September 30, 2014

Freedom-Loving Orthodoxy

In the May 2008 issue of The Word,* published by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Gregory Cook looks at the ways Orthodox Christianity may “transfigure” America. “Orthodoxy has always been open to building on what is true and extant in any nation or culture,” Cook writes. “America should be no different.”

*Also republished here (non .pdf).

He quotes Metropolitan Antony Bashir:

Orthodoxy is a freedom-loving, democratic faith … it is at its best in our free America. If the best of Byzantium has survived, it is in the United States, and if there is an Orthodox political ideal, it is enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Cook’s article, “Words We Live By: Orthodox and American Ideals in Foundational Texts” is an excellent reflection on what it means to be Orthodox in America and what America has given the Orthodox.

While we’re at it on this Fourth of July, read the Declaration of Independence. Can anyone not be moved by these words?

WHEN in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL; that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that governments, long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to threw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain, is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object, the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

And, finally, here is a collection of quotations on freedom by Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev. One of my favorites:

Man’s freedom is indissolubly linked with his obligations. Man’s freedom is not a claim, but a duty, not so much what he demands as what is demanded of him. Man must be free. God demands and expects this of him.

Comments

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    DavidS says:

    My fear is the attempt by some Orthodox to “Americanize” the Faith. Being in a bountiful nation, it is easy to forget that Orthodoxy is about the ‘ascetic struggle.’ We Americans of today forget about the hardships endured by our forefathers who built this country.

    We want everything on demand. We believe we deserve the “best.” We feel we shouldn’t have to suffer. The current population would have a horrible time dealing with the hardships of the Colonial period, the Westward Movement, the Great Depression, not to mention all the previous wars.

    The ‘ascetic struggle’ prepares us for hardships we may endure in life. Fasting, confession, to name a couple of aspects, are downplayed in some jurisdictions.

    Traditionalism is seen by some as archaic, beards, cassocks, etc. But yet we pride ourselves in American traditions.

    Let us not take the path of the Roman Catholics whose rich traditions have become all but lost in this country. A ‘watered-down’ Orthodoxy is not Orthodoxy at all. It is simply Protestantism with icons.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    DavidS, if we are living Orthodox Chrisitan lives, the concerns you express, while valid, will not materialize. The power of the Holy Spirit will Chrisitianize and transform what is of God while the rest will pass away. We need to enculturate the Tradition into North America, or rather allow the Holy Spirit to. We need to flee fast and hard from mere traditionalism, clericalism and ethnocentrism which are nothing more than idolotry.

    I see a real fear amongst many Orthodox in this country that prevents us from actively and positively engaging the American culture from a Traditional understanding and faith. The weakness you comment on is being expressed within Orthodoxy in this country now by the desire to run home to the “Mother” Church and seek refuge there. We just can’t handle the “American experiment” Unfortunately, the various “Mother” Churches are encouraging such adolescent behavior because they want our money and frankly, that’s all they want in my opinion.

    The American secular milleau is quite a challenge, but right now all we are doing is burying our talents and wringing our hands while our bishops dither. The Church will become an American Church (the encultrated or incarnated presence of the Body of Christ in North America) or it will become irrelevant.

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    Fr. Hans Jacobse says:

    One could argue that looking at the degree of secularism in some of our parishes, the Orthodox Church has already been Americanized.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    I am always suspicious when I here or see the term “freedom loving”. All to often that means, “I want to do my own thing” that execrable 60’s term for hedonism. In Orthodox terms freedom means be free from sin and the fruit of sin, death. Freedom is only obtained by the grace of God while living the life of the Church, i.e, participating in the sacraments, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; loving God with all our heart mind, soul and strength and loving each other as ourselves. Freedom requires constant vigilance and the willingness to fight, to lay down one’s own life for one’s friends which includes putting one’s own desires last on the priority list. American’s are no longer “freedom loving”. We prefer the slavery of secularism and hedonism, even socialism masquerading as opportunity, choice, equality and justice. Personally, I don’t think American’s have ever been freedom loving in an Orthodox sense. American freedom has always been about economic prosperity and lack of hierarchical control—a pragmatic freedom in the context of a legalistic moral code roughly similar to Judeo-Christian morality.

    There is a big difference between genuine moral integrity and legalistic moralism. As the legalistic moral code has eroded, our actual moral integrity has been revealed. So now we largely seek social confirmation of our individual desires in the forms of economic reward, political action and cultural approbation. Making genuine moral decisions that lead to freedom is attacked and ridiculed on every level of society. Of course, we in the Church are infected with the same disease.

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    Chuck says:

    It’s a double-edged sword to speak of ethnocentric churches and then try to impose an ethnocentric idea on them; i’ve witnessed it too many times. As for the Church becoming irrelevant because of them i highly doubt it; many converts have come from these ethnocentric churches. Truth is never irrelevant and God’s Will will be done even with us imperfect beings messing it up along the way. Patience, prayer, and above all, Love.

    There is a big difference between genuine moral integrity and legalistic moralism. As the legalistic moral code has eroded, our actual moral integrity has been revealed. So now we largely seek social confirmation of our individual desires in the forms of economic reward, political action and cultural approbation. Making genuine moral decisions that lead to freedom is attacked and ridiculed on every level of society. Of course, we in the Church are infected with the same disease.

    Our morals, as Orthodox Christians, are based on 2 simple rules- Love God and love your neighbour. Everything we do should have these 2 thoughts in our heads and all our struggles are fought for no other reason. In this we find freedom because we lose the attachment of our passions which enslave us.

    The world, whom believe they have the ability to kill God and that man has no enemy, have no morals. Morals become nothing more then what they decide is right or wrong depending on the trend of the day, or whether they sneezed, and ethics are devised to allow people to do what they want. To say they have no moral compass is a gross understatement.

    This is simply the whole idea of democracy in action. The individual decides what is truth and then builds a moral and ethical system from there. Soon they find others of like mind and build a society based on their collective ideology. This is done either through force for the impatient or collectively through the slow corruption caused by rampant individualism based on the great and mighty human id; all hail the unholy trinity of me, myself and i. Holy Theotokos save us! Saint’s and blessed Martyr’s pray for us!

    In the case of the west we’re simply rebuilding our moral and ethical codes on this very idea! Welcome to the post-enlightenment/modern age! Welcome to the wonders of pluralism and doublespeak where you can do anything you want but in reality can’t! Woohoo! Yipee! Umm…. Welcome to the wonderful world of hypocrisy! Have fun…please don’t litter. Heck, just joshing, trash the place! We have….

    As you can probably tell i’m a major cynic of today’s values. Frankly i find them a pack of pathetic and useless lies. They make no rational sense to me. I’m not really a cynic by the way, i am a realist.

    This is the freedom of the world; smoke and mirrors. The end result of democracy is at best a controlled anarchy. Sound familiar? Read a paper or watch the news. Not exactly the best expression of Christian virtue, unlike communism which has no redeeming qualities at all.

    If democracy is freedom why do we need alarm systems or locks on our doors or chain link fences surrounding our barricaded houses? Why, on God’s green earth, would we need a Panic Room to run to and lock ourselves away if democracy is free!? We live in a fallen world and there is no human system of governance that can compare to the freedom we’ll experience with our Lord. Frankly, i find any comparison bizarre.

    In the end though i understand why the world would ridicule and attack us, at least we make sense…

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    Nektarios Ippotis, lka Charlie Knight says:

    Well,
    here I go at this fray.

    Me thinks that the only freedom that means much,
    is the freedom from the tyrany of the self,
    a freedom to surrender all to God.

    In some ways that did typlify the people that we call our “founding fathers”
    in this land.

    I know I am so remiss in seeking God first.
    One thing I do know, a full tummy makes my ears pretty much deaf
    to the call of God during a Sunday morning service.

    It is my position that God called us to be content with a certain amount of food, and even “things”, but anything over that level of “contentment-that-brings-forth thanksgiving” goes towards a direction that leads us away from and not to God.

    I figure the order of priorities might best go this way,
    God first
    My country and fellow men (sate, county, area) second if I am single.
    My wife and children second if I am married and third my Country and fellow men.
    And then others around me (My Jerusalem)
    and
    lastly, myself.

    To often this order has been reversed in my life, to my eternal shame.

    Blessings,
    brother charles

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    Greg Cook says:

    Thank you, John Couretas, for the praise. I believe we cannot move ahead as American Orthodox until we figure out some of these issues, and that is why I wrote the article. It was meant to be a catalyst and to provoke discussion.

    As for the Declaration of Independence…as it turns out, my birthday is July 4th.

    In Christ,
    Gregory Cook

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Gregory,

    Glad to see you tune in. An idea I would like to see you develop is the one John quoted above. It ties into the notion of the Hellenistic ideal, baptized in Orthodoxy (using shorthand here), and carried forward throughout history. ISTM, and it appears you agree, that the Hellenistic ideal, particularly the notion of the freedom of the individual (ultimately accomplished in and through Christ but also expressed through institutions and relationships — culture) are the freedoms enshrined in much of American political thought.

    Put another way, American ideals represent some of the best of the ancient ideals, as your example of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence reveal.

    This will rub some Orthodox the wrong way of course, but the idea is compelling and, I think, true. It also affirms the Christian basis of much of American culture and could prove to be good ground for preaching the Gospel and bringing renewal to our people.

    Fr. Hans Jacobse

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    Greg Cook says:

    That’s not a project I feel qualified to take on, father. That would require someone versed in intellectual history, a scholar of Leo Strauss, Michael Novak, Harry Jaffa (whose excellent Crisis of the House Dividied I am reading now), and George Anastaplo, AND who is knowledgable about the Hellenistic roots of Orthodoxy, Aristotle, etc.
    G. Cook

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    Greg Cook says:

    PS: And of course Russell Kirk!

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 5. Chuck writes:

    This is simply the whole idea of democracy in action. The individual decides what is truth and then builds a moral and ethical system from there. Soon they find others of like mind and build a society based on their collective ideology. This is done either through force for the impatient or collectively through the slow corruption caused by rampant individualism based on the great and mighty human id; all hail the unholy trinity of me, myself and i.

    Chuck, it sounds like you are conflating Democracy and radical individualism. Democracy requires a virtuous people in order to flourish. Lose the virtue and you lose freedom. Democracy, however, is not the cause of the loss of virtue. Radical individualism arises from other places.

    Two articles you should read. The first is the Harvard Address by Alexander Solzhenitsyn where he praises the American Founding Fathers for understanding the relationship between freedom and virtue: A World Split Apart — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978.

    A second is by Russell Kirk, where he draws on the relationship between religion and culture: Civilization Without Religion?.

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    Chuck says:

    Real Freedom has never existed in history. The majority has always oppressed the minority. Monarchs usually had armies numbering more then half the population of their countries; it’s why successful rebellions happened during periods of war, or when soldiers were expanding the empire leaving less at home, ie: French Revolution, American Revolution, English Revolution, Scottish Rebellion, etc.

    While some countries have exhibited a form of Liberty at times it is invariably diminished, or completely obliterated, at points in it’s history. This is because Virtue is not collectively gained, but individually gained, and cannot be gained at the point of a sword. Where a leader has been Virtuous the country has seen some Freedom; where they haven’t is seen tyranny.

    I draw the line at calling any country Christian because it will inevitably do things that are not Virtuous; they are of the world. While the Virtuous live in a country they are not truly part of it; one cannot serve 2 masters. While i love Canada i pray against it’s injustices and speak out against them.

    The Constitution actually creates radical individualism by claiming all rights as “unalienable”. This means each person is their own master(so long as they were white, male, land owners at the time). Individuals gather together under one banner thus creating a majority. The majority then goes on to oppress the minority with their ideology, etc. Thus Liberty becomes a hypocrisy and Truth is diminished because of it.

    Historically this is a fact in America both during, and after, the revolution. Spin it how they will loyalist were either forcibly evicted or killed on the spot, slaves were left as slaves, etc, which is against the Liberty they were supposed to be fighting for. In the end it was a selfish Liberty based on a false sense of Man as an individual, and who he truly is; thus it was not based in Virtue but in another form of tyranny.

    In fact, when we look at it historically, it went the usual path when fallen Man is involved: fight oppression with oppression. Illogical and irrational, but there you go.

    As i read my previous post, and as i write this one, i am once again reminded that radical individualism is actually a misnomer. It is actually majority dictatorship; forgive the confusion, Father. It is, however, derived from radical individuals grouping together.

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    Fr. Hans Jacobse says:

    Chuck,

    I don’t know what you mean by “real freedom,” but certainly relative freedom exists. Some places and eras are indeed freer than others. Secondly, it’s just not historically accurate to lump all revolutions together. There’s a world of difference between, say, the American and French Revolutions. One gave us freedom (yes, even relative freedom counts) while the other ended up with a Reign of Terror and despotism. (The French Revolution was a precursor of totalitarianism.)

    Historically this is a fact in America both during, and after, the revolution. Spin it how they will loyalist were either forcibly evicted or killed on the spot, slaves were left as slaves, etc, which is against the Liberty they were supposed to be fighting for. In the end it was a selfish Liberty based on a false sense of Man as an individual, and who he truly is; thus it was not based in Virtue but in another form of tyranny.

    I think you look to the state as the guarantor of virtue, and in discovering that it fails at the task, conclude that all societies are equally corrupt and thereby equate freedom with tyranny. It’s a kind of utopianism shorn of hope.

    The state cannot inculcate virtue — that comes from within. A virtuous people however, can shore up the cultural structures that guarantee measures of freedom that precious few societies have experienced — such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech (and thus thought), freedom of the press, and so forth.

    Of course, once the virtue corrodes, the cultural structures corrode along with it with the result that freedom becomes confused with moral license — pornography as freedom of speech, aborting children as freedom choice, etc.

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    Chuck says:

    I don’t know what you mean by “real freedom,” but certainly relative freedom exists. Some places and eras are indeed freer than others. Secondly, it’s just not historically accurate to lump all revolutions together. There’s a world of difference between, say, the American and French Revolutions. One gave us freedom (yes, even relative freedom counts) while the other ended up with a Reign of Terror and despotism. (The French Revolution was a precursor of totalitarianism.)

    Forgive me Father, but ask the loyalists, slaves, etc, or anyone who disagreed with the American revolution, about it and whether it was a prelude to despotism and totalitarianism. Once freedom, or anything, becomes relative it is left for interpretation.

    Families burnt in their homes, or forcibly evicted and their land stolen, etc. Sounds like a reign of terror to me. That it was a majority that did it does not mean it wasn’t totalitarian; it was majority oppression which cannot be called freedom to those who live under it.

    Freedom cannot be relative, or freedom ceases to exist. It exists for all, even those we disagree with, or none because it can easily be snatched away by a flip in majority.

    Freedom has never existed in the world.

    I think you look to the state as the guarantor of virtue, and in discovering that it fails at the task, conclude that all societies are equally corrupt and thereby equate freedom with tyranny. It’s a kind of utopianism shorn of hope.

    I don’t actually think that, Holy Father. Society is apart from my Faith. If i believe anything it’s that my Faith is my society along with those in the Church; completely apart from the state. The state is not of the Church therefore Virtue cannot be guaranteed by it.

    It is fallen Man which is corrupted. Tyranny is simply fallen man misapplying virtue, at best, or fallen man ignoring Virtue completely to meet it’s own ends, at worst. Personally i think it’s the latter as there are always those who only wish power and control; or what they perceive to be power and control. There are always those who choose to sin.

    The state cannot inculcate virtue — that comes from within. A virtuous people however, can shore up the cultural structures that guarantee measures of freedom that precious few societies have experienced — such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech (and thus thought), freedom of the press, and so forth.

    My freedom is not based in what the state tells me i can, or cannot, do. It is based in God, as is my individuality. So the state can try to take these rights away by killing me, but in the end my life isn’t mine anyway. I’ll run and hide until they catch up.

    Each of these so-called freedoms can be done away with ease, and often they are. Recently, in Quebec, the police infiltrated a protest group and actually began a riot causing a peaceful demonstration to be shut down. It’s happened elsewhere. Kent State in Ohio is a great example of how governments can easily thwart freedom.

    It’s easy for a government to take freedom away because it’s not real freedom; it’s legislated freedom. Change the law and you change freedom because, in the end, it is relative freedom and up for interpretation.

    Freedom is a word easily manipulated and controlled depending on who is defining it. Freedom in Christ, however, is absolute.

    Of course, once the virtue corrodes, the cultural structures corrode along with it with the result that freedom becomes confused with moral license — pornography as freedom of speech, aborting children as freedom choice, etc.

    As i said in my previous post, making all rights “unalienable” already establishes that an individual decides what is right, and what is wrong, for themselves. Individuals gather under a banner, etc.

    So pornography becomes part of free speech, and abortion becomes legal death. All one need do is define, or in some cases redefine, the meanings of certain words.

    Easily done as pornography is considered Art under law thus protected by Free Speech.

    Abortion is easily done by redefining when a baby is actually born compared to it’s conception, and defining the difference between a baby and a “fetus” through scientific terminology. Toss in a woman’s right, etc, and it’s done.

    Is it deranged thinking? Of course! It’s completely demented! It’s also legal! No politician would ever consider changing it; it amounts to pure political suicide!

    Legislation is the downfall of culture. The problem is those ho have Virtue can’t do anything

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    Chuck says:

    Sorry, finger hit the wrong key. As i was saying:

    Legislation is the downfall of culture. The problem is those who have Virtue can’t do anything other then pray. If they seek to dictate Virtue they fall from it.

    The world has been spiraling downwards ever since the Fall. That these things have happened is indicative of how far we have fallen from the original. The passions have corrupted us and thus our society. I’m more inclined to worry about those who are searching, and my own salvation, then worry about what the world is doing.

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    Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse says:

    Chuck, all law is predicated on morality. You can’t speed because if everyone did more people would be killed. You can’t steal your groceries because if you did you would be hurting the people you stole from. You can’t throw your garbage in the street because you would endangering the health of others.

    Is this legislating morality? Sure it is. Yet the only alternative you seem to propose is retreat. Rather than deal with the messiness of life (and pull ourselves upwards), you want us to abandon everything to anarchy simply because life is messy.

    Now does this mean all laws are reasonable? Of course not. Do people misuse the laws for private gain? Yes. Do activist groups use the legal system to promote particular cultural agendas? You bet.

    But Moses gave the law even after Cain killed Abel. There is a reason for this.

    So pornography becomes part of free speech, and abortion becomes legal death. All one need do is define, or in some cases redefine, the meanings of certain words.

    Easily done as pornography is considered Art under law thus protected by Free Speech.

    Yup. Freedom shorn from virtue leads to tyranny in the name of freedom. See my article The Artist as Vandal: Culture and the desecration of religious symbols to understand how this works.

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    Chuck says:

    Love is the beginning of Wisdom-Wisdom is the beginning of Virtue-Virtue is the beginning of right thought-right thought is the beginning of right living. It is not legislative, and can never be because tyranny is devoid of Love; in fact it is quite the opposite of Love.

    If tyranny was a Godly action then we would have been destroyed in the Garden at best, or forced to live under a tyrannical God at worst. Love is not esoteric, or even an emotional response of synapses, and neurons, to some outside force-it is a Theological reality revealed to us by God.

    The Christian directive is to Love-above all else including our own well being in some cases. Thus St. Justin, in his Apologetic discourse, could write that the early Christians lived beyond what the law required-they lived this directive in their daily lives. They did not force others to accept their way through oppression, but went out and became personally involved in helping others thus bringing them to God through prayer, and action.

    While some of the worlds law’s are founded in morality, not all mind you, they cannot force morality. They simply remove the individual away from citizens, but do nothing to change the heart of that individual because law is devoid of Love. We live in an organized chaos because some choose to sin. So we go there to change the heart by showing Love, and pray that God will turn them away from their sin. Love will always trump law because only through love is the heart changed.

    Man lives in an unnatural state because of the fall. Pain, suffering, and even the fact we can harm ourselves and others, is proof of our decline from the Perfect Image. Man was damaged by his own foolishness, and continues on this path today.

    The Church retreated long before i became Orthodox. She sucked into Herself through nationalistic pride. The fact some ask why a person is Orthodox if they aren’t X nationality shows this problem; a Ukranian lad once asked me this when i visited the UOCC Metropolitan’s Cathedral in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and apparently it has happened to others. It moves far beyond a problem of ethnicity, or culture; it becomes devoid of Love altogether as She refuses to shine the Light of Truth given to Her, but instead buries this Divine Light, and Herself, under a flag.

    According to this logic i should be Presbyterian because i’m part Scottish, or pagan because i’m part Cree. According to this logic the only true Orthodox Christian are Jewish, and every one who’s ever evangelized has just wasted their time. She has forgotten the jewel of Truth She was given as a Promise to adorn Her brow; a Truth for all nations and all peoples, and the only Absolute Truth which exists.

    Since being baptized my family and i have jumped from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While we consider our home jurisdiction to be OCA, and return to it’s parishes at times, we remain nomadic. In this we have many spiritual Fathers, and each has given us Wisdom to guide our spiritual journey. It has also allowed us to experience many different cultural traditions which have enriched our lives as well.

    Currently we’re attending a UOCC English parish, and have snuggled in nicely. Our son serves as Acolyte there, and our daughter is one of the leaders of the parish choir. My wife and i go as often as possible, but i suffer from chronic pain making it difficult to do much at all. Of course our son will have to switch to an OCA parish when he enters seminary in a few years because the UOCC requires both written, and spoken, Ukranian from it’s clergy. Perhaps this will someday change, but for now having an English parish is an huge move for this jurisdiction. He may just learn Ukranian and remain in this jurisdiction; that remains to be seen.

    Love can never retreat, nor can it ever surrender. Love is entirely too dynamic for retreat; it enters organically like a seed and grows outwards ever blooming. Those who choose this path must always be ready for personal challenges in helping others, and must always pray, and weep, for those they help. They must never oppress, or they fail in their own cause of Love.

    Unfortunately i’m disabled and can no longer do the ministry i used to. Now i pray more, and continue my struggle.

    I read your article, and i’m wondering if you have ever tried to speak to one of these artists? Perhaps tried to discern why they do these blasphemous pieces? Tried to turn their hearts to God? Perhaps prayed that God would clean this Icon, and show the artist His Light?

    The only tyranny i see in these things is to themselves. I am neither required to look at it, nor even say it is art. They do not oppress me, or even my Faith. Is it wrong and blasphemous? Definitely, of course! Would i encourage seeing this? Never, unless the intent was to take the Icon! A little radical i know, but then Christianity requires a little radicalism.

    Would i try to oppress these people because of my sensibility? Definitely not! My sensibility isn’t swayed by something i expect in a fallen world anymore then suffering has made me fall from my Faith. We must never allow righteous indignation to turn into self-righteous arrogance, or we lose Virtue for vanity.

    We fight the oppression caused by sin within ourselves when we fight our passions. Oppression is nothing more than selfish arrogance used by the enemy to keep us under his thumb. Can we use the enemies tools to fight him then? Never! It would be like lying to turn people to the Truth! We lessen ourselves by these actions! Oppression is impious, and as far from humble as one can stray.

    As well, consider the impact on these poor souls. Have we ever considered why Christianity is derided in our society? Is it simply our Faith? Or could it be caused by certain Christian groups who wish to use oppression to force the Christian way? Getting to know these people personally is the only way to discern which, and either can be turned to God.

    I find it odd sometimes that some seem to believe that this world is Christian, and must therefore be governed under Christian values. The world rejected it’s Creator when it killed our Lord! Our Lord already warned us we would be rejected by choosing His Divine Path because He was rejected when He showed it! Why are we all shocked when blasphemous things happen exactly?

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Chuck, much of your post is too personal to discuss in a public forum. I’ll leave that aside until we meet face to face. On the public issues however:

    I read your article, and i’m wondering if you have ever tried to speak to one of these artists? Perhaps tried to discern why they do these blasphemous pieces? Tried to turn their hearts to God? Perhaps prayed that God would clean this Icon, and show the artist His Light?

    I’ve never met Ofili face to face but if I did I’d ask him: Do you understand that the meaning of your piece relies on what you are trying to destroy? If you destroy it, you destroy your piece along with it?

    But my hunch is that he might reply: “Yes, I know. That’s what I am trying to do.” Ofili isn’t a 17 year old kid wrapped up in a Goth lifestyle — too unaware and too inexperienced to know where his ideas might take him. He’s already made up his mind. He embraces nihilism. How do we know this? By the fact that he positions his pieces in the institutions commissioned to display (and safeguard) our cultural heritage.

    Can we use the enemies tools to fight him then? Never! It would be like lying to turn people to the Truth! We lessen ourselves by these actions!

    One of the ways you turn a person to Truth is by telling him the truth. You make it very clear to him where he is headed. If he listens, you have gained a friend. If he doesn’t, you still save others around him.

    As well, consider the impact on these poor souls. Have we ever considered why Christianity is derided in our society? Is it simply our Faith? Or could it be caused by certain Christian groups who wish to use oppression to force the Christian way?

    Maybe, but this threat is largely overblown and too often excuses moral cowardice. I follow Solzhenitsyn’s insight here: the crisis in the West is a crisis of moral courage. Your implicit assumption however, that the most transformative encounters between people is face to face, is true.

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    Chuck says:

    Forgive me, anyone who may have been offended by my words, and forgive me if i caused you to sin. This will be my last post.

    We never know until we try. We have a personal God who calls us to be personally involved. Even monastics who withdraw as hermits do so to pray more fully for mankind; they understand the full connection mankind has with each other in our fallen nature.

    Do not judge this man too harshly. He’s caught in the trap of lies our enemy has set for us. Pray that he may be released from it, and come to the knowledge of our Loving God.

    One of the ways you turn a person to Truth is by telling him the truth. You make it very clear to him where he is headed. If he listens, you have gained a friend. If he doesn’t, you still save others around him.

    Am i God to judge the heart of another? I’m not sure of my own salvation-how can i tell a person where they’re going when i don’t know myself? Wouldn’t it be much better to tell them the actual Truth, and not a fabrication of our presumption? That God is always searching for His Prodigals, and this person is one of them?

    Do they use wrong thought? Yes, but that’s what happens when they follow their fallen nature. We must introduce them to humanities True Nature-that of Christ which He showed to the world. We don’t do this through words only , but through our very lives!

    If he rejects the words does that stop you from praying? We save no one-that power lies with God only because only He can change the heart, and begin the work of transforming us into His Perfect Image. So we can bring all to God through prayer-even those who do not wish it.

    We can see this in all the Prayers offered in the Holy Synaxis of Liturgy. We’re not there for ourselves only! We’re there for all! Even when we offer the Holy Eucharist we do so “on behalf of all, and for all”! This Holy Gift is not just for ourselves, and the Liturgy is far beyond a simple gathering; it encompasses the very cosmos itself as a representation of the Eighth Day, and the ultimate Liturgy of God’s Holy Saints!

    I can pray for anyone, and be friends with anyone! The whole psychological ideology of “poison people” is an affront to God, and should be an affront to us; especially when we consider the Holy Words of our Lord to Love the unlovable!

    The only difference between us, and those who do not change, is we reject our fallen nature in lieu of our True Nature. We are not better then them.

    Love these people! Weep for them! Pray for them daily! Only through this can we be bring these people to that Real Freedom found only Christ.

    We must fight this passion to control others! We cannot allow ourselves to fall prey to this trap of our enemy, or we damage ourselves in the process.

    Maybe, but this threat is largely overblown and too often excuses moral cowardice. I follow Solzhenitsyn’s insight here: the crisis in the West is a crisis of moral courage.

    Moral courage is not found in oppression through legislation-it is found in ourselves. Only through our actions can True Courage be found to thwart the actions of our enemy.

    Quit seeing these things as an attack from people, but see them for what they are-attacks from the enemy of man! Our fallen nature came when we listened to his lies! This is the true enemy we fight! It is this same enemy that tries to force God’s Holy People back into the oppression of our passions!

    Pray for me a sinner, Holy Father. Perhaps one day we will meet in person. My prayer is if we do not God will grant that we may meet in His Holy kingdom at the end of time, and celebrate the Eighth Day together in the Synaxis of His Saints! God Bless all!

    Your unworthy Servant,

    Chuck(Moses)

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 19. Chuck writes:

    Am i God to judge the heart of another? I’m not sure of my own salvation-how can i tell a person where they’re going when i don’t know myself? Wouldn’t it be much better to tell them the actual Truth, and not a fabrication of our presumption? That God is always searching for His Prodigals, and this person is one of them?

    Seems to me that you are saying that in order to be true, you can’t speak the truth. Ofili might be a prodigal. Who knows but God? But does this translate into a willful blindness to the obvious meaning of Ofili’s desecration? Are we supposed to close our understanding to the other acts of desecration I mentioned as well? I don’t think so.

    Moral courage is not found in oppression through legislation-it is found in ourselves. Only through our actions can True Courage be found to thwart the actions of our enemy.

    I don’t argue for legislation. The only law that applies to desecration art is freedom of speech, and the courts have made it clear that the art falls under this legal rubric. Instead, I argued that the legal argument alone does not address the cultural ramifications of the piece and appeal instead to the conscience. Conscience references a higher law, one that ought to be reflected in civil law but in decadent societies becomes removed from it. Legislation alone does not awaken the conscience, but speaking the truth can.

    Quit seeing these things as an attack from people, but see them for what they are-attacks from the enemy of man! Our fallen nature came when we listened to his lies! This is the true enemy we fight! It is this same enemy that tries to force God’s Holy People back into the oppression of our passions!

    Evil enters the world when men put their hands in service to a lie. Yes, satan is the father of lies, but this does not mean that we remain silent when the lie is promulgated. Further, evil can never be creative; it can only destroy what has already been built (evil has no ontological reality). That’s why Ofili is a cultural vandal.

    But a lie must be confronted by the truth (we can argue what the nature of the confrontation should be) lest evil grab its foothold. And truth enters the world through a word. That is why speaking the truth is necessary.

    One theological clarification:

    The only difference between us, and those who do not change, is we reject our fallen nature in lieu of our True Nature. We are not better then them.

    You only have one nature — human nature. This nature is fallen and has to be redeemed through control of the passions (desires) — askesis. You can’t “reject” it. You can only reject the sin that corrupts it.

    Thus, there is no such thing as “True Nature.” There is only struggle to conform ourselves to Christ. Grasp this, work the program, and any idea of being better than someone else won’t be a problem.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    This is something I do not understand about my fellow Orthodox: Rome was an empire, at least during it’s Christian period. Byzantium was an empire. Russia was an empire. When you look at that, and you look at the “end stage” of American (and Western European) democracy, why are you so attached to the democratic ideal?

    Is it the abortion on demand? Is it the feminism that has resulted in high divorce rates, single parent families, cycles of poverty and higher rates of crime and drug abuse? Is it the fact that one political party might be described as anti-God and the other as only somewhat involved with a very dilute form of modernistic Christianity? Is it the fact that the reproduction rate among non-immigrants here and in Europe is below replacement? Is it the coarseness of the culture, where you can’t turn on the TV or radio with your children without being exposed to lots of vile images and dialogue that would have been censored in decades past, and which no doubt have a deliterious effect on them? Is it the “progressive” (read, “anti-Christian”) education they will receive in the public schools?

    What freedom are you particularly attached to? The freedom to vote for one of two lousy candidates for President who will not improve the above conditions but will likely allow them to progress downward, more or less rapidly.

    Come on. Snap out of it.

    The problem with democracy, at least a democracy as representative as ours (where the franchise is not restricted), is that it is nothing more than a competition of the passions, fanned by a media intent on exploiting those passions for their own profit. I finally came to the conclusion in the last couple of years that democracy is incompatible with traditional Christianity.

    No one here, I hope, is advocating a democracy within the Church where the laity would vote as to what is proper theology or morality. Why then do you think we’ll get a better result in society in general? Because if the masses, molded by the media and led to a considerable extent by an anti-Christian elite, continue to get to make decisions about morality for us all, they will certainly be bad ones. Hopefully we needn’t argue about that.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Scott, I for one agree with you. Democracy is not compatible with traditional Christianity. This country was not set up originally to be a democracy, but a representative republic with limited suffrage. However, the pressure has been on from the beginning to dilute the republic and expand the suffrage under that awful banners of ‘fairness’ and ‘equity’. Combined with an on-going centralization of actual power and you get a govenment as you describe. It is one I can no longer participate in. As much as I shudder to think of the consequences of a President Obama, a President McCain would be little better. They are both clueless and interested primarily in power.

    Christianity is also in opposition to tyranny so we are not readily at home in any sort of political setup.

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    emo cloth says:

    Truth is never irrelevant and God’s Will will be done even with us imperfect beings messing it up along the way. Patience, prayer, and above all

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