Conversations by email: Fall 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]>.

Fervent supplication: Here is a petition for possible inclusion in the Liturgy during the Litany of Fervent Supplication. It is intended for use in Orthodox parishes in nations that are still part of the "Coalition Forces" deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"Also, we pray Thee for a speedy end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and that all who are entangled in their violence as participants or supporters may embrace the riches of Thy kindness, forbearance and patience, and enter into that godly grief which leads to repentance; vouchsafe that our hearts and theirs may turn to works of reconciliation, to mercy and compassion for all, and to a thirst for that peace from above which heralds the drawing near of Thy Kingdom, we pray Thee, O Lord, hearken and have mercy."

James Campbell

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Gift from an astronaut: Forty years ago, in a cell in a Wisconsin prison, I listened via radio to the astronauts' voices as they touched down for the first moon landing. I was in the early weeks of serving a one-year sentence for having been one of fourteen people who burned draft files as a protest of the Vietnam War.

Less than a week after the Apollo crew safely returned to Earth, I received a packet from NASA containing a color print of a photo of the Earth taken by one of the three astronauts. It hung on my cell wall for a year, until I was released, then returned with me to New York. I never knew which of the Apollo crew had sent the photo, but reports in today's newspapers make me wonder if it wasn't Neil Armstrong. He believes the moon landing may have helped prevent war between the US and the USSR.

"Speaking at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of his becoming the first person to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong, 78, said that he and the two other Apollo 11 crew members recognized that what for them had been a daring mission in space also may have helped reduce hostilities between the Soviet Union and the United States. 'The space race faded away. It was the ultimate peaceful competition,' said Armstrong. 'It allowed both sides to take the high road. I'll not assert that it was a diversion which prevented a war. Nevertheless it was a diversion'."

What must it be like to see with one's own eyes a world without borders and no bigger than one's hand?

Jim Forest

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Health insurance: Sometimes it helps to be simple-minded about things. I admit I don't understand much about the insurance industry or about universal health care in other countries. But, it seems to me that the complaint in the U.S. that universal health care is a socialist plot to destroy our private enterprise system is a scamming lie. Private insurance is a socialist system.

Everyone in the system pays into the pot regardless of present need and everyone who has need takes from the pot. The system decides how much each pays and whose needs are addressed and how. The only problem is that the system today is more concerned about its own well-being than of those it is intended to serve.

Insurance of any form is no more than a "society" of members sharing the cost for their collective needs. At best, members are making monthly payments for a product before they actually receive it. Does it matter if the scam is run by the government or business? We need to figure out how to hold them accountable whoever they are.

I may be too simple, but I think we should get over our simplistic fear of socialism and just figure out the best way to provide for people. Forgive me if I put my fingers in my ears when the capitalist choir starts singing about competition and efficiency and blah, blah, blah. The fear that putting the government in charge will lead to "undeserving" people using benefits "I paid for" is nonsense. Healthy people who own insurance are always paying for other people's healthcare. Monthly premium? Tax? What's the difference? All I know is I can't afford any of it at the moment. If we can reform how it is done so that it is affordable and then hold the system accountable, I don't care who I pay. I enjoy phone service, trash collection, fire fighting protection, police protection, highway construction, and more, all of which I "subscribe to" by my taxes or other monthly payments. When private enterprise does it better, fine; when government does it better, also fine. Lets get our ideologies and isms out of the way so we can be human and get together to get it done.

In late Roman times and in early Europe, the Church cared for its own and welcomed others in, society said "what a fine idea," and started creating hospital systems. Let's go back to basics and start setting an example for society at large to emulate, as Christ and the Apostles suggested with the whole body caring for its members.

We, as members of a Christian peace organization, should encourage social cooperation and responsibility as broadly as possible while remembering who our Master is and that his ways are not the same as the world's ways. Ultimately, we need to encourage each other to live hospitably and peacefully in service to each other no matter the cost to us or the chaos around us while striving to get over the disappointment that the cost and chaos are not going away.

Pieter Dykhorst

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Back home: After almost nine years in Romania, Joel and I have returned to US and are now living in Wilmore, Kentucky, the college town where we first met and where Joel will be pursuing a master's degree MA in counseling.

The boys have adjusted well. We appreciate all the educational possibilities here and have found many friends. We're living close to my parents and having a day with grandma each week is a dream come true.

The transition from missionary life for Joel and me is rockier. I feel like Rip van Winkle waking up to a different world than I lived in ten years ago. What keeps coming to mind is societal insanity. I see the cycles of lust, greed, consumption, self-absorption and waste as ultimately running us into the ground. Sadly, I see these cycles in myself and know I can say, with Paul, that I am chief among sinners.

I am seeking how I can reconcile being a stay-at-home mom with my activist side. Though my time is limited, I hope to become involved with local ministries and peace groups (perhaps one that has no Orthodox representatives) not only to live what I believe but also to help me lift my eyes out of my own little world.

Our work as missionaries in Romania would still be going on, but we had to return home because of our son Simeon's medical needs. Recent discussions on the OPF List regarding healthcare are very close to home. I have actually cried on the phone this week with healthcare providers over problems with getting appointments, so I understand the urgency of getting the current, broken system fixed.

Monica Klepac

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Prayer for enemies: Yesterday I had a letter from a friend about an experience she had of praying for a student who had been angry with her for a grade she had given him plus some feedback he didn't agree with.

Though the student wasn't her enemy, he seemed to regard her as his enemy. Recalling Christ's advice about praying for enemies, she decided to begin praying for her student. The next few weeks in the classroom were difficult & his anger was obvious. "But God gave me an incredible amount of compassion for him," she told me, "and also showed me that I should have communicated with him more sensitively.

"One day he came back to class to pick up something after the other students were gone. Clearly he wasn't feeling well. I just said that I was sorry and hoped he would be feeling better soon. He then began to cry. We talked for about an hour. He shared many things with me including his rejection of the angry, wrathful God he was brought up to believe in. I mainly listened, but also shared some of my own journey."

My friend ended up giving him a book that she thought might help, Mountain of Silence. They've had more conversations. Things have changed dramatically, both in the classroom and in the student's life.

Jim Forest

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A change of heart: Many years ago, I described a particularly painful situation to another monk. He suggested that  whenever this individual's abuse of me came to mind - I should offer a prayer for her. I did this, and it helped enormously. What happens when we do this is a lot like forgiveness. A change occurs in our own hearts, and it doesn't matter in the least whether or not our "enemies" know that we pray for them or forgive them. The change in our own hearts relieves us of great stress and even of sin, and makes it possible for us to think about our "enemies" more benevolently, and so to engage them more kindly the next time we meet.

Monk James Silver

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Sand bags: Sometimes the best one can manage is to throw a roadblock in the way of the thoughts of enmity, anger, and recrimination before they can move in to take over our mental "real estate." The Jesus Prayer is certainly good for that, like a row of sand bags before rising water.

Alex Patico

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Healing: To forgive is so healing for the one doing the forgiving, the interceding. It may even play a part in our bodily health in a holistic way. I wonder, too, about the one for whom intercession is made. Holding someone up into the stream of God's love surely has some effect, as well. Perhaps God finds ways of showing such a person he or she is loved, and that makes a difference in the person's life. Perhaps a respite of peace or encouragement visits the person in ways only known to God.

Sally Eckert

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Economics and illness: I make my living as a psychotherapist. It seems to me that my patients fall into three groups. Some would be in my office no matter what state of the world they are born into. In other words, they would have mental and emotional illnesses regardless of the nature of the society, economy, and culture that they are in. Another group have no mental or emotional illness; they are normal people who are stressed out by living in the crazy society that we have created. And the rest are people who have some emotional and mental problems that are intrapsychic, but made much worse by living in our crazy system.

This has made me much more sensitive to cultural and societal factors in creating and exacerbating people's issues. So, in the past four years or so I have spent a lot of time studying economics. I have decided that it is a much bigger issue than I previously thought. I am a bit angry at myself for looking down on it when I was studying classics and theology back in college.

It is now clear to me that ideas about money, property, and the fair handling of them pervade everything else we think. Our thoughts become congruent with one another (except, of course, for inconsistencies that we don't even notice), and often the economic idea forces others into submission.

So we have the case here in America that we believe our ideas about free markets, private property, and the like simply must be right and true and we turn around and make our philosophical and theological ideas follow after our economic principles.

One result of this is that Christianity in America has become the champion of capitalism and our form of democracy. Many followers of American Christianity (by no means all, but a great many) simply ignore and deny the inconsistency of capitalism and our form of democracy with Biblical teachings about justice, care for the poor, and peacemaking.

All of which is to say, I think it is imperative that OPF spend a significant portion of time discussing economic issues. They contain within them the roots of war. As I never tire of quoting St. James the Brother of the Lord, "What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have, so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and wage war."

David Holden

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Regarding Satan: Throughout the Gospel Jesus demonstrates how little power Satan has - the demons have to beg Christ's permission to flee His presence and enter the swine. We use that in our baptismal exorcism when we say that Satan does not have power even over swine. Neither the Gospel nor the Bible as a whole hold to belief in dualism  where Satan is God's equal and opposite and God and Satan are at war with each other on almost equal footing. The Old Testament gives very little credit to Satan for anything and rarely mentions him or demons. There are false gods which the Old Testament soundly condemns and certainly Christians should recognize that if we think Satan is divinity in some form  holding such power over creation  we have made him into a god, and that is a false god.

Our baptismal prayers ban Satan from people's lives permanently. He has no power over us, let alone power over all the kingdoms of the world  that is Satan's self deception. He is lying to Christ when he declares he has power over all these kingdoms he is the father of lies. He is lying and deceiving and is self deceived.

Jesus' kingdom indeed is not of this world not of the supposed power, domination and coercion of this world. This doesn't mean that all kingdoms of this world are pure evil. God used those kingdoms to carry out His will. That is the claim of the prophets about Babylon, Persia, Egypt or Rome. Their downfall was that they did not understand their power came from God and assumed they defeated Israel because of their gods or their own goodness.

If all world power comes from Satan, how could there be kings or princes who become saints? It would mean that God's salvation and kingdom cannot reach kings, presidents, princes, emperors.

Fr. Ted Bobosh

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The tears of things: Not everything is broken beyond repair. The stars on a clear night, the sounds of birds, those great waterfalls and that broad and deep river you live near, a child's hand reaching for yours. These are not broken. The sinfulness and brokenness and woundedness of human beings have led the whole creation to groan, as St. Paul puts it, because we have hurt the animals and the forests and even the mountains and oceans but we and the fallen angels are the fallen creatures.

The rest of the world still has its ancient splendor. That's why the pigs we hear about in the Gospel drowned themselves  they couldn't stand for demons to be within them. They, unlike us, are not fallen creatures and know evil when it comes to them.

Our sadness is due not only to the realization that everything beautiful dies but that our experience of the beauty we behold is itself so temporary. We see flowers and hear great music and some part of us knows that this is the future, that they are ambassadors from the Kingdom yet to come. We get glimpses of a Beauty in and around and beyond all things. But only glimpses. Only moments. Then we go back to the colorless and the formless and the emptiness that fill our days. Heartbreaking. But not hopeless.

David Holden

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Help make OPF better known

Though our members are in every continent and jurisdiction, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship remains unknown to most Orthodox Christians.

You could help make OPF better known if you would suggest persons to whom an OPF information packet could be sent.

If you provide us with an address, we'll send a letter and folder, a copy of In Communion and an OPF poster.

Consider suggesting not only close friends but rectors of parishes.

Jim Forest

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Fall 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 54

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