Archbishop Demetrios Compares Obama to Alexander the Great

Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the largest Orthodox Christian jurisdiction in the United States, compared President Obama to Alexander the Great at a Greek Independence Day celebration at the White House. Politico, noting that the president got “a little unexpected flattery” from the hierarch about his crisis management skills, said the archbishop told Obama: “Following the brilliant example of Alexander the Great…you will be able to cut the Gordian knot of these unresolved issues.” The unexpected flattery was so over that top that it embarrassed the president and earned the archbishop a link on the Drudge Report.

In the video, someone can be heard hailing the president as an “honorary Greek.” Just a hunch, but I bet that little hosanna came from one of the Obamakis and Bidenopoulos set.

Back story. In the last few days, the Greek Lobby has been in overdrive over a report in Hurriyet that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to meet with Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat in Washington later this month in advance of Obama’s pending trip to Turkey.

On March 23, the Greek Lobby issued a “warning” to the president and vice president of the United States about the pending meeting.

Your Administration has not yet held high level contacts with either the President or the Foreign Minister of Cyprus. Thus, we are shocked to learn from a statement by the Turkish Cypriot spokesman in Cyprus that they are now on the verge of establishing this Administration’s de facto recognition of an illegal entity in Cyprus’ militarily occupied area, while ignoring the internationally recognized Cyprus government. We understand that they plan to do this through high level Administration meetings with the leader of the pseudo-state before meetings with the President or Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus.

Archbishop Demetrios, then, swung into action. He may have already been en route or in Washington for the Greek Independence Day event, but the GR Reporter news service said said that Clinton welcomed the archbishop at the State Department for a meeting that was “arranged at lightning speed, after the information about Talat’s visit to the US came out. Dimitrios repeated the Greek stand point regarding the Cyprian problem, the name of Macedonia, and the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchy in Istanbul. According to the archbishop himself, the Greek point of view will be taken very seriously from the US administration.”

And yesterday, the Archdiocese issued a press release about the meeting in which the archbishop said:

It was a good meeting held in a cordial and sincere atmosphere where the issues of concern that are pending and relate to the Patriarchate, Cyprus and the issue of the name of FYROM were clearly addressed. I can not go into details, but I can tell you that the issues that were raised and our positions were considered very seriously and therefore we leave with a clear hope that there will be a serious attempt to resolve these pending issues.

Don’t underestimate the resources that the Archdiocese pours into these lobbying efforts. In fact, the advocacy of Greek national interests by the Greek hierarchy and associated ethnic associations in the United States really defines the social and political work of the archdiocese. This is the official “vision” of the Greek church today. In an interview last year with the Greek paper Proto Thema (Lead Story) the archbishop made this plain. “We exercise pressure constantly,” he told the interviewer. He also points to the rampant anti-Americanism that exists in Greece today but does so more because this is an impediment to the lobbying effort — not because the anti-Americanism should be repudiated. The interview was published on November 8 by The National Herald (subscription required). Emphasis added:

P.T.: What is the vision of the Archbishop of America?

A.D.: The vision I have is relevant to the fact that we have huge power and influence and that we ask not to put boundaries to the dynamism of this entity. We do not want anything to happen that will block it and in that respect allow me to tell you that there is a sensitivity with what is going on in Greece. When, for example, we had the terrorist attacks on September 11 and there were some voices in Greece which said, “The Americans deserved it with everything they do,” that caused a deep trauma here. Whatever happens in Greece has a reflection here.

P.T.: You seem to be expressing some bitterness.

A.D.: It is true that sometimes the Omogeneia would like to have something more powerful and more essential coming from the Metropolitan of Greece. We are undertaking a huge effort to solve the Macedonian issue. You cannot imagine our struggle, pressures and direction. You know something? We have to make efforts because there are people who are in official positions whom you do not know, but are the ones who make the recommendations that the government officials sign.

When such an effort is completed, we feel terrible seeing Greece, which fought along the side of America in two World Wars, treated the way it has been treated. On the other hand, we have those nonexistent states, which are artificial, that are treated in a propitious way, and that causes us bitterness. And someone asks what should be done on behalf of the Greek government in order to get the maximum from the U.S.? Recently, we paid for the veto that Greece exercised in the [NATO] conference in Bucharest concerning FYROM’s use of the name Macedonia. The issue of the visa waiver was actually an act of vindictiveness on behalf of the American government. “You did that? We will show you.” That was retaliation.

Here we have a dynamic presence, a huge power, but it plays a huge role to know that we have a solid base in Greece.

Exactly a year ago, I was invited by the archdiocese to the White House celebration of Greek Independence Day. The invitation, which I gratefully accepted, came after an article I wrote in defense of the Ecumenical Patriarchate got wide circulation. Last year, the event at the White House involved a brief appearance by George W. Bush, who was not compared to Alexander the Great. The invitation was a surprise to me because I had never been involved in anything like this with the archdiocese. But I’m glad I went. It was a close up look at the concentrated power of the Greek Lobby marshaled for a big day in Washington. You wonder, however, just what this Church could accomplish if it put as many resources into, and developed a “vision” for, evangelizing an American culture that so desperately needs it.


  1. This makes me SICK! Pres. Obama has the worst record on life issues and has made a point of saying that no judges will be appointed that support life. Unless I am mistaken we Orthodox support life issues. Ahhhh but we are never at a loss to suck up and get our picture in the paper.

    First they excomunicate the OCA and now they are sucking up to a person who contributes to the death of thousands of innocent children. Alexander the Great! He should have called him Herod!

    Shame Shame Shame!!!

  2. George Michalopulos

    I agree. Thisi kind of suck-up-ery is why I left the GOAA. As I said in another forum, rather than Alexander the Great, he should have compared him to Herod the Great.

    Let’s however just follow the logic of the archbishop’s remarks. Alexander was a monarch who didn’t have to play by the rules, hence, he could cut the Gordian Knot. Obama is (was?) the elected leader of a democratic republic, one that is governed by the rule of law. I guess in Obama’s case the Gordian Knot is the US Constitution. Why not just go ahead and cut it? That way silly little things like rules wont stand in the way of him getting “needed” things done.

    I guess the most charitable thing to say is that the GOAA (save for Met Iakovos of Chicago), has completely lost its mind.

  3. Michael Bauman

    Comparing any leader to Alexader the Great is not necessarily a compliment although I’m sure Arbp Demtrios meant it that way. Old Alex spread tryanny, despoilation, rape, sodomy and death all to feed an egomanical ego that could not be satiated.

    I am sure the Copts in Egypt especially don’t think very highly of old Alex.

    It is shameful, degrading and disgusting. The EP wants every Orthodox in America to be part of this sycophancy?

    Lord have mercy!

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse

    This is embarrassing. Worse, the Archbishop seems taken aback at Pres. Obama’s (quite appropriate) response at the sheer grandiosity of the claim. Didn’t the Archbishop or his advisors see the hollow speciousness of the claim? Didn’t they understand that to the American ear it smacks of servile flattery, even buffoonery? Apparently not.

    Do they really believe their self-manufactured mythology? Apparently so.

    This is what happens when the true Hellenistic ideals are subsumed under the political interests of the Greek lobby. The Archbishop, a learned man, ought to crack open Russel Kirk’s “The Roots of American Order,” which examines how Hellenistic ideals shaped the founding of America.

    If the EP and other Greek Orthodox clerics want to make the case that they (their office and person) are the living repository of the Hellenistic ideals — that they are the agents in whom the ideals are located and by which the ideals will be carried forward, then it has to be stronger than the crass opportunism witnessed yesterday. Kirk is a good place to begin.

    Short of any honest historical reflection however, we will see the antics we saw yesterday replayed over and over again.

  5. Scott Pennington

    If the Archbishop (for whom up to now I’ve had considerable respect) cannot be trusted to refrain from exultant, boot-licking adulation over such an aggressively pro-death American politician, wherein does his claim to be a Christian lie? Black clothing, a beard and a panagia?

    It’s nauseating.

  6. It is sad to see the Archbishop enshrined on the Drudge Report for millions across the world to see as a weak man whose flattery is indeed buffoonery. This image will stick with the Archbishop for a long time and that video is not going to go away. That no staffer anticipated this problem shows you how disconnected the folks on East 79th Street are. Even the newly minted “Office of Church and Society” did not catch this.

    If you are a serious Orthodox Christian who is not Greek and a member of the GOA, the past days have been some of the most brutal in recent memory. Is there any moral truth that guides the GOA anymore? Or is the GOA just a bunch of lobbyists branded with a Byzantine cross?

  7. Shameful. Before our very eyes the Archbishop is transformed from an icon of Christ into a court jester, flattering a man whose virulent pro-abortion policies surpass those of any American president in recent memory.

    Here’s a small sampling of the pro-abortion and anti-sanctity of life record of Mr. Obama in just the last few months:

    Obama: Destroying Human Life for the ‘Greater Good’

    Obama to Overturn “Conscience Rule” for Pro-life Doctors

    Obama’s pro-abortion executive order creates first clash with Vatican

    ‘Freedom of Choice Act’ nightmare for bishops, pro-lifers

    Also, did you hear the “Honorary Greek” comment from someone in the audience? More “hellenic” frosting to add to the outrageous pile of unworthy praise heaped on this pro-death president.

  8. There is a certain discipline imposed by having to choose among the wrongly limited set of available alternatives.

    Take, for example, how the chief secretary for the EP would have done in a similar circumstance given his recent performance at Holy Cross.

    I bet everyone in a position to know could identify any of a dozen clergymen who have a better sense of this and who are impressive in public arenas in their own right. Sadly, their wives have neglected to die, so we hear only from those who never had one.

  9. Alexander the Great (336–323 BC) was one of the most successful military commanders of all time and is presumed undefeated in battle. By the time of his death, he had conquered most of the world as known to the ancient Greeks.

    Before his death Alexander gave instruction on how to be buried: his body was placed in a gold casket with two holes such that his hands could be left out to show people that although had conquered most of the world he does not take anything with him.

    The Archbishop succeeded in making a fool out of himself, the habit that he wears (this is the worst part) and the Greeks. All these because he hopes that the president will solve the “unresolved issues”. What a worldly person! He publicly humiliates the Church that he represents.

  10. Do not let sorrow fill your soul and distract
    you from prayer.

  11. Wow, I didn’t see it as that big a deal. I thought it was a specific reference, one actually lost on me till I asked my Greek godfather. It was awkward and a little humorous, like your old grandfather trying to make an obscure point, but I don’t think it was over the top flattery or offensive.

  12. It doesn’t get much worse than this, first being publicly humiliated as a butt kisser and then when you look at what he said he looks like an old fool or someone in the first stages of dementia. I am fearful that by association people will think I am as much a fool.

  13. Now, the clear fact that the greeks suck-up to who ever has more power is not a news it is simply the way they are!!!

    In the speech of the Archbishop had nothing to do with religion it was purely POLITICAL, truly shame for the church and which was yet another low for Greek diplomacy.

    And another thing, the mere mentioning of Aleksandar the Great was by no means a coincidence!!! They May be could have mentioned someone else, but of course they will not do that when they have a chance to steal other-nation history!!!
    The remark (not the comparison of course:) was clearly directed to the Macedonians !

    To all the “learned” Greeks, please do enlighten me: how come Aleksandar the Great is Greek when (even if we disregard all the rest) his father was clearly FILIP II, the barbarian, the Macedonian! ???

  14. George Michalopulos

    This speech was embarrassing on so many fronts that I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just stick with the historical analogy. Although I’ve long been an admirer of Big Al, it would be wrong to say that he was some paragon of virtue. Even if we leave out the drunkenness and illicit sexuality, by many in the Third World he was viewed as little better than Attila the Hun. His path of destruction began when he was sixteen and he destroyed Thebes. He laid waste to many cities and even depopulated Gaza. This was par for the course back then so I can cut him some slack. As a Greek though, I can say that he continued his father’s work and overturned classical Greek republicanism (which was probably on its way out anyway). As to his other character flaws, I’ll leave that to others.

    In the final analysis, Demetrios’ remarks shows to us yet again how vapid the intellectual case for the GOAA as an “American” church is. Basically, this “archbishop of America” was given marching orders by the Greek govt, never once considering whether by walking into this trap, he was not only making a fool of himself, but Greek-Americans everywhere.

  15. In reflecting more on this moment the words of David Gerlertner who wrote the following in his fantastic memoir Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber

    We Dine A Macbeth’s House while pretending not to see Banquo’s Ghost

  16. Maybe this is more of a showing of the lingering evils of Turkokratia? For so long the Orthodox bishops of the balkans had to speak vain flatteries like this, just to appease thugs and hopefully get their communities left alone. So maybe we can take it that way.

    All too often it seems like the Greek-American masses completely ignore how anti-life, anti-God, and anti-traditional family the American left has become. Of course, Sultans didn’t have good track records with these areas either, and they had to find a way to get along with them for 400 years, too. Maybe someday, our Met. Jonah will speak before the president, and instead of lobbying for some far-away country’s disputes he’ll call him out on the 3,000 deaths per day genocide against the American people (predominantly the poor and minorities) who are murdered in abortion “clinics.”

  17. St. Basil the Great was placed in situation much like the one Archbishop Demetrios faced at the White House on March 25, 2009. Here is what St. Basil the Great did:

    The emperor Valens rules the eastern half of the Roman Empire in the AD 360s. He was a brutal man at a time of bitter political and religious turmoil, and he sought to destroy the orthodox faith in Christ. Saint Basil the Great, then the Bishop Caesarea, confronted him face-to-face about his policies. “Never has anyone dared to speak to me with such freedom”, Valens said. Saint Basil replied “Obviously you have never met a bishop before” (Quoted in Charles J. Chaput, Render Unto Caesar p 189)

  18. As for the GOAA; how about getting out the politics business and leave that up to the government of Greece? Shouldn’t the Archbishop be spending his time praying, setting up missions and monasteries and spreading the Gospel? And while he’s at it he should think about removing some pews and organs from his Orthodox-lite, neo-Anglican church buildings and insisting that his flock go to confession.

  19. George Michalopulos

    Amen John. Wonderful riposte, Andrew.

  20. Perhaps on June 12th Bishop Mercurius of Zaraisk will be invited to the White House and make a speech comparing the President to Alexander Nevsky.

  21. George Michalopulos

    that would be a travesty. Nevsky was a principled man of courage who upheld Christian truth and was not afraid to go into the field to meet his enemies face-to-face.

  22. Fr. Johannes Jacobse

    Here’s what could have been said — and it could have been said alongside the political interests of the Greek state — if moral clarity had prevailed:

    Note in particular this assertion:

    The cardinal reminds us that both religious liberty and the freedom of personal conscience are at the heart of our American experiment in democracy.

  23. This is an abomination and a slap in the face to those of us who are faithful to our Greek Orthodox spiritual roots. What was our Archbishop thinking??? Or was he speaking in tongues???? If he truly believes this, he is more “out to lunch” than I first thought! I am so glad to find out where the Archbishop and perhaps even the GOAA stand regarding this administration and Obama’s leftist beliefs. I am totally embarassed by these remarks as an Orthodox Christian! He has truly humiliated himself and the faith and really has shown he knows nothing of who Alexander the Great really was. For shame…….Archbishop Demetrius…for shame.

  24. Michael Bauman

    And the RC Cardinal in Chicago is refusing to attend the Notre Dame commencement and denoucing the action of the university in inviting Obama to speak and giving him and honorary doctorate.

    Believe me if Obama presses FOCA and doing away with the freedom of conscience for medical providers, the Catholic bishops will shut down the entire Catholic hospital system. They’ve already promised to do it.

    Where will our bishops stand? No telling for many of them. That is a shame!

  25. Harry Katopodis

    Shame on you for claiming to be Christians, you speak hate and venum out of your mouths you sons of vipers. You are being deceived by the GOP, they will never outlaw abortion, you are being used as political pawns. We are proud of our Greek heritage, we are proud of the multicultural diversity in our country and we respect all faiths and cultures. We proudly celebrate Greek Independance Day and the Fourth of July. We proudly keep our Greek church traditions and language. Archbishop Demetrious is a loving and brilliant pastor that is meeting the needs and desires of his people. You on the other hand are being lied to by politicians and tricked. I am proud of President Obama and the great job he is doing bringing our country our of the brink of destruction the Bush brought it to. We are loyal to his Holiness Patriarch Bartholomiou and shame on the uncanonical OCA (uncanonical since the Metropolia days)for seeking to cause a schism over the false issue of abortion. So many of our servicemen died to give us freedom and one of the freedoms we have is to vote for whoever we want. I joined millions that voted for President Obama. We are Christians, we are democrats, we are Americans. God grant Patriarch Bartholomeos, Archbishop Demetrius, and President Obama many years!

    • Mutliculturism in Greece? Are you kidding me? Not only has the Hellenic Republic confiscated Ancient Macedonian history as exclusively their own, committing ethnic cleansing against their minority Macedonian population, but they hardly recognize any minorities in Greece other some hybrid forms of Turks, Romani, and what they cover up as remnants of the ethnic Macedonians by calling them Bulgarian or “Slavophone speakers.”

    • Harry, if you hate my country so much and love your own so much (Greece) why are you living here? America is the easiest country in the world to LEAVE, please do so. No wonder you love multiculturalism so much; it allows you to live here, make your money here, and hate us all at the same time.

  26. Scott Pennington


    There are very few people here who are going to be convinced that bootlicking servility toward, and aggrandizement of, a pro-death politician is a Christian act in any sense of the word – – especially when you consider that Archbishop Demetrios did this not for any religious purpose but to serve the political interests of his country (Greece, not the US).

    Shame, indeed. Or totally shameless.

  27. Scott Pennington

    By the way, Harry, you have this tendency to see everything in terms of the two major American political parties:

    “You are being deceived by the GOP, they will never outlaw abortion, you are being used as political pawns.”

    I am not a Republican. I have not been a Republican for years. I think little more of the Republican party than I do of the Democratic Party (which I despise).

    I am not being tricked by the GOP. Abortion is inarguably anti-Christian and immoral. It has been so from the very beginning.

    Both parties are beholden to the feminists to different degrees. This little game they play (the parties) to convince the American people that there is really a culture war going on, at least within the halls of Washington, is getting to be very obviously a charade.

    When a bishop like Metropolitan Jonah comes out and speaks forcefully at a pro-life rally, he is simply obeying Christ, not being unnecessarily divisive. He is not doing it to impress the GOP or because he has been duped by them. He does it because he is a Christian.

    I am a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. I am also a practicing and believing Christian, sinner though I am. It is a shame that those last two sentences are not redundant. But I can tell you that it brings shame upon the whole Greek Orthodox Church when the Ecumenical Patriarch recognizes two pro-choice Senators as being outstanding Orthodox Americans, or when our Archbishop flatters a man like Obama who will enable more killing in the name of choice. It makes the GOA look as if it is the Church of cosmopolitan Greekness and not a Christian entity at all.

    Thank God for the faithful Greeks in GOA, those who have always taken the faith seriously and also those “reverts” who formerly thought of it as an ethnic tribal religion whose moral witness is outdated and backward, but then came to see that Orthodoxy is the Light that enlightens all the world.

  28. Michael Bauman

    Harry, in case you haven’t read the Bible lately you really ought to. Christianity is not based on tolerance as it is defined in modernity. Modern tolerance is simply an excuse for reveling in sin. Christianity is founded (greatly simplifying) on the recognition of mankind’s need of salavation, i.e, we are separated from God due to our sin; and God’s self-emptying Incarnation (which includes the Cross, the Grave and the Glorious Third Day Resurrection). The tolerance you preach denies not only the reality of Christ’s Incarnation, but the very existence of God.

    The 2000 year history the unified Christian witness until the last 40 years has been against abortion. Those who call themselves Christian and support abortion are becoming increasingly apostate Abortion is a pagan and/or materialist exercise.

    BTW the Republicans are just as corrupt as the Democrats as are all national politicians regardless of political ideology. All the more need for the Church to be prophetic in her stance–proclaiming the way of truth and life in all aspects of our culture, not Dhimmi.

  29. George Michalopulos


    this is growing rather tiresome. The obsequiousness of Arb. Demterius was cringe-worthy. We don’t have to act this way anymore, the Ottoman empire is long-gone. Your adulation of Obama (the 9 Trillion Dollar Man) was of a piece with the archbishop’s. Btw, in case you didn’t know, we still live in a republic, therefore we don’t have emperors or kings whom we beg to “live for a thousand years.”

    For my money, I’d rather have a metropolitan like Jonah who’s willing to march for life because it’s his Christian witness rather than one who’s primary mission is to carry water for foreign governments. (Have you ever seriously thought about the preposterousness of Demetrius’ title “Archbishop of America”?)

    Please read Fr Stanley Harakas’ lecture which was redacted in the latest issue of The Orthodox Observer. His last words were that we can’t really love the Gospel unless we love America (I’m paraphrasing). That’s a question you’re going to have to ask yourself someday, whether you really love America (and Americans) enough to want to take the Gospel to them.

  30. Cynthia Curran

    Amen to that. We don’t live in the days of the Roman Empire anymore. Certainly, there are no more Constantines or Justinians and the like. Actually, Obama is in some ways even worst than Justinian. At least he tried to prevent infants from being left to exposure which was still common in the 6th century. Obama supports late term abortion which even many pro-choice people don’t believe in.

  31. Cynthia,

    We don’t live in days of the Roman empire anymore?

    Shhhhhh…don’t tell the Greeks!

    Best Regards

    PS…for the record, the archbishop would have to move forward 300 years to get to the Roman Empire from the period he is referring to (Alexander’s era, 325BC)

  32. Here’s an updated link to the same video:

    The current embedded video link shows: “This video has been removed by the user.”

  33. Fr. Johannes Jacobse

    Another point: Alexander solved the problem of the the Gordian Knot with the sword — he sliced it in half. Is Abp. Demetrios suggesting that American military might be used to drive the Turks out of Cyprus? What is meant by referencing the legend?

  34. cynthia curran

    Well, if Plutarch believed that Alexander didn’t do it, then he probably didn’t. To be honest I have read the Roman lives more in Plutarch than the Greek ones. Its been sometime since I’ve read Plutrach’s life of Alexander, I can’t read Greek, so depend upon a translation. Plutarch as many know here was a 2nd century A.D. writer and biographer, only about 400 years remove from Alexander who as everybody here knows live in the 4th Century B.C.

  35. The statement was wrong on so many levels – not to mention that Alexander the Great was Macedonian, not Greek.

Care to Comment?