October 25, 2014

Dominionists or Pro-Life? – A Response

By Harry Katopodis

Those who criticize my article accuse me of calling pro-life Orthodox dominionists, however the difference in reality is very small. The point is that whether I call them dominionists or religious right their stands are very similar, put Christian values and doctrine in the government of the United States.

I was raised in the Orthodox Church, and I left the Greek Church and went to the OCA so I could hear English services. A few years later I returned home to the Greek Church when I felt I wasn’t welcome in the OCA because I am a Democrat and a proud union member that votes for Democrats because it is in my economic interest to do so.

Right to Life Sunday was founded by a man I consider one of the worst presidents we ever had (anti-poor and anti-worker), Ronald Reagan, was offensive. Also having memorial services in OCA churches when Reagan died was unorthodox. Will Bill Clinton be given a memorial service when he dies? Of course not — he is pro-choice.

When I saw all the pro-life (pro-Republican) and anti-public school/pro-home schooling in OCA sources I could no longer stay there. OCA priest Very Rev. John Breck reflected an anti-public school view when he wrote, “Moral discourse, like today’s public education, will be shaped by a vision of reality that is totally foreign to the Gospel” (OCA web site) .

Not only the pro-life aspect of the OCA and Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, but also the language used by many converts to talk about their “walk with the Lord” is essentially Protestant reminding me of born-again meetings and Charismatic Renewal meetings I had visited.

The OCA and Antiochian Churches are essentially turning into Byzantine-rite, Protestant-like churches. The difference between so-called liberal churches that support social justice is that one is not told they are sinners for voting a certain way. In the pro-life movement it is implied that voting pro-choice is a sin and that somehow pro-choice voters are not true Christians.

I don’t want to keep the Greek church for Greeks only (85% of all weddings are mixed), I want to keep the faith once delivered to the saints intact, not turn the church into an arm of the Republican Party. Orthodox right-to-lifers will not see this and repeat their claim that abortions must be stopped. Unless the hearts of the majority of Americans are changed, abortion will remain legal.

Greek-Americans want to keep their culture and heritage as well as their language. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said recently in Detroit, “What would be an American Church?” He is right, we have so many cultures and races here, would the church be Arab, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian or Anglo-Saxon?

Our culture respects all races, nationalities, and creeds. Multicultural diversity is the only way we can go if we want to have a country. Many hold on to their cultures. There is nothing wrong with an ethnic church and there is nothing wrong with an American Church. We are free in America to worship the way we want. There is something wrong with telling people how to vote.

Dominion Theology (Theocracy)

The Christian Religious Right is very similar to the Dominion Theology or Reconstruction Movement that rose up in conservative Presbyterianism in the early 1970’s. Dominion Theology says that society has to be defined and controlled by Christians. The basis of this Theology is the book of Genesis 1:26 where God gives man dominion over the animal kingdom. The text says,

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the earth, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (KJV).

The vast majority of Christians interpret this to mean that God has appointed humans as stewards and caretakers of the animals and earth, however Dominionists interpret this to mean God has given dominion to Christians over every aspect of human life on earth including government.

St. Gregory the Theologian interprets this passage (Genesis 1:26) to mean that we are called to be stewards (oikonomoi) of God’s material world, caring for it, maintaining its integrity, and perfecting it. No Church father saw this as a call to take over the governments of the world.

Domininists and the religious right believe that the United States was meant to be a Christian nation and that separation of church and state is a lie of the left. They believe that Christian laws should be enacted and that the Christianity should be the basis for life in America. In short they want a Christian Theocracy in America.

We can see the Dominion Theology view in statements made by the Religious Right. For example Rev. Jerry Falwell said, “We will not adopt ‘inclusive’ policies to accept other religious teachings.” Today’s Christian Religious Right isn’t as demanding of world domination as the early Dominion Theology leaders, however they come very close.

Changing America

The Christian Religious Right is a very powerful movement. They have daily TV and radio shows, magazines, newsletters and Web sites that reach millions. They have access to thousands of churches to get the word out. They are active and successful in local, state and national elections.

The American founding fathers set up a separation of church and state not to eradicate religion from the lives of Americans but to safeguard that everyone would have the freedom to worship as they choose or not to worship at all. They were very careful not to set up a state church. Many of the people during that time were various types of Christians. They cherished the right to worship freely, especially because many were persecuted by the Church of England.

The freedom of religion was so important to the founding fathers that the first amendment to the constitution was set up to guarantee freedom of religion without government sanction and without government interference. The first amendment reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Dr. Pat Dobson is a powerful force in today’s Christian Religious Right movement and he said during The Larry King Show (November 22, 2006) that he does not believe that there is a separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.

Pat Robertson is the host of The 700 Club and regularly devotes a lot of time on his TV show covering political issues. It is clear that he supports candidates who oppose abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage and policies that he deems un-Christian.

He has often said that America was founded as a Christian country and supports America becoming Christian “again.” He often claims to hear directly from God giving him a sense of infallibility. Robertson founded the influential Christian Coalition that distributes millions of voter guides each election.

DJ Rushdoony founded the Dominionist Chalcedon Foundation in the 1960s and stated, “There can be no separation of church and state.” He argued that the First Amendment was designed to protect state-established churches. In 1981, A Christian Manifesto was written by Francis Schaeffer and expounded his version of Dominion Theology.

The Orthodox converts have brought this same interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to Orthodoxy. They publish a magazine called Again and in its Fall 2004 issue stated, “Just as the First Amendment lays no restrictions on the press in political matters, it lays no restrictions on religion in political matters.”

The National Council of Churches

As time goes by more and more of these converts do not like what they see in the Orthodox Churches in America. They do not like the many ethnic jurisdictions and feel that there must be only one Orthodox Church in America because Canon Law calls for one bishop in each city.

They also feel that the current Orthodox Church’s involvement in the Ecumenical Movement is wrong because the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches include many liberal denominations (Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc.).

They would prefer involvement in an Ecumenical Movement with conservative Christians (such as Evangelicals and conservative Catholics), where they can help them fight a culture war (anti-abortion, anti-embryonic stem cell research etc.).

The Antiochian Archdiocese (which has most of the converts; 70% of its clergy are converts) recently pulled out of the National Council of Churches (NCC) largely because some of the member churches don’t agree with them on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

They also do not like the lack of involvement of the ethnic jurisdictions in American politics. Orthodox are allowed to vote for any candidate or proposal they want. They were appalled that some Orthodox politicians were pro-choice (on abortion) and that Orthodox clergy did not get involved with the Religious Right and try to elect anti-abortion candidates and pass Christian laws such as banning embryonic stem cell research. They also recoil with horror that Greece has legalized abortion. The Evangelical converts brought their political views with them.

Anti-abortion activist and member of the Religious Right Randall Terry who said, “Our goal is a Christian Nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism” (Indiana News Sentinel).

Frank Schaeffer lays a lot of the blame for what he sees on the secularization of the Orthodox. He writes,

(T)he Church seems to contain many lay people, and even some priests who are far from fervent. It seems to me that the Orthodox Church in America is rather full of what appears to be dead wood of the hardest and driest kind…To put it another way, the naive convert looking for Mount Athos may well be more likely to find a local ‘Orthodox’ church that is nothing more than an ethnic version of the local Elks Club” (Dancing Alone).

Other Moderate Voices

There are other moderate voices in the Christian community such as The Interfaith Alliance which disagrees with the Christian Religious Right because they feel religion should be a healer and not a divider of people.

The Interfaith Alliance is composed of people from many faiths both Christian and non-Christian. They preach tolerance, respect and peaceful co-existence among all faiths. They do not feel that the Christian Religious Right speaks for all Christians.

They also defend the rights of the non-Christian religions in the United States. Don Parker, Press Secretary of the Interfaith Alliance wrote,

Most mainline Christian denominations oppose the religious rights’ involvement in politics… It’s to the advantage of all of us if we accept the fact that there are many ways of looking at things and that’s what we were founded on, free speech, free press and religious liberty and if we’ll all just accept that and get along, we’ll be fine, but when people start trying to impose their will on others we have problems.

Conclusion

The religious right and pro-life movements are very similar and their goals are also very similar. They both are trying to accomplish their mission through the Republican party and truth be told, it is not working out for them. Abortion remains legal and I personally don’t think any party will move to outlaw abortion.

What they are doing is trying to legislate Christian based laws on a secular country, something that is absurd. In reality they have inadvertently debased Orthodoxy into a political movement. As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He must be now be weeping over the Orthodox in America. May God help us all!