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Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks -- for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the National One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Lord have Mercy!

That is what we Orthodox chant during litanies in response to the prayer of the priest or deacon. That is my response now to the election results. Lord have mercy!

No matter which way the election ended, I believe it would have been indicative of the will of God. I just don't think the leadership of a nation as powerful and pivotal in the world as the United States is left by God to the fickle fate of human opinion. I confess I am far more gratified by this answer than I would have been by the other, but I would have seen it as the hand of God nonetheless.

Does this mean that I think everything Bush will do will be God's will? I'm not saying that, just that for whatever (undoubtedly myriad and inscrutable) reasons, President Bush fits in God's purposes for America at this time and place. It is still up to us to discern that purpose and fit our own selves and salvation into that purpose.

That is why I pray, Lord have mercy...and Glory to God for all things!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Who do YOU trust?

On this momentous day, no matter who wins the election, let us remember that it is our God Who delivers!

The Lord hear thee in the day of affliction; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee. Let Him send forth unto thee help from His sanctuary, and out of Sion let Him help thee. Let Him remember every sacrifice of thine, and thy whole-burnt offering let Him fatten. The Lord grant thee according to thy heart, and fulfil all thy purposes. We will rejoice in Thy salvation, and in the name of the Lord our God shall we be magnified. The Lord fulfil all thy requests. Now have I known that the Lord hath saved His anointed one; He will hearken unto him out of His holy heaven; in mighty deeds is the salvation of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God. They have been fettered and have fallen, but we are risen and are set upright. O Lord, save the king, and hearken unto us in the day when we call upon Thee. Psalm 19 (20)
Let us all call upon the name of our God!!

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Vote anti-life to save lives?

This is the argument recently put forth by some who claim, first, that a politician's stand on abortion should not be the defining issue for those pro-life and, second, that abortions go down under presidents who are pro-abortion. These claims are based on some rather injudicious massaging of available data and demonstrate the veracity of Samuel Clemmons' assertion that there are "liars, damn liars and statisticians". If you're one of those who believes that in voting for anti-life candidates you're actually forwarding the pro-life cause, think again. This argument has been dismantled by a number of folks, most recently by Michael New over at the National Review Online. Please read the whole column, in which he concludes:

During the past 31 years, the right-to-life movement has worked tirelessly to protect the unborn. Progress has not come as quickly as many of us would like. However, political victories at the federal level in the 1980s and at the state level in the 1990s have made it easier to pass pro-life legislation. This legislation has been effective at protecting the unborn and has paid some real dividends. Furthermore, considering the fact that the next president may have the opportunity to nominate as many as four justices to the Supreme Court, the right-to-life movement would be well advised to stay the course in 2004.
I couldn't agree more. You may disagree with the way the war on terrorism is being conducted. You may think the war in Iraq is a huge mistake. You may believe the economy is going in the wrong direction. (I think you're wrong on all counts...) But, there can be no doubt that only one candidate will appoint federal judges, especially Supreme Court Justices, who will be restrained and who will be more likely to uphold the right to life. Consider wisely!

Just War, Terror, and Preemption

I don't think I've done this before, but here is a column in its entirety, from the pen of Chuck Colson, because I think he makes a point we all need to consider.

During my days working in the White House, I often came home feeling nauseated after meetings about national security. You’d feel that way, too, if you’d spent the afternoon hearing about possible nuclear attacks, first-strike survivability, and the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), which shaped every decision we made. I used to come home and tell Patty, “I don’t know if I can take this, because we are making decisions that could, by one miscalculation, obliterate this country!”

Now consider: The entire MAD policy assumed that leaders on both sides of the Cold War—the Americans and the Soviets—were reasonable, rational people. Today it’s a totally different ballgame. With Islamic fanatics, you don’t assume that they are rational. You assume, based on their behavior, that they’re irrational—that if they get their hands on nuclear weapons, they’re willing to use them.

I have come to the sobering conclusion that we are in greater danger of a nuclear strike today than we were during the Cold War.

That being the case, can we really wait until an attack to go after the terrorists who perpetrate it? Or do we have to, instead, rethink the whole spirit of Just War arguments, accepting that preemption is the only humane and just solution in an age of terror to accomplish what the Just War doctrine proposes? Today we are dealing with an irrational enemy who knows it cannot conquer us, but will do everything in its power to destabilize us. Can we wait until the attacks—perhaps killing tens of thousands—or should we seek them out and destroy them before they have a chance to destroy us?

This is a huge debate which defies easy answers. The candidates this year are expressing radically different views. Some candidates believe in seeking out the terrorists wherever they hide, and others prefer treating terrorist acts like criminal acts that ought to be dealt with in a “law and order” kind of way.

Christians have to decide which view makes more sense. We need to ask ourselves if we should accept the thesis of Samuel Huntington of Harvard, who has said that we are in a new kind of conflict. From the time of the Russian Revolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall, most conflicts centered on ideology—communism versus democracy—but today the great divisions are cultural. The world is divided not so much by geographical boundaries as by differences in ultimate beliefs—that is, divided by worldviews.

The radical Islamic worldview is buttressed by thousands of terrorist cells spread throughout the Islamic world, agitating for violence and training for terror attacks. And as World magazine reported last week, U.S. forces in Iraq have seized intelligence documents revealing that Saddam Hussein collaborated with and supported Islamic terror leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

We need to think seriously about these issues before we go to the polls on Tuesday. Yes, fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan is messy, and getting to the source of terror is long and even messier. But with weapons of mass destruction at large and our national security at stake, we may not have any other options. Take a look at where all the candidates who are running for every federal office stand, and soberly ask who has the right strategy and record to protect our country.
This election could very well determine the path of Christian civilization for the next few centuries. The Christians in Constantinople must have thought it was the end of the world when the Islamic armies overran the city and finally toppled the Roman empire. It wasn't, and their progeny have had to live under centuries of Islamic domination, suffering uncountable degradations. We have a responsibility to our progreny to do all we can not to let the same happen to us.

For more on the issues confronting us in the struggle against Islamofascism and the concept of "just war" within the Orthodox tradition, see the interview in Again magazine with Fr. Alexander Webster.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

ECUSA and Idol Worship

While much attention has been given over the past year to the Episcopal Church's ordination of a practicing homosexual, not much focus has been on that denomination's continuing slide into paganism. Christianity Today's Weblog has a story that one would think would settle once for all any notion that the ECUSA is still "Christian" in any but the most Switzerian connotation. This is not just adding a few feminists phrases or new ageisms to the liturgy, but whole hog incorporation of practices specifically forbidden by the scriptures.

Illumine with the light of awareness the apostates from the Orthodox faith and those blinded by pernicious heresies, and number them with Thy holy Apostolic, Catholic Church!

May God have mercy on us all!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sermon Series

I don't think he has meant these as a "series", so to speak, but the last three or four weeks of sermons by my priest at St. John the Wonderworker parish (OCA) in Atlanta have been, at least to me, both profound and heart piercing. They have been on how to let the love of God show in your life.

You can find them here. We've had some "technical difficulties", at times, but persevere, it will be worth it!

Glory to God for all things!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Calculating Christianity?

I confess I don't get John Kerry. I don't like being political much anymore, especially here - raises the passions too much. But when the political intersects faith, then it causes me to really ponder. John Kerry claims he is a Catholic. Claims to adhere to the Catholic faith, particularly in regard to abortion. However, John Kerry has never voted against an abortion bill. He has never voted for any bill that limits unfettered access to abortion for any reason, including partial birth abortion. He cannot even bring himself to vote against providing federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. All of these are positions the Roman church strictly condemns. John Kerry claims he can't impose his personal faith on others.

But John Kerry also believes that "faith without works is dead" and that is why he supports various federal poverty, housing and education efforts. Isn't this imposing his faith on others? Why is it that it's wrong for him to impose his faith on the most fundamental of issues - life of the innocent - and not these peripheral areas that people of good conscience can disagree on how involved the federal government should be? Rich Lowry at National Review makes an interesting observation:

Asked at the Arizona debate about Catholic bishops who say it would be a sin to vote for a candidate who, like Kerry, supports unlimited abortion and the destruction of human embryos for research purposes, Kerry said: "I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views."

Where to start? Saying that you "respect" the view that the destruction of human life is wrong is almost insulting. This isn't like respecting someone's choice to order the merlot instead of the cabernet. The view that the sanctity of all human life is paramount demands to be accepted or rejected. Merely respecting it is a weasely way of saying you reject it.

...Kerry presented diametrically opposed views on the role of morality in public life within about 30 seconds. He went on to say that his environmentalism and his poverty-fighting measures were borne of his faith. In other words, his faith affects everything — including his position on whether the minimum wage should be $5.15 or $7 an hour — but not how he legislates concerning life issues, because it would be wrong to legislate his morality, although he does it all the time.
It seems to me that Kerry is "triangulating" morality. He's attempting to appeal to those who believe their faith requires they support government programs to combat a host of social ills (notwithstanding the track record of utter failure, incompetance and inefficiency these programs have over the past 40 years) without totally alienating those who actually take seriously the Roman (and other) church's teaching on the sanctity of life.

This strikes me as calculated pandering. But, then, as I've said, I don't get John Kerry.


P.S. Just finished reading Jonah Goldberg's essay on the same subject. Goldberg closes his article with this comment:
And that's what I find a little galling about all of Kerry's God talk. Beyond the naked pandering of it, it's morally and religiously empty. He may talk about deeds backing up faith, but where his faith is unambiguous he wants no part of it. When it comes to the tough issues, what he really seems to want is grace on the cheap. It's as More said: "If honor were profitable, everybody would be honorable."
Seems like I'm not alone.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Trump Issue

I've come across many people, Roman and Orthodox, who seem to believe that other issues weigh as heavily on the making of a political decision as the LIFE issue. Some hold up (in my view disinguenously, but perhaps that's a reflection of my passions) the "seamless garment" argument to support their position. Roman Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver effectively demonstrates why these arguments don't work from a Christian perpsective, from a LIFE perspective, in an interview with the New York Times. The following quote was not included in the published article, which the Archbishop characterizes as "misleading", but is from the transcript of the interview released by his office:

AB: "Let me say this. A lot of Catholic Democrats, whether they are clergy or laity, have used the "seamless garment" as an excuse to sideline the abortion issue, making it one among many others. And, we can't do that. The bishops, themselves, issued a statement several years ago, called [Living t]he Gospel of Life , which was a reflection on the centrality of the abortion and life issues for our public life. And it's important to read that in order to understand a document like Faithful Citizenship because it's a more theoretical background kind of document. You know, all of those issues that you mentioned are life issues that are very, very important, but they are not all foundational. In the way..similar issue in terms of Catholic theology. At the heart of Catholic theology is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. We believe it to be absolutely true. We also believe that Mary's Assumption into heaven is absolutely true. But one doctrine is foundational and the other doctrine depends on the foundation to be true and to be meaningful. And the same thing is true about moral issues. You know some moral issues, all moral issues are moral issues, and it's good to be on the right side of them all the time, but some are dependent on the basic principles of human life. The dignity of human life. You never violate it. Whether it's the creation of embryos for embryonic stem cell research or abortion, are violations of the dignity of human beings, from our perspective. And you can never justify it. You can sometimes justify going to war. You may think that the Iraq war is horrible, but there may be sometimes when you can justify [going to war]. It doesn't have the same moral weight. And, it's not calculating 40 million abortions against 40,000 deaths in Iraq. That's not how you do the calculus. The calculus is on the intrinsic act itself. You know, and abortion is never, ever, ever right. And so to elect someone who has no respect for unborn human life or has a kind of respect?...a kind of respect that is wobbly...it doesn't make any sense. Why would you trust someone with your life, if that person is willing to let unborn babies die?"
While I confess to having engaged in the type of "calculus" he dismisses, it has been only to make a point because this is the type of moral reasoning those willing to ignore abortion engage in, whether they realize it or not. However, the Archbishop is dead on. To say that food, clothing, education, etc., issues (all of which the best way to deal with is debatable - i.e. people of honest intention can disagree on the government's legitimate role in these issues) together might trump abortion is like a man who beat's his wife protesting that at least he puts a house over her head and food on her table. Gee, what a swell guy.

An episode of CSI I watched last night brought the horror of where our society is headed home to me in a graphic way (and I hope to many others who watched the show). A couple whose oldest child, and only son, had lukemia could not find a bone marrow donor that matched when their child was younger. So they had a baby conceived in a test tube precisely to be a genetic match for their son. The girl, over the course of her life, provided TWO bone marrow transplants (a tremendously painful procedure - think about a four year old going through this) and countless blood transfusions. Finally they were asking her to give up a major organ (a kidney or something, but I can't remember exactly). She didn't want to. At 12 she wanted to play soccer, to have fun with her friends, to have a LIFE. She didn't want to be an organ storage depot for her brother, as much as she loved him and he loved her. Her own parents turned her in to this. She was little more than a commodity to them, a means to keeping the child the really loved alive.

When we allow other issues to trump the fundamental reverance for LIFE, we turn people into nothing more than commodities, resources of the highest bidder be that the State, the corporation or some pol seeking election to office. The sanctity of life is the issue that trumps all others, that is foundational to any talk of any other human good, human right. To wink at a politicians support of abortion because of other issues is morally no better than to excuse Hitler because "he made the trains run on time."

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Human Condition

I've been wondering lately what it is about the human condition that makes us so consistently prone to compare ourselves one to another. I've noticed in myself this propensity to a greater degree (my noticing, not the propensity itself) then I ever had before. When I do something wrong, I tend to justify myself, "I'm not quite so bad as other people" or, even worse, "I've never done such and such like so and so did". When I do something well, I tend to pride and vanity, "I did that pretty well, at least as well as so and so". When I don't do so well, I tend toward envy, "I wish I could do as well as so and so" (so and so plays a large part in my world, apparently).

Self-justification, pride and vanity, envy - all of these stem out of focusing on how I stack up against others rather than against the Other. Even St. Peter, after Christ's resurrection, on seeing the Holy Apostle John, asks of the Lord "...what about this man?" I like our Lord's response, though, "what is that to you?" What business is it of yours? Why do you care? What difference does that make? In other words, focus on yourself; don't concern yourself with someone else's destiny, salvation, judgement, etc., etc. You follow Me! I think if I could just let that sink way deep down, I'd have more than half the battle won against self-justification, pride and envy.

O Holy Theotokos, save us!