An Orthodox Christian’s Guide to American Politics
Orthodox Christians in America are living in a unique place and time. Since the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts, Orthodox Christians have often found themselves at odds with secular governments. Finally, a nation in the western hemisphere appears which, while not an Orthodox (or heterodox, for that matter) Christian nation, is committed to ideals of freedom, religious liberty, self government, and resistance to tyranny from a central state. Wary of a monarchy, America commits to a separation of powers, and the colonists have little to fear for many years from bureaucrats and politicians from a land far away, known as Washington.
Within a hundred years of its founding, an American president wages war on a state which exercises its right of secession, suspends habeus corpus for citizens, jails judges and political opponents, and presides over the deaths of over 600,000 people. The precedent for presidential abuse of power had been set, and would only lead to further unconstitutional power grabs. Woodrow Wilson set the modern day war machine in motion, gave us the Federal Reserve, and ostensibly waged a war on private capital. Franklin Roosevelt gave us The New Deal, Lyndon Johnson gave us The Great Society, and Americans, Orthodox or not, now find the tentacles of government latching on to every facet of our lives.
For many Americans, theirs is a Pavlovian response to any crisis, real or imagined, and that is to instantly look to Washington for the answer. The Golden Calf has become the latest edict from the White House, wherein many believe salvation is found. It was never the intent of the founders of our nation that the presidency be a seat of imperialism, with its occupant circumventing any hint of restraint from other branches of government, miring our nation in pointless, unconstitutional wars, flaunting privileges, using executive orders to govern, bypassing congress, and generally abusing his power.
But this is where we are. And if it is not enough that we are endlessly at war, over $15 trillion dollars in debt, overtaxed, over regulated, and now at the risk of the president using the American military at his pleasure to indefinitely detain any American, the latest obscenity is his insistence that religious institutions provide free birth control to employees.
Is this a tirade against Barack Obama? It is an effort to demonstrate how the presidency has devolved into a devilish form of tyranny, with the congress ostensibly aiding and abetting the offender. It is a pattern established long ago, now flagrant in its excesses, all masks off, any attempt to conceal the true intentions of those in power cast aside.
What should the response to such abuses be? For the Orthodox Christian, or for any American who has the slightest infatuation for liberty, we must remember the words of our Lord:
“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (St. Luke 16:13)
America is where She is because we have become complacent about the liberties we have largely lost, with many sacrificing the birthright of freedom for a bowl of government-funded mush. Many have “placed their trust in princes and sons of men,” opting out of personal responsibility.
The modern welfare / warfare state is not sustainable. The former is rooted in envy and theft, and is an assault against the Christian concept of charity. Indeed, the pattern was set forth in the early Church, where those who possessed the love of Christ willingly brought their possessions, sans coercion, and laid them at the feet of the Apostles. Today, we see the result of the Johnson War on Poverty, which has bred a generation of able-bodied Americans who could work, but will not, believing that government exists to provide every need – and want, cradle to grave. The admonition of Christ to care for the poor was done to the exclusion of any Caesar; be he Roman or American. Abdication of our responsibility before Christ to any secular entity is to defer His instructions to us to a Christless leviathan whose efforts are not only unconstitutional, but are in no way rooted in love and compassion.
How then should the American Orthodox Christian approach government? It would seem to make sense to embrace any policy which would effectively minimize the role of government in our lives. From health care, to education, to energy, environment, housing: government mangles everything it involves itself in. Consider:
Was there agriculture before we had a Department of Agriculture?
Was there energy before we had a Department of Energy?
Was there commerce before we had a Department of Commerce?
Was there education before we had a Department of Education?
Rather than placing our faith in government, as Orthodox Christians, should our devotion not first be to Christ, His Church, and one another? If we automatically defer to secular government to sustain us in all areas of life, are we not failing to heed the words of Saint John Chrysostom? Does it not behoove us as Orthodox Christians who find ourselves living in these United States to elect representatives who will do all within their power to minimize the role of government in our lives, thereby abiding by the vow they make to abide by the constitution, a document which exists to protect the liberties of the American people by constraining the very government which now finds itself at odds with the very principles it exists to uphold?
Indeed, no one can serve two masters. Hence, it would seem incumbent on us to do all within our power to see one of these Masters greatly reduced in size, and importance.