August 29, 2014

An Eastern Orthodox Case for Property Rights


Fr. Jensen: ...[P]roperty rights are not a panacea – protecting and enhancing private ownership will not cure all that ails us personally or socially. Nor can we separate the exercise of our right to property from the moral law or, for Christians, the Gospel. But Orthodox social thought does I think allow us to make a convincing case that property rights are a key element of human flourishing, a necessary ingredient of a just society, and an aid to Christian ministry. Rooted as it is in human nature, it is also a right that can help us see the dignity of all members of the human family and of the ability that all of us – rich or poor, male or female, young or old – have to serve the flourishing of those around us, our society and the Church. Source: Action Institute | Fr. Gregory Jensen As a pastor, I’ve been struck by the hostility, or at least suspicion, that some Orthodox Christians reveal in their discussions of private property. While there are no doubt … [Read more...]

Orthodox Speakers at Acton University – 2013 [Audio]


Acton University is a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology, and sound economics. At this year’s event, the following Orthodox speakers were featured: Fr. Gregory Jensen, Fr. Michael Butler and Fr. Johannes Jacobse. Audio courtesy of Ancient Faith Radio. Audio is available for purchase at the Acton Institute. Listen here: East Meets West: Consumerism and Asceticism Fr. Gregory Jensen Asceticism is concerned with the “inner transformation of the human person, in his being progressively conformed to Christ.” Understood in this way, asceticism has a foundational role to play in any Christian response to the practical and anthropological challenges of consumerism. Orthodoxy and Natural Law Fr. Michael Butler Eastern Orthodoxy is … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jensen – Canons and Guns: An Eastern Orthodox Response to a HuffPo Writer


Source: Acton Institute Power Blog | Fr. Gregory Jensen Several of my friends on Facebook pages posted a link to David Dunn’s Huffington Post essay on gun control (An Eastern Orthodox Case for Banning Assault Weapons). As Dylan Pahman posted earlier today, Dunn, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, is to be commended for bringing the tradition of the Orthodox Church into conversation with contemporary issues such as gun control. As a technical matter, to say nothing for the credibility of his argument, it would be helpful if he understood the weapons he wants to ban. Contrary to what he thinks, semi-automatic weapons can’t “fire a dozen shots before a fallen deer even hits the ground.” Like many he confuses machine guns (which are illegal anyway) and semi-automatic weapons (not “assault weapons”). Putting this aside I have a couple of objections to his application of a principle from the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church, economia, to the Second Amendment’s protection of the … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jensen On Our (Orthodox Christianity’s) Cultural Failings


Fr. Gregory Jensen wrote the following response to my essay (Catholic Online: The Republic is Finished and the America We Knew is Gone). It's good, really good in fact, and I am posting it here to generate discussion that not only analyzes the reason for the present decline but to generate discussion of where to go from here. Excerpt: American Orthodoxy is as secular as the rest of America. Like the Catholic Church and the various Protestant communities...we have discovered that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song. Thank you to Fr Hans Jacobse for his recent essay (Catholic Online: The Republic is Finished and the America We Knew is Gone) and for the many thoughtful comments it has inspired. As to whether or not the latest decision of the SCOTUS supporting the constitutionality of the Patient Affordability Act is the end of the Republic or not I can’t say. If however our' Republic is rooted in virtue understood as the … [Read more...]

Christmas Too Commercialized? Bah! Humbug!


Source: Koinonia A sermon by Fr. Gregory Jenson. From both the left and the right then, we hear attacks of the contemporary American celebration of Christmas. Every year about this time you can be certain that someone—and not necessarily a Christian—will write an essay lamenting the secularization or the commercialization of Christmas. And for the last several years I have dutiful read these woeful litanies about how we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. Typically Christians on the cultural and political right complain about how Christmas has become secularized. These individuals are offended when they hear “Happy Holidays!” rather than “Merry Christmas!” in the stores and malls where they are shopping. Just as predictably, Christians on the political and cultural left will take others to task for the commercialization of Christmas. In tones as woeful and self-righteous as their opposite numbers on the right, they will express … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jensen: Moral Imagination, Moral Disciple and American Culture


Over at Koinonia, Fr. Gregory Jensen writes on the remark by G.K. Chesterton that "America is a country with the soul of a Church." It was true when Chesterton first said it and it remains true today (as the French never stop reminding us). The problem, Fr. Gregory writes, is that "America is still Christian in the same way that Woodrow Wilson was still Presbyterian — we have all of it, except for the Jesus part." "There are," writes Fr. Gregory, "few things as dangerous as a Christian sensibility without Jesus. We have everything we need, except for the blood on the altar. We have it all, and have managed to do this in such a manner as to have nothing." A portion of this compelling essay is copied below. Source: Koinonia | Fr. Gregory Jensen Douglas Wilson writing at Blog and Mablog observes that Chesterton once said that America was a nation with the soul of church. And when he said it, it was true enough. But today we are a nation with the soul of a mainline … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jensen: Time to End Clergy Tax Breaks?

Fr. Gregory Jensen

Source: Acton Institute | Fr. Gregory Jensen Unless you are a member of the clergy or involved with the finances of a church or temple, you probably don’t know that since 1921 the federal government has subsidized a congregation’s remuneration of its pastor.  This happens through the extension of a housing or “parsonage allowance” that makes it possible for an ordained member of the clergy to live “tax-free in a home owned by his or her religious organization or receive a tax-free annual payment to buy or rent a home if the congregation approves.” Originally, this was meant as a way of helping “minimize taxes on clergy members, whose compensation was often meager.” Recent court cases have extended “the parsonage allowance to an unlimited number of homes, which may be owned either by the religious organization or the clergy member. However unintentionally, in doing this the courts may have opened “the door for the … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jenson: Conscience and the Christian Life of Virtue


If you are not a regular reader of Fr. Gregory Jensen's blog Koinonia, bookmark, subscribe, or run down to your nearest internet cafe now! Seriously, Fr. Jensen offers some of the most cogent reflections on the Christian life (drawing deep from the Orthodox moral tradition) of any internet commentator that I know. "As iron sharpens iron, so sharpens a man the countenance of his friend" the scriptures tell us and one of the great benefits of internet dialogue (in spite of its raucous and sometimes irresponsible character) is that good people teach us good things that we need to know. Below Fr. Gregory writes about the necessity of maintaining the distinction between person and sin, person and passion, person and ideology (however a given circumstance might require the distinction to be framed) in order to both protect the integrity of the conscience and ensure its proper formation. It's the same distinction that I argue is collapsed in my recent article critiquing the Listening group … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jenson: The Orthodox Church and Civil Society


Source: Koinonia Much like the Catholic Church, Mainline Protestant denominations and Evangelical Christians, the Orthodox Church is struggle to decide whether or not Christ has called us to take an active or a passive role in the world. By his example, Metropolitan Jonah has said we should be active–even proactive–while his critics, either out of fear of, or agreement with, the spirit of the age have opted for passivity. This at least is the conclusion that I would draw from the recent Washington Post profile piece about his Beatitude (you can read it here and my post on it here). It seems clear that the Orthodox Church in America is internally divided between those who would rather not step out into the public square with the Gospel and those like his Beatitude are ready, willing and eager to do so. As in every human decision, people do or don’t do for a mix of reasons and just because two people agree on a course of action doesn’t mean they have the same … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jenson: Stewardship and the Human Vocation to Work


Acton Institute | Fr. Gregory Jenson Paying the bills and contributing to the collection basket are laudable. But Christian stewardship is significantly more than these; like prayer, fasting, and the sacraments, it is an essential part of our Christian life. More than what we say, the way we use our time, talent and treasure, reveals what we value, how we understand ourselves as men and women of faith, and what we believe it means to be human. It is this last point that I want to focus on here. What does it mean to be human? Maybe this is a strange place to begin, but before we are Christians, we are human. Before any of us are baptized or make a commitment to Jesus Christ, we are human. We can only be Christian because we are human and the importance of our shared humanity should not be minimized; we are saved and made one in Christ precisely because God took on our humanity. He becomes as we are, in the frequently repeated phrase of the fathers, so that we might become … [Read more...]

As We Move Towards Unity

17th C. unused Church

The Crumbling of America and the American Orthodox Church The real institutional danger facing Orthodoxy in American arises less from malfeasance and more from reasonably well-intentioned individuals making decisions without a sense of their own limits and the frailty of the Church as a social institution. On Holy Saturday, Peggy Noonan published an interesting and important editorial in the Wall Street Journal (The Catholic Church's Catastrophe).  She writes that often leaders of  "mighty and venerable institutions" can, over time, "become blithely damaging" to the very institution they serve.  This happens when we—and as a priest I need to include myself in this—allow ourselves "to think of the institution as invulnerable—to think that there is nothing [we] can do to really damage it, that the big, strong, proud establishment [we're] part of can take any amount of abuse, that it doesn't require from its members an attitude of protectiveness … [Read more...]

Barbarians Among Us?

Broken Church

Essays like Fr. Gregory Jensen's below, give me hope. It reveals the new thinking needed in American Orthodoxy, the kind that is thoughtful and responsibly self-critical. An excerpt is included below. You can read the full article on either the new and improved! Orthodoxy Today, or the AOI main page. (Click the pic for a full view of the image too.) +++++++++++++++ The Rejection of Tradition On a post on my blog Koinoia ("An Editorial: Orthodoxy & the Public Square"), I wrote that whether or not I like Frank Schaeffer's politics or his moral theology, or whether or not his support of abortion and gay rights are compatible with the tradition of the Church, the reality is that he is well within the mainstream of current Orthodox opinion in America. According to the PEW survey, the majority of Orthodox laity agree that abortion and gay marriage should be legal.  It may surprise you, then, that the problem isn't Schaeffer – it’s us; specifically, it’s the … [Read more...]