April 20, 2014

Judge Vaughn Walker, The Solomon of San Francisco

Buchanan nails it.

Source: VDARE

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Judge Vaughn Walker

Judge Vaughn Walker


Peering at the 14th Amendment, Walker found something there the authors of the amendment never knew they put there, and even the Warren Court never found there: The states of the Union must recognize same-sex marriages as equal to traditional marriage.

With his discovery, Walker declared Proposition 8, by which 5.5 million Californians voted to prohibit state recognition of gay marriage, null and void. What the people of California voted for is irrelevant, said Walker; you cannot vote to take away constitutional rights.

If the Walker decision is upheld by the Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court, homosexual marriage will be imposed on a nation where, in 31 out of 31 state referenda, the people have rejected it as an absurdity.

This is not just judicial activism. This is judicial tyranny.

This is a perversion of what the authors of the Constitution wrote and what the states approved. Through such anti-democratic means, the left has imposed a social and moral revolution on America with only the feeblest of protests from the people or their elected leaders.

Thus, the Supreme Court purged Christianity from the public schools and public square of a nation whose presidents from Wilson to Truman to Carter declared her to be a Christian country.

Thus, the Supreme Court peered into the ninth amendment and found a constitutional right to engage in homosexual acts and procure abortions, both of which had been crimes.

Walker says the only motivations behind Proposition 8 had been "biases" and "moral disapproval," and "moral disapproval … has never been a rational basis for legislation."

But what else is the basis for laws against polygamy and incest? What else was the basis for the Mann Act, which prevented a man from taking his girlfriend across the state line to a motel?

What is the basis for prohibiting prostitution, a free exchange of money for sexual favors, if not "moral disapproval"?

What the judge is saying with this opinion is that the majority cannot define morality, and, even if it does, it cannot impose it. We are defenseless against what we believe to be moral decadence.

But not even a judge can change the meaning of words. In every language known to man, marriage is defined as a union of a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

Walker may call such pairings marriages, but that does not make it so. As Lincoln said, "How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg."

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license," said the judge.

He is calling opponents of gay marriage irrational.

This is not just an insult to the intelligence of those Californians who have rejected gay marriage, but to a majority of Americans.

Through history, all the great religions have condemned homosexuality and all the great nations have proscribed or punished it. None ever placed homosexual liaisons on the same plane as traditional marriage, which is the bedrock institution of any healthy society.

Up to today, Walker is the only federal judge to see in same-sex marriage a constitutional right. And what is the origin of this right? Supporters of Walker’s decision cite the Declaration of Independence about our "inalienable rights" to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

But that same declaration says we were endowed with those rights by our Creator. When did the Creator indicate that among these rights was for homosexuals to have their unions recognized as marriages?

The author of that declaration, Thomas Jefferson, equated homosexual acts with rape and wrote that male homosexuals (they used the term sodomites in that time) should be castrated and lesbians should have a hole cut into their noses.

Undeniably, homosexuals have the same constitutional rights of free speech, peaceable assembly and trial by jury. But what the judge has done is declare the life choices and lifestyles of gay and lesbians to be equal to the life choice of married men and women.

This is nothing but Walker’s personal opinion.

But he is declaring it to be the only rational conclusion that can be reached. And having reached it, he has seized upon a phrase in the 14th amendment, "equal protection," distorted its meaning and dictated that this means his view and his values henceforth are the law in California, the voters be damned.

And what the judge dismisses and rejects as irrational is a conviction rooted in the history of the human race, biblical truth, natural law and basic common sense. For, in recent decades, male homosexuality has been linked to enteric diseases, hepatitis, AIDS and early death.

Historically, from the late Roman Empire to Weimar, flagrant homosexuality has been associated with sick societies, decadent cultures and dying civilizations. Today would appear to be no exception.

Comments

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    RZ says:

    “What the judge is saying with this opinion is that the majority cannot define morality, and, even if it does, it cannot impose it.”

    Given the rise in the Muslim populations in certain areas, isn’t this a good thing? If a majority wishes to impose a certain view of morality on a minority, they should have to defend the necessity for it in a court of law with some form of compelling evidence.

    These notions don’t just protect gay couples: they protect the liberties of Christians to practice their chosen religious faith as well. Otherwise, any vote by a majority would not have to undergo judicial scrutiny at all, and we may as well throw out the Constitution.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      RZ, I understand what you’re saying, but the tragic irony is that as the Islamic population grows, idiotarian liberals like Walker suddenly relax all standards that they use against Christian morality. In Europe, female genital mutilation, spousal rape, abuse of women who are not “modestly” dressed, is all of a sudden excused as being the product of a “quaint” non-First-World culture. If modern liberals were truly men of principle, I’d stand with you (and them) and shout “freedom of religion/freedom from religion!” but that’s not really what modern liberals want.

      An excellent example of this was the recently passed Obamacare. Did you know that Muslims-Americans are exempt from this? Why? Because the Democratic majority twisted themselves into pretzels to accomodate them. Is this fair?

      Sorry for the meander.

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        Scott Pennington says:

        George, you bring up a good point. God works in mysterious ways. It seems that if liberalism is not defeated by traditionalism (and I just categorize modern American conservatism as another strain of liberalism), it will be defeated by Islam. In either case, liberalism will not prevail (Thank God).

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    Chrys says:

    From a post at The Corner (National Review Online):

    From a Catholic pastor writing in Massachusetts:

    When he got to the “findings of fact,” he routinely stipulated and interpreted things in the most favorable light for those advancing same-sex marriage and called them “facts.” Here are examples of many of his facts and findings, which you are urged to read slowly and consider individually: “homosexual conduct and attraction are constitutionally protected”; “no meaningful differences exist between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples”; “gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage”; the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is an “artifact of a time” that “has passed”; same-sex unions “encompass the historical purpose and form of marriage”; marriage has nothing essentially to do with opposite sex relationships or the procreation or education of children from that union, but is only “the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents”; “allowing same-sex couples to marry has at least a neutral, if not a positive, effect on the institution of marriage” and “will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite sex marriages”; “the gender of a child’s parent is not a fact in a child’s adjustment,” “children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted,” and “the genetic relationship between a parent and a child is not related to a child’s adjustment outcomes”; “that the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant”; and “religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”

    This last “fact” has been viewed by some legal experts as an attempt to establish grounds eventually for declaring that Christian teaching about same-sex activity — and, with it, any opposition to same-sex activity — is in fact maleficent and needs to be constitutionally curbed. When Judge Walker presented “evidence” for this “fact,” he made these critics’ legal interpretations credible. He quoted, presumably as an uncontested example of the harm, the Vatican’s 2003 document, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” signed by the future Pope Benedict XVI, which reiterates the Church’s teaching that “homosexual acts goes against the natural moral law” and that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered.” He also cited “expert” witness Gary Segura, who testified, “Religion is the chief obstacle for gay and lesbian political progress,” a progress that it would be unsurprising to find that Judge Walker and other eisegetical judges may consider inexorable and “constitutionally mandated.”

    The dangers posed by Judge Walker’s decision, therefore, go beyond what constitutes marriage and family and which understanding of marriage and family needs to be promoted and protected for individual flourishing and the common good. They include perils to religious freedom as well as to the fundamental underpinnings of our constitutional republic, when the opinion of one conflicted judge fabricating constitutional violations takes on greater weight than the vote of seven million of his fellow citizens. It cannot be overturned on appeal fast enough.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    RZ,

    It is somewhat of a cliche among those who subscribe to non-traditional moral opinions that the majority cannot or should not legislate morality. Of course on that basis we should strike down all laws of any moral character including those against rape, incest, assault, murder, theft, etc. What people really mean by, “you can’t legislate morality” is that you shouldn’t legislate on this particular issue because we don’t agree it’s immoral. But before the great liberal age of the Supreme Court, states and localities always legislated on these matters and no one found any constitutional defect in their laws.

    The thing is that there is no real check on the corruption of the courts. The Supreme Court has dishonestly held that in the penumbras of a “right to privacy” is a right to an abortion. They did not just “find” that right in the Constitution 180 some odd years after its adoption. They invented this right and laid the groundwork in a series of privacy decisions to justify it. They knew where they were going, Constitution or not. Politics comes first for them. Constitutional jurisprudence, in a very creative and dishonest fashion, simply provides the necessary rationalization to impose their new found/minted “rights” on the country by force.

    There is nothing in the Constitution about abortion. There is nothing about the “separation of church and state”, although there is an establishment clause which prohibits the federal government (not the states) from establishing an official religion, supporting it with tax dollars, paying its clergy and making membership a prerequisite for holding public office. The Supreme Court imposed the Establishment Clause on the states by way of the 14th amendment which they (dishonestly) construe as having been intended to extend this or that section of the Bill of Rights to the states. But the Court reserves to itself to decide which provisions of the Bill of Rights are incorporated.

    There is also nothing in the Constitution against the death penalty. In fact, it assumes there will be executions since it contains language about persons being deprived of life or liberty. The English common law, which was adopted as the de jure basis of American common law, allowed at the time our Constitution was adopted that (at least theoretically) a 7 year old could be hanged.

    Yet, from 1972-1976 the Supreme Court held that the death penalty was unconstitutional and all such sentences were communted to life terms.

    There is simply nothing at all honest about the current basis of our legal system. If fact, it is not at all a stretch to say that the whole government is so corrupt in its jurisprudence as to be completely illegitimate. The courts are just another clique of politicians who rule for ideological reasons, not because of what the words of the Constitution or a statute meant to those who adopted it or because of what the words would mean to someone who lived in that era (or even to any honest, rational person reading it now).

    Being honest does not get them to where they want to go, so they construct elaborate theories of interpretation which are really just a rationalization for lying in order to do what they want to do.

    Truthfully, they don’t care what the Constitution says, other than being repulsed by its “unenlightened” assumptions.

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      Chrys says:

      Too true. We will pay lip service to the Constitution until the “living document” is all but dead. Then we will kill it. It seems that Truth (whether in whole or in part) is always treated the same way – whether in the 1st century or the 21st century.

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    RZ says:

    Scott, I’ve long puzzled over what exactly our Framers thought our rights to be. The first ten amendments describe some of them (religious expression, the right to bear arms, trial by jury, etc), but the 9th amendment seems to leave the door open to just about anything.

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    In other words: the fact that we’re outlining basic “rights” doesn’t mean there aren’t others. We just don’t know (or aren’t telling you) what they are.

    It’s brilliant, but also problematic because they don’t tell us what these rights exclude. Is even heterosexual marriage itself a right or not? Is denying a marriage license to a convicted rapist or murderer an infringement on their natural rights? I could see valid arguments on both sides of this.

    So, we’ve had to sort of derive these rights based on the common notions of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and so forth. Laws that criminalize rape, theft and murder aren’t just moral statements (although they certainly are that). They exist because these actions violate what is understood to be the natural rights of a person for which the government exists to protect. Immoral actions explicitly condemned in religious traditions that are outside this sphere seem to be ignored by the law (fornication, drunkenness, blasphemy, etc.) if not sanctioned entirely within another right to privacy or free speech.

    I’m starting to ramble, I think, but my point is that this isn’t completely the fault of the modern judicial system. The Framers were somewhat ambiguous in terms of defining what they felt was protected and not protected behavior.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      ” . . . my point is that this isn’t completely the fault of the modern judicial system. The Framers were somewhat ambiguous in terms of defining what they felt was protected and not protected behavior.”

      Actually, they really weren’t. Incidentally, James Madison, who more than any one else left his fingerprints on our Constitution, did not believe a Bill of Rights was necessary because he did not believe that the Federal government had any more power than was explicitly granted to it by the Constitution; i.e., he did not believe that the federal government had the power to do anything prohibited to it in the Bill of Rights anyway. Talk about a strict constructionist! Here are the ninth and tenth amendments to the Constitution:

      9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

      These amendements make it quite clear that the Founders intended the federal government to be limited to the powers explicitly given to it by the Constitution. It really isn’t confusing at all. If the Constitution does not explicitly give the federal government (for our discussion, through the Supreme Court) the power to do something, it lacks that power and cannot make anyone do anything (or refrain from doing anything, for that matter). Rights were not presumed to come from the federal government, they were presumed to come from God. The people had rights that they might delegate to the states or to the federal government (originally only through the states).

      This has all been replaced with a system foreign and inimical to the one originally adopted.

      “Laws that criminalize rape, theft and murder aren’t just moral statements (although they certainly are that). They exist because these actions violate what is understood to be the natural rights of a person for which the government exists to protect.”

      Understood by whom to be natural rights and on what basis? Socialists do not think theft of private property (by the state) is wrong. At common law, a man could not be charged with raping his wife. Among the Norse, murder was a civil offense for which a fine was paid (vergeld) to the clan of the deceased. Methinks you’re chasing your tail.

      It was understood throughout the United States up until the twentieth century that legislating morality was primarily a function of state and local governments; i.e., police powers. The great fallacy, which is practically a truism today, is that the Federal government established by the founders was instituted to protect individuals from majority rule. This is simply not so. It was instituted to limit the power of the federal government and protect the rights of the states and individuals not against each other but against the federal government as the above amendments make clear. Most of the Bill of Rights limits federal power, not state power or the God given (as understood by the Framsers) individual rights of citizens.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      RZ, you are right in the main. However, the only flaw I can see is that moral issues are not “victimless crimes” as we used to scream about in the 60s and 70s. Prostitution is not nearly as victimless as we often make it out to be: there’s an entire subculture of feminine and adolescent abuse that is required to condition women into selling their bodies. Plus, there’s the prosaic question, do you want a hooker standing on the sidewalk outside your house flagging down motorists at all hours of the nite?

      Ditto homosexuality. The vast majority of homosexuals came to this lifestyle through molestation. Again, a mundane consideration: many liberals like to claim how many gay friends they have, would they however let these gay men babysit their children?

      Life is never as neat and as conducive to our principles as we would like it to be.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I’m a bit of a states rights person and believe that the left which likes to do things on a federal level will now pushed gay marriage thru in every state. This is what I thought would happen if gay marriage issues would be pushed on the national level instead of the state level.

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      I think the whole marriage laws discussion is off the tracks.

      Until rather recently historically, in the West, there were no civil marriage laws at all. Marriage was a sacrament of the Church and the State did not legislate on it just like it did not on Baptism or Ordination. The State *acknowledged* these institutions of the Church – just like it acknowledges a person was made priest or pastor – but did not legislate it.

      The problem, in my opinion, is that the State entered in the business of legislating marriage at all. The solution is not another law to fix it, but to take away the problematic law.

      Marriage is a religious thing. Period. If people want to “get married” they have to look for a religion that approves of that kind of union. I heard of a man who got married to a cow somwhere in Asia, India I think. A Korean guy married his pillow. In Germany another man married his cat. Weird. But as long as they don’t force *me* to educate my children as to the “normality” of “interspecies” marriage, the most I can do is to pray for these people.

      The legal protection straight couples have shouldn’t be related to marriage at all. Any two (or more) people, in a free country, should be able to perform any kind of contract they want. If two people, for any reason, want to contract the sharing of their assets and inheritance rights, why shouldn’t they? Why should it be related to romantic relationships at all? Let’s suppose that two elderly sisters find that in this alternative they can manage their lives better? Now, of course, churches could, for pastoral reasons, *demand* that couples marrying under their auspices to actually enter into this contract.

      In short: the problem is that the State is in the marriage business. It should be out. Any couple or group of people should be able to make a contract with similar protections to those currently found in the marriage contract. If they are going to do it because they love each other, because they are friends or relatives who live together, is not relevant for the state as long as all parts are doing it freely. Churches could demand marrying couples to perform this contract if their theology so demands in pastoral terms.

      And all this liberal propaganda would immediately be defused.

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Fabio, you are correct. If the state well and truly got out of the “marriage business” I would not give a fig. However, this is not what the state wants. It wants to desanctify marriage and use gay “marriage” as a cudgel against the Church. As has happened in Canada, where Christian preachers are forbidden from speaking on the holiness laws found in Deuteronomy or the relevant Pauline passages that condemn illicit sexual behavior. This of course will lead to a new type of insidious persecution –churches being closed down for “hate crimes.” Of course, those churches that toe the line will be handsomely rewarded. Even more egregious, this dichotomy between churches will occure within the same denomination. Case in point: Assunming Frank Schaeffer is still an Orthodox Christian, he and his spiritual “mentors” will most definately toe the anti-Christian line, all the while assuring the smart set that Orthodox Christians who are true to the Gospel are nothing but “hate-filled fundamentalists.”

        In other words, if the state were truly going to be neutral, I’d have no problem with that. But as we libertarians who have been mugged by reality will say, the modern state has no intention of being neutral. Sad to say.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    It’s not about marriage at all. It is about radically re-defining what it means to be a human being then forcing that definition down the throats of the rest of us. Therefore even if there were no civil marriage laws (which are fundamentally property contracts), the nilistic vision of the beastly man who has to be ruled by the un-trammeled elite would still find other ways to attack marriage, family and any sort of discipline of the passions-personal or communal.

    The Church’s biggest challenge in our age is to prophetically witness to the world the nature of true humanity. Instead we waste our resources and our credibility on legal arguments in a venue we not equipped to enter and are warned about entering in Scripture–the courts. We weaken ourselves by our own internal legal arguments and egomanical quest for power.

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      Harry Coin says:

      Michael, As the promiscuity ratios for gay men and women are lopsided 10-100 to 1, I really wonder whether the piece of paper that says ‘married’ will actually result in increased happiness for the male homosexual people who think it will help. I think it might be just a momentary high, then the promiscuity sets in and the divorce courts have more to settle.

      Due to the incredible promiscuity and poor judgement given known horrific disease rates spread by sexual activity, I fear for the future of boys growing up in the home of ‘male gay couples’ a great deal more than either sex growing up with a ‘female gay couple’.

      A ‘gender blind’ family policy that makes no allowance for the biological realities of the ‘adult citizens involved’ harms the ones too young to vote.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Harry, you are right–a specific of my point that it is not really about marriage at all but about unleashing and ‘normalizing’ a bestial life style that defines humans by their sexual desires.

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          Harry Coin says:

          Michael, quite a conundrum — maybe this tension has more to do with two totally different visions as to the purpose of the civil government and civil law.

          One vision is that the civil law sets the absolute lowest possible restraints on personal choice consistent with not infringing on others, leaving to the church and moral institutions the business of managing and teaching about ‘should’ and ‘ought’ and the explaination of aspirational goals and virtues. The law has the ability to confiscate money and to use force to impose choices and restrain liberties, whereas the moral institutions worst sanction is public disapproval and a decision to banish or reduce participation.

          The other vision is that the civil law ‘sets the bar’ with more of a tolerance for ‘that which is not forbidden is compulsory’. Shifting the purpose of the law to not define ‘this is the bottom of acceptable behaviour and no further’ but instead using the force of government to impose what those who control the law deem of universal virtue. Leaving the church and other moral institutions on the sidelines or off the field as distractions and antiques to their ‘excelsior! Our way is best for all, get on the train or get run over by us’ agendas.

          When the church suffers a loss of credibility in the management of ‘should’ and ‘ought’ people look to impose it using the government– I think that’s why the epicenter of church misconduct, Massachusetts, is also the epicenter of government-is-the-answer. And the home of Barney Frank et. al. I think they are seeing they’ve not traded up but down, and so they elect Scott Brown & Co.

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Harry, you’re absolutely right. One way to derail the gay “marriage” train would be to sanction the concept of gay “divorce.” Given the promiscuity of homosexuals, could you imagine how much a lawer specializing in such cases could make? We’re talking mid-six figures here. :-) The courts would be open 24/7

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          Harry Coin says:

          ‘Gay divorce’ — I bet that has already happend a whole bunch in states that allow the ‘marraiges’ and I also bet the press absolutely does not want to say anything about it as it would be the height of political incorrectness.

          I’m even aware of a circumstance here in Iowa where the courts imposed gay marriage on the people where a woman looking for economic comfort but with an impressive alcohol and cigarette habit and a distate for education wants to ‘marry’ another woman who has money coming in from rich relatives she uses to support her home and struggles with cocaine. The one plotting ‘marriage’ is already thinking about ‘alimony’.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      It’s not about marriage at all. It is about radically re-defining what it means to be a human being …

      When man is separated from God he becomes insane. Insanity will spread like a plague.

      A time will come when the whole world will go mad. And to anyone who is not mad they will say: ‘You are mad, for you are not like us.’
      St. Anthony the Great

      Sinning is not the worst thing man can do. Worse than sinning is to refuse to acknowledge sin, to deceive yourself and others. A sane person cannot prefer hell to heaven.

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      They want to redefine what to be human is. I agree. But *how* are they currently trying to do this?

      A civil law attached itself to the sacrament of marriage. The sacrament itself cannot be attacked. So they attack the “thing” attached to it, the law.

      The sacrament does not need this law. So if we campaign for a “civil contract of coexistence” that can be acquired by any two people for any reason they want, the attack on the true concept of humanity will be deflected.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        While your idea has merit and a certain attractiveness to it, I don’t think it will work as this stage. Perhaps it would have at the beginning, but now they are after the sacrament too.

        Of course that does not mean that we should not do what you suggest.

        I would be all for an approach that refused to recognize any civil ‘marriage’. It is certainly in no way equivalent to any form of Christian marriage.

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        Scott Pennington says:

        The problem is that if the state is not connected to Christianity in some way so as to assure that it bases its moral laws on Christian morality, then licentiousness, perversion, indoctrination and, finally, persecution, will destroy the Church in the particular state. It is not enough to establish some libertarian utopia. The forces of darkness will not ever be satisfied to exist in society on an equal footing with the Church. The only way Christianity can be secure in a culture is if its morality carries the force of law. This is the experience of Christianity in modern democracies. It becomes rejected, corrupted, marginalized and eventually repressed. The best that Christianity can seriously hope for in this country, under our present form of government, is to retard the pace of the onslaught of evil; i.e., to lose slowly. Rollback, absent a reordering of society, is simply not possible.

        There are really only a few serious possibilities as to how the decay of America and the West will end: 1) re-establisment of Christendom by some military coup, 2) the further disintegration of public morality and responsibility leading to a societal collapse which has a similar result – - someone takes over and re-establishes Christendom, 3) some type of dictatorship follows the collapse which is not favorable to Christianity, 4) or Islam prevails.

        You’re desperately trying to preserve modern American notions of individual freedom/liberty in the face of assaults on Christian morality in the public square. You would think that at some point people would appreciate the fact that modern American notions of individual freedom/liberty are, in themselves, an assault on Christian morality.

        But I’m sure I’m preaching to the deaf . . .

        In the end, you will have to make a choice between Enlightenment notions of freedom and liberty – - and Christianity. The two are absolutely incompatible. Show me a Christian democracy.

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          Harry Coin says:

          If Christianity isn’t freely chosen, it isn’t Christianity.

          Conflating state and Christianity leads to the latter being transformed into a prop for the former. It doesn’t end well.

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            Harry’s right.

            The only way Christianity can be secure in a culture is if its morality carries the force of law.

            This defines “Christianity” as ideology — a set of ideas that have to be imposed from the top down.

            Rewrite the sentence to:

            The only way a Christian can be secure in a culture is if its morality carries the force of law.

            …and it makes a bit more sense, but it still has that, well, the state authenticates religion feel to it.

            There is no gospel here, no real sense of the concrete, apocalyptic power of faith in a God who can do stuff — like, you know, move mountains.

            BTW, the Church in Greece tried the military coup route a few decades back — didn’t end well for them.

            In the end, you will have to make a choice between Enlightenment notions of freedom and liberty – – and Christianity. The two are absolutely incompatible. Show me a Christian democracy.

            Show me a “Christian” anything. But I can show you a lot of places, bereft of Christian influence as well as the “Enlightenment” notions of liberty and freedom (I’ll overlook the polemical sleight of hand), where life is a whole lot worse.

            Geez Scott, we lived through the collapse of Communism. Now you are telling us –what? – the West isn’t worth fighting for because it is imperfect?

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            Scott Pennington says:

            So Christians weren’t Christians under Rome, Byzantium and Moscow/Petersburg and Christianity wasn’t Christianity?

            I’m amused.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            Fr. Johannes,

            Regarding 6.3.2.1.1, you purported to correct my statement into:

            “The only way a Christian can be secure in a culture is if its morality carries the force of law.”

            But you have no referent for “its”. Perhaps I should have said that the only way the Church and Christians can be secure in a culture is if Christian morality carries the force of law.

            But your whole commment tries to sidestep the fact that there are societies where Christian morality is the law of the land and societies where this is not the case. None of the former are democracies.

            “Geez Scott, we lived through the collapse of Communism. Now you are telling us –what? – the West isn’t worth fighting for because it is imperfect?”

            It is deeply ironic to hear an Orthodox Christian talk about fighting for the West. The West is a place. If you’re suggesting I’m saying that the ideas of the Enlightenment are not worth fighting for because they are anti-Christian, then that is exactly what I’m saying.

            We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to introduce democracy to other parts of the world. When we do, we either get Islamist governments (because they are sometimes popular) or we get societies which turn to the same decadent trajectory as ours. And Christians support these efforts. It’s actually Shakespearian in a way. We are firmly in support of our own demise and that of any culture that clings to traditional values.

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          I think that every society is based on a defined set of moral values which include in themselves what is “just” a moral misconduct and what is a crime.

          Some of these are extremely authoritarian, that is, coexistence with different values is not part of their own accepted set.

          And we have some tolerant societies. These may and do fall victim of exarcebation of tolerance (every virtue can become a vice) when they accept values that are not only different but actually antagonizing to their own.

          We must remember that the definition of something is composed of what it is and what it is not. Therefore, a society based on Christian values can live well with other christian societies and with societies that do not have Christian values in their “is not” part of their values.

          Let’s compare it with an ice cube. It can “coexist” with a plethora of things: rocks, metals, wood, etc. But fire is not one of them and not even the “hot” variants of those. The ice cube’s nature is in the “must not” of fire. Likewise, too much water can destroy fire.

          This is the limit of tolerance, in my opinion. There is no coexistence between any two things that have the other in their “must not be” part of their values and morality. Some things are different, but some are contradictory among themselves. The liberty that modernity has envisioned is good in what it preaches and succesfully achieve the coexistence of peoples and values that are merely different, but we have to deal now with things that are not merely different, but contradictory.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Scott, the only way your statement really works is if you consider Christianity to be a set of legalistic moral doctrines. As hard as it is for us to embrace, it seems to me that Jesus exemplified that the Church is a kenotic witness to the Truth. Those who follow Christ are an integral part of that witness even unto death if necessary.

          Paul preached Christ and Him crucified. To most who heard him and hear him today that is nonsense and a stumbling block.

          Christianity has not failed simply because the world and the powers of this world reject her. In fact, if the Gospel is to be believed, from that rejection comes the ultimate victory over sin–the Resurrection.

          We are not destined to rule. The temptation to rule has been one of our besetting sins as a Church. We are not supposed to have any security in this world. The way of Christ is the way of the Cross.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            Michael,

            You sound like a Baptist. They believe that the beginning of the corruption of the Church was when it came to power. We may need to accept persecution but we do not need to invite it. That is masochism. If God desires us to be masochistic, then He is not God but a demon.

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        The “sacrament” might not need the law, but civil society does. Laws set prohibitions and necessarily so (prostitution, incest, polygamy, same-sex marriages, etc.). The law does not add anything to the meaning or purpose of conventional marriage, it just defines what marriage is not.

        (RZ – The Constitution does not enumerate “rights” as much as it sets prohibitions against government overreach into the “inalienable rights” that the Founders saw as coming from God.)

        Gay marriage is not about homosexuals and marriage, not really. It’s about homosexualizing culture. Homosexuals comprise about 2% to 3% of any given society but clearly their voice is larger than their numbers. The amplification takes place for many reasons, two major ones being that the mainstream media is largely secularized (and thus ‘metrosexualized’), and an activist judiciary.

        (RZ – Your argument that the Constitution protects minority viewpoints is true, but only to a point. The Constitution protects free speech [political/cultural ideas], religion, assembly and so forth — again, restrictions on government overreach. Minority viewpoints are [rightfully] “protected,” but the protection has no bearing on the veracity of the viewpoints, and the majority is under no legal compulsion to accept them. Rather, if the minority believes in an idea, they are free to persuade the majority. Minority status, in other words, is no guarantee that minority ideas are true or tolerable [neo-Nazis for example]. In many things the majority has got it right — that’s one reason why they are the majority. [See: Gay Marriage Far Removed from Civil Rights Movement.])

        Why are gay activists so eager to sanction homosexual unions as marriages? Because once established, the legal reach into established cultural institutions is broadened and the homosexualization of culture becomes virtually unstoppable. Of course, a society cannot continue with two conflicting moral visions of this magnitude (there is not such thing as moral parity between homosexuality and heterosexuality in other words) and it will collapse.

        31 out of 31 states have rejected gay marriage when the question is put to the voters. This threatens gay activists. That’s why they go to the courts. Don’t forget that homosexual marriage is not a slam dunk, not by any means.

        Gay marriage has to be resisted. There is too much at stake. It’s noteworthy that the clearest voices against the inherent moral barbarism that a large scale acceptance of homosexual behavior would unleash in a society are those who are just emerging from the nihilism of Communism. Communism, too, attempted to redefine the human person into something he was not.

        Why are homosexuals so adamant about gay marriage? While I think it is true that “marriage” is a non-starter for most (almost all?) homosexuals, the driver behind it is the self-contempt that exists as a result of the behavior. I am not talking about the person struggling with same-sex desire (clearly a passion that afflicts a lot of people), but the weaving of the passion into social theory and ultimately social activism (a distinction St. John Chrysostom made in his exegesis of Romans 1, BTW).

        The activist, in other words, blames the refusal to sanction homosexual behavior for his feelings of self-contempt and self-loathing. He reasons that if he can force society to accept homosexual behavior as normative (in our devolutionary age the object of sexual desire is a primary element defining self-identity), he will feel whole again. This self-contempt (along with other defects) may be what St. Paul meant when he wrote: “…receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:27).

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    Michael Bauman says:

    BTW, the Civil War and its aftermath coupled with the industrial revolution destroyed the Constitution in any meaningful legal sense. It’s just taken another 100 to 150 years to realize it because it also took the eviseration of the Christian vision of humanity and community for it to have impact on our daily lives. Of course that is not surprising either since the Christian vision in the U.S. was largely built on a false legalistic construct that fundamentally denies both the Incarnation and the effects of sin that are not simply ‘moral’ in nature.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Michael, your observation is very salient to the issue at hand. Like Scott, I have a problem with egalitarianism, but I fervently believe that the modern industrial state and mechanized armies have made the present evil inevitable. Like most conseratives, I believe that human nature is the same in all ages, what prevented wholesale slaughter and licentiousness were the “mechanical” obstacles to total war, modern license, and the totalitarian welfare-state.

      Because Lincoln pursuied the policy of unconditional surrender, this became the leitmotif of many of the national armies that followed. Together with their increasingly powerful arsenals, the carnage of the 20th century proceeded apace.

      I can’t blame Lincoln and other progresives per se for pursuing this program of statism and violence completely, as the inherent evil in all men made such an endeavor possible. Men will do whatever they can as long as they get away with it.

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    RZ says:

    Scott writes: “The only way Christianity can be secure in a culture is if its morality carries the force of law.”

    Can you flesh this out a bit? Christian ethics touch upon almost all facets of life, from the entertainment we watch, the type of work we do and the nature of our relationships with others (sexually or otherwise). Further, Christian ethics are never divorced from their role within the framework of the Christian faith. That is, ethics are only properly understood in light of a proper understanding of who we are and who God is as defined by the Christian faith in particular.

    To what extent should civil legislation touch upon these?

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      Scott Pennington says:

      RZ,

      No man is an island. That is the fallacy of libertarianism. What citizens or subjects do in a country affects everyone around them because it changes the tint/color of the society. Christians do not live in isolation and they learn their values from the general society as much as the Church. This is unavoidable unless we were to separate ourselves from society like the Amish (and even the Amish are affected in varying degrees depending on how much interaction they have with the wider culture).

      So, decaying culture = decaying ethic within the Church. The key thing to realize here is that this is mostly due to representative government, not the rantings of one or more judges. The difference between democracies and socialist states on the one hand, and traditional monarchies, empires and other authoritarian Christian societies on the other hand, is not that sin is prevalent. That is a common feature and indemic to all societies. The difference in democratic and socialist societies is that sin is officially redefined as the good. It is redefined in socialist societies because socialist ideology is generally hostile toward Christianity, but it is also redefined in democracies because democracies are based on the ideas of the Enlightenment which, to boil it down, is that man is the measure of all things and the voice of the people is the voice of God. This whole schema is anti-Christian at its core and, inevitably, makes increasingly more aggressive war on the Church and her morality.

      When Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire, Christians made up perhaps 15-20% of the population at most. With state support, it was spread far and wide and flourished in several empires. As Christendom has faded away, so has the government enforcement of its morality and, consequently, we live in an age of awful decadence where even the Church is compromised. To support the idea that democracy (or secular socialism) are compatible with Christianity is, in its effect, the same as the active wish to return to the early days of Roman persecution.

      Any state will impose a morality through legislation. The question is whether that morality will be Christian or not. It should be utterly, painfully obvious that democracies simply will not do this because the voice of the people is seldom anything more noble than an amalgamation of their passions. Democracies, by their nature, have to get more decadent. This decadence corrupts the Church like an acid. It also results in the imposition of anti-Christian social engineering and ultimately will result in the repression of Christianity, just like in pre-Constantinian Rome.

      All gods are jealous gods. Democracy is no different. You can worship the idol on Liberty Island in New York or you can worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But no man can serve two masters.

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Scott, the Church is not the ward of the state. If the Church gets corrupted, it alone bears responsibility for it.

        Solzhenitsyn:

        However, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.

        If you are arguing that the “despiritualization” (I call it secularization) is happening in America, you will get no argument from me. If you are arguing that monarchies are immune from it (or that democratic systems are powerless against it), well, that misstates the problem and posits a false solution.

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          Scott Pennington says:

          You’re knocking down straw men, Fr. Johannes. The traditional method of governance in the Orthodox world was a symphony of church and state. Each was, in a sense, a ward of the other.

          I never argued monarchies are immune from despiritualization. What I am arguing is that a state unplagued by the notion of “separation of church and state” which is fundamentally tied to the Church will maintain a regime of law based on Christian morality and that a democracy can’t possibly do that due to its essential nature.

          It’s really just a question of what is more important to you, Christianity or the Spirit of ’76.

          I don’t really dispute Solzhenitsyn’s quote above in general, I would just argue that the degeneration of democracy from the early ideal of freedom granted on condition of religious responsibility into what it has become is intrinsic to democratic systems. There is no diabolos ex machina involved here. Extension of the franchise and broadening of the concept of liberties are the culprit. They are intrinsic to the system. It was born to self destruct. If the Constitution had somehow granted an unassailable role to traditional Christian morality without leaving it up to the people it might have been different, but that’s my point.

          Most here have already made their choice so I’ll end my comments on the subject.

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            If the Constitution had somehow granted an unassailable role to traditional Christian morality without leaving it up to the people it might have been different, but that’s my point.

            Scott, your default is always that the State must possess a mechanism for enforcing virtue. Lacking the mechanism, a culture invariably spins into some kind of moral devolution. The thing is, even in states that the possessed the mechanism, devolution still occurred. In states that did not possess the mechanism, devolution was prevented. In fact, in historical terms, the seeds that have come into noxious flower in our generation were sown over the last two centuries under the kinds of monarchies that you argue would have prevented the present crisis.

            Thus, I would rephrase your (false) dichotomy of “Christianity or the Spirit of ’76″ into something like: “It’s either monarchy or the ‘Spirit of 76′ if you want to be Christian.” I don’t hold to the second formulation either but it more accurately represents what you are arguing.

            I’ll agree that the mechanisms of the state have been twisted in ways the Founders never intended (overturning Prop. 8 is an example). I don’t agree that the state has the inherent ability to enforce virtue (which is not the same thing as prosecuting lawbreakers). Thus, authoritarian systems might slow the rate of decline, but in the end they are powerless to stop it. Just look at Spain after Franco. I also think that your assertion that the Constitution could have given an “an unassailable role to traditional Christian morality” would have struck the Founders as ludicrous — and dangerous. For that reason we were exhorted that Constitutional government could only work if the people were virtuous. The well-spring of virtue however, is never located in the state.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            The state – - and I defy you to produce an example otherwise – - always has a mechanism for enforcing virtue, otherwise it would be anarchy. Our state defines virtue as the outcome of the Constitutional process. That’s the problem.

            It is absurd to accuse monarchies long past, in which sodomy was a crime punishable by death, of being responsible for the cultural decay of today. Just as absurd as it is to accuse Franco of being responsible for what followed him. You keep proving my point.

            “I also think that your assertion that the Constitution could have given an “an unassailable role to traditional Christian morality” would have struck the Founders as ludicrous — and dangerous.”

            Perhaps, but perhaps the reason they prohibited an Establishment of Religion was that they wished to leave these matters to the individual states, like Virginia and Maryland (Episcopal Church) or Massachussetts (Congregationalist), etc. In actuality, I’m sure they had varying opinions on the subject and the Constitution was what they could agree on.

            “Thus, I would rephrase your (false) dichotomy of “Christianity or the Spirit of ’76″ into something like: ‘It’s either monarchy or the ‘Spirit of 76′ if you want to be Christian.’ I don’t hold to the second formulation either but it more accurately represents what you are arguing.”

            No, my dichotomy was accurate. In the long run, democracy destroys Christianity just as certainly as Communism tried to.

            “I don’t agree that the state has the inherent ability to enforce virtue (which is not the same thing as prosecuting lawbreakers).”

            Yes it is, at least in part. The society makes the judgment that a particular behavior is offensive in some way. That is based on moral convictions about virtue. The law, in part, is society’s notion of virtue. Now it is also administrative and preventative, etc. But laws against incest, public indecency, bigamy, theft, etc. all are based in morality. The notion that the state can’t, doesn’t or shouldn’t enforce morality is just silly. In every single society on earth that has ever been, it has.

            “The well-spring of virtue however, is never located in the state.”

            I never suggested that either. What I did suggest is that the state can aid in establishing a decent society or it can work to the detriment of decency. Democracy, inevitably, does the former because of its basis.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    He is calling opponents of gay marriage irrational.

    Under the guise of “love“ and “civil rights“ perfidious intents are hidden. The argument ”it is simply against nature and therefore should not be practiced” does not convince because there is a higher argument – “love”.

    Should a judge be the driving force behind the ultimate decision? If this works, and it seems it does, then ”we defenseless against what we believe to be moral decadence”. This could ultimately destroy the society.

    A society cannot continue to function without shared notions of right and wrong—a dynamic we call the moral consensus. These ideas and values function as universals, as ways that a society organizes itself.

    All it takes is wrestling common terms from their traditional moral contexts and employing them in ones that justify the dehumanization as progress. Good becomes evil, and evil becomes good. Society has reconstructed itself in a new moral order.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Continued from: 6.3.2.1.2

    Scott Pennington says:

    So Christians weren’t Christians under Rome, Byzantium and Moscow/Petersburg and Christianity wasn’t Christianity?

    Of course they were Christians. But what’s the point?

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Fr. Johannes,

      Harry wrote: “If Christianity isn’t freely chosen, it isn’t Christianity.”

      I was merely pointing out that Christianity wasn’t really a free choice in these empires any more than a baby makes a free choice at its chrismation. You know how Prince Vladimir “encouraged” his people to become Orthodox? He issued an edict that anyone who didn’t would become an enemy of the state. So, I suppose, non of those baptized were actually Christians. Come on, is that not absurd?

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        But your whole comment tries to sidestep the fact that there are societies where Christian morality is the law of the land and societies where this is not the case. None of the former are democracies.

        I’m not sidestepping it, I’m challenging it. Law reflects culture. That’s why 31 out of 31 states passed laws rejecting gay marriage. If one rogue judge overturns the plebiscite, overturn the ruling or get new judges. That’s how it works.

        Look, if your looking for a benevolent monarch, you just might end up with Ivan the Terrible, or worse, Stalin.

        Culture is a fragile thing Scott, it lives and breathes. It has to be vivified continually, just like our bodies need air continually. Democracy (the new kid on the block actually) allows this in ways monarchical preponderance did not. Monarchs fell too you know.

        I was merely pointing out that Christianity wasn’t really a free choice in these empires any more than a baby makes a free choice at its chrismation. You know how Prince Vladimir “encouraged” his people to become Orthodox? He issued an edict that anyone who didn’t would become an enemy of the state. So, I suppose, non of those baptized were actually Christians.

        Are you sure it was that cut and dried? Take a look at what might be the Prince Vladimir scenario playing out in modern times: In The Land Of Mao, A Rising Tide Of Christianity, and The Heritage of Western Civilization.

        All gods are jealous gods. Democracy is no different. You can worship the idol on Liberty Island in New York or you can worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But no man can serve two masters.

        Well, as the son of resistance fighter in Holland during WWII who was imprisoned in a concentration camp (from which he escaped) and whose life was spared because American soldiers gave their life for his, Liberty Island looks pretty good from my side of the river. It’s no idol Scott. I’m one of those who with millions of others saw something good about America and, by my father’s hand, made it my home. Much is still good, much is worth preserving, and if I have to fight for it, so be it. I wrote about it years ago, and still stand by every word (see: Liberty).

        We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to introduce democracy to other parts of the world. When we do, we either get Islamist governments (because they are sometimes popular) or we get societies which turn to the same decadent trajectory as ours. And Christians support these efforts. It’s actually Shakespearian in a way. We are firmly in support of our own demise and that of any culture that clings to traditional values.

        So fight the neo-cons, not democracy. One of the great privileges of America is that one can write and be heard — just as you do on this blog — and that one’s words might have good effect. (See: Richard Hoste: Postmodern Dhimmitude to see how this works in real life; note especially the author’s debt to Western civilization.)

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          Scott Pennington says:

          “Law reflects culture. That’s why 31 out of 31 states passed laws rejecting gay marriage.”

          It’s also why a constitutional majority have not overturned Roe by contitutional amendment. It’s also why no-fault divorce is the law in many states. It’s also why there is no longer a stigma attached to out of wedlock births and single parenting. It’s also why the majority elected a socialist as president who immediately broadened the abortion regime in this country. I don’t think you’re too persuasive.

          “Are you sure it was that cut and dried?”

          If you’re arguing that Christianity spread and was passed down generation to generation by free individual choice then you are either unfamiliar with history or disingenuous.

          “So fight the neo-cons, not democracy.”

          It’s not just the neo-cons, its most of the political spectrum. John Kennedy famously touted spreading the “disease of liberty”. Jimmy Carter ran a foreign policy (badly) based on human rights. Obama continues the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the explicit purpose of democratic nation building.

          “One of the great privileges of America is that one can write and be heard — just as you do on this blog — and that one’s words might have good effect.”

          True, but it is delusional to believe you will persuade a substantial majority of the people here to enact laws based on Christian morality when the churches have been advocating this for generations and things have only gotten worse.

          “It’s no idol Scott. I’m one of those who with millions of others saw something good about America and, by my father’s hand, made it my home. Much is still good, much is worth preserving, and if I have to fight for it, so be it. I wrote about it years ago, and still stand by every word.”

          It is an idol for people who elevate individual liberty as a higher value than Christian ethics. Talking about fighting for a country is a canard. What you are really talking about is fighting for an idea, the Enlightenment idea of individual freedom and liberty. There were many soldiers in the USSR who despised communism but nonetheless fought valiantly for the “rodina”, their homeland. On that score I agree with your patriotism. But I don’t agree that we are talking about imperfections. These are fundamental, fatal flaws which will play out as being such in the coming decades.

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            Scott, this will be my last post for a while, but I fear you don’t value human freedom — the radical freedom man has been given that, when twisted, allows him to turn from his Creator and bring darkness into the world, or, when directed into obedience to the Creator, directs his native creative prowess towards the good. Civil freedom is, of course, an outgrowth of this native insight that allows men to rise out of bondage both on the inside and out.

            One quick question. Where you ever a follower of Calvin’s teachings? I ask because Calvin denied man’s natural capacity for freedom in much the same way you do (he was afraid of it I think). BTW, you should know that I think Calvin is the godfather of modern secularism. He believed in monarchy too.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            “One quick question. Where you ever a follower of Calvin’s teachings? I ask because Calvin denied man’s natural capacity for freedom in much the same way you do (he was afraid of it I think).”

            Nope, never been a Calvinist in any way. The Fathers were fond of monarchy too. Guess they were Calvinists.

            This has come up several times and for some reason you always seem to forget, disregard or twist this point:

            I don’t have a problem with human freedom to choose good or evil. But the opposite of human freedom is not moral legislation, the opposite would be human beings who always do good in the same way a fish always breathes water; i.e., because the dichotomy of also breathing air does not exist for it. That is the blessing of human freedom: Being able to act good or act evil.

            I do have a problem with a Church or a state which says, “in the interests of protecting ‘human freedeom’ we refuse to negatively sanction bad behavior.” A person is free to commit any sin or any crime – - always. But there should be consequences. God Himself struck down the couple that withheld property from the Church in the Book of Acts. Are you saying He doesn’t believe in the human freedom He granted? Of course not. He believes in consequences for exercising that freedom irresponsibly.

            “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments, and his statutes and his rdinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I
            declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may
            dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

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          There is one thing about the relation government-God’s will that amazes me in the Scriptures.

          As much as many and better people say that the Scriptures have no statement about forms of government, I can’t avoid to see that the loose Judges confedaration was not opposed by God when Moses’ father-in-law suggested it and openly defended by God when the Jews demanded a king to Samuel. In fact, by denying the confederation and demanding a king God says that it was Himself that they were denying and that they would pay for demanding a strong centralized government.

          Because God is merciful, He gave them David and Solomon – and although they were very good statesmen the very creating of a strong central government led to the eventual destruction of the Jewish kingdoms and ultimately to their new aptivity.

          When I read Church Fathers praising the Empire and the emperor – not only calling for civil order like St. Paul – neither can I avoid to think that those were dictatorial governments, many times even heretical, to which one had to pay lip service. Now and then we see people like St. John Chrysostom facing up against the abuses of those tyranical governments. Plus, After the advent of the Roman empire, it had been long centuries since true Judges-like democracies had been seen in Europe and the Church Fathers were not primarily concerned with government so that they could use the Greek city-state or Judges confedarations to oppose the central government even if they didn’t know it was unwise to do so.

          Even under that strong centralized Empire, the Church itself, the New Israel, like the old one of the time of the Judges, was divinely organized as a confederation. The greatest schism occurred precisely when the presiding “confederates” tried to become a strong central government itself.

          Truly, Peter’s special place in the Church is prefigured by Moses special place in Old Israel. Like the “Throne of Moses” was composed by the collegiate of Jewish scholars, the “Thron of Peter” is composed by the collegiate of bishops. Like the Old Israel, the New is meant by God to be a confederation and even the desire to have “one central strong” defender (person or book) who is not God ammounts to a blasphemous denial of God Himself.

          That is my current opinion at least.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            “After the advent of the Roman empire, it had been long centuries since true Judges-like democracies . . . ”

            The government under judges in the Old Testament was not a democracy or a set of democracies. “Judge” is synonomous with “chieftan”. They received direct inspiration from God. The more the people obeyed them, the better off they were, the less, the worse.

            “While judge is the closest literal translation of the Hebrew term used in the masoretic text, the position is more one of unelected non-hereditary leadership than that of legal pronouncement. In accordance with the needs of the time, their functions were primarily martial and judicial, comparable to a king (but not anointed).” – Wiki

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            Scott,

            it sure wasn’t any *modern* democracy, but in that the judge representing each tribe would come together to decide what was going to be done it certainly resembles more a congressional or parliamentary democracy than any form of strong centralized government.

            My point is that in the very roots of those three great cultures that God saw fit to be the environment of His coming – the Hebrew, the Greeks and the Romans – we have a quasi-confederative organization: autonomous tribes led by Judges who would assemble in congress to decide the fate of the People of God. The Greek city-states and the Roman Republic both are forms of the same concept adapted to the historical and cultural circumstances of each.

            In the first case, the request for a strong central authority was vehemently condemned by God verbally through His prophet Samuel. In the other two the forced loss of that liberty in the case of the Greeks and the abdication of that liberty in the case of the Romans led to a historically swift downfall of those peoples, just as it had with the Jews who fell under Babylon. In the case of the Roman republic, if we consider the Gospel terminology, it turned itself from a republic of free-man into Babylon itself.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            Fabio,

            Show me the report of the election of judges or the votes they held to decide policy, then you might have something.

            “In the case of the Roman republic, if we consider the Gospel terminology, it turned itself from a republic of free-man into Babylon itself.”

            But you didn’t tell “the rest of the story”: It was reborn as the Christian Roman Empire which, in the East, lasted over 1000 years.

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Scott,

        I am in very much sympathy with you in many ways. Two things hold me back though from completely accepting your critique:

        1. The last thing Orthodoxy needs today is to be in “symphony” with a state, even a “Christian” one. Why do I say this? Because this symphony has caused our hierarchs to degenerate into a bunch of sycophants who seek to curry favor at the drop of a hat with whomever is in charge. It’s almost as if they can only seek satisfaction and their own moral worth by toadying up to the powers that be. This was so obvious last year when +Demetrios made that unfortunate statement at the White House and then the EP begged to go to Obama’s hotel room in the Istanbul Hilton for all of 10 minutes. And then came on the riverboat cruise carrying George Soros’s water, etc.

        2. As much as I share your disdain for democracy, I can’t put it in the same boat as the other totalitarian systems you describe. What do we replace it with? I’d say get back to our republican roots, with strict adherence to the Constitution, etc. BTW, I’m not against monarchy, I think constitutional monarchies are very fine for the counties that have them. IMO, a republican form of government, with strictly delimited powers and tension between the constituent states would serve us very well. However, as John Adams said, a republic can only be maintained by a “religious and moral people, it is wholly incompatible with any other.”

        P.S., I too agree with you, the Church should never sanction bad behavior. That’s a major part of the reason that we’re in such a boatload of trouble right now, because the Church has almost totally abrogated its responsibility in this regard. We Orthodox like to criticize the Catholics but they’ve been far more stalwart in defending Christian values than we have been (again, probably because we’ve been so used to being departments of states, dependent upon the largesse of the king/tsar/emperor).

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          George, Those are all great points, presented in an eloquent summary. I agree fully!

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          Scott Pennington says:

          Neither Archbishop Demetrios nor Patriarch Bartholomew work in “symphony” with any state. To work in symphony means that the Church is an independent basis of power which has a relationship of mutual influence with the government so that it can call the government to account for immoral or foolish behavior. You’re talking about hierarchs who carry water for governments like lobbyists. Different function.

          Whatever anyone else says here, it’s just a fact that the Fathers assumed Empire as the normal mode of governance and even wrote it into canon law as a vehicle for accomplishing certain tasks.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Scott,

    I do not believe the Church was corrupted solely by being granted access to worldly power, sin has been in the Church from her inception. However, Constantine delayed baptism until his death bed, in part, because he did not feel it was possible to rule an empire and be a Christian. St. John Chrysostom bemoned the lack of genuine committment on the part of those who joined the Church simply because it was the Emperor’s religion by saying that (I paraphrase)the vast majority of Chrisitans were like a millstone around the neck of the Church. Just as we should not seek martrydom, we should not seek power. Further, if worldly power is given to the Church, it must be used with great discretion and restraint. In power or out, the way of Christianity is the way of the Cross.

    The tempation to worldly power is just that, a temptation. IMO, the Church has not done well when it gives into that temptation (or is forced into it as in dhiminutude). I also think it is of little use to attempt to re-create past circumstances (like monarchy). To me it is clear that in our time state sponsored persecution of Christians continue to be the norm–even here in the United States.

    IMO, the orginal form of U.S. government, confederation, was closer to Biblical norms than monarchy. The original Constitutional form of federalism was not too bad but we lost that long ago.

    Government, no matter what the form, only works for good when the majority of citizens have God as the king and the state reflects that orientation. However, saints shine forth under all forms of government and in all circumstance. It is in the lives of the saints that the victory of Christ is displayed.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Michael,

      That all may be true but the problem is that certain forms of government are intrinsically anti-Christian in their inner logic. Socialism, Communism, Nazism and democracy all qualify. It’s just a question of degrees of hostility.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Scott, I don’t disagree–but monarchy is not the answer.

        It is doubtful that democracy would have made much headway as a widespread form of governement had it not been for protestant humanism and the Reformation. The heretical idea that all people can, and should, interpret Holy Scripture to their own liking was followed by the same idea transposed to the political realm = democracy.

        I have no problem with what I call a nested hierarcical form of government, in the Church or out, modeled after the Judges of Israel as long as there is agreed upon set of principals or common tradition that provide the standards and to which all must be obedient. Rulers or bishops choosen from a realtively small grouping of people who then submit to the rulings of the hierarch as long as they conform to the ruling principals. Unfortuantely, monarchy is the result of the failure of obedience which is required by such a model. Once a monarch is in place, the populace at large is freed from the obligation to actually internalize the guiding principals and further errosion ensues.

        Democracy is a devolution of monarchy which ultimately ends in one of two types of tryanny: the hard tryanny of a totalitarian dictator or the soft tryanny of the elitist oligarchy that we currently have in the U.S.(freely chosen BTW). Unbridled passions are the real authority of course. There is no common vision, no common moral compass, no center.
        As the philosophy of nihilism gains greater sway, the violence of the elite toward the rest will increase.

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          Scott Pennington says:

          Michael,

          I agree with most of what you write except I’m not sure that democracy is a necessary devolution from monarchy so I could endorse either the form of government you suggested or a monarchy/empire. The point I think that is vital is to tie the form of government to the Church’s morality and this is impossible in a democracy. The Orthodox Church could be the predominant but tolerant (of other confessions, within reason) source of the state’s moral law. It is not that I believe monarchies or empires or oligarchies, etc. are virtuous. It’s that I believe the capacity for virtuous government exists in these forms of government but does not exist in democracy, at least not in the long run.

          “Unbridled passions are the real authority of course.”

          Precisely.

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    Fabio,

    Show me the report of the election of judges or the votes they held to decide policy, then you might have something.

    Scott,
    I think you are equating democracy with elections. At least in the modern sense, I don’t think they are the same despite the etimology of the word. *Direct* rule coming from elections is rule of the masses and today’s democracy is pretty much understood as “rule of the law”. In fact, even authoritarian regimes can have elections, even if not faked.

    This “rule of the law” is, again, given by God in the system of Judges where they had all the 10 commandments as constitution of principles and the remaining 603 as the actual criminal, tax and civil codes. Not even Moses, nor Joshua, nor the Judges, nor David or even the wise Solomon were above the ruling law. Of course, the 10 commandments are not actually a constitution, but that is because they are meant to be the rule of the people of God, not of a country. Thus, one of the elements of modern democracy, namely, constitutional rule of law is an icon of the very rule of the people of God.

    But even before this constitutional icon, we see in how the Church is ruled the same principle: a “congress” of bishops, an “ad hoc” presiding authority, and above them, canonical regulations. Now, of course, no direct parallel can be draw among these three instances since their context is very different. The point I’m trying to make is that it seems to me that there is a principle “rule of law” that can manifest in different forms for different purposes. Modern democracy manifests it in the form of constitutional law.

    A second fundament of modern democracy is federalism. “Federal” comes from the Latin “foedere”, to make contracts. The expansion of the Church during the imperial period was less due to imperial imposition than to the desire of the foederati barbarians – those who were part of the Empire by contract – to emulate the “elite”. The Greeks and most of the barbarians in the first millenium were not forced to convert. The emulation of the authority was not something that had to be imposed.

    In our days, the federation concept stands between two tendencies: it implies centralization in Europe; in countries like the U.S. and Brazil it is resistance against centralization. But in itself, federalism is just the idea that collective entities can act as one by agreement, with autonomy and not by force (at least most of the time). Switzerland has what is possibly the most well developed federalism on the world today. It does not mean that “rule of the mass” has to exist in any of the “contracted” parts. In fact, one “tribe” could be a commune and the other a kingdom. As long as they agree to work on what their representatives contracted, they would be a confederation. If above these two there were a permanent administration, it would be a federation. It is through federalism that those communities with different – but not mutually destructive – values can actually become one nation.

    The parts that constitute the federation, don’t have to be democratic internally. In fact, democracy while seen as dispute of power between its constituent parts only makes sense if these parts are *not* democratic internally. One of the fallacies of our days is that *every* group should be democratic internally. This is the very destruction of democracy. Take any group in society, be it Christians, liberals, or any other. Participation in a specific group means adhesion to its values, ideas and beliefs. If a groups is forced to accept people and ideas from every corner, it dissolves loosing its form. Any group, thus, has to preserve its own “form” not despite the opinion of its members, but because it is supposed that it is this homogeinity that justifies its existence. Democracy happens among parties that necessarily are not internally democratic or does not happen at all.

    Another principle of modern democratic administration is subsidiarity, that it, the division of responsibilities amongst the levels of the federation. Subsidiarity exists in the American constitution when it says that all powers that are not given to the Union belong to the States. There are other ways of organizing subsidiarity, some even more positive ones stating more explicitily what belongs to the Unions, to the States and to the Cities. Without subsidiarity, in fact, the federation is no more than an unitarian state divided in bureaucratic departments.

    The fourth pillar of modern democracy is division of powers, thus not allowing any of the authorities to have too much power and, in this way, minimizing the opportunities for tyrany. This division of powers is the main thing at attack with all these judicial attacks we see. It’s not up for the judiciary to make laws even if indirectly. In the U.S. like in Brazil, there must be a recovery of the division of powers.

    Elections, through which the masses decide what will happen, are then put at check with all these four pillars. It allows people to actually decide on the day-by-day important things of their lives in their communities and also *to have a say* in greater national decisions, although it is actually an elected elite that does actually decides, which protects the State from the moods of the mobs.

    But you didn’t tell “the rest of the story”: It was reborn as the Christian Roman Empire which, in the East, lasted over 1000 years.

    The “Christian” Roman Empire had far more heretical emperors who caused trouble or even persecuted the Orthodox Christians than even merely pious leaders.

    Justinian is a point in case that can be compared to Solomon and Nicholas II. Although they were personally wise and pious men who made a lot for the people of God, their administration led to disaster. Solomon’s reconstruction of the temple and other exploits imposed so heavy taxes in the people that it led to the fragmentation of the kingdom in the next generation. Justinian’s obsession with another “reconstruction”, that of the Empire, and with Hagia Sophia itself again burdened the people with so many taxes that it lead to a small dark ages in the Romaic Empire right after his reign. And finally Nicholas II’s reign who did so much for the Orthodox Church in Russia and around the world could not avoid the defects of a strongly centralized monarchy and his kingdom too found a tragic end.

    Notice that this pattern of calamities happened in the reigns of three very wise, good and pious men. Their faith and personal “goodness” could not prevent the evils of that form of government. And that is exactly what God had made known through Samuel when the Jews asked him for a king:

    And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.

    And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint {them} for himself, for his chariots, and {to be} his horsemen; and {some} shall run before his chariots.

    And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and {will set them} to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

    And he will take your daughters {to be} confectionaries, and {to be} cooks, and {to be} bakers.

    And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, {even} the best {of them}, and give {them} to his servants.

    And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. {officers: Heb. eunuchs}

    And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put {them} to his work.

    He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

    And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

    I Samuel 8:10-18

    A king, or any strong central authority, *necessarily* according to God, will oppress his people. Not because he is an evil person – if he is things will just be worse – but because strong central authority *is* opression.

    To sum it up, I think that the best administrative icon of the will of God is:

    1)Not the rule of the mass, nor of any strong central authority: rule of the law;

    2)Common action achieved through convenants,contracts. In civil life, that is “the market”, in public life that is either a confederation or a federation;

    3) Clear accountability (subsidiarity) about who has to do what, each level of the “contract” being accountable first for what is at its immediate reach and indirectly to what is above it;

    4) To not centralize forms of power in any class: military who are just military, clergy who are just clergy, politics who are just politics, capitalists who are just capitalists, legislative that only makes the laws, an executive that only executes the laws and a judiciary that only judges people’s obedience of the laws. This is a form of humbleness and also an icon of what St. Paul said about the Body of Christ having different members with different functions.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Excellent post Fabio. Thank you.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Fabio, I agree with your model but the U.S. governement in its current form lacks all of the factors you point out as essential. The chief missing component is that democracy is no longer thought of as the rule of law, but law as a method of advancing particular agendas that don’t have to be voted on (homosexuality, abortion, etc.)and to consolidate power. Both major political parties use the tactics. The authority of law is used as a weapon against order rather than the bulwark of order. Judge Walker’s decree is just the latest example.

      IMO a nihilisit vision predominates called democracy in which the elites (self-proclaimed) demogoge and manipulate voters in part by constantly raising our expectations on what they can do combined with the fear of what the other side will do. There is no effective accountability for anyone in power. The same pretty much prevails in the Church too it seems.

      We have politicians, most notably our President, who have never done anything but be politicians; to adopt Harry’s phrase–”ordained young, never married clergy”; people of wealth who are not using the wealth to produce anything but to capitalize anything they can. According to these “elites” the rest of us are just supposed to pay and obey outside the Church and pray, pay and obey inside.

      The question that must be answered in any form of government: How do the governed keep the government honest and curb the appetite to power? Jefferson’s answer, ultimately, was revolution every now and then.

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        Scott Pennington says:

        Michael,

        The Founders were not enamoured with democracy. The founded a republic which was not particularly democratic in its mode of governance. America has become more democratic over the generations with the expansion of the franchise and the direct election of senators. Their main mistake was not devising a means to tie the government to Christian morality. In their defense, they probably thought that was the prerogative of the states.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Fabio, you need to flesh this out into a book. You’ve set the standards for a true Christian commonwealth. I like it all: transparency, accountability, subsidiarity, etc. It’d be nice if the local churches that (hopefully) arise from the present Episcopal Assemblies take these things into consideration. If I may expand, one way to accomplish subsidiarity and accountability would be to have more bishops, not fewer. And their diocesan boundaries should be discreet and sacrosanct, amendable only by conciliar action.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Fabio,

      If you are equating democracy with “the rule of law” then I’m certainly a democrat. It’s just that that is not what it means. Asserting that Moses and David were not above the law is of course true, but neither of them presided over a democratic republic. People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

      I have never disputed the fact that there is a long history of abuse of monarchial or imperial rule. My consistent point has been that while Christian rule is possible under empires, monarchies, etc., it is not, in the long term, possible under democracy.

      Neither is a “congress of bishops” a democracy. Democracy is rule by the people; i.e., governments elected, at least in part, by popular suffrage.

      “Notice that this pattern of calamities happened in the reigns of three very wise, good and pious men.”

      Nicholas II was not, by most any account, “wise”. His reign was succeded by a democratic republic so weak it only lasted a matter of months because of the foolishness of its leader, Kerensky.

      Other than that, I don’t really disagree with most of the facts you lay out, I just don’t think that they prove your point or are even particularly relevant. If you want to redefine democracy in order to avoid the pitfalls of popular government, I don’t have any problem with that. In that sense, I too am a democrat. I just prefer my rule of law to emanate from an authoritarian “democracy” like that of the great “democrats” you mentioned, Moses and David, rather than be a system accountable and dependent on the popular will like modern Western democracies. I’m glad we are in agreement.

      As to your point about Samuel’s warning regarding an unelected king (as opposed to an unelected set of judges), I have no argument with you. But it also proves my point as well. Christ Himself is known as “the Son of David”, a title of the Messiah, so great was the love and remembrance of the rule of David and Solomon the wise. Granted, each committed abuses, as did other kings. But none of it changes in the slightest the utterly obvious fact that pious government is simply not possible in democracies. I’ve waited in vain for months for someone here to blow me out of the water by listing a modern democracy which has chosen to enact Christian morality as the law of the land. Since there have been authoritarian regimes which have done so, my point is really unassailable.

      But nice try.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Fabio,

      One more thing.

      In reading your summary at the end of your post above, I was struck by something: Would you please point out what provision(s) of your ideal government would prevent the adoption (by the people or whomever makes decisions in your goverment) of abortion rights, gay marriage, the destruction of the patriarchy, etc? I.e., in what way would you achieve a different result from modern democracies? Bear in mind that a number of states adopted abortion rights by popular vote before Roe, as well as other gems like no-fault divorce. Theoretically your government sounds very nice, but what would it do?

      I’m perfectly willing to admit that if all, or the vast majority, of citizens in a society (most especially the leadership) would go to a traditional church and be guided by its teachings, almost any form of government would suffice. However, it is also true that many Marxists assert that true Marxism has never been tried so we don’t know that it wouldn’t work. I think the argument that only a pious people can preserve a decent republic fails for a similar reason – - you make an very unlikely assumption.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Fabio,

      In rereading your post, I thought it deserved a more carefully addressed response so no one thinks I’m dismissing what you assert lightly.

      “At least in the modern sense, I don’t think they are the same despite the etimology of the word. *Direct* rule coming from elections is rule of the masses and today’s democracy is pretty much understood as “rule of the law”. In fact, even authoritarian regimes can have elections, even if not faked.”

      This is not at all true and it leads to a host of other errors. Democracy does not mean “rule of law”. Rule of law is a component of modern democracy but free and fair elections are an absolutely essential component of any democracy. The fact that elections can be faked is no argument at all against defining democracy as the rule of the people. Such democracies are fake democracies.

      Moreover, rule of law, in and of itself, guarantees nothing. Iran has the rule of law as does Saudi Arabia. Their rule of law is shariah. By and large they follow it. They are not, however, democracies, although there is some parallel with the government of ancient Israel.

      “A second fundament of modern democracy is federalism.”

      This also is not really true. In the United States, Canada and several European countries, the governments are federal. However, we usually consider Britain and France as “modern democracies” and they do not operate on a federal system. Moreover, the Russian Federation does operate on a kind of federal system, but is not considered by many to be a “modern democracy” because of election irregularities.

      “The fourth pillar of modern democracy is division of powers.”

      This also is not necessarily true. In parliamentary democracies, often the lions share of the real power is in the parliament (e.g., the United Kingdom, Israel). Although I will grant that this is usually true in federal systems, a subgroup of modern democracies.

      “A king, or any strong central authority, *necessarily* according to God, will oppress his people. Not because he is an evil person – if he is things will just be worse – but because strong central authority *is* opression.”

      That also is simply not true. God warned the Israelites about monarchy because human nature is a mix of good and evil and a monarch is no different. Thus, you will get good kings, bad kings and many in between. Monarchy is not necessarily oppressive but it can be and, from time to time, will be due to the misrule of the monarch. It is simply false to assert that it is evil in and of itself. You are placing yourself squarely outside Orthodox tradition by asserting it. Find me some such assertion in the Fathers who entrusted to the Emperor the high responsibility of calling a Great and Holy Synod. If your assertion were the understanding of the Church, then the majority of the Fathers would have been constantly protesting the form of government under which they lived as diabolical.

      This apparently is a blind spot for you. It explains your comments regarding Tsar Nicholas II. Most scholars would not describe him as wise in any sense of the word. He is usually understood to be intelligent but foolish, weak and incapable of devoting himself to detailed administration. He allowed his wife, and thus her favorite advisor, to practically run the civil government when he took over leadership of the war effort during WWI. He remained devotedly resolute against any move toward a Duma until he had no choice and then sought to undermine it at every turn. His real choices would have been to fiercely suppress revolutionaries and liberals or to allow a Duma to have an advisory capacity and perhaps some say in matters such as taxation and land reform. However, he believed literally in the divine right of kings and that ceding any power whatsoever to an assembly was a betrayal of his duty. Unfortunately, he was not wise enough to see that that was an untenable position. Alexander II was wiser in some ways. When he was killed, he was carrying a draft of a constitution which, unfortunately, Alexander III decided, under bad advice, was a bad idea.

      Some kings are remembered primarily for positive reforms such as Louis XIV. All rulers are, as I stated above, a mix of good and evil, just as all governments everywhere. The key problem is that democracy, because it caters to the passions of the public and very little else, eventually has to descend into decadence and evil because of its intrinsic dynamic. Good monarchs can be followed by bad monarchs who, in turn, can be followed by other good monarchs. The story of modern republics is different. During the modern period, as they have become more democratic they have also and consequently become more hedonistic and liscentious. There is no pendulum, or, if there is, it does not swing too high or for long on the side of improvement, only decay (at least by the standards of traditional Christianity).

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        Scott,

        Your refuttal ammounts to this:

        that what people in modern days calls democracy is not what the root words imply; There are two problems with that: a) the people who created the word did not mean “rule of the masses” but actually a rule of an elite free aristocracy. Indeed, I think that we agree in disagreeing with socialists and Marxists who think that a direct government of the masses is possible – or at least preted so in their struggle for absolute power. But democracy never meant that. b)Even if in the beginning it had meant that, it would have changed its meaning by now. It is more or less what happened to the word “passion”. Originally it meant the passive aspect of the soul. Today it is widely understood with the active aspect. To fight the modern meaning of the words because of their etymology makes no sense;

        that the parts alone are not the whole. It is true that each of those pillars can and do exist outside democracies. But together they are what democracy is;

        that a democratic government cannot impose a virtuous christian society but an undemocratic one, when it so happened to have a virtuous christian autocrat would. Scott: it *never* happened. Never. Not under David, not under Solomon, not under Vladimir not under the most Christian of the Romaic emperors or czars. And that is for the very simple reason that Jesus had prophezided that Christians would always be a small minority among hordes of hypocrates and wolves. Like you, the Apostles too wanted God to exercise His sovereignity to end heresy and sin. And who could do it better than the King of Heaven?

        and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

        And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

        And when his disciples James and John saw {this}, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

        But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

        For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save {them}. St. Luke 09:52-56

        Scott, when you request a strong authority to vanquish sin and create a Christian society, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of”. The acts of God breath with liberty. Satan himself was allowed into the Garden of Eden, but you want a human government to put him out.

        You are very right when you say that democracy cannot create virtue, but very wrong when you think that there is something that can. *Nothing* on earth can produce a virtuous society, but strong central governments sure can force a lot of people into pretending it.

        As for the fathers, most were raised under the oppressive byzantine regimes and knew to say the right thing to protect the Church and their flocks. But when the regime went over the limit they did stand up against it. The very preeminence given to Rome, specially under Greek popes coming from the Romaic empire, is witness to this since what many people forget is that Rome was the only see that was, in practice, outside the dominion of the Empire. All those appeals to Rome were appeals to the only see tha could speak openly without the interference of the “protector” of Christians, the emperor. In fact, a case can be made that Rome owed its Orthodoxy to being autonomous in relation to the empire and the many heresies that plagued the East were due precisely to having a strong central authority.

        How many see the meaning of depicting Christ with the emperor’s crown as a constant remembrance, to the Emperor himself, that he was no ultimate authority? Or that in the very Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, then Patriarch of Constantinople, we find find this:

        Deacon:
        Let us bow our heads to the Lord.

        People:
        To You, O Lord.

        St. John Chrysostom is famous for his stand against the abuses of the aristocracy of Constantinople, specially the Empress consort Eudoxia. I strongly doubt that this tiny passage went unnoticed by those aristocrats who demanded people to bow before *them*. To have the Emperor himself bowing before the crowned icon of Jesus was another strong reminder that we should not bow before any kind of flesh.

        And then again, if a central strong figure is so important to “keep virtue” why are we not under the Pope? Why did Rome fall exactly when it changed our “constitution” (the Creed) to support a monarchical figure of the bishop of Rome, going against God’s warnings in Samuel, which apply to them as well?

        As for the title “Son of David”, notice that He is called “son” of an individual, not of the kingdom. David was a noble man, not the government he presided over.
        Also, particularly among those who called Jesus by this title having in mind the same mentality of the Jews in Samuel, we must remember that they turned to crucify him not too much later. Those who thought that He was “Son of David” because He was the prophesized Messiah Who would come from the seed of David understood him. Those who thought that He was the “Son of David” because he was to be the “good king” who would protect the faith agains those pesty Romans, quickly resorted to the “rule of the masses” to demand His death.

        Indeed, the rule of the masses that you rightly fear is the siamese sister of all strong centraly authorities who have always destroyed all he intermediary institutions in the name of whatever virtue is, at the time, popular with the masses.

        Your dear strong central authority and the rule of the masses are not like light and darkness but like head and tails of the same hungry beast.

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          Scott Pennington says:

          Fabio,

          Did you actually bother to read what I wrote? It appears that you didn’t.

          Your first point about etymology is simply nonsense. I do not dispute the ancient meaning of the word democracy was restricted. But what we mean by democracy today is a government that represents the will of the people by suffrage in elections. That’s just a fact and you’re dead wrong if you disagree. Democracies have other facets besides elections, it is true. But if a government doesn’t hold elections we don’t call it a democracy.

          “. . . that a democratic government cannot impose a virtuous christian society but an undemocratic one, when it so happened to have a virtuous christian autocrat would.”

          I guess you really don’t understand my point at all. No one can impose a virtuous Christian society. Sin is ubiquitous in any society. What a virtuous Christian ruler could and would do is impose a legal code based on Christian morality. It can be done. It has been done. You’re setting up straw man arguments that I didn’t make.

          The inevitable course of modern democracies is to redefine sin as the Good.

          “As for the fathers, most were raised under the oppressive byzantine regimes and knew to say the right thing to protect the Church and their flocks. But when the regime went over the limit they did stand up against it.”

          “St. John Chrysostom is famous for his stand against the abuses of the aristocracy of Constantinople, specially the Empress consort Eudoxia.”

          Which is it Fabio? The Fathers were scared of the emperors so they didn’t challenge their system or they weren’t afraid to challenge them? You’re incoherent.

          “And then again, if a central strong figure is so important to “keep virtue” why are we not under the Pope?”

          I’ve never advocated a monarchial bishop over the bishops of the Church. In fact, I’m not even insisting that a Christian government necessarily has to be a monarchy. Just that a democracy cannot, over time, be anything other than an enemy of Christian values. If you want a government run by senators either 1) appointed by other senators or 2) elected for life (as bishops have been or are) that might suffice as well.

          “To have the Emperor himself bowing before the crowned icon of Jesus was another strong reminder that we should not bow before any kind of flesh.”

          Fabio, are you Orthodox? The reason I ask is that Orthodox Christians not only bow down before icons of the saints but also bow down and touch the ground with two fingers in front of a priest before receiving his blessing. So, we do often bow down before flesh.

          “Your dear strong central authority and the rule of the masses are not like light and darkness but like head and tails of the same hungry beast.”

          If “strong central authority” is the beast then ours is a false religion since the Fathers assumed it was the normal form of government and even incoporated into canon law. That is the beautiful thing about Orthodoxy. It really can’t be redefined to suit modern sensibilities since there is such a long historical record of what the Church is actually taught and done. It would take a truly Orwellian regime to do so.

          “*Nothing* on earth can produce a virtuous society, but strong central governments sure can force a lot of people into pretending it.”

          Yes, well, whether a woman truly doesn’t believe in abortion or “pretends” she doesn’t because it is illegal, either way there is less carnage. If the consistent message of society is that abortion is wrong, it also makes it less likely that people will develop the alternative sensibilities. Some will, but it reduces the probability.

          Fabio, if God disaproved of kings in general and strong central authority, he never would have had the prophets anoint them. He does not bless things that are intrinsically evil.

          “…So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Samuel…” 1 Chronicles 11:3

          “And Nathan said to the king:…Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people, over Israel.

          I really don’t know what else to say to you. In stating that endorsement of a monarchy or “strong central government” is of ungodly inspiration, you’re slandering the Fathers, the Prophets and (arguably) God Himself:

          The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. – Genesis 49:10

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            Scott,

            There is no incoherence about the Fathers general attitude and St. John Chrysostom stand against the pious defenders of the faith.

            First, I never said they were afraid. That is your own strawman. A person who understands that is under a regime that lives on the implicit threat to everyone’s life is just having wisdom and common sense. Now, when this regime reaches certain extremes, than action is necessary. Holy were the martyrs who gave their lives under the communist regime, but also were holy those who silenced with wisdom in order to preserve and transmit the faith. Nver mind thinking that I’m saying that all the Fathers were cryptdemocrats. Only that they knew that the emperor and the masses were just two eyes of the same oppression.

            As for what democracy means in public debate, if simply reading about it does not help, have a look at Wikipedia. The sense of “direct democracy” is there as well as many others, including the one most people have been using lately that is far wider than simply having elections. For a philosophical approach follow one of the links indicated there: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/democracy/

            The democracy you’re up against is the real strawman in this discussion since it is the thing we are all against: mob rule.

            What a virtuous Christian ruler could and would do is impose a legal code based on Christian morality. It can be done. It has been done.

            And yet:

            “For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force…it is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have autority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice.”
            St. John Chrysostom – Six Books on the Priesthood

            Ops. :)

            And St. Paul also has some not very nice words about the “rulers” of this world:

            “The wisdom which none of the rulers of this world has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;”

            Now concerning making laws informed by Christian morality. I think this is a desirable endeavour. Nevertheless, I know that not everybody is Christian. Non-christians do not want to live by Christian law and they will not whether you have Christian laws or not. For a legislative system to be functional, the community under it must understand what it is about. Christian law became the law of the land *long* after Christian morality had already spread everywhere. When Christians were not the majority we never thought of imposing anything on anyone.

            The difficulty that today’s Christians have is to understand that, for some part of the population at least, the game is over, the war is lost. The hope for their salvation is in God only. We are back into a world where the majority is not Christian, and does not want to be. Live with it, pray for them. If an entire community wants to live in promiscuity, I am very sorry for them. But it’s pointless to put them under Christian law. It’s beyond them. We cannot think as we were the more or less homogenous majority we once were. Even the beloved “Christian” empire did not make war at random against every sinful nation around it. There were barbarians who commited abortion, and worse things. But the role of the defender of the faith is not to subjugate the world but to keep the violent ones outside the walls of the Christian city. It’s just foolish to try to put them under our laws.

            Your calling is to subjugate them all under a law that is Christian in content but utterly antichristian in spirit. Mine is to have peaceful coexistence with those among them who want peaceful coexistence and about those who do not… prevail over them by force if necessary. Rome destroyed Cartago but preserved the Greek cities although many immoralities also happened there.

            Under your strong Christian government, God Himself would have been put to jail because He allowed freedom of expression to the serpent, because He allowed Satan to torment Job, whilst all the pharisees would be elavated to the highest ranks for obeying the law to the letter. You are trading the fearsome image of an open battle for the insidious death while alive of a Christianity of surface. And please, do read the words of the fathers about the society around them to see if they are kind to what was going on.

            Concerning the blessing that God does give to some kings, it is because we talk about the God of mercy who turned poisoned water into fresh water. Despite the fact that according to Himself the desire for a “king” equals a denial of God (as seen in Samuel), God *is* merciful. And although they deserve a Saul, they are given a David and a Solomon, because God lovingly waits for them to see their mistake. And when they don’t, He simply let them run the course they had chosen. The message of the Scriptures is very clear to me: to desire a “king” derives from our weak love for God. We do not trust Him, but we trust men and the threatening of force. Despite this abominable sin, God provides for us, now and then, good people to guide the torture machine in a less terrible way, softening the self-imposed pain of a strong central authority.

            To conclude, we have to look at that dreadful moment when both the rule of the masses and the “non-democratic” central authority, as always and once again, joined their forces with a common objective:

            The Jews cried out, saying: “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.(…) Away with {him}, away with {him}, crucify him.”

            Pilate saith unto them, “Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.”

            St. John 19:12,15

            How that resembles the passage in Samuel! It is by this comparison we see that it was a prefiguration of the crucification. “Is this (Man Who is God) not your king?” “No, our king is Cesar!” Again, the trade of the King of All for having a good earthly king to protect us from the heretics.

            Scott, it is not only that his ideology would kill God as I said above. It actually has done it.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            “Now concerning making laws informed by Christian morality. I think this is a desirable endeavour.”

            If you did you wouldn’t have quoted St. John Chrysostom as proof that we shouldn’t.

            “There is no incoherence about the Fathers general attitude and St. John Chrysostom stand against the pious defenders of the faith.”

            Of course not. It is your use of examples that is incoherent. You stated the Fathers refrained from criticizing the form of government because they were concerned with the imperial reaction but then turn around and give examples of what they did when the imperial government “went too far”, whatever that means. If monarchy is intrinsically oppressive, would you not expect a direct challenge to such a great, omnipresent sin?

            “As for what democracy means in public debate, if simply reading about it does not help, have a look at Wikipedia.”

            “Democracy is a political form of government where governing power is derived from the people, either by direct referendum (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy).” – Wiki

            Fabio, name me a democracy that does not hold elections or concede the point. You’re just babbling on this issue.

            “For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force . . .”

            If this means what you seem to be saying it means, then no Christian could ever be part of the government.

            “Under your strong Christian government, God Himself would have been put to jail because He allowed freedom of expression to the serpent, because He allowed Satan to torment Job, whilst all the pharisees would be elavated to the highest ranks for obeying the law to the letter.”

            Not exactly. No legal system can dictate to God. As to the pharisees, Christ Himself said to do as they say, not as they do. They claimed to obey the law to the letter but did not obey either the letter or the spirit of it. No, I don’t think such hypocrisy would be rewarded under a legal system derived from Christian morality. More nonsense.

            “Despite the fact that according to Himself the desire for a ‘king’ equals a denial of God (as seen in Samuel). . .”

            Ah, of course, then if He grants their desire for a king, is He denying Himself? And, of course, the Byzantines were great deniers of God. More babbling.

            “We do not trust Him, but we trust men and the threatening of force. Despite this abominable sin, God provides for us, now and then, good people to guide the torture machine in a less terrible way, softening the self-imposed pain of a strong central authority.”

            And yet St. Paul wrote that the sword is given to the government by God to establish order and punish evil.

            “‘Is this (Man Who is God) not your king?’ ‘No, our king is Cesar!’ Again, the trade of the King of All for having a good earthly king to protect us from the heretics.”

            By your logic any authority other than direct divine rule replaces God’s Kingship with another authority. At bottom, this is anarchy.

            Genesis 35:11
            And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.

            Deuteronomy 17
            14When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;

            15Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

            16But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.

            17Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

            18And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:

            19And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:

            20That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

            1 Timothy 2
            1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
            2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
            3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

            1 Peter 2
            13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
            14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
            15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
            16As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
            17Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

            Fabio, God seems quite tolerant, to say the least, of an inherently deicidal institution, don’t you think?

            Anyway, this has been fun but it’s getting boring. Believe what you will.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I agree that Justinian made a lot of mistakes. One is hiring John of Cappidocia as his eastern prefect. John could be effective but one big mistake he made to save money was cut down the public post from using horses to using mules, which mean’t that public goods travel slower and a lot of farmers produce rotten. The Byzantines didn’t come up with a private post run by large landowners that might have finance this but relied on the state to do this. Also, the Italian campaign Justinaian thought would be over with as fast as the Africian. I would not blame Justinian completely for the decline of the Byzantine or old Roman Empire since some of the emperors after him had problems such as his nephrew Justin the 2nd who had an insanity problem from time to time and tried to fight wars on several fronts. Also, the Plague caused a lot of problems since the population was smaller and had a smaller tax based to draw from, and maybe, the plague made it easier for the avars and lombards to overrun some of the empire.

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      Sure, no single man can destroy an entire culture (although Mao really tried).

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Which brings up a question I still have not answered for myself: Can a monarchy even succeed in a society that is not mono-cultural?

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          Isa Almisry says:

          Sure we call them empires.

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            And the curious thing is that a monarchy *can* be democratic as well, an idea that is not altogether bad *since* the crown in case is one of the powers in the checks and balances system.

            In the 19th century the Brazilian monarchy attempted something that modern monarchies could develop further: the concept of the “fourth power”, the Moderator Power. In short, it consists of keeping the Head of State and Head of Government separate as in a parliamentary system, but giving the “Power of State” certain more active powers that allow it to protect the institution from being taken over by party politics, ideologies and pressure groups. In that system, being monarchical prevented it from depending on party politics – so it was independent fromm the moods of the age.

            In practice, though, the Brazilian Emperor had more power than the minister. A more sophisticated form of that idea would prevent that. Also, there is no need to have a dinastic family as the sole owner of the “fourth power”. A collegiate entity with long term mandates and rotating its numbers 1/3 by 1/3, and with majority from any single party being forbidden would be stable enough to meet the necessary neutrality.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, our founders didn’t want Athenian Democracy but a better verison of the Roman Repubic and they were not influence by protestantism but what they considered the best form of government in the anicent world a republic with checks and balances and this was an idea that of course came from pagan Rome without its flaws that lead to the dicators like Julius Caesar and the emperorship of Augustus.

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      True. The US in particular was never meant to be a democracy in the “vulgar” sense of “rule of the masses”. They knew that strong government and mob mentality go hand-in-hand.

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    Fabio, God seems quite tolerant, to say the least, of an inherently deicidal institution, don’t you think?

    Of course He is. He even allowed it to strike Him in the flesh. And it’s sad to see that confronted even with the sayings of the Fathers and of the Scriptures you would still have an oppresive government over you. Fear not. It’s coming.

    Honour the king.

    “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

    The problem is that you make it a “either God approve of kings or He hates them”. God clearly states the evil that is to have a central strong authority. Soon after he pours His mercy and by miracle provide good people in the place of kings. But from Pharaoh to Pilates to the modern usurpers of hope in the hearts of people, the “strong kings” have always been enemies of God and oppressors of the people *like* He said they would.

    Whether your like it or not the Fathers kept silent when it was prudent and spoke against it when it was necessary. Not a few were slain by the “protectors of the faith”. Many more of the people of God were oppressed by this system even under good pious and wise kings. It was the see outside the power of the emperor that kept Orthodoxy for a thousand years and only after a mad king dominated it, it fell. It was a bishop who would be a king and a king who would be bishop who created the first great schisms that inaugurated the modern age. No wonder that it brought with it the rule of the masses. It was when the power of the emperor diminished in the Romaic empire that it entered its most spiritual period and a champion of faith was raised against the inovations brought by the bishop-king who had advanced the inovations of the Frank king. And the greatest threat that we have from today’s democracy is that people more and more, claim for a strong central authority who would mend everything and make everything right. It is the masses will you so dislike that create the “kings” you so love. Always.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      “God clearly states the evil that is to have a central strong authority.”

      No, He doesn’t. You’re prooftexting.

      “But from Pharaoh to Pilates to the modern usurpers of hope in the hearts of people, the “strong kings” have always been enemies of God and oppressors of the people *like* He said they would.”

      David and Constantine were enemies of God? Well, you’ve outdone yourself.

      “It was the see outside the power of the emperor that kept Orthodoxy for a thousand years and only after a mad king dominated it, it fell.”

      If you mean Rome, it fell into schism over the filioque for a while during the time of Photios.

      Also Pope Honorius, who reigned as bishop of Rome from 625 to 638 A.D., was a monothelite.

      “It is the masses will you so dislike that create the ‘kings’ you so love. Always.”

      That’s just silly.

      As to the rest, it’s not worthy of response.

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        “God clearly states the evil that is to have a central strong authority.”

        No, He doesn’t. You’re proof-texting.

        Yeah right. The apostles recommend to obey a fierce pagan persecutor while not much later a few martyrs gave their blood to not pay respect to the emperor (but, of course, that would be *only* because Roman Emperors demanded worship…), God states in a clear way that the demand for a king is a denial of Himself, the administration of the two greatest kings of the Bible choked their people and led their nation to disaster (including the loss of the Ark) and I am the one prooftexting?

        The problem with the “God loves strong central authorities” argument is that it values more the positive verses about the issue than the negative ones when they have to be taken into account equally.

        If you put both the positive and negative verses about “central strong authorities” together, instead of putting the positive ones above the negative ones so to relativize then, it stands clear that it is something God states clearly He does not want (in the OT in I Samuel 8 and in the NT in Luke 22:24-26, Mark 10:42-43, Mat. 20:25-27) and a typical temptation of the devil (Mat 4:8-10, Luke 4:5-8). The OT admonition is strong enough to say that it is a denial of God Himself, which the temptation verses above confirm very clearly. But, in His mercy, God does provide and anoint good kings, and because obedience is good we are to be obedient to everything life gives us, including the king, if he does not lead us to go against God. Good kings may and have been produced despite putting our trust on strong central authorities being evil in itself.

        Another thing I think it’s important to remember is to defuse the idea that this is a dichotomy between a strong central authority or chaos. There are several things in the middle. The ship needs both the anchor and the sails.

        Also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, it is in the U.S., with its imperfect democracy as it may be, that Orthodoxy has thrived in the West. Because of the liberty the country provides and despite having no king to support it. Here in Latin America, which has suffered the burden of numerous regimes of “protectors of the people”, it is a feeble decimal number below one, closer to zero. It is because of American democracy that the U.S. has so many seminaries, monasteries and a plethora of lay and ecclesiatical institutions. And, to concede a point, all this was made possible because truly there was a strong protector of the people in the U.S. Only that it was not a king, but the Constitution, protecting both the rights of the born-Americans and of the legal immigrants. It is on this federal, constitutional, democratic country that Orthodoxy could grow in the West, while the centralized regimes of Europe and Asia were simply doing their thing.

        Truly “honour the king” then. In the case of our countries, the king is the Constitution. It is anointed and appointed by God. Honour it, ask God to protect it on your prayers against its enemies and wish it a long life and you’ll both obey the commandment and be part of one of the most amazing and successful experiences in history.

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          Scott Pennington says:

          Fabio, (and this will be my last word on this because as I said before it is becoming boring) I just realized this morning that something you wrote about last night proves my point better than perhaps anything either I or you have written above:

          As I count them, there were four institutions that judged Christ at the time of his Passion. 1) The sanhedrin, 2) King Herod Antipas, the Jewish (actually Idumean) ethnarch, 3) the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate and 4) the crowd at his trial by Pilate.

          Of these, in the end, 3 institutions condemned Him (one of them only very reluctantly) and the other one did not.

          Guess which one did not. The only king involved, Herod.

          Guess which one was very reluctant to condemn Him, and only did so at the insistence of the demos. The Roman Procurator.

          Christ was arrested by the temple guard. He was tried before an assembly, the Sanhedrin. They operated under a “rule of law”, the Law of Moses and procedural rules including rules of evidence and for the qualification and impeachment of witnesses. Now, there certainly was no popularly elected body at the time. However, the Sanhedrin was composed of judges from many towns in the country and so it was representative of widespread opinion within Judea at the time. Its members had to be qualified by scholarship and having served in a number of lesser offices before being admitted.

          This body, although there was a process of witness testimony, cross-examination and debate (your “rule of law”), condemned Him after His claim of divinity which, under the Law as they understood it, was blasphemy.

          King Herod never condemned Christ. Christ was passed back and forth between him and Pilate because neither of them wanted to condemn Him or be reponsible for doing so.

          There is no record that the Caeser in Rome at the time had any problem with Christ. His procurator made every effort to release Christ. At first, he announced that he could find no fault with Him. He attempted to evade the question by sending him to Herod. When pressed, Pilate had Him flogged. He tried to appease the feelings of the demos by releasing a zealot named Barabbas instead. In the end, only after the people cried out “We have no King but Caesar!” (as you so ably pointed out) did Pilate reluctantly condemn Him. However, the people were not proclaiming their love for Caesar. Jews at the time had no love for Caesar. The Sadducees, of course, were the most sycophantic group, but they were merely taking advantage of the situation. What the people, and their agitators, were stating by saying that they had no king but Caesar was that Pilate was being disloyal, even treasonous, to the Roman Emperor if he did not condemn someone who claimed kingship in opposition to Roman authority.

          “Upon this Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.’” – John 19:12

          So, Fabio, there you have it. In the Gospels themselves the most representative organizations, the demos and the Sanhedrin (the latter operating under its rules of law and procedure) were the most eager entities to condemn Christ. The only king involved refused to. And the Roman representative only did so under profound coercion (by the people and agitators from the assembly).

          Not exactly a commercial for your point of view, is it?

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Scott can’t abide the notion that we have radical freedom — so radical that it includes the freedom to disobey — or even crucify — our Creator. Yet it is in coming to terms with this freedom that real freedom is discovered and obtained. Solzhenitsyn said the same thing in different words at Harvard:

      If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

      Solzhenitsyn described here that deep intuition we all sense but can’t resolve: Is the world ending or at the cusp of cataclysmic change? And if we don’t rise to the “new level,” is the only option at best a descent into totalitarianism or at worst conflagration?

      The warning is already here. It’s the Islamic threat that functions with a totalitarian certitude that the Marxist could only dream about given its belief in absolute law that flows from the will of God. (You can see here how secularists weaned on the Nestorianism that afflicts most of non-sacramental Protestantism discover familiar echoes in Islamic teaching. You can even see why they might embrace Islam once they become inured to its inherent brutality.)

      For the rest of us the Islamic threat is the same threat Israel faced from the Assyrians of the north. Call it a judgment, the kind that comes into being because of the weaknesses engendered by our own sins.

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        Scott Pennington says:

        “Scott can’t abide the notion that we have radical freedom — so radical that it includes the freedom to disobey — or even crucify — our Creator.”

        Since Fr. Johannes has nothing relevant to offer, he resorts to his old accusation that I deny God’s grant of freedom. I have attempted to explain this to him before and I simply have to conclude he is a liar who prefers to engage in slander. He resorts to falsehoods about what I can and cannot abide. I have amply demonstrated that the freedom God has granted us is the freedom to choose good or evil, not the freedom to escape the consequences of our actions. The rules of any society, whatever the government, restrict our freedom and impose consequences. In asserting that I have a problem with the freedom God has granted mankind, he shows himself as dishonorable and dishonest.

        No sane person advocates the freedom to murder, rape, commit incest, theft, etc. My point has always been – - and Fr. Johannes knows it all too well – - that a government based on the will of the people is incapable of defining the true good as good and the true evil as evil and thus applying the necessary consequences to misbehavior (just as God has done Himself and every governmeent respectful of Him has done). Fr. Johannes refuses to engage me on the merits of that argument but instead asserts falsely, and knowingly and willfuly so, that I deny the gift of God’s freedom. He says it despite the fact he knows it’s a lie since he knows that the modern representative government he advocates is a relatively recent invention in the history of mankind. This is the equivalent of asserting some “new dispensation” from God or of asserting, as the apostate Episcopalians do, that “God is doing a new thing.” How could this modern representative government be equal to God’s gift of freedom? In fact, contrary to all Christian morality and the examples of government found in Scripture and in the Orthodox world prior to present age, in the Modern Age that Solzhenitsyn spoke of we have abortion on demand, normalization of homosexuality, destruction of the family, normalization of promiscuity, etc. All these are examples of radical freedom.

        The modern era not only tramples our spiritual being, it destroys the very fabric of our society and results in a body count in this country alone of 50 million dead unborn babies in the last 37 years. There’s radical freedom. I guess many of those who are lucky enough to have survived birth, including, tragically, some of our own Orthodox clergy, are ready to sacrifice another 50 million unborn at the feet of Lady Liberty together with our society’s sense of decency, the institution of the family, etc.

        Fr. Johannes’ idolatry is that he loves a modern political concept more than God or Orthodoxy.

        Oh well, bridges burned, over and out forever.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          Actually, all the problems you cited are problems of radical disobedience, not radical freedom. Freedom preexists the act, that is why we can label an act as right or wrong. And no kind of government can restrain the chaos of the heart if a person chooses (freedom again) the chaos over order. That is precisely why John Adams said that the American constitutional government can only succeed with a moral and virtuous people.

          Can you show me any example where governments were able to restrain human passions? I don’t think they can which leads all decisions about the preferred type of government into a “two cheers” category. And given the alternatives, the representative democracy of America has not done too bad (not three cheers necessarily), but enough certainly that your dismissal of it strikes me as rash.

          Fr. Johannes refuses to engage me on the merits of that argument but instead asserts falsely, and knowingly and willfuly so, that I deny the gift of God’s freedom. He says it despite the fact he knows it’s a lie since he knows that the modern representative government he advocates is a relatively recent invention in the history of mankind.

          I don’t say you deny freedom, I say that you can’t abide it, that you would prefer to see authoritarian structures in place that would regulate behavior with a stronger arm. I argue this is not possible. I’ve never seen a system that fits your prescription. Do you have an example in mind?

          (BTW, Fabio was writing such excellent posts that there was little I could add to them. I learned from him. That’s why I was silent for so long.)

          Here’s the problem Scott: the stronger authority is centralized, the more control it has over your life. Don’t assume that the morality the authorities choose to enforce will be one of your liking. You can assume however, that if it is not, you will have no recourse in challenging it (unless of course you consent to martyrdom). If by chance they do choose the morality you like, then those that object are the left without recourse so the same holds true for them. The point here is not that morality is relative, the point is that adjudicating structures have to exist so that these questions can be resolved without bloodshed.

          I know how you “hear” this. You hear the entire apparatus collapsing into a relativistic thud. I argue that the freedom offers the potential for true restoration and renewal to occur. There still is a whole lot in American society worth preserving and thus worth fighting for. I’m not ready to give up on it yet.

          I’m not sure either where your ideal form of government exists, or where it ever existed. I think you grant governments a credibility that more rightfully belongs to Christianized culture. As the culture becomes increasingly de-Christianized, the institutions built on that ground will become increasingly unstable. This is as true of Monarchy as it is of representative Republics.

          I’m not arguing for laxity here. I think a lot of laws need stricter enforcement (why we don’t regulate porn but regulate cigarette advertising is confusion, IMO — regulate both). But the moral collapse is not a function of what government you have (Soviet Russia suffered moral collapse under the strongest possible government at the time – they are still recovering from it), but a function of the hearts of the governed.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            “I argue that the freedom offers the potential for true restoration and renewal to occur.”

            And if that is all you had argued, although I disagree with you, I would not have stated the above (which I stand by).

            “I don’t say you deny freedom, I say that you can’t abide it, that you would prefer to see authoritarian structures in place that would regulate behavior with a stronger arm. I argue this is not possible. I’ve never seen a system that fits your prescription. Do you have an example in mind?”

            There is no ideal government anywhere. I have never suggested once that there is and I defy anyone to produce something to the contrary. It is a simple fact that it is possible for authoritarian structures to regulate behavior with a stronger arm. You are being dishonest (again) in denying this. In any society where, for example, abortion is illegal, while it will not stop all abortions, it cannot seriously be argued that it will not reduce the abortion rate. In the seven-year period from 1973 to 1979, the number of abortions more than doubled, whether we take the CDC’s estimated numbers (from 615,831 to 1,251,921) or the Gutttmacher Institute’s numbers (from 744,600 to 1,497,700). If this fundamental cause and effect of law is denied, then there is no basis whatsoever for the rule of law since legislation would have no effect on public behavior at all. If you’re seriously suggesting that then you’re being disingenous. The problem is that you’re terrified of authoritarian government and so you are willing to support a system which is indefensible because, having cleared the womb and being relatively safe from violent persecution at the moment, you don’t really feel the stakes.

            You want to criticize me based on a false and dishonest premise: that I’m pursuing some type of perfection. I have freely and repeatedly stated here numerous times that sin will certainly continue in a more authoritarian society. What is also indisputable I think though is that democracies (and I’m using the term broadly to encompass most Western governments) do a pitiful job of even maintaining traditional Christian morality as the legal norm. Dramatically worse that traditional Christian societies whether it be Tsarist Russia, Byzantium or what have you.

            “I’m not arguing for laxity here. I think a lot of laws need stricter enforcement (why we don’t regulate porn but regulate cigarette advertising is confusion, IMO — regulate both). But the moral collapse is not a function of what government you have (Soviet Russia suffered moral collapse under the strongest possible government at the time – they are still recovering from it), but a function of the hearts of the governed.”

            You are, perhaps unwittingly, arguing for laxity. Regardless of what you “think” or “feel” about laws needing stricter enforcement, your voice is one out of 120 million of the electorate and because democracy caters to the passions rather than to the public good, what you or I think about laxity versus strictness means nothing and the society, playing to the tune of representative government and herded by the media, will establish not only laxity but liscentiousness as normal. We needn’t argue about the inevitability of this since it has happened in every democratic country without exception.

            That the Soviet government was also monstrous is no defense. I have always argued for a more authoritarian government tied to the Church. Democracy is of a kind with Communism. Man is the measure of all things. Yes, “we” defeated Communism. Now the task is to defeat the “rights/entitlement” culture that must always emerge in democracies. It will shortly have more blood on its hands than Hitler. Far more than the Khmer Rouge.

            What really bothered me however is this recurrent accusation by you that I am denying the freedom God has given mankind.

            “Scott can’t abide the notion that we have radical freedom — so radical that it includes the freedom to disobey — or even crucify — our Creator.”

            “One quick question. Where you ever a follower of Calvin’s teachings? I ask because Calvin denied man’s natural capacity for freedom in much the same way you do (he was afraid of it I think).”

            There have been previous incidences as well but there’s no use in taking the time to look them up. In the first quote, your statement is sort of meaningless. It is simply a matter of physics that one or more people, if they are more powerful and band together, could crucify someone. I’m not sure what freedom you mean unless it’s that I’m denying (or failing to abide) freedom from God. This, of course is absurd. God gave Moses the Law, inspired the actions of Great Synods and gave us commandments in the New Testament – - each and every action circumscribing freedom – - sometimes with dire consequences.

            If you’re not saying that I’m denying God’s gift of freedom to man (which if you’re talking about what He has revealed in history must be the absolute freedom to do good or evil – - but certainly not to be immune from consequences) then the most sense I can make out of these repeated accusations is that you’re suggesting that I’m denying the human capacity to consistently, individually or collectively, use their absolute freedom (i.e., to do whatever they are physically capable of) wisely.

            If that is what you suggest, then I think all rational people would agree. Hence the need for governments.

            What really though seems to animate you is this idea that there is something uniquely good and inspired by God about Enlightenment Liberalism. But, to say the least, that ignores the current predicament faced by all cultures originally animated by this spirit – - murderous, ruinous self-destruction. But, apparently, that spell will not let you go regardless of its increasingly aggressive anti-Christian nature as evidenced by the title and contents of the article above.

            I sincerely believe that my last post was accurate and needed to be written. You have knowingly, repeatedly misrepresented my opinions and what you are doing by perpetuating the idea that our system can maintain any relationship to decency in the face of all evidence to the contrary is to try to serve two conflicting masters.

            Adieu Fr. Johannes, and may God have mercy on us both. I leave you the last word.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    What really though seems to animate you is this idea that there is something uniquely good and inspired by God about Enlightenment Liberalism.

    Not quite. I see something good and inspired in Classical Liberalism, much in the same you see something good in (presumably) monarchy — you still are not clear about it and have failed to give an example. Did I miss it? Classical Liberalism is 1) pessimistic about the perfectibility of man (particularly when coerced); and 2) resolutely aware of man as a moral being. This of course is something entirely different than Enlightenment Liberalism, which, as Solzhenitsyn said was the seed bed of totalitarianism (actually he said that Rousseau was the father of totalitarianism). Solzhenitsyn affirmed American Democracy too BTW, while simultaneously warning about the creeping materialism in culture. He does not offer the wild-eyed and ignorant endorsement you accuse me of making, but it is no endorsement of authoritarianism either (certainly not the kind you seem to be defending, anyway).

    Now the task is to defeat the “rights/entitlement” culture that must always emerge in democracies. It will shortly have more blood on its hands than Hitler. Far more than the Khmer Rouge.

    We do? These are strong words. Are you sure you want to draw an equivalency between the United States and Nazi Germany or Pol Pot’s Cambodia? And where is that blood spilled? — in abortion clinics, is that what you mean? Do you have any real sense of the darkness, depravity, and terror the Khmer Rouge fostered on the people of Cambodia, or Mao on the Chinese, or Stalin on the Russians?

    What strikes me as contradictory is this: You decry the (libertine) liberalism of culture (I do too) but your prescription is exactly the same as the liberals: Ever deepening government encroachment into private life. The only difference is that your agenda opposes theirs. So I agree with you that the rights/entitlement culture needs some serious fixing (we can’t afford it anymore either) but I don’t see how your prescription differs in any substantive way from the liberals you decry.

    You know we already tried this twice – Cromwell and Calvin. Both ended poorly.

    God gave Moses the Law, inspired the actions of Great Synods and gave us commandments in the New Testament – – each and every action circumscribing freedom – – sometimes with dire consequences.

    The freedom I am describing (you are free to obey or disobey God) can’t be circumscribed although behavior can. Read Victor Frankel to see that freedom is more than your present circumstance. Moreover, internal freedom is also what gives the external freedoms their value, and the abuse of those external freedoms cannot negate their value although it may cause them to be lost.

    Therein lies the difference between you and me Scott — I value the freedom more than you do I think, and its abuse does not lower that value one iota.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Self-willed and self-determined actions, doing what is good in our own eyes and turning away from God leads to suffering and destruction. The real freedom starts with Christ. He said “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Freedom starts when we are living entirely for Christ. We need to become empty, to live like nothing we own is ours, but it was given to us from God. We must not cling to our desires but to enslave them to the power of our soul, to acquire a clean mind, and to “turn and become like children”. “Love is the fulfillment of the Law, for love does no wrong to your neighbor.” The complicated mechanism of human society remains positive when the individuals are united in faith and love towards one another, through Christ our Lord. Any other way leads to self-destruction and our contemporary world is the sad confirmation that we failed, and that we are on the wrong path.

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    According to the laws of the pious Roman empire we would all be condemned by now:

    1.1.4. Emperor Marcian to Pahhadius, Praetorian Prefect.

    1. No clergyman or person in the imperial service, or any one else of any other calling, shall hereafter attempt to discuss the Christian creed in an assembled crowd able to hear, seeking thereby an opportunity for tumult and disloyalty. For whoever tries to disturb and publicly discuss questions once determined and rightly disposed of, insults the judgment of the religious Synod (of Chalcedon), inasmuch as it is known that the decisions concerning the Christian faith of the bishops assembled by our order at Chalcedon, are in accord with the apostolic expositions and the decrees of the 318 and 150 holy fathers (at Nicea and Constantinople) [emphasis added].

    2. Punishment shall not fail those who disregard this law, because they not only act contrary to the rightly expounded faith, but also, by such strife, profane the venerable mysteries before Jews and Pagans. If a clergyman, therefore, dares to publicly discuss religion, he shall be removed from the community of the clergy; if he is in the imperial service he shall lose his girdle of service; all others who are guilty of such crime shall, if they are free men, be expelled from this holy city and shall be subjected to proper punishment, in accordance with judicial vigor; if they are slaves, the most severe punishment shall be inflicted upon them [emphasis added].

    Given at Constantinople February 7 (452).

    From the Novels of the Justinian Code.

    (View pdf. Scroll down to 1.1.4 on page 4.)

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    Michael Bauman says:

    One of the problems we have in in this discussion, IMO, is that there is a difficulty in separating a proper hierachical ordering of human social structures from an improper one. A proper hierarchy is built on the greater responsibilities of the governing to the governed in which the hierarchical office is one of service rather than an opportunity for self-enrichment in money and power.

    Without some form of hierarchy there is no government, there is no order. The difficulty with the ‘rule of law’ in the current cultural atmosphere of rights and entitlements is that it is more often used as a tool of disorder rather than of order. Case in point: the recent decision of the EEOC to forbid employers to inquire or use information about an applicant’s credit history or criminal background in making employment decisions. To do so is ‘discrimination’. The logical end point of this type of ‘law’ is that an employer will have to hire anyone who asks for a job even if there are no jobs available. Anarchy

    The solution to anarchy is tryanny. Those who refuse to govern themselves will be governed. Order is essential to life.

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