All posts by Isaac Sweilem

About Isaac Sweilem

My name is Isaac, I'm an undergraduate student of philosophy. I write here mainly to organize my thoughts, and maybe contribute to the overall internet discussion.

Angels, Demons, & why Hollywood Hates Their Battles

The other day, my wife and I saw The Rite. It’s a film based on a book written by the Catholic priest Fr. Gary Thomas and his experiences with exorcism and demons. Starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue, it was a decent film, the tension and suspense being found more in the atmosphere than the scenes or the dialogue. Anthony Hopkins does his fantastic job as usual, while Colin was somewhat wanting in his performance, something I would chalk to a lack of experience than anything else. While the Catholic community in America received it warmly, Rotten Tomatoes rated it 20%, with many mainstream critics panning it negatively. I would have to ask the question however, why is this?

For a moment however, let’s assume the fault isn’t with me: that I enjoyed the film because of a lack of taste on my part, but maybe rather the fault is with the critics: A movie about God triumphing over evil just isn’t artistic or good enough to be on film. Let’s face it, Christianity in Hollywood tends to receive quite the beating, and the Christian films that have come out in response have been… lacking. Films like God’s Not Dead (and its atrocious sequel), Fireproof, Courageous, and other such abominations to film making have not done Christians any favors. Yet the The Rite, doesn’t engage in the sins of these films: we don’t see the same tripe, rather we see a seminarian whose faith has been shattered by the death of his mother, we see what is obviously a very emotional and spiritual struggle that comes to the conclusion of his faith restored  through spiritual battle. The man fights off Ba’al, for Heaven’s sake, one of the most powerful demons of Hell.

Yet while the modern critic does not like this conflict as it is portrayed in The Rite, he oddly enough however, he is entertained and exhilarated by the same conflict as it was portrayed within the Lord of the Rings, whether in the books or the films. We see him wide-eyed with fear when Gandalf faces off the terrifying Balrog, we feel his heart race with excitement when the armies of Mordor and Isengard are defeated, and he yells triumphantly when the rings is cast into the fires of Mount Doom, and Sauron is destroyed. The Lord of the Rings is about the conflict between God and the legions of Satan. If you find that hard to believe, think about this: Gandalf is not a mere wizard, rather is one of the Istari: one of the five spirits sent to the people of Middle-Earth in Human form to guide them by Eru, the God of the LOTR universe. Think of the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring: as the Balrog approaches, Gandalf proclaims, ‘You cannot pass!’ He then says that he a wielder of the secret flame of Anor. Anor means sun in Sindarin, one of the Elvish langauges. He tells the Balrog that he has no power here, calling him a flame of Udun. Udun means hell in Sindarin. With this in mind, let us think about what is happening here: Gandalf, an angel of God is calling out the Balrog, telling the creature that he knows exactly what he is, and that he shall be defeated. Whether reading in the book, or watching the film, we are witnessing a conflict between an Angel of God and a demon of Hell: and we see that the power and might of God triumphs over all. A similar thing is happening in The Rite: Michael, the young seminarian, does battle with the demon Ba’al who has possessed his mentor, the exorcist Fr. Lucas. He proclaims his power in God, and when he identifies Ba’al, he calls the demon out by name and banishes it back to hell. While there is no swordplay or magic involved, it is the same conflict.

So then why does the modern critic find it revolting when God’s servants carry crosses rather than staffs and swords into battle? The Rite, for all its flaws is not some prepackaged product with the approval of Billy Graham that’s to be shown during church lock-ins or CYO meet-ups. Tt’s a decent film, and if the person watching does not find the sign of the Cross revolting, he will enjoy it. But maybe that is why this film was lampooned, because modern critics do find the sign of the Cross revolting. The idea of a Christian man renewing his faith and fighting off evil is not a fashionable idea these days, rather the modern critic will give praise and applause to Leviathan: a film about a man who loses everything he found dear, and is sent to prison for a murder he did not commit, or Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: a four-hour work about a woman’s sexual exploits and her nymphomania, which ends with am an attempting to rape her (and let us not even talk about his prior work, Anti-Christ).

Yet this simple film, that tells a simple story about a man who regains his faith, is apparently distasteful. This is not an awful movie, and the average person who sees it will like it. He won’t find it to be worthy of accolade, nor will he believe to be an artistic masterpiece, but he will enjoy it. He possibly might even feel a sense of warmth or triumph in the message of the film: that Christ conquers all that evil can never win, and of all the different messages and themes that Hollywood will tell, from the completely nonsensical to the extremely perverse, the feeling and message of The Rite is not a bad one at all.

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Do Not Leave Martyrdom, Embrace It

Fr_Hammel

In the wake, of the martyrdom of Fr. Hamel, an outpouring of prayer, love, and support, has come from many faithful Christians and non-Christians alike. They are outraged, rightly so, at his death, and the desecration of the Holy Altar in the church. Two ISIS Jihadists stormed the church, gave a ‘sermon’ in Arabic, and slit the throat of the priest on the Altar. His martyrdom is a true witness to the Gospel: a humble, quiet servant of our Lord brutally slaughtered during the Mass, filled with the Grace and Love of Christ, something his assassins lacked. His is the exemplar of the Christian way, both in his life and in his death.

Yet there are those on the left, who do not believe, who would tell us that to glorify this saint of God would be wrong. Those people, in the name of Political Correctness, would have us deny his Martyrdom, have us mourn his death while ignoring the very reason for his death: his faith and service to Christ. Paul Vallely a journalist on religion and ethics, recently published an article in the New York Times, denouncing the call for the Canonization of Fr. Hamel. His reasoning is simple: because Islamic Jihadists have perverted the meaning of martyrdom, and have used such a perversion to murder innocents, Christians should not call Fr. Hamel a martyr. He says this:

Reciprocal talk of martyrdom is unhelpful. The impulse to canonize Father Hamel, however sincere and well intentioned, feeds the idea of retaliation — our martyr for yours — that gives the jihadists the war of religions they seek.

What retaliation? Has the Pope, or the Archbishop of Rouen called for the destruction of the local Masjid? Have Catholic leaders demanded that we retaliate by slitting the throat of the local Imam, Mohammed Karabila during the Juma’a prayers? No. Rather we have seen time after time, that Christians have called for prayer, for mercy, for love, for the conversion to Christ those who hate and kill us. Fr. Hamel was killed for his faith, he was martyred, and according to Mr. Vallely, this is as violent and dangerous as the murder of this humble Priest. This is sophistry and political correctness at its worst: according to the secular Left, which is implicitly anti-theistic, we must keep the Truth silent, hide it in a dusty cellar never to be mentioned, for the fear of offending and angering Evil, which it has no problem placing upon a pedestal. Mr. Vallely then continues to give reason why we should do such a thing, invoking other Saints, comparing them to Fr. Hamel, with the conclusion he does not meet their legacy:

Some leading Catholics immediately compared Father Hamel to Thomas Becket or Oscar Romero, other priests killed in their places of worship. But there are important differences. Fathers Becket and Romero knew the dangers they were facing, taking a stand against the civil powers of their day. Their martyrdoms were ones of defiance.

By contrast, Father Hamel was going about his lifelong business in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray as an everyday exemplar of quiet holiness, kindness and love for the people in his community.

What Mr. Vallely fails to understand, is that by simply being a quiet, holy and Christ-like servant of God, Fr. Hamel was a defiant man: he defied Modernity and its conditional love through his radical  and unconditional love. He defied the pride and arrogance of the Secular age through his humility. He defied modern norms and taste by being a Christian man. His mere existence was an act of defiance against everything this modern world stands for. He was even killed in a similar manner as St. Becket: praying to God in his Church.

Mr. Vallely asks us to deny our faith and the Truth because he fears evil. He is a moral coward, a villain, who twists words such as compassion, understanding, and love to subvert real Love, and ultimately the truth: that Fr. Hamel is a martyr of the church and a Saint of God. For his lauding of St. Becket and Fr. Romero for their ‘martyrdom of defiance’, Mr. Vallely would have called the church not to canonize St. Becket as much then, as he does with Fr. Hamel now. He would have made the same arguments, that the political aspect of St. Becket’s death does not merit his Sainthood, that to Canonize the man would be a violent retaliation against the evil of King Henry II, and rather we should mourn his death as ‘senseless’. This is absurd and false. There was much sense in the deaths of these two Holy Men: a sense of hatred for God, and of his Holy Church. Mr. Vallely would obfuscate and deny this truth, because to accept it would mean that he must accept another truth he finds inconvenient and unfashionable: that the truth of God was revealed in Fr. Hamel’s martyrdom, and the church was vindicated by his blood.

Do not listen to Mr. Vallely’s lies. As Christians, we must welcome martyrdom with happy faces and joyous hymns. It is a crown which bestows great honour and Eternal Life. Embrace martyrdom and Truth, do not hide it in the shadows, for that is where evil resides, and where Mr. Vallely finds himself quite comfortable.

The Traditionalist Trinity: the Family

There are three important facets of Traditionalism: Family, Church, & State. This ‘trinity’, if you will, is the basis upon which Traditionalist political, social, and religious thought is based. It is the goal of this article, and the two articles that will proceed from it, to give a simple, yet in-depth explanation of this trinity. So then, we shall start with the family.

The basic unit in which society is based upon is the family: husband, wife and children. There is very much a Christian foundation upon which the family is built, and the importance of love for one another, and how this is good for society. St. John Chrysostom says quite eloquently:

The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love. St. Paul would not speak so earnestly about this subject without serious reason; why else would he say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord?” Because when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down.

The family is everything: parents having children, raising them properly and in good faith, so that these children can grow up to be productive members of society. But how is this done? What makes for a good family that will create children who grow to be stable, adjusted, and loving?

It is a truly Christian foundation upon which the family built. This starts with marriage. But what is proper marriage, and why should we marry? We marry for the same reason the earliest Christians walked into the Roman lion pits: Martyrdom. Martyrdom does not mean death, rather, it means eternal life. In the Orthodox marriage service, this is what the crowning ceremony represents: that those who are to be married have been given martyrs crowns, for they have decided to give themselves together to Christ, and it is Christ who is at the head of all things, and should be the head of every married couple.Through marriage, the love that the couple has for one another is transformed by God into a living Icon of Himself. Ultimately in Orthodoxy, spouses choose one another because they believe truly that marriage is their path to salvation. Their marriage does not end in death, rather continues on forever in the afterlife, in communion with Christ.

The problem today however, is that we live in a modern world that has distorted and perverted the meaning and understanding of marriage, even in Christianity. Materialism and secular humanism has deluded people into thinking that it is for the here and now emotions that one should get married, for ‘love’ and ‘happiness’, equating their feeble and fleeting infatuations that our passions create with eternal life and love. It is why in the West, the divorce rate of married couples is over 50%, particularly among American evangelicals. This is why the sin of divorce is brushed over and not even seen as sin: because the understanding of marriage is corrupt, then the marriage itself is no longer viewed by the couple in its proper fullness: it is not martyrdom in their eyes, rather a simple contract meant to fulfill their own desires and wants. This of course, has a terribly negative effect upon the children they raise: the children are told that marriage is to be avoided, they are emotionally scarred by the selfishness of the parents, who exploit their children for their own desires in the divorce proceedings, bringing nothing but misery to all involved. It is therefore critical to understand the martyric nature of marriage, otherwise, those who marry are engaging in a simple, cold, contract, to be annulled at a whim when one party is no longer satisfied.

So then, the question is, how to raise children? The answer of course, is in the Church. The Church has the tools to help the husband and wife raise their children: the Divine Liturgy, the sacraments, the monastics, all of these that can engage children at a small age. However, the most important part of this is prayer. Though cliche, the saying is true: the family who prays together, stays together. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika, in his seminal work, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, had this to say on family prayer:

It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. Prayer attracts God’s Grace and all the members of the family feel it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Pray always.

It is therefore important to make time for prayer, to pray with one’s children, and to pray often. Through prayer, love, and the sacramental life of the church, one can raise their children to be good, loving, Christians. We have seen in many studies, that children raised without mothers and fathers grow up to be broken, suffering with psychological issues, are less likely to finish their education, and more likely to end up in criminal gangs, addicted to harmful narcotics, and imprisoned. It is the traditional family unit: the mother and the father, that is most likely to raise stable and well-adjusted children. For what real reason do we have to change this formula? For centuries it has worked perfectly fine, and it is only radicalists who have little regard for truth that wish to bring an upheaval to this institution, driven by their passions and pleasures to do so. The modern rise of third-wave feminism, which falsely teaches that marriage is an ‘oppressive’ tool used by patriarchal forces to subjugate and enslave women has much to do with this. Though good-intentioned in their beliefs, thinking they are going to liberate women from tyranny, and ill-intentioned in their desire to ‘liberate’ women sexually (the real intention is to justify their self-slavery to their passions), all they have managed to do is contribute to the growing problem of divorce in the West, and now we see that fewer millennials wish to be married, or marry at very late ages, some not even wishing to be blessed with children, viewing them as ‘burdens’ they do not wish to bear. They view marriage and children as a hindrance to their own personal freedom, ultimately valuing their material pleasure over the beauty and martyrdom of marriage, and the true blessing of children. This view of the traditional family devalues the richness and depth of a loving, Christian marriage, and dehumanizes children, viewing them as objects, obstacles in the way of their career-paths. It is rather dark and sad in a way. The third-wave feminist decries marriage as slavery, and upholds the value of choice in having children; though I have yet to meet a married couple in which the wife bemoans her slavery, and every parent I have met has only told me how wondrous and joyful it is to have children. The description of this institution as given by the feminist, and the reality of it are two different things, it seems.

In regards to my experience as a newly married man, I can say that it is truly a martyrdom. I can say with certainty that if I did not understand marriage through the martyr’s lens, through the theology of the Church, I would not still be married to the most wonderful woman in the world, and I can also say, that there is no other woman I would want to walk the path to salvation with.

The Importance of Tradition

When I hear the word tradition, the first thing that comes into my head is the famed song from the musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. In this film, Tevye, a poor milkman, is forced to decide whether or not make his family keep the traditions of his heritage, or to modernize: allowing his daughters to marry an impoverished tailor, a Communist, and an Orthodox Christian (I don’t particularly disagree with the third daughter’s decision). In the film, Tevye argues with himself over whether or not he should approve of his daughters choices: to marry for love over security, politics, and faith. Tevye, though he is with good intentions, is portrayed as flawed and backwards because of his holding of tradition, and the daughters are portrayed as having made positive and proper decisions, their leaving and abandoning tradition is encouraged. Yet, at the end of the film, when the Jews of Anatevka must leave the village having been expelled by the Russian empire, we see the ultimate consequences of the daughters actions: the first, who married a poor tailor, must go work in Warsaw in the hope of saving money to join her father in America. The second daughter decides to join her Communist husband in Siberia, in the hope he will be released one day. The third daughter has ostracized herself from her community, and has essentially ostracized her husband as well: both are anathematized form having married outside their groups and abandoning their traditions, and seems they will suffer for it.

Fiddler on the Roof is a wonderful film, but I bring it up because it unintentionally raises some interesting questions about the value and importance of tradition in one’s life: though the breaking away from tradition is encouraged in the film, the daughters ultimately suffer grievous consequences, yet this fact is brushed aside to show the moral righteousness of modernism and progress. Fiddler on the Roof is a romanticization: true love, progress, and hope outweigh tradition. The fact of the matter is that ultimately is Tevye’s oldest daughter would have married the wealthy butcher instead of the poor tailor, because the wealthy butcher could actually feed her and her children. The middle daughter would not have married a Communist, knowing well how dangerous such a thing could be, the consequences would be grave and far reaching. The youngest daughter would have eventually married a fellow Jew, because all of these daughters would have understood this one thing: these traditions is what would keep them alive.

This is the problem of modern society. Out of a disdain for the older ways and traditions of our forefathers, we have embraced ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’, we have eschewed tradition because we feel it has failed us, tradition has not helped us, rather held us back. Yet we see in our society that instead of a better quality of life, a more fulfilling life, modernity has given us emptiness, shallowness, and a complete and total loss of meaning in the very fundamental sense. Rather than fulfilling ourselves in spiritual matters, attempting to transform ourselves (in and through Christ), and therefore the fruits of the Holy Spirit showing forth in our lives, we try to fill our emptiness with material goods, drugs, and sexual encounters. Capitalism and secularism has not made us more whole, rather it has drained us and left us shallow husks of ourselves. Secular humanism, cultural relativism, and political progressiveness has not made our society more just, nor has it made us more moral, rather it has left is with little moral fabric, and as a result we kill the unborn, we ignore the downtrodden among us, and we look at genocide, famine, and war with indifference, more interested in finding instant gratification in material world. Democracy has not made us more prosperous, rather it has encouraged mob mentality and knee-jerk political activism, allowing for identity politics to poison the political system, with every group more interested in grabbing their share of the pie, rather than working together for the common good. Neither has it made us more educated: people know more about reality TV, Twitter trends, and social scandal than they do about the basic workings of their government, to the point that many people cannot tell you who the Vice-President of the United States is. The social, political, and existential issues that plague the West is the direct result of the exorcising of Traditional Christianity from western society.

The PolitBuro is a space dedicated to helping revive traditionalist values in a proper sense: in an internet age in which many on the far right, in an attempt to find places where they can discuss and read traditionalist thought, have been plagued by so called ‘traditionalists’ who are more interested in promoting fascism, racial segregation, and the justification of atrocities (holocaust denial, antisemitism, etc.). Though we at the PolitBuro are at our core anti-enlightenment, we are not, nor ever will be ‘Dark Enlightenment’. Though we are culturally conservative, we do not believe nor will we ever believe in any form of racial supremacism/segregation. Though we believe in older forms of government such as monarchy, and believe in proper patriotism and even nationalism, we are not at all fascists. We are Traditionalists: inspired and influenced by the Kings and Emperors of past, by the majestic and powerful rulers who united entire nations and brought prosperity, who believe in the Orthodox faith and its unique and historic role in guiding such rulers towards Christ. We believe in the Family, the Church, and Nation. May God keep you, and bless you all your lives!

Edited by Amber Sweilem

 

Trumped by Putin

Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave praise to Donald Trump. Calling him “A bright and talented person without any doubt”, he effectively supported Trump’s bid for the Oval Office. Some US news sources and pundits are not surprised by this, saying that they both have quite similar personalities, & CNN jokingly describing their relationship as a ‘bromance‘. Many Republican candidates have mocked Trump & Putin for their praise of one another, calling them both bullies, and Putin a ruthless dictator, not thinking much of this, even glad it happened in the hope that it would hurt Trump in his campaign. However, there could be more than meets the eye in regards to this ‘bromance’.

Firstly, it’s strange how for all of Putin’s praise of Trump, neither of Trump’s conglomerates, The Trump Organization or Trump Entertainment have anything to do in Russia: Trump owns no property there, he has had no business dealings with Russian corporations, no exchanges or trades of any sort. What is also strange is that Putin generally does not trust the economic elite, both within and without his country. He has passed strict protectionist laws making it difficult for foreign companies to do business in Russia, and is known for controlling his own corporate elites, seeing them as much a threat to his power as the political factions that oppose him. Rather than a genuine compliment and show of support, this is a calculated move on the part of Putin.

For the past ten years, western policy makers and analysts have tried to make sense of Putin’s foreign policy decisions: his skirmish with Georgia in 2008, his intervention in the Ukraine crisis and support of eastern partisans, the annexation of Crimea, his support of Assad and military campaign in Syria, and of course the downing of the Russian jet by Turkish forces. He has been making a lot of plays while keeping his intentions quite ambiguous, with many speculating what his end game is. However, it is possible that with his support for Trump, he has inadvertently revealed his true intentions.

Quite simply, Putin wishes to destabilize, or at the very least pacify the West. He views NATO & and the United States as threats to Russian interests and power, and has taken advantage of the current political atmosphere in the United States and Europe to do so: poking around to see what he can get away with, calling out Obama, essentially daring him to do something about Putin’s aggressive policies. He realized that Obama was a weak president: watched him bluff in Syria and blunder every political crisis that has occurred. It is because he knows that the current administration is weak he annexed Crimea, supported Assad and has intervened in Syria in such a massive scale. Which is why he baited Turkey.

Though there is no empirical evidence of this, granting the assumption that Putin’s end goal is the pacification of NATO and the West, then it is logical that he must pacify Turkey. Whatever happened that day, Erdogan took the bait and shot the jet down. This put Turkey in a hard spot and already people are calling for the removal of Turkey from NATO. While it seems that Putin’s attempt at making Turkey a black sheep in NATO did not fully succeed, It’s quite possibles he will try to bait Turkey again, or at the least ignore Turkey while continues his military campaign in the Middle East.

So what does this have to do with Trump? Considering that Trump & Russia have had no real relations whatsoever prior to his bid for the presidency,  Putin’s support of Trump could be his way of weakening the United States further. Trump has already mentioned that he would let Russia handle the Middle East “Russia wants to get rid of ISIS. We want to get rid of ISIS. Maybe let Russia do it. Let them get rid of ISIS. What the hell do we care?”, he said in a 60 minutes interview. This is where Putin’s support becomes less than genuine: It’s possible that Putin views a Trump presidency as one that would ignore Russian military action in the Ukraine & Middle East, it’s also possible that Putin sees Trump as an incompetent fool that will hurt the United States, doing all of Putin’s dirty work for him. Either way, Putin has trumped the West once again.