Category Archives: Religion and Politics

Did the American Government Create the OCU? Political Ambitions and the Ukrainian Church

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

The creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) has inspired a number of hypotheses on who initiated the event. Past president Petro Poroshenko, Patriarch Filaret, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew are usually identified as the architects of Ukrainian autocephaly. There is also a chorus of voices that attributes the creation of the OCU to the American government. Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, recently claimed that the OCU is an American creation, and that the USA desires to create a schism in global Orthodoxy. Lavrov made his claim immediately after Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev’s trip to the United States.

Hilarion was scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on October 22. Coincidentally, Metropolitan Epifaniy (Dumenko), the primate of the OCU, was set to meet Pompeo the next morning. Hilarion’s meeting with Pompeo was cancelled after the secretary assigned a deputy to represent him at the meeting (Hilarion declined). Pompeo’s meeting with Epifaniy took place as planned, and Pompeo expressed America’s support for the new church.

Is this enough evidence to verify that the US government created the OCU? If not, what do these meetings and statements mean, and what are their implications for American ambitions in Ukraine and Russia? Continue reading

Understanding True Citizenship: Lessons from a Georgian Saint

by Fr. Irakli Jinjolava

Hieromartyr Archimandrite Grigol Peradze (killed 1942 in Auschwitz) was an eminent Georgian Churchman, theologian, and historian and one of the figureheads of the ecumenical movement in the 1920s.* In the journal “Jvari Vazisa” (“Grapevine Cross”), he published a homily series on the Lord’s Prayer (შინაარსი ჭეშმარიტ მოქალაქეობის [“The importance of the true citizenship”], Paris 1933). Grigol’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer offers a lesson on the nature of “true citizenship.” According to Grigol, true citizenship is not only earthly citizenship, which exists in relation to the state, but above all, it is heavenly citizenship, which in turn has an impact on the earthly. Grigol argues that the Lord’s Prayer presents Jesus’ teaching for his disciples on how to attain this true citizenship.

The concept of “true citizenship” is a common thread that runs through the eleven sermons in the series. How can the Georgian emigrants in exile be “true citizens” of Georgia, and what is the role of the church and of one’s relationship with God? Continue reading

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