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.
Now before y'all get your nether garments in a wad, let me distance myself from anything this guy has written...I am reserving my opinion for the moment. I will say however that I am not sure Mr. Tooley is qualified to really understand Orthodoxy or Russia's cultural/political relationship with the Church. Having a Patron Saint for Nuclear Bomber Pilots seemds odd to us (Americans) for any number of reasons not the least of which being that we generally do not do Patron Saints and we haqve no history whatsoever of mixing our political identity with a PARTICULAR and SPECIFIC religious tradition.
All of that said, I am interested in learning more about Saint Fyodor Ushakov. Fans of POB and the Age of Sails might be especially intrgiued as well. More HERE.
OK, I can't stop myself. The interesting question is whether there are things that the Church cannot bless. If there is such a group of things, I am guessing that Nuclear Bomber pilots has to be one of them. Of course, the existence of such pilots can be justfied by the need for defence. The whole thing gets rather legalistic.
I much prefer the Church being separate from the state so I can admire and respect those who have chosen to defend me while at the same time not having the Church doing legalistic back flips to support the state.
I tend to see this as a sort of service for the servicemen and women in the bomber force, who have as much need for a Patron as Bakers I suppose. I'm not sure....it may depend on what exactly it means to have a Patron for such things...perhaps not a cheerleader leading you on to bomb people?
Someone said this on another blog: "if you properly read about St. Fyodor Ushakov, his role is to make sure nuclear weaponry is not used or if used, used responsibly and for the greater good."
James is on the right track. A Patron is not a cheerleader, but an example and guardian. The Orthodox Church has always understood that armies and battles are a part of the life of a fallen world. At every service we pray for the civil authorities and armed forces.
However, I strongly disagree with some Orthodox who have suggested that we have any theology of "just war." War is always mixed with sin. Death is always tragic. However, both may be necessary.
Here's something from the Divine Liturgy which, for me, best sums up the position of the Church:
Remember, O Lord, this [God-protected]land, the President [or Tsar/Emperor/King], all civil authorities, and those who serve in the armed forces; grant them peaceful times, that we also in their tranquility may lead a calm and quiet life in all piety and sobriety.
It's our call to recognize the state as God-given and pray that it is peaceful and godly. In a fallen world, armies and weapons are part of the package.
The state is God given? Ur, Fr. Christopher, are you sure you want to call Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union God given? So, uh, God sanctions death camps? Heck, if that is the case than adultery and stealing must be fine as well.
The problem with all these discussions is that they become rather legalistic. Legalism merely satisfies those who want to justify whatever they happen to be doing. From sad personal experience, I know that when I feel justified, I am at the edge of cliff.
Yes, the state is God-given, despite the sinful behavior of some statesmen (Rom. 13). Similarly, the family is God-given, despite the sinful behavior of some parents. Neither will exist in the afterlife, if I understand correctly --- at least not in their present form.
I believe Patrick has the right answer. I'd only add that from the Orthodox perspective, all things are from God. Furthermore, nothing is outside of the control of God. This does not mean that "God sanctions death camps." His love gives us free will. We make destructive and sinful choices. However, if God is all-merciful then we trust that He can and will make even the most sinful things turn out for the good.
The earliest Christians prayed for the Rome emperors who were persecuting them. The blood of those martyrs is the life of the Church.
What I'm saying is precisely not "legalistic." God is immensely bigger than our simple categories of good and evil. We give glory to God for all things, even when we're like Job sitting on the dung heap.
Since you bring it up, while the martyrs prayed for the Emperor and tried to be good citizens in most ways, they did not cooperate with the offering of incense to the Emperor. Why not? Remember your state is God given therefore the command of the state is a command from God is it not?
Of course it is not. There are limits to the state. The state is God given in the sense that the weather is God given. Not everything the state does can be blessed.
Of course there are limits to the state. Of course a state can do many things which the Church could never bless. My point never was that the Church should or even could bless everything the state does. This might seem like splitting hairs, but blessing soldiers and blessing nuclear bombings are two entirely different things.
The Russian Church is blessing those called to defend the state in which She abides. This is normal and good. She also offers prayers that her rulers might be godly and just and that the Church may live in peace. Again, this is normal and good.
Whether or not the rulers fulfill that role is an entirely different matter.
With regard to Romans 13, you can find many passages in Chrysostom, Basil and other fathers that affirm that Christians should be obedient to their rulers, however they are also careful to say that obedience must end when asked to violate one of God's commandments (not just the ten).
"It is right to submit to a higher authority whenever a command of God is not violated thereby." St. Basil from The Morals 79.1
Interesting stuff...I think keeping in mind what you say here Father: "blessing soldiers and blessing nuclear bombings are two entirely different things" is likely to add a more reasonable perspective for some who would find it abhorrent that military units have patron saints.
You know, one thing I noticed while down in So Cal, that during the litany when we pray for the armed forces, they have this: “For our armed forces everywhere, that He will aid them and grant them victory over every enemy and adversary, let us pray to the Lord.”
As I understand it, this latter part about victory, is sometimes included during time of war? I've never heard it ANYWHERE (not that I have a great deal of experience) except at St. Barnabas. Given the complexities of the political climate, this is especially interesting in an Antiochian Parish (i.e. how does one opposed to what the military is currently doing interpret such a prayer for victory?)
Surviving? A bit of a stretch I think. The prayer no doubt originates from a time when political and social unity was easier to come by, whether this is for good or bad.
I find myself quite as ease with the notion of Russian Air Force Pilots having St. Fyodor Ushakov as their Patron. We might note that St. Fyodor would not have become a saint where his only merits found on the seas in battle. No, it was his life after the Navy, a life of giving, love, and sacrifice that endeared him to people.
I intend to learn more about him. On and off the seas.
The problem with nuclear bomber pilots is that if (heaven forbid!) they ever fly a mission in a war it is against civilians. Not only is it against civilians in an enemy country but there will be millions of casualties from the fallout caused by the bombs.
So am I glad these guys are on the job. Yes. Do I think the Church can really bless what they would do? No. I leave it to you guys to rationalize the blessing of such a catastrophe.
wouldn't those same pilots need our prayers for the personal fallout that such a horrible act generated in their own life? Can I not pray for their salvation and the salvation of all those they killed without condoning the evil of that execution?
Could you really be suggesting that there is no prayer or sanctification to redeem the consequences of the fall?
It is admittedly a thornier problem when you're talking about thermonuclear devices. Speaking as one who served on the big Fleet Ballistic Missile subs during the Cold War, I can only say those of us who were men of faith (and even some of those who weren't) prayed daily that we never went to nuclear battle stations for real. We were there (at least in our way of thinking) as a deterrent, in order to ensure that the unthinkable remained (it was to be hoped) unthinkable. Well, in retrospect, it worked, but we had a few moments when....
I suggest that it depends on exactly what the Church is blessing. I think she's blessing the deterrent role that such military jobs play. Would she bless the actual use of these weapons? I doubt it.
Of course we should pray for the people involved. After all, they are serving us. In many ways they make our life possible. Does anyone think that the Soviets would have been so well behaved if there was not such deterrence? I am quite certain there are dictators out there today that are better behaved as a result of such deterrence. Patrick, thank you for your service to our country that allowed me to live my tiny self obsessed life.
On the other hand, the problem I have is with the Church treating this like it is the same as a being a baker. It isn't. Treating it like it is denies the complete horror of the situation.