Domestic Policy

How best to conduct foreign policy while being loyal to Christ, the incarnate Logos? That’s an excellent question, the answer to which, I confess, is way beyond me.

Here’s what I can say, however: If you’re looking for a manual on the best way of organizing and running a country, Plato gets almost everything right in his Republic. But as you may remember, even he talks very little about foreign policy, except to say that you’ll need an army and that the guardians of the state, from whom the philosopher-kings are to be chosen, should all be highly trained soldiers. Needless to say, these guardians, having escaped from the Cave, are all fully in tune with the Logos. Be this Logos incarnate or not, they’re clearly among those whom St Justin the Philosopher called “Christians, fearless and unperturbed” (First Apology, 46).

Of course, Plato also says—or more precisely, Glaucon says to Socrates toward the end of the dialogue—that the state they’ve so carefully constructed will almost certainly never exist on this planet. Socrates readily agrees, insisting however that it’s enough if it exists in the heavens for the wise man to contemplate and inwardly emulate. Having first read The Republic as a 19-year old political science major, I did two things: gave up on political science and decided to focus all my energies on inward spiritual work.

It’s not that I’m unconcerned about society or indifferent to other people’s struggles, or opposed to assisting those in need whose paths cross our own. Quite the contrary. I just don’t think there’s much to be done in the way of outwardly “changing the world” that won’t simply result in pushing Evil A to one side so that Evil B can spring up somewhere else. As for terrorism and wars and other forms of global violence—the sorts of things a contemporary foreign policy seems obliged to consider—it seems to me we’d need a deep knowledge of “the powers of the air”, be they planets or demons, in order to be of any lasting benefit to our fellow men, for that’s obviously where all the big troubles start.

So what I do instead is to concentrate on my own domestic policy, a much more modest but also (or so I believe) much more realistic and practical undertaking. I try each day to take a step or two back from my reactions and passions and projections, and in this way to move just a tiny bit closer to hesychia, trusting that St Seraphim was right when he said: “Acquire inner peace, and thousands around you will find their salvation.” And when people ask me about my politics, I just tell them I’m a radical—a “radical traditionalist”, that is, as per this post (which perhaps you’ve noted before).

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