After returning home, Gilkey reflects on all he had discovered about himself and his fellow internees:
“The most obvious dilemma had been the moral one: men must be just, fair, and generous if a creative and stable society is to be possible at all, and yet apparently this is for us a supremely difficult if not impossible task. How are we to understand ourselves; why does such an obvious necessity seem to be unattainable and even unnatural to our present nature? As in camp, I continued to find both the humanistic and the rigidly pietistic answers to these questions unsatisfactory.
“Those humanists who insist that men are naturally wise and good enough to be moral seemed to me to be continually refuted by the patent persistence of dangerous selfishness among the people whose intentions were good. Those religious perfectionists who believe that pious Christians are holy and holy people are good were refuted by the intolerance and lovelessness of many of the pious.”*
This is a potentially crushing verdict for religious and non-religious people alike. You'll have to read the book to see how Gilkey resolves the dilemma in his view, but for now, sit with the dilemma. Reflect with me. Where does our morality come from? Does our piety bring about love or lovelessness? Does our faith in humanity overlook a pervasive selfishness? How do we solve the dilemma?
* Langdon Gilkey, Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure (New York: HarperCollins, 1966), 229-230.