Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Vox Clamanti Manifesto

I have heard it said that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, and as a general principle, I would have to agree. However, at certain times and in certain places a prophetic voice is needed, a voice crying out in the desert, a chiding one that calls a people to change. Sometimes it is needful to curse the darkness.

To put it another way, Solomon wrote that every purpose under Heaven had its proper season. Sometimes one builds, sometimes one tears down. Our purpose and aim is to do both.


A Time to Build

For the sake of our own sanity, we cannot always be railing against the dying of the light. We need, and those who read this blog, need to hear and see beauty. We need to be secondary creators in emulation of our first Creator.

So expect from time to time descriptions of our parish, the natural world around us, and the joys of friendship, parenthood, and marriage. Perhaps also some art works, some art discussion ... perhaps some poetry.

And, where possible, where appropriate, and where we see them, we will offer our solutions to the various issues raised.


A Time to Tear Down

There are, regrettably, many thing that need changing in this world of ours. It is a deeply flawed and hurting world that we have inherited, a world under bombardment not only by our sins, but by our man-made toxins and our mountains of forever garbage. And it is a world where there is little to no repentance for our demon-like hatred of God’s Creation, man and world both, because we have constructed around our misdeeds horrible ideologies to defend them. Here follow the issues that we have identified (and this section will undoubtedly evolve over time).


A. Environmental Concerns

These issues form an assault on the Creation that God called good. It is a failure to recognize that when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all the cosmos at Pentecost, He began to restore, through and by the prayers of the faithful, all Creation to its Edenic state. It is a failure to realize that all of nature has the potential to become sacrament, to become grace-bestowing, and it is a wanton violation of our role as stewards of a world that is not ours but God’s, lent us for a while. In many cases, our profligacy holds dire consequences to our health and well-being, and the health and well-being of our descendants.

I. Toxins: I have broken these down into four categories, from what I consider the most immediately damaging and dangerous to the least.

  • Injected toxins – These would include street drugs, some pharmaceuticals, and vaccinations. These are easiest to avoid, most immediately damaging, and affect humans (and sometimes their progeny) alone.
  • Ingested toxins – These would include unbound chemicals in our plastics, pesticides and heavy metals in our foods, and fluoride, chlorine, and various medications in our water. Where these toxins are carried in our groundwater and our waterways, the responsibility for them is shared, and the consequences involve more than our species alone.
  • Breathed toxins – These would include cigarette smoke, smog, airborne pesticides, and vapours from household cleaning supplies. These are harder to avoid, and involve, again, a shared responsibility and collective harm.
  • Absorbed toxins – These would include the plastics, pesticides, and bleaches found in our clothes, as well as skin contact with certain cleaners and varnishes.

II. Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are aberrant creations formed in Frankensteinian laboratories in a world-wide experiment to see what happens when the unnatural is tossed into nature. All too frequently these are self-replicating monstrosities.

Completely aside from whether or not these are a mockery and a blasphemy against God’s Creation, we eat many of the products made from these GMO’s, and we do not know what the long term effects will be.

III. Nuclear waste and depleted uranium are persistent and invisible mutagenic pollutants that will remain with us for millennia.

IV. Hormones in our meat, milk, and water have already been shown to have an effect on the hormones of those who consume them. This is another global experiment gone awry.

V. Garbage – our plastics and the throwaway culture that gave them birth – must be combated, reduced, and ultimately eliminated. There is no “away” to “throwaway”. Non -biodegradable garbage stays here in this world, our home, and as such is a present to our descendants that will keep on giving.

VI. Animal torture and the wanton cruelty towards animals, whether as manifestation of sociopathy, as the result of the industrialization of animal husbandry, or as a result of reckless and irreverent experimentation, constitutes a kind of savagery unknown even to the barbarians of yore.

VII. Clear-cut logging, unlike a more selective logging, is a habitat eliminator and the forefather to desertification. I recognize the need for wood for many uses and purposes, but our harvesting of this resource must allow renewal, rebirth, and the harvesting by future generations.

VIII. Power lines I include tentatively, largely because while we know that all electrical systems throw off magnetic fields, we do not know the long-term effects of constant habitation in a powerful magnetic field such as is given off by high-voltage power lines.


B. Social Concerns

These issues invariably are an affront to the human person, a degradation of the image of God, and a complete and utter failure to see God in others. Sadly, many of us participate in them through our self-indulgence and our pride.

I. Abortion: We need to take a tougher stand against this holocaust, this incessant feticide and its byproduct industries. Any vaccination that uses cell-lines derived from human fetuses (read: babies) must be avoided as we would avoid the taint of Nazi gold pulled from Jewish teeth. Likewise fetal stem cell research and any medical “advance” derived from fetal stem cells must be banned, boycotted, and shunned. Lastly, in vitro fertilization must be rethought where human embryos are formed in large number but not implanted in the mother’s womb. Throwing these out, as is customary in most cases, is another form of feticide, and as such constitutes murder.

II. Human trafficking: We as a society agree that human trafficking (the buying and selling of humans for the purposes of slavery) is wrong. However, we lack the moral courage to create an outright ban on prostitution and pornography so as to crush sexual slavery and the traffic in woman and children for sexual purposes. We lack the moral courage to outlaw and criminalize all companies that use forced labour, slavery, and sweatshop labour. We lack the moral courage to place adoption and organ transplants under the microscope to ensure that human exploitation was not involved, and we lack the will to vigorously punish those who engage or who knowingly benefit in such practices.

III. Usury, or interest, is a form of slavery in that it creates bondage through debt. The receivers of interest (the ever-wealthier) effectively enslave, through the medium of the banks, the ever-poorer. Banned by Mosaic Law and the Church, it has enjoyed not a resurrection but a revivification in more recent times.

IV. War, torture, and the use of weapons of mass destruction are similarly great evils. While I might argue that a defensive war is a necessary evil to preserve a nation in the face of military aggression, I fear that we have lost the ability to discern what a defensive war is. It is not a preemptive war, and it is not an offensive invasion of [another] belligerent country.


C. Cultural Concerns

These issues are those that, while not an affront to Creation or the human person, are distractions that interfere with our ability to stop, think, meditate, pray, and simply be, in silence and before God. Monastics would recognize these, I think, as tools of the Enemy to keep us from the knowledge and pursuit of God.

I. Speed: We live in a society that exists at only one speed, and that is breakneck. We need to slow down, we need to stop. We need to escape the tyranny of the ticking clock and the fear of “wasting” time as if it were something wastable. Just as God created us in matter so that we could learn to receive His grace through matter, He created us in time to experience Him in time.

There are many things – all the important things, in fact – which cannot be obtained quickly, or by any measure of time, but only by the measure of living, suffering, praying, loving, and growing. Building a marriage, raising a child, achieving maturity, gaining wisdom, and finding salvation itself are the products of a life, and cannot be measured by time or gained by the “spending” of time. We examine and speak of time as if it were quantitative, when any child could tell you it is qualitative.

II. Silence: St. Gregory Palamas was identified as a saint in part through his defense of hesychasm (silence) as a means to finding and experiencing God. Centuries before him, St. Elias discovered that God was not to be found in the crashing thunder but in the still small voice. And before him the Psalmist wrote of the need to be silent on our beds.

Silence is a precondition for meditation and prayer, and has become an ever-rarer commodity in the face of modern noise. Music pumped over the radio, through headphones, and in the supermarkets, engines roaring throughout the world, there are few places where one can entirely escape the sounds of busy, worldly Man.

III. Advertisement: Our senses and our peace are under constant assault by the omnipresence of signs and their ubiquitous siren call to buy, buy, buy. We are urged to satisfy our inner emptiness through endless consumption. We are titillated and amused, seduced into greed. We are not given the chance to rest, but are barraged and bombarded until we accept the hidden premise that we are consumers, not citizens of a nation nor the distinct people of God.


D. Ideological Concerns

These issues can be divided into two categories: heresies and philosophical ideas. Both, however, derive from the imagination of Man independent of Christ and His Church.

Thoughts may and should be free, but the implementation of these ideas – these pernicious and dangerous follies – have cost us a great deal, and will continue to cost us, unless we replace them with real wisdom and real knowledge.

I. The cult of youth: In the West we worship youth and beauty, and so we do everything in our technological power to promote youth, beauty, and “sexiness”, and to hide what is old and ugly. Our seniors are locked away into old folks’ homes. Our disfigured are urged to undergo plastic surgery. Our young starve themselves into looking more “beautiful”. Wrinkles are botoxed away and faces are lifted, grey hairs dyed, and beards shaved.

There are two even uglier consequences to the cult of youth. First, we hide our dead behind makeup and we attempt to preserve the illusion of life – eternal youth – through embalming, a profound abuse of the body, and a manifest disbelief in the reality of the resurrection of the dead. Second, the logical extension of the worship of youth results in the perversion of baby beauty competitions and prepubescent whore chic (where we display our young as sex objects), and pedophilia (where our young are perceived and treated as sex objects).

II. Modernism teaches, in essence, that things will keep on getting better. Evolutionary theory is a rationalization as to how this reversal of entropy works. What makes modernism so dangerous is that it has given us countless technologies without reckoning their cost. Vinyl must be a good, because it is a new technology – but the production of vinyl involves the incredibly toxic dioxin. Atomic energy must be a good, because it is a new technology – but in the 63 years since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the ushering in of the atomic age, we have yet to find a safe way to handle the waste. Genetic manipulation must be a good, because it is a new technology – but we have produced alien species unknown to this planet with consequences unforeseen and unlooked-for.

It is the recklessness of modernistic technophilic zeal that has given us the heavily polluted world we know today.

III. Calvinism: This is the Christian heresy wherein free will is removed from Man’s finding of salvation. Grace (a pale, limited grace) is bestowed upon the elect, will he nill he, resulting in the saving of just these elect. Calvinism’s bastard child is the Enlightenment, and its grandchild atheism. Where God has been made odious and onerous, there people will flee Him. Doubtless some hardy Germanic types have found Calvinism the intoxicating and heady brew necessary to stir them to great and glorious achievements for the Kingdom of Heaven. However, for many (most?) others, Calvinism does not solve the age-old problem of theodicy but enshrines it. We depart from the question as to why does God allow evil and we conclude with the statement that God wills evil.

IV. Globalization, aside from its resultant dependence on slavery and forced labour, and apart from its systemic replacement of the person of the local merchant and artisan for the faceless and soulless body of the international and unaccountable corporation, is a modernistic movement that is causing massive pollution of the environment through the endless crisscrossing of oceans and continents by exhaust-emitting mega-vehicles. The only solution to globalization is a restoration of the merchant, artisan, and craftsman, the re-empowerment of the small farmer, and the replacement of the ideal of globalization with the ideal of locavore.

V. The Armageddon Complex: In the world at large disregard for the environment seems to stem from selfishness and greed. In the Christian community, however, this disregard originates from what I call the Armageddon Complex. This is the belief that the end of the world is at hand, with its implicit destruction by hail and fire, etc; in the face of this destruction there is no point to cleaning up the world (or to keeping it clean).

We do not know the day nor the hour of Christ’s return. We may suspect He is coming soon, but to fail to care for our home would be a dooming and a damning of our children to live in a toxic cesspool should He not come. In point of fact, ours is the first civilization to fail to provide for, think of, or work towards the betterment of the next generation.

VI. Compulsory public age-graded education: One of the worst (again modernistic) ideas of the 19th century was the one that remade the education of our young. It concluded that all children learned alike, at the same age and in the same manner, cloistered away from real life and real-world experience. It concluded that apprenticeships were bankrupt, despite being the primary method of disseminating knowledge for millennia. It concluded that all children would do best divorced from the God-created whole spectrum of ages that is the family at the microcosmic level and society at the macrocosmic. And it concluded that the government and its emissaries the education theorists, pedagogues, and teachers would know better how to raise and educate a child than the parents who knew it best.

VII. Right to Paradise: We appear to believe that we have the right to a disease-free paradise where there is peace and plenty for all, along with all the paradisiacal technological gizmos and devices that are the hallmark of the wealthy. Ours is a jubilant and narcissistic expectation that we are owed everything we desire. We have seemingly fallen heir to the world, and we consume and consume its resources without any sense of the other three-quarters (or more) of the world that has none of the advantages we have. We are astonished and indignant when these rights are encroached, when disease makes a comeback, when oil prices rise, when our peace or our prosperity is in any way lessened. We cannot fathom that bacteria and viruses mutate, that peak oil exists, or that there is sin in the world.

Ours are the “rights” of the delusional maniac, unaware of a fallen world. Ours are the “rights” of the locust, devouring everything in its path. We have no right to Paradise, no right to any Utopia. We can only be given Eden through the sacramental life of the Church, the healing of the Holy Spirit, and the prayers of the saints. And we will only fully enter the garden when God makes it anew.

In the meantime, our avaricious society is a blight upon the earth and a gross inequality that time and the wrath of other nations will iron out. We should accustom ourselves to a simple life before it is made simple for us.

- V.,
Writing for V. & E.

6 comments:

Stephen said...

V - fantastic post (minus the Calvinism bit)...

I have a few questions.

Section B, article I. I'm with you here, but what tougher stand can we take? Give me some practical suggestions. Thanks.

Section B, article III. What are alternatives do you propose? What exactly is your stance on usury? Thanks.

Section B, article IV. Sounds like an argument for just war... but according to this definition the only just war is a defensive one? How do we practice justice and mercy if we are always and only on the defensive?

Section D, article III - Calvinism. Ouch... clearly a very key issue for you; an ideology which causes great offence. I still think you have misconception of what Calvinism is all about - you're familiar with the hyper-Calvinists no doubt. They're the ones that are easy to critique - and, indeed, they are unreasonable and unscriptural.

But God does not will evil. Lloyd-Jones says "God does NOT cause evil in any sense or degree. He does not approve of evil. But He permits the wicked agents to perform it and then He overrules it for His own wise and holy ends." Beautiful... a mystery - the kind that a good Orthodox should appreciate.

Augustine's privation of the good explains the origin of evil and here Lloyd-Jones nicely explains how God permits it...

I'm sure you're post will inspire more from me - and perhaps a few more comments in defense of Calvinism... the good kind.

Yours in Christ,

V & E said...

Thanks for your response, Stephen.

Section B, Article I – Abortion

In our society, organizations and government respond to money. Letter campaigns and protests work to a minor extent, but money is at the centre of their world.

1) Christians - all Christians - need to opt out completely on all vaccinations that make use of fetal cell-lines. There is a very large amount of money to be made in vaccinating, and the governments have a lot invested in these programs. Should Christians, en masse, reject even the perceived benefits of abortion, our message would have teeth.

2) All Christians need to stop giving money to every charity that funds or encourages abortion, such as Planned Parenthood or March of Dimes. Then we need to stop giving money to every charity that gives money to these groups, such as United Way. Charities cannot operate without a steady inflow of money. [As a caveat, I should note that I have just managed to give money indirectly to the March of Dimes, so this boycott is not as easy as it may seem, despite the best of our intentions.]

For the more daring, I would suggest civil disobedience - the refusal to pay taxes - as a means of protesting government funding of abortions (making sure that these intentions were stated beforehand). Although I should note that the consequences here could include jail time.

3) A more intriguing boycott could include the refusal to use the services of any hospital or medical centre that engages in abortions. In Canada, government money is paid to a hospital or clinic per visit made, so this would hurt Canadian hospitals and clinics as badly as it would hurt American ones.

I recognize that this would be a harder boycott to organize (the non-transparency of the medical system is an issue) and commit to (especially as there could be unpleasant repercussions for our health).

4) It should be made clear in every parish and congregation that abortion is murder, and that those who encourage it are as guilty as the mother who undergoes it and the doctor so-called who performs it. Deacons, elders, pastors, and priests who are so guilty should be immediately stripped of their position within the church, and never see it restored. Because abortion is frequently used to cover up sexual sin, the people of God need to hear that while sex out of wedlock is a tragedy, a sin, a perversion, and a mistake, abortion is murder and as such is nothing less than blasphemy against God.

And we need to reorient our thinking a little too, or we will lack the moral courage to put teeth into our dealings with repentant and unrepentant Christians alike. We need to realize that every woman who aborts a child more than once is a serial killer, that every husband, boyfriend, or parent that encourages her is an accessory to murder, that every abortion doctor an assassin for hire, and that every teenager forced into aborting their baby is a victim of exploitation and something akin to a child soldier, brainwashed into murder.

We must allow people to repent of murder, but they can only do so if it is made clear to them that abortion is murder.

Section B, Article III - Usury

I am still working out my position on usury, as I have only recently come aware of how alien it is to the Church and to God. For savings I suspect that I will need to abandon the bank account for the wall safe, the mattress, or the safe deposit box. For chequing (which many people need for cashing cheques, direct deposit, direct withdrawal, bill payment, etc.), I suspect that I will need to return my “earned” interest to God with repentance or look into Islamic banking. As for the latter, my feeling is that if the Muslims are the only ones doing the Christian thing, then they are the ones that should see the material and spiritual rewards. [Here I think also of modest dress for women, which outside of Islamic shops is harder and harder to find in these latter times.]

Section B, Article IV – War, etc.

War is always evil, as it involves the killing of human beings, the defacement and destruction of the image and likeness of God. As such, the only possible “just” war is the one waged by a nation in defense against an invading army. This can be the only clear case of “just” cause. (Although I suspect that monks, those most apostolic of Christians, would advocate a complete pacifism.)

In recent times, several wars have been waged on the pretext that they were just and merciful. Serbia’s churches, bridges, and monasteries were bombed because of the mass graves of Kosovars. Iraqi women and children, the primary casualties of the Iraq war, have been killed by the tens of thousands because of the weapons of mass destruction Saddam hid all over Iraq. But there were no mass graves – I have heard of two that contained ten bodies each. But there were no weapons of mass destruction – it was all a fiction.

[It is a modern fiction that the West attacked Nazi Germany to rescue the Jews. Some nations (e.g. Poland) waged war in defense and some nations (e.g. England) waged war because of their political alliances.]

If I might ask a question of you … how are justice and mercy delivered at the barrel of a gun?

Section D, Article III – Calvinism

I will be fleshing out my views on Calvinism at a later date.

- V.

Stephen said...

I like your suggestions regarding abortion... I would like to hear more as you come up with more information...especially about these vaccines – some links would be helpful etc.

Islamic banking? And they will receive spiritual rewards? Help me out here. And I would add that the modest dress of Muslim women in my view is not modest but oppressive – I’m all for modest dress for women, but my goodness Islamic women go far beyond mere modesty...

Tell me more about your concerns with usury – what are the Scriptural grounds for objecting to it? And what precedent has been set in the past in the Orthodox church?

I’m surprised that you would say that war is always evil – we know that in the Old Testament, for example, God not only sent His people into battle He went with them and gave them victory... how, then, can it be evil? And I don’t see any Scriptural grounds for suggesting that killing of human beings in and of itself is evil... it was God who instituted capital punishment under the Old Covenant...does God change?

And what grounds are there for saying that only a defensive war is just? If anything, the theme of Scripture is that we are to look out for the best interests of others; we are to put others first; this is loving our neighbor...while individuals are admonished to turn the other cheek we individuals are encouraged to stand up for others – a just war, then, would be a war that was serving those interests rather than merely selfish ones...

You said,
“[It is a modern fiction that the West attacked Nazi Germany to rescue the Jews. Some nations (e.g. Poland) waged war in defense and some nations (e.g. England) waged war because of their political alliances.]”

I would suggest that it really doesn’t matter what the motives were... what matters is the situation then and now and what should have been done then and now and I would argue that the West should have attacked Nazi Germany to rescue the Jews and it’s a shame that their interests were merely political. Today, similarly, we do need to go in to Sudan and rescue the people... we do need to do this by force – I see no other way. I don’t need to look at WWII for justification... but, few people would argue that the West shouldn’t have acted to stop the holocaust (even if that’s not why they acted as they did), and so we use that (as an example) to say today well if the holocaust was an occasion for a just war so is Sudan etc...

You asked an important question:

“If I might ask a question of you … how are justice and mercy delivered at the barrel of a gun?”

First, I will speak from personal experience. A couple years ago I was leaving the parking lot of a Burger King across from a dance club... as I was leaving I noticed that a large crowd had gathered and a number of young men had another young man on the ground and they were kicking him and beating him. Well, I stopped the car and got out and ran into the mix... and I wasn’t on a pacifist mission. And I don’t know what I might or might not have accomplished but as it turned out as I arrived with my brother-in-law and another friend in tow the crowd dispersed and the attackers left the scene and I was able to see to the victim.

Now there was no gun involved, but I would not hesitate to say that pursuing mercy and justice means at times acting violently toward those who are oppressive... Jesus has called us peace makers NOT peace keepers – that means we are invited to take action to rescue those who need to be rescued. And we can’t always rescue people by holding signs... and in fact, to answer your question I would suggest that it is impossible to treat the people of Darfur Sudan with mercy unless we are willing to do what it takes to physically rescue them – anything else is just talk...

jcw said...

What does the word "locavore" mean? I searched for it both in the 1971 and 1980 Oxford English Dictionary and couldn't locate it. Thank you for your help.

Joshua

V and E said...

JCW:

You are having trouble locating "locavore" because it is a neologism, dating to 2006, I believe.

A locavore is someone who eats local food, sometimes limited to a specific distance (like 50 miles). Locavores may have so committed themselves because of environmental concerns (there is less pollution when the food travels less distance); alternatively or additionally they may want to supporting a local economy, to avoid investing in globalized agribusiness (Big Agri), to know the origins of their food, or to shop organically or as part of a cooperative. In general, I think it may be characterized as a "back to the land movement" for urbanites.

Here is what dictionary.com has to say:

"[Locavore is] a person who attempt to eat only foods grown locally. Example: Locavores grow their own food or buy foodstuffs grown within their region."

Here is a excerpt from wikipedia.com:

Local food (also regional food or food patriotism) or the local food movement is a "collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies - one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place" and is considered to be a part of the broader sustainability movement. It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies, a preference to buy locally produced goods and services. Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves "localvores" or locavores.

- V.

jcw said...

Thank you, V.