by a Monk of the OCA
I was heartened by the “Thoughts of a Priest” [3.21.11] for its compassion and realism garnished with a suggestion of hope. I also like Metropolitan Jonah on a persona level and knew him when he was a student at SVOTS. The issue I would like to comment on comes from my nearly half a century’s struggle as a monk, appropriately on the margins of society and even the Church, but appreciating that it provides some perspective.
There is a great tension in both our political and religious polity that is polarizing us, north-south, costal-heartland, call it what you will. A specter of it arose at the very end of the last AAC when a straw vote was taken over the OCA’s continued participation in Ecumenical gatherings [WCC,NCC, etc]. The voice vote was thunderous on both sides.
A fellow delegate at my table, a priest, with whom I had had a pleasant conversation of mutual introduction, after the vote where we aye’d on different sides, turned very snarly and defensive. I was taken aback.
I see this in our own village where a simple matter such as providing for the local food pantry as a joint mission for all our churches encounters the same confrontational division over what proclaiming the Gospel entails. [viz. a suggestion that recipients be required to listen to a scripture passage before getting the groceries —it was defeated on the basis that feeding the poor is the Gospel.]
It seems like a sort of theology of politico-religious confrontation is evolving and the Metropolitan and his advisors are defining and promoting it as the only courageous way of following the example of Christ. Aside from exasperation with the money-changers, this is not the image of the Lord I see in the Gospel. The Good News Jesus when we look, hangs out with publicans and sinners, uses Samaritans —the heterodox of his day —as good examples, and rebuffs the tempter’s offer to make him a political power.
The “hot button” issues seem to have become the litmus test for orthodox Orthodox. While abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and the assertion that “Obamacare” fosters or mandates all these is a distortion and scare tactic meant to inflame passions at the expense of a nuanced truth not amenable to bumper stickers. I feel this taints our faith with the whiff of taliban, or perhaps chai party tactics.
Certainly there is a moral dimension to the above, and a place to apply pastoral guidance with sensitivity and compassion. But why do these issues have primacy of place in public witness? Where is the heat and passion on issues which arise consistently in the prophets and the New Testament.
As we recently heard proclaimed on the doorstep to Great Lent: The Lord Sabaoth says this: Apply the law fairly, practice compassion and kindness towards each other. Do not oppress the widow and the orphan, the settler [ possibly illegal alien] and the poor, and do not secretly plan evil against one another. Zec.7:9-1 and did we really hear the question on Judgment Sunday that we should, each of us, ask: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison and did not come to your help? Mt 25:4 And were we too busy worrying about who’s in bed with whom to hear the Master’s response?
Let us pray that when Pascha arrives we can mutually embrace, even those who hate us, and find common ground at the empty tomb.