This blogging venture has gone through many title revisions. Some were vague. Others were forgettable. Hopefully we have landed upon a title which captures the spirit and mission of this blog. We aim to take “Every Thought Captive” to the obedience of Jesus Christ. As Orthodox Christians we are guided by the Scriptures and the sacred tradition of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church. But this is not a simple cut, copy, and paste job. This is especially true when it comes to discussions of the social and political ramifications of the faith, the proposed focus of this blog. If the preaching of the kingdom in St. Paul’s apostolic journeys effectively turned the world upside down then we can expect the impact of the teachings of the Church to overthrow the settled opinions of the status quo, within certain realms of the Church herself as much as spaces outside her precincts.
The very act of taking something captive implies struggle. This space will welcome the struggle and exhibit wrestling with the ideas and presuppositions of our age. This struggle to take every thought captive implies that the posts here are not the definitive word on every topic. There is definitive content to the moral teachings of the Orthodox Church, but how all of that specifically affects Christian’s thoughts about politics, economics, society, law, and many other aspects of modern life is not immediately clear. Varied voices loyal to the teachings of the Orthodox Church will be exhibited, and some of them will very specifically and vociferously disagree with each other. But these will be disagreements about tactics or how to faithfully witness to the kingdom, not the exhibition of dissenting voices that campaign or push for the Orthodox Church to alter her historic teachings. Faithfulness to the teachings, doctrines, and traditions of the Orthodox Church is assumed here. The struggle is how to explicate and apply these teachings to the here and now, to our embodying of these truths in a world captive to alien and hostile forces, a fact plainly seen in the Scriptures and life of the Church throughout the past few millennia.
Paul’s language of taking every thought captive is absolutely militaristic language. He aims to wage warfare in order to pull down the strongholds and to cast down arguments which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4-6). We too are unabashed in our desire to actively expose and dismantle all thoughts, ideologies, and practices which emanate from the tower of Babel and not from the fiery tongues of Pentecost. The tone of this blog will also echo St Paul’s boldness. Bold speech regarding the challenges the Orthodox Church faces here in North America is required. I, as a presbyter of the Orthodox Church, have a duty to defend, guard, and explain the deposit of truth found within the bosom of the Church. Boldness does not mean speaking without kindness or humility. But bold faithful speech about the kingdom of God versus the kingdoms of this earth does not always end up being “nice”, “polite”, or even “agreeable”. This does not amount to “trolling” or the extremities of tone deaf rhetoricians widely accessible to us via the internet. It does amount to an upfront confession that we will be “going there” at various times for the sake of the kingdom. Dancing around these issues without clarity serves no one. So I am not interested in bowing and joining a polite dance around truth when truth is being intentionally ignored for the sake of false peace.
This illuminates my choice of using El Greco’s Purification of the Temple for the banner image of this blog. In the painting our Lord, like a living fire, clears the temple of the worldly encroachments. Not the meek and mild Jesus, but the Lion of Judah. To his right, our left, turmoil reigns as they reel from his presence. Above them we see our parents Adam and Eve being driven from the Garden. To Jesus’s left, St. Peter kneels in contemplation and stands under the sign of Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac. Our Lord’s presence within His Temple is a restoration of the temple to its pristine and original beauty, the pattern as given to Moses, a place of encounter and prayer. This restoration, this cleansing, is a constant in the life of the Church – if we allow the Lion of Judah to truly enter and turn over some of our choice tables. We like St. Peter should kneel and contemplate our Lord’s cleansing of the Temple.1
Who is behind Every Thought Captive?
You may already be tuning out. Saying to yourself, “Ok, this is another reactionary and conservative voice entering the fray…another talking head…a self-confident keyboard warrior who happens to be ordained…” Maybe other thoughts are percolating. As the curator and main contributor to this blog – I should share a bit about myself. I am an Orthodox priest who serves a parish in the Diocese of the South (OCA). I do not map on to any contemporary political party or movement. I am politically and socially dedicated to witnessing and manifesting the kingdom of God as much as I possibly can. I have read and been convicted by what I will deem “eclectic Marxists”, e.g. Alasdair Macintyre and Herbert McCabe, some advocates of Liberation Theology (e.g. Guitterez) or political theology (Johann Baptist Metz), but generally exist somewhere in the space in which the following would share a beer or coffee: Russell Kirk, Nikolai Berdyaev, ChesterBelloc, St. Maria of Paris, Wendell Berry, Patrick Deneen, E.F. Schumacher, or Dorothy Day. I am devoted to holistic politics, concerned more with quality of local life and thriving families than I am with belt-way gossip or procedures. I would like to think of myself as a “third-way” thinker, but realize the pitfalls and challenges of attempting a “way above the fray.”
I will not be the only contributor to this space. I hope to exhibit faithful Orthodox Christians who themselves are working their thoughts out from their basic convictions. I may not agree with every line presented here, but I will stand by reasonably worked out presentations of social or political thinking that has been informed by the Orthodox faith. If you would like to submit something to this effort, please let me know.
Follow, Subscribe, and Share!
In order for us to take every thought captive we must work carefully, faithfully, and diligently to understand the inheritance of the Orthodox Church. Due to the challenges of the democratization and accessibility of everyone’s opinions thanks to the Internet, especially due to Twitter and YouTube, we are awash in opinions. Opinions of various credibility and of dubious provenance. Even opinions minted by Doctoral degrees. It is our hope to not join the cacophony that exists. Rather, we hope to provide clear, dogmatically informed, theologically acute, and pastorally sensitive pieces which radiate the light and hope of the kingdom of God.
May the Lion of Judah cleanse our hearts and set aright our minds.