Civilizations and the Kingdom

I give thanks to God that priests are forbidden to hold political office – not that I would ever be elected – but that I would never want to stand in the place where my Christian faith was so torn – between what I might think good for the state and what would seem obedient to God. Anyone who sits in such a position needs prayer – whether they are Christian or not.

Someone recently shared an article with me in which the author was commenting on a growing sense of connection between the powers that be in Russia and the historical legacy of Byzantium. These are simply natural thoughts for an Orthodox Christian – particularly one living in an historically Orthodox nation. But they are filled with contradictions and dangerous delusions.

Equally delusional is our own American mythology, with its Puritan heritage and its confusion of America with the Kingdom of God (or something like that). We dare not think ourselves less tempted by religious fantasy.

There have been moments of clarity in Orthodox civilizations that properly inspire and call to the imagination. There have been terrible times of betrayal and persecution which can also create a sense of isolation and unique privilege before God.

But in the end – whether in Russia, America, or anywhere else on earth, the call is the same: to know, love and live in communion with God. This is not a political destiny but the destiny of the human race. It is only made more complicated by utopian dreams or visions of empire. The repentance of nations, a theme that runs through some of the essays of Solzhenitsyn, is a very rare thing indeed. I do not know if I have ever witnessed such a thing. I know that a nation will not live in repentance unless I live in repentance.

And I return to a thought that I’ve mentioned before – the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The prayers of the righteous somehow hold everything before God and play a vital role in their existence. In a political season, it seems to me, my thought should be less about who will win, or who should win, or even how I will vote – but whether I will pray – and pray in such a manner that I feeble words have contributed to the continued existence and even well-being of our world. The world needs God as I need God. Who will pray for the world? Who will pray for me?

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





5 responses to “Civilizations and the Kingdom”

  1. Fr. Paul Hodge Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Can you send me a link (or a copy) of the article “in which the author was commenting on a growing sense of connection between the powers that be in Russia and the historical legacy of Byzantium”?

    I am presenting a talk to a local undergraduate class this Friday about the renewal of religion (specifically Orthodox Christianity) in the lands that were formerly under Soviet influence. It sounds like that article might me helpful. And even if not, I’d be interested to read it for my own edification.


  2. Mark Avatar

    Thank you Father. I was just having conversation with my wife disparring over the political system here in America. You have no idea how much I needed to here your call to pray. Truly it is our best and only hope.


  3. Mark A Hershberger Avatar

    Long ago, I realized that politicians weren’t the answer.

    This year, I came up with an expression for my feelings: I’m glad my hope is not in the politicians.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    Fr. Paul,

    The article can be found here.

  5. Michael P Bauman Avatar
    Michael P Bauman

    My study of history led me to the Orthodox Church, or more properly, Jesus used my study to lead me to the Church. It is quite obvious to me that people get the type of government they want. How we are governed as a people is the fruit of our virtue or lack thereof.

    That is not to say there are not holy people in unholy states, certainly there are by the grace of God. However, a government guided by virture is not possible without the hearts and minds of a majority of the people being virtuous.

    The Platonic myth of the Philosopher King seems to entice many into giving up our freedom and our responsibility. The majority of the founders of the United States realized that individual self-discipline was the foundation of a free state and the power needs to be counter-balanced because power is corrupting. Gradually, over the years, the actual balance the Constitution calls for has been destroyed (it never actually functioned fully).

    License is not the same as freedom, tryanny is not the same as authority.

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