Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Last Night’s Prayer at RNC by a Greek Orthodox Bishop Didn’t Give Me “Warm Fuzzies”

As I watched the formal benediction prayer led by His Eminence Metropolitan METHODIOS of Boston at the Republican National Convention last night, I was left with a simple reaction….too bad. I won’t comment here on the content of the prayer since I am in no position to question the words of a senior hierarch of our Church. I have much respect for His Eminence having served for 18 months as his deacon while I was in seminary. My feeling of “too bad” was not about his character nor were they about the prayer. My reaction was because I see so little fruit from decades of so-called national spotlight. What do I mean?

National divorce rate…

National poverty level…

National domestic abuse rate…

National abortion rate…

National crime rate…

National debt…

National homelessness rate…

National “you fill in the blank” rate…and these are just the National statistics.

How about Orthodoxy?

A recent census of Orthodox Christianity has revealed a MUCH smaller presence in America than we had been “taking credit for” in recent decades. Our Churches remain ¾’s empty on most Sunday. On average only ¼ of all known Orthodox Christians are in Church on a given Sunday. At least in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese we have experienced an actual decline in membership and attendance in the past 25 years when you consider birth rate and compared to attendance.

So why the “too bad” you may ask? How can we have so much pride that a senior hierarch of our Church, and therefore our entire National Church, is honored to offer the benediction during a live televised national program when we as a Church have so little affect on the moral standing of our nation?

I’m not suggesting that the Church is to blame for society, but we haven’t made things better by participating in these events as the late Archbishop IAKOVOS suggested we would unless you use the excuse, “well it could have been worse." Actions speak louder than words, and I’m afraid our American Government and society at large have given us a lot of words without turning their hearts to Christ.

How many decades more will we as Orthodox Christians be lulled to sleep thinking we are having an impact “just because” we have a bishop on TV? The time has come for us as Orthodox Christians to REALLY make a difference and LIVE Orthodox Christian lives.

National divorce rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to our friends and family in struggling marriages and offer assistance and counseling.

National poverty rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to our neighbors with food and clothing and assistance to help get people back on their own two feet.

National domestic Abuse rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to our neighbors and family and friends and support struggling families to deal with the stresses that lead to violence.

National abortion rate? It’s time for US as individuals to teach and rededicate ourselves to a life of sexual purity where we no longer are forced to consider “unwanted pregnancies” and their impact on young lives.

National crime rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to all people with a message of love and humility where people are not forced to consider crime as “the easy way out” but will consider the advice of Saint Paul “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3.10)

National debt? It’s time for US as individuals to live within our means and realize that we just can’t have everything we want.

National homelessness rate? It’s time for US as individuals to love our neighbor as ourselves and established more places where the poor can rest without fear of become themselves victims of crime.

You get the point….none of these requires a bishop on live television. Each of these requires that we live as faithful Orthodox Christians – dedicated followers of Jesus Christ.

As for the prayer? You can read it for yourself or watch the clip  below (compliments of CSPAN)

Let us pray,

"O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of truth Who is ever present and fills all things, the Treasure of all blessings and source of life, we beseech you to dwell in our hearts"[1] as we hold in prayer our brethren who suffer the ravages of Hurricane Isaac. Embrace them in your love and keep them safe. Enable us to reach out to them in acts of philanthropy and generosity.

As we close this evening's program, we pray that You bless and inspire the delegates of this Republican Convention to be your devoted servants and dedicated citizens of our great country. They have nominated two of your faithful sons, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, to serve the highest offices of this beloved land, a nation which has always opened its embrace to welcome "the tired, the poor and the huddled masses, all the tempest tossed to breathe free"[2] a nation that has always been a model of peace, justice and the rule of law. Shine in the hearts of the nominees of this convention the radiant light of Your divine will.  Imbue them and Chairman Reince Priebus, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with insight, wisdom, and boldness, with courage, compassion and competence.

Tonight, we remember the intrepid members of our armed forces who place themselves in harm's way in defense of our freedom, and like our Founding Fathers, are steadfast in keeping America the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

May every American be more sensitive:

To the neglected and forgotten

To those who have been victims of discrimination and crime

To those who are hungry and homeless

To those with no jobs and little hope
Help us, Lord, to break down the walls of enmity and distrust, and show us the way to a new era of peace, equality and opportunity. Strengthen the hand of America as it reaches out to clasp the hands of our brethren throughout the world to build bridges of understanding. May we rediscover the path that leads one to another, and all to You. Amen.


Jeff said...

Father, thank you for this post, which I came across on Twitter today. As a convert to Orthodoxy, my feeling is that the GOC in America is little interested in attracting new members and often when it does, there is little follow through in terms of intentional adult theological/historical education. I yearn for more dialogue and discussion on Orthodox matters, but must get most of that met in podcasts, books and blogs. This must be part of the reason why attendance is declining.

DesertRose said...

Father, I couldn't agree with you more! We need more than just TV exposure. It's time to LIVE our faith. I apologize if I come off as too strong, but I firmly believe that we as Christians regardless of our jurisdiction or even denominations need to take seriously the words in 1 Chronicles 2:7-14 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Until we do that, nothing will change.

TogetherForPeace said...

"They have nominated two of your faithful sons, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan,..."
What does *faithful sons* mean in this context?

"...a nation that has always been a model of peace, justice and the rule of law."
Historically speaking, I don't understand how America has *always* been a model of these virtues.

Lord, have mercy.

Anonymous said...

Sabrina has it right except for maybe the tv comment. We as individual parts of the body of Christ have a job to do not because we believe we have to earn salvation it is freely offered to all and recieved by anyone who will cry out to the Lord.We should not wait for our leaders in our local congragations to tell us when and what we should be praying about we can seek God on our own his word says IF my people will pray and seek my face he will hear.We are not praying and seeking God is always faithful and his promises true we are the unfaithful sometimes uncaring people God is the only one who can change hearts but we need to be willing to allow him to truely change us.
Tom Eppard
Protestant fallower of Christ

Be Transfigured Ministries said...

Thank you for your comments.

TogtherForPeace: I am not commenting on the content of the prayer. Rather I am speaking as to the affect (or lack thereof) on society by our Church being so visible. I think it is interesting that even last night with the Roman Catholic Cardinal offering the prayer, his words too have fallen on deaf ears in our society.

Tom: Keep in mind that our ONLY job as Christians to to be in communion with God. ALL other actions derive their source from that reality. In the Orthodox Church, we strive to live this reality through the sacramental life of the Church which was established by Christ to assist us in living that communion. From the earliest days of the Church, the leaders (The Holy Apostles) instructed the faithful how to pray and how to live their life in communion with Christ. It is not something we just select and interpret for ourselves.

James Burge said...

Bless Fr. Athanasios,

I could not agree with you more, it is living the faith that matters and reaching out to those in need where they are at in the moment and simply Love them. Change will come if enough of us Love and see true authentic joy in our faces and hearts for them. A big high five for you Sabrina because of your wonderful answer. Hope to see you at the Parish this Sunday.