Fr. Hopko continued: “There is no ‘reason alone” that you can appeal to,” no autonomous reasoning ability that would enable any person, even an atheist, to do theology accurately …
Elder Paisios (1924-1994) warns, “It is a great evil when we theologize cold-heartedly with our minds. This … gives birth to Babel (confusion) …”
Curiously enough, the premier Western theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, had an experience at the end of his life that radically changed how he saw his own work, and that echoes St. Maximos’ s thought. While at worship on the Feast of St. Nicholas, December 6, 1273, he had an encounter with Christ. It seems it was fairly overwhelming, but he never described it to anyone.
After that, he stopped writing. His Assistant begged him to resume his widely acclaimed work, but he refused. He said, “I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.”
Sometimes it is necessary for the Church to do some hard analytical labor; sometimes confusion sweeps like a tornado , and it is necessary to state the truth explicitly and in detail. But the fact the you have to do this work is itself a sign that you’ve lost the thread. It’s like a husband and wife who start arguing over what “I love you” means; they have lost touch with the experience of love itself. You can’t experience something and scrutinize it at the same time … [W]hen we have to pull over and look at the road map, we’re no longer rolling toward the goal.
(Frederica Matthewes-Green, Welcome to the Orthodox Church, pages 212-15) I’m really enjoying this book. Were I not Orthodox, I don’t know what I’d make of the structure, but she manages to discuss aptly many things about the faith that seem to me very difficult to put into words.
The intense two weeks of Trump shenanigans, plus some unexpected disruption of my semi-retirement, have left me kind of wrung out, and I’m going to take more R&R — reading the rest of Frederica’s book for instance. But a sobering item on a topic I’ve resisted returning to:
America is in crisis. It is a crisis of greater magnitude than any the country has faced in its history, with the exception of the Civil War. It is a crisis long in the making—and likely to be with us long into the future. It is a crisis so thoroughly rooted in the American polity that it’s difficult to see how it can be resolved in any kind of smooth or even peaceful way. Looking to the future from this particular point in time, just about every possible course of action appears certain to deepen the crisis.
What is it? Some believe it stems specifically from the election of Donald Trump, a man supremely unfit for the presidency, and will abate when he can be removed from office…
When a man as uncouth and reckless as Trump becomes president by running against the nation’s elites, it’s a strong signal that the elites are the problem. We’re talking here about the elites of both parties …
[Litany of elite mistakes]
All this contributed significantly to the hollowing out of the American working class—once the central foundation of the country’s economic muscle and political stability. Now these are the forgotten Americans, deplorable to Hillary Clinton and her elite followers, left without jobs and increasingly bereft of purpose and hope.
And if they complain they find themselves confronting the forces of political correctness, bent on shutting them up and marginalizing them in the political arena …
Now comes the counterrevolution. The elites figure that if they can just get rid of Trump, the country can return to what they consider normalcy—the status quo ante, before the Trumpian challenge to their status as rulers of America …
Thus is the Trump crisis now superimposed upon the much broader and deeper crisis of the elites, which spawned the Trump crisis in the first place. Yes, Trump is a disaster as president. He lacks nearly all the qualities and attributes a president should have, and three and a half more years of him raises the specter of more and more unnecessary tumult and deepening civic rancor. It could even prove to be untenable governmentally. But trying to get rid of him before his term expires, absent a clear constitutional justification and a clear assent from the collective electorate, will simply deepen the crisis, driving the wedge further into the raw American heartland and generating growing feelings that the American system has lost its legitimacy.
There is no way out for America at this point. Steady as she goes could prove highly problematic. A push to remove him could prove worse. Perhaps a solution will present itself. But, even if it does, it will rectify, with great societal disquiet and animosity, merely the Trump crisis. The crisis of the elites will continue, all the more intractable and ominous.
Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column Friday, Democracy Is Not Your Plaything, is to roughly the same effect, and maybe even better said. The Trump White House is a hot steaming mess of B-Teamers partly because A-Teamers want no part of it.
But he was duly and legally elected by tens of millions of Americans who had legitimate reasons to support him, who knew they were throwing the long ball, and who, polls suggest, continue to support him. They believe the press is trying to kill him. “He’s new, not a politician, give him a chance.” What would it do to them, what would it say to them, to have him brusquely removed by his enemies after so little time? Would it tell them democracy is a con, the swamp always wins, you nobodies can make your little choices but we’re in control? What will that do to their faith in our institutions, in democracy itself?
These are wrenching questions ….
God’s judgment, I’m tellin’ ya. Choosing among the options for dealing with this hot steaming mess is way above my pay grade and, beyond what these two have written, I’m not going to try even to outline all the reasons I sense that.
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Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)
“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)