By Jackie Morfesis
Once again, the WOKE crowd at Public Orthodoxy of Fordham University care more about if we are on the wrong side of history than the right side of God as per the article
“The Orthodox Church Is on the Wrong Side of History” by Rev. John Chryssavgis, with the subtitle: “The Church, a deacon of the Orthodox Church writes, has hit rock bottom”. This is Public Orthodoxy’s running thesis statement. Only the issue is that the faith walk is rarely if ever on the right side of the secular world. To be clear, I am non-violent, against war, and care and stand for the suffering of all. However, Rev. John Chryssavgis’ article is much more than an anti-war statement, it comes at a critical juncture as a statement of Anti-Orthodoxy.
Allow me to explain. Again and again, Public Orthodoxy, an initiative of their Orthodoxy Christian Studies Center, under the leadership of Nathaniel Wood, carefully chooses the voices they will allow on their platform for one very important reason, they must align with their overriding political agenda. And their overriding political agenda is of the world. We know that as Christians on the faith walk, we are and never will be “of the world”. “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14-16).
Public Orthodoxy stands for those who were and are affected by police brutality, they stand for social justice issues, and rightly so, but not one article was allowed, to take the position and stand as well for all the innocents who were assaulted, injured, even murdered in the false name of social justice. Not one article to righteously stand against all the damage and destruction that befell our cities, including arson, looting, and vandalism, indeed terror, in the false name of social justice. Righteousness and true justice are the collateral damage of political correctness.
Here is the rub: though we like to chant along to “There is no peace without justice.” The truth is “there is no justice without peace”. We do not have the right to attack innocents in the false name of justice. We all know very well that the day will never come when there will be “peace on earth” as long as man holds “darkness in his heart.” This is a much deeper issue than political pandering – this is an issue of soul.
We do not seek vengeance. “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” (Hebrews 10:30). We do not make anyone’s right to live in peace an afterthought nor a condition for our crusade for “justice”. We do not threaten others and attack their livelihoods, and their way of life because we may have suffered. The home I was living in, a family home, was poured with gasoline while we were sleeping, then burned to the ground. I was barefoot and made homeless watching it burn to the ground after we barely escaped by dropping from a balcony to the bushes below. Did I now have the right to burn someone else’s home to the ground in rage and vengeance? No. I will not repay evil with evil.
My most beloved cousin was murdered after visiting my parents’ home. A graduate of M.I.T., a brilliant scholar who spoke at his graduation. Did I now have the right to murder for justice in his name? No. Again, we do not repay evil with evil.
The Rev. John Chryssavgis is concerned about the moral base of Orthodoxy and our leaders? Where are the articles criticizing His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros for saying that Our Holy Theotokos had a “choice” to bear the Christ child? I see articles in Public Orthodoxy condemning the war in Ukraine, but I do not remember articles condemning violence against all innocents in our own nation. Did it not align with the right political agenda? Or the agenda of Public Orthodoxy?
This paragraph in his article says it all: “But the focus of my article is the state of the Orthodox Church, which desperately needs addressing. Perhaps the Orthodox Church needs to hit — or we need to admit it has already hit — rock bottom. Perhaps we should confess that our church consistently rejects freedom and democracy. Perhaps we should appreciate what we know in our hearts but rarely confess with our lips: that once again we are hopelessly and shamelessly on the wrong side of history. Then, and only then, will we be able to take the first — initially clumsy and cautious — steps toward reconciliation with our church and with our world”.
The day we are more invested in upholding democratic values and less concerned about upholding Christian values – is the day that we have indeed hit “rock bottom”. We aren’t here to be “reconciled to the world” but “reconciled to God.” Please, do not misunderstand me. Again, I am against war. I am against the suffering of innocents. Yet, our values are not rooted in politics. Nor in worldly freedoms. As true Orthodox Christians, they are rooted and anchored in the freedom that only comes from the Lord. Freedom from sin. Freedom from the chains that bind us. Freedom from the false love of the world and all its temptations and luxuries. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17). Freedom from needing to join the cacophony of voices who shout for justice but a very selective justice.
I invite Public Orthodoxy of Fordham University to have the bold faith to speak and stand for the vulnerable, the voiceless, and those who our Lord and our God created. But that would not be in alignment with a culture that consistently rejects true “freedom and democracy.” No, Rev. John Chryssavgis, it is not the church that consistently rejects freedom and democracy, it is the world. In fact, the church has stood for millennia to protect the defenseless. Yet, in a world where we decide who is deemed defenseless and who deserves protection, the Early Church is seen as the true threat. The Early Church is the Church we consistently attack as our clerical leaders consistently miss the mark. More importantly, it is our very Lord and Savior who we attack.
On this this point – I will agree – our leaders can and must do better. But not in the way that Rev. John Chryssavigis and the guard at Public Orthodoxy believes. We must do better and truly be on the “right side of history” by truly following the faith walk, not the walk we create with our soaring intellect, but the walk that Jesus put on our hearts and on our lips, and in our actions. We must have mercy for all. We must seek forgiveness, redemption, and salvation for all instead of bowing, acquiescing, and indeed becoming worse than lukewarm, which our God hates, becoming nothing more than puppets for political causes.
Our Lord did not serve His ministry on this earth appeasing political powers. Nor in caring for the “world” or how He would be seen by the “world”. Neither should we. He spent His time preaching God’s Holy Word and planting seeds of the Kingdom. This is what we are all mandated to do as a Child of God, Disciple of Christ, and Ambassador in the Kingdom.
So, before we keep printing again and again, the tired and torn “The Church is on the Wrong Side of History”, let’s stop to truly meditate on the meaning of those words. Is it the Church that is on the wrong side of history? Or have we completely forgotten where we must stand as Christians to be on the “Right Side of God”? Do we have the fierce courage to speak to how we can truly be on the “Right Side of God”, not just when it suits our agenda? God help us all.
I often think of the early Christians and disciples of Christ. They would give and indeed gave their lives to the Lord, to do His work on this earth. Yet, in many of our churches today, we paint them as no more than relics of the past, instead of taking their lives to our hearts and living as they would by their example. This is how we honor the Lord. This is how we honor our inheritance as disciples of Christ. In fact, many Orthodox do not even know our true identity. We live in fear instead of with courage. We have so much invested in the world that we are blinded to the promise of our place and peace in eternity. We aren’t here to be praised or lauded by the world. We are here to in many times be condemned by the world and carry our cross. Howevver, it is not the cross of salvation that tortures us (as is often misunderstood), which is our freedom, but the cross of the world, and all the ways we are attacked by the world, that we carry because we follow the Lord.
God help every clergy member who politicizes their mercy. God help those entrusted within our educational institutions and those given media platforms such as Public Orthodoxy to use it as it was intended, as a public forum instead of a political platform. To use it to bring God the glory instead of man and his causes and personal agenda. To use it instead to open hearts to truly love God and all His children. To use it to point us back to God. Instead of continually veering from the single perfect point (amartia). Instead of publishing articles that politicize and secularize our faith – and laud the ways of the “world”, let’s have the undying faith and courage to speak God’s Word – publish God’s Word, and most importantly, encourage others to live God’s Word.