April 19, 2014

Barbarians Among Us?

Essays like Fr. Gregory Jensen’s below, give me hope. It reveals the new thinking needed in American Orthodoxy, the kind that is thoughtful and responsibly self-critical. An excerpt is included below. You can read the full article on either the new and improved! Orthodoxy Today, or the AOI main page. (Click the pic for a full view of the image too.)

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Broken Church

The Rejection of Tradition

On a post on my blog Koinoia (“An Editorial: Orthodoxy & the Public Square“), I wrote that whether or not I like Frank Schaeffer’s politics or his moral theology, or whether or not his support of abortion and gay rights are compatible with the tradition of the Church, the reality is that he is well within the mainstream of current Orthodox opinion in America. According to the PEW survey, the majority of Orthodox laity agree that abortion and gay marriage should be legal.  It may surprise you, then, that the problem isn’t Schaeffer – it’s us; specifically, it’s the clergy.  For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, we clergy are not effectively communicating the moral tradition of the Church to the laity.  Or, if we are, the laity aren’t listening –- which would imply that the clergy are willing to tolerate the laity ignoring the Gospel.

We see the same prevalence of pro-choice, pro-gay marriage positions among Orthodox politicians.  This kind of a consistent pattern of belief does not just happen.  As in the Catholic Church, we see in the Orthodox Church evidence of a significant pastoral failing.  This appears to be more than just a widespread lack of sound moral education for the faithful.  It appears to be an embrace of, or at least resignation to, the influence of secularism in our parishes. 

This is a very serious problem.  This isn’t a debate about the practices of potentially faithful followers – as can be the case when addressing, say, Old Calendar or New Calendar, or the issue of women wearing headscarves, or whether priests should have beards and wear cassocks, or whether we have pews or not, or whether to use an organ to lead the choir.  This goes much deeper – to the heart of Christian discipleship.  It seems that we have simply lost sight of the beauty and power of Christian virtue; perhaps worse, it seems that we have given over leadership to moral barbarians.

I know that sounds like a harsh judgment, but what else can one call it?  A barbarian isn’t a bad person. A barbarian isn’t likely to love his wife and children any less than you or I.  He isn’t necessarily an atheist or polytheist.  In fact, many barbarians believed –- and believe — in Christ, though for the same reason that they believed in the old gods: to secure power for their people.

Read the full article on either Orthodoxy Today, or the American Orthodox Institute main page.

Comments

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    Harry Coin says:

    You wonder why the clergy are not effectively commuincating the tradition?

    Because every song and passage from Orthodox Tradition records ‘life exampleship’ as an essential prerequisite for ‘Christian Leadership’.

    Look at even the Apostles who enjoyed enormous ‘authority of the office’ — yet without lived faith could accomplish nothing. It isn’t any different now.

    Would the barbarians you mention have tolerated an ‘all bachelor kleptocracy’ longer or less long than our current clergy leadership? How many new faces are in the parishes because of what they have done with every dollar the parishes could spare the last 50 years?

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    Andrew says:

    Well written Fr. Gregory. My experience resonates with many of the points you make. One thing I am noticing more and more is that Orthodox clergy, leaders and theologians are resorting to an appeal to emotion more and more. Its how one feels that matters. And how you feel about an issue is more important than being right about an issue(and hurting someones feelings is the ultimate transgression). This is very dangerous and leads to problems ranging from the increase in clergy divorce that we see today to misleading our youth about moral decisions and their consequences.

    Orthodox Christians in America constantly refer to the Church as a well kept secret but I am deeply concerned that the lack of moral witness among so many is a threat to the stability of the Church in America. What kind of moral witness are we living and passing on to our children?

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    Harry Coin says:

    Let’s not complain just about easy abortion / whatever-as-marriage among Orthodox politicians, we have it immediately in our senior church leadership. Notice ordained young and never married metropolitan Gerasimos of San Fransisco endorsed Gay marriage in California, saying in the same newspaper account that the church would never sanctify it.

    So that means the Metropolitan rejects the tradition in this manner that the church he leads upholds? Yes? No? What? How much doublemindedness can a person take.

    When in history has a priest or bishop ever correctly said: “Go do something, my son, however let’s just skip the ceremony here in the church about it being the church deems it wrong, you know.”

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Met. Gerasimos signed a statement with a Catholic bishop and other Orthodox bishops in his area supporting Proposition 8. This was good.

      It was also a shift from an earlier and troubling position he held on gay marriage:

      Gerasimos also had an opinion about the debate raging over whether gay couples should be allowed to marry.

      “They should have the benefits and civil rights of the state, but this is not a sacramental union our church will ever sanctify,” he said. “But civil marriage, in the spirit of American democracy, they have the right to ask for that.”

      It’s good to see the shift. But it’s still troubling that a bishop ordained at 59 years old did not see that his positing of Church vs. “American Democracy” was an internal bifurcation built on a logical collapse that sees the state and culture as synonymous. This collapse occurs when the precepts of moral relativism are internalized.

      His words on Terri Schiavo were emotionally driven and revealed no substantive grasp of the facts at hand.

      I don’t think, in other words, you will receive much insight from San Francisco. Most likely you will receive affirmations that don’t upset the dominant culture unless the departure from the moral tradition is so stark that it can’t be papered over.

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        Harry Coin says:

        There is plenty of precident where these people say whatever it takes to protect their interests in the context of heat. What do they do when dealing with relatively powerless subordinates? Transfers to ‘nowhere’, ‘my gps was broken and shazaam I was inside a locked parking garage getting into it with a marine’, ‘pay the assessment our pre-scripted so-called ‘congress’ ‘passed’ or we’ll take your priest’, ‘Here’s your new flag, and we’ll send you the shaft to put it on for free!’.

        Not that I’m cranky today. No.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Harry, I like it: “All bachelor kleptocracy.” Ouch.

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    The “barbarians” unfortunately are us. The majority of the secular clergy (i.e. parish priests) aren’t going to do anything because they’re caught between two prongs of a pincer attack: liberal elites in their congregations (usually big-money guys) and weak-kneed bishops who will yank the rug out from under them at the first sign of trouble.

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    Andrew says:

    Lets be honest. Considering the present day state of Orthodoxy in America it is safe to say that we are all part of a Church where the best leaders and pastors cannot rise to the top. The present day structure of ruling from the old world does not reward virtue or Christ centered leadership. It rewards manipulation of the system and punishes Apostolic witness. Its a deadly form of schizophrenia that continues to wreck the lives of young men, families, and parishes. Its also a vocations killer. Why would any well adjusted young man want to subject himself and his family to such an enviroment? Our best men will more often than not say no to the priesthood.

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    Peter Bouteneff says:

    I appreciate what Fr Gregory writes. I’d want to add two factors into the mix, neither of which detract from his main point, but which signal a further discussion.

    1) Fr Gregory speaks of most Orthodox laity as thinking abortion should be legal: I know several high-profile Orthodox who would self-classify as “conservative,” who stand unequivocally against abortion and are anything but “pro-choice,” but do not believe it should be illegal in America at this point in time. This on the rationale that more work needs to be done reshaping the culture from within before the legislation can be in place. (Last I checked with Frederica Matthewes-Green some years ago, this was her position.) So believing that abortion should remain legal (for now) is not necessarily a pro-choice stance.

    2) Similarly, Fr Thomas Hopko argues for legalized civil unions (not marriage) for gay people in his book on same-sex attraction. Here too, arguing for this at the legislative level is not necessarily a pro-gay position, nor is it “pro gay marriage.”

    Fr. Gregory’s wake-up call is still apt.

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      Andrew says:

      Professor Bouteneff, permit to be follow-up your response with a couple of questions. Please know I ask these questions out of respect for the office you hold as Seminary Professor and public Orthodox intellectual.

      Would these same “high profile” Orthodox you mention above argue that during the time of the American Civil War that it is acceptable to be personally opposed to slavery while still believing that slavery should remain legal (for now in the United States?

      Is there a difference between slavery and abortion? And with this in mind Professor can you answer the question: When do human rights begin?

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Professor, I respect this line of reasoning, up to a point. Regarding Matthewes-Greene point of view that our culture is not ready to implement strictures on abortion, I agree. However, when will we ever be ready? Especially if our hierarchs (at least the non-OCA ones) are morally complicit in the present abortion regime. I mean this not only in their refusal to speak out publicly but to not say anything within their pastoral duties.

      I realize we are in a catch-22 situation, but we got here because of the incipient liberalism of the mainstream Protestant denominations which infused its way into our laity and from thence, to our clergy & hierarchy. I’m talking of intellectual laziness (pace Frank Schaeffer) as well as moral cowardice (e.g. Arb Demetrius lauding Greek “Orthodox” politicians).

      I know this isn’t going to happen overnight, and I realize that many on the traditionalist side can sound like church ladies at times, but the context of Scripture and the meaning of Tradition are clear on these matters. Does this mean that if we enforce them then our churches may empty? That others may close? Most probably. That’s a small price to pay. (Truth be told, our churches may actually explode in growth if our bishops were really principled men.)

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        Peter Bouteneff says:

        I am in broad agreement with your point. It is a Catch-22. And I wasn’t kidding when I said that Fr Gregory’s point remains apt! Because it means all the more that clergy, and any of us who bear a responsibility in influencing people must step up to the plate, far better than we have been doing.

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    Andrew says:

    Professor, I would also like to follow up on the second point your remarked on with regards to civil unions with the following question?

    Is there ever a context where sex outside of marriage is healthy? Why should anyone who is a member of the Church advocate for something “at the legislative level” that has shown to be inherently damaging and unhealthy to people?

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      Peter Bouteneff says:

      To be 100% honest with you Andrew, I haven’t yet made my mind up on whether I agree with Fr Tom on his stance about civil unions and all that it implies. But as I think it through, I would remark that there are several areas where what we teach in the Church is not realistically applicable within secular society and its legal system. Church Canon Law mandates attendance at the divine liturgy on the Lord’s Day, and we would agree that this is indeed a vital part of our salvation in Christ. (After all, not being a Christian is inherently damaging as well.) But this wouldn’t be made into law. These are perhaps exaggerated arguments, but the point is to see where they would or would not apply. The abolition point you made earlier is a very good example of where legislation was indeed apt, and played a role in changing the society.

      I raised all this simply as a matter for discussion, I’m not here to defend a particular legislative stance at this point in time re: abortion or civil unions. But there is a genuine diversity of views on these questions among Orthodox Christians who see themselves as anti-abortion and “heteronormative”!

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        Andrew says:

        Professor, permit me the play the role of the persistent student with many questions. Might I suggest that the issue is not so much of “making up ones mind” or of honoring “the diversity of opinions” among Celebrity Orthodox commenators. Its a matter of discerning what the Church teaches through its Tradition both in season and out of season. How we Orthodox feel about an issue is not as important as being right about an issue.

        Your response makes a point but there is very little moral equivalence between laws regarding attending Church on Sunday and laws that protect the dignity of human life. You cannot put the equivalent of Orthodox traffic laws on the same level as laws that protect human persons.

        I would like to ask my questions that remain unanswered directly to you once again with the hope you will provide a more clear and concise answer:

        1) Is there any context where sex outside of marriage is healthy?

        and

        2) When do Human Rights Begin?

        I think all of the readers here at AOI hold a special place of honor for Seminary Professors who shoulder such a huge responsibility for the formation of Orthodox minds. Rest assured of my prayers. Thank you for your continued participation in this discussion.

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          Andrew, Thank you for re-stating those two questions. I also would like to see a clear response that addresses the Orthodox Christian theology. There seems to be somewhat of a shortage of contemporary Orthodox commentary on so many critical cultural and moral issues that affect the faithful in America, especially the young adults and the teenagers. I welcome these kinds of dialogues and the opportunity to get some solid foundational thinking from those who teach such key topics as dogmatic theology, patristics, and spirituality.

          I’m still confused on why partial birth abortion is still a stumbling block for so many Orthodox. The issue cannot get any easier and clearer regarding the need to protect the unborn child and the fact that nothing excuses a child’s murder in the womb. The “safety of the mother” argument has been shown to be false, given that the murderous and extremely high risk procedure that crushes the child’s skull and/or dismember her/his body while still in the womb or “delivers” him/her dead after the brain is sucked out is many times more dangerous and barbarous to the mother (physically and spiritually) than a cesarean section or normal birth could ever be.

          If we cannot categorically take a stand on denouncing partial-birth abortion, then what chance do we have to present a clear moral witness and strong defense of Christian principles when it comes to the countless other issues facing our Church and the faithful?

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          Andrew says:

          Professor, Truly He is Risen. I want to deeply thank you for the time and effort you put into your reply to my questions. I am grateful this annoying student gets the benefit of your patience, time and work. It was a pleasure to read your very well considered and thoughtful response. Your response is a fine example of what good Orthodox thinking looks like.

          In considering your reply I must say I have some disagreements. I do believe there is a real slippery slope in some of these issues. The issue of same sex marriage and civil unions is very much a religious freedom issue. If the state sanctions same sex marriage will those who hold religious beliefs that forbid same sex marriage be protected under the law. Contemporary legal precedent certainly should give traditional minded Christians, their churches and institutions cause for concern that indeed their religious beliefs will not be protected. Orthodox Christians should exercise caution in this regard. A Pastoral approach the undermines the freedom of Orthodox Christians to worship is in the end not very pastoral at all.

          Again I wish to thank you. Perhaps the day may come when we can discuss these issues further and in person. In the meantime, I hope you will take the thoughts you shared with us and form them into some type of publication. I would especially like you to consider taking your thoughts and forming a small volume directed to young Orthodox Christians.

          There is certainly much to be considered and shared. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to join us here on the AOI blog and continue to participate in future discussions. We may be rough around the edges here but the AOI blog community is one of the most thoughtful around.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    This is interesting. Do we have more respect for American democracy than Christian morality? Is the whole construct of a morally libertarian society one that can be endorsed by Orthodox Christians?

    “So believing that abortion should remain legal (for now) is not necessarily a pro-choice stance.”

    Yes it is, and it’s immoral.

    I’m trying to understand how Frederica’s position (if this was or is her position) is different than that of a pro-choice Catholic who says, though they are personally opposed to abortion, they would not impose their views on others. Whatever the semantics, the end result is to say you are opposed to stopping the killing of over 1 million unborn babies a year. What kind of a Christian would say that because the people of country X are not ready to outlaw murder that they would not support the outlawing of murder? Does the secular culture lead or does the Church?

    “Similarly, Fr Thomas Hopko argues for legalized civil unions (not marriage) for gay people in his book on same-sex attraction. Here too, arguing for this at the legislative level is not necessarily a pro-gay position, nor is it ‘pro gay marriage.’”

    No, it is a pro-gay position and it is pro-gay marriage in the sense that it renders all the benefits of marriage to a union based on activity condemned by the Church and in that it provides a further stepping stone on the way to actual “gay marriage”. If Fr. Hopko says that he approves of the state giving positive sanction to homosexual activity (which is the actual effect of same sex unions), then in what sense is he not approving of homosexual activity?

    These are two of the more prominent names in “non-traditionalist” Orthodoxy today. That should be a shock and a wake up call to anyone with a conscience. This is what touchy-feely, evangelical-oid Orthodoxy produces. If this is, in fact, what Frederica and Fr. Hopko have endorsed, then they too are the barbarians among us, just like Senators Sarbanes and Snowe.

    What happens is that some people who work and fraternize within liberal academic circles or who write or comment for liberal media outlets become tempted to water down the faith to accomodate the pagan sensibilities of those with whom they must remain cordial and whose acceptance and approval they seek. The result is quite ugly.

    I mean, think through this for a moment. Take the abortion question for example: Let’s say I tell myself that I think more persuasion and evangelism needs to be done in order to convince a majority (or 60%, or 67%, or all) of the people that abortion is a moral evil. I therefore do not support pro-life legislation, support pro-life candidates or endorse pro-life nominees to the Supreme Court. Now, if I did not believe in democracy or voting at all, that makes a certain amount of sense. But if I do believe in voting, then what I am saying is that I refuse to be added to that percentage of the population who are reliable pro-life votes and who will, if it ever happens, be the ones instrumental in overturning Roe v. Wade through the election of a pro-life president and pro-life Senators. In short, I am enabling the continuation of the abortion regime.

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      Harry Coin says:

      Though some might never believe I wrote this: I think we’d all agree we’d rather have two people attracted to the same sex alive and in some manner of contractual accomodation than dead of suicide or contracting or spreading a horrific disease. A person only has the right to swing their fist until hit hits someone else’s nose, the big problem is not how two people want to live– it is their insistence upon what other people have to call it and use tax money to support it.

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        Andrew says:

        Harry, I have a revolutionary idea. Its called CHASTITY. The great thing about the Church’s teaching on Chastity is that it treats everyone the same. No matter what your sexual dispostion is every Christian is called to live a chaste life outside of marriage. And in marriage we are called to be mindful of how the gift of a sex is expressed.

        Instead of lowering our expectations when it comes to sex and nuancing Chastity away isn’t it time we Orthodox raise our expectations.

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    I would go a step further and say that advocating for any legislative support of “legalized civil unions” that have similar legal standing to traditional marriages is unwise. Even if, in the beginning, such secular civil unions will not have the full bundle of societal “rights” that marriages enjoy, it will not take long for our legal system to grant them such protections and privileges.

    Look at what has already happened in states like Massachusetts and recently in Washington D.C. with Catholic Charities, one of the nation’s oldest adoption and foster-care placement agencies. Catholic Charities was forced to cease operations when their adoption services were deemed discriminatory to homosexuals because of Massachusetts and Washington D.C.’s same-sex “marriage” laws.

    “Although Catholic Charities has an 80-year legacy of high quality service to the vulnerable in our nation’s capital, the D.C. Government informed Catholic Charities that the agency would be ineligible to serve as a foster care provider due to the impending D.C. same-sex marriage law,” […]

    “Foster care has been an important ministry for us for many decades. We worked very hard to be able to continue to provide these services in the District,” said Ed Orzechowski, president and CEO of Catholic Charities D.C. “We regret that our efforts to avoid this outcome were not successful.” […]

    The D.C. City Council’s law recognizing same-sex “marriage” required religious entities which serve the general public to provide services to homosexual couples, even if doing so violated their religious beliefs. Exemptions were allowed only for performing marriages or for those entities which do not serve the public.

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/same-sex_marriage_law_forces_d.c._catholic_charities_to_close_adoption_program/

    While at first glance these legalized civil unions do not appear to hurt anyone or interfere with the Christian Church’s mission, in at least two instances we see the devastating consequences of the state demanding that Christian institutions place children in same-sex “families” in direct violation of the doctrines of the Church and the member’s religious beliefs and practices.

    “To operate in Massachusetts, an adoption agency must be licensed by the state. And to get a license, an agency must pledge to obey state laws barring discrimination–including the decade-old ban on orientation discrimination. With the legalization of gay marriage in the state, discrimination against same-sex couples would be outlawed, too.”

    The closures of Catholic Charities hurt not only the countless innocent children that will no longer be placed in traditional families, but also the many couples that wanted to adopt these children and would have raised them in a home with a mother and a father.

    Once such civil unions are given any legal standing, other states and even the federal government will quickly follow the legal precedents set in MA and DC. The state can then compel all religious institutions that support traditional marriage in their social services to either recognize same-sex unions and act contrary to their religious and moral beliefs, or cease operations altogether. These legalized civil unions are the unfortunate stepping stones the state has and will use to promote an anti-Christian and anti-traditional marriage agenda to the society at large, to the detriment of innocent children and traditional couples looking to adopt.

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      Harry Coin says:

      Adding to the detriments Chris outlined is the protection the state will afford two ‘united’ men who are attracted to men — just a little younger than the age of consent. So, with full protections from the state, they adopt some victims.

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        And once marriage is defined as “anything the state deems ok”, then why should we expect that the correct number of “persons” in a marriage should be limited to just two (2). Why not 3, 4, 5, 6, or more? Why stick with the “religious” Judeo-Christian standard? After all, the state can no longer make reference to God or show preference to any particular faith or belief system in drafting its new laws.

        Why not extend it to family members, cousins, sisters, brothers, etc.? What about those who want to grant animals “rights”, why should they be discriminated against when they choose to lobby the state to expand the definition to include their favorite dog, horse, monkey, or pet rat? Who are we to then say that they are not entitled to their own “inclusive” definition? On what moral or religious basis will anyone be allowed to challenge any new state regulation once society is completely unmoored from its Christian foundations and no longer draws its authority from God?

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          Harry Coin says:

          Chris,

          Back in the day we had the church pointing the way to the front of the moral parade, and the law far to the rear jailing those who couldn’t meet very minumum standards. Now as government increases its activity in the form of taxation we see it also increase its activity in the form of social coercion.

          Can the state rightly coerce any number of adult people from living together as they might consent? Not in a free society. That’s tolerance. Contracts, medical and legal powers of attorney, trusts, and partnership law do all that is necessary for protecting interests.

          All that’s necessary is for the state not to endorse, meaning not to force those not in such relationships to accept they have any new distinctive legal status.

          In the end, the only answer that is an answer is that those who deem it wise to coerce these things upon those disinclined must be defeated at the ballot box.

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          Eliot Ryan says:

          On what moral or religious basis will anyone be allowed to challenge any new state regulation once society is completely unmoored from its Christian foundations and no longer draws its authority from God?

          Chris, I found something written by Fr. Stephen that answer your question. I used bold to emphasize ideas.

          moralism is a caricature of true Christianity. Were the impacts of Christ’s victory on our existence to be forgotten – the faith would be in danger of its own death. If moralism disappears – it will doubtless be replaced by another. Moralism is simple, useful for judging others, and plays well in a world dominated by its neurotic psychological fantasies.

          To understand instead that sin is death – that it attacks us at the very point of our existence – is a different matter altogether. Humanity stands poised at the edge of an abyss – driven there by its own defiance of God – Who alone gives us life and all things. The daily events on the world stage are only a tragic opera that illustrate the inner drama of our lives. In our hearts we are the insane builders of weapons. We are the suicide bombers (a fitting image for much of our sin).

          All of which brings us to the Cross of Christ. There, all the insanity of the world and its mad rush towards self-destruction is gathered in one lonely cry, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” Of course, in context, Christ is reciting Psalm 22 which is both a prophetic description of His crucifixion as well as a promise of His victory. But it is also an echo of the cry of our empty existence. On our lips, of course, it is a lie. God has not abandoned us – we have abandoned Him. But we feel abandoned, nonetheless.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Chris, on the level of law and culture, there will be none. That is the ground of marytrdom. The most radical approach a Christian can take is the path of joy in knowing that the victory has already been won. Of course to communicate that joy, one must be in it.

          If we divorce ‘the Church’ from the person of Jesus Christ and our communion with Him, we have lost the Church and likely our salvation.

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          Here’s some key insight from Dennis Engleman on the situation we’re all facing (here in America and also around the world) :

          People who deny truth, and thus their own nature, inexorably become either suicidal or anarchistic. To all who think through the implications of the Lie, a brutal logic emerges: Why endure the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” as Shakespeare put it, if life has no meaning? If there is nothing beyond the grave, no reward or punishment to come, why exercise self-restraint or show concern for others?

          Clearly, if there is no truth, then all things are lawful (which merely means, nothing is unlawful). By this reasoning one should seize all possible pleasure regardless of cost [or consequence], or else put oneself beyond the reach of problems through self-extinction!

          If man is not immortal, if there is no truth, then there can be no salvation. A society in denial becomes a society in despair. And if man has lost even the inclination “to be saved and tom come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), what purpose does earthly life serve? Indeed, it has forfeited its justification for existence…

          I believe that the nihilism, corruption, militant atheism, and madness that’s increasing all around us point to a great falling away of humanity from Christ God, who alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

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            Eliot Ryan says:

            I believe we can call our present state the Great Falling Away of Humanity from Christ God. This phase started roughly after the WWII. The time after the WWII to present day was/is a time of a media-influenced world. Particularly, the television set as a source of entertainment had a devastating effect.
            The insanity of the world is properly reflected by the television programs (few exceptions apply). BTW, I am TV cable-free.

            When things around become depressing, and not only then, we should do what Michael said:

            take is the path of joy in knowing that the victory has already been won.

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            That’s why I think secularism is merely a layover and not a permanent cultural state. It’s a cross too hard to bear, for the believer (we have a lot of secularists in the Orthodox Church) and non-believer alike (it militates against the longings of the soul). All the more reason for our words to be clear. People will be looking for safe harbor.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Get rid of all late term aborations. Also, let say that we still deal with old evils, for example people still abandoned their children just like they did in the age of Justinian. In the law code, he made it a crime to exposed born children. You read of people even today that dump their born children n a trash can.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    If Frederica Mathews-Green means that American society would not tolerate a wholesale ban on abortion, I would agree. I think demanding, say, a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade would not work in the present climate and would waste time and resources.

    I do however favor the regulation of abortion wherever possible, such as the bans on partial birth abortion, the fetus born alive act, parental notification, and the upcoming fetal pain act. I also think Planned Parenthood needs much more scrutiny and regulation it presently receives. They need to report abortions on minors, respond to charges that they hide child abuse, and more.

    Fr. Thomas Hopko is wrong about civil unions. Civil unions attempt to replicate the cultural norm of a two parent opposite sex union not to create a homosexual family, but to normalize homosexuality. He shouldn’t be so easily swayed the moralistic terminology of the activist’s polemics. The terminology borrows from the moral tradition, but that tradition does not recognize the legitimacy of homosexual unions. He should not either.

    Dr. Peter Bouteneff writes:

    But as I think it through, I would remark that there are several areas where what we teach in the Church is not realistically applicable within secular society and its legal system.

    Don’t be so quick to cede culture to the state. Two decades ago it was inconceivable that the state would ever sanction homosexual unions. In fact, even today 31 states have rejected legalizing homosexual unions when the question was removed from the courts and turned over to a popular vote.

    The conflation of culture and state is a malady that afflicts the left and right albeit in different ways (the left sees it as an incontrovertible principle; Republican globalists borrow it; conservatives fall into resignation because of it). Don’t forget, even when the state enforces wrongheaded and even immoral positions, a change in the culture can affect a change in law (Prohibition, slavery, segregation, etc.).

    The licentiousness in America and its consequences (sexual addictions, abortion, STD epidemic, etc.) will run its course sooner or later. No need to give up the fight because some of its advocates hold the reigns of power.

    One other thing. No one is under any obligation to recognize homosexual unions as morally legitimate. Homosexuals comprise about 2% to 3% of the population. (Their voice is louder than their numbers because, not having families, they have more money to spend on activism.) Moral traditionalists (those who hold to the moral tradition) should not be cowed by the bluster as easily as we are. There really is no compelling reason, moral or otherwise, to legalize homosexual unions.

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    Peter Bouteneff says:

    Andrew, and Chris, [thanks for waiting] I appreciate how you phrase your inquiry, and that you care about what we’re doing in the seminaries. Since you ask me to say more from the theological perspective, I will try, and rely on your continued generosity in hearing me out. I’d be grateful if you would read to the end of my long post before responding.

    Abortion is wrong, because human life begins in the womb. Whatever rationale there may (or may not) be for permitting certain kinds of abortion in certain cases, this absolute remains: that it is wrong. I will say further, since Chris raised it, that “partial birth abortion” is completely heinous, and I would be perplexed to learn that it was a stumbling block for any Orthodox Christian. (And I stand precisely with Fr Hans’s first two paragraphs, at number 12 below.)

    The proper context for sexual activity is within monogamous heterosexual marriage. This is where sexual activity is “healthy,” indeed this is where it is godly, and outside this context there will always be a lack (this in answer to Andrew’s first question). However, while I stand behind this statement, two realities are difficult to deny. One is that the context of monogamous heterosexual marriage doesn’t in itself guarantee holy sex. The responsibility rests with us to respond to God’s gift of marriage and eros in a way that unites us to each other and to Him. (Cf. Andrew’s point about the goal of chastity to which all Christians are called, whether married or unmarried.) But the fact is that there are married people who abuse each other sexually, and there are un-married people who are perhaps further on their way to actualizing a godly sexual life than those in a sick marriage. Please read further:

    This fact should not relativize the institution of marriage as the proper context for sex, but it does show that our work does not end with exalting the institution of marriage; it must also be to show people the true nature and goal of eros.

    This leads to my next point, which bears on both the sexuality and the abortion question: the ethics that are so evident to you and me as Orthodox Christians, on matters of life and gender, are a very distant reality to a wide swath of Americans. Certainly there are millions who, without being OC, understand sexuality and life-in-the-womb much the same as you and I would, but what of the millions who don’t – some of whom “do by nature what the law requires,” “the law being written on their hearts” (Rom 2:14-15) and some emphatically not? The issue becomes what to do with that constituency, and when and how to do it.

    The question of how universal and secular legislation should best follow Orthodox moral teaching is one that involves a confluence of theological, ethical, and pastoral factors. I think that the pastoral dimension doesn’t receive enough attention in discussion forums, perhaps owing to the way in which they favor immediate and clear-cut (one-sided?) responses. But this is what we’re actually discussing here: a pastoral question. Pastoralia, I believe, consists in “diagnosing” a person, or a society, and to bringing them the next possible step towards Christ. What is the diagnosis of America today and what is the next step that her people can be brought to sanity, regarding the beginning of life (and therefore the beginning of human rights)?

    Abolition of slavery, raised earlier, is an important example of where legislation served to shape a society that evidently wasn’t 100% ready to receive that legislation. However, it took nothing less than a bloody civil war for this paradigm shift to happen. That’s not where we are in the abortion debate. But where are we? Those Orthodox Christians who believe that the country is not currently ready for an unequivocal ban on abortion are not “pro-choice.” They remain deeply against abortion. They seek to only to be realistic (pastoral) as to how to minimize and eventually eliminate abortions in a genuine and enduring way.

    The problem that many of you are identifying, Fr Gregory first of all in his essay, is that some of us are so busy hand-wringing and asking this question about “readiness” that we’re doing nothing. I agree with this assessment, and must take my share of the responsibility. But here’s at least one thing I believe I/we should be doing: by now, the majority of people who know the Orthodox will know that we are against abortion. What needs to be done urgently and constantly is to show people *why* we are against abortion: explain what it means to be in the image of God; why it is that even if we don’t mourn the death of a two-week old fetus in the same way that we mourn the death of an infant or a five-year-old, this doesn’t make it less tragic. We know this, but many are quite clueless about it. To add to the problem, possibly because we’ve shouted so much and largely to deaf ears, we first have to reclaim the right to speak and be heard. We have to earn credibility, by speaking from a place of love and compassion. Our goal is, after all, to change minds.

    As to allowing same-sex civil unions, Fr. Tom’s argument is found in his book Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction, pp. 83-86. He argues that “Homosexual people must have the same access to housing, employment, police protection, legal justice, tax benefits, and visitation privileges at institutions that all members of society possess and enjoy.” He continues: “This is especially important today, when the safety of homosexual people and their children largely depends on legal and social recognition and protection.” He states further, “I firmly believe that God commands His people to affirm and defend the civil rights and benefits of those who believe and do things that are contrary to His will (Luke 6:27-38; Rom. 12:14-21).” Several important qualifications follow, including: “While upholding the civil and legal rights of everyone without discrimination, those professing Orthodox Christianity may never bless or countenance unions between persons of the same sex that contend to be marriages in the same sense as marriages between men and women.”

    I recommend consulting the rest of this chapter and book, and would ask that those here who may disagree recognize that I have taken a few quotations out of their context. But this is the gist of the argument, since you asked. And as I read it again, I find myself in agreement with it.

    To conclude, (and thank you for reading this far), you can of course criticize the above reasoning, and the many Orthodox Christians who espouse something like it. But my main point remains that the real dialogue is not between a pro-life and a pro-abortion Orthodoxy, because the latter does not exist. It is not between an anti-gay-marriage and pro-gay-marriage Orthodoxy, because the latter does not exist. The dialogue among Orthodox Christians on these issues actually lies at the pastoral and political level. I’ll end with a lovely, relevant quote from Fr Stephen Freeman:

    “All too easily the battle between good and evil is externalized and one side settles for a legally defined morality while the other sets for a legally defined immorality and neither side understands anything. Even the debate on Abortion gets completely obscured by the externalization of its legal/illegal status, and fails to see, too often, the great battle that is waged inwardly to bring a life other than my own into the world. What is the state of the heart in this great moral debate?

    “The same can be said of any number of public issues – and even of issues within the Church. The Church necessarily raises the “level of the playing field” allowing everyone involved to speak in the most absolute terms and to judge quickly and with assurance. Easily lost is the state of the heart throughout all of our battles – both public and ecclesiastical.”

    Christ is Risen!

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      Andrew says:

      Professor, Truly He is Risen. I want to deeply thank you for the time and effort you put into your reply to my questions. I am grateful this annoying student gets the benefit of your patience, time and work. It was a pleasure to read your very well considered and thoughtful response. Your response is a fine example of what good Orthodox thinking looks like.

      In considering your reply I must say I have some disagreements. I do believe there is a real slippery slope in some of these issues. The issue of same sex marriage and civil unions is very much a religious freedom issue. If the state sanctions same sex marriage will those who hold religious beliefs that forbid same sex marriage be protected under the law. Contemporary legal precedent certainly should give traditional minded Christians, their churches and institutions cause for concern that indeed their religious beliefs will not be protected. Orthodox Christians should exercise caution in this regard. A Pastoral approach the undermines the freedom of Orthodox Christians to worship is in the end not very pastoral at all.

      Again I wish to thank you. Perhaps the day may come when we can discuss these issues further and in person. In the meantime, I hope you will take the thoughts you shared with us and form them into some type of publication. I would especially like you to consider taking your thoughts and forming a small volume directed to young Orthodox Christians.

      There is certainly much to be considered and shared. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to join us here on the AOI blog and continue to participate in future discussions. We may be rough around the edges here but the AOI blog community is one of the most thoughtful around.

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      Chrys says:

      Well said, Father. I particularly agree with your (and Fr. Hans’) position on abortion. While legal means are essential, they are a bare minimum. It is the heart – and more generally, the culture – that must be converted. A society can not long sustain laws that the culture largely wishes to contravene. If you will, the culture will always “drive” the form of future laws.

      For those who would argue that this is moralism, it is true that mere external conformity doesn’t “save” the fallen heart. At the same time, there is a lot less damage done to that same heart when most of society holds to a fairly high level of behavior. (Which is why many of us would rather live in well-ordered communities than in the savage chaos of some inner city neighborhoods.)

      I do have one question though: Why “must” anyone else have “access” to the same “tax benefits” as married couples? Almost every other social benefit listed can and should be done for every member of society simply because they are a member of society. But tax benefits? These are given primarily as an expression of the state’s considerable interest in supporting an institution that is vital for raising healthy children. Curiously, those cultures (and ours is well on the way) that diminish the value and sanctity of marriage also suffer from a diminished birth rate. (Marriage is about “thee,” shacking up is about “me.”) As a consequence, the demographic trends in most developed countries are frightening – a vivid illustration of the implosion caused by egotism. Even the U.S. would be falling below the replacement rate without immigration.
      (Along those lines it would be very much welcome to hear Orthodox clergy require that the people whom they marry are not “living in sin.” I’ve seen more than a few such weddings and it sure looked like the participants wanted a spectacle rather than a sacrament. Shouldn’t the sacrament of marriage be granted with the same care as the Eucharist . . . as any sacrament?)

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      Indeed He’s Risen! Thank you Peter for the additional explanations and perspectives, and for providing more context regarding Fr. Tom’s view on civil unions. I think I understand better where he’s coming from, although, as Fr. Hans has mentioned, I would have used an equal protection argument and not considered civil unions at all. I believe there are more than sufficient constitutional protections and legal rights that can be used by same-sex partners to achieve the goals Fr. Tom mentioned. Maybe my legal background makes me see the issues somewhat differently. I’m going to reflect a little more on the discussions here and see if there anything else I can contribute.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      But my main point remains that the real dialogue is not between a pro-life and a pro-abortion Orthodoxy, because the latter does not exist. It is not between an anti-gay-marriage and pro-gay-marriage Orthodoxy, because the latter does not exist.

      This the way one should very clearly express values or opinions. As Fr. Hans said, our words need to be clear. Not only our words need to be clear, but also our actions. Unfortunately, the action of granting of an honorary degree to Abp Rowan Williams was a muddy action by an Orthodox institution. The lack of clarity in words and actions may turn out to be insidiously crafted evils.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      “Those Orthodox Christians who believe that the country is not currently ready for an unequivocal ban on abortion are not “pro-choice.” They remain deeply against abortion. They seek to only to be realistic (pastoral) as to how to minimize and eventually eliminate abortions in a genuine and enduring way.”

      I do not believe this is true. First of all, I do not know what you mean by “genuine and enduring way”. But more importantly, conceding the legislative/court fight until such time as the public has been persuaded en masse that abortion is evil, seems very much like a defeatism with an ulterior motive: It will probably be much more palatable to the liberal colleagues and acquaintances of such people that they are not committed to any legal attempt to overturn the current law on abortion. Such liberals might say to themselves, “Well, it’s nice that they believe in their little religion but are also not like those troublesome Christians who want to legislate morality. They can ‘persuade’ all they want so long as they are not interested in coercing until sometime way down the line, if ever.” Being as how “pro-choice” and “pro-life” are inherently political terms and were coined in response to the abortion debate, I have to consider someone who is not interested in pursuing the legal struggle, if they believe in political participation at all, as being pro-choice. Otherwise, we’re necessarily also stating that politicians who privately oppose abortion but publicly vote against pro-life legislation or judges are also not pro-choice.

      I do not believe the country, if it were put to a referendum and were constitutionally permissible, would outlaw abortion. This is no argument whatsoever though in favor of my personal lack of support for anti-abortion legislation. Otherwise, you’re saying that the voice of the people somehow trumps our own personal responsibility. It’s not just about education and persuasion. It’s about being a political force, however small, against abortion by supporting its eventual ban.

      Fr. Thomas Hopko’s argument falls into a trap laid by the gay rights lobby.

      “Homosexual people must have the same access to housing, employment, police protection, legal justice, tax benefits, and visitation privileges at institutions that all members of society possess and enjoy.”

      Based on what, their status as discrete individuals or their status as two people in a homosexual sexual relationship? If it’s the former, fine. If it’s the latter, no matter how many words you pour on to the subject seeking to rationalize it, you are endorsing homosexual sexual activity.

      My best friend can’t get access to the same medical information as a spouse could. Nor can he get insurance benefits, etc. This would be so even if we were roommates. What difference is there between my relationship with my best friend and a homosexual relationship? The only – - I repeat, only – - reason to support such a delegation of rights previously reserved for a married couple is that you acknowledge the moral legitimacy of homosexual relationships.

      “This is especially important today, when the safety of homosexual people and their children largely depends on legal and social recognition and protection.”

      Have the laws against assault been repealed?

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Here too watch out for the law of unintended effects. If we create a separate legal category for homosexual unions (spousal rights for two non-married individuals), my hunch is that few homosexuals would take advantage of the law beyond the first few months,* but heterosexual couples who don’t want the the responsibility or commitment of marriage would welcome it.

        *”Civil unions” are more about removing the moral onus against homosexual behavior than anything else. If homosexual pairing was normative, you would see more of it than you do.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          And now, as cases in Texas and Colorado show, homosexual activists are “married” in Massachusettes are seeking “divorce” in other states as a means of establishing their “unions” as legally equivalent to marriage in states that do not recongize them as such.

          The only way for the Church to protect herself against the legal requirement to “marry homosexuals” is to separate the sacrament from the legal definition of marriage.

          Is there any reaon for them to be the same?

          Shoot, in Kansas all that is required for a legal marriage is for a male and female of legal age and not already married to agree to be married and then tell everyone they are. Left over from pioneer times, but still the only legal requirements.

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            Well, let’s say the courts sanction homosexual unions as a legal marriage. It still isn’t a marriage, it’s a homosexual union regardless of what the law says. What this means in real time is that the culture has entered such a state of abject moral confusion that it cannot possibly stand; the devolution is so complete that collapse is inevitable.*

            The witness to my assertion is simple: all cultures the world over recognize marriage as between male and female (albeit some cultures allow for multiple females). We Christians understand this to mean that the proper ordering of human relationships is written into the very fabric of creation (the “order of creation”); it precedes any discussion of civil and ecclesiastical marriage.

            What to do? Reasonably minded people need to just say no. In the 31 of 31 states where voters were given a voice, that is just what they did.

            *(Here too you see the timeliness of the Manhattan Declaration.)

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    The problem is that pro-abortion Orthodoxy does indeed exist, largely through the equivocation of leaders who refuse the clear teaching about the prohibition. And while I agree with Fr. Stephen Freeman’s (rather abstract) disapproval of the Christianity that reduces sound moral comprehension to presumptuous moralistic pontifications, it does not follow (often the putative conclusion) that clear teaching on abortion is de facto moralistic. (All too often these kind of distinctions, while true in the abstract, also function to avoid the discomfort of being associated with the “right wing” and other social riff-raff.)

    So yes, on a pastoral level, which is to say one to one and face to face, the job is of a different nature and character than in the polemical jungle of the public square. But the public square is still the public square and it cannot be left naked, and discussion there is often necessarily (and appropriately) simplified.

    How else to explain the apparent harshness of the Church Fathers on abortion? I wouldn’t recommend the same degree of sharpness they employed (different time) but this is not the same thing as saying our message ought to be softened so that it becomes muddled. I doubt too that they would use the same language when, say, counseling a woman who had an abortion or in any other face to face encounter. Tone, in other words, matters, but equivocation is not the same thing as an irenic tone.

    Thanks for the clarification on Fr. Tom’s words, although there too I think he overreaches in affirming his support of native civil rights for homosexuals. He’s responding, I think, to activist polemics. It is more sound to argue for rights based on citizenship and leave any declaration of sexual orientation out of the discussion as much as possible. Put another way, by arguing on the ground supplied by homosexual activists (which admittedly prevails in the public square today although I think that is changing), he unwittingly affirms some of the psychological and sociological assumptions that actually work against a fuller comprehension of the human person (the moral vision mentioned above) that is so necessary for the healing of persons.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, the church fathers defintely where more honest than many modern christians. I remember on a radio interview on national review online about a liberal protestant with a background in classics change her mind about the Paul during a bible study since in her mind she good picture what he was saying in greek, and she wrote a book lately that Paul wasn’t that bad.

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Fr Peter, thank you for the incredibly reasoned response. I too, find no reason why those who choose to live in a homosexual milieau should not have the same legal rights as all citizens. I don’t think that was ever a question. There are millions of single heterosexuals who will never get married. My question about civil unions (and I could go either way on this) is: where does it end? Can polyamorous people (i.e. “swingers”) apply for the same “benefits” (that is, to visit a “partner” in the hospital, etc.?)

    My real fear is twofold: 1) gay civilly-united couples will eventually demand Church sanction, and 2) polygynous families will then demand the full panoply of civil rights.

    Some may say that the Orthodox Church, even operating under condition #1, would be exempt from being forced to sanctify a homosexual union. Given the level of Orthopraxy in North America today, I’m not so sure. As to #2, this is the worst-case scenario that should scare the daylights out of everybody. In Europe, Muslim immigrants have been able to bring 2nd and 3rd wives into their host countries on the grounds of “family reunification.” Of course, these men have no real jobs so how do they support many wives and multiple children? Through welfare. We see this in these renegade Mormon groups here in the American Southwest and others like them (e.g. David Koresh). They have scads of children but you and I pay for it through AFDC, WIC, Section 8 housing, etc.

    The end result of untrammeled polygyny is hyperviolent societies. That is where I, as a secular citizen wishing to be left alone to raise my family in a reasonably civil society, am coming from in asking society to proscribe sexuality.

    Again, as a I said, I completely respect your insights and Fr Hopko’s well-reasoned analyses. All I ask is that we step back and look at the full implications of the “slippery slope” that we face. Notice my concerns were not based on Orthodoxy, canons, or my own spirituality, but on historical precedents, cultural norms, and whatnot. I fully agree with you about the roles of pastors and the prophetic witness of the Church and how it can transform society over time.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      George, reason and logic are dependent for their truth on the assumptions upon which they are based. I find the assumptions from which Dr. Bouteneff and others seem to reason to be questionable. I also don’t get all quivery in the face of a well reasoned argument. As a old friend of mine used to say: “The devil is the most reasonable being in existence”

      “Surely you will not die…”

      No part of Christianity is reasonable unless one accepts the person of Jesus Christ as one of the Holy Trinity Incarnate into His creation taking on our nature in the process out of love for us.

      Reason, in and of itself, is an idol.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Just as we need clear, unequivocable teaching on abortion, we need the same level of teaching on same-sex attraction and the sexual sin that often follows.

    Homosexuality is a form of idolatry that is allowed to flourish because of the greater idolatry of the worship of our own will. We have even ceased, largely, in the worship of other created things and given our worship to our own will in the form of ‘choice’ and ‘individual’ freedom and the myth of autonomy. Such ideas and idolatry infect all of us in all aspects of our culture: moral, social, economic and political.

    Put simply, it is nihilism and iconoclasm.

    All to often I fear we allow ourselves to fall prey to the nihilistic, iconoclastic worship of our own mind and will by our “scholarship” and reasoned thought.

    We should not seek to change minds (at least not simply on the rational and logical level). That is impossible. We should seek to partake in and impart the gift of the Holy Spirit so that our very being is changed, transformed and made ready to be in communion with our Creator. The change is ontological or it is no change at all.

    Of course, we all allow our own predilections and bias to lead us away from the experience of God-with-us. We allow the prevailing mind to blind and confuse us into believing that we are both more and therefore far less than images of God, the created beings for whom God Incarnated; He became one of us so that we might be in living communion with Him.

    He is risen, trampling down death by death percisely as one who is fully human AND fully divine. We are called to do nothing less, to be nothing less by His grace.

    Those who suffer from the twisted impluse of same-sex attraction are still made in the image and likeness of God, therefore are still human. However, repeated immersion in the sin of homo-erotic behavior does twist that image and so they become less human. So too does the repeated immersion in all kinds of hetro-erotic behavior. Aceeding to the impluses of the passions always has this effect.

    If the law is based upon the recognition that we are creatures of God in community (a fading ideal), should it not reflect and therefore proscibe certain types of behavior that de-humanizes those who participate in it thereby weakening the community as a whole?

    What we have happening now is the ‘law’ based solely on individual will. That is the fundamental barbarism of which Fr. Greogry speaks. Anarchy and the violent society of which George speaks will become the norm. Total loss of freedom will be the result.

    When we so ‘compassionately’ argue for the rights of those who willfully and repeatedly violate their own humanity, we are arguing for the destruction of both their freedom and ours. We are arguing for the destruction of their souls and our own.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      Amen! Michael, thank you for all your comments.

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      Michael,

      This is the gist of the argument, as I see it:

      If the law is based upon the recognition that we are creatures of God in community (a fading ideal), should it not reflect and therefore proscribe certain types of behavior that de-humanizes those who participate in it thereby weakening the community as a whole?

      What we have happening now is the ‘law’ based solely on individual will. That is the fundamental barbarism of which Fr. Greogry speaks. Anarchy and the violent society of which George speaks will become the norm. Total loss of freedom will be the result.

      When we so ‘compassionately’ argue for the rights of those who willfully and repeatedly violate their own humanity, we are arguing for the destruction of both their freedom and ours. We are arguing for the destruction of their souls and our own.

      And I would add, that as Orthodox Christians we take a stand on these issues because we truly love those men and women who are buying into a lie and denying their created human nature (in the image and likeness of God), in their quest to find happiness and joy without the moral law, without God, and without acknowledging eternal truths.

      God, in his infinite wisdom and love, brings into existence all of reality as a reflection of his goodness. He fashions mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Human beings, therefore, are nothing less than the work of God Himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator. They do this in a striking way in their cooperation with him in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    “This is especially important today, when the safety of homosexual people and their children largely depends on legal and social recognition and protection.”

    This is simply a lie.

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    Andrew says:

    As there are probably more than a few SVS people who read this blog I would like to toss out a suggestion. In light of all of these issues being discussed here I would like to suggest that SVS invite Professor Robert George of Princeton University to deliver the next Schmemann Lecture. I would also like to see him lead a faculty discussion on these issues.

    For a wonderful portrait of just who Professor George is I would encourage people to read The Remarkable Mind of Robert George

    Professor George and his gift of clear thinking would also be a breath of fresh air in light of the Rowan Williams Receiving an honorary doctorate.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    People are often under the wrong impression that a bad law is changed by writing other laws. No. Bad law is changed by enforcing it.

    Classic case in point: Until relatively recently (70′s), my state, Kansas, had laws on the books that prohibited liquor by the drink. In other words, one could not go to a restaurant and have a glass of wine or liquor of any kind. Only 3.2 beer was permitted. Private ‘bottle clubs’ were wide-spread.

    The sheriff of my county did not like the law. His remedy was to enforce it exactly as written. He started arresting all sorts of people for violation of the law and prohibited airlines flying over Kansas from serving alcoholic beverages while in Kansas airspace. He was widely derided, but the law got changed. The last vestiges of Kansas prohibition have past away and the bootlegging that went with it.

    The point is that one does not solve the problem of lax enforcement of assualt by passing hate crime laws. One just works diligently for equal protection under the law.

    I can grant access to my medical records and give authority for health care decisions to anyone I want. All that is needed is a health care power of attorney and a HIPPA authorization. These days, even spouses need them.

    If these legal designations are not honored by a health care provider, no new laws are needed. A simple enforcement of existing law is sufficient.

    Housing. Is there a ‘right’ to housing? Certainly in a just and ordered society people are housed. However, to force folks to sell or rent specific houses to specific people is different.

    Job discrimination: it is economically stupid to restrict oneself to an available talent pool, but if the owner of a business chooses to do so is that something that needs to be addressed in law? If it is pervasive then perhaps on a temporary basis to restore rational balance, but always and forever just because someone wants a specific job and feels they have been denied the job because they are different than the owner?

    We make all kinds of laws that restrict and prohibit behavior that has far less serious consequences on the body politic than abortion, adultery, fornication, homesexual activity, polygamy and the like. We enforce individual autonomous choice against the community all the time (except when government wants something). The government is looked on less like the institution it is guarding the integrity of the community as a whole and rather more like just another individual that needs is rights enforced–and they have all the guns.

    The less we have a common commitment to an understanding of ethical and righteous behavior, the more laws are passed. The more laws the less freedom.

    The nilihistic narcisism that we seem to prefer (and secularism endorses) cannot continue. Anarchy, oligarcy, and tryanny and their accompanying demogogery always follow. No manner of ‘rational’ defense of such behavior actually makes it right. Dr. Bouteneff, et. al. ought to rationally follow the logical conclusions to their rather lukewarm statements on the proper Christian approach to the public issues. All of the issues are ultimately anthropological in nature and therefore Christological (since He does have our nature by virtue of His kenotic Incarnation).

    Just a thought.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Fr. Hans, the Manhattan Declaration notwithstanding, what happens if the edict comes down and the bishops cave? As far as I know only two Orthodox bishops signed it (Met. Jonah and +Basil).

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      My fear exactly. That’s why I think our present “disunity” is a blessing in disguise.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Then we take them to task and hold their feet to the fire.

Care to comment?

*