Eastern Orthodox believers hit the streets

By Julia Duin To be on the Mall around noon Monday was to be confronted with a vast crowd of … Continued

By Julia Duin

To be on the Mall around noon Monday was to be confronted with a vast crowd of what appeared to be mostly Catholics assembled for the annual Right to Life March. There were students wearing hats and scarves bearing the name of seemingly every Catholic academy on the Eastern seaboard; crowds of nuns clad in all manner of habits and scores of dark-suited priests and seminarians waving banners and signs.

Closer to the stage one could spot several Orthodox Jews and several who appeared to be evangelical Protestants. Then the crowd parted and up on the stage marched a phalanx of black-cassocked Eastern Orthodox clergy led by Metropolitan Jonah, leader of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Carrying a bejeweled walking stick and wearing a white crown-shaped miter, the metropolitan and the five bishops lined up beside him provided quite a contrast to the informally dressed crowd.

Talking with these Orthodox afterward, I learned that Jonah had put out word that every bishop who could make it to Washington for the march was expected to be there, along with 80-plus seminarians from two Orthodox seminaries: Saint Tikhon’s in Pennsylvania and Saint Vladimir’s in New York. The seminarians and their friends stood in a large clump off to the side, waving a large Orthodox Christians for Life banner.

All of the bishops present belonged to the OCA, the second-largest of three major Orthodox bodies in the United States. I was told there was no official there from the much larger Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America nor from the third-largest body: the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.

Unlike evangelical Protestants and Catholics, the Orthodox in this country haven’t been known for taking to the streets as antiabortion activists. What I did find on the official Greek Orthodox Web site was a statement calling abortion “immoral” and “murder.” Likewise, the Antiochans condemn it in this statement on their site, adding that church fathers from apostolic times opposed it as well. They also posted an encouragement to take part in Monday’s march. Plus, Frederica Mathewes-Green, one of the best-known antiabortion activists of any denomination, is married to an Antiochan Orthodox priest.

So, why weren’t higher-ups from other Orthodox bodies out there braving the 25-degree weather Monday? It might have to do with Metropolitan Jonah making it a priority. Not only did he show up at the march soon after flying back from a visit to Moscow, he also officiated at a Divine Liturgy Monday morning at St. Nicholas Cathedral on Massachusetts Avenue for those involved in the march. Standing in front of the congregation in elaborate gold brocade vestments, he challenged listeners to oppose abortion “whatever the cost.” He added, “being a Christian is not about what you do in church on Sunday.” One can perform the rituals, he said, “But if you don’t live according to the Gospel, that will condemn you to hell.”

I asked Jonah why he felt it necessary to call out the troops instead of leaving the heavy lifting to the Catholics and evangelicals.

“The church’s responsibility is to be the conscience for the culture,” he said. “The Orthodox Church in this country is emerging from being an embassy of foreign cultures to being an authentically American church.”

And there’s nothing much more American than taking part in street protests.

Should religious leaders who oppose abortion be willing to lead their followers in street demonstrations?

About

  • sdnjoseph

    Who cares? Anyone who lives according to the will of God cares! I’m blessed to be Orthodox and so very proud of all Christians that do care.Please, continue to care.

  • DeaconDavid

    While not in the “top three” with regards to size, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (acrod.org) was also present at Monday’s March. While its bishop, Metropolitan Nicholas, could not attend, he gave his enthusiastic blessing for his clergy and faithful to participate; this call was taken up by the diocesan chancellor and his family, at least three other diocesan priests, three seminarians from the diocesan seminary, and members of the laity, all of whom quietly marched under the banner of Orthodox Christians for Life (one of the three founders of which is a priest of ACROD). Participation in the March is not a recent development for ACROD; the diocese has been actively involved in the pro-life cause for over two decades. Looking back at marches in the 1980s and 1990s, three Orthodox bishops were quite prominent in the crowd: Bishop Herman of the OCA, Bishop Nicholas of ACROD, and Bishop Maximos of the GOA.Regardless of jurisdiction, it was encouraging to see so many Orthodox Christians gather to pray and march together as a witness to their faith. The only discouraging part is that those who spoke to the press did not consider that members (and prominent ones) from other jurisdictions might have been marching right next to them!

  • friarbob

    Farnaz, to be terribly didactic in all this, have you spent much time reading the “Establishment clause?” There is nothing in the Constitution, Bill of Rights included, that endorses or protects the killing of unborn children. A resounding remark from an earlier Supreme Court decision was that, “We can’t legislate morality.” Either that Chief Justice was entirely ignorant to the fact that we do have laws against such immoral acts as theft and murder, or else the meaning was crystal clear that it is the human heart – the conscience and inner intention which the Law has no control over. Now, as far as the “Establishment Clause” itself, the words are that the Government shall not “establish” a “religion” (in that day meaning Baptist or Anglican) as England has the Church of England as the “established religion” of the realm. It also says that Congress “neither shall inhibit the free exercise thereof” of any religion. In that day, again, the context & assumed meaning was of one or another expression of Christian faith, though it has been extended to cover a wide range of faith traditions from Judaism to the Hells Angels. As Metropolitan Jonah said in the interview, the Church must provide a conscience for society, and in fact in the Church’s absence, what conscience has any society ever had? So, then, is the bottom line of your remark that you are afraid of the Orthodox Church in America somehow ruining your life, or is it more basic, that you prefer a society in which there are no moral standards at all, and each person behaves entirely according to what is convenient for the moment? Truth be known, this could make even crossing the street a lot more difficult!

  • Farnaz2Mansouri2

    FriarBob:Re: Your postThere is nothing in either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights giving anybody rights to a woman’s body.Suggest you and like-minded people agitate in Congress to demand that all men and women sign up to be bone marrow, kidney, and blood donors for all BORN children. Once that law is in effect, you and your like-minded brethren are invited to get back to me.Move fast. The mood of the country will not support the dole for organized religious institutions for much longer. It is a national disgrace. These religionists blackmail and manipulate our Congress, effectively legislating in America. They break laws left and right with impunity. This must end and it will.

  • Farnaz2Mansouri2

    These people whose institutions thrive due to their nonprofit status repay us all by violating the Establishment Clause.End the dole, unconscionable both in light of our economic distress and the blatant disregard of the law.

  • YESMAN

    FARNAZ:Thank you for your input on the subject. The only thing I ask, however, is that before you rebut a point made in an argument, you read it. It would help you very much to avoid responding as you just did, making it blatantly apparent that what was just stated was not even considered.Also, I’d appreciate your opinion on the existence of societal mortality in the absence of a guiding light, such as that which the Orthodox Church offers. And don’t tell me about religious politics, tell me about personal experience and enlightenment.

  • monici24

    Dear eezmamata,I would like to share a nice story with you. Let me tell you that these Christian Orthodox people do not fight against abortion just by protesting on the streets. I think this is something new for us, as Orthodox but we would do anything to fight against a blind low. We indeed have more silent ways of fighting. Due to the fact that the Lord says to not show off and to not take pride of what we do, we prefer to keep it for ourselves. Let me tell you, above recesion, politics, economy, climate change and poverty, life is beautiful, no mater the difficulties. I thank to Lord every single day that my mum could’n find someone to help her to do one more abortion. Here I am.

  • Farnaz2Mansouri2

    Yesman:I do not know what you are referring to in your post. Let me clarify my position. When clerics on the dole use their pulpits to politicize they are in violation of the tax laws that give them nonprofit status.When legislators such as Ben Nelson and the idiot Stupak proudly announce that they will support nothing of which the (RCC, in their case) Bishops do not approve, we are in a position tantamount to establishment.This is going to end, will end, or I for one will die fighting. NO MORE DOLE for established religion.I, a Jew, PAYING to support Orthodox and Catholic Churches? Why? The better to assist Pope Shenoud in his next pogrom should he manage one? NO. Moral guiding light, my rear end. A bunch of depraved deluded nativist lunatics.Not too long ago the question was raise on this blog as to whether religion could provide a basis for social morality. The answer from all was a resounding NO. Thank God they are still in touch with reality.In academia, following discovery of Levinas, there was a general trend among gentiles throughout many disciplines supporting the notion of Judaic law as civil law. Yes, of course, Judaism understands Justice in a way that Christianity never will. However, as the basis of civil law?Again, thankfully wiser (and Jewish) heads prevailed, lawyers who were also Judaic scholars attempted to break down the problems and to a large extent succeeded in enlightening the benighted.Go to church if you enjoy it and if it serves you well. Keep it far, far away from me, my pocketbook, my family, and we’ll be just fine.Clear enough?

  • monici24

    Dear eezmamata,I would like to share a nice story with you. Let me tell you that these Christian Orthodox people do not fight against abortion just by protesting on the streets. I think this is something new for us, as Orthodox but we would do anything to fight against a blind low. We indeed have more silent ways of fighting. Due to the fact that the Lord says to not show off and to not take pride of what we do, we prefer to keep it for ourselves. Let me tell you, above recesion, politics, economy, climate change and poverty, life is beautiful, no mater the difficulties. I thank to Lord every single day that my mum could’n find someone to help her to do one more abortion. Here I am.

  • Farnaz2Mansouri2

    Ah, the beloved Rumanian ORthodox. Makes me think fondly, Yesman, of ARchbishop Valerian Trifa, head of the Rumanian Orthodox Church. This pig Trifa organized pogroms against Jews, hung their dead bodies on meathooks and was given refuge in this country.Archbishop Pig Trifa remained comfortably here, protected here, while witnesses to his vile hatred, murdering acts, protested for years. Finally, some very young Jewish students occupied a building in which the Pig and other high-ranking clerics of other denominations had offices and these young Jews refused to leave.Embarrassed to death the vile US murderer-protecting State Department offered Bishop Pig Trifa a deal: Get out of America if you can find a country that will take you, or stand trial here. Bishop Pig Trifa went to ARgentina to join his co-Nazis.Bishop Pig Trifa never repented for his murdering but like a typical nativist nazi thug said he did what he had to do.And, yesman, my tax dollars should go to support these people? I THINK NOT.Pay for your own churches. Stay out of our government. Keep your religion away from me, my family, my wallet.

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