Sunday, July 07, 2013

What Weapons Has God Given The Church?

The topic of the Parish Life Conference this year was the Last Judgement.  The key note speaker was Fr. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir's seminary.  His lectures were excellent.  I can't even begin to summarize it.  As soon as the recordings are available I will let you know.  
The other hot topic of the convention, especially during the clergy meetings, was the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.  The most vocal response to the matter was arguing for a political battle: Protests in Washington D.C. and strongly worded public statements.  This vocal group used lots of violence-laden language: "We have to fight for"... "the battle is about"... "we have to make our voice heard"... etc.  I must admit I was somewhat shell shocked (to continue in the battlefield metaphors).  I was confused.  My heart was breaking.  "Was this the weapon of peace?" I asked myself.  I could imagine a few hundred Orthodox clergy marching in a rally of thousands, only to have all of the media outlets quote the most outrageous gay-bashers in the group, but show only the Orthodox clergy in their TV footage.  
I wondered if I were alone in my feelings, but during the week, other clergy shared with me their reticence.  No one I spoke to thought same-sex marriage was a good thing.  However, some, like me, felt that an aggressive political response was only a recipe for misunderstanding and almost certainly guaranteed to alienate the very people whom only the Church can help.   
I don't know what the Church should do to respond to this new political reality.  I don't know what the Church should do except what Christ has called the Church always to do: to pray, serve, love, and speak the truth.  These seem to be the tools God has given the Church.  If the prophets of the Old Testament are any guide to us today, perhaps it is because the Church has not done very well what it is called to do that we are in the messy moral and political situation we find ourselves in.  Perhaps the best response is not to fight fire with fire.  Perhaps the best response is to return to our calling, to repent ourselves, and to funnel all of this indignant energy into a renewed emphasis on prayer, self-sacrifice and love of neighbour.  
May God help us find the right way through the darkness. 


Anonymous said...

I am so glad for your point of view. Rather than a call to arms for trying to exercise political influence, might we rather see these recent events as a judgment on our failure as a Church to be salt and light in the culture? Perhaps it might ultimately be far more effective for the sake of bringing the fruits of godly behavior to our culture if we seek repentance in our own midst rather than trying to use legal institutions to force repentance on those outside the Church.

Mary said...

Thank you Father Michael for being one of those who takes a different stand, one who is compassionate and kind rather than being with the crowd who speaks more loudly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your struggle on this topic. I have many gay friends and acquaintances through Social Media and have struggled with how to respond in some circumstances. When I've prayed about it I've always come back to something Father Michael Lewis told me many years ago: "The Church doesn't call us to judge sin or sinners but to love them. Our job is to love them and pray." His wise words have helped me many times to keep my opinion to myself and simply be kind to those whose lifestyle I may not agree with.

Anonymous said...

As I was just now reading the 3 temptations of Christ in Matthew 4, with the issue raised in your blog in mind, I began to consider that perhaps the way I have always thought about the 3rd temptation might be wrong. I have always thought of it as an offer by Satan to make Jesus the political head of the world, with the rights, privileges, and glory appertaining thereto. I put Jesus in my own ego-maniacal shoes, for whom the longing for such power and glory is a daily occurrence. But perhaps the temptation for Jesus was more sublime than that. Perhaps, God have mercy on me if I push this too far, the temptation was similar to the temptation we Christians face to make the world conform to the rules of the Kingdom of God. No abortion. No gay marriage. No dishonoring the Sabbath (Oops. How did that get in there?) Perhaps the temptation for Jesus was to exchange God's kenotic path of saving the world through the resurrection power of sacrificial loving and dying for the path of saving the world through worldly power. Might this be the same temptation we face in dealing with gay marriage and the like in a political way?

Fr. Michael said...

There is always a tension in our fallen state between freedom and coercion. We cannot make people come to Christ and repent; yet on some levels we find it necessary to use coercion to restrain wickedness (murders and bank robbers are kept safely away from the general public). Devout people disagree about where the line should be drawn: what behaviours and in whom should be restrained and which should be left to conscience. Christ coerced no one. Lord have mercy on us who choose the third temptation.