Katopodis Responds to ‘Orthodox Dominionists’

Mr. Harry Katopodis has sent AOI an article to further elaborate on the thinking behind his article in the Hellenic Voice, “Religious Right Must Not Set Agenda for Orthodox Church.” Which led to my post, “Where are the Orthodox Dominionists?”

The Katopodis response is published here unedited:

Dominionists or Pro-Life?

By Harry Katopodis

Several bloggers have criticized my article because I called called pro-life Orthodox dominionists, however the difference in reality is very small. The point is that whether I call them dominionists or religious right their stands are very similar, put Christian values and doctrine in the government of the United States. I was raised in the Orthodox Church, and I left the Greek Church and went to the OCA so I could hear English services. A few years later I returned home to the Greek Church when I felt I wasn’t welcome in the OCA because I am a Democrat and a proud union member that votes for Democrats because it is in my economic interest to do so. Right to Life Sunday was founded by a man I consider one of the worst presidents we ever had (anti-poor and anti-worker), Ronald Reagan, was offensive. Also having memorial services in OCA churches when Reagan died was unorthodox (will Bill Clinton be given a memorial service when he dies?-of course not he is pro-choice). When I saw all the pro-life (ie. pro-Republican) and anti-public school/pro-home schooling in OCA sources I could no longer stay there. OCA priest Very Rev. John Breck reflected an anti-public school view when he wrote “Moral discourse, like today’s public education, will be shaped by a vision of reality that is totally foreign to the Gospel.” (OCA Web site) Not only the pro-life aspect of the OCA and Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, but also the language used by many converts to talk about their “walk with the Lord” is essentially protestant reminding me of born-again meetings and Charismatic Renewal meetings I had visited. The OCA and Antiochian Churches are essentially turning into Byzantine-rite Protestant-like Churches. The difference between so-called liberal churches that support social justice is that one is not told they are sinners for voting a certain way, in the pro-life movement it is implied that voting pro-choice is a sin and that somehow pro-choice voters are not true Christians.

I don’t want to keep the Greek church for Greeks only (85% of all weddings are mixed), I want to keep the faith once delivered to the saints intact, not turn the church into an arm of the Republican Party. Orthodox right to lifers will not see this and repeat their claim that abortions must be stopped. Unless the hearts of the majority of Americans are changed, abortion will remain legal.

Greek-Americans want to keep their culture and heritage as well as their language. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said recently in Detroit, “What would be an American Church?” He is right, we have so many cultures and races here, would the church be Arab, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian or Anglo-Saxon? Our culture respects all races, nationalities, and creeds. Multicultural diversity is the only way we can go if we want to have a country. Many hold on to their cultures. There is nothing wrong with an ethnic church and there is nothing wrong with an American Church. We are free in America to worship the way we want. There is something wrong with telling people how to vote.

Dominion Theology (Theocracy)

The Christian Religious Right is very similar to the Dominion Theology or Reconstruction movement that rose up in conservative Presbyterianism in the early 1970’s. Dominion Theology says that society has to be defined and controlled by Christians. The basis of this Theology is the book of Genesis 1:26 where God gives man dominion over the animal kingdom. The text says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the earth, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (King James Version). The vast majority of Christians interpret this to mean that God has appointed humans as stewards and caretakers of the animals and earth, however Dominionists interpret this to mean God has given dominion to Christians over every aspect of human life on earth including government.

St. Gregory the Theologian interprets this passage (Genesis 1:26) as meaning we are called to be stewards (oikonomoi) of God’s material world, caring for it, maintaining it in its integrity and perfecting it. No Church father saw this as a call to take over the governments of the world.

Domininists and the religious right believe that the United States was meant to be a Christian nation and that separation of church and state is a lie of the left. They believe that Christian laws should be enacted and that the Christianity should be the basis for life in America. In short they want a Christian Theocracy in America.

We can see the Dominion Theology view in statements made by the Religious Right. For example Rev. Jerry Falwell said, “We will not adopt ‘inclusive’ policies to accept other religious teachings.” Today’s Christian Religious Right isn’t as demanding of world domination as the early Dominion Theology leaders, however they come very close.

Changing America

The Christian Religious Right is a very powerful movement. They have daily TV and radio shows, magazines, newsletters and Web sites that reach millions. They have access to thousands of churches to get the word out. They are active and successful in local, state and national elections.

The American founding fathers set up a separation of church and state not to eradicate religion from the lives of Americans but to safeguard that everyone would have the freedom to worship as they choose or not to worship at all. They were very careful not to set up a state church. Many of the people during that time were various types of Christians. They cherished the right to worship freely, especially because many were persecuted by the Church of England.

The freedom of religion was so important to the founding fathers that the first amendment to the constitution was set up to guarantee freedom of religion without government sanction and without government interference. The first amendment reads as follows: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Dr. Pat Dobson is a powerful force in today’s Christian Religious Right movement and he said during The Larry King Show (November 22, 2006) that he does not believe that there is a separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.

Pat Robertson is the host of The 700 Club and regularly devotes a lot of time on his TV show covering political issues. It is clear that he supports candidates who oppose abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage and policies that he deems un-Christian. He has often said that America was founded as a Christian country and supports America becoming Christian “again.” He often claims to hear directly from God giving him a sense of infallibility. Robertson founded the influential Christian Coalition that distributes millions of voter guides each election.

DJ Rushdoony founded the Dominionist Chalcedon Foundation in the 1960s and stated, “There can be no separation of church and state.” He argued that the First Amendment was designed to protect state-established churches. In 1981 A Christian Manifesto was written by Francis Schaeffer and expounded his version of Dominion Theology.

The Orthodox converts have brought this same interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to Orthodoxy. They publish a magazine called Again and in its Fall 2004 issue stated, “Just as the First Amendment lays no restrictions on the press in political matters, it lays no restrictions on religion in political matters.”

The National Council of Churches

As time goes by more and more of these converts do not like what they see in the Orthodox Churches in America. They do not like the many ethnic jurisdictions and feel that there must be only one Orthodox Church in America because Canon Law calls for one bishop in each city. They also feel that the current Orthodox Church’s involvement in the Ecumenical Movement is wrong because the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches include many liberal denominations (Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc.). They would prefer involvement in an Ecumenical Movement with conservative Christians (such as Evangelicals and conservative Catholics), where they can help them fight a culture war (anti-abortion, anti-embryonic stem cell research etc.). The Antiochian Archdiocese (which has most of the converts and 70% of its clergy are converts) recently pulled out of the National Council of Churches (NCC) largely because some of the member churches don’t agree with them on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

They also do not like the lack of involvement of the ethnic jurisdictions in American politics. Orthodox are allowed to vote for any candidate or proposal they want. They were appalled that some Orthodox politicians were pro-choice (on abortion) and that Orthodox clergy did not get involved with the Religious Right and try to elect anti-abortion candidates and pass Christian laws such as banning embryonic stem cell research. They also recoil with horror that Greece has legalized abortion. The Evangelical converts brought their political views with them.

Anti-abortion activist and member of the Religious Right Randall Terry who said, “Our goal is a Christian Nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.” Indiana News Sentinel

Frank Schaeffer lays a lot of the blame for what he sees on the secularization of the Orthodox. He writes, “…the Church seems to contain many lay people, and even some priests who are far from fervent. It seems to me that the Orthodox Church in America is rather full of what appears to be dead wood of the hardest and driest kind…To put it another way, the naive convert looking for Mount Athos may well be more likely to find a local “Orthodox” church that is nothing more than an ethnic version of the local Elks Club.” Dancing Alone (Elks Clubs are essentially social clubs.)

Other Moderate Voices

There are other moderate voices in the Christian community such as The Interfaith Alliance which disagrees with the Christian Religious Right because they feel religion should be a healer and not a divider of people. The Interfaith Alliance is composed of people from many faiths both Christian and non-Christian. They preach tolerance, respect and peaceful co-existence among all faiths. They do not feel that the Christian Religious Right speaks for all Christians. They also defend the rights of the non-Christian religions in the United States. “Most mainline Christian denominations oppose the religious rights’ involvement in politics… It’s to the advantage of all of us if we accept the fact that there are many ways of looking at things and that’s what we were founded on, free speech, free press and religious liberty and if we’ll all just accept that and get along, we’ll be fine, but when people start trying to impose their will on others we have problems,” said Don Parker, Press Secretary of the Interfaith Alliance.


The religious right and pro-life movements are very similar and their goals are also very similar. They both are trying to accomplish their mission through the Republican party and truth be told, it is not working out for them. Abortion remains legal and I personally don’t think any party will move to outlaw abortion. What they are doing is trying to legislate Christian based laws on a secular country, something that is absurd. In reality they have inadvertently debased Orthodoxy into a political movement. As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He must be now be weeping over the Orthodox in America. May God help us all!


  1. JamesoftheNorthwest says

    While true Republicans have not and likely are not able to get an amendment passed banning abortion. However, an outright ban isn’t the end all. Issues and related bill are constantly arising which ARE dealt with such as expansion of abortion rights, public funding for abortion, parental notification laws, and all manner of embryonic issues.

    Personally, even as one who makes a career of science, I was immensely pleased and supportive of President Bush’s public financing ban on embryonic stem cell research. This IS an issue of life. It will undoubtedly be reversed by what appears at this juncture to be the next administration.

    Inevitably we Christians (Orthodox or otherwise) will in fact be seeking to “legislate our doctrine” no matter how we vote. Left or Right. Issues of war, poverty, and abortion all end up having us vote our religious conscience in one way or another. We do the best we can and if the Religious Right are mere tools for nefarious Republicans, it is no less so the case for the Religious Left and nefarious Democrats.

    I am content to see bumper stickers from both parties in my Parish parking lot and believe that neither side is allowing themselves to be useful idiots, but are in fact voting their conscience and doing the best with what they have to work with…politically speaking.

  2. This article seems to swirl around two main points…

    1. The converts are trying to align us with Republicans. I’m a Democrat and don’t feel we should align ourselves for a single party, which happens to be the party I am not a member of.

    2. There’s this pro-life issue.

    “pro-choice is a sin and that somehow pro-choice voters are not true Christians.”

    I reread a few sources and have yet to find a pro-choice opinion from an Orthodox source Greek, Antiochian, OCA, etc.

    Taken from here: http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/ethics/john_thermon_abortion.htm

    ” The Greek Orthodox Church has always contended that abortion is murder — one has only to read the prayer of a woman who has had a miscarriage to be easily convinced of this matter. St. Basil the Great requires a woman who has had abortion to do penance for 10 years before being allows to receive Holy Communion. The 91st Canon by the Quinisext Ecumenical Council (692) declares that “those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the fetus, are subject to the penalty of murder”. ”

    Secularism is not the absence of religion. It is the replacement of religion with secularist ideas. Slowly the religious underpinnings are replaced with secular humanist, individualistic concepts at the expense of Holy Tradition. The Church does take stands on issues. It does speak to Truth. Your view on voting mystifies me. Do we go to church and believe one thing and then, when voting allows us to put those beliefs into practice, sit silently as the nation debates the issue?

    Should the Church be equipped with all its senses, but have its arms and legs removed so it can _do_ nothing? I can see you killing the children, but I dare not vote against it. I can hear the morally debased things you are trying to teach in our schools, but I will not vote for homeschoolers’ rights.

    You see a disconnect where I do not. The Church should not witness atrocities and sit silently as they happen. If we fail to use our voice it will be taken away from us (ask the Russian Church about all it suffered) by a gradual wearing away of the ability to make our own decisions in organizations, in our business practices, and in our personal choices.

    Yes, He weeps, but I think you misunderstand for whom He laments.

  3. How does Dominion theology differ from having a state church as exists in Greece?

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    There’s a lot to respond to here and I will get to it when I have more time. But let’s be clear. I led some of the criticism of the NCC not because they were pro-abortion (they have no official position on abortion), but because they became apologists for tyrants. Former General Secretary Joan Campbell said as much when she apologized for not defending prisoners of conscience in the gulags during Soviet rule.

    The problem however, is that the NCC’s fundamental ideology has not changed. They were chastened by the fall of Communism and the revelation of their moral failures, but not enough to self-examine where they went wrong. You can read about it here: United Churches of Casto. You can read more here.

    Regarding the collaboration between GOA thinkers and the NCC on embryonic stem cell research, I argued (successfully as it turned out), that the NCC silence on the instrinsic value of the embryo (a silence chosen because the NCC member communions had conflicting views), implied that the Orthodox moral tradition was uncertain on the question as well. But it is not. The moral tradition values unborn life regardless of the stage of its development. We could not sign the document and remain faithful to the tradition.

    You can read my article here: Greek Orthodox Church Should Say No to NCC Collaboration on Stem Cell Research

    • The secular left argues according to a formula: (a) morality and politics are conflated; (b) language is redefined; (c) opponents are
      condemned; (d) the positions of opponents are positioned as “unfair,” and their expression of them somehow oppressive; (e) an
      “alternate universe” is created, with its own history and norms, and this universe is presented as the “real” one.

      This is also, of course, he epistemological methodology of the secularist invaders of the Church. In this case the above pattern
      is implemented by: (a) positioning abortion, homosexuality and other abominations as “political;” (b) Moral questions are distanced from the Church and the Church herself is positioned as a political unit by invoking the First Amendment to justify holding a heterodox moral standard while still claiming to be Orthodox. The vocabulary of the political arena is thereby tactically introduced as a noetic hermeneutic;
      (c) The Left creates shibboleths by using the language of ordinary discourse as pejorative. Therefore “Republican,” “Convert” and, through
      his treatment of the OCA, “American” are all suddenly supposed to evoke an emotional negative response. It’s much like the unpopular
      kid at grade school, whose very name becomes a byword. This is the intellectual level on which the Left operates; (d) Mr. Katopodis complains that the “Religious Right” have some websites, TV shows and radio shows. He complains that They (WE?) are therefore
      “very powerful” He portrays this collection of self-supporting, entrepreneurial outlets as a monolithic force with an unfair advantage in a
      marketplace of ideas which is dominated by vest network and “public service” media and the entire publicly-funded and/or monumentally-endowed scholastic establishment. No matter. To the Left, any opposing voice, however out-shouted, is unfairly overbearing; (e) Those
      who would corrupt the Church and fold her into the world have no recourse to actual doctrine or history. To them, the ancient doctrines
      of the Church are “new and extreme,” and an imaginary “jesus” is invented whose concern for the poor and ailing translates into a
      Marxist “social consciousness.” Morality is separated out of the picture, and is even portrayed as anti-dogmatic! Concession is made to
      the Church’s “right to believe” certain things–this being a concession indeed, presented as something magnanimously bestowed by the
      author, but any attempt to obey Christ and fulfill the mission of he Church Militant by actually preaching Truth into he marketplace is
      stentorially condemned as “dominionism” and Christ’s command to “go out to all the earth” simply ignored. By means of all this an alternate reality is created, wherein the Church herself becomes heterodox by faithfully adhering to orthodoxy. This is accomplished
      in large part by retaining the word, “orthodox” as an umbrella term, but excluding from under that umbrella the things of orthodoxy,

      We have seen this happen with great success in the “main line” Protestant denominations, and are presently witnessing it in the Roman
      Church. Mr. Katopodis’ article is valuable, because it is a warning that hell’s conversion process has now begun to insert itself into Orthodoxy, herself. If permitted (in the patois, “tolerated”), it is an infection that will spread.

      The gates of hell might not be able to prevail against us, but if we are foolish and gullible enough we can, unfortunately, be prevailed upon
      by arguments like this, that would seduce us into a secularist mindset, to prevail against ourselves.

  5. Reader John says

    Mr. Katopodis either has gotten in over his head or is incorrigible.

    I suspect he is in over his head because the specifics of his indictments read as if he darted over to Wikipedia to find support that he didn’t have when he fired his first salvo – and then didn’t pay very close attention to the Wikipedia articles. “Dr. Pat Dobson” and “DJ Rushdoony,” for instance, are not religious right figures; maybe they’re right wing counterparts of “Dick” Carville and “Barry” Stephanopoulos in some parallel universe. Katopodis’s article is too free of typos otherwise for me to think that those are mere typos for James Dobson and R. J. Rushdoony. Rather, it appears that he just doesn’t know who and what he’s talking about.

    I don’t want to Mr. Katopodis to experience the martyrdom of a 15-minute cyberspace hate for the familiar sin of trying to cover his tracks after getting caught making reckless charges, but I want to respond to a few specific things, and then make one overarching point.

    First, Mr. Katapodis makes clear in the first sentence (“… I called called pro-life Orthodox dominionists, however the difference in reality is very small.”) that he reflexively classes pro-lifers as at least quasi-dominionists and thus right-wing. That’s a shame. Since the Church itself opposes abortion, I just can’t see how an Orthodox Christian marks himself a right-winger, in what may eventually become a self-fulfilling libel, simply for making his opposition political, especially if he (as I do) bases political opposition on human rights rather than “thus saith the Church.”

    Katopodis then proudly says that in “so-called liberal churches … one is not told they (sic) are sinners for voting a certain way,” while “in the pro-life movement it is implied that voting pro-choice is a sin and that somehow pro-choice voters are not true Christians.” Mr. Katapodis may not say “sinner” about pro-lifers, but by labeling them “dominionsts” and making clear that he does not welcome them, he sins against charity and makes himself look more than a bit absurd and oblivious to his own faults. As he wants a Church free of right-wing political dominance, so I want one free of any political dominance, including left-wing dominance in the name of “social justice.”

    Then he turns to the Antiochians: “They publish a magazine called Again and in its Fall 2004 issue stated, ‘Just as the First Amendment lays no restrictions on the press in political matters, it lays no restrictions on religion in political matters.’” But that is exactly right. My Constitutional Law Professor, no right-winger, put it vividly: “If the Pope, Billy Graham and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem got together to plot the assassination of the President on religious grounds, and then carried it out, they would not thereby violate the Constitution.” (If one hasn’t gone to law school, he could catch the same point by pondering for 2 or 3 seconds the grammatical structure “Congress shall make no law ….”)

    Finally, an Orthodox Christian would have to be a bit insane to join with dominionists in striving to assure that government is “defined and controlled by Christians” in any dominionist sense. The dominionists (ardent Calvinists, they) would gladly tear down our icons and desecrate our altars as part of “Christian government” were they in control. More mainstream Evangelicals would not be much kinder to the Orthodox if they truly were striving for some sort of thoroughly Christian government. (Need I mention that there’s no way the Orthodox would be in control of a “Christian” American government during my lifetime or that of Mr. Katapodis?)

    Orthodox who lean rightward are, in my experience and opinion, fighting aggressive secularism, not trying to create a Christian regime. If any really are flirting with theocracy, they need to get a grip on the reality that “Protestant conservative” is an oxymoron, and that Evangelical co-belligerents are not, in the end, our friends.

    • A fine response, Brother Reader, but I would like to extend from it a bit…

      Everyone, up to a point, is orthodox. The atheist who believes, for whatever reason, in classical moral and ethical values and in the Natural
      Law, is “Orthodox,” though not rounded out, in the areas of morals and ethics. In a debate meant to convince others of the rightness of
      classical morality and the ethics that express it, with reference to the Natural Law, our co-belligerent is indeed our friend.

      Likewise, in a debate where we are attempting to impress upon a culture lost in darkness the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the reliability of the Bible, our Evangelical co-belligerent is our friend.

      Further, when we are about the corporal works of mercy, and reaching out through our actions to express the Mercy of Christ, our Roman
      Catholic co-belligerents are our friends.

      In fact, as the Lord said, we have friends who are not of our company and whoever is not against us is for us.

      Our task is to regard all of these kindly, because no matter where they are they are in some wise “on the way” to the fullness of Christ’s
      revelation. The honorable atheists need to discover Who it is that makes honor possible. The Protestants need to discover the missing dimension that will enable them to stop running around from pillar to post and will actually take them where they want to go. The Romans
      need to peel away the layers which have been imposed on top of the Ancient Faith that, if they dig down for it, they will find they have.

      We are the only ones who can lead these into the fullness of what it is they are actually already looking for. We will never do it by despising them and holding ourselves aloof at a superior distance, not wishing them to rub against our robes. We will make perhaps a bit of progress,
      plant a seed for someone else to perhaps harvest, by respecting that which is “on the way” in them, meeting them there and encouraging them to carry on further.

      St. Augustine said of the bishop who led him to the Lord, “He was to me not as a great personage, or even a bishop, but simply as a friendly man.”

  6. I dearly hope I have misread what Mr. Katopodis has written, as it appears that he is implying that whether a candidate is pro-abortion or anti-abortion (I refuse to use the false “life/choice” dichotomy that is used to manipulate emotions) should not matter to us when we decide who to vote for.

    If this is indeed the thrust of Mr. Katopodis’ article, I feel compelled to disagree vehemently. The Church always has and always will condemn abortion as murder, and so to say that it is ok to ignore a candidate’s stance on abortion is to say that it is ok to ignore a candidate’s stance on murder, which is patently absurd.

    I will agree that it is not the place of the Church to use political power or to force Christian behaviour on those who are not members of the Church. I also agree that we must not ostracise someone from the Church based on how they vote. I know many devout Orthodox who differ greatly in their political and economic philosophies.

    However, be that as it may, if abortion is murder, it should be treated as such, and we must do everything in our power to outlaw it and to pray for the souls of the victims of abortion, as well as for those who perpetrate abortions. Any politician who votes to allow abortion and who claims to be a member of the Church should be treated as one who has willingly condoned murder.

    My relations outside my immediate family are all politically conservative evangelical protestants, so I have some experience in the matters of right-wing protestant activism. Mr. Katopodis appears to have serious gaps in his knowledge of the political machinations of protestant Christianity in the U. S. To point out one blatant example, there is no Dr. Pat Dobson; there are, however, a Dr. James Dobson and a Rev. Pat Robertson, who are pre-eminent members of the “Religious Right.”

    From the articles he has written, I believe I can safely assume Mr. Katopodis to be a pious, educated man; I must therefore conclude that I have somehow misinterpreted what he has written, since it would appear that he 1) knows little to nothing about the history of the political involvement of the protestant church in America; and 2) is advocating a kind of cognitive dissonance on the topic of abortion that borders on defiance of church teaching.

    So, I am very likely wrong and hope that someone can enlighten me as to how I misread what Mr. Katopodis has written. This is not surprising to me, as I am merely a layman, and I have no special education in theology or canon law.

    I hope that Mr. Katopodis will explain what he has written, so that those like myself who have no background in the area will be able to understand him properly, and not think him to be a morally bankrupt person who despises protestants who convert to Holy Orthodoxy and continue their political involvement and appears to be very Grecocentric and opposed to all that is not Greek, since that is the obviously grossly inaccurate vision which an uneducated layman like myself garners from what Mr. Katopodis has written.

    • Michael Bauman says

      The idea that the Church “forces” belief on anyone is a red herring.

      Politcally I am a Christian monarchist, but that does not make me a dominionist. As noted domionists are iconoclasts. For a Christian monarchy to exist and function requires a Christian people. We lack that so we do what we can.

      I long ago elected not to vote Democratic because they are a party of tryanny. When Aunt Hillary told me I was deplorable and needed to be reeducated, that really sealed the deal. They are the ones who force their beliefs on everyone.

      It would be interesting to see if Mr. K has had a change of heart in light of current events.

      Doubt it. I suspect he is an ideolog. All ideologs regardless of the specifics of their ideology demand that everyone else believe what they believe or die. To me there is that threat underlying what he writes. He is projecting his own attitude toward those who do not believe as he does onto the Church. .

      The Hellinism of the GOA is an ideology. Ecumenism is an ideology. Pretty much any …ism is an ideology. Note that the word idol and the word ideology are closely related.

      Ideology leads to the darkness and nothingness that the evil one desires for us. It is worshiping the created thing more than our Creator.

  7. As someone who has been on a long spiritual and political journey and still feels like a pilgrim, I ‘d like to weigh in on this. The recent economic meltdown has made me think long and hard about who I will vote for. Let’s be clear: we are not in a position where the choice is between “St. Maximos” or the Ottoman sultan. Neither major candidate speaks for me on all issues.

    Regarding abortion: It has become the shibboleth of “conservatives” both within and without Orthodoxy. If I had a magic wand, abortion would disappear. But even if Roe v. Wade were overturned next year, that would do little to halt abortions in most of the nation. In my adopted state (Washington), we have a very tough pro-abortion law and a Democratic majority in the legislature–ABORTION IS A FACT OF LIFE HERE! As Christians, we cannot rely on government to legislate for us. We have the right to lobby, of course, and we should. But first and foremost we need to practice the Apostolic faith, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m tired of conservatives/Republicans thumping their chests and denouncing abortion and Roe v. Wade, because nothing will change on that front. I’m also tired of Democrats parroting Bill Clinton and talking about keeping abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” Both sides get caught up in the legality of abortion. Question: Do Democrats really want abortion to be rare, or is that just window-dressing? Question: Do Republicans really care about stopping abortions? If so, are they willing to cease their all-or-nothing approach: If we can’t abolish it, we won’t do anything about it. Isn’t it worthwhile–and honoring to God–to save even one child from being aborted? Then why won’t someone brave (or perhaps from both parties) stand up and propose a set of policies to reduce the number of abortions?

    Making abortion the only issue upon which to base one’s vote is as short-sighted as thinking that somehow homosexuality is in some special class of “super-sins.”

    Pray for me, a sinner,

  8. Richard Barrett says

    There is a point here which is perhaps worth exploring. Mr. Katopodis brings up the question, echoing Met. Kallistos, just what does an American Orthodox Church look like, anyway?

    Does “American Orthodox” mean pan-Orthodox? Allow me to suggest that the pan-Orthodox model raises some questions which will need to be answered — chief among them being, how do you pull off being “pan-Orthodox” in a way that actually unites a parish community into a single culture, rather than being factions which tolerate each other? To put it another way, is a parish truly “pan-Orthodox” if there are Romanians counting how many times the Trisagion gets sung in Romanian throughout a given year and complaining if it isn’t as many times as Greek or Slavonic or Arabic, or Russians counting how many icons are in the Russian style rather than the Byzantine, or Greeks counting how many prayers are in Greek rather than Slavonic? Is there a way to be “pan-Orthodox” so that it doesn’t give rise to groups peering suspiciously at each other saying, “If they get something, that means we get something, too”? Is there a way to be “pan-Orthodox” without it devolving to rule by endless committees? Even better, how do you do it so that the Divine Liturgy doesn’t become a hodgepodge of practices from different typica or different chant repertoires which were never meant to be done next to each other? One thing I can say about some of the Liturgies I’ve attended at certain Greek parishes — it’s cohesive. It’s made from whole cloth. It’s clear that they just get the books down and do the Liturgy according to what’s said — there isn’t any decision-making by committee or any sense that certain groups are going to be upset if they don’t hear this or see that or whatever.

    Does “American Orthodox” mean English? What kind of English? If it means English, why isn’t a definitive English language version a priority on anybody’s radar (so it seems)? What about Spanish?

    In terms of music, what does it mean? “Anything but Byzantine,” as some people seem to think? Or does it mean thoughtful, informed attempts to receive a musical tradition, and/or mingle it with authentic elements of American vernacular singing, like Appalachian folk music or shapenote/sacred harp singing?

    What about iconography? There are some Russians who’d be very surprised to learn that somehow their iconography is less Orthodox than their Byzantine counterparts — what does that mean for a culturally American form of iconography?

    Or how about church architecture, vestments, etc.? Does Thanksgiving become a feast on the American Orthodox calendar?

    While I certainly don’t agree with the substance of Mr. Katopodis’ article or his response, if part of what informs his viewpoint is that there is yet to emerge any kind of a coherent, cohesive “American Orthodoxy” and thus the converts need to perhaps respond with more charity, humility, and compassion to the foibles of ethnic communities, I can sympathize with that.

    Meanwhile, the question is — if a culturally American expression of Orthodox Christianity is what is desired, what does that mean? What is America’s authentic culture? Some complain that we have none — it’s synthetic. Some suggest that the synthetic culture is our authentic culture.

    I’ll say this — if “authentic American Orthodoxy” winds up looking like Megachurch Evangelical Protestantism with an epiclesis (as some parties seem to advocate), I think I’ll seek out an ethnic parish very quickly.


  9. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Note 7. Greg Cook writes:

    I’m tired of conservatives/Republicans thumping their chests and denouncing abortion and Roe v. Wade, because nothing will change on that front. I’m also tired of Democrats parroting Bill Clinton and talking about keeping abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” Both sides get caught up in the legality of abortion.

    Greg, I think you are missing the bigger picture. The culture is shifting against abortion. That’s why Clinton shifted (although it’s a rhetorical, not substantive, shift), and why the fledging organization Democrats for Life was not drummed out the party (which would have occurred four years ago).

    Regarding “legality,” remember that in the US great moral questions become political. Divisive moral conflicts cannot be resolved politically, particularly abortion since it incorporates irreconcilable moral frameworks, but politics is nevertheless an arena where the clashes take place and the visions are articulated. It can get messy sometimes. But this clash is not necessarily a bad thing, as the shift against abortion on demand indicates.

    No one believes that if Roe v. Wade were nullified tomorrow that the pro-abortion idealogue would suddenly experience a change of heart. It won’t happen. (Actually the question would return to the states.) Incremental change however, like the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, or restrictions against partial birth abortion are important because not all pro-choicers are idealogues. Here the conscience can be reached; the truth sometimes get through.

    Then why won’t someone brave (or perhaps from both parties) stand up and propose a set of policies to reduce the number of abortions?

    Many women have an abortion because they sense there is no other way out for them. I’m not sure what kind of policy can be created that will alleviate this fear short of creating a culture of support. But again, this requires a culture shift, and that cannot occur as long as confusion about whether or not the unborn child is expendable still exists. See my review of the book: Women are Abortion’s Second Victims.

    One final point. Look in the yellow pages. All the help from women with unplanned pregnancies comes from the pro-lifers.

  10. Father,

    Your points are well-taken and I do agree with you up to a point: I think there is a cultural shift but I’m not sure how far it goes. I too am pleased with the inclusion of Democrats for Life. I am writing a paper in my public policy class this quarter (I’m working on a master’s in public administration) trying to implement a set of policies like DFLA’s. My point was more about the political rhetoric/grandstanding vs. workable solutions. Lincoln was not an abolitionist because he knew most people were not ready for it, and I think pro-lifers can learn much from his approach. (The analogy goes only so far because it is unlikely abolition would have occurred without the Civil War.)

    As a quick remark on other aspects of the debate connected to the original post in this dialogue, as an American and Orthodox (non-Greek) I do get concerned about the confusion of Hellenism with Orthodoxy. For instance, I find the polemics against “the Franks” promulagated by some Greek authors very unhelpful–do I need to de/re-nounce my Franco-Norman ancestors?! It reveals of an ignorance of the West. (Please don’t anyone say I am being disrespectful of Met. Hierotheos or Fr. Romanides–I have read most of the Metropolitan’s books and heard him speak and I treasure his writings.) Interestingly, the idea of Greek know-it-allness is an issue I have had talks about with an Iranian co-worker. As a proud exponent of Persian civilization, he too points out that there are other (valid) points of view than the Greek.

  11. Tony Bartel says

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