Reviling Our Parents
Here’s another convert priest piping up, whether “in season or out of season”. Assuming that my right to speak is limited, please allow me address myself only to other convert priests.
As a Protestant Evangelical, rooted in the Bible, I learned that God does not bless those who revile authority. St. Jude says, in verse 9, that “Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”
When Noah became drunk and lay naked in his tent, his son Ham dishonored him, but his sons Shem and Japheth protected his honor (Genesis 9). Ham was cursed, but Shem and Japheth were blessed.
There are many kinds of parents in this world. Some of us have had parents we considered “good”, and others of us have been perhaps more disappointed in our parents. Some have dysfunctional and abusive parents. But which of us, when suffering under an abusive parent, would go on national media and revile them?
St. Paul tells St. Timothy, a bishop (for himself and those under his care), “Do not rebuke an elder (presbyter), but exhort him as you would a father…” (1 Timothy 5:1). If we love our father, who might be dysfunctional, abusive, or simply wrong or questionable in a particular action or decision, we may speak to him, directly, personally, confidentially, lovingly, respectfully, maintaining in humility our proper position as a son or daughter. We do not speak to him as an equal, nor do we revile him nor speak down to him. If our dysfunctional parent acts harshly, or even abusively, to our brother, we may quietly comfort and support our brother, without publicly reviling or embarrassing our parent.
If our parent needs an intervention, then there are discreet, respectful, and loving ways to go about it. The Prophet David would not revile or attack King Saul, even though Saul did everything in his power to destroy David. David said, “May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you” (I Samuel 24:12).
The Lord taught us about due process in the Church in Matthew 18: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The Lord did not say that we should go and discuss our brother’s sins on blogs. Let alone our father’s sins.
I believe the Scriptures are sufficiently clear in showing us that when we harshly and publicly rebuke our parents, we are shaming ourselves, and will not be blessed.
I am neither condemning nor excusing any hierarch, nor any other spiritual parent. I have no first-hand knowledge of most of what is being publicly discussed. I have my own personal experience in my own family, as well as my own personal experience in Protestant Evangelicalism, and now as an Orthodox priest for almost 11 years. Those who know me can testify that I am certainly no paragon of measured speech, wisdom, or diplomacy. But in spite of my own tendency toward rashness and impatience, I recognize that there is a better way and admire those who are more mature in it.
St. Paul says that those who are spiritual ought to gently restore those who err, but infers that in doing so there is danger of being tempted oneself (Galatians 6:1). I believe this is the way of the Church. “Decently and in order”, not like a Tea Party. This is not American politics, brothers; this is the Kingdom of God.
Fr. David Hudson
Descent of the Holy Ghost Romanian Orthodox Church