Monday, September 27, 2004

Faith and politics

There have been interesting discussions going on in the orthodox blogosphere re. and article on the OCA website by Dr. Peter Bouteneff. The touchstone blog has had a comment and Fr. Jacobse had had a post regarding this. This morning I noticed that Grace did as well. I've commented on several of these, finding myself accused of "defending Dr. Bouteneff." I've decided to write a post of my own.
Dr. Bouteneff is my dogmatic theology professor. His teaching style tends to be very low key - he presents evidence from the fathers, the councils, scripture, etc but lets us synthesize it. He is very careful (and can be quite emphatic) about not letting us stray into heresy. He carefully guards the dogma of the church - the Trinity, the 2 natures of Christ, certain things re. the Theotokos, dogmas regarding the church as the hermeneutic community within which we can read and interpret the Scriptures, etc. Consequently, I am not surprised when his article has no clear directions at the end telling us how to vote. It is not his way. Further, I'm not sure he ought to be telling us how to vote.
My own take on the whole situation is as follows: Various posts in the Orthodox blogosphere seem to find this unacceptable. People are certain that Orthodox Christians ought to vote only one way - their way. And frankly, I don't think we can find a consistent witness in the fathers, scripture, or the liturgy that clarifies this issue.
For example, a never of Orthodox Christians who live in America approve of Mr. Bush's doctrine of pre-emption. A number of Orthodox Christians who live elsewhere do not. And since last I checked there were no essays by St. Basil the Great regarding pre-emptive military strategy - I think both sets of people are free to think as they choose without deviating from the principles of the church.
Our church does have things to say about several issues that do come into play during this election. It has things to say about our attitudes re. the poor, the sick, the imprisoned. (cf. Matt 25) And frankly I don't think the Republican party embodies the attitude our Savior instructed us to have. On the other hand, elements of the far left, and even the not so far left, have views on things like abortion and stem-cell research that I think are in direct contradiction to our church's teachings. I think Kerry is wrong on abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage. And I think Bush is wrong on economic policy, the environment, health care, and our energy policies.
Other general observations: Kerry is a terrible candidate, and I'm not sure I can vote for him. Neither am I pleased with Mr. Bush, and specifically with certain factions of his administration. And consequently I remain a confused and conflicted Orthodox Christian.
Thanks be to God that while we may passionately disagree with one another, we all receive the Holy Mysteries. None of us are cut off from Christ's Holy Church for our political beliefs. So I think what I am trying to say is that not only can people of goodwill disagree on these issues but Orthodox Christians can disagree on these issues while still remaining in the fullness of the faith.


Matt said...

I actually wrote directly to Dr. Bouteneff. (the letter is on my blog.) If he responds I will post that, too.

Michelle said...

I agree with your political viewpoints exactly! Why am I not surprised?