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Christians must Transform the World: No Revolutions based on Hate and Greed (Jacques Maritain)

We have said that in the ordinary course it is principally by its sincerity or single-mindedness that an effort at reform or revolution is made effective and that it has a chance of success in the actual order o things. But how is this possible in the case of an effort to renew the temporal order on Christian principles, an effort whose sincerity is by definition the sincerity of Christian principles, of the Gospel and of Charity, opposed to the sincerity of violence, fanaticism or of hatred by which revolutions are known to succeed? The purity and sincerity of an attempt to renew the temporal order on Christian principles excludes all ways and means that are not sincere and pure.

For this reason and by hypothesis is any attempt at reform that follows the Christian law foredoomed to failure?

The questions might need no other answer than the word of the Gospel: “The Son of Man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?” A Christian revolution can succeed only by the use of just those means which are beyond the ability of others to use. If Faith is able to move mountains, is it powerless to shift the mighty from their seats? If Christians, who live by Faith in their private lives, lay aside their faith when they approach the things of political and social life, they must be content to be towed like slaves in the wake of history.

Those who labour to transform the social order in the name of human personality and of Christian justice lay themselves open to reproach from two opposite poles. On the one hand they are accused of playing false to the proletariat by shrinking from violence and revolutionary force; on the other hand they are accused of betraying the social order by making themselves harbingers of a revolution that will lay all things low.

This twofold reproach, though it be unjust, carries a warning. Nature has no forgiveness for those who fail to fulfil the law of their being; and the Christian has to look to a very high plane for the laws that govern his life and action and that segregate him in the social order alike from the apostles of a revolution born of hate and from the representatives of an order based on avarice.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XV, No. 7, November 1995 (From Freedom in the Modern World, Gordian Press, 1936, 1971).