October 30, 2014

Metropolitan Jonah apologizes for ‘uncharitable’ remarks directed at Ecumenical Patriarch

From the Orthodox Church in America Web site. Posted April 17:

Metropolitan Jonah issues statement on recent sermon

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] — On Great, Holy and Good Friday, April 17, 2009, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, issued the following statement in response to recent commentary on his April 5, 2009 sermon, delivered at Saint Seraphim Cathedral, Dallas, TX.

“I greet you in a spirit of repentance and forgiveness as we celebrate the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Certain comments that were made in the course of my sermon have provoked a reaction from my Orthodox brothers that I did not intend or foresee. I regret making those comments. In particular, I realize that some characterizations regarding the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarchate of Constantinople were insensitive. As the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, I am motivated only by the desire to underscore our fervent hope that future discussion about the so-called Orthodox Diaspora will include the Orthodox Church in America and other Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. It is also my purpose to affirm our Church in the face of those who would question our presence as a local Orthodox Church in North America.

“It is now clear that I made statements that were uncharitable. I do apologize to His All-Holiness as well as to others who were offended. I also hope that through personal contact and acquaintance we might be able to overcome any misunderstandings that might arise or have clouded the relationship between our Churches in the past. My hope is that we might cooperate in an attitude of mutual support in our common mission, to spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the spirit of this Great and Holy Friday, I sincerely pray that as we contemplate Our Lord, Who ascended the Cross to ‘bring all men to Himself,’ we will see in His patience and long-suffering the way to continue our work together for the witness and mission of Orthodoxy in the world and for Orthodox unity in North America.”

Comments

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Well, if the apology spurs a deeper discussion on how the EP employs the concept of “Hellenism,” I’m all for it. Fr. Elpidophoros’ comments sorely need a thorough historical evaluation before we even think about applying any of the conclusions he asserted. Reading the apology, it does not seem as if Met. Jonah is implicitly lending credence to the emissary’s claims.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    Once upon a time back in 2002-2003, I began attending an Orthodox Church in the area in which I now live. After about a year the newness had worn off. I got to see a number of things that led me to believe that the OC, in this generation, wasn’t that much more good than evil.

    Then for reasons I don’t wish to go into, I ceased attending church at all. Not from rejecting the Orthodox faith, but from a sober evaluation of how that faith was being practiced by the Orthodox.

    Years later I returned to the Orthodox Church and was chrismated. Here’s the thing though: I did not return because I thought the Orthodox Church was in any better shape than I did when I left. I joined and remained because I believe in the Church of the Ages, not the Church of this age. I joined to be in communion with saints and prophets of generations past, not the current crop of hierarchs or laity.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten to know some very nice, very pious people. Nonetheless, in this generation, I’m not sure how much more good the Church does than evil.

    I state all of the above because I think it is not too wise to get our expectations up about this or that hierarch being different than all the rest. Insofar as his remarks made it clear to the EP that he was rejecting his power grab, I believe they were entirely justified and I am disapppointed in Met. Jonah for his apology.

    But consider the number of people inside the OCA and in other jurisdictions who somehow thought Met. Jonah was the One who was going to deliver us into an American Orthodox Church. He couldn’t hold his ground for more than a couple of weeks.

    Eventually, when Christendom recovers and reasserts itself (and if Christianity is to survive, I believe it must), this age, the age of the 20th and early 21st century will be remembered as the Age of Apostasy. In the meantime, I wouldn’t fix my expectations on any such figure who promises to be new and different.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Scott, …….and yet. Yesterday at the end of Agape Vespers with candles burning we gathered around our Bishop in love and thanksgiving for the Resurrection–not unlike the Resurrection Icon (or the Harrowing of Hades properly called). An iconic moment of great power and testimony.

    We will certainly be faced with the choice of apostasy.

    Just a point of reflection: A small OCA mission in central Minnesota had the head of a cat placed on their steps sometime on Holy Friday morning. They have had repeated instances of vadalism directed at them and at their priest’s home (next door). This is a town that claims to be 95% Roman Catholic.

    The coldness in so many people’s hearts, including my own, is astounding and growing. We must do what we can to assert in the midst of this that Christ is Risen!

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr Hans, bless,

    Christ is Risen! I believe you are right. Metropolitan Jonah is not validating any of Lambriniades’ claims, at all. In fact, he is upholding the values of the American church. It’s just that he’s offering an apology to a man, for saying something that could be percieved as hurtful.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    “We will certainly be faced with the choice of apostasy.”

    Michael,

    What I meant was that American and Western European culture had sunk into apostasy and that that has had a profound effect on the Church here. It has made us far, far too cozy with modernist practices and modern American attitudes (especially with respect to moral complacency and the instutition of the family). That is the evil I spoke of that drags down the good the Church does here.

    “It’s just that he’s offering an apology to a man, for saying something that could be percieved as hurtful.”

    It is irrational to offer an apology unless you regret saying what you said. Met. Jonah apparently does. He shouldn’t. There’s no more to it than that.

    If you sift through the blah blah blah part of it, the pertinent parts are:

    “I regret making those comments. In particular, I realize that some characterizations regarding the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarchate of Constantinople were insensitive . . . It is now clear that I made statements that were uncharitable.”

    Let us not rationalize away his apology. It appears as if he’s eating crow because that is in fact what he is doing. I don’t think this is the great Orthodox leader that many have been awaiting. Either he screwed up royally in giving the speech or he screwed up royally by eating crow. Either way . . .

    One bad misstep does not sink his boat; however, I don’t expect much in the way of backbone from him as a result of this.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Scott, as to your points about apostasy and how the cultural degradation is hurting us here in America, I heartily concur with you. I would be very leery however of judging +Jonah by this one speech. (With which I agree with in all its particulars.) After all, many other hierarchs have made far worse mistakes and have recovered from them. Others just recently said inanities that were more fitting of eunuchs groveling before a god-king in some Oriental court. I won’t name this particular bishop but I’d rather be accused of saying what +Jonah said than what he said. One bishop looked resolute, the other like a toady.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    George,

    Of course, you’re right. I didn’t mean to indicate that it was a mistake fatal to his potential. It’s just that after this (which I do see as backing down in the face of heat) I tend to think he will be less assertive, and effective. However, I hope I’m wrong.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Scott, very possible. However I think two things mitigate against this: after the Holy Synod meets over mid-Pentecost, +Jonah is going to Moscow to be received as the primate of an autocephalous church. After that, he flies to Istanbul. What will happen in either place I cannot say however the Moscow trip will speak volumes and will probably set the tone for the Istanbul one.

    In other thread, I mentioned that +Jonah’s sermon was perhaps providential in that it unwittingly created a cleavage between the worldly jurisdictions and those that are more concerned with Orthodox piety. It seems that two of the most secularized bishops within the GOA have taken the bait (Methodius and Gerasimus)). How this is all gonna shake down I don’t know although I venture to make this prediction: we’ve always known that the GOA will not come into any American Church that it is not in control of; +Jonah’s speech raised their hackles and their arrogance factor so that now I’m sure that this won’t happen.

    How is this providential?

    Quite possibly, mergers will take place between all of the non-GOA jurisdictions and then two major Orthodox presences will exist in North America: one would be the American Orthodox Church and the other a Society for the Preservation of Byzantine Nostalgia. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit led many laymen, more than a few priests and even a GOA bishop or two into the American church.)

    Things will continue along this path for decades (or until the Lord’s return, whichever comes first), then unless there’s repentance, there will be a break in communion as the more worldly elements will solidify their control and start preaching full-blown apostasy.

    This is a very real fear: America is going to become more anti-Christian and its legislation will reflect this reality. Christian bodies will have two choices: submit to the anti-Christian diktats of the Federal govt (gay marriage, FOCA, etc.) or remain resolute and face martyrdom. Yes, you heard me right –martyrdom.

    Just as Meletius Metaxakis of sorrowful memory worked in concert with the Soviet regime to quash the revitalized Moscow patriarchate, so too will we see the more worldly Orthodox presences working in concert with the federal government to quash the American Orthodox Church, seize its properties, and so on. It will be by this method that it will become the sole Orthodox presence in America.

    This is speculative but I believe it’s more than a real possibility.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Scott,

    I’d like to revise my remarks regarding the “effectiveness” of +Jonah because of his semi-apology. I’ve given this more thought and I don’t think he will be any less effective so long as he speaks the truth in love and adheres to the Gospel. That has to be how we measure his “effectiveness,” not how well he gets along with panty-waists like the “metropolitan” of San Francisco.

    Let me go further: if by “effective” we mean how much closer are we to a united transjurisdictional American Orthodox Church, then I must say not very effective at all. As I’ve said above and in another string, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Nor do I think that it was ever in the offing. True, +Jonah’s remarks increased its unlikelihood but before that it was 95% DOA, now it’s 98% DOA. The reason of course is the GOA is too prideful and arrogant, the AOCA has devolved into a Philippian cult of personality, and the other ethnic jurisdictions are still clinging to Balkan nostalgia.

    Regardless, we must never fall to the temptation of “unity at all costs” if by unity we mean kowtowing to the worldly ambitions of some of the old world patriarchates or their minions among the ethnic jurisdictions here in America. In this respect I heartily concure with Pope Benedict XVI who has stated that he would rather see a smaller, more orthodox Roman Catholic Church than one in which all of the people in a nation say they are members but in reality are not. (I.e. they never go to church, are completely secular, engage in all manner of sexual sin, practice abortion, etc.)

    Let’s put our cards on the table: if I can’t share the Cup of Salvation with pious, holy, and devout Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, and Lutherans who actually walk the Christian walk as well as talk the talk, then why would I want to share It with nominal Orthodox tribalists who couldn’t care less about the degradation of man and his culture? Whose bishops spend what little precious “face time” they have with the President and talk about the name of an obscure country in the Balkans or a theological school that has been closed for 35 years (but has been replaced in spades in other, freer countries?)

    How worldly are we talking about? Let me just give you one example: the murderous tyrant Fidel Castro was made an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate back in 2004. There was no outrage from the other members of this outfit. And all for what? Because he built a small 20×30 “cathedral” in Havana? We are like Esau who sold his birthright for lentils and porridge. (What next, a sainthood for Hitler?)

    I know my words are too extreme for Metroplitan +Jonah, but in the final analysis, unity under these conditions –that is to say without genuine repentance–would be nothing short of apostasy. I for one do not want unity if it means that the only reason we are “allowed” to have it is because of some back-channel deal whereing money will continue to flow back to the Istanbul, Damascus, Bucharest or wherever.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    George, a small but necessary correction. Castro was never made an archon. What happened was that the initial plan was to offer him the “Cross of St. Andrew,” a gift associated with the Archons. Word leaked out causing a huge outcry in the GOA. It was replaced with some momento of lesser importance.

    The real shame of the visit was that some Cubans pleaded with the delegation for a statement from the Patriarch acknowledging the suffering of Christians in Cuba. Castro violently persecuted Christians and other dissenters. No statement was made, although in an attempt to appease critics, Abp. Demetrios met privately with some families of political prisoners. Some members of the delegation were very upset by their silence (one of them told me these details first hand). No public statement in defense of the prisoners was ever made.

    Meanwhile, some members of the National Council of Churches, organizer of the Patriarchal visit and slavish Castro apologists from the sixties onward, held a protest near Guantanamo to protest US policy. They used the EP visit for their own ends and no statement condemning their self-aggrandizement was ever made either.

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    Chrys says:

    Fr. Johannes, your comments brought back an ignominious and happily forgotten episode. At least the Russian Patriarch’s quiescence during the Soviet era was the result of a gun pointed at the heads of the faithful. We can not expect leadership where there is no courage. (Pope John Paul II provides such a stark contrast. Compare his visit to communist Poland – or Cuba itself.) Whether Cuba or the recent episode with the President, this is very sad. This would seem to support the characterization applied to him by George in note 6 as a toady. I had expected so much more given what I knew of his work and reputation. I only hope that in both cases there is much more to the story than I know, but that hope is fading.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Chrys, I share your frustration. I wrote two very public articles a few years back to try and get just this message across (leadership must be moral in character) to the leadership of both the GOA and Constantinople. One concerned the moral compromises made by Senators Sarbannes and Snowe that I placed in a paper that I knew was read by both the senators and GOA leadership. I tried to warn the leadership that the continued feting of politicians who were in open defiance of the Orthodox moral tradition would erode their moral standing and undermine their authority.

    The second (concerning the Cuba visit) was published by Front Page Magazine, a site that I knew would give the piece enough exposure to where it would eventually reach Constantinople in some way or another (it did). All I heard was that New York was very angry, which is what I expected, but no one addressed the erosion of moral authority. Moral authority is all that Constantinople really has, but moral authority is very powerful when drawn from and subject to the Gospel of Jesus Christ — the word that turns the world “upside down.” (The Catholics, to their credit, have learned this lesson it seems, albeit through the painful burning that resulted from their shameful handling of the child sex-abuse scandals.)

    However, it still looks like they are not getting the message. The dalliances with the NCC (apologists for tyranny for decades); the sublimation of the Gospel to notions of ethnic triumphalism (using a specious reading of history to justify it); the heavy-handed public denouncements of legitimate criticism (criticism is tantamount to “persecution”); the lack of prudence in public statements on the environment (protection of the environment is a very important issue but one that must avoid the appearance of any philosophical allegiance with political factions, particularly cultural anarchists); the silence on life issues (including Greece’s embrace of demographic suicide); among other things, all point to something not quite right somewhere.

    What is it? I don’t know. It appears that Constantinople doesn’t really understand how cultural dynamics work in the West. It also appears that his Western advisers make a very simple mistake: they confuse the imperatives of the moral tradition with the aims of the cultural left since the left employs a vocabulary similar to theirs (how else do we explain the dependence on the NCC for the Cuba visit?). They don’t seem to be aware of the inversion of language that has taken place as the result of secularism. The advisers are not culturally aware in other words, at least not to the level they need to be in order to give sound advice.

    The irony is that if the EP could find his moral voice (he could take a lesson from Popes JPII or Benedict here), his standing in world Orthodoxy would rise to the stratosphere. In America, he would find support from all believers in all jurisdictions in ways that he doesn’t seem to comprehend (if Fr. Elpidophoros’ speech is a reliable indicator, which I think it is). Instead, we get assertions of authority based on this or that notion of ethnic supremacy that strike me as, well, trading the Gospel for a bowl of pottage.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Amen, Fr. well said.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Dear Fr. Hans,

    Re: The irony is that if the EP could find his moral voice (he could take a lesson from Popes JPII or Benedict here), his standing in world Orthodoxy would rise to the stratosphere. In America, he would find support from all believers in all jurisdictions in ways that he doesn’t seem to comprehend (if Fr. Elpidophoros’ speech is a reliable indicator, which I think it is). Instead, we get assertions of authority based on this or that notion of ethnic supremacy that strike me as, well, trading the Gospel for a bowl of pottage.

    I’ve often said that for the Orthodox to be succescful, all they need to do is to return to the traditions of the “Church of the First 15 centuries.” Our Church Fathers left us a remarkably robust system, able to deal easily and deftly with an environment of economic success combined with cultural diversity – that was, after all, the environment of the Eastern Empire.

    One of those traditions, which you allude to above, is a separation of parochial ethnic interests from the needs of the Orthodox Oecumene. When one reads the original Byzantine histories, one almost NEVER hears about “Greek” anything…nothing. On the other hand, references are constantly made to the “Orthodox Oecumene”, the leader of which was the ecumenical patriarch.

    Sts. John Chrysostom and Photios would have been outraged at the comments of Fr. Elpidoforos. I suspect they would have made the comments of OCL look very mild by comparison.

    On the other hand, I can only imagine their pride at the works of people like Sts. Tikhon, Innocent and Raphael.

    Steven Runciman said it best…Now that there are no more Greeks in Constantinople, perhaps the patriarch can go back to being an “ecumenical” patriarch, rather than a patriarch of the Greeks.

    It’s a shame the advisors to the Phanar don’t comprehend that simple fact. They would instantly propel themselves to everything they desire, and much, much more.

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr, regarding my statement about Castro, I stand corrected. However, the implicit criticism stands: that a monster such as he who has unleashed untold suffering on his people could even be considered for such an honor in the first place speaks ill of those who want to so honor such a person. What moral universe do such clergymen inhabit? Are they so bereft of common decency that they cannot see this man’s monstrosity?

    In my opinion, the only proper award for El Jefe would have been for his neck to have been wrung by the chain upon which the pendant rested.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    George, yes, absolutely. The failure to acknowledge the victims who were brutalized under Castro’s totalitarian rule (even within the strictures of diplomatic protocol) is a failure of leadership. But the die was cast as soon as the NCC was chosen to organize and direct the trip, and this choice was a failure of leadership on the American end. (The NCC uses the Orthodox to bolster their public standing.)

    But failures in leadership increasingly seem to be stock in trade, witness the unfortunate words of Abp. Demetrios to Pres. Obama. That no one perceived that the empty-headed flattery would communicate a spirit of servility doesn’t speak well for his handlers either. Why didn’t they grasp this? Is the Greek lobby just listening to itself?

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr, you bring up a long-standing bugbear of mine: that of Orthodox involvement in the NCC/WCC axis of weasel. These organisms are truly agents of the devil and have done much to destroy morality in the mainline Protestant denominations.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 14. Dean, thought about your words this afternoon, and although I’ve heard the ideas before in other contexts, I really heard them today. Your idea, that we need to return to the first fifteen centuries of Orthodoxy, particularly an Orthodoxy free of the ethnic strictures that have been imposed on it during the last few centuries, is expansive, generous, hopeful, encouraging, and a whole host of other adjectives that — dare I say it? — appeal to liberty and freedom.

    This ties into another thesis I’ve been developing over the past few years: There is a compatibility between some foundational values of American culture and Orthodox Christianity — not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence certainly but a congruency of sorts, especially in our notions of inalienable rights, the dignity of the individual, the high value placed on freedom, and so forth.* I tried to flesh out some of these ideas in an article I wrote for Again Magazine a while back (Orthodox Leadership in a Brave New World).

    *Hold on to your hats guys. I am talking about freedom, rights, etc. within a cultural context informed by Christian morality.

    The EP could be a great leader to the American Orthodox if he understood his role primarily as the teacher of the Gospel rather than universal ethnarch. In return, the American Orthodox would grow to love him (it is who we are) and support him beyond his wildest hopes.

    Constantinople does not understand that Americans simply are not going to respond well to the kinds of claims made by Fr. Elpidophoros (including, I think, thinking Greeks once they grasp that this is more about ethnic authority rather than authority rooted in the Gospel of Christ). We just don’t handle heavy-handed claims of supremacy very well. We chafe under the pronouncements of those who themselves have yet to prove their veracity — like Fr. Elpidophoros. It’s part of our cultural character. Further, the fact that they don’t understand this undermines their claim that they are the best qualified to lead the American Orthodox Church.

    Critics say this is a weakness, that we are rebellious or immature. There is probably some truth to this. On the other hand, the creativity, energy, drive, hopefulness, generosity, inventiveness, and other qualities particular to the American character that you just don’t find in Fr. Elpidophoros’ lumbering scold count for something too.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Dear Fr. Hans,

    I’m glad you liked that idea…the idea that we must return to the practices of the Church of the First 15 Centuries is something that I’ve come to believe over time. It has nothing to do with wanting to go “back in time”.

    The more I’ve read about the Eastern Empire, the more amazed I’ve become at the similarities between the conditions which the Church grew up in and the modern USA.

    Think about it for a moment: both were the only superpowers on the planet (for much of Byzantium’s history anyway), both valued a national citizenship over ethnic and tribal affiliations (Roman then, American now), both were economic colossus’s spawning a currency which was used the world over, that economic prowess in both cases gave rise to a largely literate citizenry (we had NO Dark Ages in the East until the time of the Turks, literacy levels never fell in the East as they did in the West following the Fall of Rome), that educated, literate citizenry became highly engaged in the Church (we know there were laity at most of the ecumenical councils – and read about the riots during the monophysite heresies).

    While it is certainly possible to push the analogy too far, I think there are many similarities. It’s interesting to me because if this is true, the modern USA, with it’s diverse cultures and ethnic affiliations, is probably the closest environment to the Eastern Empire in 1000 years. The nice thing is that the Church should THRIVE in such an environment. On the flip side, I think the system of ecclesial governance that was left to us (conciliarity, transparency, accountability) is something that most modern Americans would feel right at home in if exercised in it’s pure form.

    You know, I’ve actually read accounts of bishops being assigned to Sees, and the laity returning those bishops BACK to the metropolis…essentially “return to sender” – 1000 years ago. So that rebellious nature you talked about is nothing new to Orthodoxy. And if you ever read the tomos of the Council of Constantinople of 1872 (against Ethno-phyletism – see the masthead at http://members5.boardhost.com/STANDREWHOUSE/msg/1240677841.html) it’s something that could have come out of the mouth of Martin Luther King…just 100 years ahead of his time.

    If we can only eliminate the “bath-tub ring” attached by the Turks (the monarchical hierarchs, asbolutist tendencies of the same) and return to the practices of the First 15 Centuries, I honestly believe we can evangelize this continent.

    Anyway, I’m glad you liked the thought..I think there’s a lot there.

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Dean & Fr. Hans,

    How does the relatively new idea (at least I think it is) of individual freedom and the concomitant diminuation of community fit into your thesis?

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Flesh this out for me Michael. Are you saying that individual freedom is not compatible with community?

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Michael,

    Please clarify your question for me as well…I’m having trouble with it as well.

    I would not say that individual freedom is a new concept to the Orthodox. Along with the various examples of individual/lay participation and decision making sited above, I’d also point out the Orthodox concept of ekonomia, which is nothing more than an attempt to allow the parish priest and/or local bishop to make decisions at the local level which are appropriate.

    The tendency in the East has always been a devolution to localized decision making (I guess they’d have made good Republicans!).

    I would say that the concept of individual participation is a longstanding practice in the East – on the other hand, the diminution is not of the community, but of the centralized power…hence the lack of a Papacy in the East.

    There’s a great, if anecdotal story which illustrates the point. My grandfather explained to me the situation when the first traffic lights were installed in Athens. I imagine in most other places, people accepted the automatic directions as a relief.

    Not so in Athens – the story I heard was that when the Greeks saw the traffic light, they paused, pointed at it, and then started laughing…”THAT is going to tell me when i can go?” they said, laughing hysterically.

    I can’t imagine the Arabs were much different.

    That’s a pretty good illustration of what the Eastern Church has been contending with for 2000 years.

    It’s really no different than when the King of Persia turned to Xenophon and threatened to kill him, leaving the 10,000 man army stranded and leaderless in the middle of Persia (in the story The Anabasis). That was generally a good strategy when dealing with slave armies.

    In response, Xenophon told the king, “Kill me, and you will have 10,000 generals,” referring to the Greek propensity to individualism in the extreme.

    Things have really not changed that much in 3000 years.

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    Michael Bauman says:

    I was thinking of the largely Protestant/Enlightenment mentality that tends to be reduced to individualism in which any sort of community, even the family is thought of as expendable. There is distrust and even anatagonism of any approach in which the individual will is not supreme.

    It has always seemed to me that it was easier for folks in pre-modern times to find identification in a larger community than it is now. However, I could be wrong.

    Dean says:

    Think about it for a moment: both were the only superpowers on the planet (for much of Byzantium’s history anyway), both valued a national citizenship over ethnic and tribal affiliations (Roman then, American now), both were economic colossus’s spawning a currency which was used the world over, that economic prowess in both cases gave rise to a largely literate citizenry (we had NO Dark Ages in the East until the time of the Turks, literacy levels never fell in the East as they did in the West following the Fall of Rome), that educated, literate citizenry became highly engaged in the Church (we know there were laity at most of the ecumenical councils – and read about the riots during the monophysite heresies).

    On a potential energy basis alone, China far out paces us, they own a large portion of our debt and will out bid us for scarce resources. Plus we are happily funneling them the very resources they need to eclipse us. Then there is the massive demographic threat of Islam. I don’t think we are the lone superpower. American citizenship is not highly valued by an increasing number of people and our economic hegemony is crumbling. What passes for literacy is declining rapidly as we digress from communication of ideas with words to a new sort of hieroglyphics. Real ideas are seldom engaged at all.

    Individualism has eroded concern for the theology of the Church to a point where religion is often just an individual therapy. Most people refuse to engage in religious ideas at all labeling them as ‘Church politics’ and retreating to a private spirituality.

    Dean, as attractive as your idea sounds, I think you are ignoring the tremendous inertia in our culture/people’s hearts that works against any realization of your vision as well as using a false analogy to illustrate it.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Dear Michael,

    I’m an ex-money manager (ex since 2000 – not a recent change) with a love for economic (as well as Byzantine) history – one of the reasons I got out of the business actually – so you need not explain the degenerative economic problems. There’s no question that you are right…we are no longer the “sole” superpower. Further, the same could actually have been said of China (and later Western Europe) in the case of the Eastern Empire – certainly at the end this was even more true.

    However, despite that imprecise adjective, I still think there are similarities galore…this is not something that needs to be “stretched” to fit.

    My real point, however poorly communicated, is that the Eastern Empire was a financial colossus – this had been true throughout the time of the Roman Empire…the money was always in the East – a legacy of the Hellenistic kingdoms of Alexander. This is actually the real reason why the Empire in the East survived so much longer than in the West. The Western Empire was a financial midget compared to the East, even though it contained the capital.

    An additional aside may make the similarities more clear. The Byzantine currency, eventually called “the Bezant” outside the empire, was used the world over for trade. There’s actually a story about a Roman merchant who, in the presence of the Chinese ruler, was arguing with a Persian merchant about whose king was greater. The Persian had expounded on the power of the Persian king, how much land they ruled, the cities, the wealth etc etc etc. The Roman, in turn, simply asked the Chinese ruler to take a (Byzantine) gold coin out of his pocket, which carried the image of the Byzantine emperor. “Any questions”, was practically the response.

    This story is particularly ironic, given your comment about the Chinese debt, because of the recent Chinese inspired dustup about reserve currencies (and increased use of SDR’s). At least so far, the USD has been the reserve currency for the world (for the last 50 years anyway).

    In any case, among other things, this financial success gave rise to and supported an educated populace. In turn, this populace became extraordinarily involved in the day to day life of the Church on every level – both in the governance (as I said, there are examples of cities returning bishops), in theology (at the Council of Florence, the emperor turned to Patriarch Joseph and reportedly said something to the effect of ‘Why are all my smartest theologians my LAY theologians?’) and in practice. Perhaps the greatest example of the involvement of the laity, aside from the monastic movement, were the riots throughout the Middle East during the Monophysite heresy. Can you imagine people taking to the streets because of such arguments today? I can’t.

    Getting back to your main point though…I don’t think the same degree of cleavage exists in the East as you are describing in the West. Keep in mind even the Greeks were organized on a City-State level, not a national one.

    You said:

    I was thinking of the largely Protestant/Enlightenment mentality that tends to be reduced to individualism in which any sort of community, even the family is thought of as expendable. There is distrust and even anatagonism of any approach in which the individual will is not supreme.

    I’m getting into philosophical things that I don’t know much about, but I think that last statement, “the individual will is not supreme” may be the big difference. I will let others more knowledgeable than I explain more, but I do not think the same either/or attitude prevailed in the East. I could be wrong.

    Perhaps Fr. Hans can elaborate more.

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Dean,
    excellent points. I do fear that we are on the verge of a new dark age thanks to the recent elections and the loss of “Westernesse” (Christendom + Classical civilization). However, as to Michael’s other points, China and Islam, they certainly have their strengths, but I can’t see them taking the place of America (hence a new Dark Age).

    why? Because China is getting older before it gets richer. The one child policy is not only decimating the Chinese population, it’s creating a surplus of rogue males who will never have access to females (32 million and counting). This means increasing homosexuality, which leads to violence and eventually the outbreak of wars of conquest by the Chinese gov’t in order to use the excess virility and direct it outwards.

    As for Islam, I believe it it is in a state of collapse as well. The same sexual inequality exists as well there, though it has nothing to do with female infanticide. What is happening in Islam is the loss of eligible females due to polygamy. As a rule, only the well-to-do can afford surplus wives, up to four total. This means that for every one wealthy man with four wives, there are three poor losers who don’t stand a chance. What to do with these rogue males? Make them suicide bombers. As for the Islamic states themselves, they are examples of failed states. Consider these statistics: more books, monographs, and technical manuals were translated into Greek in 2007 (11 million speakers) than into Arabic (200 million speakers). The GDP of Spain (37 millions people) equals that of all Arab countries. The one major deficit of Islam at present is its propensity for endemic and systemic and unremitting violence, which is just as often as not directed inwardly as it is outwardly.

    The strengths of the Chinese are their entrepeneurial spirit coupled with a Confucian work ethic. Plus, Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds in China. (I think they’d make excellent Orthodox Christisans.)

    The strengths of Islam aremore evident in the decaying western cities of Europe, where Mohammed is the #1 name for newborn baby boys in many of those cities.

    Unless America shakes off the shackles of socialism and takes back its Christian heritage, then all is lost. Neither China can serve as an active hegemon for more than 20 years and there is no resilient, moderate and powerful caliphate on the horizon.

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    Tom Kanelos says:

    Christ is Risen!

    George,

    On this you are right on target!

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Dean, I was not quarreling at all with your description of the Byzantine Empire. The problem I see is that despite the apparent similarities to which you point with modern America, the underlying mentality is drastically different. A difference that means we will have to find some other solution to governance. The difference is anthropological. We no longer think of ourselves as we used to. The post by Wesley Smith points to some of the reasons. Even the best of us is effected by such de-humanization.

    Most of my fellow parishoners can’t understand my opposition to organ transplant. They think I’m too radical, but I decided long ago that the philosphy behind organ transplant was an assualt on humanity depsite the seemingly good outcomes.

    Your comment that folks today would not take to the streets to object to a heresy acutally supports my point.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Tom,

    I’m always on target. My critique of Lambrianides was part of his ignorance of Byzantium. There was no one “ecumenical” patriarch. Rome was one nation with five patriarchates. That’s why his propaganda doesn’t hold water.

    geo

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    Tom Kanelos says:

    Christ is Risen!

    George, I was refering to your comment in #25 on this thread, but you can belive what you like. Your humilty is quite impressive. I am sure you are most proud of it.

    I, for one, contimue to believe Fr. Elpidophoros was right on target, no matter what a few “professors” from Holy Cross thought.

    Tom

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