It’s Later Than You Think

James Jattres’ remarks delivered to the Ron Paul Institute Student Seminar, September 3, 2021

I accepted the invitation to speak with you today only with great trepidation. This was for at least three reasons.

The first is that, both for self-protection in an increasingly unfree country and my growing sense that nothing I or anyone else can say will make much difference in averting the horrors I believe are coming our way, I had ceased my public writing and speaking life, such as it was. I reluctantly have made an exception to that less than momentous recusal but plan to resume it at the end of today.

Secondly, I was loath to contaminate the naturally ebullient optimism of youth with my crotchety Boomer pessimism. At your age you should feel that the world is, if not quite your oyster, at least pregnant with possibilities. How do I tell you that, in the layman’s terms, your lives will probably suck? At least in the near future. But there is hope. I will return to that.

Thirdly, I thought it would be derelict of me not to provide you with some sage, old graybeard advice of a practical nature. If I were in your shoes today, what would I do, specifically, to try to make a positive contribution to the world around me? How best to serve God and my neighbor? To make my country and the world a better place? And to do it in relative safety, in a modest degree of economic sustainability, perhaps even comfort? To marry, start a family, and see your offspring rise in peace and prosperity?
This last is most daunting, because the world has changed so much, in such a short time, and the pace of change is accelerating. Back in the olden days of yore, in my case the late 1970s, when I entered government service, that was an honorable thing to do. (Allow me to note that there are some who still spotlessly preserve that honor, such as The – literally – Honorable Thomas Massie, who will address us today. But such examples are rare sightings nowadays. In the institution in which he serves, you could probably count them on one hand, and you might not need your thumb.)
But I digress. When I started out, I did so consciously following in the footsteps of my father, a career Air Force officer and fighter pilot, and my father in law, a career agent in the old Immigration and Naturalization Service. After law school and a bit of flirting with the FBI and CIA, I ended up at the State Department, as a commissioned Foreign Service Officer.

My first assignment was as a Consular Officer in the border city of Tijuana, Baja California, just across from San Diego. The usual duties: jails, hospitals, stolen planes and cars, but mostly visas. With respect to immigrant visas, virtually all the applicants were already living illegally in the US and in most cases receiving various forms of public assistance. In principle, they should have been denied resident alien status under Section 212(a)(15), “likely to become a public charge,” but in practice they couldn’t be denied for receipt of any plethora of benefits – Food Stamps, WIC, Aid to Families with Democratic Children, Medicaid, SSI, etc. etc. — unless it was actually called W-E-L-F-A-R-E, and sometimes not even then. Earlier this year the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. issued a statement lauding the final dropping of the pretense (“Public Charge Rule Is Dead: Hurrah!!” – two exclamation points, seriously…). Lesson: permeable borders and a welfare state are not a good match.

My next assignment was in Washington in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs, a/k/a “the Soviet Desk.” This was at the beginning of the Reagan Administration, but, naïve young fellow that I was, I was shocked – shocked!—to find out that there were hardly any actual anti-communists in the whole Department, not just at the Desk. Not so much communist sympathizers, mind you, just blasé about ideas and ideology, generally accepting of a kind of a mushy FDR/LBJ liberalism tending toward social democracy – in short, like most of the rest of the bureaucracy. Sure, the Soviet version of those values was annoying, but what do you expect from Russians? (It was no surprise that a bureaucracy that was mildly sympathetic to Moscow when it was run by communists – just New Dealers in a hurry – became implacably hostile once the red flag was lowered from the Kremlin.) I remember once when some initiative or other was being floated past the White House, a colleague asked the Desk director, “Do you think the president will go for this?” The Director replied, only partly in jest: “He’s a political appointee. He’ll do what he’s told.” Lesson: at least in foreign policy and national security, forget elections: the permanent bureaucracy rules.

Eventually I left the State Department to work for many years in the Republican leadership of the US Senate. My job was to prepare papers on upcoming legislation (with a partisan spin) and on topics of interest to GOP Senators and staff: the conflicts in Central America, Mozambique, Angola, Grenada; sanctions on South Africa; POWs left behind in Southeast Asia (despite the sanctimonious flying of all those black flags, “You Are Not Forgotten,” they were indeed abandoned, care largely of two Senators with experience in Vietnam); the First Gulf War; the Somalia fiasco; the breakups of the USSR and Yugoslavia; Clinton’s Haiti invasion (“Operation Uphold Democracy” – really!); 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan; and – worst of all – the US military intervention in the Balkans, first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo. The lesson you know already: a lie will travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its running shoes, the first casualty of war is truth – you know the drill.

Likewise, it’s hard to work on Capitol Hill without coming to see what a bazaar it is. (Well, bizarre too, but also a bazaar, a souk, a flea market.) While the bipartisan leadership has not yet taken up the helpful suggestion from the Babylon Bee that barcodes be affixed to legislators’ foreheads so that interested persons and organizations can conveniently scan prices and self-checkout, they have provided a helpful guide to what are called “Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs),” also called coalitions, study groups, task forces, or working groups. Memberships in many but not all CMOs serve as virtual barcodes for potential (mostly legal) campaign donors, including contributions from ethnic compatriots who are US citizens, or at least are supposed to be, funneled to “friends of” this or that foreign country: like the “Argentina Caucus, Armenian Issues Caucus, Azerbaijan Caucus, Bangladesh Caucus, Bosnia Caucus, Brazil Caucus, Cambodia Caucus,…” – you get the idea, all the way to Uzbekistan and Venezuela (what, no Zimbabwe?), with at least four caucuses just for Israel. (Some might say the whole Congress is pretty much an “Israel Caucus,” but that’s a whole ‘nother topic… ) Perhaps it’s the legislative counterpart to the infamous “clientitis” at the State Department, where – as we used to say, “there is no ‘US Interests Section’” – and where diplomats come to see themselves as much or more as advocates for the countries they deal with than for the US. (We also liked to say there could never be a coup in the US overthrowing the Constitutional order because there’s no American Embassy in Washington. I guess we got that one wrong…)

Like many people, I greeted the end of communism in the USSR and the Soviet bloc with a sense of hope. No more need for an ever-growing, ever-more invasive national security surveillance state! A peace dividend! Finally, back to a sane pre-1914 international order! But of course all of the malign trends we had seen during the Cold War, far from decreasing, increased as the – what do you want to call it, the Deep State, the Borg, the Blob, the Swamp, the MICIMATT (Ray McGovern’s Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex) – saw its chance to achieve total global domination – to rule the world — “benevolent global hegemony,” in perpetuity, as neocon gurus William Kristol and Robert Kagan christened it in 1996. Lesson: folks who think night and day about nothing but achieving power, money, and influence tend to get them.

A little slow on the draw, I remember when my seven and a half watt cranial light bulb finally sputtered into illumination. In 1992, I was attending a briefing of the International Republican Institute (IRI), one of the quasi-governmental entities set up to promote – get this! – “democracy” in the 1980s, regarding the recent election in Albania. An IRI staffer who had been working on the ground in that country proudly related how they had helped secure a victory for the Democratic Party over its rival, the former communists rebranded the Socialist Party, for a paltry eight million bucks. Even better, they managed to do it even though – it was clear to everyone, and the staffer was explicit on this point – the Socialists had more public support than the Democrats did! During Q&A, simple fellow that I was, I asked: “But if the Socialists were more popular than the Democrats, wouldn’t the democratic outcome have been a win for the Socialists?” Oh, no no no, you silly boy, you! You see, the Democratic Party has democratic principles, so their win, even though fewer people support them, is the democratic result. It then struck me that we had gone through the looking glass, that words didn’t mean anymore what normal people meant by them.
Well, that was then, this is now. Let’s get something very clear. Back in my day, yes there was corruption, yes there was influence-peddling, yes there was contempt for truth and common decency. But these were debasements within what could still be argued was a structure built on a Constitution and the rule of law. That is, something existed, though as with all human affairs, it was only as good as the people operating within that something. One could still, with a straight face, contend that if the good guys win, if wise policies prevail – audit the Fed, cut taxes, stop our interventionist foreign policy, ban abortion, legalize dope, whatever you want – there was enough integrity to the something to allow for such improvements. We were still living in a normal moral universe, where virtue and vice contended for dominance. We were still living in America.

We really can’t say that anymore. It’s not just that laws and the Constitution are violated – when were they not? – but that they now have almost no relevance to the nation, or perhaps former nation, we have become. When I say nation, I mean the core, founding American ethnos characterized by European ancestry, by the English language, and by the Christian religion, mostly Protestant. The constitutional order established by the Founding Fathers – you know, those racist, gun-toting transphobes in knee britches and powdered wigs – for themselves and their posterity is a secondary epiphenomenon, the ethos of the founding ethnos, their folkways and values. You know, all that quaint Anglo-Saxon due process, habeas corpus, presumption of innocence, limited powers stuff. The primary phenomenon, without which the erstwhile constitutional order would not have existed in the first place, from which it derived its values, principles, and structure, is the ethnos. That is what is under attack, even more than the order itself, which in my opinion is effectively gone.

And it’s come with astonishing speed.

It is difficult to look back on the events of the annus horribilis of 2020—and to anticipate worse to come—without a foreboding that the world is nearing some sort of crescendo. The Gnostic tendency described by Eric Voegelin, in his landmark 1952 book The New Science of Politics – hey, don’t immanentize the eschaton, bro’! — and fitfully growing year by year, decade by decade, century by century, seems to have achieved an unprecedented and decisive degree of domination in a few short months, and not just in America. It is increasingly difficult to see any signpost of restraint, much less of restoration.

Perhaps this crescendo will be similar to earlier ones: collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Islamic conquest of the Eastern Empire, the East-West Great Schism and the Crusades, the neopagan humanism of the Renaissance, the religious strife of the Reformation, the misnamed Enlightenment with its malign offspring Revolution and “Progress,” the world wars and totalitarianisms of the modern era. Yet with each seeming turn of the wheel, with each ebb and flow between disorder and partial re-stabilization, the net linear advance of Gnosticism is undeniable.

Even a cursory search of the internet yields multiple references to the congealing omnipresence of powerful actors in every sphere of life to implement a program called the “Great Reset.” Released in May 2020 by Prince Charles of the United Kingdom and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (commonly known as Davos, after its meeting place in Switzerland), the Great Reset takes its cue from the “Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused” as—no, not as a misfortune, not a calamity—but as “a unique window of opportunity [emphasis added] to shape the recovery,” informed by the insights of “global stakeholders” in “determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies [really, what doesn’t come under the heading of “the priorities of societies”?], the nature of business models and the management of a global commons” in order to “build a new social contract that honors the dignity of every human being,” summed up in the ubiquitous slogan “Build Back Better.” The initiative’s list of Partners (“global stakeholders”) reads like a Who’s Who of the most powerful international corporations.

While the provenance, natural or artificial, of the viral disease that served as the justification—or pretext—for this “unique opportunity” may remain forever in the shadows (except perhaps to the small group of cognoscenti who feel they are guiding the process) the primary manifestation of the crisis is all too public: a relentless incitement of paralyzing and irrational fear—of a malady that has an almost universal survival rate for anyone not in a handful of comorbidity categories. The very success of this terror campaign is a testament to the extent to which post-modern and (mostly) post-Christian society has reached the point of deeming physical death, though inevitable, as the worst possible fate, to be avoided at all costs. Imposed via diktat by the very government and corporate entities force-feeding the scare propaganda, the costs—in the form of lockdowns (heretofore a term relevant exclusively to prisons), travel bans, compulsory masking, denial of opportunity to earn a living, “distance learning” in place of education, “virtual” social interactions, mass transfer of assets from the middle class and small enterprises to a rentier elite, and the prospect of an unavoidable, and perhaps a mandatory, biometric “passport” as proof of vaccination—continue to rise.

No less dismaying is the propensity of many people, perhaps most, to go along with all this, running the gamut from sullen submission to loving embrace of their shackles and enthusiastic willingness to force others’ compliance. What explains this? Fear of reprisal, fear of being thought of as a crank or “conspiracy theorist,” terminal law-abidingness, a misplaced virtue of charity regarding others’ intentions, naïve trust in “authority,” “experts,” “science” and claims of necessity to keep us and others “safe”? Or even worse, a sense of joining the worthy elites in their domination of lesser, insufficiently obedient and “caring” mortals? A totalitarian mindset is not solely an elite phenomenon.

In any case, these measures and their justifications, though constantly changing and often contradictory, are all the more obligatory. Taken together they have all the appearance of a controlled demolition of all established human interactions in anticipation of their replacement by something we are assured by our betters will be an improvement. The contours of the “new normal” in the post-American America hurtling in our direction have already become so familiar as to need little elaboration:
▪ A proletarianized middle class eager to exchange freedom for security and minimal support in the form of “relief”—no, not relief from governments’ destruction of their livelihoods, but from the fearsome virus, leading to “universal basic income” (i.e., the dole in place of self-support), profligate production of fiat money (which unavoidably means inflation and destruction of whatever assets a shrinking middle class might have left), and moves toward a cashless society: in a word, serfdom. “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.” You will eat bugs, and you will enjoy them;
▪ Elevated levels of substance abuse, mental and emotional illness, social alienation and isolation, domestic abuse, suicide, immune deficiency, and other morbidities caused not by the illness but by measures imposed supposedly to save lives but probably taking a higher toll than the disease itself, to which we can now add whatever the real toll of the vaccines might be;

▪ Immunization (with repetition ad infinitum via “boosters” required in light of “mutations” like the “Delta variant” and the expected future appearances of new plagues), if not legally required at least will be so universally demanded by ostensibly private business (notwithstanding real concerns about the vaccines’ safety, efficacy, and long-term effects, including infertility and problems associated with genetic modification) that it amounts to a license for basic living—we offer a pinch of incense before the genius of “science,” a false savior, a fake Caesar, required in order to be allowed to buy or sell, work, go to school, travel, etc. As a seamless, global regime of “vaccine apartheid” becomes inescapable, with every human being, whether small or great, rich or poor, bond or free, threatened with pariah status for refusing the injection of a substance of unknown safety (numbers of those suffering serious adverse consequences are suppressed), effectiveness (as new “variants” arise even many who have gotten jabbed get sick), and morality (how attenuated exactly are the aborted fetal cell lines used in development?), the enforcement mechanisms are becoming clearer as well: mandatory carrying of a scannable “health status” record on smart phones, QR app facilitating the precise location and activities of every human being on the planet every second of their lives. (So much for your HIPAA “privacy.”) It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that that was perhaps a goal of the entire pandemic response in the first place;

▪ Further blurring of the lines between Big Government, Big Finance, Big Pharma, Big Data, etc., amounting to corporate state capture (“Faucism”);

▪ Travel limits on law-abiding people (but not for illegal migrants), not for the purpose of restoring sovereign state boundaries (which would be deplorably nationalist – just ask Viktor Orbán!) but for what amounts to herd control and monitoring;

▪ Not directly based on supposed anti-virus measures but closely tracking with them, joint government and corporate promulgation of socially destructive, historically counterfeit ideologies (“intersectionality,” LGBTQI+, feminism, multiculturalism, “critical race theory” (a/k/a, hate whitey), suppression of “populism” in the name of “democracy”) with principal targeting of children subject to sexualization and predation by those expressing what were once quaintly known as abnormal appetites and identities. (This of course has become a key component of the US and European global “human rights” and “democracy” promotion; evidently cultural imperialism and neocolonialism are just fine and dandy when sufficiently Woke. Maybe you’ve seen that meme, with the fierce skull-masked fighter with an American flag: “Until I am out of ammo or out of blood, I will fight for homosexuality in Botswana!”) These “values” in turn accelerate longstanding trends towards infertility and demographic collapse (decline in marriage, family formation, and childbearing) pointing to population reduction and replacement via post-human society, transhumanism, and bio-engineering; and not least —

▪ Replacement of “real” reality based on physical proximity with other people with virtual or augmented (i.e., fake) reality, combined with universal surveillance via artificial intelligence, 5G and blockchain technology, facial recognition, and biological tagging, backed up by omnipresent social credit, cancel culture, and digital censorship penalties. Replacement of the real universe with a virtual “metaverse.”
In sum, what could not be implemented over decades solely by fear of climate change and “rising oceans” is now being swiftly achieved via fear of a submicroscopic infectious agent. No one should doubt that the old, pre-2020 world is forever gone.

This brave new world, my young friends, is your world. This is not something that is going to get fixed by the next election, or any election, by a new political party or movement, or by a convention of the states to write new Constitutional language for our Executive, Legislative, and Judicial authorities to ignore or pervert like they do the current language.
(Let me also mention in passing one of my pet peeves: while government at all levels bears a YUGE responsibility for all this, most of it is being carried out by private corporations. This leads some free market advocates to shrug their shoulders: “weeeell, they’re private businesses, they’re within their rights.” I say: bunk. To start with, corporations are inherently creatures of the state. They wouldn’t even exist were it not for legislation making them under the law “persons” – though they have neither body to be kicked nor soul to be damned. Given the incestuous “partnership” between government and the corporatocracy, the distinction is increasingly academic.)

Much of what I have described centers on the United States. To note that is not to be unduly parochial any more than would have been noting Russia’s centrality to an earlier Gnostic outbreak a century ago. Given our country’s global dominance in virtually every field of human endeavor—politics, military, finance, economy, science, medicine, media, popular culture, etc.—in the wake of the collapse of the earlier communist eruption (and before that, of national socialism), it is to be expected that this global crisis would begin, and perhaps will end, in the United States.

There is a remarkable congruence, though not an exact identity, between the divisions in American society pitting those who accept the therapeutic narrative on the virus and supposed countermeasures against those who reject them, and between those who accept and reject the violent “social justice” campaign championed by groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa (themselves sponsored by the government and corporate establishment), culminating in a contested presidential election that half the electorate believes was the result of fraud. The conclusion that the US Constitution and the rule of law, which have been declining for many years, may have in fact reached a terminal point is reluctantly dawning on tens of millions of ordinary, generally apolitical Americans. Not only are we more divided than at any time since 1861-1865, we are even more aliens, indeed enemies, to one another than were Northerners and Southerners back then in terms of fundamental questions of who we are, what man is, Who God is, and how we should order our lives and our country. In 1861 they worshipped the same God, read the same Bible, honored the same Founding Fathers, claimed fidelity to the same Constitution. In today’s America, like in the rest of the Woke Woke West, we can’t even agree on our pronouns.

The term “cold” civil war, a war that might possibly turn “hot,” has become a commonplace in American discourse. That should not come as a surprise when we remember how the Red Gnostic seizure of power in Russia, to which many draw parallels to America today, didn’t triumph without bloodily overcoming ferocious popular resistance. The rising tide of Rainbow Gnosticism in America now, whether it succeeds or fails, may turn out to be just as destructive. Let’s remember too that, if you credit the William Strauss and Neil Howe “Fourth Turning” cycle, we are only about halfway through a crisis that will totally transform this country, assuming there’s a country left at all by the end of it.

Finally, “wars and rumors of war” may not be confined to the United States. As the dysgenic impacts of the virus scare affect other countries to a greater or lesser degree, so America’s growing instability must have its international reverberations. Afghanistan is a bellwether. Suggestions have been made that overextension abroad and internal crises may force the United States, willy-nilly, to withdraw from the program of global hegemony launched after the demise of the USSR, with a multipolar world finally emerging. That could happen, but it’s not likely, at least not smoothly. Despite the Kabul kick in the teeth, realism is still a scarce commodity among Washington’s nomenklatura, where the penalties for strategic failure are few but rewards for aggression are great. As we will see, the Afghan humiliation will have little consequence for those culpable. While American “humanitarian intervention,” “democracy promotion,” and “regime change” have been to little advantage but much harm to the supposed beneficiaries (Haiti, Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc.) the tangible benefits are clearly visible in the form of the “McMansions” around the Washington Beltway, which still sprout like mushrooms after heavy rains. As America continues down the road of confrontation with Russia, and increasingly with China, the prospect of the first major global conflict, now well overdue, since the Long War of 1914-1945 grows. A self-interested, arrogant, ignorant, and spiritually and intellectually stunted leadership class caught in a Thucydides Trap (a declining power confronted by a rising opponent or opponents) may well be tempted to launch a war to eliminate the “threat” if it feels victory may be in reach today but might not be tomorrow. To call such a prospect apocalyptic is not hyperbole.

In the end, my young friends, the impact any one of us can expect to have in the face of world-historic trends before which the fates of nations and empires fly like leaves in the autumn winds is vanishingly small. Already baked into the cake will be, I believe, hardships for you that we’ve become accustomed to think only happen to “other people” in “other countries” far away, not seen here since the Revolution and the Civil War, or maybe in isolated instances during the Great Depression: financial and economic disruption and, in some places, especially in urban areas, collapse; supply chains, utilities, and other aspects of basic infrastructure ceasing to function (what happens in major cities when food deliveries stop for a week?), even widespread hunger; rising levels of violence, both criminality and civil strife. These will be combined, paradoxically, with the remaining organs of authority, however discredited, desperately cracking down on the enemy within – no, not on murderers, robbers, and rapists, but on “science deniers,” “religious fanatics,” “haters,” “conspiracy theorists,” “insurrectionists,” “gun nuts,” “American Taliban,” “purveyors of “medical misinformation,” and, of course, “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” and so forth. It’s the late Samuel Francis’ “anarcho-tyranny” nightmare come to life with a vengeance.

As I say, I think your ability to impact the “big picture” regarding any of this is slim to none. Even our ability to discern the signs of the times in an era of pervasive Gnostic deceit abetted by technologies unimaginable just a few years ago is limited.

Nevertheless, for what it is worth, I put before you three practical tasks for your consideration.

Firstly, be vigilant against deception, in a day when assuredly evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. Admittedly, this is a tough one, given the ever-present lying that surrounds us and the suppression of dissent. Try to sift truth from falsehood but don’t become obsessed because, in many cases, you won’t be able to be sure anyway. Focus most on what’s proximate to you and on the people most important to you. It sounds terrible, I know, because everyone who’s denoted as an “expert” or an “authority” isn’t necessarily unreliable, but that’s a good starting assumption. Be skeptical – about everyone. In communist countries, this was the norm: listen to what the establishment media say, to foreign sources if you can access them, and to anti-establishment dissidents (then it was samizdat, now it’s internet “conspiracy theorists” – but don’t get sucked in by Trojan Horses like the infamous Q.): then triangulate and take your best guess. There may be a cost. As Solzhenitsyn said, “He who chooses the lie as his principle inevitably chooses violence as his method.”

Secondly, as stewards of every worldly charge placed on us by God and by other people—as fathers and mothers, as husbands and wives, as sons and daughters, as neighbors, as students, as workers, as citizens, as patriots—we must prudently care for those to whom we have a duty within the limited power and wisdom allotted to us. Start with yourselves. Be as self-sufficient as possible. Get involved in your community; that leftist slogan is actually a good one: think globally, act locally. Befriend your neighbors. Learn a real skill – electricity, plumbing, carpentry. Farm! DON’T go to law school, for goodness’ sake. Get in shape. Eat and sleep right. Have plenty of the essentials: food, fuel, gold, ammunition. Learn to shoot. Limit computer and phone time. Cultivate healthy personal relationships – real ones, not virtual ones. Marry young, have kids – especially women, don’t get seduced by all that “career” nonsense. Read old books. Cultivate virtue. Go to church.
Simply being what used to be considered normal and leading a productive life is becoming the most revolutionary act one can perform. With that in mind, find the strength to be revolutionaries indeed!

You’ve seen the meme: Hard times create strong men; Strong men create good times; Good times create weak men; Weak men create hard times. Well, take it from the weakling generation that brought them to you: the hard times, they is a-coming. But they won’t last forever. If you live through them – and some of you will not – we’ll see what possibilities, as of now literally unimaginable, might then exist. But you will need to be personally fit to take advantage of them. You will also need to be part of some kind of sustainable community of likeminded people.

Third, for those of you who are believers, particularly Christians, we must pray without ceasing, firm in faith that, through whatever hardships may lie ahead, even the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and the final triumph of Truth is never in doubt.

Thank you, and good luck. You’re going to need it.


Copyright © 2021 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

What to Do?

I have recently returned from a long trip east to the West Coast. I guess you could call it a pilgrimage. One purpose of the trip was to get some rest and relaxation from the ennui of my life in Hawai’i. That’s not a joke. Ennui can set in no matter how swell your everyday paradise is. Go ahead; call me spoiled. However, the more pressing purpose of the pilgrimage was to find an answer to one nagging question. That is this:

Is it time for me to leave my parish in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese?

My travels took me from Los Angeles to the Puget Sound and back again. About 2500 miles of driving through the desert – also known as the Central Valley of California – through the “smoky mountains” of No. Cal. and Oregon to the clear cool skies of Washington. My purpose was to ask the question and listen to the opinions of various laypeople and clergymen, both secular and cloistered, at various parishes and monasteries of several jurisdictions.

All Merciful Saviour Monastery, Vashon Island, Washington

I didn’t get a straight answer. By that I mean that not everyone who opined had the same opinion. I boiled down the answers to four, from which I will have to choose one:

  • The Phanariot hierarchs are pursuing holy goals, so stay loyal to them;
  • Stay where you are and let God deal with the errors of the hierarchs;
  • As a layman, you’re free to come and go, so leave for the sake of your own conscience;
  • Leave because its the right thing to do.

Isn’t it wonderful that there is so much freedom of choice for the Orthodox layman? At the same time, isn’t it baffling that there is so much freedom of choice for the Orthodox layman? It would be easier if I had received one unequivocal answer and an easy way to walk it. As it is, I know that I’ll have to make my own decision – and soon, because I hope to do it before the end of the year. I’m in a position of responsibility at my parish, so I don’t want to fly by night and leave the others in the lurch. Timing is an important factor for all concerned.

The Phanariot hierarchs don’t appear to be pursuing holy goals at all. Patriarch Bartholomew’s meddling in Ukraine’s political and religious affairs is unconscionable. That bothered me more than a little until Abp. Elpidophoros’ recent antics took center stage. I was born an Episcopalian and was ordained an Anglican priest, so the commemorative Liturgy that Elpidophoros served at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Manhattan caused me severe consternation. The fact that our archbishop entered under the rainbow flag on a day during Pride Month and celebrated the Mysteries at that particular unOrthodox parish church bothered me no end. And he later returned to St. Bart’s for a grip and grin with their rector-bishop just to confirm his ecumenist interest in cavorting with the heretic.

St. Nick’s, New York

(And then there’s the BIG QUESTION regarding the $100,000,000 price tag on little St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center. Where did all of that money go, eh? And why hasn’t the little structure been completed…after 20 whole years?)

Back to Elpi’s Pride Month circus. It’s been three months since that day. As far as I can tell, the archbishop has not walked back his abominable act of treachery. Nor has there been a “great and holy council” to defrock the patriarch. Will God ever deal with the hierarchs? Dunno. So, it’s getting close to the time when I feel that I need to act for my own sake.

St. Bart’s, ground zero for the queering of Manhattan, during Pride Month

Back in 1994, I felt compelled to leave the Episcopal Church. No, it would be more accurate to say that I was forced to leave the Episcopal Church because I respectfully declined to accept the ordination of women, the marriage and ordination of homosexuals, and the abortion of the unborn. The “Church of What’s Happening Now”, aka the Episcopal Church, was embracing all three novelties. The diocese wrote me a letter saying that unless I renounced my “rigid views” – their words – they would not accept the transfer of my canonical residence. So I left, shaking the Hawaiian beach sand off my slippahs. It broke my heart to leave the Church of my ancestors, but it opened my eyes to the unsettling certainty that the world had worked its way into the Church that I so loved. Prof. Robert Arakaki has written about the “revolution within the form” in a previous blog posting. In 1994, the Episcopal Church was in the vanguard of the revolution. He and I will likely touch again on the topic as it concerns the Orthodox Church in the coming days.

And now, the same revolution appears to be happening by stealth in the Greek Archdiocese. The signs are everywhere, not just in the actions of the patriarch and the archbishop. Let me offer an example. There is a well-married, yet unbaptized, unchrismated parishioner in my parish who has been given a “blessing” to receive the Holy Gifts. What’s up with that? The camel got its nose under the tent half a century ago when the Church blessed the marriage, even though one of the spouses was a cradle Orthodox and should have been directed to marry someone within the Church. Now the other spouse is able to collect $200 without passing “Go”.

Who is that masked woman? Kim Kardashian’s latest contribution to avant garde fashion.

Loose on sacramental controls, our parish has been strict on the protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Sign up, mask up, take your temperature, answer the questions, follow the usher, maintain social distance. All of these directives have been followed to a “T” for the last year. But, on the other hand, there is no call for regular confession, adherence to the discipline of fasting, or frequent and timely attendance at the Liturgy. Is mine an Orthodox parish, or an agency of the local government, or a Greek social club? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”  Matthew 23:24

On my pilgrimage, I was counseled that it is imperative that I consult my spiritual father and stay where I am or find a parish where I can continue to work out my own salvation. That’s the most salient of issues here. Fortunately for me, our island is small. There is another parish not too far away to which I can repair for spiritual sustenance, if need be.

Well, thank you for allowing me to use you, dear reader, as a sounding board. I would appreciate hearing your opinion before I make my decision. Leave a comment below, if you are so inclined.

Retreat

Dear readers,

I’ll be flying to the mainland soon, and I won’t be blogging while I’m off island. I need some time to be alone and to visit a monastery. Join me in praying for our Orthodox Church and our United States in these perilous times.

Lawrence

The Day Kabul Fell to the Taliban

Take note of the irony, if you will, first of this date on the calendar. To us Orthodox, August 15 is the Dormition of the Theotokos. The date bears little significance to most other Americans, but it is remembered by everyone in Japan, not as the Dormition but as the first day of お盆 Obon, the three-day annual folk festival to commemorate the dead. Is there some cosmic connection between the two holidays? Maybe not.

Relevant to my point, however, is the fact that it was August 15, 1945 when the military forces of the Empire of Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces, led by the United States. The Germans had already surrendered in April, following FDR’s death. Then, barely a week after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, with its many Catholic citizens, the Second World War came mercifully to an end. It’s obvious why August 15 is not a national holiday in Japan. It is “a date which will live in infamy” to Japan’s few remaining fascists. It’s called 終戦記念日 Shūsenkinenbi, literally “End of War Commemoration Day”. Japanese cynics quip that it ought to be called 敗戦記念日 Haisenkinenbi, or to paraphrase, “The Day We Lost the War”.

Fast forward to today. On August 15, 2021, for all intents and purposes, the United States have lost our latest war – our longest war. Even those who generally supported our armed forces and agreed to the invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001 will have to admit that we haven’t won this one. As we learned in 2019, the American generals had lied to us all along. They never completely routed the Taliban, nor did they pacify the country, nor did they establish a stable democracy in Afghanistan. Yes, Osama bin Laden and his Al Quaeda had orchestrated the atrocities of 9/11 from Afghanistan under the Taliban’s protection, so in the minds of almost every American at the time, the country needed to pay. And it did. Many more Afghans paid with their lives than did Americans or ISAF allies. In recent days, as our last forces have withdrawn, we have seen the Taliban sweep across the country with blitzkrieg alacrity. Today they have taken the presidential palace in Kabul. The capital of what one is hard-pressed to call a country has finally fallen. It’s August 15 all over again.

Forty-six years may have passed, but has anything changed?

Notice the one photo that you see of a Chinook helicopter evacuating the last diplomats and their staff from the flat rooftop of the American Embassy. Isn’t it eerily reminiscent of a similar scene from April 1975, when the same desperate procedure was executed from our embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam? It was the end of my junior year in college when those scenes appeared on our televisions, burning into our retinas. They’ve been replayed thousands of times ever since. Here we are again, in the midst of another evacuation from the capital of another country to which we and our allies have dedicated too many years and too much money. Our casualties are, thank God, many fewer this time than were sacrificed in Vietnam. But, they are too many, regardless. My own son was deployed twice to Afghanistan. Thank God he came home unscathed.

President Trump had planned to exit from Afghanistan, so not all of the responsibility for the withdrawal can be placed at the feet of his weak successor and a liberal Congress. But those who remember our recent history must admit that the proverbial slot machine has come up three rotten tomatoes again. Pres. Gerald Ford was a weak, caretaker president dealing with a liberal Congress, too. No doubt his heart dropped as he watched the Hueys and Chinooks evacuate our people from the flat top of the embassy in Saigon and whisk them away to our ships offshore. In subsequent months, the Congress refused to fund the aid that they had promised to South Vietnam under Richard Nixon, so the republican (small “r”) regime, always corrupt, succumbed to the juggernaut of communism. The end game wasn’t at all pretty for too many Vietnamese citizens who had supported our troops while they were in country. We can only shake our heads and pray for the myriad souls who suffered unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the ruthless victors.

One cannot help but wonder what emotions Joe Biden is feeling right now as it is his fate to watch the Chinooks land on another of our embassies. Along with that comes our constant suspicion that, with his mental competency woefully diminished, Mr. Biden may not have the capacity to take it all in and comprehend it. Kabul is falling on his watch. What atrocities at the hands of the Taliban lie in store for the Afghans who helped us while we were trying to help them? A trillion dollars and two whole decades of another heretofore interminable foreign war are suddenly coming to an end before our very eyes. The $64,000 question for later is: Was it all worth it?

Is August 15 going to be our American Haisenkinenbi?

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: His Prophetic Templeton Address

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Your Royal Highness: Permit me to express my appreciation to you for taking part in this ceremony. Your participation lends special dignity to these proceedings.

This is the first time that the Templeton Prize has been awarded to an Orthodox Christian. With gratitude that our share in the religious life of the world has now been accorded notice, I remain acutely conscious of my personal unworthiness to receive this award as I look back upon the venerable line of outstanding Orthodox churchmen and of Orthodox thinkers from Aleksey Khomyakov to Sergei Bulgakov. And I am very much aware that Eastern Slavic Orthodoxy, which, during the 65 years of Communist rule, has been subjected to persecution even fiercer and more extensive than that of early Christian times, has had—and still has today—many hands worthier than mine to accept it. Beginning with Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, metropolitan of Kiev, shot by the Communists before the walls of the Kievo-Pechersky Monastery at the dawn of the Lenin era, the list would extend to the intrepid priest Gleb Yakunin, who is enduring torments today, under Andropov: Forcibly deprived of all outward symbols of his priesthood, and even of the right to have the Gospels, Father Yakunin has for months at a time been held in a freezing stone cubicle, without bed, clothes, or food.

In this persecution-filled age, it is appropriate that my own very first memory should be of Chekists in pointed caps entering St. Panteleimon’s Church in Kislovodsk, interrupting the service, and crashing their way into the sanctuary in order to loot. And later, when I started going to school in Rostov-on-Don — passing on my way a kilometer-long compound of the Cheka-GPU and a glittering sign of the League of Militant Atheists — schoolchildren egged on by Komsomol members taunted me for accompanying my mother to the last remaining church in town and tore the cross from around my neck.Orthodox churches were stripped of their valuables in 1922 at the instigation of Lenin and Trotsky. In subsequent years, including both the Stalin and the Khrushchev periods, tens of thousands of churches were torn down or desecrated, leaving behind a disfigured wasteland that bore no resemblance to Russia such as it had stood for centuries. Entire districts and cities of half a million inhabitants were left without a single church. Our people were condemned to live in this dark and mute wilderness for decades, groping their way to God and keeping to this course by trial and error. The grip of oppression that we have lived under, and continue to live under, has been so great that religion, instead of leading to a free blossoming of the spirit, has been manifested in asserting the faith on the brink of destruction, or else on the seductive frontiers of Marxist rhetoric, where so many souls have come to grief.

Bolsheviks ransack an Orthodox church.

The statement of the Templeton Foundation shows an understanding of how the Orthodox spiritual tradition has maintained its vitality in our land despite the forcible promotion of atheism. If even a fraction of those words should find their way to my motherland past the jamming devices, this will bolster the spirits of our believers, assuring them that they have not been forgotten, and that their steadfastness inspires courage even here.

The centralized atheism before whose armed might the whole world trembles still hates and fears this unarmed faith as much today as it did 60 years ago. Yes! All the savage persecutions loosed upon our people by a murderous state atheism, coupled with the corroding effect of its lies, and an avalanche of stultifying propaganda — all of these together have proven weaker than the thousand-year-old faith of our nation. This faith has not been destroyed; it remains the most sublime, the most cherished gift to which our lives and consciousness can attain.

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: “Men have forgotten God.” The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century. The first of these was World War I, and much of our present predicament can be traced back to it. It was a war (the memory of which seems to be fading) when Europe, bursting with health and abundance, fell into a rage of self-mutilation which could not but sap its strength for a century or more, and perhaps forever. The only possible explanation for this war is a mental eclipse among the leaders of Europe due to their lost awareness of a Supreme Power above them. Only a godless embitterment could have moved ostensibly Christian states to employ poison gas, a weapon so obviously beyond the limits of humanity.

Trench warfare during World War I

The same kind of defect, the flaw of a consciousness lacking all divine dimension, was manifested after World War II when the West yielded to the satanic temptation of the “nuclear umbrella.” It was equivalent to saying: Let’s cast off worries, let’s free the younger generation from their duties and obligations, let’s make no effort to defend ourselves, to say nothing of defending others — let’s stop our ears to the groans emanating from the East, and let us live instead in the pursuit of happiness. If danger should threaten us, we shall be protected by the nuclear bomb; if not, then let the world burn in Hell for all we care. The pitifully helpless state to which the contemporary West has sunk is in large measure due to this fatal error: the belief that the defense of peace depends not on stout hearts and steadfast men, but solely on the nuclear bomb.

Only the loss of that higher intuition that comes from God could have allowed the West to accept calmly, after World War I, the protracted agony of Russia as she was being torn apart by a band of cannibals, or to accept, after World War II, the similar dismemberment of Eastern Europe. The West did not perceive that this was in fact the beginning of a lengthy process that spells disaster for the whole world; indeed, the West has done a good deal to help the process along. Only once in this century did the West gather strength — for the battle against Hitler. But the fruits of that victory have long since been lost. Faced with cannibalism, our godless age has discovered the perfect anesthetic — trade! Such is the pathetic pinnacle of contemporary wisdom.

Today’ s world has reached a stage which, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry: “This is the Apocalypse!”

Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it.

Dostoevsky warned that “great events could come upon us and catch us intellectually unprepared.” This is precisely what has happened. And he predicted that “the world will be saved only after it has been possessed by the demon of evil.” Whether it really will be saved we shall have to wait and see: this will depend on our conscience, on our spiritual lucidity, on our individual and combined efforts in the face of catastrophic circumstances. But it has already come to pass that the demon of evil, like a whirlwind, triumphantly circles all five continents of the earth.

We are witnesses to the devastation of the world, be it imposed or voluntarily undergone. The entire 20th century is being sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction. This plunge into the abyss has aspects that are unquestionably global, dependent neither on political systems, nor on levels of economic and cultural development, nor yet on national peculiarities. And present-day Europe, seemingly so unlike the Russia of 1913, is today on the verge of the same collapse, for all that it has been reached by a different route. Different parts of the world have followed different paths, but today they are all approaching the threshold of a common ruin.

In its past, Russia did know a time when the social ideal was not fame, or riches, or material success, but a pious way of life. Russia was then steeped in an Orthodox Christianity which remained true to the Church of the first centuries. The Orthodoxy of that time knew how to safeguard its people under the yoke of a foreign occupation that lasted more than two centuries, while at the same time fending off iniquitous blows from the swords of Western crusaders. During those centuries the Orthodox faith in our country became part of the very pattern of thought and the personality of our people, the forms of daily life, the work calendar, the priorities in every undertaking, the organization of the week and of the year. Faith was the shaping and unifying force of the nation.

Resilient faith in Peter’s Russia

But in the 17th century Russian Orthodoxy was gravely weakened by an internal schism. In the 18th, the country was shaken by Peter’s forcibly imposed transformations, which favored the economy, the state, and the military at the expense of the religious spirit and national life. And along with this lopsided Petrine enlightenment, Russia felt the first whiff of secularism; its subtle poisons permeated the educated classes in the course of the 19th century and opened the path to Marxism. By the time of the Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened.

It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seeming hatred of the Church the lesson that “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true. But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot. To achieve its diabolical ends. Communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails the destruction of faith and nationhood. Communists proclaim both of these objectives openly, and just as openly go about carrying them out. The degree to which the atheistic world longs to annihilate religion, the extent to which religion sticks in its throat, was demonstrated by the web of intrigue surrounding the recent attempts on the life of the Pope.

The 1920’s in the USSR witnessed an uninterrupted procession of victims and martyrs amongst the Orthodox clergy. Two metropolitans were shot, one of whom, Veniamin of Petrograd, had been elected by the popular vote of his diocese. Patriarch Tikhon himself passed through the hands of the Cheka-GPU and then died under suspicious circumstances. Scores of archbishops and bishops perished. Tens of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns, pressured by the Chekists to renounce the Word of God, were tortured, shot in cellars, sent to camps, exiled to the desolate tundra of the far North, or turned out into the streets in their old age without food or shelter. All these Christian martyrs went unswervingly to their deaths for the faith; instances of apostasy were few and far between.

New Martyrs of Russia

For tens of millions of laymen access to the Church was blocked, and they were forbidden to bring up their children in the Faith: religious parents were wrenched from their children and thrown into prison, while the children were turned from the faith by threats and lies. One could argue that the pointless destruction of Russia’s rural economy in the 1930s — the so-called de-kulakization and collectivization, which brought death to 15 million peasants while making no economic sense at all — was enforced with such cruelty, first and foremost, for the purpose of destroying our national way of life and of extirpating religion from the countryside. The same policy of spiritual perversion operated throughout the brutal world of the Gulag Archipelago, where men were encouraged to survive at the cost of the lives of others. And only atheists bereft of reason could have decided upon the ultimate brutality — against the Russian land itself — that is being planned in the USSR today: The Russian north is to be flooded, the flow of the northern rivers reversed, the life of the Arctic Ocean disrupted, and the water channeled southward, toward lands already devastated by earlier, equally foolhardy “feats of Communist construction.”

For a short period of time, when he needed to gather strength for the struggle against Hitler, Stalin cynically adopted a friendly posture toward the Church. This deceptive game, continued in later years by Brezhnev with the help of showcase publications and other window dressing, has unfortunately tended to be taken at its face value in the West. Yet the tenacity with which hatred of religion is rooted in Communism may be judged by the example of their most liberal leader, Khrushchev: for though he undertook a number of significant steps to extend freedom, Khrushchev simultaneously rekindled the frenzied Leninist obsession with destroying religion.

But there is something they did not expect: that in a land where churches have been leveled, where a triumphant atheism has rampaged uncontrolled for two-thirds of a century, where the clergy is utterly humiliated and deprived of all independence, where what remains of the Church as an institution is tolerated only for the sake of propaganda directed at the West, where even today people are sent to the labor camps for their faith, and where, within the camps themselves, those who gather to pray at Easter are clapped in punishment cells–they could not suppose that beneath this Communist steamroller the Christian tradition would survive in Russia. It is true that millions of our countrymen have been corrupted and spiritually devastated by an officially imposed atheism, yet there remain many millions of believers: it is only external pressures that keep them from speaking out, but, as is always the case in times of persecution and suffering, the awareness of God in my country has attained great acuteness and profundity.

It is here that we see the dawn of hope: for no matter how formidably Communism bristles with tanks and rockets, no matter what successes it attains in seizing the planet, it is doomed never to vanquish Christianity.

A ruined church in the Donbass

The West has yet to experience a Communist invasion; religion here remains free. But the West’s own historical evolution has been such that today it too is experiencing a drying up of religious consciousness. It too has witnessed racking schisms, bloody religious wars, and rancor, to say nothing of the tide of secularism that, from the late Middle Ages onward, has progressively inundated the West. This gradual sapping of strength from within is a threat to faith that is perhaps even more dangerous than any attempt to assault religion violently from without.

Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything more lofty than the “pursuit of happiness, “a goal that has even been solemnly guaranteed by constitutions. The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed for several centuries; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short-lived value. It has become embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system. Yet it is not considered shameful to make daily concessions to an integral evil. Judging by the continuing landslide of concessions made before the eyes of our very own generation, the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism. If a blasphemous film about Jesus is shown throughout the United States, reputedly one of the most religious countries in the world, or a major newspaper publishes a shameless caricature of the Virgin Mary, what further evidence of godlessness does one need? When external rights are completely unrestricted, why should one make an inner effort to restrain oneself from ignoble acts?

Or why should one refrain from burning hatred, whatever its basis ― race, class, or ideology? Such hatred is in fact corroding many hearts today. Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society. Amid all the vituperation we forget that the defects of capitalism represent the basic flaws of human nature, allowed unlimited freedom together with the various human rights; we forget that under Communism (and Communism is breathing down the neck of all moderate forms of socialism, which are unstable) the identical flaws run riot in any person with the least degree of authority; while everyone else under that system does indeed attain “equality”― the equality of destitute slaves.

Black Lives Matter

This eager fanning of the flames of hatred is becoming the mark of today’s free world. Indeed, the broader the personal freedoms are, the higher the level of prosperity or even of abundance – the more vehement, paradoxically, does this blind hatred become. The contemporary developed West thus demonstrates by its own example that human salvation can be found neither in the profusion of material goods nor in merely making money.

This deliberately nurtured hatred then spreads to all that is alive, to life itself, to the world with its colors, sounds, and shapes, to the human body. The embittered art of the 20th century is perishing as a result of this ugly hate, for art is fruitless without love. In the East art has collapsed because it has been knocked down and trampled upon, but in the West the fall has been voluntary, a decline into a contrived and pretentious quest where the artist, instead of attempting to reveal the divine plan, tries to put himself in the place of God.

Here again we witness the single outcome of a worldwide process, with East and West yielding the same results, and once again for the same reason: Men have forgotten God.

Confronted by the onslaught of worldwide atheism, believers are disunited and frequently bewildered. And yet the Christian (or post-Christian) world would do well to note the example of the Far East. I have recently had an opportunity to observe in Free China and in Japan how, despite their apparently less clearly defined religious concepts, and despite the same unassailable “freedom of choice” that exists in the West, both the younger generation and society as a whole have preserved their moral sensibility to a greater degree than the West has, and have been less affected by the destructive spirit of secularism.

What can one say about the lack of unity among the various religions, if Christianity has itself become so fragmented? In recent years the major Christian churches have taken steps toward reconciliation. But these measures are far too slow; the world is perishing a hundred times more quickly. No one expects the churches to merge or to revise all their doctrines, but only to present a common front against atheism. Yet even for such a purpose the steps taken are much too slow.

There does exist an organized movement for the unification of the churches, but it presents an odd picture. The World Council of Churches seems to care more for the success of revolutionary movements in the Third World, all the while remaining blind and deaf to the persecution of religion where this is carried through most consistently — in the USSR. No one can fail to see the facts; must one conclude, then, that it is deemed expedient not to see, not to get involved? But if that is the case, what remains of Christianity?

It is with profound regret that I must note here something which I cannot pass over in silence. My predecessor in the receipt of this prize last year — in the very month that the award was made — lent public support to Communist lies by his deplorable statement that he had not noticed the persecution of religion in the USSR. Before the multitude of those who have perished and who are oppressed today, may God be his judge.

It seems more and more apparent that even with the most sophisticated of political maneuvers, the noose around the neck of mankind draws tighter and more hopeless with every passing decade, and there seems to be no way out for anyone — neither nuclear, nor political, nor economic, nor ecological. That is indeed the way things appear to be.

The invisible noose around our necks

With such global events looming over us like mountains, nay, like entire mountain ranges, it may seem incongruous and inappropriate to recall that the primary key to our being or non-being resides in each individual human heart, in the heart’s preference for specific good or evil. Yet this remains true even today, and it is, in fact, the most reliable key we have. The social theories that promised so much have demonstrated their bankruptcy, leaving us at a dead end. The free people of the West could reasonably have been expected to realize that they are beset by numerous freely nurtured falsehoods, and not to allow lies to be foisted upon them so easily. All attempts to find a way out of the plight of today’s world are fruitless unless we redirect our consciousness, in repentance, to the Creator of all: without this, no exit will be illumined, and we shall seek it in vain. The resources we have set aside for ourselves are too impoverished for the task. We must first recognize the horror perpetrated not by some outside force, not by class or national enemies, but within each of us individually, and within every society. This is especially true of a free and highly developed society, for here in particular we have surely brought everything upon ourselves, of our own free will. We ourselves, in our daily unthinking selfishness, are pulling tight that noose.

Let us ask ourselves: Are not the ideals of our century false? And is not our glib and fashionable terminology just as unsound, a terminology that offers superficial remedies for every difficulty? Each of them, in whatever sphere, must be subjected to a clear-eyed scrutiny while there is still time. The solution to the crisis will not be found along the well-trodden paths of conventional thinking.

Our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest for worthy spiritual growth. Our entire earthly existence is but a transitional stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble and fall, nor must we linger fruitlessly on one rung of the ladder. Material laws alone do not explain our life or give it direction. The laws of physics and physiology will never reveal the indisputable manner in which the Creator constantly, day in and day out, participates in the life of each of us, unfailingly granting us the energy of existence; when this assistance leaves us, we die. And in the life of our entire planet, the Divine Spirit surely moves with no less force: this we must grasp in our dark and terrible hour.

Our Father, creator and sustainer

To the ill-considered hopes of the last two centuries, which have reduced us to insignificance and brought us to the brink of nuclear and non-nuclear death, we can propose only a determined quest for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently spurned. Only in this way can our eyes be opened to the errors of this unfortunate 20th century and our bands be directed to setting them right. There is nothing else to cling to in the landslide: the combined vision of all the thinkers of the Enlightenment amounts to nothing.

Our five continents are caught in a whirlwind. But it is during trials such as these that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone.

(Delivered by Alexander Solzhenitzyn when he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in London on May 10, 1983.)

Source: Helleniscope