Analyzing the Hartford Appeal – Part 1

On April 1, 1975 Worldview Magazine published “An Appeal for Theological Affirmation: The Hartford Statement”. The themes of this Appeal were first thought up on evening in January 1974 at the home of Peter Berger, an eminent and respected sociologist. There Richard John Neuhaus and Berger, with great fun, made up a list of major themes in mainline Protestantism that irritated them. The irritation came from what they saw as serious problems arising from the assumptions being made in so much Christian engagement with public life in the United States. They shared this list with a…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Gospel, Part 1

What then could ever be equal to these good tidings? God on earth, man in Heaven; and all became mingled together, angels joined the choirs of men, men had fellowship with the angels, and with the other powers above: and one might see the long war brought to an end, and reconciliation made between God and our nature … and hope abundant touching things to come.  St. John Chrysostom When people today want to share their thoughts about a recent TV show or movie, they often say “spoiler alert” to warn others that, if they haven’t…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Biblical Writings

[W]hen we are fully conscious of our own foolishness, and have felt the helplessness and destitution of our reason, then through the counsels of Divine Wisdom we shall be initiated into the wisdom of God; setting no bounds to boundless majesty and power, nor tying the Lord of nature down to nature’s laws. – St. Hilary of Poitiers American writer Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five tells the story of the Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II, which Vonnegut, held by the Nazis there as a prisoner of war, survived. Thousands of civilians died, and…

Medicine in the Machine

I was recently in the emergency room with the family of a parishioner who had had an unexpected medical emergency. After waiting a while for the results of the procedure a man abruptly appeared clad in the iconic medical digs. This was obviously the person we were anxiously looking to hear from. Before we received the eagerly anticipated news, I was given the once over. For, of course, I was clad in cassock and cross. Our eyes were not to meet again. What happened in the next two and half minutes is something to which I…

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…