August 20, 2014

Moral Tradition and the Assault of Gay Activists

Over at OrthodoxyToday.org, Fr. Hans Jacobse looks at why gay activists in California are now attacking places of worship: So what explains the aggression of homosexual activists especially toward churches in California and elsewhere? Is it just because they lost the vote or is something else at work? The homosexual lobby argued that marriage is a fundamental right denied to homosexual couples. They overlook the fact that homosexuals already have the "right" to marry. They just can't marry a member of the same sex, just as a man can't marry multiple women, a woman multiple men, a father to a daughter, a brother to a sister, and so forth. Nothing is "denied" to them that is not denied to everyone else. "Unfair" they protested and indeed it is. But fairness to those who seek new definitions of marriage is not a concern of the moral tradition. There are compelling reasons why the convention is what it is (children need both a mother and father being one of them), and tinkering … [Read more...]

Turkey and Religious Liberty

My interview with Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol was published today in The Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. Our talk focused on the prospects for greater economic and religious liberty in Turkey. Mustafa blogs at The White Path. Excerpt: Let's talk about religious freedom. There's a great tension between the modern secularist path of Turkey, going back to Ataturk, and the revival of Islam and its influence on politics. Will this be a winner take all battle, or is Turkey working out something a little more complex in the future? I say there will be room for all of these views, and Turkey will be more pluralistic than it used to be. Actually, right now, the battle is between the people who want to create room for pluralism and those who want to keep it homogeneously secular. Keep in mind that the founding idea of the Turkish Republic was very monolithic. It picked up the narrative of the French Enlightenment in that secularism would make the country safe from … [Read more...]

Heritage on Religious Freedom and Same-Sex Marriage

A new policy paper from The Heritage Foundation warns that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions "poses significant threats to the religious liberties of people who continue to believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman." These threats are acknowledged by both those who support and those who oppose redefining marriage, according to to Thomas M. Messner, a Visiting Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at Heritage. Some "talking points" from Same-Sex Marriage and the Threat to Religious Liberty: -- Judicial decisions redefining marriage to include same-sex unions state that limiting marriage to men and women is a form of unacceptable discrimination against homosexuals. -- The freedom to express the view that marriage involves a man and a woman will come under growing pressure as courts, public officials, and private institutions come to regard the traditional understanding of marriage as a form of … [Read more...]

Why Should the Islamic World Feel Besieged?

James G. Jatras, foreign affairs policy expert and advisor to AOI, faced challenges by Muslim scholars who contend that Americans are "Islamophobic" among other charges on Press TV. View the video: Why Should the Islamic World Feel Besieged? … [Read more...]

ACLU Wants to Sink Navy Prayers

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening legal action against the U.S. Naval Academy unless it discontinues a tradition -- believed to date back to the college's founding in 1845 -- of mealtime prayer, the Baltimore Sun reports. "The government should not be in the business of compelling religious observance, particularly in military academies, where students can feel coerced by senior students and officials and risk the loss of leadership opportunities for following their conscience," Deborah A. Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, wrote in a letter to the academy. Over at the Scriptorium, John Mark Reynolds notes in "Let the Navy Pray" that everything that does not fit the ACLU's "Utopian ideology" is viewed as something that must be swept aside: Like all ideologues history does not matter, tradition does not matter, and there is no sense of proportion. Every public act must fit their cherished scheme. They are theocrats in reverse and just like the … [Read more...]

Egypt’s Copts the ‘New Martyrs’?

Perilous times for Egypt's Christian community. In "Egypt's Coptic Christians Are Choosing Isolation," the Washington Post reports that "the most populous Christian community in the Middle East is seeking safety by turning inward, cutting day-to-day social ties that have bound Muslim to Christian in Egypt for centuries." The story notes a dramatic decline in of the Coptic Christian population in Egypt. Violent confrontations between Muslims and Christians are on the upswing. In May, Arab Bedouins attacked monks reclaiming the 1,700-year-old monastery of Abu Fana. Monks say the attackers fired on them with AK-47 assault rifles and captured some among them to torture. Attackers broke the legs of one monk by pounding them between two rocks. One Muslim man was killed. A few days earlier, gunmen in Cairo killed four Copts at a jewelry store but left without taking anything. Strife over liaisons between Christian and Muslim men and women led to recent clashes between the … [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...]

Russian Orthodox: Human Rights ‘not absolute’

In Russia Profile, Andrei Zolotov Jr. reports on the Russian Orthodox Council of Bishops and its adoption of a new work titled, "The Bases of the Russian Orthodox Church's Teaching on Dignity, Liberty and Human Rights." Zolotov says it's no accident that this report surfaces at a time when Russia and the European Union are "actively engaged" on a discussion of common values. In the Bishops Council document, he reports, the Church says that "human rights are definitely a value, and they belong to everybody, not just to the priests and priestesses of the new human rights religion. But it is not the absolute value. It has to be harmonized with the values of faith, morals, love of thy neighbor (and thus family and patriotic values), and of the environment." Zolotov continued: In essence, what we see here is a process of analysis, adaptation and reception – not in a wholesale, packaged way, but in a "processed" form – of the values that had been developed in the modern period on a … [Read more...]

Persecuted in Romania: Frederica Mathewes-Green on Pastor Richard Wurmbrand

He was a Lutheran pastor and was severely persecuted for his faith by communists in Romania. He is Rev. Richard Wurmbrand and Frederica has a rare recording of his voice singing a hymn to the Theotokos that he wrote himself. Frederica makes reference to an article in Again Magazine about Pastor Wurmbrand (download only). Listen here: … [Read more...]

Recognizing the Orthodox in China

Metropolitan Nektarios, newly enthroned at the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia, says his priorities include dealing with the Chinese government to bring about the recognition of Orthodox Christians in mainland China. "There are many Orthodox in the port cities in South China. Greeks are working on the ships and they want a place of worship," Metropolitan Nektarios told Ecumenical News International on 29 February. "The pastoral activities are first for the [Orthodox] Greeks, then for the Chinese. There are only a few Orthodox Chinese there." In January, Met. Nektarios told Asia News: "Orthodoxy, as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has said, is not anxious about expanding its numerical and geographical extension, but it wants to make man, with his passions and limitations, understand his true worth. Its power is spiritual, and its purpose is the diakonia [service] of man, in order to realise the divine within man. There is great need for this in our little … [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...]