What Is Man?

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalm 8:4).

The question, “What is man?” written perhaps a thousand years before the coming of Christ, is the bedrock of true humanism, the only form of dignity that can sustain human life. Our modern world continually re-imagines our nature, but God alone sustains it. I can think of nothing more assuring than the speculation, “What is man?” in a heart of wonder. I can think of nothing more terrifying than the same speculation in the cold calculus of the modern state.

Human dignity is among the youngest thoughts on earth and far from universally subscribed. We are daily exploited, murdered and used for unworthy ends. Individuals fail to see their own worth and give themselves over to evil ends. “What is man?” indeed, and why should we consider ourselves to be of any particular value?

To declare that I am valuable because I am myself – is simply a statement of  self-interest – an instinct shared by most living things. To acknowledge the value of another because it helps preserve my own value is the same instinct extended through a community. This instinct, surely a part of human life from its beginning, has never demonstrated the ability to lift man above his basest desires.

The question, “What is man,” is an echo or a corollary of the question, “Is there a God?” For if there is no God, then the question, “What is man?” has only the emptiness of an echo for an answer. Human dignity is not self-evident. With reference only to our biology we can say that we are carbon-based life-forms that have self-awareness. We cannot assume that other life-forms do not have self-awareness. The question, “What is man?” is thus no more interesting than the question, “What is a bacterium?”

But the question is itself an inherent part of our self-awareness. We want to know if there is anything of transcendent worth in our existence or is it as simply one thing among the many that exists. The question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is similar. Does that which exists have any transcendent meaning – anything beyond the ephemera of its ill-fated billions of years (“ill-fated,” for regardless of how you run the numbers, it will cease to exist).

There are many ways to answer the question, “What is man?” All religions do this in one way or another, and the answers are not at all the same. In Buddhism, self-awareness is simply one of many ephemera – having no bearing on the meaning of existence itself.

But the Christian answer is the primary claimant of the modern world’s attention, whether the modern world acknowledges the source of the answer or not. That we are created in the image and likeness of God, and that God Himself has become man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is the basis of all thought of human rights – the language of consensus in the human community. The assertion of human rights is commonly made today without reference to God. It is thus nothing more than assertion. Human beings have rights because we say they do. Such unsupported assertions only have force when they are asserted by the strong to the weak. This is very much the state of human existence in a secularized world. Rights exist only because a controlling authority enforces such rights. Rights which are denied by a controlling authority have no existence.

Assertions by the West of various human rights, when heard by some non-Western cultures, do not sound like truth claims, only like cultural imperialism. Should women be allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia? The answer depends solely on who is speaking.

World culture at present is not grounded in a civilization. There is no consensus of transcendent values, no true common agreement. The secular triumph of a common Europe, the post-War’s version of the tower of Babel, presently stands ready to collapse as the Eurovision confronts the reality of the Euro. “We share a common currency and a bureaucracy in Brussels,” is an insufficient answer to the question, “What is man?”

Modern, secular culture is derivative. Its values are largely drawn from the treasure of earlier Christian values, regardless of their present distortion. Human rights are contingent upon human dignity, itself contingent upon the creation of man in the image of God. Remove the source and the contingencies collapse (in time). Human rights have already begun their collapse. The concept of rights remain, but they exist only as those in power define them. Thus the rights of women (as defined by the state) or the rights of those with minority sexual orientations (as defined by the state) or other state-defined groups have rights that frequently supersede those of other groups. These rights are arbitrary and represent nothing more than the present state of political reality. As such, they do not represent rights, but assertions of power.

The language of rights continues to have the cachet of the earlier imago dei, but one in which the deity is no more than a function of government bureaucracy (of which the courts are but an arm). The great weakness of our present cultural existence is its lack of foundation outside the bald assertion of power. The two most distorted examples of such power-based cultures were Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. These two cultures continue to strike most moderns as distorted when they are compared to our cultural memory of the imago dei.  But their distortions were justified in the same manner as today’s secularist assertions. Only the present direction of the winds of power stands between modern culture and state terror. The slightest change in that wind can revisit the world with a renewed holocaust. The regime is the same: only the victims change.

The belief that man is created in the image of God yields its own corollaries. As the image of God, human beings are endowed with infinite worth. A human life has value derived from its very Divinely given existence. Our value is not a gift of the state or the result of our own assertions. No one life has greater value than another. Neither usefulness nor talent add value to that given by God.

States (as well as the quasi-states of ecclesial institutions) have sought to reduce these corollaries over the course of the Christian centuries. Thus some have been given greater rights by reason of birth, wealth, race, gender, creed, etc. Each of these assertions of greater rights represent departures from the givenness of the imago dei and a distortion of the Christian faith.

If one human being exists in the image of God, then all human beings exist in the image of God. None of us is more fully the image than another. In Christian teaching, Christ Himself is the definition of the image of God. To the question, ” What does it mean to be human?” Christ is the answer. In Christian understanding, Christ as incarnate image of God is celebrated from conception (the feast of the Annunciation) to His ascension to the right hand of God. No quality of Christ (sentience, wisdom, volition, race, age, gender, etc.) defines or establishes His place as imago dei. He is the image of God. In the same manner, our own unqualified existence establishes us as the image of God.

Only in this fully Christian understanding of man are the value, and thus rights of each human being guaranteed. Only in a culture in which this understanding is agreed and accepted is such value safe and secure. It is perhaps the greatest treasure given to us by God.

There are many modern Christians who have been lulled to sleep by the language of the larger culture, accepting that those who speak of “rights,” actually accept the imago dei. Many Christians have abandoned the public defense of man as God’s image in exchange for a place at the bargaining table of the state’s assertions of power. The state’s ability to assert various perceived rights is not a defense of our humanity – it is its destruction. Our acceptance of the state’s assertion is a capitulation of the gospel. Nothing less than the Divine value of every human life is worthy of the Christian gospel. Those Christians who do not accept such a value have departed from the faith and made common cause with those who would destroy us.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the moth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightiest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou maddest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

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.





128 responses to “What Is Man?”

  1. markbasil Avatar

    “Forgive my defensive posture with regard to the evangelical conservatives. They’re my kinfolk.”

    I understand. Likewise with me, for those on the left and far-left.
    It was helpful to hear that Evangelicals where you are are poor and are the ones to take in the needy. I think this is more American than Canadian interestingly. In Canada everyone is more liberal. We’re a more secular country, and our politics rarely inflame over “Evangelical concerns” or religious interests. We are more secular (in the common meaning), yet our government traditionally had little trouble funding religious and faith-based initiatives and social programs.

    And btw, in Canada we have a Conservative Goverment (that is wreaking harsh destruction on social programs). Stephen Harper is an intelligent, cold, calculating, driven Prime Minister. You should look at several of his pictures online- look closely at his eyes and you will see everything.
    This government is ideologically driven against anything compassionate and ‘social welfare’ it seems. It is the scariest political time I have known, and I believe my parents would say the same thing.

    My father has worked as director of M2W2, a small, bible-belt prison ministry that has existed for 6 decades.
    It is simply about befriending those in jail, and keeping friendships when they get out. Here the Evangelicals did shine, btw. The constituency is dominantly Evangelical (but the organization started out in a blaze of Evangelical theology, ethos, etc.). Now 95% of the supporters have grey hair, tragically.
    But the real threat is our current government. After 60 years of consistent funding of these programs, that make a real difference at the ‘grass roots’ level, the Harper goverment has coldly withdrawn all funding.
    They did the same to the Catholic conterpart to my dad’s organization. It is chilling. And, to give you a sense of ‘Canadian Evangelicals’- this is Harper. His support base is the Canadian Evangelical contingent. They want to be tough on crime; they want the american prison system; they want people to pay for what they’ve done. It is old retributive justice, that ‘western christian’ way, not genuine restorative Justice (God’s shalom).

    So there’s a wee look into my Canadian life, and government, and social issues. 🙂

    I will do my father a kindness, and ask all you Americans, if you want to put your money somewhere remarkably good, please visit:
    M2W2: Restorative Christian Ministries.

    In the irresistible love of Jesus the Christ;
    -Mark Basil

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    Thank you for your thoughtful words. I had to smile at your comment about your Prime Minister’s eyes.

    About 13 years back, my family and I were in a restaurant after church services one evening (I was dressed as usual in my cassock). A lady approached me in the restaurant (turned out she was a BaHa’i religionist). She said to me, “I could tell you were a religious man – – it’s the eyes.”

    It was all my kids could do not to burst out laughing. “It’s the eyes…” as though it had nothing to do with the cassock I was wearing.

    Ever since, we have a family joke, “It’s the eyes…”

    I remember as well one summer that we participated in a program that brought youth from N. Ireland over (both Protestant and Catholic) to the U.S. Building bridges of peace. A young Catholic teen stayed in our home. One night, a Protestant Counselor began talking about life back home. I commented on the fact that the people of N. Ireland are essentially the same people (despite the Scot history of some of them). She said. “I can tell them from one another on the street immediately – it’s the eyes!” (this should be spoken with a very thick, N. Irish brogue).

    The window of the soul…

  3. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Hilary, a couple of quibbles about your post: when you say that supporting a Constitutional amendment means that whatever the amendment says is currently un-Constitutional–That is not necessarily so; particularly in our current situation. These days it is often because what was once assumed is no longer assumend and the supporters of any given amendment feel the necessity to codify the old or new assumption.

    The marriage amendment is a case in point. No one prior to the last 20 years or so in all of U.S. History would have ever assumed that marriage was anything but between a man and a woman. End of story. Since it was already codified in the hearts and minds of the people, it did not need to be codified anywhere else. Amendments are also used to specifically limit the use of governmental power to a more proper role.

    I’d also like to ask you what you mean by a ‘strict separation between Church and state’? That is another of those potentially ideological minefields that needs further defintion.

    To keep it on topic, assuming that we humans are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are made to both worship God and seek communion with HIm in all that we do, how can there be any such separation?

    Keep in mind that the writers of the U.S. Constitution wanted people to be free to express their faith without government interference. Thus they said, “The Congress shall make no law…..” It was added as an amendment originally because it was felt that the Constitution proper granted too much power to the Federal government. The Bill of Rights was specifically proposed and adopted to curtail that incipient power.

    So, I read “Congress shall make no law…” as saying that the Federal governement cannot make any law restricting anyone’s expression of his/her faith (there were not many loonies then who would think that killing someone was a part of their faith).

    With the extension of the Bill of Rights to the States under the 14th amendment, it restricted the authority of the states in the the same manner.

    Unfortunately, the ‘sepration of Church and State’ has become a tool for suppressing the expression of faith and allows government to mandate what is and what is not appropriate in such matters.

    The secular always results in legalism because it atomizes people and tends to destroy commonly held values and principals.

    I pray that I have not egregiously violated my own post immediately preceeding this one. I honestly want to know how you look at it and the benefits you see from such a separation in the context of what it means to be human?

    Of course, if it is too much of a digression, Father can always delete.

  4. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman


    To simplify and reiterate, political ideologies (left, right, center) tend to define the human being in ways that the Gospel does not while often purporting to be in service to the Gospel. It is a shame that actually caring for the poor, those in prison and attempting to influence the larger culture to be more compassionate toward them is looked upon as ‘leftist’. Any more than attempting to structure the economy in a manner that allows people to be less bound by economic constraints and the wishes of others is somehow ‘rightist’

    In fact most of it boils down to the gaining of and protection of power at the expense of others whether the politicians label themselves as ‘left’ or ‘right’: tryanny is tryanny.

    Utilitarian ethics dominate both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, what the government gives, the government can take away. The reliance on the government to fund and take care of everybody is always problematic IMO. But that’s the debate isn’t it. It does really start with the nature of man, our inate desire to both form community and our need to regulate the communities we form.

    We, both American and Canadian, have lost the consensus of what it means to be a nation and thus greater and greater legalism comes in. With the growth of legalism, the ability to gain and exercise power ideologically becomes more important. The winner take all mentality. Don’t you think?

  5. PJ Avatar

    A government-funded charity is no longer a charity: it is an extension of the state, a government organ funded through taxation, not voluntary giving.

    Cutting social spending is often necessary. I typically support efforts to do so. I don’t believe it makes me any less compassionate than a socialist. It simply means we have different ideas concerning the relationship between civil society and the state.

    A welfare state isn’t any more Christian than the night watchman state. Indeed, it may even be less Christian.

    At least that’s the opinion of this conservative, for what it’s worth.

  6. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    PJ, for me the effort needs to be channeled into avoiding any form of utopianism when it comes to the state and retaining the eschatological vision and reality of Christianity.

  7. PJ Avatar

    I pretty much agree. I am not all that interested in politics, except when public policy begins to directly influence the life of the Church. Sadly, this is increasingly the case in the western world. In the near future, I expect that all Christians will be forced to make tough political decisions, whether they want to or not.

    Anyway, my inclinations are ill-suited for American politics. My conservatism is of the old Tory variety: traditionalist, localist, protectionist, interested in social order and harmony between the classes, suspicious of bigness in general, both corporate and governmental. I’ve always liked Chesterton’s line, “The patriot never, under any circumstances, boasts of the largeness of his country, but always, and of necessity, boasts of its smallness.”

  8. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Sooner or later the state, any state, will seek to oppress those who give honor and worship to a transcendent God because such honor and worship is a challenge to the state.

    While the state has a God-ordained purpose to order and protect, that does not mean that it will ever be holy. Holiness is a personal, human attribute that is the result of an intimate commuion with God. While it can be shared to some extent by the communities such people inhabit, it can never be transfered to a created corporate entity.

    The Church is holy only insofar as she is expressing the will and person of Jesus Christ. not in and of herself.

    Tryannies whether of the ‘left’ or the ‘right’ or ‘religious’ simply want to inforce the ideological will of the ruling elite. We have experienced and continue to experience two great tryannies in the last 100 years: communism and fascism. To the extent that we model either, we are not free to serve God as we should.

    We don’t serve the poor because they are poor (for that would make them an idol). We serve the poor because they are fellow human beings and we can and we need to for the benefit of our souls (poor and not-so-poor alike). It is not to rid the world of poverty (that will not happen as Jesus reminds us).

    PJ is correct to transfer such service to the state in any manner and further entrench such service as an ‘entitlement’ is to destroy the Chrisitan virtue of such acts, they are no longer personal or kenotic. Often such ‘entitlement’ merely creates a permanent underclass of so that the bureaucracy and the power it establishes can continue.

    markbasil, please do not take my words as against the work your father and his fellows do. Quite the contrary, but we do need to be quite careful about how much power, authority and veneration we give to any government.

  9. hilary Avatar

    Michael, I really don’t mean to create any minefields but can see how your quibbles arise from what I wrote previously.

    My umbrella statement about church/state is a very quiet one that I don’t think about all that much. When I have to talk religion or politics, it seems to be mostly about personal stories and personal beliefs and personal pocketbook-hitting possibilities (legislation or, well, church business.) So I try to avoid these minefields as I can, not being an expert on either topic but content to cheer people up who are bogged down in either.

    But on to “TJ” et al. *pulls on lawyer cap* Whenever anyone uses “writers of the U.S. Constitution” preceding a statement about the long-ago intent of the law, I can get stuck with my own idea that those men never intended for us to have a full-time federal government. I am a huge fan of “Congress shall make no law” in the First Amendment but I certainly don’t think the US Supreme Court should be involved in the details of any establishment/ free exercise debate. I would think — ideally, and yes we’re long past this — the Supreme Court would stop any query at “did Congress [or a state, etc] make a law here? It’s explicit, the Constitution says they ‘shall make no law respecting’ these things.” Yes or no, period. Ideally, the meat of any law wouldn’t matter, just that the law was made and Congress is prohibited from doing so.

    But we have jurisprudence that instead makes nine people who are usually looking at due process out of criminal courts once in a while have to consider if, for instance, a city ordinance banning animal sacrifice was discriminatory against the one church in town that had such practices. The court has to get into the meat of the law, and it seems the question of “was a law respecting free exercise made?” is beside the point. Because the majority-thought in the country was something akin to “no one prior to the last 20 years or so in all of U.S. History would have ever assumed that” religion included chicken sacrifices within a municipal jurisdiction. But be careful. Popular opinion was all “heck yeah, come down hard on those chicken sacrificers, that’s just WRONG!” Well, ok, but that opened a legal door for all manner of previously-assumed-to-be-widely-held “morals” (can’t think of a better word) to have to go all the way up to the Supreme Court to be heard and defined. And it gets ugly in the national media-driven consciousness. *takes off lawyer cap* It sparks rallies and yelling and petitions and anger and paranoia and all of these loud crisis-creators simply distract from what I think we were made to do: worship. Worship besides all these things that happen/don’t happen and know that this is a very small blip of time when we can decide to fight about ephemera as if the world had two storeys (ping!), or we can realize it’s all kind of an illusion. For lack of a better descriptive.

    I absolutely agree that there is no actual separation between anything we do and who we worship. When I say “actual,” though, I don’t mean that-which-is-seen. Sorry, but any placard-holding protestor, no matter how saintly, I don’t think is doing Lord’s Work just for being there at a rally. The rally, to me, is not actual. Maybe that’s where I diverge… The rally is just a thing that happens, it kind of doesn’t matter. How the attendees’ hearts are postured before God in those heated moments — as in all moments — matters. Yeah?

    Anyway, that’s why I sidestep plenty of minefields. Maybe it’s among my own shortcomings that I can’t yell at someone and tell them they’re wrong, then go home happy that I was acting out of holy righteousness. Whenever I think someone’s “wrong,” I pretty much have to go sit in a corner and get over myself for a while. So I avoid it, the thinking someone’s “wrong” part. I get to say “I don’t know” a lot. Which is rather freeing.

    Yeah, I think I should apologize for going this far afield. Sorry, Father!

  10. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman


    I like your politics except for the class aspect of it but perhaps that is my own ideological bias. And it seems to apply to the Church and our acts as Christians just as well as the nation.

    That is what true hierachy achieves–order so that we poor human beings are as free as possible to practice virtue and work for holiness with one another regardless of class, position or worldly power.

    Communism is a Christian heresy and fascism its evil twin. One philosophically rejects hierarchy altogether while, in practice, establishing a ruthless one to make sure ‘everybody is equal’. The other estabishes a hierarchy based on purity, power, and the size of the purse. In either case each human person becomes simply an adjuct of the all-powerful state and the state is deified.

    Sergianism is a heresy but so is the creed of Al Capp’s old chacter, General Bullmoose the corporate greedmeister incarnate: “What’s good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA”.

  11. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Hilary, thank you for your reply. I can certainly understand your sentiments. Pardon if my love of U.S. History gets in the way. There has been such and entertwining of my experience of God and my study of history over the years.

    I will make one last observation. It seems to me that your approach is a tad bit Buddhist. The Incarnation puts certain burdens on us (which we each bear differently) to be “in the world” even though we are ‘not of this world’.

    That is the existential dilemma of being a Christian or even being human I think.

  12. markbasil Avatar

    PJ, I invite you to put your money where your mouth is. Kindly donate to my father’s now-without-gvmt-support-and-dying Ministry to Christ in prison, here:


    Please invite all the Christians with money to do likewise. They really are in desperate need (employees of decades service were recently laid off. My father has been cut back to 1/2 time, and this to keep rudimentary programs open with donations, which have been coming in much stronger thanks to those white-haired, bible-belt Conservative Evangelicals).
    We do see government support differently, you and I. I am Canadian: I like our unverversal healthcare, our socially funded libraries, firemen, etc.
    What our goverment does here in a democrasy is an expression of our own voluntary choices- we choose to pay taxes in Canada as long as our Government is funding the programs we love. If I see a Chrstian person giving generously, I can be inspired to give myself. Where I see my government giving generously, I can be inspired to give myself. It is a milieu, an ethos.

    -Mark Basil

  13. fatherstephen Avatar

    I think you hit the nail on the head – “it is an ethos.” In the nations of Europe, Canada, and some other places, there is generally a common agreement viz. things like socialized medicine. That ethos is largely non-existent in the U.S. for rather local reasons. There is a consensus here about some things (though it feels as though it is about fewer things). I’ve lived on college campuses where the medicine was “socialized” in a sense. We paid fees when I was a student at Duke, and we had a medical clinic and doctors (some of the best) and that’s where you went. I liked it and it felt normal. Of course, we were all young and healthy, so I don’t know much. 🙂

    I know that America has a consensus that people should not be denied health care. That would seem quite wrong to us. What the consequences of that should look like is where the consensus breaks down.

    Ethos is a very useful way to understand this. Thank you.

  14. Bill M Avatar

    I will admit I’m having some trouble avoiding a knee-jerk reaction to some of your comments, simmmo and markbasil. You are making generalizations based on limited exposure and self-admittedly left-leaning perspectives. Thanks, Father, for trying to stick up for us poor, benighted, right-winger non-orthodox. 🙂

    I live in a small mid-Western city, with a fruit salad mix of Protestant, Evangelical, Anabaptist and Charismatic congregations. The population tilts solidly toward Republican politics and conservative “issues”, yet – Lo! – the churches work together on all kinds of ministries to the poor, the homeless, the under-educated, the unborn. The amount of volunteer time and money poured out on behalf of people in need is astounding.

    Please, guys, I’ll recognize that my view of life in the Big World is incomplete and distorted if you’ll do the same.

  15. markbasil Avatar

    Agreed, Bill.
    Elder Porphyrios was asked about politics once, which party to support, and he said (to the best of my memory), that we have birds of so many different colours- they are all beautiful and can all sing together, or they can fight.
    But they are all beautiful, and they can learn to sing together.

    Thanks for your voice;
    -Mark Basil

  16. fatherstephen Avatar

    I am reminded of the story of the Harvard professor who in 1972, after the massive landslide victory of Nixon over McGovern, saying, “But I don’t understand. Everyone I know voted for McGovern.” 🙂

  17. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    ….and before that it was attributed to those who supported Barry Goldwater so it’s likely an apopcrphal story but instructive nonetheless.

    I think part of the ethos in the United States vs Canada is the we revolted against the king, Canada did not, despite our efforts to entice them. I would put part of the ‘socialization’ in Canda at the feet of being a left over of monarchical authority. There is a distinct difference in ethos between a monarch and socialism. Of course it is all pure speculation.

  18. Philip Jude Avatar


    Many political theorists have offered similar theories to explain the differences between the United States and Canada. Monarchy is fundamentally paternalistic. When combined with democratic elements, it leads inevitably to socialism. As a Tory, I’m not necessarily opposed to certain aspects of paternalism, but when fused with mass democracy it can result in rampant welfarism. It must be checked by republican or aristocratic conservatism.

  19. fatherstephen Avatar

    Michael and PJ,
    I do not subscribe to such theories. America’s founding and Canada’s founding are so distinct in many ways. The time of the settlement, who settled, etc., have very large roles to play. America’s British history is interestingly studied in Albion’s Seed (I found it interesting). America is historically a cooperative effort between very disparate groups. My ancestry is largely Scots-Irish, a group who have marked large parts of the South (especially the Appalachian parts that are my home). They never liked England or the crown. Historically, they haven’t liked Washington much either (the Whiskey Rebellion – the first armed rebellion against the American government after the Revolution – was largely a Scots-Irish event). English patricians (like Washington) and descendants of the Puritans in New England (the real Yankees) were quite snobbish towards the unwashed Scots-Irish. They talked funny and were difficult to govern. Albion’s Seed is a good read.

  20. Philip Jude Avatar

    I’m familiar with the folk-ways theory, though I have yet to read Albion’s Seed. I don’t think that ethnic composition accounts for the difference in its entirety. Likely you Scots-Irish have something to do with our pioneer bravado, though. 😉

  21. Philip Jude Avatar

    Also, many of those patrician New England snobs (my kin) were at the head of the movement for independence.

  22. stumpphilosophy Avatar

    Lets be careful here lest we have to fly the Dixie flag again, haha! That is surely the case, Philip Jude. Curiously, the unwashed proletariat can be rather snobbish toward the bourgeoisie as well. It is a matter of pride to be self sufficient and the Scots-Irish were used to listening to what the crown had to say and living the way they wished anyway. Arguably, the Appalachian folk could be said to have been leading the way in Freedom, even if the weren’t Independent 😉

  23. fatherstephen Avatar

    I subscribe to the theory that America and Canada are a lot alike except where they’re different. It explains everything.

  24. hilary Avatar

    Michael, I know nothing about Buddhism. Sorry.

    Everyone, I love your discussion!

  25. dinoship Avatar

    Very entertaining….! and they say it is the Greeks that can talk politics until the cows come home…. (I better resist this powerful temptation)

    One way or another, the Lord is ultimately at the wheel. Always and in every situation. And, according to one of my favourite quotes of Father Stephen quoting scripture: “with a secret hand He fights Amlek”

  26. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    I have only been reading your blog for about a year, but I’d have to say that this one is one of the best. And I’d like to note that you didn’t mention the word “Orthodox” once! Like much of C.S. Lewis’ work, your article had the rare quality of universality to it that allowed it to reach further and deeper. AND of course your words were pulsating with the truth of the Spirit.

    Thank you once again for your mission work to the world.

    P.S. You’re too hasty when you suggest that your words will not last past your lifetime. They are yours to sow but others are responsible for the harvest. I suspect the seeds have gone deep and will bear much good fruit…but don’t let that trouble you! (wink)

  27. Philip Jude Avatar
    Philip Jude

    “I suspect the seeds have gone deep and will bear much good fruit”


  28. […] May 30th.  We have much to learn to from our Orthodox brothers and sisters.  I encourage you to read this at source — where there are also over 120 responses — and then explore his blog further.  […]

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  1. Simon and Fr. Stephen, Yes, I would like the link to the essays. Thank you for being willing to share.…

  2. Matthew, You asked whether the cause of suffering in Buddhism and Christianity are similar. Yes, I think they are: ignorance.…

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