August 22, 2014

Michalopulos responds to Katopodis on ‘Orthodox Dominionists’

George C. Michalopulos has submitted the following in response to Harry Katopodis’ article on Orthodox Dominionists. Michalopulos is co-author, with Herb Ham, of “The American Orthodox Church — A History of its Beginnings” (Regina Orthodox Press).

Michalopulos:

It never ceases to amaze me how certain benighted and theologically inept individuals take upon themselves the task of speaking for Christ’s Church as it traverses on its voyage through history. One such individual fears that the so-called religious right has made inroads into the Orthodox Church in North America, and that it is only because of noble souls such as himself that tolerance can only be found in one remaining bastion, i.e. the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

And of what is Katapodis afraid? In no particular order: converts, “theocons,” non-GOAA bishops, and the rising tide of pro-lifers within American Orthodoxy.

The ridiculousness does not end there. In order to buttress this foolish argument, Katapodis creates a straw man –the dreaded “Dominionist theologian.” This phantom has under guise of conversion to Orthodoxy taken over the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America. Instead of what actually happened –sincere converts of all political ideologies embracing the Ark of Salvation—he sees instead a nefarious descent along a rightward political path.

Unfortunately, he cannot name any such formerly evangelical crypto-Dominionists lurking within Orthodoxy. Nor for that matter can he name any in the evangelical movement itself. That’s because he doesn’t know of any. I daresay that Mr Katapodis first heard about the Dominion branch of evangelicalism at some mainstream media cocktail party where the usual herd of independent thinkers that make up the mainstream media congratulated him on belonging to a quaint, ethnic church known for its cultural splendor and excellent cuisine. Ghettos can be part of the “gorgeous mosaic” of our diverse society once the people within them accept their place and don’t make trouble. (You know, like actually believe Jesus’ exhortation to “go and make disciples of all nations.”)

What Katapodis failed to mention is that Dominion theology encompasses an extremely small fringe group, one whose views are castigated by the vast majority of charismatics and evangelicals. From what I know of people within this movement, I can safely say that Orthodox Christianity is one of the last places they would pin their hopes on for restoring America to its puritan, republican past. After all, many of us in our ethnic ghettos are more concerned with reviving medieval autocracies and longing for a golden age that never was.

Katapodis compounds his error by condescending to those with whom he disagrees. In a most unchristian fashion, he castigates OCA bishops (those converts again) for actually tinkering with the Liturgy in order to celebrate “Sanctity of Life Sunday.” (Full disclosure: I never knew what this day was until I joined an OCA mission and I’ve been Orthodox all my life.)

The incongruity of such a pose cannot be maintained theologically however. Besides the teaching of Scripture, there is the problem of The Didache and of course the vast corpus of Spirit-filled writings produced by the Church Fathers –pro-lifers all. Katapodis and those like him hide behind the GOAA’s supposedly hear-no-evil/see-no-evil approach to modern society.

So how does such an elitist square the circle? By taking certain theologians’ words out of context. How else to explain eliding over Fr Theodore Stylianopoulos’ concern that nations are “to practice justice for all citizens and show compassion for their less fortunate members”? (Dare I ask: who is the most helpless among us than an unborn child?) Nor does any former evangelical I know of have any quarrel with Fr Stanley Harakas who warns against Orthodoxy being hijacked by any one particular party. All reasonable people agree with Harakas and his litany of political issues that he says Orthodox Christians of good conscience can disagree with. Notice however that in this same litany, abortion is not listed.

And why is this? Because abortion is strictly speaking, not a partisan issue. There are a great many pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans. We are talking about office holders as well as simple citizens. Harakas’ exhortation that “the official Church should not be involved in partisan politics” is clearly a non sequitur unless one ignores the history of this particular moral dilemma. Katapodis is either ignorant of the pro-life movement or he is deceitful.

We are not talking about terrorists here but about committed pastors who strive daily to discern the mind of Christ. What exactly is wrong about the statements of Fr David Subu, a dreaded “pro-lifer”? Should Orthodox Christians not be involved in politics? If so, kindly tell former Senator Sarbanes that his tenure in the Senate was a waste of time. Ditto Senators Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich. Here though Katapodis gives away the game: he points out that Subu’s exhortation appeared in The Solia, a publication of the Romanian Episcopate, “under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Nathaniel Popp, who is a leading proponent for making one Orthodox Church in America.” Katapodis’ worst fears are thus confirmed: those people who think we should have one Orthodox Church in America are intolerant “pro-lifers.” The dots are all connected!

At the risk of belaboring the point, I cannot for the life of me understand the bigotry Mr Katapodis displays towards fellow Orthodox Christians. What exactly is wrong with an Orthodox metropolitan attending a pro-life rally? Does he not have the right to do so? What about the time in 1964 when Archbishop Iakovos marched with the Martin Luther King? Was this wrong? Or is it a matter of whose political ox is being gored?

All gratuitousness aside, the sanctity of life is the moral issue of our time. It transcends cultures, religions, and ideologies. The demographic crises which is presently decimating Western Europe could not have happened without the overthrow of Christendom. The view that Christianity is one option among many is the sine qua non of the modern secular state. Mr Katapodis is perfectly free to embrace it. That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. He is not entitled to his own facts however. The Orthodox Church is a pro-life Church. It always has been and it always will be. If he feels that certain priests, bishops, and theologians within the more ethnic jurisdictions have told him otherwise –and if he believes them to be telling him the truth—then that is another matter entirely. For our sakes he should name them; otherwise, the plain text of Scripture and life of the Church from Pentecost to the present speaks for itself.

Comments

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    Andrew says:

    Let’s look at this another way. I think its fairly safe to say that Harry Katopodis’ line of thinking is a fashionable brand of fundamentalism that puts omogenia before Orthodoxy and makes a mockery of human rights. Meanwhile, America’s Orthodox Christian converts -the ones who are continuing the tradition of evangelism, outreach, and education are the true inheritors of Greek Orthodoxy in America.

    This last phrase without a doubt scares some from San Francisco to 79th Street.

    There can be no question that the face of Greek Orthodoxy in the next 10-20 years will not be the face of the Greek “Omogenia”. Indeed the Greek “Omogenia” is committing demographic suicide both in America and Greece. Yes, The new face of Greek Orthodoxy will be the face of the men and women -converts and reverts- from all walks of life who embrace Orthodoxy without apology once againing discovering universal and whole witness of the Orthodox faith. The end of Greek “Omogenia” Orthodoxy will signal a renewal of Greek Orthodoxy in the fullest and most beautiful sense of the word.

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    Though Mr. Katopodis does not come directly out and say it, my own experience leads me to believe that he is of a certain strain within our parishes who simply cannot abide the Gospel and most especially cannot abide its issuing forth from the walls of our parishes and touching the world. This strain is often associated with those who have lived most of their lives in the Church and never really took Christ seriously, but it need not be an “ethnic” contagion.

    I wonder indeed what these folks would think of saints like the Prophet Elijah, John the Baptist or John Chrysostom, who had absolutely no problem speaking directly to and about political leaders.

    All interested parties would do well to read Florovsky’s Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert for some fine background regarding this basic question of what exactly the Church has to do with the state and with culture at large.

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    Wesley J. Smith says:

    I thought about this controversy yesterday on my way home from Liturgy. During the after services fellowship time, two people in my OCA parish (mostly made up of converts), strongly enthused over the possible election of Senator Obama. One was chrismated just a few months ago. The other is a very devout Orthodox believer who has been in the Church for about 5 years.

    So much for the Religous Right theocrat theory, I said to myself as I drove home.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    You will note that Mr Katapodis did not refute my fundamental thesis. I never spoke against “freedom of religion,” nor spoke for “dominion theology.” Moreover, he never addressed the central point: that is that the Orthodox Church is a pro-life church.

    Instead, we got more gobbledegook and partisan bigotry. In my original piece, I never spoke against any party (I stated that there are “pro-life Democrats [as well] as pro-choice Republicans”). I also stated that pace Harakas there are many political issues which Orthodox Christians of good faith can in good conscience disagree with. Again, this bears repeating: in Harakas’ litany of what these concerns are, abortion is absent.

    Instead, we get more special pleading about “freedom of religion” and other left-wing pieties, mixed with vituperation for people who don’t feel the same way he does (so much for “tolerance” and “diversity.”)

    –George Michalopulos

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    Harry Katopodis says:

    “At the risk of belaboring the point, I cannot for the life of me understand the bigotry Mr Katapodis displays towards fellow Orthodox Christians. What exactly is wrong with an Orthodox metropolitan attending a pro-life rally? Does he not have the right to do so? What about the time in 1964 when Archbishop Iakovos marched with the Martin Luther King? Was this wrong? Or is it a matter of whose political ox is being gored?”

    The above quote sums it up-When Archbishop Iakovos marched with Dr. King no one said that this is the true Orthodox stand on this social issue and that you have to vote a certain way to get the Civil Rights Law passed. People still felt free to vote any way they wanted. Attending a pro-life rally is quite different, it is implied that your cannot be a Christian and vote pro-choice. It is clear and it is strong. Some even come out and say it like the bumper sticker that says “you cannot be Catholic and pro-choice.” Who then are the biggots? Biggots are those who say that there is only one way to vote for a Christian.
    I believe that the right to life movement is being manipulated by politicians and the frustration of a lack of progress in the anti-abortion movement is resulting in a message of hate and anger. This hate and anger is polarizing society and is opposite of the Gospel which says “God is love.” Religion should be a healing force in society. Expecting a secular society to implement God’s laws is the height of foolishness, peoples hearts must be changed and then some Chrisitian laws may be implemented.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Mr. Katopodis, you obviously don’t understand at all that the life in the womb is just that a life in the womb. It is only the hardending of our hearts that allows abortion to continue. We don’t really believe that children in the womb are children and believe that they are only vaugely human. I am sure if you saw a young baby in a stoller about to be dismembered by someone, you’d do something to intervene. It would be un-Christian to act otherwise. It is no different for the child in the womb, they are just invisible and voiceless.

    Anyone is capable of murder but that does not mean we give it carte blache just becuase it is socially acceptable. My priest, with my bishop’s approval has publically stated that if anyone supports the supposed ‘right to choose’ they should not approach the cup. My priest was a convert from Catholcism at a young age and my bishop a cradle Orthodox. Does being out of commuion make the person a non-Orthodox? In a sense yes, because they are not in communion, but in another sense it recognizes the same freedom of choice that we all have, it just applies consequences.

    What you advocate is not freedom of choice but freedom from consequences. The fact is the Christian faith is traditionally and historically opposed to the murder of children in the womb. It is not a Protestant innovation. It pre-dates the legalization of our faith. When you support the opposite you are supporting what Christianity has always opposed.

    What you advocate is really anarchy and lack of all standard except what the individual alone believes. That is not Christian. It is not even pagan. It is nihilism.

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    John Couretas says:

    Harry:

    Ever wonder why Archbishop Iakovos went to Selma? Do you think it was out of indifference? Do you think he viewed civil rights as somehow out of bounds for his ministry, his Christian witness to society?

    Imagine him saying this after marching with King:

    “Just so you know, I am not endorsing any political position here today. There is no true Orthodox stand on racism, segregation, denial of voting rights, poll taxes or violence directed against civil right marchers. There just isn’t anything in the patristic literature about voting rights. This entire business is a matter of personal conscience. So, if you want to vote for strict segregationists or racist politicians, I wouldn’t presume to tell you that you are mistaken. That would make me the bigot in this affair. The Orthodox Church offers no political endorsement of any candidate, as we all know. Tomorrow, I will have lunch with Gov. Wallace, present him with an award, and congratulate him on his good work. Thank you and have a nice day.”

    But he didn’t do that, did he? Do you think, then, he was being “manipulated” by King? Of course not. His Eminence’s presence in Selma sent a clear message that Orthodox Christians viewed racist laws and customs as intolerable. I daresay he would have had something very direct and clear to say to you if you had told him to stay out of “political” matters because he was “polarizing” the civil rights issue.

    John

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Harry,

    first of all please forgive me for any harsh words or sarcasm. it’s a bad habit of mine and I really need to correct it. The central point however stands. The combined witness of Orthodoxy from the Didache to the present has always been pro-life. Even if the issue is being “manipulated” by political forces it doesn’t detract from its centrality to our faith. Abolitionism in its time was manipulated by Northern industrialists who feared that the secession of the South would create a country that would have free ports, thereby undermining the northern port cities that exacted high tariffs for foreign goods. Desegregation was likewise used to create hollow out urban cores and expand suburbs (because of “white flight”). In neither instance was the good (abolition/integration) outweighed by the bad (slavery/segregation). The list could go on: When Tsar Alexander II freed the serfs in Russia, no provision was made for them to own and occupy the land they previously rented, it still belonged to the aristocracy. This caused a swelling of the major cities which led to a rise in an unstable urban proletariate. Even so, had WWI not intervened, there never would have been a Bolshevik revolution. These formerly landless peasants would have –over time–become integrated in the fabric of urban society, much as southern blacks became part of the American cities of the North.

    sorry for the history lesson, I pray the point is well-taken. Manipulation we will always have with us, it should never stop us from doing the primary good.

    geo

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    Harry Katopodis says:

    Thank you for the kind words, sarcasm and harsh words are not beneficial. The manipulation I was speaking of was that for over 35 years the GOP has promised to overturn Roe v Wade and with the exception of Pat Buchanon and Mike Huckaby, I don’t think the republican leaders are serious about doing that. I think that abortion should be taken out of the party platforms and it should go before the voters for a up or down vote. The republicans are playing to the pro-lifers and the democrats are playing to the feminists. I know that is not likely to happen. As time goes on society is getting less and less Christian and it will become harder and harder to outlaw abortion. Only if the hearts and minds of more people are changed will it become political suicide to support abortion rights, now it may even be a political benefit to support choice. Both sides will not give up and the battle will continue into the foreseeable future.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    Mr. Katopodis,

    I don’t know where to start. First of all, the Orthodox faith is agressively pro-life. Get over it. Abortion is a sin of the highest order. If you dislike converts because they actually believe and act upon the Orthodox faith, what does that say about your faith? There is no “Church of Greekness”. Just because you have been in the Church during a period when some of its American branches were turning their back on the Church’s moral vision does not mean that that is the historical faith or attitude of the Church.

    In effect, what you are saying is that you wish the Church to pursue the same sinful practices of ignoring abortion or, worse yet, recognizing pro-abortion politicians as people of good Orthodox character, as it did when ethnic Orthodox were obsessed with being more “American” and fitting into a liberal American culture. It was, is, and will always be disgraceful and evil for Orthodox leaders to take that position.

    Secondly, as to changing the law on abortion, if you understood the American legal system, you would know that there can be no “referendum” on abortion without overturning Roe v. Wade. We are one vote shy of being able to do so. If we were able to overturn it, the question of whether abortion is legal and to what extent would go back to the states. Most people, you included, apparently don’t understand that Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey) stand for the proposition that the individual states are forbidden from restricting abortion rights except for certain narrow exceptions. If the decisions were overturned, abortion would not be outlawed as a direct consequence. Overturning these decisions would mean that the states would once again have the freedom to regulate or ban abortion if their voters chose to do so.

    But overturning Roe and Casey is the key. Without that, there cannot possibly be any legal progress. Republicans are the only ones at the national level willing to nominate judges who have records indicating an originalist legal philosophy. With Democrats it’s a non-starter.

    So, yes, it’s about hearts and minds AND it’s about partisan politics. I personally could never vote for a “pro-choice” candidate unless both candidates were pro-abortion and one was the lesser of two evils.

    Oh, one more thing, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an evangelical.

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    Fr. Hans Jacobse says:

    Note 9. Harry writes:

    I think that abortion should be taken out of the party platforms and it should go before the voters for a up or down vote. The republicans are playing to the pro-lifers and the democrats are playing to the feminists

    Abortion comes before the voters in an up or down vote all the time — in terms of restrictions on the practice such as eliminating partial birth abortion, the Infants Born Alive Act (which Obama voted against, btw), parental notification, etc. For this reason abortion is quite appropriately part of the party platforms.

    Roe v. Wade doesn’t come up for an up or down vote because of Supreme Court overreaching. The decision is judicial, not legislative. It cannot be voted out of existence.

    And yes, I suppose you could say that “republicans are playing to the pro-lifers and…democrats…to the feminists” but this is crude, if not cynical, formulation. Abortion is the taking of a human life, and the higher values like justice for all requires us to think about these things in more than political categories — which is one reason why it remains political and won’t go away.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    I’m afraid that the idea the abortion should be “taken out of politics” is simply another way of saying tht faith is a private matter. Faith should have no role in the public square. Its just Jesus and me, that’s all that matters.

    While I don’t support the Orthodox Church becoming identified with a particular political party or ideology, neither is it correct to assert that faith is only a private matter. If the Church is anything it is a corporate experience that brings individual transformation. We are commanded to live out our faith in public in concert with our brothers and sisters.

    All I can continue to say to Mr. Katapodis is: Sir, you are wrong, and no matter how you try to restate your position, you are still wrong; spectacularly and completely wrong.

    With Scott Pennington’s disavowal of ever being evangelical, a whisper of McCarty floated through my mind:

    “Are you now or have you ever been an evangelical Christian?” Is that what a priest is supposed to ask before baptising someone or can we just go with the traditional liturgical questions, Do you reject Satan and all his angels, all his service and all his pride; Do you unite yourself with Christ; Do you believe in Him as King and God?

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    Harry Katopodis says:

    I am sorry to see so many harsh and strong attacks on my position. I am not defending Greeks, I am defending the poor and working class, I cannot turn my back on the middle class of America to chase a pipe dream of overturning Roe v Wade–its not going to happen–get over it. Since you are unaware of where you are living this is the United States and we are free to worship as we like or not to worship at all.

    This is a secular country and if you took the time to read magazines, listen to music, watch TV or watch movies Christian values are long gone-(where were the Christians when the values were dissapearing in the 60s and 70s?). Gone are the days of a Christian dominated America. We have to learn to live in a multicultural society that isn’t Christian. Also this is a democracy and majority rules. Obviously there are not enough “pro-lifers” to win every election.

    I vote pro-worker, I allign myself with my labor union not the Greek culture. You have turned part of the Orthodox church into a hate-filled division body. Religion is a healing force. These are the real family values, these are the values that show Jesus is my lord and savior. Bringing hard politics into the Church is a heresy and the Church has faced heresy before.

    Emperors, armies, and heretics have tried to destroy Orthodoxy and they have not succeeded and neither will this new invasion of Protestant converts with their newly minted Theology of Republican Party Politics. God will prevail and Jesus will be glorified! To Him be the glory and the dominion forever!

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    Scott Pennington says:

    “I am sorry to see so many harsh and strong attacks on my position.”

    That’s a bit disingenuous. You know the Church’s teaching. You just choose to ignore it and chide others for taking it seriously. So . . . you’re not the victim.

    “Bringing hard politics into the Church is a heresy and the Church has faced heresy before.”

    It may be heresy in the Church of Liberalism, but not in the Church of Christ. Look, if labor concerns are not “hard politics” I don’t know what is. It is unfortunate that the Democratic Party has chosen to adopt pagan values as part of its platform. Indeed it is tragic. 48 million aborted babies after Roe v. Wade, we would be closer than ever to getting 5 justices to overturn Roe if we had the vast majority of Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants voting for the candidate most likely to appoint originalist justices. Instead, in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, in the most prosperous era ever, where workers have more rights and better pay than in any era ever, we have Orthodox Christians ignoring an issue like abortion, which is life and death, and voting on what they have been led to believe is in the best economic interests of the “working man”.

    “You have turned part of the Orthodox church into a hate-filled division body.”

    Generally, I have taken charges by liberals of “hatefulness” and “divisiveness” with a grain of salt. After all, whoever seeks change is by necessity divisive and liberals have agressively sought to change traditional culture. That is inherently divisive.

    However, I believe I understand how you might perceive some of the responses you have received as hateful. They probably weren’t intended that way, but because they laid bare the inherently unchristian nature of your position, they may have caused you pain. So, you may have concluded that someone was taking pleasure in causing you pain, thus, “hateful”. But these criticisms were only stating the truth. The painfulness comes from the exposure of the evil of the position you have adopted.

    I have known many pro-life Christians (actually, that’s redundant) and none of them were “hate-filled”. It does however take a particularly callous disregard for human life to be, as you are, effectively pro-choice. That’s not a hate filled statement. You trust this culture, the spirit of this particular age, more than you do your religion.

    “We have to learn to live in a multicultural society that isn’t Christian. Also this is a democracy and majority rules. Obviously there are not enough “pro-lifers” to win every election.”

    Well, apart from the hypocrisy of calling yourself Orthodox and being pro-choice, the true situation is that 9 unelected appointees to the high court have forbidden the American people from voting on the abortion issue. Polls indicate that most people support more restrictions on abortion than are currently legal. Even many Europeans are shocked at how liberal our abortion law is here.

    “Emperors, armies, and heretics have tried to destroy Orthodoxy and they have not succeeded . . . God will prevail and Jesus will be glorified! To Him be the glory and the dominion forever!”

    I agree with that part of your last paragraph that I quoted above. However, the stuff about “Protestant converts . . .” is rubbish.

    Consider for a minute your position. You have essentially rejected the moral witness of your own Church, adopted values foreign to it as being more Christian, criticized converts (people who didn’t join because they want to be Greek or Russian, but because they believe in the traditional teachings of the Church) for actually expecting the Orthodox to live out their faith; and then, you have the unmitigated gall to call the Faith itself a threat to the Church.

    Wow.

    The threat to Orthodoxy is the rejection of its teachings by those who claim to be Orthodox.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Harry,

    you really need to take a deep breath and really look at things w/in a rational context. the Church is and always has been pro-life. period. end of story. This is a first principle, not a secondary or tertiary one. “worker’s rights” are good. My dad was a union man. I’m very pro-worker. I work. but that’s a secondary principle. You really need to know the difference. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, or we’re indifferent, just that it’s not primary. the Church has to choose its battles carefully. the potholes in the street outside the parish may be a blight, but evacuees from a hurricane are a more pressing need. which should the Church do first? It’s really that simple.

    geo

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