Posted by: markbasil | August 8, 2016

Leftist Orthodox

[A comment on Fr Stephen’s blog: Remembering the End]

I live in Canada.
I often choose not to vote and I have very little interest in politics (I’ve been burned and need to heal).  But I do wish to say that I’m grateful for the starting point of this article Father as- in so far as such terms can apply- I’m liberal; I’m left-leaning; I’m not conservative in my politics (here in Canada even our conservatives would make American liberals; yet when I vote I go for far left all the way to the Green Party).
Often I find myself in strange company among converts to Orthodoxy in N.A. precisely because I find people are not entirely converting *to* Orthodoxy as much as *away* from Christian liberalism.The sadness in this is that of course the politics, ethics, the very questions and concerns that shape the ‘culture’ of the “political right” is then taken to be essentially consistent with Orthodoxy, while things of the “political left” are seen as essentially inconsistent.  So I find the culture in American Orthodoxy is often not really where I find myself at home.  Often I think converts to Orthodoxy in N.A. just assume that political conservatism is “the Orthodox choice”.
I have found a benefit in this though- being a minority among so many conservatives is that I have learned to love my conservative brethren; to see so much that is good in (the best) political conservatism that I was blind to before converting.  In fact I have in many ways become more conservative… but I have also become more deeply liberal in other ways:
For example I have learned through our Holy Mysteries and the materiality of our spirituality, as well as our ascetic contentment with “enough”, an even deeper care and concern for Creation.  (So my environmentalism, or ‘going green’ if you will, has deepened, as has concern over Food Industry and Agra-business, etc.)
I have learned from the likes of Basil the Great and John Chrysostom that, far from desiring a right to protecting my wealth and property that I freely ‘earned’, instead anytime I have a single item that I do not *need* for myself I have stolen it from my impoverished neighbour.  And the Fathers have made me even more concerned about our society’s economic entanglement with debt (usery is sinful.  Alms giving is about justice not generousity.  My social justice has deepened, as has my distrust of capitalist economics and a society of debt.)
Far from any “right to bear arms” the Church teaches that I must love my enemies; St Basil recommends even a soldier who kills justly has separated himself in some sense from Christ for “his hands are unclean.”  She attempts to retain witness to the prophecy that swords will be turned to ploughshares, forbidding her monastic ascetics to ever shed blood and even forbidding her community leaders (priests and bishops) to carry fire arms for self-defense.  So my advocacy for disarmament and opposition to warfare and all killing is at home here.
So too the Church teaches that I am worst of sinners and that judgement is in God’s hands; that I must be merciful toward all including terrible criminals and hold them in caring regard as if they are my own life; so my disgust with retributive systems of justice obsessed with “getting tough on crime” and opposition to capital punishment under any circumstances is totally Orthodox.

I say all of this by no means to shift the focus of the discussion to politics or even ethics.  I have too many thoughtful loving conservative friends now to care about such a discussion.  Anyone who writes back to argue with me on this wont receive a reply.
But I hope to soften the hearts of those who might be right-leaning, to make room for the likes of poor me and see that a thoughtful, serious Orthodox Christian can remain comfortably left-leaning too.  Join me in the discomfort of political disagreement, friends.  The sweet mystery of our Life in Christ makes room for everyone, and calls us to dwell in a unity that surpasses superficial agreement in a common cause or ideology or even outlook.

Love in Christ;
-Mark Basil


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