30 November 2007

take another look at Putin

Kucinich hopes America will take a new direction

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Kucinich hopes America will take a new direction
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff

MANCHESTER – The United States' role in the world is the key question facing Americans as they prepare to vote for the next President, says Democratic presidential contender Dennis Kucinich.

"The new model for the paradigm is cooperation, not aggression," the Ohio congressman said. "I want to start calling America home over a period of time in cooperation with other nations."

Although he declined to say what overseas bases he would close first, Kucinich, 61, said the closure plan would be done in consultation with military leaders and discussions with the countries where the bases are located.

With technology today, he said, there is no reason to have military bases in far-flung corners of the world. "I want to see America take a different role," he said.

He would like to see the U.S. work with Russian president Vladimir Putin to dismantle nuclear arsenals and to help the Russians destroy their chemical and other weapons instead of encouraging revolts by the countries along Russia's southern border.

"America works best when it works from (a platform) of moral credibility," Kucinich said. "When we act like 'do as I say, not as I do,' we undermine our credibility."

He said he would not be a pushover with other countries. "I'm a street kid out of Cleveland, but I don't mistake strength as just having weapons," he said.

Kucinich, who is making his second run for the Democratic presidential nomination, has consistently opposed the Iraq War and has made that opposition the centerpiece of his campaign, whose theme is "strength through peace."

In meeting with editors at the New Hampshire Union Leader this week, Kucinich, who is serving his sixth term in the U.S. House, emphasized his proposal for universal health care with a single-payer system. He says his plan is "Medicare for everyone."

"Health care I see as a basic right, not as a privilege based on ability to pay," he said. The costs of premiums, co-pays and deductibles have put health care out of reach for millions of Americans, not just the uninsured, he said.

The country currently pays $2.3 trillion for health care and that should be enough to provide health care to all Americans, just as other industrialized countries do for their citizens, Kucinich said.

He wants to eliminate the profits and administrative costs insurance companies add to the health cost picture. He said administrative costs should be in line with Medicare, 3 percent.

Kucinich also wants to be able to negotiate with the drug companies to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals, which the Veterans Administration does not, but he notes negotiations were forbidden under the Medicare Part D subscription drug program.

"I want to revitalized American industry and if we can't change health then it can't be done," Kucinich said.

People are more receptive to his message about universal health care this time, he said, because people are in "real financial trouble." He said New Hampshire and its grass roots tradition is the place for him to make his case.

All the other Democratic candidates for President are capitulating to the insurance industry, he said. He admitted his proposal would never make it through the current Congress and said that is why he would take his plan directly to the American people.

He said he is truly the only Democratic presidential candidate not indebted to the special interests. "There is a real choice (among candidates) if voters decide health care is essential in their lives," Kucinich said.

Asked if government should also guarantee citizens food, clothes, shelter and a job, Kucinich said no one should starve today in this country. He said government should ensure there is full employment, which is not the case now.

"Government has the responsibility of being the employer of last resort, particularly when the private sector keeps cutting jobs," Kucinich said. Government can make sure the mechanisms are there, he said.

But he noted, "Government can't do everything in society, I understand that. ... I don't look at government as Big Daddy, and I certainly don't want government to be Big Brother, either."

Kucinich garnered attention for introducing an impeachment resolution against Vice President Dick Cheney. Recently he said he will expand another resolution to include the impeachment of President Bush.

He maintains the administration has lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq and has trampled on the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the American people.

22 November 2007

church and state: marriage etc

Over turkey and wine tonight the men had a discussion about same-sex marriage and legislation on ethical issues. I really don't want to try to recreate the conversation here, but in the course of the discussion it was said that one cannot legislate morality (or something to that effect)--we cannot build the kingdom of God through government, which I completely agree with. I later made a remark concerning whether it is harmful/wrong from a Christian perspective for society to recognize homosexual unions/marriages; I said that many Orthodox believe that since marriage outside of the Church is not recognized by God anyway, perhaps it is not such a big issue. I have been thinking about what I said and feel a bit uncomfortable with it. I definitely delved into a more controversial waters, so I decided to find some official statements from the Orthodox Church about it (this means a long post with lots of quotes...but they're pretty good, I think!) I am still learning a lot and don't want to make false or misleading statements.

So the first thing I found was this article on the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad's (ROCOR) stance on same-sex marriage, in which they clearly define marriage.

On Same Sex Unions (Epistle of the ROCOR W. Diocese 2004):

Holy Matrimony consists of the union of two persons into one, through the union of their souls and bodies, through mutual submission and obedience, and, most importantly, through the action of God's grace. It is a holy mystery, a sacrament, an avenue of the Grace of God given to us not for the indulgence of our passions, but for the working out of our salvation. For this reason, it cannot be merely a social or civil contract entered into by two persons. Marriage is the God-ordained union of a man and a woman, for the purpose of creating a home, a "little Church," in which the couple, and the children which are their progeny (being the product of the physical affection for one another), are able to work out their salvation. Marriage is a sacrament that is not created by the husband and wife out of their love for one another, or by their pledge of loyalty and mutual submission to one another; marriage is a mystery bestowed by God through the action of the Church upon those who are made one thereby. The estate of marriage cannot be established by human action alone: it must be bestowed by God alone. Nor can this (or any) grace be bestowed by the state, for it is the gift of God given within the confines of, and subject to the discipline of, the Holy Mother Church. Although the state chooses to recognize this union as beneficial to the stability of society, and so bestows certain benefits under law through licensure of this action, marriage is not now, nor has it ever been, an action of the state. The sacrament of Marriage is a divine action subject only to the grace and will of God, which is expressed in the unbroken and pure tradition of the Orthodox Church.

...The decision by a state to extend the provisions of law covering civil marriage to include same-sex unions is irrelevant in God's eyes. Within the Church, the mystery of Holy Matrimony is not a right; it is a calling, intended by God for a specific purpose, and not merely the fulfilling of earthly lusts, or the comfort of a life shared together.

...We affirm that the sacrament of marriage is only obtained from God and within the confines of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We affirm that this marriage is limited to the union of one man and one woman and that the conception, bearing and rearing of children is a normal and desired part of the marital union. We affirm that any other "marital" relationship, even though it may bear the sanction of the state or the society at large, cannot be considered marriage and that it is sinful and creates a barrier between God and man and frustrates the purpose of man to enter into union with God.

I also found a fantastic reference guide for the Russian Orthodox Church's role within society and her interactions with the government. This is taken from the section "Personal, Family and Public Morality" where I found a little more on marriage. In particular, I had in mind the idea of the marriage needing to be within (the blessing) of the Church. This is where I show my nerdy side. Hang in there.

Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church

In the period of the Christianization of the Roman Empire, marriage continued to be validated by civil registration. Consecrating matrimonial unions by prayer and blessing, the Church still recognized a common-law marriage as valid in cases where the church marriage was impossible and did not subject the spouses thus married to canonical prohibitions. Today the Russian Orthodox Church upholds the same practice. In doing so, she cannot approve and bless the matrimonial unions which, while being concluded in accordance with the existing law, violate the canonical prescriptions, such as a fourth and subsequent marriages, marriages in the inadmissible degrees of blood or spiritual affinity.

In accordance with ancient canonical prescriptions, today, too, the Church does not sanctify marriages contracted between the Orthodox and non-Christians, while recognizing them as lawful and not regarding those who live in such a marriage as living in sinful co-habitation. Proceeding from considerations of pastoral oikonomia, the Russian Orthodox Church has deemed it possible, both in the past and present, to celebrate marriages between Orthodox Christians and Catholics, members of the Oriental Churches and Protestants who confess the faith in the Triune God, provided the marriage is blessed in the Orthodox Church and the children are raised in the Orthodox faith. Most of the Orthodox Churches have followed the same practice for the past centuries.

From the same source I found the following quote to be helpful as I try to solidify the Church's stance in situations such as the legalization of same-sex unions or marriages in our secular society. Of course the Orthodox strongly believe that homosexuality is not natural to human nature and, to say the least, should not be encouraged. But what is the Church's role?

The religio-ideological neutrality of the state does not contradict the Christian idea of the Church's calling in society. The Church, however, should point out to the state that it is inadmissible to propagate such convictions or actions which may result in total control over a person's life, convictions and relations with other people, as well as erosion in personal, family or public morality, insult of religious feelings, damage to the cultural and spiritual identity of the people and threats to the sacred gift of life...

III. 7. The form and methods of government is conditioned in many ways by the spiritual and moral condition of society. Aware of this, the Church accepts the people's choice or does not resist it at least.

...Any change in the form of government to that more religiously rooted, introduced without spiritualising society itself, will inevitably degenerate into falsehood and hypocrisy and make this form weak and valueless in the eyes of the people. However, one cannot altogether exclude the possibility of such a spiritual revival of society as to make natural a religiously higher form of government. But under slavery one should follow St. Paul advice: «if thou mayest be free, use it rather» (1 Cor. 7:21). At the same time, the Church should give more attention not to the system of the outer organization of state, but to the inner condition of her members' hearts. Therefore, the Church does not believe it possible for her to become an initiator of any change in the form of government. Along the same line, the 1994 Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church stressed the soundness of the attitude whereby «the Church does not give preference to any social system or any of the existing political doctrines».

It seems to me that the Church's role, as one in the world but not of it, is to act as society's conscience. My conscience speaks to me regularly; sometimes I listen and avoid moral catastrophe, but I also often ignore my conscience and suffer the consequences (spiritual if nothing else). The more I listen, the more a holy attitude develops...and that leads to me accepting more and more of the Holy Spirit's proddings which leads to an even holier life. And then the opposite also happens, and I walk myself toward perdition--my conscience (Holy Spirit) never strong-arms me and MAKES me listen and obey. As for the same-sex marriage issue, now I think that the Church would never just say "Ach, not in the Church so it doesn't matter!"(in fact, the above article is just the opposite). If for no one else, engaging in homosexual lifestyle is destructive for the two souls involved, and God wishes all to be healed and made whole. For the Church to remain aloof and silent would imply consent, or worse, a lack of love. I do understand that it is a complicated matter on some fronts which is why some Christians are supportive of "unions" (not necessarily "marriage")--like in matters of the person's will (the document) and so forth. My assumption until I ask my priest more details is that the Church will not officially support any such measures.

Now, if you are interested, here are a couple more quotes that I found interesting even though I don't have anything in particular to say about them at the moment:

IV. 2. The law is called to manifest the one divine law of the universe in social and political realms. At the same time, any legal system developed by the human community, being as it is a fruit of historical development, carries a seal of limitation and imperfection. Law is a special realm, different from the related ethical realm, as it does not qualify the inner conditions of the human heart, since God alone is its Reader.

Yet it is human behaviour and actions that is the subject of the legal regulation, which is the essence of legislation. The law also provides for coercive measures for making people obey it. The legislative sanctions to restore the trampled law and order make law a reliable clamp of society unless, as it has often happened in history, the whole system of the enforced law capsizes. However, as no human community can exist without law, a new legislative system always emerges in place of the destroyed law and order.

The law contains a certain minimum of moral standards compulsory for all members of society. The secular law has as its task not to turn the world lying in evil into the Kingdom of God, but to prevent it from turning into hell. The fundamental principle of law is: «do not do to others what you would not want to be done to yourself». If a person has committed a sinful action against another, the damage inflicted on the integrity of the divine law and order can be made up by the suffering of the offender or pardon whereby the moral consequences of a sinful action is assumed by the person (ruler, spiritual father, community, etc.) who issues pardon. Suffering heals the soul affected by sin, while the voluntary suffering of the innocent for the sins of a criminal represents the highest form of redemption the ultimate of which is the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Who took upon Himself the sin of the world (Jn 1:29).

Thanks for reading. Happy Thanksgiving!

16 November 2007

my life is pretty darn good

My husband and I periodically talk about how things on earth will progressively get worse, especially for those trying to live out the true Christian faith, as time marches on toward the Christ's return and the Final Judgment. And with members of my husband's (living) family having had experienced Stalin's Siberian work camps, the reality of tragedy and hardship is not as far off as it once seemed. A tragic turn in life isn't that unlikely. One can never be prepared for those times, but I also don't want to be completely surprised when/if my life doesn't turn out as dandy as I expected. For some reason I have been particularly aware of that lately. It is such a gift because I am beginning to find more joy in living and more thankfulness.

Today I was sitting on the grass under a beautiful blue sky, watching my daughter quietly and very attentively pile the fallen leaves first between her little legs, then to the side, only to be flattened and scattered as she crawled over it. I suddenly felt completely content with the moment and with my life in general. Glory to God! So many people in the world have never experienced such a nice moment, and likely never will. In no way do I deserve a nice, comfortable life...it is not a basic human right, and one cannot earn it from being good or spiritual or smart. For some reason, so far, God has granted me and my family a beautiful, easy life. I certainly am glad for that! But these days I am also trying to keep in mind that it can all change in a second, and that makes me more thankful for what I have now.

When/If things change and I experience a tragedy or major difficulty, I hope that I will keep in mind that I deserve nothing and will be thankful in everything. Probably one of the most important things I have learned from Orthodoxy is that everything in life happens at God's command/allowance and that the whole purpose of life is to move into unity with Him, which is to become holy, which is ultimately salvation. He structures my life to lead me on the "easiest" path (for me) to salvation. To God it doesn't particularly matter if I am rich or poor, sick or healthy, die tragically or gently. All that matters is that in the end He can say to me, "I know you, and you know Me". As I wrote in a previous post: I am thankful for my very comfortable life, but I need to learn to hold in my heart the understanding that it would be better for Him to take everything away than for me to perish with my earthly treasure. Absolutely everything that happens to me is salvific and chance to develop new virtues.

All to say, I am so thankful to God for my wonderful life, and I can only hope to learn real trust in God and develop an attitude of thankfulness and humility in all situations.

Glory to God for all things. His mercy endures forever!