Ancient Faith Live Tonight (Sunday June 17) at 8pm Eastern — Same-Sex Marriage

Is Same-Sex Marriage a Church vs State issue? Does the Church have anything to say to the larger culture about marriage? No, argues David J. Dunn, the author of an opinion piece that ran in the Huffington Post several months ago (Civil Unions by Another Name: An Eastern Orthodox Defense of Gay Marriage). Dunn argues that traditional marriage (one man and one woman) is a moral construct invented by the Church and thus applies only to Christian believers and not the larger culture. Let the Church be Church and the State be State.

On the other side is Fr. John Whiteford who argues that traditional marriage is not merely a moral construct invented by the Church, but exists in nature. Nature itself reveals the law of God; the natural order reveals the social context in which children are brought into the world. How so? Check out the biological plumbing. One man and one woman create a new child. Homosexual relationships on the other hand are naturally sterile, biologically closed to procreation. This reveals an intent and purpose that has its source in God. That’s also why traditional marriage is practiced almost universally across all cultures and time.

Traditional marriage is blessed by God, even for the non-believer. If people live in accord with the law of God, even if that law is discerned only through the operations of nature, then they obey God. We should not erroneously conclude that no blessing exists merely because the marriage was not sanctified in the Church. To do so makes the same mistake Dunn makes but from the other direction. Natural marriage is as real as a sacramental marriage and should be honored and supported as such.

It is important for Christians to realize that Dunn’s distinction between the natural and sacramental is artificial. Sacramental reality never negates nature. Rather, the sacraments elevate nature because natural operations become a means by which God’s grace is imparted to us. Ritual purification by water becomes baptism for example. Anointing with oil becomes a means of healing. The transformed bread and wine maintain their capacity to nourish the body while becoming nourishment for the soul. Sacramental reality never, ever, negates the natural workings of the created order. Rather, those workings take on a divine dimension congruent with their natural function.

Finally, we hear that the State should have no interest in marriage and it would be better for everyone if the State removed itself from marriage questions entirely, even from establishing contract law around traditional marriage (libertarians are fond of this argument including the Orthodox variety). The problem with this argument is that State has an interest in cultural stability, or to put it more correctly, the culture has an interest in stability and thus grants the State authority to affirm those natural relationships in law. By decreeing that same-sex coupling is a morally legitimate marriage however, the State arrogates unto itself an authority that runs contrary to nature and proclaims itself as the source and arbiter of moral law. Under this scenario rights are not discerned in nature or, ultimately, seen as coming from God. Rather, rights emerge only from the will to power of the elites — those who pull the levers of State power. The moral barriers against tyranny are removed.

The program runs on Ancient Faith Radio (click link) starting at 8pm Eastern.

Addendum: While hunting for the link to Dunn’s original article I came across this: My Year as a Pro-Gay ‘Orthodox’ Heretic. Somebody sent me the link to his blog posting (same content) but I had not idea it was published on HuffPo. The title is a bit misleading (I never called him a heretic) and the only argument I put forward so far are the ones I posted above: Dunn ignores natural law and has a skewed understanding of how the sacraments work. He should have given me a heads-up, but I will craft a fuller response this week sometime.


  1. Kyle Adams says

    “Does the Church have anything to say to the larger culture about marriage? No, argues David J. Dunn…”

    That’s not at all what I heard in last night’s discussion. Rather, Dunn argued that legislation was not the best way to speak to the larger culture about marriage. Let’s avoid straw men, please?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Let’s take a look at the editorial that earned Dunn the invitation:

      Strictly speaking, our theology does not recognize the legitimacy of such marriages. They are not sanctified by the Spirit in the church. On the other hand, it is not as if the average Orthodox Christian thinks people married in secular ceremonies are not “really” married. For practical purposes we tacitly recognize these civil marriages even if they don’t quite meet our theological standards.

      This tacit recognition of a distinction between sacred and civil marriages is one my fellow Christians would do well to keep in mind as they consider how to proceed in their efforts to protect the sanctity of marriage. Anyone who thinks marriage is something sacred needs to recognize that from the church’s perspective all marriages granted by the state for tax and inheritance purposes are just civil unions by another name. Christians who truly believe that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman are welcome to their belief. But Christians who demand the state take up the task of defending marital sanctity are effectively making the state their god. They seem to think that their local capitol can perform miracles when only the Holy Spirit has the power to sanctify.

      Now, if this doesn’t tell the Church to butt out, what does?

      • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        Indeed, what does?

        And just so nobody misses Dunn’s damning words, here they are again:

        Christians who demand the state take up the task of defending marital sanctity are effectively making the state their god.

        By that reasoning:

        Christians who demand the state take up the task of defending the sanctity of human life are effectively making the state their god.

        • Kyle Adams says

          Dr. Dunn addressed the issue of a parallel between abortion and gay marriage on last night’s show. I’d love to have a transcript to reference, but in lieu of a written record I’ll try to paraphrase as accurately as possible. As Christians, our concern needs to be with the outcome less than the tactics. After four decades we see abortion rates being influenced by the social factors, chiefly poverty, than by the political powers that be. Again, the same point holds: Dr. Dunn was not advocating a pro-choice position but rather a more effective tactic (i.e., not legislative) for communicating our message.

          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            Kyle, part of our message has always been that rulers are “minister[s] of God” and “revenger[s] to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:4) This notion that Christians should not advise rulers of their duty or tell them what is evil is contrary to Orthodox tradition.

      • Kyle Adams says

        This seems to be a case of twisting Dunn’s words to fit a pre-existing narrative. I see nothing in those paragraphs that say the Church can’t speak to the larger culture on the issue of gay marriage. Rather, they simply say that attempting to do so through the legislative venue is misplaced.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

          The legislative arena is the forum where these things are decided. I guess you mean it’s OK to talk, but not in a way that has any influence on those who make decisions on these matters.

          With that in mind, look what Archbishop Stylianos is doing in Australia regarding gay marriage: Speak Up for Marriage.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Kyle, if “legislation” is not the way to address cultural issues, then how is this to be done? Legislation by competent bodies is a preferable way to have different factions work out their differences. Otherwise, we devolve into tyrannies which are enforced by either violence, taboos, or a combination thereof.

  2. Kyle Adams says

    I suspect I won’t have much else to contribute to this conversation so I’ll sign off for the time being with this thought: as Christians we have an obligation to listen deeply and think slowly, particularly when discussing controversial, emotional topics. We all (especially me) need to slow down, read and re-read, and truly hear what the other side is saying before responding.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Kyle, that’s a worthy moralism, but it is still just a moralism. In this case Dunn is simply wrong about some critical things, some of which I outlined in the essay above. The interchange is called free and open debate which is a necessary part of ensuring that free men do indeed remain free. Check out the debates of the early Councils. Those men practiced it too.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Kyle, you seem to be operating on the assumption that all positions are equally worthy and it is impossible to recognize error without a lot of study. That is simply not true. Some ideas are so far outside traditional Orthodox thought as to be immediately obvious. The position that the Church should have no active role in shaping the social, legal and moral environment of the larger culture is one of those.

      Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. He commanded us to “be in the world, but not of it”. Even monks have often played crucial, active roles on the culture around them. All of creation is to be sanctified through us by the Grace of the Holy Spirit–that includes the way we order and govern ourselves. Ultimately, there is no community but the Church. The idea that there can, let alone should be a separation of Church and state is ludicrous (at least in the modern sense that the Church should have no role in the realm of the state). The state should have no control over the life of the Church, none. That is why George Mason and others who produced and got approved the Bill of Rights were so strong in their language that “Congress shall make no law….” They understood that for the state to be a proper state, in harmony with God’s will, Christians had to be involved and never neutral. It is sad that you seem to have such a poor grasp of both the history of our country and the tradition of the Church.

      My son often reminds me that if Chrisitans are not involved in certain things, then the quality and morality of those activities will get worse. That is obvious in the the decisions of non-Christian politicians and their allies on such matters as abortion, euthanasia, marriage, economics, military…the list is almost endless.

  3. Michael Bauman says

    In either case, Dr. Dunn is effectively advocating a position in which the state and the Church are separate. A civil-religious dictomy in which they are ‘separate, but equal’. Either the state is under the law of God or it is not. Since the state has no unique or separate existence outside the human person (it is a creation of the human need to order and govern ourselves and exert authority over others), if the state is not under the law of God then neither is the person.

    Relgion then becomes a mere choice of moral codes among many other such choices none for right or righteous than the next. It is the ultimate surrender to the secular eqalitarianism that is the the direct opposite of the Church’s existence as the Body of Christ.

    I would say that the failure of the Church and her people to expect the state to defend both the unborn and the sactity of marriage is a deification of the state.

    I would quizz Dr. Dunn quite closely on his understanding of the Creed and his acceptance of the monarchy of God and His being everywhere present and filling all things. It is more than likely he has bought into the deistic notion that God rules in the heavens and we rule ‘down here’

  4. Kevin Kirkpatrick says

    What does it say to this conversation that the Orthodox church doesn’t require converts to get remarried? I myself am a convert and was not required to get remarried, nor have I have heard of anyone being required to get remarried. Rather the church accepted the marriage that was performed by a Vineyard pastor in a Presbyterian church of all things. The church doesn’t consider us as living in sin nor my children as illegitimate because we were married outside of the Orthodox sacrament. Of course the church is very gracious, and the Antiochian Archdiocese did not require me to get rebaptized either since my first baptism was trinitarian. But, does not the fact that the church embraces my marriage as performed outside the church support Fr. Jacobse’s point. David has turned this into an argument about sacraments really, and not allowing the civil and Sacred to mix, but doesn’t this happen all the time with “normal” marriages? Unless I am mistaken, the church would still recognize my marriage even if we had never had a church wedding, but simply had a justice of the peace ceremony. Is this not correct?

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mr. Kirkpatrick, although the position on marriage varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, you are fundamentally correct. A marriage, is a marriage even if it was just the legal contract of a civil marriage. At the time the canons on marriage were propogated there was no little difference between a civil and Church marriage.

      My own opinion is that we need to revisit some of these policies a bit but that is largely due to personal bias. For some folks coming into the Church who have had rocky times and made poor choices in previous civil marriages, there needs to be some economia.

      I know a woman who came into the Church with 3 prior marriages. All had been civil marriages. She had three children by her first marriage which ended in divorce because of the adultery of her husband. She entered into a second marriage, also a civil marriage, because she was desparate for help in raising her children. That marriage ended, childless, when her husband ran off with her ‘best friend’ and was planning to murder her. The third marriage was quite brief, also a civil marriage, and her husband died after 7 months. When she came to the Church, she was told that the Church would not marry her because of the 3 strikes and you are out rule. However, if she had not married her third husband or any of the others, but just lived with them in sin, that would have been Ok. Every other sin is washed away in confession with ‘no further care’. Why does the Church remember only the sin of multiple marriage outside the Church?

      It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that marriage outside the Church just ain’t what it used to be. We need to adapt, IMO.

      Obviously if civil unions between homosexuals becomes the law of the land, we may have to rethink our acceptance of civil marriages.

      • As St. Ambrose says, marriage is not a sin:

        From “On the Duties of the Clergy”.

        “…what shall I say about chastity, when only one and no second union is allowed? As regards marriage, the law is, not to marry again, nor to seek union with another wife. It seems strange to many why impediment [impedimenta ordinationis] should be caused by a second marriage entered on before baptism, so as to prevent election to the clerical office, and to the reception of the gift of ordination; seeing that even crimes are not wont to stand in the way, if they have been put away in the sacrament of baptism. But we must learn, that in baptism sin can be forgiven, but law cannot be abolished. In the case of marriage there is no sin, but there is a law. Whatever sin there is can be put away, whatever law there is cannot be laid aside in marriage. How could he exhort to widowhood who himself had married more than once? (41)”

  5. Kevin Kirkpatrick says

    I would like to add that I know David Dunn personally. He is a faithful member of our parish and a great father and husband. Our priest has NO issues with his understanding of the creed that I am aware of. It is probable they would disagree on this point, but he is still in full communion. I see no need to challenge his basic acceptance of our Orthodox Faith or basic Christian doctrine.

    • So Kevin…… are you saying as long as we agree with the Creed we can hold whatever beliefs we want and remain in good standing with the Orthodox Church?

      • Kevin Kirkpatrick says

        What I am saying is that he IS in good standing with the Orthodox church. As far as our priest is concerned. He is David’s confessor, not you. Does that not matter? Also, David is NOT condoning gay marriage or suggesting it is “ok”

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          I’ll side-step the issue of Dunn’s standing in the Church. That is neither the discussion nor, I think, Andrew’s point. Andrew can speak to that.

          The point about Dunn not condoning same-sex marriage however, misses the point. Dunn’s argument is not whether same-sex marriage is morally legitimate. Rather, he argues that the Church should neuter itself in any discussion about it. He does this by misconstruing the nature of sacramental marriage (an elementary mistake that a Ph.D. in theology should not have made — see my essay above), so that the authority of the moral tradition can be reduced to private opinion thus enabling the morality of homosexual couplings to be adjudicated under the rubric of civil rights.

          So yes, Dunn might indeed be against same-sex marriage, but according to Dunn all morality is relative so what possible difference does it make? Why bring it forward as a defense of Dunn if same-sex marriage is merely a matter of private opinion?

          Don’t overlook the fact that when Dunn argues for a separation of Church and State in the moral dimension of human relationships, he is really arguing for a separation of Church from culture. The term “State” in his apologetic is a euphemism for culture and society.

          • Michael Bauman says

            And ultimately such an argument calls for a separation of the Church from human life except in the most tangential manner and faith as nothing more than a mental construct. It certainly does not speak well of Dr. Dunn’s understanding of the Incarnation or the prayer we say frequently in which we proclaims that God is everywhere present and fills all things….(except the state, the culture and society of course that would be toooooooo intrusive even for God).

        • Michael Bauman says

          Mr. Kirkpatrick, it matters quite a bit. I am not judging the state of his soul, just the effect his ideas have. While he does not think homosexual unions are “OK” that does not mean that his position on how the Church should respond is correct. IMO, his position will only strengthen those who do support homosexual normalization.

          Ideas have power. Remember “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. A culture cannot stand if it is bifrucated into ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ One of the masters will be served. If the Church ignores her prophetic duty, she is being, IMO, lukewarm and we risk being vomited out and loosing our candlestick.

          If you think that somehow the Church can remain in an isolated purity you and he are wrong. It won’t happen precisely because there is no separation. Every act, every thought we have has an effect on everyone else. We either work to sanctify our thoughts and everything else around us, or we risk falling into idolatry–worshiping the created thing more than the creator.

          Dr. Dunn has it backwards. By engaging the state and entering into the legislative debates we are not making the state God, we are saying just the opposite, we are saying that even the state is subject to God and His law.

        • Kevin, why don’t you answer the question. Let me ask it again:

          Are you saying as long as we agree with the Creed we can hold whatever beliefs we want and remain in good standing with the Orthodox Church?

  6. Michael Bauman says

    One more thought, the ideas the Dr. Dunn advances are the product of a culture that has ceased to believe in the Church and in man’s communal existence and need for community for our salvation. You might check out the thoughts of Fr. Stephen Freeman here for some additional prespective:

    Particularly the part on the revolution that Protestantism and the so-called enlightenment brought to the understanding of what it meant to be human. We are engaged in another such battle or a continuation of the battle.

    Without his realizing it, Dr. Dunn’s position abandon’s homosexuals and others to hell because their autonomous ‘right to choose’ is what it means to be human.

  7. macedonianreader says

    Why can’t we be for the notion that government has no say in the matter and that the Church is the final authority on marriage?

    • Michael Bauman says

      The state needs to be involved for the division of property and the protect the children although they do a horrible job at both because of the collusion of divorce lawyers, one or the other party gets the shaft while the children are treated like property rather than people.

      • macedonianreader says

        But be forewarned. The state can now de facto label anyone a ‘terrorist’ or potential terrorist if it means they can use the language of the patriot act to take your property.

        • Michael Bauman says

          …and your point?

          • macedonianreader says

            my point is that if we give the State any sort of power they construe that power any way they wish and utilize it to grab more power.

            I would much rather have the state give up power than take on more.

  8. It is perfectly reasonable for an Orthodox Christian to look to the past and see that the line between those in the Church and those without should be a sharp and defining one. It is also reasonable to conclude that a Christian should forego trying to make those outside the fold live as Christians by the force and violence of the state. An Orthodox Christian can believe that same sex acts are fornication and that the Church can never bless a same sex union, but nevertheless refuse to control what the State does in relation to marriage. As is often the case with the fundamentalists I was raised among, the line between the Church and America gets very muddled in the minds of some people. God leaves people to explore spiritual dead ends. Why should we do any less? The resentment that those who are outside the Church rightly feel is the resentment against interference. It is the same resentment that Orthodox Christians would feel if the State was applying pressure on them to become Orthodox. Leave those outside the Church to do as they will and let us be about the business of reforming the Church inside. After all, our divorce and abortion rates are the same as those outside. What if the Church was a distinct thing in the world?

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says


      The Orthodox Church has a lot more experience with politics than modern evangelical fundamentalists — nearly 2,000 years of both cooperation with and contention against the State. The Church’s tradition and teaching is plain: The State is ordained by God to restrain evil by way of the sword (Romans 13); the Church’s role with regard to the State is to advise the State on what evils need restraint and encourage the State to do its duty. The State doesn’t have to take the Church’s advice and must also consider “humanity, common-sense, and public utility,” in the words of Emperor and Saint Justinian, but the Church is never wrong to condemn immorality or to condemn the State’s actions that encourage immorality. And putting the force of law behind gay marriage would encourage immorality by forcing everyone to accommodate it, in part by silencing public condemnation of it.

      If the Church is resented for bearing witness against immorality, well, that’s the Cross of Christ. That’s why Christ was crucified: The Jews didn’t like, among other things, the political implications of His teachings, i.e., what it meant for the Jewish nation living under Roman rule.

      • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        Two quotes apropos:

        Patriarch Epiphanius of Constantinople, in 534:

        “The greatest blessings of mankind are the gifts of God which have been granted us by the mercy on high: the priesthood and the imperial authority. The priesthood ministers to things divine; the imperial authority is set over, and shows diligence in, things human; but both proceed from one and the same source, and both adorn the life of man.”

        St. Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, in 880:

        “Since the constitution, analogous to man, consists of parts and members, the highest and most necessary parts are the emperor and the patriarch. For this reason, the peace and happiness of the subjects in soul and body lie in the agreement and harmony of kingship and priesthood in all respects.”

        See Deno John Geanakoplos, Byzantium: Church, Society, and Civilization Seen Through Contemporary Eyes , Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984, pp. 136-7.

      • Brian,

        So your position is that the State should outlaw all sex outside of marriage and the Church should point out that by failing to do so the State is supporting immorality correct? Taking one verse from a man who was beheaded by the sword of the State hardly settles the matter of how the Kingdom of Heaven intersects with the Kingdoms of the World (whose Prince is not Christ) and St. Paul clearly drew a distinction between the responsibilities of those within the fold and those without. He wrote that those spouses which did not convert to Christianity were within their rights to leave a marriage, which clearly points to very different expectations (the ones who do convert are to stay with their non-Christian spouses if the non-Christian spouses wish them to) for those outside the fold. In the same way that the Church does not condone fornication, but nevertheless does not try to use the sword of the state to stop it, it is reasonable for Christians to say that even though the Church does not recognize gay marriage as a valid union and, like all unions of fornication, can’t bless them, the Church will not try to use force to make non-Christians fall in line.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

          …Church does not recognize gay marriage as a valid union and, like all unions of fornication, can’t bless them, the Church will not try to use force to make non-Christians fall in line.

          Hang on a second. You are conflating two ideas. Gay marriage in not merely a “union of fornication” (by which you mean – what? Any sexual activity outside of marriage?). Gay marriage is the attempt to use the coercive power of the state to force the recognition of a relationship that exists contrary to nature. It’s no different than Nero marrying his sister and declaring that because it was lawful, it was right. Yet even the pagan Romans knew it was against the higher natural law.

          The natural law doesn’t exist because the Church decrees it so. Heterosexual marriage exists within the order of creation. It precedes the Church’s sacramental view and moral teaching. That’s why a marriage between two men or two women is inconceivable in all cultures (even though homosexual activity is not).

          You assume, I think, that the State has to authority to write morality out of whole cloth; that the State is both the source and judge of the moral character of human relationships. It isn’t. In fact, in ceding such authority to the State, you give up your liberty. The fight over gay marriage is not solely a fight for the freedoms of the Church in society, but for the larger culture as well.

          • Fr. Hans,

            Let me first of all mention a couple of incidents that have happened in our own parish and no doubt happen all over the U.S. A young serviceman returned to the U.S. with a woman who he decided to marry “legally” under the laws of the State so he could have a sexual relationship with her but not in the church because he wanted to try out the marriage for a year before that kind of commitment. Somewhere in his thinking he got the idea that if the State says you are married then you are, whereas the Church’s declaration of marriage is secondary and something to follow up on at a later date. Another woman married a man outside the Church “legally” and then later asked for permission to be married in the Church. Making it “legal” was a bigger priority to her than making it sacramental (I am being intentionally vague about the details here so the people in question can remain anonymous). As it stands, most Christians in the U.S. appear to take their “State” marriage more seriously than their Church or sacramental one. I have been arguing for quite some time that this is backwards and demonstrates the neutering of the Church and the Kingdom of Heaven as the primary form of citizenship that Christians should swear allegiance to. What if young Christians simply skipped their State marriages altogether or took care of that business at a later date because they knew they had a Church marriage and that is what really mattered? By arguing that when the State ordains gay marriage it somehow lends legitimacy to said marriage you are playing into this granting of superior power to the State over the Church. The whole tenor of early Christianity is that if Christians can live in peace with the State then they should, but the moment the State asks them to do something contrary to the ethic of the Kingdom of Heaven (even something as mundane as lighting a candle for a different god or the Emperor) then the State’s authority is rendered powerless.

            While heterosexual marriage may be grounded in what is natural, the whole of humanity is fallen and all of humanity’s sexuality is fallen as well. So yes I don’t think that a person with same sex attractions is more broken when he engages in sodomy than a person with heterosexual attractions is when he engages in sexual relations outside of marriage. In fact, I would say the person with same sex attraction who is actively struggling for celibacy is in far more alignment with Christ than the person with “natural” attractions who is nevertheless still fornicating.

            I am sorry, but by acting as if the State lends authority or credence to gay marriage it is you that appears to be ceding authority to the State. The State is already granting same sex unions and marriages in some locales and these marriages are simply non-existent from the perspective of the Church just as common law and simple “shacking up” relationships are. My whole position has always been that the State can do what it wants and that doesn’t mean one iota of how the Church sees sin will change. I think you are confusing me with people who are getting ready to argue that same sex relationships should be blessed by the Church and aren’t anathema to salvation. Far from it. Then again, I take it for granted that we are all fallen sexually and a good portion of what married people do in their own sex lives is anathema to salvation so while their marriage is blessed, their sexuality is still very much fallen and married people should no more drop their guards regarding their own sexual disorders than single people with same sex attraction should. In that respect yes I think that same sex relationships should be viewed as just another form of fornication.

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          Isaac, you write:

          Taking one verse from a man who was beheaded by the sword of the State hardly settles the matter of how the Kingdom of Heaven intersects with the Kingdoms of the World . . .

          But I didn’t base everything I said on one verse from St. Paul; I cited the whole chapter (“Romans 13”), the words of St. Justinian and St. Photius, and 2,000 years of Orthodox teaching and experience that make the issue quite plain.

          You, however, have based everything on your own odd interpretation of St. Paul and disregarded everything else. That and your form of address (“Brian”) make me think you are not Orthodox and don’t really care what Orthodox teaching, experience, and tradition are.

          • Brian,

            Would you like me to start quoting the endless array of words from Church fathers demonstrating that the issue of Church/State relations is not as simple as you are making it out to be? You mentioned three people (only one of which is counted as scripture) and then added “2000 years of Orthodox teaching” to it as if you can just tack that phrase on and settle the issue. St. Paul disobeyed the state and was beheaded accordingly. Obviously the power of the state was not carte blanche ordained by God, but rather highly contingent in the mind of St. Paul. The witness of countless martyrs who disobeyed the state (and were accused of disrupting order or being atheists among other crimes) and received the sword should give you some pause regarding your easy relationship with its God-ordained right to kill in the name of order. And sorry, but St. Paul simply did not write for non-Christians. When he does mention them they are under a completely different ethic (free to leave a marriage if their spouse converts for example). Calling that an “odd interpretation” only makes it so because you keep insisting that St. Paul’s words were meant for the whole of society, Christian and non-Christian rather than those people in the body. Find one example where St. Paul tells Christians to hold non-Christians to account and I will recant. You won’t find anything. His whole attitude towards non-Christians was that he had no authority to teach them or admonish them unless they chose to join the Church.

            You didn’t answer my question about making fornication illegal. Right now the State does all kinds of things to support fornication, from food stamps for single moms to other forms of welfare. It is not illegal to have sex outside of marriage and the State will even pay for the consequences if you do. By your own standards the Church should insist that the State use its power to make non-Christians behave as Christians.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Issac, if the state would then leave us alone to do as we pleased, it might be a workable solution (although out of line with the experience of the Church). However the state never leaves the Church alone. The state either cooperates with her or seeks to oppress her. There is only one law. If the state is unwilling to abide by the law of God, it will not like any reminders of is disobedience in its midst, no matter how quiet.

      Quietism is not the solution.

  9. macedonianreader says

    What is keeping that State, which may be promoting our tenants today, to utilize that power we encouraged and voted for it have to go after the Church tomorrow?

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      The problem today in the United States is that the State IS ALREADY going after the Church, trying to force us to accept gay marriage and abortion. It should not do this, and the Church is right to say it shouldn’t.

      • macedonianreader says

        As bad as same sex marriage, it’s not the moral equivalent to infanticide. I believe the State has a moral obligation to legislate against murder. But I am leaning that the State remain neutral on issues like gay marriage. It should be promoting neither form.

        Having said this. It is important to note the US has historically recognized traditional marriage and should stay this course.

        I just do not trust the government. And, as conservative as we are we should completely understand this mistrust as conservatives have also been champions of small government. But not as of late.

        Legislation has been getting tricky. I have a personal friend who is in the middle of a tax evasion case in which his partner committed the crime. The prosecuting attorneys are utilizing the patriot act to keep him from his property. Now in case we didn’t know about this act. It was never meant to keep law abiding citizens from personal property. But this is what the government does, violently seizes power and the acts violently against the citizens. Taking existing legislation designed for one direction and then aiming it everywhere else.

        Furthermore, the past gender abortion law that was recently voted on. Legislation drawn up to play on the values and emotions of pro-life citizens utilizing symbolic language that will never do anything EVER to stop abortion, yet would attempt to pass a law to open up the possibility to criminalize thought.

        No, I don’t trust the government with any form of power – historically proven or not.

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          Sir, you have stated a preference here for less government, but you haven’t based that preference on anything within the Orthodox tradition or anything other than your own fear. And how relevant to this discussion is that fear if you are writing from Macedonia?

        • Michael Bauman says

          The state is never neutral. It and its people either serve God or mammon.

          • macedonianreader says

            Ok let’s not use the word ‘neutral’ – let say we have a government humble enough to be silent on certain issues and cede power to the people and God.

            What could possibly be more Orthodox than this? A State that relies on the Church.

    • Michael Bauman says

      It is already going after the Church on the basis of so-called civil rights. It will likely get worse as the state and the majority of people who comprise the state get further and further away from God. The state is not an entity that is separate from humanity. It is an expression of the governed.

      It is, of course, an issue of the condition of the souls of the governed and their desire. As a student of the philosophy and praxis of government most of my adult life, it has become quite clear to me that the government of a people always reflects the desires of the people–even those that are the most tryannical.

      The idea that the Church should or can be separate from anything that is an expression of humanity is so mind-bending that I can’t even begin to think how folks who are in the Church could ever arrive at such an idea. Jesus Christ did not wave a magic wand over those called Christians and ‘save us’ He came to restore the order of creation and re-sacntify all that He had made with us at the priestly center. As we are transformed and transfigured, so is all that we do–including politics and government.

    • Michael Bauman says

      The sanctity of the people (or lack thereof)keeps governement in check or grants them license. We get the type of government that we want and deserve. Our government is always a reflection of the people who are governed. Only Wilsonian idealists think otherwise.

  10. macedonianreader says

    Well how much will I be able to base anything on Orthodox Tradition if I pretend the Federal Government is the Church’s voice and vehicle? Will we still have Orthodox Tradition to go too? What happened to Christian Charities in this country after we gave way to the government being the main charitable institution?

    Macedonia? – funny you should mention it. The government recently took down a billboard that made fun of/questioned a potential miracle in one of the local Orthodox Churches. The creator of the billboard stated that this was artwork and that he was censored. There was some outcry, an article or two. I’m sure the State Department will continue to include Macedonia as someone who is simultaneously against secularism and religion because of Archbishop John, but I do not suspect there to be too much noise.

    Honestly, I don’t think it would have went down the same way in the States. But then again, we have a different Tradition the States. Our nation was not built upon Orthodox principles. In fact, in some cases pretty opposite to Orthodox principles. The Balkan Nations were. This is a generalization of course.

    But I would much rather we muster up the courage and just admit we would like an Orthodox Monarch, which I would be in favor of than some hybrid-government/church relation where everything will backwards and our priests will no longer will be able to preach without fear or imprisonment or our default into some sort of semi-autonomous camps.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Did you read what Dn Mitchell said above:

      It seems to me you are creating a false dicotomy.

      • macedonianreader says

        No – I’m just stating reality in the US today. If this is a false dichotomy, then so be it> Perhaps that’s why we have all these problems?

        If we can get back to that sort of relationship where the State actually leans on the Church as moral authority, then I’d be all for it.

        However, I ask. Does it actually have to be as Dn. Mitchell stated to actually be a good God loving and moral society?

        What if that was how it was and it failed? Didn’t this sort of relationship lead to a further falling away of Christians from the true Church with the reformation?

        • Michael Bauman says

          IMO the concept of the synergy of the Church and the State is not one of the Father’s finest hours. It is, in my probably arrogant opinion, an early form of Sergianism and led us into the phylitism that is so common today.

          To be redundant, a good and moral society will produce a good and moral government–whatever form it takes. An apathetic, depraved society will produce a depraved and corrupt government whether it is called a democracy, a republic, a dictatorship or a monarchy. In any case the Church is called upon to bear prophetic witness to what is good, right and holy even if that means (as it usually does) martrydom for her people.

          The best governement can do (and its divinely ordained purpose) is restrain people from evil. In and of itself it has no power to proclaim or establish what that evil is. Government is an expression of what the governed believe is right and wrong. (An aside: there are certain governments formed under inherently evil ideologies such as Marxism and Islamic Sharia that make it well nigh impoosible for them to produce a good and moral government. However, those arise to dominance in a society that is already in spiritual decline or is unable to defend itself against naked force.).

          Our Constitution is based on a version of natural law (Deist in understanding unfortunately) and the rather quaint, illogical and unique notion that man should be free to govern himself in acord with that law. John Adams (the most Christian of the noted founders) remarked that our form of government was meant for a Christian people, it was wholly inadequate to any other. He said that because only Christians, in his experience, had the capacity to discipline themselves for the good of others sufficiently so that our form of government could succeed. Without Christian morality, human beings have to be governed externally. I personally share his beliefs and I therefore fully support any efforts in line with the life of the Church to communicate to an apostate people what those principals are.

          What we see today is the result of a centrury or so of the degradation of the Christian moral conscience in our society. The cultural assumptions of what is right and what is wrong based on that conscience are no longer active. It has been replaced by individual license (often called ‘rights’) and the concomitant freedom robbing ‘government regulation’. These regulations are propogated and inforced under the assumption that we are just too stupid and too venal to govern ourselves and our great fathers in Washington will take care of everything for the greater good of course. (Everyone is equal, its just that some are more equal than others).

          The real difficulty is that the more specific we become about not only what the state should do, but how it should do it, the more likely we are to be deceived by our own favored political ideology. Thus the many disagreements between folks who each call themselves Christian about the proper role, function and content of the law and our government.

          A strong, united hierarchy within the Church would reduce the number of such disagreements between we Orthodox significantly. Unfortunately, we don’t have that. Few of our bishops publically proclaim the moral and anthropological truths of the Church, support and encourage their priests to do so, or discipline those who are clearly outside the tradition. Those that do, do so largely alone and thus the voice of the Church is muted and easily ignored. Our social and moral conscience should be conformed to the law of Christ…we should not seek to conform the Church to our own ideology…but we mostly do because the ignorance, supression and undermining of heirarchy within our lives, culture and society prevents us from appreciating and responding to much that is not egalitarian in essence.

          Rights are after all not hierarchical. The notion of responsibilty to a greater authority, and priviledges granted to some over others (as well as the moral responsibility to care unselfishly for those without those priviledges) is an heretical notion in our country formed as it was out of revolt. Even though the founders expected a natural hierarachy to be obvious and that such should rule (rather than an artificial hierarchy of family and birth)–they did not make that sufficently clear to survive the loss of any sense of communal Christian obedience to the law of God.

          The old axiom that law made in response to extreme circumstances is always bad law explains the Patriot Act.

    • Michael Bauman says

      You are agruing at cross-purposes to yourself. Only a strong central governement can guarantee that our priests can preach without fear of consequences. However, you have stated that such a government is inimical to you.

      In any case, our priests are always free and, indeed, commanded to be fearless in their preaching. It is the consequences of the world that should be expected, if not courted. When we rely on whatever ‘rights’ the government grants us, then we have deified the state.

      Freedom is not granted nor is it guaranteed by government. It is a state of being under God, His grace and our weak attempts to life a virtuous life.

      • macedonianreader says

        Small doesn’t mean weak.

        Everything else I agree with.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

        The only time a priest speaks without fear of consequences is when is saying nothing of consequence.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Doesn’t the Scripture say that we (not just the priests) will give account for every word we utter? Lord have mercy on my soul! To speak boldly and often is not always a gift.

  11. cynthia curran says

    Well, I think Emperor Justinian’s laws and view on laws was basically good. For example one law states that after 2 years if the husband is impotent that either the wife or her parents can perceived with a divorce. Justinian thought that procreation was one of the purposes of married. Granted, St Justinian did have children with St Theodora. It isn’t like some believe that she had an abortions. She might have thad abortions before marry Justinian or before she began a relationship with him. She once asked St Sabas to pray that she would have a child but St Sabas stated that she would have a son that would have rhe religous views of Anastasius. Anastasius was what today as known as a non-Chalcedon. She did have an illegalimate daughter by a relationship before Justinian and that daughter married well and had three sons.

  12. cynthia curran says

    I mean Justinian did not have children with Theodora.

  13. Kevin Allen says

    The sanctity of the people (or lack thereof) keeps government in check or grants them license. We get the type of government that we want and deserve. Our government is always a reflection of the people who are governed. Only Wilsonian idealists think otherwise.

    Well said.

  14. cynthia curran says

    I mean St Sabas didn’t want to pray for her since she would have a son that would have the views of Anastastius. Terrbile writing as usual from me.

  15. cynthia curran says

    Macedonia has a libertarian view. Historically any state until modern times didn’t support gay marriage. The US has a different government structure han other countries, so state a that is more liberal can support gay marriage while state b will not. I use to have more of the state’s rights views. Now Orthodox rulers have influence non-orothodox in legal matters, in most Europe basic concepts from the Justinian Code were adopted by Roman Catholic and Protestant countires. Gay rights advocates were glad when the influence of the Justinian Code no longer influence laws in Europe on Sodomy and homosexual conduct. Now i don’t believe we need back to putting gays to death or imprisoning them but the legal codes of Europe and the common law of England and the Us and so forth did not support homosexaul conduct for centuries so why now support gay marriage.

    • macedonianReader says

      Yes I tend to be liberatian-ish. But I also said that the US never supported homosexual marriage and therefore should stick with the traditional view.

      But I would also rather not the State be involved in deciding what constitutes a marriage or not. Nor do I believe the State should make money on marriage.

  16. cynthia curran says

    from other countries.

  17. cynthia curran says

    we need to go back

  18. I am convinced more and more that most American Christians primarily identify as American citizens first and then citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (the Church) a far distant second if at all. On the “liberal” side of this equation you have Christians who essentially conform to a neo-liberal progressive political philosophy and on the “conservative” side you have Christians who essentially embrace the neo-conservative approach. In both cases, however, they are still thinking in terms of being Americans first. Even the name of this site starts with “American” before Orthodox. It seems like a good portion of modern Christians have a hard time thinking of themselves as “resident aliens” in the sense Hauerwas uses that term. Rather than thinking of the Church as something distinct in the world, and of themselves as citizens of a completely different Kingdom where Justice is central and power itself is subverted, they see themselves as citizens of their own cultures (phyletism by another name) and that is why they attempt to use the force of the State to make everybody living within the borders of the State’s authority behave according to Christian ethics. Rather than being concerned to see the Church be a distinct community wherein abortion and divorce and fornication (and a whole slew of other sins) are rare, they are more concerned with trying to stop these things from happening among non-Christians by force. Hence the reason why you have no difference in the numbers among Christians and non-Christians when it comes to these things. Rather, you have no shortage of blowhards calling not for reform within the Church so that it can be distinct and set apart within the larger culture and people outside the Church can see it as something peculiar, but rather lamenting the seeming indifference to Christianity among the consciously non-Christian. In this cosmology America itself (or the West or Greece or Russia) is the Kingdom of Heaven and salvation is found in the voting booth and in the signing of declarations and in marching hand in hand with conservative Southern Baptists or Liberal Episcopelians as the case may be.

    • Michael Bauman says


      We in the Church should provide a much better witness by having no abortions, few failed marriages, unforgiveness or any criminal activity of any kind but there will always be sin. We need to do better, no doubt about it.

      Yet, the Church has a duty to life her prophetic voice against the evils in any culture. The life taken by and abortion and the living souls that are scarred are the same without reference to whether or not they are Christian (to use one example). If we ignore those lives and are quiessencent, the disease will continue to spread inside the Church as well. If we are loving and persistent in articulating our beliefs, particularly our bishops, it will have a salutory effect on everyone.

      It is not ‘forcing’ anyone to do something or to believe something if we proclaim our believes and try to persuade others even if we attempt to legislate in accord with those beliefs. Every piece of legislation ever written or law ever proclaimed was the fruit of someone’s belief. I dobutthat you are seriously advocating no laws. Are advocating the abandonment of any involvement with government? If you are I encourage you to rethink. What we do not participate in with as fully a Christian consciousness, prayer and sacrifice as we are able, is given over to the enemy. We may not always bring much light but we can help hold the darkness at bay.

      We need to be quite careful to avoid entaglement in political ideologies of any kind, that is a fair warning. We must not make the mistake of replacing the Gospel with any sort of political ideology. However, there is nothing wrong with being American or Russian or Greek. That is a legitmate part of our identity. While we may strive to look beyond any narrow or parochial interests that nationality pursues, there are few that re able to do much more than that, even many of our great saints.

      • Agreed. The Neo-Anabaptist Hauerwas, “America’s greatest theologian,” is a particularly poor example to cite in this regard. He defines not the “resident alien” Isaac holds up as a model (shall we become the Orthodox Amish?) but rather the academic “blowhard” who writes mounds of books and articles on politics, religion and society.

        From “Mennonite Takeover?” by Mark Tooley:

        Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University is today’s most prominent Anabaptist thinker. He is himself a follower of the late John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite who taught at Notre Dame, and whose classic 1972 “Politics of Jesus” remains deeply influential. Minnesota megachurch pastor and theologian Greg Boyd also espouses an Anabaptist message since he renounced his more conventional conservative beliefs in a controversial 2004 sermon series called “The Cross and the Sword” that earned him a 2006 New York Times feature story. He also wrote a popular book called The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church. A younger neo-Anabaptist is self-proclaimed “urban monastic” Shane Claiborne, a thirtysomething popular lecturer whose 2008 book, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, likened America to the Third Reich.

        All these neo-Anabaptists denounce traditional American Christianity for its supposed seduction by American civil religion and ostensible support for the “empire.” They reject and identify America with the reputed fatal accommodation between Christianity and the Roman Emperor Constantine capturing the Church as a supposed instrument of state power. Conservative Christians are neo-Anabaptists’ favorite targets for their alleged usurpation by Republican Party politics. But the neo-Anabaptists increasingly offer their own fairly aggressive politics aligned with the Democratic Party, in a way that should trouble traditional Mennonites. Although the neo-Anabaptists sort of subscribe to a tradition that rejects or, at most, passively abides state power, they now demand a greatly expanded and more coercive state commandeering health care, regulating the environment, and punishing wicked industries.

        From “Theologian: Christian Contrarian” by Jean Bethke Elshtain:

        Hauerwas is a volatile, complex person with an explosive personality and high-energy style. For many, he is an unlikely pacifist. He insists that Christians should exemplify a radical message of peace. Hauerwas learned this lesson from the Anabaptist theologian John Howard Yoder. Hauerwas has respect for a position known as the just-war perspective, a mode of reflection on war’s occasional tragic necessity, either for self-defense or to protect those who might otherwise be slaughtered. But he insists that most Christians who claim that position are not really serious about it, or they would oppose many more wars than they do. His radical pacifism leads him to condemn any and all forms of patriotism, nationalism and state worship. (And he disdains most distinctions between these positions.)

  19. cynthia curran says

    This was taken from a very conserative Roman Catholic blog online. It contains only law codes which shows how the late Roman Empire dwelt with homosexuality. Constants might have had male lovers but he along with his brother did the law for others good. Tradition of Civil Legislation, civil as well as religious law, there is a tradition of intolerance for the sin of homosexuality.

    Law of December 16, 342 of Emperors Constantius and Constans that was included in the later Theodosian Code:
    “When a man marries and is ready to offer himself to men in a feminine way [quum vir nubit in feminam viris porrecturam] . . . We order that norms be established, that the law be armed with an avenging sword, and that these infamous persons . . . receive the supreme punishment.”

    Law of August 6, 390 promulgated by the Emperors Valentian II, Theodosius, and Arcadius:
    “All persons having the shameful custom of condemning a man’s body to play the role of a woman . . . (for they seem not to be different from women) shall expiate this type of crime in avenging flames before the public.”

    Law of December 30, 533 of Emperor Justinian:
    “In cases of penal suits, public prosecution will be guided by various statutes, including the Law Julia de Adulteris . . . that punishes with death [gladio] not only those who violate the marriages of others, but also those who commit acts of vile concupiscence with other men.”

    Law of the year 538 of Emperor Justinian:
    “Whereas certain men, overcome by diabolical incitement to practice among themselves the most unworthy lewdness and acts contrary to nature, we exhort them to be fearful of God and the coming judgment, and to abstain from such illicit and diabolical practices so that the just wrath of God may not fall upon them on account of these heathen acts, with the result that cities perish with all their inhabitants. For Sacred Scriptures teach us that similar impious acts caused the demise of cities with all their inhabitants. . . .

    “#1. And since such sins are the cause of famine, earthquakes, and plagues, we warn men to abstain from these acts so as not to lose their souls. But if, after this warning of ours, it should be discovered that any persist in such iniquity, they render themselves unworthy of God’s mercy and further will be subjected to the punishment established by law.

    “#2. Thus we order the most illustrious Prefect of the Capital to arrest those who persist in the aforesaid illicit and impious acts after they have been warned by us, and to inflict upon them the most severe punishments, so that the city and the State do not end by suffering on account of such iniquitous acts.”

    The influence of the Justinian Code continued for centuries. It can still be noted in Blackstone’s Comment on the Laws of England in the nineteenth century. Blackstone states: “The crime against nature . . . [is one which] . . . the voice of nature and of reason, and the express law of God, determined to be capital. Of which we have a special instance, long before the Jewish dispensation, in the destruction of two cities by fire from heaven; so that this is a universal, not merely a provincial, precept. In the Old Testament the law condemns sodomists (and possibly other homosexual offenders) to death as perpetrators of an abomination against the Lord, while in the New Testament, they are denounced as transgressors of the natural order and are disinherited from the kingdom of God as followers of the vile practices of the heathens.”

    Jurist Pietro Agostino d’Avack drafted an historic roster of laws that protected the State against the vice of homosexuality. In substantial paragraphs, d’Avack affirms: “No less severe and scathingly repressive laws against such sexual aberrations are found in the centuries following [the Roman Empire] and emanated from all civil authorities from the earliest medieval times up to the modern age. Thus, the Lex Visigothica condemned to castration and jail those [men] ‘who carnally united with men. . . .’ and prescribed, if they were married, that their goods should be immediately inherited by their children and heirs. After the castratio virum, the law also prescribed capital punishment.

    “In turn, in the well-known collection of the Frankish Capitularies of Ansegisius and Benedict Levite . . . those who had engaged in sexual acts with animals, who were guilty of incest and who ‘practiced copulation with men’ were punished with capital punishment; if pardoned by some indult, they were obliged to subject themselves to the canonical penances imposed by the Church. In the later Capitularies of Ludovicus Pius, while such a crime, invoking Roman legislation, was punishable with execution at the stake, this severe action was justified in the name of the ‘salvation of the rem publicam (nation)’ so that ‘on account of such sins, we may not also fall with the kingdom and the glory of the whole kingdom may not perish.’. . . “During successive centuries, this lay civil legislation was substantially unaltered and was nearly identical everywhere, whether in Italy or in the other European States, as attested to by the Statutes of Bologna in 1561, those of Ferrara in 1566, those of Milan, Rome and [the Italian province of] Marche in the seventeenth century, the Florentian Tires of 1542, 1558 and 1699, the Sicilian Pragmatics of 1504, the Carolingean Criminal Constitution of Charles V, the Theresian [Constitution] of Marie Thérèse, the Royal Portuguese Ordination, the New Spanish Recompilation, etc. . . . For their part, the Florentian Statutes, ‘execrating the indecency of the great crime that is the sodomite vice and wishing to extirpate it,’ approved the institution of eight officiales honestatis (officers of decency) who were designated for six months specifically to repress such crime.”



Leave a Reply to Kyle Adams Cancel reply