The featured author article this month is an updating and reworking of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region’s President’s Message Light of the East Newsletter (Winter 2014-2015) originally entitled ALLIES IN THE BATTLE AGAINST THE CRIMINALIZATION OF CHRISTIANITY.i This article focuses on the need of the healing of society from making Christ and His Body the Church criminals and that all Christians should ally to cure this increasing societal illness.
The work of Satan, the great divider, or separator, is not new, It goes back to Christ, Himself, His Apostles and Disciples and many early Christians. They were criminals in the eyes of the law, the state. We know from the Holy Gospels and historical accounts that real possession by Satan can occur. However as one Christian author C.S. Lewisii, has pointed out most of the work of Satan is not done by him or his demons, but by us, that is to say, people like you and I. Lewis writes a fictional account of an experienced devil or demon named Screwtape who teaching a novice devil, his nephew called Wormwood to adopt a "war aim," that would entail a, "world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings to himself...." (p. 38). The moral of the story boils down to this: 'you don't have to do much, you can more or less stand back and people will do the Devil's work for you.' This is due to the brokenness, weaknesses, biases, foibles, prejudices and passions we all have, which of course we have inherited from our ancestral parents. (Gn 3)
Many of us would think, that considering Christians as criminals today would be for third world countries or those countries under radical Islamic control. How many would think that, the Criminalization of Christians is now being promoted in the West and in the United States as well? This Fall, 2014, I came across an advertisement for a book almost a decade old now, entitled the 'Criminalization of Christianity.'iii The attack on Christianity leading to criminalization started one small step at a time, almost innocently at first. Prayer in school was banned, portrayals of the Ten Commandments were forbidden in courts, public buildings and of course schools. There was and still is an outcry by atheists and secularists to remove the words "in God we Trust," from our national motto and to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.
A couple decades ago some individuals were saying that the ultimate goal of the gay-rights movement was the 'criminalization of Christianity.' I would not have believed it if I had heard of it at that time - but I surely know it is true now. A self-proclaimed lesbian mayor of a major Texas city recently tried to subpoena the homilies of pastors in her jurisdiction. She was looking for any criticism of so called 'gay-marriage' as it would be a hate-crime subject to prosecution. Her office was flooded with books of the Sacred Scriptures.iv Because of the public outcry the investigation has been temporarily halted. However in Europe, supposedly an enlightened area of the world, criminalization of church leaders who preached on homosexuality have already been prosecuted. A Swedish court sentenced a pastor to a month in prison by inciting hate by quoting Scripture and thus offending gays and lesbians. A news account reported that the prosecutor said the homilist crossed the line when he recited Scriptural verses referencing homosexuality. (Folger, 2005) By the way, the term 'gay marriage' is an oxymoron - that is to say a contradiction of terms. The Apostolic Churchesv have taught that the marital commitment is a reflection of the love of the persons of the Holy Trinity amongst themselves and that the potential for procreation between the male and female united in a blessed marriage reflects God's creation of the cosmos and specifically mankind. "Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh." (Gn 2: 24).
As Christians we are to pray for the spiritual healing of all, but at the same time we can judge an action or deed, proclaiming it is wrong, if indeed we have been told as such by Christ and His Church. Recall Christ's words, spoken through His angel, to St. John in the Book of the Apocalypse (2:6): "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds [emphasis mine] of the Nicolaites, which I also hate." We know that we can never judge the individual, however we can judge first our deeds and then according to our role in life the deeds of others. Only the merciful God can judge the individual. However, out of charity, that is to say Christian love, it should be stressed that we must also never socially or economically discriminate against anyone based on gender, race, religion sex, and/or sexual orientation.
Where is this reflection leading? It is leading to saying that that segment of secular and politically correct society and sadly, even among those claiming to be Christian themselves, that seeks to persecute and criminalize Christ and His Church for proclaiming God's message to mankind and is in dire need of healing. It is also points out the unique diaconia of the SSJC and actually all who are baptized unto Christ is to witness the solidarity of the Apostolic Churches on such moral matters. The grace to do this was by our entry into the Royal Priesthood of Christ bestowed on us at Holy Baptism. Let us all exercise this gift according to our state of life and become the physicians, next to Christ, the chief physician, of ourselves and all whom we touch.
i The Society of Saint John Chrysostom
The Society of St. John Chrysostom is an ecumenical group of clergy and lay people which promotes Eastern Christianity and Ecumenical Dialogue between the Eastern and Western Churches toward the healing of the sin of disunity. It has sponsored the Eastern Churches Journal and the annual Orientale Lumen & Light of the East Conferences. It has been in existence since 1997 in the United States and for over 70 years in England. (http://lightoftheeast.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/ssjcnewsspring2013.acpcorr.finalreplates.pdf)
ii Lewis, C.S. (1961). The Screwtape Letters. NY: Macmillan.
iii Folger, J.L. (2005). The Criminalization of Christianity. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
v Those Churches tracing back to Christ and His Apostles, and whose communicants are eligible for SSJC membership: Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic jurisdictions.
Visit Fr. Morelli's Facebook page.
V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.
Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)
Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
Fr. Morelli is the author of: