Video of Metropolitan Jonah at the American Enterprise Institute, December 6, 2011

HT: AOI. Below is the video of Metropolitan Jonah’s talk at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) held on December 6, 2011. The event was introduced by Eric Teetsel of AEI, and Fr. Gregory Jenson introduced Met. Jonah. The title of the talk was “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: Faith in a Consumerist Society” with a The following post event description was provided by AEI:

Many Christians struggle to balance their faith with the increasing emphasis on consumerism and material goods in today’s society. In a keynote address Tuesday evening at AEI, the Orthodox Church in America’s Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, discussed how Christians should respond to these societal pressures. He began by emphasizing the battle between consumerism and materialism, defining the former as the ultimate fruit of secularism. Fr. Jonah stressed the dehumanizing nature of a consumerist society and the moral dangers associated with reducing human life to a monetary value. He strongly emphasized the tension between the spiritual world and the material world and how Christians should maintain a healthy relationship with materialism. Ultimately, he concluded that no one can serve two masters, so Christians need to focus on their personal relationship with Christ to effectively confront the challenges of the consumerist age. Following the presentation, Metropolitan Jonah answered audience questions that further delved into the materialistic tension in today’s culture.

—Greg Lane

As always, your comments are welcome.


  1. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    This truly is new and refreshing.

    I was struck by the brittle, aggressive response of that German atheist.

    I don’t believe the Metropolitan had spoken a single syllable against atheism, but the poor atheist got himself into a real lather, insisting on his own personal virtues.

    The Metropolitan was kind and conciliatory to him. I would probably have sliced him off at the knees.

    Thank God that the Metropolitan is a REAL Christian.

  2. Jane Rachel says

    Trying to decide which is my favorite play, “Waiting for Godot” by Beckett or “No Exit” by Sartre. Christians are not better than atheists.

    • Jane Rachel says

      I think Metropolitan Jonah saw that person as a person, not as an atheist. I think that was why he was himself around him. He probably doesn’t change his colors according to the people in the room. He’s himself. I don’t know because I’ve never met him or been around him, but he has a nice smile. Wish I could have a cup of coffee with the German guy who calls himself an atheist. I like those guys, they make you think.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Jane Rachel, I love being around atheists. Usually, after I ask them a few questions (and deflect their accusations), they get quite agitated. They’re not as sure of themselves as they think they are. And they definately don’t know their history.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          If you listen to interviews that Dennis Prager has had with Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris one is immediately confronted with the fact that these alleged Atheists really do NOT know the Bible and so twist what they do know that when Prager confronts them with a biblical passage, especially in the original Hebrew, and places the passage in its proper historical and cultural context, they really have nothing to say in rebuttal. However, you do hear very loudly the proverbial “Doh!” coming from them.

          I am truly amazed at Atheists lack of Biblical Knowledge even though they always claim that they know the Bible better than us.


          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Peter, most atheists have just boughten into the zeitgeist. Plus Darwinism makes it easy for them to be atheists (as Richard Dawkins himself has said). Once Darwinism goes however there will be a genuine existential crisis among atheists. Already, some of the most vocal of the New Atheists –specifically Sam Harris–are starting to hedge their bets. He’s starting to make Deistic noises.

            Having said that, I much more respect the outright atheists than I do the Unitarians, who have a weasel-word “faith.” They are people who don’t have the courage of their convictions.

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              Yet, from my perspective I see the on going creative power of God in Evolution, and cannot see the creation without a creator. A great book I read once as Thank God for Evolution. It looks at the Theory of Evolution from a theistic point of view, and showed that Atheism and Evolution were not one and the same.

              I think what Jane said is true. I think most Atheists come to Atheism because of their bad experiences with religion and religious people, and have not truly any analyzed the deeper meaning to life, the existence of the universe, and the perfect complexities of the Cosmos that shows signs of design and order rather than a mishmash of happenstance.

              I did not know about Sam Harris’ “hedging” and would love to learn more about it if you can point me in the right direction. Thanks.


              • Geo Michalopulos says

                Peter, i’m not against evolution. Just Darwinism. Darwin’s the first non-materialistic evolutionary hypothesis. Other paleontologists and biologists before him (Georges Curvier of France and Carolus Linnaeus, etc.) were devout Christians.

        • Jane Rachel says

          Thanks, George, me too. I love atheists. Usually, they got there for a reason, and anger at religion and “religious” people is part of what got them started thinking maybe there is no God because the people who say they believe in God are often more immoral than those who don’t. (Bad sentence structure but you get the point.) Peter, there are a lot of Christians out there who have twisted the Scriptures to mean whatever they want them to mean. Look at Calvin. That’s why Orthodox thinking is so attractive. I wonder why that German fellow came to hear Metropolitan Jonah speak and I wonder what he thought about when he went home…

          • Lola J. Lee Beno says

            Maybe he thought this would be just another clergyman sprouting platitudes that he could mentally demolish and feel safe in his universe. When confronted with an utterly alien verbal package loaded with novel thoughts, he must be doing a lot of heavy thinking since that speech . . .

  3. Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

    I enjoy conversing with “doubting atheists”–you know, those who struggle with their disbelief. There’s still hope for them–and Unitarians, too. I think it was Mark Twain who opined that a Unitarian is a person who believes in, at most, one god. Also there’s a joke that Unitarians with a sense of humor like to circulate.

    Question: What do you get when you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah’s Witness?

    Answer: A person who goes door to door for no apparent reason!

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      good one Fr! I like what Erasmus Darwin (Chares’ grandfather) said about Unitarianism: “It was a bed to catch a falling Christian.”

    • The question I like to ask of athiests is “how do you derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’?” In other words, from a naturalistic perspective, how can something be defined as intrinsically “good” and not simply instrumental to achieve something that is subjectively perceived as good? If nothing is intrinsically good, then there is no purpose and meaning in the world. Basically a variation on the teliological argument. If they are intellectually honest, they will admit that nothing can be proven to be intrinsically good and that life is meaningless, at least from a non-subjective standpoint. It may not change their mind, but it should disturb their soul which longs for meaning and purpose.

      • Jane Rachel says

        After he figures out what you are talking about, what does he say? Sounds like you have him all wrapped up in a nutshell.

        • Honestly, it kind of quiets them down a bit. In my opinion, many atheists are like Ted Turner – they think they are intellectually courageous not to need the “crutch” of belief in God. When they meet someone who can challenge them intellectually, it makes them question their presuppositions. I never expect someone to kneel down and cry out to God for mercy after such a conversation. The most we can hope for is to be a small stepping stone that God will use providentially in their lives to eventually bring them to faith.

          • Rdr. Thomas says

            This. All day long.

            I was an avowed atheist for years, and I can tell you from my own personal experience that you will never argue such a person into belief. It’s pointless to try, and you may end up finding your own faith weakened in the process. People like this see a christian as either deluded (if they sense that the person truly believes) or a hypocrite (if they sense that the person probably doesn’t even believe what they’re saying). In either case, they see a christian as a person who just isn’t that bright, because they believe themselves to be smarter than everyone else around them. Trying to argue or debate with them will only reinforce their preconceived notions.

            St. Seraphim was right: Acquire the spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved. You don’t have to argue them into the kingdom. Just shake them of their core belief, which isn’t that there is no God. It’s that they are smarter than 99.9% of the human race. Once that idea is overturned, the truth is revealed and true repentance can begin.

            Just my $0.02, of course.

            • As I read your instructions for talking with nonbelievers, I thought of the response of God to Job. Chapter 38 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” and etc.

          • The problem I see with the discussion here is the “us” vs. “them” thinking. “They” think such-and-so and we think they are wrong because we are this-a-way. I was a pink rabbit and I know that all pink rabbits think they have big feet because I had big feet. I would approach it this way. I would think about myself being an atheist and then talk to them with myself in their place. I know for sure that a lot of people who don’t believe in God are there because the ability to believe just isn’t in them. When you believe, you think it is always a choice. It is not always a choice. Maybe belief left because of trauma or maybe since they were babies all they knew was secularism, or another religious view. Christianity does not make sense to them. And they are not being intellectually dishonest within their own world view. In fact, I would say they are sometimes more willing to look at everything and willing to believe if it would only make sense to them. They look around and they look inward and they just cannot get the sense anywhere that God exists. But, in the end, I would say to myself, “If there is a God, God is merciful.”

            George MacDonald loved the epitaph that helped him work through his Scottich grandmother’s strict Calvinism:

            “Here lies Martin Elginbrod, Hae mercy on my soul Lord God, as I would do were I Lord God, and ye were Martin Elginbrod!”

            I’m also reminded of of the scene in “The Last Battle” where the Calormene soldier, Emeth, recounts his encounter with Aslan:

            “But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, though knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless they desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what the truly seek.

            “Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.”

            These thoughts are scattered, but I have to get going!

      • Lola J. Lee Beno says

        “Teliological”? That’s a new word on me . . .

        • I spelled it wrong, but here is the definition from

          teleology (ˌtɛlɪˈɒlədʒɪ, ˌtiːlɪ-)
          — n
          1. philosophy

          a.the doctrine that there is evidence of purpose or design in the universe, and esp that this provides proof of the existence of a Designer

          b.the belief that certain phenomena are best explained in terms of purpose rather than cause

          c.See also final cause the systematic study of such phenomena

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Also, in a Darwinian, materialist universe, there can be no such things as “good” and “evil.” At most they are philosphical constructs. Thus Nietzsche was correct, the Superman is “beyond good and evil.” Most atheists hate going down this road because they can’t bring themselves to believe that there can be no good or evil. (It’s usually evil which gets them mad at God in the first place.)

        The question that constantly throws atheists into despair is when I ask them “If there is no God, how do you explain what is good in the world?” This really throws them for a loop because they readily concede the evil that exists (as does every rational person) but the existence of evil necessarily mandates that its opposite exists, otherwise, we could not discern evil if all was evil. Therefore good has to exist. How then to account for it?

        • Yup

          I have a tougher question for atheists …..

          I just can’t figure out how to paraphrase it for this forum.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          I agree. Evolution is devoid of a philosophical underpinning. It is only the mechanism of creation that science has discovered for our world and ourselves and all other species on the planet. In fact, the current research done and still on going in Human and Animal Genetics is the most fascinating for me that, for me, shows the existence of a creator. That’s just me as I am an old-fashioned Theistic Evolutionist.


          • We are of the same mind. Although, I think that man and woman was created in the present form by God and not as a result of an evolution that followed His natural law/evolutionary processes.

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              Yes, I agree. The approach you mention is Deistic. I believe in “Directed” evolution. This approach shares much with the Intelligent Design Theory, but I do not the two concepts (Theistic Evolution and Intelligent Design) are necessarily exclusive. Again this is just me.


          • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

            Peter, evolution (if you include the Darwinian narrative of origins) has materialism as its philosophical underpinnings. It comes out of the same era as Freud and Marx, and thus is destined to fall just as the other two have.

            I’m not sure either that Theistic Evolution is logically coherent, unless you make certain assumptions such as death predates Adam and so forth.

            • If I may, Fr Hans – while I agree with you in regard to the logical inconsistencies involved in theistic evolution and the challenges it presents to orthodox Christian theology, theories of evolution are much older than the 19th C. Evolution was a mainstay of ancient Greek thought, as represented in Anaximander, Lucretius and Epicurius to name but three, and persisted until the end of the ancient world. The church fathers often came up against it and rejected it. Admittedly, in its ancient guise evolutionism was philosophical rather than scientific, but then much of modern evolutionism is too!

              • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

                I would argue that any narrative of origins (my focus here) is philosophical, including Darwin’s.

                • Precisely.
                  Speaking of narrative and origins, a university professor of mine used to say that the key to understanding someone’s philosophy and/or theology was to study their biography.
                  This was well before ‘postmodernism’ became the philosophy de jour too. A study of Darwin’s biography is integral to understanding his theology, and I use that term advisedly; or perhaps that should be his ‘atheology’? It reveals that Darwin was grappling with teleology in nature and God’s presence/absence long before he began to write ‘The Origin of Species’ and ‘The Descent of Man’.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    That’s very true Basil. His protestations to the contrary, he was already in an atheist club at the University of Edinburgh years before he gave the self-serving opinion that he only came to atheism in middle age, upon the tragic death of his beloved daughter, Annie. His findings while on the HMS Beagle were merely attempts to find a way to scientifically validate his atheism.

                    • ‘His findings while on the HMS Beagle were merely attempts to find a way to scientifically validate his atheism.’

                      Indeed, George; Darwin invented a mechanism to take the place of God – natural selection – and no matter how much evolutionary science has since developed his theories ‘evolutionism’ still serves that purpose. As Dawkins said, ‘Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist’.

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              Father, I do not subscribe to a blind, solely materialistic universe or evolutionary theory. I do believe in a “Directed” creation through the use of the mechanism of Evolution. Theistic Evolution, without this “Directed” component, devolves, excuse the pun, into another form of Deism.

              This is why I believe that Theistic Evolution has much to gain from the insights of the Intelligent Design movement. Between Irriducible Complexity and the amount of “information” packed in our DNA and is stregth against overt deletion and and degradation, point, for me, to a “Directed” evolutionary process.

              For example, the December 29, 2004, issue of the journal “Cell”, scientists from the Howard Huges Medcial Instuitute at the University of Chicago stated that the Evolution of the Human Brain was a “Special Event.” This showcases for me the “Directed” aspect of our Human Evolution by God.

              Also, another sign of “Directed” evolution is the rotation of our DNA Double Helix. Every living organism on our planet has a DNA double helix that rotates THE SAME direction. Why? why not 50/50? why not 60/40? But every Double Helix rotates the same way for everybody and everything?
              So probability and chance do exist because free will exists. We are not robots or puppets. However, this does not mean that “Direction” by God did not occur. It did and still is.

              Peter A. Papoutsis

  4. Video of the Liturgy in NYC with ROCOR and OCA Bishops concelebrating…Met Jonah was “First Bishop” because he is the Hirearch of a autocephlous Church..
    Not to get too personal but this is a historic occasion…I remember the old days when people from ROCOR and the Metropolia couldn’t even be in the same room without fist fights breaking out…

    • that’s very true, Stephen. The more we run across things like this, the more it seems to me that the Holy Spiri was definately present at Pittsburgh in 2008, no matter what some learned protopresbyters may say.

    • James Potthoff says

      “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

      Tears, tears, and more tears. As an OCA member and long-time ROCOR admirer/sympathizer, this occasion brings me profound joy. So many scandalous wounds are healing on both sides. Can you actually imagine the Diptychs being read in the ROCOR cathedral? My head is spinning.

      Thanks be to God! Thank you, Vladykas Jonah and Hilarion!

  5. cynthia curran says

    Talking about economics here, there are some that believe that farming in the early Byzantine period had more wage workers than was common in the ancient world and Byzantium was on a gold standard that expanded the development of larger estates and wage laborers during the 4th to 7th centuries. In fact some of the arrangments of these estates lasted into Islamic times.

  6. I’ve never understood why my fellow Christians are so bothered by the theory of evolution. How does that challenge faith? Love – and appreciation of beauty, harmony, and goodness, and a sense of awe – can be successfully argued by atheists as having a perfectly natural, scientific purpose, without God. The idea that there must be purpose or meaning in the world – well, as devil’s advocate, what if there isn’t, except mere survival? Our faith can not rest on “trump” questions for non-believers, for we have none. Our faith is simply (and mightily) that. Anyway, may God be with the Metropolitan.