Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago on episcopate, guns


  1. About 1:50 or so he says "anyone who is not on social media is not communicating with anyone". As big as "social media" is, that is an exaggeration and of course does not address the real limits and problems of social media as a form of "communication" itself. Social media has proved to be corruptive of real community, not forming of it - that is it has become a substitute for real community. I would be interested in the Bishop explaining how he is going to help "social media" repent of this and become and do what he wants it to do.

    As far as helping young people "feel safe" (at least he is smart enough not to say they will actually be safe ;) ) by "disarming" who he does not say but one can only assume law abiding citizens who would actually follow the law, well he sounds very very naive. As far as it being the Churches "responsibility" to do this, well he is just wrong - that is not what Christianity is about and the blood of the martyrs witnesses against his reductionism of Christianity to "feeling safe".

    I will say this - it is this sort of very very shallow philosophizing in the name of Orthodox Christianity by those who supposedly know what Orthodox Christianity is (i.e. a "Metropolitan" certainly has the basics down right?) that has me seriously doubting that the Orthodox Church is in fact the Church at all...

  2. Replies
    1. Are there any GOA hierarchs who are robust Christians, and not secularized (either "liberal" or "conservative") facsimiles thereof?

      Given how secularized GOA as a body is, could a robust Christian actually make it to the episcopacy?

      Given that we don't have a historic example of a Christian body "recovering" from the tipping point of secularization (i.e. where secularization becomes the actual "spirit" and "mind" of the body), is GOA or for that matter most North American "jurisdictions" Orthodox Christianity at all?

  3. Seems like a lot of unwarranted deconstruction of his words naturally segueing into judgmental condemnation of his inferred thoughts & motives.

    How about giving the man a chance before writing him off?

    After all, aren't we Orthodox Christians? Aren't we in the throes of Great Lent? Doesn't the prayer of St. Ephrem mean anything to us, or are we more concerned with eating each other alive in self-righteous condemnation of one another?

    1. What is "inferred" or "implied" in his express and explicit support for a certain political movement? Is calling a spade a spade "judgemental"?

      Your question "aren't we Orthodox Christians?" is exactly my question - who is an Orthodox Christian? Is ANY everyday secularist an "Orthodox Christian"? What is the content and meaning of "Orthodox Christian"? What is the fruit, and is the fruit of being (or struggling to be) an Orthodox Christian the same as adhering to a secular doctrine of "responsibility" to explicitly support a certain political movement of "disarmament"? That is what the Bishop is saying! He has discovered a new commandment, a new Doctrine!!

      And by pointing these contradictions out, how is it in any way bring "righteousness" to me or any other Christian?!?! It is an occasion for lament!!

    2. Jake, your rhetorical questions about what is the content & meaning of Orthodoxy Christianity & how are we to identify an Orthodoxy Christian are interesting. They seem to indicate that there is only one way to be Orthodox, and I would say there are many ways to be Orthodox.

      Politically I'm rather libertarian leaning, but I have Orthodox family & friends who are Republicans & Democrats. Some want to get rid of guns altogether. Others believe guns to be insignificant & rather see larger social / spiritual issues to be the root of the problem of violence. I'm in the middle. Like bellybuttons, we all have our opinions & social/political views that we will inevitably express. That's normal.

      My point is that we can legitimately hold all kinds of social & political views & still be Orthodox so long as those views are not antithetical to the Gospel. I'm not aware of anything the bishop said that is contrary to Orthodoxy; if there was I'd reject it. However, just because a person expresses his political view, even with firm conviction, doesn't mean that he stands in opposition to people who don't share his views. Live & let live unless we're dealing with immutable aspects of Orthodoxy, in which case there is only conformity or rejection & pastoral effort to bring people into conformity.

      This is only lamentable if we expect absolute uniformity, which has never been the case & never will be the case. I think you are fighting a straw-man.

    3. Timmy, thanks for your reply. I have to wonder about how you are using the "one vs. many" paradigm. First, in what way are there many "ways" to be (Orthodox)Christian? Scripturally/Traditionally I see just "one thing needful", a "narrow way" explicitly contrasted with the "broad way" which of course contains many (many many) ways to fall from Grace. Now you and I both recognize aspects of this world that are individualistic; I like apple pie and you like chocolate cake, and these sorts of things are not part of Christianity as such.

      The Bishop says (starting about 2:20) "I specifically referred to the March for Our Lives's very important for the Church and all people...the young people want {disarmament} and it's our job to help them achieve that goal"

      So do you read this as his own personal individualistic take on a a political passion, or do you read it as him saying it is "our" (i.e. the Church as the Body of Christ) responsibility? He did not say "dogmatic responsibility" but is there any difference in that he, as a bishop of the Church, is explicitly elevating this particular March for Our Lives as something for which the Body has a responsibility and duty to "help achieve that goal"? I don't share his/these "young peoples" view, so how am I not now in opposition with not only this bishop as an individual, but the whole Church (and thus Christianity itself) as he has just put forth this responsibility and goal as part of Christianity itself?

      We live in a Secular Age, and many folks far smarter than myself (e.g. C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, MacIntyre, St. Justin Popovic, etc. etc.) have pointed out one of the defining characteristics of this age is its moralism that apes Christianity but in fact is something else (and is opposed to Christianity because it denies both God and Man as Christianity sees them). ALL the Churches have observed how this secularism gets into the Body of Christ (through are sloth, etc.) and corrupts us from within. It is incumbent upon us all, but particularly those with certain responsibilities in the Church (i.e. the hierarchy) to have at least *above average* discernment as to what is Christian morality, and what is modern/secular/Kantian morality. None of this reality is a "straw man", and the fruit of this reality is all around us - hollow "Christians" who simply stick their finger up in the cultural air to gauge what is right and true and how to act, talk, and live just like their moral secular neighbors.

      Finally it does not matter if this man is "well intentioned", a sin is still a sin rather voluntary or involuntary. Creating a novel dogma of disarmament (or whatever seemingly worthy cause comes along this week, stay tuned for a preview of next weeks rightness cause after this short commercial break) really goes against what we understand about fickle human nature and this fallen world. Where is the maturity, the wisdom in this man?

    4. Jake, I have the feeling that we're on different wavelengths here & resonance is unlike to be achieved. Nevertheless, while I wholeheartedly agree that secularism & sloth are problems that afflict the Church today I just don't see how his support for the March For Our Lives & even disarmament equate to him being a secularist. I understand his perspective, even if I may not completely agree with it, but that's neither here or there.

      As an interesting aside St. Seraphim, who was a pretty rugged guy, dropped the axe in his hands when he saw the thugs that came to rob & beat Christ he didn't "stand his ground" as is the secular American way. He denied himself, took up his cross & followed Christ in turning the other cheek & even refusing to prosecute the thugs, instead forgiving & praying for them. It's a jagged pill to swallow, I'll admit it & I have difficulty with it because it unAmerican & diametrically opposed to my passions...but I digress.

      I don't believe that Christ cares one bit about preserving or scrapping the 2nd amendment. Valid rational arguments could be made for both positions on the basis of the Gospel & the rest of Holy Tradition. Everyone has his convictions, and if this bishop feels disarmament, which I'm personally not in favor of, is a good way to exercise love of neighbor then that's his shtick. I doesn't logically follow that he's in sin, or creating a dogma of disarmament, or that he's a secularist liberal, or that he's saying that it is the only way to be Orthodox, but asserting that that is what he is saying or doing is the straw-man I was referring to. I don't believe things like this are binary. Red Vs blue, conservative Vs. liberal, etc. are reductionist efforts to rationalize our refusal to identify with & love our neighbors & enemies.

      As a political independent I'm accustomed to being an outsider pretty much everywhere, and that is good in the sense that it has forced me to become much more sensitive to other people's positions & more respectful in discussing these matters. There are faithful Orthodox Christians, both laity & clergy alike, of sound mind & good will all over the political spectrum, and as far as I am concerned as long as one understands that politics can't supplant or contradict the Gospel it just doesn't matter.

      Slapping a label on someone, then putting them in a box & writing them of based on a few brief statments doesn't see very mature or wise to me, and I say this as someone who knew no other way for years on end. Our discernment is realizing that we must alway remember that every single person is a living icon of Christ, and if we find a person to be at odds with us or the Holy Tradition then we need to love & pray for that person because nothing else works. No amount of rational argumentation or even mudslinging will be effective. He's the bishop, for better or worse. Let's love & pray for him even if we disagree with this political views, which are clearly not at odds with the Gospel.

      These are my 2 cents.

    5. Timmy,

      Again thank you for your thoughtful comments as truly they are helping me grasp where you and perhaps the good bishop are coming from. There is little I can disagree with, and I believe you and I are closer than perhaps is evident from our conversation so far.

      The only difference I think is how you and read these explicit words from the bishop:

      "I specifically referred to the March for Our Lives's very important for the Church and all people...the young people want {disarmament} and it's our job to help them achieve that goal"

      You do not read them as I do, or perhaps you are giving him a wide latitude - a benefit of the doubt, in that after all it was an interview and these could simply be how he expressed himself off the cuff and with understandable imprecision, etc. You might even be reading them as a kind of throwaway line??

      You also seem to be saying that when it comes to politics, a person - even a bishop - can say "it is the Church's job to achieve this goal" but not really mean to say the Church from it's dogmatic, "Gospel" kerygma but rather as a kind of worldly institution which more ambiguously might throw its collective weight around this or that relative moral or political enterprise. On top of that, you seem to be saying that other members of the Church can just as meaningfully say "I don't support that" or "I don't believe that" and even work against "achieving this (worldly) goal" and still at the same time be or speak as truthfully.

      I fully admit I have real trouble with this. Language and words have meaning (of course), and while everyone admits to ambiguity/distance/problems in any form of communication, words have to have some content and signification for communication to occur at all. Still, you seem to be saying that if we were to ask the good bishop to expand further, he would make a distinction between speaking for the Church and implying that the Gospel implies a necessary commitment from myself or any other member of the Body to work towards this particular political/moral enterprise.

      Would you say I am reading you correctly?

    6. Jake, I'd say that you're basically reading me correctly, and I agree that the two of us most likely have rather similar social & political views.

      However, my ultimate point is that we should love rather than condemn each other including this bishop. Our perception is, more often than not, flawed, so it's best to reserve judgment because we all to often project our own ideas, bias & fears onto others condemning them for something they aren't even guilty of. St. John of the Ladder said, "A discerning man, when he eats grapes, takes only the ripe ones and leaves the sour. Thus also the discerning mind carefully marks the virtues which he sees in any person. A mindless man seeks out the vices and failings...Even if you see someone sin with your own eyes, do not judge for often even your eyes are deceived."

      Even it someone is guilty (as if we aren't guilty of countless sins ourselves) we should love & pray for them even more than if they agree with us. St. Silouan the Athonite said, "Whoever, will not love his enemies cannot know the Lord and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our enemies in such a way that we pity their souls as if they were our own children."

      The clergy need our prayers, especially the bishops...what a thankless & exhausting responsibility to others & before Christ. When we condemn & slander them Satan & the demons rejoice. I say this as one who's former parish priest is in prison for being a total pervert & perpetrating heinous acts on others including the youth of the parish. I can easily make the observation that sins were undoubetedly committed, but I refuse to judge the man, that is in Christ's hands. I pray not only for his victims, but his wife & him, and I'm trying to muster the motivation to visit him in prison. After all, when Christ commanded us to visit those in prison there was no caveat about that referring to innocent prisoners who were wrongfully accused & convicted. This is our calling and the bases on which Christ will judge us. That scares me infinitely more than a bishop expressing political views that I don't necessarily agree with.

    7. Again, thanks Timmy. I can only imagine the anguish over that prison visit. It was hard enough for me visiting a relative who had been incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes.

      As to the good bishop, we differ as to not rather "he expressed a political view", but as to the meaning of that "expression" in the context of his teaching, ordination, and communication to those within and outside the Church as a bishop. I can not disagree with anything you said about the content of the Faith when it comes to loving our enemies, prayer for others and the hierarchy, etc. I would add that all of that rests on a trust in God and His Church - a trust in the epistemic content of Tradition from which and upon which St. Silouan and every other member of the Body is nourished back to Life. I believe the bishop is eroding that trust in the way he is "substituting" (to pick an imperfect term) that very love to which you refer by an unwise mixing of a political/moral passion with the Gospel/Tradition. Especially in the context of this Secular Age and the American religious/social scene, this haphazard latching on to this or that political cause is symptomatic of secularization *within* the individual and the Church (and not just outside of her as is more commonly recognized).

      The good bishop is part of a Church and Tradition which remembers St. John of the Ladder, and thus has you to remind us to seek the good in him, and this lifts my heart. At the same time, I know that much of Christianity has lost this very important memory and part (though not all) of the reason for this loss is the confusion that results when the Body confuses the the Truth with worldly passions and "goals" - even those goals that imitate the Gospel.

      If I have "condemned" the good bishop then that is my sin. If I however have not applied the discernment that has been given to me by God and followed him down some worldly path, then that is my sin as well. As a man with two young daughters (the very people he is concerned with reaching), if I "pass over in silence" his erroneous mixing of the Gospel with his political passions and allow him to mislead them, well that is my sin as well.

      I suppose I am saying that everything you say is true, but there is yet more. A "both/and" I suppose, of watching our selves/loving our enemies and discerning times as well.

      In any case I hear your word and by His Grace it will form my heart!

    8. Jake, my wife & I have 2 young daughters as well (4 & 7 years-old), and it is challenging to bring them up in this 21st century American life where our culture is in transition from modernism to post-mondernistm (I'm enthralled with neither of these philosophies BTW). I agree that there are few things more alarming than when clergy seem to undermine the Faith. I think the two of us may be peas in a pod.

      You stated: "I suppose I am saying that everything you say is true, but there is yet more. A 'both/and' I suppose, of watching our selves/loving our enemies and discerning times as well." Well said!

      My only point in making my initial post was to underscore the importance of gentleness, kindness, patience, temperance, faithfulness & the like as opposed to "calling someone out on the mat". My wife has been the biggest influence in converting my "righteous indignation" into a much gentler way of "catching more flies with honey than vinegar", and this has been a boon to both of us.

      Rather than launching into full frontal attacks I now check myself & directly reach out to the person I'm concerned about in a spirit of love & humility. It's so much nicer & more effective this way, and it keeps me a lot more honest & humble.

      A blessed remainder of this Lent to you, my friend!

  4. Replies
    1. ‪+1‬

      ‪It’s amazing how these posts bring out all the reactionaries:(‬

  5. Guns do not matter to martyrs. Death at the hands of a psychopath is not likely martyrdom. Given the options, I think having guns and training to use them is a lot healthier and safer than other alternatives. But then I am a deplorable from fly over country.

    Chicago has very strict gun laws already. How has that approach worked?

    My father was a nationally renown public health officer. We talked about gun control 30 years ago. He was developing an educational approach even then especially to the inner city he served the most. To address the social and community issues that cause gun violence and develop an effective treatment plan. Not unlike his approach to STDs.

    Not some ideological nonesense based on a lack of knowledge and compassion.

    BTW he could shoot the eye out of a rabbit at thirty yards from the back of a horse and went to work every day to his department that he purposely located in the heart of the ghetto had a Master's of Public Health from Harvard and really cared about the total health of the community he served.

  6. This guy will be hiring armed security in the coming years to protect himself and his parishes from threats. The only way to feel safe is to have good guys with guns protecting you. The police are minutes away when seconds count. Orthodox and Christians are under threat around the world. Taking away guns won’t solve the problem.