Let Them Eat Rockets

American Thinker | Richard Baehr | Jan. 8, 2009

The international community is expressing outrage over the relatively small number of civilian casualties reported in the first 11 days of Israel’s operation in Gaza. War, apparently, must now mean zero civilian casualties. If anyone is killed, they seem to be saying, war crimes are committed.

Of course, anyone has the right to object to Israel’s invasion. But these critics are conveniently silent about Hamas’ deadly objective when it fired 7,000 rockets and mortars into Israel over the past few years, and the recent torrent of projectiles it launched to end the six-month ceasefire, precipitating the current conflict.

The goal of the Hamas rocket fire was not only to terrorize a significant percentage of Israel’s population, but also to kill or maim Israeli civilians. But because most of these rockets did not cause casualties, Israel’s critics do not consider them a serious threat.

The fact that more than 15 percent of Israel’s population is now within Hamas’ rocket range, or that the rockets are more precise with a more lethal payload (thanks to Iran), also seems to be of little concern.

That Israel has taken great pains to minimize civilian casualties in the current fighting, going so far as to contact Gaza residents by phone and warn them to evacuate from targeted areas, also does not matter. Critics vilify Israel for being less than 100 percent effective in its attempts to only hit armed Hamas men.

But with or without these critics, Israel is unusually sensitive about conducting wars with minimal civilian casualties, often to its detriment. As analyst Max Boot points out, this has made Israel’s wars more challenging and more costly to wage.

Take, for example, the alleged Jenin “massacre” during the second intifada. In reality, there was no massacre. But the international community willingly bought into a Palestinian fraud. In fact, the number of Palestinians killed in the Jenin incursion was one-tenth of the number the Palestinians claimed; there were 50 not 500, and they were almost all fighters.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces lost two dozen of their own men in that operation. The reason for Israel’s high casualty rate was its careful measures to avoid civilian casualties.

Israel’s care for the sanctity of human life, even in war, is something completely absent among Israel’s foes. Hamas educates and trains their children to kill themselves to achieve the greater good of killing the “Zionist enemy.”

In fact, contrary to what we see on television, Hamas does not grieve for children accidentally killed by Israel in the heat of battle. Rather, this is part of the Hamas war strategy. The Palestinian children who die in conflict with Israel are fodder for Hamas’ propaganda machine. This is why Hamas uses civilians as shields — both to protect their fighters and weapons caches, and to play the resulting civilian casualties for all they are worth.

National Public Radio’s Juan Williams recently complained on Fox News Sunday that the ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israeli deaths was too high so far in the war. This argument implies that the war would be fairer if more Israelis died. International law holds no requirement for the casualty count to be equal on each side of a conflict. The U.S. lost more than 400,000 soldiers in World War II, while Germany lost more than 7 million soldiers and civilians (75 percent were soldiers). Was that death ratio unfair to Germany?

The reality is that war is ugly. But sometimes, it’s necessary. How would we in the United States respond to thousands of rocket attacks from Mexico or Canada? Of course, we do not face such a prospect, which makes it easier for some to be critical of Israel for retaliating.

Calls for Israel to withdraw are equally hypocritical. The best way to win a war is to win quickly and decisively. When wars are protracted and indecisive, there may be fewer casualties in the short run, but many more will come with renewed fighting at a later date.

If Israel weakens Hamas in the current operation, but withdraws under international pressure and Hamas resumes firing rockets at Israel, there will undoubtedly be more war. The only way to permanently stop the rockets will be to end Hamas’ control over Gaza. If the Palestinians in Gaza are ever to have a chance for better lives, this is a critical first step for them as well.

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Comments

  1. What does this have to do with Holy Orthodoxy? I am not defending one side or another, but war is EVIL, and we should not have the sentiment that “well, war is bad, but, when we have to do it, it is ok”. The “relatively small number” of civilian casualties is not an excuse. Also, the possibility of a “chance for better lives” will not be brought by Israel, which seems to have, as its unstated goal, a pure state in which there are no foreigners (I believe that non-Jews cannot be citizens). Although the scale is much smaller, the Jews are carrying out the same sorts of tactics (remember, I am not saying that Hamas is innocent) that the Nazis used in WWII. I was afraid that this sort of thing would happen when they evacuated Gaza of all Jews 3 years ago, so that they could bomb indiscriminately.

  2. Blog-Editor says:

    Dean, You are completely misrepresenting reality. Your claims that Israel is boming Gaza “indiscriminately” is absolutely false. The IDF is doing precisely the opposite. They are trying to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible, despite Hamas’ purposeful firing of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian areas from schools, homes, mosques, and hospitals.

  3. Michael Bauman says:

    Dean, you are defending the evil of Hamas by your moral equivalency. Hamas has no legimate reason to exist. The are thugs and killers. Much more akin to street gangs than anything else. They would kill Christians if they could, but they hate Jews worse and so for the time being Christians are useful idiots. BTW are urban police forces not supposed to counter gangs in the cities? Are they Nazi’s too? Your comparison to the Nazi’s is repugnant and ignorant.

    What you really want to do is un-create the state of Israel. Apparently to you it is not to be accorded the status of sovereign state. Sorry, not gonna happen. Sovereignty is a legitmate reality that can and should be defended.

    I’d suggest you deal with the reality of anti-semitism and dhimmi attitude within the Orthodox Church: Greek, Slav and Antiochians all.

    I’m sick of it.

    And please>>>>> do you have ANY IDEA of how many Orthodox saints have participated in warfare over the centuries? The reality of Christians in war is not as simplistic as you make it out.

    Warfare is the result of our sinful fallen state. By simplisitically labeling war as evil and refusing to particiapte, you might as well lable life as evil and refuse to participate. Anything we do (or don’t do) is going to cause pain and death Dean. The best we can do is to minimize the pain and death and repent of the rest. Sometimes, the best way to limit pain and death is by a convincing military victory by one side. Preventing such a victory prolongs the agony and prevents any resolution that could be considered peace.

  4. Dean, You are completely misrepresenting reality. Your claims that Israel is boming Gaza “indiscriminately” is absolutely false. The IDF is doing precisely the opposite. They are trying to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible, despite Hamas’ purposeful firing of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian areas from schools, homes, mosques, and hospitals.

    Not based on reports from the IOCC. You do know them, correct? They happen to be Orthodox, or are they not on your approved list? The latest interview from the IOCC representative in Jerusalem painted a very grim picture.

    Gaza is the most densely populated area on Earth. It is a vast slum that is completely sealed off all around. The civilians are trapped inside, and the death toll is at least 900. The IOCC reports that when relief gets in, they are seeing starving children rummaging among bodies for food.

    Your love for the IDF is blinding you to reality. While Hamas is a terrorist organization, and Islam is neither peaceful nor even admirable, the fact is that Muslims are made in the image and likeness of God and this action is wrong. This is, literally, shooting fish in a barrel.

    I know, I know. I read your blog. You are quite eager to deal in death and judgment. Who cares about the bloody IOCC – those fake Orthodox! They should be in there killing Palestinian children side-by-side with the IDF, rather than helping innocents caught in this crossfire.

    Right?

  5. Blog-Editor says:

    Sorry George you are dancing around the truth and blaming the wrong people for this tragedy.

    The terrorist organization Hamas is purposely operating and hiding among civilians to inflict innocent deaths and promote their “cause.” These demons are terrorizing and killing their own people by using innocent men, women, and children as human shields. The IDF and IAF can only do so much to minimize innocent casualties, but they have to erradicate these terrorists who refuse to stop their indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians.

    If any US town was attacked like this by terrorist groups in Canada and Mexico and your family and children were threatened by terrorists firing rockets and mortars at your town how would our military respond? Would you so casually tell the US Airforce not to retaliate and do everything possible to stop these monsters? I don’t think so.

    IAF Avoids Civilian Casualties

  6. Blog-Editor and Michael Bauman,
    Mr. Bauman, I respect your opinion on many diverse subjects. However, in a war, nobody wins. Because my grandparents were on “the wrong side” in WWII (by the way, they were just farmers minding their own business) the Russians just decided to round them up and send them into concentration camps. While it is true that the Nazis did horrible things, not every German person was participating. War helps no one. It only destroys.
    By the way, the nation of Israel created itself by “terrorist” means. They bombed the British when they were there in order to agitate for independence. Once again, I am not saying that Hamas is “right, or good” or anything like that. Innocent people get caught in conflicts and that is always horrible. War is great when you are far away and it doesn’t affect your loved ones.

  7. If any US town was attacked like this by terrorist groups in Canada and Mexico and your family and children were threatened by terrorists firing rockets and mortars at your town how would our military respond? Would you so casually tell the US Airforce not to retaliate and do everything possible to stop these monsters? I don’t think so.

    First of all – you are overlooking some key differences. If the United States had been maintaining a blockade on Canada or Mexico since 2005, and if the United States had struck first violating a cease fire, then I would expect retaliation.

    Also, in Canada or Mexico, the civilians can flee. Are the borders open so that non-combatants can get out of Gaza? Are they? Why aren’t refugees streaming out of Gaza?

    Further, where do you expect Hamas to go, exactly? You have 1.5 million people in a packed concentration camp. How could Hamas get out from among the population? The IDF has, essentially, determined that everyone is Hamas, and that it doesn’t matter.

    So have you. You keep citing talking points about how careful the IDF is being, but the evidence I’m seeing is all pointing the other way. Quite a bit of that evidence is originating from Orthodox sources.

    I didn’t back the stupid election that brought Hamas to power. That was a Bush fiasco. But just because the people in Gaza are Muslims that voted for Hamas, doesn’t mean that this is right. If the IDF punched Hamas and then resumed the cease fire, we would be out of this. At some point, a settlement has to be reached that restores open borders to Gaza.

    This attempt at a ‘final solution’ to the Hamas problem through mass killing will fail. As did Israel’s attempt to sow division in the Palestinian cause by creating Hamas to begin with as a balance to the PLO.

    Hamas comes out of this stronger than ever with more stirred up Muslims globally. I distinctly remember reading your defense of the Lebanese fiasco in which Israel managed to kill a lot of people and essentially cement Hezbollah as the main force in Beirut.

    That was stupid and immoral. So is this.

    The only solution here is to give the Palestinians a state. We will get there eventually, the question is how many people die along the way.

    It will be a failed state, of course, as are the other Muslim states. But the cost of maintaining control of the lands beyond the Green line is simply too high, and piling high yield munitions into civilian areas is just plain wrong.

  8. Michael Bauman says:

    The United States and every nation-state in existence created itself by war and terror. WWII did more than just destroy. It destroyed Hitler and in the process much of the effects of Nazism. It was the failure of the appeasers to confront Hitler earlier that led to many of the worst consequences. It was the failure to confront the Soviets and support the White Russians that allowed the Soviets to remain in power. The liberal apologists for the Soviet communists in the West and the defacto Sergianism of much of Christianity during that time to confront evil on any level.

    When evil is confronted earlier, no matter where it lies, there is less war. Sometimes Dean, whether you like it or not, such confrontation requires guns and killing or at least the credible threat of such. Mao was correct about one thing, all political power flows from the barrel of a gun. Following your logic, all political power is therefore evil and should not be used. Quite a different reasoning from your normal “The state must do everything to ensure justice” approach.

    If the U.S had physically confronted, even killed Yassar Arafat and destroyed the PLO after his terror group attacked the Achille Lauro (sp?) and killed a U.S. citizen who was also a Jew by tossing him in his wheel chair off the side of the ship–what we see today would not be happening.

    We may someday happen upon some form of political organization that works better than the nation-state. It is a step up from the war-lord, tribal system that proceeded it. Hamas is a step backward. All of the Arab states are fuedal in nature.

    BTW, I have yet to see any of your outrage directed at the “Nazi” tactics of Egypt toward its own Coptic citizens when the subject has been broached here in the past. Somehow, it is always the Jews who are to blame.

    As Tom Leherer the 60′s statrist put it in his song “National Brotherhood Week”: ”
    ….everybody hates the Jews” Maybe, just maybe, you ought to consider that in your equation. You can argue all you want about the wisdom of establishing a Jewish state in the middle of an Arab population, but it is done. It was done along time ago. The history of those Arabs, Christian and Muslim has been one of continued hatred and non-acceptance that has driven their people further into despair and poverty. They have become cannon fodder for the jihadist ideologs and other thugs. The thugs don’t want to loose their fodder so they refuse any legitimate offer of peace and continue firing rockets or using other acts of overt war. Would you not want to wall off such a cancerous part of a population? It is not at all like the ghettos the Nazi’s created–NOTHING LIKE THEM!

    The IOCC is not fake, it is real and most often a force for Christ. However, there is a strong ethinic bias that exists within the IOCC for the Arabs. A bias that, in individuals, escalates to downright anti-semitism. That is not Christian.

  9. When evil is confronted earlier, no matter where it lies, there is less war. Sometimes Dean, whether you like it or not, such confrontation requires guns and killing or at least the credible threat of such. Mao was correct about one thing, all political power flows from the barrel of a gun. Following your logic, all political power is therefore evil and should not be used. Quite a different reasoning from your normal “The state must do everything to ensure justice” approach.

    We take our moral lessons from Mao?

    It is true that the State is a gang of thieves writ large, and that force is the currency of the State. Which is why all mass violence in history has been perpetrated by the State for its own glory.

    Israel is being stupid. It can not bring itself to let go of Gaza and the West Bank. It needs to do so, but that means giving up the dream of greater Israel. To a large segment of Israelis, that is unacceptable. But not to all, of course. We often talk on this board as if all Israel were the Likud. That is false, there is a wide diversity of opinion in Israel about how to proceed. In fact, in Israel one reads criticism of the Israeli government written by Israelis that Michael would brand anti-Semitic.

    The moderator would just say they are self-hating. So much for reasoned debate.

    The Arab nations that treat Palestinians born in their borders as foreigners are being immoral and opportunistic. Islam and its Sharia are responsible for widespread death and oppression worldwide, and should be rightly condemned.

    None of that makes any difference as to whether or not Israeli actions are justified in this case. Hamas is not Hitler. Hamas can not destroy Israel. It can’t even do any real damage. Hamas is the elected government in Gaza. The men who make up Hamas live next door to all the civilians, because many of them have civilian jobs.

    The major problem with this whole ‘confronting’ evil garbage strewn around on this blog is that no one stops to provide the slightest discernment. There has always been evil. There will always be evil, but how to best deal with each evil as it arise?

    Hitler always comes up, but what about the Soviet Union?

    Why didn’t we decide in 1945 or 1946 that we couldn’t afford to appease Stalin? Under the logic of ‘Munich’ we should have launched an aggressive war against the Soviet Union as soon as it became clear that the Iron Curtain was descending.

    Right? After all, we had to confront evil and not appease anyone.

    But we didn’t, and millions who would have died in such a war lived to a ripe old age, and the communists eventually went out of business. Why does this example never come up? Can you imagine if we had launched a ‘preventative’ war on the Soviet Union in 1948 (for example)? What a waste.

    Hamas is an ineffectual rabble with a few rockets. Gaza is a slum walled in on all sides by hostile powers or the sea. The Palestinians were first expelled by the Jews and then herded into concentration camps by fellow Arab Muslims who pretend to care about them but treat them like dirt.

    Many on both sides would like to just get this over with and find a way to survive. Hamas needs to stop shooting rockets. Israel needs to open the borders. Gaza needs to be independent, and so should the West Bank.

    The Copts in Egypt should be liberated, the Assyrians in Iraq protected, and the Orthodox in Syria and Jordan emancipated politically.

    All these things should be our goal. They are not mutually exclusive.

  10. I believe you are confusing me with another Dean. I am not Mr. Scourtes.

  11. Blog-Editor says:

    That’s strange Dean, there was no mention of “Scourtes” in this thread. Why on earth would you raise that distinction? Very confusing!

  12. Michael Bauman says:

    So George, it still comes back to being all Israel’s fault and they should just acceed to the demands of Hamas or whoever, despite the fact that everytime they have made concessions only more violence has errupted and the only real concession that would mean anything would be to pack up and move out, or better yet have every Jew sit down together around a big bowl of Kool-Aide laced with cyanide and drink it.

    Sorry, don’t buy that as a legitimate solution.

    What do you see as Israel ‘letting go’ of Gaza? You would also force Israel to open its borders, why should it when the ‘government’ of Gaza has only the destruction of Israel in mind and will do all in its power toward that end. Even if the state of Israel cannot be seriously harmed, Israelis citizens certainly can be.

    How do you suggest we deal with evil?

    It is as yet to be determined that the Soviets are really out of business. The folks in Europe who are living in the cold might disagree with you. As might the Georgian government.

    Yes, many would have died in a war against Soviet Russia, many died in the Gulag and in the repressions loosed by communist governements around the globe, many more were tortured to the point of insanity and beyond. Many are still dying and suffering under Castro in Cuba.

    The refusal to engage evil on any front is wrong for it will only prosper. The devotion to arms as the sole solution is just as wrong for the same reason. Any other action or refusal to act that we take will be only partially sucessful at best.

    All war can be prevented, but once prevention fails what then? Even if the rockets stopped tomorrow and Israel did all that you demand, George, a state of war would still exist.

    Moral lessons from Mao? No. My statement was not a statement of morality but of the pragmatic reality of government and law. Clearly, the more successful the government the less actual coercion, but the threat is always there.

    My apologies to Dean, I was thinking he was the Scourtes. I compliment your perception.

  13. Can we at least agree that there is nothing Christian about his conflict? That it is an evil thing?

  14. So George, it still comes back to being all Israel’s fault and they should just acceed to the demands of Hamas or whoever, despite the fact that everytime they have made concessions only more violence has errupted and the only real concession that would mean anything would be to pack up and move out, or better yet have every Jew sit down together around a big bowl of Kool-Aid laced with cyanide and drink it.

    So the territorial concessions to Egypt by returning the Sinai only resulted in more war?

    Actually, no. That worked out just fine. Let’s turn this around, what do you propose? Gaza has been blockaded for 18 months. The amount of supplies let in has been less than a tenth of what is needed. You can’t blockade humans indefinitely and then expect them to just take it laying down. Especially after Israel broke the cease fire.

    Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade. This has to happen for humanitarian reasons. Israel needs to relinquish control of Gaza and the West Bank, or decide to actually expel all Palestinians once and for all. What is happening now can not continue.

    As for Israel making meaningful concessions – the answer is no. They haven’t. No control over territory has been returned to the Palestinians. The settlers were pulled out of Gaza, but the Israelis retained total control of all borders and airspace. The West Bank continues to be settled. There is no effort to actually return the lands taken in 1967 to the Palestinians.

    Islam is a false religion. Muslim treatment of Christians is an outrage. But that doesn’t mean that the Palestinians don’t have a legitimate beef on a lot of levels.

    Israel can make a deal with the Palestinians. The fact is that it won’t. That’s a shame.

    How do you suggest we deal with evil?

    Sensibly. Not all evils are alike. We routinely ally with dictators and mass murderers around the world. Some evil we can live with.

    It is as yet to be determined that the Soviets are really out of business. The folks in Europe who are living in the cold might disagree with you. As might the Georgian government.

    Spare me. Russia is a diminished state with an economy dependent on a single export. It is trying to bully Ukraine much the way America has frequently bullied our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. The current fiasco is costing Moscow money, and is likely to backfire in a big way. The Russians are not a threat to the world on any level. They do not have the power or the economic strength to be so.

    Yes, many would have died in a war against Soviet Russia, many died in the Gulag and in the repressions loosed by communist governements around the globe, many more were tortured to the point of insanity and beyond. Many are still dying and suffering under Castro in Cuba.

    The mass purges were in the 1930′s, before the war. Communism is awful, but do you really think that my Polish wife and her family would have been better off after WWII if we had launched a major war against the Soviets? If American and Soviet tanks had squared off in Warsaw, would that have been a better thing?

    No. We stood strong against Communism and outlasted it. No war was necessary. Communist dictatorships are abysmal, but even China is changing. Cuba will as well.

    What undermines totalitarian regimes is trade and prosperity. The Soviet Union collapsed as incomes and standards of living were rising. When people are poor and scrambling for food, they can’t organize politically. It is when they have time and money that they start to demand freedom.

    You want to spread freedom – then spread trade. Open up investment in Gaza. Get the people working and trading, and then notice a major difference. Same with Cuba – our blockade props up Castro. Same with Iran – our rhetoric props up the Mullahs.

    All war can be prevented, but once prevention fails what then? Even if the rockets stopped tomorrow and Israel did all that you demand, George, a state of war would still exist.

    Then you have to negotiate in good faith to end the state of war. If you give the Palestinians a state beyond the Green Line, then the world shuts up. If the Palestinians refuse to abide by the settlement, then Israel will find itself in the clear, and will have a border that doesn’t include a large number of Muslims who are non-citizens.

    Moral lessons from Mao? No. My statement was not a statement of morality but of the pragmatic reality of government and law. Clearly, the more successful the government the less actual coercion, but the threat is always there.

    Pretty much sums up why I am a Libertarian.

  15. Jim Holman says:

    George writes: “You keep citing talking points about how careful the IDF is being, but the evidence I’m seeing is all pointing the other way. Quite a bit of that evidence is originating from Orthodox sources.”

    Any time a modern military force is using bombs and indirect fire in a civilian area, everyone should be concerned, regardless of who is on who’s side. Not all bombs are smart, and not all smart bombs go where they are supposed to go. And with indirect artillery and mortar fire, by definition the weapons crews do not have the target in sight when the weapon is fired, and it is unlikely that the target will be destroyed by the first round. So you’re going to have other rounds landing in a civilian area and who knows what they will destroy. In that context the IDF can try to “avoid” civilian casualties, but the problem is with the use of such weapons against targets in civilian areas to begin with.

    George: “The major problem with this whole ‘confronting’ evil garbage strewn around on this blog is that no one stops to provide the slightest discernment.”

    I remember in the run-up to the Iraq war various people here were all excited about the prospect of “fighting evil,” and anyone who did not adequately foam at the mouth over that prospect was deemed to be a wimp or a dupe. Then, when things started to go wrong and casualties mounted, and Iraq started to come apart at the seams, things got strangely quiet here, and the war was hardly mentioned at all. Then, when the surge seemed to have some positive effect discussion of the war resumed, and the surge was offered as proof that the war was worth it after all.

    But “worth it” for whom? Not for the Iraqi Christian community that has been virtually destroyed. Not for the tens of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis. Not for the millions of Iraqis who fled to other countries. The big winner was Iran, and without having to lift a finger themselves their mortal enemy and his political party was removed from power, the threat of weapons of mass destruction was shown to be empty, and their co-religionists gained power.

    And this is the problem with warfare — the problem of unintended consequences. When you go to war you really do open Pandora’s Box, and events are unleashed over which you do not have control. This is why war should only be used as a last resort and even then with great caution and regret.

    The early church fathers surely understood that. As Tertullian said “Is the [military] laurel of triumph made of leaves, or of corpses? Is it adorned with ribbons, or with tombs? Is it wet with ointments, or with the tears of wives and mothers? It may be made of some [dead] Christians too. For Christ is also believed among the barbarians.

  16. Michael Bauman says:

    George,

    “Some evil we can live with”

    Yes that’s a given until Christ returns, but the question in this case comes down to what evil Israel decides to live with and as a soverign nation what actions they decide to take. From a Libertarian standpoint, what right do we have to intervene? The governement of Israel is at least as legitimate as the so-called Hamas government and is acting on behalf of the electorate.

    So George–free trade conquers all evil? Do you really mean that?

    Negotiation assumes two rational parties who are willing to compromise and that it is possible to reach a win-win situation. In this case, it appears neither side fits that description. I make this statement on what I know of Hamas and what you say of Israel.

    Some thoughts on libertarianism

    If the national libertarian party is actually reflective of what it means to be libertarian, I’ll pass–libertine is a more appropriate name. I watched a part of their nominating convention and it made me sick: a bunch of Christian bashing liberals is all I saw. Of course, the Republican and Democrat conventions were just as sickening, but I expected it from them.

    The basic fallacy of libertarianism is the assumption that human beings, when left to their own devices, will behave rationally and ethically. There is no evidence to support such an assumption. Libertarianism sacrifices community to the supremacy of the individual. It is nothing more than the mirror image of statist tryanny–no more functional or productive of freedom. As with your earlier statement on trade, libertarians tend to reduce humanity to homo economicus and consider little else.

  17. Israel decides to live with and as a soverign nation what actions they decide to take. From a Libertarian standpoint, what right do we have to intervene? The governement of Israel is at least as legitimate as the so-called Hamas government and is acting on behalf of the electorate.

    Well we don’t. I have no interest in getting involved in what is clearly not our business. Now if we could only stop funding Israel and quit giving them weapons, then extricate ourselves from involvement in this mess, I would be truly thrilled. While we are at it, we can stop funding AIDS prevention in Africa, and every other fool thing we throw money at.

    So George–free trade conquers all evil? Do you really mean that?

    Well, no. But nothing props up a dictator like a good economic blockade. If you want to stimulate peaceful change, then keep the borders open, the rhetoric cool, and let Coke and Levis do their thing. Nixon opened up trade with China in the 1970′s, and look at the stunning change in that country. It is on its way to eventually transform itself into a truly civil society, no war needed. The same thing happened when Gorbachev opened up the Soviet economy.

    Compare that to what happens in Cuba, Iraq, Iran, or Gaza when you apply economic sanctions, make the people poor, and cement the power of their dictatorial regimes. Free trade undermines tyranny. It is not a fix-all, but economic sanctions which impoverish people simply do not work. That is the current Israeli strategy, and it has had no effect on Hamas.

    Negotiation assumes two rational parties who are willing to compromise and that it is possible to reach a win-win situation. In this case, it appears neither side fits that description. I make this statement on what I know of Hamas and what you say of Israel.

    They are both rational, they just both pursuing rational policies that put them at loggerheads. The Israeli government is primping before an election, the Hamas leadership wants to prove they are only tough guys willing to fight, unlike those sissies in Fatah. This isn’t irrational, it is merely immoral. They are both pursuing strategies that have led to this.

    If the national libertarian party is actually reflective of what it means to be libertarian, I’ll pass–libertine is a more appropriate name. I watched a part of their nominating convention and it made me sick: a bunch of Christian bashing liberals is all I saw. Of course, the Republican and Democrat conventions were just as sickening, but I expected it from them.

    You mean the LP that nominated darling of the Christian Right, former Rep. Bob Barr? You mean that LP is full of Christian-haters? Strange way to show it.

    Actually, I’m a Republican and in 2004 and 2008 I voted Constitution Party for president, but Republican for all other offices. The most popular Libertarian is Ron Paul, also a Republican. Libertarian is actually a modern term for ‘classical liberal’ in the mold of Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. The term Libertarian was coined because the term ‘liberal’ had been hijacked by the socialists in the early part of the 20th century. The LP emerged in the 1970′s because of Nixon’s wage and price controls.

    Most ‘classical liberals’ that I associate with are either Roman Catholic or Orthodox. The Randians exist, of course, but they are not the majority of people who associate with the cause of Liberty. Pro-life, Evangelical Christians like Ron Paul are much more reflective.

    The basic fallacy of libertarianism is the assumption that human beings, when left to their own devices, will behave rationally and ethically. There is no evidence to support such an assumption. Libertarianism sacrifices community to the supremacy of the individual. It is nothing more than the mirror image of statist tryanny–no more functional or productive of freedom. As with your earlier statement on trade, libertarians tend to reduce humanity to homo economicus and consider little else.

    Obviously, you didn’t put a lot of research into that statement. A better statement of belief would be the following quote from Jefferson:

    The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the States are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign affairs. Let the General Government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our General Government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants.

    There are Libertarians who believe in the abolition of the state. This is a minority view, but their fundamental argument is that people are so corrupt and twisted that if you give them power they will abuse it. The only way to preserve freedom is to severely limit coercion in favor of voluntary relations. The discussion revolves around how this should be played out. In a nutshell, most religious Libertarians accept the need for government, but question the power which the government wields, especially when it binds our money and our fate to foreign powers.

  18. D. George says:

    Dean #6 writes:

    While it is true that the Nazis did horrible things, not every German person was participating. War helps no one. It only destroys.

    So, Dean, was it wrong to invade Germany at the close of WWII? Did the liberation of France, Italy, etc., help no one?

    Ideally, there would never be a need to go to war, but I think it is very impractical, and in fact wrong, to take an extreme position on either side. Sure, using force in an attempt to prevent every evil in the world is imprudent and wrong, but the pacifist can be just as guilty. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not an Orthodox Christian but his own struggle with this dilemma is instructive, I think. He said “It is better to do evil than to be evil.”

  19. I do not think you understand why I made that comment. What I am saying is that innocent people get caught up in the conflict, people die, families are destroyed. That is not a good thing. The act of war is not good. To defend the people, it may be necessary, but it is not good.

  20. Well, let us just pray that peace returns quickly and that God will have mercy on all the innocents slain and heal the wounded land.

  21. Michael Bauman says:

    George, you are correct, I’ve not done any research on the roots and philosophy of Libertarians because I’ve been so appalled by the stances of the self-identified Libertarians who I have read and heard speak.

    Of course. as President, Jefferson did just about the opposite of the statement you quote.

    Points:
    1. Any hope of genuine federalism went out the window with the Civil War
    2. The U.S. Consitution arguably created one of the most powerful central government’s in history that awaited only the apathy, greed and lust for power of our citizens to call into effect.
    3. The Commerce clause was the first vehicle
    4. The income tax and the the direct election of U.S. Senators two more.
    5. After FDR any semblence of a constitutional government, according the the Constitution, was essentially gone, the final stake was the activist judiciary practiced by politicians of all political ideologies.

    The result in a neo-Facsist oligarchy ruled for the few at the expense of the many. We are all complicite.

    We are no longer citizens, or people, we are consumers. Nothing else matters when it comes to politics. It is no surpise that the 19th century name for tuberculosis, consumption, has passed out of favor.

    The rule of law has been replaced by get what you can. In this I see no difference between the Libertarians or the Democrats except means.

  22. The rule of law has been replaced by get what you can. In this I see no difference between the Libertarians or the Democrats except means.

    Okay, you lost me there. Points 1 to 5 are actually normal Libertarian beliefs. Libertarians are roughly split in the U.S. between those who want to get back to the original Constitution and those who want to dial the clock back to the Articles of Confederation, or even a more loosely defined union.

    How does that relate to Democrats who are statists? Are you still dealing with the issue of anti-Christian attitudes? I can’t quite get where your comments are coming from.

    There is a developing wing of Orthodox Libertarians, most of whom have remained in the Republican Party as I have.

    Of course. as President, Jefferson did just about the opposite of the statement you quote.

    Nobody said Jefferson was perfect. Far from it. But in his writings before and after the presidency, I think he got his ideals right. No political system will be perfect, and no politician either. But Jefferson stayed out of the war in Europe, and reversed most of the damaging policies of Adams and Hamilton. A good record over all.

  23. Michael Bauman says:

    George, my point is that even the honest libertarians are holding on to an anachronistic and failed political ideology. The vast rest are just narcisistic hedonists who opposed the communal guarantees of the statists with the individual indulgence in the passions, hence the Libertarian support of same sex marriage, abortion, unbridaled drug use, prostitution, the blind acceptance of philosphical naturalism and the attendent scientism. Freedom as license.

    The end result is a denial of the Orthodox anthropology and the idea of any transcendent truth or the reality of hierachy, especially a hierarchy of values as revealed in the Church. The Libertarianism I am familiar with works against the communal aspect of our being replacing personhood with individuality. Such a substitution is simply the mirror image of the statists who have a counterfeit understanding of community as the collective. In the collective ‘resistence is futile’ and all personhood is looked on with suspicion.

    BTW, the selection of Bob Barr as a Presidential candidate was, IMO, primarily a marketing ploy designed to bring more media attention. He had a marketable name and they didn’t care about his serial infidelities.

    Obviously you do not see in Libertarianism what I see. Certainly, there are ideas within Libertarianism that coincide with Chrisitan thought but the same can be said of any political ideology. I see no point in choosing any of them to support when the end goal of all of them is worldly power without reliance on God. The idea of ‘Orthodox’ Libertarians is as disgusting to me as ‘Orthodox’ Democrats as each is a debasing of what it means to be Orthodox. Our hope cannot be of this world.

  24. George, my point is that even the honest libertarians are holding on to an anachronistic and failed political ideology.

    A belief in enumerated powers, the dominance of civil society, the rule of law, private charity instead of welfare, sound money in private hands, the free market, and peaceful relations is anachronistic? Perhaps, but after the coming crackup of the central government, perhaps it will come back in style.

    The vast rest are just narcisistic hedonists who opposed the communal guarantees of the statists with the individual indulgence in the passions, hence the Libertarian support of same sex marriage, abortion, unbridaled drug use, prostitution, the blind acceptance of philosphical naturalism and the attendent scientism. Freedom as license.

    I’m sure that describes some Libertarians. Of course, the Libertarian Gold Standard (pardon the pun) is Ron Paul and that does not describe him at all. I’ve brought him up several times, yet you keep ignoring him. Why? Because he doesn’t fit your stereotype? The Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestants I associate with are anti-abortion as we believe it to be murder. The central government is forcing the states to look the other way as children are murdered. Drug use and prostitution are acts that traditionally Orthodox and Roman Catholic societies did not recognize as crimes, only as sins. That is our tradition. Trying to stamp them out is Calvinism in action.

    All I can figure is that you ran into an angry nest of Anne Rand devotees and came scarred.

    The end result is a denial of the Orthodox anthropology and the idea of any transcendent truth or the reality of hierachy, especially a hierarchy of values as revealed in the Church. The Libertarianism I am familiar with works against the communal aspect of our being replacing personhood with individuality. Such a substitution is simply the mirror image of the statists who have a counterfeit understanding of community as the collective. In the collective ‘resistence is futile’ and all personhood is looked on with suspicion.

    Obviously, you are not familiar with the large number of classically liberal (Libertarian) writers who are Roman Catholic. Classical liberalism or Libertarianism is a purely political philosophy. It has no religious or social component. There are writers such as Ayn Rand who have tried to extend it into something else, but there is no more reason to give them credence than there is to believe that Neo-conservatives are actual conservatives. Libertarians tend to be believe that hierarchical relationships are natural and even inevitable. Not everyone is equal, and religious Libertarians have no problem accepting the role of the Pope or the Patriarch.

    BTW, the selection of Bob Barr as a Presidential candidate was, IMO, primarily a marketing ploy designed to bring more media attention. He had a marketable name and they didn’t care about his serial infidelities.

    There is probably some truth to this in terms of his name. His candidacy was a disaster, but primarily because of his foreign policy. He decided to go pro-war in a party whose idea of a perfect standard bearer is Ron Paul. Had Paul sought the nomination, then Barr would have been left in the dust.

    Obviously you do not see in Libertarianism what I see. Certainly, there are ideas within Libertarianism that coincide with Chrisitan thought but the same can be said of any political ideology. I see no point in choosing any of them to support when the end goal of all of them is worldly power without reliance on God. The idea of ‘Orthodox’ Libertarians is as disgusting to me as ‘Orthodox’ Democrats as each is a debasing of what it means to be Orthodox. Our hope cannot be of this world.

    You are a strange person to say the least. The idea of Libertarianism is to restrict the operation of government and free civil society, which allows the Church to operate based on private conscience and private charity. An Orthodox Libertarian is typically an Orthodox Christian that wants to clear the public space of government intrusion so that the Church can operate effectively to minister to souls in need. This is the essence of our original, restricted government that had no social welfare component and maximized freedom. How you think that this idea is somehow the same as a statist philosophy that seeks to use the government to compete with the Church is somehow beyond me.

  25. The irony is that Hamas was supported early in its history by Isaeli funding as a way to destabilize the PLO, a secular organization, with a fundamentalist one.

  26. Michael Bauman says:

    George, you and I agree without reservation on one thing, I am strange. The following meander will probably just cement in your mind the validity of your observation.

    The Libertarians I have met and heard don’t even acknowledge there is such a thing as sin. While they may, reluctantly, acknowledge the self-destructive nature of drug use, prostitution and the like, they don’t really see that as a problem. It is the 60′s attitude–whatever turns you on, man. In any case it’s just one less person to compete against them for what they want. They are social darwinists or neo-hippies. Essentially nilhist in perspective. Perhaps that is why Ron Paul chose not to run as a Libertarian. A nation that encourges such behavior is ungodly. In any case, self-reliance is not an Orthodox concept, it is Protestant. I don’t see how stringent laws against self-destructive behavior can be Calvinist, since we are all pre-destined anyway?

    However, unless and until the nation and culture as a whole recognizes sin as real and important in both personal and corporate life, then the only protection we have from the tryanny of immorality is law–as poor a protection as it is. Look at FOCA for example. If it is approved as currently proposed, the Catholic Bishops have said they will close all Catholic hospitals because they would be required to perform abortions.

    I did not say that Libertarianism and statism were the same. I said they suffered from a similar flaw, i,e., a bad anthropology. It is tough, even in the Church, to maintain the dynamic balance between unique personhood and community. Political ideologies, for the most part, don’t even try.

    All political ideologies become anachronistic sooner or later. That is because they are inherently ephemeral and pragmatic. It is precisely because Libertarianism is a purely political philosophy that it cannot and should not be labled Orthodox. (But you use the modifier ‘religious’ Libertarianism. If it requires such a modifier, why bother with it. Why not just practice your faith?)

    BTW: Political ideologies never compete against the Church, they merely compete in the hearts and minds of believers. You can’t serve God and mammon. Dedicating oneself to an ideology rather than Jesus Christ is dangerous to one’s soul. The Church is free without regard to the political system that rules.

    Why is it, do you think, that Christianity flourishes under tyrannts and persecution and wilts into all sorts of heresy under ‘freedom’?

    I think you hit upon something when you said “…after the coming crackup of the central government, perhaps it will come back in style.” Although it is more likely that the central government will go through a strong tyrannical phase before it cracks up.

  27. The Libertarians I have met and heard don’t even acknowledge there is such a thing as sin. While they may, reluctantly, acknowledge the self-destructive nature of drug use, prostitution and the like, they don’t really see that as a problem. It is the 60’s attitude–whatever turns you on, man. In any case it’s just one less person to compete against them for what they want. They are social darwinists or neo-hippies. Essentially nilhist in perspective. Perhaps that is why Ron Paul chose not to run as a Libertarian. A nation that encourges such behavior is ungodly. In any case, self-reliance is not an Orthodox concept, it is Protestant. I don’t see how stringent laws against self-destructive behavior can be Calvinist, since we are all pre-destined anyway?

    Couple of points. First of all, you aren’t meeting religious Libertarians. What you are meeting must be Atheists who believe in limited government. Since Libertarianism is a philosophy of government, concepts of right and wrong, sin and redemption, etc. have to be provided by some outside system of thought. Libertarianism that equates to Classical Liberalism understands that fact very well, and does not try to reason right and wrong from the standpoint of property rights, etc. That is why a document like the Declaration of Independence must have an appeal to the Deity, because nothing else suffices.

    I am sorry, again, for the people you have met, but how about you do some actual research and discover the wide, wide world of non-Atheistic lovers of political liberty?

    As for outlawing self-destructive, but ultimately victimless crimes, that is not traditional Orthodoxy. There is a world of difference between believing an act to be a grave sin and treating that act as punishable by law. Roman Catholic and Orthodox nations did not seek to treat most sins as matters of legislative action. That trend is inherited from Millenialism, of which Calvinism is one strain. Please research Calvin and his Theocracy at Geneva and then trace that through our own Puritan experience and the 2nd Great Awakening with Charles Finney to see how we go to Prohibition of Alcohol and the various legislative schemes to perfect man.

    This is not an Orthodox legacy.

    Ron Paul ran as a Republican for several reasons. First, he got way more exposure and was on the ballot in 50 states. Second, I’m sure he didn’t want to have to spend endless hours with people like you discussing what a Libertarian is. The Randians have diluted that brand and made people think that a commitment to Classical Liberalism is something it isn’t, so running as a Republican made sense.

    However, unless and until the nation and culture as a whole recognizes sin as real and important in both personal and corporate life, then the only protection we have from the tryanny of immorality is law–as poor a protection as it is. Look at FOCA for example. If it is approved as currently proposed, the Catholic Bishops have said they will close all Catholic hospitals because they would be required to perform abortions.

    Abortion is not a victimless sin. The baby dies. Hence, it has always been illegal in Christian nations and should always be illegal. Communities should have a 100% right to outlaw abortion. It is the federal government which has twisted the Constitution and destroyed our system of law that forces most states to honor child murder. No Libertarian, regardless of personal views on abortion, would ever argue that having the central state dictate to private hospitals was anything other than abject tyranny. It must be stopped.

    I did not say that Libertarianism and statism were the same. I said they suffered from a similar flaw, i,e., a bad anthropology. It is tough, even in the Church, to maintain the dynamic balance between unique personhood and community. Political ideologies, for the most part, don’t even try.

    The basic understanding of Libertarianism, as far as anthropology, is that man is fallen, can not be perfected by law or force, and that power corrupts and tends to accrue to the least moral forces in society, particularly in democratic states.

    This is not the idea of, “Man is born free and everywhere is in chains,” or some such empty-headed mush. Man is inherently communal and comes into a specific time, place, and culture. The idea of Libertarianism is to minimize state coercion and maximize personal liberty so that other forces, such as the Church, can pursue their objectives. The state is frequently an impediment to the Church. There are social Darwins who march under the Libertarian banner, but the Roman Catholic and Orthodox thinkers believe that the state inhibits true charity and stands in the way of the work of the church.

    All political ideologies become anachronistic sooner or later. That is because they are inherently ephemeral and pragmatic. It is precisely because Libertarianism is a purely political philosophy that it cannot and should not be labled Orthodox. (But you use the modifier ‘religious’ Libertarianism. If it requires such a modifier, why bother with it. Why not just practice your faith?)

    If it is pragmatic and ephemeral, then it is only tactical in the sense that it is needed to win an election. It is not a deeply held commitment to transcendental ideas. I use the modifier precisely because Libertarianism does not at all tell you where I derive my ideas of right and wrong, sin and redemption, the goal of life, etc. Those don’t come from Libertarianism. They can’t, so telling you that my political beliefs are Libertarian only tells you that I don’t believe in oppressive government. It doesn’t tell you what I believe about my purpose in life. Just a telling you that I am Orthodox will tell what I believe about Christ, but won’t tell you want I think about taxes, the role of government, etc. The combination of the two terms, however, should be clear.

    BTW: Political ideologies never compete against the Church, they merely compete in the hearts and minds of believers. You can’t serve God and mammon. Dedicating oneself to an ideology rather than Jesus Christ is dangerous to one’s soul. The Church is free without regard to the political system that rules

    Which is why I follow a political philosophy that says in all matters of marriage, the family, charity, civil organization, and child law – the state should get out of the way and leave all matters to the Church, which is the traditional structure of Roman Catholic and Orthodox societies. The modern state seeks totalitarian control over all aspects of life, which is why it must be opposed.

    Why is it, do you think, that Christianity flourishes under tyrannts and persecution and wilts into all sorts of heresy under ‘freedom’?

    Except when the heresies are imposed by the government as in the case of Iconoclasm or under Peter the Great when the Church was subordinated to the government. That statement of yours is too simplistic. The Church was frequently decimated under tyranny, though did eventually recover. The optimum condition is a government which leaves the Church in peace to be the Church.

    I think you hit upon something when you said “…after the coming crackup of the central government, perhaps it will come back in style.” Although it is more likely that the central government will go through a strong tyrannical phase before it cracks up.

    Probably, but it won’t work out this time for the DC crowd. The external enemy (Islam) is not sufficiently scary enough to justify the mass arrests needed to force the future Obama economic plan down everyone’s throat. It will quickly focus on us versus them in the provinces. Then things get interesting.

  28. George, I agree with most of what you wrote. In fact, I’ve argued (with futility, apparently) many times that “there is a world of difference between believing an act to be a grave sin and treating that act as punishable by law” as you have suggested.

    However, in terms of matters of “marriage [and] child law”, I’m wondering what you mean when you say these matters should be left to the Church. What do you do in instances where parents refuse reasonable medical treatment for their children on religious grounds (such as Christian Science and perhaps Scientology)?

    There have been numerous instances of parents foregoing care for their minor children with the hope they would be cured with prayer. Should these parents be prosecuted for neglect? What about groups like the polygamous fundamentalist Mormons who often allow multiple marriages and/or marriage with children 16 and under? Are these matters of religious freedom or should the state step in and impose the will of the majority in matters such as these?

  29. However, in terms of matters of “marriage [and] child law”, I’m wondering what you mean when you say these matters should be left to the Church. What do you do in instances where parents refuse reasonable medical treatment for their children on religious grounds (such as Christian Science and perhaps Scientology)?

    I would turn that around in this regard. Our children are not vaccinated fully. We have researched the vaccines, and feel that the common vaccine schedule followed in the 1950′s is sufficient. The vaccines introduced in the 1960′s and later are for typically non-life threatening illnesses, and the vaccines have substantial potential side effects.

    Therefore, we have chosen not to use them. However, each year the medical community comes out with new vaccines. Legislators are alternately bribed, cajoled, etc. into making them mandatory, even though drug companies are notoriously haphazard in their testing methodology. Add to that fact that many scientists for the FDA moonlight as consultants for the drug companies, and you have a perfect storm of bad science, bad politics, and harmed kids.

    But, the only way to keep from vaccinating our youngest (who attends special education classes at public school) is to claim religious exemption.

    Now, the majority says we have to vaccinate. We feel it is harmful. More and more people and doctors are beginning to agree, but that process takes time. In the meantime, we can take refuge in the religious exemption clause.

    Therein lies the problem. While extreme cases exist, for the most part parents are trying do the best for their kids. The state is infringing on that, and is pushing whatever a majority of legislators have decided is good at that time.

    That being said, I do not believe all religions are equal or that all claims of conscience should be treated equally. You must have a reasonable standard. The Orthodox Church is not against medicine, and so the refusal of care for immediately life threatening illnesses should not be tolerated as long as the measures are reasonable and ordinary. Any law on this matter must be extremely well-written and clearly defined, or clever prosecutors will find a way to put innocent parents (like me) in jail or take our kids because we swam against whatever tide is commonly accepted as ‘wisdom.’

    Which is why it might be better to have no law at all. Whatever law hits the books, becomes just another way to harry non-conforming parents with.

    Tough subject, though.

  30. Michael Bauman says:

    George, if you really believe what you say, that human beings are inherently communal then how can you say there are victimless crimes?

    The self-destruction of one human being affects all of us, some more than others. Every action we take or refuse to take impacts everyone else. We bear one another’s burdens whether we want to or not. It is the ultimate flaw of individualism (which I have always understood Libertarianism embraces) to believe human beings as disconnected in anyway from each other. It is only our falleness, the sin that leads to the crimes, that allows us to believe we are individuals.

    I know the history of the Calvinist trajectory and the many blasphemies it has spawned. It just seems to me that punishing people here on earth who are already damned to hell by God’s sovereign will to be logically inconsistent. It was a passing wonder that I included as a brief interjection.

    That being said, I am not a fan of prohibition type laws for the very reason you mention, they are counter productive, worse it is a demonstration of rank Pharasitical hubris. However, to go to the other extreme and say that there can, therefore, be no cultural oppobrium against any behavior is just as savage. I found the second attitude distinctly on display in the speeches of many of the delegates at the Libertarian convention.

    From your description of Libertarianism it seems to suffer from much the same disability as the Church herself–people reject it because of the counterfeits and subsequently become deaf and blind to the the real thing. Perhaps another name is needed. IMO the Libertarian brand has not just been diluted, it is poisoned if what you describe is the ‘real’ Libertarianism.

    However I would be interested in your comments on Eugene (Fr.Seraphim) Rose’s statments regarding Classical Liberalism as just a precursor to nihlism. His argument is central to the thesis of his book, Nihilism,The Root of Revolution of the Modern Age. Classical liberalism is the precursor to outright nihilism, according to Fr. Seraphim, because it is essentially secular in nature, i.e, displaces God from the center to the periphery and us from being in His image to Him being in our image. It is a short step from that to simply discarding Him altogether except as a metaphor. I find Fr. Seraphim’s diagnosis of the problem of the modern age quite compelling although I don’t always agree with his solution.

    There is no freedom except in obedience to Jesus Christ. Not the martinet obedience of the legalists, but submission to His love. Such submission requires a much more nuanced understanding and praxis than any political ideology can provide, no matter how well intentioned. Political ideologies do one thing really well-they divide. They divide solely on the basis of man-made categories and precepts–making many unrighteous judgements in the process. Religious ideologies do the same. It is so much easier, however, to live in such slavery than to actually be free. Real freedom is gained only by participating in the Incarnational reality of commuion with the risen Lord. That communion is only gained by repentance, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, i.e, ascesis out of love of God and our fellow creatures.

  31. George, if you really believe what you say, that human beings are inherently communal then how can you say there are victimless crimes?

    The self-destruction of one human being affects all of us, some more than others. Every action we take or refuse to take impacts everyone else. We bear one another’s burdens whether we want to or not. It is the ultimate flaw of individualism (which I have always understood Libertarianism embraces) to believe human beings as disconnected in anyway from each other. It is only our falleness, the sin that leads to the crimes, that allows us to believe we are individuals.

    If you can leave the metaphysical realm, for a moment, Michael, then we can have a discussion. The question is whether or not the state should enforce laws against actions which do not physically harm others. In fact, can a ‘crime’ such as doing lines of Cocaine even be a ‘crime?’ The rationale behind prohibition is the same rationale, for example, behind outlawing fatty foods, mandating exercise, seat belt laws – in fact the same rationale behind the whole nanny state. People should be forced to do what is good for them, because to allow them to do otherwise is to harm society.

    The idea that humans are actualized in Communion has nothing to do with whether or not the State should apply coercion to prevent people from doing things that are harmful only to themselves. The idea of doing so is not Orthodox

    Orthodox states typically have not criminalized behavior that is merely sinful. This does not excuse the sin, it merely means it is not the business of government to punish drug abuse, alcoholism, fatty food, etc.

    You shouldn’t write people off who are engaging in self-destructive behavior, but the proper place to care for them and help them is a Church not a prison.

    You understand and accept this, but then argue with me that I am somehow denigrating community while extolling the individual. Individual freedom is enshrined in the Will of God who gave each man the ability to accept or reject salvation. That does not deny that those who would embrace salvation must work out their path in a communal setting. No man is saved alone, but Hell is isolation.

    From your description of Libertarianism it seems to suffer from much the same disability as the Church herself–people reject it because of the counterfeits and subsequently become deaf and blind to the the real thing. Perhaps another name is needed. IMO the Libertarian brand has not just been diluted, it is poisoned if what you describe is the ‘real’ Libertarianism.

    Brands have problems. The same thing applies to Conservatism, which can be used to describe multiple contradictory positions, or left-wing which somehow covers hippies and internationalists. Labels obscure more than they help.

    However I would be interested in your comments on Eugene (Fr.Seraphim) Rose’s statments regarding Classical Liberalism as just a precursor to nihlism. His argument is central to the thesis of his book, Nihilism,The Root of Revolution of the Modern Age. Classical liberalism is the precursor to outright nihilism, according to Fr. Seraphim, because it is essentially secular in nature, i.e, displaces God from the center to the periphery and us from being in His image to Him being in our image. It is a short step from that to simply discarding Him altogether except as a metaphor. I find Fr. Seraphim’s diagnosis of the problem of the modern age quite compelling although I don’t always agree with his solution.

    I read little written by the good Father, since much of his writing has been rebuked by Orthodox Theologians. In any case, if you push Classical Liberalism too far, then you can make an idol of it. The same as you can make an idol of an Orthodox Monarchy. The problem is one of economic organization and freedom. The model for most classical liberals was the pre-monarchy state of Israel. The tribes were arranged in a loose confederation whose only King was God.

    There are plenty of Classical Liberals who embrace monarchy, and in the right context so would I. As a general rule, classical liberals distrust Democracy and a popular title among us is the book, “Democracy – the God that Failed.”

    In any case, I don’t have any real idea of what Eugene Rose was talking about in his book concerning Classical Liberalism. If you would care to enlighten me on his primary points, then I will address them.

    There is no freedom except in obedience to Jesus Christ. Not the martinet obedience of the legalists, but submission to His love. Such submission requires a much more nuanced understanding and praxis than any political ideology can provide, no matter how well intentioned. Political ideologies do one thing really well-they divide. They divide solely on the basis of man-made categories and precepts–making many unrighteous judgements in the process. Religious ideologies do the same. It is so much easier, however, to live in such slavery than to actually be free. Real freedom is gained only by participating in the Incarnational reality of commuion with the risen Lord. That communion is only gained by repentance, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, i.e, ascesis out of love of God and our fellow creatures.

    Yes.

    Now, how do you translate what you just said into organizing 300 million people? What decisions should be made at the local, state, and federal level? What level of taxes should we pay, and how should the money be spent? Should people be able to vote, should we have a king? What kind of restrictions should be placed on the economy? Bailout or no bailout?

    Get the point? It isn’t that we separate ourselves from our faith in the marketplace of ideas, but Christianity is not system of government. Never has been. Islam is, in fact, a system of government. Christianity is not, which is why it is compatible with so many different systems. But just as Classical Liberalism is not a religion, Christianity is not a philosophy of government.

  32. Michael Bauman says:

    George you say

    The idea that humans are actualized in Communion has nothing to do with whether or not the State should apply coercion to prevent people from doing things that are harmful only to themselves. The idea of doing so is not Orthodox

    Wrong! The actualization of humanity in communion with Christ has everything to do with whether or not the State should apply coercion. It becomes a no-brainer that the state should not exercise such coercion. I don’t argue with you at all on that point. God does not coerce us. The parable of the unjust steward seems to fit.

    I do vehemently reject, however, that drug abuse, sexual promiscuity etc. are harmful only to the primary actors because nothing we do is ever done in isolation from others. Suicide has horrible repercussions on everyone whose lives touch in any way the person who takes their own life. Drug abuse and sexual promiscuity are simply forms of slow suicide. Suicide on the installment plan. In many cases the cumulative ancillary damage exceeds the damage done to the primary actor.

    Now, how do you translate what you just said into organizing 300 million people? What decisions should be made at the local, state, and federal level? What level of taxes should we pay, and how should the money be spent? Should people be able to vote, should we have a king? What kind of restrictions should be placed on the economy? Bailout or no bailout?

    Without a proper anthopology such decisions are impossible to make successfully. The challenge for the Church in this time is to expand and articulate the anthropological truth reveled in Jesus Christ, just as it was her challege to expand and articulate Christology in another age. It starts with recognizing that we human beings are contingent creatures–our life, our existence is contingent on God. Second of all, the very progression you make must be recognized, local to state to federal, not the other way round. As Met. Jonah has said frequently, hierarchy is not authority or power, it is service. We have to get beyond the fallacy that it is simply the economy that matters. In the short term we get panic and massive programs because we have forgotten one important ‘metaphysical’ reality: God provides and a less elegent reality s*** happens. The crises has real, functional components that need changing, but panic, lack of trust, political grandstanding, ideological knee-jerk reactions only serve to make things worse, not better. The crisis we have is one of culture, character and morals. Even in stable times, most people are profoundly uncomfortable with freedom. When s*** happens, we become even less willing to exercies our freedom because of the fear of failure. We make the mistake that even though our own efforts just fell complelety apart, if we just work harder we can put it back together again. The problem becomes the solution. All of it based on bad metaphysics and even worse anthropology.

    I’m sure you would agree that the way in which a Marxist would answer your questions would be vastly different from the way you would answer the questions. Our cultural understanding of the nature of humanity seriously impacts the decisions we make on how to organize and govern ourselves at all levels.

    The problem is one of economic organization and freedom. The model for most classical liberals was the pre-monarchy state of Israel. The tribes were arranged in a loose confederation whose only King was God.

    If the pre-monarchy state of Israel is the model, CL’s must be horrified the the U.S. Constitution which grants so much authority to the central government. The Bill of Rights was designed to curb that authority. The most important, IMO, being the enumerated powers clause of the 10th Amendment. It hasn’t worked. It was founded upon the absurdly idealistic notion that men would actually demonstrate self-restraint. Anyone who happens to mention enumerated powers these days is considered delusional.

    You understand and accept this, but then argue with me that I am somehow denigrating community while extolling the individual. Individual freedom is enshrined in the Will of God who gave each man the ability to accept or reject salvation. That does not deny that those who would embrace salvation must work out their path in a communal setting. No man is saved alone, but Hell is isolation.

    The is a vast difference between being an individual and being a unique person in community. I can’t get past the observation that Libertarianism as it is communicated and apparently believed by many who call themselves Libertarians is destructive to both personhood and community. You are clearly different. Nevertheless, I wonder at your desire to separate from metaphysics when the reality of the Theanthopos means that they cannot be separated. Synergy. As Orthodox Chrisitians it is our job, in fact, to do all that we can to integrate the seen and the unseen, the human and the divine. It is our job to do the translation. In cannot be done by systems. There are no legalistic remedies. It is hard work, even with God’s grace, impossible if individually and culturally we don’t recognize Him.

  33. I do vehemently reject, however, that drug abuse, sexual promiscuity etc. are harmful only to the primary actors because nothing we do is ever done in isolation from others. Suicide has horrible repercussions on everyone whose lives touch in any way the person who takes their own life. Drug abuse and sexual promiscuity are simply forms of slow suicide. Suicide on the installment plan. In many cases the cumulative ancillary damage exceeds the damage done to the primary actor.

    Should the government being putting people in jail for engaging in sexual promiscuity, abusing drugs, or any of the other things you enumerate?

    I don’t really even have any idea what we are discussing here. Should adultery be punished by the government? Should homosexuality?

    What you say isn’t wrong, I just don’t have any idea why what you say is connected to restraint of government power. Lots of thinks are harmful to people and to society, but should they be outlawed by the government?

    I still can’t see you addressing that issue. The state should not be involved in sins that don’t directly harm the property or health of another person. There is no perfection under law. That does not have any impact on the Church’s activity, nor does it imply any endorsement.

    The government does NOT build the society. It can destroy it, but it can’t build it.

    Saying that the secular law should not address sins that do not directly impact the life, health, or property of another (such as sexual immorality) is not at all the same as saying these things are not harmful. The question is about the role of the government, especially in its current nanny state incarnation.

    Without a proper anthopology such decisions are impossible to make successfully. The challenge for the Church in this time is to expand and articulate the anthropological truth reveled in Jesus Christ, just as it was her challege to expand and articulate Christology in another age. It starts with recognizing that we human beings are contingent creatures–our life, our existence is contingent on God. Second of all, the very progression you make must be recognized, local to state to federal, not the other way round.

    Well, yes, but even if you have the proper anthropology you can easily end up one of the unreconstructed Russophiles pining for 18th Century Russia. Having a proper understanding of man and his place in salvation doesn’t mean that you will agree on how to structure the government of a society. There will be debates and disagreement on this, even if everyone is Theologically pure at the start.

    I’m sure you would agree that the way in which a Marxist would answer your questions would be vastly different from the way you would answer the questions. Our cultural understanding of the nature of humanity seriously impacts the decisions we make on how to organize and govern ourselves at all levels.

    Well, yes, but Marxism is a religion, not a philosophy.

    If the pre-monarchy state of Israel is the model, CL’s must be horrified the the U.S. Constitution which grants so much authority to the central government. The Bill of Rights was designed to curb that authority. The most important, IMO, being the enumerated powers clause of the 10th Amendment. It hasn’t worked. It was founded upon the absurdly idealistic notion that men would actually demonstrate self-restraint. Anyone who happens to mention enumerated powers these days is considered delusional.

    As I said, there are those who want to get back to 1792, and then there are those who want to get back to 1776 and the Articles of Confederation. Personally, I side with 1776 as the Constitution did establish a too powerful central state. If you look at the original intent of the Constitution, then you understand that it was not idealistic at all. The population was armed, and the states were free to secede. The founders intended the unwillingness of the citizens to be led into tyranny to be the last bastion of defense against the central state. Freedom lost that contest when the right to secede was surrendered in 1865. We will have to recover that.

    The is a vast difference between being an individual and being a unique person in community. I can’t get past the observation that Libertarianism as it is communicated and apparently believed by many who call themselves Libertarians is destructive to both personhood and community. You are clearly different. Nevertheless, I wonder at your desire to separate from metaphysics when the reality of the Theanthopos means that they cannot be separated. Synergy. As Orthodox Chrisitians it is our job, in fact, to do all that we can to integrate the seen and the unseen, the human and the divine. It is our job to do the translation. In cannot be done by systems. There are no legalistic remedies. It is hard work, even with God’s grace, impossible if individually and culturally we don’t recognize Him.

    That is all true. But again, I don’t get your issue and to me you seem to be splitting hairs. The law recognizes individual rights. It has to for practical reasons. The reason I keep trying to keep you away from the metaphysics is because we don’t disagree on the metaphysics. These are Orthodox beliefs which all Orthodox should accept.

    There is no legalistic remedy to the essential fallen state of man. This is where I don’t have a clue why this discussion is ongoing. In the fallen state of man, there must be law and there must be government of some sort. Power is a corrupting influence, and man is prone to sin. No system will be perfect, no system can perfect. Man is what he is, and will be that until the end of the age. That is why men can’t be trusted with too much power over others. It is also why there are limits to what can be done using the blunt instrument of coercion.

    All attempts at using government to improve the essential condition of man will fail. They have always failed, and will always fail. Man must actively participate in his own salvation. You can’t force people to be better than they are willing to be. What I ask of a government is to maintain relative order and keep the peace, and allow the Church to care for sick souls. The Church is where the activity of the Spirit takes place.

    The Church fosters communion and heals broken souls. The Church is the wellspring of society. The government is incapable of fulfilling any of the roles of the Church, but the modern state has assumed those roles and is strangling civil society.

  34. Philip Alexander says:

    In the parable of the good samaritan, Jesus Christ tells us to ACT to help someone who has been the victim of highway bandits. To bandage them, help them to shelter, and pay for their food and drink. He doesn’t tell us to drop to our knees and pray that an angel comes down from heaven to help them, He tells US to ACT.

    So the question has to be asked, what would Jesus Christ say to do, if you actually come across the highway banditry in progress, just sit by and let it happen, praying for an answer and a sign? I don’t think so, I think He would tell us to ACT, to protect our neighbor out of love for him, not because violence is good, but because sometimes it is necessary to combat evil.

    At the core of Hamas’ charter is the destruction of Israel. Not a two state solution, not peace with the Jews, not tolerance education, but the DESTRUCTION of Israel. So what should we do then? Pretend they don’t actually mean what they say, over and over again?

    I believe God Almighty has already told us, as Gentiles, who to support when it comes to Israel and her enemies. If you want to know, just read Isaiah 49.

  35. Michael Bauman says:

    George, I shall make one more post and then leave it be:

    1. If theology does not matter in the sphere of social and political thought as you maintain, then there is no reason not to read Fr. Seraphim’s book on nilihism as it is not a theological work, but an historical commentary.

    2. Fr. Seraphim Rose has had a significant positive impact on the Church. Whether you agree with his theology or not, there are many converts (as in thousands) to the Orthodox Church in this country and in Russia who came and are coming to the Church because of his witness. I would suggest you follow the advice you gave me concerning Libertarianism and actually study the man, his writing and his work before you dismiss him. It is not unreasonable to see Fr. Seraphim as the most successful Orthodox evangelist of modern times (so far).

    His experience in coming to the Church embodies the struggle of many raised in our materialistic culture dominated by spiritual fads and hedonism. His life and thought is a testimony to the fact that the grace of God can overcome even the desicated and truncated and blasphemous ideas of communion with God that are typically available in our culture. He was not an educated academic theologian whose mind and heart were homongenized by credentials and political correctness. He had a burning desire to know the Truth and communicate that Truth. His theology is not always correct, but even St. Gregory of Nyssa (called the Father of the Fathers) wrote in his theology ideas outside the doctrine of the Church.

    The core of Fr. Seraphim’s theology can be found in the following statement of his:

    Truth is not just an abstract idea, sought and known with the mind, but something personal—even a Person—sought and loved with the heart, Jesus Christ

    Personally, I find nothing worthy of rebuke here and neither would any Orthodox theologian.

    One other guiding principal for Fr. Seraphim was that we must struggle to acquire the mind of the Fathers, not just regurgitate what they wrote. Fr. Seraphim stressed that we have the necessity placed upon us as Orthodox Christians to embody the Holy Tradition in our own lives and time. No Orthodox theologian would rebuke that principal either. The fact that such a struggle is neither easy nor always productive is not surprising.

    The work that he began on the translation of Orthodox lives of the saints into English as well as other significant works for our edification is going strong and growing. The Church is greatly blessed by this labor.

    BTW, the most prominent criticism of Fr. Seraphim of which I am aware was written by a man who has a personal ax to grind against Fr. Seraphim and every personal reason to discredit Fr. Seraphim.

    3. I do not support government coercion as a solution to all sinful behavior (although the enforcing of all law governing human interaction does involve such use of government coercion). I do not support any doctrine of society that sees such sinful behavior as isolated and not effecting society as a whole. Such doctrine ultimately ends in nihlistic anarchy.

    Moral suasion and strong cultural norms are the most effective ways of dealing with the negative social impact of such acts as prostitution (John and Jane) and drug use combined with paths of healing and reintegration into the community. Such strong cultural moral norms are impossible without a concomitant commitment by the culture to God. The cultural commitment involves a shared metaphysic of God’s presence with us. When we loose, as we have, such a shared metaphysic, legalism is the only recourse (which we have seen). Simply fighting the legalism without attempting to restore the shared metaphysic is futile.

  36. Moral suasion and strong cultural norms are the most effective ways of dealing with the negative social impact of such acts as prostitution (John and Jane) and drug use combined with paths of healing and reintegration into the community. Such strong cultural moral norms are impossible without a concomitant commitment by the culture to God. The cultural commitment involves a shared metaphysic of God’s presence with us. When we loose, as we have, such a shared metaphysic, legalism is the only recourse (which we have seen). Simply fighting the legalism without attempting to restore the shared metaphysic is futile.

    Michael – who in tarnation said I was trying to do any such thing? Moral suasion and strong cultural norms are exactly what I want. They are exactly what is needed. They are the key to the future reconstruction of our society. Culture and government are not the same thing. Simply because a government is not concerned with a specific set of actions has no bearing on how the culture views. This was exactly how Orthodox society primarily operated, not through government coercion but through societal injunctions not managed through legal authority.

    If theology does not matter in the sphere of social and political thought as you maintain, then there is no reason not to read Fr. Seraphim’s book on nilihism as it is not a theological work, but an historical commentary.

    I never said that. What I said was that you were taking everything to a metaphysical level, when all I was arguing for was a limited form of political authority. Since you say that you are not in favor of coercive laws which are not traditionally part of Orthodox legal systems, then I don’t actually understand where we disagree, other than the fact that you (for whatever reason) seem to disagree with my use of some terms.

    Fine, drop the terms. Forget I ever mentioned any of the labels that we’ve debated. At that point, I can’t see anything you’ve said with which I take any major exception, other than the fact that you seem to think the reconstruction of Constitutional norms is (somehow) anachronistic.

    I have read Father Seraphim’s books on eschatology and on the Tollhouses. Both books contained major heresies. I have not read the rest of his stuff, but may get around to it at some point.

    I’m happy he has led many to the Faith. I converted after having read Frank Schaeffer. While I appreciate his efforts, the fact that he is not a pro-abortion and pro-gay rights flaming liberal should caution anyone against too strong a reliance on any one individual.

    I also don’t feel like debating Seraphim Rose. If you like his thinking, that is just awesome. Good for you. For me, I prefer a limited, federated system with a weak executive to a Czar.