April 17, 2014

In the Wake of the Election

Whether your guy won or lost on Tuesday (mine came in second) you have to marvel at this very exceptional nation called America. And, indeed, the whole world is doing just that. In an editorial, the Times of London described the election as a "Masterclass in Democracy": The world has been fascinated and profoundly moved by this election most of all because of what America is — a nation founded on universal aspirations, and thus a mirror to humanity. For two centuries that mirror has seemed irreparably cracked by the legacy of slavery and segregation, a pernicious and enduring racism that remains a factor in the blighted lives of so many of the poor blacks among whom Mr Obama launched his political career. He is not the last role model they will ever need, but he is the most powerful proof his country has produced that it is ready to judge them by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin. The world watched as 121 million Americans peacefully went to the polls and … [Read more...]

New study: The Orthodox Church Today

The Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, based in Berkeley, Calif., has released what it is calling "the first national survey based study of the laity, ordinary church members, in the two largest Orthodox Churches in the United States: the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)." To a significant degree, PAOI said, the study reflects the profile of an entire Orthodox community in the United States. "The Orthodox Church Today" study addressed four broad questions: -- What is the "image" of the Orthodox clergy in the eyes of the "people in the pews?" -- To what extent do the social and religious attitudes of the ordinary parishioners reflect those of their parish priests? -- What do church members think about patterns of Church life in their local parishes? -- What do laity think about various issues dealing with "Democracy and Pluralism in the chirch," "Changes and Innovations in the Church," and "religious "Particularism' … [Read more...]

The Late, Refined Flower of Culture

Russian emigre philosopher Georgy Fedotov (1888-1951) proposed two basic principles for all of the freedoms by which modern democracy lives. First, and most valuable, there are the freedoms of "conviction" -- in speech, in print, and in organized social activity. These freedoms, Fedotov asserted, developed out of the freedom of faith. The other principle of freedom "defends the individual from the arbitrary will of the state (which is independent of questions of conscience and thought) -- freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment, from insult, plundering and coercion on the part of the organs of power ... " In an ideal world, all of these freedoms would be present. But Fedotov also cautioned that "freedom is the late, refined flower of culture." For the flower to bloom, the roots need to be watered. A free society, from the ground up, requires a respect for the rule of law, a judiciary and police force that aren't easily bought, a political culture that knows how to rid itself … [Read more...]