Category Archives: Religion and Politics

The Case for Moral Courage A Review of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump by Peter Wehner

by William Antholis

Moral courage is, by definition, acting on principle in the face of adverse consequences. The American presidency is filled with examples of moral heroism. George Washington stepped down after two terms, despite a fear of anarchy. Teddy Roosevelt stood up to robber barons to advance a progressive agenda. Lyndon Johnson pursued the Voting Rights Act in 1965, knowing it would subvert the Democratic party for a generation.

When politics are deeply polarized, courage between and across tribes adds depth to these acts. Or, as Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute recently said, “Moral courage is the act of defending someone with whom you disagree politically.” A generation ago, Texas Democrat Jim Hightower said this differently: “The only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.”

Pete Wehner’s new book, the Death of Politics, is at its core a book about moral courage in both senses—obeying principles and embracing opponents. Its great accomplishment is to provide a practical, working definition of political morality that can appeal to all Americans when our politics appear broken.

The former head of Strategic Initiatives in the George W. Bush White House, and a committed Evangelical Christian, Wehner makes the case for why engaged citizenship itself must be a moral enterprise. Wehner’s vision is to weave the rights of individuals together with the needs of society, and to do so with humility, moderation and civility.

The book itself is an act of moral courage. Wehner regularly challenges a range of conservative politicians and Evangelical leaders. He regularly praises actors, thought leaders and ideas from across the aisle. He does this out of principle, not compromise or convenience. Continue reading

The Invention of Liberalism

by Jack Pappas

Liberalism has recently become a shibboleth for everything that is wrong with our present age, with critics in the in the academy and the media as well as the political establishment.

For the global Left, the term “liberalism” has become a kind of shorthand used to identify everything from the evils of the contemporary incarceration and national security state, to the neoliberal corrosion of the democratic public sphere, and to the exploitive (and ecologically catastrophic) reign of predatory capitalism. For the global Right, “liberalism” has come to signify the root cause of everything from declining religiosity to the destabilization of a common social fabric rooted in “traditional” family life and “Western” cultural homogeneity.

That liberalism would undergo such an apparently sudden shift in its cultural and political cachet, from a position of unquestioned dominance to a widespread object of scorn is, however, not unsurprising nor altogether unwarranted. Yet, the content of these various critiques couldn’t be more dissimilar, and it precisely this dissimilarity which reveals a need for greater clarification and rigor about the usage of “liberalism” as a catch-all object of critique, and in turn raises questions about how Christians ought to think about liberalism and its critics. Continue reading

The Diverging Paths of Orthodoxy A Review of Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy

by Theodore Theophilos

The following is a review of Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy, a study of the role of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in shaping the nuclear arms program for the Russian Federation written by Dmitry Adamsky and published by Stanford University Press (2019). 

I approached this surprisingly accessible book with perhaps a unique perspective. I have no background in the complexities and horrifying potentialities of nuclear weapons and the political policies behind their creation and use. My interest in this book was to explore two quickly diverging paths of Orthodoxy. One path is that of the statist—the Church in a collaborative relationship with government in the “Byzantine model.” The other path is that of the stateless—the Church existing in a polity but in a pre-Constantine relationship with government. In his analysis of the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Russian nuclear defense community, Professor Adamsky chronicles the alarming merger of the missions of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Federation and its nuclear armed forces.

Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy analyzes the relationship between the ROC and the Russian armed forces in three evolving periods: the Genesis Decade (1991-2000); the Conversion Decade (2000-2010); and the Operationalization Period (2010-2020). Continue reading

A Reflection on the Church in the Political Arena

by Fr. Robert M. Arida

Democracy and the separation of church and state are relatively new for the Orthodox Church. From both derive the many challenges the Church in America encounters as it stands unfettered in the political arena.

Paraphrasing the British historian and theologian G.L. Prestige, the concept, let alone the reality, of a political atheist was unknown until the modern era. Prior to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, God, politics, and the Church were inseparable.

Father Georges Florovsky has shown that as Christianity expanded throughout the empire, the Church was faced with two options: to either remain in the world/empire and contribute to the development and improvement of the body politic or to retreat into the desert. By the time of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity the Church found itself at a crossroads. It had to grapple with Christ’s kingdom not being of this world (Jn.18: 36) and the reality of an emerging Christian empire with a Christian emperor at its head.

With the Church facing the crossroads of empire and desert two concurrent foundations were laid. The first was a Christian political philosophy upon which would be built a Christian state and culture. The other was its antithesis, manifested primarily in the monastic movement, which would serve as a continuous reminder to the Church that its true home and sovereign were elsewhere. Continue reading