Friday, January 05, 2007

Letter to a Right Wing Nation

As many of you know, I took a hiatus from blogging for about a year. Like Rip Van Winkle emerging from sleep, when I went back to the blog I discovered a lot had changed. Most of the blogs that used to link to mine had given up on me (can't say I blame them), as had many of my regular readers. But I found there was a new blog linking to mine, a blog called "Right Wing Nation."

Perhaps, now that I am starting up blogging again, this is a good opportunity to reiterate a few things I have mentioned in the past. I am an Orthodox Christian who lives and writes from a socially and politically liberal perspective. I'm a pacifist, a vegetarian, and a socialist/distributionalist. I am anti-death penalty, and favor eliminating the stigma attached to homosexual people in society and in the church. And my family and I, in the various situations in which we have lived over the past number of years, have attempted to live in community with the poor, to make disadvantaged people a part of our lives. This is really the basis for the Guerilla Orthodoxy blog: it is one family's attempt at living out a personal preferential option for the poor.

So it was a real surprise to discover that someone whose tag line is "peace through superior firepower" is linking to my blog.

Now, I want to emphasize that I'm not complaining about this (and not only because I don't want to lose one of my few remaining referrers!). Despite my own ideas and leanings, I happen to think there are many things that are more important about a person than his or her political affiliation. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat or a Constitutionalist or a Green, it doesn't answer some of my most basic questions about you: Are you kind? Are you fair? Are you generous?

Moreover, I genuinely believe (appearances in this country often to the contrary) that it is possible for people of good faith on the right and on the left to work together on some very difficult issues if we are willing to surrender some of our preconceptions, rather than using these issues as fulcrums to leverage ourselves into power. Take abortion, for example, one of the most divisive issues of our time. If you study the statistics about abortion, you will soon learn that one of the strongest predictive factors as to whether or not a pregnant young woman will get an abortion is poverty. The country that has the lowest abortion rate in the world is not the country with the most restrictive abortion laws, but rather the one with the most liberal abortion laws, the Netherlands. Why is this? Probably because there is very little poverty in the Netherlands, a narrow gap between rich and poor, a generous medical leave program, and health care for everyone.

A world without abortion is not a world with better laws. It is a world without desperation. So being pro-life doesn't just mean passing stronger abortion laws. It also means working to eliminate poverty, narrowing the gap between rich and poor, making health care accessible to everyone, and creating a society where family is more important than productivity or profit. I'd like to think there is a "win-win" on abortion, a way for people on both the right and the left to agree that every abortion is a tragic event, and to work towards eliminating the root causes of abortion, rather than endlessly reiterating the "right to life/right to choose" dichotomy like a bad and endless beer commercial ("Tastes great!" "Less filling!").

So this is my letter to a right wing nation. I'm glad you're here, I really am. I just wanted you to know where "here" is.




Mimi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mimi said...

I'm glad you are back, Sampson. You've been greatly missed.

(deleted and reposted to correct my spelling, sorry about that.)

Miss Eagle said...

Sampson, I am so glad you are back among us. Nearly fell over when I saw the link courtesy of Steve Hayes. My blogging is rather intermittent at the moment. Since you left, I have found my way into full time employment. Quite a miracle at my age. Currently a number of social justice issues are taking up my time away from papid work: home care for people who are aged and people who have disabilities; encouraging social justice practice in the church; researching common lands in Australia; and getting a handle on the private life - not the public life - of Jesus from the scriptures. As well I am assisting a friend by doing a bit of proofreading on his PhD. I look forward to popping in from time to time and reading what you have to say. God's richest blessings on you and yours. said...

Hi, I found your blog through a link and read your "Letter to a Right Wing Nation" My inital reaction to reading the title was that we actually live in a very liberal "Left Wing" nation. I am still trying to digest your comments on abortion and its relationship to the social climate of a society. Here is my take: There is Right and there is Wrong. There is no sliding scale of morals, and I don't feel we should make attribute any "cause" to abortion other than poor immoral choice. Asides from the socio-economic climate that person lives in they still make personal choices with the Free Will the Lord has given us. These choices apply to all areas "Should I have casual premarital sex?", "Should I have an abortion?" , or "Should I choose to Share my wealth that the Lord has blessed me with?". We can look at these issues on the Macro level but there are still personal choices to be made in day to day life on the Micro level that we will be judged for. I think the answer lies with everyone on the Micro Level, everyone has to ask themselves "Is the decison I am about to make Right or Wrong?" If everyone make the right decisions and follows God's laws everyday then an only then can the society, country or world start to change. Even if someone finds themselves living in a less that favorable socioeconomic climate they are still responsable for their own actions and must make the right decisions regardless of their surroundings.

Christ Is Among Us


Gregory said...

Sampson - I found your blog through Kevin Basil's blog (so you've still some other non-Super Right Wing blogs linking to you). I also liked that your post mimicked Sam Harris' book (which I liked, but whom I do not think is as good of a thinker as he could be if he would just drop his hatred - a lesson for us all, I expect).

To Ruairi - I applaud you for leaving your email address on this post. I would urge you to get a blogger ID, though, because you're now exposed to lots of nasty programs that spider all over the web and snatch up unsuspecting e-mail addresses.

The question that Ruairi brings up is worthy of an inter-blog chain discussion. We all know that we have "free will" (I'm a bit wary that you put that in Capital Letters, Ruairi), and that we are called to give account for our actions (does it not say, though, that we will not speak at this event?). The question of how our decisions are mediated to us is an interesting one, and it may turn out that though our actions are "free," they are only free within a matrix of historically conditioned potentialities. I'm not saying this because I have a liking for the ideology behind it, I'm saying it because it would seem that good empirical research bears it out. Dogmas about our freedom and our responsibility before the Master do not translate de-facto into particular positive theories about what it means to be free (and what, therefore, we should do about various political possibilities). The dogmas of the Church are _negative_, that is, they give a _boundary_ to the life of the Church and her vision. It sounds like you want to say, Ruairi, that our freedom is simply unaffected by our history and our context and our character - that we are all endowed with a certain "distance" from our own actions to see them clearly, as though from the perspective of some higher plane that is unaffected by these contingencies and able to see without being muddied by them. I think we all know that grace can break in at any moment, because all things were made through Christ and thus, carry within themselves a messianic potency, but that doesn't mean that they don't have their concrete characteristics, and corresponding inhibiting (or enabling) qualities.

What do you all think?

Steve Hayes said...

I think I may have dropped my link to your blog when there was nothing here, but I've found it again, and relinked so I can come here easily.

You might also like to look at MyBlogLog as an interesting way of not only linking to similar blogs, but seeing recent vistors and being reminded thus to visit their blogs.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe for a moment women have abortions because they are poor and desperate - they have abortions because they were too lazy and too feckless not to get pregnant at the wrong time and that is not a function of wealth or class. As for the stigma attached to homosexuality - what makes that different from other sin?

Anonymous said...

Hey Sampson, you should start postying again. I just found your blog doing a google search for Orthodox Action. Its really refreshing to find progressive voices in the Orthodoc church and on the internet if you give this up it would be a real loss.

Chris Rooney

Steve Hayes said...

Encore! Encore! Encore!

Biby Cletus said...

Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I'll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i'll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya...

Jesus an Essenes ?


Kerala, India

Brother Billy said...

Sampson - I came across your blog while writing one on Amos, thus finding, via Google, your "Ruin of Joseph" entry from 2005.

Having written intermittently at my own blog, I can understand your situation. I hope you will get back to it again and be able to write more frequently.

Contrary to what Ruari wrote, I think your approach to abortion is on the mark. If things will start to change for the better only after everyone "makes the right decisions and follows God's law every day", then things will never change. Instead, if we ever get to "perfection", it will be by loving in spite of imperfections -- by not stoning the adulterers, for example. Otherwise, we kill love by loving doctrine too much.

thedave said...

This may be my new favorite blog. I knew there had to be another Orthodox leftist out there.

As for the abortion thing, I find Ruairi's comment to be unsettlingly Manichaean. But that's just me.

james said...

Wow, I'm glad there is at least one of you out there.

seth said...

pleeease start posting again. i implore you.

Robert, the sinner said...

Sampson said: " I am anti-death penalty, and favor eliminating the stigma attached to homosexual people in society and in the church."

I, too, am against the death penalty; the other part of your statement, however, I believe to be in GREAT error.

C.S. Lewis said: "It is possible to have so much sympathy for a sinner that you join him in his rebellion against God."

As Orthodox we cannot affirm their immorality or their unions. They don't need affirmation - they need healing.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Anonymous said...

My name is Robert Gusnowski and I am writing you this note to ask for your help and prayers to bring people to a forum I have just setup to build a sense of community among all Christians. In particular, I am reaching out to the Catholic and Orthodox community, but I believe that faith is a journey not a destination. With open minds and open ears, we can all learn and grow in faith
The Guiding Principles I have set out are below:
This forum has been created expressly for Christians of all faiths to meet, discuss, teach, and learn. Other than sections of the forum provided for specific internet communities, the intent is to be as open and uncensored as possible. Truthfully, can anyone in good conscience say they truly understand the mind of God? Please treat each other with the respect due to all of mankind. This isn't about agreeing on everything, but it also is not about being disrespectful, unkind, or condescending. Ad hominem attacks are NOT acceptable. You may disagree with what someone says or believes, but criticize the idea or belief, NOT the individual. Keep this in mind: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." Luke 6:37

The reality of starting a forum is that finding enough people to participate is a challenge. No one will visit a discussion forum that is dead without people posting and being part of an active community. It is like the chicken and the egg. Who wants to join an empty discussion forum? How can a forum come to life without building a community?

So I reach out and ask you to visit, register, and participate. Please share your faith. Please help me build a community by passing this message on to others.

In Christ’s name…..

Thank you


MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"