How An Orthodox Christian Should Form His Conscience To Exercise His Voting Rights at the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
By Chor-Episcopos Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago, Chief Editor
VOLUME XX FALL 2016 ISSUE 4
What is a Nation?
Webster’s dictionary defines a nation as “a stable, historically developed community of people with a territory, economic life, distinctive culture and language in common… under one government”. The United State of America satisfies all these characteristics and is a nation according to these perspectives. The word nation etymologically comes from the Latin root nasci which literally means to be born. Under this consideration, a nation literally means the birth place of a community of people born in one territory, or the very community of people that is native to one territory. However, America being a land of immigrants, who are either descendants of immigrants of diverse ethnic groups or recent immigrants from different countries, cannot claim to be a nation under its etymological consideration.
Despite the sociological or political definition of a nation, which a Christian cannot disagree, Christian Anthropology and Rational Psychology propose more dimensions to nationhood.
According to Christian anthropological perspectives a nation is an organic entity, because it is composed of rational human persons. An organic entity has a moral purpose for its existence, like a human person is endowed with a purpose for his/ her being. Every organism, particularly a rational organism, is created with a purpose; it is born with a purpose. In Christian anthropology, the purpose is not just consuming food and water and growing and dying at the end when the body cannot sustain itself. The fundamental purpose is mental and spiritual development which would take that person to full communion with his Creator. For this purpose the most essential ingredient is freedom, which is ultimately utilized by one’s reason and will. The bible teaches that God created man in his own image; and in His own likeness He created him. God is a spirit and has no corporeity like we humans possess. Hence the image that He transferred to His new creation must be His moral and spiritual image. The essence of Godhead is that He is a person. In classical and Christian philosophy two rational faculties make one’s personhood, which are the faculties of reasoning and volition; in other words, reason and free will. It is this personhood, which God is and possesses, that was transferred to the newly created man, so that man should be a rational being with free will unlike his counterparts in animal creations. A Christian believes, as taught and confirmed by the scriptures and as later established by human intellectual pursuits such as those in metaphysics and rational psychology, that a corporeal man possesses also a soul and the above faculties are the faculties of his soul. In other words, they are his moral and spiritual faculties.
A nation of rational human beings should be understood in the same manner.
A nation has a purpose like the human beings of whom a nation is composed. A nation is not just an organization; it is an organism, and possesses certain dynamism to sustain itself and to direct its goals for the realization of the well-being of its citizens, for warranting the security of its citizens. These tasks demand intense rational activity and absolute freedom. To discern right from wrong, just like a human being, a nation also requires intense rational activity and unhindered freedom. For a nation these moral faculties are provided by a free society it contains and by the leader and representatives of its government elected by its free society.
If the electorate is under coercion because of unethical political intervention or if the election is “rigged” by certain political forces, the decisions and actions of the resulting administration may not be morally binding. A government receives its moral authority from the consensus of its free electorate; then the administration becomes a moral, dynamic entity. When the early Church underscored the phrase, vox populi vox Dei, she taught that “when people together speak, it was the voice of God”. For a Christian, an administration is morally acceptable and its decisions and actions become morally binding only when it is approved by God through the voice of His people. When St. Paul said that every authority comes from God, in a nation it comes from Him through His people. Even when the nation is not predominantly Christian, or when it is atheistic, God still sends His message through men and women He created in order to validate the authority behind their administration. This is the beauty of democracy; it is ultimately controlled by God. Everyone should realize that although modern democracy has its historical roots in ancient Greek civilization, its relevance and perfection are the direct results of Judeo-Christian social thought since the Protestant Reformation and subsequent Renaissance and Enlightenment in Western Europe. Simply stated, modern democracy is a contribution of the Christian culture. Ultimately it was the result of recognizing the unique preeminence of the human person and his/ her freedom, which is unquestionably a Judeo-Christian contribution.
Anyone who challenges this contention is requested to investigate other religious cultures and decide for himself if those cultures have produced a culture of democracy. India has a long tradition of philosophers and rishies. But did India fashion its democracy after her religious culture? Even the very constitution of India was framed after the constitution of America; thanks to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. What about Islamic countries in the Middle East? Can you ever imagine an ideal democracy in those regions the way we in America think of? In those Muslim countries where democracy is believed to be in place, for example Turkey and Malaysia, do they practice secularism as we do in America? When I was in Kuala Lumpur, where I was for a week in 1992, the TV channels constantly reminded the various hours of Muslim prayers and exposed the very act of worship on public channels; although Malaysia is a more liberal Muslim nation and is tolerant about other religious groups, it is still lacking the secular democracy America is practicing. The main reason is the theocratic force behind every Muslim nation. Although Pakistan holds elections often, it is Islamic theocracy that is behind its constitution, where human freedom is largely restricted, where freedom of conscience has no relevance. That is why we propose that American social thought, i.e. American democracy, is founded on Judeo-Christian religious culture.
With this introduction we are turning to the various issues that confront the Christian conscience in connection with the 2016 U.S. Presidential and Congressional elections.
Issues Fundamental to Orthodox Christianity
Since the 1960’s western democracies, particularly the United States of America, experienced a phenomenal deviation from the commonly accepted Judeo-Christian norms in social mores, particularly in moral and ethical issues. Advancement in the medical field that directly impacted human reproduction and particularly human sexuality considerably changed the traditional societal view on many core values such as great virtues and values of the sanctity and inviolability of human life, the sacred gift of human sexuality, indissolubility of the sacramental marital union, sacredness of human gender, scriptural indictment on homosexuality, illegitimate cohabitation of couples and even child-rearing. This tendency eventually created a permissive society having no regard for any traditional values. Definitely, with the onset of Pragmatism our modern society deviated from traditional philosophical and theological premises which supported the ethical columns of the society, and this shift played an important role in forming the minds of the younger generation, particularly the university scholars and students, to foment this change. Thus the basic concepts of human life became totally distorted and deplorably chaotic.
Thus TRUTH became relative; REALITY became relative; and they lost their absolute character. For example, virginity which was considered a great value and virtue in the traditional society was reduced into just a relative virtue with value to those who desire it. The virtue of chastity lost its nobility and covetability. Promiscuity and fornication, which were once morally unjustified, have no moral implication anymore. The personhood of human being from the moment of conception and in the womb was seriously questioned, and thus a human fetus before birth was denied its rights and privileges. An embryo or fetus became a part of the body of a woman which she could remove anytime at her will if it becomes a nuisance or inconvenience or a detriment.
However, the system of checks and balances within our political and administrative sphere was somewhat protective of the traditional value system. But the current scene does not seem to be very encouraging; because the left-leaning progressivism in our politics and the post-modern leftist indoctrination of our youth, especially by our academic institutions, has created a world having little respect and regard for a traditional society with values. If there are any values they have only a pragmatic value. If a value generates pleasure, it is useful, and has value. Thus we have a hedonistic society.
New programs initiated by the left-leaning administration in accordance with downgrading of the traditional value system and in satiating the progressive groups slowly curtail the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Human freedom has thus become not an absolute value or a right of a human person, but a convenience which may be granted or restricted for the convenience of the prevailing progressive ideology. Religious freedom is seriously threatened in this frightening situation. No one seriously thinks about the consequence of this ideology.
What Does the Orthodox Church Teach About Our Civic Duty?
Orthodox Christians have an obligation to participate in promoting the common good; and this is done by taking an active part in public life. For us Orthodox Christians responsible citizenship is a virtue and participation in political life is a moral obligation. Through this participation, we find meaning in our baptismal commitment to follow Christ and bear witness to Christ and His teachings. For us the political engagement we are called for should be different from what we see around among members of various political parties in which they oppose and attack each other for the victory of their candidates. In place of partisan attacks our political engagement should be molded by our moral convictions on issues affecting various aspects of our lives and by our well-formed consciences. We should be focused on human freedom, dignity and protection of every human being from conception to death, traditional marriage between a man and a woman, the common good, and the protection of the weak including the unborn, the poor, the sick and the vulnerable.
Sometimes a Christian is confronted with candidates of either party who do not share the Church’s commitment to doctrines on human sexuality, dignity of human life from the point of conception to death, and gender and racial equality. This creates a dilemma for the believer. In those situations, a Christian has to depend on his well-formed Christian conscience, and has to take the extraordinary step of not voting for anyone, or after careful deliberation chooses someone who is less likely to follow a morally objectionable path or might be more focused on other acceptable paths which are less damaging to the Christian ethical core. If you attended your Sunday school classes as a young person and if you participate in Liturgies on Sundays and listen to the sermons, or if you have a steady habit of reading the Scriptures or other books that expose the moral teaching of Orthodox Christianity, your Christian conscience must be well-formed by the time you reach the polling booth.
At the moment when America is in the course of electing her new president and the representatives of the legislative bodies, the duty of every Orthodox Christian is to study the candidates and their backgrounds and the various issues they stand on. There is nothing wrong if a priest is explaining to his parishioners where each candidate stands morally, spiritually, and in relation to Christianity in general. The Church cannot be engaged in partisan politics, because that is not her business. However, when the outcome of an election might become a detriment to the Church and her freedom to promulgate her faith and moral and spiritual principles that make her the “salt of the earth”, each priest should be concerned about the candidates and their vision for the future of this country.
Europe long ago lost its moral hegemony and its value system has deplorably weakened. Europe has already lost its traditional values; its churches are almost empty on Sundays, sexuality has no moral implications, couples do not beget children because of a hedonistic life-style and the population is on zero growth, traditional marriage has no special recognition, abortions are available on demand and anti-establishment fever is rampant. It is in that vacuum that Islam is setting its foot, possibly for a caliphate. The only country in the west which still retains a power base for the Judeo-Christian value system is America. More than fifty years ago America’s Protestant Evangelist Billy Graham quoted Arnold J. Toynbee in his interview with Christian Life magazine “The future of the world rests with the United States”. Yes, if America is lost having no traditional moral and social values, it is not just that she would become irredeemable, the whole world is on the verge of destruction, as there are no other greater nations with a more demanding value-based social system to guide the world. Some may argue that in the global arena India is a strong moral force in view of her spiritual heritage which is multimillennial. However, India may not have a chance to penetrate into world affairs and to the point of guiding the rest of the world in this matter due to her burdensome baggage of unattractive caste system that is continually ruining its social fabric and due many other reasons.
Every Orthodox Christian should consider where each major party stands on issues. He then has to compare the positions of each candidate and assess how they impact the nation in the long run.
If a nation does not stand on moral columns it will collapse within no time. We read the history of major empires that existed from ancient times. The Greek Empire of Alexander extended over three continents. Most powerful was the Roman Empire. We know how and why they collapsed: moral disintegration. Due to the affluence they enjoyed, particularly the elite who were in power, pleasure alone became their sole goal. Slothfulness and laziness crept into their life. Immorality had no limits. Homosexuality was justified (even the great philosopher Plato is said to have practiced it and justified it). There was no scruple to commit infanticide, particularly female infanticide. Labor became just the task of slaves, while other citizens enjoyed life without producing anything. The kings plundered the wealth of other countries by waging war against them. We do not know if they had any “entitlement programs”, when these countries were running down economically. But the sad end was that they all became extinct; the stones and columns they left behind still remain as vestiges of their old glory. When the supporting columns crumble no edifice will survive.
Readers, this is what is going to happen to this great nation, which we call America, a paradise for millions of people where millions and millions were attracted as immigrants from the time of the first settlers to the present time. It is through the gift of freedom, which is a gift of the Creator to His rational humans, that this country flourished, developed and now stands out as the most enviable and covetable land to live on earth. However the progressive generation in America did away with the original significance of freedom, a contribution of Judeo-Christian culture borrowed from the Holy Bible.
The progressive Left considers “freedom” a state of our mind which is created by our brain which is ultimately ‘matter’; “freedom” is not a gift of God and has no absolute value. Therefore, the progressives think about freedom as a relative value which could be used in those contexts where it is advantageous to them, in which the state has absolute freedom to legislate any measure of its bureaucratic activities without any consideration for the freedom the population it serves. The state is concerned only about the political agenda they have proposed during the election season or only about facilitating the implementation of legislation. It does not pay much attention to the fact that some legislations would really infringe upon the rights of certain groups, which are protected by the Constitution. The ultimate purpose of this tendency is eventually to establish a full scale socialism in which individual freedom is restricted or controlled. In pure socialism the state controls all aspects of human life and human behavior, and what we eat or drink, what we think and write. This writer thinks that the present trend is indicative of a powerful movement towards socialism, if not communism. Some of the leaders behind this trend also think that the present Constitution of the United States may need to be reinterpreted for their advantage, forgetting the fact that it is the social bible of American people. The Left may even dismantle this sacred document when the right occasion arrives.
They also believe that religion in America has a greater influence on public policy and decision-making. Hence the role of religion needs to be limited. They teach that America is a secular country and there is separation between state and religion and that religion has no business in the affairs of the state. Further, these elites define religious freedom as simply “the freedom of worship”. This definition clearly restricts the freedom of religious people who follow their religion and their conscience. Life in religion demands more than just “the freedom of worship”. For example for a physician or pharmacist, his practice of religion is not a Sunday affair in the Church. Some of his decisions have moral implications and hence he could not prescribe or administer a drug against his religious conscience; a Christian doctor cannot prescribe an abortifacient medication and a Christian pharmacist cannot dispense such a drug in violation of his conscience. An Orthodox Christian gynecologist in his conscience cannot perform an operation for abortion.
Recently the Obama administration fined the Little Sisters of the Poor for $70 million dollars a year for their refusal to comply with the Health and Human Services mandate that required them to distribute birth control items in violation of their Christian conscience! For Roman Catholics and for many conservative Christians it is against their Christian teaching to distribute and use artificial birth control devices. This battle between state and religious groups will continue as the administration expands its entitlement programs or as government is expanded.
According to the Left, secularism does not honor any God or any moral principles. These elites think that belief in a God is a primitive idea, and is not meant for the scientifically advanced culture. Their ideal for America is a truly secular society without any influence of religion, which they think they can create in a few decades through the media and educational institutions, and their elites and academicians. If there is such a belief in a God it should be a private thing and should not have any bearing on public life or public policy. The progressives address only the mundane issues and problems that disturb a group of the citizenry and how they react to them and to their government. When finding solutions for such problems they have no regard for any religion. If a question arises, they want to settle the constitutional question of religious liberty in a liberal court. It is at this juncture the conservatives in this country are eagerly waiting for a balance of judicial power in the high court of this country to safeguard freedom, particularly religious freedom, as guaranteed by the Constitution of this country.
If America elects a new president who is treading the same path of the present administration, most Christians and conservatives are concerned about the next judicial appointments. There may be a very liberal Supreme Court and when it interprets the Constitution there is no guarantee for any one of the freedoms protected by the Constitution. Each Orthodox Christian should be aware of this possibility, especially when liberal judges are appointed on the bench.
Currently America Is Distinguishably Divided: Let Orthodox Christians Make Up Their Minds Before Reaching the Polling Booths.
Let us examine some key issues that are crucial to Christians and where each party platform stands. Although we give the names of the parties, we prefer no parties; issues are our focus. It is the preference of the Christians that matters; we only guide them through various critical issues. Here we present the proposed plans of action by the major parties and how they affect the country and its traditional value system. We favor those that defend our traditional values, our freedom and our culture. (For the following abstract of party platforms we are indebted to DECISION magazine, September 2016)
Protection of Life from conception to natural death:
The Democratic Party presidential candidate advocates abortion as a woman’s rights issue. This candidate’s party favors abortion in general if the pregnant woman chooses it. Late term abortions are acceptable if it is needed for the health of the mother. This party also favors tax-payer funding for Planned Parenthood even if the funds are used for abortion at any level of pregnancy. Reproductive rights of women will be supported globally.
The Republican Party presidential candidate and the party behind him are totally pro-life. But there are exceptions for rape, incest and for the life of the mother. (Please understand that Orthodox theologians seriously question the morality of taking the life of an unborn baby/ fetus to save its mother; the unborn is totally innocent, and its life can never be destroyed according to Christian morality. Both lives are equally sacred). Some services of Planned Parenthood may be federally funded, not the abortion aspect. “The unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.” This party will defend children before birth by applying the 14th amendment.
Marriage/ Homosexual Partnership
Democratic Party favors last year’s Supreme Court ruling that “LGBT people like other Americans have the right to marry the person they love.”
Republican Party opposes the Supreme Court decision, particularly the ruling that removed the ability of Congress and the people of the states to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. This party wants a reversal of those decisions either through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment.
(For Orthodox Christians it is a very crucial issue that is part of their faith. They have to intensely pray for God’s intervention in this matter so that the true nature of marriage is vindicated in this land.)
Supreme Court Appointments
Democratic Party will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all and protect the right of a woman for abortion. (Orthodox believers, this is a trap. It has become already evident through the media that these judges the Party’s nominee for president will appoint will be liberal justices who might not be much concerned about our values. Pray that the country will be rescued from such possibilities).
Republican Party platform states: “A critical threat to our country’s constitutional order is an activist judiciary that usurps powers properly reserved to the people through other branches of government”. This party is expected to appoint judges and justices who honor the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states.
Defending the Country
Democratic Party advocates decreased military funding. Reduction of excessive spending on nuclear spending is also necessary. The repeal of “Don’t ask Don’t Tell “ will stay.
Republican Party favors building a strong military as a path to peace and security. The Party is for restoring the military power and rebuilding the troop number. The Republican platform is for modernizing nuclear arsenal.
Democratic Party says: “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and reject the misuse of religion to discriminate”. No question on religion will be asked when immigrants are accepted into the country.
Republican platform says that religious freedom is part of the Bill of Rights, and it protects the right of the people to practice their faith in their everyday lives. The party also supports the First Amendment Defense Act which protects faith-based institutions and individuals from government discrimination and intervention.
Internet Safety & Decency
The Democratic Party endorses “a free and open internet at home and abroad”. The Party also would support cyber security while “protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people”. (Listen, Orthodox Christian, there is no special effort to safeguard children from indecent materials of pornography or such contents. This is a very important area an Orthodox Christian must be concerned about.)
The Republican platform says: “The internet must not become a safe haven for predators. Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.”
The Democratic platform firmly asserts that global terrorism must be defeated, but there is a preference clause for “diplomacy and development”; and war is “a last resort”.
The Republican Party asserts that there is no treaty status for Iran deal; it has only emboldened the Tehran regime in sponsoring terrorism. The platform says: “We must stand up for our friends, challenge foes, and destroy ISIS”. It also is supportive of Christian communities trapped in genocidal attacks.
The Democratic Party platform opposes Republican presidential nominee’s suggestion to ban immigrants from countries known to train and transport terrorists, mostly Muslim countries.
The Republican Party does not support any form of amnesty for anyone who entered the country illegally. A border wall will be built. The Party does not want any refugees who cannot be carefully vetted to enter the country, especially whose homelands “have been the breeding grounds for terrorism”.
Democratic Party recognizes gay rights as a human right. Party leaders tie International development funds in poor countries to adherence to the LGBT agenda. Its platform asserts: “We will continue to stand with LGBT people around the world, including fighting efforts by any nation to infringe on LGBT rights or ignore abuse”.
The Republican platform says: America will always remain a beacon of hope to those who stand in the darkness of tyranny. This party seeks “a radical rethinking of human rights diplomacy, adopting a ‘whole of government’ approach in which human rights issues are integrated at every appropriate level of America’s relationship with other nations”.
Position on Israel
The Democratic Party says: We will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge. We will oppose any efforts to delegitimize Israel. Jerusalem should remain as the undivided capital of Israel while negotiations for its final status are progressing, and as an undivided city it should be accessible to people of all faiths.
Republican Party expresses “unequivocal support for Israel” because it is the only country in the Middle East with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The Party recognizes Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state.
Law & Order
Democratic Party plans to abolish capital punishment, will reform mandatory minimum sentences, close private prisons, and end racial profiling.
Republican Party “decries the creation of new ‘crimes’ by unelected civil servants and political appointees and sees this as federal overreach. Its platform emphasizes restorative justice including guidance by faith-based institutions.” It observes that “death penalty is firmly settled by the Fifth Amendment and opposes efforts to erode this right”.
Taking Care of The Needy and Poor
The Democratic Party will lavishly provide entitlements to address the issue of poverty by directing “federal resources to lifting up communities that have been left out and left behind.” The Party also will create more jobs, build more affordable rental housing units and will “enhance opportunities by investing in small business, youth employment and reentry programs for formerly incarcerated people.”
The Republican Party says handouts will keep people dependent; therefore an atmosphere in which more opportunities are available for work will be created. In other words, entitlements are not the ultimate solution for addressing poverty.
(The party platforms given above are taken from DECISION magazine September 2016)
Our norms for decision to vote for a candidate should be based on the platform he represents. If he is going to uphold the Constitution of America in letters and spirit, if he reflects our traditional values, if he is going to defend absolute freedom for all citizens, if he supports religious freedom, if he is going to defend our borders and our country with all the might of our military, if he is determined to defend the American culture (not a multicultural common culture in which different cultural groups would create divisiveness) and if he is going to restore the America our forefathers founded, your vote should be for him.
Some political activist might impress you with liberal entitlement programs that the government may hand out. Let us examine if they satisfy our criteria for a decision on polling day.
Are Liberal Policies on Entitlements the Criteria for a Decision to Vote for a Candidate?
Many consider that we should cast our votes for a party that promises liberal entitlements and benefits for the citizens of our nation. Many citizens think of a European model with which many countries offer voluminous benefits for their citizens from birth to death, such as child allowances, free health care, total senior care, free education from kindergarten to doctorate, unemployment allotments, free housing for the unemployed and poor and the like. It is beautiful to think about such great benefits; but people seldom think about the huge burden the governments carry to maintain such programs. A nation as such does not have any money of its own. It collects money from various taxes its citizens pay. When it does not have enough money for its programs, it levies more taxes and more taxes on its citizens. When it does not have enough, it borrows through various instruments. If it does not have enough money it may fail to meet its international obligations, and finally end up in huge national debts. Every year when entitlements and benefits are expanded, a nation has only one solution: increase the taxes. No nation can go like this year after year with every budget ad infinitum. It will face fiscal collapse.
Having said this I do not ignore the needs of elderly people and their health care, poor young children, poor and handicapped people who are physically unable to work, people who cannot afford a health insurance and whose employer does not provide health insurance or adequate insurance, and people whose income is less than adequate to purchase expensive drugs for their treatment. To take care of such people is an obligation of the nation, and its citizens have to pay a fare share in taxes to support such programs to show their gratitude for all the comforts, freedoms and prosperity they enjoy in a free nation; and I believe it is also a duty of the citizens. However certain benefits are ethically questionable. For example, those elderly parents who were sponsored to immigrate to this country by their children have become a liability to the government of this country after a few years, and the heavy burden of taking care of them and their health care has become an enormous financial strain on this country. They have become eligible for some sort of Social Security benefits in addition to a total health care package. Such people have never worked in this country, nor have they contributed their share in taxes or other dues. Seriously, do they deserve any entitlements?
Most political systems with a Left leaning offer lavish and generous entitlements that may not demand any genuine and serious requirement to receive them. A lot of citizens tend to use unethical means to receive them despite the punishments attached to offenders. The recipient of benefits may not have to do anything in return for their benefits. This socialist approach used by governments and by their human services has created enormous problems in human creativity, such as lack of motivation to work, and the enthusiasm to seek employment. This system generates a lazy and slothful generation without productivity.
The incentive for citizens to seek work and to work and to keep a job has diminished as a result of generous entitlements provided by the U.S. government. This system makes people more and more dependent on government and its social programs, and would promote lack of enthusiasm for upward mobility which is achieved by education, particularly career oriented and vocational education, and by hard work. Such a system eventually creates and has already created, a generation without motivation for economic growth, and it also becomes criminally envious of those who work hard in school and in their careers and make the American dream.
Certain groups of the citizenry, particularly the minority, would be permanently victimized by the perpetualization of this kind of dependency on the government. Social entitlement programs are necessary to help the less than fortunate citizens of the country in order to raise them to the level of self-dependency; and it should be a standing system for the poor and sick, particularly the aged with very limited income, who are permanently impoverished and have no chance to rise up to self-dependency due to many reasons. However, if a group of people does belong to the latter category and have become permanently dependent on such entitlements, the program itself has failed and it is to be blamed; because it has not been properly implemented or it was ill-advised. It looks like certain political ideologies want to keep these groups always within their grip by keeping them always craving for entitlements. These groups would never resurrect from their victimized state because they would never reach to the point of self-dependency. With promises of free benefits, political groups may always want to keep these underprivileged under the tight teeth of entitlements since the latter is a committed vote bank in their political ambitions. As a theological writer, who emphasize ethical relevance in our public programs, I have some reservation to endorse this scheme as a permanent solution for social problems.
This is not the social value system Orthododox Christianity is endorsing. Therefore, as an intelligent citizen, who is concerned about ethical relevance, a voter should not consider entitlements as genuine criteria for his decision to cast his vote.
What Does Orthodox Christianity Teach?
The bible clearly teaches that everyone should earn his bread by the sweat of his forehead. One’s hard work entitles him to his bread; he has to earn his bread. A person receives anything free when he becomes poor because he cannot work due to physical or mental disabilities or does not have the opportunity or freedom to work. According to Christian social thought, which has foundation in the Scriptures and Patristics, it is the task of every government to protect the opportunity and freedom of every citizen to seek his well-being, financial security and ultimately happiness so that he may not depend on anyone but himself.
The purpose of any government is to foster the well-being and the prosperity of its citizens and protect them from all dangers and attacks. The Christian ideal for any government is the empowerment of its citizens to conduct their lives with freedom, without infringing upon the freedom of other citizens, with the least dependency on their government, and to seek their own social, economic and spiritual well-being. The citizens are also obligated to support the government for their internal security and external aggression. In other words, governmental interference with the lives of citizens should be at a minimum unless there is a criminal situation which threatens the safety of the citizens.
However, in modern times, due to progressive views or liberal economic leanings many governments have become larger and larger every year with liberal entitlements, and has become burdensome to taxpayers, particularly to the middle class; this tendency has never been an incentive for people to be responsible for their own lives. Europe had been experimenting with this kind of ideology for a long time and in America this has a history of less than fifty years as a governmental general policy.
Most of the time it is the policy on entitlements that determines the outcome of an election. Why? Most of the aspects of the common man are intertwined with entitlements, which are fundamentally mundane and tangible issues. They cover a wide range of human problems, such as health care, food on the table, pregnancy and child care, abortion and adoption, educational services, housing and the like. In other words whatever concerns your body is an entitlement issue. It seldom covers human person and his positive and moral and ethical development, a sound value system that respects the human person from conception to the hospice bed, ethics as a discipline to guide the moral and spiritual development of a person, the inviolability of human freedom, the sacredness of the U.S. Constitution and the like. In other words, these values are not mundane and hence not covered under entitlements.
For Christians, particularly Orthodox Christians whose social value system is more fundamental and conservative, an election season calls for their conscientious decision which is not simply determined by peripheral issues of mere mundane concerns; this is not to say that mundane issues are totally negligible.
This Is the Time for Our Supreme Decision.
Brethren, our nation is in deep trouble. Our moral foundation has already been shaken. If we do not stand firm to restore a society with freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion as intended by the founding fathers, this country will not last long. When a bakery owner was fined thousands of dollars for not willing to provide a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, our freedom of religion was taken away from us. When a county clerk was disciplined for not issuing a marriage license for a homosexual couple, our freedom of conscience was denied in this country where freedom was declared one of the inalienable rights of a human being.
How do we restore our past? The only thing we can do at this critical juncture is to use our basic right to vote for the right candidate as citizens of this country carefully and prayerfully. Follow your conscience and vote for the best candidate for the presidency who you think can restore this country back to its past glory.
You know that a liberal Supreme Court will not protect our religious freedom. About one third of the district and appellate court judges are liberal. They were appointed by the Obama administration. If the Supreme Court has a majority of liberal justices, religious freedom in this country may become a memory of the past. A liberal president will choose from these liberal judges of the federal courts to fill the Supreme Court vacancies. In the next four years there may be four or five such vacancies to fill. One can imagine how such a court will function! After reading this editorial, our readers should know which candidate will appoint liberal justices on the bench, and which candidate will appoint conservative justices on the bench. Therefore, please use your voting right wisely and prudently when you elect your new president.
A good number of people asked me: Will America ever rise from this very chaotic and confused period? Are we going to be a nation like Western Europe? Are we going to be a fascist state soon? Are we heading towards total destruction? Is America going to end as nation? Is America going to remain as a Christian nation like in the past? Yes, these anxieties are shared by many. Readers, pray for this country so that our immoralities, our hedonism, and denial of our God will not lead us to total destruction. Pray that God may choose the right leaders, who fear God, obey His commandments, and govern His people with diligence and prudence, for this great nation. America is a pluralistic country where we have people of different religions, different skin colors, and different ethnic backgrounds. Pray that our new president will be a leader for all these children of God and will execute justice for all of them without discrimination.
We have presented a philosophical and theological narrative describing our Orthodox Christian civic duty at general elections and an outline of party platforms for major issues. As responsible Christian citizens it is your turn to critically study them and make decisions. You create your future by your decision on voting day.
May God bless the nation of America with a wise leader as president and unselfish representatives as legislators in Congress!