Lets not Kill the Lawyers

The Signing of the Magna Carta (circa 1215) at Runnymede

The Signing of the Magna Carta (c. 1215) at Runnymede

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

William Shakespeare, Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

Many years ago, when I was an aficionado of Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, and Ronald Reagan, I was of the opinion that lawyers were a blight upon society. For me, a society without lawyers seemed little short of heaven. But like most utopian schemes, this was simplistic and unrealistic.

I recently watched a speech by Joe Jamail at the Stanford Law School. Joe Jamail is the most successful lawyer in the United States, and perhaps in history. In his speech, Jamail describes the difference between Law as a profession, and Law as a business. He describes the difference between an attorney who is out for himself and his firm, and a lawyer who has the best interests of his client at heart. But most telling is his comparison between physical objects like the Statue of Liberty, which barely lasted a hundred years before having to be rebuilt, and a legal document like the Declaration of Independence, written by a lawyer, which set forth ideas that continue to stand the test of time.

The call to abolish lawyers, or at least place limits on them, is the call of the tyrant, the autocrat, the oligarch. It is the cry of the politician who has been bought and paid for. This is what Shakespeare meant when he put his immortal words in the mouth of Dick the Butcher, who was speaking to one Jack Cade, a rebel who thought that by disturbing law and order, he could become king. Getting rid of the lawyers was key to disturbing civil society, fomenting dissent, and creating the conditions ripe for his own rise to power. In other words, Shakespeare was of the opinion that lawyers maintained stability and justice, something the rebel Jack Cade wished to dispense with.

The rights of persons under the law, as over against the rights of the sovereign to impose arbitrary standards, was elucidated at Runnymede in the Magna Carta of 1215. One of the most important legal rights is contained in Clause 39, which enshrines the right to trial by jury: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” This is followed by Clause 40, which enshrines the principle of equality before the law: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

The rights and principles elucidated in the Magna Carta formed the basis for grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, and formed the basis for the United States Constitution. All these rights and principles were first declared, argued over, defined, and written down by lawyers. These same rights and principles are now under attack by an assortment of oligarchs, plutocrats, politicians, and their sycophants as being opposed to efficiency, free markets, and the capitalist system. Exactly the opposite is true — free markets are enabled and enforced by the rule of law. The diminution of the law is an argument not for free market capitalism, but for oligarchy and mercantilism — for the rule of the few, and for state regulation and protection of industry.

”The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers?” No, but perhaps we should shun everyone who thinks this is a good idea.


The Patent of Muhammad (Charter of Privileges)

The Patent of Mumammed: A Charter of Privileges

The Patent of Mumammed:
A Charter of Privileges

In 628 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (s) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. This Charter is known by several names, such as The Patent of Muhammad, or the Actiname (Ashtiname) of Muhammad. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.

The Monastery of St. Catherines describes this as follows: “According to the tradition preserved at Sinai, Mohammed both knew and visited the monastery and the Sinai fathers. The Koran makes mention of the Sinai holy sites. In the second year of the Hegira, corresponding to AD 626, a delegation from Sinai requested a letter of protection from Mohammed. This was granted, and authorized by him when he placed his hand upon the document. In AD 1517, Sultan Selim I confirmed the monastery’s prerogatives, but took the original letter of protection for safekeeping to the royal treasury in Constantinople. At the same time, he gave the monastery certified copies of this document, each depicting the hand print of Mohammed in token of his having touched the original.[1]

The authenticity of this document was widely accepted until the 19th century. The official history is as follows:

The original ashtiname, or order of protection, was taken to the Ottoman Treasury in Istanbul by Caliph Selim I in 1517, and replaced with a certified copy. Several certified historical copies are displayed in the library of St Catherine, some of which are witnessed by the judges of Islam to affirm historical authenticity. The monks claims that during the Conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman sultan Selim I in 1517, the original document was seized from the monastery by Ottoman soldiers and taken to Selim’s palace in Istanbul for safekeeping.[2][3] A copy was then made to compensate for its loss at the monastery.[2] It also seems that the charter was renewed under the new rulers, as other documents in the archive suggest.[4] Traditions about the tolerance shown towards the monastery were reported in governmental documents issued in Cairo and during the period of Ottoman rule (1517–1798), the Pasha of Egypt annually reaffirmed its protections.[2][5]

The authenticity of this document has been doubted by scholars, who cite similar letters in the possession of other religious communities — such as Muhammad’s letter to the Christians of Najrān, whose text is preserved in the Chronicle of Séert.[2] Leaving aside questions of its provenance, the authority of this Charter of Privileges has been confirmed over and over again throughout history. Both the Ottoman Empire and the Pasha of Egypt confirmed its protections throughout history.[2] Even today, during this period of persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East, Muslim scholars such as Muqtedar Khan[6] and organizations such as The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada[7] point to the universality of this document and call for other Muslims to honor it.

St Catherine’s Monastery

English Translation of the Charter of Privileges by Richard Peacocke

  1. Muhammad the son of ‘Abd Allah, the Messenger of Allah, and careful guardian of the whole world; has wrote the present instrument to all those who are in his national people, and of his own religion, as a secure and positive promise to be accomplished to the Christian nation, and relations of the Nazarene, whosoever they may be, whether they be the noble or the vulgar, the honorable or otherwise, saying thus.I. Whosoever of my nation shall presume to break my promise and oath, which is contained in this present agreement, destroys the promise of God, acts contrary to the oath, and will be a resister of the faith, (which God forbid) for he becomes worthy of the curse, whether he be the King himself, or a poor man, or whatever person he may be.
  2. That whenever any of the monks in his travels shall happen to settle upon any mountain, hill, village, or other habitable place, on the sea, or in deserts, or in any convent, church, or house of prayer, I shall be in the midst of them, as the preserver and protector of them, their goods and effects, with my soul, aid, and protection, jointly with all my national people; because they are a part of my own people, and an honor to me.
  3. Moreover, I command all officers not to require any poll-tax on them, or any other tribute, because they shall not be forced or compelled to anything of this kind.
  4. None shall presume to change their judges or governors, but they shall remain in their office, without being deported.
  5. No one shall molest them when they are travelling on the road.
  6. Whatever churches they are possessed of, no one is to deprive them of them.
  7. Whosoever shall annul any of one of these my decrees, let him know positively that he annuls the ordinance of God.
  8. Moreover, neither their judges, governors, monks, servants, disciples, or any others depending on them, shall pay any poll-tax, or be molested on that account, because I am their protector, wherever they shall be, either by land or sea, east or west, north or south; because both they and all that belong to them are included in this my promissory oath and patent.
  9. And of those that live quietly and solitary upon the mountains, they shall exact neither poll-tax nor tithes from their incomes, neither shall any Muslim partake of what they have; for they labor only to maintain themselves.
  10. Whenever the crop of the earth shall be plentiful in its due time, the inhabitants shall be obliged out of every bushel to give them a certain measure.
  11. Neither in time of war shall they take them out of their habitations, nor compel them to go to the wars, nor even then shall they require of them any poll-tax.
  12. In these eleven chapters is to be found whatever relates to the monks, as to the remaining seven chapters, they direct what relates to every Christian.
  13. Those Christians who are inhabitants, and with their riches and traffic are able to pay the poll-tax, shall pay no more than twelve drachms.
  14. Excepting this, nothing shall be required of them, according to the express order of God, that says, ‘Do not molest those that have a veneration for the books that are sent from God, but rather in a kind manner give of your good things to them, and converse with them, and hinder everyone from molesting them’ [29:46].
  15. If a Christian woman shall happen to marry a Muslim man, the Muslim shall not cross the inclination of his wife, to keep her from her church and prayers, and the practice of her religion.
  16. That no person hinder them from repairing their churches.
  17. Whosoever acts contrary to my grant, or gives credit to anything contrary to it, becomes truly an apostate to God, and to his divine apostle, because this protection I have granted to them according to this promise.
  18. No one shall bear arms against them, but, on the contrary, the Muslims shall wage war for them.
  19. And by this I ordain, that none of my nation shall presume to do or act contrary to this my promise, until the end of the world.[5]

[1] http://www.sinaimonastery.com/en/index.php?lid=68
[2] Ratliff, “The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate.”
[3] Lafontaine-Dosogne, “Le Monastère du Sinaï: creuset de culture chrétiene (Xe-XIIIe siècle)”, p. 105.
[4] Atiya, “The Monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition”. p. 578.
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achtiname_of_Muhammad
[6] http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2009/12/30/prophet-muhammads-promise-to-christians/125
[7] http://www.islamicsupremecouncil.com/theeternalpromise.htm

On Usury, Scripture, Tradition, and the Modern Church

Saturn Devouring One Of His Sons, by Francisco Goya

Saturn Devouring One Of His Sons
by Francisco Goya

On Usury as Lending at Interest

“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Pr 22:7)
“He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor” (Pr 28:8)

In the scriptures, usury is narrowly defined as lending money at interest. The modern sense of lending at exorbitant interest is not in view; rather, nearly all lending of money at interest is forbidden. The Pentateuch describes usury as lending money at interest to the poor, but permits lending at interest to foreigners (Ex 22:25; Lev 25:35-38; Deu 23:19-20). In the later writings this definition is seems to be expanded to cover all lending of money at interest (Ps 15:1,5). Justin Martyr, in the “Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew”, translates Ps 72:12-14 this way: “For He has delivered the poor from the man of power, and the needy that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy: He shall redeem their souls from usury and injustice, and His name shall be honourable before them.” [1] (Schaff, ANF01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus 1884, 335) Proverbs connects usury with unjust gain (Pr 28:8). Ezekiel describes usury as an abomination and as extortion (Eze 8:8, 13, 17; 22:12). Nehemiah contains an extended passage in which the people were forced to mortgage their property and possessions to purchase food and pay their taxes. Nehemiah forced the mortgage holders to restore everything they had taken, along with the interest (Neh 5:1-13).

The tradition of the church has been from the very beginning to forbid the lending of money at interest, which was considered the same as theft. Henry Percival, in his book “The Seven Ecumenical Councils”, provides the following information in his “Excursus on Usury”.

The famous canonist Van Espen defines usury thus:   “Usura definitur lucrum ex mutuo exactum aut speratum;” [the anticipated gain from each loan] and then goes on to defend the proposition that, “Usury is forbidden by natural, by divine, and by human law.   The first is proved thus. Natural law, as far as its first principles are concerned, is contained in the decalogue; but usury is prohibited in the decalogue, inasmuch as theft is prohibited; and this is the opinion of the Master of the Sentences, of St. Bonaventura, of St. Thomas and of a host of others: or by the name of theft in the Law all unlawful taking of another’s goods is prohibited; but usury is an unlawful, etc.” For a proof of usury’s being contrary to divine law he cites Ex. xxii. 25, and Deut. xxiii. 29; and from the New Testament Luke vi. 34. “The third assertion is proved thus. Usury is forbidden by human law: The First Council of Nice in Canon VII. deposed from the clergy and from all ecclesiastical rank, clerics who took usury; and the same thing is the case with an infinite number of councils, in fact with nearly all e.g. Elvira, ij, Arles j, Carthage iij, Tours iij, etc. Nay, even the pagans themselves formerly forbid it by their laws.” He then quotes Tacitus (Annal. lib. v.), and adds, “with what severe laws the French Kings coerced usurers is evident from the edicts of St. Louis, Philip IV., Charles IX., Henry III., etc.”[2] (Percival 2013, 106, 107)


Usury and Modernity

If this be the case, as is difficult to deny, then what accounts for the attitude of modern Christianity towards the subject of lending money at interest? Henry Percival, in his book “The Seven Ecumenical Councils”, makes the case that the distinction between interest and usury is Calvinist in origin.

The glory of inventing the new moral code on the subject, by which that which before was looked upon as mortal sin has been transfigured into innocence, if not virtue, belongs to John Calvin! He made the modern distinction between “interest” and “usury,” and was the first to write in defence of this then new-fangled refinement of casuistry. [98] Luther violently opposed him, and Melancthon also kept to the old doctrine, though less violently (as was to be expected); today the whole Christian West, Protestant and Catholic alike, stake their salvation upon the truth of Calvin’s distinction! (Percival 2013, 107)

It is interesting to read what some say about this. Merrill F. Unger describes usury as money loaned to aid the struggling poor. (Unger 1966, 1129) This idea is often thought to have been Jesus’ view as well, for he tells people to give to everyone who asks, and not require it again, and not to lend hoping for a return (Luk 6:30, 35). Although some read the Lukan text as “an exhortation to general and disinterested benevolence”, the text does not support this presumption, for this is not Jesus’ only mention of the subject. (Vermeersch 1912) In the parable of the unjust steward, the steward is entrusted with a sum of money; the steward thinks his master a hard and austere man, and hides the money rather than risk it. The master, condemns the unjust steward, for if he thought the master a hard and austere man, he should have lent the money out at interest (Matthew 25:26-27; Luke 19:22-23). The clear implication is that only a hard and austere man would lend money at interest.

After describing the particular social situation that gave rise to the prohibition of usury in the Old Testament and after describing the Luke 6 passage as being in the same vein, Unger indicates that the practice of lending money for commercial purposes was unknown, and therefore not prohibited. (Unger 1966) The Catholic Encyclopedia expands upon this idea when it describes how usury has been viewed over the centuries—from being barely mentioned in the early church, to being prohibited to clerics, to being to all Christians, to being absolutely prohibited by Jew and Christian alike in the medieval church, and from there to the modern view that acceptance of interest on loans is not absolutely prohibited. The modern argument proceeds from the idea of justice: it is unjust to expect a lender to risk his capital and forgo the use of same in other money-making ventures with no expectation of return. (Vermeersch 1912)

This discussion of the development of doctrine in this area seemingly explains away the church fathers and fails to take into account insight derived from apocryphal literature, including some writings that were of use in the early church. For example, the Apocalypse of Peter, likely composed prior to the middle of the second century, contains the following: “And in another great lake, full of pitch and blood and mire bubbling up, there stood men and women up to their knees: and these were the usurers and those who take interest on interest” (Apocalypse of Peter, 30). (Schaff, ANF09. 2004, 276) The so-called “Vision of Paul”, ostensibly an account of what he saw when he was taken up into heaven, was generally rejected by the church, and specifically mentioned by Augustine as being spurious. Yet the Vision of Paul was in use among the monks, and contains the following passage: “And I saw another multitude of pits in the same place, and in the midst of it a river full of a multitude of men and women, and worms consumed them. But I lamented and sighing asked the angel and said: Sir, who are these? And he said to me: These are those who exacted interest on interest and trusted in their riches and did not hope in God that He was their helper” (Vision of Paul, 37). (Schaff, ANF09. 2004, 293)

From the great Clement of Alexandria (writing in The Stromata), we find confirmation regarding interpretation of the Old Testament teaching regarding usury. As Clement rightly points out, “The law prohibits a brother from taking usury: designating as a brother not only him who is born of the same parents, but also one of the same race and sentiments, and a participator in the same word.” (Schaff, ANF02. 2004, 601) But we are not under law, but under grace (Rom 6:14); and under grace, our responsibilities to our neighbor are greater. Jesus, in answer to the question “Who is my neighbor”, gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan. A certain man is fell among thieves, and is grievously wounded. A priest and a Levite pass him by, but a Samaritan helps him. Jesus then asks: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” The reply came: “He that shewed mercy on him.” Jesus then gave his universal charge: “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luk 10:25-37).

Under law, a person was restricted from lending money at interest to someone the law defined as a brother, someone who fell under the protections of the old covenant. Under grace, we are constrained to show mercy to all, for all mankind may partake of the new covenant. Therefore the whole world is our neighbor. While a Jew could lend at interest to someone outside the covenant, for the Christian no one is outside covenant protections. As the whole world is out neighbor, we are therefore constrained from lending money at interest.

Am I my Brother’s Keeper: The Theological Rationale Against Usury

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9) This, the answer of Cain following his murder of his brother Abel, is the first recorded question asked of God in the Holy Scriptures. It is ultimately the same question asked of Jesus by the lawyer when he sought to justify himself: “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). This spirit of self-justification is the opposite of the spirit enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the state of original righteousness, a state in which they were naked, and not ashamed (Gen 2:25).

Prior to the fall of mankind, we see Adam created in solitude, of which God said it was “not good” (Gen 2:18). Once woman is created, man is no longer alone. Mankind is both iss and issa, both male and female. Although the first five days of creation were called “good”, only after the creation of mankind does our Maker look at His creation and call it “very good” (Gen 1:31). Mankind is created in the image of God and, as we see in the second creation account, is created with a full “communion of persons” (John Paul II 2006, 162ff). Because of this communion of persons, as “one flesh” created as male and female, mankind is a typological representation of the communion of persons within the trinity. What we see after the fall is a broken communion—not only with God, but with each other.

The questions “Am I my brother’s keeper” and “Who is my neighbor” are only possible after the fall. They are humanity’s expressions of Satan’s fivefold “I wills” (Isa 14:12-14), through which Lucifer expressed the broken communion between himself and the most High. Thus the question “Am I my brother’s keeper” is an expression of the self and shame, and a denial of the very essence of humanity. This self-justifying question is an expression of the pride that came before the fall. The question is a fig leaf designed to cover one’s essential nakedness before God, before humanity, and even before one’s own self.

The original creation of mankind as male and female was “very good”. Adam and Eve were created in communion with each other, in the image of God, and as a typological representation of the communion within the trinity. Thus the meaning of “naked, and not ashamed” is not an expression of sexuality, but is the essence of humanity created in original righteousness. “Naked, and not ashamed” is an anthropological statement, a description of what it means to be human. “Naked, and not ashamed” is also an ontological statement, a description of mankind’s original order of being. In the state of original righteousness, the question of “am I my brother’s keeper” has no meaning. The question only makes sense after the fall, as a description and consequence of an anthropological and ontological change in the nature of humanity.

After the fall, God pronounced a curse not only upon humanity, but upon the earth, for we were created “of the dust of the ground” (Gen 2:7), and unto dust we shall return (Gen 3:17). The curse passed upon the entire earth: “all flesh shall perish together” (Job 34:15). Adam’s sin not only passed upon all humanity (I Cor 15:22), but upon the entire creation, which “groaneth and travaileth in pain together”. Thus the communion of persons, by which we were intended to be “naked, and not ashamed”, has become a communion in suffering, a sharing of the curse.

James, the brother of our Lord, described humanity’s lot in this manner: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas 4:14). Isaiah likewise says: “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” (Isa 40:6-7). But Isaiah does not leave us comfortless, but describes God’s provision in the midst of suffering: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isa 40:9-11).

In this manner Isaiah describes God’s providential, merciful care for his people.

Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. (Isa 49:8-10)

God’s gracious provision for mankind, His active involvement in the fate of individuals, is the characteristic of mercy. After holiness, mercy is God’s most important characteristic. We, being made after the image and likeness of God, are called to show mercy to our neighbor. And in showing mercy, we lend without expectation of reward.


John Paul II. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006.

Percival, Henry R. The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Kindle. Edited by Sr. Paul A. Böer. Veratitis Splendor Publications, 2013.

Schaff, Philip. ANF01. Edited by Alexander Roberts, & James Donaldson. Vol. 1. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1884.

—. ANF02. Edited by Phillip Schaff. Vol. 2. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2004.

—. ANF09. Edited by Phillip Schaff. Vol. 9. 10 vols.Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2004.

Unger, Merrill F. Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Third Edition. Chicago: Moody Press, 1966.

Vermeersch, Arthur. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.


[1] Justin Martyr seems to be following the Vulgate for Ps 72:12-14, in which the word usuries is the Latin translation of the Hebrew תך (tok), translated in the AV as deceit.

[2] That the student may be able to find the resources for him or herself, Henry Percival provides the following information:

Although the conditions of the mercantile community in the East and the West differed materially in some respects, the fathers of the two churches are equally explicit and systematic in their condemnation of the practice of usury.   Among those belonging to the Greek church we find Athanasius (Expos. in Ps. xiv); Basil the Great (Hom. in Ps. xiv). Gregory of Nazianzum (Orat. xiv. in Patrem tacentem). Gregory of Nyssa (Orat. cont. Usurarios); Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. iv. c. 37), Epiphanius (adv. Haeres. Epilog. c. 24), Chrysostom (Hom. xli. in Genes), and Theodoret (Interpr. in Ps. xiv. 5, and liv. 11).   Among those belonging to the Latin church, Hilary of Poitiers (in Ps. xiv); Ambrose (de Tobia liber unus). Jerome (in Ezech. vi. 18); Augustine de Baptismo contr. Donatistas, iv. 19); Leo the Great (Epist. iii. 4), and Cassiodorus (in Ps. xiv. 10). (Percival 2013, 108)


Divine Silence in the Face of Evil

A woman cries at the funeral of Christians killed in Maaloula.

A woman cries at the funeral of Christians killed in Maaloula.

The problem of the existence of evil and death, given the power and goodness of God, is called theodicy. Even young children sometimes ask questions about whether God created evil and, if He did not, how and why He allows evil to exist. This is a profound question, one that has been wrestled with by young and old, by the simple and the educated, by both saint and sinner alike. And yet there is another more profound question.

Why is God silent in the face of evil? Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica makes mention of this, the Divine silence, in connection with Christ’s own suffering and death. “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth” (Acts 8:32). Christ himself was silent in the face of this great evil being done to him. He did not object, he did not present a defence, he did not protest his innocence. All of which made the act of the Jewish and Roman leaders even more monstrous.

I do not have a satisfactory answer to the existence of evil, at least not an answer that will satisfy once and for all. Neither do I understand the Divine silence in the face of evil, especially the evil done to the Church, which is his body. Yet I also know that Christ is most present with us during times of suffering. He suffers with us, and we suffer with Him. In Mark chapter 13, Jesus tells us to give no thought as to what we will speak when we are called to give an account of our faith, for the Holy Spirit will speak through us.  Perhaps God speaks through  and with the voice the martyrs. If this is true, then the voice of the martyrs speaks not truth to power, but truth with power.

Job himself suffered, and no satisfactory answer for his suffering was given him. Yet Job spoke truth with power when he said: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25-27).

The psalmist cries out with us against the evil of this world. “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps 73:1-3). This is perhaps the clearest expression of the problem of theodicy, which becomes a problem when we take our eyes off of God and focus one our neighbor’s continuing good fortune in the face of their own sin. When we cease repenting our own sins and focus on the sin of our brother, the goodness of God seems far away. The psalmist continues his protest against God until something changes. “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;  Until I went into the sanctuary of God” (Ps 73:16-17).

When reading this, I cannot help but think of Peter the disciple walking on the water, until he takes his eyes off of Jesus and focuses on his immediate circumstances. He begins to sink, until he cries out to Jesus, who pulls him from the water and places him back in the boat, which reminds us of Noah’s Ark, which is a type of the church.

I have no answers to the problem of evil. I only hope that when my time comes, that the Holy Spirit speaks through me as powerfully as He speaks through one of the new martyrs of Syria: “I am a Christian, and if you want to kill me for this, I do not object to it.”


How to explain the Russian thinking on homosexuality?

Russian attitudes on homosexuality (1998 - 2012)

Russian attitudes on homosexuality (1998 – 2012)

“If protecting individual rights (including the right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’) is not the main task of a government, what is?  Older governments, including the government of what is now called Byzantium, would have replied, “justice”, including as one of its main components the promotion of virtue.  That is, rulers were concerned to discover what was just and virtuous behaviour and then to outlaw unjust and unvirtuous behaviour.  Obviously since rulers were fallen, they often made a mess of it, like all men make a mess of everything.  But attaining virtue remained the goal.  The question for them was not, ‘What are my rights as a citizen?’, but rather, ‘How should I live as a citizen?’  The focus was on the promotion of virtue and the elimination of vice.

“I am not saying, of course, that there is no overlap between the two approaches to law, or no commonality between the ancient way of looking at society and our modern one.  And I am as happy as anyone else living in the west to have the freedom to speak (or blog, like I am now) and not fear the policeman’s knock on my door.   But I am aware that our modern American way is not universal or of any great antiquity.”

Fr. Lawrence Farley

– See more at: http://www.soundingblog.com/index.php/culture/pop-culture/whats-with-russia.html#sthash.6EZGth6I.dpuf


The Loneliness of Contemporary Man

Picture of a man's hands gripping prison bars


My beloved faithful, our contemporary society and most authorities …are increasingly isolating us, in order that we may become lonelier, less bound to each other, and less communicative, in order that they may lead us to their intended destination. They are trying to isolate us, because communities are much harder to lead than isolated individuals.

The Communists have done this through violence. The West doesn’t use violence but another method: proclaiming that you are “unique,” that you have “many rights,” that you are an “independent man,” that you need to be alone, not confined by your parents, not obedient to them or to anyone as a child, because you are a “free man.”

This misunderstood freedom is a revolt against God, it is nihilism.

Thus we have reached the state that we see today, with all the crimes that haunt the world … where fourteen-year-old children shoot their teachers, their friends, and their parents.

We have broken the human ties with those we live near. That spiritual relationship between my brother and me, between my parents and me, between parents and children, between friends has vanished. And in this disintegration of personality, which leads towards a demonized world, we are growing increasingly isolated.

Let us remain united in faith and love with one another, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us stay united in the community of the Church, because the Church of Christ is the only beneficial social group.[1]  Other groups lead to self-destruction. They attempt to destroy humankind, to make man an instrument of business,[2] a mere cog in the complicated mechanism of human society.


Calciu, George. Father George Calciu: Interviews, Homilies, and Talks. Edited by Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. Platina: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2010.

[1] [Fr. George is not speaking here of family and friends. Elsewhere Fr. George speaks of the father as the priest of the family church. He also says: “You are in Christ’s Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, when you help someone elderly walk more easily, or when you give alms to the poor and visit the sick.” (Calciu 2010, 162) The Church of Christ exists wherever we bear the body and blood of Christ to the world; the Church of Christ exists wherever we serve our family, our friends, and our neighbor, renewing the bonds of love and thereby resacrilizing the world.]

[2] [We are treated as an “instrument of business” when we are lumped together in arbitrary groups based on common characteristics rather than as communities of persons — when our primary relationship is viewed as being the isolated customer of a soulless corporation, treated in the aggregate as consumers.]

A Word on the “Spirit of the Times”



There is a “spirit” unveiling itself in Europe and the world in general, a New Age kind of spirit that frequently changes its appearance and speech,[1] striking the Christian world from all sides. Its images is generally gentle, its discourse attractive, but its intent perfidious. This spirit can speak in beautiful words about family, but its intent is to annihilate it. It can also sermonize on the Church, full of “love” for all, a sort of religious syncretism, but its urge is primarily to dispel Orthodoxy. It can speak about nations and their homelands as something that it tries to support, but its intent is to destroy both the Church and the nations. This spirit is called Ecumenism.

And this whole “beautiful” discourse, which takes on many faces, has only one purpose: the destruction of nations, the abolition of the Orthodox Church in particular, and the establishment of a group of leaders, anointed by I do not know whom …to win over all nations to their spirit, to initiate them into certain social, political, and religious orders, so that those leaders may always direct [world events]. Let us not be deceived! I live among these “spreaders” of prolific and protean discourses that cover the world. And I know their hearts. They have no good intention for our Church! Under the guise of Christian love, of Christian peace, they hide their perfidious intent. And I came here to say: Do not be allured by it!…



For their intent is to destroy all the elements of the Faith, the moral elements, the elements of kinship, on which we have relied, since (so they say) there is no absolute truth. The truth, according to them, is that which I possess {i.e., subjective truth]. And therefore, when my neighbor is wrong I cannot tell him, “You are deceived!” Nor can he tell me that I have erred, because we are absolute entities [unto ourselves]. We have our opinions which are absolute, but before others, they hold no value! This game of hiding the truth is an insidious invention of Satan.

Fr. George Calciu. Interviews, Homilies, and Talks. Platina. Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. 2010. 314-315.

Translated by Elena Chiru from Diaconesty Monastery, ed., Fr. George Calciu: Living Words (in Romanian) (Bacau: Bonifaciu Press, 2009), pp. 86-87

[1] [According to the fathers, one of the signs of a demonic spirit is its changeableness, its inability or unwillingness to maintain a consistent appearance.]