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The Orthodox Trojan Horse

When I interviewed the Orthodox convert (from Catholicism) Hugh O’Beirne for my book Crunchy Cons, I was struck by something he said about the difference between the church he left and the one he had embraced. He said that one of the first things the Catholic notices when embracing Orthodoxy is that parish life ceases to be a culture-war/ideological battlefield between liberals and conservatives. Years later, when I followed him into Orthodoxy, I found that to be true, and very, very refreshing. Of course, I am a theological conservative, so naturally I would find comfort in that.

But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any liberals within American Orthodoxy. It only means that there isn’t any strong basis for them to get a foothold and advocate for the kind of modernization that they would like to see. For Americans, Orthodox Christianity, an import from the East that never dealt with the Reformation and the Enlightenment, is a lot like the medieval city of Siena: it was too poor to tear down all the beautiful medieval buildings during the Renaissance, which is why now it is much lovelier than cities like Florence, which destroyed a goodly portion of its heritage as it modernized.

(Of course from a liberal point of view, the unmodern quality of Orthodoxy calls to mind Paris before Baron Haussman: a cramped medieval warren that would be greatly improved by clearing away the historical accretions and bringing some light, air, and reason to the landscape.)

Conservatives within Orthodoxy can point to the freefall of the Catholics after Vatican II as a warning against naive optimism in allowing for modernization in a world where (to quote Marx) everything that is solid melts into air. They may also look to the Episcopalians, where the jettisoning of tradition and the refashioning of their faith according to the values of secular modernity has coincided with the church’s steady collapse.

But Orthodoxy does not exist in a vacuum. It is a church made of up human beings who live in time, and it should not expect to avoid the controversies shaping the broader culture. In the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), there is awareness of a liberal vs. conservative culture clash between the old-line Orthodox in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, where Orthodoxy is historically and numerically stronger, but in decline; and the convert-heavy Orthodoxy in the South and West, which is the only place the OCA is growing. The key issue, as it always is: homosexuality.

Comes now Father Robert Arida, pastor of Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Boston (it’s an Orthodox Church in America cathedral), and a figure celebrated by gay Orthodox [1] as a wise and compassionate priest who stands up to the Orthodox bishops on the question of homosexuality and Orthodoxy. In this essay posted on the official OCA website [2], Fr. Arida lays out his rationale for changing Orthodox teaching while making it seem like he is remaining faithful to Orthodox tradition. Excerpts:

To preach the unchanging Christ compels us to see that the orientation of our faith is not only the past but also the future. Proclaiming the never changing Gospel who is Jesus Christ in an ever-changing culture demands that we personally and corporately as the Church enter more deeply into the reality of the inexhaustible mystery of Christ the living and eternal Word of God.

The deepening of our relationship with God is simultaneously our Golgotha and Resurrection. It is Golgotha because, like our Lord, the dynamism of faith brings the Church and therefore us into the realm of loneliness and vulnerability. Like the Apostle Peter, we are called to walk upon the rough waters of culture ever keeping our focus on Christ. Our loneliness and vulnerability take us from the comfort and even smugness of familiarity which is dependent on the past. Golgotha leads us into the unknown – towards the eschaton – where we, here and now, begin to experience our Resurrection. Golgotha reminds us that we as the Church i.e. as the living body of Christ are responsible for taking upon ourselves the sins and burdens of the world. By moving into the unknown we have the possibility to deepen our relationship with God and those around us. As the Church living in time and space, we are called into the never ending mystery of Christ “who is all and in all.” (Col.3: 11)

More:

If the Church is to engage culture, if it is to contribute to the culture and if it is to synthesize what is good, true and beautiful coming from the culture to further the Gospel then it will have to expose and ultimately expel the “new and alien spirits” that have weakened its authentic voice. Among these spirits are Biblical fundamentalism and the inability to critique and build upon the writings and vision of the Fathers.  A tragic consequence of these spirits is a Christianity of ethical systems that usurp the voice of Christ and distort the beauty of his face. It is the saving and transfiguring voice and presence of Christ that we are expected to offer the ever- changing culture.

Got that? The “new and alien spirits” are converts who want Orthodoxy to remain itself. Those who want the church to maintain fidelity to moral tradition are to be painted as the interlopers who don’t understand Orthodoxy. To want to change to keep Orthodoxy in step with the secular culture is, in this view, to be faithful to tradition.

This is how “change” is sold within Orthodoxy. Fortunately, there are plenty of converts within Orthodoxy who came to it from the Episcopal Church, who know exactly what’s happening here, and who will fight it. Will they prevail in the OCA? Nobody knows. But the truth that Orthodox Christianity offered a respite from the culture wars ripping apart other American churches is fast becoming non-viable.

(Thanks to the reader who sent me the Arida essay.)

UPDATE: In the comments to the Arida essay, an Orthodox priest writes:

As I read this article, I was aware of many arguments that I have read before. Let me say firstly that it gives a general impression of culture as taking precedence over what has been received, and that that is an authentic Orthodox experience. I heard the same thing about liturgy in the western churches. I heard the same arguments in the Episcopal Church which ultimately led to women’s ordination, to acceptance of practicing homosexuality (which I am guessing is the real purpose of this piece), and other things that are not consonant with the Orthodox Faith. The argument from contemporary culture to validate any change in morality or theology is false from the beginning; it is the establishment of whatever zeitgeist should breeze through. The wrestling with Holy Scripture is NOT an equal struggle. The Scripture is given us to judge us and change our lives, not for us to find a new understanding of the ancient texts so that we may continue in a comfortable manner. It is true that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Which brings up the article’s observation that we should look to the future as our guide. This is a red herring. We look to the eschaton, the Alpha and Omega who has already fully revealed himself and his own divine will. Our faithfulness to what has always been taught, given and practiced in the Church is necessary for our salvation. As to the question has the Churched changed through time? Indeed, but her morality has not. Her Faith in the Incarnate God and the Holy Trinity have not. The sterile union of two males, or two females, is iconographic of fallen man for they are sterile from the beginning. They cannot be an icon of the Heavenly Kingdom which is fecund and life-giving. Let us not stand behind academic obsfucation and speak honestly as in the day about what this subject truly is. Let us stand before the entire Church, not like a progressive political operative redefining and crafting terms to please oneself. We are in the Orthodox Christian Church and we must not only proclaim what has always been taught and believed, but speak plainly about it. No doubt I shall be called a fundamentalist, but that is such a hollow baton. It is used to scare people from standing firm in the tradition of the Church. The life of Christ is given to transfigure us into his likeness, not to validate our passions and sinfulness.

Another commenter says that if the goal is to figure out a better way to present the Church’s teachings to the modern world, that is legitimate. But if the goal is to figure out how to conform the Church’s teachings to the gospel of modernity, this is, well, a Trojan horse.

133 Comments (Open | Close)

133 Comments To "The Orthodox Trojan Horse"

#1 Comment By ted perantinides On November 7, 2014 @ 9:21 am

homosexuality is wrong only because no procreation can occur.no doubt, this is against GOD’S law however,so are all the “thou shall not’s in the bible.what i find ironic is some people(you know who you are)demand laws that go against the less fortunate,deprive and/hinder voting,accept degradation of area’s they do not live in…,…Yet they consider themselves christian.my ORTHODOXY can not and will not allow me to degrade and discard homosexuals as lesser human and lesserORTHODOX.may GOD bless all ORTHODOX throughout the world.

#2 Comment By Irenist On November 7, 2014 @ 9:27 am

@Siarlys Jenkins:

Bravo! One of the most even-handed and carefully written posts from anybody on either side of this we’ve seen in a very long while.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 7, 2014 @ 9:28 am

“The collective wisdom as you call it as expressed via the vote has ben consistently expresed on the issue constituting mariage.
Not even remotely. It does not appear that at any time the supporters have managed to get a majority of the people to vote yes. A plurality does not a majority make.
Do let me know when you manage to get about 150 MLN yes-votes. Better yet – let me know when the referendum takes place.”

I have to tell you. That despite yournot being a citizen here your comprehension of how system operates is interesting. We do’t have direct vote system on national issues.

Representatives of the citizens is the model. So if one examines that vote in that anner DOMA a measure apdopted by the several states representatves could be said to represent the will of the people. And in that case more than half of the people. NOw plenty had onjections, but the meaaure was not overturned by a wave of the people chalenging the interpretation of marriage the descision of said interested views of the judges. THe community at large was rebuffed by five men and women wearing black robes — determining the constitutionaly of community decision, and a cornerstone view that actually turned the COnstitutional protection on it head. But I would bet that DOMArepresented the view of 150 million plus.

Now as mentioned in the discussion concerning the states which also has a dualsysyem depending on the state. They also vote for representatives and they also vote n measures directly. In the state ofCA, most of the people acknowledged and desired to protect the standard of mariage (legal) as a state between men and women. A state court overturned that law. While that vote was closer it wasstl the law establishd by your defined community – actually astoundingly clear what most people wanted as it won on CA.

Yourmistake doesn’tchange the purpose or method of the Bil ofRights (constitution) which does besyow personhood as you contend, bor does it grant rights. Both are given in our system, the Constition with its Bill of RIghts is designed to maximize the exercise of those rights.

“The sovereignty of a State is contingent upon the recognition thereof by other States, and not upon the recognition thereof by the people living there.
The Constitution has consequences for the relations between the American People and the American State, which I certainly respect as binding between the parties, but at the same time reject it as a charming irrelevancy for a categoric approach.”

This is an incorrect view, but it does pose an interesting argument. Can trhe states banish another state from the union if they don’tlike its practices and identity.

But first, there is a concept here in CONUS, it has long standing as practice and theory, It is also noted in the Constititution — states have rights. Those states are not granted rigts by the national government, they exist intrinsically to the states as do individual rights and personhood.

Statehood is not conceived of by the federa government It is conceived and established by like minded people in a region. That is the purpose of state ratification. States sek either inclusion orexclusion by way of succession. Whether a statecan do that is a matter of increasing debate. It was not settled by the civil war. It have had some maner of coclusion if the South had not attacked Fort Sumter, bad choice and circumvented the question of succession. In my view as each state as an individual state sought union, theycan thereby, decide to call it quits. That is the nature of a democracy. Though many here would call me nuts.

Note the federal government does not determine states, they ether choose to recognize them or as part of the union or not. Nothing in the Constitution defines or condones what constitutes a state.

Again, based on our consttional history, the Constitution does not grant personhood and nothing within i is so empowering. It assigns the status of personhood as to citizenship. THere are rules that define who is a citizen, not whether that citizen is a person. It is the damning ethical flaw in condoning persons as property, as litle acknowledged but amazing ethical flaw in logic inthe Constitution in categorizing black people as property. It does say black, but notes other persons — and that is a incredile ethical acknowledgement that slaves were in fact people, people as per their ability to hav agency of their own which the federal government strangely acknowledged and in the same breath legal disposed of (severly limited) by legalizing them as property. It isin my mid one ofthe mos amazing ethical acys of hypocrisy by the founders. At any rate — citizenship is part of one’s person, but it is not personhood alone — though I should be careful as personhood is an intrinsic matter in many respects self defined. I wouldencourage a lok at the following references: Dr. Martin Buber, Dr. George Herbert Meade, and other researchers on meaning, identity and how it is constituted, the debate centers on whether is is physical, psychological or a combination of both and some migtargue, it is metaphysical, a christian might contend — my personhood id bestowed by God others by nature, but in each by our traditions the state does not determine a person — even the idea of it wold make most citizens cringe. So far the idea even justices avoided it. That is not the case as to citizenship.

Ohh how so many would that I just take my guns and turn them upon myself. I won’t be putting my guns, as old as they may be, away anytime soon. I am going to avert the colloquial expression. Note many states have passed referendums on te question.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 7, 2014 @ 9:44 am

“Personhood refers to the legal capacity to the have rights. It is not confined to individuals, nor universal to individuals.
You dont have to be an individual to be a person – the State of New York is a person – and you can be an individual without being a person. But what is impossible is to have rights without being a person.”

I am going to stay with the riginal import here. This would be an interesting discussion, but I think it bends the direction. Individuality, identity, and personhood are not domains of state assignment. The state does enter a hospital maternity ward, and say, yiu are a person, you are nt. It acknowledges personhood. The debate is when that person begins. I think at conception a person begins and is in development. No one debates the personhod of illegal immigrants, there is a great deal f debate conserning their right to access what is soley for the people of the US. Which is none. By the same, the Constitution does not establish states, they come to the federal already established. And it is correct that state rights are noted as indivuduals as if persons and many argue that corporate status affords the same. I am not sure I agree with the corporate status as having the same rights. As corporations do not have individual agency to vote, to get married, etc. So, I am undecided on several aspects.
The state grants out personhood, it wrestles with the rights of the person within its frame.

#5 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 7, 2014 @ 10:05 am

Siarlys, I do believe you’ve misunderstood me. I come down squarely on the strong interpretation of the First Amendment, one of my posts alludes to that if not clearly. To reiterate: churches must be sovereign within their “church walls”, and secular law must not only respect those walls but act to protect them from the outside. My rejection is when churches cross that line from the inside and attempt to remake secular law in their image. The rest is left for my response to Michael Guarino.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 7, 2014 @ 10:05 am

“But the moment you step outside those walls and declare your religion as paramount… You’ve done nothing remotely like that in your posts. Indeed, you’ve confirmed otherwise.”

Writing my thorne in the flesh amomng many. I think given who I think you are, your enemy comment took me backa step. However, I think I got your drift, in that yoiu mean enemy on the merits of the law. I appreciate your ensuring clarity.

I could mary a pagan woman if she weren’t a pagan.

#7 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 7, 2014 @ 10:31 am

Elite: I could mary a pagan woman if she weren’t a pagan.

That small, honest self-awareness is why so may of my fellow Pagans and I despair of so many who just automatically write us off, if not as an objective evil, at least as something nefarious and to be avoided at all costs.

I recognize the Good in you. Never let my words cause you to doubt that.

#8 Comment By Christian Schmemann On November 7, 2014 @ 10:55 am

I have a friend is a Greek Orthodox deacon. I think he might remind people that we should not forget what Patriarch Kryill would think about the matter regarding OCA.

He told me one time that Patriarch Kyrill’s priorities with the Russian Orthodox Church are that the parishes in the historical Russian/Ukrainian areas are his first priority, the “Patriarchal” Russian Orthodox parishes outside Russia are his second priority, ROCOR is his third priority, and the autocephelas parishes outside the historical Russian areas are his lowest priority.

My suspicion is that if OCA had a serious move to start gay marriages, Patriarch Kyrill would know about it and take draconian action; Kyrill would probably simply revoke OCA’s autocephelacy, replace several bishops and/or its metropolitan, and the OCA would be more strongly monitored by Patriarch Kyrill and his successors going forward. It’s not the case that OCA’s autocephaly is universally recognized in Orthodox Church anyway, so it seems to me that easily revoke OCA’s autocephaly.

#9 Comment By James Kushiner On November 7, 2014 @ 11:02 am

Herein lies the fallacy as I see it:
Arida: “Proclaiming the never changing Gospel who is Jesus Christ in an ever-changing culture…”
This is sleight of hand. He slips in “ever-changing culture” as if all cultural change is benign and requires no discernment. This is precisely the issue. If man is fallen, he may in fact become anti-cultural in the sense that he embraces sin and decadent practices.

There has been NO culture war in this country, two cultures fighting for prominence. There has been, for example, a pro-life struggle against abortion. That is not a culture war battleground strictly speaking because abortion is anti-culture. What society can grow from such things as abortion and sodomy?

The never-changing Gospel will both build up and tear down, depending on what it encounters. It does so spiritually in the hearts of men through the first word of the Gospel as spoken by Jesus: Repent.

#10 Comment By tim johnson On November 7, 2014 @ 11:06 am

“The key issue, as it always is: homosexuality…”
“Always” used in such a way is a little strong, especially for an Orthodox writer, especially about a topic that has been “a key issue,” for, oh, 30 years…….
Otherwise, great essay, as always from Mr. Dreher…
One suggestion: let’s form new language about this key issue: homosexual and heterosexual are relatively recent terms coined in the 19th century which sound a lot more scientific and accurate than they are….
I wonder if “homosexual,” as a word, isn’t a little too oxymoronic (latin for dumb ox): if you have two people of the same gender, you can’t really “have sex,”…since “sexual intercourse” implies the joining of a male and female….the term sexual does that… like farm women used to “sex” eggs….
but I don’t have any great suggestions for alternate language… the term “gay” isn’t helpful at all, of course; lesbian isn’t bad…maybe we can find another island with historical cognates to refer to gay men. Keywesters, perhaps?
English is taken, I guess.

One of the contemporary conceits that has to go is this idea that people are either gay or straight. History and the most of the world operate as if foo

#11 Comment By HeartRight On November 7, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

I have to tell you. That despite yournot being a citizen here your comprehension of how system operates is interesting. We do’t have direct vote system on national issues.
I’m aware of it. It means that assertions that this or that was approved by the majority of the voters become pretty hollow pretty soon. By and large, the voters can only approve a package, and not a specific measure, and do so by voting for a specific candifate.

This is an incorrect view, but it does pose an interesting argument. Can trhe states banish another state from the union if they don’tlike its practices and identity.
A state like Virginia is no sovereign entity.
A state like Ireland is.

THe community at large was rebuffed by five men and women wearing black robes — determining the constitutionaly of community decision, and a cornerstone view that actually turned the COnstitutional protection on it head.
I am aware of that problem, of the challenge it poses to the concept of Democracy, and this problem explains why I support withdrawing my own country from the jurisdiction of courts capable of overturning a national law. The Rule of Law and the Rule of the People are becoming increasing contradictory, and that needs sorting out.

This would be an interesting discussion, but I think it bends the direction. Individuality, identity, and personhood are not domains of state assignment.
It isn’t. One of the greatest authorities on Civil Law ( Meijer ) has traced the concept of Persona in the judicial sense back to Leguria, around 1200 AD. It did not exist previously.

But first, there is a concept here in CONUS, it has long standing as practice and theory, It is also noted in the Constititution — states have rights.
Without a sovereign state, there is no constitution nor any other form of organic law. Let me be clear: the Sovereignty of the United States ( and not Virginia ) is not contingent upon the will of the People, but on the consensus of other Sovereign Stats – which you may call a system of Cooptation. It is of course extremely doubtful that the people of North Korea agree to the powers of their State, but that has no consequences for the Sovereignty of North Korea.
Organic laws ( such as Constitutions, written or otherwise ) are municipal laws.
One Man One Vote is a system of Government which America has, and of which I approve, but that does not make for sovereign powers.

The Constitution of the United States is pregnant with meaning for the discussion within the United State, but for a categoric consideration it does not make.
Especially when you are discussing Marriage, which happens to be a matter of some concern to International Law.

The same applies to say, prohibitions on drug use, which are enshrined in International Law, and any local American law providing for liberalisation, is ab ovo nill and void, and an outrageous offense against ius gentium. But as noted before, the US, just like the UK, has a long history of playing hide and seek with that.

By the same, the Constitution does not establish states, they come to the federal already established.
I must say that is a meaningless objection since the Civil War. Overruled!

Individuality, identity, and personhood are not domains of state assignment
Individuality isn’t, just as you say.

In the case of identity, debatable – it is an assignment which is mandatary and not optional, the State being an agent and not being a free agent, and every individual except in some of the most backward states on this planet having legal recourse against failure of a State to act as prescribed, thus bypassing the sovereign authority of the State.

In the case of Personhood – wrong.
Citizens United is incontestable evidence to that simple fact.

I am not sure I agree with the corporate status as having the same rights. As corporations do not have individual agency to vote, to get married, etc. So, I am undecided on several aspects.
The capability to bear rights does not imply the capability to bear all rights pr to bear rights equally. A six year old child has rights, but they are not the same rights as those of a 21 year old. In some cases, the child has explicitly more rights, in other cases, less.

#12 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 7, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

I said, previously:

I, for one, immediately reject the notion that religion has any say in the sexual preferences of a person.

Society does and will have that say.

Michael asks with great insight: Can you maintain both of these statements without implying that religion has no place in society?

I honestly didn’t have a coherent thought for that when I first read it. That’s a great question and deserves a much longer, considered response than even I am wont to post. I believe your original context is critical here, so I ask readers to forgive me for making this post rather long.

Religious beliefs are usually general enough to apply to societal issues,

True, to which I’d add that when generalized like that their origins are very ancient, having lost the specificity of their contemporary context.

and unless we can find a complete and genuinely self-evident secular ethics (we most certainly cannot), the rationale for eliminating them entirely from discussion will be thin at best (how can you say they have nothing to contribute?).

I’m not denigrating that contribution. I regret leaving that impression. But we do have an explicit statement of secular ethics. The argument remains over how complete it is and whether “genuinely self-evident” is a fair description of them. I refer to the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights in key aspects, and a less explicit group of statutes such as the no religious test for office clause. I invite your reaction to that.

Not to mention the fact that you will essentially be stifling many believers who wish to participate in these discussions forthrightly.

That is truly not my intent. I hold, under that secular ethics I describe, that believers of any stripe are welcome to bring their beliefs to the discussion, but are also constrained by those same ethics (primarily the First Amendment) from advocating them per se as the sole or primary source for legislation. If the consensus supports their advocacy, it passes the standards I believe those ethics define. People who desire to denigrate that consensus on the sole grounds that it is sourced in a specific belief system are themselves on very shaky ethical ground.

Notice that any set of beliefs held by the conservative point of view in a given cultural dispute is subject to the possible “refutation” that there is some person who will be significantly harmed (like the person genetically required to consume pork), through no choice of his own. This is due to the sheer diversity of the human condition. And frankly, this strikes me as more of a condemnation of a law-governed view of humanity, which Christianity claims is a form of slavery relieved by grace, if I am not mistaken.

I cannot comment on the last opinion. I’ve never been even a nominal Christian. I leave others more familiar with that to answer you there.

One aspect of our secular ethics, if I may be so bold to elevate it to that level, is the primary motivation behind our laws governing behavior and resulting harm. We enact and enforce those laws with the primary assumption that they will be applied only after a behavior or action results in harm. Innocence until guilt is proven, due process, habeus corpus and more all challenge us to do two things: refrain from prevention — possible only in a police state or worse — and divorce our emotions from the judicial process from start to finish. We cannot convict and punish only because harm was caused. It must be proven to be the result of the behavior or action.

I must note, with intense cynicism, that in recent decades prevention has reared its ugly head in the push to enact hate crimes legislation. I cannot see that as anything but the advent of thought police, nor can I offer it even the slightest benefit of the doubt.

#13 Comment By HeartRight On November 7, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

Jonathan says:
November 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

“Returning to the matter at hand – a few thousand years of human history ( and pre-history too ) show that heteronormativity satisfices – as in ‘to act in such a way as to satisfy the minimum requirements for achieving a particular result’ – for the community.”

What result? What does it do for the community? Are you saying that since communities can survive without allowing for non-heterodox relationships, than communities don’t need to consider the latter?
Indeed it does, it does exactly that, and if that makes some folks unhappy, they are completely, totally and utterly out of luck.

In the west we happen to be concerned with things like fairness and individual rights/happiness.

Assuming that you do not worship a self-aware God or Goddess or Ancestral Spirit bestowing upon you a soul, a kha, or Karma, my material and materialistic answer to you is that you are merely a machine for the replication of certain types of molecules, and that does not make you fundamentally different from a rabbit, a caveman or my unworthy self.

If you wish to make that you have been given a higher status than that ( by which agency? ), sit down, convince me, and we can dicker. I can very well imagine a scenario in which I would slap back you on the back and say: in return for these specified undertakings from you, I agree to your suggestion of the legalisation of SSM.

However! If you wish to pursue your claim through any other method than by consensual negotiation, then I reserve the right to defend the intactnes of the Old Status Quo by each and every means available.

#14 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 7, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

I offer this as a glimpse into our judicial process, a possible reason to give it our strongest support and remain hopeful that it is the best system we could have.

I was the member of a jury for a civil trial. Injury and restitution were the issues at hand. We sat for hours while the attorneys for each side negotiated in private, had lengthy (and from what we could hear heated) discussions with the judge, only occasionally conducted witness interrogation, and finally ended the trial with a settlement.

The judge was a pillar of the legal community. He personally sponsored and facilitated mock trials for law student at area law schools. He was universally respected and admired, and what ensued after he called the jury into his office after the settlement was announced showed us why.

He started by apologizing to us personally for what we all considered a colossal waste of our time. He went on to explain that our mere presence was a goad to both sides to either get their acts together and turn the verdict over to us, or get their acts together and come to a settlement. We were not asked to like the experience, but the judge emphatically (and a bit passionately) gave us the credit for the outcome.

The system works. It has flaws, it makes mistakes, but it does work.

#15 Comment By American in Istanbul On November 7, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

“….Orthodox Christianity, an import from the East that never dealt with the Reformation and the Enlightenment, is a lot like the medieval city of Siena: it was too poor to tear down all the beautiful medieval buildings during the Renaissance, which is why now it is much lovelier than cities like Florence, which destroyed a goodly portion of its heritage as it modernized.”

This is a great analogy!

#16 Comment By HeartRight On November 7, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

One aspect of our secular ethics, if I may be so bold to elevate it to that level, is the primary motivation behind our laws governing behavior and resulting harm. We enact and enforce those laws with the primary assumption that they will be applied only after a behavior or action results in harm

I won’t put up with that.
1. It makes the prevention of climate change – which I consider to be of grave import for the continued well being of the human species not to mention countless other species – impracticable.
2. It means that a speeder cannot be punished until he has actually ran over the pedestrian.
3. It means that a lout shooting in the streets cannot be punished until he has hit someone,
– and so forth and so on.

There is no such thing as a voluntary(?) human interaction which is not a fit and proper subject to some form of communal disciplinarian code.

#17 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 7, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

HeartRight, good try but flawed.

1) If legislation is passed making climate change a crime, we’d all watch with high amusement as they try to enforce it. But as this relates to my logic — the unavoidable premise is that it is focused on the individual — it has no relevance.

We already have laws that have the effect of punishing actions that contribute to climate change. They are not explicitly so, of course.

2) Speeding is itself a crime. It is punished by citation that carries a monetary penalty, and repeat offenders will have their licenses suspended, revoked and could face jail time. Speeding that results in the injury or death of others becomes an aggravating factor with the charges brought and the punishment associated with them.

3) Firing a weapon in public is also itself a crime. Again, if it results in injury or death it becomes an aggravating factor.

You don’t know much about US law, it would seem. You also cannot use lax enforcement as evidence of the absence of said laws.

#18 Comment By HeartRight On November 7, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

Franklin Evans says:
November 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

You don’t know much about US law, it would seem.
How, exactly, does US law relate to a comprehensive secular ethic?

A comprehensive secular ethic must be applicable comprehensively, and everywhere – a one-size-fits-all-Procruster bed.

Including societies that operate on the ‘all things not mandatory are forbidden’ model.
Including societies that are so anti-individualistic that they frown upon the use of the word ‘I’.

#19 Comment By Chris 1 On November 7, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

Rod,

I had a moment this morning to check my bookshelf to make sure I got this info correct.

The kind of theologizing Fr. Arida does here is not new to the Church, but has always been rejected by it.

A small example: In 1953 a collection of articles like Fr. Arida’s were published in the book Orthodoxy in Life

The response, by Fr. Michael Pomazansky, was an essay titled Is This Orthodoxy? which was reprinted in a 1996 book of his work titled Selected Essays.

An online copy is found here: [3]

It’s worth reading because it gives a clear Orthodox rebuttal absent the emotional rhetoric of the culture warrior to those who would “update” Orthodoxy.

How we defend the faith is as important as that we defend the faith, and in this case much of the defense has tended to muddy, rather than clarify, the Orthodox view of things.

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 7, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

Note the federal government does not determine states, they ether choose to recognize them or as part of the union or not. Nothing in the Constitution defines or condones what constitutes a state.

False. Read Article IV, Section 3. There is an explicit constitutional process for admitting new states. They are admitted by congress. It is worth noting that except for a few instances of annexation, new states have been carved out of federal territories, their boundaries established in territorial status by the federal government, and then when other requirements were met, the territory admitted as a state.

And then, a compliment from Irenist. I’m on cloud nine. Franklin, I accept your clarification. It is sometimes hard to sort these things out in the heat of debate.

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 8, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

“I’m aware of it. It means that assertions that this or that was approved by the majority of the voters become pretty hollow pretty soon. By and large, the voters can only approve a package, and not a specific measure, and do so by voting for a specific candifate . . .”

That may be but is not rekevant to our discussion, but what is is your comment which you think settles the question on state sovereignty – the civil war.

Since I think this is central to the matter of what constitutes the role of the state )government) in our system. The civil war actually did not settle the question. It has never been debated as to the merits. It is unclear what would have occurred if the south had not fired on Fort Sumtor. That assault changed the nature of the issue from one on the legal/social aspect of succession to acts war, subtrafuge and treason.

Each state as previously noted comes to the fed. intact, the only choice the fed has to make is whether or not they will allow a state into the union. The reason this matters is because that reality destroys any notion that states exist only as government mandates of by agreement of other states — the states rights matter is settled. They exist. In yiur examoination of states rights, the supreme court has ruled in favor of o many occassions — whether oneagrees wit ruling, the key element is that even the federal states recognizes that states have sovereignty.

No human being in the US goes to the either state or federal court to grant them personhod, membership correct – personhood no. Any person of the US can rejct, renounce being a citizen. In my view you are confuring citizenship with what it means to be a person. They are not the same. I am unsure from whence you hail, but our philosophic foundatios are really very very unique. Personhood in a natutal or god given state – inalienable or unalienable. We use the term natural right to represent that no state or government bestows them — they are intrinsic or bestowed by a “supreme being.”

SO your entire advance on the power of the state, crumbles under that view. And thgat is one of the ground breaking aspects of US — it is not formulated fro state power, but rather the power of the individual who collective establishes a systm to protected that which is besowed by nature or some supernatural being — thgat supercedes the states. THe Bill of rights is a foundational set of principles designed to ensure that individua natural rights are not impeded by the government. The view you exprss is common among foreign visitors. But it lacks the proper philosophical foundations by which the US is constituted.

And that is why many of us reject the curent imigration policy — to many imigrants see the government as the force and it is completely backwards. No immigrants without geting schooled on the basics.

“A state like Virginia is no sovereign entity. A state like Ireland is.”

Sovereignty is related to personhood, but they are not the same. But to address the advance. The relationship between individual states and federal state exists by agreement. In many respects the state of Virginia has a good deal of sovereignty. But by agreement that sovereignty cannot contradict the laws agreed to by all the states. Statehood and especially personhood are not creations by the federal state.

If you examine the constitutional history, you will come across the articles of confederation. That was an attempt to form some maner of ational consensus. Important to note that each of the states existed prior to and are the granting force beroce to the federal system we have today. That fact alone destroys any advance that that states lack existnce on their own acord. If the federal system collapsed to day, most ststes ould survive, probably all would. T^Hey have all the esentials required to be sovereign. Again this a philosphical difference between us and nearly the entire globe in human understanding of people state relations. Even the states, under this philosophy of independence observe that people’s existence as persons is not granted by government. There is a subtle but paramount distinction between acknowledging one’s person and granting it. Personhood is a natural or God created state, pre-existent before government.

Hence, the sovereign state of Virgnia’s populaton, person’s, would look at you askance at the mere suggestion that their humanity – personhood is derived from the state “Great State of Virginia” as opposed to the the “Great State of Virgnia” is derived by their consent and assent. Hence the expression in our society — by the consent of the people.

I am not a big fan of the people as a whole. Individuals are generally ok, but people, as a force are quite prone to every odor in the wind – a madding crowd.

As for the legal descriptor and historical reference you describe, I have to tell you all of law that precedes your rferences deals with persons. The laws wrestle with idedentity, personal property, personal space in manner severs the reality of personhood before the date you note. The demarkation of personhood is this against your view. Two people can make agreements about behavior and condition with a state. Because of people establish laws of the same and can do so many the existence of any state or authority.

“the State being an agent and not being a free agent, and every individual except in some of the most backward states on this planet having legal recourse against failure of a State to act as prescribed, thus bypassing the sovereign authority of the State.”

This seems to overwelm your own advance, the state as you describe it is an agent of persons. Sovereignty is vested in persons who in some manner of ageement bequeath to states power to act on te people’s behalf – so the state has no existence without persons. In otherwords, the US could be desolved by the consent of the people. Tht is not te case in Korea.

“Especially when you are discussing Marriage, which happens to be a matter of some concern to International Law.”

I am going to side step the international law and mariage isue. We are aren’t yet governed by a global state. And as such the US should be exercising a good deal more caution on signing international agreements especially as it pertains to human rights and laws concerning drug use. THere s nothing much that lends to an understanding of personhood by warping one’s reality by drug use. And I certainly am inclined the rebuff the international clamor for liberalizing their use.

“In the case of identity, debatable – it is an assignment which is mandatary and not optional . . .”

I don’t think there is much debate here. Minus any governig state authority, people create and maintain their identities. The state does not assign names, or personality. This not like say Krypton, where each child is generically engineered upon conception by the state.

“In the case of Personhood – wrong.
Citizens United is incontestable evidence to that simple fact.”

I had to take a lok at some information to confirm my own thoughts. Citizens united has nothing to do with the personhood. Doesan organzation have te right of free spech and is the use of money part and parcel to free speech and generally cannot be limitted. That’s it. WHile it may have some bearing on personhood — it is nor pertinent to this discussion.

Which brings us full circle, In the US the behavior of individuals of like and simlat dispositions – can be regulated. The stet of marriage as expressed by the people more times than not via the law is that what constitues marriage is a dynamic that is unigue and exists between men and women alone. And if one looks at the biology, the purpose, the history, intent of such mariages, even minus one’s religious beliefs it causes no harm to those who have chosen to have relations with people of the same sex. It does not in any manner damage them. Their union is so dissimilar that it does not qualify for the same status.

It is behavior not color, which is a neutral condition.

“I am not sure I agree with the corporate status as having the same rights. As corporations do not have individual agency to vote, to get married, etc. So, I am undecided on several aspects.
The capability to bear rights does not imply the capability to bear all rights pr to bear rights equally. A six year old child has rights, but they are not the same rights as those of a 21 year old. In some cases, the child has explicitly more rights, in other cases, less.”
_______________________________________
“False. Read Article IV, Section 3. There is an explicit constitutional process for admitting new states. They are admitted by congress. It is worth noting that except for a few instances of annexation, new states have been carved out of federal territories, their boundaries established in territorial status by the federal government, and then when other requirements were met, the territory admitted as a state.”

Beat by your own response. It establishes a proess for admission, acknowledges what constitutes a states for admoissin. It does not create states. States seek admission into the union, but they are states before that. In this instance youare confsing the conversation on what is meant by state from states of being to one of acknowledgement —

Which is as explained another matter. To the point, the state does create personhood or persons, the state merely acknowledges whether said person is a citizen or not. If you can demonstrate one example where the federal government created a state byit’s own volition, I would agree.But you canot, it does not exist. People create states.

The state of Puerto Rico exists minus being a member state of the US. You are using the theabbreviated term state that we use for membership of the United States and applying to state as to existence. Hence your own comment

“an explicit constitutional process for admitting new states.”

Admiting a state is not the same as creating one. States carved out of teritories as so established by the people living in them. Who establish that states own identity and laws.

Your interjecton has completely missed the mark.

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 8, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

Context matters.

#23 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 8, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

Further note, the fed have territories, they don’t assign statehood.

#24 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 8, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

HeartRight, you are welcome to attempt to push this to an abstract generality, but my posts and chosen context is the United States, and I’m not interested in a one-size-fits-all argument… which, to be honest, looks to me like a waste of time.

The US has an established secular morality, poorly understood by too many people, fitfully followed and at times in our history thrown out the window for the sake of expediency. As a US citizen I am much more interested in that argument.

#25 Comment By EliteComInc. On November 8, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

“That small, honest self-awareness is why so may of my fellow Pagans and I despair of so many who just automatically write us off, if not as an objective evil, at least as something nefarious and to be avoided at all costs.”

It’s not that christians dont recgnize the good innonchristians. In fact, t is very trublesome to meet a lot of people, who ethical behavior exceeds some of those who are christian.

I certainly come to recognize yu as someone with a hgh ethcal standards that you aggressively pursue. Christians don’t write peop;e such as that off. The problem is communicating Christ in ethical evangelism is a very tough hall for people with such standards and practice. In fact, I think it humorous you mentioned it. Because yesterday, I was thinking,I hope you encounter Christ the person. As did Paul with or without the light and the tempurary blindness.

I don’t open Christ for you so that youbecome more honest, or have more integrity. I don’t think I have met a pagan such as you. But if I did meet such a woman and she were a Pagan, I would be sad, because the gulf would nt be her ethics, her forthrightness or even here the integrity to say,”Ohh wait a minute, maybe I meant this.”

But the inability to share Christ alive. For people such as yourself, Christ one one one is far more effective than Christ the law in relation to Christ the person.

Hmmmm . . whatever my anger, bitterness, I have yet to write anyone off, though I wish I could.

But on this business of homosexuality, I think your heart goes first as oposed to what you think literally. I think you respond very viscerally to people’s pain.

Excuse my attempt to be personal, in such forums such as this — it is a liability — andIchagrine doing so.

#26 Comment By EliteComInc. On November 8, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

“False. Read Article IV, Section 3. There is an explicit constitutional process for admitting new states. They are admitted by congress. It is worth noting that except for a few instances of annexation, new states have been carved out of federal territories, their boundaries established in territorial status by the federal government, and then when other requirements were met, the territory admitted as a state.”

Completely out of context. The Constitution does not create states. It never has and top my knowledge in modern times has no interest in doing so.

The territories owned by the fed. then populated by the people who create states. The federel government does say here is the state of _______ and thus a state.

I sugest that you read the article, it either accepts an existing state as part of the US carved from the teritories ordoes not. But it never engages in creating a single state, nor can you name one in which that occurs.

The conversation into which you have made yur advance is about two isues First, the discussion of persons and whether peronhod comes from the state. The second, as to illustrating the point whether states have their own existence as states or do they exist only by some agreement among the various states and then besowed some maner of existence by the fed, such without the fed the states would not exist.

My contention is simply that existence as a person is not derived by the state but either comes from nature and or some supreme being. And people create governaning bodies L some organized fashion. That our philiosophical foundations recognize thgat power is derive from individuals.

Yourexample quite out of context contends thgat a state is thephysical propery assignment. Uhhhh, nope the state is the comglomeration of people who organize themselves is some system and in the case of territories design a system to conform to the design for all of the states in member of the United States. But as your own advance makes clear — territories themselves are not states. Which is exactly why they are labled teritories. That have no umique identity, and won’t until some popolace establishes it. Most imporantly, the jusridicitional lines betwen state once established bywhatever formation the people therein establish havelines of authority that canot be crossed by the federal government. Though liberals would love to continue blurring those lines, the right of states own sovereign place is secure so long as they conform to the agreement of membership aplicable to all other states. The supreme court not any body has contended that state rights do not exist, not assigned by the fed but by the people of the various states.

You are merel addressing membership not identity or the common core of this discussion whether such states as personhood or identity is created by the state fed or otherwise. Acknowledge is not the same thing as bestow. The federal government does not make states. A territorial boundary does not a state make, Yo are encouraged to read the article again and plkace it in the context f this discussion.

#27 Comment By EliteComInc. On November 8, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

I guess I need to refresh more. But maybe the last is clearer.

#28 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 8, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

Elite, it is true that I lead with my heart (I sometimes lead with my chin, but boxing metaphors fall short of some things). Observing it and acknowledging it makes me feel good.

#29 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 9, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

Completely out of context. The Constitution does not create states. It never has and top my knowledge in modern times has no interest in doing so.

The territories owned by the fed. then populated by the people who create states. The federel government does say here is the state of _______ and thus a state.

You are WAY off the deep end today, Elite. The article I cited is, quite specifically, about creating states, as political subdivisions of the permanent union into which the original 13 states had entered.

If you read any basic American history, congress had defined the boundaries of territories, which defined who was a resident of a territory, which defined who could vote on submitting a state constitution for federal approval, and the congressionally defined territories were admitted as states when congress approved.

The populace didn’t establish the state. The presence of a federally defined minimum population in a federally-defined territory started the clock on admission of that territory into the union as a state.

Incidentally, one reason secession collapsed is that in the process of settling the territories, people had moved from so many different states in so many different patterns. That was a good deal of how people came to recognize themselves as citizens of the United States, not merely of a state. People from Connecticut settled in Mississippi, people from South Carolina settled in Illinois. States became secondary to national identity.

Certainly states retain a good deal of sovereignty. The Supreme Court has been very explicit about this. While the federal government has those powers specifically granted by the constitution, the states retain all powers not prohibited by the constitution. That’s not nothing, but its not independence either. “The United States is a government, not a league.” (-A. Jackson).

#30 Comment By teapartydoc On November 10, 2014 @ 7:09 am

Look up Tony Campolo. This is how they work. Evil works slowly and inexorably.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 10, 2014 @ 11:38 am

“Incidentally, one reason secession collapsed is that in the process of settling the territories, people had moved from so many different states in so many different patterns. That was a good deal of how people came to recognize themselves as citizens of the United States, not merely of a state. People from Connecticut settled in Mississippi, people from South Carolina settled in Illinois. States became secondary to national identity.”

You are changing the discussion and as such you are incorrect. First, the colonies existed before nationhood. They established nationhood by assent as such their existence preceeded any national authority.

I think they can absolve that authority by the same – the question has been unresolved and will remain unresolved until it is tested. The fact that it loses steam to national fears and fear mongering’s beside the point. The state of Texas, would be the best test case after the colonies because it was a republic first. I think the original colonies would also have a grounds as well as Hawaii. The others do have a problem as to cessation. Because they are carved from US territory and attempting to make a case that the US has to sell those properties would be hard to make so that they could be their countries.

If you could prove one example in which the federal government created the states based on the parameters you sight, I might agree. But you can’t because it does not. The federal government did not create the state of Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, in fact the boundaries for those states did not even exist.

Again, you are merely talking about the physical demarcations, that is not what makes a state. As noted in the initial response to what constitutes personhood. As in the case of human, the contents matter. When egg and male issue explode – a human as to content not merely form. A dead body is no longer a person, despite the form and even that is then in decay.

I respectfully disagree based on the content of the discussion not merely its form.

#32 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 10, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

This is,

Article 5 – Amendment

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

All about membership and what it takes to become a member. I have n issues with this at all, but it is not about what the people form.

The most important aspect, the people hold a referendum, if they desire to be included as states included in membership, they make their own constrictions, laws, and means of governance.

There is no circumstance in which such was by authority of the fed included or even instructed what they should be aside from not violating the federal conditions. It falls short of actual making which states as in personhood do on their own. their surroundings ma have influence but eventually each as it’s own identity, as symbolized in so many ways — state flags
for example.

Each in a sense is it’s own person for the sake of our discussion. And I hind it telling that states require assent by the populace and the federal government is barred from making states merely by combining territories.

#33 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 10, 2014 @ 8:29 pm

Texas would owe a huge debt to the USA if it attempted to secede. It begged for annexation throughout its existence as a republic, because it could not finance its own government, could no sustain its own army over any period of time, was twice nearly over-run by Santa Ana’s armies, and was bankrupt when the USA finally accepted it. Also the United States was obligated to fight a war to sustain the annexation of Texas. With interest, the bill would be considerable.

elite… you are still being incoherent, although you do make some factual statements. At best, you have made the case that some fifteen states have a right to secede… and in the case of Hawaii, that right would rest with the monarchy and the original native population. But what made most states was

a) conquest by the armies of the United States, and/or purchase by the tax revenues of the United States, as a whole,

b) settlement of federally administered territory by citizens of the United States and lawful immigrants into the United States,

c) organization of a territorial government by the United States,

d) application of the people who had settled under federal policy and bought land derived from federal title for statehood,

e) ratification by the federal congress of the state’s constitution and formal admission to the union.