Russia as the Protector of Christendom?

Well, it’s been 24 hours and Syosset hasn’t done anything abominable or transparently questionable. On the other hand things are heating up in Syria.

One can only guess why the Assad regime (brutal as it is) is in the crosshairs of the State Department. Personally I feel that the culture and safety of the indigenous Christisan populations is of no consequence. (Here’s a thought: replace these ancient cultures with Evangelical mega-churches which ware pro-Zionist.) Their safety on the other hand, matters to the Russians, hence State’s increasing desire to bring Putin to heel.

Why? My guess is “homophobia.” Or is it bad memories from the wedding reception scene in Fiddler on the Roof? The atavistic hatred for Christianity by many neocons is well known.

Be that as it may, where is the Patriarch of Constantinople on the issue of the potential genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in the Arab world? Let’s look at this another way: Turkey is one of the main drivers of the destruction of the Assad regime. What’s in it for them? I’m sure that the Phanar has carefully read the memos from Erdogan and his globalist/Islamist allies.

Source: The American Interest | By Walter Russell Mead

What Russia Doesn’t Forget

Russia has been stubbornly resistant to any efforts by the international community to bring about the end of the regime of Bashar Assad, and stands as the primary barrier (along with China) to any significant action on the Syrian issue by the U.N. Security Council. Russia also remains a primary arms supplier to the Assad regime, for which it has been widely criticized by other world powers. What most people don’t seem to be asking is why the Russians are behaving in this manner. Part of it, no doubt, is power politics and the desire to maintain what is essentially Russia’s last ally in the Middle East, but as The New York Times explains,  there’s another reason at play that has more to do with politics than religion:

MOSCOW — As the West sought to pressure the Kremlin recently to help stop the killing in Syria, diplomats from Damascus were ushered into the heart of one of Russian Orthodoxy’s main shrines.

Opening an exhibition devoted to Syrian Christianity in a cathedral near the Kremlin, they commiserated with Russian priests and theologians about their shared anxiety: What would happen if Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, was forced from power?

It is clear by now that Russia’s government has dug in against outside intervention in Syria, its longtime partner and last firm foothold in the Middle East. Less well known is the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church, which fears that Christian minorities, many of them Orthodox, will be swept away by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism unleashed by the Arab Spring.

In his warnings, Patriarch Kirill I invokes Bolshevik persecution still fresh in the Russian imagination, writing of “the carcasses of defiled churches still remaining in our country.”

This argument for supporting sitting leaders has reached a peak around Syria, whose minority population of Christians, about 10 percent, has been reluctant to join the Sunni Muslim opposition against Mr. Assad, fearing persecution at those same hands if he were to fall. If the church’s advocacy cannot be said to guide Russia’s policy, it is one of the factors that make compromise with the West so elusive, especially at a time of domestic political uncertainty for the Kremlin.

“Someone once said George Soros was the only American citizen who has his own foreign policy,” said Andrei Zolotov Jr., a leading religion writer and chief editor of Russia Profile. “Well, the Moscow patriarchate is the only Russian entity with its own foreign policy.”

Three and a half months ago, intent on achieving a commanding win in presidential elections, Vladimir V. Putin sought support from Russia’s religious leaders, pledging tens of millions of dollars to reconstruct places of worship and state financing for religious schools.

But Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the patriarchate’s department of external church relations, did not ask for money. The issue of “Christianophobia” shot to the top of the church’s agenda a year ago, with a statement warning that “they are killing our brothers and sisters, driving them from their homes, separating them from their near and dear, stripping them of the right to confess their religious beliefs.” The metropolitan asked Mr. Putin to promise to protect Christian minorities in the Middle East.

“So it will be,” Mr. Putin said. “There is no doubt at all.”

In a blog post today, Walter Russell Mead notes the involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia’s policy toward Syria and points out that it reflects a role that Russia has taken on in the past:

Syria’s Christian communities are ancient. It was in Antioch that followers of Jesus were first called Christians and through the ages, under one ruler or another, Christians have survived persecution and marginalization in the place we now know as Syria.

Russia’s concern for Syrian Christians is also nothing new. Although the Communists were more interested in hounding and enslaving religious believers than protecting them, under the czars Russia was officially recognized by the Ottoman sultans as the protector of Orthodox Christians throughout the Turkish empire. In the 18th and 19th century Russian concern for these Christians (married to a concern for its geopolitical ambitions) frequently shaped Russian policy towards the Ottomans and the West. The Crimean War at one point brought Russia into war with Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire over a quarrel between Russia and France over their rights to represent and protect Ottoman Christians in the Holy Land.

The concern for the fate of Syria’s Christian community is well-placed. In the wake of the downfall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, there has been a serious increase in attacks on the nation’s Coptic Christians by people loosely identified with the now politically powerful Muslim Botherhood. The fate of the Copts has been further put into doubt by the death in March of Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, who had been the spiritual leader of the nation’s Christians for more than 40 years. Should future political developments in Egypt lead to a more Islamist government, then the Coptic community could find itself further oppressed. No doubt, Syria’s Christians, who make up some 10% of the nation’s population, are fearing a similar fate for their community, as do their allies in the Russian Orthodox Church and elsewhere.

The other thing worth pointing out in connection with the Russian position on Syria and the role that religion plays in it, is the fact that Russia, and Eastern Christians in general, are viewing this through a different historical prism than the West:

Bitter religious warfare and memories of Islamic persecution are one of the forces that hold Orthodox Christians in the Balkans, Russia and the Middle East together. The long Islamic conquest of the Orthodox world, the destruction of Orthodox empires and kingdoms and the subjugation of Orthodox Christians to alien Islamic rule remains a vibrant memory. It connects the Serbs, the Greeks, the Greek Cypriots, the Russians, Bulgarians and many others — and Czarist Russia’s role in breaking Islamic rule and restoring freedom to Christian communities in the Balkans is remembered.

Linked to that memory are memories of Western Christian treachery and betrayal. From the Fourth Crusade, ostensibly sent to protect Eastern Christians but turned into a piratical assault on Constantinople, to memories of how the westerners made their help conditional on Orthodox submission to the authority of the Popes, a history of betrayal shapes the Orthodox political mind in many of these countries.

Today’s western support for “democracies” in the Middle East that turn into Islamist states fits into this historical pattern in the view of many people in the Orthodox world. From Serbia and Moscow, the dangers seem much more immediate than the dilettantes in Washington understand. Turkey’s ‘neo-Ottoman’ return to Islamist policies, Islamism rising across the Arab world, short sighted Western policies that stigmatize and oppress Orthodox resisters against the Islamic surge (Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo, Russians in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Dagestan), or that stab eastern Christians in the back (‘unfair’ EU austerity in Greece, support for Islamists in Egypt and Syria, the destruction of the ancient Christian community in Iraq following the US invasion): all these revive memories and trigger reflexes that were already old in 1800.

What this suggests is that viewing the Russian response to the events in Syria as simply an example of one dictator sticking up for another, or Russia sticking a thumb in the eye of the West, is mistaken. The fact that the Russians didn’t undertake any real efforts to stop the intervention in Libya suggests that there’s something more at play when it comes to Syria. Part of it, no doubt, involves the fact that Syria provides Russia with it’s only real warm water port in the Middle East, but part of it clearly is being influenced by the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is returning to its historic role of playing a close role in the affairs of state in Moscow. As Mead points out, this is something that’s unlikely to turn out well for either church or state, but it strikes me that it’s essential to recognize this (and to admit that the fate of the Christian minority in Syria is something the world should be concerned about before getting eager to depose Assad) rather than pretending that we’re living through a replay of Cold War Geopolitics.


  1. . This is from the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and it should be given wide distribution as possible:

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says


    • Will Harrington says

      But reading the whole thing, am I right that a Christian patriarch is calling for Arab unity to protect Christians. Is this an appeal for a califate? I found most of this to be hopeful, but that last appeal made no sense whatsoever and I have a hard time believing that this is indeed freely written. I could be wrong. What does he mean by “Arab unity”?

      • “Islamic unity” would be an appeal for a caliphate. On the other hand, Arab nationalism and the call for a (secular, socialist) all-Arab state was pioneered by Orthodox Christians like Michel Aflaq, the founder of the Baath party, partially at least as a way of finding an ideology that would supplant the pan-Islamism of the Ottoman caliphate and ward off the doomed (Catholic-) Christian particularism favored by the Lebanese Maronites at the time….

  2. I wish more in the mainstream media would pick this up.
    I’ve been to Syria about 5 times over the last 4 years and I wish more Americans could understand just how good Syria’s Christians have it compared to other Mid-East countries. For all its thuggery and corruption, the Ba’ath party is committed to secularism and protecting religious minorities (the original party was even co-founded by an Orthodox Christian, Michel Aflaq). The atrocites carried out on both sides sicken me… but our propagandistic media ignores the reality (that even the U.N. has recently admitted) that it is indeed both sides carrying out atrocities. Meanwhile the Washington Post just reported that CIA officials admit that they really have no idea just who is receiving U.S. aid, support, training, etc. I can tell them who… and these people are not the Jeffersonian Democrats that the ignorant media portrays them to be.

  3. It’s a new day when Russia actually sounds more level headed in a crisis like this than the Western powers. Where are the condemnations of the near weekly rebel suicide bombings rocking Syrian cities by our government officials and media pundits (the same pundits always talking about those ‘evil Palestinians’)???
    Instead we have people like Donald Rumsfeld’s former Chief of Staff at the Pentagon, Keith Urbahn, who tweeted, “for once we should call a suicide bomber – the one that took out a major fraction of Assad’s cabinet – a martyr.”
    Yes, the United States actively supports Islamic Jihadist terrorist groups, even while claiming engagement in a “War on Terror”… as a former Marine it deeply saddens me. It pisses me off that the majority of govt. policy makers in high places have not the slightest clue about the realities of the Middle East in which they so constantly meddle!

  4. jacksson says

    Concerning the 4th Crusade: Did you know that the classical Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame in Amiens, largest in France, was built to contain the head of St. John the Baptist. stolen during the commission of one of the greatest crimes in history: the sack of Constantinople by the Latin West at the time of the Fourth Crusade? It is but one of the countless examples of treasures looted from that Orthodox city after its capture. This is an account of that event. telling what has to be told, about which the Orthodox Church long has been silent.

    The West has always sucked up to the Muslims whenever it fits into their geo-political desires. Particularly in the case of Russia; one of the major fears for the West is that Russia might become more powerful or gain territory. The following site discusses the 1877 war Russia had with Turkey, was about to take Constantinople and stopped when Great Britain and France threatened war if the evil Russians (Orthodox) took the City away from the sweet, wonderful Turks (Muslim). History is nasty much of the time.

  5. Alexey K says

    about Syria – a better explanation could be found on

    Unfortunately no one listen to Church leaders when it is simply about politics.

  6. Diogenes says

    Syria’s issue is a civil war. There are many factions at work; radical muslims, Christians, secularists, outsiders, etc. Russia is just protecting it’s own interests and stands on the wrong side of this struggle. Russia isn’t really in Syria to protect the Orthodox Church, but how to keep it’s “operatives” inside the church there to influence Syrian policy. With Assad gone, everything is up in the air. Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of innocent people are being murdered. It will take years for Syria to re-stabilize. Let Assad be killed and chaos erupt until a balanced govt can come into play. The problem: more human suffering until stabilization. Same is happening in Iraq and Egypt. Iran’s time will also come; it’s only a matter of time. Radical Islam will wither with more education of peoples and communication. Give everyone an iphone.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Diogenes claims, “Syria’s issue is a civil war. There are many factions at work; radical muslims, Christians, secularists, outsiders, etc. Russia is just protecting it’s own interests and stands on the wrong side of this struggle. Russia isn’t really in Syria to protect the Orthodox Church, but how to keep it’s “operatives” inside the church there to influence Syrian policy.”

      If this were the case—which it certainly isn’t—it would represent a truly new page of history.

      It doesn’t.

      • Mike Myers says

        “If this were the case–which it certainly isn’t–it would represent a truly new page of history.”

        A somewhat gnomic retort, Father. I doubt I’m the only one interested in hearing you expound on it more explicitly in the light of your recent trip to Damascus and your talks with the leadership there. What’s the antecedent of “this,” in “If this were the case”? What exactly are you denying is the case? What would you affirm is the case? I take it you aren’t disagreeing that “this” is a messy civil war, or that the Russian Federation has many utterly unspiritual interests at stake in its outcome, not the least of which is a geopolitically ultra-significant naval base on Syria’s coast. Which could easily go bye-bye were a radical Sunni regime to claw its way to power.

    • After fourteen centuries of Islamic history, one thing should be obvious.

      The problem with radical Islam is not radicalism – the problem is Islam.

      • Tell it to St. John of Damascus of the Mansour family—Vizier (like his father before him) to the Umayyad Caliph in Damascus who was able to keep his Icons and venerate them with impunity, while ‘radical Christianity” also known as Iconoclasts destroyed both icons and those who venerated them. Was the problem with that radical Christianity also “not radicalism but Christianity?” The fathers of the St. Catherine Monastery on Mt. Sinai which was able to preserve the wax-caustic icons of Pre-Iconoclasm Orthodox Christianity thanks to their dhimmitude, unlike their brethren in the “”Christian Empire? And, Sasha, what about 21 centuries of Christian history? Was it less bloody? Ask a Mexican-Aztec, Mayan, Incan. Was any Sultan, Caliph more bloodthirsty than their Most Catholic Majesties of Christianity? Shall we now not say, ‘The problem is not RC Christianity–the problem is Christianity? Just sayin’. Listen to the voice of Christians living in Syria: They are Greek Orthodox, Melkite, Maronite, Jacobite, and they know more, much, much, much more about Islam than Sasha could dream of knowing. Just as the greatest danger facing Christians not only in Arabia but even Persia, came from Byzantium, not Damascus or Baghdad—why, the non-Chalcedonian Christians were WAY better off under Islam than they were under Byzantium, even tax-wise, it’s no wonder their lands were so easily wrested from Byzantine control! it wasn’t entirely the might and dedication of Arab Muslims: it was the fear and hatred of Byzantine (Christian?) oppression that paved the way. The Ukrainians welcoming Hitler?
        When radical Christians re-conquered Jerusalem in the First Crusade, it was an unprecedented bloody massacre of Greek Christians and Jews alike. Why shouldn’t some Muslim echo Sasha here too: “The problem with radical Christianity is not radicalism—-the problem is Christianity.
        No, Sasha, the problem IS radicalism.

        • Mike Myers says

          How strange to read such a rational and well-informed post, on this blog. I’m somewhat disoriented by it. Anyone who knows anything about the religious and political history of the Middle East is clearest on one thing: there, the main problem has been the various perverse iterations of imperial “Christianity,” eastern and western both, and the ideological and political consequences and power struggles built thereupon. The Near East has been a focus of these clashes almost from the start.

          It seems very unlikely to me that, whatever the apostles may have envisaged about the future of the faith they handed down, Jesus himself intended anything like the imperial cults that in historical fact have transpired–or their spiritual and human consequences. These have been an utter travesty compared to what the Church could and should have been. The history of the ROC is most instructive here, which is why I am so amazed to hear y’all hankering after the “Mother Church” and a weirdly atavistic return to her apron strings. Do y’all know a damn thing about its history in time?

          The chatter here just fascinates me. Today’s MP is clearly quite comfy in bed with the gangsta state that the Russian Federation has obviously become. (Not that things are qualitatively all that different in the US, I hasten to add. But at least we still have the Bill of Rights and Amendment I to the Constitution, at least on paper — tho y’all’s boy W liked to mock that. And given the general atmosphere of opinion represented here, I wonder how long it will remain even on paper.)

          I understand that such as Helga will regard this as trolling: delusions are after all so comforting to those who huddle together in the fake warmth of their little cybercliques, and dissenters must be marginalized. I get that. But truth is harsh, folks. Most of y’all are quite remote from it apparently.

          Babylon is falling, falling, and it will go on falling until the end of time. “If they do these things in a green tree, what will they do when it’s dry?” Well, just look around. And of course, we probably ain’t seen nothing yet.

          Please get a clue people. Your petty indignation about petty peccadillos is pathetic. Politics of the nursery school. If the stakes weren’t so high and if there weren’t so much to lose, most of y’all would be merely risible in your pettiness. As it is tho, since you represent the majority, of nominal “Christians,” in the most powerful nation in the history of the world, militarily anyway, this is tragic.

          • Mike Myers says:
            July 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

            the Bill of Rights and Amendment I to the Constitution, at least on paper — tho y’all’s boy W liked to mock that.

            What about y’all’s (Obama’s) Secretary of HHS and her mocking of Religious Freedom in the US Constitution???

          • Ivan Vasiliev says

            “Petty peccadillos”? I’ve never heard anyone refer to the Holy Politburo in this way before. How amusing! The mental image it connotes when one thinks of Syosset….really, quite funny. And a “gangsta state”, too. Mr. Myers may be ranting against the Russians and the MP (how very “Progressive”), but his images evoke something much closer to home. Thank you for the MasterCard moment….. absolutely priceless.

            • Mike Myers says

              Fascinating. Are you people even for real? Very very hard to believe.

              • Sub-Deacon David says

                Isn’t it telling when a commentator consistently engages in belittling others as the primary “response” to another comment? It suggests a certain condescension and arrogance that the rightness of one’s own position is so self-evidently correct as to need no logical defense and that those who do not yield to it must be “unreal”, which really means beneath contempt and worth responding to.

              • Ivan Vasiliev says

                Oh, Mike, who cares a whit about reality when we are defending our shibboleths and petty peccadilloes? Indeed, who cares to which gangsta state our allegiance is attached so long as we are true believers and can relegate everyone who disagrees with us to the fire? Fascinating, indeed.

                The diabolical is ALWAYS betrayed by a complete lack of a sense of humor. The Godless regime in the former USSR was utterly humorless, as was the Nazi regime, as, too often, are our so called “Progressives” and “Traditionalists”. Two different sides of the same wicked coin!

                • Mike Myers says

                  No idea what you’re talking about exactly. Anyway, please feel free to laugh all you want at me, and I’m perfectly delighted to learn that I amuse you, if I do. Whatever. I’d only point out that some things just aren’t too funny. Tho I’m probably not one of them.

                  I myself find the typical schoolyard pettiness in this joint hilarious, to tell you the truth. I’m not especially proud of that reaction, however, and it isn’t how I felt about it at first. (And I remember a certain saying, reportedly spoken by a guy I take it you’d not wish to lightly characterize as ‘diabolical’: “Woe unto those who laugh here, for they shall mourn.”)

                  That one’s always a caution to me, a guy who doesn’t really laugh much, as such, but who abides in an almost continuous state of grim and even horrified amusement these days at my fellow Christians and their idiocies and foolishness. Again, not something I’m proud of. Call that a confession.

                  It’s American “Christians'” decades-long tendency to hold the coat for, if not wax all enthusiastic about, their leaders’ relegation of our fellow humans all around the globe to all-too-real and not allegorical fires that mostly gets to me: nukular, napalm, “smart bombs” and cluster grenades, white phosphorus and depleted uranium, drone-lauched, etc. etc. Among plenty of other repulsive if grimly comical traits typical of way too many American “Christians.” A mostly sorry lot.

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          No, Sasha, the problem IS radicalism.

          Yes, but…

          Sometimes you have to stand against radicalism. And radical actions begin with radical ideas. And if you are a cultural conservative like I am, in some circles you are considered a radical too. (What!? You don’t agree with gay marriage!? Are you against human rights!?)

          All this is to say that your definition is so fluid that it doesn’t mean much.

          (Was overthrowing the devil a radical act? In some quarters, yes, it was.)

        • Cherry picked incidents aside, over the centuries, Christianity seems to be growing ever more peaceful and tolerant.

          How’s Islam doing?

          • Mike Myers says

            World Wars I and II broke out among nominally Christian nations for the most part. Death toll: into 9 figures of megacide, not to mention all the other casualties, brutal psychological suffering, general mayhem and the generations of profound distrust among nations that they engendered. The wars since have mostly been fought among various proxies of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China (to a relatively limited extent) and the US, up until 1989. Two of these, you might want to note, were nominally Christian nations, historically — and none were Muslim in any meaningful sense. Since 1991, and 2003 in particular, Anglo-Saxon foreign policy and trade, and gravely incompetent military meddling, have evidently laid the groundwork for a Sunni – Shi’ite conflagration in the Near East. Whether due mainly to diabolical intent or just world-historical incompetence is an open question at this point. Regardless, an endgame engineered primarily by two historically “Christian” nations — and another non-Christian, and, in terms of political power, anyway, non-Muslim one. Death toll, eventually: not something I care to think about, because it just happens to be reaching its flashpoint in Syria, probably, where the political and demographic residue of two ancient empires have existential national interests — Russia and Turkey — and in a region which has the whole world economy by the balls. A situation that was entirely avoidable, incidentally, and due mostly to criminally short-sighteded greed for brute dominion over material resources in, once again, primarily “Christian” nations. There was an alternative path, but it was demolished by said players, whose looming interview with their Maker I do *not* envy in the least.

            Given all this, to scapegoat “Islam” would be one of the most dangerous delusions imaginable at the moment. This is almost pure madness, the worst kind of self-righteous, pseudo-pious hypocrisy. The sort of thing gigacidal world wars could be made of. Remove the beam from your own eye, and maybe then you might see clearly enough to pluck the speck from theirs.

            • Mike,

              Tell it to the Armenians.

              • Mike Myers says

                Talk about cherry picking! I really despise this sort of Fox News pseudo-gotcha crap. Add up the numbers of Moslems (and Jews) killed by “Christians” over the last millenium in the oikoumene and in the West, and then look at the other side of that murder trade. It ain’t even close. This isn’t to minimize what happend at the turn of the century but to put it in proportion. Soon after this localized Ottoman genocide, “Christians” proceeded to a couple of concentrated spasms of global killing and maiming at an exponentially huger level of death, mayhem and horror (viz. ~1 million vs. ~100 million). With plenty more where that came from later. Get real.

        • The notion that the anti-Chalcedonians were better off under Islam than under Byzantium is a canard invented by Protestant historians of the 19th century, basing themselves on a single quote from the 12th century Jacobite historian Michael the Syrian. If you look at the 7th and 8th century responses to the Arab conquests among anti-Chalcedonian authors, the most common reaction was apocalyptic, seeing the Arab invasions as a sign of persecution at the end of times, similar to Chalcedonian authors like St. Sophronius. The lines between the two camps weren’t completely static until after the invasions. Look at Sidney Griffith’s book, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, for a more detailed discussion of this…..

          • You don’t have to read Michael the Syrian or Sidney Griffth. The ease of the conquest, like the ease of the conquest of Ukraine by Germany, is evidence enough. Further, the “heretics” were now “dhimmi” “protected” and their taxes as such were no higher than the taxes of the Byzantines; furthermore the doors of their advancement in government, commerce and finance were never closed as they had been under Byzantium; in fact, they were flung wide open, and Christian and Jews were sought out as having the skills that the Muslims did not have. Even up to our times the Copts dominated medicine in Egypt. That field pays well, you know. Eleven million Copts in Egypt. Just think about it and ask what happened to the huge Jewish populace in Spain under Islam, the moment Christianitty “redeemed” the country!!!!
            The Muslims, too, were allowed No Quarter. Large Greek Orthodox and Jewish communiites existed in the Holy City even after the initial conquest by Muslims. It took the victory of the (Christian) First Crusade to see Greek Orthodox and Muslims of all ages slaughtered side by side, til the streets ran with blood up to the horses’ ankles according to a proud Christian conqueror, while the Jews were rounded up into their synagogue and burned alive, all of them. By the way, Samn!, does the name of Saint John of Damascus not ring a bell (speaking of Chalcedonians)? He, like his father before him was Vizier to the Umayad Caliph of Damascus.Where’s the apocalyptic?

            • I would spend more time with the sources rather than just conjecturing and non-sequeturing based on what you think might have happened. All known texts dealing with Islam from non-Muslim sources from the first century of Islam are conveniently collected and translated in a volume by Robert Hoyland entitled Seeing Islam as Others Saw It. This might be a good place for you to begin reading about (both Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian) Christian reactions to the Islamic conquest, and it includes good introductory essays explaining the turn to apocalyptic as the favored literary genre reacting to the conquest.

              • If you care to dispute anything in my post, Samni, please, do so! You object to my not citing some who support your assumptions. What about your stated assumptions about me, Samni? Why have you assumed I’ve read NOTHING of what non-Muslim sources from the first century of Islam have to say? Or that I still have to “begin reading about Christian reactions fo thee Islamic conquest.
                Again, please point to any inaccuracies or non-factual assertions of mine, rather than making it look like “Oh, how could he know all that without reading what I”VE read?” is your real complaint?
                It is your post that was pure conjecture except for the hypothesis about the apocalyptic elements of some literature of the 1st century after the Islamic conquests began..

                • The general scholarly consensus today is that it was basically the Islamic conquest that led to the final real break between the pro- and anti-Chalcedonian parties. Yes, from the 6th century there were parallel hierarchies in most places, but efforts at reconciliation were pretty constant from both sides, and were more common than the sporadic persecutions that also happened. In the 6th century, for example, we have Justinian ordering occasional persecutions, but all the while supporting his wife in her efforts to create an anti-Chalcedonian hierarchy. (On Justinian’s role in creating the anti-Chalcedonian hierarchy in Syria, see ‘Justinian and the Making of the Syrian Orthodox Church’ by Volker-Laurenz Menze, 2008).

                  Anti-Chalcedonians were good Late Antique people, and as such they believed that the empire was something ordained by God, even if the emperors themselves might sometimes be heretics. In Ethiopia in the 6th and 7th centuries, and perhaps even later, the state ideology was that the negus was ordained by God to protect (anti-Chalcedonian) orthodoxy, while the Byzantine empire existed to secure temporal order. This is why after the empire’s defeat in the Middle East, there was at first a resort to explaining events through apocalyptic and then eventually the creation of a new narrative of history that was less favorable to the empire and more favorable to the new rulers. Of course, as soon as the Byzantines re-took northern Syria in the 10th century, there was close cooperation between the empire and the Jacobite hierarchy in bringing Jacobites in from Takrit and other places under Muslim control to resettle depopulated regions controlled by the Byzantines….. The best study of Christian communities in Syria during early Islam is the 2010 doctoral dissertation by Jack Tannous entitled “Syria between Byzantium and Islam”, which hasn’t been published yet, but can be found online probably. It will also have the most up-to-date bibliography on this topic.

                  Your use of the example of John of Damascus is a non-sequitur because he was an Orthodox Chalcedonian. The fact that Muslims tended to employ Chalcedonian Melkites in both Egypt and Syria hasn’t been fully explained by historians, given that the Byzantines were happy to employ anti-Chalcedonians, especially in Syria…. A good overview of the religious and cultural situation for Syrian Christians in John of Damascus’ time can be found here:

                  • Samni wrote this: “Your use of the example of John of Damascus is a non-sequitur because he was an Orthodox Chalcedonian.” I used the example of our Father among the Saints John (Mansour) or Damascus, Vizier of the Caliph to demonstrate that life under Islamic government could be better for Christians (Orthodox of all kinds: Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian under Islamic government than under the Byzantine government which is usually considered to be more or less Christian. In fact, I wrote this, did I not: “By the way, Samn!, does the name of Saint John of Damascus not ring a bell (speaking of Chalcedonians)? He, like his father before him was Vizier to the Umayad Caliph of Damascus.Where’s the apocalyptic?” Did you miss that? Of course, life under islam for the non-Chalcedonians was even more dramatically improved than it was for Byzantine/Melkite Chalcedonians. As I say, in many places the speed of the Arabic conquest was augmented by the improved circumstances of life under the Caliph compared to that under Constantinople, which did the opposite of energizing an opposition to the Muslims. It WAS better: you can’t get around it. Why, even recently, when Iakovos was passed over in favor of Demetrios for the Constantinopolitan Throne, he was offered that of Alexandria, which though the price tag was only six million American, he turned down. The Greeks, like the Copts, flourished in Islamic Alexandria and elsewhere in Egypt for centuries. Egyptiah wheat and wealth was no longer carried off to Byzantium, too, after the conquest. Of COURSE the Copts suffered and still suffer in a Muslim state. But they’d still turn down the choice of being under the Byzantines.

                    • Mike Myers says

                      “. . . Why, even recently, when Iakovos was passed over in favor of Demetrios for the Constantinopolitan Throne, he was offered that of Alexandria, which though the price tag was only six million American, he turned down.”

                      Your Grace, say it ain’t so! No way! . . .

                    • Huh? I now see I was wasting my time trying to be helpful.

                    • Someone said they were wasting their time here trying to be helpful.
                      This reminds me of the joke, ‘How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light-bulb? Answer: NONE: “Oh, that’s all right, I don’t mind sitting here in the dark all alone and neglected.”

                    • Heracleides says

                      Samn! – Simply consider the source. As another thread here states: “You Can’t Fix Stuipid.”

                    • Sometimes I have my doubts, but, after reading Heracleides’s latest, I feel vindicated! Abertausend Dank, mein Lieber!!! (And who in the world is this”stuipid?”)
                      I’m spotting the Tikhon-addicted three thumbs-down marks against me, beginning with my own!

                  • Arimathean says

                    The problem with Samn’s argument is that it focuses on the educated, Greek-speaking leaders of the anti-Chalcedonians. The Coptic- and Syriac-speaking peasants and tradesmen did not identify with the Greco-Roman polity and culture and were happy to be shed of it, even if their educated leaders still shared in the nostalgia for the Roman Empire.

                    Bp. Tikhon’s main argument is perfectly reasonable – and probably correct. The rapid expansion of the Arab polity would not have been possible in the face of serious resistance. The Arabs’ advance halted when they reached the Greek-speaking core of the Byzantine Empire because in those regions the entire population was united in opposition to the Arab conquest.

                    • Something very crucial (hat has nothing to do with theology) is being left out here: the early 7th century AD world was in many ways a post-holocaustal world. In the 530s AD a massive volcanic eruption, probably in Indonesia, produced a two-year volcanic winter, similar to what a small nuclear war would create. Sulfuric snow fell in China, there were killing frosts in India– in summer– and major famine ensured all over the planet. In western Eurasia and N. Africa the famine was succeeded by a virulent plague epidemic put even the later Black Death in the shade. Cities became ghost towns, economies collapsed, in places whole civilizations failed. Byzantium barely held together, mainly thanks to Theodora who ruled while Justinian lay near death for weeks during (and from) the plague.
                      There’s no need for elaborate explanations of why much of the Middle East fell so easily to the small bands of Arab horsemen from the desert: it lacked the manpower and the economic productivity needed to defend itself. Note that in this same era the Balkans had fallen to the Slavs and Avars (both fleeing bitter cold in the north), albeit that region was regained eventually.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      JonF, this is fascinating. Cataclysms can and have affected the course of empires. I will say though that the racialists attitudes of the Greco-Roman core of Byzantium against the Copts did help erode Roman power in Egypt as well.

    • ProPravoslavie says

      “Russia isn’t really in Syria to protect the Orthodox Church, but how to keep it’s “operatives” inside the church there to influence Syrian policy.”

      Not content to spit on the Russian Church all the time, you also accuse the Patriarchate of Antioch of being the instrument of the Russian state!

      Why don’t we exchange generalized accusations here, and call the OCA an instrument of protestantization, American exceptionalism and American foreign policy inside the world of Orthodoxy? Would you even want non-Americans to say that? If yes, then you have a problem. If no, well, perhaps you can refrain from saying the same about non-American Orthodox?

    • Ahh.. the evil Asad is “murdering” thousands of his own people.

      Suppose a group of radical skinhead militia – or anarchists, or radical Islamists – attempted to overthrow the U.S. government by force of arms? Would anyone except the most radical, raving lunatic journalist refer to any of them as “Freedom Fighters?” I think not. And if hundreds or thousands of these “Freedom Fighters” were killed in the heat of firefights with police or Federal troops resulting in ‘civilian’ casualties, whether real or imagined, would we refer to our government as a “murderous regime?”

      Mr. Asad certainly has his faults, but he is being slandered in this instance by thoroughly biased politicians and journalists (both right and left-leaning) whose willful ignorance renders them incapable of perceiving reality as it is.

      Tragic? Yes. Brutal? Yes. Civil war? Perhaps. But murderous? Certainly not from the perspective of reasonable government policies everywhere.

  7. Dear George. Thank you for the article. What is going on is disastrous, but it is at least heartening to know there are people in the US who realize it.

    As a very peripheral aside, the picture you have is not of St. Basil’s in Moscow, but of the Cathedral of the Savior on the Blood in St. Petersburg.

  8. Will Harrington wrote in response to the Melkite patriarch’s text:

    “…am I right that a Christian patriarch is calling for Arab unity to protect Christians. Is this an appeal for a califate? I found most of this to be hopeful, but that last appeal made no sense whatsoever and I have a hard time believing that this is indeed freely written. I could be wrong. What does he mean by “Arab unity”?”

    You are way off the mark. Realize first that “Arab” and “Muslim” are not synonymous – Christians were speaking Arabic and identifying themselves as “Arabs” centuries before Islam even began. There are currently millions of Arabic Christians living in the Middle East – the great majority of them are Orthodox. Going back to the days of Michel Aflaq (Orthodox Christian founder of the Ba’ath party) and Arab Christian intellectuals of the period of the French Mandate, Arab Christians have consistently promoted pan-Arab nationalism as a way to combat “the alternative” – the Islamic sharia-based state. This vision was based in a secular pluralist vision of the Middle East, in which different religions and sects would unite based on their shared Arabic language and culture. The word “Ba’ath” itself means “Arab Renaissance.” Most Arab Christian intellectuals have tended to espouse some variety of Arab socialism, because it was the socialist parties that stood most in opposition to Islam in politics. So rest assured the patriarch in question did indeed freely write the plea.

    The plea for “Arab unity” simply means that the patriarch desires for the region’s countries to unite around pan-Arabist nationalism and not the religion of Mohammed.

    • May not “Ba’ath” also be translated as Resurrection? I agree it may connote Arab renaissance, but, surely, there’s no ‘Arab’ in the word “Ba’ath.” I know that resurrection is originally a Zoroastrian, then Jewish, then Christian idea, but, as you pointed out, the founder of the Ba’ath party was a Christian, and to me a translation of the word as “resurrection” seems not illogical.

      • Yes, you are exactly right. I’ve also often seen it as “resurgence”. No ‘Arab’ in the word Baath so “Arab Renaissance” is not literal, but it is the direct connotation.

        What’s funny is I’ve been taught since elementary school that Ba’ath is synonymous with Islamic terrorism and irrational religious brutality. Of course, both Bush presidents pushed that line hard as well (maybe that’s where my school teachers got it – Bush Sr. was in office). Guys like Saddam and Bashar, for the murderous thugs that they were and are, always crack down on Islamicist movements harder than anyone as the Islamists pose the greatest threat to their autocratic rule.

        Most people don’t realize that Syria has been fighting the Muslim Brotherhood off and on since the 1970’s.

        • Not to mention that until Israel and the Saudis got worried about Iran, Syria was the extradition-point of choice during the Bush administration for Islamists that needed to be interrogated or intimidated extra-constitutionally…..

          What people in the US and Western Europe fail to realize, but is manifestly obvious to everyone else, is that the Saudis and the Qataris, with explicit American backing, are attempting to win the entire Arab world for Islamism (Wahhabi if you’re Saudi, Muslim Brotherhood if you’re Qatari). No matter which political party an American president is from, he’s always beholden to the Islamists in recent times: Reagan and the Bushes to the Saudis, Clinton to the Kosovars and Saudis, Obama to the Qataris and Saudis….. For decades, America has been the greatest force for exterminating Christianity in its homeland and for establishing Islamist governments.

          The other night, quite by accident, I had dinner with a couple Arab friends and a long-time journalist for Der Spiegel. The journalist’s point for the evening was that effectively, America = Qatar.

  9. The roman-catholic and protestant “west” always was and will be against the Orthodox east and use any means, even radical islam, to undermine and destroy it. By the way, the portrait painted by Rigaud of the King posted with the “sex czar” depicts LOUIS XIV 1638-1715, NOT Louis XV 1710-1774 who was the great grand son
    of LOUIS XIV. It was Louis XV who supposedly said “Après moi, le déluge”, the saying also is attributed to
    Mme de Pompadour. In reality, neither one could have or would have said something so stupid and insensitive.
    The same goes for ” qu’ ils mange de la brioche”( let them eat cake). Queen Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI,
    a very loving and deeply sensitive woman, NEVER said it. The enemies of the monarchy attribute such sayings
    to Kings and princes to denigrate them. An Orthodox Christian should never speak negatively about Monarchy.
    Kings were the defenders of the Christian Faith and culture in Europe. NOW, under so called democracies
    and republics the Christian Faith and culture are being slowly destroyed.

    • taso says: “An Orthodox Christian should never speak negatively about Monarchy.”

      What nonsense! Kings were defenders of Christianity as long as it could be used to support monarchy and absolutism.

    • Historically, most Orthodox Christians have lived under sultans, and as Christians have both suffered persecution and liturgically commemorated their persecutors…….

      • Samni once wrote, about late Pope Shenouda: ” His basic theological concern was to maintain the absolute transcendence of God according to the Islamic understanding: there can be no ontological communion between God and man, except (in a certain sense) in Christ Himself, thus we cannot share in Christ’s divinity or be divinized by it. For Pope Shenouda, to partake of the divine nature would mean to have one’s human nature (and will and activity) synthesized with the divine nature, just as happened with Christ according to his understanding of the incarnation.”
        Is it not possible that Samni is overlooking (voluntarily or involuntarily) the influence of contemporary and regional Christian theological concerns in the formation of the idea of the absolute transcendence of God in the Islamic understanding of Him, rather than opining that Pope Shenouda is an unwitting receptacle of Islamic teaching?

  10. Archpriest John W. Morris says

    I would disagree that Orthodoxy is tied to monarchism. I am Orthodox, but I also have an area in my Ph.D. in Russian history. My commitment to Orthodoxy does not require me to ignore what I learned in history. That means that I cannot in good conscience defend the Tsars, especially the Nicholas II. I have read his private letters to the Tsarina and recognize that he was a pious Orthodox Christian, but as a ruler he was less than effective. Had he made real reform after 1905 the horrors that followed 1917 might have been avoided. I think that he made a horrible mistake by letting the French persuade him to mobilize his military in 1914 thereby leading to the outbreak of the First World War. After the Russo-Japanese War, Russia was in no condition to go to war with Germany. He was used by the French who wanted revenge over the Franco-Prussian War. We can go back to Peter the Great who uncanonically abolished the Patriarchate and made the Russian Orthodox an organ of the Tsarist state. I won’t even write about the lack of morality of Katherine the Great.
    Our Lord said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Any political system controlled by sinful men and women will have its faults. American history is also filled with evils such as slavery, segregation and the treatment of the Native Americans. Now we have a president who rejects Christian morality and favors government paid abortions and same sex marriages. So do not think that I am blind to America’s faults.

    Archpreist John W. Morris

    • Our Lord did indeed say, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

      But He did not say, “My popularly elected representative republic is not of this world.”

    • Orthodoxy and Monarchy are tied, that is the meaning of the double headed eagle. An Orthodox Christian of course may criticize the inept or immoral actions of a Monarch, but should not attack the institution itself. Although not perfect,
      it still is best for the Church. But, it is a difficult concept for most Americans to accept and neither is it a requirement for being Orthodox nor would we ever impose it on any convert. Anyway, recently, The Heir To The Russian
      Throne HER IMPERIAL HIGHNESS MARIA VLADIMIROVNA visited San Francisco and was solemnly received
      by His Eminence Archbishop Kirill, the Clergy and the faithful with all due honors at the Cathedral where
      St. John’s of San Francisco Holy Relics are enshrined. Thus, yes, the Church favors Monarchy, but does
      not dogmatize it. I personally know american converts who also support the restoration of Imperial
      Rule in Russia and the concept of Orthodox Monarchy. I am not young anymore myself, I grew up
      in Europe among the old immigrants, refugees from the Russian revolution who then were in their seventies
      and eighties and remembered Old Russia. Most were loving, tolerant, well educated, deeply honest and
      honorable, hospitable, considerate and delicate people. Some were quiet eccentric and a few even were,
      as I would call it, charmingly mean. NONE ever were truly arrogant, overbearing and boastful, although many
      belonged to the noblest and richest families of Russia. ( Most had lost everything, but their dignity)
      The point of the story is that the Nobles are not brutal, bloodthirsty tyrants as most Americans imagine them
      to be, but truly cultured and heroic people.( of course there are some exceptions, but not even Ivan IV Vassilevich( grozny, the terrible) was as bad as Stalin or Hitler, who both were low born. Some of the worst most cruel tyrants in history were former peasants.
      What actually brought me to this website was its name. Before I clicked it I thought it might be a Russian
      Website, because the Russian Crown is called “shapka monomakha”, meaning the” cap of monomakh”, the crown of the one who fights alone. What ever………..,this website is very entertaining, especially some of the commentaries. Although I personally don’t know most of the people being mentioned here and essentially don’t care about the OCA,
      I still hope and pray
      that peace, love and unity may prevail in your Church, because I believe that Americans should have their own
      Church to fit their specific mentality.

      • Mike Myers says

        Oh dear, now the anonymite disinfo here appears to hail from monarchist camp followers, too. One has trouble keeping up with it all. As you must know, taso, Prince Nicholas Romanov contests Maria Vladimirovna’s ambition, though it’s true that he himself claims not to care for the imperial throne and does not believe in monarchy any more. Perhaps you’d regard him as a sort of heretic for that reason, however, and therefore self-disqualified. The eager pretender to the throne you tout appears to have no such modernist or republican political scruples herself.

        Prince Nicholas Romanov might point out too that only the siblings, children, and grandchildren of a Tsar can properly claim the title grand duke or duchess. Maria’s grandfather was a first cousin of Tsar Nicholas II, and therefore she is not entitled to this style, and neither is her son, George. You do know this, right?

        Unfortunately, the Prince’s grandmother, a genuine Grand Duchess, is widely believed to have introduced the last Tsarina to Rasputin. So there is that.

        Like Orthodoxy itself, aristocracies and hereditary monarchies tend to look far better in theory and on paper than in practice and reality. One keeps an open mind, however. My own heart is certainly all for both those eagles you cite, even if my head may know better. If I had to choose between lining up with some unclean revival of the “Holy Roman Empire” to keep my head and losing it for allegiance to some Restoration of a genuinely Orthodox and Christian one, I would be quite torn. And it does look sometimes as though such a choice may be in our future here in America. Hard as that may be for some to believe at the moment.

        • Mike, don’t bother about all that. It’s of course true that “Grand Duke” or “Veliki Kn’az” can be the title of ONLY relatives of a REIGNING Tsar. Those horse racers in Spain and France the Cyrill Vladimiroviches and the Vladimr Kirlloviches etc, were not only not Grand Dukes, they weren’t really any more Russian than the New Royal and German Martyrs: SS Nicholas and Alexandra! The last “drop” of Russian blood vanished in that line around the time of Anna Leopoldovna. After WWII, the Spanish and French scions of the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov “dynasty”were joined by a marriage to the (Prussian) House of Hohenzollern (those descendants of mountaineer pirates of old), so they should be called “Hohenzollern-Holstein-Gottorp-‘Romanov.” Some of the notorious careerist FAKE Romanovs in Europe and the U.S. were more Russian than the late reigning “dynasty.” As for their character and their monarchical fitness, I recommend the wonderful ONCE A GRAND DUKE, and ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE by Grand Duke Alexander of Russia.
          i remember an old Princess, once a Maid-in-Waiting to Her Imperial Highness, who interrupted a man who characterized a third party as “a monarchist.” “Monarchist? Monarchist? What kind of monarchist can that be. HE ABDICATED!”
          i also remember a former Captain in the; Imperial Army (note; Not Red, not Green not White, but Imperial) who said, I can’t be a monarchist. “HE broke his oath to us: I did not break my oath to him!.”

  11. MartyOlson says

    So lets do some comparisons, just to see how this all plays out. 1776–revolutionaries fighting the British aided by German mercenaries. US revolutionaries make a diplomatic move to France to assist in the overthrow of the Brits, they come after some discussion, bringing troops and training which tips the war in the Revolutionary’s favor. The Tories, those who supported the Crown either leave for Canada/Britain or are horribly ostracized by the winning side. So, now to modern day Syria. Revolutionaries, wanting to overthrow a horrible dictator, are not to be helped by other free countries because the Christians have sided with the dictator’s party/followers. Don’t get too Orthodox about the Ba-ath Party, in that one Orthodox Christian was a founder. Are there currently any leaders in the Ba-ath Party who are Orthodox? The answer is–no.

    Suddenly, America, the bastion of anti-monarchical sentiment is supposed to support monarchies in European countries? Sweet Queen Marie-Antoinette, simple minded as she was, is supposed to have asked the question about cake in a naively honest way. I agree it probably wasn’t intended as such an slap in the face as it sounds, but if we are looking for wisdom from someone who in her whole pampered life had never faced hunger and homelessness, I think we are looking in the wrong place.

    Russia is not a monarchy. Russia is not the final defender of Christianity. Russia has many ex-patriots in Syria and wants also to assure its power post Soviet era. Democracy was not established either to protect one religion over another. It was to support citizen participation in self-governance. When democracy drew its first breaths there was no Christianity. If Christianity is to survive in a democracy, it needs to present itself and the benefits it provides to people in a way that encourages them to change.

    • “So, now to modern day Syria. Revolutionaries, wanting to overthrow a horrible dictator, are not to be helped by other free countries because the Christians have sided with the dictator’s party/followers. Don’t get too Orthodox about the Ba-ath Party, in that one Orthodox Christian was a founder. Are there currently any leaders in the Ba-ath Party who are Orthodox? The answer is–no.”

      You’re missing the whole point of the Ba’athism comments in this discussion. Ba’athist ideology has nothing to do with Christianity – it is firmly secular and humanist in its outlook. The example of Michel Aflaq (and the scores of Christians currently in leadership positions in the Syrian Ba’ath party) was meant only to underscore the fact that many of the Middle East’s religious minorities tend towards secular nationalist and socialist movements (hence the Alawite domination of the Syrian regime) due to it’s emphasis on separation of mosque and state. It is a mere observation for the sake of sober analysis – it doesn’t mean that anyone is saying the Syrian regime is the “good guy” – far from it; everyone here understands that the regime has blood on its hands.

      You allude to American revolutionaries fighting the British… this is the kind of silly illusory thinking I and others (who have actually been to Syria and understand the culture, people, and political situation) are trying to dispel. The Syrian revolutionaries desire to set up a Saudi-style sharia-ruled state. If you were to go there now, they would tell you so. German intelligence has only this week confirmed that Al-Qaeda is to blame for at least 90 bombings and attacks against the Syrian government since the start of this whole uprising (this story is wide-breaking in Europe, but hasn’t reached American audiences).

      The Syrian rebels are not Enlightenment era Jeffersonian Democrats with centuries of British common law behind them – they are people who have vowed to wipe out not just Christians, but Alawites, Druze, Shiites, Kurds, Armenians, Chaldeans, and just about any non-Sunni ethnicity/religious group. If you want direct statements from the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria I can provide you with links. So these are your democratic revolutionaries? Are you comfortable with the U.S. (with your tax-dollars going to the pro-rebel CIA) supporting Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda linked groups?

      Russia simply recognizes the reality of the situation and refuses to call the rebels “freedom fighters” with democratic aims and such non-sense.

    • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

      Marty, very few revolutions are liberal (in the classical sense of the term). The “Arab Spring,” favored by liberals (Democrats) and neo-cons (Republicans with a Democrat foreign policy) alike serves only the Muslims radicals. Look at Egypt. Ask yourself why America gives up to $1.3 billion in aid to the Muslim Brotherhood.

      Reagan was smarter. When Qaddafi of Libya started acting up, he dropped a few bombs around the palace and Qaddafi got the message. He stopped misbehaving. Obama and Hillary don’t understand that. They believe when you remove a dictator democracy will bloom. It won’t. Most often the dictator is replaced by a tyrant. In the mid-east, the ones who will suffer the most are the Christians.

      Even Bush senior knew this. After Kuwait, he stopped short of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Bush junior did not.

      More Christians Flee Iraq After New Violence

      Christians Flee from Radical Rebels in Syria

      Here’s an essay written years ago that explains why drawing distinctions between dictators and despots is important. It was written by Jeanne Kirkpatrick who later served in the Reagan administration. It is a long piece, but the thinking is excellent and still relevant.

      Dictatorships and Double Standards

      • I thought the following by Fr. Hans was hilarious! “Reagan was smarter. When Qaddafi of Libya started acting up, he dropped a few bombs around the palace and Qaddafi got the message. He stopped misbehaving. Obama and Hillary don’t understand that. They believe when you remove a dictator democracy will bloom. It won’t.”
        Father Hans,surely you meant George W. Bush when you cited President Obama and Mrs. Clinton? Was George W. Bush “smart” as Reagan because he ‘dropped a few bombs around’ Iraq? Yes, Saddam Hussein stopped misbehaving. Who, Father, thought Democracy would bloom in Iraq?
        And it’s awfully early to say whether or not democracy will “bloom” in Libya.
        I guess Reagan’s “dropping a few bombs” is like President Obama’s salt-and-peppering with drones?

        • George Michalopulos says

          Your Grace, you are correct to place W in the pantheon of those who believe that democratic liberalism will bloom in the Arab world. Having said that, Fr Hans’ point still stands. Reagan dropped a few bombs and Kaddafi got the message. That was a good thing. The fact that the Islamic world cannot come to grips with the rule of law is something that the world as a whole will have to contend with for another century.

          • Mike Myers says

            An American preaching the “rule of law,” and in the name of W., of all peeps! And without irony, apparently. Pretty rich stuff Vanity Pundit.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Mike, irony is lost on you isn’t it? I was putting W in the same rank as Obama and Hillary when it comes to Wilsonianism. That was the topic, not whether or not W abided by the rule of law.

              Having said that, W actually did go to Congress for an authorization for war in 2002, unlike Obama, none of whose military adventures (“kinetic military actions”) were authorized by the Congress. In that respect alone, the differences between W and Obama are rather stark. (Again, I’m not discussing the wisdom of military adventures in general.)

              • Mike Myers says

                I grasped your little irony. I was refering to another, great big unconscious one that was lost on you and still is, apparently. In something of a non sequitur — and a case of projection almost sacred in its purity — you wrote:

                “The fact that the Islamic world cannot come to grips with the rule of law is something that the world as a whole will have to contend with for another century.

                I’ll resist comment on the likelihood that you of all people sport a crystal ball by which your sage gaze extends “another century” — but yeah, W.’s henchmen “went to Congress,” and to the UN, too. With lies and doctored “intelligence” and Cheney’s bullying and political blackmail and with the help of Goebbel’s filthy advice on how to force reluctant politicians into complicity with aggressive warfare and conquest. And yeah, as a result he got his authorization for war. This sort of abuse of the “rule of law” you can shove you know where.

                I wonder if anyone else here might want to point out some of the hypocrisies and ironies your bon mot is so preggers with, before I have at it. Or maybe this place is nothing but an amen corner for Murdoch/Koch/Fox News and Rush Limbaugh propaganda and petty moralistic priggery, not to mention the shallow nostrums and ludicrous partisan screeds of — failed clerics.

                • Your hatefulness and condescension is very tiresome.

                  • And outlandishly stupid, like when he says:

                    “maybe this place is nothing but an amen corner for Murdoch/Koch/Fox News and Rush Limbaugh propaganda”

                    I personally don’t even watch or listen to FN or RL, or even CNN, MSNBC or PBS for that matter. (But MM seems to.)
                    Very quickly approaching 80 years of age I’ve heard it all, over and over again; only the names, places, and dates have changed.
                    MM doesn’t seem to have learned that yet.
                    Hey Mike, do you have any gripes against Ancient Faith Radio?

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          Who, Father, thought Democracy would bloom in Iraq?

          Neo-cons at first, liberals when they regained power after the McCain defeat. The only wars that liberals don’t like are the ones started by neo-cons but as soon as they are back in power the mythology expands.

          Here’s a report from journalists on your side of the aisle: the Guardian.

          Drone wars and state secrecy – how Barack Obama became a hardliner

          From the article:

          He was once a liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war. Now, according to revelations last week, the US president personally oversees a ‘kill list’ for drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. Then there’s the CIA renditions, increased surveillance and a crackdown on whistleblowers. No wonder Washington insiders are likening him to ‘George W Bush on steroids’.

  12. Archpriest John W. Morris says

    There is a long history of close relations between the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the Russian Orthodox Church. I have had old people in my parishes who were educated at schools established by the Imperial Palestinian Society that helped Orthodox in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria before 1917. The Russians supported the Arab Orthodox when they chose Meletius II, the first Arab Patriarch of Antioch in 168 years in 1899 over the objections of Constantinople. There is an Antiochian metochion Church in Moscow that acts as a kind of ecclesiastical embassy of the Patriarchate of Antioch to help with relations between Antioch and Moscow. Our Patriarch took an active part in the 1,000 year celebrations of the Baptism of St. Vladimir. The Antiochian Archdiocese in this country began under the patronage of the Russian Bishops in America. St, Raphael the first Arab Orthodox Bishop in America was under Moscow. Moscow, the Bishops of the Metropolia, and the Bishops who formed ROCOR blessed the formation of the Antiochian Archdiocese. Russian Bishops participated in the consecration of Metropolitan Anthony Bashir who led the Antiochian Archdiocese before Metropolitan Philip. Many of our clergy were educated at St. Vladimir’s and St. Tikhon’s.

    Archpriest John W. Morris

    • I’d like to add that there was a brief period when the State Department wouldn’t let a Bishop (then called an Exarch) from the USSR get a visa and, there being no sane MP bishop at the time living in the States to charge of the MP parishes, Archbishop Antony Bashir agreed to look after the MP parishes. For that he was made the gift of a white klobuk as the equivalent of a Russian Metropolitan, which he often wore.and was called Metropolitan” which was not the case previously.

    • phil r. upp says

      ROCOR had nothing to do with it. These people were renegades and even Pat. Tikhon renounced them. Don’t mention them in the same sentence as the Metropolia. Study your church history. Not their twisted history.

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        Actually the Russian bishops who helped consecrate Metropolitan Anthony Bashir, had the blessings of the Patriarchate of Antioch and were from the group that became ROCOR.
        Bishops from the Metropolia consecrated Samuel David, who set up the rival Toledo Archdiocese, did so without the blessing of the Patriarchate of Antioch and causing Antionchian disunity until the final unity of Toledo and New York in 1975 under Metropolitan Philip.

        Archpriest John W. Morris

      • Let’s not forget, phil r. upp, that from the middle 1930s until after WWIi ALL the ROCOR Bishops in North America became members of the Greater Sobor of Bishops of the Metropolia, and Metropolitan Theophilus had a seat on the Synod of the ROCOR in Yugoslavia. It was only after WWII that Metropolitan Theophilus and the MINORITY of the Greater Sobor of Bshops of the Metropolia agreed to accept Patriarch Alexi the First as the “‘spiritual, but not administrative” head of the Russian Church and elevate his name at services (later only done at the cathedral during proskomede) that the Sobor of Bishops split and those that disagreed with Theophilus went back directly under ROCOR in Munich, then Manhattan. And yes, the Metropolia’s bishops did consecrate Archbishop Samuel David. Also, before they accepted the Romanian Episcopate of Archbishop Valerian, they privately consecrated him a Bishop, since his previous “consecration” had been done by the totally uncanonical self-consecrating “Metropolitan” John Teodorovich and those with him. This private consecration is rarely if ever mentioned by the leaders of today’s Romanian Episcopate.

  13. ProPravoslavie says

    Some say that Russia is doing this to protect Christians in Syria. Others disagree, and say that it’s all because of unspiritual interests.

    Why can’t we just say that BOTH kinds of considerations are at play? Why does it always have to be one or the other? And why should we condemn Russia simply because it happens to have temporal interests in Syria? Is it because only America and Americans have the right to have weapons, operatives and interests outside of their country?

    • Mike Myers says

      Looks like both to me. Nevertheless, it also seems quite likely that the Russian Federation’s material geopolitical temporal interests dwarf any concern for Syria’s Christians. The latter is probably a factor but I doubt it’s a very weighty one, relatively. But who knows. Unlike ridiculous pundits, I wouldn’t presume to claim any special insight into the Kremlin’s heart of hearts. (And what motivates the People’s Republic’s similarly stubborn sticking with Assad? Highly unlikely to have a thing to do with sectarian sympathies.)

      And I’m very far from any simple-minded condemnation of the RF, and farther still from any jingoist support for the Washington consensus, neoliberal plundering, catastrophic foreign and trade policy and the mad hypocrisy of American exceptionalism. My advice, after many increasingly horrified years of incautious peering into all this, is to heed the warning about Medussa. My main point was that, for American wannbe Christians, the grass is unlikely to be any greener spiritually under the authority of the MP, of all things, or, derivatively, under ROCOR. That strikes me as delusional for about a hundred reasons.

      The whole world is Babylon, and, arguably, the “institutional” churches synagogues and mosques everywhere are mostly just its whores. They should all focus more on achieving chastity in this matter.

      The huge problem, as it appears to many of us: petty and childish obsession with the carnal variety has blinded far too many nominally, formally “religious” persons to the vastly more perilous synergy with spiritual fornication. By now, after 2000 years of experience of history and the increase of knowledge (available, but ignored mostly), y’all really should have gotten a clue about this. And yet we see almost no awareness of this among “Christians” in general in this country.

      • ProPravoslave says

        Oh, Mike, how wise thou art! How do we elect thee Pope and simultaneously head of all Orthodox Patriarchates? Oh, all-wise American Messiah, we await the day when thou shalt save us benighted Christians from the stupidity of the last 2,000 years! Hail!

        • Mike Myers says

          Are you Russian? Living in Russia? Or ever even been there for any significant period of time lately? What’s the evidentiary basis for what you write here about the ROC and the RF? Why should anyone believe you to be anything but just another blind leader of the blind?

          Mock away. But most of the Orthodox churches everywhere are a terrible mess, anyway, and so is Russia. That’s just a fact, and it sure ain’t my fault. It speaks loudly about the ROC, obviously, which after all has had 1000 years to do its thing there in “Third Rome.”

          You’re the candle-holder, touting the ROC messianically, as some sort of luminous beacon in the darkness. Can’t image why, given its very sorry therapeutic history. A lot of great literature and music, though. Splendid vodkas, too.

          • Mike Myers says

            I’d like to take back what I wrote disparaging the ROC’s “therapeutic history” in Russia.That was out of line and I apologize for it. Obviously I have no evidentiary basis for such a silly generalization. I’m sure American Christians have a great deal to learn about the life in Christ in the Russian Orthodox Church. Please forgive this ill-considered remark.

            • Wow! That may indicate that MM has a little bit of genuine humanity left within him after all.

              • Brian McDonald says

                MIke just made a sincere apology. Not a lot of people–especially on blogs–are capable of doing that. As a Christian, PdnNJ, why respond with sarcasm?

                I consistently fail to understand why folks on this blog, Orthodox Christians who believe in charity, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek, can’t separate out personalities from issues. Why not aim at the position, and lay off the person? Can’t we make a distinction between the act of forcefully stating strong convictions and the act of belittling others? So what if someone else is doing that. Are Christians supposed to respond in kind?

                • Mike Myers says

                  Thanks Brian. You’re a gentleman. I used to try to avoid belittling here but have grown callous about it. Part of me just wants some of them to get a good taste of their own nastygram medicine. I consider it a public service to play bad cop. Not that it does me much good — reading many of the posts here just ruins my digestion. Yours excepted.

                  • Brian McDonald says

                    Thanks, Mike. But of course what I’ve suggested to one of your critics also applies to you, does it not? As a Christian, you don’t need to get into the “belittling” business either do you? Even when you’re provoked.

                    Lots of good people post here, not just out-of-control anonymites, and the fact is I’m in agreement with the substance (if not always the tone) of a lot of the “conservative” views (not all but a good deal). Perhaps someday I, too, will ruin your digestion. What I hope I won’t do is make you feel personally attacked. You are an often provoking but always interesting guy with whom I’d love to sit down and have a beer some time.

                    By the way, I think “nastygrams” are okay, as long as they’re aimed at ideas and not those who express them, and as long as their purpose is to jar people into thought instead of just pissing them off. I know it’s hard both for the receiver and the sender of such messages to make a clean distinction between person and position, but we can always at least try to remember there’s a difference. Surely this attempt is one of the bare minimums for any of us who aim to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

                • Brian McDonald says:
                  July 31, 2012 at 9:13 am

                  As a Christian, PdnNJ, why respond with sarcasm?

                  What makes you think it was sarcasm?
                  I was actually expressing my being pleasantly surprised by Mike’s apology.

      • in the end, Russia has every reason to back Syria– very long-standing ties, a chance to promote non-interventionism at the UN, ideological similarity, Christians, economy, naval bases, fighting the Saudis (whom they have hated since at least the 80’s), a chance to make America, Turkey, and NATO look weak……

        Why on earth would Russia not back Syria?! From what I’ve read, Russia has been pressuring Bashar to be harder on the rebels and blame this whole crisis on his overly soft touch at the beginning…..

        • Mike Myers says

          No dog in this fight. I grok Russia’s evident position with respect to Assad, as I can understand it from various reports, and it seems a reasonable enough Realpolitik stance under the circumstances. I just don’t buy the Putin as Prince Vladimir redivivus line that George and a few others here are trying to peddle, co-starring the weirdly euphoric tale about a dazzling spiritual renaissance in the ROC that supposedly terrifies their betes noir, the “progressives.” It’s a comic book mentality but clearly chez nous in this joint. Funny on one level and not without a certain clinical interest to me, as an amateur anthropologist. (Not sure how else I could justify spending any time here whatsoever.) Reading your insightful and informed posts being a huge exception to that along with those of a few others.

          I don’t live in Russia, nor does Jacobse or Michalopulos, or, I take it, ProPravoslavie, although I suppose I could be wrong about him. Their testimonies are next to worthless to me, for this reason. (In the case of J. and M., for many other reasons to boot.) Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk and many others, however, who’ve actually lived their whole lives there and are intimately well-informed about the RF and ROC, testify far differently about the situation.

          If Putin were actually to reinvent himself as the leader of some sort of genuine Russian “Protector of Christendom,” the title of George’s latest typically egregious violation of the internet’s Fair Use guidelines, I wonder what that would even mean. Just more of his ultra-low signal-noise ratio vanity punditry. The contemporary world as a whole looks more to me like an apocalyptic assemblage of Gog and Magog than anything resembing the dawn of a New Age of Christendom, whether tied to the apron strings of Holy Mother Russia or anyone else for that matter. And I’m far more deeply concerned about my own nation and its utterly insane and even demonic foreign and trade policies than I am about Russia. For as long as we remain a republic, however tattered, what’s done by Washington and New York in my name is partly on my head. And on each of yours here, anyone who’s also an American voter and taxpayer. Worth remembering.

  14. Ken Miller says

    I’m thankful that the Moscow Patriarchate is standing up for the rights of Christians in the region and that the Russian government has adopted that stance as well. My problem with Assad is his support for the terrorist organization Hezbollah.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Ken Miller says, ” My problem with Assad is his support for the terrorist organization Hezbollah.”

      I think all of us have this problem.

      Also his alliance with Iran.

  15. Archpriest John W. Morris says

    I guarantee you the US state department will not lift a finger to help Orthodox Christians in Syria or anywhere else. I do not know why, but every time that an Orthodox people is threatened the U.S. does nothing to help them and sometimes sides with those threatening the Orthodox.
    In the cases Cyprus, Kossovo, Iraq, Egypt, and now Syria American foreign policy has shown no regard for the interests of Orthodox Christians. After we “liberated” Iraq, the Christian community was destroyed or exiled. The same thing is happening in Egypt. In the past our policy in the Middle East was concerned with one thing and only one thing: what does Israel want us to do? God only knows what motivates Obama, but under him militant Islam is gaining more and more power. I do not know if this is because of his incompetence or by design. No matter what motivates Obama, Orthodox Christians are threatened as a direct result of his foreign policy, if he has a foreign policy.

    Archpriest John W. Morris

    • phil r. upp says

      Fr. John,
      Surely you jest. Obama against Orthodox Christians all over the world? Lay off the hooka.

    • I suggest it is more the result of incompetency than design, Fr John.
      The US is yet to come to grips with the Islamist insurgency in the ME, which it has partly fostered by supporting tyrranical regimes and financing the Mujahideen in the 1980s, both very cynical policies.
      ‘Realpolitik’ always has ‘blowback’ & in this case it is quite unpredictable in its geopolitical ramifications.
      As the proverb goes: If you sup with the devil, be sure and use a long spoon.
      Better still, refuse the dinner invitation altogether.

    • Lil Ole Housewife from Virginia says

      Dear Father John,

      The decline in the failure to support Orthodox Christians certainly predates the Obama Administration. The real problems started when the Institute of Peace, an extension of the State Department, started drafting “Islamic” constitutions for various countries in which we had an interest and/or in which we had intervened. Thus, Iraq became for the first time ever, an “Islamic” state, as did Afghanistan, and Kosovo also received guidance under this well meaning but misguided think tank policy direction. Around this time, the term “Islamist” was coined, thereby encouraging adherence to a skewed notion of the same. I bow to you for an example of how Palestinian Christianity has been eclipsed in the shadow of so-called militant Islam, as if; it does not exist. I attended one event in the basement of the US Capitol in which an English “canon” characterized the efforts of a Palestinian father to safeguard a church in Jerusalem under Palestinian occupation by sleeping there and maintaining vigil as encouraging Palestinian Islamic separatism. Much of this, but of course not all, occurred under Republican administrations.

  16. Antonio Arganda says

    The U.S. presence in the Syrian situation is patently indefensible. Syria may not be a “democratic” government but it has provided for the needs of the majority of its citizens. It has provided health care , education to university level and housing for the population. The jihadist opposition promises ignorance , disease and homelessness to the Syrian people. It is no wonder that the majority of Syrians still place their hopes in a government victory.

    • One of the several reasons that America opposes Syria is that it is a socialist country that “provided health care, education to university level and housing for the population.” America greatly prefers the Muslim Brotherhood who at the moment prefer western-style neo-liberal capitalism….