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Religious Right Must Not Set Agenda for Orthodox Church

Harry Katopodis

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The official Church should not be involved in partisan politics.
Fr. Stanley S. Harakas (The Hellenic Voice, November 3, 2004)

Refute any attempt to totally isolate Orthodoxy from political activity.
Fr. John Oliver (Again Orthodox Magazine, Fall, 2004)

Two Orthodox priests, two jurisdictions, two opposite views on what the Church's position should be toward politics. The Orthodox Churches in America are heading down two different paths over political involvement.

The ultra-conservative Christian Right (mostly Christian evangelicals) has grown into a powerful political force in America and the Orthodox Church has also been influenced. It is inevitable that some Orthodox Christians will side with the Religious Right; however in the Antiochian Archdiocese (semi-independent and self-ruled church under the Patriarch of Antioch) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) jurisdictions, the influence goes deeper.

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.

Many people, Christian and non-Christian, feel strongly about other issues besides abortion and therein lies the controversy. To many people, economic and social issues trump moral issues and many are opposed to the war in Iraq. The Bible mentions the poor many times and often Democrats support government policies that help the poor and working class Americans while Republicans support policies that help corporations and the wealthier members of society. Although the religious right Orthodox feel that they are non-partisan, the fact remains that the Republican Party is for outlawing abortion and the Democratic Party is for keeping abortion legal.

A clarification should be made here: the Orthodox Church is against abortion and considers it a grave sin; however many Christians of all denominations, including Orthodox, feel that Christians cannot legislate their doctrine and impose Christian teachings on those who do not believe in those teachings. Many also feel that political parties can easily manipulate Christians by using issues such as abortion as wedge issues just to divide people and get votes without truly intending to outlaw abortion. (For more than 35 years the Republican Party has been promising to outlaw abortion.) Many Christians also feel that the culture of America (TV, movies, music, publications, etc.) is not Christian and imposing Christian laws would be futile.

Religious Right Orthodox on politics

Frank Schaeffer (a convert whose father was a founder of the anti-abortion Christian Action Council) wrote, "We will gird ourselves against the insidiousness of the secular culture around us, against ... the secularistic scourge which comes to us packaged as 'choice,' 'pluralism,' and 'democratization.' We will reject the destruction of moral absolutes which we are constantly urged to adopt in the name of 'pragmatism,' 'political correctness,' 'tolerance of diversity,' 'sensitivity' and 'inclusiveness.' Schaeffer goes on to attack some Orthodox leaders by saying, "They [Orthodox Christians] are told to live holy, sacramental lives on one day and then on the next, they see their Orthodox leaders 'schmoozing' with pro-abortion politicians." Dancing Alone, pages 306 and 311.

Fr. David Subu of the OCA is a "pro-lifer" who votes for pro-life (anti-abortion) candidates. Fr. Subu feels that the Church should be involved in politics. He goes on to strongly encourage a "pro-life" outlook for his readers. Solia, Jan/Feb 2008, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate official publication under Archbishop Nathaniel Popp (a leading proponent for making one Orthodox Church in America).

Another OCA priest, Fr. Steven C. Kostoff, recently wrote in his weekly email: "When we approach the chalice to receive the Eucharist, we are approaching and then receiving Life in abundance. We must stand in defense of the sanctity of life if we are to receive from the chalice of Life in a 'worthy manner.'" His email was about outlawing abortion. Thursday's Theological Thoughts email, February 7, 2008.

Also an Orthodox anti-abortion group has gone so far as asking bishops to ban Orthodox pro-choice politicians from Holy Communion.

It seems that the Orthodox "dominianists" have also hijacked the Orthodox unity movement in part to serve their political agenda. Since the rise of the religious right Orthodox there can be no doubt that a big reason many of them are pushing for one Orthodox Church in America is to give religious right Orthodox a stronger voice in Washington.


Read the entire article on the American Orthodox Institute website (new window will open).

Read the response by John Couretas on the American Orthodox Institute Blog.

Posted: 08-Oct-2008

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