Hi, everyone. Welcome back again. Today I just wanted to share with you some of the listener responses that I received to a previous episode that aired on globalization and the role that we as Orthodox Christians have in this global world that we live in. In general, I just really love getting listener responses. I just thoroughly enjoy all of the emails I receive from you. It adds so much depth to this experience, and you guys have so many amazing insights and questions and thoughts that really add so much to this podcast, so please keep them coming in. In particular, with the episode on globalization, I was just overwhelmed by the listener responses that I received. At the end of that episode, I asked listeners to share their ideas about ways that Orthodox Christians can live, work, and strive to make a just world on a global scale, and, like I said, I was just so grateful to see the enormity of the responses that are received, so many insightful messages.
I wanted to just share a few of them with you today. I asked the permission of some of the people that responded to share three of those emails with you. I would love to share all of them with you, but I definitely don’t have time to do that here, so I’m just going to share three of these emails and read them with you. I want to thank you again to all of you who responded with such amazing insightful things you shared from your lives, you shared from different patristic and biblical sources, and just such prayerful, insightful responses. Let’s just jump in and see what these listeners had to say. Here’s the first email that I’m going to read to you here.
In my opinion, we must accept that no practical way exists for Christians to fully partake in a global economy without having to engage in acts that support cultural and environmental destruction. To even begin to answer this question, we must again look at the root of globalization. At the risk of oversimplifying the answer, what lies at the heart of globalization is a continuation of colonialism. In its most basic form, globalization is a neo-colonial form of conducting business in which the wealthy, i.e., corporations and the government, of a powerful first-world nation work with the minority wealthy, i.e. ruling oligarchy and/or government, of a third-world nation to extract labor and goods. This pretty much always takes the form, as you partly alluded to, of environmental resource extraction, slave labor, cultural homogenization, etc.
In many ways, we are not given a choice of participating or not because we in the first-world regions of U.S., Europe, Canada, etc., we must function in a society that’s totally formed by such practices, both psychologically and materialistically. I do not believe in strict political ideologies, left or right, and I am wary of anything worldly that resembles utopianism. I also think that it is our duty as Christians to accept the realistic world as it is by coming to terms that poverty has and always will exist in some form. In turn, though, it means honestly recognizing the violence that all super-nation-states must engage in to function through competitive resource procurement, land expansion, economic and technological supremacy, and so on. This violence has trickle-down effects that are widespread when this competition happens on a connected global scale.
With all of this in mind, I feel the only true option for a conscious Orthodox Christian is to stay to true to Christ’s message versus those in the Church who would have us glorifying the likes of the tsar, nationalism, xenophobia, etc., without question. I believe the more one truly begins to grieve for our brothers and sisters, the easier it is to follow the trail of tears from the global scale down to the local. The global economy and its destructive side effects do not exist in a vacuum, nor do the loss of sustainable local economies or destroyed ecosystems and cultures that depend on them, grounded up for a CEO’s bank account/bottom line. These all have root causes that need to be acknowledged.
I sometimes want to tell my fellow Orthodox Christians at church who act like critiquing our government and military beyond the usual “everything is too secular” complaint that they owe it to themselves and their brothers and sisters in the world to please open their eyes. Such is the comfortable effects of privilege on their part, with maybe an overzealous righteousness on mine.
Perhaps if we are to follow a Christian path the only answer is layered with two seemingly opposite roots. The first is to again recognize that in the world in this age, there will always be trouble. The rich, poor, and in between will always be with us, and the current powers-that-be have chosen this path to pull us down. The next step is how to take action to live a prayerful, humane life within this chaos. While this can take the form of the charity we are used to in our daily parish life, it must become fuller. We must also explore and act in ways that serve as an alternative to this system.
Again, I am not talking about something utopian, but rather becoming educated and working simply for a world in which it is easier for people to be and do good; for a world, or even unofficial system, that promotes better behavior such as the rich recognizing and shouldering their responsibility to the greater society; for a world where people feel more sorrow, solidarity, trust, and community with each other. As for capitalism, socialism, communism, or any other system run by a powerful super-state, if power and might are going to be the standards, one can only expect a dog-eat-dog mentality of “might equals right.” Exploitation will always be the norm.
Actively working, supporting, and praying for these two things together is the only realistic way I can see us Orthodox Christians keeping our true cosmic faith in humanity in such a seemingly hopeless situation.
Yes, so that was a really well-thought-out response, very powerful and insightful in so many ways. A couple of things that I really liked in this is, one, just acknowledging that we might always have these problems, that we are operating as Orthodox Christians in a fallen world, and to say, “Okay, we can completely eliminate the social order as it stands,” may not be the case. But these things that we do as individuals, it’s not really so much about changing the system as it’s about doing what’s right. So I as an individual might have the means with which to operate in more just ways on a global scale, meaning that I as an individual might have some say over where I buy certain products, what types of food I eat, how I invest and save my money, and these things might seem like a small drop in the ocean of the injustice that people experience on a global scale, but I still have a responsibility as a Christian to do those things, even if I feel like they may not make a huge impact.
I also really loved this response touched on the concept that we’ll never find something utopian outside of a spiritual framework. All of these different political systems that we keep trying as attempts to deal with the problems of the world, they’re not going to work and they haven’t worked. These things are spiritual problems; they’re not political problems. The injustice that people experience on a global scale is the result of a fallen world. To fix that, we need to turn to our Lord, and we need to turn to his power, not to our power. We won’t be able to solve this problem with more power on our parts.
All right. Let me share the next email with you. This is a listener who is sharing with us a different type of lifestyle that he and his wife are living in an attempt to live more justly in the midst of globalization. So here it is.
My wife and I are on the cusp of moving to a small farm in Canada to join another Orthodox couple there who are attempting to live a simpler life that is less burdensome to our invisible developing-world neighbor, as I like to think of him. My wife and I are convicted that the modern ways of life normative in North America today are deeply destructive to environment and neighbor. We have found them inconsistent with the spiritual life of communion and healing, reconciliation and repentance, and asceticism that we are called to in the Orthodox tradition.
We also recognize that we are weak and puny people. Like our family and friends around us, we find ourselves unwillingly caught up in this lifestyle and recognize the huge price tag to attempting to live otherwise. It will take more resources, strength, energy, knowledge, skills, and willpower than my wife and I think we have to try to move in the downwardly mobile direction of weakness, poverty, and self-reliance that seems more human, more just, and more faithful.
In short, we are moving to the farm to attempt a simpler life, with the full expectation that we will fail. When we share this fear with our spiritual parents, monks of a small skete, Holy Transfiguration out this way, they said, “Yes, of course you will likely fail, but all our greatest heroes were failures. Go, and do it anyways.” So for us we are doing it less to succeed but more to repent: to attempt a change in mind and change in direction. We are doing it as an offering to God. He has shown us certain truths about the wickedness of our modern lifestyle, and we are trying to at least admit the truth of what he has shown us, and offer ourselves to him to make a change if possible.
We expect likely that our broken motives and pride, as well as our human weakness and lack of will, will send us home having failed to maintain the simpler, more reliant life on the farm that we desire. But even this can be part of our humiliation that brings the humility to live at peace within our constraints, if that is the path the Lord gives us.
So this is one response to the question: How do we live a more just life in today’s modern world? Another response, perhaps more radical, more prophetic, is given by some of our dear friends. They have purchased a property in the wilderness and are in the process of building an ancient Byzantine-style chapel there in the wilderness. Their hope is that this can be a sanctuary of life: a small, non-violent, or less violent, community where prayer life, liturgical fullness, is mixed with community, work with hands and movement away from fossil fuels, permaculture and more wholesome relationships with food, engagement with the natural world in harmony rather than oppressive dominance, etc. Have a look at their work and their invitation to others on their blog, which you can find at stjohninthewilderness.ca/wordpress.
So this is another attempt here to deal with the world in which we live and the ways that in some aspects it is, like this listener has written, sometimes violent and it is sometimes exploitative. Their response is to try to move away from that world completely, to try to live in a more self-sustaining way, in a way where they can have a more wholesome relationship like they said with food, with nature. And this is a really big step, so we pray for them as they do this. We pray for strength as you move forward on this path, and we hope that you will keep us updated, so please let us know as you are in the midst of that move, and as you move please keep us posted on how that goes, and we can share those updates with the rest of our listener community here.
The last one I want to read is a little shorter, but I think it’s got some profundity in it that I think is worth sharing. Here’s the last email that I’ll be sharing today.
I enjoyed your podcast on globalization. I think it is important when we have so far to go as a country that we try not to do things that seem impossible. In my prayer rule, my spiritual father tells me to do a little better each week or month than last. As a country, when dealing with less privileged entities, we should probably start by looking at our history and just trying to do at least a little better than our last interaction and, whenever possible, do no harm.
I definitely agree. What I think this last email is touching on is that sometimes our attempts to deal with the injustice of globalization is so overwhelming—how do I as an individual or how do we as a country or as a community face these kinds of global-scale problems? I love this rule that this listener’s spiritual father gave her, which said just try to do a little bit better. If you’re always trying to grow and you’re always trying to take up a little bit more of that burden, then you will make progress in that way. So even as a country, when we consider our history and we say we know what mistakes we have made in the past, we know as communities and as privileged people the ways in which we have hurt others, we can still come back and want to change that in whatever ways we can. Even if those are small changes, we should not be discouraged by that.
Thank you again to these three listeners for letting me share your emails, and to everyone who wrote in, once again, I’m so grateful for all of your responses. You can keep writing me those emails. I love to see them and to engage in conversations with you and to share them with our listeners. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, God bless you.