Recently, Monomakhos has been pleased to publish the comments of an erudite correspondent who took us to task for our admiration for the Russian Orthodox Church. Some of his criticisms were valid insofar as they went, but as we have pointed out in previous posts, Monomakhos is not about looking at the minutiae of events but at the broad picture. We strive to paint vivid pictures with broad brush-strokes, not sketches in pale pastels.
Hence, we believe that this particular correspondent’s critique of the Russian Orthodox Church falls flat as it fails to comprehend the big picture of the Christian revival which is currently taking place in Russia. (And one could say is most definitely not taking place here in America.) To be sure, the proximity of the Church to the Russian state may be a little to uncomfortable for some but it is wrong-headed to insinuate that a local Church can offer nothing to the civilization in which it resides. Can there be negative consequences for combining Throne and Altar? Of course, but it would be next to impossible for the Church to baptize a culture if it chose to remain aloof from it. In our own country, the abolition of slavery would not have happened had our Churches chose to “rise above” politics.
One of the hallmarks of a vibrant Church is the fruits which come out of it. This was something that Christ Himself said that we should look for. St John the Theologian likewise picked up on this motif in the Book of Revelation when he wrote to the seven Churches of Asia. Some were on fire for the Gospel, some were moribund, and one was merely lukewarm, just going through the motions.
We see something similar to this in the present. Some Churches are full of zeal, others are apostate (see ECUSA), while others are merely going through the motions, concentrating on boutique issues such as “climate change” instead of what’s really important.
Whatever else can be said about the Russian Orthodox Church, it’s not just going through the motions. Take a look at this news item. The Patriarchate of Moscow recently hosted an international conference on Christophobia in which dignitaries from all Christian confessions were invited. Muslim and Jewish religious leaders were also invited to participate. The very concept of “Christophobia” is is not a mere photo-op nor is it a boutique issue which makes it palatable to the glitterati, but something which is central to the Gospel. If nothing else, Jesus said that those who are ashamed of Him would have no part of the Kingdom of Heaven. On a more mundane level, Christophobia manifests itself in horrific ways in that it is nothing less than the rising intolerance and persecution of Christians all over the world. It includes everything from forcing Catholic hospitals in the U.S. to perform abortionns to hanging Evangelical pastors in Iran, to wiping out ancient Christian populations in Egypt. In our country it is manifested in the incessant, tiresome, perennial debate about Christmas and Easter and whether Christian imagery can be allowed in the public square.
If nothing else, Russia’s embrace of a robust Christian witness puts us Orthodox in America to shame. What are we doing here to promote Christian unity and raise the awareness of the plight of our brothers in the Middle East? What of the war against Tradition that is incessantly launched from the citadels of Hollywood and Academe? Essentially nothing. Any statements are perfunctory at best and couched in equivocal talk about the supposed “sins” of Christendom.
As for the raising the awareness of Orthodoxy, the vaunted Episcopal Assembly is barely going through the motions of activity. It was set up as a new and improved SCOBA but even with the blessing of the oversees patriarchates, has less to show for its efforts and nothing on the horizon. This is a travesty when we consider that SCOBA had already done the hard work over the course of decades, setting up at least nine different ministries. The transition from SCOBA to EA should have been seemless, with the augmentation of another fifty bishops we should have been firing on all thrusters by now. But what do we have to show for it? Where is the episcopal committee created to engage American culture? Silence. If our efforts are not mired in inter-jurisdictional squabbling, the Christian kerygma is muted because the different jurisdictions have different priorities and divergent emphases on Tradition.
Some things that are obvious, non-controversial, and fully within the bounds of the foundational concepts such as the freedom of religion are met with muted silence. There has been no mention at all of joining the coalition of Catholics and Evangelicals who have come together to resist the Obama Administration’s diktats which would force Christians to act against their conscience. On another issue, only Metropolitan +Jonah has sounded the alarm that the danger of allowing open homosexuals to serve in the Armed Forces poses to Christian chaplains who run the risk of court-martial if they do not perform gay marriages or counsel homosexual couples. These are no-brainers. Just eight years ago SCOBA had no problem speaking unambiguously against the incessant homosexualization of our culture. Why the silence now?
These are not the signs of Church which is on fire for the Lord. Clearly we are not apostate but let us not forget the fate of Laodicea, which was lukewarm. The Lord said He would “vomit them out because they were neither hot nor cold.” Thus, we at Mononakhos would warn those who disdain the Russian Orthodox Church to tread lightly in their criticism. We have beams in our own eys that need to be extricated first.
HT: Byzantine, TX
(mospat.ru) – A Conference on the Freedom of Faith: the Problem of Discrimination and Persecution of Christians opened at the conference hall of “Danilovskaya” hotel in Moscow on 30 November 2011. Taking part in the opening were Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations; Archbishop Edwin Joseph Ender, representative of the Holy See; Mr. Massimo Introvigne, representative of the OSCE on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.
The Russian Orthodox Church has initiated the forum with support of the Christian Interconfessional Committee, the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation and the International Organization “Aid to the Church in Need.”
Attending the opening of the Conference were representatives of the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Serbia, of the Orthodox Churches of Cyprus and Greece, of the Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Muslim and Jewish communities, and the international, inter-Christian, interreligious and public organizations.
Citing the data provided by Massimo Introvigne, Metropolitan Hilarion reminded the listeners that every five minutes a Christian is killed for his faith, and one hundred and five thousand Christians come to a violent death in interreligious conflicts every year. Metropolitan Hilarion underscored the necessity of recognizing a simple fact: Christians are the most persecuted religious community in the world. He named Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Sudan, Nigeria, Etritrea, Somali, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, and India as countries in which Christians are most persecuted.
Metropolitan Hilarion, who accompanied His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in his visit to Syria and Lebanon in November, expressed his concern about the future of religious minorities, mostly Christians, in Syria, in case the political situation is destabilized and a civil is unleashed.
He underscored that not only Christians, but also representatives of other religious minorities are persecuted, and added that the governments of certain countries do much for establishing harmonious intereligious relations.
The DECR chairman noted in particular the historical role of the European countries and Russia in the protection of Christian minorities. He emphasized, however, that the problem of persecution of Christians has been hushed up in Europe for many years. “The European politicians, being moved by the spirit of political correctness, talked a lot about the inadmissibility of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other manifestations of religious or ethnic intolerance, but passed over the discrimination of Christians in silence.”
The situation has begun to change only in the recent years, he said, and gave examples of conferences and resolutions on the problem.
While describing the actions of the Russian Orthodox Church in defense of the persecuted Christians, Metropolitan Hilarion emphasized that the Moscow Patriarchate has come out resolutely against any form of xenophobia, religious intolerance and extremism. “It is known that though millions of the followers of different religions have been living in Russia, there were no religious wars in our country. We cannot be indifferent to the persecution of our brothers in the Muslim countries and hope that our Muslim compatriots will extend their support to us. We hope that our fellow believers in other countries share our pain over the suffering Christians and shall seek the ending of persecution and discrimination,” he said. He hopes that the problem of discrimination against Christians will be considered in the context of cooperation among Christians.
The DECR chairman believes that the Pan-Orthodox Council, currently being prepared, will state its opinion on the problem of the persecution of Christians in different regions of the world.
The Conference will continue its work till December the 1st. A communiqué will be issued.