In an interview about his new book, Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age, James Carroll points to the most essential element of what he believes it means to live like Jesus in today’s world:
The biggest single thing I can think of is nonviolence. The thing that I most value about Jesus was his clear commitment to nonviolence in a very violent world. That message has never had more importance, especially for me as an American. The United States of America threatens the world with violence in ways that no other country does, and that boils down to our refusal to disarm after the end of the Cold War. This unchecked, monumental national security establishment that is defining our nation in terrible ways—the nonviolence of Jesus speaks directly to the American condition.
Obviously, this is defining for me because of my life history. I’m the son of a military man; I see everything through his eyes in some way.
More about that “life history”:
I was part of the anti-war movement. I was a Catholic priest and chaplain at Boston University, which was a center of the anti-war movement, and those were defining years for me. My father was an Air Force general, very much involved in the administration of the Vietnam War. He was the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, charged, among other things, with picking targets for our bombers in Vietnam. The war was the occasion of my break with my father. But my dad gave me my love of this country and he gave me my love of the Church, and those two things remain defining for me.
I’ve been working all these years to rescue, to protect my faith as a Catholic, and “Christ Actually” is the latest effort to do that. I’ve been working all these years to rescue my love of America, despite my dread of its unchecked militarism.