April 21, 2014

Pope to American Bishops: Secularism Threatens Liberty, Church Must Respond

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Freedom detached from moral truth, said Pope Benedict XVI in a recent address to American Catholic Bishops, reflects an "extreme individualism" that requires response from the (Catholic) Church. This is an argument not limited to Catholics alone (see: "Has Europe Lost its Soul" by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks) and includes the Orthodox as well (see: "With the Rise of Militant Secularism, Rome and Moscow Make Common Cause"). "The Gospel," said Pope Benedict, "proclaims unchanging moral truths," as indeed it does. If those truths are not proclaimed, particularly in the cauldron of moral confusion that characterizes Western Culture today, then we can conclude that fidelity to the Gospel does not exist. This is a hard saying but true: if religious leaders remain silent on the moral issues that have become flashpoints in the culture, then it is time to question whether they really comprehend this gospel that they say they guard. The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be conflated to a political … [Read more...]

Has Europe Lost Its Soul?

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"The religious roots of the market economy and of democratic capitalism...were produced by a culture saturated in the values of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, and market economics was originally intended to advance those values." "When Europe recovers its soul, it will recover its wealth-creating energies. But first it must remember: humanity was not created to serve markets. Markets were created to serve humankind." Source: Office of the Chief Rabbi |Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks Delivered at The Pontifical Gregorian University on 12th December 2011. As the political leaders of Europe come together to try to save the euro, and with it the very project of European Union, I believe the time has come for religious leaders to do likewise, and I want to explain why. What I hope to show in this lecture, is first, the religious roots of the market economy and of democratic capitalism. They were produced by a culture saturated in the values of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, and … [Read more...]

Philosophy and Contentment in the Age of Radical Skepticism

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This is an outstanding essay by Dr. Pedro Blas González, a professor of philosophy at Barry University of Miami and occasional contributor to OrthodoxyToday.org. Dr. González analyzes the sickness of contemporary culture with penetrating moral clarity of the kind only given to those whose touchstone is not of this world. Some highlights: What is it about utopian types - those legions of reality-loathing radical skeptics - wretched souls who are incapable of finding contentment in life from anything that does not resemble a political category? If we had to identify the core pathology that defines our age, one which will serve as the definitive point of contention in understanding our time by future generations, that would have to be our incessant conditioning by social/political/economic engineers to make us conceive of happiness as the result of entitlement. The epistemological and moral aberrations that children are made to learn in public schools today are simply mind … [Read more...]

Renewing Christendom: T.S. Eliot – The Journey of the Magi [AUDIO]

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Below is a rare recording taken from a live interview T.S. Eliot did for the BBC during World War II. Eliot reads his poem "The Journey of Magi" where the sojourner retraces the steps of the Magi in his own time and place. The poem recalls a time when the knowledge of Christ was more widespread than it is today, and those who have come to the Orthodox faith and grasped the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that rests at its center, like a babe lying in the manger, will understand its penetration into the symbolic, and thus sacred, dimensions of every day existence. I have included both the poem and a literary analysis alongside it that was written in 1956. We might quibble with the critic's exaggerated sense of existential despair when he asserts that the new birth brings no new hope or clarified vision (the latter apparent in the last line), but overall it's a fair-minded reading. Much literary criticism, like much historiography, was better before ideology captured the minds of … [Read more...]

The Limits of Secularism

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An outsanding analysis by the Chief Rabbi of England Lord Sacks. Some highlights: In 1997...I argued that the world had moved on since (Isaiah) Berlin's great 1957 lecture "Two Concepts of Liberty" (.pdf), and that the threat to liberty was now different: not totalitarianism but rather the internal moral decay of free societies. So there it is: the evidence that intellectuals have systematically misunderstood the nature of religion and religious observance and have constantly been thinking, for the better part of three centuries, that religion was about to disappear, yet it hasn't. In certain parts of the world it is growing. The 21st century is likely to be a more religious century than the 20th. It is interesting that religion is particularly growing in places like China where the economy is growing. We must ask ourselves why this is, because it is actually very odd indeed. Think about it: every function that was once performed by religion can now be done by something else. … [Read more...]

Cultural Legacy of Communism: Armenian Women Still Have Average of 8 and as High as 20 Abortions in Lifetime

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When the Berlin Wall fell everyone pondered the ramifications as East Germany rejoined their Western brothers and presumably in a few short years catapult Germany to even higher economic prominence. It didn't happen. As it turned out, all it takes to weaken a culture is one generation. Sixty years can wipe values and habits that took generations to accrue. Russia proves the same point. Cultural rebuilding is a slower process than we would like, which also compels us to protect the things that remain. If the first things are lost they take a long time to restore, if ever. In the essay below writer Ben Johnson examines the abortion rates of once Christian Armenia after the call of Communism and reveals that the restoration of human value will be hard fought. Fortunately the Orthodox Church is starting to speak out. Orthodox writer and ethicist Vigen Guroian is quoted: "I cannot understand why the Armenian people are committing genocide against themselves now, when they’ve endured … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Jonah at the American Enterprise Institute, December 6, 2011 [Video]

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Below is the video of Metropolitan Jonah's talk at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) held on December 6, 2011. The event was introduced by Eric Teetsel of AEI, and Fr. Gregory Jenson introduced Met. Jonah. The title of the talk was "Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: Faith in a Consumerist Society" with a The following post event description was provided by AEI: Many Christians struggle to balance their faith with the increasing emphasis on consumerism and material goods in today's society. In a keynote address Tuesday evening at AEI, the Orthodox Church in America's Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, discussed how Christians should respond to these societal pressures. He began by emphasizing the battle between consumerism and materialism, defining the former as the ultimate fruit of secularism. Fr. Jonah stressed the dehumanizing nature of a consumerist society and the moral dangers associated with reducing human life to a monetary … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Jonah to speak at the American Enterprise Institute on Faith in a Consumerist Society on December 6, 2011

Metropolitan Jonah

The average American income is 10 percent greater today than 30 years ago, yet the debt burden of American households has more than doubled over the same time period. How should a person of faith deal with the pressures of a consumer society? At what point does materialism begin to corrupt? How does our faith influence our pursuit of material prosperity? In a keynote address, the Orthodox Church in America’s Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, will address these questions and more, providing insight into how persons of faith might deal with the challenges brought by the consumer age. A pizza dinner will be provided. More information: The American Enterprise Institute Introduction by Fr. Gregory Jenson of Koinonia Live video streaming available on the American Enterprise Institute website. Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: Faith in a Consumerist Society Tuesday, December 06, 2011 | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m Agenda 5:15 … [Read more...]

After the Desert: A Faithful Catholic’s Reflection on Same-Sex Attraction

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Steve Gershom (a pseudonym), the author of the following essay, is a faithful Catholic who has abandoned the homosexual life-style. Gershom affirms many points made earlier on the AOI Observer: the term gay, or even homosexual describes behavior and should never be construed ontologically, as a constituent of self-identity; homosexual actions are always sinful; the life of celibacy is not to be understood as a life of sexual self-denial, but at as a vocation (just as marriage is a vocation); that chastity is a means of self-integration and even joy; and more. Where Gersham succeeds very well is putting a human face on the struggle with same-sex attraction. All passions effect some kind of orientation. When the struggle against passion is begun in earnest however, the false self constructed within the orientation loses its grip as the real self starts to emerge. The author has, and is, experiencing the liberation in ways that anyone, even those who do not struggle with same-sex … [Read more...]

Nigel Farage on the EU Descent into Bureaucratic Facism and Roger Scruton on the Recovery of Western Culture [VIDEO]

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Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, delivered a stinging rebuke to European Union bureaucrats recently accusing them of using the mechanisms of the EU to stifle democratic forces in Europe. The UKIP leader says Europe's crisis is 'like an Agatha Christie novel', trying to guess who'll be bumped off next. 'The difference is we know who the villains are' (City Wire). For background see: On Germany and Britain (and others). Following Farage's rebuke is a lecture by philosopher Roger Scruton. Scruton, arguably one the clearest thinkers speaking on culture and politics today, argues for the recovery and restoration of Western Culture. Scruton can always be trusted for insights not heard in mainstream discourse such as questioning what would happen if the Russian Federation would crumble and cause a immigration crisis in Western Europe, a good question. Another is his criticism of Western Elites concerning the assumption that majority opinion is de-facto wrong simply … [Read more...]

Frank Schaeffer’s Fundamentalist Fakery

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From the article: "Schaeffer’s Orthodox history might be inconvenient to him today because based on the Church’s teachings — sanctity of life, sexuality, marriage, a hyper-patriarchal priesthood — it looks a lot like the dimwitted “Taliban” Christians and “fundamentalists” that Schaeffer spends so much time denouncing of late. Then again, you can hardly go around advertising the fact that you spent years proselytizing on behalf of traditional morality if, today, you want to maximize your page views on HuffPo and get MSNBC producers to call you back." Source: Acton Institute | John Couretas Frank Schaeffer: Bachmann, Palin, Perry Use Religion Like Snake Oil Salesmen (2011) Remaining Orthodox in a Secular World : A Sermon by Frank Schaeffer (2002) Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), has a story on FrontPageMag.com about Frank Schaeffer’s call for the Occupy Wall Street protesters to go after Evangelical Christians. … [Read more...]

With the Rise of Militant Secularism, Rome and Moscow Make Common Cause

Pat. Kyrill and Pope Benedict

The Acton Institute just published my essay. Source: Acton Institute | Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse The European religious press is abuzz over recent developments in Orthodox – Catholic relations that indicate both Churches are moving closer together. The diplomatic centerpiece of the activity would be a meeting of Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kyrill of the Russian Orthodox Church that was first proposed by Pope John Paul II but never realized. Some look to a meeting in 2013 which would mark the 1,700th anniversary of the signing of the Edict of Milan when Constantine lifted the persecution of Christians. It would be the first visit between the Pope of Rome and Patriarch of Moscow in history. A few short years ago a visit between Pope and Patriarch seemed impossible because of lingering problems between the two Churches as they reasserted territorial claims and began the revival of the faith in post-Soviet Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The relationship grew tense at times and while … [Read more...]