The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call

St. Paul Instructing Timothy

St. Paul Instructing Timothy

By John G. Panagiotou

The nature of the work of the pastor is not to be defined by the culture, congregation or the pastor himself, but by the Lord.

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IIn Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson’s book The Unnecessary Pastor, we are given an insight into the plight of contemporary pastoral leadership. Originally, the title of this book was taken from a Regent College church leaders’ conference which was led by the authors. The authors provide us with the following stunning thesis: the clergy and churches are in crisis today in large part due to an identity crisis in how the culture, congregations, and the clergy themselves view and regard their respective call, role and function.

In the book, the focus is on the Pastoral Epistles (I & II Timothy, Titus) of what pastoral ministry ought to be through the lens of the larger framework of the Letter to the Ephesians. Petersen recreates for the reader the Greco-Roman world and historical context of Paul, Timothy and Titus in a vivid manner. It is within this context that we see how truly counter-cultural the Gospel (Good News) message was in the first century and is in today’s world. It is a message that proclaims and calls all people to belief in the literal Resurrection of Jesus through a radical life change of repentance and baptism. Thus, this new life in Christ was a challenge and a threat in the Apostolic age to the societal status quo and remains a challenge and a threat to the societal status quo in our modern times. Dawn and Peterson note that, “The Christian community is an alternative society.”1

With this understanding, Petersen and Dawn assert that what is needed in today’s Church, is to rediscover and reclaim the ancient Apostolic perspective, form and practice of ministry as expressed in the New Testament. Petersen states emphatically that the inner communion of the Three Persons of the Trinity should be the image for the ministry model that the clergy should seek to emulate and not to conform to the standards set by the worldly culture. The end result of the former is for the pastor to become a faithful and effective Christ-centered servant leader. Hence, the pastor becomes “unnecessary’ to the success of the local church. Whereas, the end result of the latter is for the pastor to fall into the secular worldly-based model of ministry by becoming a manager, marketer, entertainer and therapist.2 Thus, the pastor becomes “necessary” to the success of the local church by subscribing to a pastor-centric focus. It is this goal of making clergy unnecessary to which the book has as its primary aim. This is a move which necessitates a transition from a form of culturally-determined managerial professionalism to a Biblically-determined pastoral leadership.

This problem is created by three components which when succumbed to derail the primary focus and function of the pastoral ministry. These are: yielding to what the culture defines as important; yielding to what the pastor defines as important; and yielding to what the congregation defines as important.3 When these criteria and their attending mindset are present, a ‘corporate business model” of the Church manifests itself. As the authors note, “with hardly an exception they don’t want pastors at all – they want managers of their religious company.’4

This is problematic in many ways, but particularly in light of the fact of the increasing acceptance in the Church of the pastor as a sort of “CEO”. This secular notion diminishes the pastor’s apostolic calling. The ways of the world displace the scriptural worldview. It flies in the face of sound doctrine by making the pastor into a hireling who can be dismissed at will based upon human personal whim and not with an understanding of the pastor as the custodian of the truth of the Gospel. This work provides a clarion call to renew, retrain, and refocus the mindset of pastors to be the counter-cultural servant-leaders of Christ they were intended to be.

Of the several ministry-related issues which are raised in the book, I think that two have particular relevance to me in my ministry experience in light of the Pastoral Epistles and the Letter to the Ephesians.

The first issue that I see as relevant to my ministry is the need for ministry to be rooted on the Apostolic model and to resist the secular mindset which is permeating local churches and denominational jurisdictions. The congregation should not set the tone, scope or nature of the pastor’s ministry. By mere definition, it shouldn’t because it can’t. Ontologically, the pastor’s call is of Apostolic origin. As the authors rightly observe, “Everybody and his dog has a job description for the pastor. Everybody knows what a pastor must do to be a real pastor. That’s a problem, but what complicates and compounds it is that it’s nice to be so needed, nice to have culture and congregation alike interested in defining our work and giving us instructions on how to go about it. It’s nice to be so much in demand.”5 As a result, the focus becomes the pastor and his ministry instead of Jesus and His work. The Apostle Paul reminds Timothy, “fan the flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands”.6 The nature of the work of the pastor is not to be defined by the culture, congregation or the pastor himself, but by the Lord.

The second issue that I see as relevant to my ministry is the need for the local church to proclaim the divinely revealed message of the Good News in an unashamed, uncompromised way to a world that not only is disinterested in it, but is often hostile to it. When a congregation negates its evangelical mission-minded vocation, it gains a preoccupation with everything else of the world except for the preaching of the Gospel. Hence, by virtue of this situation, the pastor’s ‘job description” changes.

The pastor is not really viewed as and expected to be a proclaimer of the Truth, but rather a socio-religious community caretaker and organizer. Paul would go on to advise Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be ready in season and of season. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching”.7 The Church and its leadership today have willingly become subordinated to the influence and narrative of the secular culture. In Ephesians, it is precisely this mindset that the Apostle Paul rails against. He writes, ‘Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.’8

Both of the above mentioned aspects involve being Biblically-rooted in sound doctrine. Paul writes to Titus, “teach what accords with sound doctrine.’9 This is the overarching theme and emphasis that we find in the Pastoral Epistles. Without sound doctrine, one falls into heresy and/or apostasy. Thus, in the Pauline view of things, one’s ministry is compromised and mutedly ineffectual. Dawn and Peterson explain this in the following way, “the early Christians did not try to translate their faith into something that was accessible to the world’s darkened understanding. What they did instead was to engage in a way of life that was so different from the world that their neighbors wanted to be part of it.”10 It is this missiological expression of Christian witness which typifies the Biblical New Testament model of the local church and its outreach to the world.

I see this time and time again in church communities within my own Greek Orthodox faith tradition; yet, these problems are not relegated to one group but rather are inter-denominational. In a recent article in a Greek-American publication, I read the following where the writer accurately describes the lamentable state of today’s Greek Orthodox clergy, “A priest is considered successful only when he manages to collect more and more money. Unfortunately, our priests today have become some kind of religious tax-collectors.”11

The above situation is appalling, disturbing and scandalous on a variety of levels. Now contrast this with what Dawn and Peterson say about their ministry model, “We have to scrap most of what we are told today about leadership. Forget about charisma, go for character12…Whenever money pulls churches away from their God-given purposes, then it is functioning as Mammon.”13

Very often, if one were to walk in off the street into a church social gathering, he would see no different behavior amongst it members than say a meeting of the Rotary, Lions Club, Elks or any other civic organization. The point is that the church is not living up to its true calling and potential when it seeks to fit in with the world instead of seeking to please God. This is in direct opposition to what the scriptural record of how the early ancient New Testament Church operated.

In his Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul teaches that God has given His people salvation through the gift of faith in His Son Jesus. He speaks of how he experienced this by referring to “how the mystery was made known to me by revelation”.14 Paul believes and unequivocally states that his ministry is supernatural. It is not of earthly intent, essence, or means. This supernatural nature of his ministry is from where he attributes his authority as an apostle.

Consequently, he exhorts that we as God’s people are called to express this new life we have in Christ by holy living and self-sacrificial love.15 It is precisely this diakonia (service) of love to one another rooted in worship that should exude from the pores of the community in its church life.

Paul teaches that his ministry is of apostolic origin which is rooted in a mystery of revelation when he writes, “of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power.”16 This is a clear directive for us to scrap the corporate model of the Church to which we have erroneous been beholden. A new direction needs to be charted by pastors and congregations whereby the Biblical imperative is heeded and the Biblical standard is established and maintained. The Church needs to stop allowing itself to be molded by the culture and start challenging and influencing the culture. It needs to stop being about us and our needs and start being about discerning the Will of God in our personal, familial, and ecclesiastical lives. In The Unnecessary Pastor, we read that “the Gospel that Jesus brought and the Paul preached is not first of all about us; it is about God…None of this involves fulfilling our needs as we define them.”17

The problems that the Church faces today are seemingly self-imposed. Often times, the Church has allowed its narrative to be controlled by the prevailing culture which represents direct opposition to the Gospel message; this has effected how the institutional Church regards and treats Her clergy. Individuals who do not have a Christ-centered mindset populate our congregations and their leadership; this has affected how the local church regards and treats its clergy. Worst of all, the clergy themselves have allowed their own understanding of pastoral ministry be shaped by the false understanding culture and the congregations. In spite of the fact that the Pauline model of church life teaches something entirely different than what is being practiced today in contemporary Christianity. All of this takes us down the spiritually destructive path of pride, arrogance, vanity, and hubris.

The book’s authors give the reader the following warnings about what can happen to pastors when this perfect storm strikes, “The constant danger for those of us who enter the ranks of the ordained is that we take on a role, a professional religious role, that gradually obliterates the life of the soul.18…Humility recedes as leadership advances…Instead of continuing as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we become bosses on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.”19

I think that in the final analysis, the question is begged. Why do we keep doing these wrong things by maintaining these false paradigms? This is especially pointed when we read the writings of the Apostle Paul who admonishes us to do otherwise. We need to start listening to Paul again. It has been much too long that we have been doing our own thing. We need individual and communal repentance on this matter. We need to become a truly believing and praying Church. For many in the Church, this will be revolutionary and radical change. Well, they are right. Yet, this is our true paradosis (Tradition = deposit of faith) which has been handed down. Only then will we see the change that we so desparately need and yearn for whether we realize it or not.

My hope is that the Church gets it act together and follows a Pauline model once again. I would greatly like to see pastors become the teachers and examples that they were meant to be and not the wishy-washy, superficial and vapid community organizers and fundraisers that they have become. In many cases, they don’t even do those things well. As The Unnecessary Pastor reminds us, “teaching is at the center of leadership work in the Christian community. Every piece of the gospel is to be lived, so we must keep on teaching…teaching people how to live, not teaching people how to pass exams.”20

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book to all pastors, denominational leaders, and to local church members. It gives a Biblically-based New Testament perspective of Christian ministry. It clearly defines the problems in the modern Church for the last several decades. It gives practical solutions to the previously mentioned problems.


1 Marva J. Dawn and Eugene H. Petersen, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 215.
2 Dawn and Petersen, 61.
3 Dawn and Petersen, 4.
4 Ibid.
5 Dawn and Peterson, 184.
6 II Timothy 1:6
7 II Timothy 4:2
8 Ephesians 5:15
9 Titus 2:1
10 Dawn and Peterson, 160.
11 Theodore Kalmoukos, “Parish Council Elections and Indifference,” The National Herald (December 13, 2016).
12 Dawn and Peterson, 20.
13 Dawn and Peterson, 110-11.
14 Ephesians 3:3
15 Ephesians 5:1-30
16 Ephesians 3:7
17 Dawn and Peterson, 127.
18 Dawn and Peterson, 14.
19 Dawn and Peterson, 15.
20 Dawn and Peterson, 134.

John GPanagiotou is a Greek Orthodox theologian, scholar and writer He is a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and Wheeling Jesuit University Panagiotou is Lecturer in New Testament Greek at Cummins Theological Seminary.

Pornography is an affliction for young men. And it’s been mainstreamed.

Internet Porn Addiction

Internet Porn Addiction

It comes from the depths of hell to destroy their characters before they can grow into a healthy sense of who they are.

Source: Minneapolis Star and Tribune February 12, 2017.

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

I am old enough to remember the sexual revolution and its dubious promises that once moral restraints on sexual behavior were removed, a new golden era would dawn in which everyone would live happily, carefree and satisfied.

It didn’t turn out that way. Today I deal with the destruction that revolution caused and try to bring healing to men damaged by it.

I mentor young men, and I see how the mainstreaming of pornography has hijacked their journey from adolescence to adulthood.

Growing up is a difficult process, fraught with all sorts of emotional turmoil that tempt young men to look toward pornography for relief. Once the seeking of relief becomes habitual — and this can happen quickly — the necessary experiences that boys require to become men are often thwarted. Tension is resolved not by learning how to master the problems of life, but by ever deeper retreat into sexual fantasies.

Today this affects more of our young men than we can count. In my experience, the consumption of pornography is nearly universal among young men, and the effects are never neutral. Researchers indicate that only 3 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls have never seen pornography. The internet now makes it available anytime and anywhere. First exposure most often occurs during adolescence, when the brain is still forming and very impressionable by graphic images.

It’s difficult to calculate in hard numbers how profitable the porn industry is. Before the internet, access to pornography was controlled, by locating distribution in seedy neighborhoods; under those limitations the price could be kept high, leading to substantial profits. Since expansion into the internet, access to porn is as close as the click of a mouse, and content is increasingly free. In the last 30 years, American porn studios have declined from 200 to 20, and direct worldwide revenue has dropped from between an estimated $40 billion and $50 billion to about three quarters of that.

Free access also means that porn has gone mainstream and become a commodity. The only accurate measurement we have of porn consumption is internet click rates or Google searches. Profits are decreasing while porn is proliferating. Mindgeek, one of the world’s biggest online purveyors of pornography, reports that it serves more than 100 million visitors a day, who consume 1.5 terabytes of pornography per second — enough to download 150 feature films.

In earlier generations, viewing pornography was seen as shameful. That’s why porn shops were located in the unsavory parts of town. Pornographers were met with scorn. Today, all that might seem quaint, even ignorant — but it concealed a wisdom that we are only now beginning to rediscover. One reason for those earlier restrictions was the fear that porn would “corrupt youth.” This was laughed off as archaic, rigid, even unhealthy. We are finding out the hard way that our elders were right.

Young men ask me what I think of porn, and I mince no words. Porn comes from the depths of hell, and is calculated to destroy the characters of young men before they even have a chance to grow into a healthy sense of who they are and what they can become. Once your mind becomes pornified, I tell them, two things gradually happen: You lose any higher sense of self, and your relationships become distorted.

The vast majority of pornography users are men, but women are also injured by the epidemic. Wives report feeling betrayed when their husbands use porn — much like actual adultery. Women enter marriage seeking respect, companionship, partnership, honesty and romantic love. The world of pornography consists of exploitation, voyeurism, objectification and detachment. Counselors report that porn use increasingly contributes to divorce.

A coarsening of the heart fosters a coarsening of the culture. When more and more young men are conditioned to approach sex as casually as drinking a glass of water, young women are pressured to join in and many do. Porn is a driver of this shift. Where it will lead as the “hookup” generation gets older is anyone’s guess. But the collapse of sexual mores doesn’t bode well for the stability of society in the long run.

We don’t need a library of psychological studies to confirm these kinds of elementary truths. Generations before us intuitively understood them. That’s why they restricted pornography to places where only the chronically addicted would seek it out. Today we blindly lead our children to a pit of destruction, believing our ignorance of the wisdom practiced in earlier generations is somehow virtuous.

How does pornography harm our young people? (Warning: frank language ahead.) The road from adolescence to adulthood is an arduous one filled with many kinds of emotional upsets. A young man can find relief in masturbation, but most soon learn that such comfort is fleeting and does not resolve the problems that need attention — or at least that is the way it used to be.

Porn has become so pervasive that it is now increasingly difficult to escape the escapist pattern of behavior. Pornography is a sexual stimulant used to compel masturbation. Initially, young men use it to flee what appear to be insurmountable emotional pressures. As the behavior continues, it becomes a compulsive habit that retards maturation.

It works a lot like drug use. Give me a young man who has a problem with drugs and wants to get clean, and the first question I ask is when he began using drugs. That tells me when maturation stopped and where to locate the problems that led to the drug use. Only when those problems are dealt with can the flourishing begin that young men yearn for.

These days, I ask: When did you first start using porn?

How does healing occur? The truth is that young men long to become stable and mature. Once they begin grappling with the hold pornography and its attendant behaviors have over their lives, something remarkable occurs. They start to experience what a healthier interior life (heart, soul and mind) feels like, and they want more of that feeling.

I tell young men that the journey of self-discovery is the most exhilarating adventure a man can undertake. This journey never ends. I also tell them to resist all false promises that can imprison the soul. The lies are like a cupful of sand given to a thirsty man. Choose the water.

We begin this journey together, but eager young men learn fast. All most need is a road map, encouragement and accountability.

Sexuality is closely tied to creativity. Flourishing first occurs when the young man morally reorients himself so that his creativity can be expressed in ways that conform to his native gifts and talents. This requires a counselor or spiritual director like me who can discern what the gifts are and guide the young man toward them.

Often the young man lacks confidence because the porn habit prevented him from experiencing the testings that otherwise would have forged it. Nevertheless, once the creativity that was previously dissipated in porn connects with success, the logic of moral self-control becomes self-evident.

Not all young men succeed. Once I was contacted by a young man who longed to serve in the Coast Guard. He needed to finish college first. He could have succeeded, but in the end he was unwilling to undergo the struggle to overcome the habituation that was holding him back.

Had he been born a generation earlier, he might have avoided the conflict altogether.

Pornography is a problem few people want to face, mainly because we don’t know how to deal with it. The Republican Party correctly called it a “public health crisis” in its 2016 platform. Defenders of porn cite First Amendment protections to fight off restrictions on porn distribution.

But porn is much more than speech. And it is not the kind of “idea” the First Amendment was established to protect. We don’t give cigarettes and alcohol to minors. Why do we stand idly by while the merchants of porn ply them with their toxins?

Young men grow up. But if the porn cycle is not broken — and in many cases it isn’t — they grow up to be man-boys. Then the pathology infects families and children.

This poisoned fruit of the sexual revolution may be with us for generations.

The Rev. Hans Jacobse is an Orthodox priest in Naples, Fla. He grew up in Minnesota and began his ministry in Minneapolis.

Christians Who Pray to ‘St. Marx’ are Building the Next Gulag

Celebrating Marx

Source: The Stream

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

This essay is part of a series examining how American religious, economic, and political freedom are compatible with Christian views of a good society. It was provoked by the publication of the Tradinista Manifesto, which called for “Christian socialism” and an established national Church.

The Tradinistas (Traditionalist + Sandinista) make up a new “movement” of mostly young Catholics who drank the heady wine of Marx, and believe that his economics is the wave of the future. The attraction is the same that seduces all devotees of the now discredited ideology: the promise of a just society free of material deprivation and exploitation of the weak.

You would think defending Marx in any place but an American university would be next to impossible, but the Tradinistas are determined to try. In an essay titled “St. Marx and the Dragon” (where Marx is presented as a biblical exegete, the Dragon as capitalism), the Tradinistas declare that Marx’s economic theories should be “subjected to the holy mysteries and authority of the Church.” Money (capital) is Mammon and “all have been seared with trade,” they write. Like Marx, the Tradinistas believe that the “Beast” of Revelation is actually money/Mammon, thus those that fight against capital do the work of God. “Mammon is ascendent in the form of global capitalism and it desires the worship due to God alone,” they argue

Marx, if not yet a saint, should at least be a Father of the Church, if the Tradinistas had their way. And while the ideology of globalism is a threat to community and liberty, Marxist dogma is hardly the solution. Marxism has failed everywhere it has been tried. In many cases it unleashed evils that spilled forth rivers of blood. Yet the attraction doesn’t dim. Why is that? What is it about Marx that holds the minds of men in such paralyzing thrall — in such deep ideological inebriation — that even the voices of those murdered by the violence unleashed time and again by this barbarous ideology cannot penetrate it?

Abortion: The Fly in the Ointment

A clue lies in the Tradinista Manifesto itself. Most of the manifesto reads like the usual anti-capitalist screeds that the left routinely spits out like paper in a copy machine. Declaration #13 however stands out: “Abortion is a horrifying crime which much be eradicated immediately.”

That’s a contradiction. The value of the unborn, which the Tradinistas rightly affirm, cannot be reconciled with Marxist dogma. The Tradinistas don’t understand Marx. They don’t see that if they adopt his dogma, the ground for defending the unborn and ultimately all human life will dissolve beneath their feet.

The Tradinistas don’t comprehend who Marx was, or that his economics are derived from his desire to stamp out religion and not the other way around.

The Tradinistas don’t see the contradiction because they don’t understand the materialist ground (man is matter, no soul exists) of Marxist ideology. They don’t comprehend who Marx was, or that his economics are derived from his desire to stamp out religion and not the other way around. The antidote to their ignorance is found in history, in the words of men wiser than ourselves, who experienced the Marxist horrors firsthand and understood why the promises of Marxist justice are so intoxicating.

Voices from the Red Empire

In 1906 Sergei Bulgakov published Karl Marx as a Religious Type. Bulgakov came from a long line of Orthodox priests, but abandoned his Orthodox faith in college to embrace the promises of Marxist justice sweeping the Russian intelligentsia of his day. This essay examines the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Marxist ideals, which led him to recant Marxist ideology and turn back to the faith of his fathers. Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn considered this essay “one of the deepest analyses of the heart of Marxism and Marx himself.”

Marx, writes Bulgakov, drew from Feuerbach’s critique of religion and turns it against all religion. “He aims toward a complete and final eradication of religion, toward a pure atheism in which no sun shines anymore, neither in the sky or in the earth.” Marx himself wrote:

Religion is the breath of a suppressed creature, the sentiment of the heartless world and, consequently, the spirit of a callous epoch — it is the opium of the people. The annihilation of religion … is the demand for their real happiness.

To offer that happiness, Marx called for “the decisive, affirmative elimination of religion. Bulgakov responds that:

  1. Marxist ideology is a break from the Western philosophical tradition; the ostensible continuity between Marx and classical philosophy is only an “imaginary connection;” and that
  2. Marx reduces religion and theology to sociology.

By formulating a theory of economics based on the negation of religion, Marx reduces man to an algebraic unit who finds his purpose and destiny only in relation to the collective. The denial of God reduces man to matter, and once this happens, the restraints against evils are broken. This is why Alexander Solzhenitsyn taught that the cause of the suffering of the past century could be summed up in one existential fact: “Man has forgotten God.”

What We Need is Spiritual Warfare

If there is no room for God — if the memory of God must be eradicated from the cultural memory in order to build the New Jerusalem of the materialist (in fact another Babel) — then any notion of the sacredness of man must be eradicated as well.

The Tradinistas don’t understand Marx, but worse, they don’t understand their Christian faith either. Too many Christians are defenseless against the materialist/secular onslaught of the present age that Marx codified, even though the antecedents of materialism lie even further back in history. Such Christians get stuck in paradigmatic thinking, assuming that secularism in just another “world view” in competition with others. They believe that persuasion defeats evil, when what we need is spiritual warfare.

The sacramental dimension of the Christian faith reveals that material creation shares in a brokenness, the healing of which only comes from God Himself. The locus of salvation is the Cross and the Cross can only be located in the raw, existential, concrete awareness of one’s own brokenness. Dostoevsky was a master at revealing this inextinguishable truth about human life, especially in Crime and Punishment.

This sacramental dimension, this embrace of the Cross in one’s own life, is the means by which the light can penetrate and eventually extinguish the materialist delusion. It is also the way by which the evils unleashed by the mythology of the collective that grows from its acidic soil are defeated. It’s good that the Tradinistas go to church. Presumably they have been baptized and receive the Holy Eucharist. But do they have any understanding of what these sacraments mean? Are they functional atheists?

No Room for God in the Socialist Utopia

The Tradinista’s defense of the unborn, the only point that stands out against their notions of collective justice, may reveal that an authentic sense of the inviolability of human sacredness indeed remains among them. They are ignorant however of how viciously the Marxist materialism that informs their economic ideas militates against it. If there is no room for God — if the memory of God must be eradicated from the cultural memory in order to build the New Jerusalem of the materialist (in fact another Babel) — then any notion of the sacredness of man must be eradicated as well.

So what is the appeal of the false promises of Marxist ideology? Why does it seduce the minds of otherwise bright people and hold them in such paralyzing thrall? The promises of collective justice, the inauguration of the New Jerusalem, the implicit desire to rule others as one of the chosen, all these distortions of soul occur because the whisper first voiced in Eden is heard and believed: You shall be like God.

If, God forbid, Tradinista ideas are implemented in the West as they were in the Soviet Union in the last century, some of them will become like prisoners Solzhenitsyn described in The Gulag Archipelago. The Marxists inmates never perceived that the regime was evil. “There must be some mistake!” they cried, certain that Comrade Stalin would free them any day. They went to their deaths believing it.

Fr. Gregory Jensen: U. of Wisconsin Lets Hecklers Veto Conservatives, But Welcomes Anti-Christian Hate Group

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot Desecrates Orthodox Church

Source: The Stream

By Rev. Gregory Jensen

Recently, the University of Wisconsin-Madison sponsored a public Q&A session with the punk rock band P***y Riot. The group is famous for staging anti-Putin protests in Russia. Unfortunately, they have vented their anger by desecrating Orthodox churches.

The desecration involved the performance of a “punk prayer,” a song that intentionally mocked Orthodox services. Their parody included the phrase “Sran Gospodnya,” which literally means “s**t of the Lord.” The group also called Patriarch Kyril a b***h (suka) and accused him of believing in Putin rather than God. During the Soviet era, along with torture and murder of Christians (and others), the desecration of churches was a common tactic as the Communists tried to create an atheistic state by force. That means that church desecrations are to Orthodox Christians in Russia what cross burnings would be to African-Americans. That P***y Riot, or any similar group, is welcome on American college campuses, reflects badly on the moral health of these institutions.

Anti-Christian Hate Groups Should Check Their Privilege

When I heard P***y Riot was coming to campus, I emailed UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank. I took care to acknowledge the group’s right to free speech but objected to an anti-Christian hate group being sponsored by the University. I wrote: “I find it inconceivable that the University would invite a racist group to speak. Why then is an anti-Christian group provided a forum?” “That this was done,” I concluded, “without consultation, or even notice, to the Orthodox Christian community on campus merely compounds the offense.”

Vice-Chancellor John Lucas responded blandly that the invitation came via “student-led committees,” that P***y Riot is “touring other campuses around the country,” and that the group’s presence on campus “meets all applicable campus guidelines.” Lucas assured me that “The University of Wisconsin-Madison encourages the widest range of perspectives, across political, racial and religious spectrums” and that he and the Chancellor support my “rights [sic] to speak out against the group.”

To be blunt, the crude intimidation of a conservative speaker on UW’s campus makes me skeptical of these assurances.

Silencing Ben Shapiro

Two days before P***y Riot’s Q&A session, there was a public lecture by pro-life, mainstream conservative writer Ben Shapiro. While often pointed in his comments, and at times clearly frustrated with some students, Shapiro didn’t engage in anything that resembles the hate speech of which he was accused by protesters. Watch for yourself:

In the words of the student who introduced him, what Shapiro is doing is pushing back against the leftist bullying that is common on many American college campuses. By turns satirical and serious, Shapiro argued that it was time for students to “stop being self-indulgent children.” Before he could finish his thought, a member of the audience called him a “white supremacist,” a charge Shapiro answered by pointing to his yarmulke and saying that “the folks with the swastikas aren’t too nice to my type.”

Shapiro’s talk was delayed for about a half hour by UW students at the invitation of a Facebook page “F*** White Supremacy, Interrupting Ben Shapiro.” Protestors chanted “Shame!” and “Safety!” making it clear that UW isn’t a welcoming place for those of us who disagree with the secular and progressive orthodoxy that holds sway on this and other campuses.

Based on what happened at Shapiro’s lecture, my “rights to speak out” publicly and on campus against P***y Riot aren’t as secure as administrators wish to pretend.

Christians and Conservatives Must Surrender to Hecklers

When protesters stood in front of the room to block Shapiro, frustrated audience members shouted “Tell us what you want or get out!” One protester wanted the audience to confess they were all white supremacists. Another wanted people to know that “trans-students” and “students of color” are at highest risk for (presumable) violence (hence, the chants of “Safety!”).

Shapiro tried to engage the protesters but didn’t make any progress. Instead he simply waited until the protesters decided to leave chanting as they did “F**K White Supremacy!”

But there’s a bit more to the story than a speaker being patient.

At UW and many college campuses, “free speech” means that I must allow people to disrupt me in ways that I would never disrupt them. Being subject to vulgar disruption is a pre-condition for those who don’t hold the campus orthodoxy.

“Just so y’all know how this was working, the reason those people were not arrested” Shapiro said was because “the administration decided … that if they called the cops and arrested those students, they would shut down the entire event.”

At UW and many college campuses, “free speech” means that I must allow people to disrupt me in ways that I would never disrupt them. Being subject to vulgar disruption is a pre-condition for those who don’t hold the campus orthodoxy.

As a practical matter, this means that any event sponsored by a Christian group — lecture or worship service — if it’s held on UW property, is in principle subject to disruption by protesters. Free speech advocates call this the “heckler’s veto.” P***y Riot desecrated churches and UW has now, ­de facto, made clear that such behavior is acceptable not only in Russia but on campus as well.

Free debate on crucial topics can’t happen when one side assumes that being on the “right side of history” allows them to shout down those with whom they disagree. Or to crassly mock their religious services, reminding them of past, blood-soaked persecutions.

Bullying and Censorship Must End

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, or if you prefer “annexation,” of Crimea and his saber-rattling should be protested. And while the relationship between Church and Nation — and so Church and State — in Russia (see here and here) is more complicated than P**y Riot and their Western supporters think, they should be commended for questioning the close connection between Putin and some members of the Moscow Patriarchate. My concern about the relationship between the Russian State and the Church of Russia is hardly unique among Orthodox Christians both here and in Russia.

But free debate on crucial topics like that one can’t happen when one side assumes that being on the “right side of history” allows them to shout down those with whom they disagree. Or to crassly mock their religious services, reminding them of past, blood-soaked persecutions. Nor is debate possible when one side of the argument — the secular left — is given carte blanche to shout down any dissenting speaker.

What we saw in the Soviet Union we see now, in seminal form, on college campuses. That P***y Riot is more feckless than fearsome doesn’t matter. UW’s promotion of the group’s thuggish behavior doesn’t just harm freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It harms the rule of law and all of us, whatever our faith and whatever our views.

Fr. Gregory JensenFr. Gregory Jensen has been active in college campus ministry for 25 years. He has served Orthodox Christians students, faculty and staff at Shasta College, Simpson University, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A popular retreat master, he is the author of The Cure for Consumerism (2015) published by the Acton Institute and scholarly articles in psychology, theology and economics.

“Apocalypse” Averted

Madam President

By Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster

Madam PresidentIn A Christmas Carol, a seasonal favorite that Charles Dickens wrote in 1843, the miserly misanthrope Ebenezer Scrooge is privileged, thanks to the silent, ominous Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, to glimpse his miserable future and lonely demise. Before he turns to read the tombstone inscribed with his own name, Scrooge asks the specter with great trepidation, “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

In view of the numerous overwrought displays of grief, disbelief, and even violent protests following the unexpected defeat of Hillary Rodham Clinton by President-Elect Donald J. Trump in the November election, I propose that we consider what might have been if the Democrat nominee had prevailed. What are the “shadows of things” that might have been?

On October 11, 2016, in a moment of “extreme carelessness” (like her email server scandal) or sheer hubris, Mrs. Clinton declared to Mark Leibovich of the New York Times, “As I’ve told people, . . . I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse”. Mrs. Clinton was, as usual, mistaken. She would have been the “apocalypse,” politically speaking, of the American Republic.


In an article titled “Transfigure or Die Trying” in Touchstone in May / June 2015, I suggested that traditional religious communities in America were already under siege in a “post-Christian vortex that bears a striking resemblance in many ways to the formative centuries of the ancient Church.” In broad strokes, “militant secular progressives are hell-bent on subverting the cherished moral virtues of life, family, chastity, work, responsibility, and piety.” America “is drowning in a sea of idolatrous self-worship, pursuing a modern version of ‘bread and circuses’ through increasingly violent and vulgar forms of entertainment and self-expression, a permanent welfare state from cradle to grave, abortion on demand, unrestricted sex, artificially constructed sexual identities, and publicly sanctioned ‘marriages’ between persons of the same sex—a contra naturam abomination that even ancient Rome at its worst moments never imagined.”

The two-year national election campaign just concluded accelerated our spiritual and moral decline as a people. The coarsening of public discourse and private conversation is breathtaking and almost enough to drive one to despair. Pathological lying, lawlessness, and acts of malice and personal destruction are omnipresent among the political class, the mainstream media, and the cultural elites in the academy, Hollywood and the other entertainment industries, even professional sports.

Almost no component of our federal government is above political and moral corruption—from the White House to the Congress to the U.S. Supreme Court to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the U.S. armed forces in which I served as an Orthodox chaplain for a quarter of a century until my retirement in 2010. Particularly ominous for traditional Christians in America are the increasing rhetorical, legal, and federal assaults on the religious freedom heretofore guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In his dissenting opinion to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in June 2015, Chief Justice John Roberts rang an alarm bell: “The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage. . . The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses. . . . Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage.”

As recently as September, 2016, Martin R. Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, summarized a special report on religious freedom by that federal agency: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

In April 2015, Mrs. Clinton herself declared, “[F]ar too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth. All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Mrs. Clinton’s use of passive voice in the last phrase (“have to be changed”), instead of the usual active infinitive one might expect (“have to change”), betrayed the authoritarian intent of a would-be despot.


And that brings us to what a President Hillary Rodham Clinton might have wrought, if she had defeated Donald J. Trump.

Within her first 100 days in the White House—the standard for measuring the success of a new U.S. president—Mrs. Clinton would have undoubtedly begun to construct via proposed legislation, “executive orders,” or nominations and appointments a new socialist order with open borders and unrestricted immigration; all abortions—including “partial birth”—fully funded by the federal government; the transgenderization of all public bathrooms and locker rooms in all fifty states, including all government (“public”) schools; 50% quotas for women in federal hiring and appointments; a federal prohibition against “hate crime” speech that associates jihadist terrorism in any way with Islam, a “religion of peace”; a radical left-wing nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court bearing no semblance whatsoever to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who interpreted the U.S. Constitution as a strict constructionist; needless provocations of the Russians owing to an obsessive anti-Putin animus but also rooted in hostility to the rebirth of the Russian Orthodox Church and the symbiotic resistance of Church and state in Russia to the West’s perverse crusade for “human rights” as viewed through secular progressive lenses; and other, unanticipated acts of foolishness and recklessness.

Most dire for Orthodox Christians, other traditional Christian communions (both Roman Catholic and Protestant), and the Orthodox and Hassidic Jewish denominations is the high probability that Mrs. Clinton would have, as President, issued an executive order unleashing the IRS to revoke the 501c3 federal tax exempt status of religious organizations that have not yielded to the new intolerant orthodoxy enforcing the LGBTetc. agenda. A gutting of the “free exercise” of religion enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution might have followed in the first year or two of President Clinton’s reign.

It is neither silly nor unrealistic also to have expected attempts by federal agencies, cheered on by a thoroughly corrupt mainstream media and an increasingly radicalized Democrat Party (both dominated by secular progressives), to discredit dissident churches and synagogues (though probably not mosques, for obvious reasons) and even close them and, perhaps, arrest and imprison dissident clergy on bogus charges of the violation of “human rights.” In a Hillary Clinton administration that modern political concept would have undoubtedly ballooned to include unchecked abortion and LGBTetc “rights.”


A self-described “progressive” but a totalitarian at heart, Mrs. Clinton, a protégé of the radical left-wing agitator Saul Alinsky dating from her senior thesis at Wellesley College, is, I would contend, a disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the political godfather of modern totalitarianism.

In the chapter “On Civil Religion” in his influential, prescient 1762 treatise, The Social Contract, the French philosopher allowed for religion as a reflection of the “General Will” (or collective “sovereign”) that must govern the citizens of a state [Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract, trans. By Donald A. Cress; Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987, p. 102]. But that “religion” must be “a purely civil profession of faith, the articles of which it belongs to the sovereign to establish, not exactly as dogmas of religion, but as sentiments of sociability, without which it is impossible to be a good citizen or a faithful subject.”

Rousseau enumerated those essential—and exclusive—“dogmas” as the “positive” concepts of (1) a powerful, personal, providential “divinity”; (2) an afterlife; (3) “happiness of the just” (but not everyone, to be sure); (4) “punishment of the wicked”; and (5) the “sanctity of the social contract and of the laws.” In addition, there was one “negative” dogma—the exclusion of “intolerance” in the pursuit of “tolerance.” Rousseau’s version of acceptable civil religion was little more than a very muscular Unitarianism.

To enforce the sole, national, civil religion Rousseau proposed two draconian measures adopted only a generation later by the Reign of Terror after the French Revolution and, eventually, by the worst totalitarian regimes—both fascist and communist—in the twentieth century. Rousseau averred that “the sovereign can banish from the state anyone” who refuses to believe in his “sentiments of sociability” as the civil and sole “religion.” However, a citizen who had publicly professed those “dogmas” and subsequently “acts as if he does not believe them . . . should be put to death” for his apostasy. Either accept and live according to the civil religion—in George Orwell’s fictional scenario, “Love Big Brother”—or suffer EXILE or EXECUTION!

Substitute “traditional Christians and observant Jews” for Rousseau’s “citizens” and we have a preview of the 21st century reign of terror that “Stalina,” the first female president of the United States, might have inflicted upon America.

The Democrat candidate tipped her own hand in her infamous “basket of deplorables” insult on September 9, 2016, against half of Donald J. Trump’s supporters—or roughly one quarter of the entire adult population of the United States. Mrs. Clinton dismissed as “irredeemable” (a religious term) and “not American” those American citizens whom she excoriated in a string of nasty, extreme left-wing epithets: “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.” Mrs. Clinton obviously views multiple millions of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Christians, as well as hundreds of thousands of observant Jews and, ironically, Muslims, who affirm traditional sexual morality and marriage as contemptible and, to draw a logical conclusion, intolerable. That could have, in a worst case scenario, rendered Mrs. Clinton’s “deplorables” worthy targets of marginalization, oppression, and, ultimately, persecution in the neo-Stalinist regime that might have been.


This year, more than any in recent memory, we can wish one another a “Merry Christmas” or a “Blessed Nativity” with joy and a sense of great relief. Thanks to the divine providence of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the voting citizens of the United States, the Clinton Apocalypse will not descend upon us after all.

Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD, is a retired U.S. Army chaplain in the rank of Colonel and rector of St. Herman of Alaska Russian Orthodox Church in Stafford, Virginia.

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