Category Archives: Conversations by Email

OPF list discussion content included in issues of In Communion

Conversations by email: Spring 2009

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson <[email protected]> or Jim Forest <[email protected]>.

Fear of the other: Thomas Merton wrote that fear is the root of war. If fear becomes our primary way of looking at things, if we look at everything and everyone through the lens of suspicion and fear, then we blind and cripple ourselves.

Fear of the “the other” appears to me to arise in part from recognition. We fear the “ourselves” that we see in “the other.” We hate most in others what we fear most in ourselves. Reconciliation with our own “self” is part of overcoming our fear and hatred of “the other.”

Archbishop Lazar

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On giving: The latest New Yorker has a piece on the Wittgenstein family, whose best-known member is Ludwig the philosopher. The family was quite wealthy, and he had a large inheritance. At one point in his career he decided to renounce the world, give away his money and live a simple, rural life. He decided to give the money to his already-wealthy siblings, reasoning that more money wouldn’t corrupt them any further. A novel approach.

John Brady

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Render unto Caesar: In an exchange recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (22:17), Jesus is asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Given the fact that the Roman army was an unwelcome occupying force and that there was widespread resistance to their presence, it was a controversial question. Jesus’ response was to ask the questioner for a coin (making clear in the process that he had no such coin himself). Drawing attention to Caesar’s image on the coin, Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Arthur Waskow, an American rabbi, comments that an older passage from Jewish Torah commentary mentions that the difference between Caesar (who called himself a god) and God is that, when Caesar makes coins in his own image, they all come out looking the same, but when God makes persons in His own image, each is unique. In this context, Jesus may have been saying, “render unto Caesar what is his” the currency of the realm stamped with Caesar’s his own face and leave to God what is His: humankind.

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Dying of sorrow: I was interested to read a newspaper article on the many health problems that result from eating too much red meat. But one point was neglected. Most people die from sorrow, broken hearts and a lack of understanding of God’s desires for them. This effects our bodies in ways hard to quantify.

Renee Zitzloff

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Who would Jesus bomb? One of our recent visitors was Steve Jacobs, who arrived at out house wearing a t-shirt with the question: “Who would Jesus bomb?” Steve is one of the founders of St. Francis House of Hospitality in Columbia, Missouri.

One of the things we talked about is how best to respond to an annual military welcome-house at a Missouri military base. The event features a big tent in which kids are invited to play computer war games. It’s very popular.

An idea that emerged in our conversations was the possibility of setting up a “peace games tent” outside the base where, using borrowed laptop computers, kids (and parents too) could play peace games. Even if no peace game sells as well as war games do, we found there are a lot of peace games out there. Searching this string computer games peacemaking pulls up many hits.

We got to thinking about making a hand-out to give to families visiting the base, but also one that could be adapted for use at stores selling war games. A possible headline: “Not all computer games are about killing.”

A draft opening to the text: “Today our kids are being invited by the military to play war games games that make killing people seem like a fun thing to do. The truth is every act of killing is a tragedy, not only to victims and their families, but for all the soldiers who come home burdened with memories of killing real people. In many cases the hidden scars left by war never heal. That’s a big part of the reason why so many returning soldiers can’t hold down jobs, keep their families together, become homeless, turn to drugs, and even take their own lives.

“Do we want war to look like a game to our kids?

“Did you know that there are computer games that challenge kids and their parents to learn the skills of peacemaking?”

Jim Forest

[email protected]

OPF in Los Angeles: In the spring of 2008, we received word from an OPF member, Chris Apostal, that he wished to create a local OPF presence in his area, starting at his home parish, Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles, California.

Chris developed a one-page proposal, outlining what he intended and informing his parish priest and the congregation about OPF. His initial agenda included voluntary participation by interested individuals in a monthly discussion, potential formation of committees to address different concerns, and of chapter activities related to them. He carefully drew a distinction between the chapter and the parish and also expressed a hope that this initiative would “allow enough freedom for each parish member to find what their conscience and the Holy Spirit leads them to, and to express that in constructive Christian service and efforts at reconciliation.”

A first OPF meeting was held at Holy Virgin Mary in June. Now there are twice-monthly meeting after liturgy. Those taking part have had animated discussions about issues of war, peace, capital punishment, forgiveness, and the relationship of peace to the environment. We saw a film entitled Forgiveness, a fictional story set against the backdrop of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and later the documentary, Soldiers of Conscience. At one meeting a parish member who is a poet read a poem about war, which served as a basis for discussion. Members prayed and send clemency appeals on behalf of a death row inmate who had recently converted to Orthodoxy.

Chris writes: “Our discussions usually come down to an impasse: The ‘pacifist approach’ contends that Christians have historically relied too readily on ‘carnal weapons,’ which betrays a relatively weak faith in the way Christ showed us the way of the cross. If we had enough faith, lived closer to the Lord, and worked at developing the “spiritual weapons” (faith, prayer, fasting, patient suffering, returning good for evil, etc.), we could disarm their foes without inflicting harm. The ‘lesser evil’ approach sees that view as naive and unrealistic, given the realities of the fallen world. It contends that there may be times when killing is a lesser evil than the alternative of refraining from violence. It holds that even if we decide to renounce violence in the defense of ourselves, that it is our duty to utilize violence when we have a responsibility (i.e., familial, governmental, to protect the ‘other’ who may be innocent and defenseless, or who may be depending on us.”

Although average attendance rarely exceeds a dozen, the chapter is now a year old.

We often say “all politics is local.” In the Church, we say that the Body of Christ is “catholic” meaning that in each local situation, even that of “two or three” gathered in His holy name, the fullness of the Church is present. Its very locality, though, acts to ensure that individual Christians learn to recognize the face of Christ in each other individual; they can exchange a Kiss of Peace, can take conciliar decisions, and can act in Christian solidarity with persons who know each other person-to-person. Such is the role of a chapter of OPF. The Los Angeles group has now blazed a trail and provided an example for anyone who might wish to follow their lead. May God bless their efforts and grant them many years!

Alex Patico

Note: For more information about the Los Angeles OPF chapter, contact Chris Apostal <[email protected]>.

Calling oil companies to account: Yesterday I participated in a protest at the oil company Chevron’s world headquarters in San Ramon, California, while the annual meeting of shareholders was going on inside. The protest was organized by a coalition of groups working together to support communities across the world being destroyed by Chevron.

The devastation caused by oil refineries to local communities is incredible: higher rates of asthma, cancer and miscarriages, ecological devastation, and, in many cases, support for military dictatorships.

Acting as proxies for shareholders in Chevron, folks from Burma, the Philippines, Nigeria, Ecuador were able to speak, in the face of ridicule, to the Chevron board of directors and to present an alternative Chevron annual report chronicling the many ways Chevron hurts people and the earth.

Outside the meeting speakers took turns highlighting the damage caused by Chevron and other oil companies, highlighting the hypocrisy of the oil industries’ “green-washing” ad campaigns.

At an opportune moment six of us with lock-boxes took charge of Chevron main entrance. For several hours we remained sitting, locked down, while others occupied the street, create a media spectacle. (To minimize negative publicity, Chevron decided not to have the police arrest us.)

A lawsuit is being filed in Ecuador that, if it’s won, will impose a multi-billion dollar fine on Chevron.

Want to know more?

Visit www.truecostofchevron.com to download the alternative annual report.

David Costas

[email protected]

A change in direction: A recent Gallup survey found that 51 percent of those questioned call themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and 42 percent “pro-choice.” It was the first time a majority of US adults have identified themselves as “pro-life” since Gallup began asking this question in 1995. (Last year, Gallup found that 50 percent termed themselves “pro-choice” while 44 percent described their beliefs as “pro-life.”) Gallup said shifting opinions lay almost entirely with Republicans, or independents who lean Republican, with opposition among those groups rising over the past year from 60 percent to 70 percent.

What this says to me is that the battle has essentially been won among conservatives. What is needed now is an educational campaign that is expressly tailored to appeal to and persuade progressives those who advocate social equality and fair and favorable treatment of minorities and who are more ready to believe that government can be helpful in people’s lives. Otherwise, we are looking at continuing polarization and demonization of each side by the other, and very little actual change in minds and hearts.

I believe that for most who favor women’s “right to choose,” the displaying of graphic photos of abortions is not persuasive. Similarly, for many the sanctity-of-life argument is not compelling either because they are not particularly religious or because they see a real tension between the loss of (fetal) life and the anticipated loss of quality of life and come down on the side of letting each person figure it out for themselves.

What could be tried is this: to have a debate, informed by science, faith, secular ethics and economics, which asks the question of how best to protect both life in an absolute sense, and quality of life as it is lived in various situations of parental age, family make-up, economic stratum, ethnicity, etc. Unless and until folks are willing to have such a difficult (and no doubt lengthy) joint examination of these things, we are doomed to firing mortars from one trench to the other and waiting for the cries from the opposing ranks to let us know we “scored.” It is incumbent upon those who feel that the unborn child should be protected to make this happen there is little impetus on the other side to have such a process, except for those who are extraordinarily driven by intellectual curiosity and moral humility.

I doubt that it will happen anywhere near the political arena (within parties and such) because everyone sees the issue either as a vote-getter or as a hot potato. Either way, there’s no incentive to open that can of worms when you don’t know how it will come out in the end.

As to the gender factor, I would love to see more men who assert their parental rights (to have the baby who is in utero allowed to be born), as long as they are also willing to take on the responsibilities of rearing the child to adulthood. Too often, the male is something of a bystander in the whole thing. When it comes to career choices, if an employer cannot see the value of having not only a happier, less-stressed employee, but a healthy, well-adjusted next generation, then other collectivities, such as church or government, should.

If it takes subsidies or tax breaks to balance out the salary differential and lost promotions of the child-bearer, so be it. I’m ready to pay higher taxes if it means that fewer children are aborted, fewer kids are forced to fend for themselves without supervision, are fast-tracked into the criminal justice system and eventually are either supported by the state or left homeless on the street or stuck in dead-end jobs.

A new wave of the young and independent-minded may make this a very different landscape than the one we have been seeing the past 20-30 years.

If protecting the environment can rise to respectability, who knows? Maybe life in general will gain some measure of popular esteem! I look forward to the day when Time Magazine has a cover emblazoned: “Life is the new wealth.”

Alex Patico

[email protected]

Ethics: One of the reasons discussion on the abortion issue is so complicated is because the discipline of ethics, both in philosophy and in theology, is something of a swamp. There is no fundamental agreement on how to do ethics. The teleological camp (e.g., Aristotle and the ancient Christian tradition) is a minority and its ontological-anthropological fundamentals are not granted by the majority in the academy. The deontological camp (e.g. Kant and much of the contemporary Western tradition) reigns supreme, but it lacks the ability to give reasons for ethical obligations; it actually posits that there is an unbridgeable gap between Is and Ought we should do right just because it is right, or maybe because God said so.

This is unconvincing to people without strict superegos. So the result is that a discussion of what is right in areas about which people disagree becomes virtually impossible (think not only of abortion but also of whether the rich should be taxed more, whether animals have rights, whether euthanasia is ever O.K., etc.).

C.S. Lewis remarks in one of the Narnia books, “Don’t they teach logic in schools any more?” There is no doubt that ethics has not been taught in an intellectually satisfactory way in a couple of centuries.

David Holden

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Pornography: While pornography has become available new ways cable, the internet, satellite TV other cultures in other times were awash in pornography in their own ways.

Visitors to the ruins of Pompeii will recall seeing vivid sexual imagery everywhere brothel walls covered with paintings illustrating the kinds of sex acts customers could purchase.

Historians of the Roman world as it was at the time of Christ show a culture in which sexual violence and coercion was normal. Slaves were required by law to submit to any sexual act on the part of their masters. Death was the penalty for resisting. Those of higher social rank could demand sex with anyone man, women or child of lesser social rank. Upper class outranked lower class, men outranked women and children. Slaves were subject to every kind of degradation.

It may be that St. Paul reacted so strongly to sexual immorality because, in the ancient world, sexual acts were so often imposed a system profoundly repugnant both to Jews and Christians. Perhaps the reason monasticism and celibacy emerged as an idealized way to follow Christ was that the ancients could not even imagine a world in which sex could be pure or an expression of God’s love. Seeing sex as belonging to a fallen world, Christians in that world increasingly saw the rejection of sex as the only way to perfectly follow Christ.

Fr. Ted Bobosh

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Co-suffering love: On the issue of pornography, it seems to me that there are two things to consider, and both have value. One is morality, or ethics, as they are expressed in the law, which has a protective value when it comes to pornography and sex-trafficking through prosecution by power.

The other is the morality in Christianity that grows out of love the healing kind found in co-suffering love of which Christ is the supreme model.

It also appears among His followers who, in relationship with Him, begin to act and speak out of love. Perfected, it leaves judgment and condescension behind and instead heals releases the sufferer from bondage to passions. The healer facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit, who helps the sinner see he or she has sinned against love and strengthens the desire for re-creation.

The weakness of power is that it draws strength or enforcement from the systems of this world that are passing away (or from Satan) and is easily corrupted (moving beyond jurisdiction or detection, false witness, etc.).

So law may have a preventive and even a prescriptive value, but not the healing value of re-creation that morality rooted exclusively in co-suffering love has.

Sally Eckert

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Summer 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 53

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Conversations by email: Winter 2009

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson <[email protected]> or Jim Forest <[email protected]>.

Death of a Patriarch: Patriarch Aleksy II has died. Long live his soul in Heaven! He was a very good patriarch who served as a strong bridge between the die-hard conservatives and far out liberals in the Orthodox Church in Russia. I lived in Russia for some time, and everyone I knew there loved him. He provided strong guidance and solidarity for the Church despite very hard times. He gave support to groups like our Brotherhood to help the poor. He also visited the parish of St. Catherine in Moscow an outpost of the Orthodox Church of America for its annual feast day. He was a true symbol of religious strength and hope for the Russians and for all Orthodox people!

Jim Vail

<[email protected]>

Difficult tasks: The Lord laid on Patriarch Alexei one of the most difficult tasks in the history of the Church in Russia: guiding the church through its transition from Soviet oppression to post-Soviet exploitation. He re-opened Orthodoxy as a real option for everyday Russians though a great many Russians have not yet taken advantage of the door that has been opened for them. Though he was on good terms with the state in a way that distressed many OPF members, he clearly drew the line at state efforts to wipe out the memory of the countless martyrs of Soviet oppression.

We tend to forget that, even in the days of “Holy Russia,” the Russian church always struggled to function in a complicated relationship with a State that was often hostile to her essence, but eager to appropriate her externals for its own ends. Peter and Katherine “the Great” were for the most part enemies of the Church, though of course they didn’t object to having all the panoply of the Church at their weddings and coronations. The Church in the Putin era is working in pretty familiar territory.

As the Russian Church in the dark days of the Synodal era produced many saints, I don’t doubt that Patriarch Alexei’s tormented church will do likewise. Has the Orthodox Church living “freely” in the West done better?

John Brady

<[email protected]>

In memoriam: Today, the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrated a Pannikhida for a remarkable hierarch. The measure of the life of His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II is difficult to assess. During the Communist era he led his Diocese and then his Archdiocese in a manner that he could truly say “by faith we passed through the Red Sea.” The Russian people by the tens of thousands were willing to hazard and even to give up their lives for the name of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. How many of us would do the same? This is a people who have proved themselves in the fire and who deserve the respect and reverence of all.

For a hierarch serving in the Soviet era, maintaining the precarious balance between acceptance and destruction by the Soviet authorities took a heavy emotional and physical toll. On the one hand, the sincere desire to maintain and strengthen the faith, and on the other, the need to soothe the government so it would not destroy every church and imprison every priest, took an enormous amount of faith, courage, diplomacy, and the risk of freedom and life.

Following the collapse of the Soviet regime, the rebuilding task was staggering. How did one get the alienated, often half- destroyed church property returned, and the sites of those churches that were in ruin? The military was still led by generals and high ranking men and women who were products of the Soviet era, many of whom were members of the Communist Party. Formidable though it was, Patriarch Alexei, by patient but unyielding labor, and exquisite diplomacy, managed not only to rebuild churches and monasteries, but to re-institute military and hospital chaplaincies, often in the face of strong objections from the generals and admirals. He led in the restoration of prison ministries, the opening of orphanages and alms-houses supported and operated by the Orthodox Church. Seminaries were rebuilt and flooded with students, monasteries, the very heart of Orthodoxy in every nation, were rebuilt, lands returned, and the monasteries have once again become centers of charitable outreach.

One must acknowledge all those, both clergy and laity, who participated in all this great spiritual rebirth, but we must especially reverence His Holiness. During the Soviet era, he placed himself in the breach and became a moral martyr in balancing the compromises necessary for the physical survival of the Church with both pastoral care for his flock and loyalty to the Gospel. As Patriarch, he was under an even more heavy burden, and after the fall of Communism, he gave the last of his strength and life to the rebuilding and rebirth of the faith in Russia.

Glory and honor to him both in this age and in the age to come. Let his memory be from generation to generation.

Archbishop Lazar

<[email protected]>

The recent OPF conference: At the end of September this year, I took my first trip to the East Coast since I’d visited Maine as a toddler. The purpose was to attend this year’s North American conference of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. Since returning to Alaska, I’ve been mulling over what I learned.

Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo), a retired hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America and abbot of the Monastery of All Saints of North America (in British Columbia), gave the keynote address. He spoke delightfully on widely ranging topics from the importance of removing superstition from our religious thought to the challenges Orthodox Christians face in North America today. How could a joyful older monk see so clearly and far outside his monastery? It seemed to me he must have borrowed the eyes of cherubim to have touched on so much so quickly!

The speakers made excellent presentations on peace in the parish, peace in the family, peace through the grieving process, the indispensable element of prayer in finding one’s Christian vocation, the historical role of deaconess as it existed in the early Church and the gradual revival of that office in the Church today, something of the challenges and excitement of work within International Orthodox Christian Charities from a staff member who has worked with IOCC programs in Lebanon, Bosnia, the West Bank, Syria, and Greece.

What I really zeroed in on was Jim Forest’s talk on the history of conscientious objection in the Church, especially the witness of many saints, including soldiers, who refused to kill. Having come from a family of soldiers and belonging to a fairly warlike nation, it has been a challenge to wrap my mind around this topic. [Jim’s text is available on the In Communion web site: http: //incommunion.org/?p=404.]

He asked the question, “Am I first of all a member of the nation into which I happened to be born? Or am I first of all a member of the Body of Christ into which I was baptized? If the state orders me to act in one way and the Gospel in another, which has priority? Am I even capable of recognizing that there might be a conflict between God and country?”

Following my return from the conference, I found two complementary resources. Fr. Thomas Hopko’s “Church and State” podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio present a summary of Church history that adds context to the canons and statements of the saints. If I am asked to describe what am I like, my answer should be the question, “When?” This is true of the Church, as well. Not only have I been different during different periods of my life (because of what I’ve learned, where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and how I have or haven’t allowed God to work in my life), but our world has changed dramatically due to the influence of nations, politics, and ideologies although, I should add, under the influence of “principalities, powers, and rulers.”

The second resource was Frank Schaeffer’s new book, Crazy for God, in which Schaeffer describes how he “grew up as one of the elect, helped found the religious right, and lived to take all (or almost all) of it back.” He wrestles with abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, deadly force, and war, following what could be called the humiliation of his “Nebuchadnezzar period.” (Many of us, myself included, have had them.) “I want to be in a society,” he writes, “that values human life, because I am human, and far from perfect, and I want to be valued.”

Me, too and my neighbor as myself. That’s what I brought home with me.

Sally Eckert

<[email protected]>

Regarding Constantine: In studying St. Constantine’s life, it’s hard work trying to find where the reality of his life ends and legend takes over. There are many questions regarding him that will not be confidently answered in this life. Did he, as Eusebius writes, have a vision of the Chi Rho before his battle with Maxentius on the Milvian Bridge? How profound was his conversion to Christianity? While he saw himself as another Apostle, why was he not baptized until he was dying? Was he canonized for leading an exemplary Christian life? Or in gratitude for his ending the persecution of Christianity? How did he, a general, regard the Christian condemnation of bloodshed?

As for the assertion that there were Christians in the army before the age of Constantine and therefore military service has never been a problem for authentic Christianity of course there were Christians in the army. Few volunteered for army service. A great many came to it by birth. If your father was a soldier, you became a soldier. Nor could anyone walk up to the commanding officer and say, “I’ve been thinking about it and realize being a soldier isn’t for me. Goodbye.” Nor did one leave after several years of service, as is the case in the modern world. You remained in the army until you were too old or too damaged to be of use. If you were converted to Christianity while in the army, as for example St. Martin of Tours was, you were in a tight spot. The Church accepted converts within the army but called on them not to kill. St. Martin was very fortunate to at last be given a special discharge by the emperor himself. (It was only afterward that he was baptized.)

Very few were so fortunate. All they could hope for was that their duty would be what we might think of as police work.

For those converted to Christianity, being in the army was a challenge in many ways. The army was a notoriously vicious institution apart from war, there was a lot of drinking, a lot of whoring, a lot of brutality.

Jim Forest

<[email protected]>

Protecting life: While we often stress our religious grounds for protecting life, a perfectly good secular reason for preserving other human beings is that we don’t wish to be murdered by the state or a mob for some purpose perceived useful by the ruling class or the mob.

Having seen many people murdered for being successful (the kulaks of Ukraine, the entrepreneurs of Shanghai) or being of an unfavored group (Jews in the Holocaust, Chinese in pogroms in Indonesia, anyone wearing glasses in revolutionary Cambodia), or being mentally or physically “unfit” (disabled war veterans and the mentally retarded in the Weimar Republic and the Nazi Germany), we have good reason to wish to protect all those of our species, since anything that reduces the moral standing of other members of the species reduces the moral standing of ourselves.

I can lose my intelligence or mobility pretty easily in an accident. I don’t want someone to decide that I have “a life not worth living” and kill me whether out of malice or misguided compassion.

We should do all we can do make it very hard to kill another member of our species.

Our own lives may depend on it.

Daniel Lieuwen

<[email protected]>

Personal conviction: Pacifism is a personal conviction that cannot be forced on others. We must respect those who disagree with us on principle. As a soldier, when I was taking my case to the Army as a conscientious objector, I was in Germany. I had no English-speaking support and I didn’t speak German. All of my family, friends, and church fellows opposed me. For years, I had opposed the very position I had come to. I could not disrespect my critics. In fact, the greatest challenge to my pacifism is the complete lack of an answer to the question, “So, nonviolence is right and moral; what do we tell the people when evil comes against them?” We have no right to take away the right to others’ self-defense. Therefore, while I do not “support the use of force,” I understand it and support the right to self-defense. In answer to the impossible dilemma of the intruder caught in my house late at night with a gun while my family sleeps, I believe it would be a failure to kill him. I would attempt other means of self-defense and escape. If that were impossible and in the fear and speed with which these things play out, they usually are I may kill him. I would consider that a tragic loss and something that would not be laudable but understandable and defensible as an unfortunate necessity. Therefore, killing in self-defense or in defense of others, in my view, is less a right or duty than an unfortunate necessity or inescapable lesser evil. There is mercy for such things, and I think God pardons us for those tragic choices forced on us in a fallen world. As a result, I think that those who accept the duty to defend their country with war are not bad.

Pieter Dykhorst

<[email protected]>

Refusing to follow: We are often ordered to do things we think are wrong. Perhaps the best answer is to just not follow. Leaders only induce action in those who follow through either a sense of duty or honor, or agreement with the action, or belief in the judgment of the leader, allegiance to party, among a myriad of other things.

So if we don’t follow, they can’t lead.

But this comes with a price. We risk everything, including our lives. In offering himself for us, Christ sent a message to those in the world: He would not follow. If we are to be like Christ, our allegiance and duty must be to him alone.

It’s simplistic, I know. Our duty isn’t to kill, but to convert to get “them” to change their mind. If you can’t change the leader’s mind, perhaps we change the follower’s?

In my view it is perfectly acceptable to be selective in which aspects we follow as well. The newly elected president believes in diplomacy and supports abortion. I have no problem supporting him on the former and opposing him on the latter, yet still supporting him.

I also think we have to concern ourselves (and convince others to concern themselves) with our own individual actions. What do I do to support peace? What do I do to love my neighbor? Ultimately I believe I will not be judged on what others do, but what I did. I have to struggle with my temptations others have to struggle with theirs. Most don’t choose to do so, at least not that I can see, including most Christians.

I’m not faced with a choice of being a conscientious objector or not. I’m not tempted by homosexuality, or considering having an abortion. I am, however, tempted by greed, lust, gluttony, hate the list is seemingly endless.

Dn. Marty Watt

<[email protected]>

A child-oriented culture? Over the past few weeks the issue of abortion has been widely discussed by Orthodox and others. I remember when I was raising two children as a single parent, my take-home pay was $40 a week. My rent was $40 a month. The house I rented had three bedrooms. The hidden message was your children are welcome and you won’t feel that they are not. Over the past several decades the policy in the real estate market sought to get as much as people would pay, half or two thirds of their income. This sends the message that your children are not welcome and if you want housing or vacations or any of the good things in life, you had better not have any. I don’t know if this is a cause and effect issue, but I know that our culture is much less welcoming to children. Some say that this is a child-oriented culture. It’s a myth.

Alice Carter

<[email protected]>

Human beings: If we valued human beings little, still-developing ones we would:

* provide healthcare to the mother in the prenatal period, if she couldn’t afford it;

* have (as they do in some other countries) regular visits to the home by professionals who could offer advice, support even respite to young parents (especially first-time parents);

* have reporting requirements on suspected child abuse for all professionals who contact children reports that are actually followed up on;

* strive to have families remain in touch with one another, rather than following the job market or our whims thousands of miles away from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins;

* make sure the schools are excellent enough that home schooling would seem unnecessary;

* make schools safe places to be, so that students could just grow and learn, rather than quake in fear.

* I am thinking of a family with a child who has just turned three. While he didn’t quite fit on the autism spectrum, he has needed lots and lots of intervention. At one point, he was going to programs twice a week, therapists were coming into their home twice a week and his mother was doing 20-minute sessions with him eight times a day not to mention what other family members were doing with him. Praise God in the highest! The boy is coming along fine these days, but if he had been born poor… if his mother had been alone… if she had had only a third-grade education… or a drug addiction… or a history of abuse…

Alex Patico

[email protected]

Police brutality: On the first day of this year police employed by the San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit beat and shot an unarmed, cooperative, 22-year-old father named Oscar Grant. Since that time the man who murdered him has been arrested, though he is now released on bail (raised in large part by the police union). There have been many actions calling for justice as well as a strong stand by other police in solidarity with the murdering officer.

Such occurrences are nothing new. They happen all the time. The novelty in this case, and several similar ones, is that they were caught on video and released to the media.

While some sort of justice may occur in the case of Oscar Grant, the rampant harassment and brutality being perpetrated by police is astounding. Seeing these videos seeing a man murdered left me feeling sick to my stomach, especially as it was done at the hands of those who are here to “protect and serve.”

I am both angered and saddened at the lack of humanity shown.

David Costas

<[email protected]>

Trade culture: David, I identify with your traumatic response. It was unbearable to see the video of the killing of Oscar Grant.

I have a close friend who works as a social worker on a police PET (psychiatric emergency team) in Los Angeles and rides along with police officers on their emergency calls. She tells me endless horror stories (and some miraculously gentle ones).

Her advice is “don’t ever let the police into your house if you can help it.”

She observes that the police “trade culture” and the stress they live with makes some of them them trigger-happy dangerous to themselves and others, both physically and emotionally.

It is a terrifying reality, to the extent that we can generalize it. What I would pray for is a fundamental change in training and agency practices. There are already many gifted individuals who understand the flaws in the system and are doing things differently. It is up to us all to generate enough uproar.

Ioana Novac

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Some years ago I was the provider of the employee assistance program offered by the town nearest to where I live. That meant that I did some counseling with the members of the local police force. Most of the police were decent folks, but there was a small group that clearly had antisocial traits. They had no remorse whatsoever at killing others. They often committed violent acts for which there was no justification whatsoever.

The diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are not accurate. A good argument could be made that they are racist. They insist that a person with APD has a history of criminality, but that is not the case. The overwhelming majority of people with APD have no criminal history whatsoever. But the name of the game for them is power and they will get it at any cost. The people I have in mind have decided that it is to their advantage to work within the system rather than against it. They are to be found in all institutions, not only the police, but also in such professions as the practice of law and higher levels of government, business, the academy, and even the Church.

Then there are also an even greater number of people who have some traits of APD, but not the full blown personality disorder. They might under certain circumstances fall into antisocial behaviors, but it is not their general way of relating to other people. Lots of these folks come out of the woodwork when a war is about to start. They will go on and on about how America is the greatest nation in the world and we just can’t afford to lose that status. Other people have some persisting APD traits but as part of another diagnosis; I am thinking in particular of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, in which image is all that matters and genuine relationship is seldom found.

These are tough personality traits to change. The good news is that change is possible. The bad news is that it is possible only under definite conditions. The traits that most counselors excel in compassion, gentleness, compromise will not work with them since they see such traits as weakness to be exploited. They need a morally incorruptible and utterly consistent kind of counseling that is seldom cultivated in clinical practice. It seems to me that rather than trust in therapy, government must take steps to curb the behavior of these folks. In my own town, at least, I have seen that happen within the police force itself.

David Holden

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Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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Conversations by email: Fall 2008

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson or Jim Forest.

The Georgia-Russia War: “We have the especially difficult issue of having a Georgian woman in our parish during bombing of her country,” Daniel Lieuwen wrote. “It was very sad to see her crying.”

The scene in our church in Amsterdam was similar, just on a bigger scale as ours is a large parish with a lots of Russians and also a good number of Georgians, one of whom is our parish warden. Many were praying with tears. During the Great Entrance, our rector, Fr. Sergei Ovsiannikov, prayed for peace in Georgia and Ossetia and for all who have died during these terrible days. He chose to pray in English, which is very unusual since he is a Russian native speaker and our services are either in Slavonic or Dutch. After the Liturgy he held a Panakhida for the dead.

Interestingly, there was a TV crew there filming the service. They probably wanted to see how a “Russian” parish (though there are over twenty nationalities in our parish) was reacting to the events.

Nancy Forest

Concepts of God: God  the word gets used in many ways. Sometimes we use it to mean the Trinity, other times the Father, sometimes divinity, or the divine nature. So unless we have an exact definition of the word each time it is used, we may actually not be using it in the same way.

Orthodoxy does distinguish between person and nature in God: One nature, three persons  that is how we say we are monotheists. Jesus is one person, two natures, God and man, and in this case we really are using God to mean divinity, otherwise we refer to God the son to mean the second Divine Person of the Trinity.

Being strict monotheists, Muslims and Jews make no distinction between person and nature when they refer to God. God is one as per the Shema and the Shahada. So they both do and don’t mean what we mean when we say God. But if one says Creator, then all three might agree that they are talking about the same God, even though Christians might be vaguely referring to the Trinity or the Father.

The Quran is clear that God beget no one and no other is to be referred to as God. Mohammed was taking a shot against Christianity in these verses of the Quran.

When speaking about divinity, probably Christians, Jews and Muslims are talking about the same general concept. Though Muslims pay lip service to the scriptures of Jews and Christians, and though the Quran clearly is based upon our scriptures (in this sense it is a true heresy as it picks and chooses ideas from the scriptures and reinterprets them), the notions of God do differ between the three faiths.

Arab Christians use the word Allah for God, indicating there is a similar concept of God both in Islam and Christianity. Both Christians and Muslims pray to God, believe He is Lord, merciful, and judge and to be loved and obeyed.

Some have made the distinction of “the fullness,” as in the fullness of the truth. And so some have seen the references to God in other religions as being true as far as they go, but still incomplete or lacking the fullness of the truth. This thinking is always looking for the good in other religions  a good which can be built upon for revealing the fullness of the truth.

I live in Dayton, Ohio. When the Dayton Peace Accord was being worked on, it was agreed that a prayer service for peace should be held at the Air Force base where the negotiations were going on, and that this service would involve Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews. As I spoke with the rabbi and imam, I never had any doubt that, however we conceived of God, we all were calling upon the one God to bring peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and truly it seemed to me that each respected my belief and expected me to pray in a Trinitarian formula. And the prayers for peace had a sameness about them, as we all believed it is God who gives peace to the world.

Admittedly my experience was limited. I wasn’t confronted by a Muslim extremist, but rather met a Muslim imam who seemed as genuinely desirous of peace as I was.

Fr. Ted Bobosh

The economic crisis: It has been curious to me to see all of the panic over the capital markets, the feeling that economic catastrophe is on the way. This is not to say that I don’t value having food and water, heat and shelter for myself and my family, but it is curious that all along (while things have been really good) we have always had people living right alongside us in our cities who must live precisely in the way we are so afraid may be coming to us. Look at Iraq, where the people have lived for years without water, proper sewage, consistent electricity, living with perpetual violence. As well in Africa, Asia, Central America.

Joe May

The Dutch model: In Holland, though abortion is legal, the abortion rate is extremely low (while in Orthodox Greece and Russia it’s very high). There are several reasons for it being low here:

There is a good sex education curriculum in the schools. One consequence of this is that there is a much lower rate of unintended pregnancies than in the US.

There is strong and effective social support (economic, medical, housing) for women who, without such support, might well see no alterative but abortion.

Last but not least, the pro-life movement here really is pro-life, not simply anti-abortion. It doesn’t aim at shocking anyone nor does it engage in scolding, but rather puts its stress on caring support and encouragement of women who may be considering abortion. The name group has the initials VBOK (it means the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children). VBOK posters are regularly displayed at train stations, bus and tram stops throughout the country. The photos used on the posters are of young women who clearly are struggling with a hard choice. The images always strike a note of compassion. The text is always the same. The headline on top is “An unwished for pregnancy… What now?” The text at the bottom is: “There is help for both the mother and child.” And then a free phone number one can call any hour of the day or night. I have no doubt these posters have saved many lives of unborn children and also saved many mothers from a lifetime of profound regret and depression.

Perhaps there is something that Americans can be learn from the Dutch model.

Jim Forest

Suicide: Suicide is a very personal issue for me. Two members of my family committed suicide. For many the motive is unbearable pain. Someone I know well, not a person of faith, is in early Alzheimers. She has become increasingly frail and is dealing with a lot of pain, some physical, most of it psychological and spiritual. She can’t do any of the things that used to make her happy. She told me again today, “I want to die.” But she said she would never kill herself because it would hurt the family so much. (Thank God for her common sense!) I think she doesn’t want so much to die as to be relieved of her pain. And since she can’t imagine what is left of her life here in this world as even moderately free of pain, death seems like the only option.

But the fact is, that when death really draws near, really near, the vast majority of us fight against it “for dear life.” I think it really makes no difference whether you think you’ve been a happy person or not. Faith helps of course, but the fact is we are all the same before the great unknown that is death. We are all equal before it, stripped of everything that we had, or thought we had. The help of faith is simply to surrender to that great abyss trusting we will be caught and embraced by God.

Paul del Junco

Staying alive: Speaking for myself, I have had neither much fear of death, nor a desire to short-circuit the process, but have had enough passing acquaintance with pain to know that it is quite conceivable that I would want to exit this life under the “right” conditions. Whether I would act on it is another question.

The major source of pain for me is the contemplation of the loss and grief that my loved ones would experience. Thus I go to the doctor regularly, do what he tells me to do, don’t smoke, drive recklessly or sky-dive (though it sounds like fun), all in an effort to spare my family as long as I can.

The problem of letting go is often a much harder thing for the survivors, than for the one who is terminally ill. I don’t mean to say that there are not plenty of folks who approach death “terrified”  only that it is often a mixture of a number of different concerns, regrets, fears, etc.

Alex Patico

The lethal side of law: It may be true that there is often good law and there is often bad conscience, but it is always true that on Earth law kills. It is because good law is needed to restrain errant humans that law is defended when it murders; once the rule is in force, though, it makes no distinction between bad men and good men. It sees only those who submit to it and those who don’t. Reasons don’t matter. The necessity doesn’t make it a good deal. We are bent and law does restrain, but it is a flawed interim solution: to defend it as a high good is dangerous and makes one ready to kill. Once a person is in charge of enforcing the law, even his or her conscience is no longer of consequence. What a pity. Pilate was a man of conscience who had no choice but to murder the Christ out of responsibility to enforce the law. While it may be that it was the leaders of the Jewish community who railroaded Jesus, still it was Rome’s laws and Rome’s man who did the deed. And let’s be clear he did it in defense of Rome.

Pieter Dykhorst

Scale matters: I wouldn’t want to be in prison under any system. Being president of the Jail Chaplaincy of Somerset County in New Jersey gives me enough information about how rotten it is to be in jail, where officers are often men who feel a deep need for power.

However, given a chance between several years of in Siberia with my books as an agitator under the tsar and being shot for no particular reason to fill a quota under Stalin, I’d certainly chose the former. Scale matters. There is a difference between shoplifting a pack of gum and murdering everyone in the store.

I distrust any state but I fear utopian dreamers most of all. At least under law, there are procedural norms, fought out over centuries that provide some protection.

To clarify, it was not the Jewish community that railroaded Christ, it was a tiny cabal of Jewish leaders who acted in a way contrary to the masses of the Jewish people. And in the Gospel telling, it is not Roman law that kills Christ, but Pilate’s moral cowardice he knew Tiberius to be paranoid and that the accusation that Pilate was not sufficiently concerned about treason would be dangerous. We do have a tradition that he was later punished by Tiberius with exile for this judicial murder, though I believe Josephus attributes it to other crimes Pilate committed.

Daniel Lieuwen

You are caught where many of us are caught.You fear law but defend it because you fear utopian lunatics more. I aspire to fearing neither and defending neither. The good news is you don’t have to have your druthers between the tsars of the world or the Bolsheviks the world is run such that if you really want to be a Christian, it will find a way to trap you and kill you. We don’t get to choose the system that kills us.

To my great consternation, I discover that living in this society these days, being a Christian makes me unpatriotic, a coward, a traitor, “a damned liberal,”,and a long list of other things. It’s not yet a death sentence but rather a kind of verbal burial.

The trick, I’m finding, is not the rules of the game but the game itself. The challenge for me these days is not to navigate the game, but to stay out of it. There is no Christian politics, period.

Regarding Pilate, we don’t know the end of that story. I like to think he was at last redeemed. I’m sure Christ would receive Pilate. I like the end of “A Man for All Seasons” where Thomas More tells the executioner, “Do not be afraid of your office. You send me to God.” What a beautiful story to illustrate what I see as the core dilemma here. A good man run afoul of the king refuses to abandon his stand and accepts his punishment without condemning the executioner! Perhaps also the executioner was a good man trapped by inflexible options.

Pieter Dykhorst

Soldiers of Conscience:

above: Sgt. Kevin Benderman, after conviction by court marshal for refusing to return to Iraq, on his way to prison. He is one of the conscientious objectors featured in “Soldiers of Conscience.

Soldiers of Conscience: Last night Nancy and I watched “Soldiers of Conscience,” a 90-minute documentary, now on DVD, that was shown on public television in the US in October. It’s an impressive film not only about several soldiers stationed in Iraq who became conscientious objectors, but also opens a window on war itself.

The most startling element in the film is the footage of soldiers being trained to overcome any instinctive hesitation to kill a program that the Army developed after discovering how many soldiers in combat situations wouldn’t in fact shoot at other human beings. The goal of the “reflexive fire training” program is to make shooting to kill an automatic response.

Two of the four soldiers interviewed were jailed. One of them comments that it was only in military prison that he experienced true freedom, the freedom that came from being obedient to conscience.

I happen to know one of those interviewed, Joshua Casteel. He was as interrogator at Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad. Since his discharge Joshua has written a play (“The Interrogation Room”) and a book, Letters from Abu Ghraib.

The film’s web site (which includes a “purchase the DVD” page):

http://www.soldiers-themovie.com

I would recommend getting the DVD and watching it with friends.

Jim Forest

Fall 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 51

Conversations by email: Summer 2008

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson ([email protected]) or Jim Forest ([email protected]).

Obeying God rather than man: The claim is sometimes made that somehow those who are “decent” are those who are “law abiding.” But in such a case as Nazi Germany (many other examples would do as well) one sees that such an equation is dangerous.

Germany in the Nazi era was a society in which civil laws had been passed that required or permitted people to do all kinds of things toward Jews and others – the “unfit,” the handicapped, the mentally disabled – that we now regard as murder. We might also recall how slavery was once entirely legal in the US.

“Decency,” as a moral or spiritual character of people, simply cannot be identified with those who are “law-abiding” according to the humanly constructed law of a society both because (1) the laws of a particular society can require or permit immoral actions and because (2) civil law simply can’t regulate the intentions and attitudes themselves that are vital to notions of moral or spiritual decency.

John Jones

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Embracing the latest weaponry: I recently had occasion to do some research which led me to an essay by Henry C.K. Liu that was published five years ago in The Asia Times. It is interesting to contrast attitudes in the West with those in other cultures regarding the introduction of new, more destructive weapons.

“In Chinese dynastic culture,” Liu wrote, “the use of firearms in war was considered cowardly and therefore not exploited by honorable warriors of self-respect. Firearms would not develop in dynastic China, not because of the absence of know-how, but because their use had been culturally circumscribed as not being appropriate for true warriors.”

He goes on to observe: “In the history of human progress, willful rejection of many technological inventions is traceable to cultural preference.

“This is the basis for concluding that the technological militarism of the West is of barbaric roots and that a civilization built on military power remains barbaric, the reverse of modernity, notwithstanding the guise of technology.

“The oldest picture in the world of a gun and a grenade is on a painted silk banner found at Dunhuang, dating to the mid-10th century…. On the silk banner, demons of Mara the Temptress, an evil goddess, are shown trying to harm the meditating Buddha and to distract him from his pursuit of enlightenment, with a proto-gun in the form of a fire lance and a proto-grenade in the form of a palm-size fire-bomb. The fact that these weapons are shown to be used only by evil demons illustrates the distasteful attitude of the ancient Chinese toward firearms….”

Liu notes the attempt by the Second Lateran Council, meeting in Rome in 1139, to forbid the use of crossbows against fellow Christians, but finds that today’s Christians are less troubled by nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction than 12th-century Christians were by crossbows.

Liu goes into how devolving warfare down the social scale makes it much more destructive, while relentlessly removing the restraints of “honor” on how weapons can be used. Warfare can be terrible when it is ritualized, but when it is de-ritualized, as in modern warfare, it can be apocalyptic.

“Gunpowder remained unknown in the West until the late 10th century,” Liu writes. “However, Europeans abandoned outmoded rules of chivalry after the Middle Ages and enthusiastically incorporated firearms and artillery into the lexicon of their military arts after the late 15th century. In contrast, thanks to the Confucian aversion to technological progress, Chinese military planners did not modernize their martial code, basing foreign policy on the principle of civilized benevolence. They continued to suppress development of firearms as immoral and dishonorable up to the 19th century, much to China’s misfortune….

“Modernity, as currently constituted in the West, can also be viewed as a relapse of civilization toward barbarism through advanced technology.”

Daniel Lieuwen

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Church-state partnership: A recent article in the New York Times focused on the privileged relationship that the Russian Orthodox Church now has with the Russian government. I doubt there were any errors in it, and am disturbed by what appears to be a church-state partnership, but much was missing from the report.

One of the earliest signs that great changes were about to happen, once Gorbachev became head of state in 1985, was the rapid ending of religious repression and even the broadcasting of films that, far from promoting atheism, showed religious life (especially Orthodox religious life) in a positive light. The result, twenty years later, is that the majority of Russians describe themselves as Orthodox even if they are rarely in church. Even Russian atheists may regard themselves as Orthodox atheists.

What is missing in the Times article is attention to the positive changes that have taken place in the lives of millions of Russians now that the Church no longer has to operate within the many KGB-policed limitations of former times. For every working church that existed in Russia 25 years ago, I would guess there are at least a hundred today. One no longer has to hide being baptized, refrain from having an icon corner in one’s home, or participation in church life. An astonishing variety of religious books are available in every town and city. Spiritual life is no longer something one discusses only with the most trusted of friends. Religious believers can openly, and in an organized way, provide volunteer services in hospitals, orphanages, old-age homes, and prisons. The Russian people today have an opportunity for an open and fervent religious life that their grandparents could not have imagined.

But sadly there is a dark side: the almost entirely uncritical relationship of the Church regarding the government and the Church’s readiness to bless Russian weapons of war and even weapons of mass destruction.

Jim Forest

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The asceticism of love: Asceticism is greatly stressed in the Orthodox Church, and rightly so, but asceticism is not enough. Christ feared death. He sweated blood. Courage is not the absence of fear but facing it. It was not asceticism and certainly not duty which gave him the courage to face his fear. It was love. Suffering love. If it’s not about love, it’s about nothing.

Certainly this was true for Mother Maria. She was not an exemplary monastic in the traditional sense. The heart of her vocation was the suffering she endured from watching her daughter die. She didn’t just endure it and gradually get on with her life. She embraced that pain (“and a sword shall pierce your own heart”) and that pain became the basis for her vocation. With the death of her daughter, in a sense she died as a mother, but her motherhood was then reborn as compassion for all, lived out in service to her neighbor, especially those most in need.

If one truly embraces one’s own pain, then that becomes it’s own asceticism, if one is faithful to it. From there comes the capacity to bear the pain of the other (“love bears all things”).

Christ’s pain was our pain, that which we wouldn’t and couldn’t bear. The heart of Christ’s divinity is his self emptying. He enters into the abandonment of the human condition. God became God-less for us. The Sinless One became sin for us. This is the heart of divine love. From this and nothing else comes the Resurrection. (The Transfiguration was for our sake, because of our human weakness, so that we would remember later after the cross when we had lost all hope. But of course we misunderstood it!)

Mother Maria lived that in her own life and death, and said as much in her writing. She said the greatest poverty was to live without any religious consolations. Now, that’s true asceticism!

Paul del Junco

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Can evil be killed? Many godly people think that the destruction of the ungodly is the best way to establish goodness and godliness on earth, but that does not seem to have been God’s plan as revealed in His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In fact after the great flood reported in Genesis, “The Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done’.” God puts the rainbow in the sky as a sign and reminder of that promise.

Despite God’s conclusion that evil cannot be killed, whether by drowning or other means, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth century believed his army could defeat Satan. If that seems laughable, one only needs to think in modern times that Osama bin Laden is also leading a war against evil which he believes his legions can win or President Bush taking the US military into war to destroy what he labeled as evil.

Human thinking does not change easily. We want to kill evil, and certainly favor killing the other over imitating Christ and sacrificing ourselves as the way to defeat evil. Some might say in defense of war and killing, didn’t Jesus teach, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”? The answer is yes. But to lay down one’s life is not a command to take up arms. In other words, we can die for our friends as he did. He didn’t command killing for our friends. “Love one another,” Jesus said.

It ends up in God’s plan that a good man dies for the life of the world. The death of an evil man, or even of many evil men, or, if it were possible, of all evil men would not have saved the world. The death of humans cannot bring an end to evil in the world, though admittedly it will stop the one who dies from committing further evil (or further good for that matter). “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11)

Christians have not always valued that self-emptying love, the self-sacrificing love, or the co-suffering love, Christ modeled for His disciples to follow. We usually want it to be the death of the other person – the bad person – which will save us. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

To follow in Christ’s love, to imitate Christ, is not to kill the sinner but to change the sinner. “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” Our task is not to kill the sinner, but to turn the sinner away from death.

Fr. Ted Bobosh

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History and faith: In a recent posting, David Holden noted that “history itself is at the heart of our faith.” God intervened in the world of his creation by taking the form of a human being, while retaining his divine essence. He stepped into history in a way that showed the “transcendability” of history itself – mind-boggling when we first hear it, and a great mystery no matter how many times it is contemplated.

But can the resurrection be regarded as historically demonstrable – a real event in the same way that my getten up and having coffee this morning was?

Like the proverbial “tree that falls in a forest,” events we do not observe still happen. Events do not, presumably, take on reality only because they are witnessed and documented. Most of us would not draw a distinction between the acts we did this morning that we attended to (like enjoying a cup of coffee), and those that passed unnoticed (our breathing, for example). If I had stopped breathing for a few seconds, it would not register in any “historical” evidence unless I was hooked up to a monitor continuously.

Why does this kind of epistemological hair-splitting matter? For the same reason that David got into it – its implication in “the heart of our faith.” But history being “at the heart” is not quite the same as being the heart of it. Faith also includes belief in “things not seen.” Faith is a blessing bestowed by God. Objects of faith are not always amenable to historical proof.

At the risk of saying something overly bold or perhaps internally contradictory, I would personally follow Christ despite any amount of historical research that seemed to disprove the fact of His earthly existence.

The fundamental importance, to me, of all history is to help us gain a sense of the presence and mercy of God. Since we believe that salvation is for all mankind, we must admit of the possibility of those who never heard of Jesus to find their way to God. While one may fervently wish to follow another route (namely, the Holy Orthodox Church, the Body of Christ), it is eternity – not history – with which we must principally be concerned.

Alex Patico

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Philosophy of history: It is certainly true that the events of history are one thing and our knowledge of them is another. History is, after all, a kind of story. That being so, there are always mysteries in events, especially when we are speaking of truly transcendent events. When we think of the Resurrection of Christ as a fact of history, that deprives it of none of its mystery. How a person can be dead, then alive, and able to ignore the ordinary limits of time and space – that gets out of history’s depth right quick. But the awareness of mystery does not cause something not to be a fact. When I said that the Resurrection is demonstrable, I mean that there was a dead body, there was an empty tomb, there were people who saw and spoke with Jesus after His Resurrection, their testimonies were eventually written and collected, etc. This is a particular event that we do know about – and remains a profound mystery even so.

Theology that is distinctively Christian does not begin with what is possible. It begins with what actually happened. It begins with our Lord Himself, and with His death and resurrection. So we are back to history again. It is both the blessing and the curse of Christianity, what Kierkegaard called “the scandal of particularity.”

Having said all that, however, there is yet another side to it. We are not talking about events that happened long ago and are now beyond our sight. We are talking about events that happened long ago – and are still within our sight. The kind of distant objectivity with which some historical research is conducted (or at least attempted) is not quite appropriate to the knowledge of the Resurrection. That event was like an electrical charge passing from Christ Himself to His Apostles to those who sat at their feet … all the way down to us. We know that we did not generate this current within ourselves, and that those from whom we received this electrical current did not generate it within themselves. Anamnesis is not merely telling a story; it really is re-experiencing, because that same initial experience is still coursing through the world.

David Holden

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Just war doctrine? While the border between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is in places extremely thin or even nonexistent, in other places it is more substantial. One of these contrasting areas is this: if you look in any Catholic catechism or other basic resource on Catholic doctrine, you will easily find that the Catholic Church has a teaching called “the just war doctrine” and that it is quite developed and has been in place for centuries. If you search equivalent Orthodox presentations of our faith, you will not find anything like it. (This is not to say you will not find it in the writings of various Orthodox Christians.)

There have been numerous examples of Orthodox Christians going to war and even doing so with the blessings of hierarchs, not necessarily wars anyone can look back on with pride, but all my reading so far indicates that war has always been regarded in the Orthodox Church as an evil, even if, in defense of the nation in a given situation, no viable alternative could be found. Thus Orthodox use of the term, admittedly a troubling one, about war sometimes being a “necessary evil.”

This is not to say that the just war doctrine that took root in the Catholic Church, in an undeveloped form by Augustine and in a developed form in the medieval period, is of no interest to Orthodox Christians. It was one of the ways the Catholic Church tried to prevent wars or limit them.

Like fish, we humans tend to swim in schools. No matter what church we belong to, Orthodox Christians not excepted, we are often more influenced by the attitudes of national leaders, neighbors and propaganda than by the Gospel. We have a deep desire to fit into the nation we are part of. The Pauline idea of Christ’s followers being “strangers in a strange land” is in fact not one that appeals to most of us. We tend to bond with the nation we happen to live in and to take part in its wars no matter how far we are dragged from the kingdom of God in the process. (In some countries one even finds the national flag in church sanctuaries.)

I am not talking about others as if I were immune from such national fevers. I am not. It is a very hard struggle, in which I often fail, not to join the parade.

The writings of those who developed just war theology, significant as these writings may be, are far less important than the New Testament. On the issue of war, the most basic Christian question is: Would taking part in war be an act of obedience to Jesus and his Gospel?

The Gospel records Jesus healing and saving others. Neither Christ nor his disciples killed anyone. No wars were blessed, not even the Jewish national war against Roman occupation. One might say Peter made a minor attempt to kill an enemy, but all he managed to do was wound an ear and thus give Jesus the occasion for performing his last healing miracle prior to his crucifixion. Peter also won the admonishment that has ever since been a challenge to every Christian: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” We hear nothing more either in the New Testament or in other ancient texts coming down to us about Peter (or any of the apostles or disciples) shedding anyone’s blood.

Nancy and I were in Rome these past two weeks, in the course of which we became more and more conscious of how soaked in martyrs’ blood is the earth of Rome. Which of the thousands of martyrs raised a sword either in their own defense or the defense of their fellow suffering Christians? Not one. Might we learn something from their astonishing example? Might their behavior have had something to do with the conversion to Christianity of so many Romans in the period when it was certainly no social advantage to be baptized?

These are just one person’s thoughts, written, let me add, with great sympathy and respect for those who do take up arms, as Peter did in a passionate moment, in defense of others. I am not at all by nature a nonviolent person nor can I say with confidence there has never been a war in which I would participate. In fact I was in the military earlier in my life. All I can say is that I hope I will never be led to describe killing anyone as an act of witness to the Gospel.

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Food: The price of food, along with the price of gas, is going through the roof. But let’s not complain too much. Food prices are going up all over the world, and in many places this is pushing people to the edge of starvation.

Here is a list of things our family has learned about saving money on food.

Don’t eat out. Prepare every single meal at home and you’ll save huge amounts of money. Learn to pack interesting box lunches for school or work. Save eating out for special occasions.

No processed foods. By “processed” I mean prepared, heat-and-serve meals. Many people don’t cook at all in any real sense: they take prepared food out of a box and microwave it. Dust off your cookbooks and do some real cooking.

Buy store brands. Store brands are almost always cheaper than the name brands and are almost always as good.

Eat it all. Studies show that many people end up throwing away ten percent of the food they buy. Don’t let things spoil or pass their expiration dates without using them.

Protein. As the world’s poor people already know, about the cheapest protein you can buy is dried beans. We buy and cook a lot – chili, soup, bean salads, etc. Fresh and frozen fish are expensive, but canned fish can be cheap. Think about meals that use meat as a component rather than the dominant element. Eggs are generally cheaper by weight than meat or fish.

Carbohydrates. Many people on tight budgets try to save by shifting to pasta, potatoes and other starches – admittedly very cheap by the pound but bad for you and one of the reasons so many people have become diabetics. You can save money by cooking whole grains – oat meal, brown rice, barley – and moderate amounts of pasta.

Last but far from least – gardening. At the moment we’re hardly buying any vegetables, fresh or frozen, because we’re struggling keep up with our garden produce. We do very little in the way of preserving food for winter – though we do make huge quantities of tomato sauce in an attempt to deal with the tomatoes that all seem to ripen at the same moment in late summer. The sauce lasts us into early winter. (News reports indicate a sudden upswing in vegetable seed sales; the seed producers are having trouble keeping up with demand.)

Note that money isn’t everything. We try to buy fresh produce and meat from local farmers whom we know, even though it sometimes costs more.

John Brady

[email protected]

Betancourt interview: I just watched an interview with Ingrid Betancourt made shortly after she was freed in Columbia. Her testimony is beautiful and her desire for forgiveness inspiring. The US interviewer’s question reflected a mentality of retribution and revenge, but she kept coming back to compassion and forgiveness.

Some of her quotes:

“Vengeance is a chain and I left all my chains down in that jungle”

“I am so happy there is no room for revenge”

“For me it is very important to forgive, it makes you more human, a better person.”

Monica Klepac

[email protected]

OPF Conference in Canada: On the second weekend of September, we invite not only Canadians but others to join us for a conference on “War and Peace in the Post-Human Era.”

The speakers are Timothy Cooper, a physicist, whose topic will be environmental issues; David Goa, a renowned philosopher as well as adjunct professor of Religion at the University of Alberta; Scott Fast, professor of Political Science and Sociology at the University College of Fraser Valley; Ronald Dart, professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at UCFV; and Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Orthodox Christian theologian and abbot of All Saints of North America in Dewdney, British Columbia.

To register, go to the following web page:

www.orthodoxcanada.org

Archbishop Lazar

[email protected]

Summer 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 50

Conversations by email: Pascha / Spring 2008

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson or Jim Forest .

Letter from Pakistan: I want to thank all OPF members who, during the Nativity Fast, contributed funds to Orthodox Social Services in Pakistan to help us fulfill one aspect of our mission, giving assistance to orphans. It is thanks to your great effort that it was possible for Nadia and Rahbia to get wheelchairs. Your love, concern and sympathies will be remembered for good.

Fr. Andrew

Orthodox Social Services, Pakistan

Note: Photos of Nadia and Rahbia with their new wheelchairs: www.flickr.com/photos/

jimforest/sets/72157603834615537/

The Church in Communist days: As an Orthodox from Romania of Communist days, I can testify that it was a deliberate political strategy of the state to compromise the Church in all “Eastern-bloc” countries by undermining people’s trust in them and “splitting by smearing” campaigns. The principal of “divide and conquer” was used within the general population as well, with the consequence that no one completely trusted almost anyone else.

Most clergy were contacted by KGB or its local equivalent and attempts made to recruit or at least intimidate them. Some did cave in, really, yet the degree of damage could vary greatly, from loss of trust to minor “informing” to serious betrayals. It was always tragic and always affected everyone in and around the Church.

I have known Romanian martyr-priests who were in prison and later accused of “collaborating” with the Securitate (the KGB-like Romanian secret service) or at least of watering down their sermons in response to pressure or threats. One never knew…

Others, some of whose memoirs were recently published, lived in constant fear, always trying themselves in their own conscience for not speaking up or not defending others or decisions, etc.

It remains a wounding reality that the Church in Romania (but I know it’s also true for the Russian Church) has not yet found a “public” way to speak openly about the agonizing dilemmas it had to face during the years of Communist persecution. A way must be found to confess mistakes (such as not protesting the demolition of churches and monasteries) and pray together with the wounded flock for forgiveness and healing of such long-standing affliction, which continues to affect the people’s trust in the church and faith in the Lord Whose truth it proclaims.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal a way to stand in that truth, if it is ardently desired.

Ioana Novac

[email protected]

Not an ethnic club: One of the issues challenging Orthodoxy in America (I’ll leave other parts of the world to speak for themselves) is that Orthodoxy has not primarily been here in a missionary capacity. Rather, in too many cases, Orthodoxy was here to help some people preserve their past, and to preserve a culture that was fading away in history.

Orthodoxy has not fully embraced the missionary task, and so spends much of its time proclaiming and recreating culture, rather than proclaiming Christ. But many people have been attracted to this “churchianity” which brings people into the flock who then go seeking others like themselves.

Orthodox mission in much of past history – whether Byzantine or Russian – was not only seeking to spread the faith but also meant to expand an earthly kingdom. When the Alaska natives converted to Orthodoxy, they were accepting the lordship of the Russian Tsar as well. The Orthodox didn’t and couldn’t distinguish between Christian mission and imperial expansion.

This has carried over into what we do as Orthodox in America.

We have never sat down and discussed what non-imperial Orthodoxy might look like – not only have we not discussed it but a fair amount of Orthodox leadership and clergy would find such a discussion to threaten Orthodoxy itself.

America presents us with the chance to realize there is a difference between the gift we have received (the Faith) and the packaging it came in. But so far we have not shown any ability to enter into this discussion and realize the opportunity God has presented to us.

I think Fathers Schmemann and Meyendorff, among others, did understand this and worked hard to help us move forward, but they were paddling against the stream and knew it.

Imperial Orthodoxy will always speak to some, but the missionary issue is whether we can understand what is the core message of our faith and live it without imperial trappings.

Fr. Ted Bobosh

[email protected]

A frequent convert: I have been a frequent convert in my life. I converted to Christianity when I was 17. I converted from Darwinism about the same time. I converted to patriotism when I converted my citizenship, and to super-patriotism when I became a Reagan Republican. I converted from Apartheid somewhere in my twenties (even as an American, I defended South African Nationalism. It took me a while to recognize how deep Social Darwinism infects even those who deny it when they accept certain “parent” philosophies.) I converted to conscientious objection. I vacillated and rejoined the Army. I converted to hyper-pacifism. I converted to pluralism and internationalism (and was shocked again how deep certain biases had gone when “parent” philosophies were in control). I converted back and forth from Calvinism a few times. I converted to Orthodoxy. The list goes on and covers many areas of my thinking and believing life. I finally converted from converting, thinking that I was a flake. Then I converted to thinking that I need to be converted all my life in every way and that my error was basically in two things:

1) There are only two sides, and 2) one is always wrong and one is always right.

In fact, there are many sides and truth lurks in the most unlikely places. When I choose the “right” side, I always choose against some truth.

C.S. Lewis said that the devil always sends errors into the world in pairs so that we are forced to choose the one that we like best or that offends least. It becomes the right side. The trick for Christians generally is to navigate safely between.

Pieter Dykhorst

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Re Church & Liturgy: The various Orthodox churches have managed to survive in spite of being subjected to centuries of suppression. The Romans, the Crusaders, the Turks, the Communists have all butchered Orthodox people who refused to surrender the beliefs of their ancestors. Many of us remember all too well the Soviet Union and its gulags. Most recently in Kosovo, priests have been murdered, churches, monasteries and cemeteries desecrated. Few in the West seem to know or care.

People often speak of the Orthodox Liturgy being shaped in the context of “Imperial” Byzantium but there has been no such empire for centuries. But the Liturgy itself has survived.

When I am in church, I consider the unchanged nature of the Liturgy to being an example of a small, shared miracle. I think about the desert mothers and fathers, the martyrs and how the Liturgy connects us all. That doesn’t inoculate me from feelings of discomfort and irritation when the priest looks like he’d rather be anywhere else at the moment, or when fellow parishioners make it clear that those of other nationalities should go someplace else to worship.

My only religious training prior to converting to Orthodoxy was in Tibetan Buddhism. There are many shades of practice in that tradition. On one hand, a simple glimpse of an image of the Buddha generates merit.

On the other end of the spiritual spectrum one finds rarely offered initiations and highly detailed internal visualizations of specific deities conducted in the course of multi-year solitary retreats.

One of the lessons I take away from that period of my life is that there can be many different levels of ability, dedication and degree of participatory involvement that a worshiper brings to the Liturgy – and they all can be valid.

An Orthodox priest (also a dear friend of mine) once reminded me that many parishioners become preoccupied with following the written Liturgy in their hands (or minds) in order to understand each and every word of the service, but end up missing the Liturgy itself. He told me that being part of the spiritual assembly, was more important than scholarly achievement.

He suggested that when I found myself at a point in the Liturgy where I was beginning to feel bored, or more focused on getting home in time to watch football, I should use the time to repeat the Jesus Prayer. And what better time or place to do so?

Every religion has its drawbacks. There are points where the Church and I diverge. But I believe that our Church’s underdog history has taught it a great deal about the value of compassion, and it retains a very human nature. Often it resembles a brawl at a family reunion, but I feel more at home amidst chaos. That context allows me to be more patient with whatever shortcomings I may perceive in Orthodoxy, while it continues to accept mine.

David Golden

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Joy and dark nights: Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not a gift of the Spirit. The gifts vary from person to person and from time to time. The fruits do not. If a person does not have any one of the fruits of the Spirit, there is something wrong in that person’s relationship with the Holy Spirit. Look at the other items in the list of the fruits. Would we ever say that God might give us love or might not? Or might give us gentleness or might not? Or might give us self-control or might not? No. All these are marks of a genuine relationship with God. They might be weak or strong depending on our willfulness or the depth of our repentance. But they should all be part of a Christian’s normal relationship with God.

So if joy is lacking in our prayer and in our worship, this is a sure sign that something is amiss. It may be that God has withdrawn from us for reasons of His own, as St. John of the Cross in the West and St. Silouan the Athonite in the East tell us. But I think that is a fairly rare experience. Much of the time, if God withdraws from us, it is because our sinfulness has forced Him to. But it also happens that our distractedness removes our joy. We are not focused on the Lord; we are not seeing the world as it is. In any case, some kind of rupture has occurred in our awareness of the presence of the Lord. He is still there, but our minds are somewhere else.

But what about dark nights? For many years I was of the opinion that God never withdraws from us – rather we withdraw from Him. This was my heritage from the Methodism in which I grew up. Wesley said that we might endure “heaviness through many temptations” and that we might even be in a “wilderness state” because of our sins. He was very uneasy with the idea that God might withdraw from us even when we are not withdrawing from Him.

So was I and so I am. But I have come to see that there are times when there are no real sins that are pulling us away from God, but that God pulls away from us all the same. I think He does this in order to force us to grow and mature. It is rather like a parent who does not go with the kids when they go into the woods to play. The kids have to learn how to deal with things without depending on the parent to solve every problem, kiss every wound, make every decision, etc. It is not a punishment or a lack of love on the parent’s part – to the contrary, it is real love. In the case of God’s dealings with us, it is His way of making us become His friends and stop being just His servants. I think this is what St. John of the Cross was getting at with his notion of the dark night of the soul (which was a long way from an ordinary depressive episode, despite the loose use of his language current nowadays). I think that St. Silouan the Athonite had much the same idea, though not with the refinement of St. John of the Cross.

Even so, I think this is seldom the case. Most of us have not arrived at this level of spiritual maturity. Most of the time we have sinned in some way, flagrantly or subtly, or we are simply not attending to the divine reality around us. Hence our loss of the sense of God’s presence. To assume that we are having a dark night experience is, as St. John of the Cross noted, often a sign of spiritual pride. It takes a discerning spiritual director to know it when he or she sees it.

David Holden

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Perseverance: David captures the reason why I was not disturbed by the recent revelations about Mother Theresa and her faith. In fact, I found the information regarding her barren inner life inspiring – even more inspiring than the witness of her actions with the poor and ill over so many years.

Given her tremendous and stalwart perseverance in her works of mercy, I can only suppose that this was a case of God enrolling her in the “advanced” course in holiness, one that you and I are very unlikely to have put on our schedule. She treated “the least” of her brethren with astounding compassion for decades, even as she experienced the Christ, in whose image they were made, as an absence, a blank where God should be.

This achievement, to me, far outstrips incessant prayer, perching on a column or living on air.

Alex Patico

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Absence of God: My response to Alex and David about the absence or presence of God and whether it is because of our sins or not strikes me as somehow too neat and tidy.

First of all, this sense of the “presence of God” may often simply be a sense of well being, that things are going well and so we attribute that to God. We can have just as much of a bourgeois comfort in religion as anything else.

Secondly, I would suggest that the basic condition of our life here in this world in our mortal bodies is the absence of God, at least existentially. In fact the very fact that we are having this sort of discussion points to God’s absence! If God were truly present to our consciousness, we wouldn’t be taking about him, we’d be basking in him!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the human condition at its most anguished, at the deepest level of affliction. This is what makes Jesus truly our brother, his love for us in our most profound dereliction which is our just banishment from the life-giving presence of God. Jesus’ love for us is so total that he is willing to step into the breach for us, to experience existentially in all its horror that which is our lot day-to-day, but which sometimes we manage to avoid in its full impact.

I remember that when I first read the story of Adam and Eve, after having myself been touched by God, I wondered – how can they have stood it for even one hour, to be banished from Paradise? And then gradually I realized that God in his mercy immediately mitigated the horror of his absence. He gave them skins to wear and many other things to “veil” his absence, even make it palatable. But he no longer “walked” with them. He was absent. I would suggest that existentially that is still our present human condition. God is absent.

I would also suggest that we can’t really know God until all the mitigating compensations for God’s absence are stripped away. Perhaps in his mercy he gives a brief flash of his presence to prepare us for the long road back to him.

Anybody who has experienced the profound joy of God’s presence (such as St. Silouan), this ineffable “home coming,” can only be totally dismayed, even panicked, when it gradually slips away. No one “deserves” this Paschal experience anymore than they deserve its absence. It is a gift. Its reasons are for God’s good pleasure in the mystery of his Providence both for us and the world, a gift few knew was possible!

Do my sins block the grace of God and my ability to experience joy? Of course they do. I also think there’s more to it than that. I think that periods of darkness can happen that are both related to and unrelated to our sins at various stages of our life.

Was Mother Theresa’s dryness a sign of a higher spiritual state. Perhaps. Perhaps not. I heard she could at times be pretty nasty to her own sisters. But that’s neither here nor there. I do know that the further one goes in the love of God and neighbor, the less one is concerned with whether one is repenting for one’s own sins or that of others. Ultimately love erases all such boundaries. It certainly did for Jesus. That is the beauty of sanctity. The less one sins oneself, the more one is freed to pray/repent for the sins of others. Ultimately that can mean sharing in their dereliction. And when there is no sin than that identification becomes total. That is Jesus, the Suffering Servant.

I have always been very uncomfortable, even guilt ridden, at all this talk about joy (you know, authentic sign of God’s life in us) because quite frankly there has been so little of it in my life, certainly in the conventional Christian sense. Certainly my sins have been manifold (no pious rhetoric here) and so tendency to dejection and discouragement at my manifest weakness has been dominant. What can God possibly do with me, spiritual neurotic that I am?! At the same time I know that there is no escaping that, like Silouan, God has touched me in a way I know few others have been.

But there has been one joy that has surprised me more and more with its paradoxical power, and that is the joy of repentance.

Paul del Junco

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Whole-life: A few thoughts on Fr Ted Bobosh’s essay on capital punishment (pages 4-9), one that I will be keeping for future reference.

I appreciate Fr. Ted being so candid about moving from a position of supporting the death penalty to opposing it. I have made the same journey.

However I don’t know if I can agree with his statement that he “[has] come to accept the consistent pro-life thinking,” given his earlier statement that “Armies and wars are part of this fallen world, and though an undesirable inevitability, and even an evil necessity, a necessity none-the-less.”

If mass killing is at times a lesser evil, then doesn’t it follow that other evils might also be described as undesirable but in some circumstances sadly necessary? How about, “Adultery is part of this fallen world, and, though undesirable, in certain circumstances a lesser evil”?

It seems to me that evil can only become a necessity when we are out of righteous actions. Can this happen? Why should Christians accede to any type of evil when there is always the alternative of righteousness? I am not being idealistic. I am looking at Christ’s life, not to mention many others that have followed in his footsteps when it comes to rejecting the option of mass killing as a solution.

In recent years, I have stopped calling myself “pro-life,” not because I no longer oppose abortion, but I find the word “pro-life” too spattered with the gunk of political agendas and the strange belief that being against abortion (while ignoring killing in war or the execution of prisoners, not to mention poverty, wealth and many other issues) fulfills the “pro-life” criteria. So far the best phrase I can come up with to describe my views is “whole-life.”

Renee Zitzloff

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Orthodox-Muslim Dialogue: This response to Pieter Dykhorst’s letter in the winter issue of “In Communion” comes from Lord Hylton, member of the British House of Lords and a longtime subscriber to In Communion.

Friends, In the winter issue of In Communion, Pieter Dykhorst gave a helpful background, asking for humility on all sides and for understanding of the varying relationships between faiths and the state. I would agree with those who think that the gap between Christian and Muslim theologies is too great, for theology in itself to be a useful starting point for dialogue. John Brady’s and Alasdair Cross’s “neighborly ways” of living side by side, seem much more practical and realistic.

At local level this may involve muezzins and megaphones or church bells. Worldwide we should be discussing the details and difficulties of establishing peaceful co-existence, all the way from Israel and Palestine, via Iraq, to Indonesia and Nigeria, and elsewhere. Wherever the major faiths are living in proximity to each other, their leaders should agree to meet regularly to defuse problems before they arise and to respond non-violently to issues at the level of state or society. They will not always be able to agree, but a common mind on some moral issues and possible solutions would be very helpful.

Raymond Hylton

House of Lords, London

Wonderful issue: The winter issue of In Communion was one of the best yet. I especially appreciated Jim’s article on Adam and Eve, Maria Khoury’s article from Palestine, and Frederica Mathewes-Greens’ piece on her grandson. The last really struck a chord as I have a good friend who’s son has just been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome (not as severe as autism, but in the spectrum with it). It captured beautifully many of the sentiments their family has been going through. I sent it to my friend and she said she just cried as she read it. Thank you to Alex and everyone who gave their time and attention to this issue. It was a great blessing to me.

Monica Klepac

[email protected]

Introducing OPF: Here is an exchange of letters between an OPF member who is looking into the possibility of starting an OPF group within his parish and a response for Alex Patico, OPF secretary in North America:

“There are a number of concerns,” our member wrote, “that have stood in my way. One is uncertainty as to what type of activities would be presented to the parish. I do not believe that most parish members are comfortable with peace marches and demonstrations. Also advocacy of ‘peace activities’ in the current climate may appear to be ‘political’ and this prove to be divisive. Not everyone shares my concerns about the growing militarization of our nation and its heavy handed activities toward other nations. I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas.”

To which Alex responded:

Even all of our members do not always see eye-to-eye. What I hope distinguishes OPF is that we focus on the importance of dealing with situations where there is conflict, rather than trying to avoid looking at them. This is not to say, however, that we take any joy in antagonism. Rather, we seek to create real peace, rather than just strife that is kept out of the spotlight and hurts that are never mentioned.

First, then, take the “Hippocratic” approach – try to do no harm. That is, in introducing OPF to your parish council or other members of the congregation, you will want to identify ways in which its message and function meet current needs of your parish and enhance its corporate life, rather than to provide “in-your-face” challenges to its members.

For example, if there is a book study group, could it take up a title that would bring its members to think about what it means to be a peacemaker, following Jesus’ guidance in the Beatitudes? When there are decisions being made about social programs, can there be consideration given to aiding in the care of returning injured soldiers? When the subject is instruction of the young people in the parish, can the curriculum include tough questions about prevention of violence in the schools and the role of Christian families in that (which might later lead to discussion of prevention of violence on the international level)?

Common ground is usually the best starting point in any successful conflict management – ask yourself what you have in common with your brothers and sisters in Christ at your parish. Then, go on from there in love and honest sharing.

Let me know how it goes.

Alex Patico

[email protected]

OPF Conference in Canada: On the second weekend of September, we invite not only Canadians but others to join us for a conference on “War and Peace in the Post-Human Era.”

The speakers are Timothy Cooper, a physicist, whose topic will be environmental issues; David Goa, a renowned philosopher as well as adjunct professor of Religion at the University of Alberta; Scott Fast, professor of Political Science and Sociology at the University College of Fraser Valley; Ronald Dart, professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at UCFV; and Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Orthodox Christian theologian and abbot of All Saints of North America in Dewdney, British Columbia.

The gathering will take place at the monastery. The registration fee is $50. The monastery can host only eight persons with sleeping accommodation, although camping on the monastery grounds is an attractive option for some.

To register, go to the following web page:

www.orthodoxcanada.org

Archbishop Lazar

[email protected]

From the Pascha / Spring 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 49

Conversations by email: Winter 2008

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list.

If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson or Jim Forest .

Fr. Sophrony’s conquest of England: Here is a wonderful story I came upon in a book by Archimandrite Zacharias, The Enlargement of the Heart (Mount Thabor Publishing). The author is a spiritual child of Fr. Sophrony, who in turn was a spiritual child of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos.

When Fr. Sophrony, later to found the Orthodox monastery in Kent, England, applied to go to England, he was interviewed at the British Embassy in France. The Consul there asked him, “How can you contribute to our life in England?” Fr. Sophrony answered, “We will be useless to you; we cannot produce anything, but we are looking for a quiet place to have our Liturgy.” And the Consul said, “Strange people!”

But they submitted their application for a visa to go to England, and the case of Fr. Sophrony was discussed in Parliament.

“It was a critical moment, as it was becoming very difficult for foreigners to come to England…. The matter was debated in the House of Commons, and there were some there who were determined not to let them come to England, because Fr. Sophrony made a petition to come with his synodia, that is with his company…

“At a moment when the mood of the debate was inclining towards a refusal, one Member of Parliament stood up and said, ‘You do not wish to allow the Archimandrite to come, because they cannot contribute to our economy and to our life; so if the twelve Apostles came to Dover, you would only take Judas, because he had the money!’ At that moment, the Home Secretary, Butler, signed the forms and said, ‘Give the Archimandrite whatever he wants’.”

John Brady

[email protected]

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Orthodox-Islamic dialogue: I am thinking of an issue of “In Communion” sometime in 2008 on the topic of Orthodox Christian-Islamic dialogue. At this point who the authors would be and how the issue would be shaped is far from clear.

I expect one of the articles will address the question: Is Orthodox-Islamic dialogue possible?

I am looking for advice re topics, possible authors, etc.

It hardly needs saying this is a challenging topic. Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa have suffered greatly in lands where they were (and still are) an oppressed minority.

This will not be an issue that provides the reader with rose-colored glasses.

In this regards, here is a paragraph from a letter I received from a priest:

“The fact is that in history Islam has been capable of coexistence with Christians and Jews only so long as it was in charge, and that was during the best of times! A new kind of Islam will be needed if dialogue is to be anything other than making nice. It may be being born in Turkey, which has had the bracing influence of having to deal with secularism and finding it wanting (which explains the success of an Islamic party which is open to Israel and Europe). That’s the glimmer of hope, I think.”

Jim Forest

[email protected]

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Learning to live together: As would-be peacemakers we’re inclined to feel that dialogue is always good. Certainly love of neighbor is required of all Christians; and, since we live with Muslims, we need to negotiate ways of living together as peacefully as we can.

But there are areas where I wonder whether the dialogue is really being conducted in open and honest ways – that is, whether all sides are thinking about what the agenda is.

Discussions of Muslim-Christian dialogue often include the claim that Islam and Christianity are especially close or similar in some way – Monotheistic, Abrahamic, etc. But is this true, or true in a helpful way?

Islam explicitly proclaims the falsity of Christian faith – God has no sons, Christ is not risen, etc. – and puts these claims in the mouth of God Himself. To my mind this puts Islam, in crucial ways, as far from Christianity as any religion can possibly be.

So, I’d be much happier with Christian-Muslim dialogue that aimed to develop neighborly ways of living and left it at that.

John Brady

[email protected]

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A key topic: I agree that dialogue is often conducted in a haze of wishful thinking and good intentions, stressing alleged similarities that evaporate the closer one gets to them.

St. John Damascene regarded Islam as an heretical form of Christianity, not unlike Gnosticism. In itself, that type of understanding of Islam would begin to account for the anti-Christian polemic within Islam.

Nevertheless, the issue of relations between Christians and Moslems is a key topic for a fellowship such as ours. So perhaps we should adjust the approach to this topic by removing the reference to dialogue, which now seems to have come to imply a negotiation towards a settlement that is – as I think John is suggesting – impossible and undesirable, and instead focus on neighborly ways of living side by side.

Alasdair Cross

[email protected]

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Philosophical debate: From a historical point of view, there was in fact a considerable dialogue, at least in the sense of knowing texts from different traditions and dealing with them, among medieval Islamic, Jewish, Latin philosophers and theologians. That’s not too surprising because they were working off a common heritage of Greek philosophical thought: Platonic, Aristotelian, and Neoplatonic.

The philosophical debate could get off the ground in the Christian west because of the more or less clear distinction between natural theology (a theology based upon reason) and revealed theology. The dialogue amongst these various traditions was pretty robust at the philosophical level.

John Jones

[email protected]

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Tighter focus: When we speak of an Orthodox dialogue with Islam, the equation is usually not adequately balanced. To phrase it that way means that we are thinking of one strain of Christianity, in this case our own, having a dialogue with the entire spectrum of Islam. Rather we should think in terms of Orthodox Christians in dialogue with a particular strain of Islam.

I can think of two possibilities: Orthodoxy and the Sunni tradition, or Orthodoxy and the Shiite tradition.

Or we might envision a dialogue of the mystical/contemplative branch of Orthodoxy with the mystical/contemplative branch of Islam: Sufism.

Much of what is called a dialogue is a comparison of things that are really incomparable, and therefore real mutual learning never gets going.

David Holden

[email protected]

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The example of St. Cyril: Chapter 6 of the Vita of St Cyril relates how the future Apostle of the Slavs was sent by the Emperor of Constantinople to the Arabs in 851 or 852 to debate with them about their respective faiths. The text provides interesting reading on how imperial politics and religion interacted and how the Orthodox saw Islam as an anti-trinitarian heresy.

Michael Bakker

[email protected]

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Overcoming stereotypes: I am weighing in on this because discussion regarding Islam, even among OPF members, often reveals how little we actually know and becomes instead a series of sweeping generalizations, making it much harder for us to become the peacemakers that Christ speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount.

How can we be peacemakers if we don’t even know, much less know about, the people we are called to make peace with and bring peace to?

But deeply-rooted stereotypes die hard. My own has been a hard journey away from bias, ignorance, and narrow thinking. It continues, and I know I am not alone.

It’s often argued that there is something about Christianity that permeates a society – even in a post-Christian culture – naturally giving rise to certain ideals, and correspondingly something about Islam, when it permeates a society, that cannot do the same.

Our tendency is to valorize ourselves and demonize “them,” to take some of the better achievements of the West and generalize as though they were the natural fruit of our (Christian) culture while ignoring or minimizing our failures, then to take the failures of Islamic society and regard these as the natural fruits of Muslim culture while ignoring or minimizing their successes.

The degree to which we think Islam is against human rights reflects our tendency to focus on the failures of Muslim societies to manifest basic Qu’uranic decrees, much the way that the greatest complaints against Christianity in the world stem from looking at the failures of Western societies to reflect Biblical Christian values.

This is the most common source of conflict between groups the world over. We like to think our virtues outweigh our vices while their vices outweigh their virtues.

The truth is that all “successful” societies throughout history have been a mixture of both. Regardless of what we think of Islam as a religion, Islamic societies, cultures, and states have been little different from Western ones in this regard. Christians and Muslims have tried and failed to make society in their ideal images.

But, while neither Islam nor Christianity has been without measurable and admirable successes in their effects on societies, it would be hard to measure in any objective way which has failed more magnificently. Probably those with the highest ideals are the ones that fell the farthest.

Christianity is so ill-suited as a template for human government that when the attempt is made to use it as such, it not only fails but corrupts society to a shocking extent. Certainly the Christian impetus for Western human rights ideals was real enough; however, their emergence was not so much because of Christianity, but against the failures of Christian institutions.

In all humility, let’s remember that it wasn’t until civil governments got free from Christianity in the west that we gained widespread human rights (something Islamic societies have largely not yet been able to do but which is changing in many places).

One of the significant differences between Christianity and Islam is that the two come at questions of society and government from opposite directions.

Christianity was not intended to be a religion of State and Islam was not intended as anything else. Christianity has failed to successfully address how it can manage the state, and Islam has failed to address how it can function in society without the state. Christianity must relinquish its claim to power in order to reclaim its true mantle, while for Islam that mantle is altogether alien in the first place.

It’s true that our values and morals differ in various respects from a Muslim’s. But this shouldn’t lead us to think that Muslims are unconcerned with justice, human rights or social order. In fact it is precisely because of Islam’s long history as a religion of state that it has a fine sense of human rights/ justice that would flabbergast most of us – notwithstanding any interpretive, cultural, and perspective differences between the two religions.

It is sometimes argued that the emergence of the concept of human rights in societies influenced by Christianity has no equivalent in Islam. In fact Islam has produced concepts of human rights as elevated as ours.

Historically, these have not enjoyed the kind of ascendancy that violence and blood have given human rights in the West (an idea that is itself problematic – we talk about human rights when those rights are gained at the expense of the values they are meant to uphold – think of the French Revolution and The Terror that followed).

They are nevertheless nascent in Islamic scripture and tradition much the way they were in the West for centuries before gross, systemic abuse caused large numbers of people to give voice to those latent values. The Inquisition was no more a mirror of Christianity than the Taliban or Al Qaeda are faithful reflections of Islam.

On a practical note, my sense is that all of this leads to one point of contact that would lend itself to a meaningful dialogue with Muslims.

Pieter Dykhorst

[email protected]

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Not of this world: I agree with Pieter on one salient point: that is that when Christianity slides into the situation of being the religion of state and culture, then we have problems, the fundamental problem of “Constantinian Christianity.” Whenever Christians seek to become the state, Christ is betrayed. He said “my Kingdom is not of this world” but again and again the institutional Church has confused this world with God’s Kingdom.

Paul del Junco

[email protected]

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Trafficking in women: The widespread exploitation of women occurs with the virtual indifference of society in general.

Many of the women (and young men) who are being exploited are purposely made addicted to narcotics and they work just for the drugs they need. Beatings, threats against their lives, torture and murder are daily experiences among these people.

This issue is one of fundamental humanity, not just the moral concepts that prostitution violates.

It behooves us to attempt some action concerning this matter. Moreover, since it is usually men who seek out the people in order to use and abuse them, men should be at the forefront of taking action against it.

Indeed, the fact that our gender is being defined anywhere in the world by doing terrible things to women should deeply offend us all and move us to action. Whether it is abusing pre-teen girls in brothels or female circumcision in Africa, it is men who are doing the deed and perpetrating the offence. This really should be a source of offence to all civilized men everywhere, and a cause for action on our part..

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

[email protected]

PS Note that we are planning a Canadian Orthodox Peace Fellowship conference for the second weekend of September. Our theme is “War and Peace in the Post-Human Era.” You need not be Canadian to take part. It will be here at the monastery in British Columbia. For more information, contact me.

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Doctrinal development: One must be careful with the notion of “the development of doctrine.” In its 19th century form, this way of thinking has been especially popular in Protestant circles. Cardinal Newman also developed a form of the idea in Catholicism.

The problem is that some things develop and others don’t. It is certainly true that some ideas developed from very primitive beginnings at or before the time of Moses down to the time of Christ. And it is also true that the Church’s thinking has come a long way from its earliest credal statements to the high theology of St. Gregory Palamas.

But not everything changed, even from the beginning. An experience of the Holy Spirit in the 15th century BC is not different from an experience of Him 36 centuries later, even though we obviously think about it in rather different ways from Midianite shepherds.

Even more to the point, the Incarnation actually reveals God, God Himself, God in His deity, eternity, and unchanging nature. That being so, there can be no further experience or revelation that would add something new or different to what has already been revealed. But lots of people with the idea of development of doctrine have in fact thought that genuinely new revelations are occurring all the time, especially under the influence of Eastern religions. It is one thing to be open to other religions and to learn what can be learned from them – it is quite another to think that what we have seen and known is somewhat inadequate and that God was not fully present in the Lord.

To get around all this, the Church has an old distinction of Law and Gospel that seems to me to be the most fruitful approach to thinking about war in the Old Testament and peace in the New Testament. The truth is that the Old Testament is not just war and genocide; the mercy of God and the sanctity of life is a teaching in it from the very beginning. Christ our Lord fulfilled the Law, which is to say, He brought it to its maturity, raised it to a higher level of intensity, and made consistent ideas and principles that were formerly contradictory.

That was true of many teachings, such as the Jubilee (economics) and divorce (family life), as well as the teaching on war, violence, peacemaking, etc.

And, incidentally, the New Testament is not all turning the other cheek. God is still fierce and uncompromising, still has eyes too pure even to behold evil. All that was true in the Old Testament is still true.

David Holden

[email protected]

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Re the Old Testament: Much, maybe all of the violence in the Law has to do with sacrifice or the purity needed for the individual or nation to draw near to God with sacrifices – including the depiction of genocide, herem. There is certainly sacramental allegory within even the most literal reading.

However, Christ has taken all these sacrifices upon himself in perfection: “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” So the literal sense of these laws ends, or is completed in Christ; that is, both the injustice and justice, the sullying and the cleansing of humanity. God is sacrificed by his own people and the world is made whole.

The Law, even in its prescriptions for things that seem violent and brutal, points to Christ as the Lord of Glory who suffers and bleeds to finally cleanse or condemn the earthen Adam of wrongly taken life-blood. He came to be judged but he is the judge: so in him we meet either greater reward or condemnation than the Law can mete out.

On a scholarly level, most historical-critical scholars consider these texts to have been written well after any period of warfare like what is seen in Joshua: and thus they are written as allegories about a form of spiritual purity from polytheism. The central theme of the Torah is worship, and we should not care if it is straight from Moses’ mouth or the mouth of the institution(s) which was “Moses.” The point and the vision of God is the same.

And there are certainly contradictions in the Law as well – Origen said these were providential stumbling blocks. One of those contradictions is that (most likely post facto) the laws about killing false prophets are contradicted by the most likely “historical” (in the modern sense) picture: true prophets being persecuted and killed. Even our Lord Jesus Christ has harsh words on this.

Fr. Elijah Mueller

[email protected]

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Our understanding evolves: I agree that there is nothing further, or higher, or truer that can be revealed to us since the Incarnation, but the way that we understand it is forever changing.

In fact, and in direct contrast to the apocalyptic “prophecies” that so many fundamentalist Christians give us, Saint Cyril has an idea that we are forever ascending to perfection, as humanity, not descending to our basest levels.

He believed that Christ would come, not to save us from our worst moment, but to meet us at our best. So, from this I think it is easy to take the view that we are understanding more and more everyday, in light of the Incarnation, not in addition to it.

For example the fact that ecological friendliness and concern is so widespread could be evidence to the fact that humanity is waking up to atrocities that were never considered before. The fact that, in general, the medieval torture devices once employed are now frowned upon is another. The tolerance of people in other walks of life, instead of the blind hatred and execution of them, can be looked at as well.

Of course it would be very easy for me to compile a list of things I could argue as evidence that we are getting worse, but that is not my point.

My point is that we have received the ultimate revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, but as members of the human race we are on a collective journey to understand it and so new ‘doctrine’, better doctrine that more properly understands Christ and what He was revealing, can develop.

David Costas

[email protected]

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Dorothy Day on DVD: At last there is an excellent documentary film about a modern saint of hospitality, Dorothy Day: “Dorothy Day: Don’t Call Me a Saint.” I’ve watched it twice now and look forward to seeing it again.

It’s a brilliant piece of work – sober, finely photographed and edited, with excellent interviews, and effective use of still photos and historical footage. I am also impressed with the music. I can’t think of anything in the film that I would wish might have been done differently. The spirit and challenge of Dorothy Day is in the film from the first to the last frame

The DVD can be ordered on the web at: dorothydaydoc.com.

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Conversations by email: Fall 2007

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson markp [at] earlham.edu or Jim Forest

Memories of Fr. David Kirk:

We appreciated Fr. John Garvey’s article about the late Fr. David Kirk that was in the summer issue. We knew him well. He was a large, burly man whose speaking voice was surprisingly gentle but firm with a soft Southern accent. His manner of speaking also betrayed his Southern roots. Contrary to our usual linear style, he spoke by circling around a topic, as if we had all the time in the world, and he spoke in stories, delightfully entertaining but craftily pointed stories. We would wonder “Where is he heading?” and suddenly be brought up short by the aptness of the comment he was making right to the point. Though his health was failing and his energy limited, Fr. David was clearly a man who loved the art of conversation, which is, after all, a

form of communion.

After his death, the staff members and friends of Fr. David told story after story, some of them poignant with grief, others filled with humor, about him.

Two consistent themes kept repeating over and over. Fr. David had an amazing ability to forgive – to forgive repeatedly, even those who stole from him, who lied about him, who betrayed him, who were ungrateful to him. He always forgave. And he had the ability to look at others and to see in them the beauty and goodness that they often could not see in themselves.

It was clear from our conversations that Fr. David loved and was deeply influenced by Dorothy Day. He deliberately bought a plot for himself close to her grave at Holy Resurrection Cemetery on Long Island. It was fitting and touching that we were able to place a wreath from his grave on Dorothy’s grave a few paces away. He recalled that during his first days at the Catholic Worker House in New York, he simply followed her around, observing everything she did closely from peeling potatoes to welcoming guests. Finally someone observed “Kirk, you don’t do any work.” He remarked to us that “I was determined to model myself upon Dorothy.”

There is a beautiful Orthodox chapel just as you come into Emmaus House. Father David’s large black cassock still hangs on a hook on the back of the door. It is a reminder that this house of hospitality was driven by a man of the cloth, and as a priestly father whose word was imbued with a spiritual dimension he attempted to empower his residents. As Albert and I spend more and more time at the house with everybody, I am aware of how fatherly he was on the earthly plane as well. Like all good fathers, he wants his “children” to do well, personally challenging and directing their potential, encouraging them to reach further than they thought they could go and making these goals possible with concrete suggestions. Today, though still without a director, they are adhering to his legacy, continuing to hold a weekly food pantry, attending classes in the city, pursuing their GEDs.

Fr. David frequently spoke about the need to recall the social justice tradition of Orthodoxy, a tradition that he observed in the ancient church fathers’ adamant concern for the poor.

Fr. David had an immense love for food. He was often present in the kitchen, wondering what was cooking, offering Southern recipes and relishing Popeye’s fried chicken [Cajun-style chicken fried in cayenne pepper batter] whenever he could get it.

Albert and Julia Raboteau

raboteau @princeton.edu

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Fr. David Kirk web site:

I’m excited to announce the online version of Father David’s archive: www.fatherdavidkirk. org. This first release represents a small portion of the content that will eventually be hosted on the site. I envision this website to be a collaborative effort from many of Father David’s friends. Please send photos, letters, etc. that would enhance the archive.

Kirk A. Barrell

kbarrell @flash.net

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Orthodox-Jewish relations:

I have been involved in Jewish-Christian Relations for over thirty years, the last twelve in and with the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania – www.muhlenberg.edu/cultural/ijcu/ – where for two years I edited an online preaching resource called Other Images.

One of the problems in Orthodox-Jewish relations is that we do not use the same lectionary as the Western churches. Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and others use a three-year lectionary. Resources such as the one I edited are not as relevant as they could be for Orthodox usage, since they are based on the cycles of the Revised Common Lectionary. The principle, however, remains solid: the commentators offered resources for preaching the texts from a Jewish perspective and with suggestions for Jewish sources, i.e. Talmudic and rabbinic writings and tales. The point of the series was not to offer alternative interpretations so much as it was to enrich preaching through the inclusion of resources from our mothering faith.

Short of such resources, let me offer some suggestions:

1. Pray to be delivered from anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, which are two different prejudicial patterns, which overlap but can work in a person’s heart separately. Repent of the failures of understanding in your own life and resolve, with God’s help, to move forward into a new day of interfaith understanding and peace.

2. Hook up with a center that works in Jewish-Christian relations, should you be fortunate enough to live in such an area; short of that,

3. Forge a working relationship with a local synagogue and rabbi. Most rabbis offer Torah study as a regular part of their ministry in their congregations. It can be very useful to spend some time in such a group to discover how Jews hear scripture.

4. Discover some of the many written resources on the market to enable Christians to locate Jesus Christ in his historical setting as a Jew. The writings of Geza Vermes and James Sanders do this well, from a Jewish and a Christian perspective.

5. Understand that Christianity is always tied to Judaism and begin to think from that perspective. The “New Testament” is based on the “Old Testament.” Much of the New Testament is puzzling if you don’t understand the Old Testament background, beginning with the concepts of sacrifice that surround and inform the figure of Christ.

6. Connect with one of the main online resources in Jewish-Christian relationships, for example http://www.jcrelations.net/en/.

Fr. Gabriel Rochelle

gabrielcroch @aol.com

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Amnesty and abortion:

Despite pleas from many supporters, Amnesty International has now adopted a new policy which ignores human rights documents it has historically advocated for. The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child states that every child “needs special safeguards and care, including legal protection, before as well as after birth.” AI has stated that abortion should be decriminalized and the governments should see that there is access to it in particular cases. While it maintains its previous stand against blatantly forced abortions, the pressures that coerce and abandon women to abortion have been ignored. AI decision-makers appear unaware that women who have had abortions make up one of the largest constituency groups of the anti-abortion movement.

The AI International Executive Committee took this action despite indications that substantial numbers of members disapproved. Internal polling in AI’s U.K. chapter showed a plurality against it. The results of an on-line vote of members in the United States last Fall have yet to be announced. A member who tried to leaflet other members on this issue at the U.S. national conference on March 24 was barred, and when she asked if she was being censored, she was told yes. For more details and documentation, see www.consistent-life.org/ai.html.

Rachel MacNair

[email protected]

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We’ve got a date!

A date has been set for the kidney transplant operation: October 31st. Nancy is the donor, I’m the recipient. We don’t yet know how many days we’re going to be in the hospital, but we’ll at least be able to start making definite plans for help here at home. By the way, November 2 is my 66th birthday – and our 25th anniversary. We’ll be celebrating in the hospital! Please keep us in your prayers.

Our daughter Cait has helped us set up a blog re the transplant:

http://ataleof2kidneys.blogspot.com.

Jim Forest

jhforest @gmail.com

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A compromised hierarchy?

In Exploring the Inner Universe, the Romanian Orthodox priest, Fr. Roman Braga, says that when they were in prison they would pray that the hierarchy would “do something” to keep the churches open. While he has referred to the hierarchs as “weak,” he didn’t condemn them. As he wrote:

“When we were in prison we used to pray for the hierarchy, hoping that they would do something to keep the churches open. I do not know the difference between the hierarchs under the Communist regime and St. Genadius the Scholar, who, when Constantinople was conquered by Mohammed II, signed the great compromise not to ring the bells, not to have processions on the streets with holy relics, not to have services outside the church building – and he is a saint in our calendar. Our hierarchy, though, who managed to keep all the churches open during the Communist occupations are blamed and condemned. What is the difference between one situation and the other? I strongly believe that if the Sacramental life of the Church was guaranteed by the hierarchy during the Communist regime it was the Spirit of God which worked through them. What is more important than to save this Sacramental life, which is in fact the salvation of the people?”

About the Church confessing faults under Communism: I think we have no ground to judge what that was like. What Fr. Roman said is accurate: in other ages, people were called saints who found a way to live and keep the Church alive under oppression. It’s not our place to judge, decades later, from our comfortable armchairs. We have no idea what they suffered. It’s a place for us to be humble. I’m sure there were tragic injustices, but it’s really not our place to judge. We could never gather adequate information, if nothing else.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

frederica @aol.com

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Betrayal:

 

Does a priest’s betrayal of others invalidate the sacraments? I have had some experience with this question, in that our former priest did betray people close to me, and it led to our family’s leaving his parish – in part because of the prospect of accepting communion at the hands of a “non-priest” as we have come to see him.

I know this may not be good theology, but there is something very problematic about a person who is too flawed and is continuing to administer holy rites, isn’t there? Would a priest who abused your son be a person from whose spoon you would comfortably take wine and bread? Forgiveness is another issue; I accept that forgiveness of that man is a duty and pray for the grace to do that. But we are talking about a special relationship when we talk of the church’s mysteries.

Having said that, I suppose I do not believe that the sacrament is itself invalidated, because it is a gift from God, who can use any instrument He chooses; but still….

Alex Patico

alexanderpatico @aol.com

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The hand of God:

I’ve spoken to Fr. Roman several times through the years. I suspect he would see the hand of God in everything. I vividly recall his thanking God for the Communists who imprisoned him, as that imprisonment formed him a monk.

I’m not sure of my personal reaction to a priestly betrayal, although I know all priests are sinners. I rather think that just as one would leave an abusive father, one should also leave an abusive priest, yet that doesn’t make him less of a father in the process. Just as parental rights can be terminated, so too can canonical “rights” (using the term loosely) be terminated, resulting in the recognition legally that the paternal relationship no longer exists.

Marty Watt

marty @wattfamily.org

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Purity of faith:

I wonder if there are different meanings of the word “sacrament” in this exchange. I take Father Roman to refer to the fact that the churches were kept open and thus access to the sacraments continued when he speaks of saving the sacramental life. Betrayal of individuals is of course a serious issue, but the fact that a priest or hierarch betrayed any number of people would not of itself invalidate the sacraments in any sense, would it? I suppose an analogy (and forgive me for this) might be the way in which members of armed forces salute the rank, not the individual.

A priest or hierarch in good standing remains a priest or hierarch, no matter how wicked or venal we may believe him to be…

The purity of faith is God’s gift, I think, and precious little to do with our efforts.

Alasdair Cross

alasdairx @mac.com

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Valid sacraments:

I think maybe two things are being mixed up in this conversation. Obviously an abusive or otherwise immoral priest ought to be deposed or removed from the parish, or at least disciplined in some appropriate way, and the Church is clear about this in its canons. But the question of “validity of the sacraments” – to use a very Western phrase – is different. Suppose your priest, unknown to you and your fellow-parishioners, has secretly been a gross sinner for 20 years – say, abusing children. (Not unheard of, as we know.) Does that mean that for 20 years you haven’t actually been receiving the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ at the chalice? God forbid. Of course you’ve truly been receiving the Eucharist, otherwise your whole life in Christ would be damaged, unknown to you and for reasons you knew nothing about.

John Brady

hamartolos @gmail.com

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Not passing judgment:

It’s just not possible for us, remote from the people and pressures and events during the Communist persecutions of Christians (among others!) in the last century even to have any opinion about the actions of churchmen and lay believers alike – let alone pass moral judgment on them.

For myself as an old celibate monk, I think it would be relatively easy for me to take torture and death (which is coming soon for me, anyway) rather than to collaborate with the enemies of Christ or compromise the Church.

But if I were a 35-year-old married priest with a wife and family, and the commissars said that I’d have to cooperate with them or they’d torture my kids and prostitute them and my wife – or worse – I can’t say for sure what I’d do. I just don’t know.

I can make choices only for myself at the same time as I’m obliged to protect people who depend on me, and that remains just as true in both theoretical scenarios. I might choose a martyr’s suffering and death for myself, but I have no authority to co-opt anyone else’s choice either way.

If the Lord gives me strength to remain faithful to him as a monk and a Christian, and if my example then inspires my spiritual children, friends, and acquaintances to follow me to martyrdom – well, wonderful! And glory to God!

And if as a married man (priest or not) my wife and children were to do the same – well, wonderful! And glory to God! But that would be up to them.

Monk James Silver

frjsilver @optonline.net

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Dr. John Boojamra:

I notice that Dr. John Boojamra was a founding member of OPF. I have been doing extensive research on education within the Orthodox Church, and have been thick in his book Foundations for Christian Education for probably two years now. I have been frustrated by the lack of biographical information available on him that would help me understand him more as a person as well as a scholar and laborer of the Lord. Does anyone know of a biography or other resource that could help with this?

Today, I printed a short bio written by Bishop Basil upon Dr. John’s departing, as well as Jim Forest’s text on the history and mission of OPF, which I see contains some references. I’m looking for something with dates listed for significant transitions in his life and work, the wheres and whens. Thank you for any help!

Seraphima Sierra Butler

St. Athanasius Church

Santa Barbara, CA

sbutler @westmont.edu

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A good man:

I had classes with him at St. Vladimir’s He was a good man and very principled. Some of his ideas about education in church were a little impractical (like that we could preach with blackboards). But I remember him having a strong sense of economic justice and a strong concern for kids’ psychology (e.g., he had grave reservations about bringing gay issues into the psycho-sexual confusion of the high school he worked in as science teacher). He was deeply wounded by his wife’s premature death. I ran into him when he was traveling for some talk or something when we were living in San Francisco Bay area, and found him searching for a church kid he knew from out East who was in some sort of trouble. A good man!

Fr. Elijah Mueller

elijahnmueller @sbcglobal. net

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A new OPF treasurer:

We have a new treasurer for OPF-North America, Amber Raggie. Many thanks to Elizabeth Tutella, who has been our treasurer for the past three years.

Amber is a member of All Saints Orthodox Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her career has included archaeology, museum management, web site design, nonprofit administration, and web analytics. She joined the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in 1998 and is thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute her time and bookkeeping talents to the organization.

OPF’s new address is North America:

Orthodox Peace Fellowship-North America

PO Box 6009

Raleigh, NC 27628-6009

Sheri San Chirico

sherihopesc @yahoo.com

__________________________________________________________________________________

OPF group on Flickr:

A web site for OPF-related photos now exists: www.flickr. com/groups/opf/. Suggestions, photos, comments are all welcome.

Peter Brubacher

phool4xc @gmail.com

From the Fall 2007 issue of In Communion / IC 47

Conversations by email: Fall 2007

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson markp [at] earlham.edu or Jim Forest Memories of Fr. David Kirk:

We appreciated Fr. John Garvey’s article about the late Fr. David Kirk that was in the summer issue. We knew him well. He was a large, burly man whose speaking voice was surprisingly gentle but firm with a soft Southern accent. His manner of speaking also betrayed his Southern roots. Contrary to our usual linear style, he spoke by circling around a topic, as if we had all the time in the world, and he spoke in stories, delightfully entertaining but craftily pointed stories. We would wonder “Where is he heading?” and suddenly be brought up short by the aptness of the comment he was making right to the point. Though his health was failing and his energy limited, Fr. David was clearly a man who loved the art of conversation, which is, after all, a form of communion.

After his death, the staff members and friends of Fr. David told story after story, some of them poignant with grief, others filled with humor, about him.

Two consistent themes kept repeating over and over. Fr. David had an amazing ability to forgive – to forgive repeatedly, even those who stole from him, who lied about him, who betrayed him, who were ungrateful to him. He always forgave. And he had the ability to look at others and to see in them the beauty and goodness that they often could not see in themselves.

It was clear from our conversations that Fr. David loved and was deeply influenced by Dorothy Day. He deliberately bought a plot for himself close to her grave at Holy Resurrection Cemetery on Long Island. It was fitting and touching that we were able to place a wreath from his grave on Dorothy’s grave a few paces away. He recalled that during his first days at the Catholic Worker House in New York, he simply followed her around, observing everything she did closely from peeling potatoes to welcoming guests. Finally someone observed “Kirk, you don’t do any work.” He remarked to us that “I was determined to model myself upon Dorothy.”

There is a beautiful Orthodox chapel just as you come into Emmaus House. Father David’s large black cassock still hangs on a hook on the back of the door. It is a reminder that this house of hospitality was driven by a man of the cloth, and as a priestly father whose word was imbued with a spiritual dimension he attempted to empower his residents. As Albert and I spend more and more time at the house with everybody, I am aware of how fatherly he was on the earthly plane as well. Like all good fathers, he wants his “children” to do well, personally challenging and directing their potential, encouraging them to reach further than they thought they could go and making these goals possible with concrete suggestions. Today, though still without a director, they are adhering to his legacy, continuing to hold a weekly food pantry, attending classes in the city, pursuing their GEDs.

Fr. David frequently spoke about the need to recall the social justice tradition of Orthodoxy, a tradition that he observed in the ancient church fathers’ adamant concern for the poor.

Fr. David had an immense love for food. He was often present in the kitchen, wondering what was cooking, offering Southern recipes and relishing Popeye’s fried chicken [Cajun-style chicken fried in cayenne pepper batter] whenever he could get it.

Albert and Julia Raboteau

Fr. David Kirk web site: I’m excited to announce the online version of Father David’s archive: www.fatherdavidkirk. org. This first release represents a small portion of the content that will eventually be hosted on the site. I envision this website to be a collaborative effort from many of Father David’s friends. Please send photos, letters, etc. that would enhance the archive.

Kirk A. Barrell

Orthodox-Jewish relations: I have been involved in Jewish-Christian Relations for over thirty years, the last twelve in and with the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania – www.muhlenberg.edu/cultural/ijcu/ – where for two years I edited an online preaching resource called Other Images.

One of the problems in Orthodox-Jewish relations is that we do not use the same lectionary as the Western churches. Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and others use a three-year lectionary. Resources such as the one I edited are not as relevant as they could be for Orthodox usage, since they are based on the cycles of the Revised Common Lectionary. The principle, however, remains solid: the commentators offered resources for preaching the texts from a Jewish perspective and with suggestions for Jewish sources, i.e. Talmudic and rabbinic writings and tales. The point of the series was not to offer alternative interpretations so much as it was to enrich preaching through the inclusion of resources from our mothering faith.

Short of such resources, let me offer some suggestions:

1. Pray to be delivered from anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, which are two different prejudicial patterns, which overlap but can work in a person’s heart separately. Repent of the failures of understanding in your own life and resolve, with God’s help, to move forward into a new day of interfaith understanding and peace.

2. Hook up with a center that works in Jewish-Christian relations, should you be fortunate enough to live in such an area; short of that,

3. Forge a working relationship with a local synagogue and rabbi. Most rabbis offer Torah study as a regular part of their ministry in their congregations. It can be very useful to spend some time in such a group to discover how Jews hear scripture.

4. Discover some of the many written resources on the market to enable Christians to locate Jesus Christ in his historical setting as a Jew. The writings of Geza Vermes and James Sanders do this well, from a Jewish and a Christian perspective.

5. Understand that Christianity is always tied to Judaism and begin to think from that perspective. The “New Testament” is based on the “Old Testament.” Much of the New Testament is puzzling if you don’t understand the Old Testament background, beginning with the concepts of sacrifice that surround and inform the figure of Christ.

6. Connect with one of the main online resources in Jewish-Christian relationships, for example http://www.jcrelations.net/en/.

Fr. Gabriel Rochelle

Amnesty and abortion: Despite pleas from many supporters, Amnesty International has now adopted a new policy which ignores human rights documents it has historically advocated for. The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child states that every child “needs special safeguards and care, including legal protection, before as well as after birth.” AI has stated that abortion should be decriminalized and the governments should see that there is access to it in particular cases. While it maintains its previous stand against blatantly forced abortions, the pressures that coerce and abandon women to abortion have been ignored. AI decision-makers appear unaware that women who have had abortions make up one of the largest constituency groups of the anti-abortion movement.

The AI International Executive Committee took this action despite indications that substantial numbers of members disapproved. Internal polling in AI’s U.K. chapter showed a plurality against it. The results of an on-line vote of members in the United States last Fall have yet to be announced. A member who tried to leaflet other members on this issue at the U.S. national conference on March 24 was barred, and when she asked if she was being censored, she was told yes. For more details and documentation, see www.consistent-life.org/ai.html.

Rachel MacNair

We’ve got a date! A date has been set for the kidney transplant operation: October 31st. Nancy is the donor, I’m the recipient. We don’t yet know how many days we’re going to be in the hospital, but we’ll at least be able to start making definite plans for help here at home. By the way, November 2 is my 66th birthday – and our 25th anniversary. We’ll be celebrating in the hospital! Please keep us in your prayers.

Our daughter Cait has helped us set up a blog re the transplant:

http://ataleof2kidneys.blogspot.com.

Jim Forest

A compromised hierarchy? In Exploring the Inner Universe, the Romanian Orthodox priest, Fr. Roman Braga, says that when they were in prison they would pray that the hierarchy would “do something” to keep the churches open. While he has referred to the hierarchs as “weak,” he didn’t condemn them. As he wrote:

“When we were in prison we used to pray for the hierarchy, hoping that they would do something to keep the churches open. I do not know the difference between the hierarchs under the Communist regime and St. Genadius the Scholar, who, when Constantinople was conquered by Mohammed II, signed the great compromise not to ring the bells, not to have processions on the streets with holy relics, not to have services outside the church building – and he is a saint in our calendar. Our hierarchy, though, who managed to keep all the churches open during the Communist occupations are blamed and condemned. What is the difference between one situation and the other? I strongly believe that if the Sacramental life of the Church was guaranteed by the hierarchy during the Communist regime it was the Spirit of God which worked through them. What is more important than to save this Sacramental life, which is in fact the salvation of the people?”

About the Church confessing faults under Communism: I think we have no ground to judge what that was like. What Fr. Roman said is accurate: in other ages, people were called saints who found a way to live and keep the Church alive under oppression. It’s not our place to judge, decades later, from our comfortable armchairs. We have no idea what they suffered. It’s a place for us to be humble. I’m sure there were tragic injustices, but it’s really not our place to judge. We could never gather adequate information, if nothing else.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

Betrayal: Does a priest’s betrayal of others invalidate the sacraments? I have had some experience with this question, in that our former priest did betray people close to me, and it led to our family’s leaving his parish – in part because of the prospect of accepting communion at the hands of a “non-priest” as we have come to see him.

I know this may not be good theology, but there is something very problematic about a person who is too flawed and is continuing to administer holy rites, isn’t there? Would a priest who abused your son be a person from whose spoon you would comfortably take wine and bread? Forgiveness is another issue; I accept that forgiveness of that man is a duty and pray for the grace to do that. But we are talking about a special relationship when we talk of the church’s mysteries.

Having said that, I suppose I do not believe that the sacrament is itself invalidated, because it is a gift from God, who can use any instrument He chooses; but still….

Alex Patico

The hand of God: I’ve spoken to Fr. Roman several times through the years. I suspect he would see the hand of God in everything. I vividly recall his thanking God for the Communists who imprisoned him, as that imprisonment formed him a monk.

I’m not sure of my personal reaction to a priestly betrayal, although I know all priests are sinners. I rather think that just as one would leave an abusive father, one should also leave an abusive priest, yet that doesn’t make him less of a father in the process. Just as parental rights can be terminated, so too can canonical “rights” (using the term loosely) be terminated, resulting in the recognition legally that the paternal relationship no longer exists.

Marty Watt

Purity of faith: I wonder if there are different meanings of the word “sacrament” in this exchange. I take Father Roman to refer to the fact that the churches were kept open and thus access to the sacraments continued when he speaks of saving the sacramental life. Betrayal of individuals is of course a serious issue, but the fact that a priest or hierarch betrayed any number of people would not of itself invalidate the sacraments in any sense, would it? I suppose an analogy (and forgive me for this) might be the way in which members of armed forces salute the rank, not the individual.

A priest or hierarch in good standing remains a priest or hierarch, no matter how wicked or venal we may believe him to be…

The purity of faith is God’s gift, I think, and precious little to do with our efforts.

Alasdair Cross

Valid sacraments: I think maybe two things are being mixed up in this conversation. Obviously an abusive or otherwise immoral priest ought to be deposed or removed from the parish, or at least disciplined in some appropriate way, and the Church is clear about this in its canons. But the question of “validity of the sacraments” – to use a very Western phrase – is different. Suppose your priest, unknown to you and your fellow-parishioners, has secretly been a gross sinner for 20 years – say, abusing children. (Not unheard of, as we know.) Does that mean that for 20 years you haven’t actually been receiving the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ at the chalice? God forbid. Of course you’ve truly been receiving the Eucharist, otherwise your whole life in Christ would be damaged, unknown to you and for reasons you knew nothing about.

John Brady

Not passing judgment: It’s just not possible for us, remote from the people and pressures and events during the Communist persecutions of Christians (among others!) in the last century even to have any opinion about the actions of churchmen and lay believers alike – let alone pass moral judgment on them.

For myself as an old celibate monk, I think it would be relatively easy for me to take torture and death (which is coming soon for me, anyway) rather than to collaborate with the enemies of Christ or compromise the Church.

But if I were a 35-year-old married priest with a wife and family, and the commissars said that I’d have to cooperate with them or they’d torture my kids and prostitute them and my wife – or worse – I can’t say for sure what I’d do. I just don’t know.

I can make choices only for myself at the same time as I’m obliged to protect people who depend on me, and that remains just as true in both theoretical scenarios. I might choose a martyr’s suffering and death for myself, but I have no authority to co-opt anyone else’s choice either way.

If the Lord gives me strength to remain faithful to him as a monk and a Christian, and if my example then inspires my spiritual children, friends, and acquaintances to follow me to martyrdom – well, wonderful! And glory to God!

And if as a married man (priest or not) my wife and children were to do the same – well, wonderful! And glory to God! But that would be up to them.

Monk James Silver

Dr. John Boojamra: I notice that Dr. John Boojamra was a founding member of OPF. I have been doing extensive research on education within the Orthodox Church, and have been thick in his book Foundations for Christian Education for probably two years now. I have been frustrated by the lack of biographical information available on him that would help me understand him more as a person as well as a scholar and laborer of the Lord. Does anyone know of a biography or other resource that could help with this?

Today, I printed a short bio written by Bishop Basil upon Dr. John’s departing, as well as Jim Forest’s text on the history and mission of OPF, which I see contains some references. I’m looking for something with dates listed for significant transitions in his life and work, the wheres and whens. Thank you for any help!

Seraphima Sierra Butler

St. Athanasius Church

Santa Barbara, CA

A good man: I had classes with him at St. Vladimir’s He was a good man and very principled. Some of his ideas about education in church were a little impractical (like that we could preach with blackboards). But I remember him having a strong sense of economic justice and a strong concern for kids’ psychology (e.g., he had grave reservations about bringing gay issues into the psycho-sexual confusion of the high school he worked in as science teacher). He was deeply wounded by his wife’s premature death. I ran into him when he was traveling for some talk or something when we were living in San Francisco Bay area, and found him searching for a church kid he knew from out East who was in some sort of trouble. A good man!

Fr. Elijah Mueller

A new OPF treasurer: We have a new treasurer for OPF-North America, Amber Raggie. Many thanks to Elizabeth Tutella, who has been our treasurer for the past three years.

Amber is a member of All Saints Orthodox Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her career has included archaeology, museum management, web site design, nonprofit administration, and web analytics. She joined the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in 1998 and is thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute her time and bookkeeping talents to the organization.

Sheri San Chirico

OPF group on Flickr: A web site for OPF-related photos now exists: www.flickr. com/groups/opf/. Suggestions, photos, comments are all welcome.

Peter Brubacher

From the Fall 2007 issue of In Communion / IC 47

Conversations by e-mail: Summer 2007

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson or Jim

Voluntary poverty:I have been thinking about of a friend in college. After finishing law school, he went to work in Georgia. He deliberately kept his income at such a level that it was less than the federal government would impose income tax. He often served his poorer clients for a dollar an hour.

His was, I think, a special calling, not the pattern for the average person. My point, however, is that some people are indeed called to lives of voluntary poverty. Several OPF members have that calling and follow it, but all of us are called to lives of voluntary simplicity. We may not be able to avoid paying taxes altogether, but we could greatly reduce them.

David Holden

[email protected]

Orthodox Christians and Jews: I’m writing about the discussion of Orthodox Christian-Jewish relations that appeared in the spring issue of In Communion. This past autumn I wrote the unit on Orthodox-Jewish relations for the Cambridge Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations M.St. program. I’ve also written on the subject for the Finnish Orthodox journal, Logos.

There have been three international Orthodox-Jewish dialogues, and an extensive bibliography prepared for the volume in which the papers from the third dialogue were published. Let me highlight three works in English: George Papademetriou’s collection Essays on Orthodox-Jewish Relations (Wyndham Hall Press, 1990), and Fr. Lev Gillet’s Communion in the Messiah (Lutterworth Press, 1942). The latter is an astounding book, with insights and suggestions not yet taken up in the Orthodox world (for example, that Christians use the “Jewish Fathers” to help them interpret the Old Testament). Finally there is Fr. Sergei Hackel’s article, “The Relevance of Western Post-Holocaust Theology to the Thought and Practice of the Russian Orthodox Church,” which is available on the OPF web site and also in the book edited by Natalia Pecherskaya, Theology after Auschwitz and Its Correlation with the Theology after the Gulag (St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy).

Regarding liturgical texts: there have been calls since the 1950s for changing the anti-Jewish texts in the Good Friday services. Although one has to acknowledge those bishops who stood in the breach during the pogroms and during World War II, one also has to admit that in the history of the church it was not only the laity who worked themselves up into an anti-Jewish frenzy. As long as the anti-Jewish texts remain, there will be an excuse for anti-Semitism to remain in the church.

It’s an excellent question David Holden asks: why did the church ultimately not accept St. Paul’s position in his letter to the Romans? I think an answer lies in the dynamics of Christian self-definition over against Judaism in the first centuries of the church’s history.

But does this dynamic imply that we today must also reject St. Paul on this issue? Sooner or later, Orthodox discussion of Orthodox-Jewish relations must come around to the question of Tradition. Ultimately, any Orthodox Christian theology of the Christian-Jewish encounter will have to resolve constructively the question of what the content of Tradition is (or, alternatively, how the church is to interpret Tradition) in the face of the Shoah.

Given our ecclesiology, it’s not likely that we’ll see an Orthodox document like the Catholic Nostra Aetate. But this situation shouldn’t prevent us from addressing this issue constructively, theologically, and actively now.

Grant White

[email protected]

Letter from a new member:I found your site by following a link in an article on the Orthodox Christian Network, “A Plea for Peace from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America.” I am also horrified by the actions of our leaders in allowing us to become entangled in this war. I am not a political person, per se, but even I could see that it would turn out much as it has when they began casting the idea of invading Iraq around.

I am continually amazed at our, and our government’s ability to justify our own bad behavior, while condemning others in the most sanctimonious tones for doing the same thing.

Jenny Swanson

Rethinking old age: One of the major changes that seems to have occurred in the culture of most, if not all, of the wealthier countries is the creation of old age homes. Not so many years ago a grandparent could expect to end his or her days in the home of a son or daughter or other relative. Not any more.

It’s a topic Nancy and I have been thinking about as we prepare for Nancy’s mother to move in with us the week after next. We have gotten a number of letters congratulating us for doing this – “how brave you are,” said one friend – something that was once as normal an action as raising children.

The preparations for Lorraine’s arrival are coming along. We’ve just had a new floor laid in the room that will soon be Lorraine’s and used to be our office, while what was the guest room upstairs will now be an office as well. We await the delivery of furniture. Meanwhile everything that was in the office is in boxes piled up in the living room, which right now looks like the warehouse in last scene of Citizen Kane.

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Enmity an impediment to communion: It was St. John Chrysostom’s teaching that one should not receive communion while in a state of enmity: “Let no one who hath an enemy draw near the sacred Table, or receive the Lord’s Body! Let no one who draws near have an enemy!”

Chrysostom himself had plenty of enemies and knew it, so I am not sure how he understood this statement.

In fact I wonder if it is possible to live with people and not make enemies? I wonder if the impossibility of living at complete peace with others is what drove many believers into monasteries, and many monks into hermitages? As long as we are alive, we face the grim reality that in the fallen world we will have enemies. Christ had enemies, and some were intentional inasmuch as he opposed and confronted hypocrisy and evil. Christ annoyed and aggravated others to the point they saw need to kill him. If we imitate Christ, can we expect less?

If we followed St. John’s teaching rigorously, there might not be even one priest able to serve the Liturgy, and no one to receive communion. That certainly would show we take the Gospel seriously, but it might also show that the teaching is impossible to fulfill.

I know through confession of people who claim not to have any enemies and no grudges and are at peace with everyone, but I also know through confessions that there are others who don’t feel so at peace with them. Perhaps “the faults I cannot see” helps to realize “ignorance is bliss.”

The effort to follow Christ is not an easy path, but as Savvas Agourides wrote, “The road to God always leads through one’s neighbor.”

Enmity and the chalice: think what St. John Chrysostom meant is fairly obvious and would not have prevented him, despite his having enemies, from partaking of the Lord’s Supper. I remember a priest who, during the Liturgy, always added this petition: “For those whom we have made into enemies and for those who have made us into enemies, let us pray to the Lord.” When St. John says let no one draw near who has an enemy, I believe he means: “Let no one draw near who has made anyone into an enemy.” If someone has made us into an enemy (even if we have sought to be reconciled), then it’s their problem, at least from a moral point of view. Existentially we may suffer, and suffer a lot, but it doesn’t separate us from Christ.

Perhaps the willingness to suffer, which can only genuinely be for the sake of love, is what prevents us from what we tend to prefer, that is making others suffer for wrong. We make others into enemies, often for the very “best” of reasons, with the most moral outrage. The others can be “them” or it can be “us,” our own outrage at our persistent moral failures.

Paul del Junco

[email protected]

OPF’s Portland conference: The conference was wonderful! I am so glad I went. It was a blessing to spend time with these fire-bearers, or perhaps I should call them burning bushes. What an encouragement and a comfort to meet these brothers and sisters!

It was also an ideal setting. The rain forest surrounding us was beautiful beyond belief, a setting worthy of Tolkien’s ents, and I suspect there was some “hrooming” outside our meetings.

But what most astonished me were the people. They spoke directly to my heart. I feel I was just where God knew I would most love to be.

Fr. Paul Schroeder opened Friday evening with a presentation, “Holy Simplicity: St. Basil the Great and the Ethic of Sustainability,” that I found timely and good. He is sending his manuscript, a translation of St. Basil’s work, to St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press in June, and I can hardly wait for it to be published.

In our world, where less than ten percent of the people hold more than ninety percent of the wealth, surely we must see the wisdom of moving toward holy simplicity so that our daily lives may be integrated into our prayers that the earth will sustain us all.

Fr. Paul spoke of consuming what is produced locally and seasonally so that what we buy isn’t mostly fuel, freight, and warehousing. He spoke of working to live lightly on the earth. While there is much to be done, we can all make a beginning and grow with the concept as we discover what is possible for us. I found his ideas motivating.

The concept of “enough,” of living in voluntary simplicity, was developed by David Holden, who highlighted wisdom from the books of Proverbs, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus advocating this way of life. To this, he added an excellent list of quotations and suggested readings toward practical applications – managing money, doing volunteer work, recycling, defining values, and more.

The following morning, Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, Jill Wallerstedt, and Jennifer Ferraez presented the work of St. Brigid Fellowship, a ministry of St. Athanasius Orthodox Church to the needy in Isla Vista.

This turned out to be a helpful model worth its weight in gold. My reading group in Anchorage, Alaska had discussed beginning just such a ministry, and I look forward to sharing how the Isla Vista parish has developed a ministry to the homeless and how it has blessed them!

A slide show gave shape to their words, and a handout provides practical guidance. I also found that Jennifer would be willing to visit our church for a month and help us get started if we decide to embark upon such a ministry.

Rene Zitzloff spoke in the afternoon about beginning local chapters of OPF and community development. What she had to say acknowledged the difficulty of speaking about peacemaking in a time of war.

Our group discussion reflected the similar experiences of all – sorrow for the wartime experiences so many young people encounter, and must then live with as memories; love for them because they have chosen to sacrifice themselves for family, friends, country; sorrow because so little about the early Church’s position on war has been discussed and taught in our parishes.

Many Orthodox Christians have explored basic Christian ideas on abortion and euthanasia, but few have turned to the Church Fathers or plumbed the depths of the Beatitudes for wisdom regarding capital punishment and war.

What we do need is the company and encouragement of each other while we explore the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of life.

We find ourselves living in a time when the need to embrace this sacredness is urgent, and yet we stand mute as our brothers and sisters go off to war. We are all guilty, we are all wounded, and we feel compelled to seek healing.

Some chapters may find themselves in a position to carry out specific good works, and that is very good. But it is also good that the Fellowship continue and expand simply to teach, console, encourage, and strengthen its members and those who are drawn to explore and learn with us.

Rene was concerned about our Fellowship’s being “all talk and no action” because we don’t seem to have any specific projects that we can claim when people ask what we do.

The answer, though, is that Mother Church has her many projects; and members of the Fellowship should readily join them. We do not need a separate group, or “parachurch organization,” for good works.

Fr. Paul and his wife Elizabeth decided to start a reading group using Jim Forest’s book Ladder of the Beatitudes. Fr. Jon-Steven also intends to begin a reading group using the same text in Isla Vista.

We are looking forward to reading the essay Jim delivered in Volos, Greece with wisdom from the Church Fathers.

We look forward to meeting again next year to discuss how this works toward shedding light on God’s messages of peacemaking and the sacredness of life.

Sally Eckert

[email protected]

Amnesty and abortion:I have long admired the work of Amnesty International. In recent years, however, AI reports have swung ever further to the political left. Its recent support for “abortion rights” does not come as a surprise.

We need an organization like Amnesty International to keep watch over the serious moral and social concerns attendant on international politics. It brings no joy to see this organization fall from grace. One hopes it will in due course be replaced.

There was nothing in the original intent of Amnesty International that required a leftist agenda. Why such groups eventually go to the Left is a mystery to me. A passion for the “inalienable rights of the human person” strikes me as anything but leftist.

Fr. Pat Reardon

[email protected]

A leftish agenda: In my old Quaker days I saw the transformation of the American Friends Service Committee into a left-wing “movement” organization that often didn’t welcome actual Quakers on its staff because too often they failed to meet various standards of political/social correctness.

At the time it seemed to me that one big factor is the existence of a body of “movement professionals” – people who have made careers in the social-activism world. They all seem to know one another, move from one organization to another, network with one another.

The result is a closed group that protects its own interests and minimizes its accountability to the groups that founded and fund the various agencies.

I remember long ago a speech by an Amnesty worker who said that he knew AI was on the right track when it was being accused simultaneously of being a Communist front and a CIA front. It seems that such detachment from ideological affiliation has now been lost. What a pity.

In my opinion, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship has so far been protected from this fate by staying accountable to the Church through its advisory board and through SCOBA. I hope that if ever we start to get off course, someone in one of these bodies will call us to account.

John Brady

[email protected]

Letter to Amnesty:Here is a letter I’ve just sent to Amnesty International:

I am an admirer of your work, and would like to support you monetarily. However, recently I learned that you have changed from being neutral on abortion to the position that “women must have access to safe and legal abortion services where continuation of pregnancy poses a risk to their life or grave risk to their health.”

I can understand some of the reasoning for this decision because of the painful dilemma of women who find themselves pregnant with the child of a rapist.

It also horrifies me to learn that in some countries women are denied abortion aftermath medical care, or are sentenced to death for having an abortion. A woman who has an abortion, whether legal or illegal, should be offered love, help and support, not judgment.

Nevertheless, it is hard for me accept that an unborn child should be put to death for the crime of its father (or mother).

My fear is that we are a world that too often seems to believe that salvation and freedom are ultimately found in the bloodshed of war, genocide, capital punishment and abortion. I am not convinced that these acts of violence cleanse the world or make it a better place.

My hope is that rather than working to make abortion legal, Amnesty International will focus its time, money and effort working against unjust laws and practices that condemn women while allowing men that rape, abuse, or kill to go free. There is often a double standard in the world, and wherever injustice exists it should not be condoned or ignored, but actively addressed. This is something I can and do support.

Rene Zitzloff

[email protected]

Amnesty hijacked: I have notified Amnesty International that I will not be renewing my membership this fall. I’ve been a member of the organization since 1980. I have worked with Amnesty since I was in college.

Unfortunately AI, and a number of other organizations involved in peace and justice work, have become increasingly hostile to those who disagree with them on what they view as important issues.

I’ve felt increasingly unwelcome in Amnesty local groups here on the US west coast, where other members view those who disagree with them on other political or moral issues as at best “insufficiently committed” and, at worst, as not really supporting human rights at all.

Had I had the power or been a member of a majority that had the power to proclaim abortion as itself a violation of the right to life, I would not have used it to do so. I am vehemently pro-life, but I don’t believe that Amnesty ever belonged in that debate because there were too many decent people who disagreed on that issue. In the past, AI had the sense to stay neutral and allow people with differing views to work together.

Now I feel that “my Amnesty” has been hijacked. But there is nothing I can do about it but say so, and leave, at this point.

Catherine Jefferson

Rejected dialogue:On the Consistent Life web site, there is a fascinating report from Rachel MacNair about her attempts to engage Amnesty in dialogue about abortion. The URL: www.consistent-life. org.

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Fr. Georgi Chistyakov: We have received the news of the death of OPF member Father Georgi Chistyakov, chaplain of the Moscow Children’s Hospital. He was a biblical scholar teaching at the Alexander Menn Orthodox University and also director of the religion section at the Russian State Library for Foreign Literature, where he organized inter-religious conferences.

Fr. Georgi Chistyakov

He was educated as a scholar in ancient history and philology, and lectured at Moscow universities. Raised in the Orthodox Church, he became a priest in 1993.

He once said in a radio interview: “I’m not in favor of early ordinations. I think all of us will agree that it is not quite right when a person who has no life experience suddenly becomes a priest. How can I teach others what I haven’t yet learned myself? I think that at 22 one can become a scholar or a famous pianist, but that wisdom, that experience of pain, and that experience of some grief that one has already endured, which are all essential for a priest, are very hard to accumulate at this age.”

At his church in central Moscow, Saints Kosmas and Damian, long lines of parishioners often stretched through the building to have their confessions heard by Fr. Georgi, who could be seen comforting people as they told him their troubles and confessed their sins.

It was a blessing to know him. Eternal memory!

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Note:If you search “Chistyakov” on the OPF web site, you will find an essay by Fr. Georgi on “Spiritual Combat Against War” that was published in our Pascha issue of In Communion in 1997.

OPF and young people:Probably the best way to quantify the Orthodox Peace Fellowship’s impact on the Orthodox Church is by the number young people we’re able to steer towards various forms of peaceful Christian service and vocations rather than military service.

Conversely, if our membership continues to consist primarily of those past the typical age for military service, and those who embraced conscientious objection after their military service, or as a result thereof, then we are not likely to make significant progress towards our presumed goal of helping the Church return to her peace-church roots.

Accordingly, I think that we need to have a stronger focus on drawing teenagers and young adults into the OPF fold. To do this effectively may require the formation of a OPF Youth Department. However, realizing that we’re all very busy people, I propose that we start with something modest and achievable, and then allow our endeavor to evolve and grow as time, talents, resources and God’s guidance permit.

I propose we start with an online youth-oriented newsletter that might later evolve into an e-zine. I would like the focus of the newsletter to reflect the focus of what the new OPF Youth Movement should be: promoting positive service to Christ and the Church. One key point that I would like to drive home to young people is this.

In the old days – and still in many places in the world – young people had no choice about their vocation. If a boy’s father was a farmer, he certainly was going to become a farmer. If his father was a fisherman, he would become a fisherman, and so on. And girls basically either became mothers or they became nuns. But that’s not true anymore. While the US Dept. of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles contains nearly one thousand categories of occupations, the total number of specialized occupations number perhaps in the hundreds of thousands.

In short, young people are confronted with an ever-growing number of choices as to what they may do with their lives, but are they making this choice prayerfully? Are they asking for God’s guidance?

Many young people end up in their respective occupations, both short-term as well as long-term (and including the military), more as a result of default than design or divine calling. But I think that we, with God’s help, can begin to change this.

The logo of my proposed periodical would consist of a teen /young adult strapping on a backpack against the backdrop of a wilderness trail, and perhaps another lacing up his hiking boots which would symbolize: “…having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15). The title and subtitle would be: Gearing up to Serve God.

The main theme of the periodical would be preparing and disciplining ourselves, in body, mind and spirit, for service. It would include articles ranging from personal spiritual disciplines, health, stewardship-of-the-body issues, social and emotional issues, service in the church, and long-term career and vocational issues.

While the periodical would be free, Orthodox youth could join OPF for a nominal fee.

I would suggest that one of the membership expectations would be to be involved in ongoing Christian service projects, ranging from helping with parish food-bank programs to short-term missions with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center.

The more OPF adults who make themselves available to mentor the teenagers and youth in our parishes, and serve as a flesh-and-blood link to OPF, the more effective our collective effort will be in fostering the notion of active peacemaking through peaceful Christian service and vocations.

Interested? Please let me know.

Timothy Beach

[email protected]

The OPF web site: As your friendly neighborhood webmaster, I wanted to write up all the new features of the In Communion site that we have added. For a site about Orthodox Christianity, it might seem strange to discuss digital issues, but technology has long been in use to carry the word of God. The printing press has morphed into wireless invisible signals broadcast over the entire planet. So just a few notes on the recent updates.

Here are several additions on the right column of the site:

Peacemaking in the Parish: Selected Articles

Pro-life Resources

Capital Punishment Resources

Video

Note that a recent lecture of Jim’s – Pilgrimage as a Way of Life – can be found on the video page.

Note also that we have updated the secure donations page: OPF membership can be renewed and donations can be made on line. Security is an issue, and thus PayPal, with its encryption, continues to be the most solid and safe option for these types of web transactions.

Now the site is able to record how many people visit. In the last few months the site has generated over 44,500 hits from countries all over the world. One of the most popular pages daily is the prayer page. Another is the section on St. Maria Skobtsova and those canonized with her.

I have noticed that despite the population of regular visitors there is an even greater user base for people who are researching issues of faith and merely come through searching for information on prayer and related Orthodox subjects, making the site a space that is offering good information. In other words, there are new people discovering the site every day.

How can you help support the OPF site? If you or your organization has a website, you can create a link to us.

In an age of mediocre content, the OPF site is special because it provides the highest quality information that creates an oasis in the wild world of the web.

That’s all for now.

Greetings from Berlin.

Michael Markwick

OPF Webmaster

[email protected]

Conversations by Email: Spring 2007

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson or Jim Forest

A house built on sand:

A few disconnected thoughts on God’s judgment of the nations…

Unless we see the scriptures as purely a collection of fairy tales, I think we have no choice but to conclude that God sometimes brings disaster on nations for their sins.

When this happens, it seems that the individual righteousness or holiness of some of the “victims” isn’t enough to prevent the disaster, or to exempt the righteous from it. I’m thinking of Daniel and the three holy youths (so well-loved in Orthodox hymnography) who were carried off to Babylon with everyone else when Israel was exiled. In their case, the disaster became another opportunity to exercise their faith.

In our time, wordliness and apostasy (always fond of one another) seem to have combined in a new and potent way in the form of modern secularism. Who can say what judgments will fall on the nations that have so enthusiastically embraced this secular god? I don’t exempt North America here, though professed Christianity is much more visible than in Europe (not for long, though, I expect). How distorted does Christian faith need to be before it no longer counts as faith at all in God’s eyes? That seems to be the American question.

With global warming, we have a complex of human disasters that we have plainly brought down on our heads through our collective greed. It seems that in our time, God doesn’t need to intervene miraculously with floods, etc. – he merely lets us experience the consequences of our own deeds.

I don’t feel as if I have any ability to discern God’s hand in particular cases – whether New Orleans or the World Trade Center fell for our sins, I’d rather not try to say. We know that judgment belongs to God (that’s why Christians don’t kill, right?), and it seems to me that God’s judgments are mostly hidden from us.

I’ve been watching Spike Lee’s heartbreaking documentary “When the Levees Broke,” about the flooding of New Orleans and its aftermath. Obviously, the blow fell for the most part on the poor – as the consequences of global warming undoubtedly will also. This makes me cautious about looking at these events as manifestations (in any simple way) of divine wrath. If they are, it works itself out in ways much too subtle for my own darkened understanding.

John Brady

hamartolos[at]gmail.com

OPF’s Iran Appeal:

Reading several critical responses to OPF’s recent Iran Appeal, I wondered if the record isn’t stuck? This doesn’t mean the critics aren’t bright. Their argument was once a central one. The problem is the times have passed them by.

The Christian Warrior’s stance makes sense, equal sense for all sides. It makes the case for U. to attack Serbia or Iraq. The same argument also makes the case for Serbia or Iraq to resist their attacker. It’s an outdated argument. It fails to speak to our condition.

Our condition? We live in an unprecedented age in which atomic/hydrogen, chemical and biological weapons will level the playing field between powerful nations and people who earlier had no way to wreck unimaginable horrors on those who earlier did “whatever it takes” to assure victory.

I’m persuaded the question for our day isn’t whether it is right or wrong to kill. The question for our time is what we do when we kill – to others and ourselves? Hannah Arendt wrote about this in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Christopher Browning wrote about it in Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.

Books by Orthodox writers offer insights into the sacred character of life after birth (for example, see the writings of Fr. John Breck), as does Dostoevsky’s monk Father Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov. These are not people who would cry with horror at an enemy who targets civilians, then defend their own nation doing the very same thing.

Outdated arguments will not do.

John Oliver

JohnWOliver[at]earthlink.net

Iran:

Regarding Iran, there are several important things happening just now:

Disenchantment about Iraq had led to skepticism about the push toward confrontation with Iran. While there are only a few congressional or political leaders who have straightforwardly opposed such confrontation, many view the prospects of war with Iran through jaundiced eyes, recognizing that few Americans want more war and that the military is stretched to the breaking point.

The recent revelation of Iran’s having reached out to the United States (especially in 2003), only to be rebuffed, is making people suspicious of the timing and seriousness of the current saber-rattling on the US side. It becomes apparent that there have been multiple opportunities for a diplomatic solution that have not been seized. So, just as it went with Iraq, the arc of Bush administration policy (which has Iran in our sights) seems to be as unchangeable as the trajectory of an arrow once it has left the bow.

The rhetoric on both sides (meaning most of the Bush administration plus the “Israeli lobby” on the one hand, and Ahmadinezhad on the other) has been inflammatory and alienating; the fundamental truth in the proposition that nothing can be solved in the Middle East until the Israeli/Palestinian problem is solved resonates strongly in this situation.

Most military leaders have counseled against a military approach to the Iran problem, but the Department of Defense continues to move military assets and conduct exercises, as required by their civilian superiors. Those who most disapproved of attacking Iran have been moved or removed, and others put in their place.

While there has likely been some Iranian involvement in support of their Shi’ite co-religionists in Iraq, there is also evidence of US covert involvement with minority groups in Iran (there was a recent terrorist bombing in Tehran by Baluchis, for example), Saudi involvement in support of Sunni insurgents in Iraq, Pakistani support of Taliban or “son-of-Taliban” groups in Afghanistan, Iranian support for reconstruction in Afghanistan and several other cross-border activities that make the area a nightmare to attempt to diagram, much less deal with constructively.

Alex Patico

alexanderpatico[at]aol.com

Antiwar Conservatives:

While many conservatives are now back-pedaling on Iraq, there has been a consistent opposition to the Iraq war from people like Pat Buchannon for the paleo-conservatives and Justin Raimundo, of antiwar.com, for the libertarians. They have spoken out against the war since before it began.

It is ironic that people now associate conservatives with war. In 2000, Candidate Bush advocated a more humble US foreign policy, in contrast to the foreign adventures initiated by Clinton. If only he had listened to himself – and Washington’s advice from the early years of the republic against foreign adventures seeking dragons to destroy.

Real conservatism is for defending the traditions and homes of the people of a political community, not for trying to remake other nations into one’s image (a Jacobin enterprise). Unfortunately, the neo-conservatives, radicals of the most extreme stripe, have found marketing themselves as conservatives to be advantageous – and with their control of the “conservative” media (for example Fox) and the advantage they give to liberal media outlets of making conservatives look evil, they have managed to hoodwink most people. This is a tragedy.

Daniel Lieuwen

daniel_lieuwen[at]hotmail.com

A donation:

Please accept my donation for the 2007 subscription and membership renewal. I enjoy reading your magazine and sharing it with other church members. It is a great forum for members of the Orthodox community dedicated to peace and charitable activities. According to Acts 2:44: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” I believe that this passage urges us, as a community, to use what we have for those in need. Keep it up.

[name withheld]

Home from Iraq:

Just a note to let everyone know I made it safely back home. We flew from Mosul to Baghdad to Kuwait, spent a week there, flew to Budapest, then flew to MacGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, stayed over night, bussed to Philadelphia International Airport, then flew to Nashville where we were bussed up to Ft. Campbell.

I feel very blessed to be with my wife and son in a relatively safe environment. We are slowly transitioning back into life together in the house we so quickly vacated in the Fall for my deployment. I was worried that Elias may not remember me so well, but we have been inseparable since my return a few days ago. He oftentimes sidles up beside me and just pats me on the back… so precious. Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and correspondence these past months. They were a great source of strength for me and my family.

Aaron Haney

zek18376[at]yahoo.com

Marriage:

Back in the fifties, the divorce rate began climbing, though marriage and family values had all the protection law and the culture could bring to bear. Fatherless children emerged from the chaos of divorce. Divorce redefined marriage. Divorce is a consequence of fallen human beings, damaged beyond the possibility of bonding to each other and raising their kids together.

Alice Carter

alicesfcarter[at]gmail.com

Tradition:

There clearly is a problem regarding marriage in today’s world. 42 percent of Canadian couples choose not to be married. I think part of the root of all these problems remains the Protestant Reformation, which deconstructed Christianity and abolished so much “meaning.” If you argue for 500 years that Tradition is bad, and you convince one generation after another, then many people eschew tradition in everything. To have argued that Tradition is bad, and then suddenly seek to “restore traditional family structures” you are, as the overworn proverb has it, closing the barn door after the horse has fled. If you argue, for 500 years, against hierarchical structure, then eventually you become taken seriously, and you cannot have any sort of traditional family structure without hierarchy; not in fact, can you have a successful social structure, let alone a Church structure.

The traditional definition of marriage does not come from Scripture, but from the Tradition of the Orthodox Church, specifically from the reign of Justinian and Theodora. Moreover, the definition of marriage in western society had degenerated into a licence to have sex. If a Justice of the Peace married you, then sex was legitimate. If you did not have such a piece of paper, it was a sin. Even Church marriages were regarded essentially as a permit to have non-sinful sex. If a Justice of the Peace can “sanctify a marriage,” who needs the Church?

Compare the richness of meaning to be found in the Orthodox Crowning Service with the average sectarian marriage ceremony. But even in the Orthodox Church, the meaning of marriage is seldom discussed, and in many of the catechetical writing about the Crowning Service, the explanations are not meaningful. Truly, there is a lot of work to be done and it needs to be begun when children are still in church school. We should already be teaching the meaning of family, or parenting and of marriage at the earliest ages.

The redefinition of marriage began subtly with the Reformation when the priesthood was abolished and therefore no sanctification could take place; without a valid priesthood, there is no sanctification, no sacraments. There can be neither sacrifice nor consecration. Without Tradition, there can be no foundation or validity to conventions.

Another aspect: The “nuclear family” is not at all the Traditional Family. It was the first stage in the collapse of the traditional family, which began with the Industrial Revolution. Extended family systems began to break down as people left villages and farms, and formed nuclear families in strange cities and around coal mines and factories.

The next major stage was the Great Depression, when many fathers left their families to go in every direction searching for work. Following hard behind the Depression, World War II created a massive reservoir of single parent families. I remember those days well enough. So many had no father. We had mothers who worked in factories, often until late. We had been taken off the farm and settled near military bases. During the day, we were in some sort of day care center and would be brought back in the late afternoon. There would be a flag on the front lawn of the “duty mother.” We were all left with her until our own mums got off and came to call for us.

Tens of thousands of dads never came home from the war. The Depression had destabilized the family structure – many men and women had left their farms, towns, villages and cities, and never returned again. Connections, relationships, family networks were all broken and many were never restored. After the war, there were many thousands of widows with children, single parent families in which the mother was the primary wage earner. There was never going to be a return to what had gone before, and there never will be.

Archbishop Lazar

synaxis[at]orthodoxcanada.org

Family decay:

I should like to add that the time at which husbands and fathers left their families to go to work in factories and away from home, field, and shop varied in different parts of the world. Certainly this happened during the Depression, but I think it had already happened for a large part of the industrialized world even before that. By the time the soldiers went to war, vast numbers of them had already grown up with very limited connections with their fathers. Psychologically that means that they did not know how to be men. So they go off to war, win it, and come back thinking that they had proved their manhood. They had, in a sense and to a degree, but they still had not internalized other aspects of manhood, such as care for their wives and children, tenderness and affection, the softer stuff that is not glorified in the military. The next generation-mine-grew up knowing that our fathers were phony, caricatures of genuine manhood. We rebelled against it in the 60s and 70s, and then in the 80s we realized we didn’t know what manhood was, so the men’s movement was born.

The change of attitude in the Christian community toward homosexuality is one of the most striking about-faces in the history of the Church. Yet nobody, so far as I know, has written about what has happened that has brought about this change. The immediate causes are obvious enough: the breakdown of the sense of manhood in the past century or so and the belief that the treatment of homosexuals is nothing but a civil rights issue. But it seems to me that there are other factors, and they have been cooking for several more centuries.

One of them is the desacralization of the body. At one time the body was considered the temple of supernatural powers (St. Paul said the body was the temple of the Holy Spirit, but pagans held comparable ideas). Another was the apotheosis of desire, largely under the influence of Freudian psychotherapy, i.e., the belief that we have a right to fulfill just about any wish we have.

Yet another is the rise of capitalism and industrialism, resulting not only in the breakdown in men’s internal sense of self but in widespread narcissism in the culture. Putting these things together has led to an inability of most Christians to find any way to defend the tradition of the Church on this matter in an intellectually credible way.

David Holden

davidholden1[at]bellsouth.net

Marriage service:

As I recall, for the first couple of centuries of the church’s existence there was no Christian marriage as such. Christian couples who wanted to be married took communion together, and that was regarded as the sanctioning of their union before God. Paul Evdokimov has a good explanation of this in his book on marriage, The Sacrament of Love, where he argues for a reintegration of the marriage service into the Divine Liturgy with Holy Communion.

Nancy Forest

Forestflier[at]cs.com

State interest:

What is the state interest in marriage? It is the contract that marriage brings with it. Its interest is limited to that. The strongest position possible is to remove the state from the marriage business altogether, and simply register the contracts. This would be a civil union.

To those of us in the Christian church, marriage is a sacrament. It is primarily to promote the salvation and godliness of the participants. As such, it is a religious belief.

The answer appears simple: get the state out of the business of marrying people. Only offer civil union registrations. If people want to be married in a church, then they need to meet the criteria established by that particular faith. In my faith, there are no vows, which are the contract language of the ceremony. Yet the contract of marriage is imposed by the state through the granting of a license. In a sense, the sacrament of marriage has a separate meaning foisted upon it by the state, which is inappropriate.

John Martin Watt

marty[at]wattfamily.org

Full Liturgy:

My eldest daughter and her husband were married in a ceremony that was integrated into a full Liturgy, by their choice and with our priest’s encouragement. It was a wonderful and meaningful event.

The state’s interests must be decided by the state. We should not mix up the categories by thinking that a justice-of-the-peace, judge or ship’s captain can “sanctify” a union, just as a priest cannot create a legal contract (except in the same way that any citizen can). If the state decides that polygamy is something to be discouraged, in might be in order to simplify certain legal entanglements, but it is not clear that this would always and everywhere be in the state’s interest to uphold. For the church, scripture, tradition and tenets must dictate the “rules” of marriage.

Alex Patico

alexanderpatico[at]aol.com

Orthodoxy and Judaism:

I have the following query:

“I thought you might have some information regarding the Orthodox Christian position toward Jews. I mean officially – does the Church have a stated position? Do you think there is a sentiment among the laity in this regard?”

I would be grateful for any leads….

Jim Forest

jhforest[at]gmail.com

Byzantine attitude:

I don’t know of anything official and recent. The Byzantine attitude to the Jews was one of a kind of scornful tolerance; the Trullan Synod has a number of canons that concern the Jews, and prohibit much contact with them (not to consult Jewish doctors, nor eat with them, etc.).

In more recent times, there have been a variety of attitudes, many of them deplorable. Sergei Bulgakov wrote a book, Christianity and the Jewish Question, which was only published in Russian in 1991; there is no English translation that I know of, but there is brief discussion of it in Rowan Williams’ book on Bulgakov.

On the unofficial front, things are better. For some decades, there has been a series of meetings in England between Jews and Orthodox Christians, which I think both sides have found useful. It continues under the chairmanship of Nicholas de Lange and myself.

Fr. Andrew Louth

Darlington, UK

People of God:

Bishop Kallistos Ware has written on this topic with great insight – see his text “Has God Rejected His People? Reflections on the People of Israel” on the OPF web site (search “Kallistos”).

Kallistos states that Israel is still the Chosen People of God, in which case the Church of the Gentiles is grafted onto the ancient tree of Israel. Others in the tradition, however, have not seen it that way. They believe that the Church is the New Israel and that the Old Israel is no longer relevant. It is obvious that Bishop Kallistos is following Scripture (in particular the lengthy passage in Romans about election) more closely than some later thinkers and writers and it is also obvious that the later doctrine could be much more fertile soil for anti-Semitic and horribly uncharitable thoughts and actions.

Some questions remain. Where did the consensus of the Church finally land? It does not look like St. Paul’s position was the one actually accepted. If it wasn’t, how did later theologians justify their departure from apostolic teaching? But if it was, what did the tradition do with those voices that rejected Israel? And, furthermore, if the teaching of St. Paul was accepted, how was it that the Church became so virulently anti-Semitic?

David Holden

davidholden1[at]bellsouth.net

Ingrained prejudice:

I spoke at a Jewish-Christian clergy ecumenical conference about ten years ago, and, in doing my own research, do not recall any official position. However, I certainly uncovered a lot of issues – all negative – from historical developments to cultural biases to outright prejudice still reflected in hymns of the Orthodox Church heard in Holy Week.

As for sentiment among the laity, I’ll speak from experience. Growing up as a third generation Greek-American, I simply assumed, as I entered adulthood, that Jews were conniving thieves not to be trusted, always on the lookout for getting the better of someone in a business deal. There’s a common expression in modern Greek, “The Jews laugh” – meaning that someone has enjoyed taking advantage of someone else.

It took years for me to confront these subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices of my elders, and to unlearn their “sins.”

Yet, to this day, I will still encounter Greek Orthodox people, particularly those who are older, who have such biases. Moreover, I have been vilified by such elders who detest anything Jewish. Once, in a casual conversation at the national assembly, a prominent Greek Orthodox woman interrupted me abruptly with “What did you say?”

I was startled, and realized that it must have been my saying that Jesus was a Jew. She was deeply disturbed, and, in the ensuing conversation (witnessed by an older priest and his wife) she became downright horrified when I went on to explain that not only was Jesus a Jew, but so were his mother, father, most of his followers, and almost all the authors of the New Testament.

She threatened to report me to the Archbishop and openly expressed her horror that I would teach such “trash” to “those fine young men” at seminary. She made it clear that she had been educated in the faith by many fine priests, bishops and even archbishops and no one had ever said such a thing before.

Although nothing came of this, I have never been surprised since by anything that comes out of the mouths of us Orthodox.

I think the laity are in deep ignorance, not just about this, but about so much else. How little teaching and preaching I have encountered about Jews, Judaism and the relationship of them to the Christian faith and Church.

Even the most popular introductions to the Orthodox Church routinely fail to take seriously the Old Testament and Judaism as the living fountain out of which come the New Testament Church!

Sentiment among the laity includes a lot of ignorance, prejudice, suspicion, animosity, indifference: very little that can be considered enlightened or responsible. How long will it take us to learn from Jesus himself and the apostle Paul?

Fr Harry Pappas

hpappas[at]svots.edu

Pogroms:

The problem isn’t the Gospels, or even our liturgical texts. The problem is that, over these last twenty centuries of Christian history, ignorant Christians have worked themselves up into an anti-Jewish frenzy during Passion Week, eventuating in persecutions, property destruction, and even massacres of Jews.

This was resisted, of course, by the bishops, if not always by uneducated and prejudiced parish priests.

In recent memory, we have bishops in Greece, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, etc. resisting not only the Nazis in the 1930s-40s when they came to roll up the Jews, but opposing even their own people when they threatened Jews.

The southwestern Russian kazaki (Cossacks) were especially prone to this madness, yet the bishops of Kiev and Kishinyov (among others in other places) literally stood in the breach to protect the Jews.

Monk James Silver

frjsilver[at]optonline.net

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