“The Systematic Organization of Hatreds”

I normally do not comment on politics and do not plan to have discussions during this political season. However, I ran across a quote that makes a great deal of sense and certainly has bearing on the spiritual life. It is from Henry Adams’ novel Democracy:

Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.

Imagine what this means if one is speaking of “politics” in the Church. May God deliver us from all evil.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.






28 responses to ““The Systematic Organization of Hatreds””

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Picture – Henry Adams

  2. Dayne Batten Avatar
  3. Steven Tramel Gaines Avatar
    Steven Tramel Gaines


  4. Brian Avatar

    All you have to do is read the threads on any religious, political, science, sports blog to see that the internet has focused hatred in many new ways.

  5. rocketreferral Avatar

    Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.
    I wouldn’t think it always has to revolve around hate but many people who seek power have agendas that might not be so friendly to everyone.

  6. A2B Avatar

    What is interesting to me is how the “organization” of that hatred can be “re-organized” at any given point! Politicians are true chameleons. One day they may spew vitriol at an opposing candidate, however the next they will extolling the very same opponent’s virtues. 😉

  7. Visibilium Avatar

    It’s a description of reality. Don’t believe me? Try changing it. Fallen human nature isn’t perfectible through human efforts.

    Our protection lies in a system of checks and balances that limits the hatreds and ambitions by setting them in opposition to each other. This applies to both Church and State.

    God has taken pity on us by granting us the foresight to channel vices into producing useful outcomes.

  8. fatherstephen Avatar


    Actually I think you’ve put your finger on something important. We can’t simply wave a wand and make government disappear or make hatred disappear. And it’s doubtless better to work out the conflicts in a political setting than in vendetta.

    Despite the politics that have played a role in the history of the Church, I think the Church exists more securely on a level that transcends the politics and that God accomplishes His will despite the actions of sinful men who have sought to manipulate the Church. In earlier writings I have spoken of “an ecclesiology of the Cross” to describe the relatively weak ecclesiology (in terms of concentrated power) within Orthodoxy, and its constant dependence on the discipline of communion to maintain its life. This has not been without its problems, but, I do think it has been a saving aspect of Orthodoxy.

    I’ll also agree that God has taken pity on us – though I’m not certain I would agree with the rest – but I would have to think much more on it. Utility is a frightful concept to me for many reasons. I appreciate the thoughts, though.

  9. Visibilium Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, let me give you a couple of hints about my thinking.

    Orthodoxy’s checks and balances consist in multiple jurisdictions, which both solely and together, constitute the fullness of Christ’s Church. Also, the laity (formerly represented by the Orthodox Emperor, but now by the Parish Council) and clergy check each other. By contrast, the Latin church has neither multiple jurisdictions nor lay power. Which structure is more sound, given fallen human frailty?

    The free market works because the seller’s greed is satisfied only when he produces what his customers want. How successful would we be in forcing the seller to charitably supply his customer’s wants?

    I look forward to hearing the fruits of your thinking.

  10. Wonders for Oyarsa Avatar

    It does seem to me that, if the best we can hope for is good done by channeling our vices, then we are in a sorry state indeed.

  11. Jill Terry Avatar

    That sums it up rather nicely, I believe.

  12. Jiacoro Usumaki Avatar
    Jiacoro Usumaki

    Politics always eventually finds it way into the New Testament Church but thats never changes the fact that Church and State are two separate instituton never to be married! Simply because they are not compatible. But they play they parts to the glory of God.

  13. Deborah Avatar

    God created us to be priests and kings unto God in Christ Jesus. Kings means political authority. There would be no separation between Church and State if kings had Christ within, and if all followed after the example of David, for it would be impossible to separate it.

    If Church and State are incompatible, perhaps it is because we have made it so. We have made faith and salvation about Church, and not godliness unto holiness in Christ. The world, or rather, unbelieving professors of a faith they do not possess, have made it about politics and economics and world power, and not about obedience unto God.

    Church and State have been responsible throughout the ages for the holy wars and religious fanaticism for one reason and one reason only ~ God and His salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ, were reduced to doctrine, to be safely locked up behind Church walls, or used as a big stick upon the world.

    We, meaning the Church made a separation that was to have been amended in and by faith of Jesus Christ, as a living salvation ordained of God to change men and hearts and lives and governments.

    As to channeling vices, that is ‘religion’ in it’s worst form by any other name. Jesus Christ came to deliver us from our vices, through faith of Him and the cleansing and restoring power of His blood.

    If the politics of the world have come to the state of incompatibility with the Church, perhaps it is because we no longer know nor believe the work that Jesus Christ came to do through His Atonement and Resurrection, and the gift of His Holy Spirit unto us.

  14. gerardleroux Avatar

    Perhaps more guilty than politics is religion for being an organizer of hatred. With its siding with political ideologies. With its intolerance and jealousy. With its love of power and very often, riches. With its drifting about with whatever theory or whoever may be popular at the time.

    Are the clerics, the church, the religious establishment our moral compass? God help us. Are politicians our saviors? God help us. Are the educators and academics? God help us. I speak not as a sceptic or as an unbeliever. But as a firm believer in God’s Word.

  15. fatherstephen Avatar


    It would seem that there is a market driven Church and it’s not the Orthodox. I am quite uncertain about checks and balances in the Church, other than God. That which is not born of humility in the Church may be used of God if He wills, but it is in spite of its sinfulness. We are not to be as the Gentiles.

  16. fatherstephen Avatar

    As for other comments on Church history and the like – the descriptions may fit periods of Western Church history, but are not very accurate when describing the Orthodox. Orthodoxy is not without sins among its members or its history – but it is not a repetition of Western Church history. On this site, when I say “Church” I mean “Orthodox Church.” If I mean something else, I try to be careful to say so. You certainly cannot generalize from the experience of Western Christianity and project it onto the East. It just doesn’t fit. Very different history.

  17. Jim Cole Avatar
    Jim Cole


    What you wrote reminds me of the political theory of the Byzantine Empire: the “pious Emperor” ran the affairs of the state and society as a representative of God, in symphony with the Church. I don’t see any substantial difference between that and the “divine right of kings” espoused by several Western monarchies in history. I think it leads to autocracy of the worst sort, where the Emperors think their word is God’s, and saints such as Maximos the Confessor are convicted and sentenced for violating the peace of the realm because of heresy.

    The separation of Church and State and entrusting the State to the citizens themselves makes a lot more sense. Jesus’ kingdom is not a kingdom of this world, as David’s was.

    Our founders in the U. S. were wise. The idea was that people would govern themselves in both senses: individually, so that they would overcome their passions and grow in excellence and virtue (the true meaning of “happiness” to a man trained in the classics like Jefferson), and communally, so that such citizens, who are still very prone to sin, can govern themselves in a system where no one individual obtains too much power over others. Whatever the faults of our Calvinist forebears were, they bequeathed to us the idea that no one is above God’s law and all have to be measured by it. This idea, and the idea that citizens should seek virtue above all, seem to be very congenial to Orthodoxy.

    I speak from outside the Orthodox Church, though, so if I am wrong, I am very willing to be corrected on where there may be any great discrepancies between the original theory under which this country established its independence and the teachings of the Orthodox Church regarding the governance of people in this world.

  18. fatherstephen Avatar

    My Archibishop (DMITRI) of Dallas and the South, has summed up Orthodox experiences of being the state Church (on various occasions). His simple summary was thus: “On the whole we have not found it to work out.”

    There are problems of the American arrangement, mostly things that have inadvertently resulted in the creation of the notion of a secular world (there is no such thing).

    On the whole I pray for our rulers and that in their peace the Church may pursue godliness in all sobriety. But I think that we dare not put our trust in princes nor in sons of men. I vote and have opinions, but I am not very confident of the government behaving itself.

  19. Visibilium Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Wouldn’t you say that the notion of a secular world is necessary–because the notion of divine teleology would interfere with the scientific determination of causality? God’s ongoing action in the world is a mystery, although all of us who have encountered miracles or strange coincidences have experienced it. Would a scientist who believes in an incarnational world still have to assume God out of existence in order to analyze ordinary, natural causal relationships?

  20. nancy Avatar

    The quotation from Henry Adams reminded me of reading his “Education” in graduate school. A wonderful book and a reminder of a friendly old classic. So many people know about these kinds of books–a little like Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. They occasionally read a profound quote from these classics, but rarely read the books. I remember grumbling about having to read Henry Adams, but I was grateful to my professor for assigning the book, for surely I would not have picked it up on my own. Adams wrote about America in the height of the Gilded Age, a time of venial politics and corruption in government. In his eyes it seemed like a terrible era, but probably nothing worse than what we witness in our 21st century political scene.

    We live in a highly secular culture, and it seems to me, Fr. Stephen, that your advice to pray for our leaders as we do at every Liturgy is about the best we can do. I don’t think I’m being cynical, but instead realistic about the state of America politics. I stopped believing in Utopias about the time I read Henry Adams. Those who look for saviors in political life are doomed to disappointment. At any rate, I highly recommend reading Adams’ works. Great insights after all these years and lessons for our times.

  21. Visibilium Avatar

    1. It’s more likely that the Spirit would be permitted to operate synergistically within a framework of checks and balances, rather than when absolute power is invested in a single person or entity. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he spoke of two or three gathered in his name. Certainly, conciliarity itself involves placing constraints on solitary views.

    2. While I don’t disagree about the nonexistence of a strictly secular world (yes, I generally agree with the one-storey principle), I see a problem in trashing the notion of the secular world. For those of us who have experienced miracles and other evidence of eternity, we know that divine teleology doesn’t appear predictably. Often, it appears at the last minute, as a last resort. Emphasizing the incarnational nature of the world may distract us from examining the routine operation of the world. The physical world operates more routinely through causality, and causality is an appropriate target of scientific investigation.

  22. William Avatar

    It seems that synergy operating in conciliarity would indeed involve some amount of checks and balances, but the more salient feature in conciliarity is mutual submission and humility. This is where the strength of conciliarity is found, in weakness, and this is the principle that is more noticeable in scripture.

  23. fatherstephen Avatar


    I would not want to grant secularity such a position, simply becuase it is not true. But I would think science would somehow be different for the very reasons you suggest. But a different science might not be an entirely bad thing.

  24. Visibilium Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Secularity is true inasmuch as it sticks to scientific truths. The only way in which secularity errs is in saying that scientific truth is the only kind of truth that exists and that therefore revealed truth is nonsense.

    If you’re not willing to grant secularity the realm of scientific truth, then you’re stuck with (1) saying that all science is bunk because it doesn’t include revealed truth or (2) sneaking God into science by saying revealed truths are legitimate objects of scientific inquiry.

    Then again, maybe I’m missing your point by a wide mile. Happy Pentecost!

  25. fatherstephen Avatar


    You’re working in categories of philosophical theology which I am not and are thus creating rules for how things work that I would not accede to (that’s the give and take of philosophy anyway). I’m simply saying that the secular world, defined as a world conceived apart from God, is a fiction because there is no such world. God is everywhere present and filling all things even if the rules of science do not show that.

    As such, science is useful for what it does, but it gives an inaccuarate view of reality, a truncated view at best. I am not willing to agree that there are two kinds of reality, nor even that there are two kinds of truth. These are late constructs that I do not find to be particularly patristic or Orthodox in their content and that will inevitably lead to some sort of bifurcated reality which will always relegate the Church, God, etc. to some other storey, etc.

    I’m not sneaking God into science (He wouldn’t fit, He’s too big). I suppose I would explode science and find another language for what science wants to do. It’s language is too small and is insufficient for a description of reality.

    “Revealed truths” which is not a category that I would use (because a “revealed truth” such as “Jesus is Lord” cannot be examined as though it were a rock or a tree. But there may be a way of examining a rock or a tree that is not unlike knowing “Jesus is Lord.” The Fathers would speak of this as knowing or perceiving the “logoi” of created things – which again is not like science in which any an inert objectivity yields a certain kind of knowledge. But I would say that such knowledge isn’t “true” knowledge and its exaltation to the place of knowledge has been dangerous and deformative of humanity. It will not heal us – it is not saving knowledge.

    I’m not calling for an abolition of science, or no use of antibiotics, etc., but a science that is finally rooted in true humanity rather than the reduction of human beings to inert observers. Ascesis is required for such a humanity as well as a purification from the passions. But, theologically, it would be correct to say that no one sees anything correctly when they are blinded by the passions. Even science would say something similar – but I would say that science does not go far enough.

    The Church is not going to have the chance to remake science (or the government). I do not think Providence has this for us. But the members of the Body of Christ have a call to true knowledge and not an ideological stalemate with secularism. Let the secular world worry about itself (the dead bury the dead). We have a task and calling given to us in Baptism that is about a different business.

    I hope this is a helpful part of the conversation. By the way, thank you, we had a wonderful feast! Trees everywhere!

  26. Visibilium Avatar

    Your criticism of science seems, rather, to be a criticism of metaphysics and the particular significance of scientific discoveries, not the discoveries themselves. There’s no disputing that science, as currently practiced, yields true knowledge about the created world. Moreover, the true knowledge that science yields has been successfully translated into specific applications. Does science yield a complete view of the world? Of course not–that’s the realm of metaphysics.

    The Church has no business reworking science, and, wisely, hasn’t attempted to do so. The history of the Eastern Roman Empire attests to the happy union of science and theology. The papal church, on the other hand, tried to interfere with science and justly earned derision for its efforts. While the Church has much to say about whether, for example, scientists should clone human beings, the Church hasn’t expressed a view about whether the sun revolves around the earth.

    The ideological stalemate with secularism is unnatural and unfortunate. In my view, it’s a reaction against the bankrupt metaphysics of papalism and protestantism. As long as the Church is seen as a continuation of those bankrupt ideologies, the stalemate will continue.

    I’m delighted that you’ve eschewed the stalemate, and that my use of dichotomous language was unnecessary.

  27. Mark Downham Avatar
    Mark Downham

    The deepest hatred in this systemtic organisations of hatreds is the growing realisation of the array of false choices you face and the false choice everyone is pressing you to make:

    Elvis Costello – ‘You Bowed Down’

    I expect you’re entitled to know why I’m making contact
    With acquaintances scattered all over the land
    I’d promise you now and again that I’d honour the contract
    If it hadn’t crumbled away in my hand
    So we broke that vow independently now
    But I don’t know why you absolutely deny

    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)
    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)

    When you first looked away I might say it was really a kindness
    It must have hurt you to see how dreams sour
    Now they say that justice and love are the next things to blindness
    Well you’re getting plenty of both of them now
    And so you parade where appointments are made
    And never meant to be kept
    Unless you accept

    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)
    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)

    You value the burnt amber of falling leaves
    And you long to delay
    As you feel their breath as they whisper
    “It won’t hurt you now to betray
    If you just bow down”

    And now every time that we meet on the edge of hysteria
    You’re helping them sell off some new party line
    I remember a time when you would have seemed so superior
    Now you say “Will you please meet this good friend of mine?”
    So you’re in demand as long as you kiss their hand
    But all the applause is for their name not yours

    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)
    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)
    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)
    You bowed down (you bowed down, you bowed down)
    You bowed down
    You bowed down
    You bowed down
    You bowed down

  28. fatherstephen Avatar

    Thanks. I like the quote from Elvis Costello. There are insights to be gained everywhere

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