Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Neoconservatism is Satanism


An initial foray into this area of concern:

Neoconservatism is a blight upon the religious mind. Every fundamental tenet of neoconservatism is contrary to the Holy Gospel.

When justifying one’s advocacy of political policies: it is popular to quote Holy Scripture and the fathers selectively, and to pick and choose bits of our history while neglecting the whole. But when one reads the ascetics, the desert fathers, the great monastics that pursue union with God, the meaning of all Christian thought, the ruses all fall away.

It is easy to find justification for anger, for instance, for “righteous wrath”, until we read St. John Cassian, who says there is no such thing as righteous anger.

Neoconservatism is a form of political gnosticism, and its adherents are like freemasons and practitioners of the occult in our midst. They hold out, as it were, a body of heretical private devotion, an inner religion of entirely profane character, indeed a passion for the world and its loves and hates, such that these things are household idols tucked in the saddle bags of the Faithful.

There is no meeting of Christ and Belial. These things are gods of Egypt, are golden calves, are the Molech to which we feed Christ in the form of the oppressed and slaughtered peoples of the world.

Neoconservatism is the tool of Satan for the coopting of Christian charity. As we set out upon the Great Fast, let us fast also from every passion, and from all things which alienate us from Christ and the union of all men, for which likewise we pray in every litany.

“Repent.” We must heed this injunction of Christ’s carefully, and radically amend our inner life and our concept of the world and our attitude towards people and every phenomenon in the creature world — not slay our enemies, but win them over with love.

We must remember that there is no absolute evil. Only unorignate Goodness is Absolute. And this Goodness commanded us, “Love your enemies…do good to them that hate you…Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”. Being slain for the sake of one’s brethren is the best possible weapon for delivering them from servitude to the traducer, the devil, and preparing their souls to accept God, Who desires the salvation of all. There is one in whom there is no light whatever, because God “lighteth every man that cometh into the world”. The commandment “Resist not evil” is the most fully effective form of struggle against evil.

When we resort to the same means adopted by those who do wrong, the dynamics of world-evil increase. Slaughter of the innocent in an invisible fashion often transfers the moral powers of mankind to the side of the good for which the innocent died.

It is not so when both sides evince the same bad tendency to dominate. Victory obtained by physical strength does not last forever. God being light, holy, and pure, with draws from evildoers, and they fall away from the one and only source of life and die. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”…”Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

– Archimandrite Sophrony

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March 10, 2008 - Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , ,

32 Comments »

  1. I found a quote attributed to St Basil and googled it, one link was here.

    In the already 31 comments I think, but it is good to know that this quote is not “canon 13 of St Basil” in any sense I can recognise as canonically binding on laymen even back then.

    http://hglundahlsblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/where-did-saint-basil-great-say-or.html

    Comment by Hans-Georg Lundahl | June 8, 2011 | Reply

  2. Well, it seems we are bound to disagree, and we’ve stretched these questions about as far as they can bear. I could cite more disagreements with you, and critique, but I really think there’s no point.

    Comment by tuD | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  3. Incidentally, Marriage was elevated to “Sacrament” Status by the Roman Catholic Church in the 13th century. I could be wrong, but I don’t know that you could make an argument from the Fathers for viewing marriage as a Sacrament along the same order as the Eucharist, etc.

    It certainly is something the Church blesses. But, our interpretation of it as a “Sacrament” may be due to other causes. I could be wrong, though. I haven’t done much study into the Church’s view of the matter.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  4. Orthodox Christians should certainly lay down their arms in the case of plainly immoral wars. It is better to obey God than men. No Orthodox Christian should serve the State when it opposes God. Render to God what is God’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Yet, that means that we still render Caesar his due – including paying taxes that went to fund an unjust, pagan military in an agressive war of expansion.

    One should also remember that often opinion differs sharply on whether a war is evil or not, and *some* freedom should be allowed for human error/following one’s conscience in evaluating the morality of a war.

    One does choose a State. One does not get to “pick” the State that one is born into, but one does get to choose whether or not he serves the State. A monk has made the decision to try and realize as fully as possible the sentiment in Hebrews: we are pilgrims in a strange land, seeking a heavenly homeland. We have no state.

    No State on earth should be the Christian’s homeland – not even, technically, an Orthodox one.

    You are correct to draw distinctions between marriage and war. That is why one only has to avoid the chalice for a few hours after intercourse within marriage, but must avoid the chalice for much longer periods if he takes a life in battle or civic duty. My point was that the theological concepts underlying both matters are identical.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  5. * One does not choose a state the way one chooses marriage – it is thrust on a person – what does one do in the case of blatantly unjust and genocidal states – Romania under Caeucescu, Nazi Germany, Hutu Rwanda and Somalia, Stalinist Russia, the imperial US? Far from defending such states, maybe collaboration with their enemies is properly Christian; when confronted with evil on high among the principalities and powers, Christians are called to struggle.
    * What about nations in which the regime and form of regime are in flux? A nation dominated by warlords and ever-changing rival militias, or again the US? The latter is a great lie, of course – monolithic and imperial in reality, but on paper always in flux and shifting control; this is because the democratic process is a masturbatory game, whereas genuine long term foreign policy, for instance, requires a structure that is less tenuous than a mere 4-year term open electoral process. You can’t get anything done that way. Democracy is the illusion; the state’s survival depends on something beyond that. And in such a state, which is the governing moral condition for the Christian – the illusion of voluntary self-government, or the reality of genocidal empire with policies that have been in place since the 1940s and available for those who care on government and NGO sites on the web for the last 16 years?
    * I would argue things are not as cut and dried as you seem to make them, and that in fact, we are dealing with extraordinary circumstances even if you allow that the evil, genocidal empire dominated by satanic madmen has been normal since the Fall of Adam, and something Christians have always had to deal with. Among such times, this is a unique time.
    * I ask plainly: do you say it is immoral for an Orthodox Christian to lay down arms in service to an immoral war, an immoral state, am immoral order, or do you claim that Orthodoxy deprives us of that moral autonomy? You claim that we do no ill to serve the state, but there’s no such thing as a state in general, only states in particular times and places that are doing particular things. There’s no general rule or blanket case supporting unbridled service to the state is there? After all, the very logical rule you would use to say that service is not always unjust would indicate it likewise is not always just.
    * I think you are overburdening the analogy between war and marriage, by your comparisons based on it being voluntary, etc. Marriage does not harm someone in the way that killing them does. Marriage does not deprive a man of salvation the way killing him does, for instance. By this logic, those who slay martyrs in the service of the state have committed no sin, no? And in fact, martyrs should just impale themselves, since they too owe service to the state. It’s just like marriage, right? I think the elephant in the room is the stark contrast between the act of killing and the act of physical union. One, incidentally, is a Holy Mystery; there is no Mystery of killing someone. The difference is objective.

    Comment by tuD | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  6. “Personally, I am against the current ‘American’ litanies praying for the President in the way that Christian emperors have been prayed for.”

    If we prayed that God would crown him with victory as our Orthodox monarch, sure. All we do (at least, in my jurisdiction), is say: “For our President and our Armed Forces, let us pray to the Lord.” That prayer is a cover-all. If they are in error, it is a prayer that He enlighten them. If they are not, it is a prayer that He would prosper them.

    “I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

    Yeah, that’s an appeal to authority. It’s cut and dry enough. There is no sentiment in Orthodoxy that we should not pray for non-Christian states or non-christian rulers. We are discouraged from praying for those Christians who are “sinning unto death.” Some, especially in the West, adopted the attitude that “Virtutes Paganorum splendida vitia.” I.e., the virtues of non-christians are merely vices in a nice suit, since without the proper context of virtue in the service of the true God, they can hardly be called virtue, properly. There has been controversy over this attitude, and I don’t think it will be resolved anytime soon. In the context in which St. Augustine originally employed the term, it was certainly true. In the sense many take it (that a “pagan” can never please God), I’m not so sure. And, even if I came to believe that a non-Christian State or Military can never really be serving God or pleasing Him, I certainly will never believe that we cannot pray for them.

    I substantially agree with much of what you say. I have tried to state the point tactfully, but I will simply come out and state it now: you are absolutely right that the whole worldly system is shot through with sin. That is why Christians are called to pursue the ideals of chastity, continence, nipsis/contemplation and pacifism. We are supposed to be so free of ties to the earthly world, in expectation of the Parousia and in reverence of the Parousia already present within us, that we come out from such things.

    However, the Church has long understood that not all Christians are going to live up to this call, as you say. Thus, many things short of the ideal, nevertheless receive a blessing from the Church to be done, yet not without some sorrow that those participating are not shuffling themselves free of their earthly bonds.

    We are forbidden to say that one sins merely by participating in them.

    But, you are right that they are inevitably shot through with the fall and the whole system of human failing, and that one cannot participate in them without some smaller or greater participation in sinfulness. The Fathers say this even of the pleasures of the marital bed – that the desire and the overthrowing of the intellect’s sovereignty at that climactic moment – are inevitably shot through with the fall and human failing.

    Nevertheless, “the marriage bed is undefiled.” And, despite being undefiled in a sense, those who have enjoyed its pleasures stay away from communion – because it does bring them into contact with a system of the fall (the Fathers are very clear that procreation is a result of the fall and of mortality, and that any participation in it is a participation in the fall and mortality).

    It is exactly the same with so many other things: with fasting and eating, with bodily continence, with the purity of our thoughts – and with war.

    Obviously, the Christian ideal is that nobody take up arms. But, the Church has clearly understood that this ideal is not going to happen, just like not all the Christian world is going to adopt celibacy. You yourself illustrated how this whole world system works. A man decides to marry. He has a family. He hoards wealth and supplies to care for his family. All the other men like him, joined in common interest, form a State designed to streamline this process and make their possessions and families more secure. And then, in the moment of crisis when the robber or murderer or plunderer or alien invader enters, he has a wife, children, possessions and state to protect. St. Paul tried to spare us from this, saying those who participate “will have tribulation; and I seek to spare you from this.”

    This goes precisely to the heart of Christian moral theology. Christians are counseled not to become involved in the world system of marriage, possessions, statecraft, etc., precisely because it produces these kinds of inevitable situations – which, as you so rightly say, can often involve forced decisions, that cannot possibly be completely right.

    Yet, because the man has elected to take on the responsibility of a family, possessions and a State, and of all the worldly investments that this entails, he finds himself in a position where he is *obligated*, morally, to provide for them and defend them. Just as a monarch takes upon himself the obligation to defend his people, and their land and property.

    If a man has scruples about the possible need of having to kill to defend his wife, children, family, property or state – if he is blessed enough to understand that Christ was trying to liberate us from such things, and takes our Lord’s advice to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake (or, to be perfect by selling all his possessions) – then he should do what so many do: take up the angelic life and receive the hundredfold reward. If a man scruples at such things, let him leave the world and be thrice-blessed. But if he chooses to remain, then let him understand he has set his right to selectively listen to his scruples aside. If he took a wife, let him do his husbandly duty to her. If he has a family, let him care for them. If he has a state, let him defend it. These things are not “sins,” though they involve much tribulation and inevitable contact with the system of human failure and sinfulness. Having taken these responsibilities upon himself, he is entangled in sin twice-over if he neglects to defend his state or family: he already chose to involve himself in the matter (which is the first level of “sinfulness,” albeit not yet “a sin”); past this, he would commit an actual sin if he failed to fulfill his obligatons to the wife, family or state once he had taken the burden upon himself.

    So, I agree that either choice he makes in the case of defending his family from a murderer, inevitably involves tragedy and sin. The difference being, he is morally obligated to defend his family, having taken that charge upon himself. Either way, he cannot escape the system of human failing to which he has more closely allied himself. But, if he allies himself to this system, and then also fails to exercise the duties he has taken upon himself, he commits actual sin in addition to the other matter. If he believes he cannot perform his duties to the world (to family, property or state), then let him not take up these responsibilities in the first place, and take the angelic habit.

    But, if he insists on consoling himself in this life with the pleasures of a family, possessions and a state (not inthemselves forbidden, complex and dangerous as a life involved in them can be), then he must also content himself with the thirtyfold reward in the next life, and prepare for many tribulations in this present life.

    Amongst the tribulations are the uncleanness that can result from hands stained by blood. You are correct in saying that this is always a bad thing – but I am correct in stating that it is not always “a sin,” “sinful” though it may be. A man who has taken up this kind of life misses out on spiritual blessings in the present age, and as we can see by the lesser reward assigned to him in the next life, we see that his choices for greater material consolation (involving him more deeply in this mesh of sinful patterns and systems) has had eternal ramifications. Nevertheless, he is morally obligated to discharge his obligations to the (not forbidden and necessarily “sin”-demanding) worldly life.

    We must not say that men are absolutely forbidden to marry, or to have possessions, or to wage war, or to be incontinent, or to employ discursive reasoning, etc., etc.

    We agree that the system is shot through with sinfulness. I’m trying to point out the distinction that the Church’s moral theology makes: namely, that those who scruple at this system of sinfulness and rightly draw their hands back from it, are called to offer themselves to God as an whole burnt offering – and the fathers make it clear that they are offering to God something not demanded. That is what makes monasticism, the angelic life, virginity, peacefulness, contemplation, etc., so pleasing to God – they are given to Him freely as something not required. This is the beautiful sentiment found in fathers like St. Dorotheus of Gaza, for example.

    For those who choose to live in the world, it is inevitable that they will have more entanglements in the nets of sin that the world is so good at weaving. The Fathers are clear that choosing life in the world is therefore definitely an inferior lifestyle, compared to the angelic life (not merely a “different” path or vocation, as Roman Catholicism has come to teach).

    But because some monks began to pride themselves on having “chosen the better part, which will not be taken from them,” they actually forsook the better part and the Church reiterated its teaching: Christians are counseled to come out of the world entirely and free themselves from the ties that bind them to wives, families, states, etc. But, God does not lay this heavy burden on everyone as a requirement. For those who lack the strength, God allows the blessings of the Old Covenant on secular life to stand, and they can participate in it without “sinning,” though they certainly will have more difficulties in dealing with the system of “sinfulness.”

    Now, people will hate me for articulating so baldly the Church’s moral teaching on this matter – because it is frankly a scandal to many people in this age that affirms every lifestyle as equally good. And many Orthodox Christians, living in married life, are frankly offended that anybody should insinuate that their choice was not merely different from the choice of celibacy, but positively inferior. And, they often misinterpret this doctrine as teaching that marriage, private property and Statecraft are sins. They are not. But they are much more entangled in the nets of sin, than a life free from them is. And that is why the Church – without condemning such a lifestyle as a sin – does counsel people to leave it if they have the strength. And that is why the early Church was so full of virgins and of married couples agreeing to live together in celibacy. And it is why soldiers were encouraged to leave the armed services and why many Churches would not permit catechumens to be baptized without leaving the service. And it is why the Church has ascetic disciplines and canons regarding the discipline of the chalice – precisely to deal with the inevitable nets of human failing, that those leading lives in the world cannot easily avoid.

    And God forbid that any monk should show despite to the grace of God, and congratulate himself on his monasticism – as if God does not hold him fast by His grace.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  7. I’m going to make several points in series:

    Personally, I am against the current “American” litanies praying for the President in the way that Christian emperors have been prayed for. While I’m not advocating an Episcopalian doublethink of praying along with the Lords Prayer, the Creed, or the other great prayers of the Church, but in my own mind deciding that they mean something else. But I find that in the context of the failure of American Orthodoxy to confront the moral decapitation of the culture, one is forced either to say and believe the unsayable and unbelievable, or else is forced into something approaching this Episcopalian hermeneutic. What else can one do in an age in which it is not uncommon to hear the saints persecuted from the pews and the pulpit, the words of scripture mocked during their very reading, and the chalice… well, it’s an age when we slander the fathers for their myopoeia and commune the Christ’s enemies. I find I cannot think, during the litany, or pray, what the American synods seem to be asking me to think and pray.

    I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have been advised not to *become* soldiers, if we are not already, or so I understand, and for precisely the reasons I’ve mentioned. You acknowledge this?

    Also, I think it’s dangerous to generalize where life is at stake, and I’m concerned that in being too nebulous about when an Orthodox Christian may go to war, we miss that it’s always for defense. And not the kind of nonsense-defense we hear advocated now, where defense actually means preemptive war, let alone the kinds of wars waged over the past 50-years based on US “interests” that are commodities-wars or resource-wars or ideological wars, or wars based on the mere possibility or even strong suspicion of danger, aside from the fact that we now know all of the recent justifications to have been lies and mere pretense. In other words, war may be justifiable when it is defensive war, so long as by defensive war we mean defensive and not a pretext for offensive wars of imperialism, domination, acquisition, etc. Words have no meaning, any more, father. In such an age, it doesn’t matter what we say; it will all be commodified – even the Church’s teaching – even your words.

    Please acknowledge that it is just, right, and proper, for a soldier to refuse to do battle in an unjust war – this is the surest statement that a war is not just because a state fights it. States have no existence, morally. States are not persons. So each man is morally accountable for his actions, regardless of the edicts of even a Christian state.

    For that matter, let us distinguish between a Christian state and an Orthodox one, if we don’t mean specifically the latter; I certainly will acknowledge no state as Christian that is other than Orthodox.

    Let us also remember the passion-bearers who, confronted with pagan invaders, did not make war on them in defense, but shared the sufferings of Christ. This too, must inform our thinking. This is inimical to the neconservative worldview, and yet integral and essential to the Orthodox one. There are no lambs among neoconservatives, only hawks.

    When you say that sometimes shedding blood is the right thing to do, I will say that it is also always the wrong thing to do. I don’t believe that being Orthodox means living with a moral view of the world that suggests its always possible to do either good or ill; rather, to be Orthodox is to accept that Death renders such choices rarer, and that the choice is often between things that will do harm either way. The utilitarian, the pragmatist, accepts this, but quite differently, arguing that the lesser of evils or the greatest good is the right choice. To be Orthodox, though, is to repudiate pragmatism and utilitarianism; the absence of a perfect choice does not make a less than perfect choice good. I contend that if someone breaks into my home to attack, rape, and kill my daughter, that it is a wrong choice to kill him (if needed to stop him), and a wrong choice not to kill him (if needed to stop him). And I accept moral responsibility for the absence of a good choice; it is my sin, my bringing of death into the world, that has created this chaos, has broken morality, has indeed left me without a good choice. So I disagree with you that I am not sinning by doing either thing; I am sinning either way, and I accept it, and expect it to be understood in the Mystery of Penance; I do not seek to be justified, since then I cannot really receive absolution; rather, I want reality. For what it’s worth, I also accept that I have caused all war, all murder, and indeed all alienation and dissolution and loss and suffering and deprivation. Not only in situations that involve my direct action. You seem to treat my opposition to killing in philosophical terms, as though we lived in blank-slate world where right and wrong are equally possible choices; I contend there is no such world anymore, and we are faced with a reality that philosophy cannot penetrate or explain, in all its quasi-Darwinist steady-state appraisal of the ‘normal’ world. We live in a world wherein I would not remain the friend of a man who did not kill an intruder to save his family from murder, but would share in the sin therefore, of killing that intruder. And simultaneously in a world in which I would not remain the friend of a soldier who went off to Iraq to fight in the current US invasion, but would acknowledge that my sin placed upon him the dilemma – the disconnect – the fragmentation between clearly right and wrong choices.

    You offer a distinction between the moral failing of the powerful and the ordinary, and I would tend to agree, except that this is an age of unprecedented access to information, and I believe one cannot participate in modern conflict without willful ignorance at best, which bears the same responsibility as knowledgably illicity behavior. The fact that they are deceived does not, also, I think mitigate this, because deception is a result of personal sin, also. The light has shone; deception is willful, too. I suppose there’s a distinction between those who fabricate intelligence reports, run a marketing campaign for slaughter, etc. and those who torture to death people at Haditha, or fire sniper rounds at ambulance drivers, then their passengers, then the doctors helping their passengers into the hospital where the ambulance is parked. And between any of them, and the person who merely continues to participate in a support role, or who tries only to kill combatants, or what have you, there is probably a distinction. There’s a verbal one, at least. But an honorable man would quit and go home, or to prison rather than participate. And there’s a distinction between these people, and those who cheered them on, bought them Sunday dinner for stories of their exploits, praised and lauded them as heroes, voted for those who sent them, justified their actions with rhetoric and ideology and religion. There are distinctions. But when someone kills your wife, and her baby, and the doctor trying to carry them to safety, do you care? I don’t care. And given the choice, I identify with the poor – the ones being victimized by this. And that far more than those who will claim they were victimized by political deception or bad leadership. You have to know by the stench that it’s wrong to lead people from the train to the oven. If you don’t know, then your ignorance is just another crime.

    I certainly have no desire to bash St. Augustine, though frankly, I feel quite free to reject his heresies, whatever anyone here may tolerate or not tolerate. De Trinitate is rife with heresy, but so, no doubt, is a lot of my own thinking. Heresy is something to be overcome like lust or greed or pride. That doesn’t mean it’s not the religious form of murder. All heresy is sin, and all sin is heresy, and heresy with regard to theology is specifically blasphemy, and that is indeed very serious. That said, I feel free to disagree with St. Augustine, for obvious reason and, in this case, I do. I don’t pretend to be a Latin scholar, but I will simply say again with regard to avenging what was done wrong, or recovering what was wrongly taken, (war for revenge or punitive war and war for property or commodity or wealth or treasure), I do not accept that the state is morally free to do that which individuals may not do. I do not reify states; there is no such thing as states except as collections of individuals each responsible for his actions. One cannot hide behind the banner of the state, doing things in its name that are forbidden to do.

    I think you’re missing something here: all these passages and quotations you interepret with regard to states again presume the possibility of a just state vs. and unjust one, or purely just and unjust actions by states. But the Byzantines understood that there cannot really be a 1:1 correspondence with the justice of God and the presumed justice of the state, the will of God and the actions of a state, the Christianity espoused by Christ and that attributed to a Christian state. They understood that, in our unworthiness, in a world dominated by Death, we strive to reach the marker of the cross but in fact will surely fail and fall short of it. And so in that sense, just as it cannot be said that an individual is always faced with clear right and wrong choices and so is always free to do perfect righteousness (we know, just from reading the ascetics that every choice, every failure, every sin we commit, does commit us to another choice over which we no longer have purity of full volition – one passion commits us to another one and deprives us of free will – just as a certain philosopher says, “Character is destiny”). so it is with states – its policies of greed, economic oppression, political interference, assassinations, repression of liberty in one theatre and promotion of it, subject to its own will, in another, may lead to it being attacked. Is then even its proclaimed war of self-defense a ‘just’ war? If it is a Christian nation, is it a Christian war? That, to me, is like Christian porn – you just don’t put the two words together. No, if there were a “just war” it wouldn’t be a) Christian and b) “just” in the sense of a 1:1 correspondence with Christian justice, even if all Christians supported it, and even if it were a “Christian” nation. In fact, in that sense, there’s no such thing as Christian nation, but only nations ruled by Christians – a potent and important distinction that I have seen in the language, when carefully spoken, of “Christian writers” :).

    I do not deny that blessings exist for warriors, that warrior saints exist, or that God commanded war in the Old Mystery (though perhaps we understand the implications of that differently, since I would not have considered it relevant to this discussion). These are basic things that anyone who claims to be a) Orthodox and Christian and b) to have even begun to consider war in that context, would know, or have discovered, etc. But apparently we interpret the mere existence or fact of these things quite differently since, when you cite them, it seems to be as though they are self-contained arguments – facts that can have but one implication or a single meaning or at least have at least one irrefutable implication or meaning. Evidently, though, we’re both understanding those things the same way at all. So it’s easier if you state the meaning with reference to the facts, rather than the other way around. There are warrior saints; St. David was one; and he was forbidden to build the temple, because there was blood on his hands. You draw a distinction between sin and uncleanness, and I may agree, but not fully, because I think you’re still missing the order of how it works:

    I sinned. I therefore brought death. Therefore I am responsible (personallY) for all the results of death. Death affects the whole world: it makes war both possible and likely; it alienates man from man; it ruptures human unity just as it does the unity of the soul and body, or of the soul itself, or of man and creation, or of man and God. So I am responsible, in fact, for all war, all killing, even if I don’t do it directly myself. I *AM* that high level person who sends young men off to fight in unjust wars of acquisition. I did it. It’s my fault. So now, when Amalek sets its hand against my tribe, and slay them, I am covered with blood and am unclean – which is to say that I have sinned, if indirectly. I have caused this. I have brought death into the world, war, killing… in other words *I am the reason Amalek rose against me, sent its sons to die, and then slew them* – I caused not only their agression but my own response. The fact that cause occured the moment I sinned, and not in my thrusting my sword into the enemy only means that I can make yet another false dichotomy out of a true distinction: I did not murder, but I am covered in blood. It’s true: that really is a true distinction, but it’s a false dichotomy. And it would be better, if I could avoid it, and give my own life, to let Amalek have my bones. But for the sake of my wife and children and friends, in my sin and unworthiness at having brought them to this, to needing to fight to survive their brothers’ attacks, who also I brought to this, I fight. And though the Church says I have no specific sin in it, I do not take this as absolution or excuse or justification; I take it as a legal fact, not in the least eclipsed by the more significant fact that I have done murder the moment I sinned. I have bloodguiltiness.

    And therein, Fr. Augustine, lies the union of St. Augustine’s treatment of all sinning in Adam and the Orthodox treatment of death as the inheritance. But I’m not a doctrinal specialist, and I’m not out to teach the Church anything. So I’ll happily take that assertion to my grave as my own opinion. But I believe, not that I claim this is Orthodox, that when I sin, I cause all that Adam caused, even if it’s quite improper to suggest I inherit guilt or sin. No, but I am Adam in that moment. I am the bringer of death and doom upon the world. And if you work this out, to its logical conclusion, then there are no easy moral dichotomies between murder and killing. I did this, and not you, nor anyone else on this earth can change that fact, absolution, or penance, or no. I am the Harbinger of Death, the world-slayer, the curse and scourge of all that is, the unmaker of reality, the tool of Satan, and if I dared to point any fingers, I would say that it is true of anyone who sins, but how can such a creature lift a hand to do so, for fear of being poured into the fire with his hypocrisy. It is better to say only “I”, and fear, and perhaps be saved for fear.

    Father, I want you to know I am not trying to win a rhetorical battle with you, though I am concerned that much of what you say will be utilized as an apologia for the very neoconservatism you condemn, and so don’t think it’s worth it. Cowboys and Indians battle it out on the open plain, and someone decides to redistribute the bullets equally, just to be fair to all sides. I’m sorry, but if you’re an Indian, and you know the Cowboys want to destroy your world, you try not to give away any bullets. I just don’t see giving the neocons a religious justification, but I understand that they’ll find one anyway. It’s interesting watching them; I’ve noticed there’s no such thing as an ascetic neocon. Most of the “Orthodox” neocons I’ve met, don’t fast, don’t do any of those strenuous painstaking pieties. And I kind of link it to the fact that really there’s the hunter-gatherer and the farmer, and neocons aren’t either of those, quietly tilling or picking their God-given soil, and seeking their fruit from the Lord. Rather, they’re the tribe that comes to take your land, because they don’t have enough, conquers because it’s “in our interest”, and decides how the new regime will look, and puts you to work building their step-pyramids. Unlike farming, it doesn’t really go well with the basic asceticism of all Orthodox Christians. It’s a meat-eating, hungry-aquisitive, spear-carving way of life that puts you to work in its mines. If they have crosses, it just makes them more insidious, especially when they tell you God wants you to accept the rule of your leaders and eat your gruel.

    Be that as it may, it’s not a rhetorical contest, I hope you realize; something’s wrong. This is not an age and a time and a world in which there can be any longer such a thing as a “just war” even as a purely defensive war, unless it be the war *against* everything we Western-speaking peoples have been up to. In other words, somehow it seems we have become the Amalekites, and if there are Semites they are either the other side, or are the Saints in Heaven. I think it will not be long now, but that’s always just an opinion. Not long, and then we will be surprised, as the Lord says, with the swift suddeness of Judgment coming. Pray for me, responsible for all this.

    Comment by tuD | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  8. I’m sorry I’ve been scarce of late – school ended (with the ensuing finals, etc.) a few weeks ago. Now, this past week, the new quarter starts and I have moved to another city.

    I will answer very succinctly since my time is a precious commodity these days. I will also agree with you that these questions are matters of prime importance – which is why I am indulging myself a bit, so as to respond to your points. They deal with important matters that all Christians should understand. We also must take care in all humility and prayerfulness to understand some of the underlying concepts, since they form the basis of the Church’s moral theology and canonical discipline. If we reject these principles, we are rejecting the principles that regulate the Church and frame the theology of the Fathers.

    In regards to righteous anger being only against our own sins: I’m agreed that generally, this is the safer course. Certainly, we should have an extreme reluctance to point out other peoples’ sins and be angry about that.

    However, there are some men who are given this job: namely, the shepherds and hierarchs who pastor the flock of Christ, and those who bear the power of the sword.

    I do not believe that the State has moral autonomy. But, St. Paul spoke very clearly in the scriptures about how those who bear the power of the sword bear it with the will of God – and this was at a time when no Christian state existed. The history of the Church is full of many instances when unjust men, acting unjustly, have nevertheless been the instrument of God’s discipline upon Christians. A Christian State should certainly strive to operate on Christian principles. But neither should we deceive ourselves, and think that unjust rulers – even wicked rulers – do not bear the power of the sword by the consent of God. Ultimately, like Satan, they find themselves pawns of His own purposes. Christian states should strive to be part of God’s purposes in a more proactive and pious way. One of those ways, is by waging war for good cause. I do not believe that our current neo-con war is for a good cause.

    Nevertheless, you yourself mentioned circumstances when the Byzantine State waged war for the purposes of protecting the Church (and I take your meaning of “the potential for salvation”). I believe there are other times when the use of force is permissible – namely, “righteous anger,” which generally should only be directed towards ourselves, is also permissible when charity demands it in the case of other people. If I am being robbed, I should submit humbly. If I see a woman being robbed, and men threatening to rape and beat her, then I should come to her defense – and even die defending her, if need be.

    Now, a monk would generally not permit himself to kill. However, in the Skete near to our sister monastery, the Abbess has a very interesting picture of Russian monks riding out on horseback – armed – to defend a Russian city from attack.

    However, somebody serving in the military or a civilian defense program (like the police) bears the “power of the sword,” and is not “morally polluted” in taking a life. In fact, he would be morally polluted if he did not take a life in certain circumstances. This is because there is a difference between their role as a private person (who should certainly be slow to violence), and their role as a member of the State or of society that has been charged by the State with the task of defending the peace. When St. Augustine was asked about the passages of scripture promoting non-violence, he gave the perfect, Orthodox answer:

    “These precepts are always to be observed in attitude of mind, namely, that a man should always be prepared not to resist….but at times one must act otherwise because of the common good…..” (De Sermone in Monte)

    Rather than listen to my ideas, think of the Church’s sources of theology – fathers like St. Augustine here, the scriptures, the liturgy, etc. You will certainly find pacifist messages in the fathers – for the same reasons that you find passages advocating virginity. But the Fathers and our Liturgy are not ignorant of the need for the State/Civil service to defend the peace in other respects. For example, our litanies pray for “our President and the armed forces.” Before that, they prayed for the emperor and the armed forces. Even the Troparion of the Cross (and please resist the temptation to entirely spiritualize the text), prays that victory be granted to our rulers against their enemies, and that the commonwealth (State) be preserved.

    The Fathers and early Christian sources feel the same way. Interestingly enough, Tertullian specifically mentions that the Christians pray for “courageous armies” to be granted to the (Pagan) Emperor – Tertullian, **after apostatizing**, adopted Pacifism! In fact, it was apostates like Tacitus, Tertullian and Marcion that took a hard line on Pacifism.

    Again, I don’t need to point out that most of the early, martyred soldier-saints were in the service of a Pagan Empire – they were not fighting for the Church (in any sense). In fact, the East Roman Empire after 416 excluded *Pagans* from military service (meaning all soldiers were required to be Christian).

    St. Cyprian, in his letter (3) to Demetrian, laments the small number of soldiers.

    The 314 AD Synod of Arles, in its third canon, did anathematize those soldiers who laid down their arms in peacetime.

    St. Basil the Great describes the theology perfectly, along the lines I have tried to explain:

    “”Our Fathers did not consider the killings committed in the course of wars to be classifiable as murders at all, on the score, it seems to me, of allowing a pardon to men fighting in defense of sobriety and piety. Perhaps, though, it might be advisable to refuse them communion for three years, on the ground that they are not clean-handed.”

    That is to say, they truly fought in defense of sobriety and piety – therefore, they would have been morally polluted if they had *not* taken up arms. But, in a certain sense their “hands” are defiled with blood, and because of the tragedy of the situation, it is right to refuse them communion. For the same reasons, I absolutely hold that no monk should take up arms (although, as I said, some have done so). And, despite my opinion that war is sometimes justifiable (if not exactly just), I believe that any priest whose hands have been stained with blood should cease serving.

    The scriptures of course, are full of instances where God commanded men to kill – to say nothing of St. Constantine’s vision. And St. John the Baptist, in the New Testament, did not counsel soldiers to leave their profession, but told them that they were paid to soldier and therefore should not take plunder when they waged war. That was all.

    St. Augustine spoke to this matter in his 189th epistle to Boniface, a soldier himself:

    “Do not think that no one can please God who is a soldier in military arms. Holy David was among these, to whom the Lord gave such great witness and many just men of that time among them. Among these was Cornelius to whom the angel was sent…. Among these were those who came to John for baptism…. Surely he did not forbid them to serve in arms, to whom he ordered to be content with their pay. Some therefore fight for you by praying against invisible enemies; you work for them by fighting against visible barbarians…. So think first of this, when you arm yourself for battle,that even your bodily strength is a gift of God….”

    Given my name, I won’t tolerate any of the Ortho-Protestant bashing of Augustine. The controversy surrounds the precision of his terminology, which is scarcely ever read by Orthodox Christians in the original Latin. In all respects, he is a Father of the Church, even if his terminology is debatable on some fine points of doctrine.

    He also says that some wars are just, in his “Questions on the Heptateuch”

    “Just wars are usually defined as those in which injustices are avenged if any nation or city, attacked in war, either neglects to avenge what was done wickedly by its own, or to recover what was taken away unjustly. But also this kind of war is without doubt just, which God commands….”

    Again, just as with marriage and other matters, the distinction must be observed here: the Fathers certainly counsel peace and make it clear that to abstain from bloodshed is the highest good. Yet, sometimes the shedding of blood is also the morally right thing to do, albeit it can never be done without great sorrow and personal repentance. To use an analogy that is not complete (so don’t pick it to pieces, please): sometimes you have to shoot Ol’ Yeller; but you’d be an inhuman beast if you didn’t shed a tear doing it. Most properly, this duty belongs to the State and those in its service in a martial capacity.

    I agree with you that a war of aggression does pollute men’s morality. I believe that soldiers who do their military duty under the mistaken impression that the war is necessary or provoked are less accountable than the men who initiated the war. We should be careful not to condemn simple members of the armed forces who believing they are doing what is right, with conniving neo-cons in the White House, who know damn well what they are doing.

    I agree that the Church sometimes has blessed things that should not have been blessed. Or, rather, that people in the Church have done so. When I say “the Church” blesses, I speak of the Church in her official capacity functioning in the Mind of Christ. For instance, there is a huge difference between an individual bishop blessing a divorced priest to continue in the priesthood after falling in love with and remarrying a woman whom he was counselling professionally. Should that have been blessed? I think we know the answer to that.

    But, the blessing of soldiers and arms has been fully incorporated into the life of the Church, even appearing in things like the Book of Needs and the Liturgy. This is a fully-incorporated element of the Mind of the Church, not an incidental abuse.

    Your points are all well-taken about being personally reticent to participate in the death of another. As a monk, I am absolutely forbidden to do such a thing. That is the ideal. However, those whom God calls to serve the State are often placed in a position where it is their duty to do such things. When the Allies opposed the Nazis and the Axis Powers, they were acting morally and justly. But if I murdered a helpless Nazi in the Street out of an act of personal anger towards them – I certainly would have committed a grave sin. As with so many things, “to everything there is a time and season.” It is sinful to sleep even with one’s wife out of lust. It is not sinful, if it is done in the desire to enjoy and manifest the blessedness of the married estate. Likewise, it is a sin to murder, but not necessarily a sin to use measured and appropriate lethal force at the behest of the State. You mention that the Church never forbade people to speak against war, as She forbade people to speak against marriage. Two things:

    1) I don’t know if that is true; as I posted above, at least one Orthodox Synod did exactly that.

    2) The prohibition against decrying marriage was given because there was a problem with certain of the faithful (especially some very strict monks) condemning the married faithful as sinful. I have a feeling, that if scores of monks had started condeming all the Christian soldiers in the Roman empire (or the Byzantine), the Church would have felt the need to defend them, as well, and emphatically state that it was not a sin to bear arms for the State. But, the Church has never had a problem with people advocating Pacifism to that degree, because the Church has always understood that absolute Pacifism is not Apostolic Doctrine. 🙂

    I agree the Byzantine Empire did wage unjust war, frequently.

    I agree that just because a thing is unjust, it does not necessarily follow that it is just. We should be cautious here, because a too-precise definition of justice can cause problems. Some would say that what is “really just” would be the ideal standards – virginity, pacifism, noetic knowledge, continence. But, then we would say that those who fall short (almost all of us) are unjust. There is a gray area in the middle. Things like marriage, war, discursive thought and natural bodily functions are not inherently just or unjust. Depending upon their use, they can be more or less like the ideals, which we are all counselled to embrace. There is room for certain concessions on these matters, without them becoming unjust. The permission to wage war for the State is one such concession.

    Regarding logic and thinking together, I understand what you mean. What I was *not* saying, was “let people make illogical arguments.” What I *was* saying, was “try first to understand the point they were trying to make; if they weren’t able to make that point clearly, see if there is a way to phrase it that is logical and helpful.” You can point out that something in an argument is not quite gelling. But, if you give people the benefit of the doubt and try to see what substance there actually was to their points, and bring that out (by re-stating their argument in terms more acceptable to logical precision), I think this is a God-pleasing thing.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. OK, first, I beg your forgiveness. I was trying not to offend, but yes, to me this is like discussing abortion; frankly, I find it hard to be purely objective in any kind of sterile sense, but I toned it down as much as I could, and I do appreciate your contributions, and do not wish to offend.

    I still deeply disagree with you on nearly every point here, execepting the incidental ones. Your statement, “I believe it is important for us to be equally free from “enthusiasm” and precise in our critical tactics.” is neither incidental not a point of disagreement, however. On this we can agree wholeheartedly.

    On righteous anger, my understanding of an appropriate wrath is not what is only the internal wrath against one’s own sins, and not wrath concerning the sins of others. I do think it’s quite fair to make a religious distinction between the so-called “righteous anger” and “just war” of the neoconservatives, and anything approaching Christian practice. Evidently, one of us sees these things as in proximity to the truth but errant, and the other sees it as having no proximity to the truth. Any more than what is commonly called love is close to what love is. But I think we’re getting nowhere in that argument. Yes, we could open up a huge philosophical discussion, but I don’t think you’re interested, and I’m certainly not looking at doing work again that I view as already complete. In other words, I don’t see us convincing one another. And since I don’t care what the audience takes away, I wouldn’t have the argument just for their benefit.

    On the Church’s survival, I disagree, but only semantically. Of course we know the Church will survive, even when it’s only one man. I’m referring to preserving the possibility of salvation by preserving the physical existeince of the Church in a place at a time, which yes, it’s quite easy to eliminate. Nuclear weapon will do it nicely. There was no Church in Hiroshima after the bomb fell. This is why Byzantium fomented wars, conducted assassinations, spying, and all kinds of “Byzantine tactics”. The very survival of the holy city, Christendom, and yes the Church was at stake. Not everywhere and for all time, but there and then, certainly. After all, look at Rome. The Franks really did wipe it out there. It just took making one a pope. For the same reason St. Hieromonk Nestor used jiu jitsu and slew those who would close down the Church and take away her icons, because (and especially at that time), the very possibility of salvation for people depended on the continued existence of the church and her ministries. This is true whether we save them from starvation or from bolshevism or from hell. Show me a Christendom that exists without Christians; that would be Protestantism.
    I don’t agree, if you’re suggesting the “secular power” is morally autonomous. If you mean administratively, that’s obvious, of course. I can’t help but feel you’re blending things that are distinct. Rulers do answer to the Church in godly nations. A Tsar who is not a Christian Tsar is frankly ridiculous, though at times it seems to have happened.

    On “absolute ban on war and violence” and the distinction between sins and sin, I question whether the distinction yields an opposition, which certainly killing vs. not killing creates. If by one principle I may kill, and by another I may not, it’s an opposition indeed. I’m sorry, but I think a) we can continue to argue this, but I doubt it will be to any useful end, and b) I see no possibility of us coming to agreement. Regardless of whether a man killing in self-defense has committed an actual sin, or has simply fallen into sin and evil, you will find it quite impossible to convince me that a war of aggression does not pollute the morality of each individual who chooses to carry out such a war. I am quite committed to the idea that individual persons commit sins or righteous deeds, and institutions cannot do either – at least not in the same sense. A man who kills in the name of a state cannot appeal to service to the state as absolving him. Nor can I be convinced tht these are one and the same question; I’m going to insist on the distinctions, and hold to them as the most basic protections of life and the mind.

    And certainly, you will acknowledge, just as a side note, that there have been bishops who have blessed things (en masse, in fact) that are an abomination and cannot be blessed. I do not think of these things as acts of the Church, but acts of misguided men, bishops or no. And that is, quite reasonably, what we’re also talking about in some instances with discussion of the Western Rite. After all, bishops have blessed it. I do not accept that the blessing of a bishop is the will of God.

    On similar vs. identical, I think it fair to say that what is identical is 100% similar, even if it’s plain that there is no such identity in this case. Let us compare, shall we? “Marriage is good and helpful for the salvation of men.” Take out marriage, insert ‘war’ and we see that something different is driving two very different attitudes, for never has the Church condemned by anathema those who speak against war, as she has those who speak against marriage. And frankly, if she did say such a thing, I would promptly declare that I have always been heterodox, and was mistaken in ever thinking I had been Orthodox, because the world has gone mad, and angels and apostles have delivered unto me a different gospel by infallible councils, and so the center has not held, and no doctrine really any longer makes sense. Frankly, I would find my solace in booze, laughter, and absurdist literature. But you must know that bishops have quite forthrightly condemned the current spate of wars and, there being no war in general, but only war in particular, we don’t really or actually have a “just war” doctrine at all. In fact, we have an atmosphere of imperfection of thought becuase of death, and so we have differening opinions, and maybe all of are wrong. That only leaves what each of us will do. As for me, I assert that the only way to be saved is to take the blame on oneself when anyone anywhere is harmed. Whether by death or in some other way. And never to excuse oneself as possibly innocent. And so whether a death is thought accidental, or whether I found that no matter what I would do it’s evil (e.g. allow my family to be harmed, or harm the harmer), it is murder. As I see it, we can only be saved by admitting our bloodguiltiness. The innocent man is the one with whom I don’t think I share any religion. And out of this attitude, I assert further that it is wrong to kill, a sin, and it’s highly dangerous to excuse oneself or others. And frankly, if I ran over anyone or killed an intruder or voted for someone’s death or slew anyone in battle and was granted a “reprieve” in the way of a mild excommunication, I would find someone less lenient to speak to about it. Someone who views the loss of a life with such totality, such knowledge that an irreplaceable and irreducable universe has been snuffed out, that no excuse can justify it, or make it less grave. The value of a life, from a human standpoint, is absolute. It is the infinite, as far as we’re concerned. There is nothing so much like the pre-aeternal God as a man. And frankly, may the Lord take my life and carry me down to dust and eternal torment before he allow me to cause the death of anyone, and I fully expect in the Judgment to give account, since every sin I have ever committed is the murder of the entirety of all men, and in some wise, through neglect of the poor, through not making peace as much as I can in the world, and through every instance of anger or lack of love, I have doubtless starved orphans and encouraged the hellish wrath of brutes with bombs, whether they drop them from planes like cowards or carry them into battle on their own backs like brave, if deceived, men.

    On the words “any Orthodox Christian who knows anything about Church history cannot possibly take this view.” I find that you are incorrect, just in my own experience. I think it’s quite possible to have a grasp of the historical essentials, if not having done substantial work in this area, and simply interpret their meaning differently than you do. McCleary was in a pub and ordered a Scotch. The bartender asked if he’d like to try the new Irish whiskey. McCleary replied that no Scottsman would ever drink Irish Whiskey. “But McClendon was in here just yesterday, and he had an Irish whiskey.” McCleary answered, “Yes, but no *true* Scottsman would ever drink Irish Whiskey.”

    On the comment, “Christ commanded Constantine to go to war in His name, with His symbol painted on the shields.” Did he? I’m not doubting you, per se, but I understood that event a bit differently. I understood that a pagan man had seen a vision and painted the cross in the vision on his shield and then was converted because of the success. Maybe I need to go back and read the various troparia to St. Constantine, but does the Church understand this to have been a command by God to make war? Or is it not merely a vision given by God to one who had decided to make war, or who would decide it? I have to question this.

    On, “Did the Roman Empire, after its Christianization, wage “unjust war” for 1000 years?” Yes, at times. It wasn’t one war. I think I see the problem with your reasoning here. You think that if a war is not considered unjust that it must be considered just. I’m not operating on the same assumption. I am correct that this is a point of our disagreement? This leads you to say, “If the Church has blessed war, warriors and arms, then there must be times when war is not unjust. Hence, there is such a thing as a “just war.”” I don’t agree with you, but I still think, as I’ve been arguing all along, that the real point of our disagreement is in the method of reasoning, the assumptions of reasoning itself, and so we will inevitably come to very different conclusions.

    On “The Church cannot bless anything unjust.” My view of this is somewhat different. While it’s true the Church is perfect and spotless, the official Church has indeed either blessed things that are unjust or is simply no longer the Church. One need not even go back so far as Florence to recall this, or even Iconoclasm. More recent events would do, if we were to debate them (I hope we won’t.). Of course, these days the “Church” is considered something different than it once was. It used to consist of Orthodox bishops and their flocks, and now it consists of bishops who are members of SCOBA. 🙂 That great infallible body that we invented a few years back can never bless anything unjust. 🙂

    On being a monk, I take your meaning, and again, I beg your forgiveness for offending. At the same time, I request your condescension on this topic. This is not like a discussion of rites, or rituals. In principle, people will live or die based on what we say here. In other words, by existential ethics, what we say here about the rightness or wrongness of killing is really either killing or not killing people, and we are making ourselves responsible for each instance in which other people act in accordance with the reasoning we’re offering, in all of history past, present, or future. What you say kills or saves a life, and same goes for me, so this is a bit of a hot topic inherently. I am trying to be dispassionate, quite unsuccesfully, but I’m also playing to win and to soundly defeat you, because no matter what you say or 10,000 bishops with you, I’d repudiate you all to save the life of the worst human being on earth. In this argument? I’m not in it to convince you, or worry about my audience’s feelings; I’m in it for the only absolute I know, the value of a human life, the Incarnation which declares that value irrefutably for all time, and the very real need to act as the Samaritan, even throwing down the “true” religion where it isn’t true enough to pick up the fallen and throw my own life away for him. I’m sorry, truly, but I’m not going to be giving in on this one. So basically, if you don’t change your mind, I think we’ll be at an impasse.
    So surrender, realize I’m right, and come save lives with me. 🙂
    I’m teasing you.

    I do need help saving my soul, and I deeply appreciate the gentleness and tolerance with which you put up with my impertinence. I will work on this; I will try. On the matter of logic, the problem really is that it’s no good any of us really talking with each other if we’re not also going to think together. If we’re not going to be doing in-thinking. You know what I mean by that? And the problem is, we live in a culture that has decimated that faculty to the point that we have to learn a ritual just to begin to do it, otherwise we’re like most human conversations these days: talking at each other. So father, what I’m actually doing is trying to establish a pattern, like a tone on a tuning fork, in a world of no patterns, no ritual of in-thinking, and get someone to join me long enough that we’re actually speaking the same language and not just simulating it and speaking “at” each other and saying our opinions. Logic is the traditional ritual for this. The mediaeval and ancient schools gave men some tools that allowed a civilized form of inthinking, less wild than paganism, and, in my opinion, it preserved a religious set of structures. When I cite logic, I’m trying to get you to say the right thing back, the way one does a versicle and response, again and again, or an antiphonal psalm. Either to refute me or to concede. Of course, it’s not popular to concede a point ever, any more. Almost no one ever does it, in my experience, even when they know they’re erred. I don’t blame this on the use of logic – rather, logic gives them the opportunity to concede, where this culture’s mode of communication doesn’t allow it. Logic makes us men. Logic is the gentleman’s invitation to have a contest in which one person must inevitably not be victorious, but will learn from it. Today’s method of batting around ideas certainly produces a lot of changes of mind, but I’d rather someone disagree with me for the right reasons, than join my team for the wrong ones. Better the mind be saved intact w. wrong content than be obliterated into smoke, but be convinced by illicit means.

    In short, father, I’m taking you seriously enough, and the subject matter seriously enough, that I’m not blogging at you, or staging a debate; I’m actually trying to come to the truth with you. I’m also assuming you’re doing the same, but that we just don’t agree on the language or ritual that will allow us to come to it together and have it to share. If your motivation is different than that – coming to the truth – then of course we’re both just wasting time. 🙂 But I prefer to think otherwise.

    Comment by tuD | March 22, 2008 | Reply

  10. Well.

    First off, I should perhaps state that I deeply opposed to NeoConservatism. For the same reasons that you want to reign in the enthusiasm of the Western Rite with precision in thinking, I believe it is important for us to be equally free from “enthusiasm” and precise in our critical tactics.

    Also, I feel that it is appropriate to request that you speak to people with less exasperation and condescension. It damages your cause and robs your words of credibility, even when there is truth in them. I am a monk, and deserve words of reprobation – but other people (especially the non-Orthodox) are likely to be put off substantially by the tone.

    The point is, that anger is not inherently sinful – and that a righteous anger against an unjust cause has been the source of a tremendous amount of good. So, to attack Neoconservatism on the basis of its righteous anger is an attack with not many legs to stand upon. Because of this, we should abandon this tactic in favour of a truer one.

    Secondly, the Church hardly blesses arms and soldiers to defend “the survival of the Church itself.” The gates of Hell will never overcome the Church, so there really is no concern for taking up arms to ensure her survival. The Church has blessed arms when they are at the service of the State, which has the God-given power to make war. The Christian State wants to see justice prosper in the world, and uses force if necessary to make that happen. Just as the bishops have the power to rule the Church, those in secular power have been given the task by God to rule the world. And, just as the bishops do not usually answer to us, neither do the worldly powers – usually – have to justify themselves to us.

    Case in point, you mentioned that “every neophyte” knows about warrior saints and passion bearers. Well, then every neophyte also knows, that plenty of them were in the service of a Pagan emperor doing military duty for a Pagan society. Your absolute ban on war and violence (a part of your attack on Neo-Convservatism) is not harmonious with the Church’s moral teaching. It is in harmony with the Church’s ideal values (along with things like celibacy and continence), but these things are never going to be the norm. The concessions made are not inherently sinful.

    You said of me: “You say the Church’s treatment of x has something in common with the church’s treatment of y an z, therefore to reject x is to reject y and z. That’s just plainly fallacious.”

    Since you are fond of labelling people’s arguments, I’m sure you’ll understand that what you have done here, is set up a “straw man.” That’s where you depict my position in a false way, and then attack that, is if it were damaging to my real argument.

    My point, was not that “x” has “something” in common with “y.” My point was that the Church’s view towards x and y are exactly the same. Namely, that waging war is not necessarily a sin – it can be a blessed or a sinful thing to do, depending – but it is wrapped up in human sinfulness. Thus it is something permitted, but with some sorrow that the ideals could not be attained (exactly as with sex, food, thought, etc). They are not “similar,” they are identical. The defining facet of war is not the defining facet of marriage, per se. Rather, the defining facet of both is the Church’s moral theology.

    You say that there are plenty of Orthodox, who disagree with me that there is such a thing as just war. I would counter, that any Orthodox Christian who knows anything about Church history cannot possibly take this view. Christ commanded Constantine to go to war in His name, with His symbol painted on the shields. Did the Roman Empire, after its Christianization, wage “unjust war” for 1000 years? The Church cannot bless anything unjust. If the Church has blessed war, warriors and arms, then there must be times when war is not unjust. Hence, there is such a thing as a “just war.”

    My comments, therefore, are not so irrelevant and tangential as you have depicted them. They all land on the core of the mater.

    And speaking of apatheia… take it easy! Try not to respond to posts until you are calm again (if they have upset you). Also, give your opponents the benefit of the doubt for long enough to to find the kernel of Truth they were trying to get at, rather than condemning the superficial errors as if that were a victory. Not all people think as clearly as you, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean their points are wrong. It just means they could have been put better, perhaps. If you take the time to understand your opponent’s intended message, and find ways to phrase it more correctly (rather than find all the ways you could frame their argument so as to make it “logically wrong” – a common tactic amongst Roman Catholic scholastics just before things went awry for them), you’ll do more good and help to save your own soul.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | March 22, 2008 | Reply

  11. My Question would be, which wars are just and blessed?
    And whom is it ok to kill? This Is a hard concept for Neocons becauese they dont see war as murder or emperialism as theft. If I kill a man when I am wearing a uniform how is that different from when I am not wearing the uniform? If I blow up a country a steal there resources how is that not the same as holding up the local grocery store? The problem is people assign authority to do something as a collective that they would not do as a individual. It is ok to kill for your country but not to do it idividually? I would have to say the Just War Theory attributied to St. Augustine would be a great improvement over the current interventionist policies of aggression and emperialism. But that does not make “Just War” Orthodox.

    Comment by cpp123 | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  12. Well, if it’s so rare, how is it even relevant to the issue of neonservatism and its (we agree) quite different anger? To me, this is like the business of an “Orthodox filioque” or “Orthodox cannibalism” – it’s just not very helpful in advancing the conversation, though it is informative.

    You go on to talk about the church blessing arms and soldiers, but you don’t distinguish the contexts, and the devil IS in the details. It’s the exact same problem as with the above mentioned comments on anger. Is that really neoconservatism’s only defense – blurring distinctions? If so, what rational individual could accept it? Here the blurring is when the Church has licensed war for the defense of the possibility of salvation (e.g. the survival of the Church itself) and that being deeply distinct from preemptive war, wars of invasive aggression, resource wars, etc. I don’t know if you’re intentionally blurring these distinctions, and I have a hard time accepting that you could be, but what again, is all this fog?

    You go on to do it again: You say the Church’s treatment of x has something in common with the church’s treatment of y an z, therefore to reject x is to reject y and z. That’s just plainly fallacious. Your fallacy is in assuming the defining facet of war is the defining facet of marriage, etc. Every neophyte is familiar with warrior saints and passion bearers alike, but I do not think this means what you think it means.

    I don’t agree that the Church teaches “just war” (and there are just as many Protestants who disagree with me and plenty of Orthodox who disagree with you). We could rehash an entire series of arguments on this but, again, since you acknowledge that even your mythical “just war” has nothing to do with neoconservatism, I can only really see the exact same technique that you use with “righteous anger”, “blessed war”, “patristic filioque”, etc. Your modus operandi is:

    Take something that is not x, and justify it, and so … what? The only conceivable point seems to be that x is justified. In otherwords, this is a litany of straw men.

    I don’t know where this is all coming from, but the repetition of method is unmistakeable. I’m concerned, because you only started doing this recently. Before, you called for moderation, precision, etc. but you didn’t do issue substitution, or encourage fuzzy thinking. I am trying to read you with respect, but I’m really tripping over your latest round.

    On sin and sinfulness, I like that you’re making distinctions, but I’m concerned about the indistinct template of articles over which you’re laying these distinctions – namely war, sex, marriage, etc. OK, so are you saying that ALL war is not sinful, or only that it is theoretically possible, though it’s not what neoconservatism is doing, to kill a man and not commit a sin?

    I feel like I’m at a wedding, and someone’s giving a talk on the inviolability of marriage, and its continuance in eternity, and you’re saying, “Well remember, divorce *is* an option. We’ve done it before.” OK, yeah, sort of, with a lot of qualifications, but even if you were completely right, why would you add that?

    Still, your comments are welcome, and I trust I’m misunderstanding them somehow. I just don’t see how at the moment, and I find fault with the logic.

    Comment by tuD | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  13. What you say regarding the sinfulness of killing a man in self-defense is both right and wrong. It is “sinful,” in the sense that the circumstances and the act itself are enmeshed in the web of human sinfulness. But, you have to be careful there – because in that sense, eating, sleeping, rational thought, sex, marriage, etc., are all “sinful.”

    The choice to kill a man in self-defense, however, is not “a sin,” though the fact that such a thing happened is “sinful.”

    The Church’s canonical discipline often imposes penances and excommunication upon people for activities which are not “a sin,” but “sinful,” as described above. That’s why, in fact, we abstain from food, distractions and marital pleasures before communion. What’s more, it’s why the Church forbids men from communing after nocturnal emissions, and women from communing during menstruation.

    The Church acknowledges that all of these things are wrapped up in the fallenness and “sinfulness” of the race, even though nobody has committed “a sin.” As such, even when people have not committed “a sin,” they may still find themselves under a mild form of excommunication and penance. Because taking a life is so great a tragedy, and so greatly enmeshed in “sinfulness,” the penance is much heavier than for other things. But it is not related to the man having committed “a sin.” In fact, the same penances are prescribed for people who have been involved in a tragic accidental death. If a drunk driver plows into a priest’s car – through no fault of the priest – and the priest survives but the drunkard dies, the Church still forbids the priest to continue to serve Liturgy. He would also be given a penance and probably deprived of communion for a time (unless the accident had endangered his life, obviously).

    In short, the discipline of the Church places strong penances on men who have been involved in deaths, not because they have committed “a sin,” but because – out of respect for the Mysteries of Life – it is inappropriate for somebody experiencing a manifestation of our fallenness and death to take communion. Again, this is the case whether the death was intentional or accidental, and whether the man was at fault or not. And, it is even true of lesser matters like having eaten food too recently, having slept with your wife, or even havind had a nocturnal emission.

    To think that the penance is given because a man has to repent of “a sin,” is to think that Orthodoxy has the “Western” mentality of rendering satisfaction for certain deeds. Orthodoxy not only gives penances when people commit “a sin,” but even when “sinfulness” is manifested in actions which are not blameworthy (i.e., menstruation, manslaughter, etc.). That is because repentance is about lamenting and changing our fallen condition and mindset, not about rendering satisfaction for specific deeds.

    I hope that explanation was not too poorly worded and confusing.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  14. Also, it should be pointed out that the Church has blessed arms and soldiers, and that Christ Himself has commanded warriors to conquer. How many saints have you seen dressed in their battle armor? Theodore the General? Thedore the Recruit? John and Paul? Demetrius? Martin? The list is interminable. I was a pacifist when I was a Protestant, but part of becoming Orthodox was accepting the hard truth that the Church does believe in “just war.” It was very difficult for me.

    The Church takes the same attitude towards war as it does towards marriage, eating, sleeping etc. These things are necessary because of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and are not inherently sinful. In fact, marriages, food, beds, weapons, soldiers and wars can all be blessed; they are good things, when used aright. But obviously, it would be better if all mankind were free from bodily needs and passions, and the wars they often provoke.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  15. Probably you haven’t seen righteous anger because it is rare, and is never directed against people. It is found in spiritual men. If you look up “anger” and “incensive power” in the Philokalia, you will find very detailed teachings regarding how the incensive faculty (sometimes also called the “virile aspect”) is one of the three aspects of the soul (the intellective, incensive, and appetitive). Like all the faculties, it can be used according to nature or contrary to nature. When used according to nature, it manifests itself as a goad towards righteousness and a “righteous indignation” against obstacles to righteousness(“righteous indignation” are the exact words used by several authors of the Philokalia like St. Gregory Palamas and Nikitas Stithatos).

    The incensive aspect, which controls anger, also controls the ability to “force ourselves,” which is so important to attaining true apatheia. Since I have not attained true apatheia, I don’t feel that I can theologize about it. But, apatheia means “freedom from the passions.” All these faculties of the soul can be used in a natural or unnatural (i.e., passionate or impassionate) way. If the person in Apatheia contemplates God through the intellect and Intelligent Aspect of the soul, and Desires God with the Appetitive Aspect of the Soul, and spurs himself towards God with the Incensive Aspect of the soul, all the while using these aspects without passion – and if passion is understood as contraty to nature – then I have to assume that if the Fathers of the Philokalia say that using the Incensive Apsect of the soul for righteous indignation is according to nature, it must necessarily also be dispassionate. It may be passionate in the natural sense, but Apatheia is not concerned with the natural passions, which even Christ had.

    It must be possible to fulfill the words of scriture, “be angry, and sin not.” As I say, just look in the index of your Philokalia and read the entries on the aspects of the soul, especially the incensive aspect, and on anger.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  16. I would like to see the claim fulfilled, which seems implicit in your comment, that some sort of active incensive faculty can coexist with apatheia.

    Comment by tuD | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  17. I’ve never seen an example of “righteous” anger. I’ve seen immense amounts of anger said to be, treated as, or justified by “righteous anger”, but I’ve not witnessed it even once. I liken it to just war, or justifiable homicide: it’s a denial of the objectivity of such sins – all of which involve or are forms of killing/murder, which as far as I’m concerned are the same thing.

    To digress a bit: Someone breaks into your house, attacks your family, and you kill them; it’s still an objective sin, and you’ve excommunicated yourself, have blood-guilt, and must do penance. The confessor may impose a lighter penance than he would if you shot a thief in the back, but it’s still objectively wrong. We live in a culture where it is presumed that it is always possible to do right, that there’s always a choice of right or wrong or that, somehow, a lesser of wrongs is somehow justifiable or right. It’s a conviction that all evil is subjective. But in fact, to cause the death of someone is objectively evil, by any means or in any fashion.

    In the same sense, the kind of anger that is associated with political issues is, in my thinking, always sin. Always objectively wrong. It is a passion. I leave it to you to eludicate what the fathers mean when they use the word a different way, but it certainly does not refer to any of the rhetoric of neoconservatism, which anyone, I think you’d agree, with spiritual sensitivity, would decry as demonic.

    But there’s more, I think, to neconservatism than anger, bigotry, and pride, which are certainly there. But also there’s a fundamental dishonesty in the methodology. It’s hard to put a finger on directly, but it’s there. It’s a shell game, and it disguises sin – it disguises the conversion of lives into commodities as some form of justice. That’s of deep concern, and it’s that which, combined w. bigotry – namely the standardization of human beings and human experience (the heretical conversion of persons and operations into nature) that drives the effect of a policy of perpetual war. At least on the surface: but I think there’s an occult element there; one of human sacrifice. Still working on this.

    Comment by tuD | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  18. I think “Neo-Conservatism” means so many different things to so many different people, that it’s hard to define it, much less attack it. The “Religious Right,” is only vaguely better.

    I think that, so far as it concerns Orthodoxy, the real problem is the issue of passion and anger.

    I think it does need to be pointed out, that many Fathers and Masters of Prayer (even in the Philokalia) point out that anger (properly understood) is actually a good thing. In its pure form, it is the “incensive faculty” in man, which steels him against wickedness. We know, for example, that the Wrath and Mercy of God are the same thing, merely the inverse side – where even the Wrath is Mercy, because it refuses to endure what is unmerciful.

    When our anger mirrors this – that is, when it is exercised as a pure expression of our incensive faculty against something which is by its nature worthy of righteous hatred, our anger is pure. I mean, the scriptures even say “be angry, and sin not.” The two approaches to anger (and their apparent contradiction) have long been discussed.

    In all likelihood, St. Cassian was referring to anger in the conventional sense, where it is a selfish passion that disturbs the tranquility of the soul/mind/heart. When one reads the Fathers (esp. in the Philokalia), one sees that the fathers speak in two totally different ways about anger, depending upon how they understand it.

    This is where Orthodoxy should be concerned with the “Religious Right.” I rejected the religous right, even as a Protestant, because I saw what it really meant for many people: an opportunity to hate. It did several things, simultaneously:

    1) Allowed Christians to feel superior to others.
    2) Allowed them to de-humanize and abuse their “enemies.”
    3) Allowed them to feel like they were somehow serving God – without the hard work of really developing a spiritual life.

    When we see this trend manifesting, it is dangerous. And of course, we hope that all Orthodox Christians will embrace the “correct” social program and philosophy. But, the likelihood of that happening (since the Christian philosophy is so over-arching, that a person can honestly believe any number of different “approaches” are in harmony with it) is slim indeed. In the meantime, we should be sure that we don’t oppose Neo-Conservatism for the same reasons that many Neo-Conservatives “get political” themselves.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  19. I’ve done far crazier things in forums, monk Aidan. 🙂

    CPP, I once heard of an Episcopal Church excommunicating a man for being a slum lord. They told him when he did justice to the poor and stopped exploiting them, they would readmit him to the Eucharist. It’s an encouraging thing; sadly, they haven’t been consistent, as we have not been.

    I think you were trying to spell statist (which would make mroe sense) rather than Satanist.

    I do think many of them would be happier somewhere else that’s more compatible (though one prays for their conversion, that by their prayers they will save us) – what participation in neconservatism and simultaneously in Orthodoxy does, is create cognitive dissonance, and indeed a dialectic between personal life and religious life. It creates death in the man. But many things do that. Orthodoxy is rife w. KGB, CIA, racism, and all kinds of people involved in secretive or private beliefs and fraternal organizations that one could observe conflict quite grossly with the precepts of Orthodox living. The Fathers were clearer about these things than we are now; they encouraged Orthodox people not to be performers, for instance – to reject participation in the entire profession for the sake of the profession of Faith. By this reasoning, a lot of us excommunicate ourselves, and then partake of the Holy Gifts unworthily, for which reason many of us are sick and repose before our time.

    I think more to the point, you’re really speaking about the compatibility of one thing with the other. And yeah, statism acts in the place religion is supposed to act in the man, and so yes it’s an idol and so incompatible.

    Comment by tuD | March 13, 2008 | Reply

  20. If Neoconservatives are Satist shouldn’t they excommunicate themselves from the Church. I hear them speak regularly at coffee hour and I believe they would be happier following the god of the State not the Prince of Peace. What do you think tud???

    Comment by cpp123 | March 13, 2008 | Reply

  21. Oh, I was the one who took “every” and made it into “100%,” and then thought “100%” had been removed? That’s flaky. Maybe I need to take a step back before embarrassing myself any further…

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 13, 2008 | Reply

  22. On the difficulty of defining neoconservatism:

    Joshua Muravchik, Commentary Magazine
    “Nonetheless, the tenets of neoconservatism continue to offer the most cogent approach to the challenge that faces our country. To recapitulate those tenets one last time: (1) Our struggle is moral, against an evil enemy who revels in the destruction of innocents. Knowing this can help us assess our adversaries correctly and make appropriate strategic choices. Saying it convincingly will strengthen our side and weaken theirs. (2) The conflict is global, and outcomes in one theater will affect those in others. (3) While we should always prefer nonviolent methods, the use of force will continue to be part of the struggle. (4) The spread of democracy offers an important, peaceful way to weaken our foe and reduce the need for force.”

    Ross Doutha, The Atlantic
    “These “tenets” are pretty anodyne, I’d say. Certainly most liberal internationalists would claim to agree with them; I’d imagine you could get many self-styled realists to say the same (particularly tenets 1-3); and depending on how you interpret them, I could see myself agreeing with all four. Of course, these banalities aren’t what actually define foreign-policy neoconservatism, as Muravchik more or less allows elsewhere in the essay. Rather, the neocons are distinguished by what Muravchik, quoting Max Boot, calls their “hard Wilsonianism”: The “hard” part makes them more likely to resort to force than liberal internationalists, while the Wilsonian part makes them more likely than realists to favor putting military force in the service of democracy-promotion. It’s these tendencies, not Muravchik’s four tenets, that look dubious in the aftermath of Iraq, and it’s in defending how they played out in our invasion of that unhappy country that Muravchik is largely unpersuasive.”

    A similar discussion takes place on the American Prospect’s blog and another on the National Review’s blog .

    Simon Ingold of Yale, writes in American Conservatism in the 20th Century:

    Defining neoconservatism: origins of an intellectual ideology: Neoconservatism did not emerge from a vacuum. Its origins are deeply rooted in the intellectual climate of the post-war period. In fact, the essential characteristic of neoconservatism lies in its reactionary nature, whereas reaction is to be understood in its literal sense. Neoconservatism was not an innovation per se, it was a direct response to an existing set of ideas. Blumenthal notes that “conservatism requires liberalism for its meaning.”3 Accordingly, denunciation is its favourite mode of expression.4 In the wake of the New Deal, a virtually undisputed liberal consensus had been firmly established in the United States to the extent that some declared the end of ideology.5 Sceptics criticized that this broad based consensus had spawned a liberal establishment, or “ideological ruling class” that dominated the political discourse, riding on the coattails of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. This “New Class,” which was “half analytic concept, half polemical device”6 served as a diffuse collective term for such equally fuzzy expressions as the “university-government-media”7 complex and conjured up conspiracy theories. The concern raised by critics of the New Class was that its existence was contingent on the expansion of government. By putting forward demands such as a shift in public expenditures towards welfare and more equality, the New Class overburdened the government.8 The resulting crisis of authority undermined the legitimacy of the governing institutions, thereby threatening the stability of the social fabric. Hence critics called for a reassertion of authority and for the insulation of the government from excessive demands by the New Class. The crisis had cultural roots, not institutional ones. It was nihilism, the perceived lack of values and norms, that troubled the nascent neoconservative movement. It is important to note that the voices of caution at the time were affiliated with the Left themselves, either as socialists or Marxists. By the time the New Class and counterculture emerged in the 1960s, this small group of critical thinkers was utterly disillusioned with liberalism. They became conservatives “not by inheritance, but by conversion.”9 This consequential step bears witness to a sense of alienation that is a recurrent theme in neoconservative self-consciousness.

    Jacob Heilbrunn, The National Interest, is cited at American Interest Online in this manner:
    “No one . . . has ever really succeeded in precisely defining neoconservatism.” It is not, Heilbrunn declares, really about ideology or even a form of apostasy from the Left; it is “a mindset, one that has been decisively shaped by the Jewish immigrant experience, by the Holocaust, and by the 20th-century struggle against totalitarianism.” This mindset is “as much a reflection of Jewish immigrant social resentment and status anxiety as a legitimate movement of ideas. Indeed, however much they may deny it, neoconservatism is in a decisive respect a Jewish phenomenon reflecting a subset of Jewish concerns.” Among these concerns, the principal one is the security and safety of Israel.” This is likewise discussed at truthdig,

    The quest of definitions in terms of origins persist in a number of places – take a look at Neocons or Vichy Cons?

    A discussion at americablog, with a number of links to attempts at definition, draws this response:
    “I don’t really agree with Wiki’s article. It is utterly impossible to discuss neoconservatism, the Project for the New American Century, the Weekly Standard, etc. without simultaneously discussing Israel, which the article barely mentions (and then largely in the context of the KKK’s antisemitism.) In my opinion, the American Conservative has run the best articles defining neoconservatism, and identifying the ideological roots of its exponents (a mishmash spanning the gamut from Trotskyism to Italian fascism.) The problem in defining neoconservatism is that it is almost exclusively related to foreign policy, and categorizations like “conservative” and “liberal”, which are inherently domestic, do not apply. Because neoconservatism is basically a pragmatic doctrine, it has seemed pointless to me to delve into an underlying philosophy.”

    Washington Note describes this difficulty at a conference:
    “The discussion following the presentations — moderated well by Desch — went more to the point of what neoconservatism is and isn’t; whether it mattered; would you know a neoconservative policy in Asia if you saw it; are there tensions between neocons and acolytes of Leo Strauss; and many more questions.”

    The New Criterion’s review of William McGurn’s book on Podhoretz writes:

    “Many of the same complications hold true for neoconservatism, a movement in which he enjoys Founding Father status but which has never been sufficiently defined in positive terms. Negative definitions abound, from those on the right who see it as a Trojan Horse for liberalism to those on the left who see it as a conservatism with a friendlier face (not to mention those who use it as a crude euphemism for “Jewish”). Positive definitions have been more difficult to supply, and not only because neoconservatism is probably most frequently deployed as a pejorative. In its actual manifestations, it has not really been a creed along the lines of the cultural conservatism of the Russell Kirks, the libertarian consistency of a Hayek, or even the fusionism of a William F. Buckley, Jr. To my mind, the Reader confirms that neoconservatism is more a disposition that divided those on the left who adjusted their theories to reality from those who did vice versa.”

    There’s a nice discussion of this at The New Skeptic that starts off with:
    “Even among people who don’t claim Pat Buchanan is a neoconservative, there seems to be confusion on what a neoconservative is. What is the difference between neoconservatives and paleoconservatives? One definition I found “Neoconservatives are characterized by an aggressive moralist stance on foreign policy, a lesser social conservatism, weaker dedication to a policy of minimal government, and a greater acceptance of the welfare state.” I note the use of “-er” adjectives, indicating that the qualities are being compared to something else, presumably paleoconservatives. To the actual claims, I have to wonder about the definition. What that definition really sounds like is a moderate conservative. An “aggressive moralist foreign policy” sounds like the foreign policy of a modern liberal (see Clinton’s various military escapades). “Lesser social conservativism” seems to mean that neocons don’t demand that all gays be imprisoned. The third and fourth portions of the definition seem to be the same thing: greater acceptance of the Leviathan. I guess it means the move from trying to abolish the Department of Education to supporting legislation like No Child Left Behind. Is this accurate? I don’t mean that all people who call themselves neocons must adhere to those principles, but do the majority of neocons seem to fit that definition? What would a chart comparing neocons and paleocons look like?”

    One can keep going, into the general difficulty of ordinary people on the web to define neoconservatism:

    The question of how self-serving self-definitions can be, and whether they’re even useful, is expressed in this comment:
    “WILLIAM KRISTOL USES LOFTY RHETORIC IN DEFINING NEOCONSERVATISM. HE WRITES IN THE LANGUAGE OF UNIVERSALISM: PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY ABROAD. BUT HIS RHETORIC MASKS THE NEOCONS REAL AGENDA: ISRAELI HEGEMONY IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND EXPLOITING THE MILITARY POWER OF THE UNITED STATES IN ORDER TO DESTROY ENEMIES OF ISRAEL. IRAN AND SYRIA ARE NEXT ON THE AGENDA. THE NEOCONS DO NOT CARE ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS IN ZIMBABWE OR MYANMAR OR THE CONGO. MOREOVER, THEY REJECT DEMOCRACY FOR THE PALESTINIANS UNLESS PALESTINE IS LED BY A PUPPET GOVERNMENT.”

    This comment: “Most Americans would probably have difficulty defining neoconservatism. But they know a failure when they see it.” likewise points to difficulty with plain sense or obvious definitions.

    The fluidity and continual evolution of any possible definition is mentioned here: “In his 1995 book, Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, Irving Kristol described the dogma of the neocon: “[W]e are conservative,” he said, “but different in certain aspects from the conservatism of the Republican Party. We accepted the New Deal in principle, and had little affection for the kind of isolationism that then permeated American conservatism.””

    Says RightWeb, “One of the reasons that pundits and analysts have such a difficult time defining neoconservatism is that this closely-knit political camp has multiple faces and historical roots.”

    This is just an abstract, but it mentions the attempt to define neconservatism in the context of conservatism.


    It is my contention, simply,
    that neoconservatism has defied common definition because it is a changeable methodology rather than a static set of propositions.

    Comment by tuD | March 12, 2008 | Reply

  23. Actually, there has been no such edit to the article. I’m surprised you would suggest such a thing since it was you who quoted the article right after it was posted: “Every fundamental tenet of neoconservatism is contrary to the Holy Gospel.” – see your first post above. The 100% is neither the way that we talk, nor was it ever in the article, though perhaps you read it that way. The first use of the phrase “100%” was by you, and afterward, you’ve been quoting yourself, or your own reVision of our comments rather than the comments themselves.

    On the other two points, Monk Aidan, you’ve committed some logical fallacies. Let’s take item#1: it’s also a tenet of Mormonism, of conservatism, etc. You see the point? It’s fallacious to take tenets that are shared by a number of groups and arbitrarily claim they typify neoconservatism in any special way. That’s an established fallacy [group x holds belief y, so group x is defined by belief y (e.g. “Conservatives believe the earth is round, therefore the belief that the earth is round is a tenet of conservatism.” – reductio yields “Satanists believe the earth is round, therefore belief that the earth is round is a tenet of Satanism.” Further reductio, based on the initial fallacy: “conservatism and satanism hold the same beliefs, therefore conservatives are satanists.” You see the fallacy, I think, without beating it to death. Same fallacy with the 2nd point. It may also be expressed as: “group x holds belief y, so belief y is a (defining) tenet of group x”. Clearly we’re talking about defining tenets, otherwise you’d be committing another fallacy, that of confusing the group with the philosophy the group holds. That fallacy can be expressed as “Group x holds belief y, therefore belief y is a tenet of the philosophy of group x, for which they are named.” It’s another form of the aforementioned fallacy.

    Fallacious likewise, is articulating the tenets in terms of their results rather than their causes, or even failing to examine whether the results conflict with their own causes, and furthermore distinguishing types or classes of causes. For instance, what differentiates a social neocon from an economic one? There are plenty of people who hold one class of doctrine and not the other. Likewise, Roman Catholic doctrine holds to the sanctity of human life (which is why RCs were involved in the pro-life movement before the 1980s, when the protestant neocons entered it). The former’s antagonism against abortion flows from a doctrine on human life that also affects their views on capital punishment and war. Among necons however, it is quite popular to oppose abortion (pain and death for unborn children), but to support capital punishment, war, and even torture where “necessary” or, in some cases, “useful”. Clearly the tenet is not the same tenet, and a simple articulation of “they’re against abortion” likewise fails on this ground.

    Likewise, you don’t seem to be interested in discussing or even acknowledging our premises, which we’ve outlined for you, as dealing with methodology. Until then, we’ve really no reason to continue to debate you. Suffice it to say, you don’t like what we said. We can live with that. But in any case, it would be foolish to frame the argument in terms of methodology and accept your ground of a reduction of that to mere propositions. No reason for us to yield that ground. You seem to be falling into the fallacy of “Loki’s wager” – namely the suggestion that if a thing cannot be defined precisely, it cannot be discussed (or therefore likewise criticized). While you haven’t been explicit about this, it seems to be your operative premise.

    On a side note, let me ask you, is neoconservatism one of your fetishes? I call it that, because I believe its adherence to be illicit and such convictions to be illicit convictions for a Christian – similar to being a freemason or a tax collector or publican or closet alcoholic. In short, yes, a hidden vice – a fetish. If that’s the case, we can pray for you, but I doubt whether anything we say to you will be truly helpful. These things tend to take hold of us, like all illicit belief systems, so that we regard them as deeper in our hearts than the Faith itself (regard, I say, not in the intellectual part of our mind, but so regard them with our affections). This is why “Christians” can torture, or shoot civilians, or support statist policies, or laws that oppress the poor. The assumptions and affections of the fetish are the assumptions and affections into which we hear the Gospel, rather than the other way around. But when we debate, then we try to reverse the order, and justify the assumptions and affections in light of the Gospel, and we commit the same error the academics and heterodox are always committing, namely the substitution of an esoteric and ultimately personal interpretation for the plain sense of things; ideology replaces meaning. This is every bit as much a spiritual problem, as an intellectual one, for such things are not separable.

    Comment by tuD | March 12, 2008 | Reply

  24. I see that the “100% contrary to the Gospel” language has been quietly removed from the original article.

    Just don’t want to appear to be talking to myself. Or, if talking to myself, at least not replying to myself also.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 12, 2008 | Reply

  25. Two of the basic “staples” of neoconservatism (in the United States, where I live, anyway), as a political movement, are:

    1. We should protect unborn children from being murdered by their parents (this essential goal or principle is “prosecuted” in a number of ways, some legal, some financial, some cultural).

    2. We should ensure that all people in the U.S. have immediate access to basic, urgent healthcare (whether or not they are citizens, have money to pay, etc.).

    I would like to hear an explanation of how these two principles are “100% contrary to the Gospel.”

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 12, 2008 | Reply

  26. On the Melkite article, let me see what I can do. [Fixed]

    On your questions, they are fairly asked, and I only ask two things:

    1st: give me some time. Tonight is prayers and readings and this will take place in just a little while; I have to prepare. Likewise, allow me to think about it a bit; the thing is, as I said, the creating of bullet points for the one side is the difficult thing. I was rather hoping you could help me with it, since I could provide then, the other side, which would answer your questions. That last part, you see, is not the difficulty. There’s a missing element of the syllogism, and we have not been able to express it; my theory is because it is methodology, not content, and will require a different kind of analysis. All day long, you and I could sit by the radio, and listen to neoconservatism, and hit their methdologies – their ways of thinking, presenting a problem, etc. with pure scripture. But it’s harder to do without a model reduced to a list or chart. We’re working on it, time being hard to spare during the increased prayers of Great Lent, and with other demands, but we’re working on it. I can tell you this: just as the gnostics have a way of thinking (not so much a what of thinking, per se), so do we Orthodox – we have a way of speaking back at it, of responding, and that too is hard to put down in a set of bullet points. All we have to do, really, is sense what the other side is up to, and we have a way of being toward it. For instance, elsewhere in this site, I’ve been mentioning our difference of hermeneutic and epistemology. Please accept that we’re honestly trying to work through this ourselves – not to decide what we believe or even what’s wrong, but rather on how to express it without resorting to yet another inadequate experience of attacking content where method is at stake. Help us, if you like. We’re trying. 🙂

    2nd: See the above. 🙂 Remember, we’re not saying it’s “tenets” (content) but we think it’s methodology that masquerades as tenets, and in fact that is precisely the genius of gnostic methodology – it hides what is actually a way of thinking, approaching, analyzing, solving, describing as a body of content, so that when it’s refuted, it can withdraw and reform with different content but keeping the method. That IS the gnostic form of attack – that’s it’s primary tactic, and it has both offensive and defensive sides to it. Brilliant, really.

    Maybe what we need is a threefold chart, but then that would get reduced by the reader to a slippery slope and the point would be lost, for we breathe in gnosticism with our first breath of the fallen world of death, and from then we cannot see or hear without it filling our nostrils and choking out the light of life. It is just another name for the original mystery religion of Eden’s downfall, of Babel’s beginning, of Simon Magus’ imagining, and of every Antichrist that has come bringing the trumpet herald of Apostasy. This is not a small thing to analyze, and it requires specifically that we do NOT reduce it to a platform of propositions that can be swept away or sweep away, but rather refuse to play that game and attack it’s soul.

    Gnosticism is the demon that when cleaned out of a man, wanders in desolate places, and comes back tenfold. It’s a hydra, in terms of thought. We need a better plan of attack. Even if we cut off one head, it would make it worse not better. We want the mind, not the head.

    Please forgive, but this will mean there will not be many simple or immediate answers. We’re working on it.

    Comment by tuD | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  27. By the way, it is impossible for some reason to add comments to the article “Melkites Define Latinizations.”

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  28. When you write:

    > … I mean of course, neconservatism as a body of political doctrine, political devotion, and political involvement, which is inherently gnostic, anti-Christian, and even perhaps overtly religious in character (see the article on dispensationalism and Israel).

    Gnostic because it subscribes to what Gnostic beliefs, in particular?

    Anti-Christian because it subscribes to what anti-Christian tenets, in particular?

    Overtly religious because it promotes which exact religion, in overtness of exactly what type? (I, for example, see a lot of COVERT religious beliefs in the things political-neoconservatives do, but often the underlying paradigm is not vocalised; rather, a sort of religious universalism is what is put out to the public. That sort of thing cannot be described as overt.

    I think you have hit a target with the dispensationalist connection, but I can’t actually discuss this topic competently with nothing more than the vaguest notion of what is meant by the article or how others are understanding the terms used in the article.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  29. Monk Aidan. Great questions. Well, first, political movements have religious components quite often. The Russians talked of bolschevism this way, and quite excellent writers have analyzed the quasi-religious (I would simply say religious) aspects of key political movements. There are gnostic aspects to most modern political systems (Voegelin – The New Science of Politics – (a standard in political science) looks at this, as does Ernst Kantorowicz in history (The Kings Two Bodies), even Samuel Huntington who wrote the bible for the agenda of American Imperialism, the Clash of Civilizations. James Billington, the previous librarian of Congress, has written extensively on this, as have several more obscure writers as well. In other words, they’re not just overtones, any more than the tower of babel had religious overtones. There’s a point where fealty to Caesar and worship of Caesar can begin to be the same thing.

    I mean of course, neconservatism as a body of political doctrine, political devotion, and political involvement, which is inherently gnostic, anti-Christian, and even perhaps overtly religious in character (see the article on dispensationalism and Israel).

    Your second question though, really involves the first, and is a matter of some debate and frustration among both neoconservates and their critics: namely, what are the bullet points of neoconservatism – what are its key tenets. Several recent articles have decried the lack of these or variously tried to offer a solution, but failing to offer any bullet points. 🙂 I would argue that the difficulty with this actually elucidates the gnostic character of it, because gnosticism is not a body of doctrine per se (not a set of bullet points) but rather a methodology – more correctly, developing set of methodologies.

    The Fathers discovered this as, one after another, they offered refutations of doctrine, devotion, and participation, effectively wiping out one gnostic school after another with shame and conversions, only to find that in each successive period the gnostics would come back having morphed the doctrine, devotion, and participation so that a whole new refutation was needed. The methodologies, however, remained the same or got stronger.

    Likewise, the later fathers would discover they had a different methodology of theology than the schismatics, and so it wasn’t simply yeah or nay to a doctrine like the filioque, but took someone like St. Photius to analyze the implications of the distinct methods of theology.

    We tried to lay out a set of bullet points for neoconservatism as a plan for the initial article on the topic, and we failed. Sure, there are a handful of such bullets out there, and they’re not significantly useful to them or to their critics.

    What I contend is that we’re dealing not with a specific body of doctrine, devotion, and involvement per se, but rather a methodology – hence the name neo-conservatism, rather than simply conservatism. And this neo-conservatism at this stage in history is so effective that it is the keystone by which other movements are effectively labelled and marginalized. The conservatism of Ron Paul is called libertarianism. The libertarians are called anarchists. The anarchists are called terrorists. The neo-liberals are called liberals, while they roast alive the actual liberals like Noam Chomsky. You see what I mean. It’s gotten to the point where a Franky Schaeffer refuses to identify himself as a neoconservative, despite his enormous neocon fan base (including quite a lot of Orthodox, specifically quite a lot of Orthodox converts, and specifically in the West).

    The problem too, is that this methodology is so pervasive that it’s assumptions underlie the basic norms of prayer and devotion in many Orthodox communities. When we pray for the unity of all men, what does each individual mean? We have a situation of near cacadoxy of meaning, when in fact this was not the case, not to this degree, 100 years ago. Neoconservatism, in short, has reached a point where we don’t even hear things anymore, let alone say them, without them being colored by it — the same way eschatology in the West is colored by an ever present underlying dispensatonalism, even among those who deny that doctrine, that pneumatology is coloured by either pentecostalism or a protestantism that rejects in practice what it affirms in theory – the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and a soteriology that is coloured, inevitably, by evangelism of the Billy Graham atmosphere, in which everything is steeped.

    The same is true of anthropology. I recently heard an Orthodox speaker use body/soul/spirit as a tripartite analysis of man, in such a way that spirit was considered a kind of third part natural to the human being.

    With neoconservatism, I contend, if we could create a set of bullet points that typify either its ever evolving content or its insidious methodology, I’d be happy to do a side-by-side comparison with the teaching of the Church. As it is, the very fact that one can pray one thing in Church, and advocate a quite incompatible thing the rest of the time, is itself a fair area of criticism, and indeed subject to the same type of considered critique one may launch against gnosticism.

    There is a point, Aidan, and the German Lutherans knew this in the 1930s and the Gallic Catholics (the ones who didn’t help) knew it in the 1800s, where the pageantry, the waving of banners, the cries of crowds in the streets at rally’s (today it is on the internet and radio, but the cries are far louder than anything man has seen before) – there’s a point where that begins to become religion. And for the same reasons that masonry is forbidden, and divination, and so on, so being a neoconservatism or sympathetic to that is dangerous, and is not forbidden only because there’s no way for Orthodoxy to gather in the West, in a way unpolluted by it, and consider it. Indeed, Rome is more successful here. Among us, He who Forbids, sometimes seems to be taken away.

    Comment by tuD | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  30. Greetings. I suppose my first question ought to have been, “What is meant by the term ‘neoconservatism’?” Is a political movement meant, or a religious one? Or one that involves both these realms? Whatever it is, what are some of those tenets which are said to be 100% contrary to the Gospel?

    Where did this extreme writing come from? The point that Western rite need not be the exclusive focus of this blog is well taken. And, by the way, the concept is also well taken that disparate phenomena (phyletism and inadequate catechesis, for example) may mutually affect one another, resulting in a “syndrome.”

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 10, 2008 | Reply

  31. Greetings, monk Aidan. Well, my gosh, you’ve sounded off today. 🙂

    No one commented on or analyzed the other political philosophies and attributions you mentioned. One could, but I notice you’ve listed nearly every other form of statism. It’s interesting that you see these as dialectical contrasts, when in fact, they have so much in common. Indeed, we could have written an essay on bolschevism, but it’d hardly be relevant in the current climate.

    We weren’t offering an appeal to authority (“Says who?”) but yes, neoconservatism among Christians is a meta-apostasy, achieving a pretty bad score indeed, if such things are scored. Shall we get out the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke and read the Sermons on the Mount and on the Plain? They’re the closest thing to score sheets in the scriptures’ New Mystery. Or we could turn to the old and the ten commandments. And we are not the first to say these things, but many Orthodox have said them.

    As far as the relationship to the Western Rite, we don’t agree that direct commentary on the Western Rite in isolation will be the only topic here. Our concerns about much that is being done in the name of “Western Rite” include much that is being done in the larger climate – and involves other sectors as well. Why would we keep all these things in isolation? Where we find Faith exchanged for idolatry as a general trend, why not comment on it?

    We have not set out to intentionally ham-string ourselves by limiting ourselves to concern for one issue in isolation, as though it is either occuring in isolation or is not itself the result of something else. Do heterodox devotions, bad liturgics, inadequate catechesis, phyletism as policy, and disturbing ecclesiology happen in isolation? Or do they not come out of a larger cornucopia of moral concupiscence which likewise generates other monster children? Indeed, are these new developments new or in fact quite old?

    Comment by tuD | March 10, 2008 | Reply

  32. So let me be sure I understand. Neoconservatism is Satanism. But neoliberalism, liberalism, conservatism, middle-of-the-roadism, monarchism, and theocracy are not.

    “Every fundamental tenet of neoconservatism is contrary to the Holy Gospel.”

    Says who? And… “every”? So neoconservatism has succeeded in achieving a 0% score where no heresy or idolatry has previously succeeded? That’s quite an achievement.

    And this has what to do with the Western rite?

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 10, 2008 | Reply


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