California Bishops Support Ballot Initiative on Marriage

Orthodox bishops have announced their support for Proposition 8, known as the “California Marriage Protection Act.” The measure would amend the state constitution by adding this line: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

More on this proposal on the Protect Marriage Web site.

Here is the message from Orthodox bishops:

A Statement of the Orthodox Christian Bishops of California in Support of Proposition 8: A Constitutional Amendment to Restore the Definition of Marriage

The decision of the California Supreme Court on May 15, 2008, unilaterally redefines the sacred institution of marriage in a manner unprecedented in human history — and alien to our Christian tradition. We, the Orthodox Christian bishops of California, were saddened by this decision which constitutes a direct attack upon the longstanding role and freedom of religion in American life. A majority of the justices declared not only that same-sex couplings must be allowed to exist at those couples’ discretion as “marriages,” but that the state of California is forbidden to refer to these couplings as anything but “marriages.”

Orthodox Christianity holds in high regard the God-ordained institution of marriage and the family. The Orthodox Church must and shall remain true to its faith and tradition, and affirm that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, given by God to one another for mutual support, encouragement, love and the ability to bear children.

As members of the Church and as citizens of this great land, we cannot withdraw from the society in which we live. Our parishes and our faithful are called upon to be “salt and light,” to paraphrase Christ, and as such, they engage with their neighbors in acts of charity and love. We will continue our charitable works, and our engagement with society — including to faithfully teach the truth about Christian principles of living.

The Orthodox Church in the United States thrives and grows, in many respects, because of the enduring principles upon which this great country was founded. Our definitions of basic institutions such as marriage, shaped by the unfathomable forces of love and nature coupled with the experience of all recorded human history, rightly derive from what the Founders of our country knew as the “natural law” of “nature and nature’s God”.

It is in this light that the Orthodox Christian bishops of California reject the decision of the California Supreme Court in In re Marriage Cases. The institution of marriage emanates from something transcending our passing political institutions, and cannot be unilaterally altered in this way. We therefore must act when that promulgation directly contradicts our faith — and threatens the very foundation of Orthodoxy’s flourishing in America.

Therefore, we, the Orthodox bishops of California, call upon the faithful, as responsible and concerned citizens of California, to overturn this ruling by the California Supreme Court by voting in favor of Proposition 8 this coming November. This proposition is a regrettably necessary measure to restore the true definition of marriage in the eyes of our state. A state that believes same-sex couplings constitute “marriage” implicitly — and sooner or later, explicitly — denies the role of the Church and all faiths that adhere to traditional values in public life. Please exercise your citizenship and vote in November. The passage of Proposition 8 is an imperative.

With Archpastoral blessings,

Metropolitan GERASIMOS, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco

Bishop JOSEPH, Dioces of Los Angeles and the West, Antiochian Archdiocese of North America

Bishop MAXIM, Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America

Bishop BENJAMIN, Orthodox Church in America, Dioces of the West


  1. “We, the Orthodox Christian bishops of California, were saddened by this decision which constitutes a direct attack upon the longstanding role and freedom of religion in American life”

    The decision is anything but an attack on the freedom of relgion, but perhaps it is an attack on its “role” in American life and frankly they have every right to attack as such! Proposition 8 is an attack on the freedom of the people and the SEPARATION of church and state on which our country was founded! The court’s ruling did not take away the freedom to deny same-sex marriages in our faith and was simply on a legal level. Please note that although I am personally for same-sex marriage, I am not using this as part of my argument, but rather the fundamentals on which our country exceeded any other. The constitution was made to protect the minorities from the masses and the court’s decision was made to protect the constituion. Proposition 8 is a direct attack on America and its constitution!

    God Bless America!

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Jim, I am not going to get into a homosexual marriage debate on this blog, but even the Constitution rests on a moral foundation. Don’t confuse liberty with license.

    And, no, homosexual marriage should be sanctioned, especially on your dubious notion of the separation of church and state. Following your logic through, no moral prohibition should be legislated since morality always references religious belief in some way or another.

  3. Fr Hans, Jim,

    the Constitution rests on something that was known in the West as “natural law.” As such, it was an extension of the Declaration of Independence. Both are political documents that have heavy dollops of theological underpinnings. (“Nature’s God,” “life, liberty, and property,” “AD 1776,” etc.)

    Homosexuality has always been viewed as an aberration from the human norm (even in ancient Greece!) As for the separation of church and state, that’s in the Bible itself: in the OT, the role of priest and king was strictly separated, the kings came from the royal tribe of Judah and the priesthood from the tribe of Levi. In the NT of course, Jesus reiterates that in his famous dictum “render unto Caesar those which are Caesar’s and unto God those which are God’s.”

    Even in the Middle Ages in both West and East there was always a tension between the sacerdotium and the imperium and whenever it was confounded, trouble invariably erupted.

    Therefore the Founding Fathers were not irreligious or antireligious. They were merely hearkening back to a great Christian tradition of separation. This never meant however that the religious could not influence government. Jefferson himself (the font of the separationists) felt otherwise (see for example his “Letter to the Danbury Baptist Congregation”).

    What the Founders wanted was to protect religion from the encroachments of the state. A case could be made that it’s a little late in the day for this now, especially when you consider how many church functions have been taken over by the state (charity, hospitals, schools, etc.) but I can assure you, that had Prop 8 been defeated, the state’s power over the kerygma would have been tremendous. Because of “hate crimes” laws pastors would have been prevented from preaching the traditional Christian positions on homosexuality and fornication.

    Worse for ordinary laymen, businesses which refused to cater to homosexual rites, such as wedding photographers, caterers, bed-and-breakfasts, etc., would likewise have been subjected to hate crimes laws.

    when all is said and done, every one of the Founding Fathers would have thought that such a turn of events (“gay marriage”) was ludicrous in and of itself.

  4. Scott Pennington :

    There is a lot of dubious history floating around here. First of all, nowhere in the Constitution does the phrase “separation of church and state” appear. The First Amendment contains the Establishment Clause which meant that Congress could not establish one church as the national church (as the Church of England was established in England). A number of the states had established churches and no one considered this unconstitutional. Massachusetts was the last to disestablish their state church (Congregationalist) in 1833.

    The phrase “separation of church and state” echoes a letter of Thomas Jefferson’s to a Baptist church. It had no legal significance, just his musings.

    It was not until the 1940’s that an increasingly activist Supreme Court created out of wholecloth the “wall of separation between church and state”. It was in response to concerns about Catholic schools benefitting from government funds and motivated by anti-Catholic bias. Gradually, because a number of the justices were anti-religious, this doctrine evolved into the modern separation of church and state we have now.

    So there is simply no great American tradition of “separation of church and state” since the idea doesn’t actually appear in the law until the middle of the 20th century.

    As far as the Church is concerned, Christ’s answer regarding, “render unto Caesar . . .” was a response to a trick question. The questioners wanted to trap Him into either denying the Law or rebelling against Roman tax authority. It has nothing to do with separation of church and state although it is often quoted for this purpose.

    If it was an injunction to separate church and state, then why has the normal form of government in the Orthodox world been establishment of religion? Rome, Constantinople and Russia all operated as empires with the Orthodox Church as the established church.

  5. Michael Bauman :

    The founders believed that the self-discipline inherent in religion made self-government possible.

    The as both George and Scott point out, the first amendment as designed to protect the church(es) from the state, not the other way around AND to allow the states to continue with their own established churches.

    I personally think it is stupid to cede more power to the federal government under the guise of the government protecting our constitutional liberties. The Bill of Rights was designed specifically to limit federal power. That is the reason for the absolutist language “the Congress shall make no law”. According to the Constitution, the federal government simply has no role at all.

    Nearly every day to day act of the federal government these days violates the Constitution. Our government is corrupt, illegal and beyond any normal way to return it to sanity. The elections are increasingly and blatantly rigged by the likes of George Soros and others simply to gratify their own lust for power. There is no election in this political system in which I can any longer particpate. To do so is simply to give concent to the corrupt practices and ideas of the political caste. I am tired of all the ego-manicial false prophets who call themselves politicians. It is no accident that many of Obama’s supporters have a messianic fixation on him.

    The Church needs to forget about politics and just bear witness to the truth as we are supposed to.

  6. The Church needs to forget about politics and just bear witness to the truth as we are supposed to.

    In a way you can say this. The church definitely needs to educate the people about what is right and what is wrong. A Christian has to be fighter against his own tendency to sin. These people then go out there and make politics.

    The problem seems to be that the Church cannot reach that many people. The TV set has captured almost everybody’s attention. Most of the evil has spread with an unthinkable speed through TV. It started perhaps with the 1960s so called rebellion. This rebellion was in fact spread through TV.

    Today there are many people struggling with their disturbed sexual tendencies. And they keep it under control in accord with the moral low within us. They are a lot more than those who choose to go out on the street to protest California’s passage of Proposition 8. We do not here a word on TV about them …

    The Catholics have understood that there is no match between the number of people that can be reached by Church through regular means and the number of people reached by TV. The Eternal Word Television Network, or EWTN, the catholic television broadcasts to reach a potential audience of hundreds of millions worldwide.

  7. Scott Pennington :

    “The Church needs to forget about politics and just bear witness to the truth as we are supposed to.”

    Politics is the question of whose morality (and economics, etc.) prevail in society. If traditional Christians do not participate on the political front then one thing is guaranteed: The social morality supported by the government will not be good, but based on secular humanist assumptions. This is what the left counts on and what they really mean when they talk about the “separation of church and state”.

    There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with Christians voting their conscience just as non-Christians do. The basis of ones political beliefs in ones religion does not thereby disqualify them, no matter how much the left wish to propatate that idea.

  8. Scott Pennington: thank you for your crystal clear message. It helped me find an important piece in the “how I see the world” puzzle.

    Politics is the question of whose morality (and economics, etc.) prevail in society.

    It is very easy to see whose morality prevails. One needs to look at the top film producers in Hollywood. Who are the producers of the movies that portraits the gays as best parents, etc? 80% of sexual relationships depicted on television take place outside the marriage. One can conclude that we see that because grave sin is accepted as a normal way of life. The reality is that grave sins are/were being presented as a normal way of life before they became ways of life (for a few people first).

    This is what the left counts on and what they really mean when they talk about the “separation of church and state”.

    If you check will find:

    The phrase separation of church and state is generally traced to the letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists, in which he referred to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as creating a “wall of separation” between church and state. The phrase was then quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878,and then in a series of cases starting in 1948.

    Look at the part: The phrase was then quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1948.

    By 1948 the communist parties were controlling the governments in many countries. The separation of church and state is in fact a communist idea.

  9. Scott Pennington :


    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a communist idea; however, it is a darling of the left, including the radical left. As per my post above, really the jurisprudence of “the separation of church and state” began in the 1940’s. I think there was one case in 1940 and then a string of cases beginning about 1947 which resulted in the current law. It has no basis in the constitution. There is an Establishment Clause, but 1) that only applied to the federal government, not the states and 2) it did not require a “wall of separation”. It merely meant that Congress may not choose, for instance, the Presbyterian Church as the national church, give government funds exclusively or predominantly to that church, and make eligibility for government office contingent upon belonging to that church. That’s what Establishment of Religion meant to those who adopted the first amendment.

    The original impetus for the high court’s decisions beginning in the 1940’s was anti-Catholic animus. However, the idea appealed to those intent on driving religion, or at least Christianity, totally into the private sphere. Now it will be used under the next administration (which, unfortunately, many Orthodox voted for) to further pressure private institutions (those that receive public funds) on gay adoptions and abortion services.

    If traditional Christians do not get politically organized across denominations and mount a massive campaign to affect public opinion and government policy, we will continue to lose this society to paganism. Alas, because of the sentiments of Christians like Mr. Katopodis who have adopted liberalism as their measure of morality, the high court has been lost for another generation.

  10. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a communist idea; however, it is a darling of the left, including the radical left.

    You do not go too far if you call it a communist idea. Communism was way more than this. It was an attempt to separate mankind from God not just the church from the state.

    The Piteşti prison (Romanian: Închisoarea Piteşti) was a penal facility in Piteşti, Romania, best remembered for the brainwashing experiment carried out by Communist authorities in 1949-1952 (also known as Experimentul Piteşti – the “Piteşti Experiment” or Fenomenul Piteşti – the “Piteşti Phenomenon”). […] It is considered the largest and most intensive brainwashing torture program in the Eastern bloc.

    Beyond torture – The gulag of Pitesti Romania (4 parts)

    Or if you do not have time to watch them here is the essence of it:
    When you said, ‘I still believe in God,’ in five minutes you were full of blood. – Fr. Roman Braga
    Many of us died, many of us became mad, but in some of us the good triumphed. – Fr. George Calciu

  11. Michael Bauman :

    The Church should not stoop to the level of partisan, ideological politics. The Church should preach the truth and leave it up to the people to decide how they want to vote or if they want to. The Church should also make it clear than voting in support of policies (not parties) that violate the clear moral teaching of the Church is nearly the same same as participating in that immorality. IMO that would involve not voting for any party. They all are founded on furthering a secular statist solution and using demogogic ideology to get folks to vote for them. Power and power alone is the goal. The ‘lesser of two evils’ is still evil.

    The only way I would vote is if there were a spot on the ballot for none of the above. Actually, I may register and do that next time round as a write in. All of the politicians that I have heard in principal think that virture flows from government, not the other way around, if they even consider virtue at all.

    When we participate in such stuff, are we not furthering the idolatry of the state? How far is it from burning incense to Caesar, denying our Creator? Certainly we are doing so when we lapse into the type of messianic gibberish as Frank Shaffer and Bishop Sava.

    The Church needs to be prophetic not an enabler. Return to the radicalism (in its true meaning) of the early Church, refusing to participate in the quest for worldly power and approval.

    We’d likely have fewer people and less money, at least initially, but the Church would be doing what she is supposed to do. To echo Met. Jonah, where are the Orthodox Hospitals (which FOCA would force to do abortion if it wanted to receive federal funds and likely accredidation); where are the Orthodox schools (which would be required under federal law to teach and practice all sorts of things in violation of Church teaching to be ‘real’ schools)…the list goes on.

  12. Scott Pennington :

    “The Church should not stoop to the level of partisan, ideological politics.”

    The Church has an ideology, it is called the Orthodox Faith. It is pro-life. It disapproves of all same-sex sexual conduct. It is pro-marriage. It is anti-birth control (at least, historically it has been). It is patriarchal.

    Economically, it really does not have a specific teaching except that it exhorts us all to charity. It is, however, opposed to all totalitarian political arrangements since they place the state in the position of God.

    I am not endorsing a party, and if you re-read what I wrote above, you will not see a partisan endorsement. I am registered as “other”.

    What I do believe is that we are not doing nearly enough to wage the war for the hearts and minds of the public, to persuade them that Orthodox morality is sound and worthy of their adherence and support.

    I will also be the first to admit that the Republican party is far from ideal according to Orthodoxy. But I don’t think that actually has to do with their economic positions. Both political parties here are quite generous with government funds by the standards of historical Orthodox or other traditional Christian societies. The Republicans don’t go anywhere near far enough in their positions on traditional values. They can’t be cause the public would not support these positions. The public would not support these positions because the churches, including the Orthodox, have been awol in their teaching of traditional morality and exercising discipline (including eucharistic discipline).

    So, essentially, there is no hope of any immediate political rectification of the paganism in this society. It is up to each church – – especially, since it holds the fulness of the truth, the Orthodox Church – – to teach and exercise discipline and persuade as many people, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, of the truth of our faith, including the moral truth.

    However, most of our hierarchs are not exceedingly brave souls. To move decisively in the direction of tradition would initially cost them members and income. Moreover, any number of them simply do not believe in Orthodox morality anymore but only give it lip service and ignore it when it is convenient.

    So that’s the current status. Furthermore, for the record, I do not believe that the soft evangelical-style revival that you might see in any given OCA or Antiochian parish is actually strong enough medicine to change much of anything. The Orthodox that I admire most are the Old Calendarists, whether they be Slavic or Greek (even though the Greek Old Calendarists are schismatic). It has been my experience that, at a minimum, they draw a clear line between the society at large and the society of the Church. In insisting on the old values and not compromising with the modernizing influences of the last 75 years or so, they provide a clear contrast and emphatic rejection of modern American values.

    So . . . perhaps the rest of the Church will eventually see the light and turn that corner.

  13. Scott Pennington :

    “To echo Met. Jonah, where are the Orthodox Hospitals (which FOCA would force to do abortion if it wanted to receive federal funds and likely accredidation); where are the Orthodox schools (which would be required under federal law to teach and practice all sorts of things in violation of Church teaching to be ‘real’ schools)…the list goes on.”

    Do you not answer your own question? How can there be Orthodox hospitals and schools in a society where the government forces them to do and teach unspeakable evil? There can’t. They either go out of business or cease to be Orthodox. That is the price of staying out of politics, because it is a certainty that at least one political party supports measures to coerce hospitals and schools into evil activities.

  14. Elder Ephraim has founded seventeen monasteries in the United States and Canada. These monasteries must be filled already by monks/nuns (young people coming perhaps from the “animal houses”). I do not think that he started by publicly announcing a plan. People describe him as a fragile man, keeping his eyes barely open due to the concentration on prayer.
    I see here that the comments have mostly “political flavor”. What about more on spiritual matters?

  15. Scott, I disagree with your statement(s) in one, well two particulars only. The Church does not have an ideology, at least as I understand the term. The Church has the truth. Ideologies are belief systems masquerading as the truth and they frequently end in …ism. They are all dehumanizing because they are focused on the created thing rather than the Creator. They short-circuit thought with templates that must be adhered to at all costs. They substitute ideas for personhood; passions for ontological reality. Almost with out exception the proponents use demagogic methods to whip up support, solicit money and gain/retain power often without any personal adherence to the ideology to begin with.

    When the Church attempts to play the power game, we lose and we sacrifice our calling to be prophetic, to be sacramental. That leads me to my second disagreement. When I say the Church must stay out of politics, I mean the endorsement of any particular party or direct involvement with any party (although individuals can of course). That does not mean she should stay out of the public discourse at all. In fact, it would give us more genuine clout IMO.

    Fr. Alexander Webster in his book , The Pacifist Option, makes the point that the more specific we become on policy options the less able we are to avoid partisan divisions and disputes. It takes courage and discernment, both of which seem to be in short supply right now.

    Actually both major parties support government coersion in education and health care, restriction of free speech, privatization of faith and overall the continued secularizaton of our culture. The lesser of two evils is still evil. I for one can no longer lend even my tacit support for the on slaught of nihilism that the political game has become in this country. It is all lies. The Church needs to testify against those lies where ever they occur.

  16. Scott Pennington :


    The argument about ideologies is semantics. A person who is politically active because she is pro-life does not subscribe to an “-ism” She is politically pro-life because of her religious convictions, not in spite of them. Nonetheless, “pro-life” qualifies as an ideology.

    We fight against the illusion that there is something secular about politics. There is no such thing as “secular”, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Their are those who worship at the altar of various evil gods and those who worship God. “Secular” is a lie.

    “When the Church attempts to play the power game, we lose and we sacrifice our calling to be prophetic, to be sacramental.”

    First of all, this does not exactly fit in with Orthodox history. Orthodoxy was the imperial religion in the Byzantine and Russian empires. Sometimes the Church did kowtow to the government. Other times, because of its official and popular status, it was able to pressure the government to do good things or to refrain from evil.

    I fail to see how political involvment prevents us from being sacramental. The Prophets preached to kings as well as the people. They were not politically uninvolved.

    Also, ultimately we give up our ability to influence policy if we do not vote and support candidates that align more closely to our beliefs.

    I struggled with the decision of whether to vote in this past election. Part of me feels the same way you do. As a practical matter, I believe that America is so far gone that it is almost pointless to participate in American politics at all, in any capacity. I would like nothing better than for the Orthodox to form their own self-contained communities, much like the Amish, and live the life we are called to live.

    The problem is they will not leave us alone. Moreover, in doing so we abandon the rest of society to evil.

    In the end, I thought there was a possibility that McCain would appoint justices who might overturn Roe and Casey. I doubted it, but it was a gamble I thought worth taking. The reason is the tens of thousands of lives it might save each year.

    I also take issue with your characterization of conservative politicians. No doubt, some are as cynical as you suggest. However, I think the larger problem with those who profess to be Christians is that they have a false idea of what is acceptable to traditional Christianity. This is the fault of the churches.

    Really, the difference between us is a judgment call, and I might very well be persuaded that yours is the best approach given the evil in our society. However, as of November 3, 2008, at least, I felt that such an approach essentially concedes the fight for the souls of the American people to the Enemy.

    After November 4, 2008, given the behavior of the American people at the polls, I can readily see your point that supporting political parties is hopeless. The lukewarm conservatism of the Republicans has done nothing but lose ground on the moral front.

  17. Michael Bauman :

    Scott, every ‘argument’ is about semantics because different words mean different, even if similar, things. Otherwise why all the fuss about ‘homoousious’ (sp) in the 4th century.

    Even at best, an ideology is a systematic structure of ideas about worldly things. The life of the Church is about uniting with Christ, submitting to his love. Such an act is neither an idea nor can it be systematized into a fixed structure because it is an organic ecology of inter-relationships and communion crowned by the un-knowable essence of God, inter-penetrated by His grace.

    That is one of the reasons that St. Paul said that the Law brings death. It’s like disecting a living creature and saying its alive–Dr. Frankenstein. Ideologies codify the fallen choice between good and evil.

    We human beings are capable of making an ideology out of almost anything because we like binary thinking, but ideologies are fundamentally dead. Quite a different thing and principals and actions dervied from love of a person.

  18. Scott Pennington :


    I really do not understand why you exclude the possibility of a religious ideology. You posit a construct that ideology is inherently godless and then just assume the universal validity of that perspective. That is what I mean by semantics, not an actual theological difference like “same essence” vs. “like essence”.

    “The life of the Church is about uniting with Christ, submitting to his love. Such an act is neither an idea nor can it be systematized into a fixed structure because it is an organic ecology of inter-relationships and communion crowned by the un-knowable essence of God, inter-penetrated by His grace.”

    It is an idea and you expressed it in words. It is, of course, more than an idea.

    Perhaps we should be more adamant in practicing Christianity as an ideology. It seems that instead of the lukewarm smarmy evangelical-like Orthodox Christianity that we see so much of, alongside the “happen to be” Orthodox club mentality, there might be room for an Orthodox Christianity that is actually compelled to gain ground, not lose it, in its context. An Orthodoxy straight out of Christendom, not post-Christendom. Just a thought.

  19. Michael Bauman :

    Scott, there are plenty of religious idelogies and and most of them are either declared heresies or defacto heresies.

  20. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Scott, Michael is using the term “ideology” differently than you are. Michael means by the term this: a closed (internally referencing) set of ideas that construct a world view (Marxism, feminism, etc. — that’s why he mentioned “isms”). This is the strict definition of the term.

    You use the term in its popular sense, in this context as credible, intellectual, engagement in theological matters, correct? Ideology functions more descriptively in your usage I think.

  21. Scott Pennington :

    Main Entry: ide·ol·o·gy
    Pronunciation: \ˌī-dē-ˈä-lə-jē, ˌi-\
    Variant(s): also ide·al·o·gy \-ˈä-lə-jē, -ˈa-\
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): plural ide·ol·o·gies
    Etymology: French idéologie, from idéo- ideo- + -logie -logy
    Date: 1813
    1: visionary theorizing
    2 a: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
    — ide·ol·o·gist \-jist\ noun

    -from Webster’s free online dictionary

    I’m not sure what you mean by “strict definition of the term”. However, I would make one remark about Christianity as an ideology, regardless of the sense in which ideology is meant:

    Christianity, to be sure, is God in our midst. Nothing I have said should be taken as contradicting that. Nonetheless, just because our fountain is God does not mean that we do not possess a “systematic body of concepts” or a socio-political program. It’s both/and, not either/or.

    Holy tradition sound very much to me to be a “closed (internally referencing) set of ideas that construct a world view.” That worldview is actually an accurate reflection of reality, unlike Marxism and the other -isms.

    And there is strength in viewing Christianity as an ideology. It is the strength of putting ideals into practice. If we are not to do that, then it is tantamount to sayiing we are not to practice Christianity.

    No doubt there is a danger with christening a particular political program as being “the Christian one”. But I don’t think there is any danger whatsoever in a general fight for traditional Christian attitudes to prevail in society and in the law.

    The alternative is that we seek out persecution. For that is what will come if we admit some secular sphere. If it is not Christians making political decisions on the basis of Christian principles, it will be pagans making political decisions on the basis of God knows what. It really is that simple. And pagan gods, like our God, are quite jealous and not likely to tolerate us too well.

  22. Scott Pennington :

    “Scott, there are plenty of religious idelogies and and most of them are either declared heresies or defacto heresies.”


    Is there some authoritative book to which you are privy that sets out exactly what separates a “religious ideology” from a religion so I could verify that statement? No doubt that any “religious ideology” which contradicts the Orthodox Faith is a heresy.

  23. Michael Bauman :

    Scott, I’ll try one more time (althought I don’t think we really disagree).

    Christianity flows from the person of God Incarnate. In the sense that all Christian ideas, structure and indeed our own being refer back to and flow from the infinite and eternal God, it is not a closed, self-referencing system.
    That does not make it either illogical or irrational but rather supra-rational, i.e. other worldly.

    The ideologies that dominate our politics have no such foundation, they are solely rational attempts to deal with a reality that is not solely rational, thus they are based on a deformed anthropology at inception. It is the same old Western dualism that bifurcates human beings and denies our ability to commune with God and each other. It doesn’t work. After a 2000 yearss of trying to make it work, you’d think we’d get point.

    What makes you think pagans, apostates and heretics are not already making the decisions. What makes you think that really Christian ideas and principals have any traction with the body politic?

    It is my stance that the political system has become so much a creature of nihilism that only by refusing to participate in it as much as possible can we have any impact. That is by no means a withdrawal, in fact just the opposite.

    In case you have not read it, I refer you to Fr. Seraphim Rose’s little book, Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age.

  24. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Scott, Christianity is not ideology for the reasons Michael laid out: The Christian faith is not self-referencing. “Self-referencing” means that questions are asked and answered within a closed universe of ideas — like Marxism, or more accurately, any materialist based world view. The Christian references God, who is the source and end of all wisdom and knowledge, and who exists as the Uncreated outside of space and time, and yet reveals Himself to us. Thus, the term “ideology” does not really apply.

    You are not using the term in this sense of course. You are using it as a catch-all to describe concrete, intellectually-based, engagement with the culture, including theology, apologetics, preaching, etc.

    In a philosophical sense however, the term implies that all these elements still function within a “closed system.” Clearly they do not. You know this, Michael knows this, I know this. Yet if we don’t use the language carefully, these points get lost and we don’t understand each other.

    (When Christianity becomes “ideological”, it ceases to be Christian, even though it retains the language and forms of the Christian faith — white washed sepulchers and all that. Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote eloquently on these themes.)

  25. Scott Pennington :

    Fr. Johannes and Michael,

    I guess we just have to disagree about this one. Marx believed in the historical inevitability of what he discovered about the dialectic and trajectory of human history. Out of what he considered his insight developed a relatively closed system of thought (although there are different flavors of Marxists).

    Holy Tradition seems to me very much to fit as the type of closed system of thought to which you refer. True, it has God as it’s fountain, but unless we’re open to the “Holy Spirit leading us to do a New Thing” as are the Episcopalians, etc., I fail to see a meaningful distinction there. A thing is not true simply because noted personalities say so, even with eloquence, but because it has some objective support. It may be offensive to some to consider Christianity an ideology, but nonetheless, apart from lofty language about the immanence and transcendence of God, I’m not sure there is a meaningful distinction.

    I will make one last observation before relagating this one to the realm of beating a dead horse:

    You seem to place much emphasis on the source of Christianity being the Living God, transcendent and immanent, and that the religion does not self reference but always refers back to this God.

    I would say the same exact thing about radical Islam, which generally is characterized as an ideology. Moreover, although in the web of thought known as Holy Tradition there is constant reference made to God, what we know about God comes to us through Holy Tradition, from revelation, et al., and we acknowledge that in the direct sense God is unknowable.

    I suppose I would have to say that if there can be such a thing as a religious ideology, in the philisophical sense, that I don’t know why Christianity, for any reason other than willful choice of the observant, could not be characterized as such an ideology.

  26. Scott Pennington :

    “observant” in my last paragraph should read “observer”

  27. Scott Pennington :

    “What makes you think pagans, apostates and heretics are not already making the decisions. What makes you think that really Christian ideas and principals have any traction with the body politic?”


    I believe I have made it clear that I do believe that pagan thinking dominates our politics and sometimes the actions of our hierarchs and people. I am not satisfied with this situation. I wholeheartedly agree that before kingdoms can change, men must change. However, kingdoms do need to change.

    Also, I lay the current deranged morality of our culture at the feet of the American Christian establishment. Democracy has no place in a revealed religion and the leadership of the Christian churches has failed miserably, almost unforgiveably, to resist and overcome the cultural trends that led us to this point.

    Now, how we engage the culture is a matter of good faith opinion. We may need to work in the world, but we can minimize our participation in its culture and create an alternative Orthodox culture to replace for our people “Dancing with the Stars” with vigils or bible studies, etc. (just as an example).

    All of this is really theoretical and piecemeal though until we see some real leadership on the part of the bishops. Many of them would label what we’re discussing here as “fundamentalist” or “extreme”. That is a serious problem.

    And, to come full circle. The rigor with which ideologues practice their ideology may be just what we need a strong dose of in the Church.

  28. Scott Pennington says:

    I lay the current deranged morality of our culture at the feet of the American Christian establishment …

    … the leadership of the Christian churches has failed miserably, almost unforgiveably, to resist and overcome the cultural trends that led us to this point.

    It seemed to me that you have a clear idea about what is happening. Your comment shows the contrary.
    I found very interesting what you said on Nov 24th (note 7):

    Politics is the question of whose morality (and economics, etc.) prevail in society.

  29. Scott Pennington :

    “Take, for example, the communism :
    the ideologues imposed their ideology by lies and when it it did not work, by force and murder!”

    Yes, but lying and murdering is part of their ideology. Part of Marxist-Leninist ideology teaches that propaganda need not be based on fact, just conform to the model of Marxist economics and politics. Moreover, since the needs of the whole society (defined ideologically) outweigh any right to individual conscience, thinking and doing outside the ideology can be punished severely, by re-education or execution.

    But none of this is part of the ideology of Christianity. I suppose there are those who associate “ideology” with something necessarily negative, much like the label “cult” is largely a question of how you feel about the particular group.

    Nonetheless, I admire the zeal of some ideologues and wish that the Church educated its laity in a systematic, ideological way and harnessed that power for good.

    That’s it for me on this subject.

  30. Just two remarks:
    1. Orthodox Christianity is not an ideology. Ideology is something dreamed up by man.
    Orthodox Christianity means Scripture and Holy
    Tradition both of them given to the Church by God Himself, the source of all wisdom, through the direct operation
    of the Holy Spirit.

    2. Both communist and capitalist systems created the “modern” atheist people. In communism people gave up faith mainly because were forced and later were misinformed on religious matters. Once the communism fell, the resistance, dignity, bravery and martyrdom of those who kept their faith inspired some of the misinformed ones to become faithful.

    In the capitalist countries people gave up faith freely, without a fight and adopted mainly the “have fun religion”. There are no heroes (a few maybe) to inspire them to return to faith. The capitalist system was far more successful in bringing about atheism.

    It is difficult to change someone’s mind and heart. Often, the only way to change is a break down. The pain ultimately leads to a break through. The Church prays for all people, but each one of us has to make the decision to give up sin and get closer to God. Faith is not a matter of being educated it is mainly living the faith.
    A pious priest is far more successful than a priest
    with an education plan.

  31. Scott Pennington :

    “The capitalist system was far more successful in bringing about atheism.”

    That is demonstrably false. If you poll the American people, the vast majority consistently profess a belief in God. Communism decimated the Church in the countries in which it was imposed. Christianity was totally wiped out in Albania, for example. I will of course admit that the theism of many Americans is not to deep or disciplined, but it is there.

    “A pious priest is far more successful than a priest
    with an education plan.”

    And this is really my point, beyond the whole semantics of “ideology” thing, it is vital that priests be pious; however, education is as vital. In fact, educating the faithful as well as the catechumens and the world at large is a part of piety. If people are not presented with the faith, and sometimes confronted with it, especially its moral aspects, they will feel free to marginalize it in their lives. That’s what we have now and no matter how pious a priest is in his own personal habits, if he is not actively taking the faith to his congregation, in opposition to the culture, he is not doing his job.

    The most effective way to do that, in my opinion, is systematically, with educational and evangelical outreach programs with an organized system, easily graspable by the laity, to convey the faith. That, together with eucharistic discipline and the expectations of the church membership of one and other, would at least start to bring the ship back to its rightful course.

    Some Orthodox churches are doing this to some degree. Hopeufully it will catch on.

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