Shaming Silence

The phrase has been quoted frequently: “silence is violence.” It is the demand that some form of political speech or action, expression of opinion, meme-sharing, and the like, is required of every person or they are guilty (or at least complicit) in violence against a racial minority. There are any number of careful analyses of the depths intended by this phrase, examinations of the nature of violence, the nature of systemic prejudice, as well as the creation of justice. As much as I loathe political discourse, the present case serves as an excellent example of the nature of modernity and its subtle demands in our lives. No doubt, many have been persuaded to take up the chants that have become familiar of late. Others have probably been provoked to anger by such demands, even when they personally oppose racial injustice. What is going on?

First and foremost, the statement, “silence is violence,” is an attempt to shame those who do not join in the public outrage. There is the clear implication that anyone who remains silent is complicit in a crime. They are less than good people. That is the nature of shame: it tells us that we are bad. Anytime we are shamed, we are provoked to anger or to some form of inner misery. We want to either placate the accuser or to crush them. We’re wired that way. It is, and always has been, a powerful means for controlling human behavior.

Throughout much of Western history (both Medieval and the early modern period) public shaming was perhaps the most common form of punishment. The two most frequent forms were the stocks (where a person was simply locked in a wooden platform and put on public display for a time) and the pillory (where the head was held in place by an iron contraption so that a person could not move, nor turn the face away in shame). There were other cruelties added, including nailing the ears, or cutting them off, or whipping the individual as well. The point of these punishments was not so much the suffering involved – it was the public display of the suffering. It was common for the public to ridicule an individual in the stocks or pillory, throwing rotten food, spitting, and the like. The crucifixion of Christ was simply an early, more cruel form of this very thing.

The death penalty has been in place through most of history, and only ceased to be a public form of punishment in relatively recent times. Crowds gathered to watch and jeer as a criminal was hung. The hangman’s noose, the pillory, and the stocks, were a form of social media in their time – the Facebook of a village.

There is a long history of public demonstrations and riots. Crowds have sought to overthrow emperors, change policies, single-out and execute individuals, etc. Indeed, the sorry history of racial lynching in America belongs in the darkest corner of such actions. The passions of crowds often seem to empower a group to do something that a single individual would never dare or even wish. There is an anonymity that comes about in which personhood begins to be obscured and lost. It is a dangerous episode in the life of any nation, regardless of the cause.

Sadly, it also seems to hold great promise to many. In terms of the passions, it feels like something is being done (when “something must be done!”). Of course, in America, as a news-cycle fades, so the crowds thin, and whatever “must be done” likely languishes or morphs into something else entirely.

I have voiced my skepticism about the “modern project” time and again, with the argument that it represents a distortion of classical Christianity, while, at the same time, being a disingenuous collection of slogans that provide cover for the true work that goes by its name. It is not building a better world. It is more accurate to say that modernity is always building a bigger profit.

There is some level on which democracy “works.” It is, however, not nearly as transparent nor obvious as it would seem. The history of nations demonstrates time and again that the “powers that be” are, primarily, “powers.” They are not philosophical or theoretical entities. Unmasking the powers is always difficult, and sometimes quite frightening. On some level, there is always something “demonic” at work. In the Scriptures, the distinction between the government of the empire and the “principalities and powers” of the demonic anti-hierarchy frequently seems blurred. Though Christ was “officially” put to death by the Roman state, St. Paul also describes the crucifixion as an action of the “rulers of this age” (1 Cor. 2:8), a clear reference to demonic powers. By the same token, Christ’s death and resurrection are a defeat of these same powers.

Democracy does not represent a new age in which these powers are no longer at work. That which was at work in Rome, in the Middle Ages, in the Soviet Union, in the European Union, is that which is at work in all of the states of the present time. There is no such thing as a “secular” state.

The real question for Christians is not “how should I vote,” but “how should I live?” There is nothing wrong in voting one’s conscience. But there is much wrong in imagining ourselves to have power in the manner in which it is often told to us. This is the simple truth: steadfast, sacrificial prayer is of far greater worth than every so-called political action. God sustains the world through the prayers of the saints. Not even a modicum of justice is sustained by the votes of a majority.

We cannot, through voting, make the world to be a place any better than our own hearts. If we cannot rightly govern even so little, how do we imagine ourselves to be governing so much? If God could turn the wicked heart of Pharaoh towards mercy, can He not do the same in our own day? St. James wrote: “…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

Many people would agree that they have rarely seen as much anger and hatred in our public lives as we are seeing at the moment. Righteousness, the true godly relationship between people, is a profound work of peace-making. We cannot make peace with anger. “Acquire the Spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” That is simply the truth regarding any righteousness in this world. Such peace flows easily from silence, if the silence is wrapped in prayer.


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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186 responses to “Shaming Silence”

  1. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Dee! Thanks so much for the link to “Stop Talking”. Having read its beginning pages, I am very eager to learn and, retain, what is being said here.

    At the ‘Forward’ it says :
    Stop Talking
    Set down your electronic devices.
    “Set down your books and your pens.
    Go outside if possible; otherwise, find a window.
    And then for a minute or two, let go of your thoughts
    and listen to the wind. Pay attention to the land you
    are standing on and to the living things that share
    your space. Breathe intentionally from the
    common air. Notice how you feel.
    Stay with it as long as possible.
    Return to it as often as necessary”

    Sounds quite applicable to the Faith, so far!
    …and yes Dee, let us all together say the Jesus Prayer.

  2. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I’ve just re-read it and recall that is written more or less from the memory of one of its participants, rather than by one of the elders. One remarkable missing piece of information that I sincerely believe was present but missed by the participants is that the Aleutian people, especially the people of St Paul island where one of the elders came from, is strong in the Orthodox faith.

    Here is a short blurb from the St Paul Aleutian Pribilof Island website:

    St. Paul is predominantly Aleut, with a small Eskimo and Indian population. Although subsistence has not historically been the focus of the local culture, today halibut and seal are shared and exchanged with relatives living in other communities for salmon and reindeer. The Russian Orthodox Church plays a strong role in community cohesiveness. [my emphasis]

    When Mr. Merculief speaks of “praying” I have no doubt he means in the Orthodox way. But I believe that truth might have gone over the heads of the participants.

  3. Michelle Garrison Avatar
    Michelle Garrison

    Thank you for putting into words what has been in my heart. Bless you!

  4. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Ah….I will remember that about Mr. Merculief when I come to that ‘prayer’ part.

    In what I have read so far, I can see how the spirituality of Orthodoxy and our Native peoples very much compliment each other, in our mutual respect and honor for all creation. The seen just as much as the unseen. So naturally, prayer would flow easily between the two as well.

    Very good, Dee. Thank you.

  5. Dino Avatar

    Picking up from your response to Cristi regarding racism and Marxism, do you know that the word “racism” was invented only in 1930 by Leo Trotski?
    It cannot be found before that as an:
    “- ism”….
    When Chrysostom speaks of different coloured grapes etc… we see the Christian understanding of the matter, but its framing in the secularised public sphere is unfortunately infiltrated with the ingenious subversion motives of Marxist ideologies whose stated motives diametrically differ from their actual ones.

  6. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, the United States is the only country formed by ideas. We were even then an.eclectic mix of people. The Founders for all their intellectual brilliance had little emotional intelligence. Emotionally and spiritually we were and are quite divided. We have never had a spiritual cohesion unless you consider Jackson’s and others adherence to “union” spiritual. Certainly there has never been a common devotion to God . Then there is the slavery thing which has always been a fatal flaw and still is today. Our “Christianity” has tended to vacillate between an intellectual or an emotional bunch of clap trap. We are largely a non-historic country. We are a bit like the old afghans my late wife used to make out of bits and pieces of yarn remaining from other projects but without her skill. Our first revolt internally was the Whisky Rebellion 1791-94 over taxes. The idea of individual personal freedom in an egalitarian mix is not conducive to forming and maintaining a coherent, stable country. Despite our rhetoric like Daniel Webster’s “Liberty and Union, one and inseparable!” Flew in the face of patrician authority and hierarchy that formed the country in the first place

    Our Orthodox faith has suffered in that mileau. A mileau whose by-word is “Freedom” and every person has their own definition. A country ripe for dissolution or tryanny. Effectively Godless in any meaningful sense. Therefore the mustard seed approach of repentance, forgiveness and Almsgiving dedicated to the Incarnate Lord is actually preferable. Certainly it must be maintained in quietness but the quietness will be largely hidden I fear. Pray for the monastic spirit.

    Our refusal/fear/obedience to not come together in prayer and worship right now makes such a thing profoundly difficult. Had we not had quarentine it is unlikely the current insurrection would have taken life. Fear, isolation, resentment and lust of power combined with social media–quite a powder keg.

    Anyway we are commanded to “Fear not”. May our Lord strengthen us all.

  7. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, the sweet truth. Thank you. I am still looking for my copy of Dancing God’s BTW. So scattered. Please pray to the finding angels that I may find it.

  8. Ziton Avatar

    Father, I smiled when I was reading the discussion about your proposal for a “day” as I was reminded of the old Tom Lehrer classic song about “National Brotherhood Week” . In addition to working as a commentary on the likely fate of any such thing, it’s also a cleverly done reminder of what we’re up against. “It’s as American as apple pie.”

  9. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Given that I actually am an American – from time to time I fantasize in an American direction. But I do not see any easy fix, or even such a thing as a “day” on the horizon. We’re too soul-sick.

    Even in the Church. We can gather and pray, and even offer repentance. Any hint of the political, however, would immediately condemn such a thing.

  10. Ziton Avatar

    Re the Brene Brown thing, maybe the modernist language thing was in part my problem in just lifting that section out. It comes at the end of her book after a lot of other very useful and insightful stuff (at least I thought so, but of course you are more aware of the literature and may not agree).

    In posting that extract I was thinking that while I may well (and do) bemoan the modern aspects of where our culture has gone and seems to be heading (and it IS ugly now with blame and shame and materialism and just a weird combination of wealth and yet oh so much neurotic neediness) without at least pondering what might help to improve things while avoiding the modernist traps (yes, very hard to do. Aren’t your ponderings on a “Day” sort of a groping towards such a “how can we move forward” kind of thing? I think that thinking about such things is good as long as we take care.)

    Brene Brown’s ideas did actually seem to be consistent (or at least not inconsistent) with the way I sense the discussion here has been heading : rather than necessarily joining a cause, the most important work we can do is with our own hearts, key relationships and with others. I included the long example she gave not because of the particular subject precisely because I thought it was interesting that she used such a personally directed rather than outwardly projected thing as her main example of how she thought social change might come about. Personal responsibility, connection, empathy. Who would have thought?!

    One moving thing she did have in another part of the book was this poem – and I could not help feeling that it spoke to so much of the pain we see playing out at the moment (especially when combined with the sorts of things in the Dreher article and that Reader Christopher was mentioning). It really hit me at just how much shame really is the silent killer stalking us all and the current crisis is just a rather acute set of symptoms of a deep seated disease :

    “This is the shame of the woman whose hand hides her smile because her teeth are so bad, not the grand self-hate that leads some to razors or pills or swan dives off beautiful bridges however tragic that is. This is the shame of seeing yourself, of being ashamed of where you live and what your father’s paycheck lets you eat and wear. This is the shame of the fat and the bald, the unbearable blush of acne, the shame of having no lunch money and pretending you’re not hungry. This is the shame of concealed sickness—diseases too expensive to afford that offer only their cold one-way ticket out. This is the shame of being ashamed, the self-disgust of the cheap wine drunk, the lassitude that makes junk accumulate, the shame that tells you there is another way to live but you are too dumb to find it. This is the real shame, the damned shame, the crying shame, the shame that’s criminal, the shame of knowing words like glory are not in your vocabulary though they litter the Bibles you’re still paying for. This is the shame of not knowing how to read and pretending you do.

    This is the shame that makes you afraid to leave your house, the shame of food stamps at the supermarket when the clerk shows impatience as you fumble with the change. This is the shame of dirty underwear, the shame of pretending your father works in an office as God intended all men to do. This is the shame of asking friends to let you off in front of the one nice house in the neighborhood and waiting in the shadows until they drive away before walking to the gloom of your house. This is the shame at the end of the mania for owning things, the shame of no heat in winter, the shame of eating cat food, the unholy shame of dreaming of a new house and car and the shame of knowing how cheap such dreams are. © Vern Rutsala “

  11. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Ziton, I too was reminded of National Brotherhood Week. The kind of national sorrow and repentance Father longs for is only possible in a Christian monarchy.
    The U.S. is too fractured and “rights” driven. Now we seem to be into maudlin, hypocritcal “confessions” that remind me of the Soviet show trials.

    Yet “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

  12. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael, Ziton,
    Definitely a weakness in the American system is the absence of a figure-head monarch or leader of some sort who is seen as removed from partisan allegiance. I’ve begun to think that our separation of powers has become a weakness.

    With the British system, you elect a party with a platform, and you have its leader as the PM. If you don’t like it, you vote them out and change the government. We have seen not separation of powers but partisan division and gridlock and the inability to solve problems. The US has been in a Constitutional crisis for several decades and seems not to know how to solve it. There may not actually be a solution.

  13. Sh. Priscilla Avatar
    Sh. Priscilla

    Please forgive me and feel free to delete this if too political. I’ve just contacted our Senators’ offices asking for a Senate Resolution declaring July 3 a National Day of Fasting and Prayer for Reconciliation as a fitting preparation for our National Feast Day celebrating our Independence from oppression; recognizing that the ideals our nation was founded on have not yet been realized for all and committing to work towards the day when all will be brothers and sisters.

    If not this year… maybe some day.

  14. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Sh. Priscilla
    Indeed we look forward to that day.
    Though, here is the tension: we live in a Kingdom unseen, within a kingdom seen. To whom do we turn? Do we turn to the master of each kingdom? Forgive me, but I just can’t do that. I have not a modicum of trust in this gov’t house of cards. What would be the purpose of them declaring a day of prayer? It would be no more than paper shuffling.
    And a National Feast Day celebrating freedom from oppression? Up to this time, there has not been one person in this United States of America that has ever been freed from oppression. Not one. Ever. It would be more appropriate to celebrate July 4th in mourning. We do not need a referendum to do that.

    Sh Priscilla, we are already all brothers and sisters! All are created through the Son. If we could only see that….!

  15. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I think the fatal flaw in U. S. Politics has always been that it runs on shame. That is nothing new. I am just now seeing in light of the discussions here. U.S. civil religion (a weird mixture of Protestant/Catholic guilt and deist triumphalism has supported it.

    Repentance, forgiveness and humility are not part of the mix. Noblesse oblige instead of Almsgiving.

    Well, back to square one: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner

  16. hélène d. Avatar
    hélène d.

    I take the liberty of proposing this video, perhaps you will consider it inappropriate, Father Stephen, in which case you can delete it.
    Fr Seraphim, from the Monastery of All Celtic Saints on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, talks about the importance to keep the ongoing conversation about race and discrimination going, while learning to discern what hides behind the actions of those around us. Politics will break us apart, while Christ calls us to be One.

  17. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I’m not at all sure that I would phrase things quite the way that Fr. Seraphim does. He has greater confidence in the political process than I do.

  18. Margaret Avatar

    I have not listened to this podcast of Fr. Serafim, yet. I do receive his podcasts and so will listen soon.
    I agree with Fr. Stephen’s comment here, and I personally do not always share with others the videos of Fr. Serafim because he has his own venue and also because not everyone who is an Orthodox Christian takes the time to “listen”. I believe that Fr. Serafim is Romanian and I believe he has a great understanding of human relationships. He prays. When I have heard him speak in person because I was in a group that he was speaking to, I appreciated his words concerning the guarding of the heart and treatment of one another as Our Lord recommended: To love our neighbors as ourselves. He is also very encouraging for us to learn to love our enemies and also to love each other, these are just my comments because we have the privilege of having personal conversations with Fr. Serafim this past year. God be praised.

  19. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    My time with Fr. Serafim has been quite good, on the whole. He has gotten a little “political” in the last year, causing a few people problems. So, I was a little hesitant. I recall have a little bit of a bump when we spent time together – he was vehemently anti-Brexit (which I am not). But it seemed a strong emotion and thought for a monk. But, I’ve got my quirks, too. His word on making confession is one of the best I’ve ever heard.

  20. Salaam Avatar

    Thank you very much, again, as usual, for this, Father. I understand and agree with you that in this age, when we’ve been brainwashed by modernity for generations, emphasis should be placed on the unmasking of modernity’s heresies.

    I would ask readers to take a look at Father Stephen’s recent articles and look at how absurd they seem from the modernist perspective, but how perfectly Orthodox they are. We have this article on shaming, but just a few days ago the article on the sins of a nation! For the modern reader, these articles seemt to be advocating opposite positions. But for us Orthodox, of course they are completely in agreement.

    I am an Ethiopian immigrant to Canada – I arrived here 38 years ago at the age of 10 with my parents. In North American parlance, I am Black. Even though I have nothing in common with Black Americans in terms of culture or generational experience! I experienced almost no racism in school. But I noticed a strange hatred of Native Indians – a hatred I couldn’t understand, as from what I could see as a young boy, the only thing Natives had were problems – alcoholism and homelessness – noticeable by a young boy. Where we came from, peoples hated each other because they were at war or in some sort of conflict over some resource. There was rivalry. But the Native Indians I saw were just helpless.

    When I was young, I used to, in true modern/Marxist fashion, accuse White (English and French) Canadians of being guilty for the plight of Native Indians, having stolen their land, poisoned them with diseases, etc. You all know the story and accusation. But now, I understand that these are no less my sins! After all, I am living ‘for free’ in a stolen land, profiting from crimes of the past. Who am I to point fingers? And to the extent I do, I do it for pride and to avoid seeing my own sins and to avoid repentance.

    Further, what have I done to help my drunk, homeless, Native Indian neighbour? What have I done for the ten or twenty or I don’t know how many Black American youth shot to death just yesterday or the day before? Or what have I done for my lonely senior citizen neighbour down the street who has no one to talk to her? Have I even prayed for these? I am indeed the worst of sinners.

    As I have gotten older, I have realized that being such a sinner that I am, delving into political thought and action just rouse my passions and move me more into sin. I become tempted by pride and tempted to ignore my own sins and repentance. I become tempted to talk and accuse and avoid repentance do no redemptive work of my own. I become tempted to judge and judge and judge. I become tempted to forget God’s providence.

    This is just my experience – of course everyone is different. But a couple of weeks ago when a friend asked me about marching in the local anti-racism march, this is what I told him. If I marched I would be the greatest hypocrite. I cannot in good conscience demand something from society or government or … when I myself don’t do nearly what I should.

  21. Esmee La Fleur Avatar
    Esmee La Fleur

    Thank you for your comments, Salaam. I, too, am convicted.

  22. Reader Christopher Avatar
    Reader Christopher


    I hear much of what you are saying and many similar sentiments posted in this thread. I would caution against turning away from testifying to the Good simply because you are in some sense a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite in many ways. I speak to and teach my children from the words of Christ which I often fail to uphold in my own life. I do not fail to speak those truths to my children simply because I often fail to live them out. I teach the commands of Christ and I renew my struggle to live them. If witnessing to the truth required perfect consistency the proclamation of the Good News would never have made it beyond Christ himself. Further, I am very wary of those who seek to portray perfect consistency or judge others for failing to do so.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that this all necessarily applies to you, and certainly everyone must decide for themselves when it is truly right to speak and how, and certainly prayer, silence, and humility is the beginning of right discernment. I simply am concerned sometimes when I see people suggest that they must not speak because they are a hypocrite. Many times have I thought this to myself, and yet I remember the example of Peter who was at once both an icon of hypocrisy and the beauty of the heart set free to testify to the way of Love.

  23. Salaam Avatar

    I understand, Christopher.

    Funny that you mention children. I can think of a few examples of how I instructed my children properly, but with it had a spirit of judgment in my heart along with all sorts of other passions. Lo and behold, whatever had befallen my children happened to me, and it became clear in my heart that although what I taught them was correct, I was much too harsh, so to speak. One reads of this in the Fathers, our priests, spiritual fathers, and family elders tell us such stories again and again, we experience this again and again, but everytime it happens to me it seems a new discovery of sorts. Another occasion for repentance and new insight into my relationship with God.

    Yes, it is a matter of discernment. When it comes to modern racism, in my experience, I have found that that any sort of ‘speaking out loud’ is not for me. I have done so in the past and I see that it was not spiritually healthy. Given my background, the temptation is strong to free-ride on others’ grievances, so to speak, and to be horribly judgmental of ‘those racists’. Much better for me to concentrate on repenting of and changing the various condescending and uncaring attitudes that I have.

  24. Reader Christopher Avatar
    Reader Christopher


    You make some fair points, and certainly your care and concern about not acting out of disordered passions and judgment is right and proper to the Christian life. I certainly wasn’t urging you or anyone else to attend protests, or anything in particular for that matter, and I certainly would never urge any Christian to separate, categorize, and condemn others. I think we both agree that such judgment is incompatible with the spiritual path that the Fathers laid out. There are many paths in response to the various ills of the societies we live in, and fervent prayer and repentance is the primary calling of all Christians regardless of what else they do.

    That being said, (and I am not speaking to you Salaam but more generally) I hope that we all will similarly refrain from judging those who do feel called to speak out. Such actions are not necessarily out of a place of disordered passion. Also, while I agree that there is a real and unhealthy phenomenon of shaming that is (and has been) taking place, I would suggest that this is the approach of a vocal minority. In contrast to this I have heard a great deal talk of the violence that racism does to all parties and the desire to “re-humanize” our society from the dehumanizing effects of racial violence. Most people know that they must live with their neighbors and want to be able to greet their neighbors without fear, shame, judgment, or any of the many destructive tendencies of fallen man.

    Personally, I feel that Orthodox Christianity with our rich, holistic patrimony are specially gifted to reinforce such healthy desires and testify to the icon of human being “fully alive”. When I meet someone in my life I always desire to see and call to the Good that God has planted within them. I don’t advocate for any specific actions that anyone should take, but only that as Christians we do not fail to see the Good in those protesting, or fail to miss the places where we may be able to meet them.

  25. juliania Avatar

    I haven’t been able to absorb all comments here, so please forgive an outsider for only having a few thoughts to offer. I think there is a great and universal sorrow in all of you that is perfectly acceptable and even lovable to the extreme. All, even those who are in disagreement are feeling an enormous loss which I too can say is mine as well. And I think it was that also of Our Lord Himself when he said “Foxes have holes, birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place wherein to lay his head.” [Sorry if I have misquoted] We are feeling lost and we just have to keep asking to be found. Please God, find us. Find us all, and them as well.
    This could be the best prayer that unites us to all our fellow men and women, because they are so lost — and now we are out there with them, because of the virus. That’s the only thing that keeps many of us outside our church liturgical life. There, we could sing in unison with the cherubim “Now let us lay aside every care of this life…” At present, doing that simple thing, singing all in unison and laying aside those cares – these things are not physically possible.
    I have found it possible to stand ‘in my closet’ (and I have been doing this longer as just my own vocational path) — to stand there with eyes closed, and be once again in my former beautiful little church that is no more, surrounded by all the church members I have known, old and young, close to the iconostasis in the midst of liturgy. Singing! Just sometimes I am there, and it is so wonderful.
    A man was once asked why he was spending so much time in silence in the empty church. He answered, “I look at Him; and He looks at me.”
    Hide me under the shelter of Thy wings… in the church I love. Keep me as the apple of an eye…Forsake us not who put our trust in Thee…
    Hold fast to the good.
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    Perhaps I am misreading the tone here. But I think this sense of loss brings us closer to those great crowds of lost people out there than we would be if we had the security of our own little enclaves and the ability to be strengthened there. It’s scary and sad, but Father Zosima said ‘Love your brother’ and ‘ be close to your brother’, and it is good, in the thoughts here, to see that everyone is trying their best.
    Just sometimes, let us lay aside every care of this life, so we may make welcome the King, the King of all…invisibly upborne by angelic hosts, on shields and spears, like conqueror. Alleluia! We do need that.

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Juliania, preach it sister! The Ressurection is real!

  27. Ziton Avatar

    “A man was once asked why he was spending so much time in silence in the empty church. He answered, “I look at Him; and He looks at me.”

    I remember Met. Kallistos Ware also telling that story and saying that the man’s answer is one of the best definitions of prayer that he knows.

  28. Christian Avatar

    Father have you seen this article?

    Any comments?

    I’ve spoken with some of the contributors of this blog and they are convinced “Silence is Violence” .

    If I may share some of our exchange. For the sake of anonymity I will not share their name.

    Me: Do you feel the refusal or perhaps the disinterest in speaking out publicly on the matter of racism in our country makes on complicit? In other words is “silence violence”?

    Contributor: Yes. Not as bad as those are are actively racist. But yes.

    Me: How do you reconcile that with monks who are committed to silence?

    Contributor: There very way of life is itself a statement. If we could live like monks there will be no problems.
    For those of us not monks, we are citizens, so our silence more directly impacts the political space. Our silence keeps the status quo. So, our being ‘monks’ in the city or town is to engage in politics.

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    First, and foremost, I have no interest in the publications that appear on Public Orthodoxy. I do not think that the presumptions that are brought to “conversations” are sufficiently common to my thought to make conversation possible. It is, I think, thoroughly committed to the modern project. I am not.

    That said. If the life of a monk is a statement (something I do agree with), then it is also true of many other lives. My own life (a number of whose autobiographical details I’ve shared in these comments) is also a statement. It has been an anti-racist statement since my teen years.

    On the other hand, much of what passes for anti-racism these days is little more than the political theater that passes for “politics” these days. The politics of shame is itself an evil that bears similarity to racism and is destructive of human beings. We cannot and should not fight evil with evil. I refuse to participate.

    I would say that a silence that is complicit in various evils, participates in those evils, with the recognition at the same time that there is such a thing as a silence that is not complicit, but quite the opposite.

    In the last analysis, I will let God judge me.

    Part of the narrative being put forward (“we are not monks…therefore we must participate in the politics”) is false. It privileges politics (which is an activity someone else is defining) as a requirement and a necessity. It is an argument of compulsion. Someone puts a gun on your two children and demands that you must pick which child will be killed or they will kill them both. The only proper, Christian, response, is to refuse to agree to such a thing – even if they kill both. The sin is on their head – though their game is to make you agree that it is on your head.

    Democracy can have this same evil at its core. Just because I live in a democratic society (self-defined) that claims I have a certain responsibility, does not make it so. That is the first lie. The Amish, or others who refuse to vote, are not wrong and do not sin. They understand their vote to be an agreement to be complicit in the violence of the state and they refuse it.

    My argument and position would be fairly similar. I am responsible to Christ to keep His commandments. I am not responsible to the “State” or any such fiction (states are fictional). I simply do not agree to share in its violence – whether that violence is that of public shaming, or its other many efforts to control the outcome of history. But it will always hold the gun on my head and, when it kills my children, say that I am to blame.

    When confronting modernity – the difficulty is to first deconstruct its overwhelming and unboundaried claims. It’s like living with a narcissist (exactly like it). It is necessary in life to bear a little shame – necessary in the path of salvation. But, that is always voluntary. God does not compel it. The narcissistic gods who are drowning in their own unmitigated shame and insist on destroying others are not voices that should be heeded.

    We should listen to Christ. Keep His commandments. And beware those whose sophistry would twist Christ’s words into their own modernist schemes. Modernity is built on blood and violence. It wants more. I refuse the ticket.

  30. Christian Hollums Avatar
    Christian Hollums


    Thank you for the thoughtful response. However, are you aware that the Greek Orthodox Church of America has and is actively promoting some articles that come directly from Public Orthodoxy?

    See here:

    Should you dismiss the entire blog if the Greek Orthodox Church is publicly endorsing some of the articles being shared as official statements?

    I don’t say this to argue, but as a simple man who sees different narratives and perspectives being put forward and was wondering if there is space for dialogue. I personally don’t entirely align with either narrative being put forward, but I do think myself and others would greatly benefit if gifted men and women of the faith who disagreed dialogued about this issues openly.

  31. Andrew Avatar

    Father, I believe if one is taking the time to read the article, “America’s New Religion,” that they should also hear “My Letter to a young White Friend.” I also have no desire to engage in the discussions that are found on Public Orthodoxy, and I have heard this sentiment repeated numerous times in my Orthodox circle. The fact is though, that perspective exists out there and we need to be aware of the arguments being presented.

    But more importantly for me, I think that the issue of race is being conflated with the other modern issues that Public Orthodoxy often discusses. Race, in my opinion, needs to be pulled from the categories of modernity that we often think about pertaining to issues of life, sexuality, and social activism. We need to recognize that those other issues have used the language of the race discussion to make their case which is why they have been so successful in gaining sympathy. But as a result, we have a hard time separating race from that discussion and in turn see it as one in the same. So now, those voicing a more urgent and active need to fight against racism are seen as troublesome modernists.

    Certainly there is a balance that can be found. Anti-racism doesn’t require a political leaning, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a political response–political being the means through which we ensure the well being of our citizens through policy and reform. We don’t need to align ourselves with a secular ideology to see that an urgency is needed on a issue. And we could even risk creating a reactionary secular ideology when we fail to separate voices of those in need from those who simply wish to prop up modernity as a replacement to our faith. In our culture of screaming in the public forum, discernment is possibly what we need most. And perhaps I lack this myself and am wrong in what I say.

  32. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    In such matters, I can only suggest that people read with discernment. I do not criticize hierarchs. Generally, I am a terrible apologist and fail miserably in debates. I have no gifts in that arena. I also do not have a blessing to engage in the criticism of hierarchs. If there is to be such a thing, it is for my own hierarchs to do it.

    I write as I write, with the blessing that I have received. I have to leave it to my readers to draw their own conclusions. I cannot, however, recommend anything that appears on Public Orthodoxy, regardless of how it might or might not be endorsed. And that is all I shall say on that point.

  33. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I have made it quite clear in my writings and in my life and actions that racism is a terrible sin. However, I do think that the issue can be misused by those whose agenda is something else entirely. I do not use the term “modern project” lightly – having written so extensively on the topic, as well as referencing the broad critique of modernity by many other writers and theologians, both Protestant and Catholic. That work, I think, is quite eloquent on these various problems. Modernity created our present forms of racism. I do not think that more of the same medicine will cure it.

    But, I’m not interested in joining a fight that others are shaping. I’ve been in the fight all my life. I’m glad others are naming racism for the sin that it is. If they will repent and live the gospel, it will be a good thing. Forgive me, but American talk is almost the most useless thing in the world. The Christian life, lived in obedience to the gospel, is sufficiently subversive. I want nothing more.

    I think there are people who might very well engage and debate with things that appear on P.O. But it would be a distraction from my work. It’s simply not a good thing for me.

  34. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Fr Stephen,
    Thank you for your words to Andrew and Christopher.
    The truly Christian life is indeed sufficiently subversive. And we are sufficiently inculcated into the modernist culture to have difficulties discerning the difference. And I count myself as a perpetual learner in this regard— ever vigilent— yet I still fail.

    From the Public Orthodoxy website: I’m posting a warning written directly on the website:

    As such, readers should know that the opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the views of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center, and they should not be confused for official statements issued by an assembly of bishops

    For understanding, learning about, and living Orthodoxy, I have been emphatic in my conversations with catechumens to narrow their internet reading to very specific places, which does include this blog. This blog does have the endorsement of Orthodox hierarchy. Most others do not unless articles appear on the Archdiocese websites. That said, just because one (or more) article appears on an official website taken from Public Orthodoxy, is not an endorsement for all writings that appear there (on P.O.).

    Hopefully with the grace of God each of us will discern what is asked of us, and will be God’s faithful servants in how we live out the Lords commandments.

    This is written on my phone—hopefully there are no major typos.

  35. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Ok I referenced Christopher but should have been Christian.

    I’m sorryChristian H. for that mistake.

  36. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Just for the record, I dislike intensely phrases like “racial justice”because it has become a weapon with which to bludgeon anyone with whom you disagree. I have lived my life, as opportunities occured, testifying to the humanity of all people, white, black and red. I was raised that way.
    Racial justice, indeed any public campaign for “justice” is a weapon that demonizesore than anything:metaphorically and actually. That is all it is.

    In the process, I have managed to surprise a few folks. It does not take anything special or difficult to do. In fact it is usually spontaneously honest. I will share one such moment from when I was a senior in high school:(not to puff up myself)
    My mother had hired a black woman who needed some financial help to clean our house on a regular basis. The lady needed money and had an alcohol problem but she came and helped my mother and me clean. We got to be friends. I invited her to the last performance of a play I was the lead in, not thinking of the difficulties involved for her (my mother told me later). She had to travel into a white part of town at night-potentially dangerous for her. But, she loved me and came. She had to get liquored up to do it. After curtain calls family and friends came up on stage and there was Camille, I was so happy to see her that I gave her a great big hug. Right there in the midst of this crowd of white people. She was drunk and dressed in shabby clothes. She was a courageous woman. There was nothing “just” about what I did. In fact I was being selfish. I was simply glad to see her. I daresay, a few of the folks there were “unjust” in there thoughts but no one ever said a thing. The play: the Diary of Anne Frank.

    That was in 1966.

  37. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I adhere to Shakespeare’s dictum: “In the course of justice none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy and that same prayer teaches us to render the deeds of mercy”
    Justice, especially public justice, mob justice is a Procrustean Bed. It is cruel, violent and counter productive. Twisting truth and destroying attempts for reconciliation and healing.

  38. Andrew Avatar

    I worry about one thing only, and that is that we are mistaking a call for help from someone who needs it for the menace who wishes to exploit that call for help for their own agenda. I believe the only way to be sure about this is to speak directly to those who are calling for help and not allow those opportunists to apply their filter. You are not someone who I would accuse of neglecting the call for help. But too often I see my Christian brethren engaged in a heated battle against an unseen enemy when the very visible victim stands before us. Our community’s reaction to the excesses of modernity is something I fear right along with the violence that is unmistakeably sought by the moderns.

    To speak more directly, I often find that it is a simple acknowledgement of pain and suffering due to racism that the black community is asking for, accompanied with the request that they are allowed to speak without the immediate rush to interpet or explain how we understand and can therefore fix the pain. They are Christian too.

    The article from PO is not an article that will likely get picked up by more traditional Othodox publications, but it is a view of the situation that is held by a majority of the black community. That is why I claim it is important that we see it. Many of us get comfortable with the easy message of those who agree with us and never see the masses that would say otherwise–hence the protests. And this is why silence is percieved as violence. The oppressed must be silent when all they want is for us to hear them. Giving that ear, I believe, will assist in protecting that community from the snares of the modernist agenda. But perhaps that is naive of me to think.

  39. Christian Hollums Avatar
    Christian Hollums

    Recent respondents (Father, Andrew, Dee, Michael),

    One of my favorite things about this blog is that it allows for meaningful and healthy dialogue here in the comments section. I can’t decide what I enjoy most. Father’s blog or the comments? I’m going to have to call it a tie lol and perhaps that is because as Andrew has pointed out it helps me see the heart of the author as well as those reading along.

    In response to the Public Orthodoxy contributor (whom I consider a friend) I pointed to truth being apocalyptic, truth became flesh and was revealed to men. While the Christian faith most certainly has political implications, ontological transformation is impossible through democratic or even theocratic process.

    There are indeed many a good books on Secularism and Modernity. Charles Taylor comes to mind. However, I think the strongest argument against political activism is indeed ontological and metaphysical. To which at times I’ve seen you make Father. I also agree with Andrew that its important that leaders within the faith openly dialogue about these matters in a charitable way so that we can all learn.

    I do get concerned that sometimes the language of “modernity” as useful as the term can be to identify a certain set of propositions and assumptions, can become dehumanizing. Dehumanizing in the sense of creating an invisible charterer of those we disagree with. With the end result being modernists vs traditionalist or republicans vs democrats.

    One of the healthiest things I’ve learned is to actively read authors whom I disagree with. Listen and hear what they have to say. Sometimes I think it is my own toxic shame (perfectionism | despondency) that provokes me to steer clear of those I disagree with. Coincidentally if I have healthy shame and am entirely aware of my limited nature I have found that speaking with those I disagree with can be a pathway to Theosis.

    Thanks for the feedback everyone.

  40. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I understand your point. However, it is a simple policy for me that I do not recommend or get involved with Public Orthodoxy. However, since many of us, myself included, have actual relationships with black persons, I prefer those conversations and others that come in a setting other than P.O. My parish is multi-racial.

  41. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Actually, I feel like one of the few voices within Orthodoxy who addresses modernity in a formal manner – not simply some knee-jerk reaction that old is better than new or trad-Orthodox nonsense. I stand very firmly within an intellectual stream that began outside of Orthodoxy, but which I think Orthodoxy should listen to. Recently, I was contacted by some South American theological writers who are looking at modernity and asked for an endorsement note for their work. This conversation is much larger even than Orthodoxy.

    Admittedly, my own initiation into this conversation came while I was studying under Stanley Hauerwas, and I make no apologies for that fact. One of my fellow students at the time was Willie Jennings, one of the finest black theologians in America (teaches at Yale now). Conversations at the time included many fine minds from very diverse backgrounds. They taught me to think. Often, (as was coming to the end of my Anglicanism), I thought about how those conversations would sound within an Orthodox context.

    My blog writing did not begin until some 15 years later – long enough for lots of stuff to slowly percolate and mature.

    It’s not the only thing I write about (obviously), but it is a strong interest that I have. Since modernity is simply the voice of everything(!) around us, all the time and everywhere, it is impossible not to reflect on it constantly. I’m just a small voice. I have no idea what my work amounts to or of what use it is in the hands of God. I just do what I do.

    The one thing I really don’t try to do (because it always just creates trouble) is to write about what somebody thinks I should write about. I simply don’t know what I don’t know. So, I write what i do know. My reflections on race have been going on for a life-time (as I noted in some of the comments). They are also intensely personal. For one, they come out of a heart that is intensely aware of my own baptism in a very dark racism as a child (unintentionally, no doubt). I do not want to speak hypocritically on the topic. Our culture has ever-so-much to be ashamed of. I visit that shame from time to time and sit with it in the presence of God. I have had a number of profound conversations with black friends about my experience and theirs.

    But, I know that what is truly needed are changed hearts. I see hearts all the time. I confess them. We’re a nation of deep hypocrisy and violence. I do not take our public statements very seriously. I do not want to live on the surface. It’s hard to live a deeper life. I have no idea about the path to theosis.

  42. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Christian I appreciate your and Andrew’s comments also.

    Please forgive my interjections with your questions you posed to Father Stephen.
    Definitely it is important to raise questions and express concerns. I have them also and I have my doubts also.

    I read the letter twice. Perhaps I missed it but I haven’t found the place where the author says “silence is violence”. And I’m not sure he would want someone to be shamed who is silent on some occasions. It seems the rhetoric of “silence is violence” overlooks possible conditions someone might want to be silent and yet not be a white supremacist in their silence.

    The author references an article that says ‘silence is not an option’ as a response to white supremacy acts. The reference calls on political action to make policy and laws and application of those laws that would be intended to stop racial violence.

    Yet what Father repeatedly refers to is the act of shaming in this article and comment stream, in the use of the terms ‘silence is violence’.

    To be candid, I’m experiencing difficulties with this rhetoric in my personal life at this time. I keep getting email by people (white) to get me to do and say something publicly to demonstrate ‘my solidarity’. The irony is that I’ve done a lot of work, even to the extent of losing a job and having my life threatened, to stop acts of racial disparities and violence. Asking to “speak up now” seems to throw a light on the work I’ve done as if it was nothing at all. Perhaps it is indeed nothing at all. And if so, what does opening my nonessential mouth do now?

    But meanwhile because I’m not responding in some expected fashion I look like I should be ‘nailed’ as supporting white supremacy. If this is what is meant by “silence is violence”.

    I’ll admit it seems insulting for someone to say to me who remains silent in my social sphere to ascribe to me a form of ‘violence’. Indeed, in agreement with Father Stephen, it seems instead to be a public shaming of me, and a form of violence against my own personal integrity.

    It doesn’t reflect the truth of the life I’ve lived nor the work I’ve done. I’ve even presented in local science education conferences on ‘racial injustice’ in the educational system and considered attaching these conference papers to an email response. Yet I doubt what I’ve done makes any difference when what is expected of me is to chime in to the rhetoric that a white person asks me to give, possibly to alleviate their own guilt and/or complicity.

    I ask myself what have I accomplished with all the work I’ve done and what I have personally sacrificed? An honest answer is not too much. Most likely nothing at all.

    Once I stood in the road blocking someone who was gunning their car engine threatening to run down someone of deeper color than I. They got out of their car as if they were going to beat me up. I don’t recall saying much to him either. Eventually he drove off. This wasn’t an act of protest on my part. All I was doing was standing in the way of harm to someone. We can each do our part, wherever that might be. But I definitely do not want to participate in shaming someone who is silent. Their silence may mean more than we know, such as great sorrow from what they have experienced firsthand.

  43. Andrew Avatar

    I definitely recognize that you mantain a sober and thoughtful conversation and do not react against modernity as others might. Even though I have never commented on this blog before, I have certainly read. This is an issue that happens to be quite close to me. Please know that it is precisely because of your calm reflections that I felt safe in speaking up. Thank you and please pray for me.

  44. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I very much appreciate your voice. The issue is very deep in my heart as well and has been for many years. Finding the right way and right time to speak is important. I do not think that it is something I could ever remain silent about. My speaking, though, needs to be my own. For example, a large amount of the present speech in many quarters is, in fact, rooted in Marxist ideology. Marxism makes the Nazis look like boy scouts. Its bloody history has no place in Christian conversation – other than to acknowledge how many it has murdered. At present, it is difficult to speak without joining a Marxist chorus. In time, given enough power, they’ll kill many of us – and I do not say that lightly. The language of privilege and such, depersonalizes the analysis, a prelude to murder. As Christians, we must keep things utterly personal. The violence we have seen in the riots, with resulting deaths and destruction of property, are to be feared as much as anything else going on right now. Our civilizational veneer is becoming extremely thin. We do well to take care.

    I recognize that the playing field of life is never even (“privilege”) is a hallmark of injustice – always. Justice is a difficult thing and requires good hearts in order to have good laws. Some might be shocked to know that I think reparations is a legitimate conversation. The “40 acres and a mule” that Sherman directed was a form of reparations, and could easily be compared to various versions of land reform in places such as post-serfdom Russia and others. It was annulled, and no sensible form of reparations or resettlement took place. Instead, we got Jim Crow.

    Now, my own grandfather worked as a share cropper, alongside share-cropper black families. Many whites shared that kind of poverty. The world of “white trash” is a long story of English injustice that is material for another day. But, it’s real. Cultural elitism is alive and well in America. Just check out the position of the Ivy League in this country – it’s our version of Oxford and Cambridge.

    But, theoretical exercises in justice, land reform, reparations, etc., are just that – theoretical. I do not expect much in the way of such things. I generally expect that the elites will maintain their power and wealth and continue to hide it fairly well. Though, it is also quite possible that at some point in time, those who are excluded will get tired of it and shoot most of them. It happens repeatedly in history. What I least expect, is the peaceful implementation of justice – because the hard work of repentance and the formation of just hearts would have to precede it.

    As it is, I am a priest. I do the work of a priest I (which is to engage people in the ministry of reconciliation). What any of it ever adds up to, however, must be the work of God. He does do miracles. None of us saw the fall of the Soviet Union coming.

  45. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Headline on Fox News: Bernie Sander’s advisors claims statues of Jesus are racist. Marxist iconoclasm.

  46. Christian Avatar


    There may be some confusion. The article was separate from the “contributor” I spoke of and quoted. As I mentioned I don’t wish to disclose their name for the sake of privacy. I do not know the author of the article I shared a link to.

    I was simply trying to point to two seemingly oppositional views by fellow Orthodox Christians. If one is committed to learning it’s inevitable to come across contradictory views on this specific subject within Orthodoxy. For the sake of candor and honesty I think it’s important to discuss and acknowledge that.


    I hope none of my words came across as criticism, that was not my intention. Please forgive me if I’ve offended unnecessarily. I’ve always enjoyed your reflections on the subject of modernity and our private conversations.

    I personally do not feel compelled to speak out against racial injustice. I can’t even imagine how I could do so given all the sin that is so prevalent in my own life. I’m sure I could come up with a rationale reason as to why I should, but nonetheless my own sins keep me at bay and bring me to fear and trembling.

    Please pray for me a sinner

  47. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    No Christian I didn’t conflate the two people. Rather perhaps I misunderstood the reason you presented these perspectives. I had the impression that you were presenting them as having similar viewpoints.

  48. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Christian, et al
    Orthodoxy asks for adherence to the doctrines of the faith. Apart from that, I would well imagine that a full range of opinion on almost everything could be found. There are internal differences worth noting in the American jurisdictions of Orthodoxy. The OCA is the only jurisdiction in which a synodal form of governance is normative. The Metropolitan only convenes the Synod of bishops. They work together, discuss, argue, but work towards agreement. That being the case, it tends to have a voice of conciliarity. The Antiochian and Greek jurisdictions have a single Archbishop (Greek terminology gives a different meaning for Archbishop than the Russian term, which is simply an honorific). That Archbishop has bishops or Metropolitans beneath him. But, though there is a synodal meeting, it is the Archbishop who sets policy and such. A change in Archbishop in either case can bring swift changes reflective of the personality in charge. It makes for a different dynamic.

    When Archbishop Iakovos, back in the 90’s, took a leading role in the Ligonier Statement (a call for a single jurisdiction in America) he was quietly retired and, shortly thereafter, it was as if the Ligonier document never existed. A single personality was something easily changed. In the OCA, things change slowly, and sometimes rather messily (as in the the turmoil surrounding the national office back around 2010, etc.). Synodal dynamics are a very different critter. For me, it means when I see something from the GOA, or Antioch, one of my first thoughts is the personality of the author and considerations that might be relevant in that regard. When things come out of the OCA, I generally recognize that I’m seeing an agreed position – where the debates have already refined it. Also, when I see something out of the OCA, I generally salute and say, “Yes, sir.” I’m under their authority.

    That’s probably more than I’ve ever said viz. American Church inner things. The Assembly of Bishops, which represents the entire episcopate of the US, functions in a synodal fashion. It’s statements remind me of the measured documents of the OCA for that reason.

    Orthodoxy is inefficient, messy, argumentative, etc. That reflects the fact that it is the New Testament Church. The real deal!

  49. Christian Avatar


    It appeared you had because you stated “I haven’t found the place where the author says “silence is violence”” and I had never said the article said that but rather that the contributor said it. I only asked if Father had read the article nothing more really. So I was confused why you mentioned the article. Either way no biggie.


    Thanks for explaining the hierarchical structure of the OCA and GOA. For me personally the brings up an entirely new set of questions.

    1.) What’s the difference between conciliarity and democracy?
    2.) Does what you mentioned above imply that the Church in some way comes to truth via democratic political process otherwise known as consensus?
    3.) If the church has historically disagreed as you pointed out and things are messy how much space does that leave for ambiguity in the process of knowing truth, and as a result does consensus give us any more ground for truth than the modern democratic process? Are the two really that different in their processes? Assumptions aside.

    I think this is what I’m struggling with a bit. If there are similarities between democratic political process and conciliar consensus is it really accurate to chalk up political democratic process solely as a modern concept?

    Perhaps the mode of political process in American history has been inherently violent, but is there a mode of political process that isn’t? Does the democratic process have to be violent? Is it possible to create a straw man by stating that the democratic process is synonymous with modernity?

    Looking forward to your response.

  50. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar


    Good questions. “Synodal” is certainly not “democratic.” Working towards a consensus could be done in a coercive manner. Generally, my understanding is that in the OCA, decisions are not “forced.” Sometimes a matter might remain unresolved because there really is not a common mind. That attainment of a common mind is by far the proper way for a synod to function. That takes listening, sharing, prayer, etc. And, sometimes, it simply requires waiting. It is an effort to discern the will of God – rather than to find a way to force what is simply the will of man – even if it is a majority will.

    The Church does not arrive at truth through a democratic process. Sometimes, it errs when it fails to proceed in a godly, patient manner. There have been about as many “false” councils in the history of the Church as true councils. The settled status of the great ecumenical councils has been something that came about over time. During that period, there was lots of shifting, back and forth. So, God, we believe, is at work in all of that shifting, providentially guiding the Church and preserving the Church.

    The Councils of the Church do not provide “truth” in the final sense. They provide the grammar of the faith – how we will speak about the truth. But truly knowing the truth is, ultimately, a matter of truly knowing God Himself. It is noetic and inwardly revealed. The councils direct us towards that and safeguard us from error. But they do not simply convey the truth because what they say is “true.” What they say is, indeed, true, but actually knowing that truth, in the proper, saving manner, is not something that can be had simply by repeating the thing that is said. Most people “know” very, very little. Most people spend the bulk of their lives in delusion of one form or another.

    God is the only ground of truth. You have to come to know Him. Orthodoxy – its life and practices – reflected in the whole of its texts and lived lives – is the God-given means of entering into the fullness of the truth. It transcends politics – even Church politics. We have to learn patience and humility, obedience and love, forgiveness and stability as we move towards union with God, which alone is truth.

    The temptation is to extract all of this into some sort of secularized, political process. That is an abandonment of the ontological reality of truth itself. Orthodoxy is “messy” because we are messy. But, that is only a surface matter. There is a wholeness in the depth of its life that, with a bit of quiet over a period of time, can be acquired.

    The theories behind democracy are quite modern – but I’ll have more to say about that in a post I’m working on.

  51. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Indeed Christian I considered them together because you had brought them together in the same comment and invited Father to comment. In an earlier comment you mentioned the PO article of the Archbishop of GOC as an indication that the PO has been the mouth piece of Orthodox authority. The implicit suggestion is to bring Father’s viewpoint that he has expressed in this article into a form of form of rebuttal to the opinions presented in them. You yourself have described these viewpoints as disagreements and now you say it’s no biggie while you persist to draw Father into discussion what the difference is between conciliatory decisions and democracy.

    I think dialogue is great but there seems to be present a tone of contentiousness in your comments with Father regardless. Personally I’m not comfortable with it.

    Please forgive me Father.

  52. Reader Christopher Avatar
    Reader Christopher

    Father Stephen,

    I have found the way this conversation has unfolded to be unsettling in my mind in a way I found hard to define. I couldn’t agree with you more concerning the way you articulate the problems and dead ends of modernity and “modern projects”. Your insights and conclusions flow naturally from the writings of our Fathers. As I said earlier I often find myself coming to conclusions from meditations on Scripture and Maximus the Confessor, and then finding that you have already written with great depth on that very subject or phenomenon. Your observations in this conversation (and many of the other contributors) are very consistent with your prior writings, so I haven’t been able to wrap my head around why this whole conversation troubles me.

    This morning as I drank coffee with my wife I felt like a piece of that fell into place. I believe it is the tendency I have observed in myself to take hold of valuable and spiritually healthy criticism of modernism, and allow it to turn into a subtle dismissal of people from the mind and heart. I’m not suggesting that anyone in particular in this conversation is doing such a thing. I would not want to begin to presume what is going on in the heart of someone else, much less from a comment on a blog. Rather I have seen many turns of phrase which have moved through my own mind many times, but which as I observed myself more closely had seemed to twist in small ways from the recognition of illness to the judgment of persons. Again, it is not necessarily that there is anything wrong with the observations themselves. It is simply in my own heart that I find the thoughts taking on strange and distorted shapes.

    Perhaps this personal observation concerning my own inner struggle is off-topic and not relevant to anyone else in this conversation, but I offer it up in case it is worthwhile.

  53. Christian Avatar


    With all due respect I think you have misunderstood me. Please forgive me if I’ve offended you. I have spoken with Father personally and I have great respect for him. The questions I’ve raised above are sincere. It’s safe to assume that tone is a difficult thing to gauge in the comments and your misunderstanding speaks to the limits of this type of interaction.


    I appreciate your feedback, but I still find the answer lacking. Perhaps defining terms might be helpful to better under my question. There are various uses of the word democracy as I’m sure you are well aware of. When I use the word democratic I’m referring to it simply in terms of “government by the people or rule of the majority”.

    When speaking in terms of the governance of the church it seems to me that consensus is very similar since consensus means by definition “general agreement or group solidarity in sentiment or belief.” I think what I’m trying to point to is the process itself or the general idea of the two terms being related or similar even if the method of application is not identical.

    Does the democratic process have to be violent and coercive and if so why? What assumptions are built into it based upon the definition I’ve pointed to above that require violence? Has the conciliar process ever had a violence to it even if it isn’t normative?

    I say none of the above to be argumentative. I really am trying to understand why the democratic process must be inherently violent but at the same time I am not arguing that it hasn’t been violent.

  54. William Avatar


    For what it’s worth, I agree with your assessment. Certain comments remind me of a “talking circle” I was a part of once, which was advertised as a safe place in which all perspectives could be heard without shame. But, in reality, the organizers of the talking circle had a clear agenda, and worked very hard to shame any perspective they deemed toxic or shaming (ironically). They did this in such a subtle way (with leading questions that they kept insisting were genuine) that the people with “bad” perspectives could barely articulate what had happened, but they left feeling dirty and used. What was advertised as a “talking circle” was actually a shaming circle, and in the end it was very clear who was supposed to talk and who wasn’t.

    This happened at a seminary, and the “bad” perspective was that of classical Christianity. The talking circle organizers effectively shamed and silenced this voice even as they offered a venue for dialogue and “sincere questions”. Needless to say, alarm bells go off in my head any time I see similar tactics being employed.

  55. Byron Avatar

    I really am trying to understand why the democratic process must be inherently violent but at the same time I am not arguing that it hasn’t been violent.

    Christian, please forgive me for interrupting but you seem to be caught between the idea of the democratic process and the actuality of it. Democracy in the United States has always been based on conflict and the appropriation of power to achieve our ends. This is why it is inherently violent.

    The bigger issue is that the idea of democracy is little better because it is dependent on human beings to carry it out. And human beings, with our wounded hearts that turn away from God, will always twist and defeat the Utopian agenda(s) inherent in every political process.

  56. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Christian, Byron,
    I’m not sure that I have said that democracy is inherently violent. Rather, I’ve said that modernity is inherently violent – in its drive to control and direct the outcome of history. Democracy itself, could be quite peaceful, particularly if it was something that flowed out of a cultural consensus. However, in the multi-cultural setting of modern democracies, violence, or “virtual violence” is quite common because there is not enough commonality for consensus and agreement.

    Of course, campus and academic Marxisms (now a dime-a-dozen) are committed to violence and power. It’s what you get with Nietzsche, Foucault, and that crowd. For them, reality is nothing more than words used for power – and I’m not ascribing that to them – that’s their self-definition. Such an ideology is the breeding ground of Gulags and concentration camps.

  57. Christian Avatar


    Thanks for your feedback and questions. I’m very new to these questions. Please pardon the lack of clarity on my side. My statements aren’t intended to create a dichotomy between abstraction and actuality.

    You state:
    “Democracy in the United States has always been based on conflict and the appropriation of power to achieve our ends. This is why it is inherently violent.”

    Does this speak more to the lack of virtue within a culture or the virtue of Democracy itself ?

    I am not saying Democracy is intrinsically good. History seems to prove that it isn’t. If moral formation is deficient then all kinds of violence, and evil could and would occur within a democratic state. However, that doesn’t seem to provide the necessary evidence for that Democracy is inherently evil but rather because the culture is morally deficient it commits violence in the name of Democracy. I think we agree violence has been committed in the name of Religion as well, but I wouldn’t regard religion as inherently violent solely on that historical reality.

    I think Plato’s arguments against “ochlocracy” has been proved rightly enough, even within the confines of duly constituted republics, and even he could not have foreseen the magnitude of the evil that can be born from a popular franchise (the Third Reich leaps here rather nimbly to mind).

    In my mind the only sound premise for a people’s self-governance is a culture of common virtue directed towards the one Good. But this still doesn’t require that democratic processes be intrinsically evil in and of themselves.

    So this brings me back to my original reflections. If there was a common virtue within a culture could the democratic process be used for good? It seems to me that in some ways this has occurred within the conciliarity of the church even if democracy and conciliarity are not identical to one another.

  58. Christian Avatar

    Et al,

    I think the ironic twist and this is the narrative that has been put forward is that Religion has done violence to enforce morality, but with an interesting twist modernity collapses on itself in committing greater violence to the planet and to people than the 19 centuries before it to enforce it’s own sense of virtue and morality. A clear contradiction.

    The purpose of my questions was simply to try and draw out the similarities between conciliarity and democracy, and argue that a democratic society isn’t inherently evil if it’s citizens are virtuous. I think what seems to be implied at times is the Modernity is synonymous with democracy and therefore wrong. I don’t agree.

    Thank you Father for clarifying your perspective above. It seems that we agree on this matter and that you weren’t saying that modernity and democracy are or have to be synonymous.

  59. Byron Avatar

    Christian, forgive me, I did not say democracy was evil. It is what we make of it. Democracy in the U.S. has always been based on competition. In the American dream, everyone gets to compete. Hence my statement that it is inherently violent. I may not have chosen my words well; please forgive me for that.

    The larger issue is that of the human heart, which is where the true trouble lies. This is where the problem of “what we make of it” lies.

  60. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Thank you William,
    I found it difficult to describe what I see happening and I appreciate your perspective. It does help.

    Christian, I took no personal offence in your comments. But I expressed that I wasn’t comfortable with your interactions with Father Stephen. Yes it is difficult to address the question of tone in writing. But the sequence of questioning is meaningful and it was more to the behavior of your combative exchanges with Father Stephen that I found uncomfortable. I don’t think the quality of interactions of pursuit are inconsequential. As you indicate, tone is difficult to discern in writing, and on account of that very fact, it would seem, empathetic care, especially in the interactions of written exchanges, would be helpful.

    I’ll return now to the article by Alfred Turnipseed that Christian referenced:
    One facet of the conversation between the young person and the author of the letter that I particularly appreciate, was the initiative of the young person to learn even before writing to the author. The young woman didn’t presume what the person of color perspectives are, neither did she dismiss the suggestions of the author even while they might have been repetitive of the material she was already reading.

    Here are excerpts of Alfred Turnipseed’s words from that article (that I hope from his perspective) are representative of his view:

    After all, genuine friendship—one bridging differences in sex, age, race, religion, family origin, socioeconomic background, etc.—bears in itself the seed of a comprehensive solution to the problems that challenge us all today.

    Therefore, when I’m sharing my African American experience with, say, white persons of genuine faith—and I mean genuine—I’m always received with openness, joy, and love (even if they recognize within themselves a need for deeper conversion), because they implicitly grasp that my demand, namely, that my equal dignity and rights, be “real-ized” in day-to-day life. It isn’t merely a matter concerning “political correctness” or just “getting along,” much less “political expediency.” On the contrary, they grasp that my demand is simply a matter of Truth, Truth that is universal.

  61. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I’ll admit I’m no maven on the history of democracy, but I had thought that the philosophy of modernity gave birth to the common understanding and use of the term democracy. Perhaps I’m wrong about this.

    Father I’m grateful for your reflections on the life of the Church through the centuries. And I still fall into modernist thinking rather easily. In my past life as an activist, I’ve taken the position of “making demands” myself across several venues and writings. Sometimes it is hard to stay silent even when I should be.

    I remember that Christ makes no demands on our hearts. And yet if I do not follow Him wherever He goes, I have no life. Of great importance and difficulty in these current events is discernment of Christ’s voice. I struggle to remind myself that His foremost commandment is love. It is ironic and I’m deeply sorrowful how difficult it is to put God’s love first.

  62. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    All forms of earthly government depend for their virtue on the people being governed. That includes the Church. All forms of government depend on hierarchy for their function. All government depend on what Fr. Stephen calls a cultural consensus.
    That consensus can be a forced or consensual, historic or more fluid.
    Violence, or threat of violence, is also inherent in all forms of government.

    Virtue is not dependent on government.

  63. Reader Christopher Avatar
    Reader Christopher


    Honestly, I have to disagree with Dee that your comment was helpful at all. I find it bizarre that you are thinking anyone on this thread is engaging in anything like a “shaming circle” or secretly articulating that there is a “bad” perspective, especially classical Christianity. I left Christianity when I was a teen and didn’t return for almost 20 years. Since I have returned as an adult one thing that I have found is that it is very difficult to have open, warm, and substantive conversations within the Church for the very reasons your comment laid bare. There is more assumption of bad intent and hardened internal interpretive lenses going on in the Church than in the many years of conversations I have had outside of it. I know that there is a real phenomenon of shaming in the manner discussed throughout this thread, I’ve certainly encountered it, but in my opinion we Christians collectively provide a master class in disingenuous, shaming, double-talk. As I alluded to in my last comment I’m no exception to this. I have to constantly break down my own attempts to convert the beauty of the faith into blindness, deafness, and outright idolatry. Certainly some people I love very much in my life would have avoided some hurt if I had spent less time navel gazing and listened a lot more. With God’s grace I’m not going to depart from Christ or the Church again, so if God grants me length of days I guess I have plenty of time to flail around at it, but geez.

  64. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Reader Christopher,
    Easy does it. I’m not sure William was saying what you heard. But…easy does it.

  65. Reader Christopher Avatar
    Reader Christopher

    I apologize Father. I suppose that in the online realm this is your house so to speak, and so I apologize for being rude and confrontational. I expect it would be better for me to bow out now, say my good-byes, and let your more civilized guests continue, but I wanted to apologize first. I genuinely appreciate the tone you set on your blog, and I receive a great deal from your writings. Keep up the good work.

  66. William Avatar

    Reader Christopher,

    Forgive me for the confusion. I’m not trying to say anyone here is attempting to covertly subvert classical Christianity. I only mean to draw attention to my experience that many calls for dialogue and supposedly sincere questions have more often than not been used to undermine the very things called for. This happened frequently when I was in a mainline, progressive Protestant context. At the time, I considered myself to be progressive and was only able to come to Orthodoxy through a long process of questioning my own internal interpretive lenses and listening to people whose voices had certainly been marginalized (to use a buzzword) at the progressive seminary I attended. Certain lines of questioning remind me of what I witnessed there and leave me feeling cold.

    I’ve found within Orthodoxy “the open, warm, and substantive conversations” that I found so conspicuously lacking (though frequently called for) in mainline Christianity. I suspect though that if these conversations are difficult even within Orthodoxy, it has less to do with the Church per se and more to do with the meanness of the contemporary American spirit, which worms its way into every American heart regardless of race or class or creed.

  67. Davi Avatar

    “Someone puts a gun on your two children and demands that you must pick which child will be killed or they will kill them both. The only proper, Christian, response, is to refuse to agree to such a thing – even if they kill both. The sin is on their head – though their game is to make you agree that it is on your head.”


    As I read this, my heart (dare I say my nous?) told me it was true. But I understand that the Orthodox Church does not condemn wars of self-defense. Isn’t a soldier participating in even such a war participating in evil in the same way as the parent who chooses one child over the other? So how can the church fail to condemn all wars, even wars of self-defense?

  68. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    In point of fact, the Church does not bless defensive wars, but understands them. Killing, in any way, shape, or form, remains a sin and requires healing, penance, forgiveness. But – there is a recognition of our weakness. Not everyone is able to embrace the fullness of suffering in a martyric fashion. So, there is a mercy extended towards them. But not a teaching that says, “Do this…”

  69. Reader Christopher Avatar
    Reader Christopher


    I do indeed intended to bow out of this particular conversation, but since I lofted my verbal grenade at you I would also like to apologize to you directly for being rude, and assuming bad intent in your comment in the very manner which I had been railing against. Please forgive me.

  70. Alan Avatar

    William, thank you for your comment from 12:47 today. It’s important that folks understand the truth of what you spoke about. For the record, this is exactly how it played out in many of today’s very liberal Protestant denominations, that not that many decades ago, stood for truth and teachings that they had held to for hundreds of years. A group would come in and simply ask for a seat at the table. They just want to listen. Then, they just want to ask a few “honest” questions. Then, they just want to make some “innocent” comments. And many decades later, here they are. You can be a member in good standing in any of those denominations and believe anything you want to believe and do anything you want to do. You can literally believe that Christ’s Resurrection was a fairy tale, and be in good standing. Side point: I’ll never understand why those folks simply didn’t leave their churches and play golf or go to brunch on Sundays instead, but that’s another question for another time. As you rightly noted William, to those of us who’ve seen this movie before, we know the movie lines. Asking to “engage in dialogue” is a dead giveaway as to what’s really going on. Thank you again William.

  71. William Avatar


    Thank you for the encouragement.

    It seems to me that well-meaning Orthodox people who want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt are particularly vulnerable to this kind of subversive tactic. It’s good to be loving and kind and gentle. It’s good to want to listen to those who speak in good faith. But not everyone speaks in good faith, and giving “a place at the table” to people who want to “dialogue” can be very destructive indeed. Again, I’m not saying everyone who asks questions has the destruction of Christianity as an agenda, but (like you said) if you’ve seen the movie before it becomes somewhat obvious.

    Which is to say that it is not wise to naively trust everyone for the sake of being loving. I think this impulse often has more to do with superficial niceties than it has to do with wisdom or actual love. Read through the Wisdom of Sirach for numerous examples of situations in which we should withhold our trust. Sometimes it’s just better to not dialogue with Saruman!

  72. William Avatar

    I think Fr. Stephen’s comments about Marxist ideology being smuggled into some recent dialogues (in American society) is a great example of what I’m talking about. Just because an organization has a totally innocuous and agreeable name doesn’t mean that it is not also trying to actively undermine legitimate authority and destroy the concept of the family and reeducate your children towards those ends.

  73. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    William and Alan,
    Having been through one of those denominational fiascoes, I can say that this is not my first rodeo. On the other hand, people arrive at the table with a wide a varied background – in my experience. And the young are sometimes just trying to find out what’s going on. For example, it can be quite confusing for someone, lacking experience, etc., to take a website very much for granted, especially if it seems decently treated by a ruling hierarch. Things don’t come with warning labels. That said, I’m not naive and my boundaries here are well-established. I believe in practicing kindness and generosity because it’s a commandment. Also, I find that when I’m neither of those things it works like a poison in me all day and ruins everything. I cannot live like that.

    That’s what boundaries are good for. I delete comments from time to time – who conversations even. Some commenters find themselves held in moderation. Some are no longer allowed. But all of that requires patience and kindness and not being too quick on the trigger. This ministry is less about guarding the fort and more about helping people find the gates so that they might enter.

    All of that’s to say – don’t worry too much viz. the conversations here. I’m still awake.

  74. William Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    I’ve been writing as generally as possible so as not to offend anyone, but generalities can also cause offense where none was intended! I wasn’t intending to call you naive or asleep at the wheel. You’re much more capable than I am at running your own blog, and I don’t have a mind to do that.

    I only meant to comment along the lines of your original post: shaming silence. People who remain silent for the sake of peace are often shamed and tricked into bad faith dialogue. I recall being manipulated into systematically questioning my sense of right and wrong; truth and fiction; into slogging through poorly-written, badly-reasoned books all for the sake of “seeing things from another’s perspective”. Again, the agenda–the “other” perspective–was always the dismantling of every good thing. It was to turn everything on its head (and not in the life-giving way the cross does this), so that good becomes evil and evil becomes good.

    Thank you for all your work and for the reminder that the alternative to kindness is most often bitterness.

  75. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Your point is well made. I found myself this morning doing a bit of clean-up on my Facebook page – primarily by doing some judicious changes to create more effective boundaries. Some of those boundaries are for emotional health sake. Not every conversation is necessary and some, as you note regarding shame, simply begin by causing pain and then waiting for the reaction. I’ll probably offend a few people there – but some are being unfriended and blocked. It is difficult to think clearly and to pray when such emotional brick bats are being hurled your way.

    Fortunately, the blog is far more peaceful. I originally created a Facebook account because Ancient Faith suggested it to its authors. It does allow you to engage more readers – but it is also a source of problematic stuff. I like notes with actual friends and family – photos and the like. But the other stuff grinds me down.

    Be well! I’m on the road today, heading home form a small vacation.

  76. Andrew Avatar

    Should we be careful here? There is a fine line (a narrow one perhaps) between recognizing the wolf dressed as a sheep who wants a seat at the table and distinguishing them from the angel come as a beggar. That is why I find it important to talk less in broad social categories and instead speak face to face (…so to speak) with the person asking for a seat.

    More directly, when someone is asking for help, and the langauge they use to ask for help sounds the same as what we know as Marxist, are we justified in showing that person away before searching the spirit of their cry? In fact, our whole culture has been trained in their higher education through the language of Marxism and as a result, knows no other language in which to speak. What you will find behind that revolutionary veneer are people who are desperately searching for something they can call Truth. They are part of the cultural faith that is in opposition to the True Church. But how is this different then any other time in the history of creation? They are individual souls to be healed.

    Orthodox are not free from this cultural faith either. We too often fight back using the same language, knowing that it contains weight to be used as a bludgeon, but also because we have begun to believe its tenents. Our impressions of the lost sheep are manufactured on many different levels and even the most enlightended of individuals must constantly search themselves for biases that have been handed to them. This is especially true in my opinion during this era of the virtual soundbite. That language we hear in our culture triggers a response, but it does not always communicate the truth.

    I will admit that I hold sympathy toward the Deconstructionists who speak of a reality constructed through language. Our apophatic tradition recognizes the power of our language to deceive and avoids speaking too forthrightly about the Divine experience. This communicates as I see it a knowledge that our language can build idols if we are not careful, and what are idols but a marred image of the Truth of our reality? Where Focault and Derrida fail miserably is their unwillingness to recognize the existence of a singular source of Truth. They flatten the Divine hierarchy into nothingness, and thus allow Marx to lead us into a perpetual blood-soaked revolution by manipulating the social hierarchy for violence. Now the disciples of these teachers, our university, work to tear down the reality they see as oppressive because they believe it was constructed by power structures, but in truth it is a reality they constructed to satisfy their need for a divine experience.

    Despite this all, Christ died for them. And we are asked to reach out to pull them back, even if we are destroyed in the process. That “world” is filled not with Marxists and Constructivists, but with our friends, family, and neigbors.

    I will stop here.

  77. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Re Marxist ideology in the Church. It is not recent. The Orthodox world has been battered by it from the very beginning in both overt and murderous ways as well as more subtle ways. It has been alive and well in academia for almost as long. My personal opinion is that the “Orthodox” academic think tanks are no longer Orthodox at all.
    In my own city they seem to have seduced a man, a young priest, and put him at odds with some fundamental teachings of the Church. Sad.
    one of Marxism’s greatest seduction tools is egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is the source of much violence, death and destruction. Yet it sounds so harmless initially even seeming to comport with Christian revelation that all are equal before God. Unfortunately egalitarianism does not raise up forgive or allow for repentance. It condemns without mercy and it’s only remedy is to destroy.
    The classic exposition is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

    All human beings are creatures of God called into union with Him by grace and mercy buy that in no way makes either equal or the same. Nor am I “better”. I am a human being in communion with the Living God, everywhere present and filling all things who is in dire need of repentance and forgiveness.

    My one witness is that I know Him as real and present. I do not believe, I know. He led me to the Church and was present when I finally got here. He calls me to obedience and repentance and has blessed me in many ways. Not the least of which is leading me to this blog many years ago. (I have had my share of comments cut along the way)

    When faced with questioning think of the question of both Zechariah and the Theotokos. “How can this be?” Zechariah asked in dismissive contempt and was silenced until the answer was revealed. The Theotokos asked in wonder and obedience and was told. Both answers are given to us today so that we may know how to properly approach the presence and blessings of the Living, Incarnate God. He calls us to be wise as serpents as well as being meek and gentle. We are required to discern and remain faithful to the voice of our master. Some 30, some 60 some 100 fold. Mt13:8

    I give thanks to God for all here but especially for Fr. Stephen who bears the burdens. May God continue to bless and strengthen him in his labors bringing forth 100 fold.

  78. William Avatar


    You describe the kind of subversive obfuscation I’m talking about. In my experience, the call for constantly examining internal biases (insofar as it is is enacted) leads people, not to salvation, but into a hellish pseudo-existence where there is no firm place to stand–indeed all firm places must be deconstructed. Certain Christian followers of Derrida (Caputo, for instance) like to use classical Christianity’s apophatic tradition as a way of sneaking this into well-meaning people’s minds.

    The sinister thing about it (like all sinister things) is that there is just enough truth for it to be somewhat believable. God does call us to give up our assumptions and biases–our own will even. So does the devil. Discernment is desperately needed. Thank God for good priests.

    There are firm places to stand. There is truth. I’m struck–just as those who heard him thousands of years ago–by the firm and certain authority in Christ’s words. Jesus isn’t a pilpul-er. I find a similar immediacy of experience (a firm, loving authority) in the desert fathers and mothers, and it is totally absent–damnably absent, I’d say–in the writings of the deconstructionists and post-structuralists.

    And you’re right: Christ died for sinners, of whom I am first.

  79. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    On the Orthodox blog Another City there is a two part post from Fr. Seraphim Rose on discerning the times. Reading Fr. Seraphim was crucial to bringing me to the Church. I have found him to be unique (until Fr. Stephen) of critiquing modernity from within a western, even American experience. As an exceptional student at Pomona College he was well versed in the various philosophies.

    It is intriguing to me that he is being more and more accepted into the Orthodox milleau in this country. Actually I think that bodes well for the Church.

  80. Christian Hollums Avatar
    Christian Hollums

    Dee, Father, All,

    To speak candidly I’m hurt that simple questions about the correlation between democracy and conciliarity are being perceived as some type of sneak attack to undermine the Orthodox Faith. The fact that I’ve been accused of being combative is frankly outlandish.

    They were honest questions as far as I can know my own motives and I’m not really sure why any person commenting on this blog feels they have the ability to judge my motives or intentions or anyone else’s who asks these questions. If my questions evoke fear, then express the emotion but please don’t project your emotions onto me and then create an entire narrative on the motive behind them. It literally destroys any form of dialogue. Dialogue, authentic dialogue isn’t evil and something that needs to be feared!

    The faith is secure, the truth is eternal, and there is no fear in love. If one is going to have a public platform and speak openly about political issues one should be prepared to receive questions. The great tragedy is that I’ve come away feeling like an outcast, even though the very charterer or person you think I am is not so.

  81. Byron Avatar

    Christian, please forgive me if anything I wrote came across as accusative. It was not meant to be. I only wished to clarify something I saw in the conversation. There is nothing in your questions that I see as seeking to “undermine the Orthodox Faith”. Father has answered them quite clearly, as far as I can tell. Again, please forgive me if my observation(s) have caused any confusion.

  82. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I’ve eliminated one comment that seemed overly harsh. These are/have been tough times for many, and even the Church seems a bit insecure in various places. So, my advice, to all – is relax a bit.

    I mean for the blog to be a safe place for questions and took your questions for just that – honest questions.

    I will say that for some (particularly of my generation) the term “dialog” is a red flag – in that it has literally been used as dishonest word to provide cover for some with a hidden agenda. And – the agenda has indeed been “Red” (classically Marxist, etc.). It is still being used that way (for example by those who formally operate Public Orthodoxy). So, you likely got some hard reactions out of that word alone. Who knew?

    A key element in dialog is a presumption that there are two legitimate points of view – thus automatically legitimating a point of view that may, in fact, not be legitimate. But the “dialog” immediately establishes an equality. I would never “dialog” with Mormonism, for example. I would listen, and engage in apologetics, explanation, but I would assume as a matter of course that there is no content in Mormonism that is from God or that has any legitimacy.

    Democracy presumes that there is no God – there are just people with different ideas (some of which might be about God). But democracies and democratic processes have no avenue to truth – they cannot be a means of revelation. They represent, at most, 50 percent plus 1.

    I have not sought on the blog to address political issues. I addressed the abuse of shame – which, for me and in my writings – is a spiritual issue. Politics can indeed have spiritual questions and issues – but, when I write on those things, I’m not expressing a political opinion. I’m writing as a priest, reflecting on what those questions and issues have to do with our spiritual lives.

    Try not to feel like an outcast – if possible.

  83. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father Stephen. I am in my early 70s and I still remember when I was young, the Marxist putsches were going on all over Central and South American (late 50’s). There was always a “coalition” government formed to promote “dialog” and “representation”. Within three to six months, the non-Marxist members would be dead, exiled or in prison. The “coalition” dissolved. Vietnam seemed to follow much the same course later as did the Communist take over of China. Historically it occurred also in Russia.

    That is the historical basis for negative reception of the word “dialog”.

    God bless and keep you and your family. Thank you for all of your work.

  84. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father Stephen. I am in my early 70s and I still remember when I was young, the Marxist putsches were going on all over Central and South American (late 50’s). There was always a “coalition” government formed to promote “dialog” and “representation”. Within three to six months, the non-Marxist members would be dead, exiled or in prison. The “coalition” dissolved. Vietnam seemed to follow much the same course later as did the Communist take over of China. Historically it occurred also in Russia.

    That is the historical basis for negative reception of the word “dialog”.

    God bless and keep you and your family. Thank you for all of your work.

  85. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    One last comment: the etymological roots of the word “dialog” is to speak at each other. Nothing about listening or hearing at all.

  86. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Indeed, one last comment. I once observed to a friend that not much that was helpful was said when the comments went over 100. This is now at 185. Doubtless, some aspects will be revisited in other ways. However, I’m turning the comments on this article off.

    I apologize to the comments community for not being able to managed the conversation in a more helpful manner. I have been on vacation with my wife. Both Sunday and yesterday were largely spent behind the wheel of a car. Perhaps I will place all comments in moderation when another such time comes around.

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