Fundamentalism: It’s Not Just for Right Wing Christians Anymore

On the Acton Institute’s PowerBlog, John Couretas has a good post (Got a feelin’ of Eco-Justice?) response to “the cascading daily disclosures of Climategate . . . global warming alarmist operating within the progressive/liberal precincts of churches and their activist organizations” have taken to dismissing science and playing ” the theology card!”

After reading what John had to say, I took a look at the original post (Snow and Climate Change) on the National Council of Churches site.  Like John, I was struck by the writer’s contention that “our call to care for God’s Creation is not contingent on weather events or even on scientific proof. We are called as people of faith to live in relationship with all of God’s People and all of God’s Creation.”

It is certainly true that the human vocation “to care for God’s”  is not  “contingent on weather events or even scientific proof.”  This is simply a statement of biblical faith.  Humanity is called by God to be stewards of creation.  But the policy question of  how we are to address how human actions that have (or have not) “caused unbalance amidst that Creation” is necessarily a scientific as well as theological question.

I may have the intuition that my actions have harmed creation.  But that intuition–even if it is true–needs to be tested and purified by rigorous scientific analysis.

The first thing that needs to be checked is whether or not human actions–my actions–have actually harmed the environment.  This is not a question that theology as such can answer.

Assuming that my intuition is true, failing to do the hard work of scientific analysis means that, at best, I risk not correcting the damage I have caused.  At its worst, my indifference to scientific research means taking a path that may cause additional harm in my attempts to just do something, anything.  And this goes to the heart of point I want to make here.

The author of the NCC piece does not respect the work of the natural sciences.  Like many others in the environmental movement the author seems willing to ignore any empirical data that does not confirm his own theological/political agenda.

Though the author’s theology & politics are progressive, I would argue he is as much a religious fundamentalist as an biblical literalist.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Comments

  1. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Gregory, at heart many (most?) of what drives the entire environmental movement is faith-based, not science-based. It’s paganism pure and simple. You can’t argue with these people as they’re ideologues and/or dogmatists. They’re not interested in truth, just power.

  2. George,

    When I was in graduate school at Duquesne, I had a number of classmates from Africa. One of the points that they would make was that Christians living in the West never really grasped that paganism is about FEAR. We think paganism is about many gods. It maybe but at its core it is concerned with keep at bay what one sees as a fundamental hostile universe.

    All this is to say that, yes, I agree with you. While I’m not sure how I would quantify it, I don think that there is a pagan element mixed in with the environmental movement.

    This is why, to return to earlier discussions, the Church must respond to evironmentalism. The early fathers though of themselves not as theologians as we use the term today but philosophers. I would suggest that just as Justin Martyr made an argument for the Gospel as true philosophy–as both as true Wisdom and the true way to Wisdom–we can argue that it is the Gospel that provides the key to caring for the environment.

    This can’t be–as it is in the NCC post–done in a reductionistic fashion. But neither can we adopted a triumphalistic spirit as we are sometimes prone to do. Both of these are forms of fundamentalism and they do not serve the Gospel.

    An Orthodox response demands good science and a sound theological & empirical anthropology. It will also require from us more work not only in policy analysis but also political philosophy, economics and the philosophy of science.

    This is why I’ve been critical of what the EP has said on the environment but supportive of his efforts nonetheless. To the degree that rnvironmentalism is inspired and shaped by paganism it is a threat to the whole human family, the individual human dignity and, ironically, the creation itself. Unfortunately, what Orthodox witness there has been seems to me to be not up to the task. But, as Paul reminds us, when one part of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers.

    Let me end by saying this is why AOI is important. It is one small piece of the work that needs to be done to educate not only Orthodox Christians but also those outside the Church. It also has a role to play in the evangelical work of the Church in areas that we have neglected in our pursuit of making converts and building parishes. Our missionary work needs to be deepened and broadened behold convincing Evangelical Christians to become Orthodox.

    As always, well said George and thanks for the comment.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  3. I think the distinction being made in this thread – between a ‘pagan’ ecology and a ‘biblical’ ecology – is interesting. But I am not sure – at the end – that this distinction matters (other than theologically), in terms of ecological “praxis”. Whether one sees the cosmos as a hostile place, inhabited by spirits and spirit-forces, or as the divine “lila” of Brahman, or the work of a creator – God, one still must care for it, no? I think we must be careful not to reject “environmentalism” based on some misguided views of it. I happen to agree that some of the E.P.’s views may be off mark, or based on questionable science (e.g. global warming), but I think his attempts to articulate a Christian view of ecology are laudable. What I am most troubled by in the whole “green” and PETA-animal rights movement (see: Peter Singer) is the minimalization of the human being, at the expense of other aspects of “created being” (IE minerals, plants, animals, etc.). I am not sure whether the “pagan” versus “biblical” distinction strikes at the root of this problem, or not.

    • Without denigrating the genuine good that the EP may wish to do, I have not yet seen anything yet that looks like a serious articulation of a Christian view of ecology. (Of course, it may be out there. I just haven’t seen it.)
      What I have heard and seen are basically the usual progressive policy solutions. As political positions they warrant political argumentation. What I have not yet seen – but would dearly welcome – is a Christian view of it, a theological assessment. This, it seems to me, is the argument that the EP can make with authority – and should make. From a theological perspective the corruption of both nature and the cosmos are essentially the consequence of sin itself. As such, the real solution is Christ, in whom alone the fractures of existence are healed. As Orthodox, we recognize that this demands a rigorous sacramental asceticism if we are to conform to grace and abide in Christ. This is not only the core message of our faith, but evident in the lives of saints, who often demonstrate a restored relationship with nature in their lives. This, it seems to me, is where a Christian understanding of ecology must begin.

  4. Kevin, as you so correctly point out, the distinction that must be made is two fold: that we live in a created cosmos and that human beings have a central role in that creation to be its stewards (physically and spiritually). Incorrect anthropology leads to incorrect policy especially when the policy concerns the natural creation.

    The Biblical view of God, author of His creation yet in it with human beings commanded to dress and keep the earth is sacramental in content and praxis.

    Whether they are pagan, neo-pagan or just plain mystic materialists the bulk of the leaders of the ‘environmental movement’ don’t see it. They tend to be gnostic. Unless we address the inherent gnosticism and the prevalent misguided anthropology, we will end up doing more harm than good at the policy level.

    On a practical and personal level, your are correct. We must each of us persoonally respond to the expectation of our Lord that we care for His creation.

  5. Michael,

    I agree. The best, recent example of this misguided anthropology or neo-paganism is the film AVATAR. What we must do (I think) is figure out how to express Orthodox biblicism and anthropology in language and concepts that do not sound or read “fundamentalistic”. Otherwise, we lose those (many!) who have rejected western Christian narratives! Perhaps the essence-energies distinction is a possible way to do this. God as fully transcendent and imminent (through His energies). This would provide theological cover for a “sacred earth” sort of narrative, without becoming pantheistic (pagan).

  6. Chrys,

    In fairness, I think His All Holiness (Bartholomew I) made a good and succinct case for his ecological philosophy in his book, “Encountering The Mystery”, chapter VI, titled “The Wonder Of Creation” and sub-titled “Religion And Ecology”. I couldn’t possibly summarize it here, but he bases his views very clearly and specifically on our sacramental, liturgical, and ascetical ethos. Most folks I speak with haven’t read the book, but this chapter – and others – are worth the read. It is, I think, an excellent and articulate summary of how and why we should venerate (not worship!) and protect the earth and created being, as (Orthodox) Christians. He writes: “Orthodox theology regards humanity as possessing a royal, but not a tyrannical, dimension. Belief in stewardship and ministry of humanity in creation is marked by a profound sense of justice and also moderation.” (page 97). He goes on to differentiate between the Christian ethos from what he calls “contemporary deep ecology”: “The difference may be detected less in the way we perceive the end result, which must certainly be sought and achieved by everyone and for the sake of everyone. Rather, it is discerned as the starting point of our attitudes and actions.”

    • Kevin, thanks. As I said, the argument may be out there, but I haven’t read it. I will make it a point to read the chapter you highlighted. If it is explicated there in the manner you noted, I will happily follow up with an post to that effect. Good work deserves to be recognized, and it is especially heartening when we see it in the works of those at the highest levels of office. That said, we should not have to search, nor look past most of the public pronouncements in order to find that argument – especially given the publicity and platform provided by the last visit to the U.S. Yet rather than focus on the sure footing of our theological tradition, most of the published comments were the kind of general policy arguments referred to above.
      Since the authority of any Church leader (EP, MP, Pope, etc.) is spiritual, the force of ANY arguments they offer – regardless of the application or focus (whether economic, political, etc.) – must be rooted in that foundation. In this regard, I think that both the current MP and the Pope have been outstanding models.

  7. I am sorry but I believe the EP does not deserve a pass for any of his actions. No matter how much we may want to see the best in all of this I think an honest assessment of the epic failure of the Green Patriarch project is in order.

    Lets remember the EP went to Havana and called Castro an enviromentalist. If the EP cannot see one of the great butchers of the 20th century for what he is then we should all question his ability to exercise leadership in the Orthodox World.

    The entire Green Patriarch project will in my mind go down in history as a multi-million dollar failure that infected one of the great institutions in Christian History with a fashionable fundamentalism and allowed the Gospel to be subordinated to political interests.

    • Andrew, I think you are correct to recall the Big Picture. Even so, Kevin is right that the EP’s writings need to be included in that Big Picture assessment.

      I have thought often about his visit to Cuba. It certainly did not compare well to the heroic witness of Paul John Paul II.

      I have often wondered since (and this is admittedly just speculation): was the EPs very different posture a reflection of his own experience in working with an oppressive Turkish government? Trying to make some sense of the different approaches (which are not intended as an excuse), I wonder if the flattery and obsequiousness that are pretty typical when negotiating with superior powers (i.e., Turkey) might have shaped what we saw in Cuba? The Pope, by contrast, was certainly shaped by his experience as part of a resistance-oriented Church during a period of abject oppression in which people may collaborate or resist, but do not generally negotiate their differences. In addition, the institutional independence of Vatican and Vatican City give it a political footing that the Phanar has never known since the conquest of Constantinople.

      None of this is anything more than speculation, nor is it intended to excuse the behavior in Cuba, but it is just so difficult for me to get me head around. Knowing that people tend to respond to challenges based on the lessons that shaped them in the past, I wonder how much of each leader’s background influenced each his approach to Cuba. As I said, this is nothing but speculation driven – driven, in part, by the fact that I have almost always ended up regretting it when I judged another – especially leaders. And the whole Cuba thing has pushed me over that line many times.

  8. Chrys,

    I’m a bit uncomfortable taking on a role of “EP defender”! But I think what we are seeing with him is his ecological activity (energeia), which as the chapter I referred to points out, is rooted in a deep and very Orthodox perspective and ethos. Should he make, as a spiritual leader, his primary focus the explication of an ecological theology, rather than promoting ecological conferences and so on? That strikes me to be somehow similar to saying a spiritual leader’s role would be limited (say) to speaking about feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless, rather than going down to 5th and Towne (LA’s skid row) and handing out food at the Fred Jordan Mission (run by an Orthodox convert – Peter Jordan). As His All Holiness said, the end result may be similar (conferences or serving the poor) but the difference is in the theological attitude, and I do believe his is sincere, biblical and patristic. Whether every expression of it is prudent, is another argument entirely.

    • Kevin: I think I agree. But I would say that he should both explicate a strictly Orthodox teaching about ecology (or the poor) AND directly address the need at hand through his own witness (in your example: handing out foo at the Fred Jordan Mission), but NOT shill a specific political agenda or policy, especially when that policy has such enormous reach, scope and consequence. Indeed, those promoting this incredibly intrusive policy seem to be oblivious to the extensive evils that may result – consequences that would almost certainly be felt first the very poor that a spiritual leader should also be concerned about. No: establish a very clear, carefully thought-out teaching to serve as a guide, then provide personal and direct witness to it through individual application. I would strongly support both of these. The first is guidance, the second is a witness; both are integral to proper authority. But I don’t see much of either. What I do see is a heavy emphasis on policy – which I frankly do not support, which is not a direct expression of his authority, which is necessarily subject to deliberative argument, and which is merely prudential at best.

  9. Chrys,

    I wonder whether – in the history of the Constantinople patriarchate – the E.P. ever publicly supported policies of the Byzantine rulers, and – or whether you would see this as shilling of specific policy or agenda? Remember the two eagle heads of Byzantium? I am by no means a historian of Byzantium; however my understanding is that Byzantine politics, policy were very much the E.P.’s purview (as they were the (Pope’s). Maybe we need to look at the E.P. through eyes that are not perhaps so influenced by our cultural and political perspectives (IE separation of church and state)?

  10. Good insight and interesting question, Kevin. Since this is beyond my ken, I will defer to those who know better. Though it may reflect my traditionally American sensibilities, I am very comfortable with both carefully explicated guidance (which has lasting value) and the personal witness (direct application), while I am not at all comfortable with promoting specific policies about prudential matters. Yet I don’t this reflects only American values. Prudential policies impose demands on others in a way that neither guidance nor witness does. Guidance and witness are expressions of moral authority, whereas policy necessarily entails the coercive power of the state. While there may be ample precedent in both East and West for the imposition of state mandates, it seems to me that these are not consistent with Christ or Scripture – nor the general witness of the Fathers (who relied on moral authority and tended to eschew coercive authority).
    Where these is a witness for the strong support of specific state policies, it tends to be in “essential” areas – life, human dignity, etc. – not prudential issues, where people of goodwill can be (and usually are) on both sides of an issue. This is clearly a prudential issue which, despite political claims to the contrary, is not “settled science.” Even more important, it IS generally recognized that even the most aggressive environmental policies will be extraordinarily expensive to implement, yet only marginally beneficial. In this, I would argue that it is an imprudent use of moral authority to promote a debatable agenda and a minimally effective (though incredibly expensive) policy.
    In short, regardless of historical precedent, focusing on the persuasive guidance of compelling theological argument or the powerful influence of personal witness will build moral authority, while using it to support the imposition of (coercive-backed) policy will diminish it.

    • I had an opportunity tonight to speak at length with a Deacon for whom I have very high respect; he is a man of considerable critical ability as well as a strong (even exemplary) commitment to his faith. Having spent time on Mt. Athos, being very fluent in a variety of forms of Greek, and have a good theological and critical mind, I felt he would be in a good position to answer my questions about the EP. What I learned was that he has indeed read quite a bit of his works, holds him in high regard and considers him to be of generally the same caliber as the MP and the pope. He was particularly impressed with his pastoral brilliance and theological depth, pointing me to his Christmas encyclical of two years ago. He concurred that the US visit was (intended to be) largely political rather than pastoral, and noted that his pastoral efforts have actually been exceptional, but that it was typically offered in different (and more suitable) venues. Though we had to cut our conversation short, it let me know that there is more there than I am in a position to assess and it has – once again – humbled me. (Of course, the desert Fathers constantly warn about judging, so I should have already known that.) God forgive me if I have judged wrongly.

      Without setting aside the concerns I have expressed before, I would only note that I need to be learn a good deal more before commenting further. I also share this because I believe that good faith requires that I be as public in my acknowledgment of being so humbled as I have been in my criticism or judgment. (One of my big recent lessons has been to learn something of the burden of executive responsibility. It is a whole different matter to make real decisions with real consequences in real time. It is always much easier for those who do not bear that burden to have ready answers and quick criticism. This does not exempt anyone from scrutiny, but it does recognize the respect owed to those who bear the burden.) While I continue to have significant concerns, I must defer to those who know better.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Chrys, my own concerns regarding the environmental writings of the EP are based on a careful reading of them as they are. Of course, being scientifically trained myself, I am on the lookout for methodological mistakes and I can honestly say that my criticisms of this entire new theology are grounded only in a regard for the truth. I’m sure this deacon was a well-educated man but I can assure you that the science behind AGW was flawed from the start. Now it has been proven to be so through the infamaous “hide the decline” e-mails from East Anglia.

        As far as the theological implications, I’m way in over my head on that one. However the simple Greek peasant in me has picked up a few doctrines that strike me as panentheist. And as a father and working stiff who looks around and sees a generalized moral collapse, wondering what did I bring my children into?, I am more than a little concerned that the EP and his auxiliaries are missing from the field of the moral battle that is raging.

        Yes, we should all be circumspect in our criticisms. We don’t all know what is going on behind the scenes. This is true. Yet what we do see in broad daylight are Christian pastors who are concerned with what is going on and are unafraid to tackle these issues, not worrying about the consequences. If James Dobson, Pope Benedict, and the late Jerry Falwell can stand up and make themselves heard, then EP/GOA bishops should as well. It’s not too much to ask.

        • George, thanks – as always – for you sight. I have been critical in the past about the public focus on the political agenda regarding which I am in full agreement with you. My opinion of climate change science and politics remains utterly unchanged. So far as the EP – or anyone in the Church – promotes policies that I continue to see as economically-destructive, environmentally ineffective, politically oppressive (and largely politically-driven) I have no compunction about expressing critical opposition. These are prudential issues about which men of good will can and should be allowed to disagree.

          However, where I have been particularly critical for which I am expressing contrition has been in two areas. First, the (apparent) absence of a theological argument for our stance toward the environment (see above). To me this remains the service that a Church leader can and should provide. I have not seen it though there is a lot I haven’t read), but both Kevin and particularly this Deacon indicated that it is definitely there. The second criticism has been directed at what I see as a public focus on a political – rather than pastoral – agenda. Here, too, it appears that I stand corrected. My apologies for any unwarranted judgments are primarily concerned with these two particular points as well as a general recognition that there is a lot going on behind the scenes which warrant the circumspection you describe. Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, I owe our leaders and my brothers and sisters, a presumption of respect. So far as my criticisms were unfair and unwarranted, I repent. I will continue, however, to ask critical questions where – like you – I see reason for concern. But, owing others both an unwavering commitment to truth AND the love of Christ come what may, these will be questions rather than judgments, per se.

          That said, while leadership has the burdens I described above (and the older I get the more the burdens outweigh any perceived privileges), our leaders still have the honor of and the requirement to bear that authority and must do so with care. While I believe that – in the main – here, too, we owe a presumption of respect (it is certainly so taught in Scripture), I completely agree with your expectation that they will apply that authority faithfully as they take up the issues of the day. As you said (and I can only Amen!) that is NOT too much to ask. My view of the Church’s moral authority and its need to apply its voice in a way that is rooted in that authority (rather than dilute it unnecessarily with prudential political and partisan concerns) remains unchanged. At least where I have seen this applied well – the MP and the pope – they have my wholehearted support. As a member of the GOA, I, too, would like to see more of that among our immediately leadership.

        • Along the lines of my last comments, this from today’s news:

          The United Nations . . . Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). . . warned that greenhouse gases had already heated the world by 0.7C and that there could be 5C-6C more warming by 2100, with devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife. However, new research, including work by British scientists, is casting doubt on such claims. Some even suggest the world may not be warming much at all.

          “The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

          I find it curious that many of those supporting anthropogenic climate change insist on a difference between weather and climate (meaning short term variations) and then use the same combination (over a slightly longer period of time) to support their position. As I have said before, it smacks more of politics than science. Science offers a refutable hypothesis, yet Climate Changers see proof of their arguments in conflicting consequences – when there is little snow AND when there is a great deal of snow. (It is so bad – and the agenda so politically- and financially-motivated, that I can easily imagine proponents eventually arguing that a mini-ice age would be more proof of global warming.) What is needed – desperately needed – and thoroughly Orthodoxy is epistemological humility.

  11. The Patriach has a lot of respect for the Byzantines. Granted, I think that he mention about both private charity and public charity for health care in the Byzantine period. The Byzantines until the Justinian Plague paid doctors during half the year to care for people for free in some of the larger cities, I’m uncertain if that would work in the modern world. Also, the Byzantines did’t try to ban lending of interest which some of the church fathers favored but even in the early medieval period the emperor Justinian set limits on interest rather than abolishing them. The economy even then relianced too much on lending of interest to abolish it and I believe our economy does as well. Believe it or not whether God had to do with the Law Code passing into Western or Eastern Europe since there are still good concepts in the Justinian Law code when it comes to definations of property, inhertiance and so forth that are still even use today. Its the other aspects of Justinian and the other Byzantine rulers that should be avoided. And the Greek Churches use avoid them as well.

  12. And the Greek Churches and the Patriach should avoid them.

  13. Also, while the Byzantines admired ascetism they didn’t believe that building aquaducts, or cisterns or a large defense wall was wrong. As mention in a episode of the History Channel: The Byzantines engineering an Empire did developed expensive and massive instructure that last better than things built today. This isn’t say that its wrong to helped the enviroment but people can debate this issue on how it should be done.

  14. George,

    I agree that the best argument against the E.P.’s P.R. campaign for ecology and global warming is that it is set against a backdrop (as you point out) of “while Rome is burning”. I too think there are many other (to me) more critical issues that could and should be addressed by the Phanar on behalf of worldwide Orthodoxy. However I don’t begrudge his personal interest and commitment to ecology, nor his theological basis (which I think he has articulated). I just hope he will be bolder and more courageous about a few more! As for “a few doctrines that strike me as panentheist“, we may just be panentheist (Orthodox)! Here’s the Stanford Philosophical Dictionary definition: “A type of theism that rejects any separation between God and the world by stressing the identity of God and the world ontologically.” While we don’t ascribe to the belief that God’s identity (essence) and created being are “identified” ontologically, we come close (if not spot on to panentheism) when we speak of God’s energies (by which we mean God Himself, but not in His essence!) being “…everywhere present and fills all things…”

    • George Michalopulos :

      Kevin, you may be right that’s why I’ve decided to become way circumspect regarding his theological take. My conserns are two-fold: 1. Does science buttress the concept of ecological crisis, and 2. Why doesn’t the EP provide an answer to this crisis other than give speeches.

      Consider that Pope Benedict has provided a prescription: living more frugally, more repentently, less wastefully, etc. Things like eating less meat, fasting, giving more alms (which frees our money from buying unnecessary stuff), not taking as many drugs as we do (esp female replacement hormones), etc.

      Had the EP given such a prescription, I would be giving him kudos. Unfortunately, he didn’t. Neither the political players nor the secularist elites within the GOA would have countenanced such talk.

  15. Kevin, if you want to learn more about the Byzantines or the Eastern Roman Empire, there was a podcast did 3 1/2 years ago on the Byzantines by Lars Brownworth that gives you basic history-12 Byzantine rulers. A little more involved is John Julius Norwich’s three part series:Byzantium. What I stated in the past about Orthodox talking about Byzantine history to convert people doesn’t work is probably true but having more of an understanding of an earlier orthodox society helps to understand current orthodox societies. The Byzantines while being Orthodox still think differently than modern orthodox do since they lived in a medieval world. This is similar to how current Roman Catholics are different from their medieval ancestors.

    • Cynthia,

      To be honest, I think most “Byzantines” would relate very well to what we in America deal with on a daily basis.

      First of all, if you want to know what they thought, I’d encourage you to go right to the original sources, many of which have been translated (Psellus, Kinnamos, Choniates, Comnena, Sphrantzes). I say this, not because the histories are particularly accurate (they are not), but because in reading them, one acquires insight into their thinking which is sterilized in the modern historians (Runciman, Ostrogorsky, Norwich et al).

      In the things we are talking about here, i.e. faith, religion etc, this insight into their world view is very helpful – particularly because it is so DIFFERENT than the way they have been painted by modern historians – which I would describe as Oriental versions of the Holy Roman Empire – nothing could be further from the truth.

      This is particularly important to us in America, where we are constantly called upon to contrast Orthodoxy from our Roman Catholic and Protestant brethren.

      The truth of the matter, I sincerely believe, is that Orthodox Christianity, as practiced during what I like to call “The Church of the First 15 centuries” is probably uniquely suited for modern America. the problem is that our history is so poorly understood, having been started out on the wrong foot by 18th century classicists, and then perpetuated by the likes of Gibbon – so enamored as they were with the Classical peoples, and wanted to insulate them from the corrupt “Byzantines”.

      If we will only take the time to truly study that “Church of the First 15 centuries”, we will find that 1.) ethnicity played virtually no role in the Church (nor in their worldview for that matter), 2.) they lived in an era of one superpower – Rome (for much of the time anyway) 3.) they valued a person primarily based on his education and whether he was an Orthodox Christian 4.) their nation was the single economic colossus on the planet, and their currency was accepted the world over (sound familiar?) 5.) the laity were literate in many cases (particularly in the large cities) and 6.) the laity were engaged in the issues confronting Orthodox Christianity (probably to a much greater degree than most Christians today – participants of this blog notwithstanding).

      If we take the time to study, we will find 1.) rules and qualifications of priests, bishops and patriarchs 2.) methods of selecting the same 3.) numerous instances of lay involvement in the Church, to a degree unheard of in any of the Western Churches, at least until the 16th century.

      Finally, I think we would all find that many of the things the Church is suffering from on this continent, the overriding importance attached to ethnicity, lack of evangelism, overbearing authority of the hierarchs – these were all residue of a later period – I always think of them as a hangover of the Ottoman period.

      Go and read how our forebears dealt with unworthy bishops and even patriarchs…it wasn’t pretty. There are stories of bishops, arriving from Constantinople, who were sent packing, essentially with a note pinned to their foreheads saying “and don’t come back!” Their normal mode of operations would make many Protestants cringe….and shames even OCL by comparison.

      Taken in sum, I think our traditions may honestly be uniquely suited for modern day America – we just need to understand and resurrect them.

      The histories tell quite a story…much of which will come as a complete surprise, even to most Orthodox.

      Best Regards,
      Dean

  16. Cynthia,

    I brought up the “Byzantine history” issue only to make a point to Chrys, who expressed concern over the “shilling” of specific public policy (IE global warming) by the Ecumenical Patriarch. The point I was trying to make was that Ecumenical Patriarchs historically have injected themselves into civic affairs outside of the strictly “religious” sphere, and I reminded him that the “two heads of Byzantium” were the Emperor (secular power) and the Ecumenical Patriarch (religious authority). My point was that the E.P.’s position on ecological issues is not, if my argument holds water, some sort of “crossing over the lines” into secular or political spheres that should be closed to religious leaders. The Dalai Lama, for example, is an environmentalist, based on Buddhist religious views and no one seems to find that an aberration. So I think one can disagree with the E.P.’s specific views on ecology, but I think his right to speak to issues like it, are consistent with the E.P.’s historical role. That was my point.

  17. To All,

    For Orthodox Christians interested in understanding the environmental movement as it has developed over the last 40 years, I would urge you to read “Saviors of the Earth ?” by Michael S. Coffman.

    Mr. Coffman is an evangelical Christian who holds a Ph.D in Forest Science and has conducted research in Ecology and Ecosystem analysis for 35 years in both academia and industry.

    I would also urge the reading of “Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1500 years” by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery. Mr. Singer is distinguished research professor at George Mason University and Mr. Avery is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

    These books should be required reading for all serious Christians
    who wish to understand how the forces of the environmental movement are shaping our world.

    Christ is in our Midst !
    neil Latanzi

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