Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Patriarchate of Moscow: Christian Ethics and Secular Law

Part IV of the BASES OF THE SOCIAL CONCEPT OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH.

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 16, 2006

Reply to a Critic on Chilton's God's Law and Economics: Part 1 - The Law of Impartial Judgement

In response to my earlier posting of an excerpt from David Chilton's excellent book, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, a critic, one who is more amenable to government wealth-redistribution programmes than I am, had some comments on several passages.

Her first complaint was in regard to Chilton's use of the Law of Impartial Judgement (Leviticus 19:15).
CHILTON: This is not to suggest that the rich have no responsibility to help the poor. But it does mean that the poor have a responsibility not to steal from the rich. “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15)—which does not mean Karl Marx’s definition of a “fair” distribution of wealth, but rather according to the standard of God’s law. Any judgment of a man on the basis of his property (or his lack of it) is theft.
CRITIC: ANOTHER twisting of Scripture. This has nothing to do with theft of property. This has to do with not being partial in judging complaints either (out of sentimentality) to the poor or (out of snobbery and so forth) to the rich.

This is not, of course, a twisting of Scripture, as our critic would aver. She simply chooses to interpret the verse in the narrowest possible sense, so that it relates solely to preferential treatment given to individuals in any given case before the bench.

While such is certainly one valid application of this legislation, it is not the only one. Let's break the verse down into its constituent parts:

LEGAL PRINCIPLE: You shall do no injustice [unrighteousness, iniquity, perverseness, wickedness] in judgment [justice, verdict, sentencing] - you are to judge your neighbor fairly [in righteousness, justice, equity].

CASE LAW EXAMPLE: you shall not be partial to [lit. - lift] the poor nor defer to [lit. - swell up] the great

This verse is the basis for the principle of equal standing before the Law, and that of the responsibility for the civil magistrate to provide impartial justice - justice without respect to persons [lit. - accepting the face] - which is a strict analogue to Divine Justice (Deut 10:17; 2 Chr 19:7; Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; James 2:9).

This does not apply only to the rich and the poor - it applies across the board, whether rich or poor, black or white, Jew or Greek. It is the basic reason why coercive redistribution of wealth is fundamentally unjust; it is the basic reason that mandated affirmative action and quota-systems are fundamentally unjust. Such programmes are never a reflection of social justice in any Biblical sense; they are pure social engineering by a Messianic State that wishes to transform equality before the Law into equality of economic result. They are purely based in what the Scriptures call "respect of persons" - that is, they are a verdict based on purely external, conditional considerations, and they do not at all take justice, in the way God has defined it for us (as opposed to the way Humanist social engineers have defined it), into account.

Thus, that result of the unjust judgement that, since the poor man has less than the rich man, without any measure of fraud or compulsion on the rich man's part, the rich man must be coerced to relinquish his property to the poor man, whether directly through force or indirectly through taxation and redistribution, is that the civil magistrate, rather than rendering impartial justice, has committed theft in pursuit of a "justice" from below.

The immediate objection of those who share the same mind as our critic will be to invoke passages from the Holy Fathers that seem to contradict what I have here written. Our critic, in fact, did this in a prior post.

She writes:

http://www.byzantines.net/byzcathculture/wealth.html

Wealth will be good for its possessor if he does not spent it only on luxury, or on strong drink and harmful pleasures; if he enjoys luxury in moderation and distributes the rest to the poor, then wealth is a good thing.

St. John [Chrysostomos] acknowledged that wealth may be culpable not only because of the manner of its accumulation but also for its misuse.

Indeed Lazarus suffered no injustice from the rich man; for the rich man did not take Lazarus' money, but failed to share his own. If he is accused by the man he failed to pity because he did not share his own wealth, what pardon will the man receive who has stolen others' goods, when he is surrounded by those whom he has wronged? I shall bring you testimony from divine Scripture, saying that not only the theft of others' goods but also the failure to share one's own goods with others is theft and swindle and defraudation.

Thus St. John sees no moral distinction between wealth which the rich man obtained by theft, deceit and fraud or by inheritance, and wealth, howsoever acquired, which the rich man fails to share with the unfortunate.

... you have stolen the goods of the poor. [the] rich hold the goods of the poor even if they have inherited them from their fathers or no matter how they have gathered their wealth. Deprive not the poor of his living. To deprive is to take what belongs to another; for it is called deprivation when we take and keep what belongs to others. By this we are taught that when we do not show mercy, we shall be punished just like those who steal. For money is the Lord's, however we may have gathered it.

The lesson I gather from this, read in the light of Romans 13:1-7, and The Commandment "Thou shalt not steal" and the general consensus that it is a good thing for government to oppose the evil of theft and correct it when possible........Is that government assistance in moving resources from the haves to the have-nots, provided it does not simply reverse their positions, whether it be by taxation or by writing tax laws that encourage charity by not taxing money given in charity, is a valid and godly action of government, whether defined as federal, state, county, city or some hereditary tribal primitive thing whether the later's enforcement is physical force or such exclusion from the community that one might starve or be eaten by wild animals for non compliance.

Our critic has, in this case, made one of the most basic errors possible in regard to the system of Biblical Law: she has failed to note that not all sins are crimes, and then gone on to legitimise socialist economic policy - theft for the purpose of redistribution - on the basis that St. John (as well as other Fathers and significant portions of Scripture itself) makes it clear that it is morally theft for a Christian not to provide alms to the poor.

What we do not see here from St. John is a call for the Roman government to mount a campaign of graduated income taxes and state-run welfare programmes. No - rather, he exhorts wealthy Christians to realise that all they have has come from God, who has made them stewards with a responsibility to give alms, to pay a reasonable wage, to show mercy.

There are many forms of theft that do not constitute a crime. Taking an extra 5 or 10 minutes on a paid break; failing to work diligently; inflating expense records; these and many other things are forms of theft that are not necessarily criminal acts. The remain immoral, but there is no civil sanction against them.

It is worthy of note that, under the Mosaic Law there are no civil sanctions to be imposed by the magistrate for failing to provide for the poor. The sanctions God imposes are both providential (He may destroy your wealth, health, family, or even your life) and spiritual (e.g., Matt 25). Perhaps the most notable feature of the demands of the Law in regard to providing for the poor is their voluntarism.

There is a great difference between the civil magistrate seizing assets to give them away in a humanistic social engineering scheme, and legislating tax incentives for charitable giving. That great difference is coercion under threat of violence and/or loss of liberty. Those who advocate such a system fail to realise that it is no longer even charitable - it is simply forced. And advancing the cause of one special interest by robbing others is, indeed, unrighteous partiality based on respect of persons - a violation of the basic principles of Divine Justice.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: Sojourners and the "Red Letter Christians" Campaign

It takes a certain amount of courage to get up in a coffee-house or a college auditorium and come out in favor of the things that everybody else in the audience is against, like peace and justice and brotherhood and so on. ~ Tom Lehrer

As part of their attempt to make Christian politics, specifically Evangelical politics, more Left-friendly, Jim Wallis and his Sojourners organisation, along with a few of his friends, have rolled out a new campaign called "Red Letter Christians".

One of them, Liberation Theologian Tony Campolo, former spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton, recently wrote an article about this campaign on Beliefnet:

What's a 'Red-Letter Christian'?

Recently, I met with a group of religious leaders who have become increasingly disturbed by the alliance between evangelical Christians and the Republican Party. Karl Rove, President Bush’s political strategist, has brilliantly and successfully served as the matchmaker to arrange this union, which was consummated in the last presidential election when 83 percent of evangelicals voted Republican.

So here we have the rationale for the campaign. In spite of Sojourners' three decades of Leftist agitation under the banner of Evangelicalism, still an overwhelming number of Christians that describe themselves as Evangelicals vote for Republicans instead of Democrats. And with the typically hazy memory of the Left, Campolo ascribes this phenomenon to a recent alliance rather then look at the real trend - Evangelical politics and the Republicans have maintained this alliance at least since the days preceding the pivotal 1980 election, when the Presidency was wrested, in one of the largest landslides in history, from the hands of Evangelical Leftist Jimmy Carter and put into the capable hands of conservative Ronald Reagan.

Not to be bothered by the facts of history, however, Campolo's purpose is better served by making the Evangelical - Republican alliance appear to be a recent development, the product of a nefarious plot hatched by Karl Rove.

The meeting was joined by the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine; Father Richard Rohr, a well-known Catholic writer and speaker; Brian McLaren, a leader of the emergent church movement; the Rev. Dr. Cheryl J. Sanders, a prominent African-American pastor; the Rev. Noel Castellanos, a strong voice in the Hispanic community; and several other outstanding Christian communicators.

The purpose of this gathering was not to create a religious left movement to challenge the religious right, but to jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics. Believing that Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, we want to unite Christians who are concerned about what is happening in America. We are evangelicals who are troubled by what is happening to poor people in America; who are disturbed over environmental policies that are contributing to global warming; who are dismayed over the increasing arrogance of power shown in our country’s militarism; who are outraged because government funding is being reduced for schools where students, often from impoverished and dysfunctional homes, are testing poorly; who are upset with the fact that of the 22 industrialized nations America is next to last in the proportion of its national budget (less than two-tenths of 1 percent) that is designated to help the poor of third-world countries; and who are broken-hearted over discrimination against women, people of color, and those who suffer because of their sexual orientation.

This is the important paragraph, the great moment of deception upon which the article, yea, even the whole campaign hinges. Campolo states that the "Red Letter Christians" are not out to "create a religious left," but rather to "jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics." But this is sheer sleight-of-hand rhetoric. The agenda of this movement that "transcends partisan politics" is a laundry-list of Leftist causes that seems lifted directly from the Democratic Party Platform. Or even the Communist Party Platform. In other words, what will transcend partisan politics is the adoption by those who have traditionally been part of the Christian Right of the Left-Liberationist agenda of Sojourners. The aim of the "Red Letter Christians" is to convert unlearned and immature Christians to the politics of the Left.

This has been the strategy of Sojourners for the duration of its existence. As Gary North comments, "Wallis is editor of Sojourners, a magazine of considerable prominence in liberal political circles. Don't get me wrong. Political liberals do not actually read Sojourners, but they know it is out there, softening up the hearts and minds of an ecclesiastically isolated and politically marginal group of evangelicals. To do what? To vote for the next Democratic candidate for President."

Because being evangelical is usually synonymous with being Republican in the popular mind, and calling ourselves “progressive” might be taken as a value judgment by those who do share our views, we decided not to call ourselves “progressive evangelicals.” We came up with a new name: Red-Letter Christians.

Translation: "Calling ourselves what we actually are would be counterproductive to our purpose - it would reveal that we are not in any major respect different from the theologically liberal crowd at the National Council of Churches (though we pay lip service to a historical Resurrection and the inspiration of the Scriptures); therefore we must deceive our audience by finding a catchy label that will resonate with their fundamental religious committments - after all, who can be opposed to the words of Jesus?"

Campolo goes on, saying:

Who first suggested the label? A secular Jewish Country-and-Western disc jockey in Nashville, Tennessee. During a radio interview he was conducting with Jim Wallis, he happened to say, “So, you’re one of those Red-Letter Christians - you know - who’s really into those verses in the New Testament that are in red letters!”

Jim answered, “That’s right!” And with that answer, he spoke for all of us. By calling ourselves Red-Letter Christians, we are alluding to the fact that in several versions of the New Testament, the words of Jesus are printed in red. In adopting this name, we are saying that we are committed to living out the things that He said. Of course, the message in those red-lettered verses is radical, to say the least. If you don’t believe me, read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

In those red letters, He calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate contemporary American consciousness. He calls us to be merciful, which has strong implications for how we think about capital punishment. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he probably means we shouldn’t kill them. Most important, if we take Jesus seriously, we will realize that meeting the needs of the poor is a primary responsibility for His followers.

Figuring out just how to relate those radical red letters in the Bible to the complex issues in the modern world will be difficult, but that’s what we’ll try to do.

Gandhi once said that everybody in the world knows what Jesus was teaching in those verses - except Christians! We will try to prove him wrong.

The difficulty is that the "Red Letter Christians" are actually quite selective in the matter of which red-lettered verses they are interested in reading and applying. And not only that, but they suffer from the problem inherent in using red letters to separate the words of Jesus from the rest of the Scriptures - it is all the Word; it is all inspired. The Incarnate Word that gave the Sermon on the Mount is the same Logos of God that gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Indeed, the "Red Letter Christians" are only interested in verses that they can turn into proof-texts for their Leftist social agenda. And divorced from the larger context of Scriptural teaching, they can use the Sermon on the Mount to support their Social Gospel programme - what Gary North has aptly called "a theological defense of the welfare state." North continues:

The welfare state relies on a system of compulsory taxation that is backed up by the threat of government violence against taxpaying residents within its jurisdiction.

The welfare state threatens residents and citizens with the following penalties for resisting the tax collector: (1) the confiscation of their assets, (2) fines, and (3) imprisonment. The welfare state's law-enforcement agents are armed and are empowered by law to shoot anyone who physically resists the tax collector.

The welfare state exists only because voters have authorized the confiscation of private property through violence by the state. In the name of helping the poor, middle-class voters extract most of the loot: tax-funded education, Social Security, and Medicare. The welfare state is therefore the implementation of covetousness by politics.

The Social Gospel defends this system of compulsory wealth-redistribution in the name of Jesus. It teaches that Jesus implicitly favored economic aid to the poor in the form of government policies that can be enforced only by the threat of systematic violence.

No New Testament account of Jesus offers evidence that He recommended such a view of Christian civil government. This inconvenient fact is regarded as a slight impediment by Social Gospelers, but nothing too serious. They insist that this is what Jesus really meant to say, even though He never actually said it, and despite the fact that the Old Testament adamantly denies such a view of civil justice. God through Moses warned:

Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. (Leviticus 19:15)

When you hear the words Social Gospel, immediately think "Pastors' justification of armed government agents acting on behalf of certain special-interest voting blocs to take wealth away from other groups of citizens in order to benefit these special interests." This is exactly what the Social Gospel has always been. The central moral, judicial, and political issue of the Social Gospel is compulsion.

[This whole article is located here.]

I would add that the Social Gospel is not solely restricted to the advocacy of socialist economic policy - it now has grown to include other elements, particularly adoption of a stance that either downplays the importance of, tolerates or approves (in the full sense of the word (suneudokousi) as used in Romans 1:32) such things as abortion and "gay rights". To be fair, it must be said that the Evangelical Left claims to be pro-life - they just find welfare-state issues and pacifism to be more important. Most of them personally view sodomy as a sin, but do not think it is bad enough that the law should preclude allowing homosexual civil-unions.

The Scriptural phrase, "rightly dividing the word of truth", actually signifies giving the proper interpretation. The Religious Left, with their hermeneutic subordinated to their socialist political views, do not do this. But the "Red Letter Christians" take it a step further - not only do they fail to properly interpret the Scriptures, they actually divide them, setting some of our Lord's teaching apart from the rest in order to justify their socialistic humanist ethos.

We should, thus, be ever watchful, since, as our Lord told us, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves, (Matt. 7:15 - a red letter verse)" and as His Apostle saith, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)"

The "Red Letter Christians" come to us preaching another gospel, one of salvation through taxpayer-funded subsidies and concord with the humanistic spirit of the age.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Musings on the so-called American Empire

What American Empire?

The idea is frequently bandied about across the spectrum of world geopolitics, both here and abroad, from the Hate-America Right to the Marxist-dominated UN and the Third World nations, that the US is engaged in "empire building" via military conquest (as in Iraq) or by the establishment of a fuzzily defined "economic hegemony", wherein the rest of the world becomes subject to oppressive American capitalists, and often, their alleged "real" masters in Tel Aviv.

For instance, let us hear from Bishop Tikhon of the OCA Diocese of the West:

After all, isn't the Emperor acting according to age-old common sense? "An ounce of preemption is worth a pound of cure?" If we would wish to emulate on a personal scale the Imperial pre-emptive Ethic, we should insure that our teen-age offspring have all their teeth extracted and new ones installed, that all the second-class citizen males [he means Arab-Americans--EHB] have their prostates removed at age 14, and the second-class citizen females have their breasts and ovaries excised at the same age, thus lifting quite a burden from the Medical Trust. Lobotomies are presently being considered as additions to the preemptive health protocols. It's also time, as long as we are bringing things up to date, to forget the word "sovereign" as in "sovereign state" and face the facts: there are none. There is the Empire's capital country, America, and there are the subject countries. The Imperial Ministers of War and Torture are completely in agreement on that one. Too bad that Messieurs Wolfowitz and Perle are not publishing so much these days: they had developed such a transparent idiom for discussing imperial affairs, especially imperial aims. I'm surprised that anyone from Berkeley, with its great university, still refers to "annexation"!! Really, it doesn't happen anymore at all. It's an impossibility. We shouldn't let Cuba think that when they are admitted to the Empire, finally, that this is an annexation. It's a REUNION! [Read the whole post here.]

In August 2006, an ecumenical statement was issued by some of the hierarchs in Jerusalem, led by the Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah: The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism. One of the statements in this manifesto was that "The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism."

Of course, terms must be defined. "Christian Zionism" really means any support given to Israel as opposed to the Islamic militants that seek to destroy her. In the case of America, the commonly-held belief among certain elements is that national government is controlled behind the scenes by Jews in Tel Aviv and Hollywood; that the overriding force in US politics is really AIPAC.

Leaving aside, however, the idiotic preoccupation about sinister Jewish conspiracies, I found the very idea of an American Empire to be, well, simply ludicrous.

My reaction to this document, speaking as someone who is actually sympathetic to the idea of Imperialism (after all, much of our Orthodox Christian history is thoroughly intertwined with the great Orthodox Empires, the last of which fell only in 1917), is to say that the statement that "the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism" is hyperbolic nonsense, and is just a new rendering of the oft-repeated and groundless conspiracy theory that the US is trying to establish a colonial imperium with hegemony over all the world, a notion that is laughable; if the US has this as her goal, her movements and progress toward it are so haphazard, half-hearted, and half-arsed that it would be ridiculous to take her seriously, going around trying to promote the Wilsonian vision of "spreading democracy and self-determination" in the very naive belief that universal suffrage is the panacea for all the world's ills.

The history of US military operations over the past 108 years can hardly be called one of "empire-building". Examples abound. We took Cuba and the Phillipines from Spain in 1898. Then we set them free. In World War I we joined the Allied Powers in an action that was to smash the the four remaining empires in the West, and give self-determination to the peoples of Europe and the Middle East. In World War II, we again joined the Allied Powers to stop the resurgence of the German and Japanese Empires, and to once again reinforce the self-determination doctrine. But when we won, what happened? Germany, Japan, and the other Axis nations were not annexed and permanently occupied, but rather reconstructed and freed to become the giants they are today. During the Cold War, we opposed the imperial ambitions of the Soviet-led Communist International by a policy of containment and in a series of proxy wars, notably in Korea and Vietnam, and more subtly in Chile, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan. In the end, the Soviet power fell, and the US, rather than making a group of puppet-states out of the former Soviet Republics and satellites, supported and aided them to become functional countries in their own right.

This does not, of course, mean that we have not had our own policy failures and inequities in regard to other nations. Certainly our propping up of certain elements in Latin America (particularly in Chile and El Salvador) was morally ambiguous. And our treatment of Orthodox Serbia has been downright criminal.

Since the end of the Cold War the USA has been the sole remaining "superpower" in the world. As such, it was inevitable that we would be accused of imperial aims whenever we intervened in the affairs of other nations. But nothing we have done militarily can honestly be called empire-building. The examples of Afghanistan and Iraq, in the current struggle, show this clearly. We have annexed neither. We turned Afghanistan over to the Afghans. We turned Iraq over to the Iraqis. And in the latter case, we see the new Prime Minister setting up an alliance with the rogue Jihadist republic of Iran - and we have not scrapped the new system to install a new "puppet".

Again, if this is intended to be the creation of an empire, it is one of the most poorly conceived and executed attempts in the history of imperialism.

The other common accusation, once the silly notion of American-Empire-by-Conquest is shown to be a falsehood, is more subtle - economic hegemony.

Let us consider the words of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All-Greece, from a speech he delivered to the Fifth Athens Summit in September 1999:

In the first place, I am asking myself whether the term globalization is correct. Is it, indeed, about globalization? We do not really have a new world order where each nation contributes its cultural, technological and financial property, so that a new, supranational, global community might be formed. Instead, we have the exportation of a model, which belongs to one country only and the imposition of that model on other countries. Hence, whoever does not wish to play with words and the reality these words signify would speak of world Americanization rather than globalization - even if it does not a priori oppose to Americanization.

Another Orthodox commentator [1] on this speech had this to say:

This is a gross generalization that anyone who travels a bit, particularly to emerging nations, would notice. Places like China and India "roll their own" mix of popular culture (you should see Chinese television -- this is quite obvious). But, an observation on the term "Americanization" seems to be in order:

There are certain American economic and cultural aspects that indeed predominate. In a lot of cases, this is not because America "pushed" them -- it was more like a dominant gene. English is the international language of commerce because of a desire on the part of the world to barter with the world's largest economy, not due to some sort of insidious hegemonic plot.

When it comes to culture, the question changes. WHY do American cultural elements dominate, while others do not?

Critics of this cultural proliferation tend to gloss over this question, because the answers to it aren't particularly comfortable for them, because the real question they want to ask is "why do American popular and economic elements predominate, INSTEAD OF THE ONES I THINK SHOULD PREDOMINATE???"

It's an interesting question. It's also probably a significant reason why the Muslims are at our throats. (The only Western culture that seems to have the gumption to raise this issue bluntly is the French.)

Archbishop Christodoulos continues:

David Rothkopf, the managing director of Kissinger Associates, participated in a debate proportionate to ours which had been organized by "Foreign Policy", a magazine of indisputable authority, published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. There David Rothkopf emphatically declared that globalization is nothing but "the dominion of the American model" which as a phenomenon is not something new, but the old and notorious model of colonialization. He straightforwardly pointed out that "it is in the general interest of the United States" that "exclusionary aspects of religion, language, and political/ideological beliefs" to be abolished. Moreover, he emphasized, that in fact "it is the economic and political interests of the United States to ensure that if the world is moving toward a common language, it be English; that if the world is moving toward common communications, safety and quality standards, they be American; that if the world is becoming linked by television, radio, and music, the programming be American; and if common values are being developed, they be values with which Americans are comfortable.”

That's exactly why the director of Kissinger Associates evaded the use of the term 'globalization' and chose instead the term 'cultural imperialism'.

In that very debate the well known to all of us Jacques Attali took part, and worried warned us that the so called globalization is leading to the dissolution of national identities and states, and their substitution for "aggressive non-state entities (large companies or illegal entities such as the Mafia, drug cartels, and nuclear traffickers)", who are going to impose values that are to be to their advantage. Ending up, Attali made an appeal to all of us, "The survival of ours is in our hands".

I must say that our subject has been continually troubling me for years. But the two texts above have caught my attention in particular. The one because raises the point plainly and without obscurities: in fact, beyond whatever economic or technical ambitious analyses, we are talking about an American imperialism. The other, being written by a person whose mind has been directed toward the future, and a policy maker of the European Union, gives us fair warning of something that the USA's political leadership doesn't seem to realize: it's true globalization may do away with national identities, languages and traditions but not in order to give the reins of the world to the naive (is it so?) political leaders in Washington but in order to hand them down to the invisible god-fathers of the international crime, to those powerful ones who accumulate riches through the biological and moral extermination of Man.

Who indeed, among us, cannot possibly understand in whose hands is the absolute control of media going to be? Is it likely to be in the hands of two-three American businessmen? Such a hypothesis would be incredibly romantic. Who is going to have control over political life? Is it going to be in the hands of a dozen patrons of political parties? Such a question would come near to ridicule. Who are then those that are going to control our cultural life? I'd better not venture an answer.

Our commentator notes at this juncture:

Perhaps the people will control it.

One of the reasons why American popular/economic culture predominates is that it is inherently egalitarian. This is not a comfortable concept for traditional cultures, and cultures that traditionally are comfortable with a certain level of elitism.

Returning to Archbishop Christodoulos:

However, I should show the reverse of the coin. Under these conditions, whoever resists the dissolution of national identities, and languages, he does not simply resist American imperialism but the suzerainty of international crime.

It's typical that the most powerful argument on behalf of globalization is that it's about an inescapable situation; however, there are many catastrophes which are inescapable, but this does not mean we are obliged to applaud them; on the contrary, we are obliged to find out ways, which can secure the survival of Man and civilization.

Our commentator observes:

This is quite true in all regards. Globalism is not being forced, it has been enabled by technology, just as during a prior era, business and jobs were enabled to move from the unionized northeast to the low-wage South by the Interstate Highway System.

The energy of those suspicious of globalism, therefore, ought to be directed towards structures that maintain cultural integrity despite these sorts of global changes.

The Archbishop then says:

Another argument is that globalization would facilitate the economic development, and the domination of free market. This argument the director of Kissinger Associates likens to "the primary carrot leading other nations" to accept globalization.

However, the European civilization has been the product of a parallel action of two elements: of free economy and social solidarity. And we all Europeans paid very dearly whenever we hazarded to abolish that parallel action.

But we should again see the reverse of the coin. Is globalization about to raise the poor Thailand worker, who is working for a piece of dry bread, to the level of the European worker, or is it rather about to cause the European worker to come down to Thailand's level?

Our commentator responds:

It will do both. However, since economic systems are not closed, (IOW, they do not simply redistribute a fixed amount of capital) it is completely possible (if not probable) that the Eastern gains will be significant while the Western losses will be marginal, if any at all.

Archbishop Christodoulos:

In conclusion, I would like to go back to Attali's appeal. Can we indeed prevent the plunging of our civilization into the abyss of a mighty globalization without having seen the element in our civilization which has given birth to that menace of an abyss? In the ecclesiastical language we would say: Can we save ourselves, if do we not repent? And do not ask me what we should repent of. I hope that all of us have, at certain times, asked ourselves where does a civilization go to, when it pronounces economic development to be an end in itself; when it gives the economic development the right to be the altar of Moloch.

Commentator:

I take it back -- he DID ask the uncomfortable question, that being "Why is the capital consumerist model (let's put the Moloch hyperbole aside) so much more appealing than what we prefer?" It's the same quesiton Islam asks, and they solve the problem through coercion of the populace (I'd suggest another path, perhaps good old-fashioned evangelism.....)

Archbishop Christodoulos:

Moreover, we must all of us have questioned ourselves how an economy can be called a developing one if it fails to include in its cost the devastation of the earth and of man; that is, of environment and civilization.

Commentator:

Because it lifts standards of living. If you live in India for awhile, you get hit in the face with reality -- that when millions get up every morning unsure when (or if) they will eat that day, they find it difficult to be concerned about how they dispose of their human waste -- and when goverments depend on preventing such human disaster, neither are THEY overly concerned about issues of "environment and civilization."

I cannot but agree with our commentator, and expand, to some extent, on his observations.

The Archbishop has fallen prey to the trendy anti-Americanism that infects so many in the world today, a knee-jerk reaction that sees nothing but evil in everything American, especially when it comes to commerce. The truth is that American culture and its exports are a mixed bag - it has both its savory and unsavory aspects. But the US cannot be reasonably blamed for the fact that the world's other societies want to wear Levi's and eat at McDonald's. The point our commentator made about the fact that technology, rather than any hegemonic plot, has fueled the spread of American cultural ideas and ideals (both good and bad) throughout the world cannot be stressed enough. Any dispassionate observer will recognise, however, that these things have not taken over other cultures; rather, they have affected the outlook of other cultures. At the same time, this dispassionate observer will notice that American culture itself is not unaffected by its exposure to the rest of the world. It was not so very long ago that I couldn't buy Feta or Tahini on the shelves of the local grocery, much less frozen microwaveable Aloo Chole. Or watch a cricket game on the television. Globalisation is, at the very least, a two-way street. Just ask the American workers and Old-Right Conservatives who complain that the free-trade agreements have caused the loss of American jobs to other countries (as well as having to page through any number of Soccer games and Latino soap operas on cable and satellite channels).

Mixed into this is his rightful condemnation of excessive consumerism, something that does, of course, plague American society - a culture which, once firmly anchored in a form of Christianity, has become a bastion of materialism in every sense of the word, while still writing its cheques out of the treasury of material blessing that came in days past from a solid measure of obedience to the Law of God, despite our failings - sometimes great. While Archbishop Christodoulos' remarks about "the suzerainty of international crime" are hyperbolic at best, it cannot be denied that powerful forces are at work in the world that are solely concerned with the amassing of wealth regardless of the effects of such activities. He fails to notice, however, that many of the most successful businessmen in the world, ones who are not immune to this problem, are Greeks and Greek-Americans. Or maybe he does notice, and that is part of why he is so seriously focused on this subject. If the latter case is true, what he fails to realise is that this kind of materialism is not so much a problem of "Americanization" as of the heart of man, which is so very inclined to neglect the Law of God and seek its own sinful self-satisfaction.

There is also the issue of the preservation of national cultures, which he sees being homogenised into a "world culture", American in character. I would argue strenuously that this is not because of the US imposing its ideas and ideals on other cultures, but rather the result, made possible and accellerated by technological development, of the dynamic of cultural interaction, on a global scale, that drove the formation of American culture in the first place - changing it from a relatively homogeneous British colonial zone into a "melting pot", along with all the tension between assimilation and preservation of constituent culture that has been characteristic of immigrant populations here. In other words, if the world is undergoing "Americanization" it is not because the US is imposing it; it can really only be called by that name because America, as the first major experiment in egalitarian cultural blending, underwent it first, and the levelling force of technological development is inevitably spreading it globally.

Certainly, the English language, being that of the world's largest economy, as our commentator pointed out, has, indeed, become the language of international commerce. I can remember, however, from only a few years ago, the fear that it would be supplanted by Japanese. And a great failing of Americans is that we, in a majority of cases, do not take the time or effort to learn other languages. On the other side of the coin, however, is the fact, for better or worse, that no necessity drives Americans to learn Greek. If Greece were the world's largest economy, the situation would be reversed, and perhaps some Archbishop of Boston would be complaining that globalisation = Hellenisation.

This leads to the next point, about maintaining cultural integrity to a reasonable degree in the face of a changing world. It is nothing new. The attitude that culture is a static thing that must be preserved in some pristine form is a fairy-tale that marks an ignorance of the cultural change that has always occurred due to the interaction of different societies. Greece today is not the same as Greece in 1821. Or in 1453, 325, or the reign of Alexander the Great. All cultures evolve over time due to varying and often subtle influences. The better reaction to cultural change is to ask the question, "What can we concretely do to maintain and support those aspects of our culture that are good and abiding in the face of the social flux in the world around us?" Or to put it into the lingo of the US Marines, "What do we do to improvise, adapt, and overcome?"

Perhaps also, as the Archbishop thinks, world economic growth will not raise the standard of living of the Thai worker to the level of the European. This may be so for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the attitude toward work and economic development of the Thai people and government, and the amount of relative economic progress they have made since independence. However, the main characteristic of global free-markets is that a rising tide lifts all boats. Perhaps in 50 years Thailand will be an economic powerhouse on the level that Germany is today. Comparisons of the sort that the Archbishop makes between developing and developed nations are really not very useful. If Thais undergo a significant increase in standard of living, while the Europeans, due to increasing taxation and regulation or other factors undergo a decrease, it is still a good thing for the Thais. If the Europeans, on the other hand, experience slight gains due to not adopting misguided economic policies, it is good for the Europeans. And if the Europeans and Thais are trading partners in a free market, both of them experiencing different levels of growth, neither is hurt by the fact. The thing that hurts all men, regardless of nationality, is the disobedience to God's Law inherent in the adoption of a materialistic mindset that sets self-aggrandisement above all else, and results in envy, class-warfare, and the politics of oppression generated thereby.

Archbishop Christodoulos does, in the end, hit on the right answer: repentance. Only in repentance and obedience to the Law of the Gospel and to the Great Commission, the cultural mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we go into all the world making disciples of all nations - that is, teaching them obedience to Christ and bringing to them the person- and culture-transforming power of His Gospel - baptising them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, can we secure, by His Grace, the eventual triumph of Christian culture and civilisation, for, as He said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." We have neglected this task for far too long.

NOTES:

[1] Mike Craney, in the orthpol forum, Message # 5996, comments used by permission of the author.

Monday, October 2, 2006

A Fifth Anniversary

DR. H. GUY BENSUSAN
b. 19 June 1932
d. 2 October 2001
 
VJEČNAJA PAMJAT!

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.

PAST AND REPAST

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.