July 25, 2014

Why Should the Islamic World Feel Besieged?

James G. Jatras, foreign affairs policy expert and advisor to AOI, faced challenges by Muslim scholars who contend that Americans are "Islamophobic" among other charges on Press TV. View the video: Why Should the Islamic World Feel Besieged? … [Read more...]

Kosovo prelude to Georgia?

In yesterday's Washington Times, James George Jatras looks at the unintended irony in Washington's opposition to the expected Russian recognition of an independent Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the wake of the Bush Administration's support for an independent Kosovo. Jatras, an advisor to AOI, asks: If Moscow stepped over the line in its crushing military response to Mr. Saakashvili's offensive, what do we call 78 straight days of NATO's bombing throughout Serbia, destroying most of that country's civilian infrastructure? If Russia is to be faulted for imperfect implementation of the Sarkozy agreement, what can be said about Washington's violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which ended the 1999 Kosovo war and reaffirms Serbian sovereignty in the province? The standard reasons cited for making Serbia an exception to the rule we demand in Georgia is that NATO intervened to stop genocide of Kosovo's Albanians and that they will never again accept being part of … [Read more...]

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

"During all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced that I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared that this would become known. Finally, at the age of 42, this secret authorship began to wear me down. The most difficult thing of all to bear was that I could not get my works judged by people with literary training. In 1961, after the 22nd Congress of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party and Tvardovsky's speech at this, I decided to emerge and to offer One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Alexander Solzhenitsyn's momentous decision to publish his slim volume on Gulag life (he feared not only the destruction of his manuscript but "my own life") ended his period of "secret authorship" and put him on the path of a literary career that earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. But his work meant so much more than that. Solzhenitsyn, who died … [Read more...]

Orthodox Christian Patriarchs Celebrate Baptism of Russia

Orthodox Churches have long been involved in ecumenical projects, such as the World Council of Churches, and affirm the Lord's mandate "that they all may be one" (John 17:21). Yet, I can't help thinking at times that the Orthodox Churches might work a little harder at unity in their own house. For that reason, it was encouraging to follow the progress of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios' recent visit to the Moscow Patriarchate and see Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I side by side with Patriarch Alexy II for the celebration of the baptism of Russia. The Greeks and the Russians have had some contentious moments of late, such as the controversy over who shall have jurisdiction for Orthodox Christians in Estonia. Good background here in an AP story on the tensions between the Ukrainians and Russians: Ukrainian officials are determined to use the events to lobby for autonomy for the local church from Russia, while the dominant Moscow Patriarchate will fight to retain … [Read more...]

ACLU Wants to Sink Navy Prayers

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening legal action against the U.S. Naval Academy unless it discontinues a tradition -- believed to date back to the college's founding in 1845 -- of mealtime prayer, the Baltimore Sun reports. "The government should not be in the business of compelling religious observance, particularly in military academies, where students can feel coerced by senior students and officials and risk the loss of leadership opportunities for following their conscience," Deborah A. Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, wrote in a letter to the academy. Over at the Scriptorium, John Mark Reynolds notes in "Let the Navy Pray" that everything that does not fit the ACLU's "Utopian ideology" is viewed as something that must be swept aside: Like all ideologues history does not matter, tradition does not matter, and there is no sense of proportion. Every public act must fit their cherished scheme. They are theocrats in reverse and just like the … [Read more...]

Freedom-Loving Orthodoxy

In the May 2008 issue of The Word,* published by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Gregory Cook looks at the ways Orthodox Christianity may "transfigure" America. "Orthodoxy has always been open to building on what is true and extant in any nation or culture," Cook writes. "America should be no different." *Also republished here (non .pdf). He quotes Metropolitan Antony Bashir: Orthodoxy is a freedom-loving, democratic faith … it is at its best in our free America. If the best of Byzantium has survived, it is in the United States, and if there is an Orthodox political ideal, it is enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Cook's article, "Words We Live By: Orthodox and American Ideals in Foundational Texts" is an excellent reflection on what it means to be Orthodox in America and what America has given the Orthodox. While we're at it on this Fourth of July, read the Declaration of Independence. Can anyone … [Read more...]

Independence Day

Thoughts on freedom as we approach the celebration of another Independence Day: From the beginning the Creator allowed human beings their freedom and a free will; they were bound only by the law of his commandment. St. Gregory the Theologian (Orations 14.25 ["On Caring for the Poor"], PG 35:892A) Freedom means being one's own master and ruling oneself; this is the gift that God granted to us from the beginning. St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and Resurrection, PG 46:101CD) Man is made in the image of God, Who is humble but at the same time free. Therefore it is normal and natural that he should be after the likeness of his Creator -- that he should recoil from exercising control over others while himself being free and independent by virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit within him. Those who are possessed by the lust for power cloud the image of God in themselves. Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 9; St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 73) The idea of … [Read more...]

Russian Orthodox: Human Rights ‘not absolute’

In Russia Profile, Andrei Zolotov Jr. reports on the Russian Orthodox Council of Bishops and its adoption of a new work titled, "The Bases of the Russian Orthodox Church's Teaching on Dignity, Liberty and Human Rights." Zolotov says it's no accident that this report surfaces at a time when Russia and the European Union are "actively engaged" on a discussion of common values. In the Bishops Council document, he reports, the Church says that "human rights are definitely a value, and they belong to everybody, not just to the priests and priestesses of the new human rights religion. But it is not the absolute value. It has to be harmonized with the values of faith, morals, love of thy neighbor (and thus family and patriotic values), and of the environment." Zolotov continued: In essence, what we see here is a process of analysis, adaptation and reception – not in a wholesale, packaged way, but in a "processed" form – of the values that had been developed in the modern period on a … [Read more...]

Orthodoxy: A Fertile Faith

When a recent coffee hour conversation turned, unexpectedly, to politics and what if anything the Church has to say about public issues and then all of the "God talk" in the current presidential contest, a friend said, "Oh, that's politics. The Orthodox Church shouldn't get involved in politics. Nothing good can come of it." Well, yes and no. If we're talking about partisan politics then yes, of course, the Church must stay out of it. The Church was not founded to endorse candidates for office or advance a political ideology. But if we're talking about the political dimensions of important moral issues, then yes, of course, the Church may quite properly speak to these. Did we notice that there is something going on in California about marriage? Were political institutions involved? Do we recall the 2003 Statement on Moral Crisis on Our Nation issued by SCOBA? I wonder if some Orthodox Christians wish that the faith could somehow remain removed from politics and other worldly … [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...]

The Cohabitation Bomb

In the most emphatic fashion, reports the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, the Church of Greece’s Holy Synod yesterday declared its opposition to the government’s bid to give unmarried couples greater rights by stating that any form of relationship other than a couple married in an Orthodox Church is tantamount to “prostitution.” The Synod said that a draft law under consideration constituted a “catastrophic bomb” being placed under the foundations of Greek society. Archbishop Ieronymos II, the new leader of the Church of Greece who arrived with the reputation for being a moderate, was pushing for a moderate position on the issue. But the other 12 members of the Synod would have none of it. “The Church accepts and blesses the established wedding, according to Orthodox traditions, and considers any other type of similar relationship to be prostitution,” the Synod said in a statement. … [Read more...]

Remembering WFB

The passing of William F. Buckley last week at the age of 82 produced an outpouring of remembrances that continued through the weekend with Michael Kinsley's "Tales from the Firing Line" in the New York Times. National Review Online has assembled some of the best here, of which one of the best of the best is William McGurn's "God and Man and Bill" originally published in the Wall Street Journal. Christianity Today also republished a fascinating 1995 interview with Buckley on the subject of Christian political activism. In "Conversations: W. Buckley: Listening to Mr. Right" Buckley tells interviewer Michael Cromartie this about the growing influence of conservatives in politics: What we see here is a mobilization of people who are properly horrified by what they see going on in Hollywood, in the growth of single-parent families, and so forth. They've figured out that our foundations need restoring, and I have never doubted that those foundations are religious. So this is how … [Read more...]