Making the World a Better Place – Or Else

If you lurk around social media, particularly in conservative conversations, you will have undoubtedly seen something about recent statements on the part of a minor Democratic candidate for the Presidential nomination. I have no interest in the politics of the matter. However, the exchange goes to the heart of the modern impulse and serves as an excellent example of modernity’s dangers. The exchange:

Don Lemon: Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage?

O’Rourke: Yes. There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights, that denies the full civil rights, of everyone in America. So as president, we’re going to make that a priority. And we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.

“We are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.” Of course, removing the tax-exempt status of selected religious institutions will do nothing to “stop” them from believing (and practicing) what they believe – not if their faith is worth its salt. Indeed, the comment might have been an ill-thought attempt to simply say that “we will punish those who deny these ‘rights’.” Religious people have a long history of being punished for their beliefs and a dogged propensity to dig in their heels when persecuted.

Modernity has an impulse to power that is, apparently, hard to resist. In the drive to build a better world (regardless of its definition) there is a deeply hidden belief and assumption that the world doesn’t want to be a better place. Thus, if the world is left to its own inclinations, it will lapse into a worse place. Modern thought is of a piece with the American frontier experience. The world is a wilderness in which civilization can only carve out spaces. The jungle always threatens to return and must be kept at bay – by force, if necessary.

It was a very interesting way to treat the buffalo, the trees, and whole tribes of people. Of course, it was (and is) a philosophy of devastation. It is also the most patently dangerous set of notions ever to have stalked the planet.

Technology has always been part of human existence. The first sticks were technologically improved by sharpening and we have never stopped. Modernity is the first philosophy, however, to imagine technology as the means of remaking the planet. Indeed, in a manner of speaking, technology itself has become the new planet, inhabited by minds expressed as 1’s and 0’s. In a world of artificiality, artificial intelligence, or intelligence that has been rendered artificial, is “naturally” at home. Of course, it is less than human, as well.

Human life is a traditioned event: it is handed down to us. Everything about us, down to the most microscopic level of our existence, is given to us from those who have gone before. We do not start with a blank slate, nor is the world around us a blank slate. The madness of those who are driven by the modern impulse is their refusal to acknowledge and respect what has gone before. To be the smartest generation is an arrogance unknown until rather recently in human time. Evidence continues to mount that such arrogance ill-serves our civilization.

The Christian faith, when rightly taught, has no agenda for the improvement of the world. It has the commandments of Christ, which, when practiced, certainly treat the world with kindness, mercy, love, and generosity. However, the Church has no mandate to exercise the sort of control that would nurture the modern impulse. The moments in history in which Christianity and empire have seemed to coalesce, represent temptations that have betrayed the faith as often as they have seemed to foster it. The naïve sentiment that such times were an ideal, much less, a goal, are maintained only through a refusal to look carefully at the facts.

The commandments of Christ point us towards His Father as the model for our life. He is “kind to the evil and the ungrateful.” He “makes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” If “making the world a better place” were the job description for the Father, then we would justly wonder why He fails to do so. The work of Divine Love is a “mystery hidden from all the ages.” It is a “treasure buried in a field,” and “like a lost coin.” The death and resurrection of Christ point towards a triumphant love of God that, ironically, succeeds in failure. The modern impulse is a script for Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor who suggests that human beings can do a far better job than God with the needs of the world.

The philosophy of control and the management of creation is deeply alluring for the simple reason that it seems to be the sort of thing that should work well and to our benefit. Indeed, there are any number of examples where such control has done quite well. The sheer power of technology creates a siren call to wield it – like a ring of power. Beto’s words, however, reveal the corruption of such power. “We are going to stop those…” Such words are not restricted to either the Left or Right: they are the voice of modernity.

The great struggles of modernity, culture wars, and ideological battles, have all been fought on the field of management. Each election cycle comes as an effort to seize power, only to find that the battle continues. Ultimately, only if the opposition is thoroughly vanquished (“we will stop them”) will the battle appear to end. The great masters of this application of power understood that weakness and gentleness with regard to power are useless. Only the ruthless win in the game of modernity. Thus, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, and their ilk, all enjoyed their moments of apparent victory. And yet, each of them is dead and their projects returned to dust.

In a quote that should be etched in stone and memorized by all, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had lived in the belly of modernity’s darkest beast, offered his wise observation:

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.

There is “one small bridgehead” in the heart of every human being. That is perhaps the most hopeful statement of the 20th century. In point of fact, most human beings are not engaged in world improvement, or stopping the “improvements” of their adversaries. Most people live, work, eat, love, and die, within the relatively small margins of their existence. If the masses rush to the barricades, the madness overwhelms the world for a time. And yet, it always subsides.

There are, I think, limits set within the world that tend to protect us from our best intentions. First, we live for a limited time. Second, people would rather work, eat, love, and die rather than stand at the barricades. I have said quite frequently that in an argument with gravity, gravity will almost always win. There is a “gravity” in the world that tends towards stability rather than chaos, or that tends towards chaos when the gravity is of an unnatural form.

The New Testament speaks of two mysteries. There is the “mystery hidden from all the ages” that surrounds God’s work of gathering all things together into Christ. There is also the “mystery of iniquity” that is not so well-defined. We are told, however, that it has its own time and its own limit. One small bridgehead of good always remains.

The nations rage and imagine themselves to be the arbiters of history. The mystery of the Kingdom continues to work its way within the bridgeheads of the heart. That the world still stands is testimony to the vanity of the nations and the steadfast commitment of God to our salvation.

Commenters please note: I have zero interest in discussing politics of the Left or Right. 

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

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



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40 responses to “Making the World a Better Place – Or Else”

  1. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Fr. Freeman,

    What amazes me about both sides, but especially the Left, is that there is an inherent teleology in both systems. There is a push to go backwards to a pristine moment and renew it or to go towards an idealized future which is also an Eden in itself. Both assume purpose but both disregard God for the most part, so they must invent, and all we get are Babels over and over again.

  2. Columba in Tn Avatar
    Columba in Tn

    Fr. Stephen,
    Glory to God indeed! This is truly the medicine our souls need. Thank you. This blog and the input from the commenters is priceless. If you’re not pulling all this together for a future book it would be a shame. Oops, sorry to use the “s” word! 😂

  3. Paul Avatar

    “One small bridgehead of good remains”. Wow, that is a statement that one can think about for years. I suspect only suffering can provide the means to enable a person to have such an insight.

  4. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes, Indeed. I’m always staggered by the mercy and kindness expressed by those who have suffered such enormous things. I understand how a heart could be filled with bitterness and darkness (I don’t need to go any further than my own mind to see how that happens). But when there remains hope and kindness in the hearts of true victims, it shouts of a grace greater than we can imagine. Their witness is overwhelming.

  5. Richard Avatar

    This is a very well-written article on a very sticky topic. Thank you. Would you agree with the statement that improvement of the world is a side effect of Christian belief manifested in the behavior of its adherents?

  6. Byron Avatar

    Many thanks for this, Father.

  7. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes and No. That ideas that make up what is described as “modernity” (individualism, improvement, management, secularism, rationalism, etc.) all have their roots in distorted versions of Christianity – but they’re not Buddhist or Hindu ideas…they’re uniquely Western, and, hence, rooted in a kind of Christianity. Secularism, for example, is very much a concept invented in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps an unintended consequence, but quite real. From an Eastern Orthodox Christian perspective (from which I write), secularism is a heresy – perhaps the worst of all time. It’s a false understanding of the world and our place within it. Still, as an idea, it dominates the thoughts of many, if not most, Christians of our time. That is largely because it has become a default idea of the majority culture and simply isn’t questioned. Christians are far from being consistent about such things.

    But, in your question, I would not want to say that the “improvement of the world” is a “side effect” of Christian belief – in that it is not an inevitable side-effect of Christian belief. It was not an idea that anyone had for the first 1500 years or more (maybe 1700 or 1800) of Christianity. “Making the world a better place” presumes the ability to do such a thing. I think the belief in such an ability has only come about with the explosing in technology over the past 200 years.

    Some have suggested that the modern impulse towards world improvement is a distorted version of the Christian hope for the coming of the Kingdom of God. In the 19th century, that traditional hope began to be translated into what is now called the “social gospel” with the idea that it was our place to make or build such a reality. That was a very new idea – and – in certain respects – a heresy.

    I don’t know of any religious ideas of any religion that would believe in making the world a worse place. It would be sort of inhuman to want such a thing. As Christians, we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s a far cry from saying that it is our job to make the Kingdom come, much less to make God’s will be done on earth. The paradox is that such a desire seems to become demonic when left unchecked. Utopian schemes have been the bloodiest experiments in human history.

    But, when you argue against such things, as I seem to be doing a lot of lately, you can easily be accused of being opposed to improvement or worse. There is a Christian restraint in such things that is very hard to teach. Sometimes I think it’s an old man’s job, telling a young man that his dreams need to be moderated. But, there are plenty of old fools as well, and I have to number myself among them from time to time.

    I hope that’s not too muddled an answer.

  8. Stephen Avatar

    Keeping it “between the ditches” is the hardest thing to do.

  9. Byron Avatar

    The paradox is that such a desire seems to become demonic when left unchecked.

    I think that this is something that we all struggle with. There always seems to be “a better way” to do something–even something for someone else. It is not good enough to help; surely we can be more efficient(!) and help more. I think we need to learn to be satisfied in simply being help-ful.

    We tend to overlook the healing of our own spirit that takes place in helping others. Efficiency is not a balm; communion is. If we somehow built the perfect, State-run organization to efficiently combat such things as poverty, it would only impoverish our souls in the end. The immense damage to humanity would be far worse than the proposed cure of “equality”.

  10. Merry Bauman Avatar
    Merry Bauman

    Father, your post today brings a breath of fresh air and new hope to what has been a very long time of social media postings that have concerned me greatly and given me more shocks lately than I can count.
    You put things in a much better perspective, and I appreciate that. Thank you.

  11. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I struggle for my own sanity as well. I can feel, within myself, that I could easily slip into desperation (or worse) as I look at the world – and I see it all around me. The more I see of it, though, the more assured I am that this is not the right response. Solzhenitsyn’s answer to how the Soviet Union came into existence was simple: “We forgot God.” That is so much more than the Christian labeling associated with a kind of American patriotism. Forgetting God doesn’t mean forgetting to do lots of stuff in His name. It means forgetting that He exists such that we think the world depends on us.

    Remember God.

    Fr. Thomas Hopko said that when he went off to seminary, his mother told him: “Pray, Go to Church, Remember God.”

  12. Christina Chase Avatar

    This post and comments cause me to think of St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta and some of her critics. She and the sisters of her order took in people who were dying in the streets so that they could live what remained of their lives in the shelter of loving care. But she should have done more, the critics said. The sisters should have combated and defeated the causes of poverty and illness in Calcutta, they should have focused on working to cure people of their sicknesses. They should not, in other words, have “wasted time” comforting, loving, and soothing the dying. They should’ve changed the world and made it a better place.

    What the critics didn’t understand was that she and her sisters did change the world. The world, for each one of the persons in their care, was transformed into a place of compassion, gentleness, and the undying hope and beauty of divine love. That was the power of Christ working in and through them.

  13. Paul Avatar

    When Mother Teresa of Calcutta went to NYC to receive her award, she said words to the effect that India was poor materially, but among the rich of NYC she also saw poverty, poverty of spirit. It was a spiritual desert.

  14. Janine Avatar

    Hi Father, thank you for this. I just have a kind of “parallel argument” in some sense, to pick with you. That is that the Gospels seem to give us the idea that the wilderness is a rather scary place. I mean it is a place where the battle is going on, as opposed to the place where there is the Temple, or the Mosaic Law at work. There in the wilderness the demons come, or maybe you might find a fierce demoniac who has to be far from “civilization,” or even apostate Jews raising swine when they shouldn’t be. I mean, where do we go with Stewardship and the Incarnation? These things call us to action of some sort, even if it is faith and prayer. Does that sense in the context of what we’re discussing? (I know, it’s kind of a parallel subject.)

  15. Janine Avatar

    *make sense, I mean

  16. Randy Evans Avatar
    Randy Evans

    Father, I can’t agree more with your main point about our calling as Christians is not to make the world a better place. But how can we not rejoice that African slaves were ultimately liberated; or that the Civil Rights law of 1964 was passed through the efforts of many Christians protesting non- violently. And who among us doesn’t believe that on many levels abolishing legalized abortion would be a a huge blessing to millions of future unborn children.
    I just get confused as to whether you are saying or not saying that political activision in a democratic society is, at best, missing the mark as to what being salt and light in Christ COULD include, at least for some so motivated. Of course none of those things, and plenty more, have any intrinsic power to heal the river of evil flowing in each heart. Christ alone saves us from ourselves.

  17. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Life in this world is a “call to action” and Christ describes our actions in the context of His commandments. That is where we begin. Our tendency that I’m describing is towards the “management” of the world and its problems – where we imagine ourselves to see the whole of everything and to be able to “eliminate” poverty, crime, drugs, etc. That drive towards a sort of maximalism actually makes for bad laws and evil government. In the name of ultimate things, we overlook what is most at hand.

    If we start with the commandments of Christ, and practice them, much will open before us. Frankly, most people waste a lot of time talking about what needs to be done, ought to be done, etc., and very little time doing anything. Indeed, we are tricked into doing nothing because “we are so little.” Christ did not give us a blueprint for managing the world. He gave us His commandments – and the opportunity to keep them is always at hand.

    I do not mean do nothing. I intensely mean that we should do what God has actually asked of us.

  18. Dino Avatar

    I deeply appreciate your article and comments here Father! Thank you once again…

  19. William Avatar

    Dear Father Steven:

    I know that you are not interested in politics and I know that the light of God shines on you undoubtedly. You are truly a man of God.

    I am trying to improve myself but I am a long way far away from it. However, I had a chance to travel to many places and many cultures around the world. I do not know if there is any good in it, but I could be parachuted anywhere, I am sure I can survive and get acquainted to any place in a very short time. I know about the world not only from books but also for my own experience.

    Our founding Fathers devised an exceptional system of government with a balance of powers closely resembling the Venetian Republic. The entire idea was to limit the powers of some group of people trying to “improve/manage” other group of people.

    I am a foreign born American so I am free to say it: It really get rubbed the wrong way when I hear Americans denigrating America and talking about the alleged virtuosity of other places. As an example, India that still holds to one the most repugnant cast systems.

    By a long margin the”American experiment” as originally conceived is truly exceptional. The bulk of the pioneers were not a bunch of people trying to devastate the west nor the native Americans were a bunch of peaceful loving people singing songs to the spirits. There were just people. Good and bad. In fact, the brutish conquistadors were appalled at the brutality of the Aztecs just to give an example but you can read what the Lakotas did to the Pawnees if you want to make it closer to home.

    I firmly believe that our Orthodox way of life is far better than most but I hold my judgment on others. Protestantism has its faults but by comparison is a better believe system than most on earth.

    The barbarism that we are witnessing now is nothing new, in the west it has it more recent roots in the demonic French revolution and it follows all the way to the present. You mentioned some names that are in direct lineage to Beto. You can always dig further back probably to Adam and Eve but it is a different matter.

  20. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I would be a fool not to rejoice at slaves were liberated, or that the Civil Rights law was passed, etc. I certainly do not suggest such a thing. Govenments should do justice as they are reasonably able – that means laws that work for good. None of us can “make” the world be good. Again, there is a reasonable measure. Oddly, no one ever seems to run for office suggesting reasonable measures. They are all utopians.

    Of course, slavery gave way to Jim Crow, etc. It’s never just a zero-sum game. I knew good men who lost their jobs in the years prior to 1964 because of their opposition to Jim Crow. They were brave and very Christian. There is much that we should do and can do – as we obey the commandments of Christ.

    I’ll not say that democratic action is wrong – mostly, I’ll say that it is not nearly as powerful or good as it is made out to be. We live in a deeply corrupted world – where the layers of corruption are so varied and thick that it is hard to accomplish much at all through government. It’s extremely opaque.

    However, the passions that are manipulated by political forces are as deadly as pornography (and for the same reasons). So, it is a word of caution that I offer. For one, I hear almost no one out there saying what I’m saying – quite the opposite. I don’t fear that I’ll create a lack of activity!

    I do hope, however, to recall a few souls from the brink of destruction where the passions of our “democracy” have carried them – and to rescue others from despair. God is at work – even when we are not. Above all, keep the commandments.

  21. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I suspect that I am most American when I criticize America – it’s perhaps the oldest habit that we have. What I have written in this article, however, would apply pretty much anywhere in the “modern” world. I cast it in terms of America because that is where I live and what I know. However, if we are to be a good people, then we’ll not get there without criticisms – particularly if they are accurate and on target.

    But, as I noted, I have little interest in politics.

  22. Janine Avatar

    Thanks, Father. That makes perfect sense. I suppose that, in a very particular way, thinking we can manage the whole show is to put mammon before God. And pretty darn presumptuous. I consistently find there is a thread of believing that since we wear the white hats, anything we do is by definition good. No assumption that we are all flawed and imperfect, only our “enemies.” And we certainly don’t need guidance beyond this world.

  23. Rand Avatar

    I have come to believe that, for me (and here I stress I only speak about myself, not others) it is not right to vote. The right to vote is important, and I don’t want to deny it to anyone but myself. My reason is that if there are changes I would see in the world, it begins with me. It may extend to my family and perhaps my friends if I become a virtuous enough man.

    But to vote for my own preferences, to pass laws to force others to act in a way I myself struggle to? It is an idol, an illusion of power. In the state I live in now, 4.4 million people (give or take) voted in the last presidential election. The chances that my single vote would change the results of an election are worse than being struck by lightning three times on the way to buying the winning lottery ticket. The danger that I could lose sight of the heart of a family member who votes in the other direction, that I might hold something against them because of it (or to have them hold something against me) is infinitely greater. And it’s a danger I am no longer willing to dance with.

  24. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I understand your reasoning – and – as you say – it’s how you’re personally working through this question. For myself, I’ve been working with a principle of voting what I know and trust – and not voting for a “lesser of two evils” particularly if the lesser evil is just plain bad.

    I have had participation in various aspects of the Right to Life movement over the years – and do not plan to stop that. Though, I recognize that if abortion were outlawed tomorrow, there would still be lots of work to do. After a fashion, abortion is a very modern thing – an effort to control outcomes – up to and including killing a child in order to get a desired result.

    Being able to live with suffering – because it’s the right thing to do – an obedience to the commandments of God – as pretty anti-modern. So, my repentance begins with working at accepting my own suffering with thanksgiving and to labor for others in theirs.

  25. Kevin Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    I am curious to know the artist credited with the painting at the head of your article. Do you happen to know?

  26. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    It’s by Kuzma Petrov Vodkin

  27. Rand Avatar

    Thank you, Father. I will sit with this.

    As a sidenote: Are there any particular Right to Life groups to which you would recommend devoting time and money?

  28. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    My parish supports the local Crisis Pregnancy Center. They’ve got them all over the place, under various names. Almost all are independent, charitable institutions, supported primarily by Christians. They provide counseling, health support, and other needs for girls/women who are in “crisis” pregnancies. When pro-abortion people complain that Christians don’t care about women – they ignore this nationwide ministry. California, for one, has tried various ways to hinder their work. Wherever you find them – (I would google Crisis Pregnancy Center in your area, and make a few calls to be sure what they do) – they are doing wonderful work. Saving and changing lives. Here in our small town, they are supported by a strong network of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox people.

    I’m sure there are other resources out there that are deserving as well. Also, these centers are generally well-connected with local networks of Christians who are working to change laws. Here in TN, as in a number of other states, there have been consistent efforts to dial back the legal insanity. Such efforts have been accompanied by very positive support efforts such as the Pregnancy Centers.

    God bless you!

  29. Maria W Avatar
    Maria W

    A Christian Humanist from Kurt Russel,

    A truly humane man is a person who knows we were not born yesterday. He is familiar with many of the great books and the great men of the past, and with the best in the thought of his own generation. He has received a training of mind and character that chastens and ennobles and emancipates. He is a man genuinely free; but free only because he obeys the ancient laws, the norms, which govern human nature. He is competent to be a leader, whether in his own little circle or on a national scale—a leader in thought and taste and politics—because he has served an apprenticeship to the priests and the prophets and the philosophers of the generations that have preceded us in our civilization. He knows what it is to be a man—to be truly and fully human. He knows what things a man is forbidden to do. He knows his rights and his corresponding duties. He knows what to do with his leisure. He knows the purpose of his work.[7]
    By: Kurt Russel

  30. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Hi Fr. Stephen,
    Did you choose the image for this post as an allusion to the red horse in the prophet Zechariah? Or just a happy coincidence?

  31. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    What I had in mind in the Red Horse was the Red Horse of the Bolshevik Revolution, the original context of the painting. Of course, there are other horses out there. 🙂

  32. Wesley J Smith Avatar

    Fr. bless:
    I am involved in dealing with the destructive behaviors and policies that modernity has wrought. I used to think I could persuade people to reject the darkness that this way comes. I now know I cannot, and indeed, that people really WANT to “forget God,” in the great author’s words. Doing so is “freedom” don’t you know, which, of course, it isn’t. It is slavery.

    So now, I mainly hold up a mirror with the idea being,” to borrow a phrase used by the Lord, “Those with eyes to see, let them see.”

    It can be hard. I often think things depend on me. But that is Pride. Lord have mercy.

    Thank you for this edifying reflection.

  33. Dino Avatar

    your words that:

    The sheer power of technology creates a siren call to wield it – like a ring of power. Beto’s words, however, reveal the corruption of such power. “We are going to stop those…”

    are reminiscent of CS Lewis prophetic ‘Abolition of Man’, especially where he sums up that:

    …For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means the power of some men to make other men what they please…


    …A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery…

  34. Matthew W. Avatar


    Please forgive my lack of understanding – specifically the last quote. I’m sure in context it makes a certain degree of sense, but as quoted:

    A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery…

    This statement reminds me of certain Ayn Rand Objectivists, whose dogmatic belief in objective value has always seemed very cold to me, and the antithesis of Christ.

    A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

    Ezekiel 36:26

  35. Dino Avatar

    Yes, it needs some context indeed, Lewis makes a case against the chaos and disharmony of arbitrary subjectivism and how this plays right into the hands of evil, while supporting the fact, that to make any just or genuinely moral judgement, there needs to be an absolute standard:

    “Only the Tao [“Lewis’ code-word for the doctrine of objective value & eternal principles”] provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”

  36. juliania Avatar

    Dear Father Stephen and commenters, I do think that as we age we see many of your well-taken points out there, and especially with the current decline in the world of more hopeful conditions which came to be soon after the second world war – we could not but be grateful for the onset of the fruits of cessation of that terrible time, brief though that was.
    I simply go back to the first story in Genesis of our making – because I was so taken with what you said in a previous post, that we ‘breathe God’. I always think the Genesis story is timeless – it says what we are and where we are and where we are going. As such, we briefly stand in Paradise and then we do not. But we were made for it, and it did involve being put into a garden to look after it, having a companion so we would not be alone. I do believe we are obliged to construct earthly kingdoms, imperfect though they be, and always ourselves being aware that they would not be without the permission of God. After all, imperfect David did that, and out of it came Solomon’s temple, on which foundation the beautiful earthly structure that is our own church was built.
    I am at a loss that Orthodoxy is described by some as the least joyful religion when to me it is the most. It’s simply that some are not familiar with it, I think. I do think we err if we try to make the world a better place on a faulty model, which is what so much of modernity is about; but I don’t believe we should give up on it all the same. Simply we should understand that those glimpses of Paradise we do get from time to time are encouragements not to give up on seeing it again, or having our children experience similar moments, even out in the world that so often seems so bent on its own destruction.

  37. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I appreciate your quotes from Lewis.

    In reference to Father Stephen’s article and your reflections and quotes that pertain to it, I agree.

    I’m in circumstances (forgive me I will not be very specific) in which the politics of ‘personal pronouns’ have come into play. In the past few decades in public institutions there had been legislation in place to encourage inclusivity. Now that identity of sex has become ‘an issue’ some institutions such as universities are considering not taking in demographic information from incoming employees or students.

    In my opinion such information was helpful to ensure inclusivity. We generally have some difficulty seeing our own behavior and history in a light that would allow behavior of repentance. Some ‘loving objectivity’ is needful. Although ‘loving objectivity’ probably sounds like nonsense to some philosophers.

    As a person who frequently refers to molecular foundations here on this blog, it will seem harshly reductionist to say ‘you can’t argue with DNA’. And yet I hear my ‘inner dialogue’ saying such things. What we do with molecular information is often culturally bound, and the level of ‘subjectivity’ that plays into it, overlooked.

    Whose truth do we speak? Whose truth do we live and abide in? For us who have given our lives to Christ there is only one answer.

    Nowadays I avoid pronouns altogether. And I keep my head down under the social warfare fire. This probably sounds like a cop-out. But I don’t want to engage with the politics if I can avoid it.

  38. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think there is a bit of a “war” going on within different strains of the “Left” (or thereabouts). The classical demands of feminism are clashing with the new demands of the gender fluidity thing. I suspect that, like gravity, the “relative” sanity of classical feminism (and I do mean “relative”) will win out – simply because of the “gravity” of self-interest. Of course, I could be wrong.

  39. Dino Avatar

    I’m often in the same situation as what you describe in my work and agree with you. It can be quite frustrating of course, and as I get older I sometimes speak my mind [on the absurdity of the double standards of identity politics, as well as other issues regarding these new minority “special-rights” (trumping majority’s rights), impulsively] ignoring any repercussions altogether!
    There’s a balance to be kept between truth/sanity and loving/condescension.

  40. Nicole Fernandez Avatar
    Nicole Fernandez

    Hi Father Stephen,

    Regarding Artificial Intelligence, i really believe that is a story told to us to sell things. I frequently say AI does not exist, algorithm based search exists. They can update probabilities, creating conditional probabilities, but they have failed to identify all the relevant variables.

    One simple phrase I love, and try to say gently, and it took me years to figure out is just “There are other variables you are unaware of” when someone tries to help me in a way that (because of the other varibles) will cause more harm

    On the campus I used to teach at there was an event I found myself waiting for, while quite pregnant, across from the prochoice group’s info table. I wanted to walk up to the young women and say, “You know, pregnancy really isn’t that bad.” It is so rare to see a woman and child there. I remember my college instructor one day bringing her baby to class, and I had to bring my 3 and lots of legos once last Spring and it was good for all of us, the students too (a nice miracle). I often think ‘your going to want to have kids’ but the walls are covered with classes about policy. I think the new arms race of prestige among parents is whose kid is going to get to set the policy

    I hope we can articulate to young people that marrying young is not crazy, it is sharing life together both the good and bad with God’s grace.

    I loved the article titled ‘The Kavisllas Option’ in Solia, the Herald (Romanian Orthodox Episcopate) in the past year
    I might have mentioned it already

    Thank you Father. Those who push their children to fix the world may just be seeking a sense of accomplishment for themselves. Mark Goulston has some great essays on his Medium blog about that, and about other topics like trauma and suicidality in the young. He also has an excellent one on Object Constancy as it relates to facing loss in a Psychology Today post. He links our ability to know that we can go on to our experience of our mothers as infants. It made me think of the Theotokos, and how Christ shares His mother with us

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