July 24, 2014

‘A Day of Public Thanksgiving’

In "Thanks to the Founders," Andrew Kadar recalls his arrival in America as a young boy, and explains why Thanksgiving is now his favorite holiday. Anyone from an immigrant background will be touched by his story. Some people lament that Americans treat immigrants unkindly, that we discriminate against them and make their lives more difficult. I never experienced that. To the contrary, Americans went out of their way to help me become one of them. My family's attitude contributed to our reception. We didn't come here to be Hungarians in America. We came here to be Americans. We made the effort to live and act like Americans to the best of our ability from day one. We all learned to speak English as soon and as well as possible. We eagerly absorbed American culture, history and customs, which we grew to appreciate and love. And on this day, let us give thanks, as did that revolutionary conservative George Washington, for the "great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty" we … [Read more...]

Ataturk: Immortal Leader and Unrivaled Hero?

In "Turkey Shocked by Chain Smoking, Raki-Swilling Atatürk," Spiegel Online reporter Daniel Steinvorth reports on the controversy over a new film released to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. ... Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül showed that the seven-decade anniversary can also be celebrated in another way -- one perhaps more to the liking of the Kemalist Thought Association. At a ceremony at the Turkish embassy in Brussels, he gave a lecture on the difficult formation of the Turkish State and the expulsion of Greeks and Armenians, a fact which Gönül described as a "very important step." At the end of the day, he said, modern Turkey would not be as we know it, "if Greeks still lived on the Aegean and Armenians still lived in different parts of Turkey today." In other words: the historical expulsion, deportation and extermination of the two population groups, as the thinking goes, are to be welcomed. Between 1.5 and 2 million Anatolian … [Read more...]

Orthodox Christian Patriarchs Celebrate Baptism of Russia

Orthodox Churches have long been involved in ecumenical projects, such as the World Council of Churches, and affirm the Lord's mandate "that they all may be one" (John 17:21). Yet, I can't help thinking at times that the Orthodox Churches might work a little harder at unity in their own house. For that reason, it was encouraging to follow the progress of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios' recent visit to the Moscow Patriarchate and see Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I side by side with Patriarch Alexy II for the celebration of the baptism of Russia. The Greeks and the Russians have had some contentious moments of late, such as the controversy over who shall have jurisdiction for Orthodox Christians in Estonia. Good background here in an AP story on the tensions between the Ukrainians and Russians: Ukrainian officials are determined to use the events to lobby for autonomy for the local church from Russia, while the dominant Moscow Patriarchate will fight to retain … [Read more...]

Freedom-Loving Orthodoxy

In the May 2008 issue of The Word,* published by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Gregory Cook looks at the ways Orthodox Christianity may "transfigure" America. "Orthodoxy has always been open to building on what is true and extant in any nation or culture," Cook writes. "America should be no different." *Also republished here (non .pdf). He quotes Metropolitan Antony Bashir: Orthodoxy is a freedom-loving, democratic faith … it is at its best in our free America. If the best of Byzantium has survived, it is in the United States, and if there is an Orthodox political ideal, it is enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Cook's article, "Words We Live By: Orthodox and American Ideals in Foundational Texts" is an excellent reflection on what it means to be Orthodox in America and what America has given the Orthodox. While we're at it on this Fourth of July, read the Declaration of Independence. Can anyone … [Read more...]

The Theological Roots of Nazism and Stalinism

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Guroian on ‘Youth, Unity and Orthodoxy in America’

Dr. Vigen Guroian delivered a talk on “Youth, Unity and Orthodoxy in America” at the 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting of Orthodox Christian Laity in Glenview, Illinois, in November. The theme of the OCL conference: “The Need for a Great and Holy Council.” Here's Dr. Guroian (an advisor to AOI) on Orthodox youth: The college or university is a synecdoche -- a metaphor – representing in microcosm the diverseness and pluralism of America. Likewise, the Orthodox students who arrive at our colleges and universities represent a microcosm of the entire Orthodox presence in America in all of its variety. They come to college for many reasons, with little thought, however, about joining in the great experiment of Pan-Orthodoxy and church unity. Unlike their immigrants forebears who came to America, these young people do not bring to college all of the institutional paraphernalia of their churches. They do carry, however, an Orthodox identity that they feel a need to share and explain … [Read more...]

The Real Byzantium?

In late January, Russian television showed "The Fall of an Empire: The Lessons of Byzantium," a film by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov. The film has sparked a controversy in Russia about the role that the West played in the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, whether modern Russia faces similar dangers, and whether the Russian Orthodox Church could help prevent a similar collapse. The Moscow Times published two opposing views on the documentary today. Mark Urnov, dean of the political science department at the Higher School of Economics, had this to say: This is not a historical film but a mythological one. It appeals to a myth deeply rooted in the consciousness of many Russians -- one that combines the bold ideas of Moscow as a "Third Rome," the greatness of the 18th- and 19th-century Russian Empire and the Communist fairy tale of a flourishing Soviet superpower that was destroyed by insidious and subversive liberals. The film uses the Byzantine model to advance another myth -- … [Read more...]

Solovyov on Economic Morality

Towards the end of his life, the 19th century Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov published his "On the Justification of the Good: An Essay on Moral Philosophy" (1897). In this book, wrote historian Paul Valliere, Solovyov abandonded his vision of a "worldwide theocratic order" in favor of the more concrete demands of building a just society. With "Justification of the Good," Solovyov (1853-1900) presented a general theory of economic and social welfare based on the idea that all human beings have "a right to a dignified existence." The following excerpt is from the chapter, "The Economic Question from the Moral Point of View" in Solovyov's … [Read more...]

Gnostics, Then and Now

The current issue of Christian History & Biography magazine takes a look at Gnosticism, or what editors rightly label, "The Hunger for Secret Knowledge." The issue features an article by Fr. John Behr, dean and professor of patristics at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, which describes how the "Great Church" in the apostolic age was able to discern the truth about the Christian faith despite the best efforts of the Gnostics. Fr. John writes: This [true] faith, according to Irenaeus, is found in the Scriptures and summarized in the Rule of Faith. The proof that this is the true faith is that the "Great Church" could point to a visible succession of teachers, presbyters, and bishops who taught the same things throughout the world: This is the teaching common to all the apostles and the churches founded by them. The leaders of many of these churches had been taught by the apostles themselves, or disciples of the apostles, and they "neither taught nor knew of anything … [Read more...]

‘A Patriarch in Dire Straits’

At the Acton Institute, where I labor as communications director, I published a commentary pegged to Patriarch Bartholomew's forthcoming book, "Encountering the Mystery." The commentary was also picked up by the Assyrian News Agency. Read the full commentary here. In 1971, the Turkish government shut down Halki, the partriarchal seminary on Heybeliada Island in the Sea of Marmara. And it has progressively confiscated Orthodox Church properties, including the expropriation of the Bûyûkada Orphanage for Boys on the Prince's Islands (and properties belonging to an Armenian Orthodox hospital foundation). These expropriations happen as religious minorities report problems associated with opening, maintaining, and operating houses of worship. Many services are held in secret. Indeed, Turkey is a place where proselytizing for Christian and even Muslim minority sects can still get a person hauled into court on charges of "publicly insulting Turkishness." This law has also been used … [Read more...]