Orthodox Social Thought and the Law of Moses

“The knowledge of what is good and what is not … is an original and fundamental part of our nature, and … the Law of Moses praises it, and getteth praise from it….”  St. John Chrysostom I recently ran across an amusing meme on social media that went like this: Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai carrying the two stone tablets engraved by the finger of God with the Ten Commandments, and a thought bubble comes from the crowd below, saying, “Whew! Glad my name’s not ‘Thou.’” When we think of the Law of Moses, we…

The Challenges of Technology: A New Series

Critically reflecting and commenting upon the deleterious effects of television, computers, video games, smart phones, and all sorts of new smart gadgets is nothing new. Jeremiads are an incredibly popular genre. I myself am partial to them. I mean, who doesn’t love a good lament?!? Jeremiads especially come to mind having just read “There are Spying Eyes Everywhere – And Now They Share a Brain.” We apparently now have the computing skills to be able to fuse all sorts of information feeds and technologies so as to have an all seeing eye of surveillance trained on…

Marriage as communion: strangers in a strange land

In the previous entry in this series, I discussed the idea in Saint John Chrysostom’s homilies of marriage as freedom, but as freedom paradoxically defined as mutual service. From this idea of freedom-as-mutual-service, which is the idea of the marriage as a miniature church, we can begin to see how the importance of communion arises. The distinction between unity and communion is a subtle one, but it is important to Saint John and important for our purposes. It consists in the analogous Liturgical difference between the Holy Mysteries of Baptism and of the Eucharist. The process…

Freedom in Marriage

In the prior essay on marriage and the theme of unity, we explored a bit how Saint John Chrysostom might answer the critics of marriage and family, who level against the institution of marriage the charges that it is too atomising and too alienating. We have seen from Saint John’s writings that the standard for marriage is that of a complete dissolution of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, even at the level of the body and the breath. But how do we answer the charges we saw before, that marriage and the family are too stifling, too conformist,…

Orthodoxy and the Social Gospel

“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 Many high school students in my generation shared the experience of having to read selections from Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle. The book describes the tragic story of Lithuanian immigrants working under harrowing conditions in Chicago’s meat processing industry. Sinclair hoped it would serve as a sort of tract for socialism—the book even ends with the protagonist having an “altar call” experience at a political meeting, becoming a socialist, and then…

Orthodoxy and Lutheran Social Thought

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 In 1987, rock star, sex symbol, and later literal symbol Prince released a song replete with apocalyptic overtones: “Sign o’ the Times.” The events of the year provided a powerful backdrop—the AIDS crisis (“In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name”), gang violence, drug addiction, natural disasters (“Hurricane Annie ripped…

Orthodoxy and Neo-Calvinist Social Thought

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18 Who said it? “The man of faith acts, not as one endowed with free will, but as a beast that is led by the will of God.” Martin Luther? John Calvin? No, the answer is St. Peter of Damascus, from the Philokalia. He goes on to pray, “Do what Thou wilt to Thy creature; for I believe that, being good, Thou bestowest blessings on me, even if I do not recognize that they are for my…

The wedge issue for Orthodoxy? Usury!?

“What must be implemented is not a ‘steadily expanding economy,’ but a zero-growth economy, a stable economy. Economic growth is not only unnecessary but ruinous…we must renounce, as a matter of urgency, the gigantic scale of modern technology in industry, agriculture, and urban development …” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Orthodoxy’s principled objection to Communism is widely known and understood and, given that Eastern Orthodoxy was the religious tradition that bore the brunt of the Marxist-Leninist assault upon religion and Christian culture, the fact that the vast majority of Orthodox thinkers have been profoundly distrustful of the political left…

Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic Social Thought

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” John 19:5 In a famed episode of The Twilight Zone in 1962, aliens known as Kanamits make first contact with earth, claiming that they come in peace. They offer advanced technology that eliminates famine, disease, and war. When they go, they leave behind a book, written in their undecipherable alien language. Naturally, the cryptographists get to work decoding it, led by scientist Michael Chambers. While some responded with skepticism toward the Kalamits’ mission, their technology works. A new era…

Books are Technology, Too

In his famous poem, “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” Rainer Maria Rilke writes about the experience of looking at a great piece of art. His point is that great art looks at us, too; we find ourselves observed, questioned and judged. I argue that this is as true of literary art as of sculpture. What will we do after we close the book? The last line of Rilke’s poem tells us, “You must change your life.” The same Orthodox Christians who rightly express concern over the dangers of gaming or the number of hours being spent in…