October 2, 2014

Tulsa World: Speaker didn’t reflect the church’s views

Source: Tulsa World By: GEORGE C. MICHALOPULOS

George C. Michalopulos

George C. Michalopulos: In a free society we should welcome open and honest debate.


Recently, the Tulsa Interfaith Council sponsored an appearance by Frank Schaeffer. I had the pleasure of attending one of Frank’s lectures. As a fellow Orthodox Christian it’s always good to see Frank. Whether you agree with him or not, you know you’re in for a good and lively debate.

Personally, I’ve always considered him a friend and still do. (Regina Orthodox Press, which is owned by Frank, published a book I wrote.) Having said that, I was disheartened by much of what I heard. I fear that some of his statements may have been injurious to many people; at the very least some might think that because of his fame, as an author, lecturer, and television commentator, he represents the views of the Orthodox Church.

Like many prominent speakers and authors, Frank’s journey has taken him to some interesting places. Formerly a stalwart of the religious right, Frank has now become a pillar of the secularist left. That is certainly his right. Every man is entitled to his own opinions but not his own facts.

Much of what he asserted was, to put it mildly, arguable. Possibly the most egregious thing I heard Frank say was “that Evangelical Christians were more sinister than the Taliban.”

Quite simply, this is a gratuitous assertion, one having no basis in reality. It was sheer bigotry, pure and simple. If anybody on the right said that about a minority group, he’d be condemned, and rightly so. (I for one have yet to find one instance of Evangelicals stoning homosexuals or forcing women into burqas.)

In addition, Frank equivocated as to whether he was pro-life and justified his ambivalence by questioning the bona fides of many pro-life leaders.

Finally, he questioned the political acumen of those who are traditional and culturally conservative.

My purpose here is to state clearly and without equivocation that Frank does not speak for the Orthodox Church. Neither do I — only bishops sitting in council can do that.

Nevertheless, in the interest of clearing up any misconceptions, it can be stated that there are a few givens about Orthodoxy.

First of all, the Orthodox Church is evangelical. We are called to fulfill the Great Commission. In addition, many of our bishops and clergy have come to us from the Evangelical tradition. Our parishes have been enriched with the presence of Evangelicals and their deep commitment to the Gospel.

Secondly, the Orthodox Church is committed to the pro-life cause. It is a pro-life church, period.

Thirdly, Orthodox Christians are, broadly speaking, culturally conservative. All are welcomed, regardless of their condition or their past.

We are taught as part of our penitential journey to judge nobody but ourselves. Our fidelity to the Gospel however prevents us from conforming to the spirit of the age. While we cannot be pigeonholed into any one political party, our concerns regarding cultural (not political) issues are informed by the Christian tradition that has been consistent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the very founding of the Christian church itself.

In a free society we should welcome open and honest debate. I mean no disrespect to Frank or those Christians who agree with him. But I just wanted to set the record straight.

George C. Michalopulos is a layman in the Orthodox Church and serves as the Orthodox liaison to the annual Tulsa MarchforLife. He is a contributing editor to the American Orthodox Institute (www.aoiusa.org), the largest on-line Orthodox forum of matters relating to Christianity and Culture. He is a member of Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church in Bixby.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=65&articleid=20100724_65_A21_Recent320461

Comments

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    James says:

    It has been sad to watch Frank’s transformation, especially since one of his books helped lead me to Orthodoxy. The approval of the mainstream media is intoxicating–if one conforms to their “orthodoxy,” one gains attention and exposure–perhaps Frank craves that sort of thing. He has evolved into an Olbermannesque figure. Where is the Calvin of the Portofino trilogy, who could make us laugh at his fundamentalist parents without asking us to hate them?

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    Helga says:

    Frank isn’t pro-life at all. He buys into the whole “safe, legal, and rare” myth.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Helga, to be quite honest, I’m confused about what he really believes. After the one talk he gave (unfortunately at an Orthodox Church), he very vociferously told me privately afterwards that he was indeed “pro-life.” To be honest, he looked chagrined at having to state this. I like to take a man at his word but I can’t help but think that there’s a massive disconnect going on here. And yes, until I see otherwise in his writings or his appearances on MSNBC, I will continue to be confused (and more than a little suspicious). I pray for repentence for all concerned. (Not that any sane human watches MSNBC but I hope you take my point :-).)

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      Helga says:

      He does say he’s against abortion, but argues in favor of keeping it legal. That makes him pro-abortion, whether he’ll admit to that or not.

      “I’m feeling vindicated for my support of Obama who — like me — believes that abortion should be legal but that we should also work to find ways to help women keep their babies.” – Frank Schaeffer, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/goodbye-abortion-culture_b_243097.html

      As if anyone is against abortion and also against helping women keep their babies!

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        Frank’s current views are a radical departure from his passionate condemnation of abortion outlined in his book Dancing Alone published back in 1994 (emphasis mine):

        “The practice of legal abortion on demand is the most startling example of the ultimate lawlessness inherent in today’s style of American individualism. The abortion of 1.6 million babies — almost one third of American children conceived each year — is the most drastic example of an external behavior that is now regarded as a mere “personal choice.” It is also evidence of the fact that America has become a thoroughly pagan nation; state sanctioned child sacrifice has returned.” …

        “Legalized abortion on demand is the final fracturing of our social fabric. Now even the primeval community of mother and child has been torn apart. The unborn child is believed to be at war with its mother’ his or her interests pitted against its mother’s.” …

        “In our age of lawlessness, and total disregard for logic, not to mention sanctity, many people who sin compound their sin by calling it “goodness.” This is what “feminists” and “liberals” (a strange term to describe people who are reviving the Nazi eugenics program) have done in our day by extolling the “benefits” of abortion, conveniently re-labeling what is a self-evident horror as a “constitutional right” or a mere clinical “choice.” It seems to me that in doing so they have disguised the ultimate degradation of women as “liberation.”

        Does Frank still remember the timeless truths and Christian moral wisdom he once re-discovered and proclaimed?

        Does he realize that he has now become a cheerleader and apologist for the “ultimate lawlessness”, “self-evident horror”, and very same murderous pagan (or “Nazi-like”) rituals he so passionately and rightly condemned?

        The evil and treachery of this sin have not changed. Only Frank’s alliance to the Truth and Christ seem to have drastically shifted in the wrong direction.

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          Helga says:

          Well said. Frank still insists that he is “pro-life”, but pro-abortion people often claim that supporting abortion is the real ‘pro-life’ philosophy and that they should embrace this term for themselves, reclaiming it from the “anti-choicers”.

          To me, it’s really disturbing to see that anyone can call himself or herself an “Orthodox speaker”, and appear to be speaking for the Church, even when his or her views are very much off the mark.

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            George Michalopulos says:

            Helga, well said. That’s all I wanted to point out in my op-ed. Believe me I wanted to speak more vociferously, call him out on his fallacies, etc., but the constraints of the secular press restrained me considerably.

            Chris, it’s just all a damn shame. I think ultimately it comes down to this: was he lying way back then or is he lying now?

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          Harry Coin says:

          I only know Frank Schaeffer through his writing, starting from his early CA days. He always swings for the fences, all that’s changed is which fences. Maybe it’s always been about the size and intensity of the audience.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    I mean no disrespect to Frank or those Christians who agree with him. But I just wanted to set the record straight.

    It seem to me that Frank got infected. The courtesy and worldly politeness of people exhibiting imagined superiority, and various forms of gratification lead him to justify the unjustifiable. He went astray and is enjoying ‘rewards’ from worldly people giving up God’s promised rewards to His faithful servants.

    Those who come in touch with worldly people, slowly become deeply indoctrinated by the worldly spirit This must be the reason why the Holy Fathers were prohibiting the relationships with the heretics: to prevent infection.

    It is good that the truth be told plainly. This is how one can serve the truth. It does not mean that one is the judge of others, but a confessor of the truth.

    One does not have to waste much time to listen to them and engage in endless debates with the deceived. This is what they are: deceived by the invisible enemy. It is a waste of time to engage in offensive debates… All the lawyers in the world joined together would not make any headway with a little demon.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Well put, Eliot. I operate under no illusion that ideologues can be reasoned with.

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    Jolynn Ruggerio says:

    Last lecture I heard Frank speak at I think said it all. Whem he spoke of his youngest son,who I believe was around 9 at the time. waited the longest to convert. Basically, his son told him he wanted to wait to see whether or not his dad would stick with it, since “Dad” had a history of changing his mind alot. Out of the mouths of babes

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    PO'F says:

    When I was playing intramural soccer in high school we had a kid who constantly whined, “I’m not gonna call the penalty, but,” and proceed to describe it anyway, not to educate the rest of us but to lift himself above us. I say, enough of this worldly politics passing for Orthodox Church-ness. Charge somebody with heresy or demand (in a Church forum, not just the internet!) his/her barring from the Mysteries for grave sin or scandal … or be quiet. I say this to both “liberals” AND “conservatives.” Let our Bishops in Synod discern The Truth. Partisanship so disserves The Church — and by that I don’t mean ‘So everybody must join MY party!’ This is THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, darnit, let’s get crackin’, no making ourselves feel good by accusing publicly and gaining votes for this or that secular political party or socioeconomic speculation, or Patriarchate, while the evil one laughs at us all and cranks up the flames. We’re not Latins, we’re not Presbyterians, we’re not Episcopalians, we’re not Fundamentalists or Baptists or Methodists or even Mennonites. Or else, drop the word “Orthodox,” and admit we’re just Eastern Rite Protestants, or Schismatic Greek Catholics. Frank Schaeffer has been accused, Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW has been accused, some Commenters who venture here have been accused, Democrats have been accused, pro-choicers have been accused, Europeans have been accused, the polite have been accused, the environmentally concerned have been accused, those concerned about the poor and Prophetic social justice have been accused, Gays have been accused, lots of people have been accused. Like the Good Book says somewhere, Convene the Court, open the documents, let’s go and stop playing games. This ain’t intramural soccer, kids! The Truth is The Truth, and the world deserves to know it before The End; so let’s go, drop the gloves!

    Sincerely,
    Peter

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Peter,

      The only ones who could do what you propose are the bishops. On this issue, they are awol. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil (and keep the money flowing).

      So, we can watch in silence as the evil one takes over the Church, with the bishops as enablers, or we can speak out.

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Very well said, Scott.

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        Helga says:

        Who is Frank Schaeffer’s bishop?

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        Fr. John says:

        Sounds like you just passed judgment on all the bishops. Touche.

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          Scott Pennington says:

          Fr. John,

          “The Road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops form the lamp posts that light the path.”
          – St. John Chrysostom

          And I’m in very good company.

          Cheers

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            Michael Bauman says:

            …and we walk on it. I think St. John’s point was that there is an incredible responsiblity in those positions. He wrote that at a time when he was hoping to avoid being consecrated.

            All the more reason to pray for those who are priests and bishops and to be as irenic as possible in our criticisms.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            I’m not sure that St. John’s comment is terribly irenic. However, it is certainly true that the bishops have a tremendous responsibility. Perhaps someday they will decide to fulfil it. St. John ably pointed out the consequences of neglecting it.

            ” . . . and we walk on it.” On the road to hell? I hope not.

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    Frank D says:

    I am so embarrassed to have to explain to my friends his connection with Orthodoxy…

    I wish there was someway to revoke his “I am an Orthodox Christian” license. :P

    It is truly harmful to our witness.

    I am interested in Fr. Jacobse view on Franky’s latest article:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/god-vs-women_b_658576.html

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Frank D. Mr. Shaeffer’s latest piece seems to me to be a skewed interpretation of a skewed interpretation. If Mr.Shaeffer’s quotes from St. Jerome are correct, the blessed saint was clearly outside the teaching of the Church on understanding the male-female synergy.

    In any case Mr. Shaeffer is using an improper and non-normative teaching to tarnish all of Christianity. A common fault amongst those who don’t like God, and an an incarnate savior even less.

    Clearly, Mr. Shaeffer is saying that it’s all God’s fault and we can do better on our own–not exactly an Orthodox belief.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    If I am not mistaken, Mr. Shaeffer’s bishop is Met. Methodius of Boston.

  10. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Michael Bauman says:

    Scott, Specific bishops do fulfill their responsibility, by the Grace of God. Certainly my bishop works quite hard at it to protect and guide his flock in the way of righteousness and truth.

    However, we should expect that such men will be rare, they have been rare throughout history. For every genuinely saintly bishop there are hundreds who are mere functionaries and other’s whose skulls will, God-forbid, are likely to be on those lamp posts.

    It is still up to us to follow the Truth isn’t it rather than deciding to walk on the road to hell? IMO part of that true path is wholeheartely praying for all of our bishops whether we like them or not, whether they are doing a good job or not and especially if they are not.

    Don’t you think?

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      George Michalopulos says:

      That’s a hard task Michael. As someone in the secular world, I can’t for the life of me understand why we are held to higher professional/ethical standard than bishops. To quote Yeats, the “center will not hold.”

      This realization came to me recently when several of us were sitting around at a conference talking about Runciman’s book The Great Church in Captivity. One person remarked about the extreme corruption that was par for the course in patriarchal elections during the Turkocratia. We were all shaking our heads in shame, probably in the same way that many Catholics are today regarding the pedophilia scandal. Anyway, a GOA priest present pooh-poohed our concerns, saying “Corruption has always been part of the Church. If Judas could sell his Master for 30 pieces of silver, then why should we expect anything better?” (This was almost verbatim.)

      This blase, “boys-will-be-boys” attitude stunned us. Unfortunately, I am forced to believe that it’s endemic within the the patriarchate of Constantinople and its dependencies. I’m not saying that corruption does not exist anywhere else (it must by definition exist everywhere in a fallen world) but I’ve never seen this attitude in the rejuventated Moscow patriarchate and its own dependencies. That’s also one reason I doubt we’ll ever see a Russian patriarch give a “holy Qu’ran” to some CEO.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Michael,

      Certainly.

      And I do not castigate all bishops (as in every single one). I was generalizing. Part of the problem is that they are vulnerable in any reform efforts if they do not act in synod. Thus you need a critical mass of wise bishops in a synod in order to make a widespread difference.

      Frankly, to get down to specifics, what irks me is the failure to use eucharistic discipline to discourage unorthodox public behavior. I don’t mean minor things, I mean things like openly advocating “abortion rights” or a politician supporting pro-choice legislation (or opposing pro-life legislation, for that matter).

      Another thing is that our churches should have dress codes. I’m not going to harp on St. Paul’s injunction to women again. More broadly, cleavage, short skirts and tight fitting clothes for either sex are not appropriate in church. I’ve seen too much of that. It encourages an unorthodox focus on “the mating game” when what is more important about a potential spouse is their piety. Dangling bait, in church of all places, is tacky. Especially when it’s young people who may be tempted to promiscuity.

      I could think of a number of other things where, essentially, life at parish level has taken on the less savory aspects of modern American culture. The buck stops with the bishops. They are the successors of the Apostles responsible for overseeing the faithful. The faithful and the priests are also responsible, but in the end the bishops are the last human defense against decadence. When they don’t do their jobs, and collectively so, we tend to find ourselves on the road mentioned above.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Scott & George; yes, we should do our best to hold bishops to the highest standard but we cannot and should not use their failure to rationalize our own.

    Neither does the argument that the GOA priest gave hold any water as it is the same in reverse.

    We are called to be more, we should be more, we should not settle for anything less for ourselves. I am disappointed by the lack of leadership displayed by the bishops, the apparent lack of courage and vision; the lust of power and the moral difficulties of some.

    But that does not excuse us.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Michael, I didn’t mean to imply that it did. I was just venting. We have to uphold the doctrines and traditions of the Church even if they won’t. It’s just very hard to do that. Maybe that’s what St Paul said when he meant “do not be a stumbling block to your brother”? Frank is nothing if not that, and it saddens me incredibly to say this, an obstacle to faith in spades.

      What frustrates me is the acquiescence of our bishops to the world (on the one hand), and then trotting out the Rudder and being all pietistic when it suits them (on the other hand).

      Scott is right: the loss of Eucharistic discipline is the root of all this. But let me take it further: if the bishops fail to do their job, then why does the Church need them?

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        Harry Coin says:

        George, We need the bishops you mention to ‘unsuspend’ clergy that had photos taken with gay massuers. I mean, without bishops like that, how would we get such important work done? So many settlements to pay, please give generously. And remember, can’t ordain men that know what it is to be married and have a family to be bishops– that would never do, who’d be around to unsuspend folk like Fr. Karambis? First things first.

        http://www.pokrov.org/display.asp?ds=Article&id=1354

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          George Michalopulos says:

          I hear you Harry.

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          God forbid the bishops should actually defrock Fr. Karambis. No such courage, character, integrity, and moral leadership from that bunch. They prefer to persecute, punish, and fire the decent, God-fearing, moral, and straight married Greek Orthodox priests instead. Only the perverted and corrupted ones are protected and defended. And we wonder why the Greek Orthodox Church in America continues to suffer and the young are leaving in droves!

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            George Michalopulos says:

            Chris, your analysis reminds me of one of my favorite movie lines of all time. It comes from Educating Rita; the professor played by Michael Caine, was hauled before an academic disciplinary committee. His pupil (Rita) asked him if he had been sanctioned. He replied: “Good heavens no! That would entail them having to make a decision. Or do something really egregious, like buggering the bursar!”

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            Harry Coin says:

            Today I just heard the EP defrocked a now _retired_ priest whose wife died decades ago (before retirement) who wanted to remarry.

            But ‘Fr. Archimandrite Karambis’ can have his special needs met and remain also now senior to all married clergy. Clergy who’ve somehow all these years managed to not have a special time with a gay massuer and friend, who’ve not created explosion after explosion followed by loss of families followed by transfer after transfer. I’m all about second chances yet it is completely nut to have those folks be senior in decision making ability to so many others who have done so much better and for decade after decade. Other senior clergy who have as ‘their only fault’ managing to have sustained a marriage and be an actual father and pastoral father– ‘lacking’ only the death of their wife to be able to participate in leadership decision making. We should all have such ‘impediements and faults’. This pattern we allow is not consistent with survival. If it doesn’t change we are writing here for future academics who might care to study the end of this only.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Harry,

    Once Elder Paisios chased away from the church a woman who was causing a great deal of trouble in the region due to her, let’s put it mildly, low moral standards
    All of a sudden the Elder felt tremendous passion in his body. He had to use an axe to hit his legs to get rid of it. Later on he would show the scar on his leg on talking about that incident. Judging others is an act of monumental pride.

    I do not know who Fr. Archimandrite Karambis is and if he is guilty. But if he is indeed mastered by his passions and scandalizes people we should be praying for him wholeheartedly We know how terrible it will be for the one who betrays Him. It would be far ‘better for him if he had never been born’.

    As for the retired priest, he needs our prayers too. Being retired for some time he is due to meet with the Lord rather sooner than later. He should certainly be focusing only on that.

    There are many examples of holiness in the Orthodox Church. The example of great spiritual figures should be made known.
    Elder Joseph the Hesychast: “On Sanctification and Dispassion”

    The great Maximus the Confessor refers to three more general states commonly found in monks, which characterize those who are approaching sanctification. 1 (Second Century on love, 87; Philokalia, ii.80).

    The first consists in ‘not sinning at all in action’: this is the stage of purification and the spiritual warrior, after ‘lawful striving’ (2 Tim. 2:5), passes beyond the state that is contrary to nature. The second is when ‘the soul does not dally with impassioned thoughts’: this is the state of illumination, characterized chiefly by the capac­ity to receive divine illumination, so that the intellect controls impassioned thoughts. The third state, that of perfection, is when we can ‘contemplate dispassionately in the mind the forms of women and those who have given us offence’: in this state the soul. succeeds in com­ing near to freedom, because even if impassioned con­ceptual images are still present they cannot stir the soul to be ravished by them, and this more or less is the prin­cipal aim of spiritual life. The right use of conceptual images follows the right use of things and thus evil in general is done away with, because if one does not first sin in the mind one will never sin in action, as the Fathers say.

    Below is an extras from a commentary on the English Patient movie.

    Once avva Serapion came in an Egyptian village and saw a whore standing by his cell and asked her: did you prepare the bed? Yes, father! She answered. Wait for me this night, I shall spend it with you! the old man said. Yes, father! answered the whore. So, she adorned herself, prepared the bed and waited for him. So, in the evening the old man came and entering the cell asked her: did you prepare the bed? Yes, father! she answered. He locked the door and told her: wait a minute; we have something very important to do! Let’s do it! And he old man began to read the Psalms; at each Psalm he prayed to God for her to repent and to save her soul. So, God listened to his prayer and the woman prayed trembling close to him. When the old man finished to read the Psalms (such a special reading takes 6 – 7 hours), she fell down to the earth. And the old man began to read the Apostle. And so he fulfilled the law. So, she understood the he did not come to her to commit a sin but to save her soul; she kneeled down before him and told him: have mercy of me, father and tell me where shall I go to please God?

    This is the most difficult exam of manhood: to stop a woman from sinning and at the same time to give her no hope that you ever could sin with her. It is not difficult to make a woman commit a sin as she is attracted by the virility of a man through her own weak nature but to prevent her from committing the sin only by words, so that she can stop even if she is attracted physically by you and overwhelmed by your philosophy to obey the sword of your word like a lamb – that is manhood which never fails. In this way a woman can be guided to immortality, offering her the most precious gift. This supreme step of manhood is reached at only by the saints, like Saints Vitalie, avva John Colov and Serapion . They showed us that this thing may happen and that each period of time has its own saints who strengthen this word, including our own epoch. These men continue to affect us even after their body has completely disappeared; thousands of women give up physical pleasure, preferring to discuss with them during their prayers.

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      Harry Coin says:

      Good old Elder Paisios. I notice focus on the various sexually fallen and their repentance didn’t include putting them in charge of decision making over all the clergy who managed to be actual and pastoral fathers for their entire lives. I’m impressed by that.

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      Chrys says:

      Eliot: great stuff! Until we conquer the passions, these quotes are real pearls and very edifying! I particularly treasure the story about Elder Paisios and the quote of Elder Joseph.

      It should not be surprising that the saints themselves were often more honest and humble about themselves than their biographies sometimes present. Along those lines, I have often found it much more useful and beneficial to read candid accounts of how the saints dealt with the passions and day-to-day struggles than to read the hagiographies that treat the saints as preternaturally holy, as almost ontologically different from the rest of us.

      And the point of your comments is also very much spot on: we, all of us, desperately need to receive and to offer every bit of prayer and love possible. Our salvation depends on it.

      Of course, Harry’s qualification is still correct: so long as we are subject to violent passions we are certainly qualified for healing by being members of God’s “hospital” – namely, His Church – but that is a very different thing from being qualified to lead. I wish our hierarchy would recognize that personal forgiveness and restoration are not the same as professional absolution. To permit such people to be or remain leaders is to risk the salvation of both themselves and those around them. In a sense we can only be led by those who have made it, to some degree, to the other side of the struggle, who have found some sense of maturity in Christ. (Even the Twelve Step programs recognize that active addition qualifies you for attendance but not sponsorship (leadership).) Hence St. Paul’s admonishment to ordain only seasoned men of proven character.

      Again, thanks!

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        Chrys,
        I love quotes too. And honestly … I’ll pray for Fr. Archimandrite Karambis.

        The only sin that I know in another person is what I can see or hear about him but I do not know the heart of any other person. All we can see is what’s on the outside. We know own heart first. It is always safe to assume that people are superior to us spiritually.

        We can certainly make an objective judgment that a certain behavior is sinful. We know much God hates sin but also how much he loves us. When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength we “hate every false way”. When one sins, Christ is not in him but we ought to treat him as if Christ was in him. We suffer for him because we see that he is in great danger. In our time so many people are in such terrible state, it is painful to see it… But it is not for us to judge if they will stand or fall.

        Who are you who judge another’s servant? To his own lord he stands or falls. Yes, he will be made to stand, for God has power to make him stand. Romans 14:4

        http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/humility.html

        The most easy, brief and safe path to heaven is humility. This is the only safe and undangerous path Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

        At the Last Judgment the righteous will be recognized only by their humility and their considering themselves worthless, and not by good deeds, even if they have done them. This is the true attitude. St. Peter of Damascus

        It may seem difficult to think of others being superior to ourselves. Usually we think of others as less than ourselves. The Lord has said: ‘Without Me, you can do nothing’

        .

        we have never achieved anything good on our own, but all good things are ours from God by grace, and come as it were from nothingness into being. For ‘what do you have which you did not receive?’ asks St. Paul – receive, that is, freely from God; ‘and if you received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it’ (I Cor. 4:7), but had achieved it by yourself? Yet by yourself you cannot achieve anything, for the Lord has said: ‘Without Me, you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).”

        The saints were ALWAYS honest and humble.
        An anchorite wanted to see Abba Poemen. Abba Poemen received him with joy.

        The anchorite began to speak of the Scriptures, of spiritual and of heavenly things. But Abba Poemen turned his face away and answered nothing. Seeing that he did not speak to him, the other went away deeply grieved and said to the brother who had brought him, “I have made this long journey in vain. For I have come to see the old man, and he does not wish to speak to me.”

        Then the brother went inside to Abba Poemen and said to him, “Abba, this great man who has so great a reputation in his own country has come here because of you. Why did you not speak to him?” The old man said, “He is great and speaks of heavenly things and I am lowly and speak of earthly things. If he had spoken of the passions of the soul, I should have replied, but he speaks to me of spiritual things and I know nothing about that.

        Then the brother came outside and said to the visitor, “The old man does not readily speak of the Scriptures, but if anyone consults him about the passions of the soul, he replies.” Filled with compunction, the visitor returned to the old man and said to him, “What should I do, Abba, for the passions of the soul master me?

        The old man turned towards him and replied joyfully, “This time, you come as you should. Now open your mouth concerning this and I will fill it with good things.” Greatly edified, the other said to him, “Truly, this is the right way!”

        He returned to his own country giving thanks to God that he had been counted worthy to meet so great a saint. “The Desert Christian,” by Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan, 1975), p. 167

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          Chrys says:

          Very well said. And more great stuff from the Fathers.

          By way of clarification: you are right, of course, that the saints are always humble and honest – these are, in fact, requisites for growth in sanctity. Any confusion on that point was only the result of my poor phrasing. (I often struggle to try to write as a reader would read it; here, I failed.) In this case, I meant only to point out that hagiographers sometimes do a disservice by presenting the saints without acknowledging the challenges by which they became saints. The glossy version that results can convey the (untrue) idea that these were preternaturally holy people, rather than folks who started off as “sinners like us.” The unintended consequence of this effort to make their sanctity clear is that we discourage those readers who have some sense of their own sin, make the journey to sanctity look like a path reserved only for perfect people, diminish God’s grace by making it look like their sanctity was rooted in some kind of special nature, and take away the “crowns” acquired by the saints in their struggle. In my view, their “achievement” is actually magnified, and not minimized, by recognizing what they overcame through grace.

          One comment did seem to warrant clarification:
          “When one sins, Christ is not in him but we ought to treat him as if Christ was in him.”
          Now, I’m pretty sure I know what you meant, but I’m not sure this way of expressing it accurately captures the change in relationship resulting from sin. After all, Christ does not change toward us; His steadfast love endures all things and, indeed, endures forever. It is rather we who change toward Him. Maybe one could say that when we actively sin, we remove Christ from the throne of our hearts and crucify Him anew. Maybe. Since I am clearly not a theologian, however, I must leave it to others to express more accurately the effects of our sins.

          Either way, your comments were – again – a blessing. Thank you.

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            Eliot Ryan says:

            Chrys,

            The saints were often ordinary people, just like us: wounded by sin, hot-tempered, quick to judge others. I believe the first step toward sanctity is to study our own conscience, the first low of God and to regain the lost awareness of sin. When one realizes one’s sinfulness and chooses to change he is set on the right path. It is not necessarily such an extraordinary thing to do but we’ll certainly start to live a little different from the way we used to live.

            Let us struggle with all our powers to gain Paradise. The gate is very narrow, and don’t listen to those who say that everyone will be saved. This is a trap of satan so that we won’t struggle. Elder Paisios

            We need role models and reading the lives of the saints would give us an understanding of what it means to lead a holy life. In their day-to-day struggles, the saints were often provided with the opportunity for the very things they were avoiding and it could be disastrous to speak of it to others.

            There are no people more blessed than those who have made contact with the “heavenly television station” and who are piously connected to God. In the same way, no people are more wretched than those who have cut contact with God and wander, dizzy, around the world, flipping through the world’s many television stations so as to forget, if only for a short time, the anguish of the derailment of their lives. Elder Paisios

            Holy asceticism, together with its great self-denial, which is born from great faith in a burst of love for God, brings man to true joy. He is happy to live, for his heart flutters, glorifying his God of benefactions. He is also happy to die, for he thus goes close to God again, and will continue there his doxology. Elder Paisios

            It is important to instill a “good uneasiness” into every person, to make them aware of the things they will be deprived due to their carelessness. The “weeping and grinding of teeth” is the sorrow caused when seeing how easy would have been to gain the eternal blessings.

            Whoever is at peace in the material world and is not concerned about the salvation of his soul is like the senseless birds who don’t make a noise from within the egg, so as to break the shell and come out to enjoy the sun-the heavenly flight in the life of Paradise-but instead remain unmoving and die inside the egg shell. Elder Paisios

            Where is everybody?

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    Chrys says:

    Eliot: Amen! To each point: Amen!

    Again, great quotes! I must confess that I deeply wish I had had a chance to meet Elder Paisios. I am convinced that while sanctity may be taught, it is much more thoroughly caught than taught. Thank God that there are others walking in the same footsteps. For those I have met or known, I am very, very grateful. May God grant that we, too, may some day become what we are called to be in God and be the same blessing to others as he was.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      Chrys,
      I perfectly understand what you mean. I’ve been sleepwalking through life for a long time, going through the motions without having a purpose. Actually, I had a plan but I did not know what is really important and worthy to focus on.

      I am very, very grateful for all those who, loving God, were striving to know Him better. Our Lord gives grace and works in those who believe in Him. An encounter with such people can indeed be life-changing. Here is a powerful example:

      St. Seraphim of Sarov – Life and Teachings
      A close admirer and follower of St. Seraphim — Motovilov, describes the miraculous transfiguration of the Elder. St. Seraphim was taking to him about the meaning of a Christian life, explaining for what we Christians live on earth.

      It is necessary that the Holy Spirit enter our heart. Everything good that we do, that we do for Christ, is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but prayer most of all, which is always available to us,” he said.

      “Father,” answered Motovilov, “how can I see the grace of the Holy Spirit? How can I know if He is with me or not?”

      St. Seraphim began to give him examples from the lives of the saints and apostles, but Motovilov still did not understand. The elder then firmly took him by the shoulder and said to him, “We are both now, my dear fellow, in the Holy Spirit.” It was as if Motovilov’s eyes had been opened, for he saw that the face of the elder was brighter than the sun. In his heart Motovilov felt joy and peace, in his body a warmth as if it were summer, and a fragrance began to spread around them. Motovilov was terrified by the unusual change, but especially by the fact that the face of the starets shone like the sun. But St. Seraphim said to him, “Do not fear, dear fellow. You would not even be able to see me if you yourself were not in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Thank the Lord for His mercy toward us.

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    alexis banias says:

    I’ve been perusing the aforementioned readers and their comments, and I am very encouraged that we have righteously vociferous members of the Holy Orthodox Church who are tackling the “issues” through reasoned and intellectual dialogue. It’s too bad that my place is not big enough. Otherwise, I’d invite all of you over for a cookout! As far as Frank, he needs an inordinate amount of prayers to repent of his sad descent, and I had noticed the beginning of this plummet with the first Marine Corps novel about his son entitled, “Keeping the Faith.” The book is pure tantrum-rife drivel with excessive and unnecessary profanity. CAVEAT EMPTOR!

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, George his hatred of the Evangelicals goes back to his father Francis. Francis is well known among conservative protestants and even conservative Roman Catholics. In fact, Frank attacks Catholics too since they are apart of Western Christianity. I think that his father is a better thinker if you had read his books, in fact, he views art as a means to view philsophical concepts such as relatvism and nilhilism amont 20th century artists. Even Eastern Orthodox can agree that art does reflect religous or non-relgious views. He Francis comes to different conclusions since he is a protestant but his criticism of the problems of modern man, Orthodox as well as Catholic can agree. Frank greatest achievements were his books about a Calvin family that might be his real family that made a lot of money.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Cynthia, the operative word in your fine critique is “hatred.” Frank is full of it. That is why we should pray for him. And hope he receives spiritual guidance.

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