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Religion
The human animal is the worshipping animal. Toward the divine, we have a need to pray, to sacrifice, to offer up, and to praise. From the spirit dances of primitive animism to the rational contemplation of philosophical paganism, from the ethical code of the rabbis to the theological vision of the scholastics, from the sprinkled blood (the origin of blessing) of temple cults to helping the poor in simple Christian charity, men need to relate the immanent and the transcendent -- they see their particular lives in time and space transfigured and transfused with meaning unbounded by human things. Religion is this aspect of human life where the everyday and worldly intersects with the ultimate and divine. Is this an accident of human evolution, or is it a racial neurosis brought upon us as conscious beings who live in the shadow of our own death? Is it a reflection of the divine order, where creatures naturally orient themselves toward their source? Has God revealed himself to us, as the Christians claim? In this realm, I shall try to delve into such questions as an Orthodox Christian who ever pesters God with "Why?"
Monday, July 13, A.D. 2015
Russian Orthodox Statement on the Obergefell Ruling

A blessed feast day of the Holy Apostles to you!

I have not posted anything since the U.S. Supreme Court revealed its ruling in Obergefell versus Hodges. In general, I have not felt much like writing during the last year, having succumbed to a rather base gloom. However, for the synaxis, I would like to share the following statement from the Russian Orthodox Synod of Bishops:

When our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ instructed His Apostles to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21), He foretold of the future what was already true in the days in the Roman Empire: that a Christian would never be one who sat dismissively apart from the world and its governance, but neither would a Christian be one for whom the ever-changing whims of social governance would be the chief voice ruling his life. We are, as His followers, children of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14); we follow the Shepherd Whose voice we know (cf. John 10:4), trusting that His guidance will lead us out of all error into the haven of eternal life.

With the June 26th 2015 decision of the United States Supreme Court’s “Obergefell v. Hodges” case, every pious Christian has been given cause to consider anew these words of the Saviour. While our faithful living in the United States, and indeed all citizens of this country, are and shall remain thankful - both to God and to the founding ideals of the state - for the freedom in which they reside, which permits as one of its core values the free expression and practice of religion, neither we nor they can accept principles, created by juridical fiat from an organ of the state, which so blatantly go against the Teaching, Will, Law and Love of God. While the U.S. Supreme Court may have affirmed in law that a so-called “marriage” between two persons of the same sex is to be recognized, no pious Christian can see this as anything other than an attempt by the state to render unto itself what rightly belongs to God; for it is God, not the state, the courts or the electorate, Who fashioned male and female from the dust, Who blessed the clinging of man and woman together in marriage both in Eden and in Cana (cf. Genesis 2:18-25; John 2:1-11), and Who has sole claim over the fundamental nature of this bond. He Who is the only Lawgiver and Judge (James 4:12) is not bound by the determination of worldly judges, and He Whose word is truth (John 17:17), Who said to Thomas I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), is not subject to the redefinition of truth by any social or governmental body.

While we reaffirm today, as we have always done, the unchanging reality of repentance as a path open to all, without qualification, and abhor those who would react to any sin, or any sinner, other than in love and with the promise of new life that true repentance may bring, we nonetheless shall not succumb to the prevalent social trend of our day, which equates recognition and acceptance of sin with love. For the legalisation of sin is precisely what this judicial act accomplishes, whatever may otherwise be its aims or intentions. Marriage has been from creation, is now and will always be a union of a man and a woman, and the Church shall recognize and bless nothing else in the stead of this sacred union that has been established by God Himself.

We deeply regret that the United States Supreme Court has taken a decision which, in so definitively spurning the revealed will of God, opens the peoples of this land to an increase of suffering and sorrow, and a further decrease of moral stability. That which societies from time immemorial have honored - the strong place of the traditional family, the need for children to be reared in the embrace of a father and a mother - has been dismissed through an act of overstepped judicial authority, and we lament the profound trials this act will inevitably bring, since the departure from God’s Will always results in suffering. Yet we are children of a sovereign and unchanging God Whose power is not thwarted by the acts of men, and we encourage the faithful of the Church not to grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9) in the face of worldly trial. The Law of God is sure and steadfast, and against it nothing shall prevail. Our hearts remain calm and unshaken, and we fervently entreat the God of our Fathers to show His mercy upon this land, to guide its peoples and government aright. And to a world that has grown lukewarm to the truth, for which the choice between right and wrong is further greyed by political errors such as this, we exhort the same surety and confidence that has been borne by Christians through the ages, spoken firmly through the mouth of the prophet:

If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

I defer to the bishops’ statement from this past weekend; proper reaction is honestly beyond me. I have known for my entire adult life that the American regime has been headed toward nasty times, but I confess to being surprised by the speed of decline. I never expected to witness the coming dystopia in my lifetime; I had assumed that democracy and liberalism would slowly kill the republic over the next few centuries. Now, I wonder whether our nation (what nation?)—our constitutional order (um . . .)—our society (whose society? Oh, phooey!) can survive my generation.

As some of you know, I was a fan of the late Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) series. It has many gem moments. A sequence that impressed was a conversation (in “Resurrection Ship”) wherein Bill Adama asks the prisoner Sharon why the cylons hate human beings. She responds (17:40 - 19:27),

It’s what you said at the ceremony before the attack, when Galactica was being decommissioned. You gave a speech; it sounded like it wasn’t the one you prepared. You said that humanity was a flawed creation, and that people still kill one another for petty jealousy and greed. You said that humanity never asked itself why it deserved to survive. Maybe you don’t.

I watched the series with strong sympathies for the cylons, and it appears, from what I gathered in discussions with other fans, that I am in the minority there. I have sometimes wondered about how I would respond to a hypothetical invading force (extraterrestrial, terrestrial, flesh, or machine) that had the stronger moral argument. Should one side with one’s own Gomorrah as a loyal patriot—my country, right or wrong—or should one enlist for the other team? A traitor for an aggressive invader or a dissident who cooperates with a welcomed liberator that will restore order? Of course, such situations historically have been far messier and bloodier. Would I be a scoundrel to defect to a defender of Christendom?

On the lighter side, note that it is All Star Game Week in Cincinnati. It is good to see so much civic enthusiasm and life in my hometown. Love for one’s own makes it that much more painful to see it disgraced.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, July 13, Anno Domini 2015
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