a student of Merton’s life and writings. Over the past ten years it has been rare that I’m not reading Merton or something about Merton.
In my office I have a six foot long bookshelf filled only with Merton or Merton related books. I haven’t read all that he has written but I hope to. In fact the only reason I’m glad he died in 1968 is that this put an end to his writings without which I could never catch up.
If I remember correctly I found Gandhi On Non-Violence in a used bookstore. Used bookstores are a dangerous place for me. If I find something I want and my wallet is empty or my credit card is maxed I’m tempted to put the book down my pants and calmly walk towards the door. It’s never come to that…yet. Much to my surprise this bookstore had a very limited number of Merton books. But there hiding between The Seven Storey Mountain and Seeds of Destruction was my ninety four page treasure. I thought to myself, “I didn’t even know Merton wrote a book on Gandhi.” I went to the checkout stand drooling with delight and thanking God for the book and credit cards. We’ll come back to Gandhi On Non-Violence in a minute.
I am fortunate in that my coaching practice puts me in touch with pastors and Christians from every region of North America and beyond. You pick the denomination and there’s a good chance that I am working or have worked with members of those groups. I work with conservatives and liberals, progressives and fundamentalist, charismatics and non-charismatics, main line denominations and independent churches, liturgical, orthodox, and house churches. I specialize in small churches but also work with medium to large size churches. A few weeks ago I was on the phone with a monk. I work with young pastors, middle-aged pastors as well as older pastors. I talk to a growing number of women pastors and those who feel women shouldn’t be pastors. I work with Republican pastors and Democrat pastors and a few that have rejected both parties. On top of all this I moderate a large closed group on Facebook made up of pastors. You know all those ‘types’ of pastors I just listed? They’re in this Facebook group.
When someone climbs up on a soapbox and starts telling me what’s wrong with the church today I want to ask them, “Which church are you referring to?” When the author of a blog makes sweeping generalizations about this group or that group I want to know exactly how many of those churches, groups, or pastors the writer actually knows.
The number can vary a bit based on which report you go to but it looks like there are about 330,000 congregations in North America. I would bump that up to about 400,000 if you include house churches, new churches the census takers don’t know about yet, and churches so small that nobody bothers to count them. Back to my friend on the soapbox…
“The church in America has caved into societal pressure and is on the brink of facing the judgment of God!”
“Which church are you referring to?”
“Well there are about 400,000 churches in American. Which ones are you referring to?”
“Uh, well, most of them.”
“So what you’re saying is that you personally know what’s going on in these 400,000 churches and that’s why you’re qualified to make such sweeping generalizations?”
“Well no, not exactly.”
“Well then maybe you need to be quiet.”
Taken from BELLIGERENT BELIEVERS by dave jacobs. Get your copy here.