On the ‘edge of the abyss’

By John Couretas on the Acton blog:
Acton Institute

From the Greek daily Kathimerini:

Witnesses said that protestors marching past the building ignored the bank employees’ cries for help and that a handful even shouted anti-capitalist slogans. [ … ] It took a statement from President Karolos Papoulias to best sum up Greece’s dire situation and the frustration that many people are feeling with the political system. “Our country has reached the edge of the abyss,” he said. “It is everybody’s responsibility that we do not take the step toward the drop. Responsibility is proved in action, not in words. History will judge us all.”

From columnist Alexis Papachelas, in the same paper:

Now we have an intelligentsia that is hooked on patron-client exchanges and mediocrity, and a political establishment whose biggest concern is keeping its piece of the pie safe. On the flipside of the same coin we have a culture of protest in which anything goes and which tries to justify every “accident,” like yesterday’s murder of three working people by a hooligan who flipped them the finger when he saw them choking on the smoke of his firebomb. Now that we have succeeded in running the country into the ground, it is time to either rise to the occasion or kneel to the developments. The deal with the IMF and the EU will bring a lot of pain to a lot of people who are not to blame for the situation. We can’t throw money at the problem because we have none.

George Will on the welfare state:

The chief beneficiaries of the welfare state ethos are the organized interests on whose behalf most government interference with the economy is undertaken. These interests receive the lion’s share of the subsidies which, drawn from general tax revenues or imposed by government-enforced restriction of competition, are our major means for redistributing wealth. As a result, the net effect of government manipulation of the economy is negative for the poor. That is, one clear result of the expansive activism of our expanded government is a lower living stand for the poor.


  1. How high does the body count have to go in Greece before the GOA addresseses this cultural crisis in any meaningful capacity? And what about the Office of Church ans Society? Are not the events in Greece worthy of the attention of its director? Can the GOA and its leaders discuss the issue in Greece in any meaningful capacity?

    Lets check the blog of the Office of Church ans Society that was heralded many months ago.


    Its empty and has been empty for the major cultural discussion of the past 10 months or so.

    What does the Office of Church and Society Do these days?

  2. Geo Michalopulos :

    Andrew, very good question. [Crickets chirping.]

    • Harry Coin :

      I think if the church in Greece connected more with the people you wouldn’t be seeing such thuggery. I remember stories long ago when Greece was coming out of World War II the natives there stuck it out through thick and thin and would not leave, heroic deeds, saving the lives of Jews by forging baptismal certificates.

      But as soon as the warp of envy was effectively used by the communists to turn Greeks against one another, it broke so much of her spirit and so many left for other countries to escape the internal oppressors whose main cry was ‘more’ ‘more’ ‘more’.

      On the other hand, after visiting there, many locals felt at the time that the rate at which their drachmas were exchanged for Euros improvrished them and today’s problems can’t be understood without considering that.

      The wages paid the fellow who worked the airport car rental counter in Athens (if he was telling the truth) was perhaps on balance a bit below our minimum wage in dollars.

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    A lot like the Catholic Church under Franco, the Church in Greece has never fully recovered from its backing of the Colonels in the 70s. It bet it’s moral authority on authoritarians. And the rabble in the universities in the 70s are the ones running the country now.

  4. Scott Pennington :

    “It bet it’s moral authority on authoritarians.”

    “The Spanish Miracle (Desarrollo) was the name given to the Spanish economic boom between 1959 and 1973. It is seen by some as the most remarkable positive legacy of the regime. During this period, Spain largely surpassed the per capita income that differentiates developed from underdeveloped countries and induced the development of a dominant middle class which was instrumental to the future establishment of democracy.

    The boom was bolstered by economic reforms promoted by the so-called “technocrats”, appointed by Franco, who pushed for public investment in infrastructure development, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund. The technocrats were a new breed of economists who replaced the old, prone to isolationism, Falangist guard.

    The implementation of these policies took the form of development plans (planes de Desarrollo) and it was largely a success: Spain enjoyed the second highest growth rate in the world, just after Japan, and became the ninth largest economy in the world, just after Canada. Spain joined the industrialized world, leaving behind the poverty and endemic underdevelopment it had experienced since the loss of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century.

    Although the economic growth produced noticeable improvements in Spanish living standards and the development of a middle class, Spain remained less economically advanced relative to the rest of Western Europe (with the exception of Portugal, Greece and Ireland). At the heyday of the Miracle, 1974, Spanish income per capita peaked at 79 percent of the Western European average, only to be reached again 25 years later, in 1999.”

    “Catholicism in its most conservative variant was made the official religion of the Spanish State, which enforced Catholic social mores. The remaining nomads of Spain (Gitanos and Mercheros like El Lute) were especially affected. The Spanish State enforced Catholic behavior mainly by using a law (the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes, Vagrancy Act) enacted by Azaña[16]. Civil servants had to be Catholic, and some official jobs even required a “good behavior” statement by a priest. Civil marriages which had taken place under Republican Spain were declared null and void and had to be reconfirmed by the Catholic Church of Spain. Civil marriages were only possible after the couple made a public renunciation to the Catholic Church. Divorce, contraceptives and abortion were forbidden. From 1954 onwards, homosexuality, pedophilia, and prostitution were criminal offenses[17], although the enforcement of this was seldom consistent.”

    – all from wikipedia, Spanish State

    Now Spain has one of the lowest reproductive rates in Europe, 1.1 per couple. Oh, also, it is an economic mess and in line to join Greece in bankruptcy.

    Darn those authoritarians!

    • Whether a top-down (authoritarian) or bottom-up (democratic) government governs best generally tracks the breadth and depth of education. As soon as enough people have enough education, the bottom-up approach exceeds the limits of the vision of any authoritarian leadership and delivers better results.

      If on the other hand education is generally shallow and sparse, the ‘top down’ approach can give better results in the short term — only if the leader at the top isn’t an power-mad mediocrity who got the job by reason of bloodlines or murder. The worst possible result is a top-down approach with a leader of profoundly limited vision (Present day North Korea, for example) as escape and improvement are more difficult and even pockets of health are rarer than they would be in a bottom-up democracy with a pockets of smarter people and a goofball at the top.

      • Scott Pennington :

        “As soon as enough people have enough education, the bottom-up approach exceeds the limits of the vision of any authoritarian leadership and delivers better results.”

        Apparently not in Spain.

        • So, Spain is worse off than North Korea?

          • Scott Pennington :


            Did I say that? I implied that economically and morally Spain under Franco (at least the latter part of his rule) was better off than under its present democracy.

            You need to make more distinctions between states than just whether they are democratic or non-democratic. North Korea is a totalitarian, atheistic society. I advocate neither totalitarianism nor atheism. In post 5.1 below I made clear that I don’t believe a state not tied to the Church or some traditional form of religion can escape self destruction. Elsewhere, under the article on the clergy abuse scandal, I stated that I don’t believe in totalitarianism either. Totalitarianism turns the state into a type of god. All things serve the state and are evaluated in terms of usefulness to it. That is just another form of idolatry.

            Democracy can be a form of idolatry as well. In fact, the Statue of Liberty is really an invitation to compare American democracy to idolatry. The problem is that we venerate the will of the people as the voice of God. Not only is there no real likelihood that the people will govern morally, but there is a very real probability that they will not because they do not perceive it to be in their own selfish interests.

            I used Spain as an example since Fr. Jacobse mentioned it and since it was an authoritarian, Catholic state. It was neither totalitarian (the state was not the end all be all) nor fascist (the leadership had no messianic visions or penchant for a radical reworking of the social order) nor athiestic (Catholic moral teaching was the law of the land).

            I do not defend everything that Franco did, of course. But I can say that to the extent it was necessary for him to use aggressive measures to combat not only leftists but democrats, he was defending the better against the worse. Now, whether everything he did was necessary to defend his government – – that’s a different question.

          • Scott,

            Certainly you show that democracies can choose poorly. Yet the next election always comes sooner than the next chance to change the authoritarian who becomes a totalitarian.

            The omniscient omnipotent omnibenevolent totalitarian utopia is the ball balanced on the upturned needle’s point. Democracies offer less high highs but more chances for bloodless recoveries.

            I wish I had a better answer. So many years of technological advances and deep and hugely complex discoveries in the sciences, and in our other areas of thought we wrestle still much as we did so long ago.

          • Scott Pennington :


            In the end, I admit it’s a matter of preference. What I can tell you is that while authoritarian regimes can be good or bad, democracies always gravitate toward evil. That is the example which modern democracies have set and they have to live with it.

          • Scott, the thing is all the real horrors of government over the last 120 or so coincide with the progression of authoritarian governments to totalitarian ones. The Kaiser led to the Brown Shirts and Hitler. Lenin led to Stalin. Good ‘ol Mao. Various nominal monarchies did worse when the king dominated the ministers than vice versa.

            The democracies, by way of contrast, by great preponderance did much better. The USA for 210+ years, Canada, England and so many others. Not only did we hold our own but unprecidented in human history went ‘over ther’ booted the authoritarians that became totalitarians — and then just went home! No pillage. Marshall Plan.

            Soviet Communism and the relaxation of oppression of the Russian church was in no small part made possible by the strength of foreign and largely US democratic integrity.

            There appears to be no such thing as a ‘stable’ authoritarian government. Wishing for it is the same as wishing for totaliarians.

            Democracy has so many flaws but it has done so very well compared to anything else by a supermajority of the historical evidence. Perhaps it isn’t so much that democracies get it right, but that they can more quickly and less destructively change course after getting it wrong.

  5. Geo Michalopulos :

    Good points, Scott. If you want to get a rise out of some circles, just mention something positive about Franco. 🙂

    The larger point however about the Church being aligned to closely to the state remains. Long after the success of the leader dissipates, the Church becomes tarnished with the failures of the state. I like what +Hilarion said sometime last year: “The Church should remain the religion of the nation, not the state.”

    • Scott Pennington :


      Regarding Franco, I have no problem setting “some people” off, unless it seems to me to be counterproductive in the situation. And, by the way, I don’t endorse everything Franco did, of course.

      Regarding Arch. Hilarion’s comments, what the Russian church-state relationship boils down to is that the ROC is fine with promoting Orthodoxy in the schools and with serving the needs of the nation. The ROC, however, does not wish to either become a department of government or a shill for this or that political party. That is wise. It is not the same arrangement, at all, that we have here.

      Our mistake here was to not tie religion and the federal government more closely together. In all fairness to the Founding Fathers, a number of whom were trinitarian Christians, they believed that that was the prerogative of the individual states which they saw as true sovereigns (along with the federal government). Unless a government has a binding irrevocable commitment (absent revolution, of course) to a divinely given morality, untouchable by “the people”, it will self destruct.

      All you have to do to show me I’m wrong is produce one single democracy that has maintained Christian morality as the law of the land.

      I know of none.

      The people, sooner or later, if given the choice, will reject Christian morality because it impinges on their freedom to entertain the passions. It’s a terrible realization to come to, but it’s true. The problem in Spain was not that religion and the state were too close. The problem is that democracy prevailed (and things then went to h*ll.).

      • George Michalopulos :

        Scott, I don’t disagree. It’s just that morality must come from the people. We wouldn’t have all the problems in government today if our people were righteous. We are not, therefore we need Leviathan state to provide for us. We gave this up on our own accord because of envy: we wanted more and weren’t satisfied with our lot in life.

        • Scott Pennington :

          “Scott, I don’t disagree. It’s just that morality must come from the people. We wouldn’t have all the problems in government today if our people were righteous.”


          Morality does not come from the people, it comes from God. The people, on the whole, are incapable of moral discernment or restraint. Our political system is a testament to that fact. You lament the fact that the people are not righteous and that, therefore, the government has “all these problems”. If people are free to choose evil (with respect to political morality) they will do so for the reasons I stated above.

          Morality dependent on the will of the people is not Christian morality. The voice of the people is not the voice of God, it is nothing more than an amalgamation of the passions of the masses. Christian morality is a constant to which people are called to reconcile themselves. It is totally independent of the popular will.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Scott, of course you are right that all morality (and life and creation, etc) come from God. That still does not negate human culpability. Paul said that the “law…was written on the hearts” of the gentiles. They too had a conscience and as such were not free to act as animals.

            In my life I’ve seen the degradation of morality and civic virtue take place and at every step of the way, people voluntarily acceeded to it. Why? possibly because they felt it was in their interests to do so (I myself have been part of this devolution). We knew better, but we always found justifications for it.

            That does not mean that we “can’t legilsate morality.” The laws of society arise from a well-spring of conscience that is inchoate in every human being.

          • Scott Pennington :


            My point is that the people are incompetent to be trusted with the decision of what morality to legislate. I agree that the divinely revealed nature of morality certainly does not “negate human culpability”. But the law, as far as it addresses morality, should not be allowed to “arise from a well-spring of conscience that is inchoate in every human being.”

            Assuming that each person does have a moral conscience, there is no reason to believe, based on the experience of the electorate in democracies, that this conscience will a) accurately reflect God’s moral law and b) be transmuted into the legal code. Therefore, the government should be bound to a Christian moral code irrespective of the popular will. This can’t be done where moral legislation is left to the people. That is one reason why democracy doesn’t work from a Christian perspective.

            Eventually, as has happened in all or practically all democracies, not only will the people gravitate toward anti-Christian morality, but Christianity will come to be seen as a threat to the moral sovereignty of the people (secularism). It will then (as has already begun) begin to come under siege in an attempt to banish it from the public realm. That and/or, as is also happening, there will be an attempt to emasculate it and turn it into a shell of its former self which is much more amicable to the winds of the popular culture (such as the Episcopal Church).

            The truth is that democracy, much like communism and Naziism, is a false religion. It substitutes the popular will for Christian morality. It holds that all religions are equally true/false and equally irrelevant. It is a jealous god that cannot stand for any other religion to compete with it for the public’s allegiance. It zealously guards its hold on the public conscience even corrupting those who profess other religions like Christianity.

            But Christianity in its classical form never contemplated representative democracy as the proper form of government. It was assumed by the post-Nicene Fathers that there would be an Empire and this Empire would remain tied to Christianity. Earlier in Christian history, the Church was constantly at odds with the government as being an entity ruled by evil men.

            What allegiance to democracy as a form of governance accomplishes is that it legitimizes a moral authority at odds with the Church’s morality. It is the equivalent of a mad and evil emperor such as Caligula. You would not suggest that Caligula was a moral authority worthy of respect. I tell you neither are the people.

            In a democracy, the only way to obtain good government is for the Church to convert and convince the majority of the people of the truth of Christian morality and to maintain that conviction within the population indefinitely.

            That’s a very tall order. In a democratic society, I have known this to occur nowhere on earth – – ever. In short, allegiance to democracy is – – wittingly or unwittingly – – an allegiance to perpetual, progressively anti-Christian morality being the law of the land.

          • Scott wrote in part “My point is that the people are incompetent to be trusted with the decision of what morality to legislate.”

            Neither is it any more possible for an authoritarian or any hierarch to be ‘capable’ (in the technical sense you mean) of being bound to any promise or contract. If there is a force than can cause ‘an authority’ to keep to its committments, that lends stabiliy to what ‘is’ means, that can remove a misdoing authority, then perhaps there is some common ground.

            That democracy is to be preferred to authoritarians Scott demonstrates — complain about Caligula or any ‘authoritarian’ leader and you get yourself jailed or worse, and ‘the wieght’ of the state lands upon you. Complain ‘for redress of grievance’ in a democracy and get commended for ‘joining the debate’.

            Certainly in a democracy there will be some number, even a majority who will be free to do other than Scott’s or my own preferred authority would have them do. But in a democracy any who choose to do the right thing will not be prevented, either.

            The main flaw in Scott’s argument is not that he fails to notice how good good could be with ‘an authoritarian leader’ who gets all or most of it right. It’s that not enough credit is given to human weakness in that the authoritarians become despots, that the authority he supports doesn’t exist, anywhere, ever. What happens when ‘the authority’ gets it wrong?

            While democracies can and do get it wrong, the depth of the low point is much less that the horrors history has taught authoritarians lead to. This at the same time democracy does not bar as high a high point as a nearly totally correct authoritarian might acheive.

            I’m sure I live in ways others around me would prefer that I change. Perhaps others think their noble and high use for some or all of the money I’ve earned is on balance more important than whatever my plans for it might be — whether or not they take the time to consider my view on the subject.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Harry misses my point again. What I have advocated is an authoritarian government tied to the Church and its morality.

            Of course there are no guarantees in life that such a government would remain good. What is guaranteed however is that a democracy will become bad.

            It’s also not about my “preferred morality” as opposed to Harry’s. That’s democratic thinking. Orthodox Christian morality is, in its broad strokes, fixed and immutable. I don’t want my morality put into force of law unless it reflects that of the Church as it has historically been taught.

            “. . . the authority he supports doesn’t exist, anywhere, ever. What happens when ‘the authority’ gets it wrong?”

            Harry’s beef here is with the Fathers, not me. In supporting the imperial system they gave approval to a real form of government that existed in time (whether Harry likes that fact or not).

            “While democracies can and do get it wrong, the depth of the low point is much less that the horrors history has taught authoritarians lead to.”

            If anyone out there knows of an authoritarian Christian civilization (such as the Byzantine Empire or Tsarist Russia) that managed to exterminate over 50,000,000 of its unborn children, I’d be interested to know about it.

          • Scott wrote: ‘Harry misses my point again. What I have advocated is an authoritarian government tied to the Church and its morality.’

            For example, except for the faith aspect, Iran? They’ve got their Mullahs controlling the civil government. So there’s an example of an authoritarian disaster. Were it an actual democracy the people wouldn’t need to sacrifice themselves in bloody demonstrations to change the government in order to avoid risk of nuclear confrontation with one of its neighbors.

            ‘Of course there are no guarantees in life that such a government would remain good. What is guaranteed however is that a democracy will become bad.’

            Repeating this without further support doesn’t make it more true. Unlike authoritarian ones, democracies won’t need to stay bad. A policy change is only one election day away. A policy change is only 50%+1 change-of-heart days away. On the other hand, once authoritarians get it wrong they stay in power and kill to keep it. They also fancy ‘bloodlines’ as a highly dubious path to a future.

            Regarding the number of people killed under democracies — the authoritarian governments of the past killed more per capita in a week than we do in a year. Look at all the Roman stories of baby death by ‘exposure’ and so forth. And naturally the horror of the Gulags, the massive death during ‘the great leap forward’, etc. etc.

            Anyhow the authority of the Christian teaching is available to any who wish it, and if the majority do not then at least in a democracy those who do can live in that way.

            Ultimately, while I think it is within the realm of Christian teaching to bring the force of government against those who do activities that bring direct (not merely indirect) harm to others… and perhaps it is within the realm of Orthodox teaching to provide encouragement but not coercion to those who behave in ways only third parties deem self-harmful or indirectly harmful.

            Scott sees the high highs of a stable beneficial authority advising the government. I see the low lows of such a governement not being able to shed itself of a ‘stable beneficial authority’ gone wrong.

            Democracy is the best available, this is proven and reproven when we see even the largest organizations and human endevors getting major things wrong. For example the Pope recently (1950s?) becoming ‘Universal Ordinary’ and being able to speak ‘of himself for the church’ while occupying is own civil authority in the Vatican. Authoritarianism leading to despotism there too. A loss of ‘Sobornost’ or ‘Conciliarity’.

          • Scott Pennington :


            You rail against Iran, the Gulags, Maoist China, pagan Rome and the Vatican.

            I never wrote a word in support of any of the above.

            You tell me that repeating the fact that all modern democracies have descended into secular liberal anti-Christian societies does not make it so.

            As if it wasn’t apparent.

            Harry, you haven’t paid any attention to a thing I’ve written. All you want to do is set up straw dummies signifying what you want me to have said. Then you proceed to knock those down.

            I have to conclude that you don’t have anything else to offer that actually addresses the subject.

  6. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Harry wrote:

    Scott, the thing is all the real horrors of government over the last 120 or so coincide with the progression of authoritarian governments to totalitarian ones. The Kaiser led to the Brown Shirts and Hitler. Lenin led to Stalin. Good ‘ol Mao. Various nominal monarchies did worse when the king dominated the ministers than vice versa.

    Not to mention that all the great refugee movements of the last century were to American shores. Democracies mess up, but so do authoritarian regimes. The difference is that democracies find ways to straighten themselves out.

  7. Scott Pennington :

    Fr. Johannes and Harry,

    Regarding atheistic regimes like the Soviets or fascist, totalitarian regimes like the Nazi’s, I sympathize with you to some extent. But, of course, I never advocated these types of governments. You did not list a single case where authoritarians “progressed” to totalitarians. The Kaiser was a monarch. He did not progress to anything. There was an interim republic called the Weimar Republic. Lenin, though not as bloody as Stalin, was also a totalitarian (messianic program to change society, state as the measure of all things). Lenin seized power after a short republic (the Provisional Government of Kerensky) succeeded an authoritarian (Tsar Nicholas II) who had far, far less blood on his hands than Lenin.

    As far as the demise of the Soviet Union, that was mainly due to two things: Gorbachev was a weak leader who actually thought you could have something like democratic socialism. He restructured the Soviet government and held elections where the Communist parties dominated but other parties were also allowed to run. The various republics of the Soviet Union took his cue to embrace democracy, the people saw greater legitimacy in the local governments and the whole monstrosity quickly devolved (an attempted coup by hardliners also helped put Yeltsin, then the leader of the Russian Republic, in the drivers seat). Ronald Reagan had initiated a military buildup that caused the Soviets to devote even more of their budget to defense spending. Democracy did not enable Reagan to do this, capitalism did. If China had moved toward “state capitalism” sooner, it could have accomplished the same thing without democracy being involved at all. In short, what defeated the Soviet Union was that captalism is a more efficient producer of weapons and goods and food than socialism.

    As far as democracy goes: It has led to 50 million abortions in the last 37 years in this country alone. It has led to the destruction of the traditional, patriarchal family (and I mean total, absolute destruction). It has led to a coarse, promiscuous culture, great numbers of out of wedlock births, etc. In short, it has led to the deChristianization and repaganization of each culture where it has become the political norm.

    It is indefensibly evil.

    It is not true that immigrants came here to vote. They came here for greater economic prosperity; i.e., capitalism. It is also simply not true that when democracies “mess up” they correct themselves. There is no correction on the horizon for the ills I mentioned above. Indeed they are progressing because they have become common, acceptable and expected. Not only this, but the moral laxity inherent in democracy is now dragging down the economies of a number of democratic states.

    Moreover, we are not content to deChristianize and repaganize our world, we must export/impose democracy far and wide so that all God’s children can enjoy the benefits of abortion on demand, feminism, promiscuity, illegitimacy, etc. We spread “the disease of democracy”.

    Gentleman, no thenk you. I’m just not buying what you’re selling. It may make you feel better to rationalize it away, but democracy is an abject failure from a Christian perspective.

    • Michael Bauman :

      Scott, the following more eloquently expresses my opposition to authoritarianism as it is normally understood,i.e, a top down imposition of one will over another. I don’t think that’s the Church (although we often think it is)

      Fr. Sophrony [Sakharov], in his book on St. Silouan, presents this theory of the “inverted pyramid.” He says that the empirical cosmic being is like a pyramid: at the top sit the powerful of the earth, who exercise dominion over the nations (cf. Matt. 20:25), and at the bottom stand the masses. But the spirit of man, by nature [unfallen nature as given by God], demands equality, justice and freedom of spirit, and therefore is not satisfied with this “pyramid of being.” So, what did the Lord do? He took this pyramid and inverted it, and put Himself at the bottom, becoming its Head. He took upon Himself the weight of sin, the weight of the infirmity of the whole world, and so from that moment on, who can enter into judgment with Him? His justice is above the human mind. So, He revealed His Way to us, and in so doing showed us that no one can be justified but by this way, and so all those who are His must go downwards to be united with Him, the Head of the inverted pyramid, because it is there that the “fragrance” of the Holy Spirit is found; there is the power of divine life. Christ alone holds the pyramid, but His fellows, His Apostles and His saints, come and share this weight with Him. However, even if there were no one else, He could hold the pyramid by Himself, because He is infinitely strong; but He likes to share everything with His fellows. Mindful of this, then, it is essential for man to find the way of going down, the way of humility, which is the Way of the Lord, and to become a fellow of Christ, who is the Author of this path.

      Archimandrite Zacharias in The Enlargement of the Heart

      Just as this does not describe an authoritarian approach, neither does it describe a democratic one.

      • Scott Pennington :


        There is a difference between poetic language aimed at instilling humility and a blueprint for actual governance. A priest (convert from the EOC) I once knew tried to convince me of the same thing as your post points to in the context of actual authority within the Church.

        Of course, my reply went something along the lines of asking what the meaning of the word “episkopos” is. What “despota” means. What “vladika” means. Whether we owe our bishop obedience. Whether a bishop has a right to rule in his own diocese. Who has the responsibility/right to excommunicate or impose penance. To whom was given the power to bind and loose. Etc., etc., etc.

        I do not doubt that a monarch has a responsibility to serve God and his people. I just think that this has absolutely nothing to do with who wears the pants.

        But again, I’m not sure we fundamentally disagree on anything besides semantics.

        • Michael Bauman :

          Scott, we are not far apart. Properly exercised authority is wonderful. A big part of the discontent within the Church is due to the bishops abandoning their responsibility to be authoritative on the Gospel and the actual life of the Church. They reach for their staff only on things that don’t really matter like personal power, perogatives and the cronies.

          Instead of having a functioning, well-ordered Church, albeit full of sin, we have a situation of graft, corruption, concupisence and lust of power. As with parents who don’t parent the children suffer.

          We ‘rebel’ in an attempt to get the attention of our elders, wanting to have rules and discpline that are in acord with what we know and have learned.

          You do seem to have a more linear approach than I do. Personally, I think the poetic language conveys the reality much better than empirical or utilitarian language because it conveys the mystical dimension that exists even in rocks.

          Genuine authority does not create separation between people, it binds us together. That authority is inherent in the office of the bishop. Authority from which most of them seem to run as fast as they can.

          How this transfers to government outside the Church is an open question. All human government ultimately self-destructs in tryanny and we have to start all over again. Each great civilisation starts high and ends low with a few upticks in between. Our sinfulness guarantees that. As Christians, we do more for our government, our culture and our Church by working to practice virtue in humility and repentance than we do in another fashion.

    • Scott,

      You can’t pick and choose your history. Notice that both in Greece and in Russia the church sided with authoritarians (almost making an idol out of Tsar Nicholas and his family, and supporting the authoriarian Colonels in Greece). The people not only rejected the authoritarians they either chucked the church entirely (Russia) or reduced it in prestige to a slightly more active antiquity than the Acropolis.

      While there are abortions and all manner of mistakes in Democracies you must reconcile that with the quality essential to Christianity– it isn’t authentic if imposed.

      You smile upon capitalism but that really goes hand-in-hand with a diminishment of authoritarianism. The ability to collect and allocate capital broadly among the population is to diminish the authority of government and recast it as a servant-partner.

      Never overlook forced abortions and similar in authoritarian countries. There is a humility essential to Christianity that is incomapatible with the coercion implicit in authoritarianism.

      • Scott Pennington :

        “The people not only rejected the authoritarians they either chucked the church entirely (Russia). . . ”

        Harry, that’s simply a lie. I’ve called you on it before but you seem to be impervious to the facts. The Church was ruthlessly suppressed in Russia by a small group of revolutionaries who never managed to attract more than about 5% of the population to their movement, not “the people”. The communist authorities closed tens of thousands of churches leaving about 7,000 (in 1985) where there had been over 50,000 (pre-Revolution). In 1939, before Stalin relaxed restrictions a bit in order to keep his people loyal, the number of churches was estimated to be 500. They imprisoned and executed bishops and priests and laymen. They created a climate politically hostile to religion and even forbad parents from teaching Orthodoxy to their children in their homes. They tortured and forced the remaining clergy to cooperate and sometimes collaborate with their militant atheistic rulers.

        The people did not reject the Church. Get your facts straight and maybe your political opinions will benefit from the insight gained. Your comment is a grave insult to the millions of believers who suffered martyrdom and repression under the Soviet Communists. They refused to reject the Church to the very end.

        “While there are abortions and all manner of mistakes in Democracies you must reconcile that with the quality essential to Christianity– it isn’t authentic if imposed.”

        Maybe not, but that’s beside the point. It is certainly wise to impose Christian morality. One need not, however, insist that anyone be baptized and chrismated or go to church. We’re talking about two different things. We legislate morality everyday with respect to laws against murder, rape, extortion, etc.

        “You smile upon capitalism but that really goes hand-in-hand with a diminishment of authoritarianism. The ability to collect and allocate capital broadly among the population is to diminish the authority of government and recast it as a servant-partner.”

        I have no problem with a government, preferably an authoritarian one, being a “servant-partner” with business. What that has to do with democracy I don’t know.

        You haven’t actually paid attention to what I’ve written here. Regarding forced abortions, I assume you are talking about China, but again I’ve told you that I do not support atheistic, totalitarian regimes in any way. You seem incapable of making these distinctions and your reasoning suffers for it.

        I don’t see that further dialogue on this issue between us would be productive since you repeatedly take swipes at straw dummies that I never proposed in the first place.

  8. cynthia curran :

    Well, maybe Greece’s problem is not modern Greece but anicent Greece. Remember Athens redistrubative the land from wealthly to poorer farmers. But wealth in those days was a great deal in land. Also, Athens had the state support theatre and so forth. Sparta was a feudial State and was of course not as romantic as the movie 500 Spartians. They spend their days training in barracks away from their women folk most of the time and the women managing the estates and the Heliots working the land. A lot of Greeks are romantic about anicent Greece, granted, they did a lot of achievements but they first succumbed to Phillp of Macedonia and Alexander his son and in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. to the Romans.

  9. cynthia curran :

    Well, according to Procopius’s Secret History abortion was practice but it was less approve at least offically by christians but there were still parents that abandon children since monks could care for these children according to the law. I doubt they had that many abortions since the anicent practice of abortion is more dangerious than the modern counterpart.

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