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.
Anyway, I am firmly entrenched with Clifton (Benedict-Seraphim) on this one and you likely know. I, personally, do not want the government handling my Christian duties for me. But Clifton argues this issue in a much loftier way than I can and I will quote one brief section that really struck me in the comments:
I cannot stress enough how applicable Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” is, in it insight, to this newly popular “Christian activism” phenomenon, whether that activism be of the right or the left. For whatever reason, Christians today, at least in the U.S., seem hell bent on programing over duty. If Christians simply did their rightful duties obliged them by Christ, there would be no need for this chiliastic activism. And when it comes to social activism there is such a spirit of self-righteousness, and self-satisfaction, and little overt repentance from moral evil and little prayer (again on both right and left), as though somehow, by engaging in “activism” we have done our Christian duty. And yet, how many who sloganeer, march, blog, write their congressman, and so on, can even put together a list of names of persons whom they’ve personally clothed, given a cup of cold water and so forth? And if they can put together such a list, the next question is: did they really need an “activist” program or group to do so? Or were they living in such a way as to share life with the poor, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned?
And also this:
Rather, what I’m opposing is the notion, buried in such activist expressions, that somehow our doing these sorts of things realizes or actualizes the Kingdom on earth. Look, the Kingdom is already here. It is already actualized and, in a sense, realized–most certainly at every Eucharist. We don’t need to “transform government structures” or “institute a more just society.” We need transformed government servants, and transformed persons in institutions.
The mission of Nomadelfia is to create a new society based upon the Gospel. I understand the merit of personally giving a thirsty child a glass of water. To touch a hurting world is to feel love and compassion in increasing measure. But I don't think we should create a world of thirsty children so such love can exist. I guess it is kind of a paradox, but to work for a world where there are no thirsty children is clearly noble, however, I also recognize that this will take away opportunities to give thirsty children glasses of water. I guess I don't see the world ever being short of pain and great need. In Italy the separation of Church and State is not always made, and I see this as a good thing. Wherever the Church is allowed to have influence then humanity benefits. I am all for society becoming better, whether it is through virtuous government or virtuous people. The more virtue the better.
One of the documents of Vatican II is called Gaudium et Spes. It is widely considered the most beautiful document of the council and it is about the relationship of the Church to the modern world. I think you can safely say that the Catholic Church values both institutional and personal virtue. We pray and work for God's kingdom to be manifest in this world as it is in heaven.
I guess I don't see the world ever being short of pain and great need.
Indeed, neither did our Lord. The Kingdom of Heaven is already here, though, so we cannot work it into existence through our own efforts or through our voting. Christ has already done this. Our job is to open our eyes and the eyes of others through our own actions.
Anyway, I firmly believe that no government is ever going to end poverty, but some will do a better job of creating an environment in which individuals can do a better job of curbing it than a governmental program could ever hope to do. And, of course, as I've always said it is decidedly unchristian to force others to give charity....but maybe that's just the libertarian in me.
That, of course, is my two opinionated cents. There's plenty that can be done here in my own heart, here in my own house, here around my neighborhood, here at my Parish, and here in my city...I need not wait until 2008 to do my "Christian duty."
Which is why I found Clifton's words so poignant to me personally. For all the talk fo changing the world and doing this and doing that...could we even NAME a single person we have helped in recent memory?
Save for some cash I let loose in Uganda...I cannot.