Guilt and Shame – What’s The Difference?

There is a very handy saying that differentiates between guilt and shame. Guilt is about what I have done – shame is about who I am. They are not unrelated, particularly in a culture in which what we do is often given as an answer to the question, “Who are you?” Traditional American culture has often been described as “guilt-based,” in that Protestant religious thoughts centered on goodness as responsibility for our…

Morality, Shame, and the Acquisition of Virtue

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” (Matthew 6:3) The experience of shame has many dynamics, permeating the larger part of human behavior. Though some psychologists have dubbed it the “master emotion” it is often unacknowledged and unrecognized. It should come as no surprise that much that is described as “morality” has little to do with the acquisition of…

Forged in the Fires of a Dying Sun

Today I stood at the altar and marveled at the gold of the chalice. It is, of course, supremely blessed, holding (as it does) the very Blood of God. But I was simply thinking of its journey to that altar, its transformation, indeed, its transmutation. If the science of cosmology is followed, then heavy elements such as gold have a very unique origin. The free elements of the universe such as simple…

And Justice for All – The Heart’s True Desire

The scene was clear: three men were beating another man who had been handcuffed. The injustice of the situation was clear. No danger could possibly be seen coming from the handcuffed man, and no reason could be discerned for the beating. The man with the handcuffs was black, though he need not have been. The officers were white, though they need not have been. It made me feel sick. I recall a…

The Sins of A Nation

This is a reposting of an article from several years back. Its thoughts seem appropriate for our present time as a nation. I pray it is of some help. Can a nation ever sin? If so, how can it be forgiven? The stories and prophetic writings of the Old Testament are replete with examples of national sin. There are certainly stories of God dealing with individuals, but, on the whole, His attention…

The Violence of Modernity

The calm voice at the helm says, “Make it so…” and with it, the mantra of modernity is invoked. The philosophy that governs our culture is rooted in violence, the ability to make things happen and to control the outcome. It is a deeply factual belief. We can indeed make things happen, and, in a limited way, control their outcome. But we soon discover (and have proven it time and again) that…

It Is Good to Be Here

A few days ago, after hearing a very distressing bit of social news, I found myself saying, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” It was a voice of despair and sadness. The occasion had been a public altercation in which a stranger spat at a woman. It was the sort of thing that belongs among the lowest of human actions. But it happened. My topic is my own reaction. I found…

Can You Forgive Someone Else’s Enemies?

I have written from time to time about the concept expressed in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, “Forgive everyone for everything.” It is a quote taken from the fictional Elder Zosima, but it is certainly a sentiment well within the bounds of Orthodox Christian thought. I have been challenged from time to time by people arguing that we cannot forgive those who have not sinned against us – that this right belongs only to…

Have a Dickens of a Christmas

In the late 1600’s in colonial Boston, the celebration of Christmas was against the law. Indeed, anyone evidencing the “spirit of Christmas” could be fined five shillings. In the early 1800’s, Christmas was better known as a season for rioting in the streets and civil unrest. However, in the mid-1800’s some interesting things changed the cultural response to the feast and, in 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday (which is to…

The Morality of Christmas

You might be thinking that it’s too early to hear about Christmas – Thanksgiving is yet a couple of weeks away. However, for the Orthodox, the Nativity Fast began on November 15. It is already time to give our thoughts to Christmas – our Winter Pascha. This article (a reprint) reflects on a theme that has been present in my thoughts for several years. I pray it will be of use as…