I always welcome the emergence of new contributions on Orthodoxy and culture by thoughtful commentators. Orthodox Christianity has much to give this country, indeed all of the Christian West, but our thinking has been underdeveloped and our contributions sparse. Much of this is due of course to historical circumstance; Orthodox Christianity is only now finding its voice in the public square. We’ve seen the contributions primarily in the new media, blogs mostly, but also in journals and elsewhere. We see it on all levels too, from the academy to cultural gatekeepers to those of us who, as Hayek says, are “merchants of ideas.”
Fr. Michael Butler, a priest in the Orthodox Church in America, just entered the fray and, if his first few posts are any indication, it looks like a blog deserving a place in your favorites folder. John Couretas, Communications Director at the Action Institute wrote a fine introduction copied below. Fr. Michael blogs at the Ambiguorum Blogis.
Advising the Poor to Do Less With Less
By John Couretas
Source: Acton Power Blog
On his recently launched Ambiguorum Blogis site, Fr. Michael Butler is reviewing Elizabeth Theokritoff’s Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009). Fr. Michael, who joined us for Acton University 2010, examines the author’s exhausted earth meme, beginning with this quote from the book:
It is hard to escape the conclusion that with an ever-growing human population, it is not enough for humanity as a whole to do more with less; individually, we must also learn to do less with less (Theokritoff, p. 21).
Fr. Michael comments:
This statement is astonishing. It is a call to reduce our quality of life, and I find it hard to square with her concern for the poor and the weak, for whom learning “to do less with less” is a recipe for catastrophe. She says, on p. 19, “most environmental problems take their toll on the poor and weak long before they affect those who can afford to live far from the landfills, upwind of the factories or power plants, and well above sea level”. If the poor and the weak suffer in our current economy, their suffering in a reduced economy will be unspeakable. A vibrant economy helps everyone; poverty in the United States, for example, is incomparable with poverty found elsewhere in the world. The poor and weak will not be helped by making everyone else poorer and weaker.
The author spends some time describing a “culture of control,” which is “a way for us to arrange the world for our own convenience, with no reference to some higher will for the world or for us” (p. 22). She goes on,
Many people regarded it as quite normal, for instance, to have strawberries to eat in mid-winter, relax and a cool house in mid-summer in a subtropical climate, or sit on a well-watered lawn beside the swimming pool in a semi-desert. (Theokritoff, p. 23)
I freely disclose that I eat strawberries in midwinter. My winter strawberries come from Mexico and Chile. What is for me an “indulgence” (Theokritoff’s term) is probably not an indulgence for the Latin American farmers who grow the strawberries and depend upon their sale for their livelihood. Taking to task people who live in the South for air-conditioning their homes strikes me simply as mean-spirited. She might as well take northerners to task for presuming to heat their homes in the winter. I don’t have a swimming pool, so I won’t comment on that part.
Fr. Michael has been a priest in the Orthodox Church in America for more than 15 years in Michigan and Ohio. See his bio and scholarly interests here. And put him on your blog roll and newsreader today.