Manhattan Declaration and Signers

 

For more information see www.ManhattanDeclaration.org.

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

Drafted on October 20, 2009

Released on November 20, 2009

Preamble

Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering. 

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide.  We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture.  It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country.  Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible.  And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement.  The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good.  In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.  

Declaration

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.   We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image.  We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person.  We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions. 

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense.  In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right – and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation - to speak and act in defense of these truths.  We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.  It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season.   May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Life

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10 

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government.  The present administration is led and staffed by those who want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and who want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense.  Majorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.  The Supreme Court, whose infamous 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade stripped the unborn of legal protection, continues to treat elective abortion as a fundamental constitutional right, though it has upheld as constitutionally permissible some limited restrictions on abortion.  The President says that he wants to reduce the "need" for abortion – a commendable goal.  But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on minors.  The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth.  Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as "the culture of death."  We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable.  As predicted by many prescient persons, the cheapening of life that began with abortion has now metastasized.  For example, human embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name of science and in the cause of developing treatments and cures for diseases and injuries.  The President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer funding of so-called "therapeutic cloning."  This would result in the industrial mass production of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell lines and tissues.  At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons.  Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe.  Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave.  The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of "liberty," "autonomy," and "choice."

We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion.  We will work, as we have always worked, to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children.  Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.

A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination.  The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot themselves speak.  And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent.  What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear.  We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.

Our concern is not confined to our own nation.  Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and "ethnic cleansing," the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS.  We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research.  And so ours is, as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.

Marriage

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man."  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24 


This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:32-33 

In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation.  In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself.   Marriage then, is the first institution of human society – indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.  In the Christian tradition we refer to marriage as "holy matrimony" to signal the fact that it is an institution ordained by God, and blessed by Christ in his participation at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  In the Bible, God Himself blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem.

Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society.  Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits – the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live.  Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves.  Unfortunately, we have witnessed over the course of the past several decades a serious erosion of the marriage culture in our own country.   Perhaps the most telling – and alarming – indicator is the out-of-wedlock birth rate.  Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent.  Today it is over 40 percent.  Our society – and particularly its poorest and most vulnerable sectors, where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is much higher even than the national average – is paying a huge price in delinquency, drug abuse, crime, incarceration, hopelessness, and despair.  Other indicators are widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate of divorce.

We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage.  Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same.

To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love.  We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce.  We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture.  It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law.  Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture.  It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life.  In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct.  We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward.  We stand with them, even when they falter.  We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God's intention for our lives.  We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness.  We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it.  Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners.  For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts.  Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to "a more excellent way."  As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

We further acknowledge that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage.  Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital.  They fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit.  This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being.  Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies.  The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit.  Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being – the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual – on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation.  That is why in the Christian tradition, and historically in Western law, consummated marriages are not dissoluble or annullable on the ground of infertility, even though the nature of the marital relationship is shaped and structured by its intrinsic orientation to the great good of procreation.

We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights.  They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being "married."  It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it?  On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand.  Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships.  Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships?  No.  The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage.  Marriage is an objective reality – a covenantal union of husband and wife – that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good.  If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.  First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized.  Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as "marriages" sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically non-marital and immoral.  Third, the common good of civil society is damaged when the law itself, in its critical pedagogical function, becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends.  Sadly, we are today far from having a thriving marriage culture.  But if we are to begin the critically important process of reforming our laws and mores to rebuild such a culture, the last thing we can afford to do is to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is.

And so it is out of love (not "animus") and prudent concern for the common good (not "prejudice"), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture.  How could we, as Christians, do otherwise?  The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God's creation covenant.  Indeed, the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and his church.  And so just as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.

Religious Liberty

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.
Matthew 22:21

The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous, but it is not a novel idea or recent development.  The nature of religious liberty is grounded in the character of God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ.  Determined to follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the Incarnation had taken place: "Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing fear and terror?  Not so, but in gentleness and meekness…, for compulsion is no attribute of God" (Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4).  Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God – a dignity, as our founders proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason. 

Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience.  Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience.  No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions.  What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law – such persons claiming these "rights" are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions.  We see it in the use of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.  After the judicial imposition of "same-sex marriage" in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century-long work of helping to place orphaned children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same-sex households in violation of Catholic moral teaching.  In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital "civil unions" scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions.  In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality.  New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here.

In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion.  We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded.  Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one's own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of.1  Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority.  We believe in law and in the rule of law.  We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral.  The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust – and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust – undermine the common good, rather than serve it.

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel.  In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching.  Their answer was, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.  There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself.  Unjust laws degrade human beings.  Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience.  King's willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.  

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.  We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's.  But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.

1Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America


Drafting Committee

  • Robert George         
    Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
  • Timothy George 
    Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford ?University
  • Chuck Colson 
    Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, Va.)

 

Signers (as of November 19, 2009)

  1. Dr. Daniel Akin
    President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, N.C.)
  2. Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola
    Primate, Anglican Church of Nigeria (Abika, Nigeria)
  3. Randy Alcorn
    Founder and Director, Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM) (Sandy, Ore.)
  4. Rt. Rev. David Anderson
    President and CEO, American Anglican Council (Atlanta)
  5. Leith Anderson
    President of National Association of Evangelicals (Washington, D.C.)
  6. Charlotte K. Ardizzone
    TV Show Host and Speaker, INSP Television (Charlotte, N.C.)
  7. Kay Arthur
    CEO and Co-founder, Precept Ministries International (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
  8. Dr. Mark L. Bailey
    President, Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas)
  9. Most Rev. Craig W. Bates
    Archbishop, International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (Malverne, N.Y.)
  10. Gary Bauer
    President, American Values; Chairman, Campaign for Working Families
  11. His Grace, The Right Reverend Bishop Basil Essey
    The Right Reverend Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America (Wichita, Kan.)
  12. Joel Belz
    Founder, World Magazine (Asheville, N.C.)
  13. Rev. Michael L. Beresford
    Managing Director of Church Relations, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (Charlotte, N.C.)
  14. Ken Boa
    President, Reflections Ministries (Atlanta)
  15. Joseph Bottum
    Editor of First Things (New York)
  16. Pastor Randy & Sarah Brannon
    Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church (Madera, Calif.)
  17. Steve Brown
    National Radio Broadcaster, Key Life (Maitland, Fla.)
  18. Dr. Robert C. Cannada, Jr.
    Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Fla.)
  19. Galen Carey
    Director of Government Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals (Washington, D.C.)
  20. Dr. Bryan Chapell
    President, Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis)
  21. Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver
  22. Timothy Clinton
    President, American Association of Christian Counselors (Forest, Va.)
  23. Chuck Colson
    Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, Va.)
  24. Most Rev. Salvatore Joseph Cordileone
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Calif.
  25. Dr. Gary Culpepper
    Associate Professor, Providence College (Providence, R.I.)
  26. Jim Daly
    President and CEO, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  27. Marjorie Dannenfelser
    President, Susan B. Anthony List (Arlington, Va.)
  28. Rev. Daniel Delgado
    Board of Directors, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Pastor, Third Day Missions Church (Staten Island, N.Y.)
  29. Patrick J. Deneen
    Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Associate Professor and Director, The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy, Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
  30. Dr. James Dobson
    Founder, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  31. Dr. David Dockery
    President, Union University (Jackson, Tenn.)
  32. Most Rev. Timothy Dolan
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of New York, N.Y.
  33. Dr. William Donohue
    President, Catholic League (New York)
  34. Dr. James T. Draper, Jr.
    President Emeritus, LifeWay (Nashville, Tenn.)
  35. Dinesh D'Souza
    Writer and Speaker (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)
  36. Most Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan
    Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America (Ambridge, Pa. )
  37. Dr. Michael Easley
    President Emeritus, Moody Bible Institute (Chicago)
  38. Dr. William Edgar
    Professor, Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia)
  39. Brett Elder
    Executive Director, Stewardship Council (Grand Rapids, Mich.
  40. Rev. Joel Elowsky
    Drew University (Madison, N.J.)
  41. Stuart Epperson
    Co-Founder and Chariman of the Board, Salem Communications Corporation (Camarillo, Calif.)
  42. Rev. Jonathan Falwell
    Senior Pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, Va.)
  43. William J. Federer
    President, Amerisearch, Inc. (St. Louis)
  44. Fr. Joseph D. Fessio
    Founder and Editor, Ignatius Press (Ft. Collins, Colo.)
  45. Carmen Fowler
    President and Executive Editor, Presbyterian Lay Committee (Lenoir, N.C.)
  46. Maggie Gallagher
    President, National Organization for Marriage (Manassas, Va.)
  47. Dr. Jim Garlow
    Senior Pastor, Skyline Church (La Mesa, Calif.)
  48. Steven Garofalo
    Senior Consultant, Search and Assessment Services (Charlotte, N.C.)
  49. Dr. Robert P. George
    McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
  50. Dr. Timothy George
    Dean and Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University (Birmingham, Ala.)
  51. Thomas Gilson
    Director of Strategic Processes, Campus Crusade for Christ International (Norfolk, Va.)
  52. Dr. Jack Graham
    Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, Texas)
  53. Dr. Wayne Grudem
    Research Professor of Theological and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary (Phoenix)
  54. Dr. Cornell "Corkie" Haan
    National Facilitator of Spiritual Unity, The Mission America Coalition (Palm Desert, Calif.)
  55. Fr. Chad Hatfield
    Chancellor, CEO and Archpriest, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Yonkers, N.Y.)
  56. Dr. Dennis Hollinger
    President and Professor of Christian Ethics, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, Mass.)
  57. Dr. Jeanette Hsieh
    Executive Vice President and Provost, Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.)
  58. Dr. John A. Huffman, Jr.
    Senior Pastor, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Newport Beach, Calif.); Chairman of the Board, Christianity Today International (Carol Stream, Ill.)
  59. Rev. Ken Hutcherson
    Pastor, Antioch Bible Church (Kirkland, Wash.)
  60. Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr.
    Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church (Beltsville, Md.)
  61. Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse
    President, American Orthodox Institute; Editor, OrthodoxyToday.org (Naples, Fla.)
  62. Jerry Jenkins
    Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Moody Bible Institute (Black Forest, Colo.)
  63. Camille Kampouris
    Editorial Board, Kairos Journal
  64. Emmanuel A. Kampouris
    Publisher, Kairos Journal
  65. Rev. Tim Keller
    Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York)
  66. Dr. Peter Kreeft
    Professor of Philosophy, Boston College (Mass.) and at the Kings College (N.Y.)
  67. Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
  68. Jim Kushiner
    Editor, Touchstone (Chicago)
  69. Dr. Richard Land
    President, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC (Washington, D.C.)
  70. Jim Law
    Senior Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church (Woodstock, Ga.)
  71. Dr. Matthew Levering
    Associate Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University (Naples, Fla.)
  72. Dr. Peter Lillback
    President, The Providence Forum (West Conshohocken, Pa.)
  73. Dr. Duane Litfin
    President, Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.)
  74. Rev. Herb Lusk
    Pastor, Greater Exodus Baptist Church (Philadelphia)
  75. His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida
    Archbishop Emeritus, Roman Catholic Diocese of Detroit
  76. Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine
  77. Rev. Francis Martin
    Professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Detroit)
  78. Dr. Joseph Mattera
    Bishop and Senior Pastor, Resurrection Church (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  79. Phil Maxwell
    Pastor, Gateway Church (Bridgewater, N.J.)
  80. Josh McDowell
    Founder, Josh McDowell Ministries (Plano, Texas)
  81. Alex McFarland
    President, Southern Evangelical Seminary (Charlotte, N.C.)
  82. Most Rev. George Dallas McKinney
    Bishop, Founder and Pastor, St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ  (San Diego)
  83. Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns
    Missionary Bishop, Convocation of Anglicans of North America (Herndon, Va.)
  84. Dr. C. Ben Mitchell
    Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University (Jackson, Tenn.)
  85. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
    President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)
  86. Dr. Russell D. Moore
    Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)
  87. Most Rev. John J. Myers
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
  88. Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, Kan.
  89. David Neff
    Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today (Carol Stream, Ill.)
  90. Tom Nelson
    Senior Pastor, Christ Community Evangelical Free Church (Leawood, Kan.)
  91. Niel Nielson
    President, Covenant College (Lookout Mt., Ga.)
  92. Most Rev. John Nienstedt
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
  93. Dr. Tom Oden
    Theologian, United Methodist Minister; Professor, Drew University (Madison, N.J.)
  94. Marvin Olasky
    Editor-in-Chief, World Magazine;  Provost, The Kings College (New York)
  95. Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix
  96. Rev. William Owens
    Chairman, Coalition of African-American Pastors (Memphis, Tenn.)
  97. Dr. J.I. Packer
    Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College (Canada)
  98. Metr. Jonah Paffhausen
    Primate, Orthodox Church in America (Syosset, N.Y.)
  99. Tony Perkins
    President, Family Research Council (Washington, D.C.)
  100. Eric M. Pillmore
    CEO, Pillmore Consulting LLC (Doylestown, Pa.)
  101. Dr. Everett Piper
    President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University (Bartlesville, Okla.)
  102. Todd Pitner
    President, Rev Increase
  103. Dr. Cornelius Plantinga
    President, Calvin Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  104. Dr. David Platt
    Pastor, Church at Brook Hills (Birmingham, Ala.)
  105. Rev. Jim Pocock
    Pastor, Trinitarian Congregational Church (Wayland, Mass.)
  106. Fred Potter
    Executive Director and CEO, Christian Legal Society (Springfield, Va.)
  107. Dennis Rainey
    President, CEO, and Co-Founder, FamilyLife (Little Rock, Ark.)
  108. Fr. Patrick Reardon
    Pastor, All Saints' Antiochian Orthodox Church (Chicago)
  109. Bob Reccord
    Founder, Total Life Impact, Inc. (Suwanee, Ga.)
  110. His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia
  111. Frank Schubert
    President, Schubert Flint Public Affairs (Sacramento, Calif.)
  112. David Schuringa
    President, Crossroads Bible Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  113. Tricia Scribner
    Author (Harrisburg, N.C.)
  114. Dr. Dave Seaford
    Senior Pastor, Community Fellowship Church (Matthews, N.C.)
  115. Alan Sears
    President, CEO, and General Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
  116. Randy Setzer
    Senior Pastor, Macedonia Baptist Church (Lincolnton, N.C.)
  117. Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo.
  118. Dr. Ron Sider
    Director, Evangelicals for Social Action (Wynnewood, Pa.)
  119. Fr. Robert Sirico
    Founder, Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  120. Dr. Robert Sloan
    President, Houston Baptist University (Houston)
  121. Charles Stetson
    Chairman of the Board, Bible Literacy Project (New York)
  122. Dr. David Stevens
    CEO, Christian Medical and Dental Association (Bristol, Tenn.)
  123. John Stonestreet
    Executive Director, Summit Ministries (Manitou Springs, Colo.)
  124. Dr. Joseph Stowell
    President, Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  125. Dr. Sarah Sumner
    Professor of Theology and Ministry, Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, Calif.)
  126. Dr. Glenn Sunshine
    Chairman of the History Department, Central Connecticut State University (New Britain, Conn.)
  127. Joni Eareckson Tada
    Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center (Agoura Hills, Calif.)
  128. Luiz Tellez
    President, The Witherspoon Institute (Princeton, N.J.)
  129. Dr. Timothy C. Tennent
    President, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.)
  130. Michael Timmis
    Chairman, Prison Fellowship and Prison Fellowship International (Naples, Fla.)
  131. Mark Tooley
    President, Institute for Religion and Democracy (Washington, D.C.)
  132. H. James Towey
    President, St. Vincent College (Latrobe, Pa.)
  133. Juan Valdes
    Middle and High School Chaplain, Florida Christian School (Miami, Fla.)
  134. Todd Wagner
    Pastor, WaterMark Community Church (Dallas)
  135. Dr. Graham Walker
    President, Patrick Henry College (Purcellville, Va.)
  136. Fr. Alexander F. C. Webster, Ph.D.
    Archpriest, Orthodox Church in America; Professorial Lecturer, The George Washington University (Ashburn, Va.)
  137. George Weigel
    Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center (Washington, D.C.)
  138. David Welch
    Houston Area Pastor Council Executive Director, US Pastors Council (Houston)
  139. Dr. James Emery White
    Founding and Senior Pastor,  Mecklenburg Community Church (Charlotte, N.C.)
  140. Dr. Hayes Wicker
    Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church (Naples, Fla.)
  141. Mark Williamson
    Founder and President, Foundation Restoration Ministries/Federal Intercessors (Katy, Texas)
  142. Parker T. Williamson
    Editor Emeritus and Senior Correspondent, Presbyterian Lay Committee
  143. Dr. Craig Williford
    President, Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.)
  144. Dr. John Woodbridge
    Research Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Ill.)
  145. Don M. Woodside
    Performance Matters Associates (Matthews, N.C.)
  146. Dr. Frank Wright
    President, National Religious Broadcasters (Manassas, Va.)
  147. Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
  148. Paul Young
    COO and Executive Vice President, Christian Research Institute (Charlotte, N.C.)
  149. Dr. Michael Youssef
    President, Leading the Way (Atlanta)
  150. Ravi Zacharias
    Founder and Chairman of the Board, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Norcross, Ga.)
  151. Most Rev. David A. Zubik
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh
  152. James R. Thobaben, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Professor, Bioethics and Social Ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.)

Nationalism in Greek Orthodoxy

By: Sir Steven Runciman

Excerpts from “The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence.”

Sir Steven Runciman

Sir Steven Runciman

In the East money making has never, as it was in the feudally minded West, been considered to be incompatible with aristocracy. A moneyed nobility began to emerge among the Greeks, closely knit by common aim and interests and by intermarriage, but open to newcomers. These rich families were ambitious. Authority among the Greeks was in the hands of the Patriarch. It therefore became their object to control the Patriarchate. Calling themselves “Archontes” of the Greek nation, they built their houses in the Phanar quarter of Constantinople, to be close to the Patriarchal buildings. They obtained for their sons positions in the Patriarchal court; and one by one the high offices of the Great Church passed into lay hands. Their members did not enter the Church itself. That was considered to be beneath their dignity. The bishops and the Patriarch himself continued to be drawn mainly from bright boys of humbler classes who had risen through intelligence and merit. But by the end of the seventeenth century the Phanariot families, as they were usually called, dominated the central organization of the Church…. But the Patriarchate could not do without them; for they were in a position both to pay its debt and to intrigue in its favor at the Sublime Porte (pgs. 361-362).

It was good for the Church to have to meet an intellectual challenge; but the challenge was too abrupt. The strength of the Byzantine Church had been the presence of a highly educated laity that was deeply interested in religion. Now the laity began to despise the traditions of the Church; and the traditional elements in the Church began to mistrust and dislike modern education, retreating to defend themselves into a thickening obscurantism. The cleavage between the intellectuals and the traditionalists, which had begun when Neo-Aristotelianism was introduced into the curriculum of the Patriarchal Academy, grew wider. Under Phanariot influence many of the higher ecclesiastics followed the modernist trend. In the old days Orthodoxy had preferred to concentrate on eternal things and modestly to refuse to clothe the faith in trappings of modish philosophy. The Phanariots in their desire to impress the West had no use for such old-fashioned notions. Instead, seeing the high prestige of ancient Greek learning, they wished to show that they were, by culture as well as by blood, the heirs of ancient Greece. Their sons, lively laymen educated in the new style, were now filling the administrative posts at the Patriarchal court. As a result the Patriarchate began to lose touch with the great body of the faithful, to whom faith meant more than philosophy and the Christian saints more than the sophist of pagan times.

Above all, the Phanariots needed the support of the Church in the pursuits of the ultimate political aim. It was no mean aim. The Megali Idea, the Great Idea of the Greeks, can be traced back to the days before the Turkish conquest…With the spread of the Renaissance a respect for the old Greek civilization had become general. It was natural that the Greeks, in the midst of their political disasters, should wish to benefit from it. They might be slaves now to the Turks, but they were of the great race that had civilized Europe. It must be their destiny to rise again. The Phanariots tried to combine the nationalistic forces of Hellenism in a passionate if illogical alliance with the ecumenical traditions of Byzantium and the Orthodox Church. They worked for a restored Byzantium, a New Rome that should be Greek, a new center of Greek civilization that should embrace the Orthodox world. The spirit behind the Great Idea was a mixture of neo-Byzantinism and an acute sense of race. But with the trend of the modern world the nationalism began to dominate the ecumenicity. George Scholarius Gennadius had perhaps unconsciously, foreseen the danger when he answered a question about his nationality by saying that he would not call himself a Hellene though he was a Hellene by race, not a Byzantine though he had been born at Byzantium, but, rather, a Christian, that is, an Orthodox. For, if the Orthodox Church was to retain its spiritual force, it must remain ecumenical. It must not become a purely Greek Church.

The price paid by the Church for its subjection to the Phanariot benefactors was heavy. First, it meant that the Church was run more and more in the interests of the Greek people and not of Orthodoxy as a whole. The arrangement made between the Conquering Sultan and the Patriarch Gennadius had put all the Orthodox Church within the Ottoman Empire under the authority of the Patriarchate, which was inevitably controlled by Greeks (pgs. 377-379).

If any Orthodox Palestinian wished for advancement he had to learn Greek and entirely identify himself with Greek interests; and the Patriarch (of Jerusalem) himself spent much of his time at Constantinople or in the Principalities. The Greeks were not prepared to let this luscious plum fall into other hands. Yet it is doubtful whether in the long run the Greek nationalism that was being increasingly infused into the whole Orthodox organization was beneficial to Orthodoxy. It was not in the old Byzantine tradition. Though within the Empire itself a knowledge of Greek was necessary for any official position, there had been no distinction of race; and the Byzantines had encouraged vernacular liturgies and had been cautious in trying to impose a Greek hierarchy upon other peoples. But the Great Idea encouraged the Greeks to think of themselves as a Chosen People; and chosen peoples are seldom popular, nor do they fit well into Christian life.

This attempt to turn the Orthodox Church into an exclusively Greek Church was one of the outcomes of Phanariot policy. It lead also to a decline in spiritual values, by stressing Greek culture as against Orthodox traditions and seeking to turn the Church into a vehicle of nationalist feeling, genuine and democratic up to a point, but little concerned with the spiritual life. At the same time it place the Patriarchate on the horns of a moral dilemma. It involved the Church in politics, and subversive politics. Was it not the duty of the Church to render unto Caesar the things which were Caesar’s? Could a Patriarch justifiably jettison the agreement reached between the Sultan and his great predecessor Gennaidus? Could he abjure the oath that he had sworn to the Sultan when his election was confirmed? On a more practical level, had he the right to indulge in plots which if they failed would undoubtedly subject his flock to ghastly reprisals? The more thoughtful hierarchs could not lightly support revolutionary nationalism. Yet if they failed to join in the movement from a sense of honor or from prudence or from spiritually minded detachment, they would be branded as traitors to Hellenism. The Church would lose its hold over the livelier and more progressive elements of his congregation. The rebirth of Greece was to involve a gallows erected at the gate of the Patriarchate and a Patriarch’s corpse swinging thereon (pgs. 382-384).

Civilization Without Religion?

By: Russell Kirk

A masterful essay on the dependence of civilization on religion.

Russell Kirk - American Philosopher

Russell Kirk - American Philosopher

Sobering voices tell us nowadays that the civilization in which we participate is not long for this world. Many countries have fallen under the domination of squalid oligarchs; other lands are reduced to anarchy. "Cultural revolution," rejecting our patrimony of learning and manners, has done nearly as much mischief in the West as in the East, if less violently. Religious belief is attenuated at best, for many or else converted, after being secularized, into an instrument for social transformation. Books give way to television and videos; universities, intellectually democratized, are sunk to the condition of centers for job certification. An increasing proportion of the population, in America especially, is dehumanized by addiction to narcotics and insane sexuality.

These afflictions are only some of the symptoms of social and personal disintegration. One has but to look at our half-ruined American cities, with their ghastly rates of murder and rape, to perceive that we moderns lack the moral imagination and the right reason required to maintain tolerable community. Writers in learned quarterlies or in daily syndicated columns use the terms "post-Christian era" or "post-modern epoch" to imply that we are breaking altogether with our cultural past, and are entering upon some new age of a bewildering character.

Some people, the militant secular humanists in particular, seem pleased by this prospect; but yesteryear’s meliorism is greatly weakened in most quarters. Even Marxist ideologues virtually have ceased to predict the approach of a Golden Age. To most observers, T. S. Eliot among them, it has seemed far more probable that we are stumbling into a new Dark Age, inhumane, merciless, a totalist political domination in which the life of spirit and the inquiring intellect will be denounced, harassed, and propagandized against: Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four, rather than Huxley’s Brave New World of cloying sensuality. Or perhaps Tolkien’s blasted and servile land of Mordor may serve as symbol of the human condition in the twenty-first century (which, however, may not be called the twenty-first century, the tag Anno Domini having been abolished as joined to one of the superstitions of the childhood of the race).

At the End of an Era

Some years ago I was sitting in the parlor of an ancient house in the close of York Minster. My host, Basil Smith, the Minster’s Treasurer then, a man of learning and of faith, said to me that we linger at the end of an era; soon the culture we have known will be swept into the dustbin of history. About us, as we talked in that medieval mansion, loomed Canon Smith’s tall bookcases lined with handsome volumes; his doxological clock chimed the half-hour musically; flames flared up in his fireplace. Was all this setting of culture, and much more besides, to vanish away as if the Evil Spirit had condemned it? Basil Smith is buried now, and so is much of the society he ornamented and tried to redeem. At the time I thought him too gloomy; but already a great deal that he foresaw has come to pass.

The final paragraph of Malcolm Muggeridge’s essay ‘The Great Liberal Death Wish" must suffice, the limits of my time with you considered, as a summing-up of the human predicament at the end of the twentieth century.

"As the astronauts soar into the vast eternities of space," Muggeridge writes, "on earth the garbage piles higher, as the groves of academe extend their domain, their alumni’s arms reach lower, as the phallic cult spreads, so does impotence. In great wealth, great poverty; in health, sickness, in numbers, deception. Gorging, left hungry; sedated, left restless; telling all, hiding all; in flesh united, forever separate. So we press on through the valley of abundance that leads to the wasteland of satiety, passing through the gardens of fantasy; seeking happiness ever more ardently, and finding despair ever more surely."

Just so. Such recent American ethical writers as Stanley Hauwerwas and Alasdair MacIntyre concur in Muggeridge’s verdict on the society of our time, concluding that nothing can be done, except for a remnant to gather in little "communities of character" while society slides toward its ruin. Over the past half-century, many other voices of reflective men and women have been heard to the same effect. Yet let us explore the question of whether a reinvigoration of our culture is conceivable.

Surprise Turning Points

Is the course of nations inevitable? Is there some fixed destiny for great states? In 1796, a dread year for Britain, old Edmund Burke declared that we cannot foresee the future; often the historical determinists are undone by the coming of events that nobody has predicted. At the very moment when some states "seemed plunged in unfathomable abysses of disgrace and disaster ‘ Burke wrote in his First Letter on a Regicide Peace, "they have suddenly emerged. They have begun a new course, and opened a new reckoning; and even in the depths of their calamity, and on the very ruins of their country, have laid the foundations of a towering and durable greatness. All this has happened without any apparent previous change in the general circumstances which had brought on their distress. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities on a whole nation. A common soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of Nature."

The "common soldier" to whom Burke refers is Arnold of Winkelreid, who flung himself upon the Austrian spears to save his country; the child is the young Hannibal, told by his father to wage ruthless war upon Rome; the girl at the door of an inn is Joan of Arc. We do not know why such abrupt reversals or advances occur, Burke remarks; perhaps they are indeed the work of Providence.

"Nothing is, but thinking makes it so," the old adage runs. If most folk come to believe that our culture must collapse-why, then collapse it will. Yet Burke, after all, was right in that dreadful year of 1796. For despite the overwhelming power of the French revolutionary movement in that year, in the long run Britain defeated her adversaries, and after the year 1812 Britain emerged from her years of adversity to the height of her power. Is it conceivable that American civilization, and in general what we call "Western Civilization," may recover from the Time of Troubles that commenced in 1914 (so Arnold Toynbee instructs us) and in the twenty-first century enter upon an Augustan age of peace and restored order?

To understand these words "civilization" and "culture," the best book to read is T. S. Eliot’s slim volume Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, published forty-four years ago.

Once upon a time I commended that book to President Nixon, in a private discussion of modern disorders, as the one book which he ought to read for guidance in his high office. Man is the only creature possessing culture, as distinguished from instinct; and if culture is effaced, so is the distinction between man and the brutes that perish. "Art is man’s nature," in Edmund Burke’s phrase; and if the human arts, or culture, cease to be, then human nature ceases to be.

From what source did humankind’s many cultures arise? Why, from cults. A cult is a joining together for worship-that is, the attempt of people to commune with a transcendent power. It is from association in the cult, the body of worshippers, that human community grows. This basic truth has been expounded in recent decades by such eminent historians as Christopher Dawson, Eric Voegelin, and Arnold Toynbee.

Once people are joined in a-cult, cooperation in many other things becomes possible. Common defense, irrigation, systematic agriculture, architecture, the visual arts, music, the more intricate crafts, economlc production and distribution, courts and government-all these aspects of a culture arise gradually from the cult, the religious de.

Out of little knots of worshippers, in Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, India, or China, there grew up simple cultures; for those joined by religion can dwell together and work together in relative peace. Presently such simple cultures may develop into intricate cultures, and those intricate cultures into great civilizations. American civilization of our era is rooted, strange though the fact may seem to us, in tiny knots of worshippers in Palestine, Greece, and Italy, thousands of years ago. The enormous material achievements of our civilization have resulted, if remotely, from the spiritual insights of prophets and seers.

But suppose that the cult withers, with the elapse of centuries. What then of the culture that is rooted in the cult? What then of the civilization which is the culture’s grand manifestation? For an answer to such uneasy questions, we can turn to a twentieth century parable. Here I think of G. K Chesterton’s observation that all life being an allegory, we can understand it only in parable.

Parable of the Future

The author of my parable, however, is not Chesterton, but a quite different writer, the late Robert Graves, whom I once visited in Mallorca I have in mind Graves’s romance Seven Days in New Crete-published in America under the title Watch the North Wind Rise.

In that highly readable romance of a possible future, we are told that by the close of the "Late Christian epoch" the world will have fallen altogether, after a catastrophic war and devastation, under a collectivistic domination, a variant of Communism. Religion, the moral imagination, and nearly everything that makes life worth living have been virtually extirpated by ideology and nuclear war. k system of thought and government called Logicalism, "pantisocratic economics divorced from any religious or national theory," rules the world-for a brief time.

In Graves’s words:

Logicalism, hinged on international science, ushered in a gloomy and anti-poetic age. It lasted only a generation or two and ended with a grand defeatism, a sense of perfect futility, that slowly crept over the directors and managers of the regime. The common man had triumphed over his spiritual betters at last, but what was to follow? To what could he look forward with either hope or fear? By the abolition of sovereign states and the disarming of even the police forces, war had become impossible. No one who cherished any religious beliefs whatever, or was interested in sport, poetry, or the arts, was allowed to hold a position of public responsibility. "Ice-cold logic" was the most valued civic quality, and those who could not pretend to it were held of no account. Science continued laboriously to expand its over-large corpus of information, and the subjects of research grew more and more beautifully remote and abstract; yet the scientific obsession, so strong at the beginning of the third millennium A. D., was on the wane. Logicalist officials who were neither defeatist nor secretly religious and who kept their noses to the grindstone from a sense of duty, fell prey to colobromania, a mental disturbance….

Rates of abortion and infanticide, of suicide, and other indices of social boredom rise with terrifying speed under this Logicalist regime. Gangs of young people go about robbing, beating, and murdering, for the sake of excitement. It appears that the human race will become extinct if such tendencies continue; for men and women find life not worth living under such a domination. The deeper longings of humanity have been outraged, so that the soul and the state stagger on the verge of final darkness. But in this crisis an Israeli Sophocrat writes a book called A Critique of Utopias, in which he examines seventy Utopian writings, from Plato to Aldous Huxley. "We must retrace our steps," he concludes, "or perish." Only by the resurrection of religious faith, the Sophocrats discover, can mankind be kept from total destruction; and that religion, as Graves describes it in his romance, springs from the primitive soil of myth and symbol.

Graves really is writing about our own age, not of some remote future: of life in today’s United States and today’s Soviet Union. He is saying that culture arises from the cult; and that when belief in the cult has been wretchedly enfeebled, the culture will decay swiftly. The material order rests upon the spiritual order.

So it has come to pass, here in the closing years of the twentieth century. With the weakening of the moral order, "Things fall apart; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world … " The Hellenic and the Roman cultures went down to dusty death after this fashion. What may be done to achieve reinvigoration?

No Substitute

Some well-meaning folk talk of a "civil religion," a kind of cult of patriotism, founded upon a myth of national virtue and upon veneration of certain historic documents, together with a utilitarian morality. But such experiments of a secular character never have functioned satisfactorily; and it scarcely is necessary for me to point out the perils of such an artificial creed, bound up with nationalism: the example of the ideology of the National Socialist Party in Germany, half a century ago, may suffice. Worship of the state, or of the national commonwealth, is no healthy substitute for communion with transcendent love and wisdom.

Nor can attempts at persuading people that religion is "useful" meet with much genuine success. No man sincerely goes down on his knees to the divine because he has been told that such rituals lead to the beneficial consequences of tolerably honest behavior in commerce. People will conform their actions to the precepts of religion only when they earnestly believe the doctrines of that religion to be true.

Still less can it suffice to assert that the Bible is an infallible authority on everything, literally interpreted, in defiance of the natural sciences and of other learned disciplines; to claim to have received private revelations from Jehovah; or to embrace some self-proclaimed mystic from the gorgeous East, whose teachings are patently absurd.

In short, the culture can be renewed only if the cult is renewed; and faith in divine power cannot be summoned up merely when that is found expedient. Faith no longer works wonders among us: one has but to glance at the typical church built nowadays, ugly and shoddy, to discern how architecture no longer is nurtured by the religious imagination. It is so in nearly all d e works of twentieth century civilization: the modern mind has been secularized so thoroughly that "culture" is assumed by most people to have no connection with the love of God.

How are we to account for this widespread decay of the religious impulse? It appears that the principal cause of the loss of the idea of the holy is the attitude called "scientism"-that is, the popular notion that the revelations of natural science, over the past century and a half or two centuries, somehow have proved that men and women are naked apes merely, that the ends of existence are production and consumption merely; that happiness is the gratification of sensual impulses; and that concepts of the resurrection of the flesh and the life everlasting are mere exploded superstitions. Upon these scientistic assumptions, public schooling in America is founded nowadays, implicitly.

This view of the human condition has been called-by C S. Lewis, in particular-reductionism: it reduces human beings almost to mindlessness; it denies the existence of the soul. Reductionism has become almost an ideology. It is scientistic, but not scientific: for it is a far cry from the understanding of matter and energy that one finds in the addresses of Nobel prize winners in physics, say.

Popular notions of "what science says" are archaic :, reflecting the assertions of the scientists of the middle of the nineteenth century; such views are a world away from the writings of Stanley Jaki, the cosmologist and historian of science, who was awarded the Templeton Prize for progress in religion last year.

As Arthur Koestler remarks in his little book The Roots of Coincidence, yesterday’s scientific doctrines of materialism and mechanism ought to be buried now with a requiem of electronic music. Once more, in biology as in physics, the scientific disciplines enter upon the realm of mystery.

Yet the great public always suffers from the affliction called cultural lag. If most people continue to fancy that scientific theory of a century ago is the verdict of serious scientists today, will not the religious understanding of life continue to wither, and civilization continue to crumble?

Hard Truth

Perhaps; but the future, I venture to remind you, is unknowable. Conceivably we may be given a Sign. Yet such an event being in I he hand of God, if it is to occur at all, meanwhile some reflective people declare that our culture must be reanimated, by a great effort of will.

More than forty years ago, that remarkable historian Christopher Dawson, in his book Religion and Culture, expressed this hard truth strongly. "The events of the last few years," Dawson wrote, "portend either the end of human history or a turning point in it. They have warned us in letters of fire that our civilization has been tried in the balance and found wanting-that there is an absolute limit to the progress than can be achieved by the perfectionment of scientific techniques detached from spiritual aims and moral values…. The recovery of moral control and the return to spiritual order have become the indispensable conditions of human survival. But they can be achieved only by a profound change in the spirit of modern civilization. This does not mean a new religion or a new culture but a movement of spiritual reintegration which would restore that vital relation between religion and culture which has existed at every age and on every level of human development."

Amen to that. The alternative to such a successful endeavor, a conservative endeavor, to reinvigorate our culture would be a series of catastrophic events, the sort predicted by Pitirim Sorokin and other sociologists, which eventually might efface our present sensate culture and bring about a new ideational culture, the character of which we cannot even imagine. Such an ideational culture doubtless would have its religion: but it might be the worship of what has been called the Savage God.

Such ruin has occurred repeatedly in history. When the classical religion ceased to move hearts and minds, two millennia ago, thus the Graeco Roman civilization went down to Avernus. As my little daughter Cecilia put it unprompted, some years ago looking at a picture book of Roman history, "And then, at the end of a long summer’s day, there came Death, Mud, Crud."

Great civilizations have ended in slime. Outside the ancient city of York, where York Minster stands upon the site of the Roman praetorium, there lies a racecourse known as the Knavesmire. Here in medieval time were buried the knaves-the felons and paupers. When, a few years ago, the racecourse was being enlarged, the diggers came upon a Roman graveyard beneath, or in part abutting upon, the medieval burial ground. This appeared to have been a cemetery of the poor of Romano-British times. Few valuable artifacts were uncovered, but the bones were of interest. Many of the people there interred, in the closing years of Roman power in Britain, had been severely deformed, apparently suffering from rickets and other afflictions-deformed spines and limbs and skulls. Presumably they had suffered lifelong, and died, from extreme malnutrition. At the end, decadence comes down to that, for nearly everybody.

It was at York that the dying Septimius Severus, after his last campaign (against the Scots), was asked by his brutal sons, Geta and Caracalla, "Father, when you are gone, how shall we govern the empire?" The hard old emperor had his laconic reply ready: "Pay the soldiers. The rest do not matter." There would come a time when the soldiers could not be paid, and then civilization would fall to pieces. The last Roman army in Italy-it is said to have been composed entirely of cavalry- fought in league with the barbarian general Odoacer against Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, in the year 491; on Odoacer’s defeat, the Roman soldiers drifted home, nevermore to take arms: the end of an old song Only the earlier stages of social decadence-seem liberating to some people; the last act, as Cecilia Kirk perceived, consists of Death, Mud, Crud.

In short, it appears to me that our culture labors in an advanced state of decadence; that what many people mistake for the triumph of our civilization actually consists of powers that are disintegrating our culture; that the vaunted "democratic freedom" of liberal society in reality is servitude to appetites and illusions which attack religious belief; which destroy community through excessive centralization and urbanization; which efface life-giving tradition and custom.

History has many cunning passages, contrieved corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities.

So Gerontion instructs us, in T. S. Eliot’s famous grim poem. By those and some succeeding lines, Eliot means that human experience lived without the Logos, the Word; lived merely by the asserted knowledge of empirical science-why, history in that sense is a treacherous gypsy witch. Civilizations that reject or abandon the religious imagination must end, as did Gerontion, in fractured atoms.

Restoring Religious Insights

In conclusion, it is my argument that the elaborate civilization we have known stands in peril; that it may expire of lethargy, or be destroyed by violence, or perish, from a combination of both evils. We who think that life remains worth living ought to address ourselves to means by which a restoration of our culture may be achieved. A prime necessity for us is to restore an apprehension of religious insights in our clumsy apparatus of public instruction, which -bullied by militant secular humanists and presumptuous federal courts-has been left with only ruinous answers to the ultimate questions.

What ails modern civilization? Fundamentally, our society’s affliction is the decay of religious belief If a culture is to survive and flourish, it must not be severed from the religious vision out of which it arose. The high necessity of reflective men and women, then, is to labor for the restoration of religious teachings as a credible body of doctrine.

"Redeem the time; redeem the dream," T. S. Eliot wrote. It remains possible, given right reason and moral imagination, to confront boldly the age’s disorders. The restoration of true learning, humane and scientific; the reform of many public policies; the renewal of our awareness of a transcendent order, and of the presence of an Other, the brightening of the comers where we find ourselves such approaches are open to those among the rising generation who look for a purpose in life. It is just conceivable that we may be given a Sign before the end of the twentieth century; yet Sign or no Sign, Remnant must strive against the follies of the time.

Lecture Number Four Hundred and Four, July 24th, 1992

Orthodox Leadership in a Brave New World

By: Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Almost thirty years ago Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered an address at Harvard University that still ranks as one of the most trenchant and inspired critiques of Western culture ever given. Although some of the political references are dated, two observations remain as true today as when they were first spoken. The first is that the philosophical materialism that shaped communism and led to the Gulags now operates in the Western world. The second is that mankind stands at an anthropological threshold.

What is philosophical materialism? To use Solzhenitsyn’s definition, it is the belief that man has no touchstone other than himself:

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth . . . we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.

Philosophical materialism has concrete cultural ramifications. To social utopians, it means that persons have no enduring value—so society can be forcibly arranged around notions of the common good. To hedonists, it means that the body is primarily a pleasure machine. To nihilists, it means that because the death of the body is also the end of existence, we should exalt death and violence.

These themes shaped much of the course of the last century. Solzhenitsyn had firsthand experience of Marxist social utopianism, but he was not the first to sound the alarm. Almost a century earlier, Dostoevsky heard the rumblings that would make Russia susceptible to communist tyranny and warned, “Without God, everything is permitted.”

Prophets of the West

The Democratic West had its own literary prophets, who, while not steeped in Christianity as deeply as Solzhenitsyn or Dostoevsky, nevertheless understood the Christian moral tradition and thus were able to discern the cultural trends that Solzhenitsyn would express so clearly at Harvard years later.

One such visionary was George Orwell, who foresaw the tyranny of the social utopianism that follows when traditional notions of truth and virtue are supplanted, and confronted it in 1984. Another was Aldous Huxley, who, in his classic Brave New World, focused more on the elevation of pleasure and the senseless preoccupation with stimulation that would afflict culture once moral norms shifted. Neil Postman, in his brilliant Amusing Ourselves to Death, pointed out the differences between the two authors:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

As trenchant as Orwell’s and Huxley’s prophecies were, however, Solzhenitsyn’s emerges as more compelling because of his explicit religious appeal. In locating the cultural calamities in the loss of an awareness of God, he shows the stance Christians—particularly those who understand that current cultural conflicts require more than a political solution—should take today.

The Anthropological Threshold

Mankind, said Solzhenitsyn (and here he means Christendom—the culture that drew from the well of Judeo-Christian morality), stands on an anthropological threshold as significant as the shift from the medieval to the modern period:

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

“Anthropology” comes from the Greek word anthropos, which means “man.” In theological terms, anthropology means what we understand the human person to be. It encompasses who he is, what he was created for, how he should comport himself—all the constituents of man’s existence that raise him above the animal, that define his purpose, that make meaning out of his relationships.

Consider Solzhenitsyn’s exhortation in the questions facing us today, especially the looming issues concerning the advancements in medical technology. We have unlocked some secrets about human life that were unthinkable just a generation or two ago. Who would have thought we could map the human genome or grow organs from a single cell, as it appears may soon be the case? Who foresaw such advancements as locating and even correcting fetal abnormalities? Who guessed that we could extend life expectancy by decades in some cases?

These advancements are front and center for several reasons. First, they require us to answer foundational questions about the nature and value of the human person. These questions have not been answered, at least in terms that have achieved any kind of cultural consensus. Secondly, how they are answered will drive research and development in the future. Frankly, how we decide these questions will determine what kind of society we bequeath to our children and grandchildren.

These advancements are fraught with ethical difficulty. Is it wrong to test for Down’s Syndrome in an unborn child? Is it wrong to extract stem cells from embryos? How far do our obligations to keep people alive really go? These types of questions are highly contentious, as any student of the culture knows. One thing we know for certain is that as our knowledge increases, the ethical questions concerning the nature and value of human life will become more numerous and complex—and the contention is likely to increase.

The contention has been largely defined in political terms. Every reader is familiar with the hot-button conflicts—teen sexuality, homosexual marriage, abortion, the Terri Schiavo dilemma—that have been fought in the public arena. The political arena will always remain a venue for moral conflicts, but we sell ourselves short if we conclude that the political dimension is the arena where these questions will find their final resolution.

For Solzhenitsyn, spiritual development and self-awareness work hand-in-hand—clearly a Christian value self-evident to any Orthodox Christian. But he also warns that because Western culture has been sidetracked into a philosophical materialism that has dimmed man’s spiritual awareness, its future is threatened. The only way out of the present morass is spiritual renewal.

Solzhenitsyn experienced the ravages of the spiritual darkening firsthand, particularly during his eight years in a Soviet prison. There he received the fundamental insight that would propel his groundbreaking work: "The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between political parties—but right through every human heart."

The timing of his Harvard speech couldn’t have been better. His words fell on the ears of a nation that was already experiencing the wrenching dislocations of a cataclysmic shift in moral values and social order—from the sexual revolution to riots in its cities—in ways unprecedented in its history. At the same time, the wondrous—and fearful—unlocking of the deep mysteries of human nature was moving into full swing. America had entered a culture war.

The Anthropological Dimension of the Culture War

The culture war is fundamentally a conflict about anthropology—how we value the human being, how we ought to define him, the purpose for his existence, what social arrangements society deems suitable for men and women, and so forth. And politics emerged as the prominent battlefield for the conflict.

Complex conflicts tend to drift toward simplification, and the culture war was no exception. Cultural liberalism and cultural conservatism roughly followed political lines: Democrats were liberal and Republicans were conservative. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but even a big suit on a small man still covers his body.

No one has really been comfortable with the arrangement, except perhaps the activists. Adding to the discomfort is our characteristically American way of adjudicating moral conflict. American culture has no institution of moral judgment. We have no national Church, no council of legislative elders, and no final court of arbitration that can definitively resolve the perplexing moral questions that face us. As a result, the debates and political maneuverings that follow are often raucous and chaotic affairs.

There is wisdom in this system of apparent chaos, however. The Founding Fathers, in refusing to establish a central authority of moral judgment, ensured that these questions must be addressed by the culture itself, thereby affirming the precept, politics follows culture, in ways that inhibit any imposition of a final adjudication from the state.

This precept is also drawn from the Christian tradition. It is grounded in the notion that the power of the state draws not only from the consent of the people, but from a people grounded in the Christian moral tradition. Solzhenitsyn, again stressing the anthropological dimension, himself acknowledged this point in the Harvard address:

Yet in the early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility.

The model built by the Founding Fathers is not a perfect formula, but it does resist the tyranny that Solzhenitsyn experienced in Soviet Russia. One way is by providing a fluidity through which reform movements can arise. Take Democrats for Life, for example. Five short years ago an internal challenge to the hard-line pro-abortion position held by Democratic Party leadership was virtually unthinkable. But there it is.

Politics will always play a role in the great moral debates. It’s the American way. In taking questions to the culture, then, we need to look past (but not overlook) the political factors and define more clearly the anthropological dimension of the debate. It’s a complex topic, so let’s restrict our discussion to one important theme: the use and misuse of the Christian moral vocabulary.

Moral Deconstruction

Moral deconstruction can be defined as the systematic takedown and restructuring of the moral assumptions that used to guide our decisions, especially those that touched on the foundational constituents defining our self-understanding and value. These would include decisions about life, death, sexuality, purpose, meaning, sacrifice, and more.

Coming back to our literary prophets, we can see that cultural deconstruction was what they feared. Orwell warned against the imposition of tyranny, Huxley against a mechanization of the body, and Solzhenitsyn against a moral redefinition of man through which his God-given direction towards freedom (ultimately found in Christ) would be obscured.

Ideas have consequences. How we think determines how we act. This describes not only the individual but also the society he inhabits. A society cannot continue to function without shared notions of right and wrong—a dynamic we call the moral consensus. These ideas and values function as universals, as ways that a society organizes itself.

Further, these ideas depend on language, because it’s through language that the ideas are passed from one generation to the next. They shape a story, a cultural narrative, which references ideas and actions to a larger body of meaning. Solzhenitsyn, in arguing that the moral touchstone has shifted from God to man in Western culture, thereby implies the narrative has shifted as well. Solzhenitsyn says as much by writing the Gulag series, which attempted (successfully as it turns out) to destroy the Marxist cultural narrative by telling the truth about it, employing the values and ideas of the traditional narrative Marxist ideas sought to supplant.

In terms of how these concepts enter the culture, however, Orwell is probably the clearest. In Politics and the English Language, Orwell warned of how the meanings of words are subverted to stand for ideas and concepts that are not true to their meaning. The promises of the socialist utopia sweeping Europe (and the American intelligentsia) at the time were Orwell’s target, but the dynamic remains true today.

In all corners of the culture, words drawn from the moral tradition are employed to justify actions and behaviors that the tradition otherwise discourages and often prohibits. We saw it in the great debates about abortion and euthanasia in the last few decades. The conflict was not only about competing moral values, but also about the language by which those values were communicated. Words like freedom, choice, human value, and others whose meanings were relatively clear when the cultural consensus was shaped by traditional Christian morality now served a different function as that consensus shattered.

This co-opting of the Christian moral lexicon is one reason for the deep moral confusion in the culture. It creates a kind of moral schizophrenia in which people are unsure if right and wrong even exist. Repeat certain words over and over again, and people will tend to believe them. If these words have moral power, which is to say if they derive their authority from the moral tradition, people will tend to believe their new applications are the tradition.

That’s what Huxley warned against. If man is a biological machine, and if that machine responds to pleasure, why not frame the pleasure-inducing activity in the terminology of a private good? Orwell warned of the same corruption. If man is machine, why not frame the attempts at social reorganization in terms of the common good? All it takes is wrestling common terms from their traditional moral contexts and employing them in ones that justify the dehumanization as progress. Good becomes evil, and evil becomes good. Society has reconstructed itself in a new moral order.

What makes Solzhenitsyn’s exhortation so compelling (and ultimately more valuable) is his conviction that the crisis is fundamentally one of anthropology. As such, it might also be one of historical inevitability. Perhaps our progress has forced this dilemma upon us, just as the Nestorian controversy forced the elucidation of the two natures of Christ, and the Arian controversy the elucidation of Christ’s divinity. The question we as a society need to answer is: What is Man?

The Re-Christianization of Culture

As awe-inspiring as our technological advancements are, and despite the promise they hold for the alleviation of human suffering, the application of new technologies towards the betterment of the human condition in terms traditionally understood is not assured. The moral crisis facing American culture, particularly the deconstruction of cultural forms that managed to safeguard the common and private good (and sometimes correct its failures), can easily subvert the knowledge into something grotesque and ugly while claiming to serve the good.

Solzhenitsyn warned as much when he said the crisis can only be resolved if man reawakens to the spiritual dimension of his existence: “This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but—upward.”

If Orthodox Christians should understand anything, it is this: Salvation is a concrete, existential encounter with the living God. Moreover, this Lord gives gifts, including wisdom, knowledge, insight, and courage—all the elements needed to confront the maelstrom of confusion in which our culture finds itself, and all meant to be applied in the work of daily life, whether as mother, researcher, mechanic, priest—whatever our vocation may be.

Salvation is not understanding the correct theological concepts; it is not nostalgia for civilizations past; it is not formal membership in a long-standing parish; it is not social activism; it is not morally appropriate behavior; it is not mastery of the moral vocabulary. Further, it is not enough to recall the certainty of the past. Nostalgic impulses, as comforting as they may be (including the Orthodox variants, such as the longings for Hellenistic Greece or Holy Russia), simply won’t meet the challenge.

Orthodox leadership today requires moral clarity and courage. When Solzhenitsyn delivered his address three decades ago, he spoke not as a philosopher, but as a voice crying in the wilderness. He cried out against the dehumanization of men he experienced in the East and saw advancing in the West. Only people with moral clarity and courage could successfully challenge it, he exhorted. What the world needs is not more philosophers, but moralists.

The exhortation drew from a supreme confidence in the power of truth. Solzhenitsyn believed that truth is self-verifying. When the truth is spoken, its veracity is self-evident to the hearer. This is a profoundly Christian notion rooted in the teaching of the apostle Paul: When the Gospel is preached, Christ (who is Truth) is revealed.

Any Orthodox response to the cultural challenge must first presume a recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The wisdom of the Fathers, the artistry of the poets, the healings of the miracle workers, the courage of the martyrs, the knowledge of the scholars, the patience of the teachers, the foresight of the bishops, the faithfulness of the priests—all the elements that shaped and forged the moral tradition that founded Western civilization and must renew it today—start with the recovery of the Gospel. As Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse is the president of the American Orthodox Institute.

This article originally appeared in AGAIN Vol. 29 No. 3, Fall 2007. Visit AGAIN online at Conciliar Press.

Read Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address.

Read Orwell’s Politics and the English Language.

Conflicted Hearts: Orthodox Christian ‘Social Justice’ in an Age of Globalization

By: John Couretas

John Couretas

John Couretas

In the opening sermon delivered to an ecumenical gathering last year in Brazil, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania called on the assembly to promote "daring initiatives and just social struggles." The archbishop, a leading expert on Orthodox Christian missionary work, exhorted the 3,800 attendees at the World Council of Churches gathering in Porto Alegre "not to be spectators of divine interventions and actions," but to offer themselves as co-workers with the Lord.

He addressed the rise of economic globalization, describing it as "solely concerned with broadening the market" as it levels cultural diversity. "Woe to us if, in the twenty-first century, we again relinquish the initiative for social justice to others, as we have done in past centuries, while we confine ourselves to our opulent rituals, to our usual alliance with the powerful," the archbishop preached.

The archbishop, in his critique of an ever-more-interdependent global economic system, picked up on themes in his 2003 collection of essays, Facing the WorldOrthodoxbooksonline.com. In that work, he called on Christians to promote a "society of love" in opposition to "a globalization that transforms nations and people into an indistinguishable, homogenized mass, convenient for the economic objectives of an anonymous oligarchy."

The archbishop’s critique of economic globalization fell on receptive ears at the WCC, a Geneva-based organization that, going back to the Cold War years, has long been critical of American military and economic might. At the same time, the archbishop and the WCC delegates who made their way to Porto Alegre on wide-body jets and air-conditioned tourist coaches availed themselves of the fruits of economic globalization — international credit card processing, ATM machines, Internet access, safe immunizations, and high-tech airport security. As they must have done in attending earlier assemblies in Zimbabwe, Sweden, India, Kenya, and Australia.

Of Two Minds About Globalization

This double-minded approach — recoiling from the reality of a powerful global economy while enjoying its many benefits — was evident in the "Pastoral Letter on the Occasion of the Third Christian Millennium" (.pdf file) issued by SCOBA bishops in 2000. In a passage on economics, the statement carefully noted that many Orthodox cultures "suffered terribly" under communism. But then the bishops made a startling assertion:

We acknowledge that our capitalist system is no less predicated on purely materialist principles, which also do not engender faith in God. There is no place in the calculus of our economics to account for the "intangibles" of human existence. Reflect on how the simple accounting phrase "the bottom line" has shaped our whole culture. We use it to force the summarization of an analysis devoid of any externals or irrelevancies to the "heart of the matter." This usually means the monetary outcome.

Maybe the well-meaning SCOBA hierarchs did not intend to level capitalism, or what we might call a free market system, to the same moral ground as communism. Undoubtedly, those who fled or escaped from communist countries during the Cold War — whether they were Cuban or Vietnamese boat people or East Germans risking their necks to scale the Berlin Wall — were in search of exactly those political and economic "intangibles" that were denied them at home. As a system of materialist philosophy, communism reduced the human person to a mere unit of labor — no more or less valuable than a milling machine or a draft animal. Even more, communism sought to purge from society any notion of a higher authority than the state. Under the savagely atheistic systems of communism, more Orthodox Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all other centuries combined.

In short, on the matter of economic globalization, Orthodox Christian leaders have been deeply conflicted. And today, as the world knits itself closer together through international trade and Internet-enabled communications, economics are almost always at the root of any discussion of "social justice" — whether the particular issue be health care, labor, the environment or immigration.

In a 2005 book that looks at the Eastern Orthodox response to globalization, authors Alex Agadjanian and Victor Roudometof show that while religion can be "bluntly repulsive and self-protecting" against globalization, it may also become involved in a "complex and painstaking negotiation" with globalization. "Globality is the ‘spirit’ of the age, and nothing can escape its vortex," the authors contend.

Understanding Social Justice Means Understanding Economics

This "painstaking negotiation" with globalization surely ought to include an honest attempt to understand the "spirit of the age" without prejudice. Denunciations of social, political, and economic realities by church leaders are of little use when no effort is made to fairly understand these realities and how they affect the lives of Orthodox Christians in everyday life.

"Economically ignorant moralism is as objectionable as morally callous economism," the post-war German economist Wilhelm Ropke wrote. "Ethics and economics are two equally difficult subjects, and while the former needs discerning and expert reason, the latter cannot do without humane values." Ropke was writing at a time when many in the West were looking to make a moral case for capitalism against the threat of totalitarian, collectivist communism. Making the case, he said, demanded a conception of economic life rooted in mankind’s spiritual and moral existence.

Just as there is no real understanding of many bioethical issues without a general grasp of underlying medical technology, there is no real understanding of "social justice" without an understanding of basic economic principles. These principles explain how Orthodox Christians work, earn, invest, and give to philanthropic causes in a market-oriented economy. Economic questions are at the root of many of the problems that on their face seem to be more about something else — poverty, immigration, the environment, technology, politics, humanitarian assistance. In the environmental area, for example, the current debate on global warming is just as much focused on how to finance the means of slowing the rising temperatures of the earth as it is on root causes. And the question always is: Who will pay?

What, exactly, is social justice? It is an ambiguous concept, loaded with ideological freight. No politically correct person would dare oppose it. To be against "social justice" would be tantamount to opposing "fairness." Today, the term is most often employed by liberal-progressive activists and a "social justice movement" that advances an economic agenda which includes such causes as a "living wage," universal health care and expanded welfare benefits, increased labor union powers, forgiveness of national debts in the developing world, and vastly increased transfers of foreign aid from rich countries to the poor. Because religious conservatives tend toward support for free market economic systems, they have largely shunned the "social justice" agenda and its government-based solutions.

The Orthodox Tradition of Social Witness

Whatever "social justice" could mean in an Orthodox Christian sense, it would have to include the witness of the biblical and patristic moral tradition. Orthodox Christian thinking and preaching about the uses of wealth and the scandal of poverty have a long history in this Tradition, going back to the Apostles and the Church Fathers.

St. John Chrysostom, the great conscience of the Church on these matters, closed his second sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, delivered in Antioch in the late fourth century, by imploring his flock to keep one main thing in mind: "I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life," he preached. "We do not possess our own wealth but theirs." It should be pointed out that in patristic thinking, the non-negotiable concern for the poor, the sick, and those in prison was frequently balanced with demands for personal responsibility, honest work, and "orderly" social life.

St. John Chrysostom preached in Antioch and Constantinople more than 1,600 years ago. Where is the prophetic voice of the Church today on moral issues in public life? That question has been asked for some time. As one Orthodox writer in the 1960s noted, Roman Catholics and Protestants often viewed the Eastern Church as a place for "wealth of ritual — a mystical, static ‘communion of worship,’ without dynamism, without prophetic breath, without any wish to take part in the reshaping of the social environment in which her faithful live."

This view is of course a caricature of Orthodoxy’s encounter with society, but there is some truth in it. As American society, both secular and religious, continues its own negotiation with globalization, and the entire field of presidential candidates for the 2008 election include "God talk" in their slogans and speeches, the Orthodox are largely absent from the field. To the extent that Orthodox social engagement exists today in the political sphere, it has largely been defaulted to Protestant-dominated, politically progressive ecumenical structures such as the WCC and, in the United States, the National Council of Churches.

The Orthodox tradition of social witness is ripe for renewal and revival. And today there are signs that the Church is beginning to engage important issues such as economic globalization and matters of "social justice" with new thinking and on its own terms.

At its Jubilee Bishop’s Council in Moscow in 2000, the Russian Church published a document on the "social concept" of the faith (Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church), including sections on politics, labor, and property. It showed the Russian bishops beginning to come to terms with a secular, post-communist era and the disastrous effects of the ill-conceived free market economic reforms of the early 1990s. On private property, for example, the bishops affirmed a legitimate right of ownership. "Russian history has shown that the violations of these principles have always resulted in social upheavals and people’s suffering," the bishops said.

Last year, Holy Cross Press published a new collection of essays titled, Christ at Work: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on VocationOrthodoxBooksOnline.com. The essays looked at the concept of a vocation or spiritual calling in one’s everyday life. Looking at one’s work as a way to bring glory to God should not be viewed as an attempt to sanctify success. Rather, this deeper understanding of work shows a healthy respect for the type of worldly employment the vast majority of Orthodox Christians are engaged in. Honest work, after all, gives Orthodox Christians the means to raise and educate their families as they choose, build churches and monasteries, and fund missionary and humanitarian efforts.

"Any profession without a deep sense of commitment and service to others can easily become mere employment," writes Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos in one of the essays. "On the other hand, any job or employment, conducted from the perspective of leading a life worthy of God, would itself be transformed into a calling, indeed an ongoing sacrament, conducted for the love of God and service of others."

New Thinking on Faith and Economics from the Ecumenical Patriarch

Some of the best new thinking on economic globalization is yet to come. A new book by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, due out in March 2008, tackles the problem head-on with balance and compassion. "The issues of free trade, global commerce, and market growth should be of concern to everybody, not just a few people," Patriarch Bartholomew writes. "Unless that is clearly recognized, there will be a deeper and deepening chasm between the individual and the community, as well as between the rich and the poor."

The patriarch’s new book, entitled Encountering the Mystery — Understanding Orthodox Christianity TodayAmerican Orthodox Institute - www.aoiusa.org, addresses a number of current problems. The patriarch sees how viewpoints on social questions informed by faith are "proving to be the subjects of renewed interest and attention" in politics and policy circles. Yet he provides a caution: It is not social dogma or political ideology that should be at the center of the Christian’s concerns, but the "sacredness of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God." The Church, he says, "is not opposed to an economic progress that serves humanity as a whole."

The patriarch points to the remarkable alleviation of poverty in places like India and China through the opening of markets and international trade. Yet, he is quick to add that "economic and social development must always be tempered and underpinned by moral and social values. Whatever happens in the world, we ought to strive to preserve fundamental cultural values that pertain to humanity without, of course, establishing unnecessary barriers to useful economic progress."

A few points could have been handled more carefully in the book, including the discussion of the "growing gap" between rich and poor. True, yes. But such discussions have become greatly politicized, particularly by populist politicians using class warfare rhetoric. While the earnings gap is real, it is not an indicator of poverty, nor does it take into account real social mobility in market-based economies. The poor are not always poor forever. If any politician or economist is interested in studying the phenomenon of poor or immigrant people rapidly advancing up the economic ladder, he or she would do well to start with the Orthodox Christian experience in places like Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Overall, Encountering the Mystery deserves to be widely read and actively discussed by Orthodox Christians and people of other faith traditions. Economic globalization, after all, is not an unmixed good. It has its drawbacks and its debatable developments, which the patriarch addresses. Not least of these adverse effects is the serious environmental damage that is taking place in newly industrialized countries — particularly India and China.

Yet Patriarch Bartholomew does not see our situation as a bleak one, nor determined by overpowering forces. It is an urgent situation, yes. But he rightly points to the human person at the center of the issue. "We must begin to address serious questions about personal responsibility and accept some blame or ethical liability for the choices we make," he warns.

Finding Our Own Voice

How does Orthodox Christianity begin to find a stronger public voice on social questions? How is the revival of the Church’s authentic "social justice" work to begin? Declaring the Church’s independence from worn-out, politically compromised ecumenical structures such as the WCC would be a positive first step. This separation would not preclude new openings and deeper engagements with other churches and other cultures. Indeed, some of the most important ecumenical outreach in recent years has been bilateral, such as the warming relations between Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics in Europe.

In recent decades, Orthodox leaders have allowed ecumenical bodies to do most of their talking and thinking for them on social questions. Protestant-dominated groups like the WCC and the NCC have evolved into left-leaning political activist organizations for partisan political causes. The spirit of these groups draws heavily on the "Social Gospel" movement of the mainline Protestant churches and the liberal element in Roman Catholicism, which puts worldly programs for perfecting society ahead of personal conversion.

It is strange to consider: Could anyone imagine Orthodox Christian theologians formulating a "social justice" ethic by borrowing heavily from Roman Catholic theology, papal encyclicals, and allusions to the scholastic works of St. Thomas Aquinas? Why, then, would we piggyback an Orthodox social consciousness on a liberal-progressive institution such as the NCC, which is supported by mainline Protestant churches themselves experiencing a long historic decline in membership?

The politicization of Christian dogma in the service of leftist, liberation-theology Christianity and its "social justice" agenda was highlighted in a 2006 report from a conservative watchdog group, the Institute on Religion and Democracy. IRD’s "Strange Yokefellows: The National Council of Churches and its Growing Non-Church Constituency" looked at the "sharp leftward tilt" in NCC advocacy and its growing support from "progressive" secular groups such as the Sierra Club, MoveOn.org, and Ben Cohen’s TrueMajority. The NCC is more financially beholden to the Sierra Club than it is to all of its Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communions combined, IRD concluded.

In July 2005, alarmed by the growing "secular progressive agenda," the self-ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America pulled out of the NCC. Orthodox churches that remain in the NCC and WCC would do well to follow the Antiochians’ lead. By allowing these ecumenical groups to trumpet Orthodox membership in every policy statement and press release, the Orthodox Church not only causes itself to be identified with the partisan, progressive politics and economic programs behind these organizations, it is also tainted by nutty theological improvisations.

Another important reason Orthodox Christians should invite — even demand — a revival of the Church’s social witness today is the spread, along with globalization, of secularism. This is nothing more than a society viewing itself as economically and politically self-sufficient and without need for reference to a moral life in God. To the extent that secularism gathers power, that it becomes the dominant ethic of government and business, it will expand its claims into areas of life that have traditionally been reserved to the individual: religious expression, marriage and family relations, sexuality, and the education of children. The direct threat that secularism poses to faith communities has been clearly discerned by prominent Orthodox Christian bishops in Europe. These bishops have spoken out against, for example, the 2004 campaign to enact a European Union constitution that did not acknowledge Europe’s Christian roots.

What does the Church have in answer to the gathering powers of secularism and a globalization that would inhumanely sweep away religious and cultural diversity? It has a powerful moral tradition, rooted in biblical and patristic sources. Bringing about a revival of this tradition should not only involve the clergy and the theologians, but experts drawn from diverse fields in politics, economics, and the social sciences. And, without question, it needs to seriously engage the laity, whose participation in any revival of Orthodox social witness would begin with a closer relationship to the Gospel. It begins with the person who, transformed by the Gospel, takes that message and that living example of Christian charity to the wider world. "The transformation of the heart can and must lead to the transformation of society," Patriarch Bartholomew tells us. "This, after all, is ultimately the way of encounter."

That’s as good a definition of "social justice" as we are going to find. For Orthodox Christians concerned about an economic globalization that is both humane and leaves room for the "intangibles" of life, that is where it begins — with the transformation of the heart.

John Couretas is executive director of the American Orthodox Institute.

This article originally appeared in AGAIN Vol. 29 #4, Winter 2008, and is copyrighted by Conciliar Press. Learn more about AGAIN online at www.conciliarpress.com.