The Ground Zero Church/Mosque

The Ground Zero Church/Mosque controversy has not been at the center of my attention.  Shame on me maybe but there you go.

Let the mosque be built where ever the Muslim community can purchase land; it is their right under the Constitution. It is also the right of those who disagree to move first and buy up the desired land or to outbid the Muslims who wish to build a mosque.

But ya know, I’m tired of all the whiny, hand-wringing, Orthodox — do something I say.

Let me make a pastoral suggestion…

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church

Let the mosque and let us, all the Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in America, re-build St Nicholas not in its former spot but across the street from the main entrance to the new mosque.  And let us have services in St Nicholas–Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy–everyday. Let St Nicholas become the “mother parish” of the American Orthodox Church with all the various jurisdiction committing themselves to making sure the church is always open and that in addition to the services it is staffed with men and women knowledgeable about Islam.

 

And let these men and women have a charge from ALL the bishops to evangelize the Muslims at this new mosque.

Just one priest’s idea but what do I know.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Comments

  1. Hmmm … interesting.

  2. I like it.

    Which means of course the bleeding heart Islamist appeasers won’t.

    • The phrase “Bleeding heart” is inappropriate here. It has a pejorative, anti-Christian history. It was used originally to mock images of the crucified Christ.

      • Isa,

        Thank you for your support.

        If I may, one of the things I’ve noticed both here and in other conversations I’ve had with Orthodox Christians is that we are often distracted by our own polemics.

        Granted some people will not like my suggestions. Why they object is I think important but secondary to the preaching the Gospel.

        Cam,

        I appreciate your point, but again it seems to me to distract from the question at hand–how best to respond in a positive fashion to a more assertive Islamic presence in America.

        +FrG

  3. This is an excellent suggestion Father!

    It is also a generous, creative, and missionally minded way of removing ourselves from the culture wars and getting back to business. We should be fighting the Mosque with spiritual weapons rather than political ones.

    Thank you for your pastoral sensitivity and courage on this issue.

    • Spot-on, T.N.! Fr Gregory is the first to voice a creative idea (shame on all the rest of us for despairing and blaming!) Let’s seize the moment and America will come together behind the initiative. I imagine this might be an opportunity of the greatest possible outreach ever attempted on this continent. Put our differences aside and boldly move forward FOR GOD IS WITH US.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Frm, that’s so brilliant and logical that there is no way that the wunderkinder of 79th St would accede to it. You see, they’re not into “American” Orthodoxy. Sigh.

    • George,

      Thanks for the kind words. But I would rather we discussed–and maybe even disseminate and promote–the proposal made here rather than criticize those who are not actively involved in our conversation here. As I’ve said upstream, we often get distracted by needless polemics.

      +FrG

      • George Michalopulos :

        Fr, forgive me for flippancy. I would be 100% in favor of a pan-Orthodox church built on the site of the former St Nicholas. I agree that the Hours, Matins, Vespers, Liturgy, etc. should be celebrated daily. All jurisdictions should offer services there on a rotating basis. All languages should be chanted.

        How about this: GOA on Monday, OCA on Tues, AOA on Wed, etc. Sundays can alternate. The GOA can serve in Greek, the OCA in English, the AOA in Arabic(!), the Serbs in Slavonic, etc.

        Let’s start a groundswell to call the bishops of the Episcopal Assembly to schedule an emergency meeting. (It’s in their by-laws, 1/3 of the bishops I believe can ask for an ad hoc meeting extraneous to the mandatory once-yearly meeting.)

        • George Michalopulos :

          P.S. and the homeless shelter is a great idea. Also a Christian apologetics center where questions about Islam can be answered in a non-confrontational way.

        • George,

          No worries! I’m not angry with you and you’ve done nothing to give offense–I just didn’t want to see us get caught up in secondary issues.

          Like I said above, the Muslim community have a Constitutional right to open a mosque where ever they want. If people don’t like it, they have the right to buy the property and let it simply sit empty if they wish.

          But for the Church, I think we have an opportunity here to do something more than simply complain. We are the CHURCH after all and we can be proactive. Too often we get involved in these intra-Orthodox debates (spitting contests really) instead of working together.

          So for me the question is this: What can we do as a Church to in response to a growing Muslim presence in America? Honestly, while I’ve not gotten a universally positive response, the majority of people I’ve spoken with are interested in Orthodoxy. We forget that, all things being equal, even so-called secular Americans are still at least culturally Christian.

          Hey, what if we take George’s suggestion seriously? If anyone feels a hankering to do so, how ’bout forwarding this post to your bishop?

          +FrG

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            Just to clarify, no religious body has a right to build where ever they want. There are zoning laws, etc. which restrict this. Asking that the mosque be moved is not a violation of the religious clause in any sense. St. Nicholas already has a claim because they were already there.

            Moving on, how about taking the idea of St. Nicholas becoming an inter-Orthodox center and formalizing it a bit; a poll, one page website, etc. This could be put up fairly quickly with WordPress and a few plugins.

        • Whoever has sway or sits on an ecclesiastic committee ought to militate for this emergency meeting. We have a moment here that will pass us by swiftly, into the hands of the Church’s enemies if we do not act in a concerted way. I sent my letter below to my own Metropolitan, risking embarrassment or worse. Do likewise yourselves.

  5. Thank God, America has afforded the Church incredible political freedom that allow us to structure our internal and external lives according to the Gospel. But like many other Americans, many Orthodox Christians do not want this freedom since it requires from us that we take responsibility for our lives. Without denying the centrality of divine grace, humanly speaking our success or failure in America is on us.

    There is no need for us to be angry, much less fearful. There is no need for us to be anxious or to feel ashamed. We are in Christ and He is in us and in obedience to Him there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

    Frankly we seem to have dropped the ball with re-building St Nicholas–and by “we” I don’t simply mean the GOA. Yes, they have the primary responsibility for the project–but as I said in my original post, we all have a share in the re-building.

    It seems to me we waste our resources with multiple jurisdictions and overlapping dioceses. I have NEVER been in place where people WEREN’T interested in the Orthodox understanding of the Gospel. There is no reason we can’t have a vibrant, evangelical presence in NYC that proclaims Christ to the followers of Mohammad.

    Let me take that back. There is one reason we can’t–we don’t want to do so.

    Thank you one and all for your kind words. I look forward to more insights from people.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  6. Thanks for the ideas! I’d like to a homeless shelter to put in there. And let there be pastors in there who can preach the gospel to those who need it most, whoever it might be. Let the church be a light of the Gospel, rather than Orthodoxy per se.

    • Orthodoxy=Light of the Gospel

      • Isa,

        I understand the point you are making–but again, how does it advance the concrete suggestions I’ve made here?

        +FrG

        • Let the church be a light of the Gospel, rather than Orthodoxy per se.

          There seems to be a false dichonomy here.

          Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

          • Isa,

            There may or may not be a false dichotomy in Rich’s comment but that’s not the point of my post or this thread. Please stay on point and if you have a concern about his theology please take it off line.

            Thanks!

            +FrG

          • George Michalopulos :

            Fr Gregory, I get what Isa is saying. though somewhat tangential, it’s not off-point if you ask me.

    • Rich,

      I think a homeless shelter is a GREAT idea! And I think it would be very appropriate attached to a newly re-built St Nicholas Church.

      If I may, I understand your observation about the Church being the light of the Gospel, but I don’t see much value in this context of that comment. I think it needlessly distracts from the proposal I’ve made and, as I said above, is the kind of thing we often do that undermines our preaching of the Gospel.

      +FrG

  7. Fr Hans,

    You are correct (#4.1.1.2.1) no religious tradition has an absolute right to put up a building. I overstated the case.

    And yes, St Nicholas can re-build on the site they own. Whether or not it is a violation of the Constitution to ask the mosque to move is something I can’t speak to since I don’t know the zoning regulations for NYC.

    That all aside, can we (and by “we” I mean you) create the poll here? I’d do it on my site but you have more hits here.

    FrG

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Yes, I can do it when I get home, later tonight probably. If interest is high, I suggest the next step would be a page (stand alone site) with a petition to the Bishops. Letter on top, signing below, a few pics, simple and clean.

  8. Frs: If indeed building that mosque comes to pass, the project you describe should be led by us but as part of a larger group composed of the bigger Christian groups who lost people in the attack.

    Still on balance it would be better if the people financing the proposed mosque cancelled or reduced and moved that project and instead rebuild the flattened Greek Orthodox church. That would generate actual goodwill, and as Fr. Hans pointed out demonstrate whether the category ‘moderate Islamist’ exists in numbers big enough to matter.

  9. I sincerely hope this idea becomes an initiative, and that the initiative, becomes Truth.

    I will be praying about this. Please play for me the sinner.

  10. After reading Fr. G’s Koinonia blog the other day, I immediately typed the note below and sent it to all my Orthodox-friendly contacts. Please accept this as my heartfelt response to the best idea I’ve ever hear regarding our dilemma as a broken, self-alienated gaggle of little churches who so far have reneged on our sworn duty. I believe this is a make-or-break moment in our history and will have repercussions throughout all Christendom.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Most Blessed Primate and Blessed Hierarchs, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Sisters & Brothers in Christ,

    Please forgive my impertinence in begging you to read the brief and bold initiative proposed below by Fr. Gregory Jensen on his Koinonia blog yesterday.
    In my foolish estimation, he speaks from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in a compelling way. We Orthodox, and the whole American people stand at the brink of a new and dangerous situation. Our way forward is manifest: together as one Orthodox Church, or maybe oblivion awaits our disparate attempts at building Orthodox communities, alike in a shared inability to articulate a single ecclesial vision.

    The imam of the Cordoba Initiative speaks of a tipping point in American social/spiritual history that he and his backers are successfully managing; the tide so far runs in their favor; if we hesitate now the Cordoba Initiative will carry the day.

    As a humble priest I implore all who would listen to contemplate Fr. Gregory’s initiative for a new St Nicholas Church near the sacred site of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.
    Please, let us speak of it together in filial love and piety and thereby feed a common vision of our purpose on this continent now.
    Could we bring it to the altars of our churches and offer it in prayer?

    In earnest prayer,
    the sinful priest John
    16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

    17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

    18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

    19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

    20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

    21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

    22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

    23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

    24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

    25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

    from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Romans

    • Amen!

    • While reading Orthodox books I came across stories telling about miracles occurring after 40 daily Liturgies in a row were held. It would be close to impossible that all 40 Liturgies be held by one priest. I say close to impossible, but not impossible since it has been done in the past. Expect great temptations … satan does not like it and he shows himself to disrupt. Perhaps a schedule with priests from all across US serving these 40 Liturgies dedicated to this cause would work too.

  11. It is a marvellous idea.

    Indeed, I’d like to see it go a step further and see the new St. Nicholas church be a great beacon of Orthodoxy in the New World, a mark of compromise and love of the old world patriarchates for the thriving Church in the Americas. The MP built a cathedral in Cuba where the Orthodox population, if any, is very small.

    Why couldn’t the patriarchates, through the newly formed Episcopal Assembly, make a splendorous, humble, church be a symbol of Paschal revival and union of the Church. A new church for the New World. A place of prayers for all those who were victims of that tragedy, but also of hope for the renewal of those awesome Good News of Christ in the New World, a place that is in architecture what the union inteded both by Ligonier and the Episcopal Assemblies of the Americas.

    That would be easier to finance for everybody, would have a much wider scope, it would reach further into the hearts of all Orthodox around the world, would unite the Orthodox in the U.S., be a reference for all the others in the Americas and an adequate memorial for the victims with an annual Liturgy for their souls. It is a unique opportunity for that humble grandiosity of Christ.

    A new church for the New World, indeed.

  12. As I said on Fr. Gregory’s site, I would gladly support this effort. Where do I send the check? (At the risk of being a bit crass, it seems to me that those willing to act on the courage of their convictions would be flooded with donations.)

    • St. Seraphim of Sarov

      If a person does not have superfluous care for himself, out of his love for God and for virtuous deeds, and knows that God will take care of him, then this hope is true and wise. But if a person places all his hope in his works, and turns to God in prayer only when unforeseen misfortunes befall him, then he, seeing that he lacks the means of averting them in his own abilities, begins to hope for help from God — but such a hope is trivial and false. True hope seeks the one Kingdom of God and is sure that everything necessary for this mortal life will surely be given. The heart cannot have peace until it acquires this hope. This hope pacifies it fully and brings joy to it. The most holy lips of the Saviour spoke about this very hope: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

      • Eliot – thanks. The quote is great (as always). I’m just not sure I understand how it is a response to my comment (assuming that it is). To rephrase my original comment, in case it wasn’t clear – if others feel as strongly about this as I do, I would think there would be widespread financial support for this. Of course, this is only the first step. (Maybe that is your point?) While I hope this would lead to a meaningful witness in the midst of a city known for, well, everything, it will become a genuine witness only if there is an ongoing and widespread determination to serve and glorify to God. To put it a different way, the glory of God is better served by a the witness of a living saint than a beautiful building. (I fear we have lots of the latter and too few of the former.) But then, as St. Irenaeus said, the glory of God is a man fully alive. Of course, this is much more demanding than a one-time donation. Yet imagine what the presence of a true temple of the Holy Spirit could mean in Manhattan . . . or anywhere. Lord have mercy.

        • Great thoughts Chrys!

          Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

  13. Eliot,

    Just a reminder, please stay on the topic of the original post. While I appreciate your comments above (10.2 & 12.1), I’m not sure how they pertain to the conversation on this thread. Can you help me out a bit and make the connections for me?

    In Christ,

    +FrG

    • Michael Bauman :

      Fr. Gregory, what I glean from Eliot’s post 12.1 is that politicaly decisions arrived at solely by political means or attitude even if we hope for God’s intervention will not bear fruit while those arrived at with our focus only on God and His will (rather than our own preferences) will bear fruit.

      I would submit that your idea (executed properly) is of the latter type.

      Of course, that does not mean that it would not be subjected to a great deal of political pressure and the temptation is to allow it to be changed into a political statement rather than a witness to the truth in love.

      As to 10.1–pray/commune, i.e, seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things will be added to you. Again, the same fundamental theme.

      • Thank you Michael! This is precisely what I meant but did not know how to express it. I do not assume that people are not praying, but the state we are in indicates that what we are doing is not enough.

  14. What do you make of this post of MEP Daniel Hannan of Youtube fame on his Daily Telegraph blog about the Ground Zero Mosque?

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100051476/opposition-to-the-ground-zero-mosque-is-unreasonable-but-issues-of-this-kind-cannot-be-determined-purely-by-reason/

  15. On a sidenote, Am I correct is stating that the head Mosque for Louis Farakhan’s National of Islam (Mosque Maryam) was once a Greek Orthodox Church? Does anyone remember how this happened?

    • George Michalopulos :

      yes, Andrew, this is regrettably true. How far we have fallen: in the past the Byzantines put up a stiff resitance, often fighting to the death to prevent the desecration of their churches. In this instance (the former Ss Constantine and Helen Church in Chicago), we sold it to that cult, being like Esau, selling his birthright for a bowl of porridge.

  16. alexis banias :

    I really like the idea about St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, a pan-orthodox church, being built across the street from the cordoba mosque. I am totally opposed to the mosque at ground zero – insensitive and an in-your-face typical redolent modus operandi of the ottoman empire builidng a mosque on a site of conquest. However, if it is built, then St. Nicholas needs to be built, and with it, much prayer, liturgies, and fasting are in order for the conversion of all muslims to Holy Orthodoxy. I do truly believe in Christ’s “if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you will move mountains.” Let’s roll!

  17. Great support for St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, but misguided effort to link it with the mosque. As one raised in islam, I know the darkness of satan taught in antichrist inspired islamic centers. Christ whom we worship taught us to love our enemies, not to abandon them to evil and separation from Eternal Life. First we speak as ambassadors of Christ, and our allegiance must be first to Christ, rather than to worldly cares of “peace when there is no peace”. Compromise lukewarmness made some to be spewed from Mouth of Jesus. Let’s walk circumspectly in Christ and not promote darkness as equal to The LIGHT as done in this awful article under the misguided abuse of our Constitutional freedoms.

    In islam, we are taught to honor Mohammad as the greatest of all prophets who fulfilled was Jesus left behind. Every muslim is called to imitate mohammad and to fulfill his duty to make islamic law (Sharia) to become the law of every land in the world. As Mohammad led over 60 campaigns against his innocent neighbors in Orthodox and nonOrthodox lands, he would conquer and behead his subjects one by one if they did not submit to his version of God.

    In one village alone, after they had surrendered, mohammad took out little boys and their fathers and grandfathers, and one by one severed their neck from the rest of the ligaments around their spinal. As blood was gushing out from little boys, he would cry out the terrorist cries of “Allah O Akbar” and sever another head. By the time he was finished , not just one head was rolling but over 600.

    Then he started to grab the daughters and Moms and with the rest of his army, uncloth them forcefully and rape each one, unless the woman accepted islam. Then, he would make them one of his many “wives” or give them to one of his fellow butchers to make her his wife.

    Mohammad taught all muslims to lie & deceive our enemies until we had power to overcome them and force islamic law on every land. The imam building Ground Zero mosque already participated in another islamic center with his Dad where after a couple of years, the supposed “open to all” outreach center became MUSLIM ONLY development!!! No Orthodox Christians, No Jews, No Hindus, No Buddhists, No atheists or agnostics ALLOWED! You want to honor the Constitution! This is unconstitutional to discriminate against nonmuslims on a land built on the desire to honor God in the Judeo/Christian Tradition. While the founders faith were varied, they would not dream of giving our land to a mosque that would force little 5/6 year old girls to become properties of 50+ year old men. Mohammad himself set this example for all muslims and we were called to never question this practice since to question Mohammad is to make one guilty of sedition and subject to beheading by fellow muslims.

    Do you truly want to buy into the abuse of our Constitutional Freedoms to worship freely to promote a mosque where Mohammad is honored as the terrorists honored mohammad, shouting Allah O Akbar while murdering 3000+ innocent children, Moms and Dads? Are you out of your mind?

    Repent of this article, write a retraction and return to The Holy Orthodox Faith that you want to align yourself with.

    The blood of thousands of Orthodox martyrs at the hands of muslims cries out for honoring God in Christ Jesus to love our enemies enough to pray for them and to work hard to deliver them from the darkness that is islamic.

    It is an act of hatred and convenience to be lazy about islam and to equate the building of a muslim cordoba victory mosque dedicated to bring joy to the the muslim terrorists in Islamic republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Constantinople (now called Turkey) , Antioch, Egypt, and all round the world by declaring to all muslims around the world, how powerful darkness of islam is that they could fool the “infidels” to subject them to establish an islamic sharia promotion center on the same Grounds where the same muslim faith inspired the murders of thousands of innocent Americans!

    I know the deception tactics we used to manipulate someone else by their own terms (i.e. misapplied freedom of religion). We are taught to hide our intentions as mohammad taught through Taqiyya. We are taught to use the laws of the infidels and to tell them whatever they want to hear to get more power and slowly establish sharia law on their land.

    Once we have enough power, as we have done for over 1200 years, we are called to topple the government and establish an islamic sharia compliant government! Nowhere does the Constitution protect a political power grab in the name of God that would subvert the very freedoms many have died to protect! But as an Orthodox Christian, you have a higher duty to our ONE God to proclaim God’s Love in Christ Jesus and not abandon those blinded by islam to gain strength through the victorious celebration of a muslim victory center on the same grounds faithful muslims attacked and murdered over 3000 innocent people!

    If muslims really wanted an “outreach” program, they would spend 100 million dollars building Orthodox Churches in Saudi Arabia, Antioch, Egypt, and all over the world where they have forcefully kept subjects under the bondage of islamic darkness and taught from childhood, to our muslim faithful from age 2, that they are called to hate Jews and Christians and all nonmuslims especially hindus and atheists, and take their lives or at least make their lives so miserable , they will have to leave the country to gain some right to live and breathe!

    As our Holy Apostle Paul told us: Be careful of our enemies deceptions, for satan will appear even as an angel of Light to deceive many. Do NOT honor the mosque of satan that preaches violence and raping of little children in the name of islamic version of God. Do you not see that faithful imams never condemn mohammad for the evil he has done, but always try to justify his evil and wicked attack on the Orthodox Christian Faithful people?

    Unlike Orthodox who pray the repentance prayer every week , the prayer written by David after having committed a grave sin, muslims are taught to honor the wickedness of mohammad as “holy” and to imitate his life by also forcing themselves on little girls now and in paradise. As Mohammad taught , muslim men who die in act of terrorism or any war to force islam down a neighbor’s throat, he would be given the strength to sexually abuse up to 100 women per day in paradise and ugly old muslim women would become voluptuous objects for a muslim terrorist to have and do with about 72 “ever-virgins” as he pleased and to endulge his evil flesh to drink all the alcohol he wants. One would have to be out of their minds to want to eternally abuse so many women so often for all eternity. Such teaching is not protected by our Constitution for in their God granted wisdom , our country’s founders granted freedom with boundaries not to harm our neighbor!

    But as a baptized Orthodox and now anointed to speak for Christ as a spiritual father, you cannot be faithfully promoting a mosque as EQUAL to rebuilding of the only house of worship destroyed by muslim terrorists. I pray you will once again honor Christ with Godly wisdom and open your eyes to the dark teachings of islam by reading quran & hadith to correctly under how muslims of all schools have taught honoring mohammad and his evil practices as “holy path” to God. Christ granted us a better path. Love your enemies. Pray for Him and go ye into all the world proclaiming The Good News of God’s Love in Christ Jesus, baptizing those wanting freedom in Christ, in The Holy Name of The Father , Son and Holy Spirit; not in the name of mohammad’s demonic led life and doctrines.

    LORD Jesus Christ Son of God Have Mercy on us,
    humbly in Christ,
    Amen
    Pray for me that I would be granted strength to speak the truth boldly in Love (from Orthodox Christian Bible, Apostle Paul letter to the Orthodox Church at Ephesus, ch6)
    St. Nicholas who had the wisdom to correct an erring Bishop, pray for us that we would rebuild The Orthodox Church where you were our patron Saint and example of Holy and true Orthodox Faith.

    • I praise the Holy Spirit who opened your eyes and your heart! Let us pray that the Spirit of God will be hovering over the world of Islam and shed light inside their minds and hearts.

      We need to speak the truth in love by lovingly proclaiming and living out the truth. “The truth shall set you free.” Truth is love and love is truth (Romans 13:8-10). When dropping one we lose both, and if we gain one the other comes. Love is not “tolerance”. Today many speak of love and tolerance, for they care of neither one. They will tell us to tolerate sin and tolerate even the devil. Truth is worth securing!

      For Muslims becoming a Christian is against their laws. Shari’ah law demands execution for any Muslim who converts to Christianity. If Western governments would require the execution of every convert to Islam, Muslims around the world would be horrified at such an injustice.

      Christ said:

      So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

      There are areas of overlap between Christian and Muslim beliefs, but there are crucial differences too. Christians and Muslims cannot both be correct, because their positions are mutually contradictory. We are rightly appalled when the Ecumenical Patriarch calls Qu’ran “holy”.

      Who is the Holy Spirit in Islam? By Azali

      This is the unique verse where Jesus is called a spirit of God. Please notice, he is not called the spirit of Allah but a spirit of Allah – one of the many spirits of Allah. Muhammad was clever enough not to confess that Christ is the incarnation of the Holy Spirit but that a spirit of Allah’s many spirits had become a person’s flesh in him. Muslims have a real problem with this verse because Muhammad was born by a normal father and a normal mother and not by the Spirit of Allah. But Jesus is not a normal person. Jesus is the only one in this world and the next according to Qur’an, who was born by the Spirit, who was the Spirit incarnated – not only a created spirit but the Spirit who came into Jesus – not an evil spirit but the Spirit of God. You must make clear to the Muslims that they speak about the Spirit of God. You tell them, Jesus is the Spirit of God incarnated. If a Muslim is clever, he will say, he is only one of the spirits of God. But then you say, so you believe really that Jesus is a spirit of God incarnated? When he confesses this, he confesses that Jesus is an extraordinary person and no one is equal to him, not even Muhammad, because Muhammad had not been born by the spirit of God, not even by a spirit of God. His father was known and his mother was known. Only Jesus, according to Islam, has been born by the spirit of Allah.

      The Muslim commentators write about this verse: “He received the Spirit as a helper so that he could raise the dead from the grave.” They confess that only with the help of the Spirit of God was Jesus able to raise the dead. Now, I already told you, here is an opportunity for you to tell the Muslims that the Qur’an believes in a trinity: God, the Spirit, and Jesus. They will deny it but you can say, yes, not in substance but in action because Allah and the Spirit and Jesus worked together to do miracles. So you can bring here an idea of three persons working together into the minds of the Muslims, because it is said, Allah strengthened Christ with the Spirit of the Holy.

      At a synod in Casablanca, King Hassan II made a strong statement about Ayatollah Khomeini in Khomeini’s last year of power: “If Khomeini will not stop his people from saying that he is the spirit of God or the spirit of the Holy he must be excluded from Islam and considered to be no longer a Muslim but a blasphemer, because there is only one in this world and the next who has the right to call himself the spirit of Allah. This is the son of Mary because he was born by the spirit of Allah.”

      This means they know, or they can know if they want to, from this verse that Jesus is the only person in this world and the next who can call himself the spirit of God incarnated. Take this verse and use it wisely – it is a very strong tool.

      In Sura 5:110 you have another verse that indicates that the spirit of the Holy strengthened Christ to do the miracles and to speak immediately after birth. These are the four verses speaking about Jesus and the spirit of the Holy. Muhammad had heard that Jesus had something special. He had heard that Jesus had confessed “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18). Muhammad heard about it but he did not know what to say. There is no Holy Spirit in Islam and no Holy Spirit in Muhammad. Therefore he analyzed it in his way and he presented it as I have told you in these four different ways. He could not explain it precisely, so he did his best by explaining it using his logic.

      Today’s leaders (shall we say deceivers? ) won’t have the power to save or to condemn us when the Last Day of Judgment comes. For many years now, religious people were able to maintain an equivocal position. Sitting on the fence was quite comfortable, but I believe those days are numbered. Sooner than later, we’ll have to make a conscious decision, to get off the fence and decide on which side we wish to be.

      Many place more value on their positions in society, or are simply made silent by peer pressure.

      Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42, 43

      We need to watch our actions and our words because by not speaking we deny Christ, by not living for Him we deny Him Who is the way to everlasting life. Fear not those who can kill your body! Christ has the power to resurrect your body and give you a martyr’s crown and eternal paradise.

      If we fear men, then no doubt, we have a problem to address.
      Without God, man is an empty armor … Since I have gotten fear in the Lord, I no longer fear the world around me. (Abbot: Iustin Parvu of Petru-Voda Monastery)

    • Anthony,

      I thank God that you have found Christ and His Church. With the others, I commend your courage and boldness. May God continue to support you as you seek to offer a faithful witness to Christ and the Gospel!

      As for the points you disagree with in the article, you have simply misunderstood what I wrote. In no way do I “support” the building of the mosque. Indeed, it appears to be a provocation. This is ironic given the demand for a level of tolerance that is not offered to Christians in Muslim lands. (The use of the name Cordoba is likewise provocative, but that has been addressed elsewhere.)

      My point is to recognize that, under the Constitution, any group – however odious – may exercise their rights as they wish. While I find their actions distasteful, it remains their right under the Constitution. You may not like this, you might find this to be short sighted, but these are the rules which, as Americans, we live under.

      Yet just as Muslims have the right under the Constitution to build a mosque near Ground Zero, you and I and the whole Orthodox Church have the right to criticize that decision. But – like you – I think we do better if we preach the Gospel to our Muslim neighbors.

      If we are to be faithful witnesses to God, then we must find a way to take up the truth of God in love, to offer light in the face of darkness and love in the face of hatred. That’s why, like you, I think that we as Orthodox Christians need to unite in our effort, exercise the same Constitutional rights, and establish a commanding presence in order to offer a compelling witness. If you think that we disagree, then you have simply misread my comments. For that reason, I must respond to three issues in your comments.

      First, your call to me to repent is inappropriate. While you are free to disagree with me, your assertion that I have betrayed the Gospel and my priesthood is out of bounds.

      Second, outrage may be understandable, but it is not a reasoned argument so much as self-indulgence. We see this in the proponents of same-sex marriage who are outraged at those who defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Abortion rights activists are likewise outraged when Pro-Life activists argue that abortion exploits women and, more importantly, is murder. In both cases, outrage is meant to silence opposition rather than respond to it. Yet in a free society, the answer to “bad” speech is more speech, not less.

      While the personal reasons for your outrage are, shouting can be a form of violence, which ultimately undermines the Gospel. This leads me to my last point.

      Shouting, like any other form of aggression, can often reflect a lack of confidence in the very position one wishes to advance. But can we, can any Christian, doubt the power of Christ to topple Islam? The Body of Christ does not need to run to Caesar, nor hide behind the powers of this world, to accomplish the will of God. If we can’t do better shame on us.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

      • But can we, can any Christian, doubt the power of Christ to topple Islam? The Body of Christ does not need to run to Caesar, nor hide behind the powers of this world, to accomplish the will of God. If we can’t do better shame on us.

        One of the most important duty of a priest is the administrations of the sacraments. It is essential to confess before communion. The confession is a mean to self-improvement, it is of help in the struggle against temptations, sins and passions, it is the path to the salvation of our souls. God woks through people, but the grace of God does not enter a dirty soul. The confession is the only mean to clean our souls.

        If we hope to solve our contemporary problems only by political means, or by God’s direct intervention … it is hopeless! The Grace that was given to the priest by the “laying of hands” is “ to bound all that can be bound on earth and absolve all that can be absolved” according to the Gospel.

        The consequences of ignoring the confession leads to indifference toward sin, despondency, and finally falling away from the practice of the Orthodox Faith. On Sundays we see people waiting in long lines to get Holy Communion, and none to receive the sacrament of confession.

        • Eliot, I find that immensely irritating as well. I may be excessively scrupulous (which is indeed a failing), yet I am often irritated when I see people approach the Eucharist with the air of a casual afterthought. (This seems to happen most often at the Christmas and Pascha liturgies.) I take this to be, at least in part, the fault of us who claim it is of preeminent importance. Were we more faithful in our lives and witness, I strongly suspect that others would “draw near” with more care and attention.

          All the same, I am not clear on how this applies to the previous conversation. Are you saying (as I read it) that the witness of those in the Church is hampered by the corruption of their unconfessed status? If so, then – following Fr. Gregory – our tendency to look to “Caesar” is an indictment of our own spiritual anemia.

          • I would not say that I get irritated. I prefer to think that I am the only one sinning. But is that true, since “we tend to sin almost as we breathe”? Since God is a consuming fire, communion taken unworthily will ‘burn’ us. Sin is what separates us from God. If we sin and do not confess, we are separated from God and unable to do His will. Many people had a good start, and today we see them “spiraling out of control”.

          • Eliot, your response is better. But then, irritation toward others is simply the flip side of the same toward my own failings. This is because ultimately we are no different toward ourselves than we are toward others; the “posture,” the perspective, is the same. (What happens after that reaction – in both cases – is an internal “conversation” that seeks to correct the sin of judging in each cash, and a prayer asking forgiveness.)

            As you say, it’s not how we start but how we finish that matters.

            As for the other matter, perhaps I am obtuse. Was my reading of your comments correct or did I miss the mark?

  18. alexis banias :

    Wow! I am speechless, Anthony, for your brave words are powerful, and I commend you for what you have stated so clearly, lovingly, and truthfully. Your comments need to be read by our hierarchy and this nation’s leaders. Very nice.

  19. alexis banias :

    Nice rebuttal, Father Jensen. I really do appreciate that this website allows for honest and intelligent discourse from the Orthodox viewpoint in the public square. Continue the free flow of ideas. This last point-counterpoint discussion between Anthony and Father Jensen reminds me of a wonderful book by The Monks of New Skete entitled, “In The Spirit of Happiness.” I encourage all to read it!

  20. Eliot,

    I agree with what you have said above (#17.2.1.1.1) but how does this relate to the challenge the Church, and America, faces in the Cordoba Institute?

    In Christ,

    +FrG

    • The situation we are in today is paradox. I believe it is the result of a long history of sin , not only against God, but ‘sins against common sense’. There is an English saying, “If God wants to punish a person, He deprives him of his reason.”
      It seems as though we are walking in darkness, as though the light of reason in many of us had been extinguished. It is a scary punishment. Punishment is the wage of sin. The abolition of confession came from the Roman Catholics. It was embraced by Orthodox communities at one point. We have to allow God to work in ourselves. With God all things are possible. We are not supposed to sit back and abandon all efforts, neither to surrender to the spirit of self-reliance, the pride of doing things for ourselves.

      • Oops … The situation we are in today is paradoxal.

      • Eliot,

        Thank you for your clarification.

        I don’t doubt that with God all things are possible. Nor would I question the importance of confession. But I’m still not sure what, if anything, you are saying about my suggestion that we take a more assertive evangelical approach to Islam in America and specifically at Ground Zero.

        So are you saying that we (a) should be more assertive, (b) we shouldn’t be more assertive, (c) it doesn’t matter as long as we pray and go to confession?

        I’m not trying to be flip, I’m just trying to understand you. And here’s my struggle, most of what you have to say is true–but it is ALWAYS true that we need the grace of Confession and Holy Communion and to be obedient to God and not rely on our own will. If this is what your saying then, I guess, you are indifferent to what I argue for in the post. Again, that’s fine but not clear to me.

        Why this matter, in the context of this thread anyway, is that I wrote the essay to invite conversation about Orthodox responses to the Cordoba Institute. Maybe from where you sit the response doesn’t matter but then again maybe it does matter to you.

        I’m just confused. 🙁

        In Christ,

        +FrG

        • Fr. Gregory:
          IMO, the proposal to build a mosque is provocative, defiant, and it goes against all common sense. But, as I pointed out in an earlier comment, common sense is dead in America. My comments are meant to bring understanding on how we got in this seemingly absurd situation.

          • Eliot,

            I see, thank you!

            So do you think we should be more assertive in our evangelical approach to Muslims? Or do you think it would better if we each of us attended to our own hearts? Or maybe some combination of the two?

            In Christ,

            +FrG

  21. Chrys,

    Yes, your reading of my comments was correct.

    St Antony told Abba Poemen that the great work humans could and should take up is “always to take the blame for [one’s] own sins before God and to expect temptation to [one’s] last breath”.

  22. Fr. Gregory:
    What do you have in mind when you say should we be “more assertive in our evangelical approach to Muslims”?

    I don’t think I would go to speak face-to-face to a Muslim man an tell him about monks who live in voluntary abstinence
    The meaning of voluntary celibacy.

    The meaning of voluntary celibacy is not a fight against gender, but a fight against sin that is present in our flesh. Chastity and abstinence from sexual life is not the purpose, but a means in this battle. In voluntary celibacy people look for the best way to overcome their passions. This task, which is valid for all people, is solved here by rejecting everything which is of this world, not because of spite for it, but because sin finds its easiest way into us through our flesh and the world.

    I believe it would be of no use to try to reason with them. It is very unlikely that they will be attracted by the idea. Their idea of paradise is “a sensual peace and a sensual joy, with every man having 70 girls and boys and so on. It’s a fleshly joy, but they call it Spirit”.
    In our Orthodox Christian understanding what they call paradise is actually the hell.

    Hell is the absolute and infinite eruption of our passions, which can no longer be satisfied. This is the description of hell made by Saint Gregory the Great in his Dialogueues about death. Passions, although of spiritual origin, can be satisfied only by means of the body. After death, when body changes its properties, its spiritual side will keep the properties and habits of its lifetime. When entering eternity, passions will progress infinitely, so that even the slightest irritation will become rage and a guilty look will become an ocean of lust. But the body will not be capable to fulfill its desires. Suffering will arise from the turmoil of all the passions rushed upon the helplessness of the body. The existence of the body is necessary, both the sinners and the righteous will recover their bodies. The saints (as Saint Gregory says) to enjoy the perfect harmony which they were created for; the sinners – to die permanently and forever in body and soul.

    I believe that Muslim women would be more receptive to Christianity. Anthony-the priest’s comment points out how women and children are being mistreated. I bet Muslim women are not looking forward to go to their ‘paradise’ either.
    Yes, it is true that death came through Eve, but we have the new Eve, the Virgin Mary. Through her we received faith, and joy, and salvation.
    Sharia Law: The Subjagation Of Women

    Unfortunately for women in the west, the elitist mainstream media do not report on her books or personal experiences. This imposed ignorance by the elitist press in this country, may help insure that if not our daughters, then their daughters may be enslaved under Islamic Sharia law. If you think this is funny then you are a buffoon. Read the story below and open your eyes, for a clear perspective that is not being shared with you by the elitist press. Just my opinion….William McCullough

    But Darwish developed a skeptical eye at an early age. She questioned her own Muslim culture and upbringing. She converted to Christianity after hearing a Christian preacher on television. In her latest book, Darwish warns about creeping sharia law – what it is, what it means, and how it is manifested in Islamic countries.

    • Eliot,

      Thanks for your comment and question.

      Like I said in the original post, I think we need to adopt a more consistent life of public prayer in our parishes in generally and at a rebuild St Nicholas Orthodox Church in particular.

      We also need to train and support men and women who have solid, appreciative knowledge of Islam and Islamic cultures who can preach Christ and the Gospel to Muslims without being polemical or misrepresentation the other side of the debate.

      I agree with you, with most men (Muslim or not!) celibacy is probably not the best place to begin–but we can still tell Muslims (and others) about Christ, His death on the Cross, His resurrection and the forgiveness of sins. None of this will work, however, if we are not personally and communally men and women of prayer. And, as you suggest above in your observation about Muslim women, if our witness reflects a lack of understanding of the situation faced by Muslims.

      As a practical matter, especially at the beginning of my witness, I would hesitate as well to draw the parallel between the Islamic view of heaven and the Orthodox view of hell that you do above. That’s the kind of comparison that I think it’s better to build up to–ideally in response to the other person’s inquiry. If someone else can do this in a way that draws a person to Christ, thank God! but I don’t seem to have that gift.

      Does all this make sense folks?

      In Christ,

      +FrG

      • Fr. Gregory:

        I believe you want to use the strategy of St. Paul, the Apostle. When preaching in the Parthenon, he found a common ground, the “unknown God” that they worshiped. Then, he spoke mainly from the standpoint of reason, not from the standpoint of Divine Revelation. Reason was to lead them what Revelation teaches us.

        I don’t have a solid knowledge of Islam and Islamic cultures. The converts from Islam are the ones having this knowledge.
        http://www.answering-islam.org/index.html
        http://www.answering-islam.org/Testimonies/index.html
        http://www.answering-islam.org/Testimonies/hassan.html
        (Please, notice the “comments on copyright, use and abuse of these testimonies”.)

        From what I’ve read lately it seems to me that Islam mixes truth with false teachings. Obviously, sometimes their teachings seem unreasonable, but Muslims are not allowed to question their faith. Reasoning is forbidden.

        The Qu’ran teaches that Christ will judge the world. So, He must be God.
        http://www.thegrace.com/about.html

        Arab prophet (El-Bukhari) confirmed this fact, saying: “The Last Hour will not come until the Son of Mary come down as the just Judge.”

        We have put the Truth before them, and pray that the Lord our God will draw them to Him in His due time.

        • Eliot,

          Thanks for the links–they look informative.

          Without prejudice to the Holy Apostle Paul, my hope is that anyone who reaches out to Muslims have a solid grasp of Islam. We need to have Orthodox Christians who are well educated in Muslim thought, culture, history, spirituality, law, etc. While from our point of view converts from Islam are an obvious choice for this, I wonder if they fact that they have left Islam might be an obstacle to such a ministry. All I know for certain is that I don’t know enough about Islam to talk about the differences in our faiths.

          Though he caught a great deal of flack for it, I think Pope Benedict XVI has made some good critiques of Islam in line with what you’ve said here about the use of human reason. To paraphrase, Benedict if we assume–as evidently Islam does–that divine revelation is verbal, inscribed and static (i.e., limited to the text of the Qu’ran) than there is no room for human reason in response to divine revelation.

          Ironically, as I think we’ve seen this in the success of the Nation of Islam, if one’s understanding of Christian revelation is limited to the literal, static text of Scripture and if holiness is equated with moral rectitude, Islam seems an easy jump to make.

          What I’m getting at is that at least from my perspective, Islam represents only the tip of the iceberg; I see in it the convergence of a number of pastoral challenges. For example, at least in the popular American religious imagination, Christianity is in fact about being a good person and taking the Bible literally. Some people, many even, think that this is a good thing but many more reject the Gospel because what they’ve been told is the Good News (some form of Evangelicalism or fundamentalism) ain’t actually the Gospel. Alas, in rejecting a deficient understanding they become closed to the catholic understanding.

          So, as I think about the matter, I think St Nicholas and our witness to Islam needs to be part of a broader missionary effort here in America.

          I think God stands at the door of our hearts knocking.

          In Christ,

          +FrG

  23. Fr.Gregory:

    All I know for certain is that I don’t know enough about Islam to talk about the differences in our faiths.
    […]
    For example, at least in the popular American religious imagination, Christianity is in fact about being a good person and taking the Bible literally.

    Out there are many millions lapsed Christians to be brought back to the Church.
    Fr.George Calciu:

    The Protestants say: “I have my own relationship with God and have no need of a priest or the Church, I need no sacraments, and I speak directly with God Himself!”

    I do not know how much they’re speaking directly with God…, but from what I have seen, they are conversing more with their earthly interests then with God.

    Our Saviour will save you from certain trials (if you cry out to Him). He will reach out His hand and caught you, and say: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (cf. Matthew 14, 31).

    We often travel the waters of this life and the temptations are many. In this world so troubled by snares, by wars and horrors, and by all means that will lead to its End, who can really come to Christ by walking alone on the sea? Who can venture so hard to cry out at his last minute, for Jesus to stretch out His hand and save him? For our own good and our salvation, it is best to remain in the Church.

    St.Seraphim of Sarov

    And Holy Church prays that this may be granted us by the Lord God; and though troubles, misfortunes and various needs are inseparable from our life on earth, yet the Lord God neither willed nor wills that we should have nothing but troubles and adversities. Therefore, He commands us through the Apostles to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The Lord Jesus personally gives us the commandment to love one another, so that, by consoling one another with mutual love, we may lighten the sorrowful and narrow way of our journey to the heavenly country. Why did He descend to us from heaven, if not for the purpose of taking upon Himself our poverty and of making us rich with the riches of His goodness and His unutterable generosity? He did not come to be served by men but to serve them Himself and to give His life for the salvation of many. You do the same, your Godliness, and having seen the mercy of God manifestly shown to you, tell of it to all who desire salvation. The harvest truly is great, says the Lord, but the labourers are few (Lk. 10:2). The Lord God has led us out to work and has given us the gifts of His grace in order that, by reaping the ears of the salvation of our fellow-men and bringing as many as possible into the Kingdom of God, we may bring Him fruit—some thirty fold, some sixty fold and some a hundredfold. Let us be watchful, my son, in order that we may not be condemned with that wicked and slothful servant who hid his talent in the earth, but let us try to imitate those good and faithful servants of the Lord who brought their Master four talents instead of two, and ten instead of five (Cf. Mat. 25:14-30).

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