An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
The Social Gospel The new surge of conservative Christians voting for a particular party under the banner of helping the "widows and the orphans" has got me wondering about a few things:
If I vote against the "widows and orphans" party (no matter the reasoning), do I sin in the eyes of social gospelites? Surely I must! If I vote or encourage my reps to vote against a particular "widows and orphans" ballot measure or bill (no matter my reasoning), do I sin in the eyes of social gospelites? Surely I must! For if they apply the commands of Christ as ordering them to vote FOR such things, do I not logically, in their minds and hearts sin by voting contrarily?
For you see, more and more I find my vote is NOT coming as much from a Christian conscience (or at least surely not from an idea that I am fulfilling my Christian duty) - because what we have before us is FAR from a Christian government or even a Christian majority - but rather my voting is coming from a simple understanding of what I believe to be a faithfulness to the original intent of our government: what is going to work best and what is going to guarantee freedom in most every sense of the word to the individual. Would I ask a government and society, which is largely hostile to my personal beliefs, to actualize my beliefs and perform the duties my personal beliefs dictate with any hope that they will do so faithfully? Not on your life. No more than I would ask and expect a committed hedonist to practice chastity.
Just today I heard a friend tell me the story of how one Sunday he had trouble getting his daughter out of bed for Church. After much-to-do about it all, the child was forced to make the pilgrimage. (I'm familiar with this struggle from time to time). However the following day, ironically, for some reason a topic was raised in class to discuss some of the things that the kids' parents made them do which they did not wish to do and this particular child noted her being forced to go to church. The teacher (an employee of the state) instigated an investigation by CPS (an entity of the state) because this child was forced out of bed and into some involuntary form of religious indoctrination. Now, of course, this case was abandoned by CPS...but friends, given the state of our society how much faith do you have that we will never reach the point when the state will "liberate" our children from their involuntary indoctrination at Church?
Oh yes, we may feed the hungry and clothe the poor, but we'd better think long and hard about the ENTITY we are asking to fulfill these gospel commands on our behalf. This is the same entity that kills our unborn children and feeds on them to sustain the living (embryonic stem cell research) - even seeking to grow them up, Matrix style, and live upon them for ages and ages. This is the entity that sponsors - with your money - art that readily desecrates your religion in ways that ought to bring tears to your eyes. This is the entity that will teach your pre-schoolers about "Tommy's two Dads" but will refuse to let your children reference God publicly in its presence. This is the entity that will ever erode your rights as a parent in favor of its ideal for sociological bliss as defined by the state and its collective ideal of absolute moral relativity. This is the entity that embraces and gives birth to all that we hold to be contrary to the enlightened teachings of the Church. Shall we entrust in it the mandate given unto us? Never. It is absurd. We are in the world, but not of it.
This admonition is NOT just for those leaning liberally with notions of a social gospel. Friends, I truly believe that we all must recognize that the government is not here to force people into believing that homosexuals should not marry any more than it is here to convince us that we should be clothing the poor. More and more, given the overall leaning of our society (in a direction that is decidedly anti-Christian) I believe the best thing we can do is assure our individual rights with as little governmental interference as possible. I truly believe that the more you seek to rely on the government, the more we are ultimately going to regret it.
And from an Orthodox perspective...nothing demonstrates this better than the fact that in our wedding service there is never ANY part wherein the Priest (pastor) says: "By the power vested in me by the state of __________, I now pronounce you man and wife." Oh no...the state doesn't marry ANYONE! God, through His Church, does. I, personally, think this speaks volumes.
Now, you know perfectly well how much I'd like to have prayer as part of my sons' school days, as well as a catechism.
But you said "but will refuse to let your children reference God publicly in its presence." According to the principal at their school, they are allowed to discuss religion in a classroom setting, as long as they initiate, and the teacher does not advocate. For example, Patrick (in public school K) brought his icon of St. Patrick, for the predictable day last week. He gave a very brief hagiography, and explained that this was a special picture of the saint. Believe me, I asked the teacher beforehand if this was acceptable. She repeated the "student-only initiation" line.
Although it's far from my ideal situation (notice the "my), the boys are at least allowed to discuss.
I suspect at present the situation and policy will vary from school to school, district to district and state to state. Probably largely driven by the extent to which said entities fear lawsuits and the extent to which such lawsuits will be successful based on the entity hearing them. Hmmm...not sure I made sense there...but anyway it is great that Patrick could do that!