American Sniper and the Growing Red State/Blue State Divide

American SniperRecently, we went to see American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort. It’s an astounding piece of cinematic work, cementing Eastwood as one of the greatest directors of all time and Bradley Cooper as the new, paradigmatic All-American actor for this generation. For those who haven’t seen it, I encourage you to do so. (Having said that, if you haven’t seen it but are in the process of doing so, then stop reading here as there are going to be spoilers.)

It’s an honest depiction of war, in this case the Iraq War. It pulls no punches and it takes no position regarding the underlying premises for that conflict. What it does is tell the story of Chris Kyle, a former rodeo roustabout who joins the Navy in the wake of the World Trade Center bombing. He makes the SEALS and is qualified as a sniper, whereupon he puts his prodigious talents to use, serving four tours of duty in Iraq.

As you may know from all the hub-bub, he became the most lethal sniper in American military history –at least 160 confirmed kills. (Uncomfirmed reports put his tally in the 200 range.)

His story is gripping from start to finish: his first deer-kill as a young boy, growing up in rural Texas and learning right from wrong from his father. He learns romantic heartbreak as a young man, and finds joy in the arms of the arms of Taya, played by the beauteous Sienna Miller.

All of this is important. In fact, these early scenes of Kyle’s childhood are part-and-parcel of what made Sniper a cultural phenomenon. Every so often a movie comes along which strikes a chord with the American populace. Patton, The Godfather, and Star Wars are a few examples. Sniper, like them, has become a cultural touchstone in its own right. More than these though, it has become a totem: you either get it or you don’t. If you get it, you “get” traditional America. If you don’t, then you can’t possibly understand what it is that makes Americans patriotic (or at least nostalgic).

Sniper in other words, has become a scandal to those on the Left and a paragon to those on the Right (even those who are isolationist such as myself).

It has been gratifying to me to see how unhinged the Left has become over this movie. Their sputtering rage shows how deeply divided this country is, and how real is the Red State/Blue State divide.

Their rage is compounded by the fact that this movie came out on the same day that Selma did. Unfortunately for Selma (and the Left), the latter movie sputtered right out of the gate, crashing and burning in embarrassing ways. Selma of course is the hagiographic biopic of the late Martin Luther King and his heroic stand on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

As I haven’t seen it yet, I won’t comment on its cinematic merits. Instead, I’ll merely use it to highlight my thesis, which is that the Red/Blue divide is greater and deeper than we think. Make no mistake, the spectacular success of Sniper —and the failure of Selma–is viewed as nothing less than sacrilege by the Michael Moores of the world.

It has been amusing to see the almost daily screeds that have been written condemning Kyle, the movie, and its veracity. Such hysteria indicates a real fear that the Left is losing control of the Narrative. “Go ahead and see the movie, buy the popcorn and cheer when Kyle kills some ragheads,” we are told by the literatti; “but remember, you’re just a dupe. You would have been enlightened if you had listened to us and gone to see In the Valley of Elah.”

In many ways, this entire affair, reminds me of the hysteria that attended The Passion of the Christ. Liberal eminences assured us that we should pay money to go see Kinsey instead, as he was the Christ-figure of the Sexual Revolution, the messiah that really mattered. The fact that nobody went to see Kinsey and everybody went to see The Passion spoke volumes about how out-of-touch the cultural elite are.

To be sure, Kyle was accused of embellishing stories about his exploits stateside. His widow recently lost a defamation suit against Jesse Ventura. This is all beside the point; especially when compared against the cinematic hagiography that is Selma. As we now know, in his personal life MLK was a disreputable man in many ways. Not only was he a serial adulterer, but a plagiarist and a heretic as well (in that he disbelieved the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith). He consorted with known Communists and spoke ill of the dead. In comparison, Kyle’s few fabrications are small beer. His achievements as a sniper, his love for his wife and children, and his work with wounded veterans are all a matter of record.

I could go on but that’s about it in a nutshell. Mention must be made however of the last scene in the movie. (Spoiler alert!) In it, we see footage of Kyle’s actual funeral procession in Texas. It is profoundly moving. Some 160,000 people lined the highways and by-ways of Texas as his hearse drove by. To my mind, that is the real reason for the deranged hatred of the Left towards this man and this movie. The fact that tens of thousands of ordinary Americans are willing to pay their last respects to a warrior in such massive fashion is the ultimate slap in the face to their effete sensibilities.


  1. Monk James says

    Honestly, I don’t get the distinction between ‘the right’ and ‘the left’. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do politics, so a certain amount of this essay is just beyond me.

    But I DO pay attention to a consistent and reliable transmission of the faith ‘delivered to the saints’ including all of the authentically orthodox catholic christian Tradition’s standards of morality.

    High, and perhaps even first among these anciently accepted norms is that we regard murder as one of the three major sins. We inherited this from jewish law, that the three sins which we may not ever commit in the guise of any excuse are murder, adultery, and idolatry.

    It’s for tis reason that, from the beginning even until now, that orthodox Christianity opposes capital punishment. Besides the intrinsic evil of taking a human life, the Tradition maintains that anyone who does take a human life even in battle is disqualified from ordination to any rank of the clergy, and that any clergyman who — even accidentally — takes a human life is ipso facto deprived of his ordination and returned to the status of a layman.

    So, acknowledging that bit of our holy Tradition, it’s obvious that none of us Christians could serve as an executioner. Those of us who would do such a thing as an employee of the state could never be granted absolution after confession, and never reinstated to eucharistic communion with The Church. That is how seriously we regard the taking of human life.

    Now, the ‘sniper’ described in this film and in the story behind it is an executioner, isn’t he?

    Let’s think of the moral implications of that before we get political.

    And let’s stop killing people and elevating those who do to the status of heroes.

    There are people who are elevating Chris Kyle nearly to sainthood. They are mistaken.

    On the other hand, if — by some miracle — an angel came to tell me in 1930 what Adolf Hitler would do unless I stopped him, and if the Lord gave me the opportunity to take him out then and before he was able to inflict such harm on humanity, well, then, I’d kill him without a second thought.

    But then I’d bring that sin to confession and throw myself on the mercy of God as a sinner, as a murderer, and not expect approbation and accolades from secular culture.

    It seems to me that nobody yet has expressed the idea that what Chris Kyle did was sinful, and that’s a problem for us Christians.

    • Daniel E Fall says

      Monk James-your comment is perhaps the most thoughtful reflection I’ve heard on the subject. It is good to hear Christians respond as you did.

      Why can’t you take the same tack toward inappropriate self enrichment? Christ got upset at merchandising of the church. Why can’t you say it was wrong and the sinner must repent?

      If you are a different Monk James; forgive me. If you have taken a different stance, make it known.

      • Monk james says

        My thanks to Daniel Fall for his comments.

        Not all moral considerations are as clearly defined as murder. Finance, wealth, greed, generosity, poverty, selfishness all figure into some very complex configurations for the human conscience.

        For the life of me, the only example of ‘inappropriate self-enrichment’ I can imagine is some sort of theft, perhaps such as is described by St John Chrysostom in his Wealth and Poverty in which he insists that any of us who have more than we absolutely need are stealing from Christ in His poor.

        Naturally, there are forms of theft practiced by the rich and powerful which are not at all so subtle. These would be the ‘robber baron’ types whose entire motivation is financial profit for themselves and their investors without a care for their employees who ‘bear the heat of the day’. This is the ugly underside of capitalism, which is not to be condemned uncritically.

        In the gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ offers several thoughts on financial matters, and we should be attentive to their distinctions — they are not an exercise in a one-size-fits-all philosophy.

        Just now, we’ve read a couple of accounts about a widow who contributed one-quarter of a penny to the temple’s treasury while other people donated much larger sums. Jesus observes that she gave much more than all the rest because she ‘gave all she had’, while the rest ‘gave out of their abundance’. So we understand here the principle of proportionality at the same time as I don’t think that our Lord was encouraging eeryone to give everything they have to the temple/church.

        Let’s consider the Pharisees Joseph and Nikodemos, both very wealthy old men, both of whom helped to bury our dead Lord in a fashion He Himself could never have afforded. There is no mention in the gospel that Jesus demanded that these rich men make themselves poor in the hope of salvation.

        But then there’s the wealthy young man who asks our Lord how he can be perfect. After examining him on the precepts of God’s commandments, Jesus ‘loved him’ and told him that he had done well, but if he would be PERFECT, he should sell all his possessions, distribute the proceeds to the poor, and come with Him. But that fellow ‘went away sad’ because he was so attached to his wealth that he couldn’t take the next step toward perfection.

        Clearly, it’s not wealth itself which is a moral problem. Rather, it’s our attachments to creature comforts which make it ‘hard to enter the kingdom of Heaven’, as hard as it is to ‘draw a camel through a needle’. Often misquoted, St Paul tells us that ‘the DESIRE’ for money is the root of all evil’, and he’s right.

        With great wealth comes great responsibility, the obligation to care for the poor and assist the ministries of The Church. Some of us are better at this sort of administration than others. Those who are better at it may keep their wealth and continue to do well while they do good.

        But those of us who are inclined to be stingy and selfish will find no relief for our souls until we unburden ourselves of wealth and all of its responsibilities.

        I hope that this is of some little help.

        • Daniel E Fall says

          If you feel this way why do you insist on defending Kondratick? Or are you not Silver, but a different Monk James?

          • Monk James says

            I fail to see the connection, but the courts found that there was no case against FrRK.

            • Daniel E Fall says

              It is a matter of integrity.

              Which courts?

              • Monk James says

                The courts of the State of New York found that the OCA had no case against FrRK.

                I presented all the details of that embarrassing and painful history here and elsewhere, and — as it’s now a matter of record — I will not go through it again now.

                Let me just remind people of this: The OCA’s own ‘spiritual court’ was invalidly constituted and its verdict was therefore null and void.

                Even Met. Herman now admits this, and has asked that the whole matter be reconsidered. So far, it has not been in the best interests of the OCA’s Holy Synod of Bishops to do this, since they’ve become adept at dismissing and marginalizing all who oppose them.

                And if anybody thinks that this is an apocryphal story or anecdotal to perceived reality, he can contact Met. Herman and ask HIM, not stew about it here.

                • Inappropriate self enrichment may not have been considered a crime by New York, but we all know what it was…and idolatry was in your list of great sins. Idolizing money is what it is…

                  I’m not trying to stew about it. In fact, my own opinion of YOU is quite twisted up. You post perhaps the most thoughtful, insightful thing Christians could say about Chris Kyle-that he sinned, but yet you are unwilling to consider a man’s actions sinful when he is someone YOU respect.

                  Selling church wares at a profit is quite no different than the very reasons Christ turned the tables over-a prosecutable crime it is not. Living in a church paid for property while getting a housing allowance is also not prosecutable, but a clear sin against the providers. Demanding a quit claim deed also not considered a crime, but pretty darn sneaky. Making the church pick up a 600 dollar sock tab isn’t sinful? And while the state of New York did not care to follow up on a weak case of overspending for documentation or leadership not caring or turning a blind eye for other devious reasons; it does not mean sins were not committed. How many cash drafts under 10 grand were acceptable to you Monk James? The answer in all the other churches is generally zero. And the Woods tape means nothing? And to follow, what about the crazy, insane notion the crazy, insane church did forgive him and gave him a second chance in Florida that appears to have ended the same way at this point? Let’s not forget to mention the self enrichment included others. The report suggest even family credit cards were covered by the church.

                  Why can’t you take the same tack that sins were committed and repentance is due? Failure of fiduciary responsibilities might not mean much to you, but to most everyone else-they consider it stealing.

                  I apologize for going down this road here with you after such eloquent commentary on Kyle. I just don’t understand the lack of any contrition on this matter and perhaps never will. Some people defend Kyle to the end and you seem to defend the other guy the same way. While his sins were not murder; they were sins just the same.

                  Perhaps a small part of me is just incredulous at the unwillingness of a few to believe the report.

                  Forgive me…

                  The statements you made about Kyle could have stood alone.

                  • All I can say here is that — like many others who have strong opinions in this matter — Mr Fall doesn’t know quite as much as he thinks he knows. I suggest that he and others of like mind simply accept the rulings of the court and relieve themselves of the burden of second-guessing the legal system without sufficient evidence to do so.

                • Melanie Jula Sakoda says

                  I don’t believe that criminal charges were ever filed in New York. However, a court in Florida did accept former priest Robert Kondratick’s guilty plea to charges he embezzled $50,000 from Holy Spirit Orthodox Church in Venice.

                  • What Melanie Sakoda doesn’t believe is not at issue.

                    The fact is that during the pretrial phase of deposition and discovery, when presented with facts so far assembles, THE JUDGE determined that the OCA had no case against FrRK.

                    The Florida case was not adjudicated. Rather, in the interest of efficiency and propriety, a settlement was reached.

    • Monk James, you echo some of the points I made on another thread, although Fr. Alexander Webster took issue with them.

      Killing people is sinful, as you say, but it is also necessary sometimes because of the presence of sin in the world. And because it is necessary, Chris Kyle can absolutely be a hero. He absolutely is a hero, as are all who serve in the military with distinction and honor and who have carried on in the face of personal danger. While I did dangerous things when I served where I could have been hurt or killed, I was never in combat or a war zone, so I don’t consider myself to be a hero, but guys like Kyle are. After all, I am no hero for driving down a California freeway, even though I am risking my life.

      Chris Kyle isn’t a saint, but there is no reason he couldn’t have become one. We have lots of saints who killed people — certainly most of the royal saints killed or caused the deaths of many.

      Since responses on the other thread are closed, I will take this opportunity to also challenge you to provide proof that the OCA synod of bishops ever made an official decision to make contemporary English the standard for liturgical translations.

      As was pointed out, the Synod reprinted the old RSV style liturgy books shortly thereafter — 90% thee and thou. And Abp. Dimitri reprinted his service book after that time, continuing to have the imprimatur of the entire Synod of Bishops. (To this day, there are only two translations to hold that distinction in the OCA — the St Tikhon liturgy book and Abp Dimitri’s service book.)

      I had a good friend who was on that OCA liturgical commission in the late 1980’s, and on a visit to our home, he shared his detailed notes that he took at the meetings, since it was an area of mutual interest. The discussions recorded in those notes made it plain that style of translation was very much an open issue in the OCA, something that would have been an impossibility had the Synod made such a decision as you claim.

      This makes even more dubious your claims about Bp. Basil’s true opinions on liturgical English.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Edward, thank you for bringing up the work of the Venerable Dmitri Royster of thrice-blessed memory. I for one cannot express how grateful I am to be able to worship with the wonderful words he translated for us. Let’s just say that the aesthetics are pleasing beyond measure.

      • Monk james says

        Here, I’m replying to ‘Edward”s post, but the reply button brought me George Michalopulos’s response to him just below E’s words.

        First, it is and always will be a sin to kill people, no matter how we rationalize the circumstances. Chris Kyle’s situation is no different. Adducing the example of ‘royal saints’ such as, say, Constantine I, proves my point exactly. That first christian roman emperor had so much blood on his hands that he postponed his baptism until a point late in his life when he thought that he wouldn’t do such things anymore. His repentance appears to be sincere, and so his sins were forgiven in baptism. The situations of other christian rulers must be taken individually, but at no time were examples of murder EVER thought to be virtuous.

        Anyone wanting proof of the 1983 decision of the OCA’s bishops to promote the use of our contemporary language in the services needs only to consult The Orthodox Church (The OCA’s official newspaper) for 1983-84. The article is in there someplace. Check the parish library or ask the OCA’s archivist for the particulars.

        And anyone wanting corroboration of my description of Bp Basil Essey’s original intentions regarding the style of language for his very well received Liturgikon needs only to ask HIM, as he was the only other party in our telephone conversation this subject.

        At the risk of disappointing some of our correspondents, I have to say that Abp Dmitri Royster’s liturgical translations are just weird. I think that the main problem is that he rejected idiomatic English in favor of strictly preserving the word order of the Church Slavonic texts which he used as sources.

        This is nearly impossible in English because of its nearly complete reliance on word order and syntax to make sense, while CS is a highly inflected language and its sentences can be rearranged for emphasis and other considerations without ever making it unclear just what are its subjects and objects. If AbpDR used greek texts at all, that’s not evident from his published translations.

        St Tikhon Seminary Press’s 1984 publication of their revision of the 1967 book is fraught with intrigue, but the event caused immense irritation and bad feelings, which I hope will be at least a little assuaged by the recently announced statement of collaboration between them and St Vladimir Seminary’s Press.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Monk James, then why is the king given the sword if it is not in vain?

          As for Arb Dmitri’s translation of the liturgy, all I can say is that from personal experience his translation is the easiest and most euphonic I have ever experienced in my 55 years upon this earth. This even goes for liturgies that I have attended in which Ecclesiastical Greek was used. In addition, the language makes it easy to participate in a robustly congregational manner.

          • Not only is Abp. Dimitri’s translation euphonic, it is deeply prayerful. A good priest friend of mine who moved from a place where the STS translation was used to one where Abp. Dimitri’s was used grumbled at first about having to change. After some time, he remarked to me that it had deeply grown on him, and that it was clear that Abp. Dimitri was a man of prayer and a man who loved prayer. I couldn’t agree more. I personally like the Jordanville translations even better, but I have never been unhappy hearing the words of Abp. Dimitri’s book.

          • Monk James says

            George Michalopulos (February 7, 2015 at 9:12 pm) says:

            Monk James, then why is the king given the sword if it is not in vain?

            As for Arb Dmitri’s translation of the liturgy, all I can say is that from personal experience his translation is the easiest and most euphonic I have ever experienced in my 55 years upon this earth. This even goes for liturgies that I have attended in which Ecclesiastical Greek was used. In addition, the language makes it easy to participate in a robustly congregational manner.


            As the ancient proverb says, ‘De gustibus non est disputandum.’ (We can’t argue over people’s tastes.) So I’ll leave those who prefer Abp Dmitri’s very odd renderings to themselves.

            Now, considering the sword in the hands of the king, I have a few thoughts.

            St Paul tells us that the king doesn’t ‘bear a sword in vain’ in order to ‘punish evildoers’. It seems to me that St Paul here is using the ‘sword’ as an allegory of authority, not at all meaning that kings ought to kill or even wound their erring subjects with a physical sword. Else why does the authentically orthodox catholic christian Tradition oppose capital punishment from the beginning? The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ and Sts Peter and Paul submitted to such a barbarity is no proof that it’s a good thing, but rather that he ‘humbled Himself even to death on a cross’.

            Let’s think about the early christian context of St Paul’s words about the sword, particularly the dialogical account in the 22nd chapter of St Luke’s gospel.

            On the night of His arrest, before the mob had come upon Him, Jesus reminds His disciples that He had sent them out with nothing of their own to preach the Good News. But now, He tells them that they ought to sell their cloaks and spend their purses on swords, for they will need those weapons when He is no longer with them. St Peter, hoping to be helpful, says that he and the disciples have two swords, and Jesus tells them ‘That is enough’.

            Enough for what?

            Well, for one thing, we have to realize that our Lord was still among them, and remains among us always, as He promised when He was taken up forty days after His resurrection. But the disciples didn’t know that on that awful night, ans reacted accordingly.

            So there are at least twelve of our Lord’s disciples with Him at the time of His arrest, but there’s no reason for us to think that was the limit of their number, any more than we would consider there were only twelve on St Thomas Sunday or at the Pentecost.

            In any event, it’s hard to imagine that two swords would be of much help to Jesus’s outnumbered disciples as they faced (at least) the temple guard.

            A few minutes into the event, St Peter draws his sword and severs an ear from one of the high priest’s servants.

            Our Lord Jesus Christ immediately heals the man, and tells everyone that ‘those who live by the sword will perish by the sword’.

            No matter how many weapons we might use to threaten each other, we as Christians must not use them or support their use.

            Has not anyone here heard of MAD — ‘mutually assured destruction’)?

            Who will be the first to initiate MAD, and what can we expect from that?

        • Monk James, why would you put words into my mouth? I did not say that killing anyone was ever virtuous — I said that is is always sinful. Did you even read what I wrote?

          What I said is that anyone can become a saint, no matter what they have done or what their secular role in life demands of them — which is true. I also said that our military heroes are just that — heroes — which is quite different from being a saint.

          Regarding the rest of your post, it proves that you do not understand basic logic. You have made two emphatic and fairly wild declarations that are at odds with the record. And it is somehow my job to prove you wrong? They aren’t my assertions, they are yours, and it is your job to prove that what you say is true, if you want to be believed.

          • Monk James says

            Perhaps our ‘Edward’ is functioning in some sort of alternate reality. Nothing he writes here can be related to what I wrote in response to his post. It’s HE who ought to read MY words more closely.

        • M. Stankovich says

          At the risk of disappointing some of our correspondents, I have to say that Abp Dmitri Royster’s liturgical translations are just weird.

          This is truly a first. You have taken your already vague, and absurdist criticism of nearly every translation save your own – where you alone have managed to save us all from the grossest of theological calumny by correcting the most classic and revered texts available, though you have yet to provide concrete examples – now offer the icing on the absurdist cake: weird. Brilliant. And you are unable to respond to any commentary to your remarks without personifying the commentator with insult. Nice touch, that killing the messenger business you engage in.

          I believe that anyone who has studied Church Slavonic and undertaken its translation into English – or to any Western language for that matter – and has at least a working knowledge of Greek knows the outright astonishing manner by which Church Slavonic is syntactically patterned after the original Greek texts. In most cases, it is nearly indistinguishable syntactically. To suggest that a gifted translator and theologian such as Vladyka Dmitri – without the benefit of the Greek texts (and I am unaware if he did or if he did not) – would be unable to derive a liturgical translation that is equally correct, proper, and theologically correct is idiotic.

          Enough already. As the french say, “Tu me casses les pieds, toi!”

          • I think we could actually go so far as to say that Church Slavonic is simultaneously a model translation and that it has become a source text of great authority in its own right. There is nothing magical about Greek — after all, I recall St. Basil at one point citing a Syriac text and using it to shed light on the Greek LXX, saying that Syriac was closer to Hebrew and therefore had insights. There are multiple liturgical languages of ancient and venerable lineage, each of which proved itself capable of preserving the faith all on its own. There can be readings in the various versions that are “more accurate” than those found in the “original language.” Any partisan of the Greek LXX must of course concede this point.

            As you say, Church Slavonic is patterned very closely after the Greek. Other than both being Indo-European languages, there is no direct relation between Greek and the Slavic languages, so it is not out of line to assume that Slavonic self-consciously follows the Greek, and not by accident. The KJV New Testament has similarities to this in that many of the supposed archaisms of sentence structure and rhetorical phrasing are actually the result of more of less literally following the Greek structure rather than reflecting a slightly earlier form of modern English.

            Archbishop Dimitri, so far as I know, used the Greek — in fact if I understood him correctly in a conversation, it was his primary text source, although he was of course committed to Russian/Slavic liturgics so it would not be surprising to see a strong influence from the Church Slavonic sources. If anyone doubts the veracity of my conversation with him, they can call Vladyka and ask him personally.

            And as you say, even if Vladyka had used “only” Church Slavonic, it would in no way compromise the theological and liturgical correctness and utility of his translations, which have proven their worth in extensive “field testing” in many parishes across several dioceses, as have other translations done from Church Slavonic, such as Rdr. Isaac’s complete Menaion, which is a monumental achievement.

            Whenever Vladyka’s detractors publish and field test their own full (and of course, perfect) translations of liturgical tests (after getting their usage blessed by their entire Synod of Bishops), I will be interested in hearing about the results.

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              Does anybody have, if one exists, of an older version of the Holy Myrrbearer’s PS alter according to the LXX? Meaning one with These and Thous. Let me know as I am interested in buying one. Thanks.


            • Translating from a translation is an invalid method, since the characteristics of intermediate translations inevitably cause an ever-widening divergence from the original.

              At the same time, translators do well to consult earlier renderings in their own and other languages in order to determine a continuum of churchly understanding of ancient texts.

              I do this myself with the psalms: working from the Greek 70 as an Urtext, I interline it with 4th-century Church Latin and 10th-century (and later) Church Slavonic before settling on an interpretation. When the Greek is behaving strangely, as it occasionally does, I consult the Hebrew, much like St Basil referenced the Syriac Old Testament. This happens because much of OT Greek isn’t Greek at all, but Hebrew in greek clothing. St Basil might better have cross-checked with the Hebrew, since he obviously found some value in it.

              We’re still committed to the 70, though, so the Syriac is a supporting text rather than a source. There are some among us who would like that to change, and have us treat the Hebrew OT as our source and standard, but — in spite of heterodox christian moves in that direction –this seems unlikely since so many of the New Testament’s quotations from the Old are unmistakably taken from the 70.

              BTW: The New Testament of the Syriac Peshitta was translated from Greek, and so is of no help in seeking texts of, say, ‘Our Father’ closer to our Lord’s original aramaic/syriac words. As of now, the greek text is as close as we can get. Sigh….

              • M. Stankovich says

                At the same time, translators do well to consult earlier renderings in their own and other languages in order to determine a continuum of churchly understanding of ancient texts.

                And after all that work, you have yet to address what I pointed out are significant “robotic” errors of translation in your version of Psalm 50, or supported your claim as to which “major errors” you have managed to correct. Will that be forthcoming? Or is the Greek behaving too strangely for you to answer?

                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  I actually liked your translation of Psalm 50 Michael. I thought you made very good points.

                  Monk James makes very good points as well. Although, I am a Septuagint Supporter and devotee, I also like using and reading the other versions as well.

                  This is a very healthy discussion.


              • “Translating from a translation is an invalid method…”

                Such a dogmatic statement is tantamount to saying that only someone who prays the Psalms from pre-Christian Hebrew texts is actually praying the real thing, and that only those who pray the Divine Liturgy in Greek are praying the real thing.

                The Orthodox Church does not subscribe to Protestant ideas of the primacy of “original autographs,” which is the reductio ad absurdum that this kind of thinking leads to. Orthodoxy, in practice, treats the received texts that she has as authoritative. Church Slavonic texts and Old Latin texts are not mere translations in the same way that something recently translated into English might be. They are and were living received texts prayed by Orthodox Christians and that produced saints. The “invalidity” of translations from translations would be news to many translators of antiquity.

                • Francis Frost says

                  Edward wrote:

                  “Translating from a translation is an invalid method…”

                  Such a dogmatic statement is tantamount to saying that only someone who prays the Psalms from pre-Christian Hebrew texts is actually praying the real thing, and that only those who pray the Divine Liturgy in Greek are praying the real thing.

                  I would not venture to critique this or that translation.

                  I would, however, like to point out a few oft overlooked facts.

                  Translations is not a straightforward word for word process. Different languages not only operate on different principles, they actually incarnate different experiences of reality. For example, both russian and Georgian have two different words for what English speaks call “blue”. Light blue or sky blue is “Goluboi” in Rusain and ‘Tsisperi” Darker shades of blue or indigo are called “Sinnyi” in Russian and “Lurdgzhi” in Georgian . Thus, Russians and Georgians actually experience these as two different colors of the rainbow, whereas English speakers only see one. There are hundreds of such examples.

                  Furthermore. The grammatical functions of language are quite different. Inflected languages often are able to express ideas “with few words; but much meaning”, as the hymns for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of he Ecumenical Councils say.

                  Georgian verbs are inflected to express not only the action but also the actor and the subject. The English sentence: “I love you” can be expressed by a single word in Georgian “Miqwarkhar”. The Greek word “epioussios” which causes such consternation in translators of the Lord’s Prayer is rendered “arsobisa” in Georgian, an active participial of the verb “to be”, as in “the ‘existing bread’. or “ the bread that really is”.

                  One other point, Church Slavonic was never a spoken language but a contrived language based on the Slavic dialect spoken by rural settlers in Thessaly in the 8th century. The Slavonic translations were often word for word translations of the Greek texts, and thus significantly removed form the spoken Slavonic dialects. There is an additional difference between the ‘academic canonical’ Slavonic and the Slavonic used in church texts.

                  For example the opening words of John in the Ostromirovo Evangelie, ca.1056 are: “Iskoni Be@she Slovo, i Slovo Be@she u boas, i Bog Be@she Slova” The @ indicates the nasal “a” of academic Slavonic. The Russian redaction Slavonic goes “ Snachalo bylo slovo, i Slovo bolo u boga, i Bog byl Slovo” – that is if my 40 year old recollections serve me right.

                  It is far easier to critique translations than it is to do them. I recall somewhere reading that St Innocent once wrote that all of his translations into native languages should be updated once every generation to correct for errors and drift in the language.

                  • Francis Frost says

                    A couple of other examples came to mind over the course of the evening.

                    The Georgian language has no grammatical gender and tends to minimize actual gender. The third person pronouns in Georgian differentiate based on proximity, not gender. “Is” means “this one here”, “Es” means “that one there”. There is no “he” or “she”. My wife often assigns the words ‘he’ or ‘she’ randomly regardless of the subject’s actual gender. My mother in law makes the same mistake when speaking Russian. Old Georgian has a word for “son” – “Dze”; but it is exclusively used in church to refer to “the Son” as in Dideba mamas da dzesa da tsmindasa sulisa, atz da.. Glory to the… We address our sons and daughters with “Shwilo” (child, literally offspring).

                    Here is another example of different cognitive boundaries. The Georgian word “bawshwi” means a baby; but can also mean any child or offspring. We often speak of “Chweni Bawshwi” although our boys are 4 and 8 years old. “Bawshwo” or Bawshwebo” are even used for adults as in “Hey kid” or “Hey kids” line the Russian “Nu, rebyat”

                    My point is that languages define and articulate very different cognitive experiences. Translation is very tricky business. Some things just don’t translate exactly.

                    There is a somewhat funny story about a very prickly exchange of letters between Augustine and Jerome over the correct translation of the Aramaic word “Qiqyon”, the plant under which the Prophet Jonah sat outside Ninevah. The “qiqyon”grows in Mesopotamia; but is unknown in the Mediterranean basin. Is it an ivy or a pumpkin? Actually its neither. “Qiqyon” -get used to it this next Holy Saturday.

                    It is very easy to critique but very hard to translate faithfully; let alone lyrically.

                    One other thought. Greek may not be the only source language for some translations. The Georgian scriptures and liturgical tests were first translated by St, Shio Mghvime, one of the Thirteen Holy Syrian Fathers who brought monasticism ands higher learning (both Greek and Syriac) to Georgia in the 6th century. Interestingly, the Georgian word “To translate” is “gadatargmni” which combines the prefix “gada” (across) with the Syriac word “Targum” as in the Aramaic Jewish “Targum” translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.

                    BTW. St Shio spent 13 years living at the bottom of a well translating the scriptures. If you google his name, you can find pictures of his monastery and the well he lived in.

                    Best wishes for the upcoming Fast. Pray for peace.

                    • Francis Frost says

                      One other example on a sleepless night. “dorypheroumenon’ at the end of the Cherubic Hymn often requires an asterisk and an explanatory paragraph as it doesn’t just mean “upborn”. It refers to a specific ritual in the proclamation and coronation of the Byzantine emperor, who was carried by the soldiers on a shield as he was acclaimed as the ruler of the empire.

                • Edward says (February 12, 2015 at 9:10 pm):

                  “Translating from a translation is an invalid method…”

                  Such a dogmatic statement is tantamount to saying that only someone who prays the Psalms from pre-Christian Hebrew texts is actually praying the real thing, and that only those who pray the Divine Liturgy in Greek are praying the real thing.

                  The Orthodox Church does not subscribe to Protestant ideas of the primacy of “original autographs,” which is the reductio ad absurdum that this kind of thinking leads to. Orthodoxy, in practice, treats the received texts that she has as authoritative. Church Slavonic texts and Old Latin texts are not mere translations in the same way that something recently translated into English might be. They are and were living received texts prayed by Orthodox Christians and that produced saints. The “invalidity” of translations from translations would be news to many translators of antiquity.

                  Please forgive me for not expressing my thoughts more clearly earlier.

                  In the case of the Greek 70, the Tradition does NOT regard it as merely a translation, but the standard source text for everything we (The Church) have written in the New Testament and the services. This is in spite of the fact that everyone knows that the 70 was a jewish attempt to render the hebrew scriptures in a language more accessible by 4th-century BC Jews.

                  Once we’re clear on that, we can easily understand that translating services originally (as best we can tell, or at least very early) composed in Greek allows us to work with them as Urtexts, and relate their scriptural citations to the 70 rather than to its hebrew ancestor.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Monk James, your seeming quest for the ‘perfect’ translation will never be satisfied. There is no perfect form and yet each form sanctified by God can become perfect in conveying His life.

                It is a bit like dance. My mother was a dancer who was in Martha Graham’s company for awhile and who taught dance all of her life. Form is essential to good dance, precise movements and precise times in precise ways. The body has to be disciplined by hours of hard work to use those forms even in such forms of dance as hip-hop and other folk styles. Yet the form alone is never sufficient. Great choreographers have a syntax that combines and uses the forms in an illustrative and poetic manner–at times even doing some violence to the perfection of the form.

                Great dancers take that even a step further–they allow the form they have been given and the syntax within which they are working to be filled with love, joy and beauty. It comes from deep within their souls.

                I once saw the late dancer and artist Geoffrey Holder give a master class. He walked on stage took position in the center of it and in his booming voice said, “I have seen God baby and He is right here(pointing to the center of his body)…and every time He wants to talk to me, He starts my body moving.”

                You may think him arrogant, and perhaps he was, but there is a truth in what he said. I saw it in my mother and her ability to reach autistic children locked up in their minds by discovering their native rhythm and working with them to express that. As they did, they began to be able to communicate with others in ways in which they were unable to before. Their form was not perfect, it was hardly form at all but it touched them deeply and brought their humanity out of darkness, at least a little.

                Great translations are a dance. They reveal both the beauty of God and the beauty of the human soul and in use they bring us closer to one another. Perfect words alone never do that.

      • Edward, you write: “He absolutely is a hero, as are all who serve in the military with distinction and honor and who have carried on in the face of personal danger.” Were German soldiers who served under the Nazi regime with distinction and honor and who have carried on in the face of personal danger heroes? Or, perhaps, we are judging them differently because they served the wrong cause? Is your definition of heroism completely disconnected from the morality of the war and the righteousness of the side for which the person fights?

        • Any soldier is capable of behaving with dishonor, even when the cause of “his side” is just. And any soldier is capable of behaving with honor and being a hero, even when the cause of his side is not just.

          Benefit of the doubt always needs to go to the soldier, in my opinion. I would like to meet that hypothetical soldier who actually goes to serve because he wants to pursue unjust ends — the kind of “baby-killers” that that hippies “knew” were wearing the uniform in Vietnam. The moral universe of a soldier is an extremely small one, as it needs to be. You can’t be philosophizing about geopolitics and just war theory when in combat. You just do your job.

          This does not mean there are no limits, but simply that a soldier’s default setting has to be obedience without question. As the centurion said to Christ, “For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh…”

          • Edward, you write: “…a soldier’s default setting has to be obedience without question.” As Christians, we must be obedient to God. Arguing that you delegated the moral responsibility for your actions to the commanding officer or to politicians is not going to save anybody at the Last Judgement. It did not even save anybody at the Nuremberg tribunal.

            • Context is everything. I wasn’t talking existentially about a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ, I was talking practically about what things need to be like in a military setting — any military, any place, in any time in human history. I don’t care if you are the Holy King and Prophet David or any of the many royal and military saints of Orthodox Christian history — you’d better believe that they had strict discipline and they enforced it with harsh means when necessary.

              A military unit only works when the default setting is obedience without question to one’s superior officers. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t situations where one does, respectfully, question an order or instruction in hopes of having it changed — anyone who has served in the military has done that. And it doesn’t meant that there aren’t situations where one’s personal moral compass won’t override that default setting, even at the risk of discipline — which can include being put to death for disobeying orders.

              But obedience to authority still has to be the default setting. If you are part of a military unit that lacks that kind of discipline, prepare to have your side suffer defeat and for you, personally, to die. Those in authority who don’t insist on and enforce that kind of discipline are, in their weakness, simply signing the death warrants of the men under them.

    • Michael Kim says

      I understand how you feel. I’ve often struggled with my own political neutrality, and even have been openly critical with how the church has such a intertwined at times relationship with nations. I’ve always appreciated those who maintain their integrity to political neutrality. (“My Kingdom is no part of this world”) Yet, God has always used the nations, correct?

      Perhaps, an angel came to Mr. Kyle and told him that these murderous, defiled humans would keep doing as they had been for quite some time, unless he helped to stop them, and The Lord gave him (and others) the opportunity to take many of these defiled, murderous, torturous humans out, before they were able to inflict further harm on humanity, and from what I read he did give it much thought.

      Perhaps Mr. Kyle was called upon by the Holy Spirit, and because of what controversy that would bring if he made his direction from an Angel public, “God asked me to do this thing…”, he remained humble, protective, and silent on that matter.

      Has not God always used the nations? God’s providence has never been a secret. He is “ruler over the nations” (Psalm 22:28), and civil powers rise and fall at his behest (Daniel 2:21; 4:35). The general rule seems to be, “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), but “nations that forget God” are consigned to Sheol, i.e., the region of the wicked dead (Psalms 9:17).
      God has always used righteous nations to overthrow wicked ones, and He has at times used wicked ones to humble a (relatively) righteous one. (2 Kings Chap 15-18)
      Just a thought…

    • I sort of agree with Monk James on this one. I would fully acknowledge that in our fallen world, there is a need for militaries and murder can be the less bad of two bad options. I think these acts can be appreciated in a sober fashion.

      But I do think the cultural apotheosis of selected individuals like Chris Kyle is disconcerting. I have never been a fan of the “rah rah Navy Seals” kind of thing.

      Maybe this is due to my view of modern war and the terrorism boogeyman that is used to justify it. Or maybe it’s because of my cousin who did three tours in Iraq and came back full of regret. Or maybe it’s because of the horrific psychological problems many soldiers come back with. I don’t know. War is hellish and it shouldn’t be celebrated in any case.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Now, the ‘sniper’ described in this film and in the story behind it is an executioner, isn’t he?

      No more than any other soldier on the field.

    • Christopher says

      Monk James, I don’t think your moral absolutism, your legalism, your Puritanism, your Pharisaical stance in how you define “murder” is correct Christianly (i.e. Orthodox) speaking:

      “Those of us who would do such a thing as an employee of the state could never be granted absolution after confession, and never reinstated to eucharistic communion with The Church”

      Is this even true – can someone quote a cannon law on this? I did not know the Church defined some as incapable of salvation.

      “Now, the ‘sniper’ described in this film and in the story behind it is an executioner, isn’t he?”

      I have never heard of such a moraly obtuse definition of a soldier in my life.

      “And let’s stop killing people and elevating those who do to the status of heroes.”

      Oh lets, and lets sing kumbaya while we are at it. Your as political as anyone else here – your denials of this are not to be believed.

      “On the other hand, if — by some miracle — an angel came to tell me in 1930 what Adolf Hitler would do unless I stopped him, and if the Lord gave me the opportunity to take him out then and before he was able to inflict such harm on humanity, well, then, I’d kill him without a second thought.”

      Perhaps there is some mercy and humanity left in your unmerciful legalism – at least, for safe, unreal ethical hypotheticals such as “hitler” scenarios. To real soldiers, to real policemen, who encounter real situations where a deranged child of God has to be stopped, well, they are all just nonredeemable “murderers” in your philosophy.

      “It seems to me that nobody yet has expressed the idea that what Chris Kyle did was sinful, and that’s a problem for us Christians.”

      Here we come to the crux of your unmerciful legalism. Let’s say I come home one evening and some deranged child of God is killing my children and raping my wife. Only deadly force can stop him, and I use such action, or call on the state (i.e. a policeman) who then uses such action (as he is morally and legally required to do). Is my action a “sin”? Am I a breaker of the commandment and thus a “murderer”? Not in a million zillion Christian years. Only a moral legalist, perhaps one who believes that man was made for the Sabbath and not (as Christ teaches) the other way around would think such a ghastly, unmerciful thing.

      St Paul tells us that the king doesn’t ‘bear a sword in vain’ in order to ‘punish evildoers’. It seems to me that St Paul here is using the ‘sword’ as an allegory of authority, not at all meaning that kings ought to kill or even wound their erring subjects with a physical sword. Else why does the authentically orthodox catholic christian Tradition oppose capital punishment from the beginning? The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ and Sts Peter and Paul submitted to such a barbarity is no proof that it’s a good thing, but rather that he ‘humbled Himself even to death on a cross’.

      This reading is just a bit convoluted. States coerce, that’s what they do and they do so with raw power – that is the sword. They have no other “power” or “authority” to speak of. They certainly don’t have “moral” or “spiritual” power or authority – not in St. Paul’s time and not in ours. No, St. Paul meant what he said. Your moral absolutism and legalism leads you to collapse all use of the sword into the same category, namely “murder”. Thus, what a policeman does in the defense of an innocent citizen, what a Christian soldier does in defense of his neighbor, what the state does in an execution, and what a real “murderer” does is all the same to you – there is no moral distinction, let alone mercy, in your philosophy…

      • Is it always the case that we must either ‘canonize’ our warriors or vilify them as ‘sinners’?

        Why can we not simply acknowledge that war (and thus the lives of warriors) is tragic? There is nothing in particular to justify and nothing in particular to condemn. Although doubtless some warriors are more ‘virtuous’ in their selflessness toward both their comrades in arms and enemy combatants, it is foolish of us to judge. I posted the following thoughts in the past, but they bear repeating here.

        War is a microcosm of this present world. It is the ultimate manifestation of the battle in which those of this world are always engaged, albeit stripped of the façade of civility that is commonly referred to as peace. For war is the logical extension of the hatred which results from the struggle over wealth, power, and pride – and their reduction to the essential violence thereof.

        Those who rightly decry the evil of war need look no further for its cause than the hatred, the selfishness, the lust for power and possessions present in each of our everyday lives. For war, like pain, death and the struggle for economic survival, is the inescapable consequence of our common fall into sin. It cannot be avoided whether we are combatants or civilians. Nor can it be considered “just” from our human point of view. For how is it just that the evil actions or even the apparently justifiable reactions to evil of a few are able to cause the suffering of so many?

        The essential violence of this present world made manifest in war can only serve to reveal what is in the hearts of men altogether aside from political motives for armed conflict. War reveals hate and love, selfishness and sacrifice, cowardice and courage, greed and generosity, pride and humility… All the vices and virtues present in our hearts are brought into sharp relief by the immediacy of the danger of death – to ourselves, our loved ones, our countrymen, our security, our way of life.

        No amount of rationalization can change the fact that all war is evil. But the evil of war is not external to us personally, something at which we can wave our fingers in condemnation. It is the shared lot of humanity. And like all the evils which the providence of God allows us to suffer in common, it can be used for our redemption or our destruction. It all depends on how we respond to Him in the midst of it. War can never be said to be just, but it can be transformed into a means of redemption through the deeds of just men caught up in its torrents.

        “There is a time for everything…”

        I registered with the Selective Service Administration when the requirement to do so was first re-instituted during the Carter administration. I will be forever grateful that I was never called up. Human beings are not designed to kill one another (whether one chooses to label killing in war murder or not). It does near irreparable damage to the soul, as virtually any warrior with a Christian conscience can attest and to which the Canonical prescriptions for the healing of a person who has killed another human being testify (prescriptions which incidentally do not ‘judge’ or condemn the warrior, but rather acknowledge what is true of the damage inflicted upon his soul).

        Nevertheless, I always hoped that, were I to be drafted, I would be granted the courage to serve honorably and selflessly, including killing if I were ordered to do so. Again, I am thankful to God that He preserved me from the immediacy of the evils of war, but neither I nor anyone who lives in a country that has sent soldiers into battle can claim innocence or presume to judge those whose fate has been to endure it.

        Orthodox Christians can neither justify nor judge. Rather we pray, both for ourselves and for the warriors, “Lord, have mercy.”

        • I like what you say here Brian. I would say that “war” (whether it be actual armed conflicted between states or pseudo states/ideologies or whether it be the “war” the policeman encounters everyday on the streets, or perhaps the “war” that comes into my home in the middle of the night to pillage, rape, and murder) has a tragic character as you say, it is obviously a reflection of the fallen world.

          What I can’t quite say is that what a soldier does in defense of his country, or what a policemen does in defense of innocent citizens, or what I would do in defense of my loved ones, is “evil”. One has to be careful not to fall into Pharisaical legalism, where morality, moral judgments, and the commandments become a sort of formula – equations to be followed like a mathematical construct. One quickly becomes a “moralist” in every bad sense of the term in such cases. Monk James philosophy can really be stripped of all the verbiage and written thus:

          soldiers + killing = murder = executioner = evil

          If this were actually true, then one simply could never actually be a policeman, or a soldier, or a regular joe like me with loved ones for whom I am responsible (because I might actually have to defend my loved ones). If the soldier’s actions (or the policeman or my own) are inherently, a priori “evil” then they must be rejected outright. This of course means that Christians would necessarily (by a mathematical kind of necessity) to be radical, uncompromising pacifists, which the Church obviously does not teach us to be. Anyone who interprets the Tradition in this way is either ignorant or not really being honest. As Fr. Webster points out, one can be a radical pacifist, but that requires a certain way of life (monasticism). As he also points out, one can even label certain “war” as a “lessor good”.

          There is a time for everything under the sun as you say. If I kill the deranged child of God who is killing my children and raping my wife (assuming other options such as capture are not realistic) can this really be described as “evil”? Tragic, I will grant – for all the reasons you point out and then some, but “evil”? No. If that were the case, then morality, the Law, is above man, and we were made for it…

          p.s. I like this exchange Metropolitan Anthony Bloom had:

          …He sometimes told the story of an encounter he had during a retreat for university students. “After my first address one of them asked me for permission to leave it because I was not a pacifist.” “Are you one?” Metropolitan Anthony replied. “Yes.” “What would you do,” he asked, “if you came into this room and found a man about to rape your girl friend?” “I would try to get him to desist from his intention!” the man replied. “And if he proceeded, before your own eyes, to rape her?” “I would pray to God to prevent it.” “And if God did not intervene, and the man raped your girl friend and walked out contentedly, what would you do?” “I would ask God who has brought light out of darkness to bring good out of evil.” Metropolitan Anthony responded: “If I was your girl friend I would look for another boy friend.”

          • Christopher,

            The hesitation to call certain things evil (such as defense of others and other circumstances you’ve cited) is understandable, and I won’t quibble with your thoughts here. The point I am attempting to make is perhaps similar to yours in that many attempt to make cut-and-dried moral judgments about how and under what circumstances killing can be ‘morally justified,’ what constitutes a ‘just war,’ etc. Or, on the other side, they blithely affirm that all killing is murder and by doing so pretend as though they are somehow removed from the lives of those who (in their eyes) condemn themselves in the act of protecting them. Both are making dry, lifeless, artificial, ‘moral’ arguments which are little more than convenient utilitarian methods of justifying themselves (or those they admire) or, on the other hand, are employed in order to judge others – even while using what may well be rightly called ‘God’s standard’ of morality.

            Metropolitan Anthony’s encounter with the pacifist is a story I also love. It is as if he is saying, “Son, your so-called ‘morality’ and ‘piety’ is empty, loveless, and lifeless. It will not justify you. Only Christ can do that. Why don’t you step down from your moral high horse and become a sinner like the rest of us whose only hope is in Christ.”

            To be clear, when I state without hesitation or qualification that all war (and indeed all killing) is evil this is not spoken as a moral judgment. It is simply an acknowledgement of what is true – both of war and of myself (for I cannot pretend to isolate myself from my fellow human beings). Killing of any kind is evil in the same sense that our having to work “by the sweat of our brow” in order to survive in the flesh is evil. It is evil in the same sense that death is evil. It is not how God created us. It is not what He intends for us in His love for mankind. I think it is necessary to avoid the affirmation that such things are in any way ‘good’ lest we falsely ascribe them to the creation of God.

            But again, acknowledging that war, the necessity of work, death, or other similar things are evils is not a moral judgment. It is simply stating what is true. Are we ‘sinning’ because we have to work in order to live and not (like Metropolitan Anthony’s foolish student) simply “trusting God” to feed us? Are we ‘sinning’ because we face inevitable death…? The fully truthful answer is yes in the sense that we are not fully being in the image and likeness of God, yet no such things are blameworthy in and of themselves. They are, in fact, evils allowed by God, and they are used by Him for the sake our salvation. I am not suggesting presumption or any lack of vigilance, but we are sinners – and this is true even of the most perfected among us. Good for us! We are the ones He came to seek and to save! We have a sure hope in Christ our God! Not so much for the ‘moral’ or the ‘righteous’ who steadfastly refuse to sully the purity of their moral estate for the sake of love.

        • M. Stankovich says


          Your comment has provoked some very profound memories, beginning with a call to my high school classroom the morning of my 18th birthday, instructing me to come to the main office. It was one month before graduation. When I arrived in the office, I was presented with the already prepared selective service registration forms, only awaiting my signature. I was told to raise my right hand – and I cannot recall as to what I was swearing – and sign. I was then given the “draft card.” As it turned out, I was enrolled in what would be the final involuntary draft of the Vietnam war.

          By the time of the actual lottery, I was a student at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Yet, like so many of my generation, I sat in front of the television in the basement, frozen in fear, at the live coverage of the draft lottery where my birthday was in the top 25%. Within a month I received a letter from my local draft board asking for information about my location, activities, college enrollment, etc. I took the letter to Professor SS Verhovskoy – the Professor of Dogmatic Theology & Ethics – and asked him what I should do. He was very clear that, as an Orthodox Christian, I was obligated to comply with the law. I filled out the papers and was exempted as a divinity student – something of which I was unaware, and being naive, later found that many were in the seminary simply for the draft exemption. Regardless, Prof. Verhovskoy’s words at the time made me believe that whatever the outcome, I would be given the strength and courage to do what was necessary – and as you say, even kill if necessary – in obedience. It will always remain a terrible, terrible memory.

          • That is indeed a terrible memory! Having come of age during the Carter administration as opposed to the late Nixon/Viet Nam era as you, I never had to endure an actual draft lottery (although, of course, one never knew what conflicts might arise in the world).

            On a much lighter note concerning interactions with the Selective Service Administration…

            Each time I moved, the SSA was duly notified of my change of address as required by law. My latest change of address notification was sent 18 years ago shortly after I moved into my current home. I received a letter in reply stating in the kindest language possible that it was no longer necessary for me to notify them of address changes, as the U.S. military had no need for dilapidated old men.

            My wife could hardly stop laughing.

  2. Daniel E Fall says

    Kris Kyle lied about Jesse. There was no reason in God’s green earth for Jesse to disparage a dead Seal. Never happened.

  3. Ronda Wintheiser says

    That is one thing about this film and the hoopla surrounding it that I have difficulty with. You can’t believe everything you read, but there seems to be quite a bit out there that suggests Kyle lied about more than just Ventura.

  4. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Wow! Check this out:


    Not necessarily proving an inside job (at least not yet), but what exactly do these documents hold? Is Moussaoui credible? Hmmmm?


    • I didn’t realize this was news; I thought it was well-established that the Saudi government was involved.

      That we involve ourselves with their scum is a crime unto itself.

  5. Tim R. Mortiss says

    Say you have a small unit of soldiers. They are ordered to take out several artillery pieces heavily defended in a fixed position. A famous example is the Brecourt Manor attack shown in Band of Brothers, where the Easy Company men, numbering 13, killed and drove off 50 Germans and destroyed 4 105 mm howitzers shelling Utah Beach.
    To do so, they position some men as “snipers”, in other words, riflemen who shoot enemy soldiers from cover. They shoot several men. Are they “executioners”?
    There were thousands of similar actions. Some men in the units were designated as snipers, because they were great shots. They shot enemy soldiers from cover when they could. Other men in the unit manned machine guns, others killed the enemy in direct assaults on their positions. Are some “executioners” and some not?

  6. Thomas Barker says

    The U.S. invasion of Iraq was undertaken primarily for corporate profit. If our reason for killing was to direct tax money into a few dozen corporations, how can anyone feel patriotic over the details of our occupation, in particular the taking of human lives? I cannot.

    • Daniel E Fall says


      Regardless of the motive-revenge on Saddam, misplaced concept of successful democratization-(cute political phrases), Halliburton n mic enrichment…none of them passed the high moral standard to go to war and kill. Or to create chaos where little children are getting beheaded by the INSANE.

      Everytime the US goes into a foreign conflict; taxes should increase first.

      There would be a lot more….’well, let’s not go that far’.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Mr Fall, I completely agree with you. I would add one caveat, that not only should taxes be increased but the Congress should declare war, pure and simple. After all, it’s in the Constitution.

      • If we did not have a standing military (like the founding fathers intended), raising taxes would be a necessity. But as it stands in our time, the MIC has more money than it could ever practically use.

    • Carl Kraeff says

      When our motives for the Iraq War are questioned by both the far Left and isolationist Right, our cause must have been just.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        Carl, I have often had much the same thought about a number of matters discussed here….the horrors of the West, the condemnation of the U.S., the Roman Catholic church, and a few other things, too!

      • Daniel E Fall says

        That, of course, is flawed logic. The Iraq War was never a just war. It left a power vacuum. Forgetting the false premise of the war, the result is certainly not good.

        The far left pacifists were the wisest in the room. The isolationists were second most wise. After that the yeas were duped idiots.

  7. M. Stankovich says

    The movie is a significantly sanitized representation of Chris Kyle the man. In his book, Chris Kyle, the man, loved to kill; it thrilled him from his first kill to the last. I do not recall once his description of a scene as depicted in the movie of his hesitation at shooting a child for picking up a grenade launcher and pointing it at an armored Marine vehicle. The real Chris Kyle would have shot him as he lifted the weapon. In the book, when he shot a man near an Army base, and the man’s wife complained he was carrying “the Koran,” not a grenade launcher (it had been spirited away before investigators arrived), Kyle told the Army investigator (at whom he was enraged for even questioning his “clean kill”) “I would like to shoot all of them carrying the Koran, but I’m too disciplined to do that.” He constantly speaks of his disgust for the Iraqis (whom he refers to as “savages” and “dogs”), and said he could stand with a “clear conscience” before his Creator.

    There is no question that Chris Kyle saved countless Marine lives by the gift he had for weaponry, accuracy, and astonishing focus and patience, and a dedication, respect, and even love for the men who served with him. Many men literally owe their lives to his expertise. That much does not trouble me. What is so disturbing is the level of hatred and diminishment as human beings that he had for those he killed – and I certainly appreciate the need to “detach” from the “object” in order to accomplish his particular job – but ethnically and racially there and here, off the battlefield. I find it very, very disturbing.

    If you have not read the book, I suggest it will give a very different perspective of how profoundly it affected his life (e.g. his fundamental inability to connect to his young children and his complete indifference to that fact), making it is substantially more difficult to see him as a “hero.” I would love to speak with others who were in similar roles such as he was.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Dr S, all good art is propaganda (I can’t remember who said that). Anyway, Sniper is “sanitized” to an extent. But what about all the liberal hagiographies? Sunrise at Campobello, That Remarkable Andrew, Spartacus?

      I purposely brought out Selma in comparison. From what I’ve been told, that movie portrayed LBJ as a near-villain, showing him as a stumbling block to Civil Rights. Love him or hate him (and I lean to the latter emotion), LBJ was resolutely in MLK’s corner –as was the GOP for that matter.

      That’s why I have no truck with the Left’s caterwauling about Sniper, even if they have a point. I don’t care, mainly because they’re flaming hypocrites.

      Basically what we’re dealing with is the fact that the American public has stopped believing in their mythology. I think that’s what’s got them unhinged.

      • M. Stankovich says

        Mr. Michalopulos,

        My intentions was not to make a political point about Sniper or Chris Kyle. My comments were purely as an observer of human behaviour.

        I will say again that I can appreciate that soldier-specialists like Kyle and the Seals serve an essential purpose in saving lives and accomplish the missions of war, however you ultimately wish to judge the morality of their activity. After writing my comments yesterday, I was reading an article in Psychiatry Today by a physician who has treated snipers & soldiers with a “high kill ratio,” and he seemed to believe that Kyle fit into a group of 2% who are indeterminately “unfazed” or “psychopathic.” By contrast, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano admitted to half the “kills” of Kyle (no one knows the truth) – albeit for exceptionally different motivations and assuredly a psychpath – yet in his daughter’s biography, she describes him as a warm, loving father – and even from the federal supermax prison – a “saintly” and moral witness to his beloved grandchildren. Go figure. You have to experience psychopaths to appreciate them.

        It was a powerful and excellently crafted film, and I did not mean to imply otherwise, but the book should be read as well. I say again that Chris Kyle was a highly-accomplished, highly-decorated, and highly-respected soldier. And while Edward makes the distinction between “hero” and “saint,” I must limit myself to “highly-accomplished, highly-decorated, and highly-respected soldier” and leave it at that.

        • Does the author base his diagnosis of Kyle’s psychopathy on any direct contact with him? If not, it would seem to be a bit of hubris to claim to have such inner knowledge — and if so, it would be a severe breach of professional confidentiality. It is a time-honored tradition to retrospectively analyze historical figures — but Kyle is not that long cold in the grave to be saying such things. If the term “psychopathic” is meant dispassionately and without moral judgment, that would be more understandable, but if so, it shouldn’t be invoked in a public forum for non-professionals.

          Does the fact that a given human does not share with the vast majority of humanity an incapacitating revulsion to a certain action mean that he is by definition psychopathic?

          There are lots of jobs that most people simply wouldn’t be able to do because it involves doing things that built-in human revulsion (moral or otherwise) precludes. A surgeon, for example, is a member of a subset of humans who isn’t incapacitated by taking a knife to the flesh of another human being. As long as he doesn’t apply that “ability” outside of the bounds of his profession, can he possibly be described as psychopathic? Same for a prison guard, who locks people up and leads them around in chains for a living, but doesn’t do the same thing to people for kicks during his free time.

          If such men are not, by definition, psychopaths/sociopaths, then neither should a person like Kyle (who clearly is on the extreme end of the bell curve in terms of being able to take human lives calmly, one after another) be considered psychopathic if he exercises that “ability” only under lawful authority.

          Finally, I don’t think it involves any particular close parsing of words to distinguish between someone we in the Orthodox world would consider to be a saint and someone that can justly be considered to be a man who, in a secular military setting, behaves with bravery, honor, and attention to duty — i.e. a hero.

          • M. Stankovich says


            To clarify, the psychiatrist who wrote the article had never met Kyle, and I should have emphasized that Kyle seemed to fit into a group of 2% whom the psychiatrist who wrote the article believed are indeterminately either “unfazed” or “psychopathic.” What he termed as “unfazed” was the individual who seemed to “exercise his ability under lawful authority,” yet appeared to derive no protracted psychological consequence as a result.

            Your examples of a lack of inhibition for behaviours that are assuredly outside the normal range of human experience – and necessarily provoke strong human emotions and revulsion by most – are not indicative, in and of themselves, of psychopathy. Psychopathy is, first and foremost, a personality disorder manifested in a pathological relationship to society and to other individuals. There are plenty of people who engage in behaviours “for kicks” what the overwhelming majority would find astonishing, revolting, and even harmful, but are not psychopathic.

            These “unfazed” individuals engage in behaviour that can be argued is at odds with innate, core human morality. Having had the opportunity to interview war veterans in a military medical center, members of a prison’s “execution protocol team” who participated in executions, and peace officers who employed deadly force – all as out-patients – it does seem reasonable to me to conclude that some individuals are remarkably resilient. Even some who were experiencing symptoms of PTSD (as Kyle was depicted in the movie) improved quickly with therapy or a combination of therapy & medication.

            By contrast, psychopaths (though there is yet no formal diagnosis for psychopathy) are characterized by combinations of the following: a fundamental lack of guilt or remorse; lack of empathy; shallow affect; grandiosity; glib & superficial charm; pathological lying; cunning & manipulativeness; sexual promiscuity, often with several children, and many short-term relationships; impulsivity; lack of realistic long-term goals; social & financial irresponsibility; parasitic lifestyle (i.e. living off of others, welfare, etc.); poor behavioural controls; failure to accept responsibility for actions; and criminal versatility. Generally speaking, the hallmark of psychopathy is the lack of remorse & guilt, and the inability to experience empathy. There is no treatment for psychopathy.

            Can’t anyone at any given time present with some of these symptoms? Certainly. And psychopaths are masters at learning and mimicking normal “affect” (emotions) that they neither feel nor experience. But the clustering of psychopathic symptoms is unmistakable. Was Kyle “unfazed” or a “psychopath?” Your guess is as good as mine.

            • I am actually quite familiar with personality disorders and what is required to diagnose them. That is what prompted my question. As far as I can tell, psychopathy is an unofficial diagnosis indicating antisocial personality disorder that is manifested in heinous acts and urges, often combined with a better ability to hide one’s antisocial traits than, say, your garden variety criminal.

              Someone who has been as highly scrutinized as Kyle should not be in a “your guess is as good as mine” territory. You gave a long list of signs of psychopathy: which of them are known to exist in Kyle? I’m asking — I have not seen the movie or read the book, and have read little about his life.

              The distinction between unfazed and psychopathic is a useful one — but there is a huge moral gulf between them. If the single known point of information is how many people they killed, then “your guess is as good as mine” works. But such is rarely the situation with soldiers — or cops or guards or surgeons. By the time a soldier gets to Kyle’s point, if he is a sociopath he will usually have been discharged or ended up in Leavenworth.

              I was questioning the willingness to place Kyle in that category, unless there is known information about him that indicates that his personality characteristics spilled over into dysfunctional or destructive behavior elsewhere in his life.

              • Rather than “dysfunctional or destructive behavior elsewhere in his life,” I should have said “psychopathic behavior.”

              • M. Stankovich says

                Psychopathy is an “official” diagnosis within the forensic domain only. It is widely accepted internationally in the legal system, and the only validated instruments for the diagnosis of primary psychopathy are the Psychopathy Checklist(s) (Revised) [PCL-R] of Dr. Robert D. Hare & associates, which are specifically for forensic patients only. It has not been officially “codified” in the DSM. The theory of psychopathy (and antisocial personality disorder) is the work of Hervey Cleckley, MD, whose pioneering study, The Mask of Sanity, detailing his observation of psychopathic patients on in-patient psychiatric units, was placed in the public domain by his wife and can be downloaded in the PDF format here. It is a fascinating, sometimes frightening, read. The symptoms I listed are an “amalgam” of Cleckley & Hare.

                I made an initial comment regarding Chris Kyle that was a personal reaction to my reading of his book, which was to say that I found his expressed “enjoyment” of killing and, for example, his inability to “connect” with his infant children & and his lack of concern, disturbing. I did not intend my comments to be “diagnostic,” nor to imply a diagnosis. Were his words the hubris and “poetic license” of a Navy Seal selling a book? Everything was framed in “God, country family,” and having worked in a military medical center for a full year following 9/11 (9/11 happened during my second week), I can fully appreciate the sentiment. However, I personally never met the man. Likewise, I believe the author of the article I cited was interested in emphasizing human “resilience” – thus the analogy – rather than to diagnose someone he had never met.

                I would offer a fascinating example that appeared in New York Magazine in 2011, a story/interview of Bernard Madoff titled The Madoff Tapes, that begins with a dilemma:

                And so, sitting alone with his therapist, in the prison khakis he irons himself, he seeks reassurance. “Everybody on the outside kept claiming I was a sociopath,” Madoff told her one day. “I asked her, ‘Am I a sociopath?’ ” He waited expectantly, his eyelids squeezing open and shut, that famous tic. “She said, ‘You’re absolutely not a sociopath. You have morals. You have remorse.’ ” Madoff paused as he related this. His voice settled. He said to me, “I am a good person.”

                Hare & associates have estimated that only 30% of psychopaths actually come into contact with the legal system. Hare describes the life of the remainder in Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us and Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. As I mentioned previously, psychopathy, first & foremost, is a personality disorder manifested in a pathological relationship to society and to other individuals. Both Bernie Madoff and Patrick Bateman of Bret Easton-Ellis’ American Psycho both flew under the radar. It is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon.

                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  This is incredibly fascinating. I have to read your pdf link when I get the chance. BTW it is also very scary.


                • The phenomena are real. I recommend “The Sociopath Next Door” for anyone who wants to be forewarned and forearmed.

                  You are probably right that a scary number of psychopaths never cross paths with the law — as I mentioned in an earlier post, my impression of psychopaths is that they are much better at hiding their pathology than is your average criminal sociopath. I stand by my assertion, however, that in the regimented context of the military, serious personality pathologies have a hard time going unnoticed, and those who have them tend not to last.

                  I have to protest your citation of Bateman, however. I never read the book because I really didn’t want anything that graphic in my head — same reason I don’t watch movies like “Saw” or “Hostel.” It is important to remember that Bateman is a fictional character created by Ellis. The character’s actions, as I understand it, are based on a composite of crimes Ellis had read about, but saying that “Bateman flew under the radar” is to turn Ellis’s novel into a biography of a real person.

                  Unless Ellis has lied about the book, his primary purpose was not even to examine psychopaths, but rather to use psychopathy as a literary vehicle to critique what he saw as the shallow materialism of the 1980’s. I was also alive in the 1980’s — and my own suspicion is that the book says more about Ellis than it does about the 80’s (something that he himself admits to somewhat), but that is a different subject.

                  I think, regardless, that we would agree that characteristics of “resilience” and of being “unfazed” are realities in human beings. I believe that like a gun, their use can either be for good or for ill, and depends on the person wielding them. In and of itself, I don’t think it necessarily has moral content. You could make the case that if any of us truly were able to take in and experience the full impact of the evil, sin, and fallenness in the world — or even just what is in ourselves, we would be paralyzed and unable to move. There is a certain amount of the “unfazed” in each of us.

                  I personally feel a duty to give soldiers like Kyle the benefit of the doubt, but that is just me. I found, in my time in the military, that men being emotionally distant, etc. from their families was fairly common, as was enjoyment of what they do, in spite of its objective horror when measured up against the world as God originally intended it to be. There is something personal about the killing involved in being a sniper, but I’m not sure how different, really, that it is from the guys I knew in the Air Force who dropped bombs, killing more people with one bomb run than Kyle did in a career. Or the missile launch officers I knew who trained to turn the keys to kill more people in a single act than had in the past been killed in entire wars. I would argue that none of these men should even have the word “psychopath” mentioned in the same sentence with their names.

                  Now as for some of the politicians who get us into these wars — whether through excessive warmongering or its evil twin — excessive weakness, I am perhaps less forgiving…

                  • M. Stankovich says

                    Unfortunately, I have met Batemans in a professional capacity, and they are scarier live than in the fictional form. Speaking with a detached human being for forty minutes, with the barest of appreciable acknowledgement or eye-contact, only to have them suddenly “come alive,” lock eyes, and coldly respond to questioning (under CA’s Tarasoff Law line of questioning to determine potential harm to others: “Does anyone need fear your release from prison?”) “If I run into a couple of people, I will torture them as I watch them die.” They can and do fly under the radar and are clinical realities when you work in their domain. Snakes in Suits comes highly recommended, and shame on those idiots who promote “characteristics” – as opposed to symptomology- of psychopathy as ideal business traits (á la George Clooney in Up in the Air). Likewise, I too have long questioned Ellis’ “capacity” to write such a volume; not so so much for the gratuitous sex & violence, but for the cold, detached, & amazing detail paid to every worldly extravagance Bateman possesses. Uncanny.

                    My only argument with you is that Kyle himself – in his own words – took pleasure in killing, regardless that it was framed in defending his comrades. It seemed to bring him great amusement that, for example, he would kill a man aiming a grenade launcher, then consecutive men over a period of time attempting to retrieve the launcher, lying next to an accumulating pile of bodies. How could they be so stupid? What does it say? Your guess is as good as mine?

    • Ladder of Divine Ascent says

      “In his book, Chris Kyle, the man, loved to kill; it thrilled him from his first kill to the last..”

      The real horror of war isn’t the killing itself, it is that killing feels good on several different levels. However, the sane/moral man still only does it in self-defense of self or others (law enforcement, war, etc.).

      Anyway, back to the real issue of the day.

      Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk (Western Ukrainian from Lvov), made a shocking statement on Günther Jauch’s TV show, one of the most popular political talk shows in Germany

      Answering the question about the large presence of “strange people with SS insignia” in the Ukrainian Army, Melnyk admitted that Azov and Right Sector neo-Nazis are part of the Ukrainian armed forces, that they are controlled and coordinated by Kiev’s pro-Western regime and that without them “the Russian army” would advance much further.

      “When we were attacked by the [ethnic] Russians last year, we hardly had an army. And that’s why there were a lot of people, volunteers, who were prepared to fight for their country, and they are doing it.”

      Nonsense (the part about Russia attacking Ukraine is of course baseless. If Ukraine was invaded, why don’t they provide evidence, or declare war?) We can all clearly remember spring of the last year when many regular Ukrainian army units refused to wage a war against civilians who disagreed with Kiev’s coup d’etat and Maidan revolution. The bloody civil war started only after the new regime manage to consolidate itself, formed, equipped and trained the National Guard units and volunteer battalions composed of far right/neo-Nazi volunteers.

      Now comes to most shocking part of his statement:

      “These (neo-Nazi) units are fighting together with our army, with the National Guard and other units, and they are coordinated and controlled by Kiev. That’s why there exists no danger that they do something on their own, beyond they have coordinated with the army commanders”.


      When Nazi Hands Rock American Cradles:

      …many other papers written were in fact precise in describing the Bandera kids are even more committed to Ukrainian nationalism within the countries they live in, molding their own culture and politics, as well as Ukraine.

      This upbringing is reinforced with a life long cultural education and celebration of nationalist Galician values, education, job support, and even the emigre choices of religion. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Orthodox religions were reworked to promote Ukrainian nationalism and reinforce it to adherents at the end of the 19th century. Later Protestant beliefs followed suit within the communities and started going mainstream in the 1950’s and 60’s.

      According to the Manitoba Historical Society “…the establishment of a separate Ukrainian Catholic episcopate was as much a statement of Ukrainian “nationalism” as was the rise of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada.”

      With this kind of regulated upbringing it is no shock that even childhood experiences like scouting play a major role in development. Consider the following carefully against what you know about Maidan. In this American girl’s own words, her heroes from WWII are the genocidal Waffen SS OUNb Bandera, the mass murderers of 500,000 people.


      “…rather than acknowledging that nationalism is fundamentally emotional. In truth, you can’t really make ‘the case’ for nationalism; you can only inculcate it, teach it to children, cultivate it at public events.”- Anne Applebaum historian for UCCA history project (Wife of Poland’s Foreign Minister, Radislaw Sikorski

      What does this have to do with your own little “cubbie or brownie”? Heading toward 1991 Ukrainian scouting was finally accepted by Scouting International as a legitimate scouting organization. Before that they were considered a terrorist breeding group. Cub Scouts and Brownies have the opportunity to share values at Jamborees in America.

      Both PLAST and CYM hold multiple summer camps each year. CYM is more Ukrainian oriented than PLAST but in addition to its education role, it is also a Ukrainian social organization were young people go to meet and have fun.

      The Plast organization is strongly modeled after the American Boy Scouts. It has various numbered scout troops etc. Are the American Boy Scouts – the U.S. version of Nazi boot camps? When an American Boy Scout camp is not readily available, Americans have been known to attend Plast summer camps as a way of getting the same experiences they would get in with the American Boy Scouts (hiking, merit badges etc.). They might get exposed to Ukrainian tradition but many of them freely choose not to participate in those camp activities.- George Masni, former UCCA State of Arizona president.

      On April 23, 2004 the Ukrainian nationalist world mourned the death of Mr. Ivan Kobasa, one of the founders of CYM America and lifelong OUN-UCCA nationalist leader. His obituary says he was a leading member of the OUNb. He made his life’s work (55 years) educating young Ukrainian-Americans in the love of God and Ukraine (Ukrainian OUNb nationalism).

      As noted in the UCCA press release in the link above dated 1999, OUNb leader Ivan Kobasa also took responsibility of making sure the Ukrainian-Americans received the proper secondary education at Ukrainian nationalist schools(MAUP) in Ukraine. From the mid 2000’s enrollment in this educational system has skyrocketed. Today almost all members of the current Ukrainian government are graduates of this ideological system that was taught to them by moderates like David Duke who is also a graduate of the MAUP system.

  8. pegleggreg says

    he died as he lived

  9. This conversation reminds me of these words:

    “2. We should defend one another, for we are brothers—especially we who are of one Faith. There is an example of this in history. Once, when an official delegation of Constantinopolitan dignitaries was sent to the Saracens to negotiate peace, the Saracens argued that Christians disobeyed God’s commandment. They said: “Why do you Christians disobey Christ’s commandment to love your enemies, but instead persecute and kill us?”
    Now, a certain Cyril was part of this delegation. His answer to the Saracens was: “If, in a certain law, there are two commandments that must be fulfilled, which man shall be more righteous, he who fulfills both commandments or he who fulfills only one of them?” The Saracens answered, “He that fulfills both, of course.” Then Cyril said, “As individuals we forgive our enemies, but as a community we lay down our lives for one another. For the Lord has said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s neighbor. As a community we protect one another and lay down our lives for one another. Not only is your aim to enslave us physically, you also aspire to enslave us spiritually. It is for this reason that we defend ourselves. This, therefore, is justified.”
    Then there is also the example of St. Ioannicius the Great. He was a soldier for twenty years. He was amazing—whenever he fought a battle, he won. He had never been defeated. He never gave a thought to his own life but laid down his own for others. And the Lord preserved him. Later, when he became a monk, he was a great saint and wonderworker. There were many such holy warriors. The Holy King David says: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered (Ps. 31:1). Righteousness acts never in its own interest, but in the interest of fellow men.”

    Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine our Lives

    • In Christianity, a “holy warrior” is an oxymoron. None of our saints has been glorified for the killings he did on the battlefield. All soldier saints were glorified after martyrdom (e.g. St. George), or after they became monks (e.g., St.Ioannicius or St. Alexander Nevsky), or after they refused to fight and kill (e.g., St. Martin of Tours or Sts. Boris and Gleb).

      • Michael Bauman says

        What of St. Demetrios of Thessalonica who has an icon depicting him spearing an opposing soldier?

        What of St. Nestor who was blessed by St. Demetrios to kill the Emperor’s gladiator in the arena?

        St. Nestor was victorious yet still suffered a martyr’s death.

        It is a bit too simplistic to simply say the soldier saints are only saints for what they accomplished off the battlefield.

        True, St. George was martyred because he refused to acknowledge Caesar as God but that was in a ceremony honoring St. George as an excellent Roman commander who had won many battles for the Emperor. His excellence in battle is part of his sainthood. To think otherwise is to do violence to the man. To sanitize the warrior aspect of the soldier saints to fit modern sensibilities is even worse. If the Church had wanted to do that, they would not be dressed in their armor on their icons I don’t think. It is too cute by far to whisk that away by declaring it all ‘symbolism’.

        There were many stories, for example, of British and American soldiers seeing St. George in the Allied lines the night before the Battle of El Alamein — strengthening the Allied soldiers for the battle ahead in which they would have to kill to be victorious.

        Modern moralism concerning warfare just does not go deeply enough. In some cases it may be right but not for the reasons it claims.

        Clearly there are wars we should not have fought and even in the best circumstances wars are full of demons and evil. It is an indicator of the depravity of modernity that we, as a country, have no trouble going to war to protect perceived ‘national interest’ but a great deal of trouble going to war to fight against an Islam that would enslave us and is brutally doing that to many of our brothers and sisters of the faith as well as torturing and killing them.

        Life is messy, salvation is even messier. When we attempt to over-simplify for out own convenience and moral taste we risk a lot.

    • Beautiful.

  10. It seems that some are incapable of making the distinction between Murder and Killing.

    A man who KILLS an armed intruder to defend his family commits a morally justifiable act and therefore cannot be called a “murderer.”

    Murder is the taking of the life of a moral innocent in relation to the situation in which the person loses their life.

    I don’t know if all of Chris Kyle’s kills were morally justifiable or not, I wasn’t there. I don’t think anybody here can rightfully call him a murderer unless they had hard evidence that his kills were against morally innocent targets.

    All that being said: He seems to have been a lousy human being who enjoyed the actual act of taking life.

  11. Francis Frost says

    The killing of another person, even if morally justified, is still outsideGod’s plan for creation and is therefore at best, as necessary evil. I believe that St Basil’s canons impose a 3 year excommunication on those who kill in war, even in a justifiable war. Even an accidental killing as in a motor vehicle crash results in a period of penance. The scriptures again and again refer to bloodshed as the ultimate defilement.

    When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? … you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Isaiah 1:11

    St Sergius blessed Dmitry Donskoi to fight the Tatars only for the protection of his subjects lives. He told Dmitry: You may offer them your life, your crown and your wealth; but you may not offer them the lives of your people.

    In other words, war must only be undertaken as a last resort.

  12. Francis Frost says

    Meanwhile the fighting in Ukraine intensifies ahead of the supposed “cease fire” From the BBC:

    14 February 2015 Last updated at 01:59 ET Share this pagePrint

    Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko says peace deal in danger
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    Petro Poroshenko warned the deal to end the war in the east was in “great danger”

    Ukraine crisis

    Ukraine’s president has warned that a deal to end the war in the east is in “great danger” after heavy fighting ahead of Saturday night’s ceasefire.

    Petro Poroshenko also accused Russia of “significantly increasing” its offensive despite the peace agreement reached in Minsk on Thursday.

    Meanwhile, the US said it was very concerned by reports of heavy weapons coming across the border from Russia.

    Shelling was heard in the rebel-held city of Donetsk early on Saturday.

    Fierce battles are also said to be continuing around Debaltseve, a strategic government-held town between rebel-held areas.

    More than a dozen civilians are said to have died in shelling in eastern Ukraine on Friday.

    It is unclear who was behind the shelling but both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions accuse each other of targeting residential areas.

    In New York, the UN Security Council will meet on Sunday in emergency session to discuss the implementation of the ceasefire deal.

    The presidents of France, Russia and Ukraine as well as the German chancellor – who together clinched the agreement in the Belarusian capital – are also expected to discuss the issue by phone over the weekend.

    ‘Escalation expected’
    With less than 24 hours until the ceasefire is due to take effect, correspondents say the fighting shows no sign of stopping.

    Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Petro Mekhed said the rebels wanted to “raise their flag” over Debaltseve and the key port city of Mariupol before the midnight ceasefire (22:00 GMT) kicked in.

    “Ukraine is expecting an escalation and taking all necessary measures to be able to respond,” Mr Mekhed told reporters.

    A young child was killed in Artemivsk in what the local authorities said was shelling by rebels

    President Poroshenko said despite the agreement there was a “long way to go to peace”

    Rebel shelling killed two people in a cafe in Shchastya, near Luhansk, on Friday as well as a young child near a school in Artemivsk, a town near Debaltseve, according to Kiev-controlled regional authorities.

    Meanwhile, the rebels said at least six people had died in shelling in the city of Donetsk and town of Horlivka. The rebels accuse government forces of shelling the towns.

    “After what we achieved in Minsk this is not just shelling of Ukrainian civilians and residential neighbourhoods – this is an attack on our Minsk achievements, without any explanations,” President Poroshenko said.

    “Unfortunately, after Minsk, Russia’s offensive operations have intensified,” he said, before adding: “We are still convinced that the Minsk achievements are in a big danger.”

    There were also reports of a government offensive near Mariupol, the city between rebel-held eastern areas and the southern Crimea peninsula, which was annexed by Russia last March.

    ‘Serious live fire’
    The new clashes have fuelled fears that the peace deal agreed in the Belarusian capital could fall through before the ceasefire starts.

    The group responsible for monitoring the ceasefire said it remained hopeful despite there being “quite serious live fire” in several areas on Friday.

    “We feel that the Minsk agreements are really the only available roadmap to a sustainable ceasefire,” Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the OSCE, told the BBC.

    In another development, a consignment of armoured vehicles from the UK has been delivered to Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence confirmed.

    It said they were out-of-service, unarmed vehicles and were not lethal equipment.

  13. Francis Frost says

    From The Guardian:

    According to the Minsk plan the ceasefire will start on Sunday but, rather than abating, the conflictappeared to escalate on Friday. The Ukrainian defence ministry said pro-Russia forces were trying to take the cities of Debaltseve and Mariupol before the truce begins. On Friday afternoon, the Guardian witnessed incoming and outgoing heavy weapons fire on the contested highway leading to Debaltseve, which was lined with burned-out trucks.

    A spokesman for the Ukrainian military said 11 soldiers had been killed and 40 wounded in 24 hours and there were reports of numerous civilians being killed.

    The increase in violence took place as it emerged that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, sought to delay agreement on a Ukrainian ceasefire at talks in Minsk because he wanted pro-Russia separatists to capture the railway hub in Debaltseve.

    Three of the four leaders at the talks in Minsk – the German chancellor, Angela Merkel; France’s president, François Hollande; and Ukraine’s embattled president, Petro Poroshenko – dashed to the Brussels summit from Belarus.

    Briefing 26 EU heads of government on the fraught negotiations that resulted in a truce that was supposed to start on Sunday, the Minsk participants painted a picture that failed to inspire confidence.

    Witnesses to the discussion said all the EU leaders were sceptical about the success of the Minsk peace plan, not least because Putin had resisted pressure for a ceasefire. He hoped to delay the truce by 10 days, the summit heard, in order to force the surrender of up to 8,000 Ukrainian troops who are surrounded in Debaltseve by pro-Russia separatists.

    Putin was said to have made it clear that Debaltseve had to fall. The Russian president has also said publicly that the separatists had the Ukrainian forces encircled and that “of course, they expect [the Ukrainians] to lay down their arms and cease resistance”.

    While the 13-point peace plan is complex and relies upon political developments at least a year away, Poroshenko’s priority was to get a ceasefire. The Ukrainian leader delivered an emotional report to the summit on the plight of eastern Ukraine, witnesses said. He said he had not slept for two nights. Before the Minsk talks, he went to a hospital in the eastern town of Kramatorsk, where he was deeply affected by the sight of a four-year-old boy who had lost limbs in a shelling by separatist forces.

    On the Ukraine deal, the mood of the EU summit was sombre, with the leaders concluding that Putin was more interested in war than in peace.

    On Friday, Poroshenko was similarly pessimistic. “I don’t want anyone to have any illusions and so I am not seen as a naive person: we are still a very long way from peace,” he said during a visit to a military training ground. “Nobody has a strong belief that the peace conditions which were signed in Minsk will be implemented strictly.”

    Gernot Erler, an adviser to Merkel on Russia, warned on Friday of the “threat that in the last hours before the ceasefire, the two sides will try to increase the others’ losses”. That was what appeared to be happening near Debaltseve, where Ukrainian soldiers told the Guardian that they had been under heavy shelling for two days but had seen “intensified fighting” on Friday. Rebels have been redoubling their weeks-long effort to tighten the noose around the town and its key railway junction.

    The general staff denied that its troops in Debaltseve were surrounded but the situation on the ground suggested the government forces’ situation was more complicated than that.

    Burned-out trucks – some still smoking – lined the cratered highway from Artemivsk to Debaltseve, which remains in contention. Government soldiers who were trying to tow a damaged ambulance out of the partly ruined town of Luhanske admitted that anyone who went further down the highway towards Debaltseve would come under heavy fire from rebel small arms and artillery.

    “We control the highway, but it’s being shot up,” said a soldier with the call sign Thunderstorm. As he spoke, incoming artillery rounds whistled nearby, and Ukrainian forces began answering with mortar fire.

    Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Friday that there was a “danger” that Ukrainian forces in Debaltseve would continue try to break out of the alleged encirclement and in doing so violate the ceasefire once it takes effect.

    According to the Ukrainian military, rebels had used rockets and artillery to attack government forces in Debaltseve on Friday. It said its forces were firing back only when attacked.

    But far back from the frontlines, government forces were firing heavy weapons on Friday afternoon near Artemivsk, increasing their intensity towards dusk. The Guardian also saw a stream of smoke that appeared to be from outgoing rocket fire near Ukrainian positions in Mironivsky.

    In the small town of Svitlodarsk near Ukrainian positions, residents repaired damage done to their homes from shelling as outgoing fire boomed, only running for cover when the deafening whine of incoming rockets and mortars began overhead.

    Fighting also continued on a second front near the coastal city of Mariupol. The Azov volunteer battalion said it was engaged in a “tank battle” with pro-Russia forces for control of the village of Shirokine and “artillery duels” for the village of Sakhanka. Ukrainian forces have been fighting rebels along the Azov coast this week in what Poroshenko said was a counter-offensive to push the frontline back to where it was before the ceasefire deal agreed in September.

    Both sides in the conflict accused each other of killing civilians on Friday morning. Regional authorities said pro-Russia forces had shelled the government-held town of Gornyak, near Donetsk with Grad rockets, killing four people and injuring 16.

    Two people were also killed and six wounded when a shell hit a packed cafe in the Kiev-controlled town of Shchastya near rebel-held Luhansk, a local official said, adding that other shells had struck elsewhere in the town.

    The rebels accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the separatist stronghold of Donetsk and the town of Horlivka, where they said three children had been killed. It was not possible to verify either of these reports, though an AFP journalist in Donetsk said that sporadic missile salvoes and dozens of artillery bombardments could be heard from the city starting early on Friday morning.

    The ceasefire agreed in Minsk was intended to pave the way for a comprehensive political settlement and followed a fraught 16 hours of overnight negotiations.

    The summit resulted in a pact providing for a ceasefire between Ukrainian government troops and Russian-backed separatists, a withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the battle zone that is to be demilitarised, amnesties on both sides, and exchanges of prisoners and hostages.

    The ceasefire and weapons pullback is to be monitored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). “The next 48 hours will be crucial,” said one EU diplomat at the Brussels summit.

    Merkel cautioned against over-optimism and was guarded about whether the peace pact would be implemented. “We have a glimmer of hope … but no illusions,” she said.

    Depending on how events play out in eastern Ukraine, EU leaders are expected to decide whether to reinforce or relax economic sanctions on Russia next month.

    US officials also said they were not taking sanctions off the table and bluntly warned the separatists against seizing more land before Sunday’s ceasefire takes effect.

    David Cameron, the British prime minster, likewise urged EU leaders to stand firm on maintaining sanctions against Russia, saying it was “actions on the ground rather than just words on a piece of paper” that mattered.

    Clearly Putin’s invasions of his neighbors do not meet the definition of a defensive war of last resort.

    • Of course the people of the region have the right to self-determination and to defensive force against an illegitimate regime.

  14. cynthia curran says

    Spartacus was a novel written by the communist Howard Fast, i about that the real Spartacus was a socialist or communist for that matter he lead a slave rebellion around 72 bce and most of the information on him is in Plutarch life of Crassus. Actually, I still thought Spartacus was a good movie in spite of political .

  15. The ‘American Sniper’ film was largely neglected at the Oscars, garnering only one award, and that was for ‘sound editing’. Big whoop, right?

    This sort of critical rejection stands in sharp contrast to the film’s amazing success at the box office, bringing in six times more revenue than the movie voted ‘best’. We have to wonder about that.

    Perhaps the academy was as revolted by the story as I was myself, and the amount of money generated by the film isn’t so much an index of american patriotism as it might be a sign of our culture’s continuing desensitization to violence.

    Maybe the movie’s popularity suggests even a gladiatorial mindset, a prurient interest in bloodshed for entertainment. Lord, have mercy on us.

    Peace and blessings to all as we begin this holy fast.

  16. Francis Frost says

    Yesterday, the ‘Orthodox Empire’ resorted to old fashioned jihadist terrorism in it’s war against independent Ukraine. Marchers commemorating the Maidan victims of Russian snipers, were targeted by a terrorist bombing ala the Tsarnaev brothers’ Boston Marathon bombing. We ought not forget, that both Tsarnaev parents were Soviet officials – state prosecutors in Soviet Kazakhstan, and that Tamerlane Tsarnaev’s jihadist training in Degastan was known to Russian authorities who did nothing to notify their American counterparts of his jihadist activities before or after his return to the U. S.

    Monday, February 23, 2015

    Kharkiv Terrorist Act Opens New and Horrific Stage in War in Ukraine, Milshteyn Says

    Paul Goble

    Staunton, February 23 – A “new stage” has begun in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, one that involves terrorist actions like those in the Chechen wars but “with this important modification: in this case, a nuclear power is suspected of terrorism” or possibly its “incompletely controlled militants,” according to Ilya Milshteyn.

    “This in general can become an unprecedented historic event,” the Moscow commentator says, “because up to now it has been considered that murders of innocent civilians or the seizing of hostages is a weapon of the weak who do not know any other means of dealing with an enemy” (

    Or alternatively it may mean that Moscow has weakened to such a point that it feels it has no other alterantive. If that is so, Milshteyn continues, then “the darkest suspicions” about Russian intentions will be “confirmed,” and it will be time to stop seeking analogies as many have been doing and face up to a new and greater horror.

    “Suddenly, it will become clear that the hybrid war which Russia has been conducting against Ukraine will have been enriched by yet another means of carrying out military actions,” a means that involves no negotiations with the other side but only its destruction a la Putin’s earlier war against Chechnya wherever it may be found.

    In his commentary today, Milsheyn notes that “the Russian-Ukrainian war has given rise to a large number of historical analogies,” many of them drawn from the 1930s and quite “banal.” But there is an analogy closer to home which may in fact be more suggestive of what is taking place.

    “In part,” he says, “the war in the Donbas recalls both Chechen wars, but with a change of roles and with this essential difference: a nuclear power did not support Ichkeria and American miners and tractor drivers with their tanks and artillery fire did not fight for Dudayev and Maskhadov.”

    Until yesterday, Moscow’s war against Ukraine did not involve “classical terrorist acts in major cities.” Now it does, and that “changes the situation in a cardinal way.” Now, “the phrase ‘Chechen scenario’” takes on an entirely new meaning than the one Putin himself suggested to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Brisbane.

    In the version of a Chechen scenario Moscow would want the world to accept, Kyiv would do what Moscow did in Chechnya, exploiting a terrorist act to destroy the local population and impose its own loyalist in power. But Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has rejected this scenario out of hand — in part because he views those fighting against Kyiv as Moscow’s agents.

    Ukrainian security officials have already announced that they have found links between Kharkiv and Russia (, as one might have expected regardless of what the case ultimately turns to be, Milshteyn says. But such links are not as implausible as many might be inclined to think.

    Some will insist that Putin is too “pragmatic” to use such a tactic given that Russia is already suffering under sanctions and would face even power. But “the problem is that it is long past time to forget about pragmatism when speaking about the foreign policy of Russia,” the Moscow analyst says.

    “Life in the regime of special operations presupposes an entirely different means of accounting,” and consequently, it is entirely possible that “in these conditions a terrorist act is a continuation of policy by other means … a logical and consistent one” if hatred dominates thinking and if those making the decision feel they have nothing to lose.

    Many Moscow commentators share Milshteyn’s analysis if not his call for caution before reaching any final decision. In a note on today, Yevgeny Ikhlov writes that “there is no legal, political or moral difference between the organizers of the explosion at the Kharkiv demonstration and the organizers of the explosion at the Boston marathon in April 2013” (

    And he suggests that if the investigation shows links between those who carried out the Kharkiv bombing and the pro-Moscow secessionists in the Donbas, then he would advise Kyiv to introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council and General Assembly” that would declare the Russian Federation “’a sponsor of international terrorism.’”

    • George Michalopulos says

      Actually, you’re wrong about the Tsarnaev brothers. The FSB informed the FBI about the Islamo-jihadism of the Tsarnaev brothers. This fact was reported in the media in the aftermath of their apprehension. It’s since gone down the memory hole because that would implicate the Cult of Diversity that is our civic religion.

      • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

        Please provide a reference for your assertion about the FSB advising the FBI, George, “about the Islamo-jihadism” of the Tsarnaev brothers.
        I agree that we are quick to forget some things. For example, who remembers that, although ALL flights were grounded in the wake of 9/11 and the destruction of the WTC, etc., President Bush granted members of the Saudi-Arabian royal family a special DISPENSATION, so that their air plane and only their airplane could take off here and spirit them out of danger and home to Saudi-Arabia, even though ALL the 9/11 perps were Saudis!!!!!!

  17. Francis Frost says

    At the same time, Putin’s adventure in Ukraine further erodes the MP’s credibility among Ukrainian Christians. Further comments from Archdeacon Anderi Kuraev are below.

    Meanwhile, the Russian occupation forces in occupied Samechablo continue to hold Metropolitan Esia of the Nikazi – Tskhinvali Eparchy hostage in occupied Akhalgori. The MP continues its uncanonical presence in occupied Abkhazeti and continues to concelebrate with the renegade Vissarion Apliaa. If the MP continues down its present path; look for an open schism between the Putinist cult and legitimate Orthodoxy.

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    Moscow Should Give Autocephaly to Ukrainian Orthodox Now to Cut Its Losses, Kurayev Says

    Paul Goble

    Staunton, February 20 – Deacon Andrey Kurayev, a Russian Orthodox commentator who is often provocative but whose ideas equally often reflect thinking in the Moscow Patriarchate, says that Moscow should give autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church before the Universal Patriarchate does and thus limit Russia’s losses in Ukraine.

    In a post on his page, Kurayev points out that a year from now, an All-Orthodox assembly is to take place in Constantinople and that one of the decisions it is expected to take is to adopt new rules on autocephaly and how it can be granted (

    In that event, he suggests, the Moscow Patriarchate could lose control over the process in Ukraine and therefor the best course for the Russian church now is to consider granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church so that Moscow and not the Universal Patriarch can define its terms.

    If it acts unilaterally, Kurayev says, Moscow could define the borders of the Ukrainian church, determine the mechanisms for decision making in each bishopric and congregation, keep in its hands the power of being the court of last appeal, and ensure that the Moscow Patriarchate would have a voice in the adoption of all the most important decisions of the Ukrainian church.

    “Maintaining the current situation via a policy based on the principle of ‘all or nothing,’” he writes, “could lead precisely to the loss of ‘everything.’” Moscow needs to behave as England did with Australia rather than the way Mikhail Gorbachev did with Eastern Europe if it is to maintain its influence in Ukraine.

    Kurayev’s argument is important in at least two respects. On the one hand, it is an indication that a growing number of churchmen and others in Moscow see that they are rapidly losing ground in Ukraine and need to do something dramatic, even if it appears to involve the loss of some of their positions, in order to save others.

    And on the other, it may set the stage for a new Moscow campaign, one that some in Ukraine and the West would welcome because they would not recognize what is behind it: a desire to maintain imperial control rather than to allow the Ukrainian Orthodox to have their own church.

    • George Michalopulos says

      The trouble with this scenario is that the “universal patriarch” has no intention of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian church. If anything, the ultimate game plan is to amalgamate the two non-EP affiliated Ukrainian eparchies (the MP and the “autocephalous” one) into the EP-affiliated eparchy.

      • Tony Dimopolous says

        You don’t understand how “autocephaly” works. The Kievan/Rus were “THE” church of Russia. THEY are the original church of ALL Rus. No one has to “grant” autocephaly. There are no canons regarding this. When a “local” church in a territory is mature enough to rule it’s own matters, it declares itself autocephalous. Once it is in Communion with all the other churches, de facto, it is recognized. The Ukrainian Church, although factionalized and should unite, has been in Holy Communion with all of Orthodoxy since the year 988.

  18. Asheepdog'swife says

    Recall the speech at the dinner table from Chris Kyle’s father after his brother was attacked by a bully. The ‘wolf,sheep, sheepdog” analogy comes from the article below. Kyle’s focus was protecting the troops under his watch.
    This article may make the point that was missed by many watching the film. Or not. But this is not about politics. It is about battling evil.

    But many would rather be in denial.

    On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs
    (From the book, On Combat, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman)

    “Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself.
    The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?”

    – William J. Bennett
    In a lecture to the United States Naval Academy
    November 24, 1997
    One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: “Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.” This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.

    Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

    Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

    I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
    “Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

    “Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” Or, as a sign in one California law enforcement agency put it, “We intimidate those who intimidate others.”

    If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

    The gift of aggression

    “What goes on around you… compares little with what goes on inside you.”
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Everyone has been given a gift in life. Some people have a gift for science and some have a flair for art. And warriors have been given the gift of aggression. They would no more misuse this gift than a doctor would misuse his healing arts, but they yearn for the opportunity to use their gift to help others. These people, the ones who have been blessed with the gift of aggression and a love for others, are our sheepdogs. These are our warriors.

    One career police officer wrote to me about this after attending one of my Bulletproof Mind training sessions:

    “I want to say thank you for finally shedding some light on why it is that I can do what I do. I always knew why I did it. I love my [citizens], even the bad ones, and had a talent that I could return to my community. I just couldn’t put my finger on why I could wade through the chaos, the gore, the sadness, if given a chance try to make it all better, and walk right out the other side.”

    Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are dozens of times more likely to be killed, and thousands of times more likely to be seriously injured, by school violence than by school fires, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard, so they choose the path of denial.

    The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

    Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa.”

    Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog. As Kipling said in his poem about “Tommy” the British soldier:

    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind,”
    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind,
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

    The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door. Look at what happened after September 11, 2001, when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

    Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

    Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

    While there is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, he does have one real advantage. Only one. He is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.

    There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory acts of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

    However, when there were cues given by potential victims that indicated they would not go easily, the cons said that they would walk away. If the cons sensed that the target was a “counter-predator,” that is, a sheepdog, they would leave him alone unless there was no other choice but to engage.

    One police officer told me that he rode a commuter train to work each day. One day, as was his usual, he was standing in the crowded car, dressed in blue jeans, T-shirt and jacket, holding onto a pole and reading a paperback. At one of the stops, two street toughs boarded, shouting and cursing and doing every obnoxious thing possible to intimidate the other riders. The officer continued to read his book, though he kept a watchful eye on the two punks as they strolled along the aisle making comments to female passengers, and banging shoulders with men as they passed.

    As they approached the officer, he lowered his novel and made eye contact with them. “You got a problem, man?” one of the IQ-challenged punks asked. “You think you’re tough, or somethin’?” the other asked, obviously offended that this one was not shirking away from them.

    “As a matter of fact, I am tough,” the officer said, calmly and with a steady gaze.

    The two looked at him for a long moment, and then without saying a word, turned and moved back down the aisle to continue their taunting of the other passengers, the sheep.

    Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

    Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers–athletes, business people and parents–from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

    “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

    “There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men.”
    – Edmund Burke
    Reflections on the Revolution in France
    Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.
    If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

    For example, many officers carry their weapons in church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs. Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to slaughter you and your loved ones.

    I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, “I will never be caught without my gun in church.” I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a police officer he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down 14 people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

    Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for “heads to roll” if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them. Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”

    The warrior must cleanse denial from his thinking. Coach Bob Lindsey, a renowned law enforcement trainer, says that warriors must practice “when/then” thinking, not “if/when.” Instead of saying,“If it happens then I will take action,” the warrior says, “When it happens then I will be ready.”

    It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

    Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: You didn’t bring your gun; you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by fear, helplessness, horror and shame at your moment of truth.

    Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot and first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, says that he knew he could die. There was no denial for him. He did not allow himself the luxury of denial. This acceptance of reality can cause fear, but it is a healthy, controlled fear that will keep you alive:

    “I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.”
    – Brigadier General Chuck Yeager
    Yeager, An Autobiography
    Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation:

    “..denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling. Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.”
    And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes.

    If you are a warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7 for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself… “Baa.”

    This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-grass sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.

  19. “The gift of aggression.” Perfectly stated. It is truly a gift, just as surgeons have the gift of not being squeamish about cutting people. It is all in how you use your gift. I have seen nothing that indicates that Kyle ever misused his gift, and yet there are sheep on this forum who make bold to criticize him. As this article correctly states, those people would almost certainly be the first to huddle behind a man like Kyle, hoping for safety, were a wolf to appear.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Your analogy is ridiculous if you would compare a surgeon to Kyle. If so, the “gift” of the relief of squeamishness for the surgeon would derive from hate of the patient – in his/her heart the patient would be a “savage” or or a “dog” – and there would be “pleasure” from cutting them, and perhaps while not disfiguring them, why not leave a scar clearly indicating you had been there?

      You seem to be missing the point that, while I have very clearly and very succinctly stated that I believe that Kyle was a gifted and exceptional Navy Seal who unquestionably saved many lives of his comrades in battle, this says nothing as to his underlying psychiatric state – which we will never know. He made, in my estimation, very disturbing comments that I have mentioned previously, but also undocumented claims that he shot and killed looters as a sniper in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I regret introducing the aspects of psychiatry into the discussion because it has been totally convoluted with personal opinions and emotional “energy” as to be pointless.

      Finally, I will say this to you: twice, in very hostile, very dangerous situations, I imposed myself to assist individuals who were in danger without giving it a thought and without hesitation. I had never been in a fight in my life. In the end, I did my job, but they were very costly “interventions” with TBI with seizures, arthroplasty of my knee, and reconstruction of my shoulder. These are lifetime consequences where I take ant-seizure meds, meds for hand tremor, etc. daily. I find your final comment a cheap convention, as the right to criticize is hardly earned from an ass-kicking, and valor is hardly all it’s cracked up to be. There is no disgrace in huddling behind men like Kyle, and shame on you for attempting to intimidate.

      • The divide between red and blue states has to do with the form of porn they most enjoy.

      • There is no disgrace in huddling behind men like Kyle, and shame on you for attempting to intimidate.

        As is often true, M. Stankovich, you miss the point.

        There is no disgrace in huddling behind men like Kyle, but shame on you for your contempt and inuendo regarding these men who stand ready to do violence so you can sleep peacefully in your bed.

        • M. Stankovich says

          No, pal, I did not miss the point. The vast majority of us lack the gift and the character to disobey our instincts and run toward the gunfire, rather than to flee. Read it again: the vast majority of us. I have relied on law enforcement to unhesitatingly have my back in the worst circumstances imaginable among the worst criminals imaginable, and they have never failed me. And such were the circumstances of my second ass-kicking, seeing an officer under attack by two inmates & the inability to let a officer be beaten down. It never crossed my mind I might be hurt. It was sufficient for help to arrive. But ultimately, the question I ask is this: should those who posses the courage to face danger be above reproach? And if I criticize an officer for mistreating one of my difficult patients, yet huddle behind them at a time of danger, am I a hypocrite and a coward? I respect and am grateful every day for the job they do. I believe it is you who has missed the point.

  20. M. Stankovich says

    From Sunday’s NY Times: How We Learned to Kill

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      I’ve read both of Col. Grossman’s books, On Killing, and On Combat, in years past. They make very interesting and sobering reading.