Comments Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse
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Michael, that may well be true but the thing that holds me back is that it appears that what Dn. Michael is saying that shame ties together voluntary and involuntary sins). IOW, your qualifier that even involuntary sin is part of our brokenness is unquestionably true but Dn. Patrick seems to be saying this definition absolves one of responsibility because it precludes shame as a necessary element of the awareness of sin.
My view is that if any taming and ultimately healing of the passions is to occur, we have to move beyond shame.
I’m not sure if this is what Dn. Patrick means but this is how I read it. I may be mistaken.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On April 13, 2014 @ 4:32 pm
Thomas, emotional trauma, however it comes. People are different so they respond to the same kind of event in different ways. Basically it’s a rupture of the child-adult relationship that the child needs for stable emotional maturation.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On April 13, 2014 @ 6:54 am
You may have to define what you mean by “involuntary transgressions” and “sinfulness” here. I’m reluctant to endorse your implied definition because it seems so close to Calvin’s notion of total depravity.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On April 13, 2014 @ 6:48 am
Now, of course, pastorally and clinically, we don’t want to load others down with more shame than they deserve. But at the same time, we oughtn’t be telling everybody publicly that shameful passions are actually shameless. That’s Stankovich’s line, and he will make the most of any apparent support we give him.
It is my view that every person engaging in homosexual activity experiences shame and this shame is what drives gay ideology. The ideology shifts the locus of responsibility for the shame on society in the false belief that if prohibitions against homosexual behavior are lifted completely, then the shame will disappear. The false belief is actually a false promise of healing, i.e., a lifting of the shame will enable self-integration.
On a pastoral level however, I’ve learned that deep shame often causes the passion to take root. A person dealing with the passion often had deep emotional trauma in their younger years and the shame they experienced (and often still carry within them) mutes in a sense the native shame associated with homosexuality – one shame mitigates the other so to speak. In other words, if a person is swamped by a tsunami of shame (often brought on by events not in the person’s control), then the shame surrounding the passion is not as evident and the signal that homosexual ideation should be avoided gets lost.
So that presents me with a conundrum: Do I write against the ideology knowing that engaging the cultural polemics might cause misunderstanding on the pastoral level, or do I remain silent about the ideology in order to preserve trust in the one on one (pastoral) encounter?
I choose the latter for the most part except when I see the ideology promulgated in the Church in which case I speak out.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On April 12, 2014 @ 5:57 pm
In his April 10, 8:28 pm, response, Michael Stankovich demonstrates the problem with your clarifications and answers: Your contrast between strictly natural heterosexual “categories of being” and conscious, deliberate, and “sinful” homosexual choices does not adequately account for the passions in a way that distinguishes blameless passions and shameful passions. All passions thus appear as neither natural nor voluntary but as merely temptations accosting us in the fallen world.
As I read it, Stankovich has a slippery notion of what constitutes human anthropology regarding homosexuality. Stankovich seems to argue that the ground of homosexual attraction is bio-chemical (or at least he is searching for it) and that this ground effectively neutralizes any moral onus against the passion and thus behavior. Homosexual “orientation” in other words is naturalistic, a function of fallen humanity.
My question is always why restrict the theory to homosexuality alone? Why couldn’t it equally apply to, say, bestiality?
Now it may well be that passions (which arise because of the Fall), when acted upon, affect the materiality of the body as well. We know that all sorts of behaviors can affect brain chemistry (viewing pornography releases the same chemicals in the same places in the brain as using crack cocaine does for example). But if we use these biological effects to construct a theory of “orientation” and thereby posit that a passion is natural and the resultant behavior morally neutral, then it ought to be applied across the board and not just to homosexuality.
Many Christians now think this is the best way to look at homosexuality. It seems compassionate because it relieves homosexuals of the shame of being homosexual and sets for them the more achievable goal of chastity instead of the more difficult goal of actual healing, which would involve conversion from homosexual to heterosexual.
Here you and I differ somewhat. The men I know who struggle with same-sex attraction are often locked into a matrix of shame that gives rise to the passion. IOW, while same-sex behavior is indeed shameful, shaming someone for a passion they did not choose (or, if you will, initially engaged under emotional duress, immaturity, confusion etc.) won’t do anything to aid their healing if they indeed are seeking healing (and many do). So I agree that there is a volitional element involved in the initial cultivation of the passion that has to be understood to enable healing, but in my experience the initial circumstances are so complex and often so emotionally severe that I don’t place blame. In other words, the shame is already there. Why seek healing otherwise?
Further, chastity is absolutely essential to the taming of the passion, and that passion *must* be tamed in order for any healing to occur. It is the essential first step.
Healing can and does occur but the healing of the passion is ground zero in the conflict between gay cultural polemics and the Patristic understanding of the human person. At this stage in the culture war the gay mafia wants to silence any dissent altogether (the Mozilla CEO for example). I’m of the mind these days not to engage them at all. Just assert the opposite so the lie does not stand unchallenged but go about bringing clarity to those who seek healing unimpeded by the confused polemics surrounding this issue.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On April 12, 2014 @ 7:32 am
Is it also true that people experiencing anger did not choose the passion? Is there therefore nothing wrong with them? Aren’t they doing something wrong when they get angry?
Feeling angry and doing something in anger are two different things. Feeling same-sex attraction and acting on it are two different things.
Sin enters when a temptation takes root — when the passion is engaged, first with the mind and then through action.
One does not choose his passions — the temptations they fight or the sins they struggle against. Most people struggle against one or two major ones.
Doesn’t personhood involve not just nature but also behavior — logos and tropos, as St. Maximus says? So persons can be either heterosexual or homosexual, just as they can be either good or bad?
If you are arguing that homosexual or heterosexual is a category of being, part of created human distinctiveness, then no, one cannot be homosexual. God does not create people homosexual.
If you are arguing that homosexual behavior reinforces homosexual orientation, then yes, one can self-identify as a homosexual. But this is true of all passions that are internalized, not just same-sex attraction. A person with a passion for stealing (greed?) is called a thief. He self-identifies as such and can be said to have a thief’s orientation (kleptomania). God does not create a person a thief however, thus the passion is inordinate.
Isn’t heterosexuality all about the difference of male and female? Didn’t God intend all along for men and women to live heterosexually, as either a man or a woman? Isn’t it possible to live both heterosexually and celibately at the same time?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Is it really that simple? Can you say the same for other passions? What about anger? Is anger only wrong when acted upon? What about the difference between so-called blameless passions like hunger and the “shameful passions” [πάθη ἀτιμίας] St. Paul mentions in Rom. 1:26?
Passions acted upon affect the inner structure of a person (orientation). Passions brought to Christ can be healed. Romans 1:26 deals with the former. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 deals with the latter.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On April 10, 2014 @ 7:23 pm
“Homosexual persons did not decide to become homosexual. It was not the fruit of their supposed depravity or sin. That much we know today. There can only be a continuing conversation if we can cross that hurdle of blatant intransigence by those who refuse to acknowledge this fact. But homosexual persons, just as much as heterosexual ones, need to feel the warmth and love and nurture of other persons. God created them for that love, that love is the substance of our humanity; it is what constitutes all of us in bearing his image within us. ”
The grave weakness in this presumptive call to moral rectitude is its flawed anthropology.
Presumptive: “Homosexual persons did not decide to become homosexual.”
Clarifying: It is true that people experiencing same-sex desire did not choose the passion. However, there is no such thing as a “homosexual person.” Defining personhood solely in terms of desires or sins is reductionist. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27) is the foundation of Orthodox anthropology. The scripture does not say that God created both man and woman either heterosexual or homosexual.
Presumptive: It was not the fruit of their supposed depravity or sin.
Clarifying: Same-sex desire is not sin.
Presumptive: “That much we know today.”
Clarifying: Orthodoxy always knew this. See 1 Cor. 6:9-11:
Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Presumptive: There can only be a continuing conversation if we can cross that hurdle of blatant intransigence by those who refuse to acknowledge this fact.
Clarifying: What fact? That Orthodox anthropology reduces the definition of what constitutes a human being to passions and sins?
Presumptive: “But homosexual persons, just as much as heterosexual ones, need to feel the warmth and love and nurture of other persons.”
Clarifying: Man is created for communion with God and others and that communion occurs within the bond of love (love constitutes that bond). Indeed, one of the therapies for healing same-sex attraction is the restoration of the male to male (or female to female) bond within the proper moral boundaries (violation of those boundaries prevents the healing from occurring).
Presumptive: “God created them for that love, that love is the substance of our humanity; it is what constitutes all of us in bearing his image within us.”
Clarifying: Men need communion with men and women with women in order to grow into deeper self-knowledge. Fr. Vinogradov’s implicit conclusion that same-sex behavior fulfills this need violates the Orthodox moral tradition and reveals a flawed understanding of Orthodox anthropology. God did not create men to have sexual relationships with men (or women with women) as the means by which the need for brotherly love is met.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On April 10, 2014 @ 12:11 pm
Well, I didn’t read it in the same light which is why I responded as I did (the response below was written before this one).
OTOH, maybe I am cutting the seminarian too much slack.
Let me go back and reread it and see if I am mistaken.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On February 6, 2014 @ 12:08 pm
“Opposed to Orthodoxy” is too strong. Most people have no idea what Orthodoxy even is.
As for the phrase “preferences or promiscuity,” I take it not as a tacit endorsement for homosexuality, but as a warning that the criticism of promiscuity cannot be avoided by claiming a preference for same-sex activity. That’s how I read it anyway.
A third point, not brought out either by the seminarian or you but informs some of my request to go easier on the guy is this: millennials think differently than you or me. Basically it boils down to this:
Having come of age in a world that celebrates moral relativism and thus suffering from deep moral confusion, they are reluctant to trust anyone who proclaims that his way is truth. It is not that they don’t want truth (most yearn for it deeply), it’s that they don’t know if truth even exists and thus are afraid to trust.
This is also the reason they are reluctant to judge. It is not that they are moral relativists (most aren’t). It’s that they have no real confidence in their own ideas or beliefs.
As a result the criteria for validating if something is indeed true is reduced to feeling. Feelings are all they can trust. And I have discovered that God, in His great mercy, understands this and often meets them there.
This changes the nature of catechism, chiefly apologetics and teaching. Apologetics have no real authority except for the person seeking to conform his thinking to the Orthodox faith; and teaching “Orthodoxy 101″ in nine easy steps works only for those who have already accepted that Orthodoxy is indeed their road.
Catechism, in other words, is changing in this way: For millennials, encounter with God and discovery of one’s personhood works hand in hand with. If we speak to the ignorance of self that they acutely experience (often with deep anxiety and even despair) and help them out of it, then they also discover God.
I talk to a lot of millennials. Telling them who they are and who they are created to be opens their eyes to God.
I mention this not as a rebuttal, but only to indicate why I go easier on these kind of things than others might. Truth is apprehended through encounter with Him who is Truth, not by propositions that describe that encounter. That’s the difference between our generation and theirs.
When it comes to the Church however, the moral distinctions must be crystal clear and those who would blur them must be confronted. Morality is tied to ontology in Orthodox anthropology, and to distort morality is to posit man as something other than who he is or who he was created to be.
Why did the sermon not preach, as a righteousness exceeding the scribes and pharisees from the Gospel passage, the Orthodox virtues of chastity, modesty, virginity and self-control, which are unheard of in this generation except as a joke?
Not a joke so much, but uncertainty. Moral irresponsibility can be caused by moral ignorance and often is. This does not apply to those who market moral relativism for their own gain, of which there are many.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On February 6, 2014 @ 11:22 am
I am not piling on. Seriously. I find your posts thoughtful and worth reading in the main.
I think you should lighten up on the seminarian. I give the guys who put themselves out there a lot of credit and I am very patient with mistakes, maybe a bone-headed idea here and there, and everything else that comes with learning and training. When I read the sermon I see a guy eager to learn, bright, committed, passionate in the good sense of the term who has the capacity to become a very good priest once real experience enters the mix.
It is obvious (to me anyway) this man has some important practical gifts suited for ministry. I’d cut him some slack and give him some time. Chances are he will develop into the kind of priest we need.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On February 5, 2014 @ 10:04 am
My first question was why would the “American Conservative” publish it but then they tend towards a pragmatic conservatism overall so that settled that. (It’s a good magazine, BTW.)
Then there was the “Golly! Gee whiz!” tone of the article but you run into this a lot when an author attempts to mainstream homosexuality in quality think piece journals. That optimistic drone masks the fact that there is no oil on that salad and that’s why it tastes so flat.
The honest part was the description of loneliness further down in the piece and there’s the rub I think. More on this below.
The homosexual question has two trajectories: the cultural propaganda of Gay Inc. and the pastoral dimension of lonely people.
In some quarters of the Church these two trajectories become intertwined and confusion results. For example:
- 1) Inga Leonova’s sentimentalizing (evident by her interminable scoldings);
- 2) David J. Dunn’s divorce of the natural and sacramental (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-j-dunn-phd/eastern-orthodox-gay-marriage_b_894982.html);
- 3) Maria Gwyn McDowell’s framing of the sexual binaries (male and female) within the Marxist categories of class struggle (http://www.womenintheology.org/2013/11/19/fragile-repentances/);
. . .to name a few.
These writers contend that traditional Orthodox anthropology regarding male and female is an outmoded construct. I contend that their ideas will lead to the Episcopalianizing of the Orthodox Church if they are allowed to prevail.
Challenging Gay Inc. doesn’t address the pastoral dimension however. That requires a different response.
A CDC study determined that about 1.4% of the population engages in same-sex behavior on a regular basis and of that number almost 37% eventually leave the lifestyle. Sexuality is much more fluid than the gay activists would have us believe.
I won’t go into the pastoral dimension here in much detail except to say that the deep longing that men have for communion with other men and women for women, cannot be met by eroticizing (engaging in genital contact) the friendship.
I believe the loneliness the author expresses is real and that many people feel it. I also believe that deep same-sex friendships are necessary for a properly developed and healthy sense of masculine and feminine self-identity.
Gay Inc.’s characterization that this need for deep friendship is properly actualized in same-sex genital activity however, is a lie that keeps many people, especially the young, from experiencing the inter-personal communion so necessary for their own self-development.
That the Evangelical wing of American Christianity is the first to fall (apart from the Episcopalians but that’s a different story) doesn’t surprise me largely because they have no way to perceive the sacred dimension of creation. The missiles launched during the Radical Reformation are landing 500 years later and they are decimating what little remains of the Protestant communions (and secularizing some Orthodox along the way as noted above). With no sacramental vision, morality is reduced to behavioral maxims divorced from ontology; what one feels functions as the only validation of truth.
I think that in cultural terms this social experiment with homosexuality will have to play itself out. I don’t see it reversing until the cultural detritus becomes more clear, which it inevitably will because same-sex behavior is a distortion of human anthropology. Anthropology is destiny and a person’s interior orientation toward created and uncreated reality (natural law and morality) leads to either creativity or dissolution. This is an incontrovertible brute fact.
Anyway, these are some immediate ideas on the piece.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On January 30, 2014 @ 10:30 am
Ah, yes I remember it! Fr. Hans, in his own inimitable way had to rush in and rescue “Mr. Mitchell” so many times that he is now an adopted albatross.
This is a strange statement. Dn. Patrick Mitchell held his own quite well and certainly needed no “rescue” from me. Neither is he an “adopted albatross.”
I’ll speak for myself, thank you. I suggest you let Dn. Patrick speak for himself as well.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On January 29, 2014 @ 9:26 pm
The name “Istanbul” makes sense only when “Constantinople” is recalled and thus, ironically, preserves the original name.
Istanbul – ee-steen-bulee. Change the hard Arabic ‘b’ back to a Greek ‘p’ and the name becomes – ee-steen-polee or “to the city.”
“I’m going to the city.”
“Oh yeah? Which city?”
“The City of Constantine.”
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On January 31, 2014 @ 7:42 am
Why try to Episcopalianize the Orthodox Church? Why not become Episcopalian instead?
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On January 13, 2014 @ 4:33 pm
I think the answer lies in the limitations of the secular world view, or even worse a secularized mind. Secularism eschews religion. For that reason a susceptibility for utopian false promises emerges, in this case the Arab Spring and its claims for liberty, freedom, and so forth that by all indications Obama, Clinton, and others really bought into. (Both liberal and neo-con foreign policy is expansionist. There is no real functional difference between them.)
From the other direction, taking the claims of militant Islam seriously would compel serious engagement with the Christian foundations of the West; something the secularists are loathe to do because it reveals the inadequacy of much secularist thinking.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On December 9, 2013 @ 9:31 pm
There you go again Michael Stankovich, collapsing the categories of anthropology and existential experience to assert Orthodoxy needs a “new anthropology.” Then the assertion is framed in an arbitrary reading of scripture (it’s called proof-texting) to imply that those who don’t agree with it are no different than the people that bypassed the robber beaten on the road, and that those who do are Good Samaritans.
The new anthropology folks like yourself, Fr. Alexis Vinogradov, and others are implicitly advocating for a different anthropology, one grounded in (and thus limited to) the boundaries of human experience. This formulation is not able to reach the divine dimension in which the living human archetype (Jesus Christ – the Second Adam) is revealed to show man that he is more than animal (the sum of his desires) or machine (a functionary within a system).
All I see here are moralisms; a flurry of scolding words that declare that if one does not agree with the call for a new anthropology, then the compassion that is necessary to bring healing to broken humanity is absent.
In reality however, these ideas ossify man’s broken state and freeze all the hope of redemption out of it. They implicity argue that what is also has to be. That’s what happens when anthropology and experience are collapsed; it leaves us with the false precept that the only thing real is what we feel.
Feelings are real. So are passions. But feelings and passions are transitory (they can change). Moreover, when anthropology is collapsed into experience, anthropology rises no higher than than the placement of a person within a social category because our understanding of sin degrades into notions of political and social correctness.
Care for the person struggling with same-sex attraction or any other passion does not require a “redefining” of Orthodox anthropology. The assertion that the received tradition does not afford the knowledge on how to ameliorate the struggle with the passions is presumptuous and untrue. The experience of you and your cohorts, or more likely, the inexperience should not deter anyone from criticizing these novel ideas no matter how vociferous the defending moralisms might be.
Dr. Siewers’ story above is profound, particularly this:
I asked Fr. Alexis Vinogradov about that at another meeting, after he had spoken of the need for compassion regarding the types of pastoral situations cited on this thread, and called for a “new Orthodox anthropology.”
What about compassion for people trying to raise children in a traditional Orthodox way, knowing those children will be social martyrs at least in today’s American society, in one way or another, or are at ever-stronger risk in our society of not remaining in the tradition?
He nodded, but before the conversation could continue, a mother at the table began weeping, recounting her family’s experience at a parish that had been riven by a priest allowing a member of an ongoing same-sex couple to take communion.
What kind of pastoral example did that set, and what kind of real compassion for an inter-generational community, as opposed to sentimental selfishness?
“Sentimental selfishness” — that’s a good way to put it. What about the person in whom the ideas about a new anthropology foster doubt and mistrust about the received moral tradition? What about the undermining of the parent who wants to teach his child the precepts of the moral tradition?
Don’t you and your friends have a responsibility here? Apparently not. Every ideological movement has collateral damage, right?
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On November 4, 2013 @ 11:45 am
Good evening to you too Mike.
Not parody at all. In a desacralized world, not much reference to the divine or transcendent remains. It just fades from view. When that happens, all that is left is matter — materialism if we want to speak philosophically.
I had a great discussion today, with a professional historian it turns out, a retired university professor. She mentioned that when the Soviet Union fell and the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of Communism was laid bare, she believed the West was finally rid of that heinous and barbaric pseudo-religion. I did too. Alas, it was not to be. It merely morphed from a political ideology to a cultural ideology.
My explanation was that even in de-Christianized Christendom, the only possible cultural forms are those shaped by Christianity. At one time those forms promised to unlock all the secrets of creation, at least the prophets and their followers thought so — Darwin, Freud, Marx — but Freud and Marx have fallen and Darwin will too in due course. The forms however, remain, but are no longer contained by any stable moral framework. As a result they present dangers.
The descramentalization of creation is the thing — secularism. It propels the drive towards seeking a materialist basis for everything (chemical and physical processes are the ground of epistemology). I see much of this rooted in Calvinist anthropology, at least how his ideas played out in cultural history, thus the reference to Calvin.
The notion that we can find a relationship between a gene and behavior as complex as sexuality is a long way off in my opinion. In fact, I don’t think we will find it all and, being somewhat of a historian myself, I look at Stankovich’s approach (and yours too apparently) with a great deal of caution and skepticism. I’ve seen the same assertions used before. They called it Social Darwinism back then.
Yes, I realize you don’t agree. You’ve made that abundantly clear time and again. Yet you keep turning the volume progressively higher and tend to shout, while Stankovich tempers it with stories about encounters with prison psychopaths and the like cast in the prose of high drama. I think the stories would be good source material for Law and Order: SVU (voyeurism for Grandma) but I would not craft Church policy by them.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 28, 2013 @ 9:43 pm
Don’t forget the initial context of the statement Your Grace. Pederasts will want the law eliminated using the language of orientation and rights. You can see it on the NAMBLA page.
Judith Reisman (Reisman exposed Alfred Kinsey as a fraud) has a good bibliography on this topic.
Whether others want the law eliminated might be true but none are as vocal as the pederast lobby.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 27, 2013 @ 1:55 pm
Biological predispositions towards certain behaviors may exist most likely by the effects of genetic inheritance in the shaping of personality. But biology is not destiny and it certainly is not the foundation of anthropology. We have to be very careful here not to assimilate the common misconception that materiality is the ground of existence; that chemical processes define existence. That leads, in the end, to a kind of determinism, even fatalism.
(As an aside, some of the sharper gay activists agree with me on this point. They understand that if indeed a “gay gene” is ever discovered — which I don’t think is likely – or even if the argument prevails that homosexual attraction is genetically determined, then the belief that biology is destiny can come back to bite them hard if social attitudes shift against homosexuals.
Be careful here. If materialist determinism justifies compassion, then it can just as easily justify brutality. Look no farther then recent history, particularly the eugenics movement early in the last century, ostensibly justified by “science.” )
Moving on, introducing sin into question of ontology and orientation muddles the issue. The question is not about sin, it is about the grounding of desire. If same-sex desire is a fixed “orientation” grounded in biology and granted ontological status, then on what basis do we exclude other “orientations” such as bestiality? There is none.
The pastoral dimension is of course important, but to be effective it requires the correct understanding of some basic anthropological concepts lest harm be done. This discussion is about the concepts, not about pastoral practice. Look at the Fathers and the tone and language they used concerning abortion. Do you think that they counseled the woman who had an abortion in the same way? Of course not. Why did they use such harsh language then? My hunch is that is was necessary to break through the din of confusion that prevailed during their time.
Sin is volitional, but sin is sin when a person acts on desire (understanding of course that some of the acting involves the interior life). But we have to remember too that the Fathers taught the ground of all desire — even inordinate desire — is the desire for God. (Sin, the Fathers teach, arises when the natural desire of the soul for God is directed through the energy of the body.) Sin, in other words, is looking for Life in places where Life is not. Thus it leads only to death.
Further, a spiritual father (or counselor, guide, or priest) does not “change behavior.” Each person is responsible for his own behavior and only he can change it.
Rather, the spiritual father first engages the struggle alongside the person stuggling. This means the first and highest calling is to pray with and for the person. If the counselor is faithful, then the Lord in his mercy provides knowledge, much of it given through the discernment of the counselor.
That knowledge is by its nature transformative (it heals). It fills the space that opens in the struggle against sin. The Lord is the healer of the soul, no one else, although that healing is often (not exclusively) mediated through the prayer and word of the counselor. And often, when the soul experiences healing, behavior changes because the passion that a person struggles against lessens in its severity and grip.
So the counselor is concerned with morality in this sense: morals, properly understood, define what a person was created to be. They serve not only as judge, but also as guide. Reducing the Christian life solely to good behavior however, misses the point entirely because it dims the deeper vision of our divine calling and destiny. It reduces morality to moralisms and thereby denies the power and thus possibility of real, existential, healing.
Sometimes, when I read Stankovich’s ideas closely, I wonder if his behaviorist trajectory is nothing more than the cultural effluence of a collapsed Protestant anthropology — Calvinist rationalism without the pietism. There is a correspondence between the divorce of morality from the divine and the effort to locate the ground of desire in the created order — a kind of materialistic morality.
But when religion has collapsed, what else is there? Man, after all, cannot live by bread alone and this is as true of the non-believer as it is the believer.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 25, 2013 @ 10:45 pm
Not bizarre at all Your Grace, although I can see where I could have been more clear with the term “moral devolution.” I should have said the “moral devolution of culture” but your suggestions work just as well. My point is that efforts to normalize pederasty is just round the bend.
Yes, the laws on the age of legal consent are a couple of centuries old, but then the USA isn’t much older than that. The point is that the attempts to lower or even eliminate that age is a marker in the effort to change the cultural consensus against pederasty. Why do pederasts want the law eliminated? They don’t want to get arrested.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 25, 2013 @ 9:02 am
Carl, you are missing some critical points.
You use the term “orientation” without understanding what Mr. Stankovich means by it.
Stankovich argues that “orientation” is a ontological category although he is a bit cagey on how he uses the term (I’ve pressed him on it before). In Orthodox anthropology the term “ontological” means essential to our being. Stankovich means something more along the lines of ‘existential” — something we feel and experience as part of our human existence. The difference is that he believes that homosexual “orientation” — people really feel and experience same-sex attraction — is fixed and unchangeable simply because they feel and experience it.
The reason he loses his cool with me is that I question his fundamental assumptions, the ideas he holds before the research even starts. I believe his assumptions direct his research. He believes his assertions are derived from the research. That’s why his only responses to my challenges are that I am ignorant, right-wing, reactionary — the usual stuff.
The problem is that if we take Stankovich’s assumptions about homosexual orientation as true, then they have to be be applied to all “orientations” across the board. That presents a problem. Do we really want to affirm that, say, bestiality, is a legitimate sexual “expression” (God-created and approved) because some people feel and experience an attraction to animals? If we extend Stankovich’s reasoning to its logical end, the answer is yes.
That’s why I argue that passions effect an orientation. How we deal with our passions affects thought and thus behavior. “Orientation” in other words, is not limited to same-sex desire alone. It applies to all passions, even though our focus is almost exclusively on sexual passions because they are more powerful for reasons we can talk about another time.
Stankovich’s ideas, if followed, will have two outcomes: they will 1) diminish our understanding of the power of Jesus Christ to transform and heal the inner man; and 2) justify a cultural shift where social arrangements that violate the Christian moral tradition will become normalized, including in the Church.
Your confusion occurs I think because you mix up “passion” with “orientation.” “Orientation” is not even a legitimate theological/psychological category in Orthodox anthropology unless we mean by it the distortion of thinking and behavior caused by passions not controlled. In that case proper therapy begins with learning how to manage the passions. In our current culture we have to take the even more elementary step of teaching what the passions even are.
Stankovich’s approach muddies the water but then he is not a priest. I have never detected in any of his writings a sense of the harm that our sexually licentious culture inflicts on the souls of people, especially our teens and young adults. Healing requires (to put it in theological language) a basic understanding of ontology because ontology determines morality, and the management of the passions — which includes the concrete experience of Christ who enables interior healing — and moral sobriety go hand in hand.
This is why whenever I teach morality to young people, I start with Genesis. People first have to understand who God created them to be in order to know how to grow into the person that He created them to be. For the same reason whenever I talk to a man coming to terms with his same-sex attraction, one of the first things I tell him is that he is not homosexual. I can talk about this dimension some other time.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 24, 2013 @ 4:49 pm
Carl, you are essentially making my point. If every unchecked passion effects an orientation, then why single out homosexual orientation as a fixed anthropological category? If it were, then there is no reason to treat other sexual “orientations” — pedophilia, pederasty, bestiality, and others that may exist — any differently.* That’s why I argue that elevating homosexual orientation to a special class or status is arbitrary.
(The next step in our moral devolution will be an attempt to either lower or remove the age of legal consensual sex by pederasts. It will be justified using the language of “orientation.”)
Also, as you correctly concluded above, once homosexuality is perceived as a fixed anthropological category, then the distinction between sin and sinner collapses in on itself. When this happens any criticism of homosexual behavior is perceived as a personal attack on the homosexual. Obviously this is exactly how the broader culture perceives it today, although I think this may change in four or five years.
Thus, it is not that my distinction has no meaning; it’s that the distinction applied only to homosexual orientation is arbitrary. Either it applies across the board, or it does not apply at all.
Yes, this logic could apply to all passions, but sexual energy is more powerful than the rest and thus the focus of the activism.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 23, 2013 @ 8:33 pm
Dr. Kentigern Siewers provides a short but insightful critique of Stankovich’s assumptions about homosexuality.
Dr. Siewers wrote:
The absolute essentialism of sexual identities (of all kinds) is perhaps the biggest example of self-objectification in our libertarian consumer culture. And so he walks into the cold embrace of Ayn Rand.
What Dr. Siewers means here is that Stankovich makes the modern mistake of defining people in terms of their sexual desires. What a person feels is what he is. Take this far enough and man self-identifies solely in terms of his appetites and the neighbor exists solely to satisfy them. The culture that emerges will have no more soul than a parking garage.
Note Stankovich’s reply to Anonymous by Necessity above:
…it is possible to be homosexual and live one’s life in repentance, abstinence, purity, chastity (σωφροσύνη, meaning “singlemindedness”), piety, and obedience in the fullness of the Church
The question to ask is: if a person struggling with same-sex desire is living a life of chastity, is he a homosexual? Stankovich would say yes. I say no.
The way I see it, Stankovich arbitrarily elevates “sexual-orientation” to a special status and class, a point I have argued with him before. My response then and now was that every passion, if left unchecked, effects an “orientation” — a way of seeing and feeling that shapes behavior around the passion.
Take the alcoholic. As long as he remains captive to his passion for alcohol, his behavior will always be oriented around it. Only when he confronts the passion will his behavior change. Did God create him to be an alcoholic? Of course not. Should he elevate that passion and claim it as a fundamental characteristic of personhood and thus self-identity? No. Yet that is exactly where Stankovich’s ideas lead if we applied them to other passions beyond same-sex attraction.
Why same-sex attraction deserves special consideration over any other passion Stankovich won’t say but Dr. Siewers gives us a clue: Stankovich’s ideas are captive to identity politics.
If the assumption is true that same-sex attraction is a fundamental characteristic of human personhood and thus self-identity; then the satisfaction of that passion represents a noble calling, even a moral achievement. Gay activism takes the shape of a civil rights struggle in this framework.
However, a contradiction emerges when Stankovich asserts that the “homosexual” should live a life of celibacy. Why would a “homosexual” live a life of celibacy when same-sex attraction defines human personhood and self-identity? That makes no sense. This idea would get laughed off the stage at the nearest gay-rights convention, as well it should.
Man is not defined by his passions, sexual or otherwise. Man is not defined by his sins, sexual or otherwise. A man struggling with same-sex desire is not a “homosexual.” We might use the term to describe a man engaging in same-sex genital activity, but here we are describing behavior, not anthropology. Stankovich denies this distinction.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 23, 2013 @ 9:10 am
Who Knew, sure was a laudatory piece on Spong — Courageous Progressive crusader and all that. Trouble is, once theology becomes liberalized, churches decline. Some facts about Spong and his parishes in the Newark Diocese:
Between 1978 and 1999, the number of baptized persons in the diocese fell from 64,323 to 36,340, a loss of 27,983 members in 21 years. That’s a disastrous 43.5% decline. The Episcopal Church, by contrast, saw a decline in the number of baptized persons from 3,057,162 in 1978 to 2,339,133 in 1997, a loss of 718, 499, or a substantial 23.4%, according to the 1998 Church Annual.
The Diocese of Newark under Spong, thus, has declined at a rate 20.1 percentage points higher than the rate for the entire Episcopal Church. This rate of decline is 86% faster than the Episcopal Church, whose losses are considerable in and of themselves.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 19, 2013 @ 9:14 pm
It’s true that American involvement in Egpyt and Libya opened up a rift in conservative circles, but the neo-cons grew silent only after democratic structures did not spontaneously appear as they thought it would. The liberals are still interventionist as we saw with Obama and Syria where only public outcry and some deft diplomacy by Putin stayed his hand.
As for the IRD, there are probably some neo-cons on board but conservatives are the safer bet as Obama’s near miscalculation in Syria makes clear (neo-con and liberal foreign policy is virtually identical). Faith McDonnell, a staff member of IRD for many years, was one of the first in Washington to sound the alarm that American interventionism would bring great suffering to the Christians in the mid-east. She deserves credit for this and events have proven her correct.
My involvement with the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and Iraq began when they attempted to marshal opposition to the effort with moral reasoning drawn exclusively from liberal anti-war ideology. I argued then that OPF opposition to the Iraq war was too dependent on the reasoning of the secular left, particularly moral relativism.
Maybe I made an impression because OPF’s reasoning for opposing American involvement in Syria was free of the moral relativism I critiqued several years ago. I signed their petition.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 16, 2013 @ 1:04 pm
George, Carrie Buck was not even “feeble minded” — the justification that eugenicists (and the Supreme Court) used to justify the mass sterilization programs (Buck v. Bell). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:
It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
Holmes, speaking for the majority, adopted eugencist reasoning in the Supreme Court ruling that held that the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck was legal.
The Terri Schiavo case exhibits its own arbitrary reasoning that centered on several questions: 1) Michael Schiavo’s interest in removing the feeding tube and cutting hydration; 2) Terri Schiavo’s expressed wish which is vague by anyone’s standard and allegedly uttered only to Michael; 3) the medical condition of Terri Schiavo (that she was a “vegetable” is largely a fiction of the pro-euthanasia lobby); 4) the rulings of the judge about what evidence was admissible.
Stankovich, I don’t intend to re-argue the Schiavo case here. If justice is “blind” however, there would never be split decisions, the romanticism of Frank Rich notwithstanding.
I am still very uncomfortable that people who hold a low value of pre-born life will make decisions about what treatments the infirm and elderly will receive. Rationing is inevitable under Obamacare (if the HHS spent nearly half a billion dollars on a failed sign up system — essentially just forms and a database — and could not get that right, then chances are they won’t get much else right either). The private values of the decision makers drive public decisions. Nothing you have said challenges this.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 14, 2013 @ 7:14 am
No court determined that Ms. Schiavo “should die.” The court upheld her husband’s contention that she had expressed the opinion that, if she were living in the vegetative condition in which she ultimately was determined to exist, she would choose to terminate external support that artificially maintained that vegetative state. Ultimately, the court upheld her expressed wish, rather than make any decision in her regard.
Kinda, sorta, but not really. That was the legal justification, but it hinged on who had legal standing to proffer the “expressed wish” which was ambiguous to almost everyone. The fact that that Schiavo’s parents were willing to take legal custody of their daughter and had the means for continued medical support was not allowed in the deliberations. State troopers were called to prevent the parents from seeing her daughter as she died from her forced dehydration until after she was dead.
The judge certainly wasn’t Solomon. He held up the child and had her cut in two anyway.
Why not err on the side of the life? Should we justify Schaivo’s death simply because it was legal? And what happens when decisions on funding are centralized and pressure emerges to cut costs and ration services if the leaders and decision makers not only defend abortion on demand, but justify its most heinous forms? Do we believe that their low view of pre-born life will not spill over onto the terminally ill and aged? This is a reasonable and necessary question to ask.
Do you really believe the moral outlook of our leaders and decision makers will not influence decisions about life and death of other people? Better look at the history. See: Who loves abortion more than Obama and Sebelius?
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 11, 2013 @ 10:13 pm
This is one of my chief concerns about Obamacare. People who are morally confused about the inviolability of human life will be creating committees that determine the extent of other people’s care. If they see abortion as enlightened social policy (Gov. Brown clearly does), then it’s a short jump to the elimination of the terminally ill and other ‘non-productives’ especially when rationing starts.
If this sounds alarmist, remember Terri Schiavo. The court decided she should die.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 11, 2013 @ 9:08 am
Michael, most of the extrapolations are mine and I am struggling with trying to find the right language. But my interest in the topic was spurred years ago by various events and experiences that crystallized into an understanding that developed as I grew older which I expressed here: One Word of Truth Outweighs the Whole World and later turned into a talk I gave at Acton University this summer titled, “Why Solzhenitsyn Matters” (below):
All this is a long way of saying that what I discovered from the religious/cultural side, scientists are discovering from the scientific side, i.e.: language, information, words, The Word, however it is characterized is the ground of epistemology, indeed all of creation.
Yes, the term “residuals” is clumsy but by it I don’t mean static. All the ideas about why the GOA and OCA are undergoing demographic decline are mine of course.
Gilder is an economist, not a theologian, and most of the language is mine, not his (except for the part about information, entropy, and the health of systems).
Kentigern, thank you very much for the offer of the book if you do indeed get extra copies. I would be very grateful to get a hold of a copy.
Trudge, I had no idea about the Musica Universalis but in a world not yet shorn of all sense of the sacred, I can see how they saw it.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 1, 2013 @ 7:37 pm
Back To Stats Page
Gilder defines information as the “surprise;” the data that does not fit into expected categories and thus introduces entropy into the system.
Creativity and the introduction of new information go hand in hand. Creativity is a high entropy activity (it introduces new information) but it depends on low entropy carriers in order for that creativity/information to have any beneficial effect in systems (economic, institutional, etc.).
Very compelling stuff. Take Obamacare. If the government, which is actually a low entropy system (it is supposed to ensure order, property laws, remove barriers of entry to markets, etc.) becomes a high entropy system (which it has by becoming the nation’s sole insurance carrier), then innovation on the high entropy end (the risk takers and creatives) will diminish because there is no low entropy carrier to take the new ideas to market. My prediction: Israel will surpasses the US as the leader in technological innovation in the medical field.
It applies to the Church as well. Parishes are high entropy. It is where the work gets done. If information is centralized, that is, if the attempt is made to shift the locus of creativity from the parish to a central administration, then creativity stops. Power is exercised (low entropic centers have institutional power, high entropic centers don’t) to prevent the new information (the creative ideas that nourish the systems) from being disseminated.
That is what we see happening in the GOA and OCA. If the low entropy administrators perceive the high entropy creatives as a threat (dynamic priests and lay people), then creativity stops and so does the flow of information necessary for the vitality of the system. The creatives get pushed out so that the system becomes completely low entropy. This type of stasis however, results in diminished results, breakdowns, and even death. Look at Xerox, Kodak, the Episcopal Church, inner cities with a welfare economy, and so forth.
In ecclesiastical structures where stasis prevails, the Gospel is perceived as a commodity rather than the Word of Life that it is. A mythology has to be constructed that supplants the Gospel but claims to be true to it (the Episcopalian preoccupation with homosexuality presented as a fundamental question of Christian justice for example). This is a prescription for failure. Put another way, the Gospel by its very nature is highly entropic in that it will obliterate any created contrivance that seeks to contain it — including ecclesiastical structures if necessary.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 1, 2013 @ 11:42 am