Category Archives: Religion

Red Egg Review

MIRACLE CURES AND OTHER TOOLS OF EXPLOITATION

The day the Affordable Care Act passed, my family breathed a collective sigh of relief. It’s hard to find anyone with an expensive chronic condition who was not joyous on that occasion. The regulations it brought forth ended such things as lifetime limits, dropping coverage on the sick, denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, sex-biased pricing and so forth. Even so, the ACA is a through and through neoliberal piece of legislation, expanding and delineating a market with the barest of regulation…
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If you haven’t read it yet, check out my article over at Red Egg Review. Read the others while you’re at it.

Between this project and life, largely the later, I’ve let this blog go dormant. I’m currently weighing whether I want to get back into blogging. We’ll see.

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Filed under Politics, Religion

Happy Nativity

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December 24, 2012 · 9:51 am

Orthodox Luddism

I was in the company of one of the monastic brothers from Moni Petra who had served as our guide throughout the day as we walked through the narrow lanes of the city in the shopping district as the warm Spring evening settled in. And insofar as we had, by then, been in a monastic environment for a few days, we were not the least chatty as the sacred hesychia of the monastery had begun to do its work. At one point, my brother turns to me and remarks; “you are uncomfortable here, father, yes?” And I had to admit that I was in the sense that the surreal aspect of modern life playing out around us stood in such stark contrast to the grounded reality of work and prayer in the monastery.

This observation led to a quiet discussion about the nature and trajectory of modern life and the yawning chasm opening up between the Church and the world as the very fabric of human society itself unravels around us. At one point, our conversation must have veered into matters technological as my brother relayed the gist of a conversation which had occurred in the monastery between Geronda Dionysios and the brotherhood wherein Geronda likened the Internet with the Apocolyptic image of “Babylon” written of by St. John the Theologian. Exegetes may bicker over the precise meaning of this image of Babylon but Geronda’s point surely stood on its own merits. The internet presents a very real problem for society today and I have come to believe that it is time to challenge the medium itself as corrupt and as a corrupting influence quite apart from any consideration about content.

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Affected spirituality, Star Trek, Hesychastism, Luddism, quiet insightful monks, misunderstood/misrepresented philosophy, this blog farewell at Again and Again in Peace has it all. It’s almost as bad as Dreher’s musings on Paris. What is it about American Orthodoxy that makes so many of us think that the most right wing, Luddite or just plain strange is a representation of the highest form of piety?

I love that he decides to use the Internet to announce that the Internet is Babylon, evil in its very essence, and that he, supposedly, won’t make any further use of it, or whatever. Perhaps he should have taken a page from Wendell Barry’s book, and learned to be consistent on the matter. That might have been better than doing something like committing a grievous sin, just to announce his intent to no longer sin grievously in said manner. Again. Is he trying to use a medium that is inherently corrupt and corrupting, despite the content, to uncorrupt his readers? Does he desire one last hurrah, one last wallowing in seediness and filth? Perhaps he just needs a little bit of “look at me.” Probably all of the above.

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Possible Homosexual Sympathizers Beats Rape Coverup

And so the spin begins…

I’m not going to get too into the OCA scandal here. Not out of piety, but simply because I expect this sort of thing out of people in power, and find it generally uninteresting. Hero worshippers are always bound for disappointment.

The one comment I do want to make is about the monstrosity of the culture warrior crowd. All of these penis, anus and vagina obsessions are, in essence, anti-human. Real victims, victims of rape, receive no sympathy in the singleminded pursuit of rooting out the suspected homosexual. There is no moral outrage at real crimes, only with regard to the imaginary “sodomite” lurking in the shadows, plotting against their Great White Hope.

Another example of this insanity is on the AOI blog, where Jacobse is calling for temperance in the comments, declaring his intent to delete any speculation on Met. Jonah’s misdeeds. Really? On the very same blog which makes unsupported, unfounded, claims of the synod’s supposed “gay agenda”?

The point that has to get their goat, more than any other, is that the “gay guy” was on the right side of this dispute. The one they so “righteously” persecuted, to the point of outing on an anonymous blog, was the moral one.

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Some Thoughts on Obamacare, Rights and so on

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With healthcare in the headlines again, with a surprisingly semi-rational ruling by the Supreme Court, we can see how the bourgeois notion of rights (or liberty, etc) have been used to predictably obfuscate the issue. One can read some “Orthodox” reactionary takes here, here, here, here.

Really, I tend to think all the “Healthcare is a Human Right” stuff to be counterproductive. There is nothing inherent about “rights.” They are not “God given” or otherwise. Rights are pure social constructs. Where ever they occur, they are simply a societal delineation of what is (in theory) universally acceptable/unacceptable, marking where one person’s freedom begins and another’s ends. What place does property rights have in a hunter-gatherer society? Similarly, at what point does it become a human right to be guaranteed modern medical care? Really the notion of inherent rights is absurd.

Since a right is a delineating line, it is no surprise that reactionaries clothe their speech in lofty words of rights, liberty and personal freedom. The healthy person does have a greater degree of freedom without universal healthcare, at the expense of the freedom of the ill, of course. The real issue at hand is; what is the moral obligation of society? That is the crux of the argument which dissipates the fog. Given that we live in a society with the wealth and resources to provide for the sick and the suffering, we must weigh the moral obligations. Is there a greater moral obligation to ensuring the greatest possible care for the sick, or to the freedom of personal responsibility for the healthy (ie, to be able to choose not to plan for future sickness, which in itself impacts a society that deems its responsibility to not allow immediate death without treatment, regardless of one’s “choice” in this regard)? The Christian answer to this question is rather obvious.

Similarly and related, we have the same question relating to society, as embodied by the government, “taking from the rich and giving to the poor” (as though the rich are rich in a vacuum unrelated to exploitation of the very same poor). We often hear the reactionary “Christian” argument about allowing the rich the right and opportunity for moral good, by allowing them instead to be philanthropic. Again, what is society’s greater moral obligation to? The moral obligation to giving the wealthy a greater opportunity for philanthropy, or the moral obligation to ensure care and a reasonable standard of living for the poor? Again, the Christian answer, the moral answer, is obvious. Leading to the case of healthcare, wherein the choice of obtaining medical insurance is really only a real choice for relatively healthy, moderately well off people. So, again, the choice/right/ liberty of one person comes at the expense of another, that is, the sick and the poor. This leads us again to the Christian moral obligation to the poor, sick and suffering, and the general lack of special obligation to the healthy and wealthy.

We don’t live in a vacuum. Our “rights” directly impact another’s. One person’s freedom comes at the expense of another’s. One’s “right to personal responsibility” comes at the price of another’s life, and when a person shrieks in terror about their liberty and dollars being taken, the question of moral responsibility shows the type of human being they are, reveals their moral worth (or, lack thereof, in this case).

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Christian Universality

We do not know if everyone followed Christ when he rose from hell, nor do we know if everyone will follow him to the eschatological heavenly kingdom when he will become “all in all.” We do know that, since Christ’s descent, the way to resurrection has been opened for “all flesh,” salvation has been granted to every human being, and the gates of paradise have been opened for all who wish to enter through them. This is the faith of the early church, inherited from the first generation of Christians and cherished by Orthodox tradition. This is the never-extinguished hope of all those who believe in Christ, who once and for all conquered death, destroyed hell, and granted resurrection to the entire human race.

-Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev, Christ the Conqueror of Hell

One of Bp. Hilarion’s closing thoughts in this book is the impact the above mentioned theological understanding of Christ’s decent into Hell has upon theodicy. If we are to look at suffering, death, etc., even to the point of divinely mandated mass death, through a lens absent of any sort of finality, where movement from one mode of existence to another does not impact one’s ability to escape hell and so forth, we can come to an understanding of God as benevolent parent, rather than manevolent judge. I think there is a lot of weight to the argument, and I hope at some point he choses to delve into the matter a little more deeply. Theodicy is generally my greatest religious obsession and “stumbling block.”

Yet, another aspect of this soteriological concept is its impact upon the very universality of Christianity. A thought that came about whilst reading the following:

This is how one should answer the standard critique of Christian universalism: what this all-inclusive attitude (recall Saint Paul’s famous “There is neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek”) involves is a thorough exclusion of those who do not agree to be included into the Christian community. In other “particularistic” religions (and even in Islam, despite its global expansionism) there is a place for others, they are tolerated, even if they are looked upon condescendingly. The Christian motto “All men are brothers,” however, also means that “Those who are not my brothers are not (even) men.” Christians usually praise themselves for overcoming the Jewish exclusivist notion of the Chosen People, and encompassing the whole of humanity—the catch here is that, in their very insistence that they are the Chosen People with a privileged direct link to God, the Jews accept the humanity of other people who celebrate their false gods, while the Christian universalism tendentially excludes nonbelievers from the very universality of humankind…
But Christian universality is not the all-encompassing global medium where there is a place for all and everyone—it is, rather, a struggling universality, the site of a constant battle. Which battle, which division? To follow Saint Paul: not the division between Law and sin, but between, on one side, the totality of Law and sin as its supplement, and, on the other, the way of Love. Christian universality is the universality which emerges at the symptomal point of those who are “part of no-part” of the global order—this is where the accusation of exclusion gets it wrong: Christian universality, far from excluding some subjects, is formulated from the position of those excluded, of those for whom there is no specific place within the existing order, although they belong to it; universality is strictly codependent with this lack of specific place/determination.
Or, to put it in a different way: the accusation against Saint Paul’s universalism misses the true site of universality: the universal dimension he opened up is not the “neither Greek nor Jew but all Christians,” which implicitly excludes non-Christians; it is, rather, the difference Christians/non-Christians itself which, as a difference, is universal, that is to say, cuts across the entire social body, splitting, dividing from within every substantial ethnic, etc., identity—Greeks are divided into Christians and non-Christians, as well as Jews. The standard accusation thus, in a way, knocks on a open door: the whole point of the Pauline notion of struggling universality is that true universality and partiality do not exclude each other, but universal Truth is accessible only from a partial engaged subjective position.

-Slavoj Zizek, The Parallax View

If we are to absolutize hell, damnation, then there is some weight to Zizek’s argument. There is the a “universalism” which is defined against the Other, the justly damned unbelievers and sinners, who never become truly human. The righteous elect, chosen by God, and the evil sinners, less than human. There cannot be a way in which we can concieve of hell and redemtion that is not openended, and yet claim that Christ redeemed human nature as such. There is then no weight to such statements as, “neither Jew nor Greek,” the concept of theosis and so forth. If human nature is redeemed, yet men are eternally damned, then the obvious conclusion is that either only part of human nature has been redeemed, only part of the world is “made new,” or that these beings are less than human – less than being, even.

So, no, the concept is not “neither Greek nor Jew but all Christians,” even if this is the view of many – esp. among Western Christianity – but rather, the concept is precisely “in Christ.” The universality of Christ is exactly that it has opened the way regardless of one’s “partial engaged subjective position.” Zizek is part of the Christian universal redeemed human nature. There is no exclusion in Orthodoxy.

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For the Fertility Cultists

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