September 1, 2014

Where are the Orthodox Dominionists?

A friend sent me an article from the Hellenic Voice titled, “Religious Right must not set agenda for Orthodox Church.” Well, reasonable enough. But the article got so many other things wrong that I was tempted to simply quit reading half way through. The author, Harry Katopodis, seemed not to understand the difference between religious doctrine and political activism (which was one of the main faults of the Religious Right). Amazingly, his article was aimed at those Orthodox brothers and sisters who have been received into the Church from other traditions. You know, converts. Their conversion, the author suggested, has been a Trojan horse that has allowed the Religious Right to stealthily creep into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Katopodis article begins with the assertion that “the Orthodox Churches in America are heading down two different paths over political involvement.” The article is much too long and repetitive to reprint so I’ll touch on just a few points here. You can read the whole thing, if you like, here.

The main problem with the article is that Katopodis identifies converts to Orthodoxy, and by association the Antiochian Orthodox Church (AOC) and Orthodox Church in America (OCA), with Protestant fundamentalism and the Religious Right. Katopodis compounds the error by ascribing to converts a belief in Dominionism, a fringe Protestant movement that advocates something like a modern day theocracy. Here’s how he understands it:

About 20 years ago several hundred converts from evangelical Christianity joined the Orthodox Church through the Antiochian Archdiocese. Evangelicals are still converting to Orthodoxy. Most converts end up in the Antiochian Archdiocese and OCA. They often bring their political beliefs with them and now claim to be the voice of true Orthodoxy in America when it comes to politics. The Christian Right focuses on one main issue, outlawing abortion; other issues are not as important to them.

The religious right in America started with the evangelical Protestants and a doctrine called dominion theology that says the Bible calls for Christians to take over governments because God gave man dominion over the earth in the Old Testament. They feel that the separation of church and state in American is a lie perpetuated by liberals and that America was meant to be a Christian nation.

But, of course, Katopodis doesn’t provide evidence of any hierarch or responsible Orthodox person in the AOC or OCA preaching dominionism. There’s a reason for that. It simply isn’t Orthodox. A dominionist is the sort of person who would look upon Orthodox Christians as not even Christian. What’s more, many converts from Protestantism come from denominations that would be suppressed by dominionists, once they “took over” the country. But by wielding the “dominionist” slur, Katopodis tries to assert that Orthodox converts are all captive to the Religious Right and fundamentalism, also projects with Protestant roots. He cites Metropolitan Kallistos Ware for support of his views:

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware weighed in on this issue, saying: “I have to say that I find the aggressive and authoritarian tone of ‘Orthodox dominionists’ to be unattractive, and I believe that it will prove in the long term to be counter-productive. I am fully in favor of Orthodox Christians, as individuals and on a personal basis, becoming wholeheartedly involved in the political and social questions of the day. At the same time, I doubt whether it is helpful for Orthodox Church leaders to make public pronouncements that have a strong political tone.”

No one is asking Metropolitan Ware or any other Orthodox hierarch to make partisan political endorsements or weigh on technical policy questions. That’s not what they’re trained to do. But they do have an obligation to articulate a moral vision and a social witness for the Church. And so do the laity. The Church belongs to us all, conservative and liberal alike.

Perhaps the most damning evidence of Orthodox converts’ enslavement to the Religious Right, according to Katopodis, is their activism in the pro-life movement. He cites the OCA for giving a “sympathetic ear” to the movement and notes that it has “designated a Sanctity of Life Sunday to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion.” Katopodis seems to think that the destruction of 45 million unborn Americans since 1973 is an issue that Christians should consider politically out of bounds. He says that “many Christians of all denominations, including Orthodox, feel that Christians cannot legislate their doctrine and impose Christian teachings on those who do not believe in those teachings.” But this is not a case of forcing Orthodox doctrine down the throats of all Americans. It is a demand for clear Christian witness on one of the great moral calamities of our time. And if Christians are not to speak out on abortion in public life, what about other moral issues such as poverty, or war, or religious freedom? Do we shut up about these matters, too?

For years now, the Religious Left (yes, they’re out there too) has been working overtime to confuse the distinction between clear moral teaching on issues that are not in dispute by Orthodox Christians — such as abortion — and those issues that are debatable in the policy and political world. Of course, Orthodox Christians consider abortion to be a grave sin. Questions about, say, the financial bailout of Wall Street, or global warming, or whether or not a specific welfare program should be funded, are of a wholly different nature. They do not involve what are, for the most part, settled moral questions about some of the most important beliefs we hold, including the sanctity of life.

Rather than casting aspersions on the OCA for its courageous witness on the abortion issue, Katopodis should ask why the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA) institutionally has been so silent. This silence is a scandal. Apparently, it’s OK for the GOA or the Ecumenical Patriarch to weigh in on political issues when it involves Turkish oppression of the Patriarchate, the accession of Turkey into the European Union, Cyprus, global warming, and the momentous question of whether or not Macedonia should be allowed to call itself Macedonia. Are these not “political” issues? Of course, they are.

Then Katopodis makes a strange claim:

It seems that the Orthodox “dominionists” have also hijacked the Orthodox unity movement in part to serve their political agenda. Since the rise of the religious right Orthodox there can be no doubt that a big reason many of them are pushing for one Orthodox Church in America is to give religious right Orthodox a stronger voice in Washington.

Exactly what is this “Orthodox unity” movement? I missed something here. Was the GOA in charge of the “movement” when the OCA hijacked it? Has our grip on unity become so tenuous that we’d rather abandon unity for fear that the “dominionists” would ride it into complete power over Orthodox Christians in the United States? I wasn’t aware that the threat was so grave.

Against these imagined dominionists in the bosom of the Orthodox Church, Katopodis sets the GOA, which is “wise” by comparison to other jurisdictions.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has not followed the religious right Christians into politics and remains committed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to preserving the Greek faith, language and culture. In hindsight this has proved to be a wise decision.

Katopodis ignores, or seems to be unaware, that the GOA is a member of the National Council of Churches, the primary institutional voice of the Religious Left in this country (the Antiochians have pulled out). Granted, the NCC is a dying organization and has little influence, compared with other voices of the Religious Left like Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo (both of whom are Protestants). Granted the GOA has “not followed the religious right” and that is to be commended. But why is it acceptable that the GOA continue its involvement with the partisan politics of the NCC, which promotes an agenda of class warfare, big government and economic collectivism almost indistinguishable from the Democratic Party?

Furthermore, what exactly is Katopodis referring to when he talks about preserving the “Greek faith, language and culture”? Is he talking about the marriage of Classical and Hellenistic Greek philosophy and Christian theology that the Cappadocians wrought? Is he talking about the cultural expression of Orthodoxy in a Greek context as opposed to that expression in Russian, Serb, Arab, Bulgarian and other cultures? Or, is he talking about modern day Greece and the life of the Church in that culture?

Where is the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this preservation project? The one delivered to all people, for all time, unto the ends of the earth? I quote Holy Scripture at risk of being branded a fundamentalist: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

I suspect that Katopodis is talking about something else altogether: the Church as ethnic sect or enclave. His remarks in the Voice are all too common among the sort of ethnic Greek that confuses the Gospel with Greek ethnic pride. Ethnic pride has its place, but it’s pretty thin stuff on which to build a religious faith. In the future, we should be more careful of attributing bizarre doctrines to fellow Orthodox Christians, even though they may have come to us from the Protestant traditions. A better course would be to fall to our knees and thank God for sending the converts to the Orthodox Church. They just might save us cradle Orthodox from ourselves.

Comments

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    Reader John says:

    I cannot imagine that Mr. Katopodis got the idea that we converts are a bunch of religious right moles, let alone dominionists, from actual observation. Likelier, he picked it up from left-wing publications that are, so far as I know, the source of the bizarre misunderstanding that the religious right is motivated by dominionism. That notion is quite wrong on multiple levels.

    I know whereof I speak. I’m a convert from the Reformed tradition, the right wing of which harbors dominionist political thought. First, the Reformed generally, and the dominionists particularly, despise the theological softness and novelties of mainstream evangelicals and fundamentalists, who started the religious right. That comes from theological differences such as postmillenialism (dominionists) versus dispensational premillenialism (typical evangelical) and the whole rigorous and somewhat fatalistic Calvinist scheme of soteriology (dominionists) versus the ill-defined easy-believism soteriology of evangelicals.

    The dominionists, in short, are an insular and pretty goofy right-wing minority within a theologically Calvinist minority that is at best on the right fringe of evangelicalism if not outside it altogether. I was never certain as a Calvinist whether I was still an Evangelical. I thought not, more often than not – but if you want a social life as a Calvinist in a medium-size town, you’ve got to “make nice with” Evangelicals as your closest spiritual kin and co-belligerents (not “allies;” Franky Schaeffer’s Calvinist father made that distinction) on matters of common concern.

    Second, rather than starting from a dominionist urge to take over the government, the religious right started defensively. David Carlin, writing in the November 1994 First Things, puts it well:

    The French have a witticism: ‘Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l’attaque, il se defend.’ (This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.) The religious right did not start the fight. For more than a quarter century, elite, privileged, sophisticated, and ‘right-thinking’ Americans have exhibited contempt for some fundamental values, and have exhibited even greater contempt for the religious traditionalists who hold them.

    Evangelical converts to Orthodoxy typically have experienced such contempt and, in my experience, tend to be somewhat conservative politically as a result. But we also, especially in jurisdictions that retain the Sunday antiphons, are reminded every Sunday to “put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation.” Apart from activism in favor of innocent human life (which may be non-political activism, such as working in pro-life pregnancy centers), I’ve found the Orthodox Church refreshingly free of political fixations. And rather than injecting politics into the Church, it seems to me that we converts eventually lose any political fixations we may have brought in with us.

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    Frederica Mathewes-Green says:

    This is bewildering. I don’t even *know* any dominionists. And I know a lot of converts to Orthodoxy. It’s a smear campaign, and such a strange one! How did it ever begin, I wonder? Where did this idea come from?

    Until some Orthodox convert steps forward and declares himself to be a dominionist, the word should not be used. Not “fundamentalist” either. I helped found a movement to bring pro-choice and pro-life leaders together in dialogue. One of our groundrules was that you call people by the name that *they* think describes them. It’s simple courtesy. Get rid of name-calling and you are making the first step on the road to understanding.

    Peter John is right. Abortion is a human rights issue rather than a political one. The number of abortions since Roe is now up to 48,900,000. That’s a big number if you’re not absolutely sure it’s *not* a life. Though legal remedy has been stagnant for a long time now, I believe the abortion problem will solve itself in time–that the wall of denial will collapse and horror will rush in. The time to get on the right side of history is now.

    Our parish is full of young people, especially college students; the average age keeps getting *lower.* What I observe is firm pro-life views, strong interest in the environment (including the desire to eat and shop locally if possible), opposition to racism, “live-and-let-live” civil tolerance of homosexuality, resistance to war, and concern for the poor, at home and abroad. (Those are my views as well.) I’ve twice recently seen references in the New Yorker to that same profile among young evangelicals — what might look somewhat “left,” but with a strong pro-life stance in the middle; they are even “more concerned about abortion than their [evangelical] parents”. This is because they see abortion as an act of violence against helpless children, an urgent social justice concern–thus consistent, even necessary, for the young faithful on this surprising new “right” that looks kind of “left. ”

    But there is no group in America more hated and feared and misrepresented than evangelicals. So, if we are lumped in with them, it is a blessing, as Christ said in the Beatitudes. When we hear these crazy charges of dominionism, it’s hard to resist responding. Yet the early martyrs were accused of worse things, cannibalism and incest. All things work together for good, and these attacks can be useful for growth in humility. Please remember not to attack those who attack you. We live in such a verbally combative society that it’s tempting to come up with a smart-alec response. But treat them with love and listen, and hopefully they will relax their guard and eventually be able to do the same.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    A couple of observations: Abortion is an assult on all that is human, the very thing that Jesus Christ went to the Cross to return to us. Anyone who supports abortion, even by saying “we can’t force our beliefs on others” participates in the dehumanization.

    In my experience, converts tend more to an idealization of the Church as opposed to their previous expression rather than wanting to change the Church to what they left.

    Unfortunately Mr.Katopodis’ analysis seems to contain two of the most prominent ideas that work against Orthodox unity and effective evangelism in the United States 1) generalized assumptions about our Orthodox brethren in other jurisdictions frequently expressed in such phrases as “The Greeks are crazy”; “The Antiochians are worldly;” “The Slavs are morose;”, and “the OCA is irrelevant” and 2) both ignorance about the American historical experience and an antipathy for the American ethos (which like it or not is still dominated by Protestant ideas). One of the great values of American life is precisely the importance of each human being. The twisting of this value into individualism is a strong foundation for those who support abortion.

    Both the Gosepl and the lives of the Saints show us that we cannot evangelize what we don’t love. God first loved us in the midst of our sin, He continues to do so.

    Until we embrace each other and this country, the saving grace of the Church will remain hidden except to those who demand the experience. We will remain tethered to a non-existent ‘golden age’; a limbo of our own creation which borders on idolatry. We can actually learn from Protestants, we just have to know the Truth well enough to be able to complete what they have truncated, reexpand what they have compressed. The challenge we all face is to allow Christ to change us and to live the life of the Church. If we do that, we won’t have to worry about Dominionists, Socialists, Greeks, Slavs, Americans or anything else.

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    David says:

    I’m no one in particular. I’m from a community-bible church background presently going through the process of catechism. I can, without much eloquence I’m afraid, offer some useful speculation as to this concern over closet dominionists among converts.

    When cruising around the web learning about Orthodoxy certain websites and podcasts struck me in rather visceral ways. I don’t want to throw stones so I won’t name anyone in particular. I should also admit that some of my judgments have changed over time when I got past these initial reactions.

    But it’s important to understand why I had these reactions. This is my weakness, not necessarily the weakness of any particular Orthodox Christian or organized group of Orthodox Christians. But I’m leaving Restorationist-Protestantism for many very complex and often personal reasons. I know that in abstract I’m supposed to be leaving to join “The One True Church”(tm), but frankly I’m more complicated and sinful than that.

    How does this apply? Well, one of those cites was AOI. Please forgive my blunt observations which are not properly tempered with maturity, but AOI smells like much of what I’m trying to leave behind.

    I suppose given sufficient time I could deconstruct the grammar, alliteration, political positioning, social narratives, but I would only be trying to selectively edit your work to prove my point. Any attempt I could make to justify my opinion would be constructed with bias that resulted from my initial reactions.

    This is the same reaction I get when I see a “Color the Saints” Orthodox childrens’ book. I have no idea whether such a thing is salvific, but I can tell you that trivializing sacred images and events in an attempt to saturate children with what’s believed to be on their level, but really is just a way for nervous parents to reassure themselves that they are doing something to make sure their kids “grow up Orthodox”… well, I’m glad so far that I haven’t seen a monastery selling Noah-and-the-Ark felt play sets.

    That last paragraph is just a preposterous as the article we are all commenting on. But that’s my point. It’s judgmental, it’s reactionary, but it’s understandably drawn from some nuggets of truth.

    Some folks who come to Orthodoxy want to see American Orthodox parishes learn from successful Protestant practices. Some others of us are just as wrong in wanting Orthodoxy (though I do like my services in English) to not look ANYTHING like where we came from. We’d rather throw out something that might be good on the chance that it brings with us the sin that we are fleeing.

    For those of you who might be reading this as cradle Orthodox, I simply cannot tell you what it means to be so torn about where you are that you have to burn all that you’ve known your whole life to escape it. Maybe some of you who’ve fled your countries of origin to come to America, could get this.

    I keep trying to come back to sites like AOI, but after a few days or weeks of following the articles, I’m finding that I’m reacting again to these same things and I unsubscribe again. There is some where in here a pastoral point. Something might be of benefit to the Church (I can’t answer that), but very, very bad for me. My priest is a diabetic and so has to have a unique approach to fasting. A member of our parish hasn’t taken the Eucharist in some long time because she is an alcoholic.

    But are not the Eucharist and fasting salvific? Not for them. So then perhaps AOI is salvific, but not always for me.

    Forgive me for dwelling on AOI, I only do so because this is its forum, it would be inappropriate for me to make comments about other sites or groups here. I don’t mean to suggest that AOI is the worst or even among the worst. I’m trying to be helpful as best I can.

    Pray for me, a sinner.

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    Wesley J. Smith says:

    As a relatively new convert, a member of a “converts” church in the OCA, I have never once heard anyone pine for a theocracy. Because people take a position on certain moral and political issues, is not the same thing at all as imposing religion on society. Moreover, does not the Church have the obligation to work through these issues and speak to its people about how to properly understand them?

    I wonder if the author of the article is against Patriarch of Constantinople’s position on global warming and environmentalism, which enters the political realm as well as the moral realm. If not, then I don’t see how one position can be imposing theocracy, but not the other.

    Of course, neither are.

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    Andrew says:

    I wonder if the author would have been against Archbishop Iakovos marching with Martin Luther King.

    In my eyes this article was designed to arouse paranoid emotions among the “OMOGENIA” plain and simple.

    Many balanced and well-rounded Orthodox Christians today are being tagged with labels like “fundamentalist” and “extremist” for holding common sense traditional views. Men and women of good will who wish speak of building an American Orthodox witness are held in contempt as if we committed some type of hate crime.

    No sensible Orthodox Christian believes in dominionism but many Orthodox Christians of common sense do see that moral issues and questions are being shunned aside in Orthodox parishes throughout the United States in a phony effort to promote a false sense of harmony.

    In many ways efforts to avoid discussion and answer serious questions are numbing parishes to reality and dumbing down Orthodoxy in America. Nostalgia can only take you so far….

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    Aglaios says:


    Does Katopodis not remember the famous and praiseworthy photo of Archbishop Iakovos side by side with Martin Luther King Jr. marching down the street in peaceful protest of racial segregation?

    Why then is Met. Herman and others like him who would quietly and peacefully march thru the streets of D.C. in witness of the Church’s pro-life stance be somehow branded as “politicizing” and “religiously right” by Katopodis?

    And concerning Katopodis’ use of the word “Hellenism”…
    Is he talking about classical Hellenism -the ancient Greek inheritence of the philosophers? Then he should remember that the moral health of the
    polis was of utmost concern -he should pick up Plato’s republic or look at Aristotle’s ethical treatises, not to mention some Socratic dialogues.
    Is he talking about Hellenic Christian culture of the patristic age?
    Then he should read the litany of quotes from the Greek fathers who very publicly and with stinging language condemned abortion.

    Pagan and Christian thinkers alike were always concerned with the moral health of the polis -no matter what age or type of government they lived in.
    Will the real Hellenists please stand up???

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    Steve Robinson says:

    I too came from the “Restoration Movement”, and yes, a lot of this kind of posturing looks a lot like the same kind of stuff we ran away from. After ten years Orthodox, I’ve learned there is a difference between an “Orthodox opinion” and “an Orthodox person with an opinion”. Orthodoxy provides a lot of ammunition for those inclined to “have a morbid interest in controversial questions, disuptes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions and constant friction…” (I Timothy 6:4). Do not be distracted by these things. Look to yourself. Pray. Reject the factious man. If you lose your peace in Christ reading and listening to “Orthodox with opinions” then stop. This is stuff within the Church, but the Church, beginning with the Apostles, calls us to rise above this stuff. If someone fears me because I was a protestant, oh well. He can get to know me if he wants to, and find out I am not to be feared. If he doesn’t, oh well. I’d hate to be living in his head. But I CAN live in my own and not allow such things into it voluntarily. The human being is inclined to a prurient interest in controversy and issues. The sooner we get over it, the better for our souls, IMO.

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    Reader John says:

    Responding last night, I had not yet read Mr. Katopodis’s article. I have done so now and have something to add.

    Mr. Katopodis acknowledges that “the Orthodox Church is against abortion and considers it a grave sin.” But then he continues in a too-familiar style of question-begging: “however many Christians of all denominations, including Orthodox, feel that Christians cannot legislate their doctrine and impose Christian teachings on those who do not believe in those teachings.”

    If the folly of that is not apparent, let me identify it explicitly: Not all sins are merely sins; some sins are gravely unjust as well, and may richly deserve to be outlawed. Nobody would ever speak this way: “the Orthodox Church is against murder and considers it a grave sin; however ….”

    I refuse to reduce abortion to a mere matter of doctrine, like fasting, or of mere non-criminal vice, like coveteousness (perhaps even sodomy). I refuse to do so because I learned of the humanity of unborn humans in biology, not in catechism, I learned the risk of labeling any human as lebens unwertensleben in histories of German culture leading up to the Holocaust, and I learned the wrongness of murder both in Church and civil society. It is disheartening to think that someone over at GOARCH buys the lefty line that I and others are right-winger for holding such convictions.

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    David says:

    Steve you and I have talked before and I thank God for you. However, I think I wasn’t very good at making my point because I was so concerned that I be acting in the same way as others that disturb me.

    There was certainly a time when I would have been drawn to such Canon-tastrophes, thankfully that’s not on my currently relentless list of sins. No, I’m actually not talking about factious arguments, but rather something much more bewildering to I’m sure anyone reading this post: activism itself.

    Please don’t misunderstand I’m not saying I disapprove of anyone (or at least, if I do disapprove I immediately run to my prayer corner and start reading the Psalter to get it out of my head and heart to do that).

    I’m saying I am highly sensitive to activism. Frankly, not understanding something generates fear. Maybe its just that I’m too great a sinner to feel comfortable doing the things that others do in the name of God and Church. Maybe its that I don’t hear people who are activists openly discussing the impact on their own spiritual life, their families, their neighbors, their home parish, etc.

    To my mind, activism isn’t bad, but I’m a terrible father and husband; and a great burden, I’m sure, on my spiritual father… podcast hosts, blog authors and any other Orthodox that don’t run screaming when I start talking.

    How could I ever think to spend even an hour on a political campaign, or even a noble cause for those in my community when I have not yet learned to pray?

    You just did a podcast on laypersons roles in the Church, I burned it to CD and listened to it on the way home from work. I think I’ll sleep on that and write you privately (unless the Lord spare you miraculously from my stupidity).

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    Richard Barrett says:

    Between this and the Fr. John Peck situation — one wonders if, behind the scenes, there isn’t agitation for some kind of more-or-less formal separatism/isolation (I hesitate, and hopefully for good reason, to call it a break of communion) from other Orthodox jurisdictions within GOArch. Anecdotally, I have a couple of friends, recent converts themselves, who are getting married in a GOArch parish because it’s the church closest to some of their family, and the priest seems very eager to do things in a way that doesn’t call attention from his bishop.

    Some broader thoughts here. I think it can only do us converts a lot of good to have our interactions with so-called “ethnic” Orthodox be informed with a great deal of humility and respect, even when we feel excluded. If the yia-yias get to know you and like you, then that’s 3/4 of the job right there.

    Richard

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    Kevin Allen says:

    I have been wondering if and when there might be a public reaction to the (perceived) “threat” of converts coming into Orthodoxy (bringing their “dirty laundry” with them)! I think with Mr. Kotopodis’ article we are seeing this articulated. I think the issue of “dominionism”, which until reading this article I never heard of, and Right Wing politics is a red herring. I suspect the real problem for Mr. Kotopodis is exactly what Mr. Couretas points out in his critique: “the [challenge to the] Church as ethnic sect or enclave.” How Mr. Kotopodis can set the Greeks on a pedestal – on the one stand – for “staying out of (“Right Wing”) politics” (as if abortion is a political rather than a moral issue!), while failing to acknowledge the “politics” of their Archbishop making the opening prayer at the recent Democrat National Convention (without even a reference to the Holy Trinity by the way!), is a mind blower to me! The good news is that this is now out in the open.

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    Richard Barrett says:

    one wonders if, behind the scenes, there isn’t agitation for some kind of more-or-less formal separatism/isolation (I hesitate, and hopefully for good reason, to call it a break of communion) from other Orthodox jurisdictions within GOArch.

    To clarify: “within GOArch” modifies “agitation for some kind of more-or-less formal separatism/isolation”, not “other Orthodox jurisdictions”. Man, it’d be helpful if English were more strongly inflected sometimes…

    Richard

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    Jan Bear says:

    Just as a small point of clarification, Mr. Kotopodis referred to Frank Schaeffer’s Dancing Alone and put him in the category of “Religious Right.” Mr. Kotopodis might be relieved to learn that Mr. Schaeffer has come out in favor of Barack Obama, who used parliamentary procedures in the Illinois Legislature to keep a Born Alive Infants Protection Act from being passed. That bill would have required hospitals to give medical care to children born of botched abortions, who were being left to die in hospital laundry rooms before being removed to medical waste for disposal.

    As for not working in politics until one learns to pray, well, good luck with that. It’s a little like saying, “How can I raise children? I don’t know how to pray.” But the great saints have pointed out that they didn’t learn to pray after a lifetime of heroic effort. And children grow up. And elections make a difference. I’m not going to tell you who to work for (I guess I just said who I’d prefer not, but all the same . . .), and I’m not going to tell anybody that they’re called to work in an election. I don’t claim to know and wouldn’t want to have that influence. But “I’ve got to clean out my sock drawer” is a better excuse for not campaigning than “I’ve got to learn how to pray first.”

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    Jeff Beranek says:

    No better example can be given of the attitude of the GOA and the Ecumenical Patriarch toward abortion than the honors afforded former Sen. Paul Sarbanes of MD, who (along with another Greek Orthodox Christian, Sen. Olympia Snowe) voted, twice, against the ban on partial-birth abortions. Was Sen. Sarbanes publicly corrected, or rebuked, by his archbishop, or threatened with being turned away from communion (as was done to Sen. Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign) for his position and actions on abortion? No, he was made an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    For readers of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s newspaper The Orthodox Observer, there was a nice, though unremarked, irony in the September 2006 issue (available at http://www.goarch.org/en/news/observer/pdf/2006/06-09-SEP.pdf). On page 8 was a three column story with photo headed “Sen. Sarbanes Honored at Opening Keynote Breakfast”. Part of it read:

    “Metropolitan Demetrios of Sevasteia read a letter of congratulations from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, which said in part, ‘You are one such loving and faithful son of our Ecumenical Patriarchate. You have utilized your ability for the common good.’ The Metropolitan also noted Sen. Sarbanes’ long years of support for the Patriarchate and presented the senator with the Cross of the Great Church of Christ. Archbishop Demetrios presented Sen. Sarbanes with a replica of the feather pen and inkwell used by the Founding Fathers to sign the Declaration of Independence.”

    Juxtaposed with that story, a column on the left summarized the resolutions approved by the 38th Clergy-Laity Conference, which took place in Nashville in July – among them was the following:

    “Delegates express solidarity with SCOBA and other initiatives that protest abuse and violence toward children.”

    BTW, I note that Fr. David Subu, mentioned in the article, is my pastor at Protection of the Mother of God Orthodox Church, and is of Romanian descent and a cradle Orthodox. So it isn’t just the evangelical converts who feel strongly about this issue.

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    Chris Banescu says:

    It is apparent that the hierarchy in the GOA and Mr. Kotopodis confuse “Christian Hellenism” with an ethnic or national Greek version of “Hellenism.” They have either merged the two into an universal “Hellenism” or are purposely ignoring the key differences to justify the superiority and primacy of the Greek Orthodox Church, strive for ethnic conformity, and criticize the conservative Protestant converts or other non-Greek Orthodox who are working to bring Orthodoxy to America.

    Here are some brief excerpts from Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s essay “A Meaningful Storm” that quite eloquently and clearly discuss the issues at hand:

    The very essence of the Byzantine “imperial” tradition was not national, but universal. … The Byzantines called themselves Roman, not Greeks, because Rome, not Greece, was the symbol of universality, and for this reason the new capital could only be a “New Rome.” Until the seventh century the official language of the Byzantine chanceries was Latin, not Greek.

    Finally, the Church Fathers would have been horrified if someone were to call them “Greeks.” It is here indeed that lies the first and deepest misunderstanding. For when Fr. Florovsky speaks of “Christian Hellenism” as a permanent and essential dimension of Christianity, when a Philaret of Moscow puts in his Catechism the definition of the Orthodox Church as “Greek-Catholic,” they obviously do not refer to something “ethnic” or “national.”

    For them this “Christian Hellenism” — that of theology, liturgy, iconography — is not only not identical with the “Greek” but, in fact, is in many ways its very “antidote,” the fruit of a long and sometimes painful and critical transformation of the Greek categories.

    In the same essay, Fr. Schmemann briefly summarizes the attitudes we’ve been witnessing in the GOA for many years, especially from the hierarchy and many of the “ethnic-club” mentality Greeks, who look down on anyone who is not “Greek” and feel threatened by an American Orthodoxy.

    It is very characteristic, however, that when even Greeks hierarchs speak of “Hellenism” they refer not so much to the “Christian Hellenism” of Byzantium, but to the ancient Greek civilization, to Plato and Pythagoras, to Homer and the “Athenian democracy” as if being “Greek” makes one in an almost exclusive sense an “heir” and a “bearer” of that “Hellenism.”

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    David says:

    I’m sorry if my admission of weakness sounds like an excuse.

    But aren’t you overreaching when you assume that obligations already exist? You’re assuming that one ought to be an activist and then if they are not, they are falling short. The default position to activism is unsettling to me.

    I am obligated to sit on a jury according to the law. It could be argued that there’s a sort of obligation to participate in the voting process each election. But I think it’s a real stretch to say that I have an obligation to inform the public or my representatives in government on my opinions. Even more so to invest significant financial, temporal or spiritual resources to do more than inform, but actually persuade.

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to do so. I’m saying it’s hazardous, and as such should be approached with caution, the council of one’s spiritual father, and a sensitivity to the unintended side effects of activism particularly a lifestyle of activism.

    As for the children analogy. Marriage is a choice and with it come spiritual obligations (including children). If you’ve chosen to get married, you are witnessing that you know enough about prayer to get married and assume those responsibilities.

    If you knew me well, I really don’t think you’d want me as an activist. And I certainly don’t want to make anyone else twice the son of hell that I am.

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    Wesley J. Smith says:

    Very interesting discussion. I was told when I converted that the traditional method of evangelizing a country is to move it toward one church jurisidiction, hence, there should be an American Orthodox Church just as there are Russian and Greek jurisdictions. This didn’t happen due to the Russian Revolution that prevented the Russian Patriarch from overseeing the USA evangelization, which was his right as the head of the first jursidiction evangelizing here, added with the unique occurrence of the great immigration to the USA in 19th and 20th Centuries in which new citizens brought their churches with them.

    But isn’t the prayerful hope that we can find our way as Americans to a unified American church?

    I would also be saddened if people believing the Orthodox Church to be the truest expression of Christianity were opposed to more people entering in. That would be to hope that people not receive the benefits of Orthodoxy, despite knowing them to be real, an unthinkable proposition. I can only conceive of such thinking if one did not actually believe that the OC was the truest expression of Christianity, indeed, that Orthodoxy is just one among many churches.

    Had I believed that, I never would have converted.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Sir Steven Runciman, certainly one of the preeminent historians in the English language, discussed when the conflation between Orthodoxy and nationalism first occured in an essay from “The Great Church in Captivity:”

    Nationalism in Greek Orthodoxy

    John Couretas asks a very important question in his response to Mr. Katopodis above:

    Furthermore, what exactly is Katopodis referring to when he talks about preserving the “Greek faith, language and culture”? Is he talking about the marriage of Classical and Hellenistic Greek philosophy and Christian theology that the Cappadocians wrought? Is he talking about the cultural expression of Orthodoxy in a Greek context as opposed to that expression in Russian, Serb, Arab, Bulgarian and other cultures? Or, is he talking about modern day Greece and the life of the Church in that culture?

    The term “Hellenism” covers all three catergories, although it is clear that the meaning of each is very different.

    Ask yourself is the construct Orthodoxy and Hellenism (or Hellenistic Orthodoxy in its most recent incantation) historical or polemical? If it’s historical, then two parallel tracks exist — Orthodoxy and Hellenism. The problem is that if you track backwards, one ends up at Jerusalem and the other at Mt. Zeus. Where are the Cappadocians?

    Clearly the construct is not historically tenable. It functions, then, to serve other interests (see Runciman’s thesis linked above).

    Hellenism understood as the Cappodocian synthesis however, sees Orthodoxy as the carrier of the Hellenistic ideals baptized in the Gospel of Christ. If we accept this, then Orthodoxy cannot be nationalistic. Rather, it is an enculturated faith, that is, the tradition which develops out of the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways particular to specific peoples (ethnos). One is Orthodox in Greece, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Egypt, Aremenia, Syria, Indonesia, Korea, China… — although each country expresses the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways appropriate to the ethnos.

    An American Orthodox cultural idiom is not only reasonable, but necessary. The nature of the project is perplexing however, for several reasons. First, we are a nation of immigrants founded on principles. Second we already have a Christian heritage (hold on to your hats folks; this is a cultural observation, not a political one.). This presents perils, but also great opportunity.

    Did the Hellenistic ideal enter the deep-freeze when Byzantium fell? I don’t think so. I think it was carried forward in the West. Think of the Magna Carta. Then think about the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution. It’s no accident that so many of the older buildings in Washington DC, are neo-classical.

    Here we begin to see the shape of the Orthodox missionary imperative (affirm the good and true that already exists) a bit more clearly. There is a lot in American culture worth strengthening and much that we Orthodox can draw from and contribute to.

    One final and unrelated point. Mr. Katopodis ought to worry about abortion more than he does. Greece has the highest abortion rate in Europe and thus the highest negative growth rate. The way it is going, his grandchildren will hand over the nation to the Muslims that his grandparents fought against.

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    Margaret Mueller says:

    Cutting through the less-than-brotherly anti-convert rhetoric of Mr. Kotopodis, I personally, think it is very obvious that Mr. Kotopodis is a partisan Democrat who perceives that the predominently Democrat ethnic Greek (and Orthodox) community has been a reliable voting block for the Democrat party. He rightly perceives that the convert Orthodox, regardless of their religious background, do not share the traditional Democrat party allegiance of the Orthodox enclaves, particularly in the large metropolitan areas of the North and Eastern United States. I would conclude from his stated concerns that he is more concerned about the Democrat party than the spiritual and moral Tradition of the canons and Councils of the Church. His own words reveal him to be the quintessential pot calling the kettle black.

    That being said, it is the askesis of the Orthodox Church, and our spiritual Fathers to hold each and every one of us accountable for the actions and the leadership positions we take that are contrary to the teachings of our Orthodox Church. God created us “a living breath,” sharing in his image and likeness with us — even those in the womb. We have two commandments: ‘Love the Lord our God,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself, and on these two hang all the Law.’ It is the Lord’s commandment that we love, and loving those in the womb, the most vulnerable, is not an exception to those commandments. It is unfortunate that some Orthodox do not place their obedience to God above their political allegiance.

    Mr. Kotopodis expresses a myopic hubris concerning the Greek Orthodox Church membership’s allegiance to the Democrat party, while divisively and shamefully exposes his own bigotry toward converts, anyone who does not share his partisan commitment, and our sister Orthodox Churches. Only someone who is enconced in an insular, isolationist ethnic community could publicly attack with deliberately harsh, judgmental and foolish words our Orthodox brethren. Not all Greek Orthodox Churches in the United States are exclusive Greek enclaves. Not all Greek Orthodox parishes reject or accept newcomers or converts based on their ethnicity or their political convictions. Some Greek Orthodox parishes actually are excited that non-Greek converts are seeking out the one, true faith, and are looking for spiritually focused parishes — parishes that live the loving, welcoming hospitality of Christian service to those seeking the Truth. They are the future of our Faith. And — dare I say it — some Greek Orthodox parishes don’t have a majority of Democrats!

    I, as a Hellenic-American, do not have problem with the Greek Orthodox Church, or the Antiochian, OCA, Syrian, Romanian, Ukrainian or Russian Orthodox Churches stating publically the canonical position of Orthodoxy concerning moral or ethical issues that are also political. I do not have a problem with our clergy participating in public support for those issues. As the canons of Orthodox Christianity continue to be assaulted by the secular community, the legislative and judicial branches of state and federal government, it will become imperative that our clergy and our laity “hold fast to those things taught by word or our epistle.” The battle, Mr. Kotopodis fails to acknowledge or perhaps comprehend, is not a matter of Republican Orthodox Christians not imposing their values and beliefs on our nation, but is now one of the secular community imposing it’s values upon us, our families, and our Orthodox Faith.

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    Fr. John D'Alton says:

    The only redeeming point from the Katopodis article may be warning re: the risk that Orthodox political statements are in danger of becoming unbalanced (right-wing) and forgetting the “left-wing” Orthodox issues, i.e. a focus on anti-abortion without an anti-unjust-war stance becomes unbalanced right-wing. This seems to me to be a fair comment in light of many Orthodox sites.
    Otherwise, John Couretas’ insightful response and the other responses are spot on. Katopodis writes a strange defensive article which paints a sad picture of Greek church withdrawal! Rather than exaggerated alarm over closet dominionists (wherever they are hiding), We need a public united Orthodox stance on both abortion *and* Palestine *and* unjust premptive wars etc etc. and not just a focus on selective issues like the name of Macedonia ;-)

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    nicholas says:

    The original article totally misses the point of what is happening.

    Many converts come into Orthodoxy seeking the true Church, but hang onto a whole set of beliefs from their days as Evangelicals. These beliefs are just as incompatible with Orthodoxy as the pro-abortion stance of some ‘cradles’ like Katopodis.

    Domestically, there is a tendency among many convert Evangelicals to treat every domestic political issue as if it were a matter of faith. This baptism of politics into a pseudo-religion is wrong, of course.

    In the international arena, many Evangelical converts come into the faith and never learn the true interpretation of Revelations according to the Church. This leads to the awful experience I had a few months back where an Orthodox convert (three years already) gave me a long dissertation on how Russia is Gog and how the U.S. must stand against Russia to retain God’s favor.

    I am fully aware that the lefties in our midst are awful on all kinds of issues. But the unreconstructed attitudes of Orthodox converts from the Right also has to be dealt with, preferable in Catechism!

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    Fr. Ernesto says:

    Just a quick ditto that the main problem that Mr. Katopodis has seems to be that the Greeks are being forced to consort with people who are not cradle Greeks. In fact, I suspect that Mr. Katopodis would have trouble with cradle Arabs (Antiochians), cradle Russians, and cradle Serbians in “his” Church. To be even stronger, I suspect that in first century Palestine he would have been one of those demanding circumcision and a knowledge of Hebrew of anyone who wished to be a Christian, along with a promise that they would never be in leadership.

    Having said that, I have met fellow converts who scare me. I have met converts who refuse to allow the Liturgikon to be translated into modern English because King James English is a liturgical language that comes from God. I have also met fellow converts who actually demean any hierarch who dares to support a Democrat. So, Mr. Katopodis could easily have met some of our shameful converts. But, to ascribe to all of us converts what a few of our scary converts are doing is to tar everyone with a broad brush.

    Finally, I have been very fortunate. One of my best friends is the local Greek Orthodox priest. He and I are together at many of the mid-week feast days. We talk to each other. We make sure that we do not sheep steal from each other. I feel that we image what the Church can be and should be. Many of us in Orthodoxy are neither Mr. Katopodis nor Religious Right.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Nicholas, no matter how great the catechism, the types of things you mention take time and living in the Church to heal. Also kind, loving correction from fellow Orthodox when it gets really bad. Of course, all that assumes that the people in question have an open heart and mind.

    Part of the difficulty the Church faces in this country is how to be authentically Orthodox in the midst of the most alien culture the Church has ever encountered. It is a culture founded on a denial of everything we, as Orthodox, hold true. Even the Chrisitan element in it is largely heretical. To bring people who have been infected with heresies back to the true Christ is quite difficult. It is the fundamental struggle we all face.

    The big divide is that the Church knows who Jesus Christ is and one can really expeience Him and be with Him in the Church in a manner that is, frankly, impossible anywhere else. Everybody else believes they know Him and many of them are partly correct, they even can come quite close to Him by sheer love.

    Many Orthodox unfortunately, are like Esau–willing to sell their birth-right (or re-birth-right) for the pottage of the world. If we don’t follow the life of the Church in repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we are participating in the give away.

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    David Simon says:

    Fascinating are the comments even more than the original article of Harry Katopodis and John Couretas’ response.

    I have started a blog entitled “Praxis” as a way to initiate (read: inspire) the founding of the “American Union of Orthodox Christian Citizens”. It hopes to attract other Orthodox conservatives who are politically centrist-to-the-left. [Unlike similar Union of Orthodox Citizens of Russia and Ukraine who *appear* to be to, not only far-right and extremely pro-Rus but, on the fringe of being cult-like.] Potentially –depending upon the consensus of its membership– AUOCC would be one political voice of Orthodoxy so as to influence American politic while avoiding the Church/State divide. But, I digress.

    For any of us who have been well-catechized and have humbled our past notions to the True Faith of Holy Orthodoxy we all agree that abortion is a sin, as well as an issue of moral imperative and a basic human right. There is no discussion: abortion is wrong and it must be stopped. Yet abortion has existed in human history for more than 2k years. What I am interested in seeing is a discussion on how America is to out-law abortion? Because that too has its problems. How do we legislate against abortion without endangering the life of those women who will defy the new law? Should there be a strategy to influence –rather than militancy by us (pro-life)– in order to change (i.e., transfigure) the culture of death into a culture of life in which political atmosphere the pro-abortionists would have lost their ground?

    Please do not ‘hang’ on any particular word I’ve written. I’m both thinking out loud and asking for your input about how to legislate an Orthodox pro-life position to abortion without reversing the threat of death upon the “mother” and without violating the freedom of others to believe differently?

    David Simon
    AUOCC

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    Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse says:

    David, a change in law requires a change in heart and mind. Nevertheless, restrictions on abortion, even though it may not eliminate abortions entirely, is a good thing. These would include parental notification laws, banning partial birth abortions (which has been done), protecting children born alive after an abortion (also done) etc.

    Regarding the enforcement of these laws, the abortionist is held accountable, not the mother.

    Much more could be done. For example, federal funding for Planned Parenthood should be stopped. (Abortion is a very lucrative business the way it is, BTW.) Also, PP hides cases of assault, statutory rapes, etc. Reporting requirements needs to be applied to them.

    Remember, if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, the question goes to the states.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    Much of the discussion above revolves around the idea that Mr. Katopodis’ article is animated by a kind of ethnic Greek chauvinism. I think there is a deeper cause at work here. Many ethnic American Orthodox in their 50′s, 60′s, etc. spent much of their lives tied to the Kennedy-esque wing of the Democratic Party and the idealism inherent in that movement. They saw their own religion as a personal/ethnic matter which they could keep separate from this admiration of, or commitment to, liberalism. They started out with liberalism – admittedly a much tamer variety – and their opinions have grown with that liberalism into something quite un-Christian. It was a gradual process which they might not even be aware of. Nonetheless, they believe this dichotomy between Orthodox morality and Orthodox political behavior is somehow legitimate. And they resent anyone, especially any outsider, bringing this up. For them, religion is not the thing to take seriously. Politics is. Religion is a source of ethnic pride perhaps, but not so much a source of moral guidance. That is essentially the same attitude that a liberal Irish Catholic might have. When someone comes along and says that converts from the evangelical right are hijacking Orthodoxy, they are essentially correct. But the Orthodoxy they are hijacking has willfully disregarded its own moral compass in favor of being an ethnic enclave in a modern, cosmopolitan, secular context. Such clashes, I suppose are inevitable.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    David Simon asks “how to legislate an Orthodox pro-life position to abortion without reversing the threat of death upon the “mother” and without violating the freedom of others to believe differently?”

    We are not talking about rights, we are talking about protecting the gift of life. Once we descend into the egalitarian, legalistic quagmire of ‘rights’ the battle is already half lost.

    What ‘rights’ do we have before God?

    The real battle is over whose vision of humanity will prevail. The nihilistic vision of man as nothing more than evolved primordial ooze in no substantial way intrinsically different than any other life form or the traditional understanding of humanity as central to the continuance of life (an idea not limited to Christianity).

    As long as the either pole of the evolutionary vision of man as ooze or superman is remains dominant, abortion and all of the other associated dehumanizations that proceed in the name of fairness, equality and justice will abound.

    The answer is not legislation, but evangelization, the very thing that Mr. Katopodis seems to reject. Perhaps if we all pondered our own baptism where we, or our God parents, rejected Satan and all his works, pledged to unite ourselves with Christ, and accept the teaching authority of the Church by denouncing all heresy ancient and modern, we’d be better off.

    Just remember though, we cannot and should not expect our government to be better than we are. Governments always reflect the collective will of the people they govern. People who refuse to govern themselves, are prone to accepting tyranny whether it be large or small.

    Even in the Church. We have bad bishops in part because we’d rather be told what to do than to accept the responsibility of living in community. Mr. Katopodis is uncomfortable because the converts he sees coming into the Church don’t reflect his own worldview. He does not bother to ask himself if he is in concord with the Church or not, he just assumes he is.

    Even if we were to succeed in changing the legal climate to oppose abortion, we have not done our job. As Fr. Hans said, changed laws come from changed hearts.

    As a child of the 60′s I participated in the ideas that laid the groundwork for the licentious culture in which we now live. I wasn’t out there banging the drums, but I certainly did not oppose the ideas and generally welcomed them. So now, I’m on the other side because God dragged me kicking and screaming into the Church. I have much to repent of.

    Along the way, most of the significant doors that I had to pass through to the Church were opened to my by Protestants some of them quite heretical.

    We cannot place our faith in the world at all and no matter how well intentioned laws are, they are of the world and do nothing for salvation execpt perhaps to keep the more timid from transgressing too egregiously. Laws do not change belief, they govern behavior. Those who believe it is perfectly OK to slaughter unborn children for their own convenience or ideological agenda will still believe that way if the law were to change tonight. Belief is not infringed in the slightest by any law, no matter how draconian.

    We either believe that “the gates of hell will not prevail” against the Church or we believe she is soley a man-made institution that is ours to define and protect. We either submit to the love of Christ and live the life of repentance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving the Church instructs us to live, or we prefer the ways of the world and the twisting of power to our own advantage. There is no middle ground.

    Do not ever think that one can be a Christian without giving offense. Truth is persecuted where ever it is found.

    To paraphrase St. Seraphim of Sarov: If we allow ourselves to be transformed and transfigured by the Grace of God, then others around us will also partake of that Grace. We are not individual, autonomous beings. Everything we do, or don’t do has an effect on everyone else. Laws are just laws.

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    Nektarios Ippotis (Charlie Knight) says:

    Well, here I go again, adding my two cents.

    I joined Orthodoxy through the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and there was a great decision whether to go through the GOA or the OCA. I leaned more towards OCA as they had most of their services in English and seemed to be more of an Orthodoxy Church in America, as opposed to a Russian Orthodox Church that happened to have a parish in the USA.

    BUT the Greek church was the seemingly larger church and I thought I could “hide” in it observe while I was evaluating the situation. I grew up as a “congregationalist” which actually means at its roots a person wanting to follow the will of God above the will of some hierarch that might not be hold (a situation that people found themselves in many years ago when that offshoot was formed). As I sought to go back to my “roots”, which culturally are traced to England, I cam in contact with a more “conservative” episcopal parish where the pastor had a sign on the inside of the pulpit that he read to himself each time he ascended to preach (“woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel”) and I felt the stance of the church was based on the Bible,the only “certain authority” I know of then. But later on I found that denomination involved in bitter political battles that stemmed from personal interpretations of scriptural contexts adapted to support secular issues. Each time I went to a “wider church” event it seemed we had to battle over theology.

    At the time of the “gay bishop” fiasco I saw a TV ad for a “Glendi” event where the pastor was going to give a tour of the building they worshiped in and talk about orthodoxy. So I came. I then signed up for the “Orthodoxy 101″ class. I did so because what I had anguished about and come to believe as scriptural and true, was what apparently Orthodoxy has thought all along.

    So for 3 years I came to the orthodox church services, mostly in the Greek church, but sometimes in the OCA. Finally I had to make the choice. Oh how hard that was. I wanted to join the Church (Orthodox). But in the USA I could not do that.I had to join a shadow, or an aspect, of the church that focused more on ethnicity than the Gospel.This was less evident in the OCA. There was not an Antiochian parish in the town I was living it then.

    So you ask why I joined through the “Greek” church? It is because of an “Antiochian” couple that shared many books with me and understood my desire to base a lot of my thinking upon scripture. Probably if they has found an Antiochian parish in this town they would have gone there, but like me, the “Greek” parish had some really saintly people that were welcoming us with open arms AND pointing in daily lives to Jesus.

    My biggest obsticle? The view that Orthodoxy was what this writer calls protestant dominionist views. I wanted to follow Jesus the Christ in HIS Church.
    I did not want to be part of a movement to control everyone’s thinking by forcing them to join a particular political body called the “xyz church”. So for three years I had sat under the teachings of a Pastor that seemed to put God first, or at least that was his desire. And, I was “loved” by people and so I joined through the portal that seemed to care about me.

    I was saddened however, that I could not join “The Church, under the ethnic jurisdiction of the Greek Archdiocese in America” as no one aspect of Orthodoxy for our country existed. All that did exist was little groupings for temporary shelter until people returned “home” to the Church (orthodox) in the country they fled from. The closest to a USA Church (Orthodox) is the OCA, as it was started as a mission in what is now called Alaska before most anyone else proclaimed the Gospel in this land.

    I take offense, if I may, at the idea that the Church has a cultural heritage outside of the heavenly culture. We have NO roots in ANY country. We have roots in a KINGDOM which is “not of this earth”. To focus upon an earthly country as the heritage that MUST define our faith, is somehow listening to the devil, in my mind.

    So like the protestant that I was before and I “ignored” all the denominations as sort of like different people wearing different clothes based upon their choices (Congregationalists had a form of government where the individual congregation, under Christ, governed the church; Presbyterians had a form of government where an elected body called the Presbytery, which was like a board of deacons, governed the church; Episcopalians had a form of government where the Bishops [episkopos ] governed the church; Methodists came from an Anglican/Episcopal foundation and did things according to the same Method in governing the church; Baptists had a congregational form of government but understood that the word we translate as being “baptize” actually meant to “wash under the water” and so they immersed the people that were brought into the church through baptism, and on it went).

    It was Christ as the “Head of the Church” that mattered, not the minor ways of doing things that identified that political organization known as the “fill-in-the-blank church” I was affiliated with. It was the view that submission to Christ was what defined you as a Christian and that changed life being demonstrated by the “works” that expressed the “faith” of that life that was now intended to be under the submission of Christ (generically meant to include all aspects of the Trinity but focusing most honor on the one that redeemed us.)

    So…

    The “differences” with the ethnic flavors of the United States Church (Orthodox) were seemingly just some minor thing in my mind. It was not the political administration or “housekeeping” that I was concerned with. It was the Theology that was important. Was this group following what the Apostles had taught? I could not care less about the administrative structure of the political entity known as this “fill-in-the-blank church” which I was affiliating with. The question was is it Theologically in alliance with the One True CHURCH founded by Christ. If the answer is yes, then do I feel comfortable there.

    So what was comfortable for me?

    It was can I NOT be the center of attention, but sort of meld into the crowd, but also have my questions heard as I sought to find out what the “will of God” is. I feel, to this day, most comfortable in an OCA or Antiochian church family, because I do not need to mouth words that I do not understand, sing words I do not understand, or otherwise have a bunch of “gibberish” as part of the worship experience which I do not understand. Insisting on the language of a country that no longer is the “homeland” of most of the people in a congregation is a lot like insisting on “speaking in tongues” where there is no interpreter. You just do not know what is being said. Is it the Lord’s prayer or are they saying words in praise of the devil? You can’t tell. They are speaking in a language that you can not (at the moment) understand. It is, in my mind, exactly the opposite of the work of God at Pentecost. They he had people speak so that the people in the crowd would HEAR the message of the Gospel in their own language, know it was a work of God, and believe.

    There is very little mental belief in hearing a bunch of sounds that you can not understand the meaning of. That has to be a big “leap of faith” that the people you are worshiping with have not “gone off the deep end” and the words they are saying have a meaning that is in accordance with the teachings of the Apostles and of Christ. You can not mentally evaluate the words as the sounds are just so much Glossolalia, which you have to trust the people around you when they say that is actually another language — because you do not know that language at the time.

    Nowhere in the Gospels or any scripture or even in my limited readings of the “Church Fathers” do I find that salvation is based upon learning some other language to use in part or all of the worship service. Nope, salvation is based upon the “finished work” of Christ in his crucifixion and resurrection. The Church (what we call Orthodoxy) has always taught that there may be a point where one turns to God (being “born again” so to speak) but also each moment of each day is a point of decision to either follow the way God had ordained or another path. The position has always been “let mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” in submission to “The Father’s Will”.

    So…

    I seen no need for Mr. Katopodis’s fears. I see CHRIST as the HEAD Of THE CHURCH and I find no group, whether from within or without, that has more authority than GOD. It is my longing, my desire, to join with Jesus in Gethsemani and pray “they they might all be one”. I, personally, find NO PLACE in the Church for the promotion of national values, customs, languages, heritages, over the GOSPEL (Good News) of Jesus the Christ.

    Me thinks that Mr. Katpodis is more afraid that if the people he is objecting to get an “upper hand” he might be faced with a Church that has as it primary focus the bringing to Christ of those outside of the church as opposed to a heritage preservation club, that he seems to identify as the Church. I am positive that the leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America would agree with what I have said. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is of primary importance, and sadly enough there are still people fleeing from turmoil in Greece to this land for temporary refuge until things “quiet down” and they can “go back home”.

    BUT we need a national or Northern Hemisphere Church. The political or administrative aspects of the Orthodox Entities that make up the Church in the United States needs to be under one structure (and personally I think that structure needs to give “first amongst equals” status to the Ecumenical Patriarch) that can have ethnic sections to assist those who still mainly speak another language while they “take refuge” for a time here.

    BUT we also need a section that has an ethnic heritage that is of this country. THAT is all to often missing in the USA and I would hope that we pray to God to help us “grow up” and actively follow the prayer of Jesus “that they might all be one” . We speak with ONE VOICE Theologically. I think it is time to put petty differences aside and also create a UNIFIED CHURCH, the American Church, or the Church in the USA, or whatever it is called.

    Yet, my protestant background sees the Headship of Jesus, and the Gospel message as the primary concern of the Church. The administrative mess is like when you have 4 or 5 companies that have come to the conclusion that they are all providing similar services and it would be best, for name recognition, that they merge into one company. How do you do this and respect the ways that the previously separate companies had grown. Which “branches” do you close? Which ones do you “open”. Banks are doing this all the time in the USA.

    Do the banking policies change? Nope they are mostly the same, just the name changes over the door. The administrative personnel are often the same. Sometimes there is a time when the old name is there and it is identified as being party of and then the new name. Then a few years later it is the new transitional name, and it is identified as being what was part of the old name. And finally the new name, or another final new name, is adopted and there is no reference to the old name before the merger.

    The banking policies have pretty much stayed the same.The uniqueness of each of the separate (once independent) banks have been brought into the larger and new bank entity.

    So…

    Why can’t we do this within the church? The answer is will power. Are we willing to follow Christ and promote His Gospel or do we only want to promote a heritage like other ethnic clubs? Me thinks people like Mr. Katopodis are more concerned about losing control of their ethnic club than any theological issues.

    I desire to follow Christ. I desire to be a “little anointed one”. Period. Please Pray that I do so, sooner rather than later.

    Blessings

    Nektarios (charlie)

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    David says:

    I just chuck up the article to Greek weirdness.

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    Dear Father,

    As one of the “pro-lifers” besmirched by this ridiculous drivel, which i just discovered on-line almost 6 years since its publication, I thank you for defending the truth, which is always far more complex and textured than polemicists want to admit. May God bless you, my brother!

    Fr. David

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I always think that the orthodox that think that either protestants r Catholics that want a theocracy are thinking a little strange here considering that the orthodox invention theocracy during the Byzantine period. NO modern protestant or catholic in the us wants hersay laws but those existed in the Justinian Code and some of the other later codes in Byzantine law/

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    cynthia curran says:

    Take it back, the byzantines were influenced by the late pagan Romns on the concept of theocracy. As everyone, knows the Romans thought that honoring the genius or soul of the emperor show your loyalty to the state. When Constantine became emperor he had to have a christian spend on this and of course the emperor had to be God’s representive in the empire. Also, Constantne was influence by the way he dress and court ceremony by the Zorosian Persians next door which had their ruler above regular mortals as a representive of God.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    It’s nice to go thru the archives and find an old chestnut like this.

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