Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Racism in the Church & Care for the Garden

The Church exists in the world by design. The Lord founded His Church to provide a haven for those who live in the world but who seek the Kingdom of God. But, because the Church exists in the world, ideas foreign to her from time to time seep in. It is our job as Orthodox Christians to maintain the purity of the faith and, as St. Paul says, to test the spirits. Put another way, we all need to have our personal “spiritual filter”, built and strengthened by our ongoing struggle to be transformed into the children of God. But as a Church we need to have such a filter too, and the faithful have the responsibility to sound the alarm when something sneaks through the filter. One such thing that seems to more and more prevalent in our society is racism, or white nationalism, or whatever moniker you use to describe the heretical idea that God prefers one group of people over another based on race, nation, language, etc. God created the world out of love and to share His love with man. Period. Full stop. There is no adjective applied to “man” in this spiritual reality. There is no person that God does not love, although certainly some of us, such as myself, no doubt grieve God with our sins more than others, but God loves us all.

Below I have included a few quotations which I think help us to understand this better. This list is not exhaustive, but it seems to me that ad naseum quotations do not make a very good blog post either, so we will keep it to these few.

For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) (Romans 2:11-15)

We censure, condemn, and declare contrary to the teachings of the Gospel and the sacred canons of the holy Fathers the doctrine of phyletism, or the difference of races and national diversity in the bosom of the Church of Christ. – Article I of the Decree of the 1872 Council of Constantinople.

“Both you [Greeks] and the Bulgarians can equally be accused of phyletism, that is, of introducing ethnic interests into Church questions, and in the use of religion as a political weapon; but the difference lies in the fact that Bulgarian phyletism is defensive, while yours is offensive. Their phyletism seeks only to mark out the boundaries of their tribe; yours seeks to cross the boundaries of Hellenism...[Leontiev, Konstantin “The Fruits of the National Movements”, op. cit., p. 559]

The greatest proof, however, that ecumenism and phyletism are possessed of the “spirit of antichrist” lies in their fruits. They work against the salvation of the world because they make the Church into the world, “thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mat. 5:13). On the one hand, whether through tribalism or relativism, they deny the divine-humanity of the One Church, Her otherworldliness, Her power of the Cross (asceticism) which, if She “be lifted up” by it, draws all men toward Christ (Jn. 12:32). (https://orthodoxethos.com/post/on-the-essential-identity-of-ecumenism-and-phyletism)

We are not suggesting a witch hunt here by any means. But if the vile idea of racism rears its ugly head in the Church it must be plucked out as the weed it is. It has no place in the garden. But if we don’t pull out a weed for a while it becomes large, and strong, and when we finally attack it, the root often stays even if the visible part is cut out. It is much better to pull out a weed when it just pokes its head above the soil so we can get it all. If we ignore it it will not go away. It will grow. And steal nourishment from others. And even kill off others in the garden from time to time if left to its own devices. 

So let us care for our garden! Yes personally – we must pluck out the weeds of the passions as soon as they appear so that they cannot grow roots. But also as a community – let us not ignore the weeds, such as racism, that from time to time find their way into the garden. If you are struggling with this weed please talk to me. We will work together with God’s help to kill that weed – root and all. If you see this weed growing in our community garden please talk to me. We will work together with God’s help to kill that weed – root and all. But most importantly, let us pray that such weeds cannot find a place in the garden. If the garden is filled with the beautiful flowers of love, faith, hope, Christian service, and other virtues then there will be no room for weeds. The health of the garden will naturally choke off such weeds if they appear. Let us kill off our weeds with love! Let us kill off our weeds with a life according to the Gospel! This is the best way – rather than waiting for weeds to grow and trying to manage them once they have sprouted. If we live a Christian life there will be no room for weeds. May the Lord strengthen us to do just that – to live such exemplary Christian lives (and to repent sincerely when we fall short) that no weed can find a place in the Lord’s garden! A parish is a worshiping eucharistic community by definition. Let us live that life first and foremost: putting God first in our lives. If we can make even a small effort in that regard Christ will indeed be among us, but no weeds will find their place among us.

Asking Your Prayers,

Fr. Gregory

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