Ground Zero Mosque: a “Rabat”, not a “Cultural Center”

This article was written by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a Roman Catholic priest. Fr. John comments on Amir Taheri’s article in today’s New York Daily News. Fr. John uses different font styles in his analysis which makes reading his post a bit difficult. It is worth the time to go through it however. Source: What Does the Prayer Really Say?

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:

Some time ago, at the recommendation of the great Fr. Welzbacher of St. Paul, I read Andrew McCarthy’s The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage AmericaIt was an excellent preparation, or propaedeutic, for the controversy over the proposal to build the mosque complex at Ground Zero in Manhattan.  And, yes, I think 51 Park Place qualifies as "ground zero" in the sense that landing gear from one of the airplanes struck the building. 

As I listened and read about the "Cordoba House" proposal something about it sounded familiar.  McCarthy described how militant Islamists of the Brotherhood developed centers for young muslim men which included an athletic program component.  The nickle dropped.  (Cf. Chapter 4. "Eliminating and Destroying the Western Civilization from Within".)

Today over breakfast coffee… I saw in the New York Post an article by Amir Taheri, which you should know about. 

Amir Taheri is author of 11 books on the Middle East, Iran and Islam.

Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.

Islam center’s eerie echo of ancient terror

By AMIR TAHERI

By Amir Taheri (New York Post) with editorial commentary by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Should there be a mosque near Ground Zero? In fact, what is pro posed is not a mosque—nor even an "Islamic cultural center."

In Islam, every structure linked to the faith and its rituals has a precise function and character. A mosque is a one-story gallery built around an atrium with a mihrab (a niche pointing to Mecca) and one, or in the case of Shiites two, minarets.

Other Islamic structures, such as harams, zawiyyahs, husseinyiahs and takiyahs, also obey strict architectural rules. Yet the building used for spreading the faith is known as Dar al-Tabligh, or House of Proselytizing.

[NB] This 13-story multifunctional structure couldn’t be any of the above.

The groups fighting for the project know this; this is why they sometimes call it an Islamic cultural center. But there is no such thing as an Islamic culture.

Islam is a religion, not a culture. Each of the 57 Muslim-majority nations has its own distinct culture—and the Bengali culture has little in common with the Nigerian. Then, too, most of those countries have their own cultural offices in the US, especially in New York.

Islam is an ingredient in dozens of cultures, not a culture on its own.

In theory, at least, the culture of American Muslims should be American. Of course, this being America, each ethnic community has its distinct cultural memories—the Iranians in Los Angeles are different from the Arabs in Dearborn.

[Start taking notes if you have to…] In fact, the proposed structure is known in Islamic history as a rabat—literally a connector. The first rabat appeared at the time of the Prophet.

The Prophet imposed his rule on parts of Arabia through a series of ghazvas, or razzias (the origin of the English word "raid"). The ghazva was designed to terrorize the infidels, convince them that their civilization was doomed and force them to submit to Islamic rule. Those who participated in the ghazva were known as the ghazis, or raiders.

After each ghazva, the Prophet ordered the creation of a rabat—or a point of contact at the heart of the infidel territory raided. The rabat consisted of an area for prayer, a section for the raiders to eat and rest and facilities to train and prepare for future razzias. [The "athletic" component I alluded to earlier.] Later Muslim rulers used the tactic of ghazva to conquer territory in the Persian and Byzantine empires. After each raid, they built a rabat to prepare for the next razzia.

[NB:] It is no coincidence that Islamists routinely use the term ghazva to describe the 9/11 attacks against New York and Washington. The terrorists who carried out the attack are referred to as ghazis or shahids (martyrs).

[CONCLUSION:] Thus, building a rabat close to Ground Zero would be in accordance with a tradition started by the Prophet. To all those who believe and hope that the 9/11 ghazva would lead to the destruction of the American "Great Satan," this would be of great symbolic value.

[Shift gears.] Faced with the anger of New Yorkers, the promoters of the project have started calling it the Cordoba House, echoing President Obama’s assertion that it would be used to propagate "moderate" Islam.

The argument is that Cordoba, in southern Spain, was a city where followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism lived together in peace and produced literature and philosophy.

In fact, Cordoba’s history is full of stories of oppression and massacre, prompted by religious fanaticism. It is true that the Muslim rulers of Cordoba didn’t force their Christian and Jewish subjects to accept Islam. However, non-Muslims could keep their faith and enjoy state protection only as dhimmis (bonded ones) by paying a poll tax in a system of religious apartheid.

If whatever peace and harmony that is supposed to have existed in Cordoba were the fruit of "Muslim rule," [NB:] the subtext is that the United States would enjoy similar peace and harmony under Islamic rule[That is why "Cordoba" was chosen: to symbolize the goal of subjugation of the USA to Sharia Law.]

A rabat in the heart of Manhattan would be of great symbolic value to those who want a high-profile, "in your face" projection of Islam in the infidel West.

This thirst for visibility is translated into increasingly provocative forms of hijab, notably the niqab (mask) and the burqa. The same quest mobilized hundreds of Muslims in Paris the other day to close a whole street so that they could have a Ramadan prayer in the middle of the rush hour. [These open demonstrations are escalating.]

One of those taking part in the demonstration told French radio that the aim was to "show we are here." "You used to be in our capitals for centuries," he said. "Now, it is our turn to be in the heart of your cities."

Before deciding whether to support or oppose the "Cordoba" project, New Yorkers should consider what it is that they would be buying.

Comments

  1. Wow. Just wow. If true, this is frightening on many levels. If this is an accurate depiction of the intended purpose, then it is confirming the WORST possible view of both the Muslim agenda and modern/progressive narcissism (in that it can’t see beyond its own intentions). Wow.

  2. Finally an article that hits the nail on the head.

  3. Rabat shmabat. Why the incredulity, Chrys? Your sentiment seems to echo that of many Americans who want to just sing “kumbaya” with the ground zero muslims because watching american idol and mindless reality shows along with updating facebook and myspace pages is not only easier but caters to their insatiable narcissistic appetites. I’m not saying you practice the aforementioned, for otherwise you wouldn’t be on this great web forum. The point I am making is that this country is asleep at the world wheel. Sadly, it will be our eventual undoing.

    • Alexis, it’s not incredulity so much as caution, reflecting my experience with journalists – though this author may well be an expert for all I know.

      If there is anything in my comments that echoed the wishfulness that seems pervasive among progressive elements in this country, then I have conveyed my concern poorly – especially since I agree pretty much with your view of the country (more below). In fact, this was what I tried (apparently poorly) to convey in the last part of my comments above. To try to clarify: so far as this article accurately depicts the agenda behind the effort, it ALSO indicts the self-imposed blindness of our Progressive elites, who are so enthralled by their own intentions and how their positions reinforce their self-image, that they can’t see the malevolent nature of our foe, and his willingness to use whatever means necessary to further a very dark agenda.

      As you can tell, I agree fully with your indictment of what you rightly called narcissistic appetites. Historically, this trend is the fruit of a ripening decadence which never ends well. Great countries ultimately rot from within, and I, too, fear that we are well down that path. As you say, we are indeed “asleep at the wheel”. This is happening at almost every level.

      For instance, we live in an increasingly global economy. I try to warn my children that, like it of not, technology allows many companies to employ people all over the world. Many of those who live in emerging economies work far harder and for far less than we do. Too many of us have become too entitled, too full of our own “self-esteem” and too self-indulgent, to be able to compete. Like the housing market over the past three years, our inflated lifestyles may be in for a world of hurt if we don’t change course soon.

      Our media-pervaded culture has also focused our children on largely narcissistic, showy, meaningless and ultimately self-destructive endeavors. This is an environment that is hostile to the quiet but deep and fruitful virtues.

      To close the loop, we are indeed deluded if we think – as my Progressives seem to – that we are too powerful to need be concerned about Islam. Between the evil that we have seen and the demographic trends which, both here and everywhere, are worrisome, we have a serious problem. We have already managed to convey to radical Islamists everywhere (and those “moderate” Muslims who seem to use that radical element as a lever to get what they want), that we will move heaven and earth to quash the first amendment rights of our citizens – who may deeply offend US – rather than offend them. (And while defending his right to do so, it seems to me the behavior of this pastor was VERY much at odds with the with the suffering love of Christ.)

      All of these issues require spiritual vitality. For too long, we have been presuming on and depleting the moral legacy of earlier generations. (Others, below, have said it better.)

      I’ll leave off at this point, since this may be WAY too much concentrated “curmudgeon” for one post. Forgive me if I have been overly pessimistic. In the end, any culture or individual that is not rooted in the grace of God will bankrupt itself. Conversely, as the saints show, that grace is fruitful beyond anything we can think or imagine.

      I hope this is clearer. It is certainly longer and since I am prone to verbosity, I tried to be concise in my original comments. Apparently I don’t have a gift for it, since my effort confused rather than clarified.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Alexis, I find your indictment of America in general correct. Certainly it was my own way of going about the world while I was younger. Reality has a way of intruding doesn’t it?

    I read somewhere that besides the normal divisions of “conservative” and
    “liberal” there were two additional subsets: “neoconservative” and “neoliberal.” Irving Kriston, the father of neoconservatism said that a “neoconservative is a liberal who was mugged by reality,” whereas a “neoliberal is a liberal who was mugged by reality but is unwilling to press charges.” Although I can’t abide much of the neoconservative agenda, it appears to me that the Ground Zero Mosque/Rabat rather neatly encapsulates what is going on at present.

    As for the Orthodox Church, I’d like to think that in the great Clash of Civilizations debate, we fall on the “conservative” side. Not just theologically but combatively as well. In other words, I’d like to think that we were never in a position of being wakened up by reality because we always understood the reality to be what it was: Islam as an implacable foe of Christendom, hatched in the mind of a great but barbarous man, and the vanguard of a civilizational-destroying empire that survives as a parasite on the ruins of the West.

  5. Every once in a while Barb D has something useful (though rarely in the way she posted it). She posted a link to this:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/nyregion/11religion.html?pagewanted=2&_r=4

    Which talks about the Muslim prayer room on floor 17 south tower. It mentions in passing “Without enough time to walk to the closest mosque — Masjid Manhattan on Warren Street, about four blocks away…”

    Looking at Google map etc., why don’t the honest Muslims, instead of battling over the “Cordoba House,” instead put their energies into expanding the Masjid Manahattan, which is only two streets over, a similar sized site it seems (I’m not from NYC), only slightly further away (satisfying the distance fold-it falls outside the 5 blocks that Donald Trump mentioned for a deal for the Park Place site-and yet close enough for those Muslims interested in true reconciliation), and better yet, was already a functioning mosque before 9/11/01. They can name its cultural center the “Floor 17 South Tower” center.

    In the meantime, it seems that St. Nicholas has lost its 15 minutes of fame. I haven’t heard anything on it in a week.

    • The mosque of the “Floor 17 Cultural Center” can have an appropriate inscription, in Arabic and English of the Muslim memorial formulae and the 70 names of the Muslims killed in the Towers (with any Muslim police or firefigter, etc. names coming first and identifed), with appropriate verses from the Quran etc. on Muslims killing Muslims, along with the usual verses on how peaceful Islam is.

  6. Hi George! Thank you for your response as well as your very informative and thought-provoking comments/articles. I am very encouraged to see as well as participate in this website. I feel that it is an antidote to that seemingly overused term within Orthodoxy, “the best kept secret.” Once again, great to hear from you.

  7. I don’t know if I’m a “neo-this” or a “neo-that”, but I’m starting to believe that, just as perhaps most Orthodox would have thought Constantinople could not have fallen to Islam, but it did — perhaps America is in for a rude awakening as well.

  8. American narcissism will dig our society’s grave. Through the collective infantilization we have undergone since WWII (maybe before?) we live only to flatter ourselves with our cleverness, indifference bred of self-satisfaction which masquerades as tolerance, and our ‘good taste’, all the requisite skills of pampered consumers diligently shopping for the best values…

    We, sovereign beneficiaries of the Western Cultural Inheritance, are deaf to the language of symbols which have always governed world history and culture. We the victors of Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ drink a toast to the American Moment and live outside time, moment to moment in an ecstasy of gluttonous consumption. Meanwhile, over our heads the first rounds of a major offensive are let loose and we think the attackers are saluting us.

    As George aptly put it:
    << …we [Orthodox] were never in a position of being wakened up by reality because we always understood the reality to be what it was: Islam as an implacable foe of Christendom, hatched in the mind of a great but barbarous man, and the vanguard of a civilizational-destroying empire that survives as a parasite on the ruins of the West.>>

    We lack success conveying our (Orthodox) first-hand experience of Islam; we never fell asleep, yet our fragmented voices fall on the ears of sleepers. We let mere politicians squander our 15 minutes of notoriety to no effect, ceding to a Mr. Demos (wannabe demagogue) what an Archbishop of New York or Metropolitan of All America should have pronounced with credible authority and the coordinated backing of all Orthodox Americans.

    As obnoxious as Ms. Drezhlo’s opinions may be, we (konvertsi etc.) deserve (some of) her scorn for losing our way in America. If we persist in our division, speaking in a confused voice, we Orthodox will be held accountable at the last for not sounding the alarm. Even worse, as Varv points out, we Orthodox Americans too often embrace a partisanship contrary to the Spirit of the Gospels, a contentious and divisive spirit. “Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.”

    The messengers of Islam are doing their daw’a with great zeal in our midst. When the rabat in lower Manhattan is built, they will certainly proceed to the next stage, inevitably jihad until victory. they will not cease to disseminate their mistaken view of God and man. Can we Orthodox raise a coherent voice to tell the authentic Gospel story, and share the Church’s long experience in the stories of Christ’s martyrs on the point of Muslim steel? At the rate we are going, people will associate our view with the irrelevant pseudo-gospel of heretics, apostates and opportunists.

    The Phanariot narrative garners no real sympathy here. America hates a loser. Meanwhile Greek-Americans are some of America’s biggest winners. The irony of this disconnect is astounding. And Americans should be compelled by an articulate vision of Hellenism? We already know that western intellectuals consider Islam the inheritor of the glory of Hellenism; that meme already permeates the mainstream, from Gibbon forward, along with disdain for Eastern Christendom.

    Our work is certainly cut out for us. You can see here that I feel overwhelmed by it. Look too long into this abyss and you need a strong friend to drag you back from the edge. We need to pray to Christ to guide us out of this quagmire and inspire our leaders to seize the helm before a shipwreck takes us down.

    Rough sailing ahead, all hands on deck.

    • Fr. John,

      Ironically I just finished reading a decent history on Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor who lost most of the Middle East to Islam.

      The story is truly a tragic one, because this same emperor went from unprecedented triumphs (defeat of the Persians) to the depths of despair (following the defeats in Palestine and Syria) in only about 20 years. He was the one who had recovered the true cross from the Persians, the Byzantines’ ancient foe by defeating them only 5 or 6 years before the Muslims burst out of Arabia.

      While the emperor is clearly the one who “lost” the Middle East, his response was interesting. Heraclius (an Armenian who grew up in Carthage) may have been the first emperor since Constantine to actually lead Roman armies in the field, so he had great tactical experience.

      Following the initial burst of expansion (and Byzantine defeats) in Palestine and lower Syria, the emperor pulled back his forces to northern Syria in an organized way, hoping to figure out a way to “divide and conquer” the enemy, as he had done in the case of the Persians. Keep in mind that the initial Muslim thrust to Antioch essentially cleaved the empire in two (Egypt still being in Byzantine hands).

      The problem was that the emperor had aged at this point, was on unstable domestic ground (contrary to earlier in his reign – when he was away from the capital for years fighting the Persians), and there was no Byzantine “playbook” to refer to (as their had been in the case of the Persians – Maurice’s Strategikon) – these were new and unknown enemies.

      Tactical errors were clearly made – especially the lack of thought with regard to Egypt – which could have been saved. Nevertheless, the emperor’s initial response, to pull back, regroup and plan the next offensive move – shows that he considered this a temporary setback. Only the combination of his domestic problems and age prevented him from executing the counterattack which may have changed history. At the same time, his organized retreat and retrenchment probably helped to save Anatolia and the Balkans for 800 years. Little credit is given to him for that.

      From the Muslim side, this article correctly points out that this has been a war of conquest from the beginning, one which followed a very intelligently written script…designed to strike terror in the victims as a way of defeating them. That thought is particularly poignant on 9/11. We should all keep in mind that, while we may consider the perpetrators of these acts “lunatics”, these is nothing insane or irrational about the tactics or the strategy…they have been used successfully since long before America was a nation. And the adversary measures time in centuries, not sound bite seconds on CNN.

      I guess the real point is – the sooner America wakes up to the fact that this is a war of conquest, the better the chance it will have of surviving. The walls of Constantinople held back Islam for eight centuries, allowing Western Europe a chance to mature to the point where it could defend itself (later) at Vienna.

      Today – there are no more walls…we are it. Time to suit up…and we Orthodox should be playing a leading role – with the unique experience of having been exterminated for 13 centuries at the hands of these peace-loving people. The cemeteries in all of our respective Old Countries are filled with relatives who knew precisely what we are dealing with.

      Best Regards,
      Dean

      • George Michalopulos :

        Fr John, spot on. If I may add, the “infantilization” of America is part of the leftist/secularist/progressive program. It can’t be divided from it. For all the sins of the Right, at least its spirit is truer to the “old republican” ethos which governed America from 1789-1861 and did not completely die until the Great Society was put in place.

        Dean, a minor quibble: I believe that Julian the Apostate and Theodosius the Great were generals in the field as well. (I know that Julian actually defeated the Persians in battle.) But your larger point is correct: nobody in the Roman world expected the Arab outburst to last as long as it did. The strategic retreats of Heraclius were non-controversial and everybody expected the Romans to come back and liberate Antioch, Jerusalem, etc.

        • George,

          Say what you will, there is no true conservatism extant in American politics, nor true Liberalism. We, the churched should get beyond all pettifoggery and deal with the larger issues. We know Islam is the implacable enemy of Christendom. We need to explain ourselves to all. How about you explain it to the Right and I the Left? The mainthing is that we are all Americans here. The enemy will laugh us to scorn if we fall to infighting. They will say, “Allah has blinded them.” Let’s rise above it.

          Today is the forefeast of the Cross, We should crucify our political animal natures to for the sake of keeping Orthodox solidarity.Then we will have some real Christian love to share outside the Church.

          Who among this little klatch has any sway with hierarchs? How can we get the Church (e.g. the EA) to speak to this issue together? Is there no consensus after all?

          • Fr. John, is a blanket confrontational posture ‘implacable enemy’ re islam wise?

            I know a nominally Roman Catholic young woman who hadn’t set foot in a church of any sort from near girlhood. When it was time to marry, because the equally nominally Orthodox husband took a hard line approach they had a sorry contest about which church to use and once the wedding was over reverted to their previous never darken any church’s door defacto policy while their ‘identity about the church I don’t go to’ hardened.

            Realistically the way ‘out’ for Islamic people who see and weary of the essential extreme gender subjugation and other fatalisms is for the parents to allow their kids to leave without severing relationships. I just don’t see people leaving as a result of variations on the ‘Road to Damascus’ experiences following confrontations along the lines ‘implacable enemy’ language suggests. A nominal islamic person will quite naturally want to retain community and cultural ties and even preserve what they find best in them. Much like we children of immigrants from ‘the old country’ here in the states preserve what our parents found best and highest from the old country, while leaving behind those things that made our parents feel the need to leave their homeland.

            We’d be wise to comprehend these things.

            Another reason why our leadership cannot be seen as being nearly entirely ‘ordained young and never married’ — cultural sensitivity is quite plain that maintaining that attitide is to do the Imam’s job for him just by appearances.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Fr John, you are correct. There is no “true” conservatism or liberalism here in America today. And I agree with you, we have to rise above these labels and get the American Orthodox Church to address the issue, I guess through the EA. With all these caveats however, we still have to make a prudential choice: yes, the political ideologies known as “conservatism/liberalism” are flawed, but at the end of the day we have to come down on one side or the other.

            For the moment it appears that the Left side of the spectrum has completely thrown in the towel in this civilizational struggle. We shouldn’t be surprised as they did the same thing in the struggle against Bolshevism. Indeed, the Left essentially becamse a Fifth Column undermining the actual fight as well as the philosophical foundations of our Culture. For this they cannot be forgiven and we have every right to suspect their true intentions.

            Since I’m on a rant here, I will go further and make a prediction: the institutions of the West are so hated by the Left that they will make common cause with Islam and many of them will actually convert to Islam, even though the Jihadist wing of Islam is mysoginistic, anti-homosexual, racialistic in its antipathy against blacks, and of course anti-Judaic (I refrain from using the word anti-Semitic as many Muslims are themselves Semites). I know this is counter-intuitive but we’re seeing this coalition forming as we speak.

      • Wow. Nice fuming diatribe. 1. Fallacious categorization of yourself as both an American and one who has suffered under Muslim rule. 2. Demands that all Orthodox Christians in this country think like you with the insinuation that other opinions are obviously deficient. 3. Promotion of the concept of ‘Christendom’ as if Orthodox Christians somehow share something important with the neo-Arians who populate what is left of Western Christianity. 4. Complete, though common, misuse of the concept of ‘jihad.’ 5. Utterly irrational fear of an ‘other’ which can only lead to hatred and violence (i.e. exactly the root of the radical and equally absurd views of modern Muslim terrorists).

        Say whatever you want in response to this, I won’t answer back – you can have the last word. But somebody had to call you out.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Reading the comment above (Note #8.1.2) I get what the commentator doesn’t like, but the notion that merely listing his dislikes is calling anyone out is empty-headed. (Whenever I hear or read things like “…can only lead to hatred and violence…,” I know fuzzy thinking is usually at work, like blaming the killings in inner cities on “gun violence” instead of the thugs doing the killing.) Ideas should be explained and defended, not just stated as if one’s conviction of their veracity makes them self-evidently true.

          And the “I won’t answer back – you can have the last word” is a dodge. There is no last word because there is no conversation. Call it a drive-by gesticulation. The commentator does not seem to know why he believes the things that he does, only that he believes them.

          • Fr.H: “Ideas should be explained and defended, not just stated as if one’s conviction of their veracity makes them self-evidently true.”

            — That and more: I suggest there is a ‘beat’ or ‘rhythm’ that gets recalled in the minds of folk used to reading and doing that sort of thing. Its purpose is to bring to the sub-conscious of fellow travellers this chord: ‘and if you challenge this manner of doing you and I are going to the mat and either I lose you’ll be the new leader of our thuggies or we’ll vote you off our island, out of our group and you are toast’.

            The gutter of tribal leadership, the ‘will to power’ thing is all that’s left when voicing ideas isn’t really about the integrity of the ideas.

          • Alright, alright, you’ve all drawn me in. I’ll go back on my word and respond with (very significant) expansion. Here’s the point by point with where I’m coming from:

            1. Fallacious categorization of yourself as both an American and one who has suffered under Muslim rule.

            There are a lot of things going on here from my point of view. First, it is well worth noting, as one poster did, that this poster and/or his family may have had significant history of suffering under Muslim rule. Three points.
            A. If so, and the poster is Greek as mentioned, most memories of conflict with ‘Islam’ likely occurred in the last century. If this is so, it is deeply foolish to paint such conflicts as somehow a battle between Islam and Christianity as the nuances of the Greek/Turkish conflicts of the 20th century were far more complex. Recent Turkish history has been marked by aggressive, conscious secularization, not Islamicization. Posters here may feel Turkey has not gone far enough, and I am very open to such a discussion about the policies of that particular nation state. However, this context must be kept in mind, and 20th century contact between Greeks and Turks is actually a very limited guide to understanding the relationship to Christianity and Islam. It’s a far better guide for understanding the often painful relationship between secularism and ethnicity.
            B. I obviously have no knowledge of the poster’s history (I’ll point out here that no one here has knowledge of mine) but an appeal to suffering under Islam is an argumentum ad misericordiam. As such, it works extremely well in fueling the poster’s grandiose rhetoric, but it is non-rational. In Orthodox circles in my experience, this form of argument constitutes the backbone of anti-Islamic rhetoric, and that is unfortunate. I was accused (I think somewhat rightly and somewhat wrongly) of failing to make an argument from rational sense or engage in dialogue, and that ought to be expected in this forum not just of opponents of the prevailing opinion like me, but of its advocates as well.
            C. Far more than the above, my point here is that one cannot position oneself rhetorically as both an American and someone suffering oppression under Islam. No Latin term on this one – it’s called having your cake and eating it. The United States has absolutely no history of experiencing oppression at the hands of ‘Islam’ writ large or even at the hands of Muslims. So far, Americans have experienced one serious terrorist attack on our soil perpetrated by an identifiable and notably extremist group. If you’ve suffered under Islam, it didn’t happen here. This is important because when making social policy and/or engaging in the social dialogue, one must be conscious of the situation here and now. Appealing to the atrocities of Genghis Khan in order to convince the United States to go to war with modern Mongolia would be utterly ridiculous. One must be reflective about the way one uses the past in assessing the present. I won’t kick up a big conversation about the details of what I think is an appropriate general historiographical system for those wishing to learn from the past in regards to modern issues, but I trust that the foundational point has been made.

            2. Demands that all Orthodox Christians in this country think like you with the insinuation that other opinions are obviously deficient.
            This is probably pretty clear. As I’m sure has become extremely obvious, I am an Orthodox Christian who disagrees with this poster (along with others in this forum) quite strongly on this issue. More importantly, I think that the tendency of many Orthodox people to quest after some kind of ‘unified voice’ in Orthodoxy is wrong-headed. In the first place, it is impossible given the governmental system of the Church in which power and influence are extremely diffuse. In the second, it is not a desirable goal to begin with. The fact is that many people have many views on these sorts of issues, and unless a divergent opinion constitutes identifiable heresy, it is important for our first impulse within the Church to be one of tolerance. In other words, I consider the broad attitudes expressed in this forum to be deeply wrong-headed and even dangerous. I do not consider them to be heresy, and it would be totally inappropriate for me to attempt to persuade Church leadership to my point of view, launch a public campaign to convince everyone that this is the ‘Orthodox’ position, and thereby leave you all resentful and spiritually damaged. If you want an official answer to every question and a centralized power system which presumes to speak for all its people, I would recommend looking into Roman Catholicism.

            3. Promotion of the concept of ‘Christendom’ as if Orthodox Christians somehow share something important with the neo-Arians who populate what is left of Western Christianity.

            I think the use of the concept of ‘Christendom’ is probably the most troubling thing about the original post. Just two days ago on the Old Calendar we commemorated the new martyrs of Serbia – 3/4 of a million people who were killed at the hands of Croatia with help from the Nazis (both groups called themselves ‘Christian’). We are told that they were given a choice to convert to Catholicism or die, and many died. As awful as that is, I don’t think it’s a cause to declare a global war against Catholicism. We have much in common with the Catholics and I believe we should work with them whenever possible. What I’m trying to illustrate, though, is that the lines between allies and enemies outside the Church are fluid. I can’t imagine being afraid of oppression at the hands of Catholics in the United States today – but less than 100 years ago, in a different part of the world, it was a bitter reality. One cannot just draw a line around everyone who calls Jesus ‘lord’ and assume we know our friends. I could, of course, push it further to talk about Orthodox countries fighting each other, but I’ll leave that for now.
            Orthodoxy, as far as I’ve experienced it, makes a claim to be the one true Church. If we are serious about that claim – if we really believe it is true, then there are few if any hard and fast distinctions between those outside the visible Church. All people on the ‘outside’ are in some sense heretics. Heresy, especially in modern North America, is nothing to fear, but do we really want such bed-fellows? Orthodoxy’s teachings are unique, and they are important for the world to hear. If we decide, on this or any issue, to simply throw our weight behind a large group of loud and highly politicized Christian heretics for the sake of fighting ‘Islam,’ will we lose track of what made us different? More importantly, is this really a genuinely Orthodox response? In other words, if we have not approached the problem from our own unique point of view, but rather had jumped on the band wagon with other people who have a different theology and history, are we really being true to ourselves? I mean this, by the way, rationally and theologically, not in the sense that Orthodox people have uniquely experienced how universally evil ‘Islam’ is (something mentioned here previously). That, as I mentioned above, is simply an argumentum ad misericordiam.

            4. Complete, though common, misuse of the concept of ‘jihad.’

            This is just a classic, and I wish it didn’t even need to be pointed out anymore. ‘Jihad’ means struggle. Just for good measure, I’ll note that ‘Allah’ means God (and any good Orthodox ought to know that Orthodox people have been worshiping ‘Allah’ since before Islam existed). Jihad is, under normal circumstances, conducted within the self – it is a struggle against the forces of evil. Sadly, some Muslims have started using the term more broadly, and they have decided that we in the West are, in fact, ‘evil.’ That is a patent absurdity, of course, because we are people no more or less inherently evil than they. But, just to make sure it’s clear, that statement goes both ways. The abuse of Islamic tradition by modern radicals to stir up hatred is not well met by a similar abuse of Christian tradition used for a similar end.

            5. Utterly irrational fear of an ‘other’ which can only lead to hatred and violence (i.e. exactly the root of the radical and equally absurd views of modern Muslim terrorists).

            All the above is what leads me to conclude, time and again, that opinions like this are built primarily on fear. The world of Islam is incredibly complex, and Muslims come in all shapes and sizes from countless cultures. Further, Islam, like all large religions, is riven with internal divisions and groups which may or may not get along with one another very well. Islam is not one identifiable thing. When was the last time you got a room full of Orthodox Christians to agree? Now try 1.5 Billion Muslims. Fat chance. We in the West have our allies and our enemies within the world of Islam, and, frankly, if we want to defeat those enemies, or at least keep ourselves safe from them, we need to make very sure we know who our allies are and work with them rather than labeling them and declaring that they are, by virtue of being Muslim, at war with us. Thankfully, this has been the recent American policy in Iraq. I have personally been thrilled at what seems to be a lot of progress there – and as we hand over control of the country, we hand power over to a group of Muslims. I pray in the future we will be able to continue developing good relationships there and in the rest of the world with Muslims who are not our enemy.
            Labeling 1.5 billion people, and declaring that they are all ‘at war’ with ‘us’ (whatever that means, by the way) cannot be done rationally. As a result, from what I can tell, this type of labeling comes from fear. Fear is capable of painting that many people with a single stroke – thought cannot possibly. Far more than anything, far more than being the bleeding heart liberal that I’m sure everyone here assumes I am (and which I am not), far from being a pacifist, I am honestly afraid of the fear in our society (to pick up on FDR). I am afraid and taken aback that my country, the United States of America, would look square in the eyes of a bunch filthy, poorly organized radical lunatics hiding like the cowards they – and be afraid. I refuse. This is a nation of liberty, democracy, and tolerance, and I will not be afraid that any of those principles might compromise my safety in the face of men like that – men who don’t even have so much as a tent to their name.
            We will, in fact, become like our enemy if we let this fear trickle in. We will become like them if we embrace our pride, as has been suggested below (I was surprised to read a defense of pride in an Orthodox forum). As for me, I will go down with the ship. I am a religious minority in the United States. Our people, Orthodox people, have been on both sides of American bombs in very recent memory. Given that fact, we ought to remember better than anyone both what we are ‘fighting’ for, and the cost of such fighting. Today I enjoy the right to worship despite the fact that my Christian neighbors think I’m going to hell. And I will much sooner go down with that ship than shrink into a rhetoric of fear and over-simplification to preserve a bare and empty shell of what it should mean to be an American and, even more, what it should mean to be an Orthodox Christian.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Dan, very good rebuttal. I really appreciate you’re drawing out distinctions. If I may, one thing jumped up at me in point one, basically that the relations between Greeks and Turks cannot be the definitive one for all Christians and Muslims. Quite right, but one cannot dismiss the internal dynamics that operated on a personal level in both Greek and Turk. Nominal Christianity was definately part of the ethnic identity of Greeks under the Ottoman occupation. I must assume that this was the same for Turks as well. Not being a Turk, I must assume as well that they viewed Greeks (and Serbs, Bulgars, Albanians, etc.) as decidedly inferior and that it was their role as conquerors ordained by God. In much the same way that Mohammed was the “seal of the Prophets,” so too was it obvious that nothing could be learned from these subjected peoples; this leads to the inexorable conclusion that these people could never be considered to be anything but dhimmi or “tolerated.”

          • George,

            Thanks for reading through. I know my second post was quite long.

            As Ottoman history, especially recent Ottoman history, is not my field, I can make no meaningful comment on the truth or lack thereof of your characterization of the prevailing attitude in the late empire towards Greek Christians and others. However, granting that you are correct for the sake of argument, what I am really trying to get at is the critical question ‘so what?’

            I mean this in a genuine way. In other words, I am perfectly content to think that there really is a very good ‘so what’ for modern Americans which can be learned from Ottoman/Greek relations (or other such examples) of the last century. But what is it?

            For me, anyway, the ‘so what’ is exactly one of the core considerations in my position. I think that drawing the absurd conclusions which you argue were drawn by the Turks (in our example) results in absurd policies, such as the utterly misguided notion of Ottoman superiority which you mention. (Again, I don’t know how true any of that is, but I’m running with your assumptions). If the Ottomans thought these things about themselves, they were simply wrong, full stop. However, I think those attitudes are no less irrational or damaging coming from us. They can and do lead to unnecessary violence, and failed opportunities for mutual betterment. I prefer the attitude of Gregory of Palamas towards Islam and all other religions: dialogue and patience. That doesn’t mean sacrificing principles – or anything at all – it means avoiding unnecessary misunderstanding by taking the time to really dig deep and try to understand the other. Sadly, we cannot force them to do the same, and in the present situation that probably means radicals will continue to attack innocent people. But we can do it ourselves, and in so doing spare the world at least half of the potential agony here.

            What it sounds like is at the root of one of your most essential critiques is that Islam has historically been spread by the sword. That has been often true. But it has been a long time since Orthodoxy was spread the same way, if it ever was at all (I’m thinking here only of a certain amount of force utilized in and around some of the 4th and 5th century Trinitarian controversies) and now is not the time to start. We cannot make anyone else do the right thing, but we can do it ourselves. That is the biggest lesson I feel we can learn from the mistakes of groups like the Ottomans – we can learn not to make those mistakes ourselves. Far more than seeing the Ottomans as proof of Islam’s inherent animosity towards Christianity, I see a huge lesson in what can happen when hegemonic groups become arrogant, irrational and violent. It’s a disaster for everyone. I don’t want us to fall into that same trap.

        • The writer of the history article is of Greek descent. He may very well have had relatives who were persecuted or killed by Muslims. Some of us have direct experience with losing relatives and friends to Muslims in the middle east. Our fear is not irrational but it is based on our reality.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Dan, I really dont want “the last word” as you can’t have it with those who strike moral poses. This type of thinking reminds me a lot of Charles Johnson, he of Little Green Footballs fame. He ran a great conservative blog but he got increasingly uncomfortable with many on the Right who were resisting Islamification. He accused them of racism, just because they were proud of their European/Christian/Western heritage. While I agree there is always the possibility of becoming like your enemy, at the end of the day you will not be allowed to remain neutral. You (and other liberals) may not believe that you are at war with Islam, but make no mistake, Islam is at war with you.

          We’ll have to choose sides and your own side will make mistakes. (We did during WWII.) You fight with the army you got. If you think that Christendom is too imperfect for your precious sensibilities you can always join the other side.

          • “… at the end of the day you will not be allowed to remain neutral” is an imprecise articulation of the point.

            George quickly corrects this flawed assumption and absolute impossibility: “You .. may not believe that you are at war with Islam, but make no mistake, Islam is at war with you.”

            Neutrality requires three parties, two of whom are in conflict and one of whom has no interest in the conflict’s outcome. One pernicious aspect of Islam is that it just does not allow neutrality. All who are not with Islam are the enemy. It’s that simple folks. “There can be neither peace nor co-existence between Islamic and non-Islamic institutions,” something so succinctly acknowledged by Alija Izetbegovich, the revolutionary, now dead, President of Bosnia.

            Western, elitist, leftist, pretzel “logic,” sound-bite rhetoric arrogantly and deceptively proclaims itself capable of being above the fray, detatched observers. In the end, they think of themselves as being disinterested in the outcome. Sorry, Charlie. No dice.

            Like the rest of us, Dan’s a combatant whether he likes it or not, whether he wants to be or not, whether he accepts it or not. He is, and we are all, combatants because Islam says we are. (Hence the ever vigilent effort to identify a unicorn – the non-existent “moderate Muslim.”) And, quite frankly, we all (Dan included) are combatants and called to martyrdom because our Chrismation — our Illumination — demands that of us.

            There certainly are Orthodox martyrs. But, what do those who hope to skirt the fight call themselves when they are annihilated – physically or otherwise – for their putative and sacred “neutrality”?

            When confronting Islam, there is only one way to dodge the fight, and that is dhimitude, the functional equivalent of a POW camp and far from being neutral.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Alexander, thank you for additional insights and clarity. One of the reasons I have my ire up is that as an Orthodox Christian, I’ve seen the very real damage that dhimmitude can do to a church. All of the ancient patriarchates –Antioch especially–are essentially apologists for Islam. Now please understand, I’m not saying that these churches don’t have valid concerns, or that Islam is ipso facto not a valid civilization –far from it. It’s just not our civilization and acquiescence to it necessarily results in the loss of the Gospel.

            We see this in so many different ways: when the EP gave a “holy Qu’ran” to Mukhtar Kent at Atlanta, when +Ignatius gave an “on the one hand this, on the other that” condolence after the brutal attacks on 9/11, and so on. Recently, another fine blogger (ochlophobist) documented how the AOCNA gave monies to Islamic charities in Syria and the West Bank. Monies raised from its American flock. I’m sure that others can recount a myriad more such tales. Think of the comical and criminal demotion of bishops in the AOCNA to auxiliary status. This is unprecedented.

            Why are any these things happening? One reason I will grant you is that because these churches are subjugated to an Islamic state. Bottom line: just because these ancient patrarchates have valid fears doesn’t meant that their biases, fears, and prejudices should be ours. We have our own context here in North America, our own history, culture, biases, fears, needs, and wants. We need to look after our own house and put it in order. If other churches can’t that’s there problem, not ours. We will be judged for our own sins, not for those of our ancestors.

            So where are we? How do we discern truth; how to proceed? I submit that we should keep this point in the forefront: Where is the Gospel in all this? Where is evangelism? Where is caring for the sick, poor, and hopeless neighbors we see every day on the street corners of the nation in which we actually lead? Don’t tell me about FOCUS (which is s GREAT ministry) because it’ll only prove my point. The enthusiasm for this fine ministry from the bishops of the GOA and AOCNA has been tepid at best and in reality quite hostile sub-rosa.

    • Fr. John, very well said. You have expressed far better than I could where I have come to after reflecting on the original article. Thank you. While we always need to grow in our faith and deepen our repentance, I suspect that we will be facing challenges that will require very deep spiritual roots indeed.

  9. Well, other emperors that led armies was Julian who was killed by the persians and probably Constantinus, Constantine’s son and Theodosius the first probably since he fought against upstarts in Italy.

    Heraclius situation was sort of tragic since he was the only one that finally defested the persians but couldn’t against the Muslems and lost the middle east. Anyway, he married his niece Martina which was incestious under the law, and this was another blow to Heraclius. Since he grew up in Carthage, I wonder if he knew latin but he changed the empire more in the direction of using Greek terms rather than Latin.

  10. Well, Gibbon had his biases but some of his criticism against some Byzantine emperors like Justinian are valid. The Greens and Blues circus factions were young hoolgians and Justinian playing favors with the Blues was not a smart moved considering the Nika riot. Gibbon just didn’t want to give any christian civilization whether Eastern or Western any credit he preferred old pagan Rome. However, he was one of the first in the west to write about the Eastern Empire which he did a lot of reserach for his day and others followed over the centuries like Bury who also wasn’t pro-christian but a good historian.

  11. Ah yes let us Orthodox Christians become defenders of and front men for the empires of this world.

    • Robert, Did Tsar Nicholas’ English-Russian translators first think that a good English word for the Russian Bishop’s “Sobor” be the President’s “Cabinet”?

      (running for cover, reaching for the flame-proof exo-rasson…..)

      • Harry, I don’t know, did they?

        • Robert, measured by what they did, yes. Measured by what they said out loud, not so much.

          Once you have a ‘state church’ going on (read: clergy supporting the tenure of the current national political strongman usually in exchange for the church receiving benefits taxed under threat of fine/jail from the people) , anytime related ‘church people’ try to do something outside their national boundaries it has gotten all gummed up with political foreign policy agendas and interests.

          • Yes gummed up indeed. Hence all the talk about our future wrapped up with the survival of political/cultural/economic kingdoms that be, strikes me as misplaced.

    • Naturally you are right, Robert. Of course, it has long been a Roman Catholic critique of Orthodoxy that it is prone to becoming a dependency of the prevailing kingdom. Orthodox, contrast, claimed that the Roman Catholics confused (literally: con+fused) the two. (I’m sure Cynthia and others here can speak to that point better than I.)

      As I said: you are right. There is, to borrow from St. Augustine, a gulf of no small importance between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Men. At the same time, we have the historically unique privilege of being members, participants, in a somewhat durable democratic republic. As such, we are not merely “shills” for “someone else’s” government; we are giving voice to concerns for a government and culture in which we share and for which we have some responsibility. I don’t take that privilege lightly. In fact, I believe that the freedoms that we are so concerned about have done more than any system yet devised to liberate the talents that God has so liberally distributed among all people. These talents have enriched and blessed all — not without problems, course; but, in light of the rest of human history, it has been remarkable all the same.

      Yet this, too – as you point out – will eventually pass away; all of our political, economic and technological works, amazing as they may be, will be for naught if we do not serve and seek first the Eternal Kingdom. This doesn’t render our efforts meaningless, just qualified. Filled with God’s grace, those efforts may actually create something truly eternal. As Elder Paisios put it:

      “It is good to have the intellectual powers that take man to the moon costing billions of dollars in fuel expenses and so on, but it is better to have spiritual powers that raise man to God, his ultimate destination, with only a bit of fuel, a mere dried piece of bread.”

      • Dear Chrys,

        “I believe that the freedoms that we are so concerned about have done more than any system yet devised to liberate the talents that God has so liberally distributed among all people. These talents have enriched and blessed all” — Please make your case so as to demonstrate upon which this your belief is founded. It would seem to me (church) history contradicts your claim. The early church martyrs come to mind.

        “The Gospels do not speak of earthly things, but of heavenly things, teaching us a different life and polity, new riches and poverty, unprecedented freedom and bondage, another kind of life and death, a different world and other – not like Plato, who contrived that ridiculous Republic of his, nor like Zeno and the other politicians, philosophers, and lawmakers. For all of them had the following common attribute: they revealed that the evil spirit secretly inspired their souls. Our own conscience which protests proves that all their ideas were demonic devices, and all their teachings contrary to nature”

        (St. John Chrysostom, Homily I on the Gospel According to St. Matthew).

      • Chris, you write the Vatican critiques the Orthodox of being dependent on the local government– true if the synod allows the leader to co-opt its responsibilities.

        This while the Vatican is dependent on its own wake to the extent they made the leader of their government able to speak of himself for the church as Christ’s Vicar on Earth.

        Seems the error is increased if church governance exceeds national ones. Hint to Chambessy ‘rule from afar’ types.

        P.S. if we colonize the moon will it need its own pope?

  12. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Robert writes (note #11.2.1.1.1):

    Specifically what needs to be demonstrated is how precisely it liberates God’s talents “more than any system yet devised”. How do you get to this conclusion? Is it true? Does it hold up against careful scrutiny?

    I am not the author of the essay although I agree with many of its conclusions. But if you would, focus your question. State the objection behind it so I can grasp it better.

    • Fr. Hans (and Chrys),

      I am merely recalling a prudent word your stated earlier – “Ideas should be explained and defended, not just stated as if one’s conviction of their veracity makes them self-evidently true.”

      It was Chrys who made the assertion that our current system liberates God’s talents “more than any system yet devised”.

      Hence my comments, and I will restate them for clarity’s sake:

      ….what needs to be demonstrated is how precisely it liberates God’s talents “more than any system yet devised”. How do you get to this conclusion? Is it true? Does it hold up against careful scrutiny?

  13. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I’ll let Chris answer his point. My reason for pointing our the article is your implied conclusion (note #11.2.1) that the affairs of state and culture are divorced from the Christian faith. I say “implied” because that is how the quote you offered from St. John Chrysostom functions in context. Fr. Trenham’s article uses Chrysostom as well but with considerable research and explanation provided that reaches quite a different conclusion.

    It would seem then that first we have to determine if your conclusion (or at least the divorce you seem to imply is necessary between faith and culture) is accurate. If I am misreading the conclusion, let me know.

  14. Fr. Johannes,

    What conclusion(s) do you see Fr. Trenham make in his essay? I am not so sure what conclusion he is drawing. Perhaps this counts as a conclusion? – “It is our Christian task to plumb his depths in crafting a responsible vision for Christian ministry in this urban context” – but how that is to be done he leaves unanswered. What is exactly is this “responsible vision for Christian ministry”? Why you would make reference to the essay, then, as of yet escapes me.

    I have made no assertions or drawn conclusions, only asked another commenter for a defense of his/her position, quoting a passage from St. John that would seem to counter the commenter’s assertion.

    • Robert, sorry for the delay. It’s been a long work day.

      I suspect that there may be some different assumptions at work. My comments were of a much more mundane nature than you seem to have in mind. I was speaking primarily of the political and economic system we enjoy. I believe that it has been a greater blessing to more sinful people than any other political or economic system in this fallen world. The fact that our political and economic systems are “of this world” does not automatically render them blameworthy.

      Of course, in saying this I assume that the body is integral to what it means to be human and that our faithfulness to God is expressed in and through it. Therefore, political and economic issues matter, if for no other reason than these are but expressions (although at times conceptual and indirect) of how we treat our neighbors.

      I do not look for perfection in either politics or economics. In fact, one of the great virtues of our system is that it does not depend on the virtue of all participants. (Good luck finding much of that in politics.) Recognizing the pervasive and potent power of sin, the Founding Fathers sought to mitigate the concentration of power (which gives sin leverage and, as Lord Acton noted, corrupts). I believe that their assumptions in this matter were perfectly in line with – and ultimately informed by – the views of the Church . . . unlike, say, Plato who assumed that rule by a few wise and good men would lead to the ideal republic. (Given that criteria, he may as well have tried to build a government led by unicorns.) In this, I think St. John would agree.

      If I understand you comments correctly, I doubt that the Founding Fathers would disagree with your critique. After all, their assumptions were deeply rooted in the Christian faith. This does not mean that they themselves were all traditional Christians, only that the traditional faith deeply informed their assumptions and cultural values. Indeed, I believe that it was the Gospel’s message of freedom and its recognition of the intrinsic value of the individual that inspired so much of Western culture. Though the West was never a model of faithfulness (who was?), it nevertheless owes a great deal to and was largely formed by judeo-christian beliefs. For the same reason, I suspect that St. John might see some kinship in the thought of the Founding Fathers – more, at any rate, than in the notions of the Greek philosophers.

      Of course, you are right to note the limited value of any human system. Ultimately, our human potential is only fully realized in God. We see a glimpse of this in the Saints, who – transformed by the archetype of humanity, Christ, – are restored to their original nature. That nature participates deeply in the freedom of God Who is True Freedom. So, yes, I would agree with that true freedom and true life are found only in God. Then again, there is no perfect anything in human existence, not even sanctity. (Thus the old Irish ditty: “To live above with the Saints we love – that’s the purest glory. But to live below with the saints we know, that’s another story.”)

      I would note that I mentioned talents, not gifts. There is – at least in my usage – a key difference. Talents are given to us by God (as is everything), yet are “possessed” and used by us as we will and can. Gifts are the fruit of our participation in the life of the Spirit, and as such, are very contingent upon God’s purposes.

      My contention is that it is only the freedom offered by democratic capitalism that allows the vast majority of us to develop, apply and exercise those talents. Put differently, five hundred to a thousand years ago, the ancestors of most of us who are posting here were likely peasants. While they may have been every bit as talented as we are, they had almost no scope to develop those talents or apply them. Contrast this with the aristocracy, who had vastly more opportunity. It was this heavily skewed system that St. John – and most of human history – knew. Since we can now look around us and see how incredibly fruitful the “native genius” (as Hayek rightly pointed out) of so many talented individuals has been, that we can also recognized how impoverished previous societies were for it.

      The marvels of freedom and technology that we enjoy today were unknown and unimagined by most of humanity. These are the cumulative result of the efforts of so many talented people before us – talents unleashed by the remarkable freedom and relatively accessible capital of our political and economic system. Yes, imperfect and messy – but remarkable relative to the other systems known by man. It was democratic capitalism that fostered the free and fruitful efforts that produced the explosion of progress we have enjoyed. Consider the environmentally controlled world (cars, homes, offices) we enjoy and expect, the technology we could not imagine 30 years ago (such as the computers we are using right now), the medical advancements we take for granted yet without which many of us who participate on this blog would likely have died at a much earlier age (even as recently as just a hundred years ago). This happened because millions of people – fallen, impure, messy and selfish as they are – were free to develop and exercise their talents. This material progress comes at no small cost; no progress of any kind does – not even spiritual progress.

      And the real beauty of it is that it only works when we seek to serve our neighbor and strive to meet his needs. (And that – as Adam Smith noted – apart from my motivation or purity of intention. Which is good, given the fallen nature of this world.) If I don’t provide meaningful value to my neighbor, he takes the money I need elsewhere.

      Please note: I recognize that all of this occurs in a very messy, very imperfect fashion. There is appalling corruption and horrible abuse. I am absolutely not claiming that we have a perfect society, let alone anything like life as God intended or the Fathers described. We are far, far from living a life of Communion. Yet the insistence on perfection in this world is an act of ingratitude for the good that we do have (and do not deserve). It also has more than a hint of idolatry, since the imposition of one’s ideal is a denial of the purposes of God which transcend anything we can think or imagine. It also betrays a lack of humility, since there is no perfect “anything” in human existence.

      Yet it is no small thing to live in such a society and I am deeply grateful for it. I am grateful to those who created it, to those who developed it, to those whose work bore the fruit that we all now take for granted. Otherwise, life would still be Hobbesian for the vast majority of us: nasty, brutish and short. Then, like my great, great grandfather, I would be working all day and all week long in some coal mine with little opportunity to enjoy this kind of discussion.

      • Hi Chrys,

        Thanks for the reply.

        So then do you see a divorce between God’s purposes and the mundane? It may be best to define what you mean by the talents of God to which you refer. To wit, at this point, I remain unconvinced as you have not shown how it is our current system “liberates God’s talents”. How do my 6 TV sets, 4 cars and 47.2 weekly internet usage do this? Unless of course by talents you mean the accumulation of wealth, leisure time, disposable income, cheap trinkets, 24/7 entertainment and such.

        However, if these are not the talents to which you refer, can you demonstrate how a mine worker’s vocation per se interferes with his talents more so than my enslavement in the cubicle? If it were the aristocrats who were talent-wise at an advantage how would you propose to demonstrate or quantify this, perhaps by means of hagiography? Or there too we must point to wealth and leisure? God’s talents (however they may be defined) require progressive advancement in leisure time, technology, disposable income et al, in order to thrive?

        • Robert, I am not sure how you arrived at the conclusions and questions you have, so I suspect that we may indeed be operating from very different assumptions. I am not sure that I can resolve this, but I will give it a shot.

          Do I see a divorce between God’s purposes and the mundane? To the contrary. This was the entire basis of my comments: we exist as embodied beings. In fact, this was addressed specifically in the 2nd paragraph and explored in the remainder of my comments.

          Discussing individual talents and abilities and distinguishing them from “charismatic” gifts is not a bifurcation of any kind, but a recognition that certain gifts become manifest either according to the specific purpose of God or at a certain level of spiritual maturity. This is obvious from both Scripture and the history of the Church. A distinction here is not a division, and for this reason we often use the language such as “created and uncreated,” or “natural and supernatural” (which, of course, are not the same thing) to identify this sort of difference.

          I am also confused by your conflation or “trinkets” with talents. At no point do I identify the outcome or results of our efforts with the talents and creative efforts that produced them. The items I mentioned are merely illustrative of our ability to be creative. (Given your reading of my comments, could Adam’s role also be reduced to “just growing a bunch of fruit in the Garden?”) In my effort to make a vivid illustration, I pointed to our remarkable advances in technology; somehow these were reduced, apparently, to consumer items (though this only proves the point that we have a remarkably fruitful system, since these things were once unthinkable and are now easily available) and then dismissed as “cheap trinkets”; yet my examples were merely illustrative. I could have just as easily pointed to specific advances in medicine (say, antibiotics or various vaccines), the development of remarkable tools that allow us to accomplish what had previously been unthinkable, or even the array of nonprofit-driven services or research being employed to address myriad problems. The evidence is indeed ample that the collaborative genius of your fellow man has been accelerated through democratic capitalism in a way unknown in history. You may wish to be denigrate these results, but they materially affect the quality of our lives. I am deeply grateful for the contributions of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Smith, Bell, Fleming, Watt, Carnegie, Edison, Rockefeller, Mellon, Friedman, Hayek, Walton, Ford, Gates, Jobs, and so many, many more.

          If assumptions are indeed at issue, I will make my point more bluntly.

          On the political level, our democratic republic is the most stable system yet devised to allow each of us to exercise some share in the shape of our governance.

          On the economic level, democratic capitalism provides relatively ample means and opportunities to exercise our talents and express our individual abilities in a way that no other economic system has or does.

          The fact that we can misuse, abuse or disregard the opportunity to participate as we wish is irrelevant. We do that regularly with the things of God and such misbehavior diminishes us, not Him.

          In this same way (as I noted repeatedly before), no system is perfect. In even the best system, you may point to plenty of folks who are “trapped” in a job they hate. (I’ve been there. But I’ve also had opportunities to do increasingly more of what I enjoy and am, I think, good at. For this I am grateful.)

          Unlike the mine worker’s world of 100 years ago, our economy is much more diverse, education is much more pervasive (regardless of its quality), and opportunity is, as a result, far more available today than it was then.

          Even so, being able to go home to “6 TV sets, 4 cars and 47.2 weekly internet usage” is nothing to sneeze at; it means that one has resources and means that the 19th century mine worker never dreamed of. I strongly doubt that he would have viewed it so dismissively. (It might reflect how your read my comments, but the reduction of wealth to mere “trinkets” would seem to denigrate the value of our economic efforts, itself reflecting some underlying bifurcation of body and soul.)

          As for whether or not God-given talents require wealth to thrive: does a seed sown on rocky ground thrive as well as a seed sown on rich soil? Do good schools and safe neighborhoods make a difference for our children? Does a child barely surviving in a hut have the same opportunities to exercise his potential abilities as a child at Sidwell Friends? Why this is so is hidden in the providence of God and beyond me. But it may also mean that our labors have real meaning and consequences – even, in some fashion, for generations after us.

          Does this affect our ability to be faithful to God and grow in the Spirit? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, material wealth seems to be of no factor. (It may even be a potential problem.) Yet our own experience shows that some circumstances seem more conducive than others. Here, too, the spiritual “wealth” of a family or society may also have some impact. How many saints are cultivated in pious families? Or came from devout villages? Or came to personally know someone who was mature in holiness? Quite a few, it seems.

          Like any tool, then, wealth – in whatever form – merely allows us to leverage our efforts. To return to your example: if we choose to waste those resources on “6 TV sets, 4 cars and 47.2 weekly internet usage” – well, that is our choice. We could instead have used it to serve our neighbor, to support the Church, to fund missions, to support schools, etc. (On a more mundane level, most small businesses use those resources to build, support or expand their business.) We can “invest” it in the Kingdom. In the same way, we could have used those 47.2 hours to love our families, go to Church, read, or pray, rather than blog. (Given the length of this post, however, you may indict me for a bit of hypocrisy here.) Regardless, whatever wealth we have offers an incredible opportunity to serve and bless our fellow man. As such, whether our wealth becomes a blessing to us or a curse depends on us and how we use it. (Your example, however, illustrates the kind of acquisitiveness that I believe is indeed corroding our country. I suspect that the driving force behind it is either a search for God in all the wrong places – or idolatry). Hopefully, we love God and neighbor more than indulgence and use our wealth to bless others. (1 John 3:17) But we have that choice precisely as a result of a system that has been remarkably fruitful.

          In the end, the freedom (limited, conditioned and imperfect as it must be) that undergirds our political and economic systems gives us tremendous scope to serve God and neighbor. I would rather be able to participate freely in the political process than not – even if it is imperfect and mine is only one of 50 million votes. I would rather be able to pursue a career that allows me to use my talents than not. I would rather have the freedom to participate where I can than not. More than most, that is possible in our system today.

          • Chrys I am merely trying to understand your position, I was not offering a critique. Your position may be self evident to you, but certainly it is not so to me. I have come to see things over the years, well let’s say, from a different angle. For instance, I think you grossly underestimate the role consumerism, entertainment and militarism play in keeping our system together both economically, politically and socially; that you turn a blind eye to the immense humanitarian burden our so-called freedom and wealth has placed and continues to place on the world and ourselves; that we are really not as free or as wealthy as we are told we are. In short, I take a much more critical stance towards the status quo.

            We do agree at the least in our suspicion idolatry is a culprit.

          • Robert, thank for the clarification. Frankly, stating what you think is much more helpful than asking a series of very broad questions.

            It was never my intention to offer a detailed, nuanced thesis of my view of the conditional freedoms we enjoy. I was simply offering that in our very imperfect, sinful and corrupt world, the prudent distribution of power and widespread freedom have been very productive when take on their own terms. These conditional freedoms are very qualified and limited compared to the REAL freedom that may be found in Christ.

            It may surprise you that I agree with your view of consumerism and entertainment. I touched on the former above. I noted my concerns about entertainment in my comment 3.1 and elsewhere. To try to restate or integrate these would turn a post that is already way too long into a tome ill-suited to this media. (I may have crossed that line already.) The only area I disagree is the military issue: these days other lobbyists have an equally or greater corrosive effect on legislation, and – in my view – the benefits of a strong military far outweigh the risks of a weak one. Global trade has certainly benefited from the relatively safe and reliable trading lanes that our military has secured. (There is plenty of room for discussion of how to effectively structure military spending, but that conversation belongs elsewhere.)

            Are we as “wealthy and free” as we are told we are? Perhaps not. (Last time: nothing is absolute in this world, which means it is always easy to claim that realty pales compared to one’s ideal.)

            Political discourse tends to shift between flattering ourselves to terrorizing ourselves; neither is accurate. That said, a quick trip to the third world country of one’s choice might increase one’s appreciation of both what we have AND what we waste. (Interestingly, waste has been used as a measure of wealth, since only the wealthy in any society can afford it.) I am not sure what “burden” we are placing on the world. (Yes, I know the false claims about our level of use of the world’s resources – false because we aren’t just consuming them. In fact, we are largely using them to produce something else, which is how wealth is created.)

            Eliot, yes. I have heard the critique that the distorted focus in the West has produced inordinate technological mastery at the cost of spiritual bankruptcy. I can see where that may well be true. at the same time, I am not willing to accept the alternative – which would be that spiritual “wealth” would require a posture that leaves us materially bankrupt. We must subordinate material concerns to God or else we are not fit to follow Him. Yet He notes that good stewardship should be fruitful. And He used return on investment to make the point. While we must “hate” everything (even family – even ourselves! ) by comparison to our love for God, we are called all the same to care for it, tend it, and be creative. That this has been done poorly be sinful creatures is not news. That many have still be benefited by the efforts of their neighbors remains, in the end, cause for thanksgiving.

  15. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    One conclusion I draw is that the engagement of urban life (and by extension all of culture) is the task of the Christian. That he offers no concrete suggestions doesn’t bother me since that is our task (if you accept Fr. Trenham’s conclusion, which I do).

    It’s a different reading of Chrysostom than the one you offered — if I am reading your implied conclusion correctly that is. You seemed to say questions of this type fall outside the purview of Christian obligation. I see it as central to Christian life.

    • Father Bless!

      No, I do not think it falls outside our obligation, nor do I think St John makes that case. How would one go about complete disengagement? It is absurd.

      The question is the nature of said engagement. How do we define and what constitutes “engagement”? What do we mean by “culture”? What is the purpose of this engagement, the purpose of our Christian lives; what are its methods, its limits? By which or by whose authority shall we accept answers to these questions?

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Robert, you are dancing around your ideas. Just state them. This is more efficient than asking those you question to write paragraphs of explanation hoping it will address your rather open ended questions. I’m sure that most everyone here is willing to discuss their views and thinking, but most contributors address them directly.

        • Fr. Hans,

          Yes perhaps I am dancing, or perhaps like Fr. Trenham I offer no concrete suggestions. Have I offended you? If so, please forgive me.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            No forgiveness needed. This isn’t about offending anyone, it’s about you being more clear than you are. Nothing more than that. And no, there is no “perhaps.” You are dancing. That much is clear as well.

  16. Chrys:

    This happened because millions of people – fallen, impure, messy and selfish as they are – were free to develop and exercise their talents. This material progress comes at no small cost; no progress of any kind does – not even spiritual progress.

    I do not believe that people were really free. They were guided (misguided?) to cultivate only certain talents. They were free to choose from what was offered, encouraged, and rewarded. The long term price for this material progress was/is countless lost souls, and in the end the Apocalypse.

    http://www.orthodoxengland.org.uk/pdf/euspiritcap.pdf

    In this West, Christians have for nearly a thousand years largely been forced into abandoning the wholeness of the Faith. However, a minority has always kept a nostalgic yearning for God and His Church. This represents a pure but suppressed undercurrent in Western life, fighting in a hidden White Movement for spiritual authority, for God and King, for, in French, ‘la foi et le roi’. It can be discovered only through the spiritual treasure-hunt for lost wisdom. Instead of spiritual development and progress, the Western powers have concentrated on economic and technological development and progress, giving themselves all power and authority. It is this Babylonian ‘progress’ and technology which will lead to the end of the world through catastrophe, nuclear, biological and ecological.
    […]
    For east of the European dividing line, Christians have continued to struggle in the integral faith, though with ever more difficulty as the centuries have swept past. They were persecuted and suffered for the Church, just as Christ suffered and just as He warned His disciples that they would suffer. ‘If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also’ (Jn. 15, 20). For suffering is the currency of this world, with which we can buy paradise. For the suffering that is with Christ is the suffering which has value in eternity, leading to the Resurrection.

    • Eliot, in my haste I included my response in my comments (14.1.1.1.2) above.
      Short version: I agree with qualification. Wealth does not automatically damn any more than poverty automatically saves. While it may be true that more fall amidst comfort than persecution, few of us pray for the latter. Humility and gratitude and genuine worship of God are the order to the day in either case.

  17. I’ve begun reading a bit of the life of St. John of Kronstadt and I think his life offers a point of departure for all of us. Given the extensive self-examination he wrote and is extant it is possible to see both the struggles with temptation and sin as well as the holiness in his life. His was a life lived in a matrix of prayer, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist. His were not just passive prayers not ‘dispassionate’ in any obvious way. He prayed fervently and always, expecting an answer, even demanding one.

    Archmandrite Zacharias made the point in his lectures that became the book, The Enlargement of the Heart, that a great deal of our material progress might be linked to the abandonment of God and lack of concern for salvation. Certainly, as Robert points out there is an strong element of that. Yet, Fr. John’s approach was to expect that the God who gave Himself for us will not withhold any of the things we need. IMO it is lazy and misses the point to critique the whole while failing to critique ourselves. It is equally lazy to accept the whole as a substitute for engaging in spiritual warfare and discernment.

    All too often the critiques of the world and the manner in which ‘we’ live in his country devolve into a remedy that involves using more of the world in order to remedy the perceived problem rather than returning to the foundational practices of the Church: prayer (private and sacramentally), almsgiving, fasting, repentance and forgiveness.

    The call to follow Christ is personal, intimate and unique. We always have the choice to respond to that call or ignore it whether we are a coal miner who rarely sees the light of day and is indebted to the company store or a multi-billionaire. Freedom is the state of our being because of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; it is not a result of any political or economic system. At best the political economy will reflect the freedom we have found in our own hearts, but even if it does not, we are still free if we are in Christ; enslaved if we are not.

    As with most of the Christian life there is an antinomy here which is not easy to penetrate. We are called to be in the world, but not of it. The incarnational, sacramental reality of our life in Christ demands that we see His glory in all that we do and in all that we make and in all that He has made, without placing anything or anyone before Him.

    I don’t give a great deal of credence to the “founders-as-Christians” myth. While they certainly were informed by a dying Christian world view, it was at best heretical and dualistic. My bishop in a homily on “Right to Life Sunday” one year pointed out that we have no ‘right’ to life (and by extension no ‘rights’ at all-inalienable or otherwise). Life is a gift, a gift which we sacramentally offer back to Him who is life when the priest prays: “Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee….”

    We either make icons or idols. We either offer praise and thanksgiving at the gateway to the Kingdom or we give ourselves over to our own devices and reject the gift. We either become an icon and reflect His life or we are consumed by the darkness.

    • Michael, I agree with most of what you have said. True Freedom – or at least the only real kind – is found in Christ. Yet there is a relative, conditional freedom that may be found in both political and economic spheres. That said, it’s getting a little tiresome pointing out the difference between the conditional, embodied world in which we live. If we applied this criteria to everything we did, then nothing we do would have any import.

      The practical reality of this relative political and economic freedom may be more evident – a precious – to those who were deprived of either. I, fortunately, have been experienced those conditions. My ONLY point in the initial comment was that we have a relatively free society – one of the freest and most economically productive in history – and we should not be ungrateful or unfaithful in our stewardship of it.

      As for the Founding Fathers, you expressed it better than I did. But that world view was more pervasive and profound – if distorted in individual cases (I personally think the “deist” case has been overstated. Some were. Plenty weren’t.)

      As for “right to life,” your Bishop is obviously correct in the manner he has stated it. Life belongs to God alone. The “right to life” was never meant to claim divine prerogatives, but to assert the need to protect and cherish it as, in fact, God-given and not conferred by government.

  18. Chrys,

    How else would you suggest that “Ideas should be explained and defended, not just stated as if one’s conviction of their veracity makes them self-evidently true”?

    As to supposedly broad questions – I asked you one very pointed question: “how precisely our current system liberates God’s talents “more than any system yet devised””? Is this not a fair question? Did I cross some imaginary line? Did I offend people here? And Fr. Hans tells me I dance around the issues?

    Look if you or Fr. Hans don’t want a meaningful discussion here, but rather a cheerleader session, please say so. I won’t ask any more questions. But please let us spare the, “ideas should be explained and defended” line because, in the end, it proves meaningless and disingenious.

    • Robert, I have tried to offered illustrations and examples because we are talking about a very, very broad topic. At NO point have I asked you to accept my “conviction” or sincerity as sufficient. At NO point have I indicated that you don’t have the right to ask questions or challenge. My difficulty and expansiveness are both rooted in trying to address very broad – and, to me, vague, questions.

      Even here, I not sure what you are responding to. What is your first sentence referring to? I haven’t indicated that you have no right challenge my point. My best GUESS here is that you MIGHT be responding to my indication that I didn’t want to write a tome. A blog is hardly the place for a carefully nuanced, detailed position. I made a very broad point and have tried repeatedly to expand on both my perspective and illustrations.

      However ineffectively, I have, in fact, tried to answer your questions. It’s okay with me if you disagree; I don’t think I have indicated any derogatory judgment if you don’t. If you disagree with my comments, please provide counter illustrations – or specific questions. I probably should have asked questions myself. Instead I have written way too much trying to offer answers to “potential” concerns. As I noted this last time, your previous comments were very helpful in this regard.

      Since I haven’t asked to you comply with anything in the conversation, I would only ask that you exhibit similar respect. The last paragraph fails to do so.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Look if you or Fr. Hans don’t want a meaningful discussion here, but rather a cheerleader session, please say so. I won’t ask any more questions. But please let us spare the, “ideas should be explained and defended” line because, in the end, it proves meaningless and disingenious.

      Robert, I’m all for meaningful discussion, but discussion is a two way street. You have to bring some specificity and clarity to your points. It really is that simple. I said the same thing upstream and although I am not in the habit of repeating my points, my suggestion is necessary if any progress is going to be made.

      I suppose the “meaningless and disingenuous” arises because you don’t like being pressed. I understand that but your are on a blog Robert, not in a classroom. Ideas are challenged and defended here all the time, but it takes place in the give and take of conversation, not lecture or cross-examination.

      • I am glad I haven’t offended you. Thank you.

        Simply stating our job is to engage culture is meaningless. Can this not be answered in a myriad of diverse and perhaps contradicting ways, even within an Eastern Orthodox context? One would say this means simply tending to our personal podvigs, yet others would propose this to mean an organized effort towards evangelization ala Fuller. Are all methods equally valid? Anyways, I have already asked you this.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          No, not meaningless but undefined — there’s a difference, a big difference in fact.

          Thus, your question about whether or not different spiritual disciplines are “equally valid” can’t really be answered, not without knowing the context and presuppositions that inform your question. Contradictions often are only a surface phenomena, especially with matters of the soul. One person serves in cities, another eschews human contact almost exclusively for example, yet both are the ways of God. Clearly more is at work here.

          You are asking very general questions, yet your trajectory is offensive (as in offense vs. defense). You really ought to just come out and say what you are trying to keep hidden. Much more fruitful that way in the long run.

  19. Robert, a quick addendum. Thanks for making the edits you did. You have crossed no line with me. I hope there is nothing in what I have written that has made you feel that you have. Forgive me if I have conveyed anything otherwise.

    That said, I typically work very long days and just don’t have the energy for even the conversation we have tried to have so far. Furthermore, there are others out there who could, I am sure, make the points more effectively and clearly than I.

    My initial claim may have been too broadly stated for someone who has a more nuanced view of our culture. Here’s the short version: I am very grateful to live in a society that has done so much politically and economically for so many. God has given generous gifts to all mankind and our culture “allows” those gifts to be cultivated in a way that the constraints of many other cultures would not permit. This does NOT mean that we have been faithful in cultivating them – only that we have fewer constraints than most systems. What we have made of it is evident – for good and bad. I realize that this is merely a tentative conclusion, but it is derived from a lifetime of experience and reflection so far. (That, of course, is not offered as a proof, but to note the source of a very, very broad generalization.) Your own reflections and experience may well draw different tentative conclusions. I am not sure what manner of evidence would suffice as a brief support beyond the illustrations I have offered. If you can point to a better way to approach the question, please let me know.

    At the same time, I also believe that we are indeed a mess spiritually and that this may ultimately cause our collapse. My best contribution to the world in which I live is to become a saint, so far as I can with God’s grace, and bless both God and neighbor.

  20. Thanks Chrys,

    You said, “Even here, I am not sure what you are responding to” – I was responding to your earlier comment that, “stating what you think is much more helpful than asking a series of very broad questions” to which I replied, “How else would you suggest that “Ideas should be explained and defended, not just stated as if one’s conviction of their veracity makes them self-evidently true”?”. In other words, in asking you a pointed question, why should I have to state my position?

  21. Robert, thanks. You are absolutely correct. You certainly don’t need to state your position. What it does do, however, is help me to understand your question. It may well be me – or we may have very different unstated assumptions at work – but I have struggled to understand exactly what you are asking and so have tended to try to answer a range of potential questions. This has proven to be both laborious and ineffective, so the comments did help. I hope that clarified MY response. As I said, I have been trying to answer what I think you are asking, and as we have “conversed” I have gotten the sense that we are probably more in agreement than you may suspect it’s just that in trying to provide some measure of explanation and support for my broad conclusion my comments have been focused on the more positive aspects. My appreciation for our system remains qualified. Instability is intrinsic to both creation (entropy) and humanity (Hyman Minsky noted that the very stability of our systems breeds risk taking that creates instability), and sin misuses the good things of God’s creation to bad ends. (Indeed, nothing corrupts like decadence and we seem to face a rising tide of it. I suspect that God forced man out of Eden because sinful man left in paradise only seems to get worse.
    Given the inherent instability and depth of corruption of humanity, there is plenty that remains both unacceptable or potentially destructive. Yet even in these one can see the providence of God, since they can lead us (hopefully) to rely on Him and His grace. In this way, it seems to me, by which He brings good out of bad.

  22. Chrys,

    Yes I think I have a much better understanding of your original statement. Thank you. For one, what you meant by “talents” has become much the clearer.

  23. Fr Johannes,

    Pithless Thoughts has a post up about engaging culture and such matters.
    http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/09/saints-and-evangelism.html

    “how do we evangelize and “engage the culture”? I think the answer is this: There is no Orthodox service for the baptism of a “culture”. There is only one baptism: of persons, and one at a time. The “Church” does not engage cultures, saints encounter people. When enough people live as saints and enough persons are baptized because of those encounters, cultures change.”

    Your thoughts?

  24. Robert,
    The Church has a collective voice that must be raised prophetically; the Church has collective actions,e.g,alsmgiving in all its forms, that must be taken; the Church has a collective possiton in the culture which flows from her ability and willingness to act in the first two areas.

    Your proposition is too individualistic/personalist and, in a sense, denies the incarnational reality of the Church. Saints become saints because of their activity in the Church. One cannot profitably separate the saints from the Church any more than one can profitably separate the Bible from the Church.

    Pseudo-neutrality and the attempt to present oneself as aloof from the fray, is also indicative, IMO, of a fundamental denial of the incarnational/sacramental calling of Christians to be IN the world, but not of it. Your posts seem to suffer from just such an attitude. I, as well, would urge you to be more direct and specific. That allows for good dialog as well as being scriptural: Let your yes be yes and your no, no.

  25. Well there seems to be two positions on this, they appear to be opposites. The one camp centers around the church as a community of individuals, the other around the church as a collective organization.

    There seems to be also quite a bit of a cross current (animosity??) I seem to be picking up between the two camps. It is quite puzzling to me, perhaps I am just dumb or naive, or both. Is it possible the two can have a conversation without the biting off the proverbial heads?

    • Robert, IMO there is no such thing as a ‘community of individuals’ there can be and is a community of persons who share one another’s life as they share Christ’s life. [There is a big difference between an individual and a person]

      Human beings are not created to live as individuals. We are not autonomous beings. My bishop once said in a homily that “there is no such thing as a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus Christ”. We are bound together as the result of our created nature and even more profoundly by the mystery of the Incarnation and the communion we share.

      The tension between the unique person and the demands of community are reflective of the many different ways in which we are challenged to recognized that apparent conflicts are actually part of the same whole truth: Jesus-fully God and fully man; we must die to live; in the world, not of it; peacemaking warriors, etc. The more we submit our will to God’s the more we become more uniquely who we are created to be. The more we express our own individual will, the less unique we become.

      Dualism is not part of the Church. Any descent into dualism automatically reflects that something is wrong somewhere.

      It cannot be forgotten that the Church is hierarchical. We receive from above the teachings and the sacrament. We give as we have received. Even Jesus said he did nothing on his own, but merely what the Father told him to do. Any time we act, the Church is acting. Therefore it behooves the Church through the hierarchy to ‘rightly divide the word of truth’ to lead by action as well as words; to unite us to reflect the unity and truth to which Jesus Christ calls us.

      The premier cultural issues of our time are often matters of faith, doctrine and morality that simply cannot be addressed on an individual, ad hoc basis. Certainly each one of us has a responsibility to act in accord with our faith and the teaching of the Church, but that does not suffice.

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