Thursday, August 4, 2016

Church and State in America

‘Government as a human act of governing oneself and one’s responsibilities and one’s dependents is very different from the modern institution of the State.’ — Alana Roberts

Just as the Church does not exist primarily within the four walls of a worship building or only during an hour or two on the weekend, neither does the Commonwealth exist within the four sides of a voting booth or only during ten minutes or so every two to four years. The Church exists primarily and fundamentally in the Christian family on a twenty-four (hours) seven (days a week) basis. If the Church is not there, then whatever goes on within the weekly religious assemblies is pious placebo at best and holy hogwash at worst. The Commonwealth exists primarily and fundamentally in the family on a twenty-four seven basis, not to exactly repeat myself. If the Commonwealth is not there, then whatever happens during any election is public procrastination at best and ignorant irresponsibility at worst. Unfortunately, there is not much going on between these two extremes, and they’re not very far from each other.

Church and State in America, but let’s talk in reverse order—the State.

Notice, I used the uncommon term (uncommon in America) Commonwealth. This I did not do to imply any connexion with the British Commonwealth (even though I believe we should be part of it). I use the word to denote what the meaning of ‘State’ should be in America—we were designed to be a commonwealth, another name for a republic—‘people’s thing’ in Latin—and one that operates as a democratic—‘people’s power’ in Greek—monarchy. Yes, I said ‘monarchy,’ for that is in fact what our Constitution makes us. Though we call our popularly elected king a president, we are in fact a monarchy, just like the elective monarchy of the sixteenth century Polish Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita, again, ‘common thing’ in Polish). The thing we don’t have, and which most other monarchies do, is a prime minister. We don’t need one.

Notice, when I said the Commonwealth exists primarily and fundamentally in the family, I didn’t say ‘Christian family’ because we are a pluralistic society. E pluribus unum—‘out of many, one’ in Latin—meaning not just out of many nationalities and races, but also many religions. Does that, then, mean that we are not a ‘Christian’ country? No, it does not. We are a Christian (later, Judaeo-Christian) country because that is the cultural complex our commonwealth is built upon, and in fact, employing the ‘liberty of the gospel,’ we have established freedom for every member of our commonwealth to believe or not to believe in God or gods or a religion, as each sees fit. Quite early, Jews were welcomed as equal citizens, then the believers in every other religion, as well as the irreligious and the atheist, were accepted without demur. Even religious, not political, Islam is welcome here.

But the Commonwealth, the Republic, the democratic Monarchy that was established by the country’s founders for themselves and their descendants, was established as the best form of government for a people that was both industrious and committed to living in freedom and passing it on to their progeny. The Constitution does not work when applied to a people not yet ready for it (as in the case of savages) or to a people who have abandoned reason, order, and morality (as in the case of moderns). We have seen, over at least the past five or six presidential elections, the truths of this proposition, that only an enlightened and moral populace can maintain the Commonwealth as it was originally formulated. What we are seeing this year and into the future if we don’t revive our commitment first to the family—and second, to the education of the young—is a collapse of the Commonwealth.

Commitment to the family means taking responsibility for ourselves and our children, not waiting for government institutions to take care of us. The State—not the Commonwealth, which is actually its opposite, though I will use ‘the State’ to refer to it formally—has been encroaching on the family, first disarming it, taking away its right of self-determination, rendering it helpless, and then insinuating itself into a place it was never intended to have—the role of husband and father. The nearly universal abdication, in the face of militant feminism, of the role of husband and father in the family is responsible for the decline of reason, order, and morality in America at large. I think there is enough evidence of this, if one has the wits to take a look. An indolence, that is, a laziness, has taken hold of the American male, who compensates for his moral defeat by pursuing the almighty dollar more and more.

To conclude, with regard to the State, or Commonwealth, in America, not just the men, but the women of America have to take their lives and responsibilities seriously. The pursuit of careers and working very, very hard to achieve financial and social success has to be moved to the back burner of daily life. The begetting, raising, and education of the next generation must begin in earnest. To be with one’s children, to create ‘family’ out of a hodgepodge of multi-generational and sometimes multi-paternal roommates, to develop in ourselves a sense of priorities and ordering our lives by reason and, yes, even by faith, teaching and practicing democracy within the homestead, extending it to the neighborhood, and then beyond to wider and wider social constructs, to the unthroned, uncrowned monarchy that is these United States, will restore meaning to elections, and render harmless the demagogues.

Now, to return finally to the ‘Church’ part of this discussion of Church and State in America, I have to first admit that I am speaking to those of my own faith community, Orthodox Christianity, because that is the one whose economy—‘laws of the house’ in Greek—I know best, through belief and practice. If anything I say can be applied by other Christians, or even by those of other faiths, so much the better. Perhaps what I write will be the first invitation to explore what Holy Orthodoxy really is, which is not just what people see ‘in church’—the ikons, the ceremonies, the singing—but what is supposed to be going on in the ‘real’ Church, that is, the family. I will be the first to admit that my own life as an Orthodox husband and father was not flawless, that in large part, I failed, but that I tried at all, even that I tried with fervor, does not disqualify me from passing on what I know about it.

The Church resides primarily in the family. Each family is a micro-monarchy. A church wedding recognizes that a marriage has begun. In the ceremonial no vows are taken because the bond is implied permanent, and the Church only blesses what has already started, by literally crowning and declaring the wedded couple the king and the queen of their family. After the ceremony, building that kingdom begins, a twenty-four seven occupation, something we do, acknowledging our partnership with God. The father and husband reigns, ideally and scripturally, ruling by the law of love, the mother and homemaker, likewise, reigns as co-ruler by the same law. The man works tirelessly to build the outer world, to provide and protect. The woman works tirelessly to build the inner world, to nurture and teach. Together with their children, they aspire to live the life of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

No, this is not a pious, idealized, and impossible goal to set before a family. We already know and accept the fact that we will have an uphill climb, that success is going to come slowly and in some areas maybe never, but we know that ‘God is with us,’ not in any triumphalist religious delusion, but in His mercy and love, two attributes of God in Christ that we can readily imitate, if we choose. Brothers, take up the crown which Christ God has crowned you with, ahead of time, before the Day of Judgment, even before your own death. Take up the crown, yes, even when it is a crown of thorns, and be Christ King in your family, living for them, and with them, so that you may live in them, passing on the Divine Image that you reflect. Sisters, take up the crown, the same crown as your husband, and let it be a circlet around those whom God has given you, living for them, and with them, so that you may live in them.

We see the Orthodox family also being eroded by the same fierce, merciless forces that have dissolved even the idea of family, of fatherhood, motherhood, and brotherhood that are the foundation of Church and State in America. Whom do we worship, to whom do we pray, whose teachings are on our lips and in our ears for eternal remembrance and practice? Whom do we love, whom do we respect, in each other and in our children? Who is it we are raising? Are we raising Christian men and women, good citizens of a God-protected and wisdom-instructed Commonwealth? The true America is not a country only, but an idea, one which reasonable people throughout the whole world seek and wish to emulate. The America we now see is a shadow, a wraith of her true greatness and glory which was gifted her by the Almighty, He who made her His people because they made Him their God.

Church and State in America. This is not the end, brethren, but the beginning. The sun is about to rise. It is moving slowly, soon to be seen at the horizon. The winter is almost past, soon it will be spring, a springtime for this nation, and for all the nations. Christ is in our midst. He is and ever shall be. Let us remember our first love, that with those who endured all calamities and survived among the seven churches of Asia in John’s prophecy, we will be crowned kings and queens, a holy nation, a priesthood serving Him Who is, was, and is to come, the Almighty.

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