Tag Archives: Virtue

The Key is Freedom

I haven’t seen Arthur Brooks’ documentary on the free market (The Pursuit) but I have followed his work at AEI and am currently reading (and enjoying) his new book Love Your Enemies. I have some traveling to do in this next month. Hopefully, that will give me time to see Brooks’ documentary.Image result for braveheart freedom

The takeaway for me from the review at Bleeding Heart Libertarian (see below) is the connection between human flourishing and not only economic freedom but moral freedom (virtue).

If we care for the poor, if we care for our communities, if we care for our families, children, and students, then we will defend freedom. This means having a fuller notion of freedom that just the absence of external constraints.

It also means the freedom that comes from a life of virtue of those habits of thought and action that make it possible for me to love my enemy and to forgive those who have wronged me.

Above all, freedom in this fuller sense means cultivating the virtues that help me focus not simply on what’s best for me but best for my neighbor. I wish to become a morally better person and a more productive member of society not only because this is good for me. It’s good for you as well when your neighbor is virtuous and working to make the world a better place economically, politically, culturally, and yes, morally.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Source: The Pursuit: Arthur Brooks on Capitalism, Dignity, and Opportunity for All

Courage!

“Courage for conservatives today means refusing to be bullied or intimidated into acquiescing to, or silently going along with, the dogmas that the progressive movement, via the exercise of its extraordinary cultural power, is attempting to force on us. Courage means boldly speaking truth to cultural (and economic) power — out loud and in public.”

Robert George

Source: National Review

Casuistry, Virtue and the Fruit of the Spirit

We sometimes draw an unappreciative distinction between the Orthodox Church’s “therapeutic” model of the Christian life and the “forensic” or legalistic model of Western Christian traditions. While not wholly without some foundation, this is basically silly.

Western Christian traditions also are concerned with healing the soul and, as Orthodox Christians, we have a long history of law. Not only canon law governing things like how a diocese functions but also very legalistic teaching on sin and confession.

In others, Orthodox moral theology can be every bit as legal (and legalistic) as anything in the West!

Looking at the ways in which moral theology become moralizing, some Orthodox Christians have downplayed or even dismissed the importance of moral theology. But as youth ministers, having no familiarity with the moral tradition of the Church is like trying to be a physician without knowing anatomy or an engineer who doesn’t know mathematics. It just ain’t gonna happen!

We need to know something of moral theology if we hope to guide young people successfully through the many struggles they’ll face as they move from childhood into adulthood.

Broadly, moral theology has two concerns: casuistry and virtue formation.

Casuistry, or the objective analysis of moral issues, has a bad reputation (and not just among Orthodox Christians). But to help someone live a virtuous life, we need to know what are the moral limits of our life in Christ, Casuistry is how we discern the moral boundaries that we can’t transgress and still remain in communion with Christ and the Church.

Casuistry is also important because, unlike virtue, sin is boring. We are all of us good in unique ways. There are an almost infinite number of ways for us to live morally good but moral goodness reflects the Infinite Goodness of God.

Sin, on the other hand, is monotonous and predictable. If a morally good life opens us to God neverending love, sin is narrowing our vision. Virtue makes us more than we were yesterday, sin makes us less than were.

But we need to remember, objective morality isn’t an end in itself. It does, however, remind us that we are all broken in similar ways (for more see Be the Bee #124). We aren’t going to grow in holiness as disciples of Jesus Christ because we don’t violate a short list of moral do’s and don’ts.

The priest who received my wife and me into the Church summarized the importance of objective morality this why: “You’re not a Christian because you keep the Ten Commandments but you can’t be a Christian if you don’t!”

So in addition to keeping the Commandments, to not sinning, the fathers say we need to cultivate virtue. We need to not simply do good things now and then, we need to be in the habit of doing good things.

I would define virtue this way. Virtue is made up of those habits of thought and action that lead to a life of Christian holiness. If casuistry, objective morality, sketches out the boundaries of the Christian life, virtue provides us the content of that life.

Not just young people but all of us need to know not only the moral limits but also the moral content of what it means to follow Christ. The Apostle Paul gives us a good summary of the virtues we need to cultivate as Orthodox Christians:

**But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).**

In addition to thinking of sin as individual, morally bad actions, we also need to think of it as any habit or action that undermines the fruits of the Spirit.

What, for example, am I doing that robs me or others of joy or peace for example? How am I being unkind? What are the ways in which I’m unloving or selfish preferring my own will to what’s best for the people in my life?

In the next few classes, we’ll look at particular moral issues that are currently being debated in the culture. We’ll do this with an eye to answering the kinds of questions I asked here. While we shouldn’t use the moral tradition as a club to beat people or as an excuse to not love others or for self-promotion, we need to understand that what the Church says is objectively immoral are those things that undermine love and the other fruits of the Spirit that St Paul lists.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

The New Era of Segregation

Why is this happening? For answers, check out Economist Tyler Cowen in his  new video titled “The New Era of Segregation,” argues that,

In our algorithm-driven world, digital servants cater to our individual preferences like never before – finding us tailored restaurants, TV shows, even our next spouse. On the individual level, this is all very good. We’re finding better matches and our daily lives are improving.

But what happens at the macro level? The picture becomes less rosy – increased segregation, exploding rents, and a less dynamic economy.

While economic concerns are important–after all, how can the Church serve the poor (much less help lift them out of poverty!) with the economic resources to do so?

But Cowen’s video raises another, pastoral question.

In an increasingly “curated” culture, what happens to the Church? What happens to the parish as a local, eucharistic community?

With Cowen, I think the technological advances of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are great. No question about this!

In a fallen world, no good thing is simply good. Sin always mixes in.

As Christians, as people of good will, and as citizens we can’t lose sight of either the blessings or risk inherent in technology. As Aristotle taught us, virtue is about finding the middle way between extremes. This is as true with our use of technology as it is in our personal lives.

Do take a moment to watch Cowen’s video.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory