Martyrdom’s threat to the state

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Source: Mirror of Justice.

From Paul Kahn‘s “Putting Liberalism in Its Place” (link):

The Western state actually exists under the very real threat of Christian martyrdom:  a threat to expose the state and its claim to power as nothing at all.  In the end, sacrifice is always stronger than murder.  The martyr wields a power to defeat his murderer, which cannot be answered on the field of battle.

 

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Don’t Fewer Births Require More Deaths?

…if the social engineers are thinking about fewer births, they must also be thinking about more deaths. What better way to avoid costs than for the aging people to depart? How can they not be thinking about that too? At least they’re sensitive enough not to spit it in our faces the way they celebrate the savings inherent in fewer births. Read the rest here.

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Are Secular Democracy & Symphonia At Odds?

Marc DeGirolami at Mirror of Justice writes that “Constitutions serve several functions, but …, I’m interested in one in particular: to entrench the idea that there is a law above the state’s law — a law that cannot be changed by ordinary legislation.” He then asks “Could one say this about established religions in constitutional states?”

If I’ve understood his argument, the First Amendment’s prohibition against an established religion is less about religion or the relationship between church and state and more an acknowledgment of the limits of the State. An established Church–as for example the Anglican Church in England or the Orthodox Church in Greece or Russia–makes a far reaching claim about the power of the State, specifically that the State is sacred and that through its legislators or executive it has the right to pass judgment on the truth claims of religion. Or as DeGirolami puts it “Establishments of religion sacralize the state.”

But a sacred State is also a State, again as DeGirolami argues, that claims that it is “above its ordinary law, and … thereby control and restrain (the reach of) ordinary law.”

The First Amendment of the US Constitution, however, makes a radically different claim. “It enshrines limits on the ordinary power of government, and … even subordinate the ordinary acts of government to higher law.” While DeGirolami is concerned in his post with religion, his argument is I think equally applicable to the other rights enumerated in the amendment: “the freedom of speech, … of the press; … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In each of these rights an argument is being made that there are vast areas of human society which, like religion, are “remove[d] from the purview of ordinary law.”

The American Experiment, as I said yesterday (here), is based on certain anthropological presuppositions chief of which is that the human person is a creature and so is necessarily a religious being. But while persons are religious, governments are not. There is a higher law to which event a secular government is accountable. On this point, I think, the American Experiment and the Orthodox notion of the symphonia of Church and Empire are in anthropological agreement even if they diverge practically.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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The City of God & the City of Man

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St Augustine & The City of God

There is in all the Christian tradition no more compelling depiction of our circumstance than St. Augustine’s City of God. Short of the final coming of the Kingdom, the City of God and the earthly city are intermingled (XIX, 27). We are to make use of, pray for, and do our share for the earthly city. Here Augustine cites the words of Jeremiah urging the people not to fear exile in Babylon: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its peace you will find your peace” (Jer. 29:7). This is a continuing theme in the way Christians think about their place in history.

It is often forgotten how very much of a Roman Augustine was. The City of God is, among other things, a sustained argument with pagan interlocutors whom we might today call “public intellectuals” in which Augustine is contending for the superiority of the Christian philosophy and understanding of history. It is sometimes suggested that Augustine knew he was writing in the ruins of a collapsing empire that he dismissed as terminally corrupt. In fact, he wrote, “The Roman Empire has been shaken rather than transformed, and that happened to it at other periods, before the preaching of Christ’s name, and it recovered. There is no need to despair of its recovery at this present time. Who knows what is God’s will in this matter?”

Fr Richard John Neuhaus, How the Public Square Became Naked

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