Monday, November 2, 2020

Met. Gregory of Nyssa on voting

39 comments:

  1. For the Christian, there's an important distinction between civic duty and civic responsibility that's often lost during these elections.
    Civic duty is paying taxes, serving as juror if summoned, being drafted for military service, and obeying the government's law. Civic duties are mandated by the government.

    Voting and running for political office are not mandated by the government, and are not civic duties. Rather, these are voluntary actions considered in the realm of civic responsibility. Yet that which is civically responsible is often and usually subject to wide debate. It is entering into the realm of politics, where battle lines are drawn over who gets to decide what it is and how it gets to be implemented. The battle over civic responsibility is fierce. Political parties seek this authority by essentially building their own respective political pyramids. In the end, politics really comes down to a battle of who can build the biggest pyramid.

    Yet rather than building pyramids, the Christian is given the duty and command to flee Egypt and follow Christ. We can see in Christ's life that He eschews the building of political pyramids. He did not seek to build authority in this world. Rather, He accepted all authority in this world as given from the Father (even though it's abused). Christ was obedient to earthly authority even to death on a Cross, and by so doing He took the shame and sins of the world, offering life and forgiveness to all.

    The Christian in this world today has a choice to be involved in politics or not, to vote or not. Yet the true testimony of any Christian is not political and does not seek authority in this world. The true testimony of any Christian is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

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    1. I have yet to watch these videos but your distinction(s) strike me as important Joseph. My priest sent out a link to Archpriest John Jillions recommendations on how to speak to your children about voting, how to vote as a Christian, etc. Published at Public Orthodoxy, which is appropriate because it's a very "therapeutic" way to think about Christ and what he wants us to "care about". I noticed that Fr. John said nothing about the Cross (Christ's or ours). Indeed based on Fr. John's recommendations, one does not need to be Christian at all to attain such a practical morality - a sentimental secularism is all that is needed...

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    2. Civic Responsibility 101 is praying with a contrite heart for our own sinfulness, praying for our enemies, praying for our neighbors, and praying for our civic authorities. Everything else comes out of this. This is how we begin to follow Christ's commandment to love our neighbor as ourself.

      For the Orthodox Christian, all civic governments are considered legitimate, even without representation. There's no way around it. It's in the Divine Liturgy.

      Sometimes people lose faith in the legitimacy of their governments though. Voting is meant to retain that faith. Yet people are now losing faith in the voting mechanism itself, and thus they are losing faith in the legitimacy of their government. "It's all rigged!" is the common refrain.

      What is the answer to restoring faith in the legitimacy of our government? It's the Cross. It's prayer. It's the Divine Liturgy.

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    4. "What is the answer to restoring faith in the legitimacy of our government? It's the Cross. It's prayer. It's the Divine Liturgy."

      This makes no sense. You're basically ascribing Sacramental status to secular democracy. That is completely obscene.

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    5. It's in the context of Romans 13, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."

      It's in this context that St. Paul refers to all civic authorities (even the pagan ones of his time) as "God's ministers". That's why we always pray for our civic authorities in the Divine Liturgy and in our daily prayers. This is also why Christ didn't question the legitimacy of the Roman government that crucified Him. Christ instead recognized the very power of God in the authority wielded by Pontius Pilate.

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    6. Well, that Public Orthodoxy advice is not how I would talk to my kids about elections. I'd probably use it as an example of a passion that gets blown way out of proportion though.

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    7. Democracy is atheistic. As soon as the Christians could, they replaced the pagan Roman monarchs with a Christian monarchs and practiced coronation.

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    8. The monastic governing body on Mt. Athos is considered the world's oldest continous democracy. Each monastery has one representative and essentially one vote. We can see that Holy Synods and Church councils also vote on things. So the Church has traditionally embraced representation in government. Yet not everyone is given this responsibility to vote in church matters.

      The voting public is given a right and responsibility to vote in our public political elections. Since it's voluntary, we also have a right to abstain from voting though. Personally, I believe the main thing as Christians is to accept civic responsibility, and sometimes the best way to do that is by not voting. Recognizing the legitimacy of government, whether we agree and vote for it or not, is by itself showing civic responsibility. It's the message that there is no power in this world except the power of God, and that's the message of the Cross.

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    9. LOL. There is zero support for secular democracy in the Tradition. Let me know when the US government is run by a council of celibate archimandrites.

      You are really drinking the Enlightenment kool-aid.

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    10. Anti-Gnostic, who do you pray for as the legitimate government authority? Some guy in Florida named Romanov just waiting to be crowned the tsar?

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    11. Indeed it has been normative for Christians to pray for leaders even if they didn’t like them. I’m sure lots of Russian clergy had several weighty bones to pick with this or that Tsar.

      The Orthobro projection of autocracy upon the current political moment is a perverse delusion benefiting no normal churchgoer. It posits some implausible preferred atavistic condition to delegitimize our current situation. I find it ‘curious’ how widespread these groyper attitudes have spread in the web and pray they don’t affect church life IRL.

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    12. Your prayers have been answered: modern Christianity is so completely effeminate it will never trouble anybody, much less the secular authorities.

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  2. Oh, I'd be open to a patriarchy as well. And if that council of (male) elders voted, well, I'd be all right with that too.

    Short of that: Trump 2020. Deus vult!

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    1. Stolen election. It's not the voters; it's the vote-counters.

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    3. Oh you sir are beyond the pale. I see you drank copious fortified koolaid.

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  3. Well I watched the videos, though Met. Gregory's I had to skip through due to all the insipid cliche's, and Fr. Heer's was repetitive as well (thank you Youtube for the ability to speed everything up). Fr. Seraphim's was the best because he reminded us of the futility of it all, though he fails to convince me that voting in-of-itself is any more/less significant than "building pyramids" just as Joseph Lipper says...

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  4. Politics: I am right, you are wrong! Death to the losers.

    Faith: "All things work together for good for those who love God"

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    1. In the Proposition Nation, elections aren't over things like who keeps the public purse solvent and the potable water flowing. They are bitter, existential fights over the nation's proposition. If you don't subscribe to the Proposition, you're not a fellow national. There are two competing Propositions in the United States. This is not sustainable.

      The traditional nation-state appears to be the default form of large-scale human organization. Every multi-national empire has vanished after two to three centuries on average. If John Pasha Glubb is correct, our time is just about up.

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    2. Anti-Gnostic, yes, I believe your assessment is correct. The U.S. is made out to be a "Proposition Nation". Yet we are all citizens of this country, not because of our propositions, but rather because of birth or naturalization. The ideology of a "Proposition Nation" reflects a false existential crisis of America and Americans, and it needs to be challenged.

      Personally, I believe Orthodox Christians have the solution to this false existential crisis, and it's not through voting. Instead, it's through prayer, love of our neighbor, love of our country, the Cross of Jesus Christ, and the Divine Liturgy.

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    3. The US Proposition is that a nation of immigrants must never be allowed to become a nation of natives, and therefore no organic American nation can ever be allowed to form. To the extent there is ever an American Orthodoxy which raises such a prospect, it will go in the crosshairs too. Incidentally, this is one reason why American autocephaly remains problematic: there is really no American national culture in which the Church can take root through an inter-generational succession of baptisms, weddings and funerals.

      Most Orthodox realize this, so they cede the public square and retreat into individual religious praxis. The secular democratic State, after all, can have no other gods before it. Thus the Church becomes a revolving door of middle-aged converts dwindling, like the Shakers, into a collection of old people unrelated to each other.

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    4. I see you speak for yourself in all things politic and ecclesiastic, Mr. Anti. There is no rule that Americans must be emigres, the right wing half of the country feels perfectly native having genocide the actual natives.
      I see you are suffering an existential crisis as your godlet goes down in fascist flames so I will not harp sadistically.

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  5. There's a certain richness to Orthodoxy here in America in that it represents different ethnic cultures simultaneously. You don't get that in most Orthodox countries, at least not to the extent that we have it here. The renewed interest for Orthodox monasticism is especially contributing to this richness, particularly with the current phenomenon of the "Ephraimite" monasteries. Although its true that Orthodoxy in America doesn't present a united front yet, that will eventually resolve itself.

    Orthodoxy needs to be presented and understood in America as something "other". It's neither "Liberal Christianity" nor "Conservative Christianity". It's Orthodoxy.

    The time will soon come when the ideologies of both "Liberal Christianity" and "Conservative Christianity" will collapse. If we try to find political solidarity with either of these, it's just attaching oneself to sinking ships. It's a losing game. That's the danger of ecumenism, and engaging in American politics is ecumenism.

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    1. Very good statement of who and what we are as the Orthodox Church planted in America. One Church multiple jurisdictions. No excuse to not evangelize while waiting for whatever it is that we think we are lacking. One priest friend of mine said it quite well: if the Apostles had been like the modern Orthodox, we would still be in the upper room.

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    2. Who do you evangelize and how?

      Muslims, Jews and Hindus? Buddhists?

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    3. I want to know if you approach Jews leaving their synagogues and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists leaving their temples to tell them they must repent of their error and be baptized.

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  6. "Who do you evangelize and how?"


    "Anyone."


    Archimandite Gregory and Joseph, I believe your missing TAG's insight. Joseph you say that we are not "liberal Christianity" and we are not "conservative Christianity" and you are right, not the least of which is because those two things (whatever else they are) are a *culture*. They are both quite good at being a cult, providing a "world view" and way of life for those born into them, and passing this culture/life onto their children through the generations. What do we have? Joseph says we have "Orthodoxy", but Ortho-doxia is not a culture. We can stand in our icon corners with our Ortho-doxia and (perhaps) save our selves but that is not a cult-ure, nor is it creating it, nor is it passing it on or evangelizing others.

    Arch. Gregory, "Anyone" is in practice "almost no one" TAG is right, you face your icon corner and simply wait for people to come to you. A few do, mostly (very often childless) wounded middle age people who read about Orthodoxy in a book (or increasingly on the internet) and are "seekers".

    In our little Orthodox mission parish we have exactly three (3) families (including my own) who have enough children and have been part of the community for it's 12 years of existence that could be considered a basis for a *cult*. We do have others: widows, single people (many divorced), childless couples, and older couples whose children are not even Christian let alone Orthodox. The primary characteristic of these people is their *woundedness*. May God through community heal them...but they are in no way a basis of a vibrant culture that is able to sustain itself through the generations.

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    1. To be fair, this is hardly unique to Orthodoxy. All the Christian sects are having difficulty reproducing themselves in their own pews. I'm reminded of the parable of the sower: the seed is landing in thin soil. No inter-generational family and life events, no Christendom revolving around the perennial cycle of fasts and feasts, to nurture it along. Then it's burned by divorces, economics, secularism of "the potent, the omnipresent teacher" (the US government, which tells our kids homosexual marriages have equal dignity and any other itch that can be scratched should be scratched, and we'll pay you money to do it) and of course competition from every other Christian sect and religion of a multicultural country.

      What's going on with the creeds that are showing up for the future: the Mormons, the Hasidim and the Amish? Also the fastest growing religion in the world (purportedly), Islam? Maybe, as I said, they're doing something to soften the hard edges of life for their adherents instead of telling them good bye and good luck every Sunday.

      Maybe we could get some ideas? Or are we just going to yell about evangelism which, lets face it, amounts to engaging in apologetics with Protestants. After all, nobody would dare literally to "preach" to their Jewish, Catholic, Hindu and Muslim neighbors.

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    2. Jake, it's the culture of the Divine Liturgy, it's piety, an approach to holiness, repentance, sanctity, the lives of saints, and the recognition of spiritual beauty. Monasteries typify this culture, and there are now many monasteries in America. Ralph Sidway's worthy photographic project thebaid.org catalogues this for us. Unfortunately, many missions and parishes have no contact with monasteries. That can change. When I say we have Orthodoxy, I'm referring to the Church, the lives of the saints, and the monasteries we have both here and abroad. There's plenty of culture out there if we're looking for it, but we're probably not going to find it if we just limit ourselves to our icon corner, read a few "spiritual" books, and expect to be "saved".

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    3. Monastics?!

      They don't have children and have renounced the larger culture. They don't show up for the future and build a safe, edifying, outside culture. It's not their job; it's YOUR job.

      I think most American Orthodox really do see themselves like the Shakers, solipsistically contemplating their arcane dogma and praxis, and shuffling peacefully to their deaths, with no "memory eternal" to accompany them. Rather, gone from all living memory. Many Orthodox will be in their graves with nobody left even to sponsor a 40-day Trisagion.

      Modern American Christianity is becoming nihilistic.

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    4. Eleven of the twelve disciples were martryed, and Christ was crucified. Was that the end of Christianity?

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    5. You're not going to be martyred; you're going to be ignored. You're also not going to rise from the dead on the third day.

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    6. That's probably true. The martyrs viewed their martyrdoms as a gift from God rather than anything of their own making. Its the same for the confessors who were imprisoned. Perhaps being ignored can be a gift from God also?

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  7. Joseph,

    IMO it seems you have the relationship between, let's call it "normative" Orthodox Christianity and it's parish/communal/cultural life, and monasticism. Monasticism arises out of a vibrant and living parish life, not the reverse. This should be obvious given that monastics don't reproduce themselves - they only exist because a Christian couple decided to have children somewhere.

    Monastics don't "typify" {Orthodox} culture and life, it's the opposite in that they are the *result* of a previous existing life. Now of course it flows both ways and they help support those of us in the world, but the Ephraimite monasteries in particular, and even much of the more homegrown monasteries in America are still an import of culture and competency (e.g. look at how many of them have abbots/mothers who are foreigners).

    So how we doin? Are our liturgies and our icons, piety, and the beauty thereof - are all these things in-of-themselves holding us up from the perspective of whether we are a functioning cult? When you look at the reality through time, particularly the stat's around children it's not good. Apparently Secularism is mostly evangelizing us - we are not even holding our own, let alone evangelizing others.

    Is the Divine Liturgy or for that matter ALL the liturgical praxis of the Church a *cultural* in of itself, or if not are they a sort of corner stone - a basis upon which any living Cult-of-Christ is founded? Many believe the former, particularly among the clergy. I don't believe it however. I do believe the latter, with the caveat that this life is not taking place in a wider secular culture, because if so then it means that even those partaking of this praxis regularly are still these schizophrenic half Christian, half secular frankenstein's. There are exceptions of course such as perhaps many monastics and saints, but they seem to be that which proves the rule.

    This is where I make a distinction between "Orthodoxy" and this Imperial Church of the East. I think much of what we think of as Orthodoxy is in fact a subset and collection of praxis and pieties borrowed from the culture of eastern Christendom. No one is even prepared to look very hard at this however because where do you look at it from? You can't pull the rug from under you and look at it at the same time, because your too busy falling to the ground. So everyone just comes to the conclusion that it's up to God and they keep on keeping on, "again and again we pray to the lord...again and again we pray to the lord...again and again and again..." What else can we do?

    I think we can do small things. We can face up to our failure. We can face up to the fact that we are all too secularized, even cuckold to the modern way(s) of living and "being" Christian. Doing this is not to know the answer, but it is to see ourselves for what we actually are. Many (most?) can't do this - they will accuse you of being unfaithful, or cynical, or fill_in_the_blank and point to little successes (like the OCA of the South) and say "see, just keep on keeping on and God will provide!". Yet reality can be hard to ignore in the long run.

    I try to take the long view. I am raising my two daughters in the regular praxis of the Church. What are the chances they will be Orthodox when they are 40? I give it 50/50 at best. Indeed, since they attend a RC school and are being formed there as well, I give it a 33% chance they will be RC at 40, 33% chance Orthodox, and 33% MTD/secular. This is hard truth, but truth nonetheless. There is a difference between belief - trust in God - and delusional/sentimental wish fulfillment.

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