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Politics makes strange bedfellows. When I start talking politics, especially as a priest, it makes folks (rightfully) nervous. After all, as a priest, I’m supposed to focus on being accessible and available to all people regardless of their positions on this or that political matter. And that’s true.

But I’ve also found it extremely helpful to myself and even to others to embrace the wisdom of discovering our real intentions and even spiritual illnesses. I confess, sometimes I say things just to keep the conversation “lively.” And, as a fallible human being, sometimes I get it wrong. But even that revelation is helpful to me and all those around me. It invites me to my greatest spiritual need of humility and repentance. And, it can even invite those around me to their own place of humility and repentance. I confess, to my deep sadness, that it doesn’t always work out that way. But, does that mean I should avoid this challenge altogether?

Look at our lesson today in Acts 23:1-11:

IN THOSE DAYS, Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ” But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose; and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome.”

St. Paul has been arrested AGAIN! By the way, he won’t get out of this last brush with the authorities alive.

The Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of the Jewish nation. It was where the theocratic system of religion and politics merged to judge the serious cases of Jewish law and societal behavior. It was also a court that was divided by differences of opinion about Jewish theology. Sound familiar?

The two main Jewish factions were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees rejected most of the Hebrew scriptures except the first 5 books of Moses. They rejected an afterlife, miracles, angels, basically anything to do with the so called “supernatural.” They were also the most highly educated and wealthy. The Pharisees were also well educated, but they believed in everything the Sadducees didn’t. The Pharisees considered the Sadducees “liberal.” Paul was trained as a Pharisee! And he used the divisions of the court to his advantage when he proclaimed that he was being persecuted because he believed in the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees immediately sided with Paul against the Sadducees! Brilliant move, Paul! Of course this did get him sent to Rome, which was God’s will for Paul in the first place!

Today, don’t always avoid the challenges that reveal the hearts of those around you, and even the true needs of your own heart. While we never purposefully goad others with controversy for controversy’s sake, we also shouldn’t shy away from the revelations of reality when controversy erupts. Being Orthodox on Purpose just means we handle controversy with mercy and love; not hiding from it!


  • Douglas Johnson
    Posted May 23, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Great piece, Father. But one really nit-picky quibble about the title (which really has very little to do with the rest of the piece).

    I once had dinner with a group of liberals and the term political correctness came up. A liberal at the table said, “On one level political correctness just means not saying things that you know will upset someone just for the sake of upsetting them. It’s basically synonymous with being polite, and I don’t have any problem with being polite.” We might consider discussing whether this fellow is right or wrong, and if he’s wrong, what’s the best dinner-time response to a table of people who generally agree with what he said?

    Let’s contrast what he said with Theodore Dalrymple’s discussion of political correctness:

    Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.” – Theodore Dalrymple

    Who’s right? Is political correctness invoked to intimidate, or is it invoked as good manners? The question answers itself, I think. Therefore…

    To say approvingly of someone that he is “not politically correct” says what? It means, I guess, that the man says what he means even if it might offend some people sensibilities. But do you see that this phrase then concedes that political correctness is not about humiliation but it is about not giving offense, and being polite? To put it another way, to say that someone is “not politically correct” is to deny that political correctness is about intimidation and humiliation. And therefore, to say someone is “politically incorrect” is to say that you yourself are politically correct in the sense that you concede the leftist definition of the term.

  • Mary Bernardelli
    Posted May 23, 2018 at 10:40 am

    A great reflection. I continue to believe that we are pastors and not politicians. I gave up political ideas a long time ago, when I realized I was working in the wrong quadrant. Yet, I do believe that the life of Christ had great political ramifications. Did Christ not immortalize the rulers of his age? Well, let me say my prayers, and continue the vigil of prayers for all of humanity, all politicians, leaders, lay individuals, and the church of Christ on earth. Let us stand on our faith.

  • ME
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Political correctness and ideological soundness were demanded in publications by Lenin in the early years of Soviet Russia. The term has been therefore closely allied with politics since then. Chairman Mao had a little book of political thoughts which were mandatory during his reign. Nowadays it always describes mandatory opinions for those who describe themselves as Progressive in many disciplines.

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