Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Unchristian Spirit of America?

A poll from February 2016 showed that 65% of Americans view Russia unfavorably and only 30% favorably.

At first glance this is not all that surprising.  For much of the second half of the 20th hundredyear, the Cold War with the Soviet Union dominated the American mind.  And the Operation Mockingbird, CIA-controlled Western media are now trying to convince those in the States that Russians are madly clamoring for a return to Soviet Communism in order to drum up fear and hatred against them.

But what should the American attitude toward Russia be?  Should it not be one of friendship, if ‘America’ really is the beacon of Christianity it claims to be?  For Russia has been a Christian country for far longer than the [u]nited States have been on anyone’s political map, being baptized into the Orthodox Church in 988 through the conversion and leadership of St Vladimir.  Russia has in fact just celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of the presence of Russian monks on the Holy Mountain, Mt Athos:

 . . .

Noting the 1,000 years since Russian presence at the northeastern Greek peninsula, Putin classified Mount Athos a “unique center of Orthodoxy and Christianity” that preserved and expanded its spiritual traditions and shared values.

“Reviving the values of patriotism, historical memory, traditional culture, we look forward to strengthening our relations with Athos. It is encouraging that every year it is visited by an increasing number of pilgrims from Russia, already more than 11,000 a year,” he added.

 . . .

Furthermore, Russia has seen a surge of interest in Christianity since the Soviets fell from power:

The patriarch recalled that by 1991 Russia had only 7,000 operating churches and 22 monasteries. Today [the year 2010--W.G.] the country has over 30,000 churches and some 1,000 monasteries.

So what does it mean that so many in ‘Christian’ America mistrust Russia?

Perhaps that Christianity isn’t the real religion of the States but rather ‘Americanism’ - the idea that America is the messiah nation, that it is God, that it will usher in the Golden Age of political and economic blessedness that fallen mankind has always dreamt of.  Christian elements may be present in the working out of this project (and they have been), but they are always subordinated to the ends of strengthening the Kingdom of Man, the system of the world, and not for the sake of laying up treasure in Heaven.

Here is what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s about Americans’ thoughts of the world they live in and of themselves:

The Anglo-Americans acknowledge the absolute moral authority of the reason of the community, as they acknowledge the political authority of the mass of citizens; and they hold that public opinion is the surest arbiter of what is lawful or forbidden, true or false. The majority of them believe that a man will be led to do what is just and good by following his own interest rightly understood. They hold that every man is born in possession of the right of self-government, and that no one has the right of constraining his fellow-creatures to be happy. They have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they are of opinion that the effects of the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent; and they admit that what appears to them to be good to-day may be superseded by something better-to-morrow. I do not give all these opinions as true, but I quote them as characteristic of the Americans.

The Anglo-Americans are not only united together by these common opinions, but they are separated from all other nations by a common feeling of pride. For the last fifty years no pains have been spared to convince the inhabitants of the United States that they constitute the only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for the present, their own democratic institutions succeed, whilst those of other countries fail; hence they conceive an overweening opinion of their superiority, and they are not very remote from believing themselves to belong to a distinct race of mankind.

Source:  Democracy in America, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/815/815-h/815-h.htm, accessed 7 June 2016

This ‘overweening opinion of [American] superiority’ has only worsened with the years and is leading to disastrous consequences here and abroad.  For pride is opposed to the nature of the life of the All-Holy Trinity and all that He has made:

 . . .

The Kingdom of God (and all of reality) is hierarchical by nature. But its hierarchy is just that – a “sacred” (hieros) “order” (arche).  In the case of Mary we can see how this hierarchy is not that of the world with its competition and violence. Mary sings, “You have exalted the humble and meek and the rich you have sent away empty.” The mere “arche” of the world is measured by power (and its frequent abuse). The hierarchy of the world (sacred order), however, is a hierarchy of grace in which self-emptying love is the greatest thing of all.

The devotional habits of the Church seek to inculcate in our hearts a proper regard for this sacred order. The veneration given to the Mother of God, described as “hyperdulia” by the Fathers (“extreme honor”), teaches us not that she is equal to God, but that she is greater than I am. For strangely, when I refuse to grant that any other creature is greater than I am, then I am slowly drawn towards a heart that will not grant that the Creator Himself is greater. This gives us the refusal of the contemporary culture to acknowledge the limits of its own creaturehood. We imagine that we can be anything we want to be and that we are the creators of our own reality. Such a “creator” can only be found in the mirror.

There is a legend, widely cited in the Tradition, that in the great Council of heaven, before the creation of humanity, the archangel Lucifer saw the Theotokos and the dignity to which she would be raised. It is said that this sight stung his pride and provoked his rebellion. He could not bear to think that a creature who was mere dust could be greater than all the hosts of heaven (including himself). In his rebellion, his anger was directed less at God and more at us, for we were the cause of his humiliation. Thus, he became a “murderer from the beginning” (Joh 8:44).

That same spirit, unrecognized, breathes in our culture and its rebellion against the true hierarchy of heaven. The saintless equality of a democratic heaven is, strangely enough, only a colony of hell. There, only the private light of self is allowed to shine, no other being permitted to eclipse it.

 . . .

In the earthly hell of Christless, Crossless Progress that the American Empire is trying to establish all across the world - the latest fruit of the New England Puritans’ idea of the Shining City on a Hill - only its light is allowed to shine (and that light is darkness).  All others must yield to it or face destruction.  The light of the South has been much darkened by the American unlight.  Let us all pray that the light of Russia, the light of the Holy Orthodox Church, will overcome it peacefully in the days ahead.

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