Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Patriarchate of Moscow: Christian Ethics and Secular Law


IV. 1. God is perfection, therefore the world created by Him is perfect and harmonious. Life is observance of the divine laws, as God Himself is life endless and abundant. Through the original fall, evil and sin entered the world. At the same time, fallen man has retained the freedom to choose the right way with God’s help. In this effort, the observance of God-given commandments asserts life. But deviation from them leads inevitably to damage and death, as it is noting else but deviation from God, hence, from being and life, which can be only in Him: See, I have set thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes and his judgements, that thou mayest live… But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away… ye shall surely perish, and ye shall not prolong your days upon the land (Deut. 30:15-18). In the earthly order of things, sin and retribution do not often follow each other immediately but may be intervened by many years and even generations: For I the Lord thy God an a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments (Deut. 5:9-10). This distance between crime and punishment keeps man free, on the one hand, and compels the reasonable and pious people to study the divine commandment with a special attention, on the other, in order to learn to distinguish between right and wrong, lawful and unlawful.

Among the oldest monuments of the written language are numerous collections of homilies and statutes. Undoubtedly, they go back to the even earlier, pre-alphabet, existence of humanity, since the work of the law is written by God in human hearts (Rom. 2:15). Law has been there in the human society from times immemorial. The first rules were given to man as far back as the paradise time (Gen. 2:16-17). After the fall, which is violation by man of the divine law, law becomes a boundary and trespassing against it threatens the destruction of both the human personality and human community.

IV. 2. The law is called to manifest the one divine law of the universe in social and political realms. At the same time, any legal system developed by the human community, being as it is a fruit of historical development, carries a seal of limitation and imperfection. Law is a special realm, different from the related ethical realm, as it does not qualify the inner conditions of the human heart, since God alone is its Reader.

Yet it is human behaviour and actions that is the subject of the legal regulation, which is the essence of legislation. The law also provides for coercive measures for making people obey it. The legislative sanctions to restore the trampled law and order make law a reliable clamp of society unless, as it has often happened in history, the whole system of the enforced law capsizes. However, as no human community can exist without law, a new legislative system always emerges in place of the destroyed law and order.

The law contains a certain minimum of moral standards compulsory for all members of society. The secular law has as its task not to turn the world lying in evil into the Kingdom of God, but to prevent it from turning into hell. The fundamental principle of law is: do not do to others what you would not want to be done to yourself. If a person has committed a sinful action against another, the damage inflicted on the integrity of the divine law and order can be made up by the suffering of the offender or pardon whereby the moral consequences of a sinful action is assumed by the person (ruler, spiritual father, community, etc.) who issues pardon. Suffering heals the soul affected by sin, while the voluntary suffering of the innocent for the sins of a criminal represents the highest form of redemption the ultimate of which is the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Who took upon Himself the sin of the world (Jn 1:29).

IV. 3. The understanding of where the wounding edge separating one person from another lies was different in various societies and in various periods. The more religious a human community the greater its awareness of the unity and integrity of the world. People in a religiously integral society are viewed in two perspectives, both as unique personalities, who either stand or fall before God (Rom. 14:4) and who cannot be judged by other people, and as members of the one public body in which the illness of one member leads to the sickness and even death of the whole body. In the latter case, every person can and must be judged by the whole community, since the actions of one make an impact on many. The seeking of the spirit of peace by one righteous man, according to St. Seraphim of Sarov, leads to the salvation of thousands around him, while a sin committed by one culprit may entail the death of many.

This attitude to sinful and criminal manifestations is firmly grounded in Holy Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted; but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked (Prov. 11:11). St. Basil the Great taught the people of Caesarea in Cappadocia: Because of a few, disasters come upon a whole people, and because of the evil deeds of one, many have to taste their fruits. Ahab committed sacrilege, and all the chariots were defeated; already Zimri committed whoredom with a Midianitish woman, and punished was Israel. St. Cyprian of Moscow writes about the same: Do not you know that people’s sin fall upon the prince, and the prince’s sin fall upon the people?

That is why old statute books also regulated those aspects of life which are outside regulation by today’s law. For instance, by the legal provisions of the Pentateuch, adultery was punished by death (Lev. 20:10), whereas today it is not regarded as a legal offence in most states. If the vision of the world in its integrity is lost, the field of legal regulation becomes reduced to the cases of the visible damage done, and the boundaries of the latter become more narrow with the erosion of public morality and secularisation of consciousness. For instance, today’s law treats sorcery, which was a grave crime in ancient communities, as a imaginary action not to be punished.

The fallen nature of man that has distorted his awareness does not allow him to accept the divine law in all its fullness. In various periods, people have been aware of only part of this law. This is evident from the Gospel’s talk of the Savoir about divorce. Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of our hearts, but it was not so from the beginning because in marriage a man becomes one flesh with his wife, making marriage indissoluble (Mt. 19:3-5).

However, in the cases where the human law completely rejects the absolute divine norm, replacing it by an opposite one, it ceases to be law and becomes lawlessness, in whatever legal garments it may dress itself. For instance, the Decalogue clearly states: Honour thy father and thy mother (Ex. 20:12). Any secular norm that contradicts this commandment indicts not its offender but the legislator himself. In other words, the human law has never contained the divine law in its fullness, but in order to remain law it is obliged to conform to the God-established principles, rather then to erode them.

IV. 4. Historically, both religious and secular laws originate from the same source. Moreover, for a long time they only represented two sides of one legal field. This idea of law is also characteristic of the Old Testament.

The Lord Jesus Christ, in calling those faithful to Him to the Kingdom that is not of this world, separated (Lk. 12:51-52) the Church as His body from the world lying in evil. In Christianity, the internal law of the Church is free from the spiritually-fallen state of the world and is even opposed to it (Mt. 5:21-47). This opposition, however, is not the violation but the fulfilment of the law of the divine Truth in its fullness, which humanity repudiated in the fall. Comparing the Old Testament norms with that of the Gospel, the Lord in His Sermon on the Mount calls people to seek the full identity of life with the absolute divine law, that is to deification: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Mt. 5:48).

IV. 5. In the Church founded by the Lord Jesus, there is special law based on the Divine Revelation. It is the canon law. While other religious statutes are given to humanity as fallen away from God and can be essentially part of the civil law, the Christian law is fundamentally supra-social. It cannot be part of the civil law, though in Christian societies it can make a favourable influence on it as its moral foundation.

The Christian state normally used the modified law of the pagan times (for instance, the Roman law in the Codex of Justinian), since it included the norms consonant with the divine truth. However, any attempt to develop the civil, criminal and public law based on the Gospel alone cannot be efficient, for without the full churching of life, that is without complete victory over sin, the law of the Church cannot become the law of the world. This victory is possible, however, only in the eschatological perspective.

However, the experience of the Christianization of the legal system inherited from the pagan Rome under Emperor Justinian proved to be quite successful. It was so not in the least because the legislator, in developing the Codex, was fully aware of the dividing life between the order of this world, marked with the fall and sinful erosion even in the Christian era, and the statutes of the grace-giving body of Christ, the Church, even its members and the citizens of a Christian state are the same people. The Codex of Justinian determined for centuries the Byzantine legal system and made a considerable impact on the development of law in Russia and in some Western European countries both in the middle ages and the modern time.

IV. 6. The idea of the inalienable rights of the individual has become one of the dominating principles in the contemporary sense of justice. The idea of these rights is based on the biblical teaching on man as the image and likeness of God, as an ontologically free creature. Examine what is around you, writes St. Anthony of Egypt, and see that princes and masters have power over your body alone, not over your soul, and always keep this in mind. Why when they order, say, to kill or to do something else, inappropriate, unrighteous and harmful for the soul, it is not proper to obey them, even though they torture your body. God has created the soul free and self-ruled, and it is free to do as it wills, good or bad.

The Christian socio-public ethics demanded that a certain autonomous sphere should be reserved for man, in which his conscience might remain the autocratic master, for it is the free will that determines ultimately the salvation or death, the way to Christ or the way away from Christ. The right to believe, to live, to have family is what protects the inherent foundations of human freedom from the arbitrary rule of outer forces. These internal rights are complimented with and ensured by other, external ones, such as the right to free movement, information, property, to its possession and disposition.

God keeps man free, never forcing his will. Contrary to it, Satan seeks to possess the human will, to enslave it. If the law conforms to the divine truth revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ, then it also stands guard over human freedom: Where the Spirit is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). Therefore, it guards the inalienable rights of the personality. Those traditions, however, which do not know of the principle of the freedom of Christ, often seek to subject the human consciousness to the external will of a ruler or a collective.

IV. 7. As secularism developed, the lofty principles of inalienable human rights turned into a notion of the rights of the individual outside his relations with God. In this process, the freedom of the personality transformed into the protection of self-will (as long as it is not detrimental to individuals) and into the demand that the state should guarantee a certain material living standard for the individual and family. In the contemporary systematic understanding of civil human rights, man is treated not as the image of God, but as a self-sufficient and self-sufficing subject. Outside God, however, there is only the fallen man, who is rather far from being the ideal of perfection aspired to by Christians and revealed in Christ (Ecce homo!). For the Christian sense of justice, the idea of human freedom and rights is bound up with the idea of service. The Christian needs rights so that in exercising them he may first of all fulfil in the best possible way his lofty calling to be the likeness of God, as well as his duty before God and the Church, before other people, family, state, nation and other human communities.

As a result of the secularisation in modern times, the theory of natural law prevailed, which in its constructions did not take into account the fallen humanity. This theory, however, did not lose links with Christian tradition, for it proceeded from the conviction that the notions of good and evil were inherent in humanity. Therefore, law grew up from life itself, based on conscience (the categorical moral imperative). This theory was dominant in the European society up to the 19th century. Its practical consequences included, firstly, the principle of the historical continuity of the legal domain (law cannot be abolished as conscience cannot be abolished; it can only be improved and adjusted also legally to new situations and cases). Secondly, it gave rise to the principle of precedent (in conformity with conscience and the legal tradition, the court can pass a right sentence, that is a sentence consonant to the Divine Truth).

In the contemporary understanding of law, views apologetic towards the positive law in force have prevailed. Law is viewed as a human invention, a construction that is built by society to benefit itself and to fulfil tasks defined by itself. Hence, any changes to the law, if approved by society, are considered valid. The written law has no absolute legal basis whatsoever. This view gives validity to the revolution that rejects the laws of the old world and to the full rejection of the moral norm if this rejection is approved by society. Thus, if in contemporary society abortion is not believed to be murder, it is not such legally either. Apologists of the positive law believe that society can introduce very diverse standards, on the one hand, and consider any law in force to be legitimate by virtue of its very existence, on the other.

IV. 8. The law and order of a particular country is a special version of the common worldview law characteristic of a given nation. The national law expresses the fundamental principles of relations between persons, between power and society and between institutions in accordance with the peculiarities of a given nation moving in history. The national law is imperfect, for imperfect and sinful is any nation. However, it establishes a framework for the people’s life if it translates God’s absolute truths into and adjusts them to the concrete historical and national existence.

Thus, law and order in Russia gradually developed and grew ever more complex for a millennium as society itself developed and grew in its complexity. The conventional Slavic law, which had preserved the ancient common Aryan forms until the 10th, due to Christianization incorporated some elements of the Byzantine legislation. It did it through the Codex of Justinian tracing back to the classical Roman law and the church canon law, which at that time was fused with the civil law. From the 17th century, the Russia law drew intensively on the standards and legal logic of the Western European law, doing it in a fairly organic way, since the Roman legal tradition, basic for Europe, was borrowed by Russia from Constantinople together with Christianity as far back as the 10th-11the centuries. The Old Russian Russkaya pravda (Russian truth), princes’ statutes and charters, legal documents and books, the Council of the Hundred Chapters and the 1949 Conciliar code, Petrine articles and decrees, legal actions by Catherine the Great and Alexander I, reforms of Alexander II and the 1906 Basic Law — all represented one legal fabric of the creative people’s organism. Some standards became out of date, while other come replace them. Some legal novations failed as inconsonant with the order of people’s life and ceased to be applied. The flow of the river of Russian national law whose sources were lost in distant history was stopped by the year 1917. On November 22 of that year, the Council of People’s Commissars, in conformity with the spirit of the positive law, repealed the whole Russian legislation. After the collapse of the Soviet statehood in the early 90s, the legal system in the CIS and Baltic countries is still in the making. At its foundation are the ideas dominating in the contemporary secularised sense of justice.

IV. 9. The Church of Christ, preserving her own autonomous law based on the holy canons and keeping within the church life proper, can exist in the framework of very diverse legal systems which she treats with respect. The Church invariably calls upon her flock to be law-abiding citizens of their earthly homeland. At the same time, she has always underlined the unshakeable limits to which her faithful should obey the law.

In everything that concerns the exclusively earthly order of things, the Orthodox Christian is obliged to obey the law, regardless of how far it is imperfect and unfortunate. However, when compliance with legal requirements threatens his eternal salvation and involves an apostasy or commitment of another doubtless sin before God and his neighbour, the Christian is called to perform the feat of confession for the sake of God’s truth and the salvation of his soul for eternal life. He must speak out lawfully against an indisputable violation committed by society or state against the statutes and commandments of God. If this lawful action is impossible or ineffective, he must take up the position of civil disobedience (see, III.5).

St. John Chrysostomos on Romans 13:1-8

From Homily XXIII on the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Romans.

ROM. XIII. 1.-"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers."

Of this subject he makes much account in other epistles also, setting subjects under their rulers as household servants are under their masters. And this he does to show that it was not for the subversion of the commonwealth that Christ introduced His laws, but for the better ordering of it, and to teach men not to be taking up unnecessary and unprofitable wars. For the plots that are formed against us for the truth's sake are sufficient and we have no need to be adding temptations superfluous and unprofitable. And observe too how well-timed his entering upon this subject is. For when he had demanded that great spirit of heroism, and made men fit to deal either with friends or foes, and rendered them serviceable alike to the prosperous and those in adversity and need, and in fact to all, and had planted a conversation worthy of angels, and had discharged anger, and taken down recklessness, and had in every way made their mind even, he then introduces his exhortation upon these matters also. For if it be right to requite those that injure us with the opposite, much more is it our duty to obey those that are benefactors to us. But this he states toward the end of his exhortation, and hitherto does not enter on these reasonings which I mention, but those only that enjoin one to do this as a matter of debt. And to show that these regulations are for all, even for priests, and monks, and not for men of secular occupations only, he hath made this plan at the outset, by saying as follows: "let every soul be subject unto the higher powers," if thou be an Apostle even, or an Evangelist, or a Prophet, or anything whatsoever, inasmuch as this subjection is not subversive of religion. And he does not say merely "obey," but "be subject." And the first claim such an enactment has upon us, and the reasoning that suiteth the faithful, is, that all this is of God's appointment.

"For there is no power," he says, "but of God." What say you? it may be said; is every ruler then elected by God? This I do not say, he answers. Nor am I now speaking about individual rulers, but about the thing in itself. For that there should be rulers, and some rule and others be ruled, and that all things should not just be carried on in one confusion, the people swaying like waves in this direction and that; this, I say, is the work of God's wisdom. Hence he does not say, "for there is no ruler but of God;" but it is the thing he speaks of, and says, "there is no power but of God. And the powers that be, are ordained of God." Thus when a certain wise man saith, "It is by the Lord that a man is matched with a woman" (Prov. xix. 14, LXX.), he means this, God made marriage, and not that it is He that joineth together every man that cometh to be with a woman. For we see many that come to be with one another for evil, even by the law of marriage, and this we should not ascribe to God. But as He said Himself, "He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall leave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh." (Matt. xix. 4, Matt. xix. 5; Gen. ii. 24.) And this is what that wise man meant to explain. For since equality of honor does many times lead to fightings, He hath made many governments and forms of subjection; as that, for instance, of man and wife, that of son and father, that of old men and young, that of bond and free, that of ruler and ruled, that of master and disciple. And why are you surprised in the case of mankind, when even in the body He hath done the same thing? For even here He hath not made all parts of equal honor, but He hath made one less and another greater, and some of the limbs hath He made to rule and some to be ruled. And among the unreasoning creatures one may notice this same principle, as amongst bees, amongst cranes, amongst herds of wild cattle. And even the sea itself is not without this goodly subordination; for there too many of the clans are ranged under one among the fishes, and are led thus as an army, and make long expeditions from home. For anarchy, be where it may, is an evil, and a cause of confusion. After having said then whence governments come, he proceeds, "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." See what he has led the subject on to, and how fearful he makes it, and how he shows this to be a matter of debt. For lest the believers should say, You are making us very cheap and despicable, when you put us, who are to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven, under subjection to rulers, he shows that it is not to rulers, but to God again that he makes them subject in doing this. For it is to Him, that he who subjects himself to authorities is obedient. Yet he does not say this-for instance that it is God to Whom a man who listens to authorities is obedient-but he uses the opposite case to awe them, and gives it a more precise form by saying, that he who listeneth not thereto is fighting with God, Who framed these laws. And this he is in all cases at pains to show, that it is not by way of favor that we obey them, but by way of debt. For in this way he was more likely to draw the governors who were unbelievers to religion, and the believers to obedience. For there was quite a common report in those days (Tert. Ap. 1, 31, 32), which maligned the Apostles, as guilty of a sedition and revolutionary scheme, and as aiming in all they did and said at the subversion of the received institutions. When then you show our common Master giving this in charge to all His, you will at once stop the mouths of those that malign us as revolutionists, and with great boldness will speak for the doctrines of truth. Be not then ashamed, he says, at such subjection. For God hath laid down this law, and is a strong Avenger of them if they be despised. For it is no common punishment that He will exact of thee, if thou disobey, but the very greatest; and nothing will exempt thee, that thou canst say to the contrary, but both of men thou shalt undergo the most severe vengeance, and there shall be no one to defend thee, and thou wilt also provoke God the more. And all this he intimates when he says, "And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." Then to show the gain of the thing after the fear, he uses reasons too to persuade them as follows:

Ver.3. "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil."

For when he has given a deep wound, and stricken them down, he again uses gentler treatment, like a wise physician, who applies soothing medicines, and he comforts them, and says, why be afraid? why shudder? For does he punish a person that is doing well? Or is he terrible to a person who lives in the practice of virtue? Wherefore also he proceeds, "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shall have praise of the same." You see how he has made him friends with the ruler, by showing that he even praises him from his throne. You see how he has made wrath unmeaning.

Ver.4. "For he is the minister of God to thee for good."

So far is he from terrifying thee, he says, that he even praises thee: so far from being a hindrance to thee, that he even works with thee. When then thou hast his praise and his succor, how is it that thou art not in subjection to him? For he maketh virtue easier for thee in other ways also, by chastising the wicked, by benefiting and honoring the good, and by working together with the will of God. Whence too he has even given him the name of "Minister." And consider: I give you counsel to be sober-minded, and he, by the laws, speaks the same language. I exhort you not to be rapacious and grasping. And he sits in judgment in such cases, and so is a worker together with us, and an assistant to us, and has been commissioned by God for this end. Hence there are both reasons for reverencing him, both because he was commissioned by God, and because it was for such an object. "But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid." It is not then the ruler that maketh the fear, but our own wickedness.

"For he beareth not the sword in vain." You see how he hath furnished him with arms, and set him on guard like a soldier, for a terror to those that commit sin. "For he is the minister of God to execute wrath, a revenger upon him that doeth evil." Now lest you should start off at hearing again of punishment, and vengeance, and a sword, he says again that it is God's law he is carrying out. For what if he does not know it himself? yet it is God that hath so shaped things. If then, whether in punishing, or in honoring, he be a Minister, in avenging virtue's cause, in driving vice away, as God willeth, why be captious against him, when he is the cause of so many good doings, and paves the way for thine too? since there are many who first practised virtue through the fear of God. For there are a duller sort, whom things to come have not such a hold upon as things present. He then who by fear and rewards gives the soul of the majority a preparatory turn towards its becoming more suited for the word of doctrine, is with good reason called "the Minister of God."

Ver.5. "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath but also for conscience sake."

What is the meaning of, "not only for wrath?" It means not only because thou dost resist God by not being subject, nor only because thou art procuring great evils for thyself, both from God and the rulers, but also because he is a benefactor to thee in things of the greatest importance, as he procures peace to thee, and the blessings of civil institutions. For there are countless blessings to states through these authorities; and if you were to remove them, all things would go to ruin, and neither city nor country, nor private nor public buildings, nor anything else would stand, but all the world will be turned upside down, while the more powerful devour the weaker. And so even if some wrath were not to follow man's disobedience, even on this ground thou oughtest to be subject, that thou mayest not seem devoid of conscience and feeling towards the benefactor.

Ver.6. "For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God's ministers, attending continually on this very thing."

Without going one by one into the benefits done to states by the rulers, as that of good order and peace, the other services, as regarding the soldiery, and those over the public business, he shows the whole of this by a single case. For that thou art benefited by him, he means, thou bearest witness thyself, by paying him a salary. Observe the wisdom and judgment of the blessed Paul. For that which seemed to be burdensome and annoying -the system of imposts-this he turns into a proof of their care for men. What is the reason, he means, that we pay tribute to a king? It is not as providing for us? And yet we should not have paid it unless we had known in the first instance that we were gainers from this superintendence. Yet it was for this that from of old all men came to an agreement that governors should be maintained by us, because to the neglect of their own affairs, they take charge of the public, and on this they spend their whole leisure, whereby our goods also are kept safe. After saying then what the external goods are, he again averts to the former line of argument (for in this way he was more likely to attract the believer to him), and he shows again that this is God's decree, and on it he makes his advice rest finally, in these words, "they are God's ministers." Then to show the pains they take, and their hard life, he proceeds, "Waiting continually upon this very thing."

For this is their life, this their business, that thou mayest enjoy peace. Wherefore in another Epistle, he bids them not only be subject, but also "pray" in their behalf. And as showing there too that the advantage was common to all, he adds, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all things." (1 Tim. ii. 1, Tim. 2:2.) For it is in no small degree that they contribute to the settled state of the present life, by keeping guard, beating off enemies, hindering those who are for sedition in the cities, putting an end to differences among any. For do not tell me of some one who makes an ill use of the thing, but look to the good order that is in the institution itself, and you will see the great wisdom of Him who enacted this law from the first.

Ver.7, 8. "Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Owe (or ye owe) no man anything, but to love one another."

He still keeps upon the same line, bidding them pay them not money only, but honor and fear. And how is it when he said above, "Wilt thou not be afraid of the power? do that which is good;" that he here says "render fear?" He does it meaning exceeding honor, and not the fear which comes from a bad conscience, which he alluded to before And it is not "give," that he says, but "render" (or "give back,"), and then adds to it, the "dues." For it is not a favor that you confer by so doing, since the thing is matter of due. And if you do it not, you will be punished as Obstinate. Do not suppose that you are lowering yourself, and detracting from the dignity of your own philosophy, if you rise up at the presence of a ruler, or if you uncover your head. For if he laid these laws down at that time, when the rulers were Gentiles, much more ought this to be done with them now they are believers. But if you mean to say, that you are entrusted with greater privileges, be informed that this is not thy time. For thou art a stranger and a sojourner. A time will be when thou shalt appear brighter than all. Now thy "life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. iii. 3, Co 3:4.) Seek not then in this life of accidents thy change, but even if thou hast to be with fear in a ruler's presence, do not think that this is unworthy thy noble birth. For so God willeth, that the ruler who has his place marked by Him, should have his own power; And when he who is conscious of no evil in himself, stands with fear in the judge's presence, much more will he who doth evil things be affrighted, and thou in this way wilt be the more respected. For it is not from honoring that the lowering of self comes but from dishonoring him. And the ruler will treat thee with greater respect, and he will glorify thy Master owing to this, even if he be an unbeliever. "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." Again he has recourse to the mother of good deeds, and the instructress of the things spoken of, who is also productive of every virtue, and says that this is a debt also, not however such as the tribute or the custom, but a continuous one. For he does not wish it ever to be paid off, or rather he would have it always rendered, yet never fully so, but to be always owing. For this is the character of the debt, that one keeps giving and owing always. Having said then how he ought to love, he also shows the gain of it, saying, "For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the Law."

And do not, pray, consider even this a favor; for this too is a debt. For thou owest love to thy brother, through thy spiritual relationship. And not for this only, but also because "we are members one of another." And if love leave us, the whole body is rent in pieces. Love therefore thy brother. For if from his friendship thou gainest so much as to fulfil the whole Law, thou owest him love as being benefited by him.

Monday, October 2, 2006

A Fifth Anniversary

b. 19 June 1932
d. 2 October 2001

Today it has been five years since my father, Dr. H. Guy Bensusan, passed away.

On Stanford Solutions' KnowMap website, I came across this bio for Dad:

H. Guy Bensusan

H. Guy Bensusan, more commonly known as Guy Bensusan and affectionately addressed as Dr. Guy, was before his recent death a Professor of Humanities, the Senior Faculty Associate for Interactive Instruction Television, and Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies at NAUNet (Northern Arizona University Internet), Interactive Instructional Television (IITV) and Interactive Learning Online (ILO).

He was the author of several works such as the following: Collaborative Online Learning Algorithm, Twelve Pillars of Learning, The Anatomy of Learning, Learning Models and Considerations, and The Spiral Escalator.

He was at the Office at the Flagstaff campus from 1963 - 2001, started at Kingman Campus in 2001, and also taught from the following: Holbrook-Showlow Campus (1997), Coolidge Campus (1998), Yuma Campus (1999) and Thatcher campus (2000).

Bensusan was born in England to the son of an Australian-born, Brazilian-raised mining engineer and a woman who was a world traveler, Hollywood writer and a Fellow in the Royal Geographic Society. Bensusan grew up in Brazil, finished high school in Los Angeles, spent summers in Mexico, became an American citizen and earned his way through University of California at Los Angeles graduate school in History by teaching swimming to Hollywood kids. He was hired in 1963 by the Arizona State College, which became Northern Arizona University four years later.

Bensusan valued his family history from Spain and Portugal with Jewish and Islamic roots and covering the Crusades, Atlantic exploration and colonialism. The Bensusans were expelled from Spain in 1492 when Queen Isabella deported Jews, Moors and Gypsies. With their indomitable spirit, they dispersed globally in trade, manufacturing, literature, arts and mining.

"Knowing where you come from sheds insight on one's objectivity" was a fundamental belief of Guy Bensusan and thus it was no wonder that he felt deep connections to Spain, Latin America, Western Africa, Western Europe and the United States.

He also knew where he was headed. As he said recently of the new interactive online and distance education: "The accumulation and interaction, helpfulness and openness of the learners is the most rewarding that I have ever experienced. And I KNOW we are not done with the learning and growing and revolution in our systems.... So stay tuned as we move ahead."

Following the sudden interruption in his journey as we interacted with people who knew Dr. Guy, we have the sense that he is still with us urging us on in our endeavours in fostering lifelong and lively learning through distance education.

(Reposted by permission of Stanford Solutions)

In honour of my late father, may God give rest to his soul, I repost a selection from his Lectures in Verse.


It was once long ago in that high Aztec land
that the Great Montezuma lost out to a band
of Spanish adventurers led by Cortez,
with phenomenal consequence, history says.

I was thinking of that down at Ye Taco Bell,
awaiting good flavors, enjoying the smell,
and wondering, "Is history a door left ajar,
revealing how things came to be as they are ?

It had not been like that in my school long ago:
I'd learned facts and exams asked for yes or for no.
Then later, in college I had much more fun,
since with essays creative loquaciousness won,
and I found fascination of a yet unknown kind
in defining, refining and wining combined.

What a challenge to master those tables and weights,
plus the formulas, characteristics and dates.
And there I succeeded, though I never did learn
how they might be remotely of *real* concern.

My values then were to compete for high grades,
which won money, pleased parents and drew accolades.
They'd praised and encouraged, though they'd not help me see
the life's work that would follow my college degree.

I covered my taco with more sauce and cheese,
aware I was blaming those others with ease.
But the truth was that I had been too immature
to derive, correlate, aquiesce and endure !
Had I gone right to work I'd have learned too, but brother,
what you gain on the one deal you lose on the other !

I went back to the counter and ordered some more,
and wiped off my beard as I stared at the floor,
reflecting on how I might deal with the need
to teach about LIVING from past deed and creed.

But the service was FAST and the cook really kind;
the aroma seduced noble thoughts from my mind,
and she smiled as she handed me, with sour cream,
my green chile, beef-onion, Burro Supreme.

I waited a bit, since the thing had to cool
and, not really wanting to sit there and drool,
I busied myself with a game in my head
matching names and locations with some big names now dead.
Columbus was obvious, fifteen-o-six.
De Soto, exploring, conveyed 'cross the Styx,

While Cortez and his followers would have been seen
as they climbed up from Veracruz, fifteen-nineteen,
fighting Tlaxcalans with sword, gun and horse,
then descending to Tenochtitlan in due course.

With that vision my whole body started to quake:
I relived the encounter at Texcoco Lake,
perceptions I'd never envisioned before
caused me to shake and spill food on the floor.

But some deep breathing helped get my carelessness curbed,
while a quick glance around showed I had not disturbed.
So I sat in a booth to get out of the way,
to eat and allow inspiration to play,
and right there I invented the work you here see
joining cultural history with gastronomy.

Friends, in thesis and purpose this work has to be
consumed and digested most reverently.
To explain how we got here is History's beat:
We people make history, and we are what we eat !

So imagine Cortez, Bernal Diaz and flock,
it's after Cholula, they're in culture shock,
each wanting his woman, to help his wounds heal,
some rest, relaxation and a good, home-cooked meal.

Montezuma was great, a magnificent host
with splendiferous feasts; first with pulque to toast
the health of his guests after which they did dine
on corn, beans, tomatoes and squash-on-the-vine,
pineapples, peanuts, papayas, cashews,
chiles and chocolate, avocados, honeydews.

Still, the Spaniards' dilemma was naturally keen
on confronting this unknown exotic cuisine.
It was tastes from their homeland which caused them to pine,
the cheese, ham and olives, wheat bread and grape wine.
Though they tactfully smiled through hot lips, eating all.
Montezuma lacked cause for revenge in that hall !

The Spaniards now shipped in their beef, citrus, rice,
artichokes, lard, peaches, peas --- for a price.
The cross-fraternization began in great haste
with both Aztec and Spaniard acquiring a taste
for the foods that each other so lovingly raised,
while new combinations appeared and were praised;
with tamales and tacos of chicken and pork,
re-fried beans, wheat tortillas to use as a fork.

That's the end of the first half of part number one,
though another component had already begun
with the purchase of slaves who would raise sugar cane
on the hot, humid lowlands and coasts of New Spain.

When assigned to the kitchen many Africans found
that they soon were renowned as the best cooks around,
inventing, combining, devising new meals
both nutritious and with colorful visual appeals.

Foodstuffs abounded from African soil:
yams, millet, okra, bananas, palm oil,
Guinea corn, cow peas, sorghum and greens,
providing new tastes in the cooking tureens.
Three races now worked at inventing the chow
with more combinations than our rhyme will allow.

We recall Indian foods had been roasted and broiled,
some eaten raw, others dried, honeyed, boiled.
Thus, huevos rancheros could not achieve fame
'til lard-loving Spaniards with frying pans came.

The distinctions by regions became highly holy,
with Bajio Green Rice and Jalisco Pozole,
Oaxaca tamales, Shrimp Mazatlan,
plus the Mole from Puebla and Crab Yucatan.

When we come to the bar in the New Hemisphere
we encounter libations which still persevere.
There'd be NO multicultural booze paradigm
without margarita's tequila and lime,
or pineapples laced with dark rum and fruit juices,
coconut bombshells, or Kahlua Cream Mousses !

Part two: Independence. Old Spain got kicked out,
while retaining significant cultural clout.
(And please pardon the obvious break in the flow,
but Taco Bell closed, and they asked me to go.
So I'm now down the street at the new Pizza Hut
which serves beer and is darker and noisier, but
is germane and quite relevant as will be seen
as we think about eating in century nineteen.)

With Hidalgo, the Padre, came the Liberty Cry !
With September sixteenth as their Fourth of July !
Immigration from Europe now grew very fast
both to add to and share in the National repast.
(And excuse me, "A pitcher of dark, if you please,
plus a large pepperoni and peppers with cheese.")

By this time, though, the foods of colonial days.
which profoundly were based on old Indian ways,
had entrenched themselves deeply for three hundred years
and were too firmly fastened to feel any fears.

Heinrich and Friedrich brought Teutonic eats,
the wurst, sauerkraut und Bavarian sweets;
they descended ashore each with lager-filled stein
where they met Rio Grande and longed for the Rhine.

As they cherished their kitchens with eyes all agleam,
they prepared enchiladas with chives, sour cream;
Chihuahua Frijoles, Salchichas with cheese,
a Caldo de Ajo to cure cough and wheeze,
while the Chile con Carne with Texas-style Beans
brought sweat to the forehead and gas to the jeans.

Tomatoes and peppers, beforehand unseen,
were essential to Italy's later cuisine,
which repaid with macaroni and pastafazoo,
giving girth to the Mexican Prodigal Stew.
Italians immigrating to Old Monterrey
refashioned their noodles, decided to stay;
Rhinelanders followed to brew malt and hops
and now with fideos and cerveza, they're tops.

(I digress, and I also must go for some air,
plus dessert, which will be a large chocolate eclair.)

Intervention, Maximilian, with an army of French.
While they lose and retreat, they will deeply entrench
by gracefully kindling that gourmet demand
for camembert, champignon, and chateaubriand.
We acknowledge the new chefs, Rene and Francois,
who spread Restoration with pate de foie,
Boeuf Bourguignon, Bordelaise, Grand Marnier
(though Benito rejected the Courvoisier).

Then they tempted Porfirio by letting him cook.
He thrived as he went through Escoffier's book,
creating the classic souffle mexicana,
but also concocting a Roast Suckling Iguana.

By the end of the century it looked to all eyes
as if Mexico's cooking might warrant a prize.
Still, in spite of the fact that Filete Mignon
and Cafe con Leche had really caught on,
divergence and discord were emerging with heat
between food of the masses and of the elite.

The cause of the fight was the big yearly bake-off
where Old Diaz consistently won and would take off
with all of the prizes. Other entries were wasted,
and those from the provinces weren't even tasted.

One loser, Madero, who lived out of town,
requested a recount and then got put down.
Zapata joined Villa with Peasant Surprise,
mixing corn, beans and horsemeat with multiple dyes.

The explosion let loose an un-tameable beast,
which cooked up new fares for the moveable feast:
Railroader's Pot-Luck, Zacatecas Ragu,
Constitutional Punch and Pershing's Big Stew.

Millions were changed by the manifold dinners;
it would take many years to decide on the winners.
Yet after the ruckus a breakfast was planned,
where opposing contenders agreed to disband
so the very next cook-off could be given a menu
which would formulate Mexico's cookery venue.

Jose Vasconcelos's Cosmic Race rules
said today's foods were gathered from earlier pools,
while tomorrow the new and improved super-chow
would have to derive from the best meals of now !

Some chefs applauded; some others threw flowers;
while a few longed for the meals that took so many hours;
and some wished no changes though a fifth group did look
as a newfangled process they called "pressure-cook."
The remainder demanded a national decree
which would ban foods not native originally !

At the same time, of course, every incoming ship
brought it borscht and paella and bagels each trip,
then goulashes, cous-cous and squab Cantonese,
Sukiyaki, some curry, and some bits of Swiss Cheese.

Then the buses and autos, the trains and airplanes,
incessantly, whether in sunshine or rains,
carried hamburgers, catsup, dill pickles and buns,
malts, peanut butter and chips by the tons.

How the magnitude numbed. Scores of nations had poured
their cuisines into Mexico's huge smorgasbord.
Though it seemed that the foods earning greatest attention
came from the corn, bean and chile dimension.
And that thought made me suddenly tired and beat ---
so I went home to fix myself something to eat !

The milk, honey, ice and scotch went in the blender
with a packet of Fifty-Fruits-Instant-Bartender;
plus from freezer some Foo Yung-Kebab-Ravioli,
micro-zapped for two minutes to simmer it slowly.

While dining, my viewpoint inverted with ease:
her national foods could be sold overseas !
Thus a strange, grandiose market-vision unfurled
called FIESTA: with Mexico's Meals for the World !!!
Each treat would contain an authentic repast
attested as wholesome, nutritious and FAST !

Its E-Z STAK CARTON would surely inspire
with a big-bosomed beauty in regional attire
explaining some history and FIESTA's new club,
three-language voucher plus lottery stub.

Every box would be expertly flash-frozen-dried;
multi-cultural instructions included inside.
For safety they provided a Halozone pill,
plus a pre-paid prescription for fresh Lomotil.

Monthly they'd feature an appropriate crock,
with a matching, hand-embroidered and colorfast frock,
which furnished the pantry and wardrobe together
with usable items, whatever the weather.

FIESTA's whole program deserved a gold seal
with their reference guide called **The Mexican Meal**,
plus the learning device with cassettes, called EL CHANGO,
which helped you pronounce, "Papatzul, Huachinango,"
while the game on TV offered prizes to winners
consisting of multi-course Mexican dinners.

"That's amazing," I said, as my vision departed,
and I refilled by goblet to get it restarted.
But this time the picture was darker indeed,
since FIESTA was rampant with fraud, schemes and greed.

The fancy frocks faded and plastic crocks cracked,
while misprogrammed computers mislabeled, mispacked
*chicharrones* for Israel, *rosbif* for Bombay,
*margaritas* for Cairo, and forgetting L.A.
The price wars, embezzlements, strikes on the docks,
TV frauds and cancer-scares hurting the stocks,
embarrassing scandals, allegations in courts
when the lottery was won by Consumer Reports.

As my fantasy faded I became more aware
it only had shown me MY hopes, MY despair.
The menu, once simple, was now quite confused.
And what is going to happen ? I sat there and mused.

Will our meals merge together and acquire the same look ?

Accidentally ? On purpose ? And who will be the cook ?

Will each region's cuisine, despite outside invasion,
resist those strong forces, preserve its equation ?

Or will new foods be found in that vast outer space ?
Imagine Wells Fargo in the credit-card race !!!!

I got ready for bed when the dishes were done.
Do you think that Cortez ever had to wash one ?
Heinrich had servants, and so did Rene;
with FIESTA you threw the containers away.

I considered inventing, while shedding my shirt,
a utensil and plate one might eat for dessert.
But my Gwendolyn said I had not picked a winner,
'cause she preferred eating
dessert before dinner.

Not Peace, But A Sword?

By Vladimir Legoyda


The words of Christ "I come not to bring peace, but a sword…" (Matt. 10:54) have been variously interpreted as bearing on the ascetic nature of the Christian struggle as well as the Christian role in progressive social activism. Many, citing the historical involvement of Christian societies in warfare, have sought to either defend or condemn the Church on the basis of the seemingly conflicting relationship between its doctrine and practice. In this article Professor Legoyda examines the relationships between Christianity and the Military, and in particular Russian Orthodox Christianity and the Russian military, to shed light of the respective roles they have played and could play in the future.


It is interesting that in modern Russian the only people who serve are the clergy and those in the military. The rest of us ordinary mortals just work. The idea implicit behind the linguistic parallel referring to both soldering and religious observance by clerics is that of performing a solemn or sacred activity, one that is somehow apart from ordinary activity in society.

To be sure, such a linguistic analogy is a contingent truth. Yet is this really an accidental lexical coincidence? How can we reconcile the ideas of Christian love for our neighbors and the inevitable slaughter of war? What models of ecclesiastical and military leadership should be cultivated within Russian society and, perhaps more importantly, are there any components for such models available within Russian culture? These and other questions relating to the Church, the military and our Orthodox culture need to be aired to gain perspective as the issues of compulsory military service, terrorism and the future of Russian military organizations and their spheres of activity press upon us as we rediscover our Orthodox Christian roots in the beginning of the 21st century.

In contemporary Russian society there still exists an oversimplified attitude that Christianity, as the embodiment of Divine love on earth, must consistently oppose any kind of violence and, it follows naturally, repudiate any kind of military operations, including their goals as well as their means. Or, at least, there is a feeling that Christians should not partake in such activity. Hence, if a priest should bless any soldier sent to war, is this nothing more than an ecclesiastical formality in the service of his country? If so, this would seem to imply a contradiction or at least gross negligence regarding tradition. Just how does this implied pacifism relate to the Christian confession?

When we turn to Orthodox history, even in ancient times, it is impossible to find any narrow, dogmatic response to the questions posed above. Moreover, this problem would appear to be outside the competence of dogmatic theology. The Orthodox Church considers dogmas or doctrines as various revelations from God, which "the clergy must disseminate as indisputable and true concerning the faith and salvation."[1] It is therefore absolutely impossible to speak of any unique, explicit position of the Church from a dogmatic point of view as such an issue does not pertain directly to the economy of salvation or ecclesiastical matters regarding the faith per se. As one Orthodox theologian has said, "the problem of war and how clergy must regard it are among the most difficult and problematic of our theology." [2] One could ague that any definitive theological solution to the problem is ultimately impossible due to the seemingly implicit, insurmountable antimony of war and Christianity. This in turn deflects the issue to the more general sphere of Christianity and its relation to culture and society.

Should we then try to define a specific Christian relationship to war or to approach the issue, we need, then, to seek an answer in the more conventional sphere of traditional Christian culture. Such an approach would be far removed from any ethic of non-resistance to the use of violent force. This latter concept has been defined in detail by the popular religious thoughts of Leo Tolstoy (who, as it is well known, was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church), Mahatma Gandhi and others. As for Christians, this position is maintained only by a few Protestant denominations, which take extreme positions regarding the use of firearms and weapons in general and specifically prohibit active military service. In general, however, the concept of non-resistance to evil or the violent use of force is essential to neither Christian ideology in general nor Orthodoxy in particular.

Within a specifically Orthodox context, this problem has been more often considered in relation to the question of evil and the means to resist it. From the Orthodox Christian viewpoint, the root of all evil is contained in fallen (that is perverted and unnatural) human nature. Any external manifestation of this nature, such as malice and individual or collective aggression are a consequence of the inherent human condition of spiritual deformity and moral imperfection. Since the time of Cain’s fratricide, war has been an integral part of fallen human existence. Therefore the principal Christian aim has been to salvage and renew the human personality through the means of grace in Christ and struggle against the cause of evil - fallen human nature, but not necessarily its consequences, viz. aggression and the use of force. The Orthodox struggle is then a spiritual struggle, the internal warfare within the human soul against the ego and the passions. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul defines the essence of Christian struggle in the following words: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

This said, it does not therefore follow that Orthodox ideology is ‘up in the clouds’ or passes over any real problems in silence. But unlike liberal humanist theory, which seeks to prevent wars and to achieve world peace at any price, the Orthodox notion proceeds from the assumption of eliminating the cause of depravity but not its effect. As A. Osipov, a professor of modern Orthodox Theology has noted, the definition of peace in the New Testament (or irini in the original Greek) within the Orthodox context means "humility,"[3] the inner spiritual rest attained by human beings who have overcome their passions and selfishness. According to Osipov, this notion has a broader sense then the Hebrew word for peace shalom used in the Old Testament where the word means simply the absence of war. While the former definition of peace does not exclude the latter, including the meaning of irini, it incorporates the meaning of shalom and expands upon it.[4] Modern discourse focuses more and more on the issue of the survival of mankind and the consequent imperative for peace, even world peace, but very rarely speaks on the issue of what kind of peace or, for that matter, what kind of humanity will survive. Certainly, the Orthodox opinion does not reject the idea of continued human existence, but if we speak about physical survival only, the prospect of such a peaceful coexistence would be nothing more than a utopian fantasy because, from the Orthodox point of view, the relevant cause of evil is rooted within human beings and not in their external condition. In other words, the absence of war does not equal the presence of peace.[5]

And if for L. Tolstoy or M. Gandhi pacifism is an imperative requirement for peace,[6] this doesn't have any stereological or Slavonic sense from the Orthodox Christian standpoint. War is not an absolute evil for which pacifism leads to human salvation and participation results in condemnation or vice versa.

It follows, then, that Orthodoxy is open to various interpretations regarding the question of war as well as to many other (no less important) questions not directly covered in the historical range of purely dogmatic theological issues. This would include, for instance, political structure and social order. Many followers who see Jesus Christ as a pacifist cite as an example His wording that it is necessary to …render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and God the things that are God’s…(Matt. 22:21) in an attempt to substantiate the notion that Christ was a kind of proto-anarchist or popular revolutionary and, consequently, an opponent of military service as an arm of governmental manipulation of the masses. Tolstoy, for example, was of this opinion. For him the non-violence ethic precluded any participation in military hostilities and even extended service in many governmental institutions, the courts in particular.

But this interpretation should be considered perfunctory and biased. In the said wording Christ emphasized the different natures of the state (the Kingdom of Caesar) and the Church (the Kingdom of God). While distinct, these two phenomena are not mutually exclusive at all. At the same time, Christ's words by no means point to Orthodoxy as a kind of Marxist-Leninist principle of the state as a "special mechanism of violence" to be avoided. On the contrary, Christianity has always considered Government pleasing to God, both in the Gospel (Matt. 17: 24-27, John 19:11) as well as in the Apostles' messages (Tit 3:1, I Peter 2:13, I Timothy 2:1-2, Romans 13:1-2) where respect toward lawful authority has been emphasized. In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul warns frankly: For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of power? Do that which is good and thou shall have the praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid: for he beareth not the sword in vain. (Romans 13:3- 4).

More concretely, there are points where these two realm meet and they are particularly striking. When asked by soldiers who came to him what they should do to be saved, St. John the Baptist, in Church tradition known as the Forerunner or prophet of Christ, replied: Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages (Luke 3:14). The phrase do no violence in Church Slavonic is ne obezhaitye,[7] that is, be not a cause of offence. This specifies both the idea of not giving offence or doing harm without reason, or, more precisely, unwarranted aggression. Some consider this to be a linguistic subtlety and insufficient as proof for a pacifist interpretation. Either way, though, one can see clearly that St. John has in no way suggested that soldiers lay down their arms and abandon their duty.

All this, of course, does not mean that the Christians consider war as essentially good. Not in any sense. War is an evil act, just as any murder. Yet the early Christians did not compare murder with the premeditated intent to kill in a time of war. Giving one’s life in defense of another’s was seen as noble and good. In this vein Christ's words, Greater love hath no man more than this - that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13) are often interpreted by Biblical scholars as a calling to be ready for death while guarding relatives and friends. From this, as in any case, we can see the primarily burden of sin is determined above all by the relevant motives and not necessarily by the nature of the conflict in which blood is shed.

The history of the early Church knows many examples of Christians who remained soldiers even after baptism. Many of them were high-ranking leaders and they generally had a concept of war as morally acceptable, however unpleasant. In one of his epistles, St. Athanasius the Great (4th century) wrote, "It is not permissible to kill, but to extirpate enemies during war is lawful and worthy of praise. This is why those who distinguish themselves in battle receive great glory and monuments which depict their deeds are built in their honor."[8] Its interesting to notice that canonicity (that is the norms of Church tradition) of this letter was confirmed in the Ecumenical Councils of the 5th and 6th centuries and possesses for the Orthodox the highest dogmatic and canonical authority. Of course, this concerns not war in general, but a "just" war, in other words warfare that proceeds as a result of defending against an assault or invasion of ones motherland from an enemy.

But even this seems to be only one approach to a definition and not a final solution to the problem. Moreover, such an evaluation is not the equivalent of a direct Church blessing or Church approval for the vanquishing of ones foes in battle. In the 4th century the most authoritative Christian saint, St. Basil the Great, stated in the 13th Cannon, "Having killed on the field of battle, our ancestors are not guilty of murder, and, in defense of them, it seems to me they are upholders of chastity and piety. But, perhaps, it would be good to advise them, as having unclean hands, to refrain from receiving the holy mysteries for three years."[9] In other words, soldiers who had participated in military operations and therefore the taking of life could not receive the sacraments for three years, this being among the severest punishment for any Christian. For comparison, according to the 56th Cannon of St. Basil, any person found guilty of aggravated murder was excommunicated for a period of twenty years while those found guilty of manslaughter for ten years respectively.[10] It should be noted that all these measures are founded upon the implied repentance of the person involved, that is to say that those committing acts resulting in the death of another human being, for whatever reason, acknowledge that killing itself is wrong regardless of the circumstances which predicated the act, whether necessity or human weakness.

Thus, it seems to me, even the understanding of a "just war" (i.?. defensive and not offensive warfare) is rather relative as well. Of course, the Church has always prayed and will continue to pray for those who are obliged to perform military service. But this is not because the Church blesses or consecrates this service or military operations in general, but is rather due to the fact that the Church cares for those human beings who may be killed. For instance, during the Russian-Japanese war of 1905, Orthodox believers in Japan prayed for the "Lawful Authorities and Armed Forces"[11] of their country, but not for the Orthodox Russians, that is for a victory of the Japanese Emperor's army over the Russians. Such an example, in my view, shows quite clearly the relativity of any human truth and further demonstrates the impossibility of any defensible concept of an "Orthodox" war.

As coda to these remarks, the following words of Orthodox Archpriest Vassily Zenkovsky are appropriate: "The Church does not conceal, but, on the contrary, clarifies and confronts the fundamental ambiguities in the world; in history and in war, the Church proceeds forward where such ambiguity prevails so as to magnify the good and to extract what is good from tragic conditions. Any denial of war, any prohibition from participation in it (which may be implied, for a Christian, by the mere absence of a blessing to participate) would mean a departure from the world we live in. The wisdom of the Church, embodying a clear awareness of this, with perpetual grief observes how the world has dominion over us, yet never leaves us alone without its guardianship." [12]


The relationship between the warrior class of the nobility and the Church is one of the oldest traditions in the history of Russian national culture. This relationship nurtured cultural offshoots and was the direct ancestor of the Russian army under the Orthodox Tsars. This tradition has always supposed an ‘active cooperation of the Church and the army, with the single purpose of training servicemen in the spirit of a Christ-Loving armed force, infusing boyars and later ordinary soldiers with an awareness of their high calling and responsibility.’[13] The Russian ideal for a warrior has always been that of the warrior-liberator or protector. The images of the saint and the warrior are deeply intertwined both in Russian history and national folklore. On the one hand, about half of all men in the Russian anthology Lives of the Saints are warriors.[14] The prototype of such an epic hero can be found in Ilya Murom, a quasi-legendary figure who personified the image of ancient Rus in the 12th century. He was an ordinary peasant who, touched by a mystical event in his life, later became a warrior defending his motherland. It is known that the historical Ilya Murom later became a monk. and that his earthly remains are located in the Kiev Caves Lavra, where he is venerated as a saint to this day. Another powerful example of one of the most famous warrior saints is Alexander Nevsky, the Grand Prince, who expelled the Swedes and the Lithuanian Teutons as well as negotiated a peace with the Huns. He later took the name Alexis and also became a monk. The images of these saints have not only formed the ideal for the Russian military, but have played a significant role in the formation of Russian culture as a whole.

Perhaps the most remarkable and culturally relevant illustration of the Orthodox attitude towards war is contained in the history of the life of St. Sergius of Radonezh, who blessed Prince Dmitry Donskoy to engage the enemy in the famous battle of Kullikovskaya. According to his Life, prior to marching off to fight the Tartar Khan Mamay, Prince Dmitry visited Abbot Sergius at the Troitskaya Monastery, now known as the Trinity St. Sergius Lavra. There the abbot did not immediately bless the prince for the coming battle, but first inquired of the prince if he had tried "to please that obnoxious Mamay with gifts or favor." And only when the prince confirmed that he had taken all possible measures so as to conciliate this warlike and yet inexorable Khan did St. Sergius give his blessing.

Moreover, at Dmitry's request the abbot sent two monks - Alexander Peresvet and Andrey Oslyaba - both former boyars who were well-known for their military skills when they lived in the world - to assist Prince Dmitry. According to an account, Abbot Sergius ordered them to wear ordinary monastic cassocks with a cross in the place of amour and helmets. Prior to the battle itself, St. Sergius sent another monk, Nektary, along with other clergy for the purpose of spiritually strengthening the Prince and his army. [15]

These ties between the Church and army remain a constant factor in the Russian Church history and are not a peculiar feature restricted to the Russian Middle Ages. Even during the reforms of Peter the Great, when the traditional Russian way of life was almost completely destroyed and the Church was transformed into one of the newly established state ministries, this relationship was not changed in principal. After Peter's era, Russian history could boast of some splendid examples of prominent commanders who were zealous Christians. Such renowned Russian generals as Alexander Suvorov and Mikhail Kutuzov were noted for their piety as well as their military ability.

Even during the Soviet era, books devoted to A. Suvorov's military genius didn’t fail to emphasize such characteristics as his sincere patriotism and love for his Motherland while also emphasizing his particular attention to soldiers and care for every warrior. For reasons of Party doctrine, there was never any mention of the deep spiritual or moral foundation of the greatest Russian strategist. Suvorov's adherence to Orthodox values, however, was neither a secret nor something unaccountable for his contemporaries. Pre-revolutionary biographical works as well as contemporary memoirs give us an image of a sincere and faithful person who led a devout life of religious fervor, which Soviet officers were aware of. Suvorov's daily routine included morning and evening prayers, obligatory attendance of Sunday services and holy days without fail.[4] Suvorov's faith was not his ‘private matter’ only: the general was quite convinced of the necessity of worship for soldiers because he considered it a form of basic spiritual and moral training for his men.

It was for this reason the Divine services were performed before each battle as an integral part of Suvorov's heroic life. The liturgy and thanksgiving services were performed solemnly in particular upon successful military campaigns. Many cathedrals and churches were built under Suvorov's direction. Uncompromising to the enemies of the Fatherland, Suvorov was nevertheless noted for his special mercy towards any prostrate adversaries. In his soldier's catechism, Suvorov expressed his ideas quite definitely: "The defeated must be spared because they are people all the same; to kill them unjustly is a sin." In an order on May 16, 1778, the composition was very Christian in tone and content: "Captives should be treated with humanity, we should be ashamed of any barbarism." (author's emphasis added)

Suvorov's deep religious sense may be evidenced by the fact that upon his resignation, he made a decision to withdraw from society and retire to a monastery. In December 1798, Suvrov even wrote a letter to the emperor asking His Majesty's permission to take the monastic vow at the Nilova hermitage near Novgorod where he intended to dedicate the rest of his life to "the service of God." But instead of obtaining the Sovereign’s permission, Suvorov received the Tsar’s order to prepare for an impending Italian campaign. After having a service of thanksgiving performed at the village church, the general obediently made his way back to his army.

In 1800, several months before his death, Alexander Suvorov himself wrote a Canon to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which reflected his deep penitence and reflected poetic influence from the Great Canon of Repentance of St. Andrew of Crete, a significant liturgical component of the Lenten (that is to say penitential) services of the Orthodox Church. Perhaps the example of Suvorov is an exceptionally striking one, but it is not, however, a unique example of a Russian military leader whose sincere faith in no way hindered his service to his nation in a martial capacity.

To be sure, the personal religiosity of various Russian generals was neither the most important nor the only foundation of the spiritual and moral education of soldiers. The Church itself has always carried the main burden of infusing society with the salt savor of Christianity, but special emphasis was made on penetrating the military ranks with Orthodox culture and piety. Regimental clergy served, naturally, as the main carriers of this ecclesiastic mission. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the institution of the military priesthood presented a developed network within the full tradition of the Church. It is necessary to underline that the Church supported the army not only in an exclusively spiritual sense but also practically. During the World War I, more than 200 monasteries opened their own temporary hospitals in parallel with many individual parishes. In 1914, there were 157 such hospitals in operation within the Moscow Eparchy alone. Along with Russian servicemen, more than 5,000 clergymen ran the gauntlet of war, more than 30 were killed in action and 14 were decorated with the Cross of St. George "for distinction in the service of their country." [17]

It is, no doubt, quite tempting to project from these present examples an idealized picture of a Russian Army permeated with the high spirit of Christian morality defending the motherland from generation to generation. The ecclesiastic reforms introduced by Peter I, however, served to erode much of what had been built up over the centuries. All examples previously cited can’t compensate for the fact that the spirit of the "Christian Army" in Russia was systematically disassembled over the course of time – as it was from Russian society in general. It is very bitter to note that all talk of pre-revolutionary Russia as an ideal of the Orthodox state and about the Russian Army as an ideal of the Orthodox Army has no real basis. Nevertheless, military service under the Soviets was even further removed from this mold. A single fact explains that after the October revolution, many former Orthodox began to actively destroy Orthodox churches and to shoot clergymen. On the eve of the February Revolution, Russian soldiers were obliged to attend Sunday services and the Liturgy. Consequently, attendance was almost 100%. The Interim Government, however, abolished the obligatory Church attendance for soldiers and already by 1917 the figure for servicemen attending Church was reduced to a mere 10% or less.[18] In essence, that left us with less than 10% of the soldiers in the Russian Army who were conscientious Christians on the eve of such a horrible national tragedy as the October Revolution.


In the Soviet era, when relations between the Church and Army were not only impossible but absolutely inconceivable, the remnants of former traditions and pious customs were finally lost altogether. Today, our nation’s army and its leader’s, in the wake of state officials and leaders, often appeal to the Church as a spiritual and moral authority. There is a conscious effort to revive the former traditions. In connection with this, it is necessary to bear two key issues in mind: Firstly, the Church can and must take part in the matter of the moral education of Russian servicemen. Army commanders should not consider the clergy as some kind of modern political tool, or as instructors in political ideology for other ends. Military leadership applying for assistance from the Church needs to take into account the position of the Church very keenly, including coming to an understanding of the true goals of priests who serve in the armed forces. The Army, as the state and society in general, cannot view the Church as a government institution with the purpose of indoctrinating its subjects with state ideology. It is true that this process will not be carried out at once, and yet it is quite difficult to speak about such collaboration without an emphasis on this fundamental understanding. [19]

Secondly, it follows that serving clergy and military leaders must not forget that the pre-revolutionary model, from which any future relationship of between the Church and the Army is to be built, is fundamentally different from our current situation. Russia is neither an Orthodox state (the Russian Federation, according to the Constitution, is a secular state), nor is the Church a state institution. This in no way prevents a viable relationship between the Church and Army, but it does presuppose a completely different legal basis for such a relationship. The modern Russian Army, in both composition and personnel, is multi-national as well as multi-confessional, so the sphere of activity of any Orthodox clergy is limited to those servicemen who have a desire for such a component in their tour of duty. To this end, Army commanders should be responsible to neither put obstacles in their way nor to drive these soldiers together against their will to "to listen to this or that priest."

Attempts at cooperation between the Church and Army have already been made: in 1994 and 1997 the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Ministry of Defense concluded agreements on cooperation targeted towards forming and strengthening high morale. Such efforts have thus far produced tangible effects. One of the most interesting outcomes related to this has been the establishment of the Faculty of Orthodox Culture at the Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces in 1996. This Faculty is a non-governmental organization of continued education under the RF Ministry of Defense and ROC, respectively. Studies at the Faculty are voluntary and outside the required curriculum. This initiative has been met with approval and is being developed further: in Spring of 2000, a similar Faculty of Orthodox Culture was established at the Military Air-Defense University for Ground Forces in Smolensk.

The goal of these faculties is to assist the Army in the matter of modifying its induction system for young soldiers. Colonel K. Sergeev, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of the Orthodox Culture at the Military Academy of the Strategic Missile Forces comments on this: "The methods and forms of the moral and psychological training for soldiers presently in use have been goal-oriented, mostly for the enhancement of political consciousness. In this case the necessity of arousing hatred, the use of cruelty and severity against an enemy are imperative to the formation of a soldiers' consciousness. From a spiritual standpoint, such a psychological attitude will lead to the degradation of the human personality. For the Orthodox soldier, there is always the very important issue concerning the purpose for which he must kill. Is it for the sake of the Motherland or the sake of protecting people, a human life perhaps? Or is it for some other political goal, unknown to the soldiers or even to the unit commanders? At the present time, soldiers and officers, unfortunately, have no idea of their responsibility in a given situation when they may be required to cross the threshold of violent force. And although they frequently say – "a la guerre comme a la guerre", meaning that some brutality, violence and excesses are inevitable in a time of war, the soldier must clearly understand that he has a right to use his weapon, to use force and aggression against an enemy only, but not against ordinary citizens. This is, if you will, a certain code of honor, and in breaking it, a person suffers the psychological consequences, often in the form of nightmares, heavy drinking and drug-use; in short, this man will have serious problems. We all are very much aware of the "Afghanistan syndrome" or now even the "Chechen syndrome." [20]

To this I'd like to add a final conclusion: the greater responsibility always lies with the senior officers and, even more, with the politicians who dictate policy. With soldiers lies the responsibility of fulfilling their sworn oath of duty. Therefore, while we concern ourselves with the matter of the spiritual formation of our servicemen, at the same time we need to remind our political leaders of the moral nature of their activities so that soldiers will not be put into a moral dilemma: to disobey a commander's order or to violate a moral law.


[1] Archbishop Macarius. Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (Russian) St. Petersburg, 1868. V. 1, p 7. (author’s emphasis added)

[2] Presbyter Gregory Shavelsky on Orthodox ministry. Cit.: D. Predein Ivan Ilyn’s Orthodox Sword, Vstrecha, 1998 ?3 (9), p 22.

[3] In Russian the word for peace is mir (мир) and the word for humility is smireniye (смирение), which contains the same root: s-mir-eniye (с-мир-ение).

[4] A. Osipov. The Sword and Peace: the Orthodox Outlook, Vstrecha, 1998, № 3 (9), p 7.

[5] In fact, the Orthodox theology perceives such a state of world peace in an apocalyptic context, a precondition for Antichrist and not part of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth at some point in the future, a concept that is completely alien to Orthodox Theology.

[6] The followers of the non-violence ethic often appeal to the words of Christ: …whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matt 5:39). This idea can hardly considered a categorical imperative for Christians to be pacifists. Against this literal, tract like interpretation we have the Savior’s own behavior at the court proceeding where endures an insult from a soldier but does not turning the other cheek. Thus, here the matter concerns not advice for any specific situation but a general moral principle: go to meet your foe or offender, do not revenge yourself, but be able to forgive.

[7] In Church Slavonic не обижайте

[8] St. Athanasius the Great. Epistle to Monk Amoun // Tvorenniye. M.: Spaso-Probrazhenskovo Valaamskogo Monastery Publishers. 1994. ?.3. p 369.

[9] Cit. Alphabetic Syntagma of Matthew Vlastarya. M., 1996. p 427. (authors emphasis added)

[10]Ibid. p 426.

[11] Prayers from the litany in the Divine Liturgy.

[12] Archpriest Vassily Zenkovsky, regarding I. Ilyin's book Concerning Resisting Evil With Force I. Ilyin, Collected Works. M.: Russkaya Kniga, 1995. V. 5. p 436.

[13] D. Predein Ibid. p 23.

[14] The Lives of the Saints is an Orthodox anthology of biographies intended to inspire and edify the faithful.

[15] Archbishop Nikon (Pozhdestvensky). The Life of St. Sergius of Radonezh. St. Sergius-Trinity Lavra. 1997. pp 166-177.

[16] This material on Suvorov was obtained from the book I am Truly Yours… ?., 1998. It is of note that the author of this work on the Suvorov's life as a real Christian is M. Zhukova, daughter of the other great Russian commander-in-chief, Marshal G. Zhukov.

[17] O. Lebedev. For Your Friends. Clergy During World War I// NG-Religions. 26.06.97. p 3.

[18] D. Pospelovsky The Feat of Faith in the Atheistic State // Russians Abroad During the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia. ?.: Stolitsa. 1991. p 71.

[19] Here is but one observation which gives a very vivid testimony that there is as yet no deep mutual understanding between the Church and the Army: in many television broadcasts of funeral services for Federal servicemen who died in Chechnya, officers attending the service spoke openly of getting revenge. It is reasonable to concede the feelings of these officers who lost their men, but we cannot forget that revenge is a category that belongs outside the framework of the Christian ethic.

[20] An Army Without Faith Will Not Stand. Interview of Colonel K. Sergeev, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Orthodox Culture, Peter The Great Military Academy of the Strategic Missile Forces.// Vstrecha. № 3(9), 1998. p 14.

© Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) Russia, Moscow, 119334 Leninsky prospect 45, office 480 phone/fax: (+7-495) 775-0418. www.mdb.cast.ru