16 August 2017

A refreshing change, unambiguous language.

Clear, unambiguous, forceful, great letter from the bishops of the Orthodox Church in America.


Statement of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America
August 16, 2017

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
— Colossians 1:16-18
August 16, 2017
To the Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
Recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have highlighted the presence of un-Christian rhetoric and violent actions within our communities. At the same time, the response to these events by our civil leadership has unleashed a nationwide debate which has created a certain moral ambiguity, which in turn is fostering further division. Such a climate requires a clear response from the Church.
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America joins people of faith and good will across the United States, Canada and Mexico in unequivocally, unreservedly and unambiguously rejecting words and actions which perpetrate, support or encourage hatred, violence, racism, white supremacy, white nationalism or neo-Nazism.  As Orthodox Christians, we believe that every human being is a child of God, created in His image and likeness, and therefore we are all brothers and sisters whatever our race, nationality or creed. 
At the same time, we also reject the climate of condemnation of the individuals carrying out these heinous activities.  Indeed, Jesus rebuked his disciples when they suggested that he violently retaliate against his enemies. “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”  (Luke 9:55-56). The Church offers to all—without exception—not condemnation but a path to forgiveness and peace in Christ.  
As the Orthodox prayer of confession says: “O Lord God, the Salvation of Thy servants, gracious, bountiful and long-suffering, who forgives us concerning our evil deeds, and desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his way and live: Show Thy mercy upon Thy servants and grant unto them an image of repentance, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance, pardoning their every transgression, whether voluntary or involuntary…”
We reject hatred and violence, and as Orthodox Christians we are also committed to the ministry of reconciliation. We encourage our clergy and faithful to hold fast to the Christian message of healing, salvation and love offered by Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. At the same time, we exhort our clergy and faithful to reject any attempts by individuals or groups to claim for themselves the name of “Orthodox Christian” in order to promote racism, hatred, white supremacy, white nationalism or neo-Nazism. This is in keeping with the Holy Gospels, the decisions of the Holy Councils and the experience of the Saints.
We remind the faithful that the Orthodox Church in America does not restrict membership to those of a particular race or nationality and has historically welcomed all, going back to the Alaskan Mission which embraced the indigenous peoples of that land and continuing to this day in the multicultural and multi-ethnic context of North America.
Brothers and sisters, Saint Justin Martyr, writing at a time when Christians were persecuted in the second century, said, “We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country.  Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.” May that same spirit be ours today as well.
With our paternal love and blessings,
The Most Blessed TIKHON, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada
The Most Reverend NATHANIEL, Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
The Most Reverend NIKON, Archbishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese
The Most Reverend BENJAMIN, Archbishop of San Francisco, and the Diocese of the West
The Most Reverend ALEJO, Archbishop of Mexico City and the Diocese of Mexico
The Most Reverend MELCHISEDEK, Archbishop of Pittsburgh and the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania
The Most Reverend MARK, Archbishop of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania
The Most Reverend IRÉNÉE, Archbishop of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Canada
The Most Reverend MICHAEL, Archbishop of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey
The Most Reverend ALEXANDER, Archbishop of Toledo, Dallas, the South and the Bulgarian Diocese
The Right Reverend DAVID, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska
The Right Reverend PAUL, Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest

15 August 2017

Blessed feast of the Formation of the Theotokos

 O Theotokos, in giving birth you preserved virginity, and in your falling asleep, you did not forsake the world. You are the Mother of Life, and have been transferred to Life, and through your prayers you deliver our souls from death.

A different take on recent events...

I'm sure we've all been waiting for my take on the events of recent happening in Charlottesville, well, we're still going to have to wait, because quite frankly there are other issues that I think need addressing (and somehow I think you'll understand), and I'll use this blog which has a small audience to address those points.

a. Racism through law vs Racism of people

Many people are rightly trying to bring up the point about racism being a problem, and many are coming out condemning the white nationalists and the neo-nazis and such things...but did we ever stop to think that we've done more to commit to Racism via laws and our education system than anything an individual has done?

A couple examples of this:

1. Affirmative action: Or the quota that a specific number of minorities must be hired for thing x, y, or z. Effectively translated, you're not good enough to stand on your own merits, so we need to fix the competition to help you. I find it absolutely insulting to think that I can't stand on my own merits, education, etc, I'd be completely embarrassed if this is how I landed a job, just because they needed x number of minorities for such a position...

2. The lowering of school standards: To say that a nonwhite person can't complete the standards of a particular school, and so we must lower them just because they're a particular race, is also insulting. It's as if to say, we think you're an idiot because you're this particular race....If that isn't racist, I can't say what is.

But, of course, to dare to say these things would probably lead to a considerable amount of criticism. (Oh well, I'm not in this for the sake of popularity)

Those are, of course, only 2 of a perpetual amount of examples I could mention.....The problem is that it creates a victim mentality, that a particular group of people must be helped because of some wrongs in the past. The people of the present, while related to those of the past possibly, are not those people, and we can't have a guilt by association attitude towards these people. Not only is it very un-Christian to associate the modern people with the sins of the past, it's just plain not logical to do so. Quite literally, they're different people from those of the past. Just as it's the same that not all people who hold conservative points of view are ergo racist or all people who hold liberal points of view are idiots. While I'm sure that creates plenty of click bait headlines, and gets the attention one is seeking, it does not help, creating a false narrative, or a false equation of things. That false narrative contributes more to the downfall of things than people realise.

A person that happens to be racist, or thinks in such ways is doing quite similarly, having a collective judgement, by the actions of a few individuals. I absolutely think racism is reprehensible, that said, it's hard when there's crimes committed or when a certain injustice, not to have a particular influence on what one thinks. While once again, not justifying anything, much of the "Anti-White" or the "Anti-Black" or "Anti-whatever" comes from insert your stereotype here. In some cases, it's breaking the law to come into the country, in other places, it's looting, in other situations, it was the past in allowance of civil rights. My point being, that there is something to contribute to the attitude of these particular situations.

Consider the following, would one rather want a person to be openly racist, or use the means of the law to hide their racism? Not much of a choice, but I must say, I have much more respect for those who are openly racist, rather than those that use the means of compassion to hide their racism. In the former situation, I know exactly where they stand, in the latter, they're trying to play me for an idiot and think that I will not see right through them.

Kindness can't be legislated (as hard as we try sometimes)....and we can't force association of people. Why would someone want to associate with someone who doesn't want to associate with them in the first place? To me, that makes absolutely no sense. Forced association creates an animosity towards that particular person or a particular group. I've often heard things said, as we may not like your people as a whole, but we like you individually. I've also heard things such as we don't like you individually, but we like you collectively. Would you much rather someone BS a friendship with you? Or that friendship come through authentic means? If someone or a particular group doesn't wish to associate with me, by all means, don't. I'd much rather not be BS'ed into thinking one is a friend when they are not.

We often times enough segregate ourselves, through our neighbourhoods....I've noticed this more in the northern cities, rather than the southern cities that I have been to. There's a certain tension that each group keeps to themselves and does not assimilate, and more often times than not extends to church and various other interactions.

b. The hijacking of symbols

There has seemed to be this modern tendency to want to ban symbols, just because a specific group of people uses them. (Both sides), Whether it be the rainbow from the LGBTQ etc movement or the confederate flag. There have been groups of not so idealistic viewpoints that have also used many things to fit their ends, whether it be the Bible, a torch, etc. People are going to find symbols that they identify with or what not, and use them, this does not mean we go banning symbols just because. If anything, that should give us cause to re-claim the symbols for their original purpose.

c. The erasing of history

So, I'll grant that removing a statue in of itself isn't a removal of history as such. (The stories of our history can still be told) That said, something I always like to say I think applies, just because one can, doesn't mean that one should. Removing a statue because someone's feelings are offended isn't a reason to remove a statue. Do we realise how many statues would be removed if simply feelings and past sins were the case? We wouldn't have Mt. Rushmore, we wouldn't have the Washington Monument and various other historical landmarks. No one would dare think of their removal, I can hardly see how the removal of other statues is different. History is hardly black and white and isn't meant to gloss over the imperfections of everyone involved. Surprise, man has a fallen nature, so when they do something that isn't right, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Just because there's a statue up of a particular person or thing does not imply agreement with everything they said or did within their life. There seems to be this attitude of assuming that we're ignoring the not so glossy things of the past, and I truly don't think this is the case.

A perfect example of the erasing of history, is this semi documentary piece, I didn't learn any of this in my history classes. (I'm not a fan of Glenn Beck, but this is a good piece)

Now, let's connect the dots between all of what I'm thinking. There was a protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee (Removal of History), some of these people held reprehensible views, some of them happen to have conservative principles. There were protesters protesting the protest....

The viewpoints of the protesters are really a distraction in this whole ordeal that should have never happened in the first place. (There should have been mechanisms to keep the various groups apart, and maintained). In my opinion, this is about revisionism, rather than about the particular views of the individuals. I've always thought that history was a collection of lies told by the victors, but in this circumstance, it seems that the losers of history are trying to re-write things, it's kind of ironic.

To wrap up my thoughts

1. There are people with view points that are reprehensible that hold conservative points of view, this does not imply that a conservative point of view is ergo racist, or insert your buzzword here, there should not be a guilt by association attitude. (The irony is that they, the racists would support abortion, would it ergo make one racist that supports abortion?....They'd try and shoot that down, but it seems this is only one directional conversation.

2. It is much more respectable to be open with one's hostile viewpoints rather than to hide them through compassion. (Aka, I'd rather someone admit to being a racist, rather than use another means to show that)

3. More often times than not, we ourselves segregate ourselves from society, we don't need law to help that out.

4. Forced association leads to this kind of animosity.

5. Yes, it's absolutely reprehensible that racism, anti-Semitism, and other things like this still exist. Truly it is saddening. The trauma needs to end, and solutions do need to be found, but they certainly won't be through law. That said, if someone had a problem with the whole of my race, but liked me individually, I more than likely would not make a big deal out of it, why? Becuase, we're not all robots and think the same. (At least I hope not, what a boring society)....The Jews aren't out to take over the world (or financial sector)....(the fact that some people happen to be so, does not equate all of them towards this mentality)....We don't need to do guilt by association for this kind of thing either.

6. We're called to love everyone. That doesn't mean we need to agree with them on all they say or do. As the Divine Liturgy says, Christ our God is the lover of us all, there is no room for racism within our creed as Christians, our churches can't become ethnic exclusive clubs.

10 August 2017