The Inherent Violence of Modernity

The calm voice at the helm says, “Make it so…” and with it, the mantra of modernity is invoked. The philosophy that governs our culture is rooted in violence, the ability to make things happen and to control the outcome. It is a deeply factual belief. We can indeed make things happen, and, in a limited way, control their outcome. But we soon discover (and have proven it time and again) that our ability to control is quite limited. Many, many unforeseeable consequences flow from every action. If I am working in a very, self-contained environment, then the illusion of total control can be maintained for a very long time. If, say, I am building a watch, my actions and their results can remain on a desktop. However, when the scale of action begins to increase, the lack of true control begins to manifest itself. Actions on the level of an entire society or culture are beyond our ability to manage. A culture is not a very large watch.

But we think it is. That delusion lies at the very heart of the philosophy of modernity.

The arguments supporting the success of modernity are always misleading. The single desired effect becomes the focus while the unintended consequences that follow in its wake are ignored. Modernity always wins, because it cooks the books.

The work of “making it so,” is always an act of violence. We take what is not so and force it to be otherwise. Whether it is the violence of a plow making a field suitable for planting, or the violence of creating a parking lot, human beings have formed and shaped their world by “making it so,” for all our existence. The field and the parking lot, as innocuous and innocent as they may be, also create consequences that were not part of the plan. The only means of dealing with these consequences are to employ more violence to alter things yet again (requiring yet more violence, ad infinitum), or to treat the consequences as an acceptable change.

In this sense, to be an active part of the world is to employ violence. We do not sit lightly on the surface of our planet. Most human societies across history, have made a moderate peace with the world in which they live, using forms of violence whose consequences have been well-enough tolerated and accounted for so as to be bearable. The rate of change in such societies was modest, and within the limits that a culture could easily accommodate.

Large and rapid change is another thing entirely. “Changing the world,” under a variety of slogans, is the essence of the modern project. Modernity is not about how to live rightly in the world, but about how to make the world itself live rightly. The difference could hardly be greater. The inception of modernity, across the 18th and 19th centuries, was marked by revolution. The Industrial Revolution, the rise of various forms of capitalism, the birth of the modern state with its political revolutions, all initiated a period of ceaseless change marked by winners and losers. Of course, success is measured by statistics that blur the edges of reality. X-number of people find their incomes increased, while only Y-number of people suffer displacement and ruination. So long as X is greater than Y, the change is a success. The trick is to be an X.

The ceaseless re-invention of the better world rarely takes stock of its own actions. That large amounts of any present ruination are the result of the last push for progress is ignored. It is treated as nothing more than another set of problems to be fixed. As the fixes add up, a toxic culture begins to emerge: food that cannot be eaten; air that cannot be breathed; relationships that cannot be endured; safety that cannot be maintained, etc. As the toxicity rises, so the demand for ever more action and change grows, and, with it, the increase in violence (of all types). The amount of our human existence that now requires rather constant technological intervention is staggering. The entire modern pattern of dating, marriage, family and procreation are impossible without chemical and biological intervention. There has been no “sexual revolution,” only the application of technology into one of the most all-pervasive and normal parts of human existence, creating an artificial aspect to our lives that rests on violence. The abortion of nearly one-third of all children conceived is but a single example. The foundations of our present society are built on doing profound violence to human nature. And this is but a single example.

It should be noted that I have not suggested some mode of existence that is free of violence. Human beings make things happen, as does most of creation. Modernity, however, is another matter. Its better world has no limits, its project is never-ending. What are the proper limits of violence? Are there boundaries that must not be crossed?

Modernity has as its goal the creation of a better world with no particular reference to God – it is a secular concept. As such, that which constitutes “better” is, or can be, a shifting definition. In Soviet Russia it was one thing, in Nazi Germany another, in Consumer-Capitalist societies yet another still. Indeed, that which is “better” is often the subject of the political sphere. But there is no inherent content to the “better,” nor any inherent limits on the measures taken to achieve it. The pursuit of the better (“progress”) becomes its own morality.

The approach of classical Christianity does not oppose change (there is always change), nor does it deny that one thing might be better than another. But the “good” which gives every action its meaning is God Himself, as made known in Christ. In classical terms, this is expressed as “keeping the commandments.” Those commandments are summarized in the love of God and the love of neighbor. There are other elements within the commandments of Christ that minimize and restrict the use of violence.

There is, for example, no commandment to make the world a better place, nor even to make progress towards a better world. The “better world” concept is, historically, a heretical borrowing from Christianity, a secularization of the notion of the Kingdom of God, translated into terms of progressive technology and laws (violence). Instead, the management of history’s outcomes is considered idolatrous. Only God controls the outcome of history.

My experience is that questioning our responsibility for history’s outcome will always be met with anxious objections that we would be agreeing “to do nothing” and the result would be terrible. Keeping the commandments of Christ is not doing nothing. It is, however, the refusal to use violence to force the world into ever-changing imaginary versions of the good.

I will cite a somewhat controversial example (all examples would be controversial, for modernists love nothing better than to argue about how to next use violence to improve the world). Consider the task of education. Teaching children to read, write and do numbers is not a terribly modern thing. It has been done for centuries, and, occasionally, done rather successfully. But the education industry (a subset of government) exists as an ever-changing set of standards, techniques, and procedures, whose constantly changing results occasion ever-increasing testing, change, control, management and violence to yield frequently lesser results. It has largely produced a cult of management and administration (the bane of every teacher’s existence). This example could be, mutatis mutandis, multiplied over the whole of our increasingly dysfunctional culture.

Sadly, as the results of modernity’s violent progress become more dysfunctional, the greater the temptation becomes to do more of the same. Every problem is greeted only with the question of how it might be fixed, with no one ever suggesting that the fixing of the world might be our largest problem.

Again, this is not an all-or-nothing thing. The classical world was not passive nor was there an absence of change. Modernity has chosen economics as the measure of the good, treating increasing productivity as the engine of progress and prosperity and the primary measure of a better world. Debates over the best means of driving such productivity, whether through command-and-control or passive market forces, have been the primary arguments within modernity.

There are many, many other goods that could be, and have been the measure of a culture. The only reason for using economic productivity is the false belief that material prosperity is the fount of all blessings. If we are rich enough, we will be happy.

At the very dark end of the spectrum, America’s philosophical assumptions have made it the servant of modernity-as-export where literal violence is the day-to-day result. Remaking the Middle East has not only failed (completely) but cost hundreds of thousands of lives, a large proportion of which were complete innocents. The resulting chaos has been, at best, a distraction from our unrelenting pleasure in the entertainment industry, though our wars have generated a very popular genre of video game. Violence itself has become a consumer product.

This picture of the modern world can, in the modern Christian mind, provoke an immediate response of wondering what can be done to change it. The difficult answer is to quit living as though modernity were true. Quit validating modernity’s questions. Do not ask, “How can we fix the world?” Instead, ask, “How should Christians live?” and give the outcome of history back to God.

How should we live?

  • First, live as though in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated into the world and the outcome of history has already been determined. (Quit worrying)
  • Second, love people as the very image of God and resist the temptation to improve them.
  • Third, refuse to make economics the basis of your life. Your job is not even of secondary importance.
  • Fourth, quit arguing about politics as though the political realm were the answer to the world’s problems. It gives it power that is not legitimate and enables a project that is anti-God.
  • Fifth, learn to love your enemies. God did not place them in the world for us to fix or eliminate. If possible, refrain from violence.
  • Sixth, raise the taking of human life to a matter of prime importance and refuse to accept violence as a means to peace. Every single life is a vast and irreplaceable treasure.
  • Seventh, cultivate contentment rather than pleasure. It will help you consume less and free you from slavery to your economic masters.
  • Eighth, as much as possible, think small. You are not in charge of the world. Love what is local, at hand, personal, intimate, unique, and natural. It’s a preference that matters.
  • Ninth, learn another language. Very few things are better at teaching you about who you are not.
  • Tenth, be thankful for everything, remembering that the world we live in and everything in it belongs to God.

That’s but a minor list, a few things that occur to me offhand. They are things that encourage us to live in a “non-modern” manner. It is worth noting that when Roman soldiers approached John the Baptist and asked him how they should live, he told them to be content with their wages and to do violence to no one. They were in charge of the world in their day – or so they could mistakenly think. My few bits of advice are of a piece with that beloved saint’s words.

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.



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Comments

200 responses to “The Inherent Violence of Modernity”

  1. Jeff Pauls Avatar
    Jeff Pauls

    Father,

    Thank you for your response. I realize now that I should have been more clear. In quoting your “We are not commanded to…”, I should have said that I completely agree with you. And I should have clarified that by quoting Michah 6:8, I was attempting to show the veracity of your assertion that, indeed, we are not commanded to “give an opinion;” or be involved in politics, etc., but that yes, we are commanded to behave in certain ways in order to love God and our neighbors (and *not* in order to make the world a “better” place). In so doing, we are responding to God’s invitation to himself and to whatever he wills.

    Your posts on this subject have been a balm to my heart that has long suspected these things to be true, but did not even have the language to identify the suspicion, let alone articulate it. Let’s just call it longing. And now, what’s been longed for is incarnating in word, as I read these posts, and in deed as attempt to honor God with tangible actions, as delineated in your list.

    But pray for me, as I am often reminded of Paul’s words recorded in Romans 7. I do that which I don’t want to do, even though I seem to understand what I should do. And then I fall into a modernist mind set, wanting to measure myself in hopes of declaring “victory” (the “better”), but often conceding defeat, because *I* have not made myself “better.” And even as wobble away from him, God quietly and patiently urges me back into his embrace, gently intoning, “Jeff, walk with me, I give you mercy to love, and I give you justice to do. I have, and am, all you will ever need. You are mine, and me you have your being.”

    Father, bless

  2. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    David,

    I very much agree with the need for accuracy with our language, but (as you seem indicate above) there is a place for different levels of it. I think of St. Paul talking about being all things to all men. As it pertains to this discussion, in some arenas we would say that the sun has set and in others we would talk about the rotation of the earth and our location on it.

    When I go from one setting to the next I try to dial it up or down as needed to fit the situation. I’m reminded of my father-in-law who owns a service business. He says that these days some customers refuse to communicate by any method other than texts. So he has to make the choice of texting with them or losing their business. There isn’t a question of getting them to change. That’s where I’m coming from on this.

    On a related note, someone commented here awhile back saying that English tends to be a shop language. It is built for transactional efficiency and not for loquaciousness, beauty or descriptional accuracy. You can say anything you like as long as you work off this list of 10 words. Very limiting. Sometimes people get creative but it’s not a mystery why so many inaccurately use terms like “bad” and “like” and “inner” in such a blanket fashion.

    The only way I’ve found to truly help supplement – or better yet, transcend – English is through relationship. You and I are looking at each other during our conversation. Someone reading the transcript of it would not catch a lot of its meaning, but you and I understand because we were there and communicated using body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and other methods simply not captured on tape or paper.

    hope this helps

  3. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    A good tree doesn’t produce good fruit because it wakes up in the morning and says “Today I am going to work hard and producing good fruit.” It does it entirely by virtue of its nature. It isn’t a volitional act. It is an act that emerges naturally from its ontology…. theosis is ontological and compassion for others is part of theosis. But making the world a better place is not a part of the askesis of theosis. Attend to theosis and we will do by nature those things that are ameliorating, remedial, and compassionate without a defined project or stated goal. We will produce good fruit that is good because the tree is good.

    Wonderfully stated, Simon. Thanks for these thoughts.

    I agree, it is very Western. I’m not sure what year it was written, but I know that it was in a Russian Church and saved by a Russian woman who emigrated to the United States and gave it to the Monastery prior to her death. It is quite beautiful in real life.

    Russia went through a period where they embraced Western “realism” in their icon making. My understanding is that they are not too proud of that, although they do not denounce the icons themselves (which is proper, I believe).

  4. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Simon, thank you for your elaboration, I believe I understand better. Your added reflections about the lamp stand helped me. I think sometimes I might have a problem, as you indicate, understanding these words in an Orthodoxy context when we are inundated with the language of the ‘two story’ universe. Despite my background, with the modernist (i.e. two story) cast over everything including my own thoughts, I get tripped up. I’ve managed to disentangle by saying the words I live ‘in’ Christ, and Christ lives ‘in’ me. But where I still get tripped up is with the words, that as Christians we do not live in the world, or something like that. The words suggest to me in some literal sense that I should fall off the planet–silly I realize–but descriptive of the effort that I need to apply to understand.

  5. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    sorry that is in an ‘Orthodox’ context–what a blooper!

  6. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    I’m reminded of my father-in-law who owns a service business. He says that these days some customers refuse to communicate by any method other than texts.

    I basically had to get a “smart phone” for this reason. Not business related; my friends wouldn’t call me–they communicate almost solely via text now! Crazy.

  7. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Dee,
    In John 15:19 Christ says we are not “of” the world. We are certainly “in” it…” in the world you will have tribulation.” A couple of my favorite passages of Scripture are found in Hebrews. One is 11:37,38, speaking of OT believers who suffered for their faith, some martyred. The other is 11:13. OT believers (we too) are called ” sojourners and exiles.” Other translations use “pilgrims” and “strangers.” These all get to the sense that Father uses. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are “resident aliens” as it were. Our hope, our commonwealth is in heaven. I love our country. Yet I feel a stronger bond to my brothers and sisters in Russia and Greece, etc., than to many of my fellow citizens here. Why? Because we all are “in” Christ, fellow heirs of the Kingdom of God. It is said that blood is thicker than water. Well, being one in Spirit trumps them all!

  8. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Byron, I’ve learned recently that email is ‘old school’. I’ve got a Twitter account but I don’t tweet. I might not be the birdie type 😊

  9. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Thank you Dean! I appreciate the emphasis on the words ‘of’ vs ‘in’. In all likelihood I probably mix up these meanings as well. The additional descriptors help— particularly sojouners. And the place of our sojourn might be in our parish— again as a ‘ship’ or boat in this world. Falling (sin) is like falling off the boat. With Christ/ and fellow brothers and sisters pulling us back on board. I realize that I might be overdoing the metaphors. But using such ‘concrete’ language helps me.

  10. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Jeff,
    Whatever you do…give thanks. When you fail, stop and give thanks. Thanks for your encouragement!

  11. Ostap Ronzhyn Avatar
    Ostap Ronzhyn

    Thanks you Father,
    Interesting how this inheritent violence interplay with modernity’s obsession with safety. Safety is enthroned as the chief criterion of what is considered good: sex is good if it is safe, ‘making fun’ is good if it is safe, society is good if it is safe.

  12. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    The goal of humanism is to make everything safe for the sake of our own hedonism.

    The goal of Christianity is life “and that not of ourselves”.

  13. Ananias Avatar
    Ananias

    Byron,
    I totally agree.
    I would put it another way:
    The goal of humanism is to keep whitewashing the tomb while forbidding people to look inside and to pretend the bones aren’t dead.
    The goal of Christianity is to bring life to the dead men’s bones.

  14. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    How do script for bold and italics??

  15. Eric Avatar

    Ostap
    Great comment!
    Here in NZ Safety is Worshipped
    A typical greeting is ‘Keep Safe! and schools have signs out during the vacation wishing everyone a Safe Holiday

    At the same time we have the worlds worst youth suicide rate . . ,

  16. Eric Avatar

    Ananias
    How True!

  17. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Ostap Ronzhyn,
    We either have the Safety of the true God, or we need to seek elusive safeties when we try to be gods bereft of God. It is worth noting that the patristic wisdom often seems to be saying that “the more we try to control (people, things, nature, situations), the more we end up being controlled”.
    He who does not fear God fears everything whereas one who fears God fears nothing it also says.

  18. Mark Basil Avatar
    Mark Basil

    Hello Father Stephen;

    I have a technical problem: It seems I can never access “Newer Comments”. When I press that ‘button’, it does not display anything. I have had this problem for at least a year. Do you know if this is a problem others have mentioned? Do you know of a fix?
    Apologies for the off-topic comment. You dont have to post this comment.

    On topic, I have thought a lot about the inherent violence of living a life. It has been part of the ‘maturing’ of my Orthodox understanding of nonviolence. Somehow “do less/the least violence” does not seem the correct answer. Certain kinds of violence are prohibited (killing people), other forms of violence are permitted but are put aside by the transfigured (I think of saints who let insects feed on their blood, or of St Silouan’s disapproval of Blessed Sophrony’s hitting at grasses while on a walk).
    My spiritual father looked at the intended harmony in the garden- to be friends and partners with animals, and so he would not “impose his will” to kill anything that resisted this (seemed against God’s intentions.). Plants, seeds, fruit: these are gifts that do not resist our gathering and eating them.

    I continue with such gratitude for your work here on the blog, when I am privileged to read it.
    -Mark Basil

  19. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Dino thank you for your comment to Ostap. —Very helpful words for me too.

  20. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Simon,
    Someone else here will have to answer. I have a dashboard when I comment and it has pretty normal controls.

  21. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Mark Basil,
    Others have said the same. When I’ve logged out and gone on the site (so that it just sees me as a user), and go down to the bottom of the page of comments – it has that newer comments button, which, when you push, takes you nowhere. But it’s apparently because all the comments are already visible. That’s how it was for me.

  22. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Mark Basil,
    Ancient Faith’s computer admin guy is a priest in Hawaii. I think he’s preoccupied at the moment. 🙂

  23. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I would disagree with one thing Father, modernity is not about making the corpse look better. Modernity is about making corpses, feeding off them and claiming that is life. All philosophies of modernity are fueld by destruction claiming that as progress.

  24. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    Yes. The reports on the improvement of the world are always based on a very carefully selected bit of data. Last year, someone on Facebook was trashing my work, but offered a great summary (they thought they were very clever). The summary was:

    Freeman’s work is full of existential despair and moral futility. My first reaction was to think that they had confused me with Dostoevsky! But, I think that modernists (even the Orthodox ones) confuse my take on modernity (or anything in this world) as “existential despair” because I point out that it is nothing but death. It can be nothing but death. Improved death is still death.

    The moral futility comes from the fact that a well-behaved corpse is still a corpse. It does not “improve.”

    The theological problem is the failure to understand the preaching of the Kingdom of God and the nature of what Christ is doing in the world. It is a new creation – not an improvement of the old one. The old things are passing away, behold, the new has come. This theological failure is the essence of secularism. It locates life as the thing that is dead and is working death.

    I scratch my head sometimes about all of this, marveling that people who read the Scriptures do not see all of this being shouted at them from every page! I think that they treat as literal things that are not, and fail to treat as literal the things that are.

    A preacher’s frustration.

  25. Matt Z. Avatar
    Matt Z.

    Simon,

    To make a word or phrase bold or italic, put b (for bold) or i (for italic) in between the less-than and greater-than symbols at the beginning of the word or phrase, then do the same at the end but with a forward slash added between the less-than symbol and the letter.

    Hope this helps.

  26. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    bold/
    italic/

  27. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    I was supposed to put the forward slash between the less and greater than signs.

  28. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Feel free to delete those.

  29. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Thank you, Matt, that helps tremendously!!

  30. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I’m going to bold too— I hope.

  31. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Ok I left out the second letter in the code

  32. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Thanks Matt, would you know how indent is done?

  33. Matt Z. Avatar
    Matt Z.

    Dee,

    Where b or i is used to make bold or italic, use blockquote to indent

  34. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Ok thanks Matt here goes:

    Fr Stephen’s bulleted points succinctly express Christ’s commandments in terms for us to remember and live out in our daily lives. But the hardest might well be the tenth point:

    “be thankful for everything, remembering that the world we live in and everything in it belongs to God.”

    Living out that last point is indeed a radical departure from the modern project.

  35. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Yay!! Thanks Matt!!!

  36. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    And then Jesus said unto them,

    Happy are those that use HTML formatting to get their point across

  37. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Looking forward to subtlety and nuance, a slight bit of irony, as well through the magic of HTML.

  38. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Yep, that’s what Jesus meant to say, but his disciple was distracted by the baby when he recorded it.

  39. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    use blockquote to indent

    Not sure what “blockquote” is on a regular keyboard….

  40. Matt Z. Avatar
    Matt Z.

    Byron,

    That would be blockquote typed out as one word

  41. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    “God cares about His world, and has given us instructions on the right way to live. He did not command us to fix the world or manage the outcomes of history. He commanded us to keep the commandments. If we did that, we would not have slaves, or apartheid, or oppress women, etc. Nor would we build a world on ever-increasing violence.”

    Thank you, Father, for the peace and serenity I have gained by learning this lesson. God is truly King. Glory to Him forever.

  42. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Dear Fr. Stephen,
    It has been a very interesting thread of conversations to follow.
    (I almost posted something in response to Simon regarding abuse being a control issue, but it would have been too personal again).

    The more recent comments about wishing for comfort and safety reminded me of an article I read online recently (I am trying to educate myself a little about what is going on in Russia and Ukraine, close neighbors of my home in Poland) about issues there. The article described how some Ukrainian pilgrims to Mt. Athos asked the Elders of a monastery there about when their problems and suffering will end.

    The Athonite Elders had a very sobering answer for them (I don’t remember who exactly).

    Their answer was that there are three major (may have been more but these were discussed) “sins” from which the whole country must repent:

    1) formal and superficial relationship towards the Faith.
    2) worshiping of wealth (money) and comfort, and
    3) calumny/slandering of the Church (and even just silence when the Church and Christ are slandered).
    Those three, combined with sexual immorality and especially the issue of wide spread abortion, are the reasons there is no peace in the land. Until the people come to their senses and offer first their personal, and then more communal, repentance, nothing will change and the suffering will continue.

    In a different comment I read, it was pointed out that when the Enemy wants to make us loose God’s favor, he focuses on taking away our Faith in God and on convincing us that the sexual promiscuity in no-big-deal, our right and privilege… Many point out that this is how the West conquered Russia, not with weapons and in wars but with “chewing gum, Coca Cola, jeans and pornography”… The article of Dr. Patitsas touched upon that… I am still in shock from reading it…

    May God grant us His Joy, trust and peace. And remove from us “sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk”, but secure us in “chastity, humility, patience and love”…
    Somehow this prayer is suddenly the most appropriate to pray, even in the global context…

  43. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    Thank you, Agata, for sharing the Elder’s comments. Invaluable.

  44. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    Here is another excellent article by Father on this same topic that I just read.

    https://glory2godforallthings.com/2015/12/08/doing-good-in-a-bad-world/

  45. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    As we see our society cracking and crumbling around us, I am reminded of what Francis Schaeffer wrote in the late 60’s early 70’s. He noted that as violence becomes more and more prevalent people will be willing to give up more and liberties for “peace and security.” After tragedies such as the recent one in Texas ( we lose track since there are so many) we see calls for exactly this. I recently got a Senior Citizen ID card with the federally accepted seal on it so that I can fly domestically or enter certain federal buildings in 2020 . Yes, perhaps?? more security in travel and in public buildings but at a loss of certain liberties. I would not have envisioned an America like this 40+ years ago. The Christian author Schaeffer did.

  46. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Dean,

    Don’t forget the more hopeful side of that. 911 was a lot of evil, but on the other hand it prompted SO many acts of kindness and woke up SO many people to the need to truly live for something they actually believe in – like their neighbor. St. Paul said, “Should we then sin that grace may abound? Of course not!” But as Fr. Stephen said, when tragedy strikes in our lives He is right there asking us if He can use this event to transform our lives.

    As America (or anywhere) grows darker, the truth will only shine brighter and draw more (cf. St. Seraphim’s quote on inner peace). The great multitude who presently sit on the nominal fence will begin to choose sides – and many for the good than we can currently even dream.

  47. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Drewster,
    That would be wonderful Drewster, that the many choose the good as things get darker. Father Stephen has mentioned that nature bears its own weight, and that it pushes back on attempts to change it…such as the early on failures of the Bolsheviks when attempting to transform the family. Perhaps we will see the same type of thing eventually take place here with all the social and biological tampering going on. God, through nature and other means, can do far more, and faster, than any feeble attempts we may have on the Internet, on the streets, etc. Think only of how quickly the Soviet Union came apart. I watched it and could hardly believe what I saw occurring.

  48. John Timothy Avatar
    John Timothy

    Matt Z,

    HTML sounds like Word Star raised from the dead….I hope you are old enough to get that…..

  49. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Test (father please delete at your leisure)

  50. Rob in NY Avatar
    Rob in NY

    Dear Fr. Stephen,
    Much gratitude for your words and illustrating your point through the example of education. As an educator, I can testify to this type systemic, profit-driven, dehumanizing approach to children as widgets. The pervading culture of “reform” and experimental pedagogy has resulted in a dearth of the more creative arts and disciplines in favor of mechanistic learning. “If it can’t be measured, how can success be assessed?” We hear educators wrestling with this idea. I see it with my own children. The essence of “play” and the joy of learning have been diminished. I hadn’t thought of it as a form of “violence” until I read your essay.

    Our Western culture seems so set on quantifying everything, we’ve lost a real passionate sense at qualifying what makes our lives better. It’s toxic and consumptive as you seem to suggest. After 20 years of teaching, I fear there’s been a great degree of spiritual death among adolescents. Cultivating passions, encouraging community, and having honest discourse have fallen by the wayside for strict material and individualistic gains. The ongoing threats to the institutions of family and faith have sped up the decline. Some suggested it’s wrong to politicize why we have a shift in random acts of violence we see in schools and in public spaces, but the political response has only made it worse. Feuding talking heads on every news network have made it about winning and being right, rather than finding a common ground for love and tolerance.

    I may not be able to explicitly teach the Beattitdes or the St. Francis prayer in public schools, but I can abide by their underlying principles and values. I wish families would be more empowered to do so at their end. The violence so often begins as being self-inflicted, mainly out of fear and abandonment.

    Peace and God bless!

  51. Panayiota Avatar
    Panayiota

    I am thinking about how violent shame is and how we dress up shame in so many ways. All in the name of progress.

  52. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    This post and the supporting comments have strongly reinforced my opposition to the annual March for Life and other attempts to make abortion illegal. I am opposed to abortion. It is homicide, As Father has said, it has now reached the level of genocide. Because of my opposition to abortion, I spent time researching the best methods for reducing the abortion rate. I discovered that making abortion illegal does not work. To the contrary, it sometimes makes things worse. The way to reduce the abortion rate is to provide a loving and caring environment for the unwed mother and her newborn. Few women want to abort. They abort because they believe they will be unable to care for their child and themselves. Cultures that provide the care and support the mother and child need have fewer abortions than those that make it illegal. Medical and social science research has demonstrated this again and again. Trying to make abortion illegal is the Modern way. I would argue that providing the loving acre and support needed by mother and child is the Christian way.

    My two cents worth.

  53. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    David Waite, Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.

  54. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    I completely agree also, David Waite. Unfortunately, I see very little ministry among Orthodox believers in this direction.

  55. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Esmee’ , I do not know about many Orthodox endeavors but I do know of one, The Treehouse here in Wichita. It began as an effort of prayer by two women. It is a vital ministry. Two lay Orthodox women with jobs and families without overt qualifications started it. They labored for years. If such an endeavor is important to you and the Spirit moves you, it can be done any where.

  56. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    David Waite,

    I was intrigued by your comment. It reminded me of Dr. Gabor Mate speaking about the social experiment Portugal is doing. They made all drugs legal. Then they took all the money traditionally allotted for the typical “war on drugs” and put it toward solving all the problems that caused people to turn to drugs in the first place, i.e. affordable housing, occupational training & placement, nurturing environments. From my understanding at least 10 years have passed since this began and their overall rate of drug use has gone way down.

    I believe this is wisdom and it is the way God seems to deal with us, but it is counter-intuitive to the religion that most of us have been thumped over the head with, which aligns more with the slogan, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

  57. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    Amen to that, Michael. We have a local program that began when one woman saw a younger, pregnant woman going through withdrawal in a hospital. She was so moved that she took the young woman into her home. Mother and baby are now doing well, as are many others who have also shared in the blessing of what has now grown into a residential facility for unwed, drug addicted young mothers. One woman, reaching out to one, desperate, unwed mother has saved the lives of dozens of babies. It works, one mother and one child at a time.

  58. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    Drewster2000,

    Thanks. Compassion and understanding works.

    Let me hasten to add, however, that, as much as I admire the program you describe, I am not advocating any social or political program. All I am advocating is actual love of neighbor, as in real physical touching, listening, feeding, housing, and healing. As per my response to Michael, doing this for one person can work wonders, or, rather, allow God to work His wonders through us.

    Ask Mother Teresa,

  59. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Thank you all for these recent comments. They have brought tears of gratitude.

  60. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    David,

    It seems to be a human thing. One woman reaches out to a pregnant mother and does a wonderful thing, is Christ to her. But this is a fragile arrangement in our North American society, which seems detgermined to institutionalize everything. Sooner or later someone will insist that the woman get a license, build an extra room onto her house, request an exception to certain zoning laws, have a wheelchair ramp constructed, and so on.

    Having said that God seems to insist that His way remain fragile. It is the stripped-bare situation that allows for genuine relationships, true healing, the soul of one person ministering to another one. I marvel at this. Given a chance to do it over again He would always choose Moses. Jesus would always hang out with the prostitutes and tax collectors. He would always build His church on the disciple who denied Him – and call him “the Rock”. It is a mystery to me. It is a wisdom I know nothing about. I can imitate His behavior sometimes but I can’t understand it – not in my heart – not yet.

  61. Adam N Avatar
    Adam N

    David,

    In regards your comments on abortion, I agree; however, I don’t think that that’s the whole picture. There are many women who would not accept such help because they don’t see the decision to abort as a struggle, but simply as an inconvenient medical condition that just requires a routine operation to take care of, like a benign tumor. They don’t see it as a child. Our culture constantly screams that it is “your body, your choice” (and we have to keep telling ourselves that because it is so utterly contrary to the truth).

    The problems in our culture go much deeper. It’s the worship of self through consumerist choice as the means to “salvation”. I don’t have answers, just prayers.

  62. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    I was always dismayed by the TV coverage of the March in D.C. against abortion, pro-life (though I shouldn’t have been knowing who massages the news). At times more than 200-300 thousand marched, often in bitter winter cold. But the way the multitude was cropped, it always looked like a handful of thousands, or less. A few hundred would march pro-choice. But with the adept editing the crowds looked about the same size. So much for “news.” Think I’ll stick to the only truly Good News!

  63. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    It works, one mother and one child at a time.

    This is the essence of what Father has been teaching for some time here on the blog: pray, give alms, love the person in front of you. The commandments of Christ.

    Sooner or later someone will insist that the woman get a license, build an extra room onto her house, request an exception to certain zoning laws, have a wheelchair ramp constructed, and so on.

    Institutionalism is a method of control, primarily by the State. The reason this happens is that the forces of our society now worship the State–the centrality of a controlling power. So everything must be under it.

  64. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    Adam N,

    In regards to your comment, “There are many women who would not accept such help because they don’t see the decision to abort as a struggle, but simply as an inconvenient medical condition that just requires a routine operation to take care of, like a benign tumor. They don’t see it as a child.”

    I knew one such woman, over 40 years ago. I have encountered many women with “problem pregnancies” since then and I can only think of two other women who did not seem struggle with the decision. The fathers did. They both opposed the decision to abort and they both grieve to this day. The mothers may have struggled as well. I was not close enough to them to know.

    So I guess I have two things to say in response to your comment. The first is that I doubt that the decision to abort is, for most women, as easy as you say it is. Even when it appears to be an easy decision, there are often family and other pressures that we don’t know about. Appearances can be deceiving.

    The second thing I would say is please do not ignore the fathers. They usually are ignored and I think that is a great mistake, They need our love, understanding, care and support as well, especially since they often have no say in the decision whether to abort.

  65. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    David
    With years of Sidewalk counselling in front of abortion clinics, I agree with your premise that the best way to approach mothers seeking abortion is with compassion and help. However, I also agree with what Adam N said about many of those seeking abortion do not see anything wrong with what they are doing. Some are being forced into by parents or boyfriends too. Some see themselves trapped by being pregnant and are looking for the easy way out. I do know that the abortion mills tell people that an abortion is a simple procedure and that the baby is only a lump of tissue and not a person. High School Biology classes teach falsehoods about human development in the womb. As such I can see why so many are as Adam says. It is easy to tell what women think when they react to a compassionate approach as you suggest . Some are open, but most have rather harsh language for us. A few respond positively to our offers of help.

  66. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    Stephen – Thank you for your comment. I respect and defer to your more extensive experience. I especially appreciate what you said about the fetus being nothing more than a lump of tissue I think this points to the deeper problem, which the law cannot touch. The problem is cultural. We are losing all respect for life. This leads to abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, and a violent and cruel penal system. I might add drug addiction to the list. Changing the law will not change this culture. The law merely reflects the culture.

    You say that a few women responded positively to your offer of help. Thank God for the lives you saved.

  67. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Stephen,

    I agree with your assessment concerning many women not seeing anything wrong with abortion and not having a problem with it – at the time. But I also believe that reality cannot be ignored forever. I’ve heard several stories of such women going through depression years after the fact, often having no idea why, and coming to discover it to be a delayed mourning over the loss of their child.

    Even when this doesn’t occur, ignorance does not trump reality. I’m reminded of when cartoon characters would be half-asleep and walk over a cliff – but keep walking on a horizontal plane because they were oblivious to the fact that the ground had disappeared beneath their feet. It makes a great cartoon moment but never happens in real life. You can’t lose an arm and not go through a process of loss and grieving. Neither can you let a human being die – especially one so intimately a part of you – and not be impacted by it. That impact may manifest itself in different ways, but it will still manifest.

  68. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    David,
    You do make a very salient point about law. Law does not and cannot change behavior. All it can do is punish behavior. We all know what a speed limit is, the maximum speed that one can travel on a given section of road, but we all go faster than that. Our punishment comes as a ticket/fine’increased insurance premiums etc. Let’s not fool ourselves and think that abortions did not happen prior to Roe V Wade nor let us think that overturning that Case Law will stop abortion. Only the change of the human heart will bring it to and end and the only way to elicit change in human hearts is compassion. That you for bringing this to light.

  69. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Drewster,
    It isn’t always years later. The statistics for psychological impacts of abortion on women is frightening and covered up by Banned Parenthood and the government. Women who have an abortion have the following: 93% suffer from lack of trust and have severe trouble forming normal human relationships. 76% suffer from persistent depression, 68% suffer from PTSD, 56% become suicidal, and 53% suffer addictive behaviors. Add to that the physical consequences such as a woman who has one abortion is 119% more likely to die in child birth later when she desires to have a baby. For three previous abortion the rate is 191%. Often a woman becomes sterile after an abortion as well.

    I know from first hand experiences that these stats are fairly accurate. Many women suffer from these issues and do not connect it to their abortion . I wonder about the Hollywood elites who tout their abortion. I would if their Coke addiction and their tripos to rehab are just indicators of their real state of mind. I also personally know an unfortunate soul who did take her own life three weeks after she went ahead and had the abortion. My wife talked to her for over three hours before the woman went in anyway. It broke my wife’s heart when the woman called her weeks later crying out for help and despite our best efforts to get her help, she went ahead and killed herself.

    Its a terrible business and 3/4 f the victims of abortion are women. (half of the babies killed and all the mothers who suffer the after affects are female).

  70. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Stephen,
    “Women who have an abortion have the following: 93% suffer from lack of trust and have severe trouble forming normal human relationships. 76% suffer from persistent depression, 68% suffer from PTSD, 56% become suicidal, and 53% suffer addictive behaviors.”
    Speaking as a woman, and one who knows personally this tragedy, it has been my experience that the lack of trust, trouble forming normal relationships, persistent depression, etc. are not the result of abortion but are already at work previously. The decision to abort is then another tragedy among tragedies. And I tell you, it then goes to inflame those preexisting conditions. The shame intensifies and you withdraw further and further into darkness.
    I think this scenario is more accurate.

  71. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Paula,
    Perhaps it does, but I know many a woman who was fine before and troubled after with no sign of the issues. I know one who at age 15 had an abortion because her High School sweetheart’s father wanted to get rid of the problem so his son could go to college. It was the first year of Roe V Wade and the young girl was not a troubled person before hand and yet suffers to this day with many of those issues. She was 48 before she even knew the source of her issues.

    Having been in Pro Life for years, I know many women personally who are post abortive and come to the clinics to share their stories with the arriving mothers. I have talked extensively to them and almost universally they see the abortion as a watershed moment in their life. I cannot deny that some people have these issues before abortion but it stretches imagination to think that those percentages of women are already in that state before an abortion. The unifying factor in all of these is the abortion. One does not just have PTSD. One has to experience traumatic stress to have Post Traumatic Stress and the tramatic stress the women I know speak of is the abortion.

    Many of the women we see arrive at the clinics have been living self destructive life styles before they got pregnant so there may be some connection to a latent condition but certainly over half the women who do show up for an abortion have not in the past entertained thoughts of suicide or attempted it, so it seems there is a connection with that traumatic act.

  72. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Paula,
    I thank God for your comment.

  73. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    For all,
    The nature of the violence in our society and its destruction can never be easily isolated one way or another. So many things impact our lives that in hindsight, we ourselves are not always sure how to separate the strands.

    What is clear is that the violence of these decisions or the violence within relationships, and even just the violence surrounding the rampant injustice in modern culture, all contribute to the destruction of persons. My experience has been that this destruction falls heaviest on the weakest – children, the poor, women (in many situations), etc.

    Our prayers and compassion need to be directed towards all. No sinner, in my experience, is ever solely responsible for their actions. That, I think, is not the teaching of the Church. I prefer Dostoevsky’s Elder Zossima, “Each man is guilty for the sins of all.” Only in this manner can we learn to love. Christ did not hold Himself apart from us or our sins, but willingly took them upon Himself, not pleading His innocence, but pleading for our forgiveness.

    This is the way of the Christian. The violence of modernity (like the violence of so much else) walks about like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. May God protect us. May the Mother of God shelter us beneath her compassion!

  74. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    Thank you, Father.

  75. William Avatar
    William

    Father & others, you may appreciate this article about the Amish attitude toward technology.

    https://qz.com/1275194/the-amish-understand-a-life-changing-truth-about-technology-the-rest-of-us-dont/

    Here’s a quote:

    ‘At the beginning of the age of the automobile, nobody said, All right: 30,000 people a year are going to die. Is that a decision we want to make? What did happen is a very intense discussion about whether a car should be allowed on the road and who should be at fault when a car drives over a four-year-old in the street.
    ‘In the 1930s, we ended up as a society deciding that four-year-olds should be the one to blame. We began to train people even before they began to speak about how to cross the street and how to avoid it in the street. We redesigned our world to be safe for automobiles and dangerous for children.’

  76. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    William, great article! Many thanks!

    The Machine Stops is one of my favorite short stories.

  77. William Avatar
    William

    Byron, glad you enjoyed it!

    I have yet to read The Machine Stops, but it’s on my reading list for the week.

  78. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    William, all technology changes us. We always redesign our lives to fit it. Computers have changed the way we think but the ground work for computers was laid by Hegel with is binary, souless approach to history. Computers epitomize the two storey universe and counterfeit connections.

    Artificial intelligence — how will that change us? No one knows, most do not care. Should we be Ludites?

    Lord grant us wisdom and forgive us.

  79. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father your phrase ” the violence surrounding the rampant injustice…” causes a bit of cognitive dissonance for me in light of the rest of your comment and the overall tenor of the entire blog as I have experienced it.

    As a statement of existential reality it can easily become the rallying cry for “change” and even greater violence. Justice is a tricky word and concept as we human beings are so easily moved to great destruction in prusuit of it, never thinking for a moment that I am the source of injustice-my passions, judgments, desires and other sins create injustice.
    The law is incapable of restoring proper order, instead it usually magnifies injustice by it’s essential violence especially where everybody has “rights”.
    Our Lord is not “just” as St. John’s Paschal Homily clearly points out. Yet He restores justice by His Incarnation and sacrifice on the Cross and His Ressurection. These are the actual parameters of our existence not anything less.
    Human justice always demands blood-figuratively at least but often literally.
    So I find your reference to it quite strange.

  80. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    By “injustice” I mean the many and varied forms of an imbalanced distribution of power, wealth, debt, etc., as if many generations in Israel had ignored the Sabbath and Jubilee laws. When I force someone into a deep and almost endless debt – there is a violence. If there were a Jubilee – or simply Christian behavior in these matters – there would be less injustice. God will ultimately set things right in His Kingdom – and in a cosmic manner. But injustice in this world still has a meaning and still works according to the principles of justice/injustice.

    I’m not advocating a fix everything now approach – you’re right – those things are usually just another form of violence. But when looking at the examples of those who are in trouble – women, youth, etc. – we cannot understand their plight without reference to the violent injustice that they endure. That violent injustice is a sin in which we all have a share. Let’s not give up the term “injustice” to those who would use it wrongly. It’s a bood Bibical word and deserves a place in our vocabulary. We’re used to hearing justice described only from those demanding it for themselves – their “rights.” But the gross inequalities of our system and our land and our history – have given us a deep legacy of violence and injustice. Ultimately, only mercy can treat such things and it is mercy that God teaches our hearts.

    I have recently been speaking of justice/righteousness as “right-setting,” as in the Jubilee. When we extend mercy, there is a “right-setting” that takes place – and even more abundantly. I think this is consonant with what I’ve written before.

  81. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Thank you Father. Thank you for your kindness and compassion.
    I can hardly endure how some men speak past us (women) as if they know exactly what is happening and how to fix it. It takes all that is within me not to explode. After 63 years, I have had enough.
    I look at our Blessed Mother, how She endured in silence the swords piercing Her heart. I have never prayed to Her as much as I do now.

  82. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    A little extended thought…

    I’ve been working a lot recently with the Sabbath/Jubilee and its relationship to the Kingdom of God. It is in those terms that I’ve found the notion of justice (things set right) as helpful. God in His mercy will set things right (making it just). But I’ve also, in these terms, thought much about the violence associated with injustice. For example, a family that has been locked in poverty for generations – because a society lives unjustly, endures a great deal of violence as a consequence. They are sicker, less educated, die younger, and suffer many ills brought on by their poverty. It is just a way of looking at sin. Thus, when I think of a young woman, who has been left deeply vulnerable and abandoned in many ways – particularly by a culture whose answer is a quick abortion – she is as much a victim as anything. It has been a series of violent actions that left her in that position.

    This is not the whole of a situation – but injustice does great harm – which is why God gave Israel the Sabbath system in the manner that He did. A society that has no mechanism for addressing the generational results of rather natural imbalances increases the burden of that imbalance to a place of deadly consequence over time.

    We are not in charge of the outcome of history – but we do rightly to speak the truth and describe the world as it truly is. Sometimes, even Ninevah repents.

  83. William Avatar
    William

    Michael, that’s a fascinating connection you made: the Hegelian dialectic with computer technology. I’d love to read more about that…

  84. Adam N Avatar
    Adam N

    Michael,

    I second William’s request for elaboration. Calling computers Hegelian and the epitome of the two storey worldview sounds like hokum, but I’m willing to listen.

  85. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Well, I sometimes expand my imagination into the land of Hokum but when I look at the dialectic process and all of the philosophies surrounding it I see a form of binary thinking which dove-tails nicely with binary code that powers basic computing.

    Now there is certainly a lot of nuance I am skipping. That does not bother me. It has been a long time since I have read any Hegal though. Still as I chase the connections of the type of thinking that is at the foundation of modernism, that is one connection possibility that is worth investigating.

    There is one common denominator in it all — an Incarnate God is either unecessary or impossible. The fact that without an Incarnate God, there is no humanity is lost in the process. History is a force in and of itself powered by the dialectic process.

    Back in 1979 Time Magazine did a piece on Artificial Intelligence and interviewed several top people in the field. One of them said out right that his goal and the goal of many was to create the next dominate life form on the planet. The will to power. Here there is no longer a second storey even.

    My main point though is that our technology changes us — we do not just use it.
    Technology is not a tool. Computers have a unique capacity to existentially redefine what a human being is considered to be. A new synthesis of man and machine.

    It seems self-evident to me but then I was introduced to a one storey way of thinking in great nuance and complexity by my parents. They thought and acted that way even though they could not quite make the leap into full recognition of Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Logos–they knew someone was there connecting us all and offering us a opportunity to experience His life but who that was they could not quite get to. They had drunk too deeply of bad theology which they knew was wrong and had no one else to guide them. They left the rest of the journey up to my brother and me–both Orthodox by God’s grace.

    The dialectic and computers have this commonality: they are dead things masquerading as living things. They are useful if we remember that. They are dangerous if we do not.

    Everything is connected. I may have this particular connection wrong but there is still a connection and that is not hokum–that is the way creation is.

  86. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    One aspect of computers that occurs to me, reading your thoughts here, is that they are always a simulacrum – just binary, digital approximations of a world that we can say is more analog. In that sense, it creates a great artificiality – a “real” world that is inherently “not real.”

    We increasingly have people with not real experience. Living on the internet, they have “google knowledge,” which is only a digital summary. They don’t read books, much less have real encounters. It becomes a sort of “anti-sacrament.” The word becomes “flesh-like” but never flesh.

    When I was visiting Mt. Athos, one of the most striking things was its sheer palpability. I was seeing things that I had seen pictures of many times – and it’s not at all the same thing.

    Those are a few thoughts – not certain where to go with it…

  87. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father and others, I have been working on a project of my own lately that some of the threads here are touching on and sparking. A look at various philosophies of history and how they form an inter-linked matrix of modernity. This is a summary of what I have been studying and contemplating since my first conscious encounter with our Lord 50 years ago but with a conclusion I have never had before. So I suspect some of my replies are a bit cryptic. Right now they cannot be much more than that. Still in outline form and I have never put it all together in such a coherent form before.

    Your questions are good. They help me to clarify. Please bear with me.

    Father as far as your use of the word justice–it makes perfect sense. I was looking at it too much in the modern capricious understanding. I get it now-perfectly.

  88. William Avatar
    William

    Michael and Father,

    I think you’re onto something. ‘[D]ead things masquerading as living things’–makes me think of the zeitgeist, the ghost of the age. This might fit with Schmemann’s proclamation (Christianity’s proclamation, really) of Christ as the End of all things, in the sense that any geist other than the Heiliger Geist can only be death tarted up as life.

  89. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    Father – You said, “When I was visiting Mt. Athos, one of the most striking things was its sheer palpability.” I can say the same thing about the Eucharist. Thanks be to God. May His Name be forever praised.

  90. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Paula,
    I am still thinking of your last 2 comments. Yep, we guys can sometimes be real louts! My wife is so very different than me…thank God! The feminine touch is so needed and welcome in our lives and church…thank God for our blessed Mother Mary and all women saints! I’ve been enriched so with girls/women in my life…4 sisters, 2 daughters and a precious granddaughter. Anyway, know others think of you as you’re there on your farm (caring for all your animal buddies) beginning this hot season…especially around Tucson!

  91. Adam Avatar
    Adam

    Michael, Father,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I certainly agree that computer technology has had a lot of negative impacts on society, especially the way people choose to interact and spend their time. But I have to push back a little bit. Focusing only on these things is reductionist.

    I am sorry; I don’t really buy the dialectic connection to computers. The reason computers represent data in binary is for pragmatic engineering purposes—it’s much easier to design a machine that only needs to differentiate between two states of something, and the circuits for doing arithmetic on numbers represented binary are very simple. Maybe you could argue that people thought of engineering computers in binary because of Hegelian dialectics, but that just seems like grasping at straws to me. You could just as easily and arbitrarily assert that computers are Daoist because Daoism teaches that the universe is a balance and interaction between two opposing sides. That magnets have two poles is not Hegelian or Daoist. That binary arithmetic is easy to engineer is not Hegelian or Daoist. Of course, I might just be too literally-minded.

    And as far as computers facilitating artificial relationships, that is certainly true, but not of all computers. A smartphone with all the latest social networking applications pre-installed, for example, is engineered and often used for that purpose, but I don’t see how a supercomputer used for automated theorem proving or an embedded system in a medical device does this. And of course, computers are required for people to use them as a substitute for real experience, but that does not mean that computers therefore equal or epitomize this two-storey artifice. The eugenics of the last few centuries may not have occurred without biology, but biology is not therefore reducible to eugenics.

    Maybe as a computer scientist I have a bit of a different perspective, but I don’t see computers as “dead things masquerading as living things”. My basic idea of a computer is a machine that computes, which we have implemented as an electric device that stores and performs basic arithmetic on Boolean values. If your ideas of what a computer is are from observing modern consumer electronics and how they’re used (e.g. people “living on the internet”), without knowing much of how they work, they may very well seem like magic boxes that pretend to be alive, or an artificial world that pretends to be real. But they’re not mystical for me. If you’ve ever tried to program anything you’ll quickly learn how dumb computers really are. They at best only ever do exactly what they’re told, but quite often screw up somehow and cease to function entirely.

    As far as AI goes, I don’t really care what a magazine reported some expert as saying in the 70s. I’m sure his response was exactly the kind of one they searched for until they got, because it’s radical and sells copies. AI is just the study and use of algorithms that change (“learn”) according to their input. That people seek to use it for trans-humanist and other blasphemous purposes does not taint the entire field. Some people study medical science in essence to find life and achieve some kind of “immortality” (or as close as they can get to it) apart from God, but that doesn’t discount medical science as a whole.

    But again, I’m sure I’m biased and have a slightly different perspective since computer science is my field. And I do tend to think too literally (I’m working on it). Everything is indeed connected.

  92. Alan Avatar
    Alan

    “Then, as now: follow the money. The American project, as it now exists (and has for quite some time), is about making a number of people and corporations rich. Everything else is largely about pacifying a population and making them think that we’re about something else. The State is about power – and money is power. The Church is about power – but its power is Christ crucified. That is why the most subversive and dangerous thing we can do is lay down our lives for the world.”

    YES Father!! A thousand times YES to this comment!

  93. Alan Avatar
    Alan

    “Trying to make abortion illegal is the Modern way.” Sorry, but this is flat out wrong. Modernity is what gave us abortion on demand. Since modernity can’t be opposed to itself, it follows that modernity is not about trying to make abortion (murder) illegal. But hey, nice try.
    Frankly, I’m tired of this red herring lie that Christians don’t help single mothers and that’s why the lie needs to be called out. There are countless Christian based organizations in the US that do exactly that.
    You claim that outlawing abortion wouldn’t help. Of course that is just your opinion. Riddle me this: In January of 1973, what % of pregnancies in the US ended in abortion? What is that % today?

  94. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Alan, David W
    Better a good law than a bad law. It is very difficult to turn back the hands of modernity. Russia has been working on dialing back Soviet-era abortion laws. They have done so slowly, with the help of the Church, and are having some impact. The Church has formally asked for its eradication. Of course, in many respects, the Russian state is functioning in certain non-modern ways – particularly in its present relationship with the Church and with a spiritual understanding of society. It is not trying to create a secularized world – but a Russian world and a Russian world that would be unimaginable apart from Orthodoxy.

    Everything about living in a modern democracy tends to be modern. But, it’s not a reason not to work for good laws. We just have to understand that good laws will not necessarily make good people. Laws help discourage us from being as bad as we could be. Bad laws (such as the present statutes concerning abortion) actually help destroy virtue and fail to protect the project of nurturing virtue – something essential to every civilization.

    I would always work for good laws – even recognizing the limits of what it might accomplish. I would add that Christians should not become Machiavellian in their pursuit of good law.

  95. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Alan,
    I’m always grateful for scientists participating in this blog, where their participation provides us with perspectives that might help us grow deeper into the faith. Such growth comes to us in many ways. And I think discussion is helpful, as long as it is respectful and compassionate.

    I really enjoyed your synopsis about your field of computer science and appreciated your thoughts about how someone’s opinions in the field can be misused for sensationalist purposes (referring to your thoughts about AI questions).

    I will state this upfront, I’m Orthodox and abide and live the life of Christ as much as I can, a sinner as I am.

    In your last comment, you have spoken to someone you referred to as “you”. I didn’t know who that was, and like Fr Stephen, I had to scroll up the comment line to find to whom you were speaking. It seems that more often than not the most outspoken, and I would add politically strident, voices I hear tend to come from men. I was very grateful for David’s and Simon’s (I also add Fr Stephen’s) courage to speak in ways far different from that. I’m sure there are women who are very openly and vocally strident and antagonistic in their views against abortion as well. But I don’t hear such a tone among them as often as I hear such a tone among men. A few posts back, Fr Stephen wrote an article about the sins of the nation. With some chagrin, it wasn’t a surprise to me to read comments initially pointing to abortion were coincidentally males. Ironically also, my own first thought was to think of ‘white men with guns’ when I thought of the sins of the nation. I’m bi-racial, female and a scientist in physical chemistry (and btw chemical education). In the context of such questions about the sins of the nation, I’ve become aware of the fact that when I first think of the sins of the nation, I have a tendency not to look at my own sins. This immediate knee-jerk behavior I’ve been taught is not indicative of the Orthodox, and Christ’s way that we would live.

    In your last comment you ascribe to someone else that they speak from their own opinion. You brought out a question about numbers of infant deaths through abortion pre-and post abortion law. Such a question as far as I know can’t be answered scientifically from within your field as far as I know. And therefore by raising the question it seems you have an agenda outside your field. (which is fine–I’m just noting it and observe that you too have an opinion that you wish to express.)

    I too have a question about numbers. When you raised a question about ‘before and after’ law, I too had a question about ‘before and after’ law. But my question was quite different from yours and rather than just throw out a question, I decided to take a look at what the science in the medical field of maternity might show.

    My question was how many pregnant women die from self inflicted abortions, killing themselves and their infants. Here is one answer I found:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709326/

    As far as I can tell from such data, a law prohibiting abortions will not stop this from happening, but a law that does not prohibit abortions might.

    This country and its culture is not Russia. The ‘good o’ days’ in this country have been deadly for many people. It is for this reason I’m grateful for men in this culture, who dare to consider more carefully and compassionately the hearts and souls of women, children, and others (Fr Stephen’s comment at 12:30pm May 30).

  96. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I apologize Adam!
    I thought you and Alan were the same person. Didn’t read the names carefully. My deepest apologies.

  97. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Dean,
    Sorry to respond so late…I just now noticed your comment.
    It is so interesting that the most tender-hearted men will be the first, if only, ones to respond to a seemingly anti-male statement. You, of all people…I am not surprised ! Dean, I just want to clarify, I am by no means anti-male. What I am trying to describe is similar to the situation of racism. Blacks rightly say whites do not have any idea what it is like to be black in this nation. Neither does a male know what it is like to be a female. There are subtleties that the one discriminated against picks up on. It can be anything from a facial look, eyes, brows, mouth, body posture, tone of voice, to a condescending manner of speech, to outright implications of ‘you are just not as smart as I’ and what you say is not really important, for “I” know better. Then there’s the sexual issues (no need to go there). That’s all I’m saying. And after 63 years you’d think I’d be used to it. Because, you know, I have my own flaws.
    No, I am not anti-male at all. I am just very keen on a woman’s place in this world. And I am not a feminist in the least. Not even near!
    And thank you so much for your kind words for the women in your life and for remembering me on the farm! Dean, the women in your life are blessed, very much, to have you!

  98. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Dee,
    I really appreciate you. You pick up on the subtleties too, and so eloquently state what you see. I try to state my case nicely, but there comes a point when I loose it.
    What I’m trying to say is I love your scientific mind! And your compassion. What a great combination! I can imagine what you have encountered working as a scientist and being a female and bi-racial. We’d like to think of ourselves as having overcome the discrimination of the past, but we have not. Father is right. Laws don’t change a thing.
    Regarding the post about the sins of a nation, you mentioned you tend to see the sins of others before your own sins. I do that too. But I think you, like myself, quickly remember the truth that we are all sinners and we’re all culpable. The last thing I want to do is blame. I think it best if we can be honest when we encounter oppression and attempt to address it. Dee, I vote for you to be a spokesman! I’m way too blunt and rough around the edges!

  99. Alan Avatar
    Alan

    Thank you Father. I appreciate your comments.

  100. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Adam, I appreciate your comments. It was an over reach. Thank you.

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