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Society

“Our society values self-reliance. We teach that maturity means that we no longer depend on others for direction or support. When we are fully grown, we should take our own path in life.…society has shifted from a society focused on God to a society where we are largely focused on ourselves. A focus on ourselves desires whatever is good for the individual, whether or not it hurts other people...However, our reading of Proverbs 3:1-18 teaches us the opposite. The wise teacher of Proverbs says, “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight” (Proverbs 3:5)…A focus on God focuses on the good of the whole society. It focuses on love. It focuses on serving others, rather than putting forth the self.” (Fr. Basil, Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis)


“It is unfortunate that today Niebuhr’s wisdom about the individual and the community scarcely obtains in American Christianity, much of which has become wedded to a radical individualism that regards culture and society, implicitly if not explicitly, as artificial constructs that individuals build. I believe that, on the whole, North American culture is awash in a feckless brew of expressive individualism, moral relativism, and godless utilitarianism that does grave damage to the human spirit and most certainly challenges the church to reassert its mission to claim this world for God.” (Vigen Guroian)


“The modern myth of human beings as individual, self-contained moral agents is not just incorrect. It is also a tool of deception. The myth is often used to absolve us from the mutual responsibility that constitutes a just society, as well as to falsely blame individuals for things over which they have little or no control. That contemporary Christianity is often complicit in this deception is perhaps among its greatest errors.” (Father Stephen Freeman)


“What emerges, then, is “a new self-¬understanding of our social existence, one which gave an unprecedented primacy to the individual.”...It’s how we functionally imagine ourselves — it’s the picture of our place in the world that we assume without asking. It’s exactly the picture we take for granted. Taylor describes this shift — in which society will come to be seen as a collection of individuals.” (Charles Taylor, James K.A. Smith)


“Our cities desperately need the presence of Christians, enlivened by hope and intent on freedom; when they have studied the workings of society, like everyone else, they must make it their sole task to permeate its density with an unquenchable desire for communion. Fedorov said, ‘Our social program is the Trinity; everything else is society in decay.’ In this enterprise there can be no conflict between the insistence on fair dealing, the setting up of model communities and the reform of society; the last after all simply means that we house, clothe and feed, as we are bound to do, the ‘thou’ who is our neighbor, all over the world. When St John Chrysostom began to preach the ‘sacrament of the brother’, he conceived the idea of reorganizing the society of Antioch in such a way that poverty would be abolished. But society is an aspect of the person, not the other way round, and however ethical the social institutions are, they are of no value unless they are created by and for persons.” (Olivier Clement)


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