Quad City Times: Archbishop talks about DNA, faith

Source: Quad City Times

Archbishop Demetrios (GOA)

Archbishop Demetrios (GOA)

Genetics and faith.

The 100-year-old staying power of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Rock Island, is all about DNA and believing – just as it is for the church as a whole.

That is one of the messages being delivered this weekend by Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who is visiting St. George on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.

“A community, which has been able to live – not just survive, but prosper – for three generations … you have a presence here,” Demetrios said Saturday. “You have a presence with achievement.

“That is not an ordinary phenomenon.”

Part of St. George’s longevity is attributable to genetic makeup, he said.

“Given a scientific analysis, one reason is the DNA of the people,” the archbishop said. “It’s not accidental DNA. In terms of Greece, for thousands of years before Christ, culture was being produced.”

The relatively small Greek Orthodox following (“not in billions like the Chinese”) is driven by nature and its faith, he said.

Read the entire article on the Quad City Times website.


  1. For Pete’s sake.

    DNA? Really?

    Back to Helladism is the Gospel.

  2. Replace the words DNA with Race (omogenia) and read the article again. All this article does is remind the reader that when it comes to the GOA Omogenia (race) comes before Orthodoxy. If you do not have the right DNA/race you are second class. If your parishes flourish it is because of good DNA, if your parish flounders it must be because of bad DNA.

    Heck, does this article in reality say anything different than the infamous words which ended the career of the sportscaster known as “Jimmy the Greek”??????

    All of us should ask ourselves how the Archbishop can effectively chair the EA in America when he holds such beliefs regarding DNA and race? So much for anything close to evagelism.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    I guess we could rename the official journal of the GOA Der Volkischer Beobachter?

    This is beyond an embarrassment. It’s probably one of the final nails in the coffin of the Episcopal Assembly’s erstwhile mission. Now, none of the other jurisdictions will want to subsume their own identities into the GOA.

    Prediction: the next EA (if there is one) will be even more sparsely attended than the first one. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of last minute “glitches” in the various bishops’ schedules.

  4. A euphemistic version of Mein Kampf?

  5. George Michalopulos :

    You know, something’s been bugging me for a few days now and this latest unfortunate comment from an otherwise estimable archbishop crystallized it for me. Rather than attack this fine man, let us consider instead that there are two stunningly different paradigms in evidence in modern Orthodoxy. We could call one ethno-colonialist and the other one missionary.

    Both are exemplifeid by two very fine young men: Rev Elpidophorous Lambrianides of the EP, and Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of the MP. Hilarion travels the world speaking about the moral crisis in Europe wherease Elpidophorous goes to theological schools in the US speaking about Canon 28. To my mind, that reminds me of the proverbial story of the drowning man and two bystanders. One bystander tosses him a rope (the Gospel), while the other man caresses the rope and waxes eloquently about the nature of hemp and which city makes the best rope.

    I’m not trying to be sarcastic but just trying to find the best analogy for our problems. Granted, it’s not fun to preach the Gospel, to go into the hiways and byways and minister to the sick and suffering, and speaking for myself, I’d much rather fly first-class to some neat city like Boston and be feted by academics, and there certainly is a place for such activities, but if we had to choose two paradigms, which one more closely follows what is found in the Gospel?

    • ethno-colonialist or missionary – sums it all up. It seem that the line in sand has already been drawn for us. All that is left is to choose a “side.”

  6. George, Russia has a geopolitcal ‘fondness’ shall we call it for what the MP can do for it and firmly ‘holds the rope’ secure for the MP these days. Will the MP repeat its mistakes of the Tsarist era and back favored officials without regard to how their choices affect the local people? We’ll see.

    However the EP has nobody holding its rope. Look at http://www.ask.com/wiki/Imbros to see what impressed Archbishop Demetrios, the sly releasing of jailed prisoners to do brutal personal crimes and damage property and otherwise push off Greek ethnics from their land and homes and lives. That kind of thing is a motivator, as it were.

    What holds the EP’s rope secure, a dusty text. They use what they have. Pity they didn’t reach out more to the people here, but instead to Fidel Castro amid complaining about how river residents weren’t doing right by it (cleaner it has never been every year for the last 40..). Israel reaches out here and gets support. Greece generally doesn’t send good PR government-wise our way. People to people though Greece is well loved and very strong. Somehow it all gets gummed up in their government statements. Wish I understood it.

  7. I’ve heard the Archbishop speak a few times. The last time was at the funeral of my coumbaro.

    After that service, which included a moving sermon by the Archbishop, I called Nikki Stephanopulos and told her, “if you would just keep him on the Gospel, and let more people hear him…you couldn’t build enough churches to hold all the people you’d have.” It was REALLY that inspirational.

    Look guys….I think everyone knows where i stand on this stuff. I don’t cut them any slack on the Hellenism nonsense.

    But, personally, in this one instance, I think we have a nice old man, trying to talk “modern” American to a Midwestern audience, and attempting to simply comment on the commendable spirit of the founders of that church.

    He chose bad terms…when I’m 75 years old, being interviewed by a Greek newspaper in Greece, I’ll do much worse.

    Give His Eminence a pass on this one. Clearly not one of his finer moments – but I don’t think it’s a snapshot of his entire world view either.

    He chose bad terms…that’s what I chalk it up to.

    Just my two cents worth.

    Best Regards,

    • George Michalopulos :

      Dean, if you re-read my post, you’ll see that I cut +Demetrios significant slack. (Heck, after how he stood up to the EP on the issue of +Jonah and the OCA, he’s aces in my book.) That’s why I went directly into my analogy about The Rope and the Drowning Man: the anti-hero in the story was not +Demetrios –who has to deal with a colonial eparchy as he finds it–but up-and-comers who seek to subjugate the Gospel to a horribly twisted misreading of canon law. Which let’s be honest, neither +Demetrios nor any other GOA bishop for that matter has promulgated here in America (to my knowledge).

      Like all men, the archbishop has his failings, we can’t fault him for having a Hellado-triumphalistic view of things. it’s the way he was raised. We all have our own socio-cultural referents. Americanists such as myself might substitute Teddy Roosevelt for Alexander the Great, Will Rogers for Aristotle, etc. I could easily see an American bishop going to a colony of ex-pats in Paris and praising them for still celebrating Thanksgiving and saying something like “It’s because of your Midwestern grit that you still get together for this holiday.”

      Having said that, Chris hits the nail right on the head. There simply can’t be any room for such racialism when speaking to the public or the parishioner.

      BTW, I have every confidence in your appraisal of his homiletical skills, I just for the life of me can’t understand why he doesn’t apply them more frequently. Is it because the Greekist powers-that-be here in the States would raise cain?

    • Dean, I disagree. The Archbishop has an entire press office and PR staff at his disposal. If his words were chosen poorly, if the author of this piece is confused, if the piece is misunderstood and has offended people with its words albeit inadvertently, then he can issue a statement through his office clarifying his remarks and humbly apologizing for giving offense. He can certainly show both humility and leadership in this regard.

      There is no law saying an Archbishop cannot admit a mistake and apologize. Besides, this might just be one of those teachable moments where +Demetrios rises to the occasion and shines.

      However, in the absence of such actions, we should not offer him any slack. He is accountable for his actions and words. After all, The GOA has excoriated many folks for challenging the conventional wisdom of 79th Street and supporting American Orthodoxy.

      • Hi Andrew,

        First of all, please believe me when i tell you that you are preaching to the choir. And having been one of those excoriated on many occassions, I truly appreciate the depth and veracity of your comments…and have the scars to prove it…LOL

        But when you say, “The Archbishop has an entire press office and PR staff at his disposal.” – I just had to chuckle.

        While you are technically correct…let’s all keep in mind the competence of those involved…describing them as “an entire press office and PR staff”…is like saying the Swiss Navy is a navy…I guess it’s technically correct, but all similarities between the two disappear shortly thereafter.

        That aside, all your points are well taken, and should happen.

        Best Regards,

  8. I don’t know why, but after reading the article I felt like I was listening to the director of the Orthodox Wax Museum who was describing how wonderful the reputation and credentials of its curators have been in maintaining it intact and nicely organized for centuries. Very close to George’s description of the second man who “caresses the rope and waxes eloquently about the nature of hemp and which city makes the best rope.”

    Regarding the Archbishops DNA comments:

    “Given a scientific analysis, one reason is the DNA of the people,” the archbishop said. “It’s not accidental DNA. In terms of Greece, for thousands of years before Christ, culture was being produced.”

    He seems to be implying that Greek culture was so refined and sophisticated “thousands of years before Christ” that it mainly explains the success of the Orthodox Christian faith in Greece and the special status of the Greek Orthodox Church. He’s placing ethnicity, DNA, at almost an even (or even higher) par with Christianity. In essence he is putting the cart before the horse.

    It is the Christian Faith that redeemed, enlightened, and lifted the Greek culture and made it into something worthwhile and important, not the other way around. Just like the Christian Faith redeemed the faithful Jews who recognized the true Messiah and believed. Just because the Jews were the “chosen people” (ie: had the right DNA) was not sufficient. They needed to recognize and follow The Word who became flesh and gave His life to fulfill Scriptures and complete the work of redeeming and saving mankind. It is through their faith in Jesus Christ that they finally came home and truly became the chosen people, the New Israel.

    I also seem to recall a passage from Scriptures that flatly contradicts +Demetrios’ DNA argument:

    Sons and Heirs
    For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

  9. Andrew and Chris especially: I urge you to increase your appreciation for the emotional effect personally touring this place of active persecution appears to have had. It is not a thing of texts and academic reflections and the charming conveyance of impressions gathered from observing events. This was a genuinely moving thing I think, one that left a person who usally has a professorial bent strangely in a region calling for actions and decisions.

    Perhaps a thing vaguely comparable to the ‘scouring of the shire’ where our hero having attained recognitions and authorities and accolades and lotsa people wanting to get in photos with him sees what living in the context of actual and constant if sophisticated oppression really is. And to see the nature of the struggle of those who hang on there as it is their home and for generations. A person can see it in racial terms, in ancestral home terms, in the context of the world wars and the treaties of the last century, in religious terms, or in the simple matters of the basic human right to be left alone in peace at home. Whatever. The mind of many of their actual oppressors has almost a biological/tribal ‘exterminate not-us’ character only dimly connected to the humanity of the thing. Many other more moderate would be most content to simply live in peace.

    So you have this Archbishop, who the EP having withdrawn all meaningful power from his office, then gets asked and goes on a tour of the suffering homeland of the EP. Once again you get more help from people on whose neck you are not standing.

    Anyhow the suffering there, the active oppression going on, the tenacity of the people hanging on by their thumbs just trying to live in the context of actual oppression — I think this was a moving thing, and recent, and perhaps informed those comments.

    As an ironic aside– Why do all the people who make reference to ‘Mother this or that’ usually intend to treat the hearer though adult enough to understand the phrase and with highly prized resources nevertheless in the status of infant who needs their intensive control? More and more I love ‘Uncle Sam’. By contrast does the value and inner meaning resolve.

  10. Harry, I have no doubt the Archbishop witnessed a grave tragedy on his recent trip. However, Pope John Paul II, Vaclav Havel & Solzhenitsyn also saw first had the sufferings of their people. These heroes let a peaceful revolution of faith and conscience that ended oppression and rescued their people from slavery. None of these leaders resorted to the DNA/race argument. In the case of John Paul II his argument was the Gospel in its fullness. Its was the Gospel and not Polish DNA that started the chain of events that brought down the Iron Curtain.

    This is why the Archbishop’s words hurt. They damage the lives of every person who is not part of the special race/omogenia and they damage the very people who suffer under the yoke of the Turkish government. They also damage the EP itself. Because in the ends its not about DNA/Race. Its about the human person created in the image and likeness of God. Its about the gift of freedom and the ability to do what is right. Would Dr. King have made such a DNA based argument in seeking to overturn the culture of racial segregation?

    If the Archbishop’s words regarding DNA are true then Orthodoxy is stripped of its prophetic witness. Its empty. This is what oppressors want. They want a Church without the ability to transforms lives and shape consciences. This does not help any person of group who suffers under the yoke of oppression.

    Its 2010. Isn’t it time for the Archbishop to say that we are all more than our race/DNA? We are created in the image and likeness of God and who we are is much more that our genetics.

    Isn’t it time we expect Christian greatness from our leaders instead of the mediocrity of racial politics?

    • Andrew,

      All I’m hoping for is an appreciation, as he was discussing touring these places you could see how it haunted him. Here are these all ethnic Greek people, right now, today, having their homes and properties taken because they were denied jobs, denied police protection, denied justice, been purposefully made victims of physical violence and property crime, etc. etc. Basically treated as horses to be ridden until they died without replacement. The only people there are ethnic Greeks and the recently arrived sub-populace of mostly moderate Turks, among this sub-populace a fraction big enough to do crimes and oppress willing to push ‘them’ away. Hence this narrow DNA dimension– that’s all that’s there.

      What is being done by the Pope? What is being done by, well, just about anybody? Greece’s government actions toward the US recently haven’t been exactly warm, though on a human level the relations are very good indeed. Seriously Turkey is a very big place with lots of space compared to the number of people who live there, why persecute the ethnic minorities? At this point it is just plain mean. The minorities are a threat to nobody and often better educated than average besides.

      So I’m guessing his immersion in that world where there were only ethnic Greeks and their oppressors with nobody else reaching in to make a difference might have provided the energy behind these tenacity of DNA comments. I don’t sense really an agenda to unfavorably compare to other peoples in general but instead to showcase or spotlight this situation of tenacity unaided and unhelped amid modern and ongoing oppression.

      That an a certain sense of helplessness. What can be done? So this sense of disquiet and pain I think just bubbled over. I prefer to believe that than to suppose the alternative along the lines you’ve outlined. The remarks read without that context are indeed hurtful and I hope he amends them.

      • P.S. Here’s me making apologies for a bishop who was among the defendants in a legal action about an imposed GOA charter where I was rather the least among many plaintiffs. Should I look now for horsemen in the air, the sound of trumpets, the end of days, and my dog and cat getting along? What a situation. Note that after the handed down charter was imposed, our sensitivies as seen in USA foreign policy attitudes and results and impacts has declined. Who’d have predicted that? Less US government interest in multiple fiefdoms controlled from Turkey than a unified Orthodox Church in the USA. So, the Foreign Policy 101 class they teach at the community college was right after all. What a shock. Will a foreign controlled unified church do any better? Hmmm… doing the math… borrow the nine… …. ….

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Harry, yes, I caught the irony, even before you mentioned it and your appeal to magnanimity has some force as a result. I can cut the Archbishop some slack since everyone makes mistakes. But this is a mistake that I hope he does not make again. Calling forward genetics as the justification for the survival of a people is fraught with problems, some of them leading to very bad ends.

          And this overlooks too the theological assumptions people make when they hear this kind of justification, as if called to be sons of God is a function of pedigree rather than baptism. Apart from Jesus, the Father has only adopted sons, that’s why there is no longer Greek or Jew in the New Israel, the ekklesia or “ones called out.” Once this is forgotten (and in some places it has been), the ekklesia reverts to synogogue, that is, an assembly of like minded believers rather than the the ones called out. There heritage can still be a compelling force for cultural creativity, but it is not enough to withstand the secular assaults of our age as the crisis in Greece makes clear.

          I’m not anti-Greek as you know, but the fact I’m compelled to offer the caveat shows that the thinking I am describing is more prevalent than it should be. It also limits the very real contributions of the Greeks to Western Civilization by redefining the wellspring in deterministic categories rather than directing the hearer to the contemplation of higher things. You would think that a man who lived through Nazism and the Communism of the Greek Civil War would be more careful.

          And that is what I find puzzling. I know Abp. Demetrios is a precise thinker and clear teacher. So I’ll accept your call for magnanimity. Maybe he was having a bad day.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Unfortunately Fr, he has a pattern of this. Remember grovelling before Imam Obama and extolling his virtues, calling him another Alexander the Great? A few more of these musings and the GOA will be reduced to an ethnic rump east of the Hudson River.

          • Fr. Hans: I want to think as you do as well. Among very many, mine was one of the hands involved in causing him to have the church job posting he now has. So maybe in truth I’m trying to excuse myself in some part.

            In my more quiet moments, I wonder if during the time after his experiences in the USA and before his return some habits of the ‘hyperbolic language’ favored by the EP didn’t creep in. You know, the EP referring to himself as ‘our modesty’ and so on. Over there flowery and hyperbolic language is common and people know what it is and how to understand it in context. Here, not so much. On the other hand, maybe here’s me making excuses again. I hope he amends these remarks somehow.

            Perhaps this is about the man who left as a respected theologian free of the pressures of geo-politics, but on his return having been in the high ‘Greek’ political circles the theologian also took on the ‘ethnarc’. Who knows. I just live in Iowa and need to get back to my knitting.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Harry, you’re being too hard on yourself. He’s a grown man, just like you and me. We all need to be held to account for our words and actions.

            Along this vein, I certainly blame you or anybody in the old Voithia/OCL axis for setting these actions into play (the exile of +Spyridon, etc.). The only way any blame can be leveled is to all laymen in the GOA (you, me, the guy behind the tree) who continue to allow this situation to fester.

            I don’t even blame the Phanar for their dysfunction, that’s all they know.

  11. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, your words have caused me to see the error of my own ways in this regard. As much as I love and respect +Demetrios, you are right: it’s time to man up and admit that this is racialism pure and simple. You’re right: Solzhenitsyn and the Pope John Paul II saw worse suffering than the shuttering of a few monasteries in Cappadocia. This victimization card is a hollow one, nothing more.

    Being an Hellene myself, I understand the pull of millenia of history. I get it. Unfortunately, it’s not that significant a trump card. There is one race that trumps us in this identity politics regarding the Church: it’s the Jews. If we’re going to descend to this game, then they have it all over us. Luckily, the First Apostolic Council called their bluff and said: “no the gentiles [Greeks] are just as much a part of the plan of salvation as you.”

    This hurts me to say it, but I was wrong about cutting +Demetrios the slack. He should know better. If he doesn’t then his flunkies at the press office should have “clarified” his remarks for him. Regardless, this bodes ill for the future of a unified American Orthodoxy.

  12. We know who we are. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. What people need to know is: who is Christ? All these other things are diversions.

    For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. John 3:17-21

  13. George Michalopulos :

    This just got sent to me (I’d say providentially):

    “The Orthodox Church is not only for one nation, one civilization, one continent. It is like God Himself: for all, and for every place and time.”

    –Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch.

    I think that kind of says it all.

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