“Peace is the integrity and health of the soul, to lose peace is to lose spiritual health”
—St. John Kronstadt
An often unexamined subject in American Politics as it pertains to Orthodox Christians is the relationship between identity, religiosity, and politics, and how it affects the way we Orthodox react to political-religious events in the United States and abroad. I think the key problem is that American Orthodox Christians ie, Othodox Christians in the United States do not understand the Christian role of identity in the United States, and how it is different in the Orthodox tradition within other cultures nor how that difference shapes how we respond and react to political-religious events, such as the acceptance or non-acceptance of homosexuality, or abortion, the just war, or co-habitiation before marriage just to name a few.
For Orthodox Christians the fundamental identity is Christ. How we relate to all of humanity is predicated on the purity, sincerity, and loyalty to that identity since as a Christian we understand morals and justice and by extension human behaviour in relation to these in as far as how they relate to the source of these which is Christ Himself, God, and the Holy Spirit. We are Christians, who possess the entirety of the Christian Faith which is expressed in our Orthodox Worship, Traditions, and Doctrines, which has not changed since the beginning of Time, which God Himself created. We understand ourselves to be the microcosm of the Universe, and we understand the conditions by which we have come to be such a race of creatures in need of the salvific grace of the Holy Trinity, and specifically of the God-man, Christ. We are Christians, thus we have a Christian ethic that is superior to the American, Democratic, Republican, Liberatarism, Tea-Partism, women, children, black, chicano, labour whatever rights movements ie whatever the fractious, pluralistic polity may think of as a platform to settle materialistic scores. Nonetheless, as Christians we are to repulse the world privily and publically and we are to Love Our Neighbour as Ourselves, first loving God with All our Heart, Soul, Strength and Mind.
We are not to judge and we are not to subscribe to the modernist credo of relativity. We are the salt of the earth, and perhaps we cry salty tears due to our imperfections. Often we are a work in progress in the sight of those who search diligently for our imperfections and by these imperfections we may even be a stumbling block to others but the Psalmist does say that blessed is the man whose sins are covered by the Lord and the key to that state of blessedness is repentance. Repentance is a state of being the modernist, revisionist world with it’s preoccupation with self and self actualization-lacks.
Yet there is something about the American way of life, even in terms of its credo of the pursuit of wealth, happiness and equality, that we Orthodox as United States citizens have a difficult time of confronting, and perhaps because we have been lulled by the folksy saying “God, mom and apple pie, and a false reprensentation of our history. The truth is that The American way of Life came into being as an Enlightenment experiment, as an nation that was to be ruled solely by reason and the precedents set by man himself, with man as the abiding archetypical image; the Church was not to interfere in the affairs of the State, nor in theory was the state to interfere in the affairs of the Church. However, by this precedent one could see that it was never meant that the United States was to be a Christian State, nor has it ever been that as an American Christian, one would believe in Christ the same way one’s fellow citizen of the United States believed. Perhaps it can be said that the first plurality of the United States was the Religious Christian plurality, which by patriotic extension, this polity called themselves in an effort to gain social unity, Americans.
For an Orthodox Christian, I think, one must understand this reality: the heterodox were here in the United States before the Orthodox, and it existed here as a plurality. In contrast, in Orthodox countries, there was One Faith, One Belief, One Form of Worship, One Doctrine, One Tradition, whereby the heterodox was a heretical minority vigourously confronted with pamphlets by comtemporaneous Holy Church Fathers, and anathemas. Here in the United States, the heterodox are a plural majority, and the Orthodox, with its entirety of grace, and its fullness of praxis, is a minority. Thus the socio-political values of the Orthodox in relation to the heterodox-although there is a superficial confluence, which is in terms of degree and substance-is rooted in Christ ie, Christ the God-man who is the source of its societal moral codes, the source of its reasons for justice, the source code for every aspect of individual and personal behaviour relating to the salvific mission of Christ to save His people. The social unity of the Orthodox Christian is understood by the image of all being members of the body of Christ. The whole structure of society was based on this hierarchical and yet equalizing image. In contrast, in the United States in particular, with its plural heterodox religiosity, the identity of the United States citizen is American.
Thus in Orthodox countries its indigenous cultures have been transformed, transcended to Christianity in such a way that each individual within that redeemed culture aspires to put on Christ, and the understanding of what that means is universal, and singular. In Western countries, and particularly in the United States, each person has inherited the religious-plurality position to practice the faith as he or she as an individual sees fit, with or without the guidance of the Church or even the Bible. Thus this introduces a duality, and in the duality of public and private, sacred and secular life, a fractious state of the individual is fostered and encouraged. One acts one way in public, for the common good, and another in private, for the personal good. The conflict is an accepted evil in modern day politics. In such a state, the image of man and of God is a fractured reality, and in such a state, God becomes just another segment of society to be governed by the state. In such a state, God is a subjected to the state, rather than the state being subjected to God. Thus in the modern times we that the lack of an identity with Christ on His terms have embraced an identity of man with himself to the extent that Christ now must conform to this image of man. Yet the society based on this practice, as it is practice in the West and in the Untied States is fractured. There is no unified Christian Ethic which is absolute. Christ has become a relativistic image, a meme as Dawkins would put it, useful to advance competing political agendas.
In these days, we as American Christians, fundamentalist even, are learning that Christ has been useful to an enlightenment state as a way to manipulate the people into a state of apostasy against Christ. The anti-Christ mask is now torn away, or is tearing away, and the people are caught, attending to the sacred in a state of ignorant defiance, engaging in the parallel modern mystery cults of the modern age, which introduces strange doctrines and sacrifices to the many unsuspecting seekers of the True Christ. We believed that our private lives would protect us from the private lives of others, who believed differently than we do. In truth this was a comfortable fiction we accepted in return for the material gains we felt we needed to survive. We even told ourselves that we were exceptional, manifesting a destiny to spread our anti-Christian plurality to other nations, and this destiny was given us by God….a useful fiction to those who wanted to justify the materialistic striving for earthly security, and to justify our unjust wars. Sadly, too late, We are learning that the personal is political, and it can transform a society, a culture.
Certainly when we, as American converts come into the Orthodox Church, we are trying to retain that sense of knowing God in the sacred and the secular sense, where privily there is no separation of Church and State, in as far as how we identify and how our behaviour conforms to that identity, the Truth, the Person, ie Christ the God-man. We must also understand that the heterodox lost the fullness of this sense in 1054, with the beginning of the schism, and the schism begot other schisms creating the fractious image of man, each sliver trying to make Christ conform to the broken shards of that broken image, the various shards which in defiance trys to illumine the world with their own particular darkened eyes, and really in service to anti-Christ. We imagine America the good, and are confused that the United States supports regimes that kill Christians abroad. In this case we comfort ourselves with the term realpolitick, or collatoral damage. We blame one man for anti-Christian behaviours and actions, refusing to confront the pattern of anti-Christian political behaviours since the beginning of the American experiment. I think American Orthodox must come to an understanding of this, they must ask themselves why they feel such a strong need to co-opt Orthodoxy into their sense of exceptionalism and manifest destiny. The desire to Americanize Orthodoxy is an attempt to preserve that false sense of exceptionalism, an expression of demonic pride expressed in the national conscious and a justification for trying to dominate the world, as well as the sacred lives of citizens both within its national bounderies and abroad. We want to make Orthodoxy American, we demand that the Old Ortodox countries follow our lead; and we fail to see that our lead is leading mankind into the ravine. The United States is a plurality, an image of the fractured man; it is a plurality by nature which has always by its very nature been antagonistic to God, and only using God as a meme to advance worldy, unGodly goals. Now, openly, the United States rejects God in the name of Democracy.
As the state of affairs exist today, I believe many United States citizens are in a state of shock. We have been compromised, since when in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries the acceptance of the parallel existence of the modern mystery cults, the freemasons to name one such cult, became a tolerated reality. Does this scenario not remind you of the mystery cults of Ancient Rome or Greece? These are the trends that a pluralistic society allowed to coexist and thrive along side the overt pluralistic society, in which a secret anti-Christian unity was formed, alongside this pluralistic heterodox Christian society, and the results of their work is evident in the reality of the modernist, post-Christian world that now confronts us as we begin to seek the True Christ. This is the world that the heterodox churches themselves, in support of such secret societies, helped to create. In a way, they are the midwives of all the modernistic developments of the current age.
Orthodox Christians must educate themselves to the reality of the plural society, and its fractious characteristics, and must with an Orthodox mind set see the anti-Christian patterns of foreign policy and domestic policy of the West and in particular the United States, and act with intelligence and love for all of our neighbours to address this. We must also divorce ourselves from the fiction that we are an exceptional nation state that has a manifest destiny to spread democracy, and that only our way of being democratic has relevance.
We must acknowledge the religious politics of identity as it is parlayed in secular discourse, and in religious discourse and not allow it to sully the sacred discourse of the Orthodox revelation. We must recognise the difference between an identity with the God-man, and the identity with man, the two ways that Religious Praxis and identiy is entered into. One way leads to salvation, to the supranatural, the other to a grounding in the material and to eternal lost.
In conclusion, We need to question and identify the American values that we bring to the Orthodox way of life, and see if these values conforms with Way of Life that the Archetype of our Lives, our chief identity, commands of us as Orthodox Christians. We need to understand that Orthodoxy trandscends nation states secular identities without insulting those cultures and countries with a tradition of the Orthodox Faith, and the martyrs to prove it, as a witness to us, the novices in the Faith. Only by doing this will we be able to with understanding and love assist our Orthodox Christians globally and domestically, and better deal with the politics of an apostasizing society that has by its very actions have declared war on our new found Faith.
xenia lynn teresa williams