This reprint (with changes) seems fitting for America’s Independence Day celebrations this weekend.
I give thanks to God that priests are forbidden (by canon law) to hold political office – not that I would ever be elected – but that I would never want to stand in the place where my Christian faith was so torn – between what I might think good for the state and what would seem obedient to God. Anyone who sits in such a position needs prayer – whether they are Christian or not.
Someone recently shared an article with me in which the author was commenting on a growing sense of connection between the powers that be in Russia and the historical legacy of Byzantium. These are simply natural thoughts for an Orthodox Christian – particularly one living in an historically Orthodox nation. But they are filled with contradictions and dangerous delusions.
Equally delusional is our own American mythology, with its Puritan heritage and its confusion of America with the Promised Land (or something like that). We dare not think ourselves less tempted by religious fantasy.
There have been moments of clarity in Orthodox civilizations that properly inspire and call to the imagination. There have been terrible times of betrayal and persecution which can also create a sense of isolation and unique privilege before God.
But in the end – whether in Russia, America, or anywhere else on earth, the call is the same: to know, love and live in communion with God. This is not a political destiny but the destiny of the human race. It is only made more complicated by utopian dreams or visions of empire. The repentance of nations, a theme that runs through some of the essays of Solzhenitsyn, is a very rare thing indeed. I do not know if I have ever witnessed such a thing. I know that a nation will not live in repentance unless I live in repentance.
And I return to a thought that I’ve mentioned before – the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The prayers of the righteous somehow hold everything before God and play a vital role in their existence. In seasons that draw our attention to life within a political entity, it seems to me, my thought should be less about whose nation is greatest or what political system is the best on earth – but whether I will pray – and pray in such a manner that my feeble words will have contributed to the continued existence and even well-being of our world. The world needs God as I need God. Who will pray for the world? Who will pray for me?