Orthodox Social Thought and the Prophets

[T]he law and the prophets were until John: the law, that its transgressors might desire salvation; the prophets, that they might foretell the Saviour. –  St. Augustine of Hippo One might think that after the Lord himself freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and gave them the Law, conquering Canaan would be a cakewalk. Despite some clear warning signs in Numbers, by the end of Deuteronomy things feel a bit like that song from the Lego Movie: “Everything is Awesome.” What could go wrong? Well … everything. Sure, the story of Israel from Joshua to the…

Holy Week and The New Media Epidemic

  Holy Week is upon us in the Orthodox Church. We have celebrated the confirmation of the universal resurrection in our Lord’s raising up of his friend Lazarus, four days in the tomb. We have also cried out with the children running before our Lord in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Last evening we returned to Church to contemplate the approach of the Bridegroom. The troparion still rings in my ears. Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant He shall find vigilant; but unworthy is he whom he…

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…

Orthodox Social Thought and Biblical Theology

To search the Scriptures is a work most fair and most profitable for souls. For just as the tree planted by the channels of waters, so also the soul watered by the divine Scripture is enriched and gives fruit in its season, viz. orthodox belief, and is adorned with evergreen leafage, I mean, actions pleasing to God. – St. John of Damascus Growing up Evangelical (I’m a convert to Orthodoxy), I sang a lot of songs about the Bible. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with that—the Bible is great! (Turns out, we Orthodox have one, too.) However,…

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…