Category Archives: IC 52 2009

Content IC 52 2009

The Muddle that is the Middle East

by Alexander Patico

These days, we Christians have a reputation often based on our prejudices rather than our principles, our irritations with our neighbors rather than our love of neighbor. As the Orthodox columnist Terry Mattingly recently put it, Christians “are known best for what they are against.” We were once known for how well we loved one another. Not any more.

In his recent book, The Goodness of God’s Creation, Fr. Philip LeMasters says, about warfare, that we must not use the utilitarian criterion of Western culture in making life-and-death decisions. As Orthodox Christians, we must ask, “In the light of the human vocation for growth in holiness and communion with God, how should Christians respond to the prospect of warfare?” In any such cases, we must ask what the law of love commands – including in our response to the recent events in Gaza, and the ongoing conundrum of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The situation can, admittedly, be confusing. Labels often obfuscate: “Israeli” can be taken to mean citizens of the State of Israel (Jews, Arabs and others), or the government of Israel. Sometimes it is blurred to include supporters in other parts of the world. The term “Palestinians” can be used to mean “those who were born in Palestine” (whether in what is now Israel, on the West Bank, in Gaza, or wherever they now live); or it can mean “leaders of the Palestinian government” (including or excluding Hamas), or those who live in the occupied territories Muslim, Christian or something else).

The law of love leads us out of such briar patches of nomenclature. Whatever labels may be put on us, we are all brothers and sisters. While Paul was referring to the Church when he said “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, male nor female,” whom can we place beyond the pale?

To heal the region, we must first put aside political divisions and historical Gordian knots, to recognize the basic human nature of the antagonists with all their needs and aspirations.

What is an Israeli Jew? A person with ties of blood to this region. A person with a rich tradition of searching and scholarship about how to treat fellow inhabitants of this earth. One with a special sense of connection to those who have been ostracized, oppressed or eliminated in many places and many times. A person who lives in some degree of fear.

What is a Palestinian? A person with ties of blood to this region. A person whose ancestors may have been among the first disciples of Christ, or among the early followers of Mohammad. A person with a sense of connection to those who have been displaced, made homeless or bombed. A person who lives in fear.

We Christians should be able to empathize with the anguish of Jews who never envisioned the State of Israel becoming an occupying force. After all, we went through the mixed blessing of having the Emperor Constantine embrace our faith, conflating temporal dominion with divine kingdom. We saw bloody crusades launched in the name of Christ, and the blasphemy of believers remaining quiet when their countrymen rounded up Jews, dissidents and the “defective.”
We can empathize with Palestinians excluded from their homes and homeland, stripped of human rights, punished as a people for the actions of a minority, with no power over their lives. We too have known, and still know, persecution (under the Ottomans, under Communism and in India today). We have picked up the rock – and the rocket – when we thought our lives depended on it.

There is no crime seen in this situation, of omission or commission, which has not been committed by those who called themselves Christians. So how, with our own blood-stained past, can we be helpful? We can – in just the way Our Lord specified – by showing our capacity to love.

We must remember the words of Dr. King, who said that the church “must be the guide and critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. … But if the church … will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of humankind and fire the souls of the people.”

Loving all the participants in this ghastly, perpetual drama of strike and counter-strike, intifada and walls, checkpoints and bus-bombings, means refusing to take sides. Refusing to sell armaments. Refusing to justify what cannot be justified, whether high-tech or low-tech, whether done out of desperation, preemption or revenge.

Positively, it means being willing to share our own experience, expertise and wealth, to reconcile the mortal enemies, and make the desert of Jewish and Arab hearts bloom. These are not easy things to do. But protesting the actions of others has always been easier than doing something constructive and redemptive ourselves.    ❖

Alexander Patico coordinates activities of OPF in North America. He has written previously for In Communion and authored a forthcoming book on U.S.-Iran relations.

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

Witness in Jerusalem

By Helena Koumi

Before I came to Palestine-Israel, I had no way of knowing that the three-week war in Gaza was just around the corner. At the same time, being here has made me realize that there is an ongoing war being fought every day. It happens in Jerusalem, in Gaza, in the West Bank, and also in Israel.

The war is partly about information – about being able to tell your side of the story. But it is also a low-intensity war to create “facts on the ground.” Such low-level warfare is part of daily life here in Jerusalem, both the western Israeli part and the Palestinian part in the east.

My name is Helena. I live in Stockholm where I work for a Christian peace organization, the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation. I came here to Jerusalem in November. I am Swedish by nationality, but, thanks to my father, also Greek Cypriot. It’s a connection I’m very proud of and helps explain why I am Greek Orthodox. When I was growing up, we went every second summer to Cyprus, so the Greek culture and the Orthodox tradition are close to me.

My decision to work for peace comes partly from spending so much of my youth time on a Mediterranean island divided by war. In Cyprus, the green line dividing the Greek side from the Turkish runs right through the capital, Nicosia. Now I am here in Jerusalem, another divided city plagued by conflict.
What brought me here? Why did I choose to be part of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a project sponsored by the World Council of Churches? Mainly it was the combination of the project’s Christian values and the possibility of doing very direct work for peace in a place of profound division that attracted me. I also wanted to work closely with people in the midst of ongoing conflict. I had no doubt that it would be a very enriching experience, and it has definitely been that.

The EAPPI has volunteers from different countries working for three-month stints in six locations in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We seek to provide an international nonviolent presence, offering a degree of greater protection to people under military occupation. We do this mainly through reporting and monitoring, for example at military checkpoints, while providing solidarity with people struggling against the Israeli occupation, and through public advocacy.

I arrived in Jerusalem not long before Israel started its attack on Gaza. During the first pre-war weeks, we received many calls for emergency help and witnessed several house demolitions. We also saw a family being evicted from their house of over 50 years, a house that, since 2001, the family had been forced to share with settlers. The story of that family – the family Al-Kurd – has affected me deeply.

The Al-Kurd family are refugees from 1948, when hundreds of thousands Palestinians were forced to leave their home when the state of Israel was formed. The United Nations gave the Al-Kurds a home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah. Orthodox Jews now claim ownership, based on a document from the Ottoman period, to the house and the land it stands on. Though the legality of the claim is disputed, in 2001 a settler family moved into one wing of the house and then demanded that the Al-Kurd family pay them rent. The family refused, and since then they have been engaged in a long legal battle.

In the beginning of November, one week after my arrival, the family was evicted from the house. After that, the family moved into a tent on nearby land owned by Palestinians. Two weeks after the eviction, the father of the family, Mohammed Al-Kurd, died of a heart attack. So far the Israeli military has demolished the tent four times – a tent is a building, according to Israeli law, and the tent has no building permit. (In fact permits are almost impossible to obtain.) Many of the houses in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are regarded by Israel as illegal.

The mother in the family, Um Kamel, continues her struggle for her house with backup from the community and international groups such as EAPPI. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. We visit her several times a week. Just today she was fined. When demolitions are carried out, the family living in the house (or tent!) is ordered to pay the demolition cost. Even so, Um Kamel was relieved that the court did not order another demolition of the tent.

When I am speaking to Palestinians from the West Bank about their situation, the word that I hear most frequently is “trapped.” Because of the wall that Israel has built, people cannot move around as they like. Each passage through different districts requires a permit, and the roads are blocked by military checkpoints. A permit is required for health care, to get to work, go to school, or to visit relatives. Only if you are a Palestinian with an Israeli passport or a resident of Jerusalem can you enter Israel and Jerusalem without an extra permit. On the other hand, you cannot go to all areas in the West Bank with an Israeli passport. This policy applies to Israelis as well as Palestinians.

Ashraf is one of the security guards at the Augusta Victoria Hospital, near where I live. He is 24 years old and lives in a neighborhood just outside Jerusalem. This means he has no Jerusalem ID, and thus must obtain permission to pass the checkpoint to get to work. The hospital helps him with the issuance of a permit, but it’s only valid for Augusta Victoria Hospital. This means that he is not allowed into the Old City or to any other place in Jerusalem. He can move only between his home and workplace. He feels so trapped, he tells me, that his main desire is to find a girl from another country to fall in love with so he can move to her country. He sees that as his only chance to get more freedom and to travel.

I have also met Israelis who feel trapped. Last week at the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, I met a 20-year-old soldier, Shaul, who was behaving differently than I am used to soldiers behaving. When my colleague and I came, he waved at us and made funny faces. Considering that soldiers are ordered by their officers not to talk to us, we were very surprised. We were also surprised to see him opening up the turnstiles to let people pass when we asked him to, and even more so when he played some music on his mobile phone and started to dance in the booth.
We thought he was crazy at first, but later realized that he was probably the most “normal” soldier we had met so far. Every time Shaul opened the window of the booth to talk to us, he got a call from his officers telling him not to speak to us. Even so, he repeatedly violated the orders. When I asked him what would happen to him for violating orders, he answered, “Oh, they’re pretty rough.”

He said he feels trapped. “How long do I have to be here? I hate it. I don’t want to do this job.” He waved at the Palestinians and shouted. “Hey guys, I’m with you! Be strong!” He still has a year to go and desperately wants to get out.

Fortunately, his captivity is limited in time. It won’t last forever. For Palestinians, there is no end in sight.
Military service is mandatory for all Israelis, both women and men. Israel is the only country in the world with this requirement. Men do it for three years, women for two. But there are exceptions: ultra-religious persons, disabled people, married women, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and others.

Israel is a highly militarized society. It is no surprise to see soldiers and police armed with machine guns on the streets. Restaurants and cafes have security guards checking people’s bags, and the bus stations have metal detectors and X-ray machines, just like airports. They are afraid of suicide bombs. A whole generation of Israelis are marked by the suicide bombs that increasingly have become a part of their lives since the start of the Second Intifada, the Palestinian resistance to occupation that started in 2000.

In 2002, Israel started building a “separation” wall, arguing it was necessary for security. Though there are fewer suicide bombings, to what extent the wall has made Israel safer is a matter of debate. What is certain is that the wall has many other consequences. It separates families, it justifies the demolition of more Palestinian homes, it restricts movement, and impedes access to education and health care. The wall also has environmental effects and has resulted in gravely damaging the economy of the occupied territories. Almost 80 percent of the wall stands on Palestinian land – itself illegal, according to international law.

My team and I have been in an area on the outskirts of Jerusalem called Abu Dis several times. The separation wall climbs around the hilltops. There are several military checkpoints in the area that people have to pass through every day.

The Al-Quds University (Jerusalem University), where 10,000 students are registered, is in Abu Dis. Students come from many places to attend this university, the only Palestinian university in the Jerusalem area. Many of them have to pass through the Container checkpoint on their way to and from the university, a checkpoint one can only pass through by car. My team of Ecumenical Accompaniers goes there once a week to monitor the behavior of the soldiers.

They often stop cars; but on a recent day when we were present, a girl working at the university told us that she wasn’t stopped at all and that the lines are shorter when we are there. Even though I know that the work I am doing cannot change the situation for people in the long run, I am happy to hear that our work helps to some extent. That is really all I dare hope for.
Hamam is a 16-year-old boy from Abu Dis. When I met him the first time, or rather saw him, he was lying in a bed at the intensive care unit at the Maqased hospital a few blocks from where we live. He was badly injured after he had been shot with rubber bullets by an Israeli soldier at close range because he had stood in the front line in a peaceful demonstration protesting the war in Gaza.

I did not know Hamam before, but our team was asked to go and see him because his family had problems with getting permits to come into Jerusalem. Even if you have a son or brother in the intensive care unit, you do not automatically qualify to get a permit to Jerusalem to visit your family member.
Hamam was lying there, unconscious and connected to all these machines that helped him perform life’s most basic tasks. The doctors did not know if he would survive; and, if he did, whether his speech and understanding might be impaired, or whether he might suffer partial paralysis. Since then we have been going back several times a week and witnessed the miracle of Hamam’s recovery.

When I saw him two days ago, three weeks after he was shot, he had just been moved to a rehabilitation center close to Bethlehem, where his family can easily visit him. He was sitting in a wheelchair, smiling. Even though he couldn’t express more than sounds for yes and no, he understood most of what I said in English. His right arm is paralyzed, but now he can move his right leg a little. Already he is much better than the doctors anticipated.

However he is depressed, realizing what has happened to him and how that will affect his life. I have become so fond of this beautiful boy and his family that it really hurts me to have to leave them to go back home and to know I will not be able to remain close.

If the situation was already bad in Jerusalem and the West Bank, it didn’t get better with the war in Gaza. Every Friday, Jerusalem has been closed for at least 36 hours for people from the West Bank under 50 years of age. There have been thousands of police and military on the streets. Jerusalem looked like a city under siege during those days: roads closed at military check points and the Old City completely closed off at midday, the Muslim prayer time.

Several demonstrations have been held – some with rock-throwing at the police and soldiers, others completely peaceful, although even these were broken up violently by the police. I have been pushed rather brutally by police while accompanying a demonstration.

The war affects everyone – Israelis, Palestinians and, of course, volunteers like me who live and work here. It’s so close, but yet so far away.
Most of the Israelis support the war. When I speak with my Israeli friends about it, I cannot understand why. I cannot understand how you can reach peace by means of war. On both sides, it will only bring only more death and destruction. The consequences stretch far into the future. Palestinians who spoke about peace and reconciliation with the Israelis before the war now express hatred and distrust of all Israelis. It’s so very sad, yet at the same time understandable.

During these difficult times, I am so glad for the churches in this land. I have attended several church services – Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and mixed – that prayed for Gaza. The feeling of belonging and sisterhood with my fellow Christians give me peace.

As an Orthodox Christian, I am proud to know that most Palestinian Christians belong to my church, and I am glad that one of the tasks my project assigns to volunteers is to participate in church services and to stand side by side with Christian Palestinians. I have been to Arabic liturgies in Orthodox churches and felt a deep sense of belonging, even without understanding any of the words.

Soon I go home to Sweden. My experience here is coming to an end. I will leave with very mixed feelings. I both want to stay and to leave. It is not an easy place to be for a long time. Jerusalem – the holy city – is a tense place to live. But I think I have much more to give and to do here. I have become very close to the people I work with and those I have met during these three months.
Yet when I go home, my life will have been greatly enriched. I will have the responsibility to share my experiences and stories with people around me, and I hope they will spread like rings on the water.    ❖

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

Saint Brigid of Ireland

St. Brigid was born in the mid-fifth century at Faughart, near Dundalk, in Ireland, a member of a family brought to Christianity by St. Patrick. At an early age she became a nun, first living alone in a cell by an oak tree (kill-dara in Irish). A monastic community grew up around her, in time becoming so large that it was described as a city of monks, the Abbey of Kildare: a “double” monastery, one of men, the other of women. Through her renown, the abbey became a center of pilgrimage.

Brigid is identified with an extraordinary spirit of charity. The many miracles attributed to her testify to her readiness to respond to any appeal that aroused her pity or sense of justice. Her only desire, it is recorded, was “to satisfy the poor, to expel every hardship, to spare every miserable man.”

According to The Book of Lismore, “Everything that Brigid would ask of the Lord was granted her at once. For this was her desire: to satisfy the poor, to expel every hardship, to spare every miserable man. Now there never hath been anyone more bashful or more modest or more gentle or more humble or more discerning or more harmonious than Brigid. … She was abstemious, she was innocent, she was prayerful, she was patient: she was glad in God’s commandments: she was firm, she was humble, she was forgiving, she was loving: she was a consecrated casket for keeping Christ’s body and His blood; she was a temple of God. Her heart and her mind were a throne of rest for the Holy Ghost. She was singlehearted.

She was compassionate towards the wretched. She was splendid in miracles and marvels: wherefore her name among created things is Dove among birds, Vine among trees, Sun among stars.” Among the words for which she is especially remembered is this vision of heaven: “I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I should like the angels of heaven to be drinking it through time eternal. I should like excellent meats of belief and pure piety. I should like flails of penance at my house. I should like the people of Heaven at my house. I should like barrels of peace at their disposal; I should like vessels of charity for distribution. I should like for them cellars of mercy. I should like cheerfulness to be in their drinking. I should like Jesus to be there among them. I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us. I should like the people of heaven, the poor, to be gathered around us from all parts.”

– Jim Forest

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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: //]

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

<[email protected]>

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

<[email protected]>

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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Recommended Reading: Winter 2009

The Living Body of Christ

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Darton, Longman & Todd, 235pp. 10.95

Metropolitan Anthony does not offer a systematic treatise on the nature of the Church. Instead, we see multifaceted views of the Church, as if through a kaleidoscope. The book is a compilation of talks, lectures and letters which required consideration of different aspects of the Church according to their particular circumstances.

He reminds us that the Church, though a society of repentant sinners, is, nevertheless, the body of Him who is both God and Man. This theandric “extension of the incarnation” transcends our abilities to understand and explain. It should come as no surprise, then, that the book reflects the multifaceted perception of this mystery that Christians have had from the earliest times.

He warns us of the perils of a “godless approach to divine things.” Theology “is not to God what ornithology is to birds.” It is, rather, “an increasing knowledge of God through communion.” There is a primacy of experience which means that the Church can only be truly known from within.

I was struck by his teachings about hierarchy, authority and power. “Power consists in the ability of a given person or persons to enforce their will and decisions upon others. Authority is something quite different. In a sense authority has no power; it is the persuasiveness of truth that is authority.”

In practical terms, this is expressed  or should be expressed by the Church’s structure as a genuine hierarchy of service. “If in the Church we are simply a hierarchy of power because we have different titles and ranks, that is a negation of the very substance and life of the Church.”

We may also draw some comfort from Metropolitan Anthony’s observation on “the vision of the Church as the Holy Trinity mirrored: alive, dynamic, living.” This can only be demonstrated in small dioceses where everyone is known to the bishop.

The Living Body of Christ is characterized by an attitude of openness to the world beyond the canonical boundaries of the Church. This includes willingness for the Church to engage in dialogue with other Christian communities and with the broader cultural life of society.

Metropolitan Anthony teaches us that the Church betrays its vocation if it adopts the characteristics of any kind of ethnic, cultural or social ghetto. It even does so if it defines itself exhaustively as a gathered Eucharistic community. This is not to demean the liturgical life of the Church in any way or to suggest that we should become woolly minded in matters of doctrine or ethics. The Church is a prophetic body. This should not, however, be seen only, or even chiefly, in negative or censorious terms.

Metropolitan Anthony teaches that we are called to receive truth and acknowledge holiness wherever we discern them. The temptation to retreat into a “safe,” unchallenged religiosity, which can be locked away in some hermetically sealed part of our brains, is to be rejected.

Metropolitan Anthony does not stand alone in calling for this spirit of openness. It is a theme which runs through the teaching of Fr. Alexander Schmemann. It is also writ large in the works and lives of Fr. Alexander Menn and St. Maria of Paris. Given such a unified witness from people such as these, how can we fail to conclude that it is a vital message for our time? Ian Page

The Peace Church and the Ecumenical Community

by Fernando Enns

Pandora Press and WCC Publications, 360 pp., $28.81

The “historic peace churches” include the Quakers, Church of the Brethren and Mennonites. Enns is a Mennonite theologian who heads the Institute for Peace Church Theology in Hamburg. The book clarifies these churches’ emphasis on ethics as a core part of their identity, and a basis for providing an example to other Christian denominations. He alludes to “the urgent need for the Christian traditions to present nonviolence, peace-building and reconciliation as axioms of their theology.”

Enns acknowledges that Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism contribute a greater appreciation of mystery and apostolic continuity, but asserts that “it is not enough to preserve the church’s attributes in doctrine. … There must be a comprehensive connection between those attributes and the life of the church.” The book points out the dichotomy of “the believed church” (the ideal Body of Christ) and “the experienced church” (that which actually exists). He quotes another writer who says, “Ecclesiology and Christian ethics must stay in close dialogue, each honoring and learning from the distinctive language and thought-forms of the other.”

“In a free church understanding, Christian faith is expressed in terms of experiential religion. The life of faith is known through first-hand experience, with no room for a second-hand or substitute faith. Dogmas, confessions, rational theology, and office bearers could at best offer supportive help for personal faith.” Yet, Enns says, “the koinonia of the church is a unity within a continuous plurality…” “Diversity as well as unity is a gift of God,” states a 1993 WCC paper. He goes further when he states: “Christ is present outside the church as well, for the Spirit ‘blows where it will’ and works in many areas.” Alex Patico

Not by Bread Alone

Homilies on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew

by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

Dewdney: Synaxis Press, 2008

There is a variety of scholarly and devotional books on the Gospel of Matthew, and there is a long debate between the devotional and scholarly world about how to interpret and exegete such a text. The academic is often more concerned about intellectual rigor and the insights of historic criticism. The devotional tradition tends to be more interested in the significance of the text for the heart and personal life journey.

It is from within the wisdom tradition of Orthodoxy that a more contemplative reading of biblical texts has emerged that avoids both approaches. Not by Bread Alone stands very much within the classical Orthodox tradition of contemplative exegesis.

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo is certainly one of the wisest and most insightful theologians of our day. The verses and chapters that are interpreted go straight to the pure gold of Matthew, then present such distilled wisdom to the listening ear, heart and head. Needless to say, this book deserves many a meditative reading.

Not by Bread Alone is a must for anyone interested in how to read, interpret and internalize sacred texts in a way that leads to transformation and deification.

Ron Dart

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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Advice on Peacemaking from the Saints

A selection of challenging quotations for meditation assembled by Alexander Patico, secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America

First Century

For he is our peace, who has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. … He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. … Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather set aside wrath, for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, declares the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink.

St. Paul

Let us praise with reverent hymns of peace the Divine Peace. … God is the fount of all peace, who joins all things together in an unity without confusion. … There is no need to tell how the loving-kindness of Christ comes bathed in peace. Therefore we must learn to cease from strife, whether against ourselves or against one another, or against the angels, and instead to labor together even with the angels for the accomplishment of God’s Will, in accordance with the providential purpose of Jesus who works all things in all and makes peace, unutterable and foreordained from eternity, and reconciles us to Himself, and, in Himself, to the Father. Concerning these supernatural gifts enough has been said with confirmation drawn from the holy testimony of the scriptures.

Dionysius the Areopagite

Second Century

They [the Christians] love all men, and they are persecuted by all. … They are put to death, and yet they are endowed with life. … They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things. They are dishonored, and yet they are glorified in their dishonor. They are evil spoken of, and yet they are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect. Doing good, they are punished as evil-doers; being punished, they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life.


What, then, are these teachings in which we are reared? “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust. … “Who [of the pagan philosophers] have so purified their own hearts as to love their enemies instead of hating them … and to pray for those who plot against them? … We cannot endure to see a man being put to death even justly. … We see little difference between watching a man being put to death and killing him. So we have given up [gladiatorial] spectacles. … What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God?

Athenagoras of Athens

“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” And that it did so come to pass, we can convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, only twelve in number, who, by the power of God, proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God. We who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ.

St. Justin Martyr

Third Century

The question is now whether a member of the faithful can become a soldier and whether a soldier can be admitted to the Faith … how will a Christian do so? … The Lord, by taking away Peter’s sword, disarmed every soldier thereafter. … We [the Christians] started yesterday and already we have filled the world and everything that belongs to you the cities, apartment houses, fortresses, towns, market places, the camps themselves, your tribes, town councils, the imperial palace, the Senate, the Forum. The only thing we have left to you are the temples. We can count your armies; there is a greater number of Christians in a single province! What kind of war would we, who willingly submit to the sword, not be ready or eager for … if it were not for the fact that according to our doctrine it is more permissible to be killed than to kill.


Nothing is so characteristically Christian as being a peacemaker. … I cannot persuade myself that without love to others, and without, as far as rests with me, peaceableness towards all, I can be called a worthy servant of Jesus Christ.

St. Basil the Great

It is well known that Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus, who brought the mass of mankind under a single sovereignty. The existence of many kingdoms would have hindered the spread of Jesus’ teachings over the whole world because everywhere men would have been forced to serve in the army and go to war on behalf of their country How could this peaceful teaching, which prohibits a man from avenging himself even against his enemies, have gained sway if the whole world situation at the time of Jesus had not been made more peaceful,


God, in prohibiting killing, discountenances not only brigandage, which is contrary to human law, but also that which men regard as legal. Thus participation in war will not be legitimate to a just man; his “military service” is justice itself. … What are the interests of our country, but the inconveniences of another state or nation? that is, to extend the boundaries which are violently taken from others, to increase the power of the state, to improve the revenues all which things are not virtues, but the overthrowing of virtues: for, in the first place, the union of human society is taken away, innocence is taken away, the abstaining from the property of another is taken away; lastly, justice itself is taken away, which is unable to bear the tearing asunder of the human race, and wherever arms have glittered, must be banished and exterminated from thence. … How can a man be just who injures, hates, despoils and puts to death? Yet they who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things.

Lactantius [tutor of Crispus, the son of St. Constantine the Great]

The loud trumpet, when sounded, collects the soldiers, and proclaims war. And shall not Christ, breathing a strain of peace to the ends of the earth, gather together His own soldiers, the soldiers of peace? … He has gathered the bloodless host of peace. … The trumpet of Christ is His Gospel. He hath blown it, and we have heard. “Let us array ourselves in the armor of peace, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, and taking the shield of faith, and binding our brows with the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” So the apostle in the spirit of peace commands. These are our invulnerable weapons: armed with these, let us face the evil one. … If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are His laws? You shall not kill, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also. … The Church is an army that sheds no blood.

Clement of Alexandria

The world is soaked with mutual blood. When individuals commit homicide, it is a crime; it is called a virtue when it is done in the name of the state. Impunity is acquired for crimes not by reason of innocence but by the magnitude of the cruelty. … Man is killed for the pleasure of man, and to be able to kill is a skill, is an employment, is an art. Crime is not only committed but is taught. What can be called more inhuman, what more repulsive? It is a training that one may be able to kill, and that he kills is a glory … they adorn themselves for a voluntary death, wretched they even glory in their wicked deeds.

St. Cyprian of Carthage

Fourth Century

I am a soldier of Christ. To fight is not permissible for me.

St. Martin of Tours

Both the Emperor’s commands and yours [person in authority] must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of heaven. If they are, they must not only not be obeyed; they must be resisted.

St. Euphemia

It is good to live in peace, for the wise person practices perpetual prayer. … However, you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through accident, faintheartedness, and evil thoughts … attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees, and all members … dissipates the strength of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray. But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away.

Amma Theodora

If force is used, I cannot meet it. I shall be able to grieve, to weep, to groan; against weapons, soldiers, Goths, my tears are my weapons, for these are a priest’s defense. … I ought not, I cannot resist in any other way, for to flee and forsake the Church is not my way, lest any one should suppose I did so from fear of some heavier punishment. You yourselves know that I am wont to show respect to our emperors, but not to yield to them, to offer myself freely to punishment, and not to fear what is prepared for me. … Some ask whether, in case of a shipwreck, a wise man ought to take a plank away from an ignorant sailor. Although it seems better for the common good that a wise man rather than a fool should escape from shipwreck, yet I do not think that a Christian, a just and a wise man, ought to save his own life by the death of another; just as when he meets with an armed robber he cannot return his blows, lest in defending his life he should stain his love toward his neighbor. The verdict on this is plain and clear in the books of the Gospel. ‘Put away your sword, for every one that takes up the sword shall perish by the sword.’ What robber is more hateful than the persecutor who came to kill Christ? But Christ would not be defended from the wounds of the persecutor, for He willed to heal all by His wounds.

St. Ambrose of Milan

We, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another. An ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature.


Praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of law. … How great punishment must they deserve, who, far from themselves forgiving, do even entreat God for vengeance on their enemies, and as it were diametrically transgress this law; and this while He is doing and contriving all, to hinder our being at variance one with another? For since love is the root of all that is good, He, removing from all sides whatever mars it, brings us together, and cements us to each other. … To conquer enemies does not render kings so illustrious, as to conquer wrath and anger. For, in the former case, the success is due to arms and soldiers; but here the trophy is simply your own, and you have no one to divide the glory of your moral wisdom. You have overcome barbarian war, overcome also Imperial wrath! … Just as maniacs, who never enjoy tranquility, so also he who is resentful and retains an enemy will never have the enjoyment of any peace.

St. John Chrysostom

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Who are these children? Those who show forth in their own life the characteristic of the Divine energy. … This work He ordains also for you, namely to cast out hatred and abolish war, to exterminate envy and banish strife, to extinguish from within resentment of injuries smoldering in the heart. … For as light follows the departure of darkness, thus also these evil things are replaced by the fruits of the Spirit: by charity, joy, peace, benignity, magnanimity, all the good things enumerated by the Apostle. How then should the dispenser of the Divine gifts not be blessed, since he imitates the gifts of God and models his own good deeds on the Divine generosity? … But perhaps the beatitude does not only regard the good of others. I think that man is called a peacemaker par excellence who pacifies perfectly the discord between flesh and spirit in himself and the war that is inherent in nature, so that the law of the body no longer wars against the law of the mind but is subjected to the higher rule and becomes a servant of the Divine ordinance.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Fifth Century

I have heard that there were two old men who lived together for many years, never quarreling, and that one said to the other, “Let us also pick a quarrel with each other, even as others do.” His companion answered, “I don’t know how to start a quarrel.” The other man answered and said to him, “Look, I will place a brick between us and will say, ‘This is mine,’ and then you say, ‘It is not yours, but mine’; and from this quarreling will begin. They placed a brick between them and one of them said, “This is mine,” and his companion answered and said after him, “This is not so, for it is mine.” Straightaway the other replied and said to him, “If this be so, and the brick is yours, take it and go.” Thus they were unable to quarrel.

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Sixth Century

Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sin, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer. You will know that you have completely freed yourself of this rot, not when you pray for the person who has offended you, not when you exchange presents with him, not when you invite him to your table, but only when, on hearing that he has fallen into bodily or spiritual misfortune, you suffer and weep for him as for yourself.

St. John Climacus

Seventh Century

“But I say to you,” the Lord says, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you.” Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one who loves all equally in imitation of God. St. Maximus the Confessor

Ninth Century

You detach yourself from the cross to which you have crucified yourself alongside the Savior if you go and attack your brother.

St. Theodore Studite

Eleventh Century

Above all things: do not forget the poor, but support them to the extent of your means. Give to the orphan, protect the widow, and permit the mighty to destroy no man. Take not the life of the just or the unjust, nor permit him to be killed. Destroy no Christian soul, even though he be guilty of murder.

St. Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles

Fifteenth Century

Our head, Christ our God … does not tolerate that the bond of love be taken from us…

St. Mark of Ephesus

Eighteenth Century

If the matter is solved with war, you will suffer much destruction. … If they find silver in the street, they will not bend down to take it. But for an ear of wheat, they will kill each other trying to take it first. … In the city [Constantinople], so much blood will be spilled that a three-year-old calf will swim in it. … After the war, a man will have to run half an hour to find another human being to join him in fellowship.

St. Cosmas the Aetolian

Nineteenth Century

God is fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. And so, if we feel in our hearts coldness, which is from the devil … then let us call upon the Lord and He will come and warm our hearts with perfect love not only for Him but for our neighbor as well. … You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. … Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

St. Seraphim of Sarov

Twentieth Century

It is easier for a feeble straw to resist a mighty fire than for the nature of sin to resist the power of love. We must cultivate this love in our souls, that we may take our place with all the saints, for they were all-pleasing unto God through their love for their neighbor.

St. Elizabeth, the New Martyr

The bodies of fellow human beings must be treated with greater care than our own. Christian love teaches us to give our brethren not only spiritual gifts, but material gifts as well. Even our last shirt, our last piece of bread must be given to them. … The way to God lies through love of other people and there is no other way. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked if I was successful in my ascetic exercises or how many prostrations I made in the course of my prayers. I shall be asked, did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners: that is all I shall be asked. … Christ’s love does not know how to measure and divide, does not know how to spare itself. Our love should not be any different.

St. Maria of Paris

Should we, Christians, embark upon the way of vengeance? Let this not be! Not even if our hearts would break from the … oppressions inflicted upon our religious feelings, our love of our native land or our temporary well-being, even if our feelings would infallibly tell us who and where our assailant is. No, let better bleeding wounds be inflicted upon us, than that we move to revenge … against our enemies, or those whom we take to be the source of our suffering. Follow Christ! Don’t betray Him! Don’t fall into temptation. Do not allow your own soul to perish in the blood of vengeance. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow

Twenty-First Century

If we live as people of God, there will be room for all nations in the Balkans and in the world. If we liken ourselves to Cain who killed his brother Abel, then the entire earth will be too small even for two people. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to be always children of God and love one another. We should remember the words of St. Paul: “If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.”

Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Any Georgian who kills another person shames his nation.

Patriarch Ilya of Georgia

Today blood is being shed and people being killed in South Ossetia, and my heart deeply laments over it. Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox people, called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love, confront each other…

Patriarch Aleksy of Russia

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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Corporatism or Commonweal?

by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

This is the rule of the most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good, for nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbors.

St. John Chrysostom

The concept of the “common good” has fallen out of favor in recent years. Over the past two decades, it has become increasingly common to dismiss the notion that we all share an interest in the broader community, that society is more than simply a collection of individuals pursuing their individual material self-interest.

In Socrates’ Apology, he tells a story that illustrates the tension between corporatism and commonweal. Zeus, Socrates relates, decided to help mankind create a human society. He sent Hermes to distribute the necessary technical and managerial skill to certain people. The result was a society based on self-interest and expertise. Such a society was centrifugal and fragmented. As the philosopher John Ralston-Saul observed, Zeus had created a society based on the corporatist model, with economic and social structures based on professional self-interest. People were defined by what they did. In more contemporary terms, this would be the corporatism of consumer capitalism, also based on self-interest and self-centeredness: defining people by what and how much they consume.

Zeus sees his error and decides to remedy it by having Hermes distribute social reverence (aidos) and right-mindedness (diki) to each person. Social reverence signifies a sense of “community,” a shared awareness, a shared knowledge of selfconstraint and belonging. Right-mindedness relates to a sense of social justice, integrity, freedom, and social order: a shared sense of responsibility. This is what we refer to as “commonweal.” It defines people simply as “fellow human beings,” as members of a community that we call “humanity.”

Corporatism, a fundamental aspect of our modern consumerist economic system, is inimical to Christianity and a violation of God’s Law. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 24:19-21)

Corporatism reorganizes society with the reduction of the individual to the status of consumer. To consume is regarded as patriotic while to consume in excess raises’s one’s social status. This new economic world order presents us with intense moral and ethical contradictions, arguing that greed, self-gratification, and excess consumption are simply aspects of human nature. This argument, taken from the doctrines of Social Darwinism, is certainly questionable. As Linda McQuaig observed in her essay, “Lost in the Global Shopping Mall”:

The rapaciousness of certain business leaders has been much in the spotlight…. Even conservative pundits appear shaken by the astounding greed and dishonesty at the heart of … corporate culture. Still, some shrug it off as simple human nature, saying that we are inherently a competitive, acquisitive species, naturally inclined to push our own self-interest as far as we possibly can. But is this the whole picture? Is our society really nothing more than a loose collection of shoppers, graspers and self-absorbed swindlers? Perhaps we are in danger of becoming such a culture, but it is important to remember that culture itself is a learned set of rules.”

At this point we may examine the corporatization of morality and, to some extent, of the Christian Church.

The concept of commonweal the common good is fundamental to authentic Christianity. A clear and profound doctrine of commonweal permeates the Old Testament. It is made law in the book of Deuteronomy and constantly enjoined by the Holy Prophets.

Jesus Christ reaffirms this “law of commonweal” with his two great moral imperatives, (“love your neighbor as yourself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”). Christ makes the love of neighbor  together with unconditional love of God the very foundation and essence of the Law and the Prophets. The fulfillment of such a moral imperative certainly requires a direct encounter and interaction with culture and society.

Unfortunately, this is an encounter that has been either abandoned, corporatized or reduced to outbursts of moralism by many Christian bodies.

Contrary to this trend, the Christian community must address society and interact in the shaping of our culture. However, this interaction must consist of something more than merely scolding politicians and demanding the law enforce on all citizens the sort of behavior we consider to be correct. We must avoid the inner contradictions of moralism and address the whole scope of true morality.

Morality or Moralism? How can Christians consider it to be an authentic expression of morality to oppose the killing of unborn children while ignoring the killing of children who are already born? Is it truly moral to protect the lives of unborn children but ignore or trivialize the fact that they will have to grow up in a world where, because of our own excess, they may not have sufficient food and many of the necessary natural resources will have been squandered and climate change will have made their lives precarious and uncertain? Is it actually moral to demand that governments enforce the sort of correct personal behavior that our own ideologies demand while turning consumer capitalism into a religious doctrine that cannot be subjected to critique and criticism?

One fatal flaw in the preaching of Christianity that has had negative effects in North America is the failure to distinguish between morality and moralism. From an authentic Christian point of view, true morality has to do not only with salvation but with every aspect of our inter-human relations; it is not simply a system of correct behavior.

True morality is not a system of law which, if obeyed, makes one a moral person. It is necessary to have such laws for the sake of society, but that has little to do with the change of a person’s heart and an inner transformation into the image of Christ’s love. Morality is not a form of bondage but a path of liberation. When we speak of “the law of God,” we are not speaking of an ordinary, worldly notion of “law.” God’s law is not given to repress us but to protect us.

If we are driving along a dangerous highway and the signs warn us to slow down because there is a dangerous curve in the road, that is a “law.” The speed limit is set by law. If we disregard that law and crash over a cliff because we are driving too fast, we do not claim that the government punished us by making us crash. On the contrary, the government tried to save us from serious injury or death by making that law.

This is precisely the meaning of the “law of God,” of our system of morality. God has revealed to us a manner of life that can keep us from much pain and suffering and from many disasters. He has called upon us to realize that his law is a law of love, and that we should obey it out of love and trust in him, not from fear of punishment. Moreover, such true morality constrains us to imitate God’s love in our dealings with the world. This is the essence of true morality.

We cannot equate morality with behavior that is acceptable to a given society, because often a society accepts behavior that we know is contrary not only to our salvation but is also inimical with the concept of commonweal. If we preach only a legal morality that does not encompass the moral imperatives of Jesus Christ then we are mere moralists. Moralism is cold, unforgiving, full of hatred, and spiritually destructive. It is self-centered, and it deforms the idea of morality for the advantage of one or another class in society to the detriment of others.

When we speak of true morality, we are not referring to simple obedience to a system of law but a free accord with a system of spiritual healing. The authentic Christian spiritual life really does provide us with the means for moral healing, but even among our own people, we see so many who never experience such healing. This is because they encounter only moralism: “Obey this law or God will do something bad to you.”

Moralism does not take into account what is necessary to actually heal a person and deliver them from the bondage of their inner suffering so they can lead a moral life; it thinks only about condemnation and punishment. But let us indicate how these ideas have a direct bearing on our subject.

Our modern consumerism inclines a society not only to excess but also to self-centeredness and indifference. One can opt to blame such attitudes on Satan, but when one does, let him remember that the power of Satan in our lives can be defeated only by means of unselfish love, by adopting a sincere sense of commonweal to love your neighbor as yourself in place of a desensitized self-interest. There is no such thing as Christian morality without an inner struggle toward unselfish love, self-constraint, and a sincere concern for the welfare not only of those around us but even for future generations.

Moralism condemns, usually with arrogant self-righteousness, while a spirit of true Christian morality seeks one’s own moral healing and the moral healing of those around us so they might be liberated from bondage. This is the concept of morality that can keep us alive spiritually in our consumerist and secular culture; this is the image of morality that will attract others to Christ and to authentic faith, a concept that can help form in us a truly Christian sense of commonweal.

The Corporatization of Morality: The corporatization of morality may be a product of radical individualism. It arises almost automatically when Christianity is transformed from a living faith into an ideology informed by such categories as liberal, conservative, leftist, right wing, and so forth. Morality then becomes corporatized into various categories of correct behavior, defined by an essentially political mindset of one or another religio-political ideology.

This narrows the concepts, so clearly stated in the Old Testament, down to horror at those things condemned with little regard for those things enjoined: social justice, non-condescending care for the poor and all those in need, and a powerful sense of mutual responsibility for the common good of the nation, of all the inhabitants of that nation.

In the Old Testament law, there are clearly ecological provisions for the care and nurturing of the land: a Sabbath for the agricultural land is just as much a part of the Law as a Sabbath for man (Leviticus 25:4-6). This care of the land, which must be cherished and nurtured, is surely as much a moral law as any in the Old Testament. Just as surely, it shows a deep concern for the common good of the whole population which must be fed from that land. This concern so obviously extends to future generations.

Organizing and spending large sums of money to protest and lobby against certain forms of personal behavior may be useful, but there is an inner contradiction that is inexcusable when the same organizers refuse to condemn corporate immorality or organize and finance lobbying about environmental issues that relate to the very survival of whole populations and the health, welfare, and survival of future generations. The destruction of the environment is every bit as immoral and kills just as many children as abortion. Any truly Christian concept of morality will encompass corporate and environmental immorality with the same fervor that it addresses personal morality.

We may have a “fallen human nature,” but it is clear that humankind is essentially good and, as the image and likeness of God, has an innate inclination toward virtue. We will all live in the new world order of consumer capitalism and secularism. We will all partake of the benefits of consumer capitalism and enjoy its positive aspect.

But as Christians, we will also have to face the moral challenges of its negative side. It is urgent for us, as moral human beings, to recognize that future generations will pay a terrible price for the excess and overindulgence of our era. We cannot separate spirituality from moral responsibility and here, consumerism poses yet another challenge.

Since consumerism thrives on over-consumption, not only must products not be durable, as we mentioned before, but they should not be reasonably “upgradable” either. Computers, for example, are discarded and replaced regularly. People are shocked to learn that, in our monastery print shop, we are still using a computer that we purchased in 1988, yet it is perfectly adequate for our typesetting needs. Let us look at the moral tragedy of this problem.

In Canada alone, 140,000 tons of computer equipment, cell phones, and other types of electronic equipment are discarded into waste disposal yards every year. That is the weight of about 28,000 fully-grown adult African elephants. This results in 4,750 tons of lead, 4.5 tons of cadmium, and 1.1 tons of mercury being leached into the water system and food chain every year.

These toxic heavy metals are already creating havoc on people’s health and causing a loss of drinking water reserves. Future generations will pay a devastating price for all this. Whether we care enough to do something about it or to resist this aspect of consumerism is a moral issue. It is also a barometer of our spirituality.

Yet we need not succumb to what Jürgen Habermas calls “personality systems without any aspiration to subjective truth nor secure processes for communal interpretation.” This is why it is so important for us to consider the role authentic Christian morality can play in this unfolding drama of our present era. We cannot have such a role if we opt out of the political dialogue and refuse to engage culture and interact with the society around us in a creative and healing way.

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo is abbot of the Monastery of All Saints of North America in Deroche, British Columbia, Canada, and leads the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in Canada

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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May Christians Kill?

By Fr. Philip LeMasters

Eastern Christianity does not view morality in fundamentally legal terms or within the context of abstract philosophy, but as part of the holistic vocation of humanity for theosis: participation by grace in the eternal life of the Holy Trinity. Hence, the Orthodox vision must be considered on its own terms, and not distorted by the imposition of Western categories. The question for the Orthodox is not, “What approach to warfare is most persuasive rationally or incumbent upon all Christians as a matter of moral law?” Instead, the East asks, “In light of the human vocation for growth in holiness and communion with God, how should Christians respond to the prospect of warfare?”

The prominence of petitions for peace in the Liturgy sheds light on the Orthodox response to war. Since the Church believes that the Liturgy is a participation in the worship of heaven, and grounds the knowledge of God in worship and mystical experience, it is fitting to place the issue of war and peace within the context of the liturgical life of Eastern Christianity, for it is in worship that the Church participates most fully in communion with the Holy Trinity.

In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the first petitions of the Great Ektenia are for “the peace from above, and for the salvation of our souls” and “the peace of the whole world; for the good estate of the churches of God, and for the union of all.” At every Liturgy we pray for our parish, the clergy and laity, for government officials and all those in public service, for the place we live and for all towns and cities, for peaceful times, for travelers, the sick, the suffering, for captives and their salvation, and for our deliverance from all tribulation, wrath, danger, and need. “Help us; save us; have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Your grace,” we beg, finally commending “ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God.”

These are not simply decorative words. Neither are they prayers which refer merely to the inner tranquility of worshipers, nor to an entirely future Kingdom of Heaven. Instead, they embody an Orthodox vision of salvation and call upon the Lord to enable us to experience his heavenly peace right now in every dimension of life: personal, public, religious, temporal, and political. Whoever prays these prayers is asking already to participate in the Kingdom of God on earth, to find the healing and blessing of salvation in every dimension of one’s life indeed, in every aspect of God’s creation.

The entire Liturgy is an epiphany of God’s Kingdom on earth. The priest begins the service with a proclamation, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages,” which declares that the assembly is now participating in the worship of Heaven. The Church is raised to the life of the Kingdom as her members gather to glorify and commune with the Holy Trinity.

Because we believe in the Incarnation and the goodness of God’s physical creation, we pray for peace and salvation upon people in “real life” situations of peril and suffering, for deliverance from the kinds of calamities and hardships that beset our mortal bodies in this life.

The peace for which we pray includes every dimension of our existence before the Lord. God created us for communion with Himself in all aspects of our personhood: body, soul, and spirit. Christian salvation entails the resurrection of the complete, embodied self in the blessed communion of Heaven and the transformation of the entire creation in subjection to the Holy Trinity.

The peace for which we pray is our participation in that all-inclusive salvation. There is no true peace other than that found in the healing and transformation brought to human beings by the God-Man in whom our humanity is united with divinity. Since God intends to save us in every dimension of our existence, his healing concerns the full range of human life. Even as bread and wine become the means of our communion with the Lord, we are to offer every bit of ourselves and of this world to the Father in union with the sacrifice of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. We will then find life-giving communion with the Holy Trinity in everything we say and do; our life will become a eucharistic offering as we grow in holiness and union with God.

If the Liturgy is a participation in the eschatological peace of the Kingdom of God, it is fair to ask whether the members of the Church recognize and live out this vision of heavenly peace. An immediate note of realism comes to mind, as the members of the Church are sinners who have not manifested fully the new life of Christ. Nonetheless, the presence of the Holy Spirit enables the Church to embody a foretaste of the eschatological peace of the Kingdom of Heaven, and there is much in the history and ongoing life of the Church which witnesses to the saving peace of God here and now.

Though there is some ambiguity in the Church’s teaching on Christian participation in war, the Orthodox vision of peace prizes selfless love and forgiveness over violence, viewing war, in some situations, as a lesser evil with damaging spiritual consequences for all involved.

In contrast with Orthodoxy, it is easier to describe the traditional Western Christian justifications of war, which have included both the granting of plenary indulgences to those who fought in the crusades and the affirmation of a just-war theory. The former envisioned the killing of infidels as such a righteous act that the crusaders were released from all temporal punishments for their sins, including exemption from purgatory. The latter, which has been widely influential in Western culture, provides moral sanction to wars which meet certain philosophical criteria.

Orthodoxy has never embraced the crusade ethic. Orthodoxy has viewed war always as an evil, even if, as the theologian Olivier Clément expressed it, “The Church has accepted warfare sorrowfully as a sometimes necessary evil, but without concealing that it is an evil which must be avoided or limited as much as possible.” Elsewhere he notes, “The only normative ideal is that of peace, and hence the Orthodox Church has never made rules on the subject of ius belli and of ius in bello.”

Canon 13 of St. Basil’s 92 Canonical Epistles states:

Our fathers did not consider killings committed in the course of wars to be classifiable as murders at all, on the score, it seems to me, of allowing a pardon to men fighting in defense of sobriety and piety. Perhaps, though, it might be advisable to refuse them communion for three years, on the ground that their hands are not clean.

Father John McGuckin observes that St. Basil refers to St. Athanasius as the father who wrote, in his “Letter to Amun,” that killing the enemy was legitimate in wartime. McGuckin argues, however, that St. Athanasius was advising Amun on the question of the sinfulness of nocturnal emissions. “In fact the original letter had nothing whatsoever to do with war… The military image is entirely incidental, and Athanasius in context merely uses it to illustrate his chief point in the letter,” which is to show that the moral significance of actions may not be discerned without reference to the contexts in which they occurred.

Against any simplistic readings of the letter as a blanket justification of killing in war, St. Basil places the issue in a specific context. As McGuckin writes on St. Basil in “War and Repentance,” “what he speaks about is the canonical regulation of war in which a Christian can engage and find canonical forgiveness for a canonically prohibited act…”

Killing in war had been forbidden completely in earlier canons, such as Canon 14 of Hippolytus in the fourth century, which states:

A Christian is not to become a soldier. A Christian must not become a soldier, unless he is compelled by a chief bearing the sword. He is not to burden himself with the sin of blood. But if he has shed blood, he is not to partake of the mysteries, unless he is purified by a punishment, tears, and wailing. He is not to come forward deceitfully but in the fear of God.

St. Basil distinguishes between outright murder and killing “for the defense of Christian borders from the ravages of pagan marauders.” By limiting fighting to such circumstances, he sought to “restrict the bloodshed to a necessary minimum.” In contrast to the lifelong exclusion from the sacraments imposed on murderers, St. Basil recommends three years of exclusion from the chalice, thus providing a public sign that the Gospel standard is violated by war.

The Christian soldier who has killed in war is to “undergo the cathartic experience of temporary return to the lifestyle of penance… Basil’s restriction of the time of penance to three years, seemingly harsh to us moderns, was actually a commonly recognized sign of merciful leniency in the ancient rule book of the early Church.” (It is not uncommon to meet veterans who are tormented for the rest of their lives by the horrors of war. I recall the father of a childhood friend who suffered from nightmares thirty years after the conclusion of his military service during World War II. Those who are trained to kill sometimes have difficulty returning to the mores of civilian life, not to mention the life of theosis.)

McGuckin concludes that this canon of St. Basil excludes the development of just war theory in Orthodoxy. Though particular wars may be necessary or unavoidable, they are never justified, as shedding the blood of other human beings is contradictory to the way of the Kingdom of God.

In his book, The Price of Prophecy, Fr. Alexander Webster agrees that a theory of justified war “has never been systematically elucidated in Orthodox moral theology.” He describes participation in such a war as “a lesser moral option than absolute pacifism, for those unwilling or unable to pay the full price of prophecy.” He suggests that Orthodox criteria for a just war include a “proper political ethos,” meaning that the nation going to war should follow “the natural-law ethic and have positive relations with the Orthodox community.” The war should also take place for the “defense of the People of God” from injustice, invasion, or oppression “by those hostile to the free exercise of the Orthodox faith.” A proper “spiritual intent” should also lead to “forgiveness and rehabilitation” of enemies as persons who bear the image of God, and not “mere revenge, self-righteousness, or conquest.” Webster states that

Whereas the pacifist seeks to emulate Jesus as the Good Shepherd who allowed Himself to be slain unjustly by and for sinners, the just warrior perceives a higher duty: to defend the relatively innocent from unjust aggression. If the Orthodox pacifist can never do anything evil even for a reasonably just end, the Orthodox warrior cannot preserve his personal holiness by allowing evil to triumph through his own inaction.

It is curious for Webster to suggest that the just warrior follows a “higher duty” than that of the pacifist, especially when the clear norm for the Church is the selfless, forgiving, nonresistant way of Christ. Likewise, the enumeration of moral categories for a justified war and the reference to governments which follow an ethic of natural law raise the question of whether this interpretation places questions of war and peace more within the context of human moral reasoning than in that of the journey to theosis. It is fair to ask whether Webster’s formulation gives sufficient attention to the spiritual vision of Orthodoxy, as opposed to the greater reliance on an ethics of human reason in Western Christianity.

Though Christlike response of “turning the other cheek” to assaults is the ideal, the Orthodox Church does not prescribe pacifism or nonviolence as an absolute requirement of the Christian life. The Church’s moral guidance serves the goal of theosis, of guiding the members of Christ’s Body to growth in holiness and union with the Trinity. The canons of the Church are applied pastorally in order to help particular people find salvation as they seek to be faithful in the given set of challenges and weaknesses which they face. The Church’s experience is that temporal authority and the use of force are necessary to restrain evil and promote good in our fallen world.

Though the witness of the early Church was largely, but not exclusively, pacifist, the Byzantine vision was of symphonia, or harmony, between God’s Kingdom and earthly realms. Hence, Christian emperors and armies fought wars and sustained a social order that sought to embody faithfulness to the Lord in all areas of life. Church and empire were to be united, in Webster’s words, “even as the divine and human natures of Christ are united in the One Person of the Incarnate Son of God.” In practice, however, that vision was never fully realized in Byzantium; human sinfulness corrupted its political and ecclesiastical leaders in many ways.

There have remained in Orthodoxy, however, indications of the ideal of peace. Monks and clergy, for example, may not bear arms and are forbidden to use deadly violence even in cases of self-defense. Canon V of St. Gregory of Nyssa “states that should a priest ‘fall into the defilement of murder even involuntarily (i.e., in self-defense), he will be deprived of the grace of the priesthood, which he will have profaned by this sacrilegious crime.'”

Those whose hands have shed blood are no longer the icons of Christ which priests are called to be, and are not suited to serve at the altar. As Webster writes in The Pacifist Option, “An Orthodox priest is supposed to be an exemplar for the Christian community, a man with a personal history free from all serious or grievous offenses including the taking of a human life for any reason.”

Even as the sacramental priesthood is a special vocation to which not all are called, the straightforward embodiment of Christlike, nonviolent love incumbent upon priests is not canonically required of all believers. In keeping with the practice of economia, the norm of nonresistant love may not be directly applicable to those whose vocations in our broken world require the defense of the innocent. These may grow in holiness by fighting as justly as possible, even as they mourn the harm done to themselves and others by their use of violence.

Whatever choices we make in our efforts to defend the innocent from attack and abuse, none are perfect. In a fallen world populated by sinful people, every Christian’s journey to the Kingdom will be marked by a measure of spiritual brokenness, and repentance is the only road to healing.

Particular countries and peoples have been so closely identified with the Orthodox faith that their defensive wars against Islamic invaders, though not Western-style crusades, have been described as “a difficult and painful defense of the Cross.” The appeal for “victory over their enemies” at the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and other instances of martial imagery in the liturgies, has at times been corrupted into a “national Messianism” in which a soldier who dies in battle is regarded as a martyr and the evil of war is forgotten.

It would be a mistake, however, to suggest that Orthodoxy has enthusiastically endorsed war. Even in cases of the defense of a Christian people from Islamic invasion, the spiritual gravity of warfare has not been forgotten. For example, St. Sergius of Radonezh in the fourteenth century gave his blessing to Grand Prince Dimitri to fight a defensive war against the Tatar Khan only after he received assurances that the prince had already exhausted every possible means of reconciliation.

Kutuzov’s strategy in response to Napoleon’s invasion was similar, abandoning Moscow to the French and merely harassing Napoleon’s forces during their withdrawal, having no other aim than to drive the invader back to the frontier.

Far from being examples of unbridled militarism, these are instances which reflect the reluctant acceptance of war at times as a necessary evil.

These notes of realism should not be allowed to obscure the Church’s insistence that “non-retribution, the avoidance of violence, the returning of good for evil … and the harmony of peoples” are a holistic “normative good which Christians must seek with God’s help,” in the words of Olivier Clément.

Fr. Stanley Harakas observes that “the Eastern Patristic tradition rarely praised war, and to my knowledge, almost never called it ‘just’ or a moral good…. The peace ideal continued to remain normative and no theoretical efforts were made to make conduct of war into a positive norm.”

The evidence for widespread pacifism in the Church is strongest before St. Constantine, when the Empire was pagan and Christians, including converts within the army, were persecuted for refusing to participate in the worship of false gods. Even after the Christianization of the Empire, with the eventual requirement that only Christians could be in the army, there remained teachers of pacifism in the Church, such as Pope St. Damasus, Prudentius, and St. Paulinus of Nola. Webster remarks that St. Paulinus, in the fifth century, was the last Church Father who explicitly addressed the moral issue of war from a pacifist perspective. From then on, pacifist sensibilities would manifest themselves in other contexts, such as the requirement of clerical and monastic nonresistance.

The contrast between the canonical requirement of pacifism for the clergy and the acceptance of military service by the laity requires further comment. Webster notes that the identification of clergy with the nonviolent norm and the allowance of participation in war on the part of the laity implies a two-tier ethic with a higher and a lower class of Christians, which could be taken to imply that the clergy are necessarily holier than the laity.

More faithful to Orthodox ecclesiology would be the affirmation that the norm now embodied by the clergy will at some future point become normative for all Orthodox. Here we are dealing with a point of eschatological tension that will be resolved in the Kingdom of Heaven, when all will be pacifists, for violence and other evils will be destroyed. In the present, as Webster writes in The Pacifist Option, the clergy are “expected to demonstrate the attainment of an advanced spiritual and moral state to which all Orthodox Christians are [ultimately] called.”

The recognition of pacifism as an ultimate norm or goal for all Christians should not be surprising. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ calls His followers to theosis, to growth in holiness and perfection in union with God. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) This teaching is the conclusion of a section focusing on the love of enemies, which is immediately preceded by the Lord’s repudiation of resistance against evil. “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (5:39)

These passages indicate that the repudiation of violence in self-defense is a sign of growth in holiness. Our Lord’s example of offering Himself on the cross for our salvation is the paradigmatic epiphany of the selfless love in which human beings are to participate as they come to share by grace in the life of the Trinity.

Fr. Philip LeMasters is professor of Religion and director of the Honors Program at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. A priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, he serves at St. Luke Orthodox Church in Abilene. This is an abridged version of a chapter in his book, The Goodness of God’s Creation (Regina Orthodox Press). The Patristic texts cited here and many others, plus essays by a number of Orthodox theologians, can be found in For the Peace from Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism, Hildo Bos and Jim Forest, editors, Syndesmos, 1999. The full text of the book is posted on the OPF web site:

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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Dear In Communion reader,

Dear In Communion reader,

Writing these occasional appeal letters is always quite a challenge. While they are OPF’s economic lifeline, reaching out to others with a begging cup is not easy, and even less so at a time when so many people are jobless (a great many of them homeless as well) while millions of others are in a state of anxiety.

The contents of this issue make the job a little easier. So much in it is remarkably timely.

Archbishop Lazar contrasts “corporatism” (his word for the economic model that has brought so many to ruin) with structures that promote the common good.

There is a report by an Orthodox Christian from Sweden about the peacework she has been doing in and near Jerusalem.

In “Pro-War is Not Pro-Life,” Metropolitan Jonah stresses the role depersonalization plays in every form of violence from war and abortion to euthanasia and street violence.

In “May Christians Kill?”, Fr. Philip LeMasters asks a question which relates the issue to the question of theosis our attempt to participate in the divine life. As a kind of addendum to his essay, there is a collection of texts “Advice to Peacemakers” that gives a sampling of saintly teaching from the 1st to the 21st centuries selected by Alex Patico.

The issue provides a good example of the educational work that is OPF’s main responsibility. Our task has especially to do with the recovery of lost or neglected aspects of Orthodox Christian teaching and practice regarding how we are to live between liturgies how we can live each day in such a way that we can dare to approach the chalice on Sundays.

Please remember that OPF leads a hand-to-mouth existence and do what you can to help us carry on. We are profoundly grateful to those who can only manage one gift a year, but without those who make donations more than once year, we wouldn’t be able to carry on our work, not to say expand it. (For those making larger donations, €100/$100 or more per year, as usual we offer a choice of gift books. The latest addition to the list is the just-published revised edition of Praying with Icons, expanded and with all the icons in color.)

In Christ’s peace,

Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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News: Winter 2009

Patriarch Kirill pledges to keep church unified

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who was enthroned in Moscow as Kirill I, the 16th patriarch in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, has stressed it is his task to ensure unity within the church and to preserve the faith, but he is also seen as being a more “political leader” than his predecessor by some analysts.

Hundreds of bishops attended the lengthy service on 1 February. A Vatican delegation was led by Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Four of Russia’s most famous choirs performed in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, chanting in Greek, “Axios! Axios! Axios!” (“He is Worthy!”), during the installation of the first Russian Orthodox patriarch to be elected since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In his first sermon as patriarch, Kirill stressed the importance of church unity.

“The Patriarch is the custodian of the internal unity of the Church and, together with his brothers in the episcopate, guardian of the purity of the faith,” he said.

He then addressed the issues of the collapse of the Russian Empire and later of the Soviet Union. This continues to affect the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill said, since its territory extends beyond the borders of the present-day Russian Federation.

“The Patriarch is the defender of the canonical borders of the church,” he said. “This ministry takes on special significance with the situation that arose after the formation of independent states on the territory of ‘historical Rus’.”

“In an era of moral relativism,” Kirill declared, “when the propaganda of violence and debauchery steals the souls of young people, we cannot wait quietly for youth to turn to Christ. … We must be of service to young people, however hard it might be for us of middle and older generations, and help them find faith in God and meaning in life, and together with this an understanding of true human happiness.”

Kirill was elected in the cathedral on 27 January by a Russian Orthodox Church council of bishops, clergy, monks and lay people. [Sophia Kishkovsky/ENI]

Patriarch Aleksy: 1929-2009

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksy II, 79 years old, died December 5 at his residence in Peredelkino outside Moscow. He had often been ill in recent years and had undergone several operations. The most recent, last September, was a heart operation.

Despite illness, he continued serving at the altar and taking an active part in church life. The day before his death, celebrating the start of the Christmas fast, he presided at a Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin.

The first patriarch of post-Soviet Russia, he led the revival of the Church and played a major role in restoring unity with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

The son of a priest, Aleksy Ridiger was born in Tallinn, Estonia, 23 February 1929. He entered the Leningrad Theological Seminary in 1947, graduating two years later. He was ordained priest in Leningrad in April 1950 and appointed to a parish in Estonia. While there he continued his external studies at the Leningrad Theological Academy, graduating in 1953.

He was tonsured as a monk in March 1961 and several months later was appointed Bishop of Tallinn. That same year the Russian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches and Aleksy became a member of the WCC’s Central Committee.

For many years he was active in the Conference of European Churches, of which he became president in 1972 and chairman in 1987.

During the 1980s, in the final years of the USSR, he did much to repair church relations with the Soviet state. While the Soviet Union was falling apart, Aleksy dedicated himself to keeping the church together.

In 1986 Aleksy was appointed Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod. His time in Leningrad coincided with Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, which greatly relaxed anti-religious restrictions. (Reacting to Aleksy’s death, the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he was “so shocked that it is hard for me to find words on the spot. I respected him deeply.”)

Elected patriarch in 1990, he traveled widely, visiting more than 100 dioceses and encouraged congregations to come back to the fold.

A noted academic, he had hundreds of articles published in both the religious and secular press worldwide. He placed great emphasis on the education of the clergy, overseeing the building of new theological schools and colleges.

At the end of 2006, there were more than 27,000 active parishes throughout the old territory of the Soviet Union, 20,000 more than when he had been elected.

‘My heart aches,’ says director of bombed Gaza clinic

Constantine Dabbagh had prepared himself for the worst when he visited the ruins of the Gaza clinic for mothers and children, run by his organization, that was destroyed by an Israeli jet.

Nonetheless, he said he was shocked by the scale of devastation. “There was a heap of rubble, and some papers from files blowing about in the wind, and that was all. Nothing survived,” said Dabbagh, the executive director in Gaza of the Middle East Council of Churches Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees.

“We thought there might have been something we could keep as a memento of 40 years serving the community, but everything had been obliterated. Only after digging did we find a couple of smashed machines,” the 70-year-old director said. “I cannot express how I felt. I didn’t cry, but my heart was aching. For humans to have caused this made it especially shocking.”

It wasn’t until several weeks after the attack that Dabbagh was able to carry out the inspection.

A Palestinian Christian, Dabbagh was spending Christmas in Bethlehem when the Israeli incursion into Gaza started at the end of 2008, and it wasn’t until the cease-fire in mid-January that he was able to return home.

The clinic, in the densely populated Shujaiya district of Gaza City, was destroyed after people living in the flat above received a telephone warning from the Israelis to vacate the premises. A missile strike followed 15 minutes later.

Dabbagh said the reason the building was targeted remains a mystery. He was adamant that it had not been used for military purposes by Hamas.

The clinic was closed at the time because of the security situation, but the bombing destroyed medicines and equipment worth thousands of dollars. The facility is supported by Action by Churches Together International, a global alliance of churches and related agencies.

One of only three clinics serving a population of 80,000, it offered pre- and post-natal care and the services of gynaecologists and general doctors. It had also recently launched an ambitious program to visit 15,000 homes to check every child between six months and three years old for malnutrition.

“Much has to be replaced,” said Dabbagh. “We had a laboratory fully equipped for blood tests and ultrasound, and we had only just put in computers with a management information system There was a six-week stock of medicine and water purification equipment, as well as milk and nutritious biscuits for the malnutrition program.”

After visiting the ruins, Dabbagh said a clinic operating out of borrowed premises would be running within days. “The community is very anxious that we continue, so we will be replacing what we can and starting from scratch,” he said. “The silence of Western governments in the face of incidents like this is the silence of the grave,” Dabbagh asserted.

“After nearly 41 years of occupation we have to say enough is enough. We are humiliated and oppressed, enslaved and imprisoned. You reach madness if you do not believe in God. It affects the young people particularly. They will not forgive anybody for what is going on. It is a tragedy.”

Convert elected head of the Orthodox Church of America

Over the course of 11 days in November, a soft-spoken monk known as Jonah saw his life change in ways he hadn’t dreamed of. For years he had been abbot of a monastery in California. Then, just days after being consecrated bishop of Forth Worth, Texas, he was elected metropolitan of the 100,000-member Orthodox Church in America.

Born James Paffhausen, the 49-year-old Chicago native was baptized in the Episcopal Church. He converted to Orthodoxy as a college student, was ordained a priest and then became a monk, and founded a monastery  St. John of San Francisco and Shanghai located in Manton, California.

His election as head of the church’s synod of bishops was greeted with joy by members of the OCA, which is still reeling from a September report detailing the disappearance of millions of dollars in church funds under two of Jonah’s predecessors.

Jonah was formally installed as metropolitan on December 28 at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC. Among the formidable tasks confronting him are the restoration of trust in the church’s hierarchy and administration as well as fostering unity among the different Orthodox churches in the US and raising Orthodoxy’s profile in a country where Orthodox Christianity, in many places, is a trace element.

Asked what drew him, as a student, to the Orthodox Church, he replied: “I encountered Orthodoxy in a hippie bookstore, picking up a book called the Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Vladimir Lossky. It was one of the few books on Orthodoxy available in English at the time. When I read it, I knew it was the truth. I saw that Orthodoxy is the fully integrated experience and vision of what Christianity is all about.”

He was also asked if, as metropolitan, he will encourage the Church to take a more public role on political matters.

He responded: “There’s a difference between political issues and moral issues. When there are things which destroy people’s souls, it’s our fundamental responsibility to stand up and say, this is wrong, and this is wrong because it will hurt you. It’s not wrong because it says so in some book somewhere, in the canons or even in the Holy Scriptures. That’s part of the basis of judgment, but it comes down to, it’s wrong because it hurts you.”

Olivier Clément, 1921-2009

Olivier Clément, the renowned theologian and long-time professor at St. Sergius Institute in Paris, died at his home in Paris on January 15. He was 87 years old.

His conversion to Christianity at age 30 was in part influenced by the writings of Nicolas Berdyaev and Vladimir Lossky.

He was a member of the joint Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue. He also inspired the work of the Orthodox Brotherhood in Western Europe since its founding in the early 1960s and participated actively in various conferences Orthodox Christians in Western Europe since 1971.

He was the author of 30 books. English translations include the following: The Roots of Christian Mysticism (New City Press); Three Prayers (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press); You Are Peter (New City); On Human Being: Spiritual Anthropology (New City Press); and The Spirit of Solzhenitsyn.

A sentence from his writings: “The spiritual person is drunk with the wine of love and that wine is the Spirit, the wine of power and life.”

US Protestants more loyal to toothpaste than church

Protestants in the United States have less “brand loyalty” to their denominations than they have to their toothpaste, a survey made public in January revealed.

The survey, which categorized churches as “brands,” found there is a trend of “church shopping” in a diverse marketplace of religious offerings in the US.

The survey found that only 16 percent of US Protestants surveyed said they will not consider changing their denominational affiliation. By contrast, 22 percent expressed brand loyalty to a preferred toothpaste.

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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