I used to like Josh Trevino, too, and I was unaware that my views–which haven’t changed an iota since I started writing this blog–seemed so terribly false and misguided to him. They apparently weren’t so false when he invited me to participate in our now-defunct group blog, Enchiridion Militis, for whose successor, What’s Wrong With the World, I am pleased to still be a contributing member. Something changed, but I don’t think I was the one who changed. Ron Paul really does bother these people, doesn’t he?
In fact, I had no idea that Trevino supported attempting to starve and expel monks from their monastery (the treatment that has been afforded to the monks of Esphigmenou for their refusal to commemorate the Patriarch of Constantinople), nor did I realise that he favoured constitutional usurpation. Evidently, he does, or he has strong objections to those who are opposed to both. For the record, I have linked to the site of Holy Esphigmenou Monastery because I have found it disgraceful that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has resorted to the use of state coercion and violence to impose its authority over the monks there. I have not written about it on the blog before, but I feel compelled now to say something. If the monks of Esphigmenou are in the wrong canonically and legally, as they may be (it is actually not my place to say), the way they have been treated has nonetheless been a scandal and an embarrassment. Even if I did not regard ecumenism as an error, I would think that the treatment meted out to the monks of Esphigmenou would merit the sympathy of Orthodox Christians, even if they disagreed with the monks’ stand. Until I had been (it seems to me pretty baselessly) accused of sympathy for schism, I have never once written a single word disparaging the Patriarch of Constantinople or lending support to the monks of Holy Esphigmenou Monastery, and I will not say more against the Ecumenical Patriarchate now. I am obviously such a proponent of schism that I have written many posts against attacks on the bishops of the Russian Church Abroad for their willingness to reunite with the Patriarchate of Moscow, and I am such a fan of the “dead purity of antiquity” that I have been a vocal supporter of the reunion of the separated parts of the Russian Church. If I were what Mr. Trevino claims that I am in the sphere of religion, I would have broken with the Russian Church and joined a splinter group by now. Mr. Trevino is simply wrong here, and he has to have known that he was grasping at straws when he made this charge. This is all the more sad because it is pretty obviously spurred on by political and policy differences.
Too many Orthodox Christian converts in America — and especially those who participate in the public square — seem pulled toward perceived originalism or anachronism in the political realm. This has the appearance of being motivated by the same aesthetic sensibility that appears to draw them toward Orthodoxy: the sense of a necessary fidelity to the foundational faith is basically the same, translated from the religious to the political sphere. But in both spheres, it leads them to falsehood.
Mr. Trevino’s objections to my and others’ support for Ron Paul are no more credible. If there are cases where Ron Paul’s constitutional views are not perfect, his willingness to adhere to the Constitution according to strict constructionist and originalist interpretations–the interpretations conservatives are supposed to respect and follow–is so much greater than that of his rivals that it seems absurd that someone could find fault with him for lacking in fidelity to the Constitution. Which candidate can Trevino find who is more faithful to more provisions of the Constitution? Of course, there is none. It is not as if Trevino has found himself a more faithful constitutionalist whom he can support–his complaints against Paul on this score are basically groundless. Not that it matters, but my affinity for strict constructionism and constitutionalism predated my conversion to Orthodoxy by many years. My embrace of Orthodoxy was a result of coming to recognise, through the working of the Holy Spirit, that it was the fullness of Christian revelation. It has nothing to do with being drawn toward the “dead purity of antiquity,” and no one should know that better than a fellow convert to Orthodoxy.
Trevino’s appeal to living Orthodox tradition is all very well and good, but then he has no evidence whatever that I disagree with this understanding of Orthodoxy. I find it more than a little bizarre that he opts to attack fellow Orthodox in this fashion over what appears to be primarily a political disagreement. The implication inherent in his remarks that we should also embrace some “living Constitution” interpretation of our fundamental law is a perfect example of what is wrong with conservatives who strive to evolve and adapt with the times.
He cites the Carlton quote on foreign policy that has been harmful to our fellow Orthodox around the world and calls it “ridiculous.” He does not actually dispute that U.S.-backed policies in Kosovo and Israel-Palestine contribute to persecution and hardship for our brethren, but simply dismisses it. Perhaps the churches and monasteries that have been destroyed by the KLA do not concern him? He does not dispute the reality that Iraqi Christians were better off before the invasion, because he cannot dispute this. In short, he has no rebuttal. He speaks of an “abdication of moral sense” concerning the governments of Serbia and Russia, when it is nothing of the kind.
My opposition to meddling in Serbian and Russian affairs comes, and has always come, from a non-interventionist and realist-informed view that their affairs are none of our business and that American interests are best served by not interfering and destabilising the Balkans still more and by not provoking and threatening Russia by meddling in its “near-abroad.” I am fully aware of and opposed to the repression that has taken place in Milosevic’s Serbia and Putin’s Russia, but I am also aware that it is not in our national interest to quarrel with these states over their internal affairs. For that matter, we should stop meddling in Georgian affairs and leave the Orthodox in Georgia well enough alone as well. Trevino again has no evidence that either Prof. Carlton or I have abdicated our moral sense. He takes our opposition to hegemonism as proof that we are somehow endorsing every practice of the foreign governments in question, when our responsibility as citizens is to challenge the misguided policies of our government.