Orthodoxy and Government

INTRODUCTION: THE NECESSITY OF THE STATE
OK, this is my long-awaited (by some at least) essay on government and the Orthodox Christian response to it. It’s by no means exhaustive or complete and I’ll wind up adding more as time and circumstances permit. As such, I ask for everyone’s forbearance in this matter.

But first, some caveats. First of all, it should not be surprising that we who are Orthodox view reality through a spiritual lens. This is at it should be, mainly because a purely materialist worldview is impossible. Indeed, the material universe itself is merely a subset of a broader, more spiritual whole. This transcendence is obvious (even if it is unmeasurable). Thus, it makes no sense for believers to hobble themselves when engaging in political science. Therefore, the Christian understanding of governance is every bit as valid as any other ideological system and Christians should feel no reticence in entering the public square.

Of course, we should never forget that our abiding home is in the heavens. It is necessary to keep this in mind, not only for our own personal salvation but for the salvation of the world itself. Because we believe in the heavenly kingdom, we are under no illusions about earthly ones. They are –and always will be–imperfect. Thus any political system that promises heaven on earth is blasphemous. No Christian in good conscience can be a party to any utopian scheme that promises heavenly delights or permanence on earth. It’s not possible and any attempt will lead to tyranny.

Secondly,if we have learned anything at all these past few years, it is that those at the apex of power have themselves a spiritual understanding of the world. True materialism –in the form of atheism–is in fact so attenuated that whenever Christians are attacked by those who profess no religion, the weapons that are used are invariably Christian ones. In other words, the main arsenal which these supposed atheists draw from are moral ones, based on transcendent values which were imparted to the world through revelation.

Having said all that, there is no teleological difference between mature materialist political philosophies and Christian ones. Both espouse stability, justice and subsidiarity as the preferable means for the proper political ordering of society. The traditional term which encapsulates these virtues is “happiness”, not in the modern sense of “absence of sadness” but as something more akin to contentment. The sumum bonum of the state is the protection of the individual citizen and the aforementioned means are best suited for achieving the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people at any given time. If any government cannot do that then it is no longer legitimate, on this, all the great political scientists from the time of Plato on agree.

Stability means just that: communities are not fractured and the polity has not descended into chaos. In the liturgical services of our Church we pray for “the absence of the sword, for stability, for freedom from necessity” for example. Justice means that those who govern do so by appealing to principles larger than themselves. On a personal level it means that there are neutral courts which can adjudicate wrongs to individuals. Subsidiarity is the concept which states that matters are settled at the lowest possible level. In other words, it’s not the province of the national government to take care of potholes in the street. Likewise, it’s not the role of the sheriff to raise a militia to invade another country.

THE INEVITABILITY OF HIERARCHY AND THE CONCEPT OF SERVANT-LEADERSHIP
So where to begin? How about at the beginning?

The created order evinces hierarchy, of this there can be no doubt. We see it everywhere in the natural order. It’s impossible to escape it. We see it in bees’ hives, wolf-packs and flocks of birds. Not only in fauna but in flora do we find predatory species and/or ecosystems which exhibit a delicate harmony and balance based on the number and order of species present. (Think of your garden for example). It’s inescapable. When it comes to humans, hierarchy likewise abounds. Even in the most deliberately egalitarian and communalistic communities (such as monasteries), there is a hierarchy and division of labor. It’s unavoidable. To pretend otherwise, or worse, to demand otherwise, is delusional and will lead to madness, anarchy and violence.

Does this mean that hierarchy = subjugation? No, far from it. When we are talking about is dominion. Hierarchy by necessity includes a chain of command (so to speak) in which there are different levels of stewardship and accountability. This accountability can only be exercised by service. When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them “dominion” over the world. Adam named the animals, he did not eat them nor did he kill them for sport. He cared for them. Likewise Adam and Eve were “naked” not because they were animalistic but because they were clothed in divine light and thus had no need to harvest plants for the textiles necessary to make clothes. As for their diet, they ate only fruit and thus spared the tree –to produce more fruit. Their sustenance did not include the taking of other creatures’ lives. This was a life of paradise in complete harmony with nature. This cannot be stressed enough: Adam’s job was to be a steward over nature, not an exploiter. It was a ministry; his obligation to the entirety of creation.

It thus becomes obvious then that stewardship necessarily involves service. Furthermore, the steward is accountable to something far greater than himself. In the Garden of Eden, Adam was accountable to God. Stewards are accountable to principles which are larger than themselves. This accountability is inescapable in much the same way that hierarchy is inescapable. Husbands are responsible for their wives, parents for their children, employers for employees, managers to chairmen of the board, elected officials to the populace. Even the hermit living in his cave is accountable to those whom he prays for.

What is it then that is the basis for accountability in the political sphere? Simply this: the protection of the individual in both his person and property. Any hierarchy which does not extend protection of those who are subordinate in the chain of command is illegitimate. A husband who does not protect his wife, a mother who does not nurture her children, a policeman who allows little old ladies to be kicked to the curb by purse-snatchers (and so on), is derelict of his duty and is not worthy of his ministry. Such scofflaws will be accountable one way or the other, either in this life or the next.

If we take this up to the governmental level, then we can categorically state that any office-holder who actively ignores the pleas of the weaker, whether because of incompetence, self-interest or sheer malice, is not worthy of his vocation. He is wicked and deserves to be removed. If a government cannot (or won’t) protect those who are within its hierarchy, then it is illegitimate. This principle cannot be stressed enough. All other aspects of governance stem from this. Thus, even a dictatorship which makes conscious efforts to protects individuals from criminals is more legitimate than a democratic republic which punctiliously observes property rights but allows (or encourages) ordinary people to be molested.

Because Adam was accountable to God and because he disobeyed Him, he was therefore removed from Paradise. This is the paradigm which must be held in mind when we consider political science and it bears repeating: it’s not possible for any governmental arrangement (even the most tyrannical ones) to escape accountability.

THE “MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE”: UT SUPERIUS, SIC INFERIUS
To ensure harmony, hierarchies are forced to exercise coercion and if need be, violence. This is because violence is endemic in the natural order. All beings are capable of it. The removal of Adam and Eve from Paradise was a violent act. The slaughter of animals in order to take their hides in order for God to clothe the first couple was likewise violent. So too was the drudgery of labor forced on men and the pain of childbirth for women; neither was pleasurable. This was truly the loss of paradise in more ways than one.

In fact, violence preceded creation. In Scripture, we find that Lucifer and his angels rebelled against the Almighty and the Archangel Michael was forced to take up arms in order to defend the heavenly realm. Lucifer was confined to the underworld because of his rebellion. If this happened in the spiritual realm, it’s not possible for us to escape it in the temporal one.

The question for humans therefore is: who has the authority to exercise violence? As noted, all are capable of undertaking it. In an anarchic society, rival gangs and clans mobilize to exact vengeance and/or expropriate property. In more developed societies tribes or political parties congregate in order to achieve their aims. Most thinking people realize that such a scenario would be undesirable and thus, gladly give the power to execute judgment and wage war to lawful state actors. And it goes without saying that war and justice are to be discriminate and proportionate. They are only to be exercised upon the perpetration of a legitimate wrong. The Mosaic injunction of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is not vengeful but proscriptive in that it prevents excessive punishment.

One more caveat: we can never forget that the created order dimly reflects the eternal order. As St Paul said, “now we see through a glass, darkly”. Every attempt at human government this side of the Fall of Adam will result in imperfection; it’s just a matter of how much imperfection. As such, we will investigate the different types of governments instituted among men. Having said that, we should also remember what St Paul also said: “the king does not hold the sword in vain”, but “he is to be a terror to the evil-doer”. That’s part of God’s divine plan as well and we should keep it in mind when we critique our leaders. What may seem an injustice to us in the execution of some laws may be part of God’s divine plan for us.

In other words, no system is perfect; some are just more imperfect than others. Invariably, ideological systems will fail. It’s inevitable. Having said that, the alternative –total anarchy–is completely undesirable. This would result in a Hobbesian world of “war of all against all”. In order to forestall that, the Lord in His mercy has given us governments to rule over us. And as we have noted above, the first government was set up in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were given dominion over the world.

In heaven, God reigns. This is the ultimate hierarchy. If you or I are fortunate to get their upon death, I can safely say that neither one of us will have a say in how things are done. And I’ll be grateful for it. So generally speaking, government is a net good. The question is how much government? And to what extent can the Church have a say in governance?

ANARCHY VS TYRANNY: THE FALSE DICHOTOMY BETWEEN LEFT AND RIGHT
Much has been made lately of the “alt.right” and the “far left”, between “progressivism” and “conservatism”. That’s the wrong paradigm in my opinion. Instead, we should look at the political continuum as a line, with one side being no government (anarchia) and the other side being total government (tyrannia).

If it were to be plotted as a binary system (all 0s and 1s) we could view it thusly:

Anarchy —> Tyranny (with Anarchy = 0 and Tyranny = 1).

In this view, 0 is on the left side if the graph while 1 is on the right. In reality, this is false. While there is something to be said for viewing things in a binary manner, the reality of life on earth is more complicated than that. Most of the ideological systems that exist in any given country (for example Tory vs Labor in the UK or Democrat vs Republican in the US) are clustered pretty closely together on the the political continuum. Republicans and Democrats (for example) both believe in the Federal income tax, Republicans just believe in a lower standard rate. Both parties say that they believe in the Second Amendment with Democrats saying that “reasonable controls” are necessary. And so on.

Instead of a purely binary system what we have instead is a gradient of power or a power continuum. In the earlier scenario, the binary model (which is more like a coin: heads = 0, tails = 1) is found to be lacking. After all both political parties believe in (say) taxes; it’s not all or nothing. Hence what I propose is a power continuum. The spectrum is much longer with power shifting between -1 (absolute liberty) and +1 (absolute tyranny). Zero, which is equidistant between these two polar opposites, would be the ideal. The closest we ever came to this ideal here in the United States was during the days of the early Republic and immediately after Reconstruction but before 1913 (when the Federal Income Tax, the Federal Reserve and the direct election of Senators were instituted).

Along this gradient, we find (going from -1 to +1) six major economic schemes: (1) barter economy, (2) anarcho-capitalism (“Ancap”), (3) libertarianism/free-market economy, (3) mixed-market economy, (4) crony capitalism, (5) socialism, and finally (6) command economy. The ideal “zero point” is to be found somewhere between free-market and mixed-market economies. Regardless, for any economic system to be just, both the buyer and seller have to experience a net gain, that is both must be made to feel that they have received increased value through the transaction.

It should be noted however that capitalism, socialism, command economy and even barter exist in all of these arrangements to one degree or another. In a total barter economy for instance, the “capital” are the goods and services that each person possesses. In other words, if one man is a better hunter than another, then he will “sell” a portion of his kill to another man who in turn will sharpen his spears for him. Neither of these are capital in the monetary or financial sense yet both of these are valuable services which each partner in this transaction possesses. Goods are tangible whereas services are not but both are valuable and one can be exchanged for the other. Consider the story of Jacob and Esau: Esau was hungry and on the run and sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup. Each man got something more valuable in return –Esau a bowl of soup (which was tangible) and Jacob a birthright (which was not).

Command economies likewise exist in most political systems. They are the result of a service which the state deems necessary and is mandated upon every person within that society. In modern societies for example, primary education is mandatory. Thus economic and legal regimes are set up in order to make it easy for families to send their children away for part of the day. Property taxes are levied in order to sustain this regime (even against those who have no children to educate). School buses are provided to take children from their home to the school, crossing guards are provided in order to ensure the safety children and so on. The list of auxiliary employment extends further down the line: janitors, truant officers, school nurses, administrators, counselors and so on.

Another example of a command economy was found in ancient Israel where a temple was erected and it became the obligation of every Israelite to attend on a regular basis. This required outlays of money, not only for food and lodging to and from the temple but for the procurement of sacrificial animals. The priests and Levites got their cut of the meat, the rest was given to the pilgrim and any excess was sold to butchers who in turn sold their goods in the marketplace.

Total anarchy as well as total tyranny can never be achieved (again, that’s thanks to the Lord’s mercy). Also, you will have noticed that I made no mention of actual ideologies (i.e. fascism, communism, autocracy or democracy, etc.) but only mentioned economic systems. That’s because political ideologies can accommodate most of the economic systems located on this gradient. They often “bleed” into each other. We still engage in barter for example (which is the most ancient economic system) and there are elements of crony capitalism in most socialist economies. Even totalitarian economies which confiscate all capital find that they exhaust their resources sooner or later. Thus they require the infusion of foreign capital in order to stay in power. They can do so either through war or from the selling of state assets.

Another way you can look at it is that the close one gets to +1, the more rigged the system is. That’s why industrialists and capitalists as a rule favor dealing with dictators and oligarchs as it decreases the amount of randomness that they have to deal with. On the other hand, the close one gets to -1, the freer the individual is.

THE DISTRIBUTION OF POWER: MONARCHY, ARISTOCRACY AND POPULAR MAJORITARIANISM
This deserves some more discussion, after all what we are talking about at base is the proper distribution of power and how its allocated. Like the ideal economic systems which provide the greatest number of goods and services to the greatest number of people over the widest distribution of time and space, the ideal political system will provide the greatest amount of stability for the majority. (As mentioned earlier, this is what political theorists mean when they say “happiness”.)

As such, short of the extremes of absolute anarchy and absolute tyranny (which are impossible to achieve) there are only three possible outcomes: (1) monarchy, (2) aristocracy, and (3) popular majoritarianism. At base, we are talking about the concentration of power: under a monarchy power is concentrated in one individual whereas under a majoritarian system power is the widely dispersed among the masses. (I leave aside for the moment gradations such as autocracy, oligarchy and mobocracy.) In any event, none of these systems are inherently immoral.

That of course will be a shock to many. Have we not been taught that dictatorships are bad? After all, power in such a system is concentrated (again for the most part) in one single, solitary individual. The chances for abuse under such a system are apparent. However most political scientists agree that the ideal form of government is the “benevolent dictator”. Plato called this man the “philosopher-king”. Many of our brightest thinkers (going all the way back to Woodrow Wilson) have long disdained the Constitutional system in favor of a “strong president”.

In ancient Rome for example, provision was made for a dictator in times of national emergency. His term was to last only six months with the option of renewing for another six months if the crisis called for it. In America, Abraham Lincoln governed as an elected dictator during the War Between the States. This too was a national emergency. Likewise Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed broad powers to prosecute World Wars I and II, respectively.

Generally speaking, the pros of the benevolent dictator are apparent in that justice can be meted out swiftly, wrongs can be rectified without recourse to endless litigation and taxes can be incredibly low. After all, to fund such a system, one need only pay for the man in charge and his immediate retainers (who are not only the army but the bureaucracy as well).

The archetype among the ancient Indo-European populations for this division of governmental labor was priest/shaman – king/chieftain – freemen soldiers (with the shaman/priest being at the apex). Historical examples include what was found Homeric Greece and the Germanic nations in their various configurations, especially as was found in Medieval Iceland and pre-Norman England. Among the Semites, the hierarchy was sheikh/shofetim – everybody else, where the sheikh was both religious leader as military chieftain. This type of arrangement exists today among the Bedouin Arabs.

Another positive is that the king (or the clan-chieftain/tribal sheikh) is not absolute but subject to challenge. He may be replaced if he’s lost the respect of either the priesthood or the warrior classes. This may be due to a loss of martial vigor or because of environmental factors. In pre-dynastic Egypt for example, the king’s life was often held hostage against the flooding of the Nile; if it didn’t flood, the people sacrificed the king in order to appease the gods. Being the most powerful individual in the nation, the king was considered the greatest and best gift that could be proffered to the gods.

The problem of course lies in the fact that no matter how good a dictator is, there’s no guarantee that the man who succeeds him is going to be anywhere nearly as good. One way to mitigate the excesses of dictatorship is to diffuse power sufficiently into a larger body. From this comes the concept of aristocracy or the government of the “best, most virtuous men”. The diffusion of power from one man to many (lords/commitatus) means that the chance for mistakes are diffused as well. Juries for example are necessary for liberty because it’s nearly impossible to bribe an entire pool of men in order to get a particular verdict. In America, we’ve long had “jury nullification” which allows twelve men to acquit a guilty defendant because they believe he was arrested under an unjust law.

Aristocracy is not without its faults however: for one thing, members of such a group tend to restrict the inclusion of newer men into their ranks, even if these men are virtuous themselves. This is usually the sign of an oligarchy. Secondly, they can turn on each other in particularly egregious ways. And rather than serve as a check on the king, the king can pit them against each other in order to consolidate his own power. Likewise, their incessant fighting and jockeying for position can serve as an invitation to civil war. An example would be Diarmait MacMuchabar of Leinster, an Irish lord who invited the Anglo-Normans into his province in order to help him fight the rivals who ousted him. This led to the subjugation of the entire Irish populace for close to eight hundred years.

A particularly pernicious stage of oligarchy is timocracy or the rule of men who buy “honors” in order to weasel their way into said oligarchy. In order to prevent this from happening, a further diffusion of power is necessary, which brings us to majoritarian rule.

The best known form of majoritarian rule is known as democracy. It should be kept in mind however that “democracy” is open to interpretation. In the ancient Greek city-states (where we first find popular rule as a governmental form), only free-born males who were capable of bearing arms were allowed to vote, serve on juries or otherwise stand for public office. This meant that women, resident aliens, slaves, homosexuals, beggars and all men who were in some ways deemed unfit were disbarred from civic participation.

Under democratic systems, the diffusion of power is greatest, thus it’s very difficult to “bribe” the entire pool of electors. Aristotle of course noted that in the ancient Greek polities, the bribery of the populace by demagogues was rampant. Aristotle calculated that a typical democratic polis would only last about seven generations. He believed that the turning point occurred around the fourth generation since this was the one which came to the realization that they could vote themselves wealth from the public treasury.

However if the population is larger, that is to say a nation-state rather than a city-state, the voting of benefits to the general public becomes more difficult. This is mainly because people divide out into groups or “factions” in which the idea of commonwealth is attenuated. Thus, the rulers are forced to make decisions about which group is to be rewarded wealth from the public treasury. In America for example, Social Security is very popular because people believe that they have worked for it and paid into it. Welfare programs however are not nearly as popular. This is because it is viewed by many as a handout to the profligate who will not work. As such, Social Security is untouchable whereas Welfare is regularly subject to revision.

As for totalitarian systems, the difference between international socialism and national socialism is based on which demographic is being appealed to. In reality, when we are talking about fascists vs communists, we’re trying to make a distinction between two different types of totalitarians, with fascists having an advantage in that they appeal to the larger demographic faction in any given society. Hence, Nazi Germany had a smaller secret police/intelligence service than did the Soviet Union. That’s because the Nazi Party was overwhelmingly supported by the majority of the German people whereas the Russian majority was pounded into submission by the Bolsheviks.

Likewise a monarchy can be absolute (France during Ancien Regime), constitutional (Great Britain) or religious (Tibet, Japan). In a religious kingdom, the monarch is a god-king who rules because he is the descendant of a primordial deity or the avatar of a deity. In a constitutional monarchy, the king is viewed as a vicar or representative of God –a priest-king as it were. Most majoritarian states are republican rather than direct democracies. The United States for example is quasi-democratic and decentralized whereas the Russian Federation is highly centralized and more directly democratic.

THE ORTHODOX VIEW
I hesitate to state which system of government is the “Orthodox view”. Mainly because I’m not a theologian but also because as a republican living in America, I prefer the decentralized, republican way of doing things. As a rule though, republics –and especially democracies–don’t last a long time. That’s because once the people realize that they can vote themselves wealth from other men’s pockets, they inevitably spend themselves into oblivion. Aristotle noted that over two thousand years ago. (Although as noted above, a larger, more diffuse nation-state can withstand the financial pressures better and for a longer time.)

The United States has had a good run of it all things considered –a quarter of a millennium. That’s not chump change. Iceland and Switzerland have had a longer republican experience by a long shot. The trouble is that out of one hundred seventy nations spanning the globe, those are the only three enduring republics. America I believe is at a turning point. The election of Donald Trump as president has exacerbated the underlying tensions which have been boiling over for several years. Besides the secessionist impulses which animate several of our states and regions, our unfunded liabilities are stratospheric. At some point, our bill will come do and our currency will suffer hyperinflation.

Then there’s the fact that the United States is no longer a homogeneous nation. Smaller, newer republics, say Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and so on, can probably keep their republican impulses going forward. They, like the aforementioned Iceland are extremely homogeneous. Switzerland is not homogeneous but the Italian, German and French demographies that make up that nation are segregated into several autonomous and distinct cantons which jealously guard their prerogatives. If nothing else, we can thank Trump for the fact that big-government liberals are suddenly finding out what a glorious thing States’ Rights are.

That being said, the Church Fathers were largely in agreement that the monarchical form of government was the one which was more pleasing to the Lord in that it most closely reflected the heavenly realm. If one considers the movement of time and the diminution of morals, there seems to be an historical dialectic which pushes inevitably to mobocracy. Unfortunately, that inexorably leads to anarchy, which as we have noted, is impossible to sustain. Instead, what snaps back is some type of tyranny.

We saw this for example during the French Revolution, when after a Reign of Terror, a Corsican general named Napoleone Buonaparte, said “Enough!” and brought back monarchy and a degree of normalcy. The same thing happened in post-Tsarist Russia, when the provisional government of Aleksandr Kerensky spun out of control, only to give way to Lenin. This pattern was revisited in Germany, when the chaos of the Wiemar Republic gave way to the National Socialists. It should be note that every one of these cases was proceeded by a grave economic downturn. And of course it should be noted that in each case, destructive wars were the result as well as the loss of liberty. (If nothing else, these historical cases should be kept in mind as we careen further into mobocracy.)

Because Orthodoxy is the most spiritual of Christian systems, it is the one with the most authority. It also has the advantage of seeing the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Therefore, a Christian monarchy, tempered with a Senate (or a hereditary nobility) and local, municipal democratic elections, may be the best possible outcome we can expect until the Second Coming.

This does not mean that there cannot be an independent judiciary or an independent Church. In fact, I think both would be vital for any such system to work harmoniously. The Church especially should have complete independence and all eleemoysynary functions (charity, welfare, education and other assorted philanthropies) should be under its purview. The State would be responsible for defense, infrastructure and the minting of money. Both would be funded by their own revenue streams: the State through taxation and the Church through tithes and donations (as well as tax abatements).

To my mind, this system would be neither a fusion of Church and State but more properly a symphonia, with each branch jealously guarding their respective ministries. This is an ideal and it had much to commend it (especially its longevity). After all, the symphonic regime which was set in motion by Constantine –and which we label as Christendom–lasted for almost two millennia and produced the greatest flowering of human civilization known to man. As such we should be wary of giving in to the arguments of secularists and Protestants who choose to view Constantine’s accommodation with the Church as being inherently evil. It was not.

Governance is necessary because it is in this world (and our bodies) in which we work out our salvation. Hence it behooves Christians to contribute to a regime which ensures the greatest amount of happiness if for other reason that it is easier to work for our salvation in more stable times.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed the article, but you seem to conflate the Republic with Democracy, and modern “Democracy” with Democracy.

    Modern governments are generally “representative democracy” meaning aristocrats governing on behalf of the “People”. Very different from Athens, and different from ancient “democracies”.

    I conflate the Republic with the Separation of Powers into Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. You seem to do the same, as it appears you prefer a hereditary monarch as executive, a legislative body, and an independent judiciary. I presume your system would require a written constitution as well, which would be different from the heyday of the Czar.

    In fact, the Republic may be the most stable because it has features of all three forms of government, with popular sovereignty, legislatures and judicial officers from the aristocrats, and an executive acting like a monarch, at least in times of war. Personally, I don’t think a system of government will work well unless you have a strong executive combined with strong institutional checks (like the judiciary) able to rein in the executive. Otherwise, you end up with weakness and indecision, or a corrupt and relatively short-lived dictatorship.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      KD, I wanted to keep things as general as possible. In the Greek language, democracy = republic (Gr demos/people, kratia/power; Latin: res/thing, publica/people). In this instance, this is a time where English is more sophisticated than Greek in that allows for the nuance to develop between democracy and republic.

  2. It is curious to me that you need three institutional loci in order to have a measure of stability, as having three independent institutions allows the third institution to act as an intermediary between the two opposing institutions.

    In dictatorship, you generally have a dictator and powerful backers, and conflicts can only end in the backers getting purged or the dictator being deposed. This creates a lot more blood shed than the run of the mill constitutional crisis in a Republic.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      I imagine we’re getting ready to find out if the left succeeds in nullifying the 2016 election. Or if California secedes. Don’t forget, there was a lot of bloodshed ca 1861-1865 here in the US.

  3. Has an authentic Prince in AD history ever reigned? King David had authentic Divine Right to rule. The Orthodox seems to favor ST. Constantine as a divinely empowered Prince. Or has divine empowerment of Princes tarried for a little while, and has since fallen? Authentic divine empowerment of Princes is indeed the the best example of the ruling Monarchies you describe as most favorable to a secure functioning rule successfully serving the people.Anything else is a decent into different degrees of dysfunction leading lastly to every mans hand against his brother, as is predicted concerning the last days. Alas, it is fallen.

  4. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says:

    President Trump himself could not have written a more confused sentence than this final one by George M: “Hence it behooves Christians to contribute to a regime which ensures the greatest amount of happiness if for other reason that it is easier to work for our salvation in more stable times.”

    • Will Harrington says:

      How is this sentence confusing? I had no trouble understanding the grammar and construction. The concept appears simple enough. We Orthodox Christians should support a form of government that contributes to the stability of the nation and the contentment of the people. The construction of the sentence is a bit archaic, but not terribly so. I would expect my GED students to be able to understand such a sentence when they are have reached such a level that they can reasonably expect to pass the test.

  5. George Michalopulos says:

    BTW, here’s a cinematic example of the Sheikh concept of tribal leadership:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYHAZXiwsCo

    One of the greatest scenes from one of the greatest movies of all time, Lawrence of Arabia

  6. Well, this is a dicey one. We get into the terminology of political science (one of my undergraduate majors).

    Vladimir Moss wrote an excellent article with all the tasty quotes from the Church Fathers which you can find here:

    http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/273/must-an-orthodox-christian-be-a-monarchist/

    Essentially, Orthodox Christians can get along in any number of political structures but the only one endorsed by God and Sacred Tradition is monarchy, quotes regarding King Saul notwithstanding.

    The gist of what he lays out is summed up early on:

    “Now in the works of the Holy Fathers it is possible to find two, apparently contradictory approaches to the question of Church-State relations and the attitude of the Church to various forms of government. On the one hand, it is affirmed that all power is from God, that the Church can live and has lived in states of the most varied kinds, and that if an Orthodox Christian prefers one kind to another, this is a personal preference, and not a matter of the faith. On the other hand, it is affirmed that only monarchical power is from God, that the Church blessed only the monarchical order, and first of all the Orthodox autocracy, and that monarchism is an obligatory part of the truly Orthodox world-view.”

    The founding fathers of the United States were sons of the Enlightenment. They had an unreasonably rosy view of the ability of man to rule himself using himself as the measure. The measure of man left to his own devices, the Lord of the Flies scenario, played itself out in the twentieth century in the history of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, both totalitarian systems which had no room for God. The Nazi trinity was Volk, Reich and Fuehrer. All other gods were subservient to those. The Soviets, of course, were militant atheists.

    ““The three most ancient opinions about God are atheism (or anarchy), polytheism (or polyarchy), and monotheism (or monarchy). The children of Greece played with the first two; let us leave them to their games. For anarchy is disorder: and polyarchy implies factious division, and therefore anarchy and disorder. Both these lead in the same direction – to disorder; and disorder leads to disintegration; for disorder is the prelude to disintegration. What we honour is monarchy.” – St. Gregory the Theologian, Sermon 29, 2.

    What we have in America is polyarchy. A polyarchy is the rule of some number of individuals, could be an oligarchy, plutocracy, democracy, etc. Ostensibly we live under a republican form of government with strong democratic elements. It is not a pure representative democracy in that the will of the people is buffered to some extent by a separation of powers and constitutional checks as well as the electoral college which insures that no particular section or sections of the country can become dominant over the rest.

    Now that is the theoretical basis but what we really have is government by two large cliques that manipulate public emotion through the media and have “competed” to direct the ship of state along one path, sometimes more gradually, sometimes more aggressively.

    It all blew up when the elites persevered in outsourcing production to countries without our minimum wage restrictions or worker protections. Both parties were in on it and the veil fell from a sufficient number of people’s eyes to cause quite a commotion.

    Now, will Trumpism succeed? That is hard to say. If it is to succeed, it will have to end in one party rule, a dominant party system like that of the Russian Federation where the media is brought to heel. They can undo everything he has done in time, having the public’s ear.

    Yet there is an untenable tension between the policies of the Western elite and the rest of the world. The feminism will either spread or be contained and defeated. That is the nature of psychoses. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese will stand for their women exercising the power that Western women are claiming pursuant to these “sexual impropriety” allegations.

    I suspect that we are close to the bitter end of this sick drama.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Thank you Misha for the link to Vladimir Moss.

      • You’re welcome, George. Vladimir Moss has my respect both for his intellect and piety. I look forward to the time when all the Orthodox who follow the Church Calendar are once again united in communion.

  7. Deacon Gregory says:

    This article is quite good. I liked the term used “mobocracy” as that is what our government has devolved into. In a prefaps more simple and reduced form, I would offer that the purpose of government is to provide law and order in society and restrain and prevent, evil and injustice to the extent possible (laws are for the lawless). In the western world, where we are today with the lawlessness and the wickedness we have, seems to me to have its beginning in the “sola scriptural” (doing what is right in ones own eyes from reading the Bible) and secular humanism (doing whatever is right in your own eyes without the Bible or anything else). This is what has been so destructive to all Godly authority – Church, family, government, etc. I also think that we are fast heading to a collapse of our government and anarchy, which as was stated will lead to a totalitarian state. The only hope I think we have is if there is a great repentance by the all the people as in the days of Jonah in Ninevah. But the chance of that happening are very slim to none. Never the less I would pray that all the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in this country would get together and call for repentance of the faithful with an appropriate time of prayer and fasting; and that they would also go to the Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders to do likewise and also to our government, federal and state, leaders to do the same. We probably should have done this starting back in the late 60s. It seems that it is unlikely that our hierarchs might do this but I pray and plead with them, that this can be done. And certainly, repentance, prayer and fasting to a much greater extent must start with me regardless of what anyone else does. But then, is this not the Orthodox way?

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Thank you. I wish I had put in the body that the role of the State is not only to ensure comfort and to restrain evil, but equally as important: to prevent unnecessary evils from gaining a foothold in the first place. (Pace Enoch Powell.)

  8. Joseph Lipper says:

    George, here’s something I posted elsewhere, and I’ll post it here also:

    Have you considered nomadic hunter-gatherer societies? Usually these societies reject making up a centralized political authority, but instead possess very, very traditional worldviews and ways of doing things. They are very structured societies, but it is an internalized traditional structure, not an externalized governmental one. You can’t have a king without a kingdom, and hunter-gatherers would typically lack both. Rather, they would rely on tribal elders, or shamans, in a form of interpretive leadership that helps keep the tradition alive.

    The Christian parallel to this is the Hebrew people who followed God as nomads in the Sinai desert. They had no earthly king or kingdom, but lived in tents, always on the move, following God in the desert. They were an extremely traditional group as the books of Moses testify. The Prophet Moses brought them the tradition and served as interpreter and judge, but he was not a king.

    It was later that the Hebrew people demanded a king, and God finally gave in to their demands, although it wasn’t His original plan. (1 Samuel chapter 8)

    When Christ the King of the Jews is born on earth, He is ultimately rejected by the Jews as their king, primarily because He completely rejects any concept of possessing an earthly kingdom. He was not the messiah that these Jews were looking for. He fulfills the law, and He is obedient unto death.

    Christ said,”The Kingdom of God shall not come with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

    We have had nomadic hunter-gatherer societies in North America, and some of them converted to Orthodox Christianity in Alaska as nomadic peoples, as was with St. Innocent of Alaska’s mission.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      JL, the hunter-gatherer society works best in a desert or a prairie type of environment in my opinion. As I mentioned, the Bedouin Arabs are an exemplar as of course were the ancient Israelites under the shofetim (judges, who were really sheikhs). The Plains Indians likewise.

      There is much to commend this lifestyle. Unfortunately, they tended to violence and polygamy, almost out of necessity.

      However Indo-Europeans (“Aryans”) developed under different environmental pressures, the primary one being farming (although the most ancient Aryans were horse-herders somewhat like the Mongols). The ability to farm in harsh or temperate conditions made it necessary to plan for the long term and life-long monogamous pair-bonding was necessary under these conditions. This pair-bonding made marriage viable for the majority of people and thus violence less likely.

      From these ethnicities arose the nation-states and the great civilizations.

      An additional word about the Aryan predilection for monogamy: it was enshrined in the earliest European ur-texts: both the Iliad and most especially the Odyssey are paeans to the endurance of lifelong pair-bonding. In the Iliad, the Rape of Helen scandalized everybody while in the Odyssey, Odysseus spent ten years of extreme suffering to try and get back to his wife. He didn’t have to, for all he knew she was dead or remarried. As for Penelope, she had no idea that her husband had survived battle but yet despite the numerous suitors who tried to court her, she remained faithful to her husband.

  9. Joseph Lipper says:

    Misha, it’s an interesting article by Vladimir Moss, but he doesn’t discuss at all God’s initial objection to an earthly king that we read about in 1 Samuel 8:

    “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

    “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
    According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

    “And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
    And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

    “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.”

    In this passage, God finally capitulates to the Israelite’s demand for an earthly king, but God is reluctant, tries to dissuade them, and points out that they only demand this because they reject Himself as King.

    • lexcaritas says:

      Was it the request for a king that was objectionable? or the request for a king to judge us “like the Gentiles”?

      lxc+

      • George Michalopulos says:

        That’s an interesting point, Lex. I never thought of it. Regardless, the Lord in His mercy saw that no matter how good a man Samuel the God-seer was, his sons were anything but. That wasn’t God’s fault, or Samuel’s, or the peoples for that matter.

      • Joseph Lipper says:

        lexcaritas,

        Was it an earthly king to defeat Pharoah and lead God’s people out of Egypt? No, God raised up His prophet Moses to do this.

        Was it an earthly king to lead God’s people into Canaan and defeat the Canaanites? No, God raised up His prophet Joshua to do this.

        At the time of the prophet Samuel, the Hebrew people had lived some 400 years without being subject to an earthly king. Then the Israelites ask for a king, and by doing so God says the Israelites “have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”

        God’s preferred mode of leadership for His people appears to be through His prophets. Even throughout the subsequent history of Hebrew kings, it is still God’s prophets who offer genuine inspired leadership to His people.

    • The Old Israel was originally designed to operate as a sort of federation of chieftans. That was the arrangement under the Judges. It was not democratic but rather focused on the leadership of one judge, a prince or minor monarch of sorts. The point was that it was decentralized so that particular judges presided over particular tribes. The form of government was still monarchial in the sense of one man (or in the case of Deborah, a woman) being the chieftan/leader. I recall reading about no parliaments.

      Ideally, for a faithful people, that would have been the best arrangement, least restrictive of each tribe and most responsive to God raising prophets from time to time to direct matters.

      But the Hebrews were not faithful and the system did not work – everyone did what was best in his own eyes. Judges 17:6; 21:25

      Clusterf*ck

      The danger God warned them about came to pass in the person of King Saul who behaved arrogantly and abused his power. Yet with David, we see the prototype of the ideal king, albeit with certain serious flaws. That is why the Messiah is referred to as the Son of David. Later Hebrew kingdoms rose and fell respective to their levels of righteousness.

      For the New Israel, monarchy has always been the norm.

      • George Michalopulos says:

        To all, what Misha is describing is to my mind a type of republican commonwealth with a heavy emphasis on aristocracy. It has much to commend it. But it rests on the aristocrats being virtuous men. Let us not forget what Franklin told the woman waiting outside Constitution Hall after the Constitution was ratified: “Dr Franklin, did you give us a monarchy or a republic?” “A republic ma’am, if you can keep it.”

        Republics can only work and last if the people are virtuous.

        • Joseph Lipper says:

          George,

          In a society where everyone is virtuous and passionless, then there really is no need for external government. As St. Paul writes in Galatians chapter 3, “The just shall live by faith.” He continues:

          ” But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”

          Therefore, if we can help people to find true faith in Christ, then we are moving in the direction of creating a just society, regardless of what type of government exists or doesn’t exist.

  10. George Mark Parakyrkas says:

    Mitsotakis Breitbart cousin thinks Orthodox is a soviet plot
    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/01/11/kgb-christians-putin-stalin-kgbs-history-manipulating-orthodox-church/
    That is why the nephew of the Napoleonic Uniate married himself a Jagelonian Fatimist.

    • If you are going to read the article, make sure you also read Father John Whiteford’s response to it in the comments – it is listed first.

      • Estonian Slovak says:

        I did read Fr. Whiteford’s response. Fr. John has certainly done a lot for Orthodoxy and I respect him for it. However, he should be careful of the politics. To say that the Ukrainian language is a dialect of Russian is a half truth at best. Statements like that are needlessly inflammatory. It might be better to say they evolved from a common proto language. Some wit once remarked that a language is a dialect with an army and navy. Danish,Norwegian,and Swedish are all more mutually intelligible than Russian and Ukrainian. Yet they are all considered national languages.
        On the other hand, apologists for the “Autocephalous” Ukrainian Orthodox church formed in Ukraine in 1921 neglect to tell us that in the beginning that church was actually pro Soviet. One could say it was a Ukrainian variation of the Living Church theme, complete with married bishops, twice married priests, the whole nine yards. Only after the Whites were defeated, did Stalin turn on the Ukrainians. For many Eastern Ukrainians, nationalism was initially quite left wing.

      • The KGB and Soviet Union are long dead and gone. What people are terrified of is Orthodox Russia with an Orthodox head of state. It terrifies them because they do not hold the Christian faith but rather believe in Secular Humanism, keeping ethnic Christianity as a lap dog.

        That’s the long and short of it.

  11. Estonian Slovak says:

    I won’t say everything in the Breitbart article is wrong. I don’t deny that the church in Russia is making a comeback, and I never took the extremist position that the MP lacked Grace.ROCOR Metroplitan Filaret of Blessed Memory felt the same way.
    But I do have a problem with a World Leader who professes to be Orthodox and then doesn’t respect the hierarchy enough to kiss their hands. I noticed when Putin first came to meet Metropolitan Laurus of Blessed Memory in NYC, he shook his hand and then kissed him three times. As if he were superior to the Metropolitan! People change and it’s possible Putin shed his KGB past. But consider, what would the world have said if an ex-Gestapo man had become Chancellor of West Germany in 1960?
    Tsar Martyr Nicholas II not only took blessings from bishops, but also from ordinary priests. In fact, the reason the newly ordained priest gets a cross to wear in the Russian Church stems from the fact that the Tsar used to walk up to deacons for a blessing, thinking they were priests! Yes, I do pray for an Orthodox Monarchy to be returned to Russia. Just my thoughts, nothing here a matter of dogma.

  12. Fr. Sergius-Maria says:

    bravissimo! superb, Maestro! you outdid yourself again, if such were possible!

  13. George – thanks for writing this article as promised – I appreciate it

  14. Search fort Essays Christian Greece at archive.org for a pre-Venizelist perspective

  15. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from yesterday on the Ortho Christian website.

    AUTHORITIES DETAIN MAIN PLANNING TO BLOW UP ST. PETERSBURG’S KAZAN CATHEDRAL

    http://orthochristian.com/109276.html

  16. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from today’s The National Herald. It is in its entirety at the time of this posting.

    President of Albania Meta Gives Albanian Citizenship to Archbishop Anastasios
    By ANA December 26, 2017

    https://www.thenationalherald.com/185791/president-albania-meta-gives-albanian-citizenship-archbishop-anastasios/

  17. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from today’s The Pappas Post.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Strongly Opposes U.S. President Trump’s Jerusalem Decision
    written by Gregory Pappas

    http://www.pappaspost.com/ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-strongly-opposes-u-s-president-trumps-jerusalem-decision/

  18. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from today on the Ortho Christian website.

    HAGIA SOPHIA CONSECRATED 1,480 YEARS AGO TODAY
    Constantinople, December 27, 2017

    http://orthochristian.com/109580.html

  19. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from Friday on the World Religion News website.

    WASHINGTON PREPARES SUCCESSOR FOR ITS SPIRITUAL REPRESENTATIVE IN TURKEY
    22 DEC 2017    POSTED BY MARTIN BANKS

    http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/christianity/washington-prepares-successor-spiritual-representative-turkey

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Ughh. If it’s LP as EP then we “ain’t seen nothin’ yet”. It’ll be papalism on steroids. Hopefully, the GOA will be deconstructed as the ethnic lobby it is and will revivify itself as a truly evangelical, American jurisdiction. And in so doing, stop being the cash-cow of Byzantine nostalgia.

      I’m always looking for a silver lining, even where there isn’t one.

  20. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from Tuesday on the Haaretz website.

    Lonely This Christmas A Glimpse Into the Life of the West Bank’s Last Christians
    Dina Kraft
    26.12.2017 | 11:49

    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/1.830920

  21. The Advocate says:

    What is the attraction to Orthodoxy? One jurisdiction calling out the other, one touts it’s the leader of Orthodoxy over the other. This is what Orthodoxy has become? This all seems like some leftist self hating New York Jewish blog. All in Hell’s pit trying to claw out, while pushing down the other next to you, in the end you all remain in the pit. The way you see Orthodoxy, as successful is large glorious buildings? Built to impress who exactly? Without government monetary support, huge houses of worship are not built, especially in Russia. The GOA has now proved it, with their shrine to humanity. 20 mil, 40mil, 50 mil, now 70 million not enough to build what for who? The GOA, will not only turn away the faithful, but those who are looking in from the outside. They, on the out will see just another Roman Catholic wannabe. The rest of Orthodoxy points fingers, but are not innocent of corruption, just different classes, in time they will catch up to the Greeks.

    Now the Russians, they are kings on the mountain, as they have partnered with an ex-superpower nation. Without the Orthodox leaders prostituting themselves to the government, no large buildings. God will not allow himself to be a prostitute to any government, yet Orthodoxy does, and you George find such growth glorious, yet are quick to point a finger at the Greeks? I once read that even though most Russians consider themselves Orthodox, they do not believe in God? I find that the strangest comment ever spoken. I must ask, who then were more devout Orthodox Christians, today’s Russians, or the Russian’s of The USSR, who had no grand buildings to worship in, and held liturgy in secret locations, under the fear of former KBG agents like the now pro-Orthodox Mr. Putin, and his new friend and partner Kiril, aka, tobacco czar. The leader of Russian Orthodoxy, is in the business of selling cancer to the world? Am I the only one here that finds that a bit strange? “Smoke up, Boris and Natasha, we got buildings to build,” says all holy glorious leader of Russia. I bet you never wrote a story about your , “Up in Smoke”, leader, in your blog, eh George? I also understand, that many of the old bishops under the USSR, many of which, are still bishops today, like Kiril, were notorious informants for the KGB. Russian Orthodoxy partners with Communist party and now in full glory with new facist Russia. Seems they will saddle with whom ever holds the purse strings. Just like humanity, Orthodoxy is in a pit, you all just don’t realize it yet, because your up to your knees, pointing fingers at each other and playing King of the Orthodox mountain, debating who is more pious than the other. Like a fat man, telling a skinny man to go on a diet, while he eats pound cake! You all are really in Satan’s pit, while he laughs, knowing full well you will never help each other out of his trap.-You will know them by their fruits-Matthew 7:20

    • The Advocate says:

      Correction: Most Russians consider themselves Orthodox, but a third do not believe in God.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Advocate, have you been to Russia? Where do you get your information about the government funding of churches? Some, yes; after all, it was the (Soviet) government that destroyed thousands of churches. Shouldn’t its successor government be forced to make reparations? I think so.

      • The Advocate says:

        George,
        All you got is reparations and go to Russia? Orthodoxy is dying, and unappealing to most with half a brain, and your only answer is the NAACP handbook to rebuild Orthodoxy in Russia? The population of Russian is near 150 million, according to Pew Research Center, 4% of Russians go to church at least once a month, and 7%, a few times a year. So that means aprox. 15 million go to church. That impresses you? Now this survey, did not make it clear if that poll was strictly Orthodox church attendees. Oh by the the way I am sure your also cool, and impressed that The Russian Government rejects, and removes other Christian denominations from evangelizing the masses? MP and Putin scared of a little competition?

        All my other points you must agree with, or are ok with. Like your MP exporting cancer to the world, or his and fellow bishops roles, during the Communist period. This is the person the majority of posters here on this blog, want as their Universal Leader/Patriarch of the world? Pathetic! Truth be told, this is not all about Russia, but Universal Orthodoxy, corrupt to it’s core, second only to the Roman Catholics, which Orthodoxy envies indeed.

        • George Michalopulos says:

          Methinks thou doth protest too much.

        • Joseph Lipper says:

          Advocate, a lot has changed in Russia in the last ten years, especially in Moscow. Your statistics are ten years old. You would do better to find more recent statistics, or better yet, go to Russia yourself. I was in Moscow a little over a year ago, and the churches are completely full on a regular Sunday. Even the weekday services were full of people.

          When I was there I heard from my Russian guide that Moscow has opened 100 churches in the last five years, and that’s just the city of Moscow. If you would go there you would see. Going to Russia is incredibly inexpensive right now for Americans also. It’s worth it.

          • George Michalopulos says:

            Truly. It’s only a fool who accepts anything from “official” sources about just about anything anymore. The American Corporate Media is just Pravda/TASS with prettier faces and more sophisticated reportage.

          • George Michalopulos says:

            Why should any good Russophobic American Christian ever go to Russia to see things with his own eyes? It’s much better to read about it in The New York Times or some such other “credible” journal.

    • Constaninos says:

      Dear Advocate,
      It may be a good idea to be a little more circumspect to say whether someone is “in Satan’s camp” or not. The Lord alone knows they who are His. If you think Orthodoxy has so many problems, you should see the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants. It’s enough to give someone a nervous breakdown.

      • The Advocate says:

        Constaninos, you keep praying to skulls, bones, rotting hands of “Mary”, wood from the original cross, and then tell me which prince of lies and thieves you pray to. Interesting, that the hand of MAry, or the original wood from the cross, comes to town, and no one but the Orthodox masses really care? Not even small town local news channels? HMMM. The world is laughing at your peasant worship, of mindless masses. Even the so-called intellectual among you keep quiet in shame. Your Holy men go on tour collecting funds from idiots, like tele-evangelist, snake oil salesman, selling miracles from rotting flesh, and wood, and your clergy and intellectual theologians among you, look the other way. What shame, how weak is your faith, that allows such charlatans. The masses go to church to glorify God, or do the masses go only to receive, from God? Prayers not answered quick enough? No worries, Magical Monk tour, with scraps of the dead, is coming to town, for a small fee,all prayers will be answered. Didn’t work?, Don’t worry we got another saint or relic that’s just the ticket for that particular affliction, just leave your gold bangle in the box, and all will be healed. Meanwhile thousands of crowned, and well robed, princes and king, bishops,spit on, and slander one another, to the top, in their never ending stretch for gold rings, and high positions, on the merry-go-round, you call, the one true faith?

        • George Michalopulos says:

          So I take it you’re a Protestant?

          • The Advocate says:

            Baptized Orthodox, but your site has opened my eyes. Now will I only get questions out of you? No answers at all George?

            • George Michalopulos says:

              What answers do you want? I need to find out first of all if you’re dealing with the Orthodox Church in good faith. When you say you’re “baptized Orthodox” I hear “apostate”.

              Seriously, you don’t want to go down that road because I’ll be forced to ask you what is the authentic Christian Church if it isn’t Orthodoxy. Here’s a hint of what you can expect: What is the Protestant doctrine regarding [fill in the blank]. The answer? Whatever any particular Protestant says it is.

              • The Advocate says:

                Read my posts, and threats don’t scare me, if I have questions, about our unorganized and corrupt Orthodox faith, which you bring up daily, on your blog, then call me heretic all you want. I really hoped you had more to offer.

                • George Michalopulos says:

                  There are no threats. Don’t put words in my mouth.

                  The corruption that exists is rampant in all human endeavors. I expose corruption but I also write about that which is great and good. And I at least write under my own name. I’ve seen what Satan has unleashed against the Orthodox Church, I’ve also seen him fail.

                  He will continue to fail.

                  • The Advocate says:

                    Is MP, Leader of Russian Orthodoxy, and defacto EP, in your eyes, great and good, selling cancer to the world? Ends justify the means? Do our Monastics approve of smoking cigs? Is smoking not a sin George? Is it ok to help destroy the temple, and shorten the life of a brother and sister in Christ? Is MP selling sin, and death not only to the heathen, but his spiritual children. Is he not responsible for his spiritual children? Does he not take his God given role seriously? Have you ever critiqued your MP in any of your essays, in this dirty business of his?

                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Christ is the Head of the Church.

                      As for the assertion that the MP sells tobacco, I’ve only heard rumors to that effect. At this point in my life, I’m very leery about anything I read in the American Corporate Media about Russia. The last time they took me for a ride was about Saddam’s WMD.

                      As for tobacco being a sin, I don’t know if that’s the case. I enjoy a celebratory cigar every now and then and smoke a pipe as it not only helps me think but also keeps me awake as I drive (sometimes more than 50 miles to and from work).

                • Advocate,

                  Do have questions? All I read were charges. If you have sincere questions, there are many here who are willing to help.

                  • The Advocate says:

                    You see no questions? This site makes one question everything in the world, except when it come to the Russian Orthodox, then conveniently gives a pass to our dear brothers in the East. Right now, it’s open season on the GOA, but the Russian Orthodox can do no wrong, because George took a trip, and was inspired by large houses of worship, and a country with many faithful, going through the motions, yet have no idea why. Monkey see, monkey do. Kinda like the Greeks, we all find the most pious, when he sits, we sit, we he stands, we stand. Ask your average Russian the basic principles of Orthodox Christianity, you get a blank stare. Please show me how Russian laity are building Cathedrals, with what money? Maybe small churches in rural area, but not large cathedrals, that comes from the Government, and corporate subs, with a nod for Putin. Kiril tobacco money another source, with special tax breaks, the church receives, and thus a large advantage over others, which they have now monopolized. Maybe George can investigate that one someday, write a essay, and prove me wrong. Anyway we have already seen this experiment in Greece, hope the outcome is different in Russia, but doubt it. No hope in humanity. Everybody likes the shiny new churches, and new car smell, but the Russians will find other passions in the long run, if they ever get two rubles to rub together. For the most part church is free, and it’s make for time well spent for now. Most likely half that are there have no clue why, again monkey see, monkey do, social pressures and all that as well, play a part.

                    Sorry for the ramble, my real beef and question, is how do we turn American Orthodoxy around, and make it appealing to red blooded Americans. This is were we live, this is were we should worry about evangelism within Orthodoxy, not Russia, we are not Russia, and nothing done there, will work here.

                    Michael Bauman’s response to me was spot on. Men in big crowns, foreign languages, skulls, bones, wood, and at times fake streaming icons is not the way. Neither is every jurisdiction proclaiming themselves above one another. This is the pit we are in now, with no solutions in site. Instead of helping one another we are pitted against each other. Until we figure it out, Orthodoxy’s numbers will continue to dwindle in America. Let the churches unite, and attract the American masses, softball style, the hardcore intellectuals, can go to the Monasteries for their fix. Once Americans with a thirst for Christ come through our doors, we must do away with some of our ridiculous traditions of Hierarchy, overt corruption, no tolerance policy to nationalistic prejudice, and a end to the skull and bone societies frightening away American masses. Time to Americanize Orthodoxy, and call me a heretic if you like, be some traditions must be dropped to attract.

                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Advocate, I challenge you to find that statement where I write the the “ROC can do no wrong”. I would have an argument with the ROC and Russia if it interfered in American policy and/or worked to undermine America and/or threatened my homeland in any way. It does not. We however have overthrown the legally elected Ukrainian government, activate ISIS to destabilize the Middle East and done whatever we could to provoke the Russian bear.

                      I’m more than willing to leave Russia and the ROC completely alone and ignore them and whatever faults they may or may not have. Furthermore, I am more than willing to not go looking for trouble where there is none.

                      I imagine I’m a good decade or so older than you. I’ve learned a valuable lesson when it comes to dealing with people and/or institutions: don’t go looking for sh!t because you’ll always find it. Because you (me, whoever) is not immune from somebody finding a skeleton in your own closet.

                      The Russian people are not perfect –nobody is. But one thing they don’t do is go around and needlessly provoke Western nations, at least not since the fall of the USSR. It’d be grand if we didn’t do that as well (or go around dropping bombs on people because of “muh democracy”).

                      Remember this: whatever their faults, whether it be the selling of cancer sticks or Stolichnaya, they just want to be left alone. And they have a great capacity for endurance and suffering, more so than us. Plus they have a larger nuclear arsenal. It’d be wise for you and the elites who run so much of our country to remember that.

                      ‘Nuff said.

                    • The Advocate says:

                      Challenge yourself George, and save us both some time. Find us an essay, that you wrote, in the long history of Monomakhos where you criticize Putin, or his MP. Please no half hearted softballs.

                      You then want to throw international politics, into the debate. Russian people might want to be left alone, don’t know so much about Putin, Kiril, and their Government. Now I am NOT interested in the international political trap. Everyone knows American politicians have the world’s blood on their hands. Does Russia wear soft gloves? Please don’t answer that, it was rhetorical satire. I will say, that there seems to be a majority of Monomakhians, who are giddy with hope that tobacco czar, and Moscow become 3rd Rome. Want Russia, and Russian Orthodoxy “left alone”, then be careful what you wish for. Imagine ex-KGB informant, and current tobacco czar, the new EP, in the new Third Rome. Another feather in Putin’s hat indeed! Smoke up Johnny!

                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Fair enough, you probably won’t find any essays which I myself wrote that criticized Putin or Kirill. But I’ve allowed others to do so. I’ve also allowed others to criticize me. Unlike others in the Orthoblogosphere (or the secular left blogosphere fro that matter), I don’t “turn off” comments.

                      If I may expand: I’m an American pushing sixty. I’ve seen this country degenerate culturally in ways that would take a book to describe. I used to be on board with the neoconservative agenda because I bought into the hogwash peddled by the neocons in in the 90s and Aughts, that we here in America are so pure and high and mighty that we owed it to the “natives” to spread our wonderful, fantabulous culture to them even if we had to drop a few thousand bombs on them in order to do so. (They’d thank us afterwards.)

                      During that time, I failed to see (more accurately didn’t want to see) that our nation was rotting from the inside –to the very core itself. Is it any wonder that Muzzie immigrants in the West have set up
                      “no-go zones”? They view us as immoral pigs who all we care about is who Kim Kardashian is rutting with at the moment. They want to insulate their children from Gomorrah.

                      I could go on. Putin, who is no choirboy, has become the de facto leader of the counter-Gomorran Internationale for better or worse. He simply saw the hundred dollar bills that we were throwing on the street and stooped to pick them up. I have no intention of criticizing a sane man for doing that which is sane or at the very least not doing that which is insane. (Which is what we’ve been doing for several decades, culturally speaking.)

                      And I won’t start now, unless he joins the West in its great immoral crusade. It’s that simple.

                    • Advocate,

                      I don’t think you’re a heretic. Frustrated perhaps, but not a heretic. May I offer some thoughts?

                      I suspect I’m a bit older than you, and I once shared (and in some ways continue to share) your frustrations. What I have come to realize is that I myself am no better than those I criticize. When I ask, for example,

                      “Why doesn’t the Church do more for the poor?” The answer is I am the Church. Am I helping the poor?

                      “Why doesn’t the Church try to ‘translate’ her truth in a manner that American ears can hear?” The answer is I am the Church. Am I helping others understand?

                      “Why doesn’t the Church evangelize?” The answer is I am the Church. Am I evangelizing?

                      “Why doesn’t the Church (fill in the blank)? “ The answer is always the same. I am the Church. If she fails in anything, it is because I fail. And my (sometimes legitimate) frustration with what others do – or don’t do – can just as rightly be turned on myself.

                      I have also learned that the Church doesn’t belong to me, and it sure as heck doesn’t belong to any hierarch or priest. It belongs to Christ, and I belong to Him. It is Christ who will make His Church holy; not me. Mine is to be obedient in whatever tasks He assigns me, and thus far this has not included being a hierarch or priest. Though He has given me all that I need to fulfill my assignments. still I fail. Who am I, then, to judge the perceived failures of others? “To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 4)

                      As to the jurisdictional morass and the seeming jockeying for preeminence, I only know what our Lord told His apostles. “He who would be greatest among you shall be your servant.” I can tell you from experience that there are far more bishops and priests with the hearts of servants than there are those seeking power. They just don’t make the headlines on this or most other blogs. Good news is everywhere, but it rarely gets reported because humble servants don’t seek their own glory, nor do they perpetrate the nefarious acts that make headlines. God has His servants, and He knows those who are His own. He will deal with the others in His good time, and He will do so in manner that doesn’t uproot the wheat in the process of pulling out the tares.

                      “But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

                      As to weeping icons, relics, and such. Although doubtless some are fraudulent, I do not doubt that they are bearers of the divine energy of God’s grace any more than I doubt that the bones of Elisha raised a dead man (2 Kings 13). They are not magic; nor do they constitute my faith. They do, however, bear witnesses to the Incarnation, revealing that matter is created with the capacity for union with God.

                      It is, in fact, the Incarnation of God upon which the evangelization of America turns. Whatever our failings, Orthodoxy alone preaches the good news of the Incarnation in all its fullness. God became a man-bearer, so that we might become God-bearers. My being a God-bearer and your being a God-bearer is the only way our American neighbors will see Him through what they may initially perceive to be the ‘trappings’ of religion, but which are in truth the fullness of living in the reality of the Incarnation which transcends any cultural expression.

                      When speaking with inquirers or questioners, I generally ask them how they feel about artists who put crucifixes in jars of urine, how they feel about flag-burning, or how they would feel if someone burned photos of their loved ones, etc. I do so because their usual reaction of revulsion toward these things reveals that there is in every human being an innate, experiential knowledge that matter is never simply matter – that all matter is iconographic in that it has the capacity to make present realities that are beyond mere wood, mere cloth, or even mere photographic paper. Even though American culture (even Christian American culture) has become so materialistic that it boarders on denial of the Incarnation, there yet remains a spark of truth that cannot be extinguished altogether because it is integral to our humanity. Our task, I believe, is not nearly so much to adjust ourselves to the culture (although in some cases there is room for that as well) as it is to draw those blinded by the culture back to their own humanity which can only be found in Christ and His Church, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

                    • Martyr's Guilt says:

                      George, I thought you are a historian Hobbyist? Yet you continue to put your your eggs in different political baskets. Democrat, Republican, Trumpanista, and now full on Putinista fascista. Historians like yourself should know better. The tellios is always the same, in political hysteria, disappointment and blood. I also understand your fervent belief in free speech. How about freedom of religion? MP, Putin, and Russian Federation not fans of said freedoms? Putin passes law rejecting, and arresting foreign evangelist? Is it better to be an atheist, Orthodox atheist, than a Protestant? Maybe Jehovah witness, or Mormon, but they are not Christians in my view.

                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      MG, think of my socio-political beliefs this way: conservative. That includes national-sovereigntist. That means non-interventionist. That means whatever the people of East Crapistan want for their government is none of Bill Kristol’s business and we should send the Sons of the Deplorables to war to shed their blood for the wet-dreams of the Trotskyites who (until Trump) took over the GOP.

                      And no, I don’t consider Putin a fascist.

        • Constaninos says:

          Dear Advocate,
          After responding to your post, I had doubts as to whether I should have or not. I don’t really know what your experience has been so who am I to comment? I would like to wish you a very Happy, Prosperous New Year.

    • Michael Bauman says:

      Advocate, the attraction of Orthodoxy is that it is true and the Orthodox Church is the fount of every blessing. Jesus Christ is in the Orthodox Church. The lives of the saints model a life and discipline that brings one closer to Him. The sacraments are full of the life giving Spirit. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, attendance on the sacraments, forgiveness and repentance are the keys.

      All of the nonsense one sees on this site and others is simply sin. The Church calls sinners to herself by the Holy Spirit. Where there is great holiness (as there is in the Orthodox Church), one should expect to also find great sin. Only the lukewarm are vomited out.

      Lukewarm, heretical and apostate sects are everywhere. Love grows cold everywhere. Such states of being also occur within the Church, but are not the Church.

      The distractions and political theater are simply not the point. Those are of this world and nothing else.

      The way of the Church and each Christian is the way of the Cross. Love and pray for one’s enemies and the Cross is not far.

      • The Advocate says:

        Michael, See my response, to Constaninos, by the you all seem reviled by your EP, and look the other way of your MP. These are YOUR LEADERS, of YOUR True Orthodox Church. Jesus Christ is in the Orthodox Church, you say. Show some respect to your Lord, and remove the EP, and cancer exporting, MP, if you love Jesus Christ. It will never happen right Michael? Now ask yourself why? Then again you boys, won’t even turn away Monks bearing fake bones, and wood to heal the masses, with their snake oil. Shame indeed, just look the other way right Michael?

        • Michael Bauman says:

          Advocate: Neither the EP, nor the MP is mine nor I theirs. I am Christ’s. He is the only reason I am in the Orthodox Church. He greeted me when I first came in the door thirty years ago. He is sealed in me. The many times I go astray, He calls me back to Himself. As I repent, He heals me. I see Him in believers of the sects, but not in the sects themselves. He is everywhere I look in the Orthodox Church. The number and the depth of ways He shows Himself are too numerous to mention. I know Him. I know He is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. I know I must die in order to enter into His resurrection. That includes giving up any desire for or belief that I control anything or that I can make anything better, least of all this world. That is the way of the Cross.

          I cannot answer for the sins of others other than to echo the words of my Lord: “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” I work hard at not giving up my peace because of the sins of others.

          May He bless you, guide you and keep you for Himself and grant you peace.

          • The Advocate says:

            Michael Bauman, You are a wise man, and one who does not let his ego, get in the way of his judgement, and I love you, for the answer you gave me. May God bless you as well.

  22. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from last Thursday on the World Religion News website.

    DOES TURKEY OPPRESS RELIGIOUS MINORITIES?
    21 DEC 2017   POSTED BY GRÉGORY MATHIEU, DIRECTOR, FONDATION POUR LA DÉMOCRATIE ET LA GOUVERNANCE

    http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/turkey-oppress-religious-minorities

  23. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from yesterday on the Ortho Christian website.

    ESTONIAN GOV’T COMPENSATES ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE FOR WAR DAMAGES
    Tallinn, December 29, 2017

    http://orthochristian.com/109634.html

  24. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from today’s The National Herald.

    Albania’s Archbishop Anastasios Calls on Greeks to End Corruption
    By TNH Staff January 1, 2018

    https://www.thenationalherald.com/186237/albanias-archbishop-anastasios-calls-greeks-end-corruption/

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Speaking of “dodgy deals” did you here where a high-level cabinet member tried to forge a deal between Greece and Saudi Arabia, in which a Greek munitions maker would sell tens of millions of Euro’s worth of armaments to that country? It got exposed and was aborted but it may bring down the Tsipras govt.

  25. Greatly Saddened says:

    Below please find an article from today’s The National Herald. It is in its entirety at the time of my posting.

    Albania’s Archbishop Anastasios Calls on Greeks to End Corruption
    By TNH Staff January 1, 2018

    https://www.thenationalherald.com/186237/albanias-archbishop-anastasios-calls-greeks-end-corruption/