A friend sent me an article from the Hellenic Voice titled, “Religious Right must not set agenda for Orthodox Church.” Well, reasonable enough. But the article got so many other things wrong that I was tempted to simply quit reading half way through. The author, Harry Katopodis, seemed not to understand the difference between religious doctrine and political activism (which was one of the main faults of the Religious Right). Amazingly, his article was aimed at those Orthodox brothers and sisters who have been received into the Church from other traditions. You know, converts. Their conversion, the author suggested, has been a Trojan horse that has allowed the Religious Right to stealthily creep into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The Katopodis article begins with the assertion that “the Orthodox Churches in America are heading down two different paths over political involvement.” The article is much too long and repetitive to reprint so I’ll touch on just a few points here. You can read the whole thing, if you like, here.
The main problem with the article is that Katopodis identifies converts to Orthodoxy, and by association the Antiochian Orthodox Church (AOC) and Orthodox Church in America (OCA), with Protestant fundamentalism and the Religious Right. Katopodis compounds the error by ascribing to converts a belief in Dominionism, a fringe Protestant movement that advocates something like a modern day theocracy. Here’s how he understands it:
About 20 years ago several hundred converts from evangelical Christianity joined the Orthodox Church through the Antiochian Archdiocese. Evangelicals are still converting to Orthodoxy. Most converts end up in the Antiochian Archdiocese and OCA. They often bring their political beliefs with them and now claim to be the voice of true Orthodoxy in America when it comes to politics. The Christian Right focuses on one main issue, outlawing abortion; other issues are not as important to them.
The religious right in America started with the evangelical Protestants and a doctrine called dominion theology that says the Bible calls for Christians to take over governments because God gave man dominion over the earth in the Old Testament. They feel that the separation of church and state in American is a lie perpetuated by liberals and that America was meant to be a Christian nation.
But, of course, Katopodis doesn’t provide evidence of any hierarch or responsible Orthodox person in the AOC or OCA preaching dominionism. There’s a reason for that. It simply isn’t Orthodox. A dominionist is the sort of person who would look upon Orthodox Christians as not even Christian. What’s more, many converts from Protestantism come from denominations that would be suppressed by dominionists, once they “took over” the country. But by wielding the “dominionist” slur, Katopodis tries to assert that Orthodox converts are all captive to the Religious Right and fundamentalism, also projects with Protestant roots. He cites Metropolitan Kallistos Ware for support of his views:
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware weighed in on this issue, saying: “I have to say that I find the aggressive and authoritarian tone of ‘Orthodox dominionists’ to be unattractive, and I believe that it will prove in the long term to be counter-productive. I am fully in favor of Orthodox Christians, as individuals and on a personal basis, becoming wholeheartedly involved in the political and social questions of the day. At the same time, I doubt whether it is helpful for Orthodox Church leaders to make public pronouncements that have a strong political tone.”
No one is asking Metropolitan Ware or any other Orthodox hierarch to make partisan political endorsements or weigh on technical policy questions. That’s not what they’re trained to do. But they do have an obligation to articulate a moral vision and a social witness for the Church. And so do the laity. The Church belongs to us all, conservative and liberal alike.
Read the entire article on the American Orthodox Institute website (new window will open).