Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Form of Government Should Christians Choose?

The soul is the most valuable of all God’s creations (Matt. 16:26).  Our foundational political documents and the life that flows from them ought to reflect this in some way.  But they do not.

What do we see instead?

There is less than one week remaining before the various elections are held across the Union, and members of the various factions and parties cannot wait to do battle at the ballot box, to subdue their enemies with the force of their vote.  Their anticipation is at a fever pitch.  And when elections are far off, still the different factions distrust and denounce and work for the destruction of the others.

This should tell us something about our spiritual state (that its current condition is very dreadful and wretched), and about the effect of our political system on our souls (it inclines us toward sin - pride, atheism, anger, and so on).

Father Yuri Pushchaev elaborates on such themes in his essay ‘The Republic and the Soul’ (trans. Mark Hackard).  One outtake:

 . . .

In democracy and a republic, all citizens are called to politics, to participation in power. Democracy is the power of the people. The ideal of the republic is born from the aspiration that the people govern itself – through its representatives, as now, or in antiquity, through direct democracy.

The metaphysical underpinnings of this are what the well-known twentieth-century political philosopher Hannah Arendt called the drive of people from the masses, the lower classes, to also “come into their own,” signifying their existence and appearing to the world as a full participant. Here people already begin to be directed primarily not by the aspiration “to live a pacific and quiet life in every piety and purity,” but rather the desire to be noticed in the world, to enter stormy political life full of passions, anxieties, and temptation. Incidentally, the prominent nineteenth-century Swiss historian of culture and one of the founders of cultural research Jacob Burckhardt termed the polis the “chattiest” of all sovereign forms. What a sharp contrast this is to the aspiration to live a calm and quiet life!

And most centrally, as soon as the people establish or constitute a republic and comprehend that they now claim to govern themselves and their fate, religion then inevitably begins to play ever less a role in social and political life. This is logical – after all, in a republic the one source of authority is the will of the people, which as the final source already needs no religious sanction. The people themselves begin to occupy the highest place: vox populi, vox Dei. The Christian monarch, meanwhile, is the anointed of God, and “a man submits to the authority of the monarch not only from fear, but also from a conscience enjoined by God Himself.” Monarchy needs religion, and it naturally flows from the premises of a religious worldview.

The ongoing displacement of religion in Europe for over 200 years into the “private sphere,” where everyone can supposedly decide for himself which religion to hold, is not accidental. The state promises to uphold the rights of religion within the confines of personal space, but therein is a palpable deception. Historically, the republican form of sovereignty, secularization and the loss of influence by religion and the Church are tightly connected and mutually dependent processes that developed to their full potency in the modern age.

 . . .

Source:, posted 11 Oct. 2014, accessed 16 Oct. 2014

A Christian country will not be characterized by constant fighting amongst her people, but by love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc. (Gal. 5:22-3).  And yet, there is much of the former and little of the latter today in the States, especially at the national level.  It is time, then, to rethink the Union, as Dr Donald Livingston and others have been urging us:

Even as impeccable a Yankee as John Quincy Adams said that the Union ought to last only so long as a spirit of friendship existed among the peoples of the States.  And even in his day relations between the sections were growing embittered. 

Things are no better today.  There is no reason why the Union ought to continue on in its present form if we truly desire to live quiet lives pleasing to God (I Tim. 2:2).  What has New York to do with Mississippi?  Oregon with Arkansas?  Connecticut with Oklahoma?  Why should the representatives of each contend with one another year in and year out, trying to force irreconcilable worldviews on peoples not their own?

It is time we rolled back any overarching authorities (State and federal) so that like-minded groups of people may live in peace together (whether an independent Tennessee or an independent Northern California or New York City or Upper Peninsula of Michigan).

The life of a country ought as much as possible to resemble that of the Church, which is its very soul (ideally).  And what is to characterize the life of the Church, if not unity through love?  Let us hear a word or two on this from Father George Florovsky.

 . . .

The Church is completeness itself; it is the continuation and the fulfilment of the theanthropic union. The Church is transfigured and regenerated mankind. The meaning of this regeneration and transfiguration is that in the Church mankind becomes one unity, "in one body" (Eph. 2:16). The life of the Church is unity and union. The body is "knit together" and "increaseth" (Col 2:19) in unity of Spirit, in unity of love. The realm of the Church is unity. And of course this unity is no outward one, but is inner, intimate, organic. It is the unity of the living body, the unity of the organism. The Church is a unity not only in the sense that it is one and unique; it is a unity, first of all, because its very being consists in reuniting separated and divided mankind. It is this unity which is the "sobornost" or catholicity of the Church. In the Church humanity passes over into another plane, begins a new manner of existence. A new life becomes possible, a true, whole and complete life, a catholic life, "in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). A new existence begins, a new principle of life, "Even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us ... that they may be one even as We are one" (John 17:21-23).

This is the mystery of the final reunion in the image of the Unity of the Holy Trinity. It is realized in the life and construction of the Church, it is the mystery of sobornost, the mystery of catholicity.

 . . .

The gauge of catholic union is that "The multitude of them that believed be of one heart and of one soul" (Act 4:32). Where this is not the case, the life of the Church is limited and restricted. The ontological blending of persons is, and must be, accomplished in oneness with the Body of Christ; they cease to be exclusive and impenetrable. The cold separation into "mine" and "thine" disappears.

The growth of the Church is in the perfecting of its inner wholeness, its inner catholicity, in the "perfection of wholeness"; "That they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:23).

The transfiguration of personality

The catholicity of the Church has two sides. Objectively, the catholicity of the Church denotes a unity of the Spirit. "In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13). And the Holy Spirit which is a Spirit of love and peace, not only unites isolated individuals, but also becomes in every separate soul the source of inner peace and wholeness. Subjectively, the catholicity of the Church means that the Church is a certain unity of life, a brotherhood or communion, a union of love, "a life in common." The image of the Body is the commandment of love. "St. Paul demands such love of us, a love which should bind us one to the other, so that we no more should be separated one from the other ... St. Paul demands that our union should be as perfect as is that of the members of one body" (St. John Chrysostom, In Eph. Hom. 11.1, Migne, P.G. lxii, c. 79). The novelty of the Christian commandment of love consists in the fact that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. This is more than putting him on the same level with ourselves, of identifying him with ourselves; it means seeing our own self in another, in the beloved one, not in our own self .... Therein lies the limit of love; the beloved is our "alter ego," an "ego" which is dearer to us than ourself. In love we are merged into one. "The quality of love is such that the loving and the beloved are no more two but one man" (In 1 Cor. Hom. 33, 3, Migne, P.G. lxi. c. 280). Even more: true Christian love sees in every one of our brethren "Christ Himself." Such love demands self-surrender, self-mastery. Such love is possible only in a catholic expansion and transfiguration of the soul. The commandment to be catholic is given to every Christian. The measure of his spiritual manhood is the measure of his catholicity. The Church is catholic in every one of its members, because a catholic whole cannot be built up or composed otherwise than through the catholicity of its members. No multitude, every member of which is isolated and impenetrable, can become a brotherhood. Union can become possible only through the mutual brotherly love of all the separate brethren. This thought is expressed very vividly in the well known vision of the Church as of a tower that is being built. (Compare the Shepherd of Hermas). This tower is being built out of separate stones-the faithful. These faithful are "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5). In the process of building they fit one into the other, because they are smooth and are well adapted to one another; they join so closely to one another, that their edges are no longer visible, and the tower appears to be built of one stone. This is a symbol of unity and wholeness. But notice, only smooth square stones could be used for this building. There were other stones, bright stones, but round ones, and they were of no use for the building; they did not fit one into the other, were not suitable for the building and they had to be placed near the walls. (Hermas, Vis. 3:2:6,8). In ancient symbolism "roundness" was a sign of isolation, of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction — teres atque rotundus. And it is just this spirit of self-satisfaction which hinders our entering the Church. The stone must first be made smooth, so that it can fit into the Church wall. We must "reject ourselves" to be able to enter the catholicity of the Church. We must master our self-love in a catholic spirit before we can enter the Church. And in the fulness of the communion of the Church the catholic transfiguration of personality is accomplished.

But the rejection and denial of our own self does not signify that personality must be extinguished, that it must be dissolved within the multitude. Catholicity is not corporality or collectivism. On the contrary, self-denial widens the scope of our own personality; in self-denial we possess the multitude within our own self; we enclose the many within our own ego. Therein lies the similarity with the Divine Oneness of the Holy Trinity. In its catholicity the Church becomes the created similitude of Divine perfection. The Fathers of the Church have spoken of this with great depth. In the East St. Cyril of Alexandria; in the West St. Hilary. (For Patristic quotations very well arranged and explained, see E. Mersch, S.J., Le Corps Mystique du Christ, Etudes de Théologie Historique, t. 1-2, Louvain, 1933). In contemporary Russian theology the Metropolitan Antony has said very adequately, "The existence of the Church can be compared to nothing else upon earth, for on earth there is no unity, but only separation. Only in heaven is there anything like it. The Church is a perfect, a new, a peculiar, a unique existence upon earth, a unicum, which cannot be closely defined by any conception taken from the life of the world. The Church is the likeness of the existence of the Holy Trinity, a likeness in which many become one. Why is it that this existence, just as the existence of the Holy Trinity, is new for the old man and unfathomable for him? Because personality in its carnal consciousness is a self-imprisoned existence, radically contrasted with every other personality (Archbishop Anthony Khapovitsky, The Moral Idea of the Dogma of the Church, Works, vol. 2, pp. 17-18. St. Petersburg, 1911). "Thus the Christian must in the measure of his spiritual development set himself free, making a direct contrast between the ‘ego’ and the ‘non-ego’ he must radically modify the fundamental qualities of human self-consciousness" (Ibid., The Moral Idea of the Dogma of the Holy Trinity, p. 65). It is just in this change that the catholic regeneration of the mind consists.

There are two types of self-consciousness and self-assertion: separate individualism and catholicity. Catholicity is no denial of personality and catholic consciousness is neither generic nor racial. It is not a common consciousness, neither is it the joint consciousness of the many or the Bewusstsein ueberhaupt of German philosophers. Catholicity is achieved not by eliminating the living personality, nor by passing over into the plane of an abstract Logos. Catholicity is a concrete oneness in thought and feeling. Catholicity is the style or the order or the setting of personal consciousness, which rises to the "level of catholicity." It is the "telos" of personal consciousness, which is realized in creative development, not in the annihilation of personality.

In catholic transfiguration personality receives strength and power to express the life and consciousness of the whole. And this not as an impersonal medium, but in creative and heroic action. We must not say: "Every one in the Church attains the level of catholicity," but "every one can, and must, and is called to attain it." Not always and not by every one is it attained. In the Church we call those who have attained it Doctors and Fathers, because from them we hear not only their personal profession, but also the testimony of the Church; they speak to us from its catholic completeness, from the completeness of a life full of grace.

 . . .

Source:  On the Church, ‘The Catholicity of the Church’,, accessed 29 Oct. 2014

Considering all this, what should be the marks of politics in a Christian country? 

Equality together with distinction and hierarchy.

Oneness and manyness.

Democracy and monarchy.

Not ‘either-or’, but ‘both-and’.  Just as the All-Holy Trinity is both One Person and Three Persons.  It is a mystery written into the very nature of man, who is made in the image and likeness of God, which we reject at our peril.

And we are not without historical manifestations of these marks.  In Russia there were both the autonomous local villages and the autocratic Tsars.  In England before the Norman Conquest and in Serbia before the Turkish invasion things were likewise.  And so on in other Orthodox Christian countries, east and west, before the fall away into the errors of the Roman Catholics (who overemphasized the oneness of the divine essence and thus gave us the suffocating conformity of socialism) and Protestants (who overemphasized the separateness of the Three Persons and thus gave us the individualistic chaos of democracy).

The Old South, through the kindness of the Lord, was able to maintain something like an Orthodox society, with both democratic and aristocratic institutions.  But none were as fully developed as they were in other Christian countries, and both suffered nearly fatal wounds in the War with the North, to whose political culture they remain in thrall to this day.  The work of recovery and rebuilding thus continues on for the Southern people.

So then, for Christian kings; strong, united, extended families; and other needful institutions, and for independent Southern States, let us pray:  Lord, have mercy!

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