IN THE MEANTIME…
“If a man wished to donate sacred vessels or other furnishings to a church, tell him to give them to the poor. For no one has ever been condemned for not decorating a church." St. John Chrysostom
Another day, another twist. As the ongoing saga of the OCA and the [Holy] Synod of Bishop continues I suspect that most of us continue to feel like we are stuck in a nightmarish Twilight Zone. Like any good book or film, just when you think you have seen or heard it all, or thought the story was ending, an amazing, unforeseen, and unbelievable twist happens to begin a whole new drama. Unfortunately instead of making millions in Hollywood, the OCA and the [Holy] Synod of Bishops are losing money, time, and of course, people. Even now, if you sit quietly, you can hear this Black Hole sucking in people’s lives with their time, talent, and energy. The waste and damage, like in any war, is costly and only when it is over can the rebuilding begin, but the damage and loss cannot be undone.
Like in any war, some people are more fortunate than others. It was better to be a Dutch Jew hiding in rural Holland than a Polish Jew stuck in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. The first could live quietly in ignorance and isolation about what was happening in the larger world, while the latter was first starved to death before being taken to the extermination camps. (I am sorry for my metaphors but my present day job is translating Holocaust testimonies.) Some people can isolate themselves from the present saga of the OCA and live in the ghetto of their small parishes in hopes that “this too shall pass” and others simply have no choice but to fight for survival. The moral and ethical issues we all face in the process are everywhere. The endless streams of words, debates, pleas, sermons and so forth bespeak of this, but still by the end of the day, the Twilight Zone continues with another program and another twist. In the meantime, quietly the Black Hole continues to suck out the life and energy of people, or if you are familiar with Harry Potter, the Death-Eater sucks out the life and soul of another victim.
This is all an introduction because what I really want to talk about is St. John Chrysostom’s quote. There is and has only ever been one way out of the Black Hole: the love of the needy neighbor through the practice of sacrificial charity. This is whom we are most responsible for and this is the Christ to whom we shall give an account. I suspect that this is Chrysostom’s point, and if you know his biography, it really did cost him his life.
Just think for a moment of the people in need who stand before us who could use our help if we had the resources, desire, and freedom to do so? What if in the name of the crucified and loving Jesus, the money that is sent to the Black Hole that hovers in Syosset, Alaska, or other Dioceses, is used in fact for those who have trouble paying their rent, feeding their children, or buying their medications? What if the thousands of dollars of “withheld” money sitting in various bank accounts was used instead to positively change people’s lives and at the very least fulfill the law and wishes of Christ? This is what builds up the body of Christ! Supporting an imperial model of governance in Syosset has little to nothing to do with the body of Christ on a good day, but on a bad day it has a lot to do with the anti-Christ, that is, it sets itself against Christ.
People of Christ, I urge you to stop playing the game that keeps you in the Twilight Zone.
Take the freedom of Christ and the witness of Chrysostom and take your money and give it to the poor and account for every penny of it as good stewards. Send this accounting to Syosset or to your own Diocese as a Christian example to follow. Do not withhold money in hopes of pressuring or manipulating Syosset, or if for nothing else to proclaim your outrage and disgust. This is at best a negative response and sucks you into the Twilight Zone, a precursor of the hell that is to come. Escape it by acting charitably as a community or a diocese, freely and lovingly in hopes of bearing real fruit for the kingdom of God before it is too late. If at some point down the road, Syosset is worthy of support and help like any other needy person, then help them as well. For by the end of the day we will not be condemned for not adorning a church (buying another set of vestments for a bishop) nor building and sustaining any other man-made monument (church), nor picking up the legal tab to preserve a white-washed tomb. No, we will only be condemned for not helping the poor, provided of course if Chrysostom’s reading of the gospel is correct.
And if in the off chance you are not sure of who needs your new-found charitable dollars, previously earmarked for sustaining “business-as usual” centers of power, I suspect there are subsistence priests in Alaska who could use some help, or I could certainly supply you with names of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank who cannot feed and educate their children or if you want more religious diversity, pious Moslems in Gaza who are even worse off.
The not-so-very reverend and hardly-humble
and definitely-not archpriest,
(Archpriest Timothy Lowe is currently on a leave of absence, having recently returned from teaching at a Christian school in the West Bank.)