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.

      • 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

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