George C. Michalopulos has submitted the following in response to Harry Katopodis’ article on Orthodox Dominionists. Michalopulos is co-author, with Herb Ham, of “The American Orthodox Church — A History of its Beginnings” (Regina Orthodox Press).
It never ceases to amaze me how certain benighted and theologically inept individuals take upon themselves the task of speaking for Christ’s Church as it traverses on its voyage through history. One such individual fears that the so-called religious right has made inroads into the Orthodox Church in North America, and that it is only because of noble souls such as himself that tolerance can only be found in one remaining bastion, i.e. the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
And of what is Katapodis afraid? In no particular order: converts, “theocons,” non-GOAA bishops, and the rising tide of pro-lifers within American Orthodoxy.
The ridiculousness does not end there. In order to buttress this foolish argument, Katapodis creates a straw man –the dreaded “Dominionist theologian.” This phantom has under guise of conversion to Orthodoxy taken over the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America. Instead of what actually happened –sincere converts of all political ideologies embracing the Ark of Salvation—he sees instead a nefarious descent along a rightward political path.
Unfortunately, he cannot name any such formerly evangelical crypto-Dominionists lurking within Orthodoxy. Nor for that matter can he name any in the evangelical movement itself. That’s because he doesn’t know of any. I daresay that Mr Katapodis first heard about the Dominion branch of evangelicalism at some mainstream media cocktail party where the usual herd of independent thinkers that make up the mainstream media congratulated him on belonging to a quaint, ethnic church known for its cultural splendor and excellent cuisine. Ghettos can be part of the “gorgeous mosaic” of our diverse society once the people within them accept their place and don’t make trouble. (You know, like actually believe Jesus’ exhortation to “go and make disciples of all nations.”)
What Katapodis failed to mention is that Dominion theology encompasses an extremely small fringe group, one whose views are castigated by the vast majority of charismatics and evangelicals. From what I know of people within this movement, I can safely say that Orthodox Christianity is one of the last places they would pin their hopes on for restoring America to its puritan, republican past. After all, many of us in our ethnic ghettos are more concerned with reviving medieval autocracies and longing for a golden age that never was.
Katapodis compounds his error by condescending to those with whom he disagrees. In a most unchristian fashion, he castigates OCA bishops (those converts again) for actually tinkering with the Liturgy in order to celebrate “Sanctity of Life Sunday.” (Full disclosure: I never knew what this day was until I joined an OCA mission and I’ve been Orthodox all my life.)
The incongruity of such a pose cannot be maintained theologically however. Besides the teaching of Scripture, there is the problem of The Didache and of course the vast corpus of Spirit-filled writings produced by the Church Fathers –pro-lifers all. Katapodis and those like him hide behind the GOAA’s supposedly hear-no-evil/see-no-evil approach to modern society.
So how does such an elitist square the circle? By taking certain theologians’ words out of context. How else to explain eliding over Fr Theodore Stylianopoulos’ concern that nations are “to practice justice for all citizens and show compassion for their less fortunate members”? (Dare I ask: who is the most helpless among us than an unborn child?) Nor does any former evangelical I know of have any quarrel with Fr Stanley Harakas who warns against Orthodoxy being hijacked by any one particular party. All reasonable people agree with Harakas and his litany of political issues that he says Orthodox Christians of good conscience can disagree with. Notice however that in this same litany, abortion is not listed.
And why is this? Because abortion is strictly speaking, not a partisan issue. There are a great many pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans. We are talking about office holders as well as simple citizens. Harakas’ exhortation that “the official Church should not be involved in partisan politics” is clearly a non sequitur unless one ignores the history of this particular moral dilemma. Katapodis is either ignorant of the pro-life movement or he is deceitful.
We are not talking about terrorists here but about committed pastors who strive daily to discern the mind of Christ. What exactly is wrong about the statements of Fr David Subu, a dreaded “pro-lifer”? Should Orthodox Christians not be involved in politics? If so, kindly tell former Senator Sarbanes that his tenure in the Senate was a waste of time. Ditto Senators Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich. Here though Katapodis gives away the game: he points out that Subu’s exhortation appeared in The Solia, a publication of the Romanian Episcopate, “under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Nathaniel Popp, who is a leading proponent for making one Orthodox Church in America.” Katapodis’ worst fears are thus confirmed: those people who think we should have one Orthodox Church in America are intolerant “pro-lifers.” The dots are all connected!
At the risk of belaboring the point, I cannot for the life of me understand the bigotry Mr Katapodis displays towards fellow Orthodox Christians. What exactly is wrong with an Orthodox metropolitan attending a pro-life rally? Does he not have the right to do so? What about the time in 1964 when Archbishop Iakovos marched with the Martin Luther King? Was this wrong? Or is it a matter of whose political ox is being gored?
All gratuitousness aside, the sanctity of life is the moral issue of our time. It transcends cultures, religions, and ideologies. The demographic crises which is presently decimating Western Europe could not have happened without the overthrow of Christendom. The view that Christianity is one option among many is the sine qua non of the modern secular state. Mr Katapodis is perfectly free to embrace it. That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. He is not entitled to his own facts however. The Orthodox Church is a pro-life Church. It always has been and it always will be. If he feels that certain priests, bishops, and theologians within the more ethnic jurisdictions have told him otherwise –and if he believes them to be telling him the truth—then that is another matter entirely. For our sakes he should name them; otherwise, the plain text of Scripture and life of the Church from Pentecost to the present speaks for itself.