Monday, March 28. 2011
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RE: What We Look For
The late Francis Schaeffer, who more than any other evangelical prepared my spiritually for my eventual embrace of the Orthodox faith, used a great expression: he said we must be "cobelligerents, not allies" with secular political and social organizations. Contrary to his son Frank Jr's statements, he was fully aware of the dangers of too close an association with secular politics, because as this reflection points out, our "end game" is substantially different. Thanks to Mr. O'Neal for bringing out this critical point. Despite my chagrin at his his well-intentioned but sadly naive support of left-wing causes, we certainly will be fully united in joyful celebration at the empty tomb.
#1 Cal Oren on 2011-03-28 09:20
I enjoyed reading "A Response" from the monk, and agree that all too often within Orthodxy we battle between polar opposites, with each side refusing to even consider that an Orthodox Christian could have any view point other than their own. One might suggest this is a manifestation of an American contemporary reality wherein right and left are at opposite ends and refuse to see their own tyrannical approach leads to nothing less than the chaos they pretend to detest. It has been said that "In America, intelligent people can disagree and still be friends". Oh that this were the case within Orthodoxy. We tend to refuse to see that some are called to pray, some to serve, some to heal, some to teach, etc. We are all different and bring different gifts and liabilities to the table. Too often we have judged too harshly, rejecting an entire person's ministry because we have no tolerance for one liability they may have, that is often unrelated to all of their talents. During this Lenten season, we need to accept the gifts of those who build up the Body of Christ. We need to welcome and receive that which edifies us. And, we need to be less judgemental.
#2 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-28 10:04
Dave O'Neal's reflection is a welcome clarification in the midst of the confusion sown by the Enemy.
#3 Alice Carter on 2011-03-28 10:10
Father John Meyendorff was actually quite outspoken, in his gentle, humble way, on politicized social issues, such as abortion. One public statement he made, before Roe vs. Wade (which he also publicly opposed), was against the relatively new New York law legalizing abortion:
"The fact that [an abortion] takes place at an initial stage of the human life process...does not change the nature of the act of abortion, being killing... The hundreds of thousands of legal abortions performed in New York hospitals are a case of mass killing."
Father Meyendorff was active on other issues facing our culture as well, and not just in class. St Vladimir Seminary had several active, clandestinely practicing homosexuals, and once an angry visitor, who somehow unwillingly discovered that fact, spray painted "All Greeks are fags" on the SVS creek bridge. Father Meyendorff personally scrubbed it off the cement.
Yes, he was quite outspoken, but not all of his approaches have been taken to heart. I heard him speak once on the presence of female priests in the Orthodox Church, in the Byzantine Empire, and how it was a reality in the 4th century, and it is mentioned in a variety of sources, in Greek. I've only heard mention of this in one other book of history ... but it appears to be there.
#4.1 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-29 06:52
There were never female priests, you may be talking about a deaconess.
#4.1.1 Happy on 2011-03-29 12:19
Fr. Meyendorff believed there were, based on evidence, as have other historians. It is also interesting to note that the Orthodox accept a female saint who was consecrated a bishop. We may or may not like history, but it is what it is.
#22.214.171.124 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-30 08:29
Sean, with all respect, you are mistaken. I've had several conversations with Father Meyendorff, as well as taken patristics from him at SVS. He never championed women priests. We all know of deaconesses, both in the Bible and at Hagia Sophia. This is what you must have misunderstood. There have been deaconesses in the Church (and there should be now --we need them desperately!). But never a woman priestess. You are simply wrong in asserting that the Orthodox Church recognizes a woman bishop / saint. Perhaps you're confused by Olympia the Deaconess, a wonderful saint of the Church. But the Orthodox Church has never, never accepted women priests, let alone bishops, let alone canonizing them. Never has, never will. In fact, as I recall from Fr Meyendorff's patristic class, one of the many reasons the heretic Marcion was anathematized was he accepted women priestesses.
But you're getting away from the point: Father Meyendorff himself, known for his preference for diplomacy and his gentle style, spoke out against abortion and other social issues, when the clear morals of Christianity were being violated by civil law.
Father Mark, I suspect Sean is referring to the dubious assertion of some that St. Brigid of Kildare was a 'bishop'.
Yes, St. Bridgit, the abbess of a dual house (both genders) in Kildare, Ireland, had the prayers of consecration performed by St. Mel. It is not "dubious" that it happened, but it is dubious as to St. Mel's intent - was he tweaking the nose of Rome or was he so old that he didn't know what he was doing (I've heard both theories from Orthodox priests - as for my part, I claim neither to be a theologian or a historian - just a mere asker of questions and a reader of books)? We'll probably never know, in this life time. But happen, it did. As for Fr. Meyendorff, I will never suggest that he "advocated" female priests. All I can say is that I heard him say, in the living room of his house at a gathering of seminarians and lay folk, in the late 1970s, that in Greek, there were references to priests, using the feminine form. I have to admit that his mention of this was not well received, at all, and being the tactful and humble soul he always was, I never heard that he brought it up again.
#126.96.36.199.1.1.1 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-30 18:50
St. Brigid was born of pagan parents in the year 450 in Faughart, Ireland. Even as a child, she would give away food, clothing, and household possessions to the poor. She became a monastic and established the first women's cenobitic monastery of Ireland. The land was called Cill Dara or Kildare, meaning "the church of the oak." Spending her life caring for the poor and comforting the suffering, she fell asleep in the Lord in the year 523 as an Abess, not a bishop.
Tropar: "O holy Brigid, you became sublime through your humility, and flew on the wings of your longing for God. When you arrived in the Eternal City and appeared before your Divine Spouse, wearing the crown of virginity, you kept your promise to remember those who have recourse to your intercessions. You shower grace upon the world, and multiply miracles. Intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls!"
Again, the point is, contrary to what the article would lead us to believe, even Father Meyendorff, known for his preference for diplomacy and his gentle style, spoke out against abortion and other social issues, when the clear morals of Christianity were being violated by civil law.
I'm glad to see you admit Fr Meyendorff never advocated women priests.
#188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2011-03-30 20:10
Please check this ... there are a number of books and web sites that mention her consecration as a bishop ... whether by intent, mischance or accident ... again, history is history.
But let us leave this for another time and discussion, and remember Fr. John who was an excellent spokesman for Orthodoxy and a strong supporter of Orthodox values being represented in our society.
#220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.1 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-31 10:03
I think it is very far from proven that a 'consecration' of Brigit actually happened, and if so, what it could possibly mean in the face of the universal practice of the church up until and after that time. Hence my describing the assertion as 'dubious'. I would however caution against putting too much trust in many of the proponents of an overly romantic view of "Celtic Christianity", who are pretty selective about those elements of the early Irish Christians they want to push.
But I agree, just like the never-ending discussions about married bishops, women's ordination of any kind is a real digression and distraction from the current discussion.
Yes, I agree Fr. Mark, that Fr. John Meyendorff was a true and humble defender of Orthodoxy, and yes, he was never afraid to speak out against social evils, including speaking out against abortion (which I was honored to hear him do on several occasions). Forgive me for my digressions. Alas, at times I read one little thing and my mind wanders into areas that the author never intended. This is my error and I apologize for it and ask for your forgiveness. I did have the blessing to hear Fr. John speak on multiple occasions and I maintain a significant respect for him, his knowledge and his constant selflessness. Still I am learning, still I am learning.
#22.214.171.124.1.2 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-30 18:58
When David repeatedly says, “We look for the resurrection of the dead,” he seems to be suggesting that this is what defines us as Orthodox Christians. - Even the heterodox and the evil one believe in the resurrection.
He goes on to say: “A majority . . . may sincerely aim to justify their stances on various conservative issues by the Gospel. But to identify social issues as what the Church is all about is misguided.”
The issues we’ve been talking about, i.e. homosexuality, same sex marriage, etc., are not just "social" issues. They are addressed in the Gospel and by the Holy Fathers, which together comprise the Teachings of the Church. Our "stance" on these issues underscores the very essence of who we are. Using terms like “conservative” and “liberal” suggest there are two ways of looking at things (there aren't) and polarizes us as a Body. The Church teaches that homosexuality and same sex marriage are sins - period. I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise. That’s not to say we don’t have compassion for those who struggle with these issues or point our fingers at them and say they’re sins are more grievous than ours. But by the same token, it is an abomination to minimize or suppress the Church’s Teachings because we find them unpalatable. What's more, if talk of these "issues" in the secular world could lead to binding legislation diametrically opposed to the tenets of our Faith, then we better well enter the political arena and articulate just who we are and how far we are willing to go!
#5 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-28 12:43
I disagree with resorting to legislation to proclaim the Gospel. It is an experiment that has failed repeatedly in history, and further using the coercive power of the state is a counter witness. We proclaim Christ and Him crucified. Either people are convinced by the life of Christ we reflect or not. Power games with legislation, lobbies and real politik are a grave mistake.
#5.1 max percy on 2011-03-28 16:36
Max, thank you for your thoughts. As you stated, the Church should not be associated with the coercive power of the state. Just because we abhor an act as sinful, and against the will of God, does not mean that we, as Orthodox Christians, should support legislation punishing such sins. That is a very slippery slope. If we go down that road, there may very well come a day when legislation is passed banning Orthodox Churches, or forcing the Church to conform or be stamped out. All we should ask for is to be free to practice our faith, and free to proclaim the Gospel with boldness, without fear of retribution from the state. The state is almost never a vehicle for righteousness.
#5.1.1 Jon W. on 2011-03-29 06:50
Who said anything about resorting to legislation to proclaim the Gospel??? I'm saying exactly the opposite. I don't want legislation passed that forces the Church to comply with laws that violate her Teachings. If the Federal government can use our tax dollars to fund abortions, is it such a stretch to imagine that one day it will become illegal to refuse to marry a same sex couple without losing our 501c status or worse, a jailable offense?
The Saints were willing to DIE for our beliefs, yet we are hesitant to state them in a free, democratic society that protects our right to be heard!!! What does that say about us as a Body? Are we so "politically correct" that we are unwilling to be beacons of the Truth? Or is the real issue that we find some of the Church's Teachings personally unpalatable? If you struggle with the Church's Teachings, you're in good company, my friend. We ALL struggle within the confines of the Church, albeit in different ways. They don't call it "dying to oneself" for nothing. But the Church cannot be dissected. It is what it is and to remain silent when the Church is being challenged jeopardizes our "good defense before the fearful judgment seat of Christ." He set the Saints as our example. They are perpetually before us (literally, since their icons cover the walls of our parishes and our services are full of prayers asking for their intercession) and I don't want to have to explain why I was, personally, unwilling to defend the beliefs of His Church as they did. He gave me a voice and I imagine He expects me to use it. Metropolitan Jonah wasn't the only one who signed the Manhattan Declaration. I did, too. It doesn't matter to me that the heterodox signed it, as well, any more than it mattered to Christ that the woman He spoke to at the well was a Samaritan.
(Editor's note: Yes, it is a stretch, and will never happen for the reasons you suggest. What indeed may happen, and becomes increasingly probable that the question be raised, is that all tax exemptions for religious organizations will be challenged. This is a possible danger - not the challenge to individual practices and beliefs. In the era of megachurches, with 15,000 members, 24 hour bulidings that include gyms and coffee houses, etc., local authorities are loathe to exempt churches, or even to allow them to locate, in municipalities that must pay for their police, fire, etc. services - and the roads needed to move traffic in and out of them - while they contribute nothing. Many churches voluntarily contribute towards these costs as a move to preclude actual revocation of their status. This is the looming battle, not a "pro-choice" or "pro-gay" attack on the Church's historic practices. )
#5.1.2 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-29 10:50
The hundreds of thousands of people who signed the Manhattan Declaration don't think it's such "a stretch." - Special interest groups ARE waging "pro-gay" attacks on the Church's historic practices. They are campaigning to legalize marriage between same-sex partners, which challenges the Church's position that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's an undisputed fact. In several states, same-sex partners can already marry and if getting hitched in a courthouse were enough, they would have stopped at civil unions. But they want protection under the law for something they don't have now, i.e. the privilege of being married . . . in a church. - It's not like I don't understand. I do. But like I said, the Church is what it is and same-sex marriage is an affront to the Sacrament of Marriage. - BTW, the "era of megachurches" is in decline.
(Editor's note: I am loathe to say anything about this issue as it is not one I want pursued on this site. However, since some are determined to keep beating this drum, at least do it responsibly and accurately. Your statments are neither.
The movement by "pro-gay" groups, which I take to mean either Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, or Log Cabin Republicans, for civil marriage does not have its goal" to force churches to perform same sex marriages" If you believe that, you don't understand, even if you think you do. It is an absurd allegation since it would violate the First Amendment. The government can't make the Churches do anything they don't want to. Period. Stop pretending they can, or are planning to do so.
If the Church,and its members, are going to offer a credible witness against such issues, don't make us look ignorant by misrepresenting what our opponents are advocating, or fear-mongering. I shudder to think, should they adopt such tactics, what they would say about us.
If you really think that is what they are advocating, I suggest you read more on the issue, as well as the latest decisions of this Supreme Court, which would make mincemeat of such an idea, with Justices Kennedy & Scalia, from opposite sides, leading the way, and the Church would find itself defended by the ACLU.
There are lots of reasons, civil, social, and theolgogical to oppose same sex marriage if that is your issue. But this is not one of them, and repeating brings no credit to you, nor the Church whose positions you seek to defend. )
#126.96.36.199 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-30 11:03
I'll take your advice and read more on the subject, Mark. My source of concern is a case called Bernstein v. OGCM Assoc where the State of New Jersey revoked the property tax exemption for a building owned by the Methodist Church because they refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony in one of their public buildings. According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life "Proponents of same-sex marriage hope to see Congress repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. If Congress were to take steps in that direction, opponents of same-sex marriage would likely insist on some protection for religious liberty in that bill. Such protection might include a requirement saying that states recognizing same-sex marriage must respect the right of clergy and religious institutions to recognize and solemnize only opposite-sex marriages. Such protection also might extend further to mandate exemptions for religious organizations from state laws that prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples. Depending on the outcome, federal law could have a far-reaching and significant impact on this issue." If my concerns are unfounded, I wonder why provisions to further protect religious liberty would be deemed necessary. - Won't say anymore on the subject. http://snipurl.com/27ptw3
(Editor's note: I think you have your answer: as your quote states only opponents, not proponents, of same-sex marriage think such is necessary. It is their fears ,not the other side's positions, that generate such speculation. But as you say, let's move on.)
#188.8.131.52.1 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-30 22:45
Thanks for the citation Gail.
I skimmed over the case and the real story is Ocean Grove(OG) had rented their facilities in the past to anyone regardless of church affiliation or beliefs. Atheists even. The rentals weren't only for marriages either.
For OG to deny access to 2 gay women is discrimination, pure and simple. They did so on the basis of a policy change 2 days before the request (I imagine that phone call got talked about before the paperwork came in) and so far it has been considered discrimination that outweighs the establishment clause. I firmly agree.
They could have been two Christian women who happened to be lesbians (we'd call them sinners), which would be more likely to have access than atheists if you were going to fall back on religion. Right? I mean, technically, they could have been a sister of the President of the OG council and that would have been basis for allowing them if Christian belief was a requirement; right?
The true story of this case is someone on the OGMC didn't want gay marriages because it was against their personal beliefs and gave them the shivers and OGMC will lose everytime the case gets heard. It isn't about the religious values of the OGMC, those were lost when their rental business boomed and they started making lots of money.
If you and Metropolitan Jonah are concerned about gay marriages or receptions happening in the OCA, the better thing to do is not to argue about legislation, but to set policies banning public marriages/receptions in OCA facilities. I think we have that already, but if one OCA church is renting their hall out to anyone; anyone means gays, too.
Metropolitan Jonah, instead of worrying about Obama, needs to worry about what OCA churches are doing and instead of worrying about pleasing the EP, perhaps when he meets with the other bishops on the EA he can give them some advice. READ THIS! I can tell you I know of an Orthodox church (non-OCA) that rents its hall to anyone for wedding receptions. And we can argue until sundown, but you won't be able to redefine anyone to be anyone but gays and not call it discrimination.
And don't think for one minute I'm sympathetic or a proponent of gay marriage, because I'm not. I'm actually going through this long response because I don't think all the Orthodox churches have considered this likelihood, and I agree with the courts while at the same time understanding the churches position.
The value of my response is the churches can do something about it, unless they want to just make rent for renting out their hall to anyone. If they want to be able to rent to anyone, it doesn't mean anyone, but gays. And I doubt it means anyone following a 'Christian' marriage because I don't believe Christ ever defined marriage. Renting out hall spaces for profit to anyone doesn't afford the right to discriminate against the renters because of their color, or religion, or sexual orientation, etc.
Now only if the Bishops were willing to read this horrible website.
#184.108.40.206.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-04-02 19:39
Ever heard of the 1st Amendment?
I'll be the first to fight for it if when the straw man cometh.
I really enjoyed the reflections.
#5.2 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-03-28 22:06
Ever heard of it??? - Stating our beliefs is what the First Amendment is all about!
#5.2.1 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-29 10:53
The establishment clause of first amendment allows the free exercise of religion and basically is supposed to put a wall between the government and religious freedom/ideology. You can't impose your religious views on secular government and secular government isn't supposed to dictate how you practice your religion. On gay marriage, the church can't dictate to secular government whether gays ought to marry based on Christian, Jewish, Wiccan, Muslim thought, but the government can't require churches to marry gays if the religion doesn't practice gay marriage..
Most of the signers of the Manhattan Declaration don't really get the establishment clause which was sort of created by Jefferson. My point is that if some straw man named Obama tells Metropolitan Jonah he has to marry gays, I'd be the first guy standing with the Metropolitan (but we know it is all a silly political document).
I could go on about it, but its late and I'm tired and I think the ManDec rant about marriage is silly.
btw...Bay Christian...I did read the ManDec and according to our Metropolitan "of course it is a political statement". He and I agree on that.
#220.127.116.11 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-03-31 21:29
" On gay marriage, the church can't dictate to secular government whether gays ought to marry based on Christian, Jewish, Wiccan, Muslim thought"
How do you separate "Christian" thought from any other thought? Howabout feeding the poor? Or not getting into war? Non-violence? No honor killings? Torture? These are all intertwined with your faith to one extent or another, and unless you don't actually vote on anything related to these issues, then you are in a very real sense "imposing" your faith-inspired views.
So what do you believe on the topics discussed in the "ManDec"?
#18.104.22.168.1 Bay Area Orthodox Christian on 2011-04-02 18:49
I believe in the establishment clause and putting up a wall between religion and government.
Unless of course you enjoy the thought of the church ordaining women and elevating women and married men to the episcopate because the government requires equality.
You can't have it both ways. Did you see Obama writing such a letter? Or just fools? Do you think I enjoy considering my Metropolitan foolish?
The church can spend money foolishly on socks galore, or it can spend money moving to DC foolishly fighting gay marriage. Frankly, between the two choices, at least the church got something tangible from socks galore...a well dressed Chancellor.
And frankly, the strategy of the OCA never belonged in the hands of a Metropolitan with a political agenda either.
Unless of course you agree with firing the Chancellor because he doesn't want the HQ move to DC. What do you believe in?
#22.214.171.124.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-04-04 10:32
"both ways"? How is standing up for your views having it both ways? Met Jonah didn't coerce anyone into it. However, laws by the government DO coerce. Big difference. Certainly the Church can't establish itself as the official religion and force people to be members, but it can take up issues. I suppose you opposed mahatma gandhi since he protested based on moral convictions? And St. Paul when he appealed to the Roman Authorities, or St. John Chrysostom who criticized the rulers of his time (and died for it)?
Are you saying that Met Jonah can't make any moral stands? And by moral I mean anything you could potentially vote on b/c ALL laws pertain to morals. I guess he can't speak out about helping Japan? Or stopping violence?
#126.96.36.199.1.1.1 Bay Area Orthodox Christian on 2011-04-04 20:52
...having it both ways refers to the establishment clause...it is wrong for Metropolitan Jonah to take a "moral stand" against gay marriage. By him doing such a thing as a representative of religion, it begs the question, should the government be influenced to allow inequity in society based on religious belief. The ManDec attests yes. Not well thought out at all.
Violence and Japan aren't on equal footing with the former or with each other; not really response worthy.
I'm done with the culture war dribble until the Metropolitan and Synod clean up the Garklavs termination they inappropriately called a resignation after he flew to Sante Fe and appealed for his job. Why was he terminated? Was it revenge for not agreeing with the DC move and for being critical of the Metropolitan's handling of Abp. Seraphim? Looks like it to me.
Our Synod honors revenge and that is the moral highground? Wow.
It is interesting, but mostly sad.
#188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-04-05 21:14
Daniel, you keep on repeating that it's wrong to take a stand on a "moral" issue, and thus the Metropolitan is wrong, but every stand on every issue that affects society is a moral issue. how is stopping abortion an issue of trying to prevent inequity. If anything, it sounds like there's a lot of inequity that is being spoken out *against*. The situation in Japan or violence in Africa or elsewhere are all certainly moral issues as well. Therefore, in order to be consistent, you must also make the claim that any religious leader can't take a stand on any issue affecting anyone. Do you or don't you?
If you do, at least you're consistent. However if don't, then your argument falls flat. Which one is it?
#220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.1 Bay Area Orthodox Christian on 2011-04-06 14:47
I don't recall saying a religious leader can't take a moral stand. I applaud Metropolitan Jonah for attending the March for Life. At the same time, I don't believe the church ought to spent a penny fighting the Roe v Wade ruling; including moving to DC if that is the purpose; they are very different actions.
As for the Metropolitan continuing down a track against gay marriage and against modifying DADT; I am suggesting it is dangerous waters and I don't find his actions wise. Why does he need to take a stand against lesbianism? Got some Scripture on it? What does this have to do with true theology?
Furthermore, who benefits when he takes a stand on homosexuality? Does he believe he is going to bring people to Jesus this way? I don't. Does he believe he will save gays? Does he believe he'll make his base happy? Does he believe he will win a political struggle and anti-gay people will become Orthodox? None of this is true theology.
An idiot in Minnesota can see it.
You are concerned about me being consistent.
I don't find his actions consistent having Garklavs fly to Sante Fe to appeal for his job and then to turn around and fire him and let it be called a resignation. How about his consistency?
But back to my consistency... I am saying a religious leader ought to consider the risks or benefits of opening his mouth and speaking out against an entire class of people. I don't think he has done that.
Leave the gays alone unless they ask you for your opinion on their lifestyle. I don't see the need for any aggression.
As for healthcare for the poor, the Metropolitan didn't appear to take a moral stand when the subject was getting debated. If he is going to take moral stands on things the church hasn't discussed in a conciliar fashion or frankly ought not be concerned about at all like two non-Orthodox persons who are gay getting some legal status, why wouldn't he take a moral stand on the pronouncements of the 10th AAC?
#22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-04-08 22:33
Perhaps there is a third option: support the move of the Chancery to Washington as soon as possible because Washington is the see of the Metropolitan, not because Washington is the national capital.
Or a fourth option: redraw the diocesan boundaries to place both Syosset and Washington in the same physically contiguous diocese so that the Chancery is in the primate's diocese. Then the primate can spend more of his time within his diocese.
Either of these latter options seem more acceptable than the former.
#188.8.131.52.1.1.2 Mark C. Phinney on 2011-04-05 03:37
Or, most simply of all, one could take the Metropolitan's strongly expressed preference to move the chancery under advisement and refer the matter to a committee to examine the practical (legal + financial) implications so that a consensus for action could begin to be built that takes all factors into account.
Oh, wait, that is what happened.
So why are we arguing this in the abstract rather than letting the administrative processes we have in place deal with this issue in a forthright and practical way? Apparently because one "side" wants to have an argument rather than work through an orderly process.
#184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Rebecca Matovic on 2011-04-05 08:51
There is certainly already and going to be more 'binding legislation diametrically opposed to the tenets of our faith'.
Does Orthodoxy suggest married persons ought to have more rights (discounting child bearing if you consider it a right) than single persons? People let gays frame the debate on marriage by making us all take a position for or against it. The unofficial position of the Obama administration is marriage ought not result in discrimination and that is why they haven't fought hard on the subject because that unofficial position is neither for nor against gay marriage, but rather against marriage resulting in discrimination or for equality. When the church gets suckered into being against gay marriage; it really bothers me because I known there aren't only 2 schools of thought on the subject.
Frankly, there are a lot of things society has to set rules on the church doesn't need to worry about.
The church really needs to tell us what is it for, not what it is against. For fasting or against meat; big difference. For heterosexual marriage or against gay marriage; also big difference and pretty easy to answer why for the church. For Motherhood or against abortion; ditto. Some will have a hard time seeing it, but it is a lot better for the church to be known for the things it supports versus the things it is against. If the church is for Motherhood; all the mothers in the church hear it and agree. If the church is against abortion; even if everyone agreed, it doesn't teach people to support Motherhood. And further, things aren't always perfectly black and white, sometimes there are positions in the middle. Frankly, I don't see why the church cares about whether gays can have a secular marriage. If anyone rebuts with something about gays having church marriages, submit a 1st amendment citation alongwith your comment please.
my thoughts with a little more time to respond than the prior evening
#5.2.2 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-03-29 20:13
This is a very good comment. We need to put our money where our mouth is, when it comes to those things we are for. If we are pro-life, let us make sure we are providing and supporting institutions that help those women who feel no other recourse than to have an abortion. If we are pro-life let us champion the cause of the hundreds of thousands of our mentally ill who are languishing in our overpopulated prisons simply because there is no funding for robust community mental health services. If we are pro-family, let's fight for giving stay at home mothers, especially those with expensive educations, a salary of some sort, even if it is for a short while (just an example). There are so many ways we can be "for" traditional Christian morals and ethics that would have much more impact.
That said, to our own, to those wanting to be Orthodox, to our youth, we do them a dis-service if we do not present the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Church: Homosexual activity is a sin. Abortion is a sin. Sexual relations out side of marriage is a sin. Pride is a sin. Anger towards one's neighbor is a sin. Abusing another, emotionally, sexually, physically is a sin. Etc.
Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water.
#18.104.22.168 O Hamartolos on 2011-03-30 20:44
Amen! Well put
#22.214.171.124.1 Bay Area Orthodox Christian on 2011-04-02 20:12
Sorry, Gail, but I have to disagree. St Paul faced a polity far more hostile than anything we in North America have ever seen, and his advice to his spiritual children was to remember that our war is not against flesh and blood, but is, rather, a spiritual war, against principalities and powers. The tools of politics are useless in a spiritual confrontation, which is probably why the New Testament contains no useful political guidance. It does, however enjoin us to pray for those in authority and to mind our business. Caesar and all his machinations are not really our business; love of God and neighbor is. My two bits.
#5.3 Scott Walker on 2011-03-29 07:34
Scott, I appreciate your response, but I am puzzled by the following remark: "The tools of politics are useless in a spiritual confrontation, which is probably why the New Testament contains no useful political guidance."
I think the New Testament provides a lot of political guidance! Saint Paul's preached the Truth to Felix, Drusilla, Festus, Caesar and Agrippa, the legal authorities of his time. He used the "tools of politics" when he announced his Roman citizenship. Claudius Lysias's letter to Governor Felix was a political maneuver to save Saint Paul. - Saint Paul didn't just sit around and pray for those in authority. He used his voice in an extremely political environment to preach the Gospel whenever, however, and wherever he could. We need to do the same.
#5.3.1 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-29 13:43
Gail, when I refer to the "tools of politics," I refer specific things such as organization, propaganda, and identifying an enemy. One cannot accomplish anything politically without organizing people, and that cannot be done without whipping them up emotionally. Cool detached reason never settled any major political beef. Shoot, look around! Tea partiers and Establishment pols alike absolutely depend on rallying their own troops and dehumanizing the Other. That's how it works. That is no business of the Church.
#126.96.36.199 Scott Walker on 2011-03-31 07:33
I'm in agreement with you, Scott, but I still don't think standing up for what we believe (NOT for what we are against, as Daniel rightly pointed out) is such a bad thing.
Let me tell you a little something about myself and you'll see why I'm so passionate about all this. Until I came into the Church, my belief system was firmly rooted in the secular world. To give you an example, although I never had an abortion, I supported the pro-choice platform because I believed early abortions were just getting rid of a few unwanted cells. (As I write this, I can feel myself cringe.) Why did I think this? Because abortion was legal. In my mind legal meant "good" and illegal meant "bad." Legalizing things has a way of desensitizing us (well, not us specifically, but others) to the reality of things. It blurs boundaries. Strangely enough, I considered myself to be a strong Christian but because I couldn't relate to the Evangelical/Protestant/Catholic world, I wasn't interested in what they had to say. Had I known about the Church, I would have listened, because I respect the Faith and have from the moment I was exposed to it. I can't help but think that we are hiding our light under a bushel by shying away from taking a public stance on matters of importance and wonder if there aren't other people like me who would respond to the Truth if they heard it from a credible source, i.e. the Church. There is a reason we're the "best kept secret." We don't open our mouths, as a rule, and the secular world doesn't know quite what to make of us. I was so glad to see that Bishop Tikhon took the time to clarify some of the things that Julia Duin wrote in her recent article. She didn't completely understand what she was writing about, but then again, how could she? We're a mystery to most and I'd like to see that change.
In addition, I don't want Congress to forget that there are a lot of people out here who believe as we do, because they will be less likely to cave to special interest groups who are much louder than we are!
Sorry to be so long winded. Hope this helps to explain why I feel the way I do. I appreciate all the posts. I think it's great that we're talking about these things.
#188.8.131.52.1 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-31 18:48
Could someone provide relevant citations on where these issues are discussed in the Gospels and in the Church Fathers? I'm trying to understand the arguments here. I'm looking through the four Gospels, so far without success, but I'm so woefully ignorant of the writings of the Church Fathers that I wouldn't know where to start. I know this stuff is addressed by St. Paul (for example Romans 1:26,) but other citations there would be helpful as well.
#5.4 Ann McLarnan on 2011-03-29 07:41
Same-sex marriage is certainly one thing, but what of bratotvorenie? It seems to indicate that our Orthodox Churches (of the Byzantine Rite at least) once had a means of blessing monogamous same-sex relationships without changing the nature of marriage itself.
(Editor's note: That is greatly disputed; and most Orthodox scholars reject that particular reading of the hsitorical service you mention. There are long discussions of that topic on the internet, both historical and polemical, and we need not engage in either here. )
#5.5 Mariko Hishamunda on 2011-03-29 10:58
Thank you for your post. I'm in agreement with you. Why is that?
First of all, I wonder if folks have read the Manhattan Declaration all the way through? If not, they can see it here: http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/the-declaration/read.aspx
As far as I can tell, it's not a "Political" thing so much as a well-put reflection on aspects of America that are quite fallen and a call to be more aware of these issues. It's easy to put one's head down and pretend that you are being a good Christian by ignoring these "issues", but the examples it has should indicate otherwise. It is difficult and takes courage to make these stands despite the cacophonous cries of The World. You will be labeled all sorts of nasty things.
Folks keep on trying to put it into a political framework and then judge it based on their own knee-jerk reactions rather than just reading it at face value. For example, the declaration actually covered a lot of issues and not just the "two big ones" (abortion and homosexuality), including sex trafficking, abandonment of the elderly, ethnic cleansing, war, divorce, etc. For other readers of ocanews.org who think this declaration (or Met. Jonah) is ignoring the wide spectrum of issues we face, think again! Read it!
No where (at least that I could find) does it claim that we should somehow rely on laws to "force" the "Gospel" on others! That is a strawman. What it does do, however, it point out laws that are unjust or unhealthy and wakes us up to the fact that we do have power over these as citizens. More importantly, it explains the Christian understanding on these topics, which sadly, are often ignored or rarely discussed or preached about. This is how we end up with folks who are focused on canon law regarding how many bishops there are in a city, the diptychs, the calendar, etc., but ignore weightier matters such as what Christ and His apostles preached about regarding conduct for Christians and God's will for humanity. St. Paul had some clear words to the Corinthian Church (and others) who had mixed things up as well. His words are timeless and still just as relevant to us (in what's almost a modern day Roman Empire) as it was back then. If you haven't read them in awhile, reread them.
Finally, all laws have something to do with moral values, and if you've ever voted on a law or politician, then you are literally voting your morals. If you think that issues such as voting on issues of abortion are "voting morals" but on tax rates, issues of war, education, etc. are not, then you simply aren't being honest with yourself.
#5.6 Bay Area Orthodox Christian on 2011-03-30 00:33
Has Roe v Wade made abortion no longer a sin? Has the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell made homosexual behavior no longer a sin? Do traffic laws make speeding and double parking a sin? Did Christ preach about changing legislation or behavior? Is Christ's message one of imposing His (or our) will on others, or did He preach self discipline, self sacrifice and love for one's neighbor, also rooted in voluntary self sacrifice? Did He say "Follow Me", or say "Force others to look like they are following me"?
Is it not odd that those pursuing anti- this sin and anti-that sin legislation that would be imposed on others do not take to the streets to demand legislation that would impose the clear imperatives of the Sermon of the Last Judgment upon all members of society as well - including themselves? Crack down on gays (at no expense to me), but do not tax me to provide health care, food or water for the poor. Is the Orthodox view of salvation based on what we force others to do, not upon what we do ourselves?
The Church, in her infinite wisdom, has placed specific readings from scripture into the celebration of the Liturgy. As the unidentified monk wrote in his reflection:
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?
Are we just caught up in championing those causes that are at no expense to ourselves? If so, then we fit right in with the heterodox preachers of the false doctrines of the "prosperity gospels" and "heaven on earth".
#6 Overseas Observer on 2011-03-29 01:50
Yes, but St. Paul stated: "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient" ... I suppose some would wish to change this to "Somethings are lawful ...?"
I just hope that we do not begin to define Orthodoxy by who we keep out and what and who we condemn. If Christ can sit down at the table and eat with sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes, then I think I can find it in myself to sit down at His Table with them as well ...
I remember Prof. Verhovskoy stating that too long the Orthodox have been defined by what they are against, rather than what they support. It's time we begin to place Orthodox Theology before the populus in terms of what we believe, not what we oppose.
#6.1 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-29 10:16
Sean, I must not be communicating well. My apologies. I definitely agree with you. If we didn't sit down with sinners, we'd be sitting alone! I believe three things: #1 one sin is no better/worse than another, #2 we are ALL sinners and #3 we should love and support each other, regardless of our individual failings. But at the same time, I don't think we should mince words when it comes to stating what the Church teaches. Will we fall short? Absolutely, across the board. - Believe me when I say that I abhor condemnation. I'm talking about clarification. There is a difference.
#6.1.1 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-31 19:17
There may be monks with a thinking brain after all. We done Monk of the OCA.
#7 the whale on 2011-03-29 05:44
As a political conservative, with libertarian views on many social and economic issues, I commend Mr. O'Neal for his thoughtful reflection on the limits of allying the Church with any political movement. Probably more damage has been done to Christianity through close association with the State than from any other cause.
Of course, Christians, as individual members of society and participants in a democratic polity, should bring their religious values to bear in the political arena, but with the humility and realization that others of like mind in Church, may well disagree on proper action in the secular sphere. So be it.
As Mr. O'Neal rightly concedes, most Orthodox Christians, and in fact most church going Americans, probably fall on the conservative end of the political spectrum. But that is no reason to inject politics into Church life and witness, since it only serves to divide--not unite us with our Lord in the Body of Christ.
#8 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-03-29 16:02
Thank you, monk of the OCA, for a lucid, mature, soberminded, heartfelt reflection. Your 50 years in monastic life obviously taught you something. Thanks be to God. May you keep on growing in wisdom and grace. The world needs much more of such light (and far less heat) nowadays.
The message of the Gospel isn't "Oppose abortion and homosexuality." It isn't "Support traditional values and conservative politics." It's, as Mark 1:15 can be rendered to get the full impact of the original New Testament Greek, "God's reign is at hand, so change your mindset and trust in the good news."
And that good news is Christ Jesus, the sign that God loves everyone so unbelievably much, he became one of us to tell us so in person. He told it to the prostitutes and tax-collecting turncoats he dined with. He told it to the Samaritan woman with a history of serial husbands he fraternized with at Jacob's well. He told it to the lepers he touched when nobody else would, for fear of losing purity by breaking moral codes and religious taboos. He told it to the lynch mob and the adulteress they wanted to stone to death, so full of "righteous indignation" as a Bible-thumping vice squad, they could not see their own sins. He did all this much to the disgust of the "religious right" and "Moral Majority" of his day.
The Church is the body of Christ, we say. So do we do the same as he did? Not so much. Better to keep aloof from the "wrong kind of people" -- they might sully our reputation or give the impression we're countenancing sin, as though we have none of our own. (Well, at least not as serious as *theirs.*) After all, we don't want to risk losing our notions of purity by breaking moral codes or cultural taboos. And so we fail to be Christlike. And we forget that his Gospel is good news, not a yardstick to spank others with. And we lose sight of repentance as metanoia, the New Testament Greek word that literally means "change of mind" -- a change of mindset, heart and outlook that radically changes the way we see, relate to and behave toward God, other human beings, ourselves, our possessions, life and death, bearing these fruits:
Love of God.
Love of neighbor.
Love of enemy.
Treating others the same way we want them to treat us.
(Notice: polarizing and demonizing others didn't make the list in Jesus' agenda.)
Today's "pro-life" and "pro-family" lobby in America rails against abortion and homosexuality as moral threats to life and family. But it's silent about (or even supportive of) moral threats that endanger or kill lives and families on a far grander scale. Like a policy of militarism that excuses our own dabbling in torture and concentration camp maintenance with no end to war in sight. Or like Wall Street greed and Main Street gluttony that explodes in an economic meltdown. Or like profit-obsessed resistance to sensible safeguards that keep food, air, water and the environment healthy for all while not abusing God's creation. Or like pandering to racism and xenophobia rather than figuring out just, compassionate immigration reform. Or like budget politicking where bread for the poor is slashed with bravado, but billions for bombs are proclaimed untouchable. Where's the righteous indignation over those moral threats to life and family? Where's the hand-wringing over what Jesus would do about those things that endanger, warp, damage and kill souls?
Of course, we Orthodox Christians have the answers to those issues. They're in the Gospel. They're in the Bible. They're in the words John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan and their ilk left us. Dare we speak them aloud? Not much, thus far, it seems. If we did, the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world would have a hissy fit. The strange political bedfellows we're courting might start lobbing tomatoes at us. We'll lose profile and prestige in the public square, as if either of those ever counted to Jesus at all. And, of course, actions speak louder than words. So if abortion and euthanasia really upset us all that much, where are all the Orthodox Christians offering alternatives to both? Where are our crisis pregnancy support centers and our hospices? When was the last time your father confessor asked you how much of your household budget you set aside to buy groceries for the needy every week? How many of our parishes do anything year-round for the poor, the least valued and the most neglected in our society? Do we touch the people with HIV/AIDS of our day, as Jesus touched the lepers in his?
"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the Church?" asked Paul (1 Corinthians 5:12). Better to get our own house in order and our act in sync with what the Gospel tells us to do: love God, love neighbor, love enemy, treat others the same way we want to be treated, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, house the homeless, nurse the sick, visit the jailed, all as though they were Christ himself. Then our yeast just might percolate through society and change it. Sure, it's not as glamorous, dramatic or easy as headlining rallies, glad-handing politicians, pushing for legislation or signing grandiose statements. And true, it's far more expensive and difficult -- but it's what Jesus told us to do. That's the cost of discipleship.
Increasingly, the "culture wars" crowd is sounding more and more like that infamous prayer from Luke 18:11: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people -- homosexuals, women who got abortions, people on welfare, illegal aliens..." Of course, that sort of prayer did the Pharisee no good. Such an attitude won't do us any good either. It's not Christlike. Better to admit we're sinners no different than the rest of them around us with the cry of that dirty, unpatriotic, money-grubbing, Rome-loving, occupation-abetting tax collector: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" When we get serious about metanoia, that change of mindset, heart and outlook will cast the world and the people around us in quite a different light. We just might even burn with compassion, alongside Isaac of Syria, for all of creation -- for humankind, for birds, for animals, even for demons, finding ourselves to be unable to bear looking on any injury or slightest suffering of anyone or anything in God's creation, no matter how immoral, distasteful or unconventional it once struck us.
Yes -- what the world needs now is a whole lot less "Christian" and a whole lot more Christlike.
#9 Diogenes on 2011-03-29 17:31
(Note: For the sake of argument, I am using myself as the object of your concern, although I acknowledge your comments were not necessarily directed toward me alone.)
Diogenes, the compassion is there, believe me. I have never suggested that I am any better than anyone else because my particular sins do not include abortion, homosexuality, etc. Quite the contrary. Let me ask you this: Where is YOUR compassion? Why do you attack my desire to uphold the tenets of my Faith on the premise that I am being judgmental and lacking in "Christlike" behavior? You will find no evidence of this. Frankly, YOU are the one who is being judgmental because you find ME lacking! If "Christlike" behavior is your objective, let me share with you something CHRIST said about marriage: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh." (Matthew 19:4-5) If lacking in "Christlike" behavior means supporting Christ's contention that marriage was intended to be between a man and a woman, then I am in very good company.
#9.1 Gail Sheppard on 2011-03-30 11:54
I see Diogenes speaking of "Religious Right" political movements that have clearly stated their agenda, which does not in any way reflect truly Christ-like behavior. And he enumerates those missing behaviors quite clearly.
How would you answer his question, "When was the last time your father confessor asked you how much of your household budget you set aside to buy groceries for the needy every week?" Has the Sermon of the Last Judgement, something that the Church has carefully included in the readings of Sunday of the Last Judgement, entered into the regular spiritual guidance and assistance we receive? Even more so, is our Christian love "personal" and "in person"? Fr Alexander Schmemann offers, in his book "Great Lent", that Christ called upon us to minister to *persons*, not just humanity. Indeed, Fr Alexander would tell us that it's not just how much we "budget" for the needy, but how much we minister to the needy, directly and personally, that is at the heart of the Christian life described in Christ's Sermon of the Last Judgement.
So, one should ask, did Christ call upon us to join social movements or to "care for the least among us"? Not "classes" or "races" of the least among us, but individuals, persons. At the heart of this Christian imperative is that love is expressed to persons, not "society" or groups, or classes. Yes, rail out against sin, but we are clearly called upon to love our neighbor as ourself. Neighbor is singular and personal, not abstract and at arm's length.
We are instructed not to pray with heretics, yet we are ever so tempted to join social causes with these same heretics. Social causes that are part and parcel to a very misleading and incomplete interpretation of the Gospels, becaue they are spiritually lacking. Lacking because they ignore the sacrifice of personal love for our fellow person that Christ clearly says is "The Way".
So, Gail, in all Christian charity and love, might Diogenes be judging social movements and "causes" that seduce us into being distracted from the real message of Christ? After all, he clearly referred to a "lobby", and cautioned against taking up with it. An incomplete Gospel is a false Gospel. Should we Orthodox *live*, as well as proclaim, the full Gospel of Christ?
Sadly, you took it personally. But I would ask, even more pointedly, "When was the last time your father confessor asked you how much of your time you set aside to personally minister to the needy? How often do you spontaniously respond to the needs of the least among us?" Not just money, but time in contact with, and succor to, someone in need. The Church has called it "Sunday of the Last Judgement" for centuries. Surely there is a reason for this.
#9.1.1 Overseas Observer on 2011-03-31 00:44
And my response would be--none of your damned business!
How dare you sit in judgment on those seeking through political means to bring about change or reform in society. You may not agree with the agenda--but to judge them all "heretics" is wrong and offensive.
I have taken issue with Gail on this thread, but I defend to the death her right to speak out without vilification from some pontificating oversees know-it-all, who doesn't even have the guts to use their name!
#184.108.40.206 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-03-31 07:22
RE: "So, Gail, in all Christian charity and love, might Diogenes be judging social movements and "causes" that seduce us into being distracted from the real message of Christ?"
I think one can boldly state the tenets of one's Faith AND not be distracted from the message of Christ, Kenneth. These positions are not mutually exclusive. Christ had no trouble proclaiming the Truth, while showing His love for people who sin and neither should we. It's when people personalize the sins of others that they get into trouble. By personalize I mean use the tenets of one's Faith to find another lacking. As Orthodox Christians, we are not in the "judging" business. The personal sins of another are precisely that: personal. Condemnation and persecution are DEFINITELY not "Christlike"" behaviors and we have no room for either in the Church. If you know me at all, you know I will not tolerate this sort of thing in my presence.
#220.127.116.11.1 Gail Sheppard on 2011-04-01 11:07
I hope your not attributing the referenced quote to me!
#18.104.22.168.1.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-04-01 15:19
I refered to joining movements that are primarily populated by heretics and promote an agenda that is sporely lacking, by Orthodox standards, even though one or two of the stated objective are consistent with Orthodox standards. At no point did I say nor allude that a sincere Orthodox Christian protesting abortion is a heretic. You read much more into my comment than was there. I was suggesting that Diogenes' comment was spot on in that most conservative religious movements that oppose abortion and gay rights lack, and/or openly oppose providing care and loving compassion for the least among us in other regards. No matter where one resides, be it the US or Outter Mongolia, that would be an incomplete Gospel from an Orthodox viewpoint. Or has the Church suspended the strongly worded imperatives of The Sermon of the Last Judgment in the US?
#22.214.171.124.2 Overseas Observer on 2011-04-05 23:11
It is always easy to be self-righteous about something for which one has no attraction or proclivity. You are no more guilty than most of us in that regard, and certainly no one should question your motives or compassion for those you may be rebuking. I always find your comments well argued and to the point, even when I sometimes disagree with them.
That said, I do object to the over used practice of using Scriptural references to make argumentative points, even when they seem to be in context. Certainly the one you cite shows our Lord commenting on marriage between a man and a women. It doesn't however explicitly reject other types of unions, nor can it be seen as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality. Even St. Paul's strictures in this regard have more to do with temple prostitution and distinguishing Christian from pagan practices. Bottom line--our Lord has nothing to say about homosexuality or same sex relationships.
On the other hand, He does have a lot to say about the primacy of love. That is where I would prefer to put any focus on this subject.
#9.1.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-03-31 06:17
****If lacking in "Christlike" behavior means supporting Christ's contention that marriage was intended to be between a man and a woman, then I am in very good company.****
So do you also disagree with the Church's stance on divorce then? Since that is what these words in their Gospel context are actually about?
Gail, with all due respect, you are taking this passage radically out out of context. When you say that Christ contended that marriage was "intended to be between a man and a woman" you are implying that Jesus was refuting homosexuality; if you read the text it is clear the debate he had with the Sadduccees on this issue had NOTHING to do with homosexuality. Jesus never addressed the issue. The Gospels record these words of Jesus in response to the issue of divorce and Resurrection, not homosexuality. Jesus said marriage was intended between ONE man and ONE woman, and if we were to adhere to these words the Church would not allow DIVORCE. Of course we can read things into this passage that include homosexual marriages, but let's be honest and admit that we are in fact reading things into it, as opposed to implying that Jesus had in mind a refutation of homosexuality which the text is explicitly clear that that was not the point at all.
#9.1.3 Chuck Shingledecker on 2011-03-31 06:20
I wasn’t trying to imply that Christ was refuting homosexuality. In the context of talking about divorce, He reiterated our understanding of marriage as the ideal.
You asked about divorce. I do agree with the Church’s stance on divorce, in so far as I understand it. I believe the Church’s position is this: According to the spirit of Orthodoxy the unity of the married couple cannot be maintained through the virtue of juridical obligation alone; the formal unity must be consistent with an internal symphony. The problem arises when it is no longer possible to salvage anything of this symphony, for ‘then the bond that was originally considered indissoluble is already dissolved and the law can offer nothing to replace grace and can neither heal nor resurrect, nor say: ‘Stand up and go’”.
#126.96.36.199 Gail Sheppard on 2011-04-01 16:48
Aside from getting that my post wasn't directed personally at you, I think you missed its point.
The point is that what passes for "proclaiming Gospel values in the public square" via "social witness" and "political action" among self-identified Christians these days in America often shows signs of "straining out gnats but swallowing camels" (Matthew 23:34). The result is a "gospel" that is often woefully incomplete, and even warped.
Case in point: in America today, militarism, Wall Street greed, Main Street gluttony, anti-immigrant xenophobia and "yes to bombs, no to bread for the poor" budget politics are moral threats to millions of lives, families and society at large on a grand scale. They also fly in the face of the very values Jesus taught in his Gospel. Yet unlike abortion and homosexuality, not too many of today's "pro-life" and "pro-family" Christian crusaders seethe over those things much, if at all. (Some even speak in defense of them!)
Curious, ain't it? If some of our bishops are so bent on "proclaiming Gospel values in the public square," then why aren't they speaking out against those moral threats, as the likes of John Chrysostom, Basil the Great and Ambrose of Milan did with such verve and frequency? One gets the impression that railing against abortion and homosexuality are easier and "safer," since they target a smaller demographic. Start decrying violence, greed, gluttony, prejudice, disregard for God's poor or lack of charity -- much more pervasive among the majority of the population -- and one just might rankle donors and supporters ("the base," as they say nowadays), right?
As for Matthew 19:1-8, isn't it odd that some hold it up as a discussion of heterosexuality versus homosexuality, when it's obviously about the inadmissibility of divorce? One might it expect it then to spur defenders of "traditional marriage" to lobby for banning divorce, but it doesn't. Nor do we hear any calls for constitutional amendments outlawing adultery, cohabitation or premarital sex, which surely erode traditional marriage. ("Don't bring that up! Some of our biggest political connections in the 'values voter' world are serial adulterers, divorcees or clients of prostitutes! We'll lose their support!") Nope, it's far easier and "safer," once again, to pick on a smaller sliver of the population to keep "the base" fired up and not alienate the majority out there.
"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the Church?" Paul asked (1 Corinthians 5:12). Indeed. American marriage laws already allow any number of things the Church doesn't: divorcees can remarry as many times as they want; the baptized and the unbaptized can wed at will; in some states, kinfolk forbidden to marry in the Church's table of impediments can do so with impunity.
Yet I've never heard any of our bishops publicly fret that the government -- whether by lawsuit, court order or jackbooted thuggery -- would force the Church to accommodate any of these things. Nor have I heard any lobby that we must legislate against them, for constitutional freedom of religion allows churches to regulate marriage as they see fit here. To say that legalized civil "same-sex marriage" would be any different is a strawman without precedent (and a scare tactic imported from outside the Church, I might add).
And that brings us to civil versus sacramental marriage. It's a distinction social conservatives don't want to make, but the Church sure does. Two Orthodox Christians married in a civil ceremony are considered as living in sin in the Church's eyes. Civil marriage is not the same thing as the sacramental union of a man and woman in church, no matter how much politicians throw around the words "sanctity of marriage."
Speaking of "sanctity of marriage"... One of the things propelling the drive for "same-sex marriage" are the legal and financial benefits American law has attached to marriage. So if we really believe in the "sanctity of marriage" -- that it's really all about holiness -- maybe married heterosexuals ought to do a really "ascetic" thing and lobby to repeal all those benefits. Then marriage might not seem so attractive to the "same-sex marriage" crowd. After all, who needs tax breaks, hospital visitation rights, joint insurance, etc., when we've got holiness? Holiness is its own reward, no? It is all about holiness, right?
In an age when American evangelicals and conservative think tanks are pouring big bucks into exporting the "culture wars" to places like Africa -- where they're trying to get Uganda to pass legislation for the execution of homosexuals just for being homosexual, all in the name of "Christian morality" (despite the words and example Jesus set in Luke 6:31 and John 8:1-11!) -- the Church here had better be very careful who it makes its political bedfellows. Either we'll end up with blood on our hands or holding the cloaks of those who throw the stones (think Acts 7:57-58). Neither will be pleasing to the God who came to earth in the flesh to dine with prostitutes and tax-collecting turncoats, talk to a Samaritan woman married many times over, and defended an adulteress against a lynch mob claiming a religious right and duty to kill her.
No, the Church doesn't need The Family in Washington DC, the Chalcedon Foundation, the Howard Ahmansons, R.J. Rushdoonys or Pat Robertsons of the world, for all their money and clout. Christ has given us a different agenda:
Love your neighbor.
Love your enemies.
Treat others the same way you want to be treated.
Treat others as though they were Christ, especially the least valued and most neglected of society.
#9.1.4 Diogenes on 2011-03-31 20:05
Thank you Diogenes...couldn't have said it better myself!
#9.2 Andrew A. Lukashonak on 2011-04-04 16:26
Two books I have recently read speak directly to elements in the "social issues" and spiritual vs. political debate above. I recommend that all Orthodox concerned about these issues read them.
First, I just finished "Tattoos on the Heart" by Fr. Gregory Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Ministries in Los Angeles and minister to the poor in the heart of gang territory for over 20 years. What Fr. Greg chronicles of the lives of those in his care incarnates what is at the heart of my faith as an Orthodox Christian, and eloquently underscores the point that Overseas Observer does above. It makes for very good Lenten reading.
Secondly, I also read this past week "Rage Against God" by Peter Hitchens, brother of famous atheist, Christopher Hitchens. His analysis is aided (as was his return to Christian faith), by first-hand experience and observation (initially as a Trotskyist) of the ultimate result of the nature of the state created by a pointedly atheist, secularist agenda in the U.S.S.R.. What is interesting in Peter's story is his analysis of the spiritual, social and political forces that have led to the climate in Great Britain of completely marginalizing Christian faith--not only socially, but via political means as well. Actually, it is not a stretch to say that it has been targeted for extinction there! Doubtless, some have read the recent story of the Christian couple who have been barred from fostering an orphan because they would not agree to teach him sexual ethics (i.e., about homosexual behavior) that conflict with traditional Christian teaching. Effectively, the door is now legally shut in Great Britain upon Christians holding to traditional teaching being able to foster and adopt children. How long before, as in Communist Russia, families are forbidden to teach the principles of their faith to their own biological children, not only by taking them to church, but also by practice of their faith in their own very homes at their own family altars!
It is quite possibly only a matter of time before the U.S. follows in these footsteps, since it is currently following a similar trajectory. So, Mark, I think what seems to be your confidence in the relative protection of the rule of law and our first amendment rights in the Constitution a little misplaced, and Gail's fears quite well-founded based on what has actually happened in more than one place where Christian principles once undergirded social mores and laws, but where another agenda, hostile to traditional Christian teaching, now predominates. To clarify, I think we do need to be actively involved in our political processes in order to prevent anti-freedom of religion legislation, not to "legislate the gospel!"
I don't think this is a case of either/or with respect to spiritual practice or political involvement, but both/and for us Orthodox.
#10 Karen on 2011-03-31 09:58
Karen, I think we Christians can boldly proclaim our beliefs without adopting a victim mentality. In the most recent British census, 71% of UK residents self-identified as Christian, so your suggestion that they've been marginalized and "targeted for extinction" makes no sense to me. The legal decision you mention was in no way an attempt to stop British Christians from practicing their beliefs or passing them on to their children. Fostering a child is not a "right" in the sense that raising one's biological children is -- certainly not one that would override the foster child's right to be placed in a tolerant environment. In cases of adoption and foster care, the state is obligated to ensure that children, who may discover that they are gay, are not assigned to a family where their identity might not be accepted.
Perhaps the underlying confusion, Karen, is your conflation of secularism with atheism. Technically, a political order that is secular (i.e. based on separation of church and state) cannot also be atheist (promoting the belief that there is no god). Separation of church and state is one of the essential principles of modern Western democracy and entails that no religious group, including Christians, are entitled to a special legal status; if this is accepted, then I don't see how the British court could have reached a different decision.
I commend David O'Neal for his reflection, and I think Fr. John Meyendorff's reminder that "the Christian is always a shaky political ally" is incredibly timely.
#10.1 Joseph Clarke on 2011-03-31 21:29
The US and the UK seem so similar that it's easy to overlook profound constitutional differences between the two nations. The UK is lacking an equivalent of the Bill of Rights with its First Amendment prohibitions:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
If we were ever to come to the point where the Supreme Court no longer defended the First Amendment, we'd be in an unbelievably serious situation, with way more to worry about than churches being coerced into performing same-sex marriages.
#10.2 Ann McLarnan on 2011-04-01 09:44
This is Dave O'Neal, author of the "What We Look For" reflection. I'm checking in here late after the discussion has veered off the subject quite a bit, but I just want to make a clarification about my main point in that reflection, which some people seem to have missed entirely. I'm certainly not saying that Fr. Meyendorff was half-hearted in his oppostion to abortion (using that example that hs been given). I take him to have been very passionately opposed indeed. But I assert that he would never have presented opposition to abortion as what the Orthodox Church is about. That he'd ever have welcomed anyone into this life in Christ simply based on their having a pro-life stance that would be supported there. And that's the difference between him and Metropolitan Jonah. +Jonah has openly offered our church as a refuge for anyone whose church isn't conservative enough for them. I can't begin to express how antithetical this is to the Gospel that drew me to the church. If he were offering the church as a refuge for liberal progressives (a wild fantasy, I know), I know I would feel exactly the same way.
The abortion issue is a useful example for showing what I'm trying to say. I also oppose the practice of abortion. Though there is likely a small range of variants in attitude on that issue in our church, I'd imagine that a person who regards abortion as a morally neutral birth-control method would be extremely rare in our church (as such a person would be, even among pro-choice folks). But let's say such a person existed, and that such a person had consciously set himself on the path to Christ with us. I'd want him to be with us. I'd want to dialogue with him. I hope his mind would be changed, but in order to do so I would have to listen to him and let myself be challenged by what he says. I'd have to acknowledge that part of him that strives to work out his salvation in the church, even if I understood him to have a view I found unacceptable. I have to think his confrontation with Christ in the Church would change his mind. In the mean time, I would pray that being in communion with someone whose opinion grieves me might in some way soften my heart too, and his.
I see the Gospel in this attitude: The Church of the God who emptied himself for us, who ate with tax collectors and sinners, understanding there to be no substantial difference between saint and sinner as far as he is concerned.
I understand this view of the Church may be disputed, but in disputing it, please don't misunderstand what I mean.
#11 Dave O'Neal on 2011-04-01 05:48
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