HT: OrthodoxNet blog
By Fr. John Peck
First published in 2004.
First of all, let me begin by saying that it is my duty, as a priest and pastor, to impose moral standards on you. Part of my job and function is to teach Christian morality and to get us, as a body, to adhere to Christian moral standards, so before you come to me with complaints about the separation of Church and state, be aware that I am doing my duty in telling you what the Church, as the Body of Christ, teaches about life and responsibility.
Moral theology in the Orthodox Church in America is pretty loosey-goosey, as is clearly evidenced by the Reflections on Voting for Orthodox Christians article that was posted, at first anonymously, on the OCA website. I have said, and will say here, that a more poorly reasoned collection of moral mish-mush does not yet exist. If you have read it, you can see that what is being said behind the lines is, ‘Things like abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell experimentation are wrong, but we don’t like the candidate who stands against these things, and anyway, capital punishment is wrong, and harming the environment is wrong.’ The statement that we are forced to become ‘reluctant republicans’ or ‘reluctant democrats’ betrays the writer’s real concern, which is to look impartial politically. He would have been very welcome by the Soviets in Russia, as a Christian who does nothing about his Christianity…
The reality of our moral environment is this: who is deciding the significant moral issues of our day? It is, of course, the judiciary. The judiciary is generally appointed, not elected. Judges are currently reigning like sovereign kings over the abortion debate. Judges decide whether or not starving someone to death is murder…or not.
Judges are deciding whether or not you will be required to recognize sexual unions between homosexuals as legitimate marriages. They are also deciding whether or not humans can be farmed for research. (Yes, that is what fetal stem cell research is about. Farm humans, destroy them for research, and then farm some more.)
And who confirms these judges, who we can not vote in or out of office? Of course, our legislators.
As Christians, we can certainly have opinions about a multitude of public and social issues, but not on moral issues. Christian morality is not some amorphous fog of teaching that makes us a taillight on the automobile of humanity, never quite able to solve moral problems until they are so obvious to all that we can speak with 100% comfort on the correctness of our teaching. Our teaching is 100% correct. We must be the headlights of our race. We must illuminate the road before us, watching out for unexpected obstacles to our journey, dangerous twists in the road, and who we may run over in our rush to go faster.
I am here to tell you that abortion is not morally equivalent to capital punishment. One kills millions of innocents, and scars millions more every year. Just a look at the numbers should, by itself, tell you which of these needs to be acted upon first and foremost. Likewise, euthanasia, gay marriage, fetal stem cell research, and human cloning are not morally equivalent to environmental issues, management vs. labor, or economic issues. These are not negotiable in Christian moral teaching. How dangerous it will be for us to ‘vote our pocketbook,’ when children and elderly are at such risk, and being literally murdered daily. The chief moral issues of our day are being decided, and we can elect men who can establish a judiciary who understands this.
Finally, we see the acting out of our failure to speak out with our actions on the public sector. Hundreds of thousands of Christians in Kosovo displaced, persecuted, and with no protection within sight of U.N. Peacekeepers, who do nothing to help, but only watch government sponsored Islamic terrorist gangs destroy their 1000 year old monasteries and churches. Millions of Sudanese Christians –black Christians– murdered, raped or displaced, living in fear of extermination by their own government. Our Secretary of State at the time, himself a minority, called it genocide. Where was the moral indignation over this?
I was enraged when I read the article yesterday in the Canton Repository (our local newspaper) about local pastors who want to remain politically neutral, so they don’t lose their IRS non-profit tax exempt status. They refuse to teach their people Christian moral responsibility, in exchange for money. Personally, I hope they take tax exempt status away from us (churches). Oh yes! Then we will ‘beholden’ to no one. These same pastors know full well that one presidential candidate has political rallies during minority church worship services. I don’t see the IRS bothering those churches. This same candidate canceled a church appearance in West Virginia when the pastor informed him that there would be no politicking there. We are buying into this double standard.
Talk is cheap. Complaining about a less than perfect world is worse than useless. Its sates our desire for action in frustration, and given us the sense that at least we have vented our exasperation, though truly helpless. When it comes time for us to participate in our democracy, we must participate. We are announcing once and for all that we are children of the Kingdom when we vote. We choose, first and foremost, LIFE and protecting the lives of the innocent. If not we, then who?
It’s time to be headlights again. If our nation and our government has taken a wrong turn, a turn we know will result in the removal of God’s blessings from our country, we must bring her back. If not now, then when?
Now we must contend for the soul of our nation. Now we must contend for the Faith, because a faith which does not impose moral values on you is no faith! It is merely a feel-good-about-yourself religion that calms you when excited, gives you impetus for moral indignation, but really requires nothing of you, and therefore can do nothing for you.
If not we, then who? If not now, then when? If not over this, then what could possibly shake us from self-satisfying lethargy? There is a time for everything, according to the Scriptures. Now it is time for the Lord to act. Now is the time for the Church to act. You and I must act. These should all be exactly the same thing. Make sure that they are.
“Orthodox Christian Responsibility in the Public Arena,” by Fr John Peck, from a sermon to Orthodox Christians.