Prayer by Archbishop Demetrios at the Democratic Convention

Delivered in Boston, Wednesday evening, July 28, 2004.

Let us bow our heads to the Lord.

Heavenly King, Maker of all things and Father of all humanity, we bow our heads before you in deepest gratitude for the countless blessings which You bestow continually upon our great nation.

We thank You for the bounties of our land, for the stability of our society, and for the diversity of our American people. And above all, we thank You for the inestimable gift of freedom and for the glorious ideals of human dignity, equality, and justice for all, which have been inspired by Your grace.

This legacy of liberty, O Lord, is ours today because of the sacrifice and service of the founders of our nation. Bless, O God, their memory with an everlasting blessing, and inspire us with art equal measure of dedication to the, institutions and ideas of democracy.

Send Your mercies upon this Convention, and upon all the delegates who have been gathered here to carry out these noble ideals by selecting candidates for the highest offices of our land. Bestow upon your servants, Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards, strength from above and profound wisdom to bear well the awesome responsibilities of their candidacy. Grant them keen discernment and brotherly love, so that they may bring honor to our democratic institutions, in properly understanding and handling issues of vital importance for our society.

Enlighten your servants, so that they may confirm the precious value of liberty. May the work of these candidates and the work of this Convent on advance our blessed American legacy far into the future, through works of social progress, deeds of righteousness, and acts of justice.

Establish our land in peace, O Lord. Protect the poor, nourish the hungry, strengthen the weak, vindicate the oppressed, support the youth, make firm our families, preserve and guard our armed forces who stand in harm’s way on behalf of us all, heal the wounds of war, and inspire all people with the ideals of human freedom and dignity, from sea to shining sea, and throughout the whole world.

And to You be the glory forever, Amen.

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14 thoughts on “Prayer by Archbishop Demetrios at the Democratic Convention”

  1. A friend who attended Holy Cross seminary shared this story.

    One day, when he was a professor at Holy Cross, Archbishop Demetrios was presiding over end-of-term oral examinations for final year seminarians. He posed a question to one student, asking him how a priest should respond in a certain hypothetical situation. The student replied, “Well to be honest with you, I would tell them ..”. Archbishop Demetrios lifted his arm and cut the young man off in mid sentence. “Do you think”, he asked, “that a Priest should ever begin a sentence with the words, ‘Well to be honest with you’?”

    Archbishop Demetrios is a serious, genuine and thoughtful man whose leadership and vision for our church gives me pride and confidence in my membership in it. It is highly unlikely he would ever let any group of politicians manipulate him or take advantage of our church.

  2. Notice there is no overt Trinitarian or even overt Christian references. Unless one knew “Oh Heavenly King..” one would not need to place any specific Orthodox or Christian context to those words. “Father of all humanity” might perhaps be bit Christian, though it does seem vague enough to me to pass for a prayer in a Unitarian church. Not sure how “diversity” is a good in of itself – unless one holds to a modern liberal view of the body politic. I can not see how I am to link such a secular and religious “diversity” to the “unity of faith” that all Orthodox pray (or should πŸ˜‰ for every evening.

    All and all, I think this prayer from an Orthodox and evangelistic point of view, is one big compromise. It seeks so hard not to offend it even forgets it’s own Christianity. A simple “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God…” at the beginning would have been enough.

    Any Orthodox believer have a thought as to what business a Orthodox Bishop (or any other clergy – or layperson, for that matter) has praying such a prayer?

  3. Christopher: He gave the prayer that was appropriate for the settting and occasion. This wasn’t a church service and the occasion did not call for a sermon, or a lecture on dogma and doctrine. The occasion called for ideas that could unite a group of people from diverse backgrounds and inspire them to think about national service, and national goals and objectives, as they seek God’s blessing and direction.

    This may be hard for you to undestand, so sit down if you need to. Christianity is an inclusive, welcoming religion. It does not disdain or reject people because of their different backgrounds, or economic stations, or poltical beliefs. Christ healed the Roman Centurian’s daughter, lodged with the tax collector, spoke freely with the Samaritan woman at the well, and forgave the thief who had faith on the next cross. On the day of Pentacost, the power of the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the power to be heard and comprehended by people from every foreign land, a pointed reminder that God’s message is intended for everyone.

    We need to ask whether Christ would want the influence of His church to be used to heal and unite our nation, or to further divide us and magnify our fears, hostilities and resentments towards each other?

  4. Ah, but Dean, He came to bring a sword, & Lk.14:26 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren…” & all that. All those you mentioned Dean (The tax collector, the Samaritan women, the thief) were REPENTANT sinners, who acknowledged the Lord as the Lord. The unity you speak about is a false unity of incompatible religions (e.g. where one neighbor does not recognize the Image in his other neighbor and kills him). The diversity we are speaking about here would have the Christ denying that He is the Christ in order to not rock the “diverse” applecart. Truth is divisive, only falsehood is “diverse”

    So I ask again, any Orthodox believer have a thought as to what business a Orthodox Bishop (or any other clergy – or layperson, for that matter) has praying such a prayer?

  5. Even in a non-church setting, can a Christian speak of God in any way other than as Trinity? What purpose does it serve to attempt to ‘hide’ our belief in who our God is? (Not to mention the doctrine that defined the theological battles of the earliest centuries of the Church.) Sadly, this prayer is all too similar to the one given at the infamous Yankee Stadium event (see the transcript. Search the page for “demetrios”).

    “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

  6. Christopher: I’m proud to be an Orthodox Christian but I don’t think that gives me the right to say “Billy Graham, you shouldn’t be a Baptist. Mother Theresa, you shouldn’t be a Catholic. Elie Weisel, you shouldn’t be a Jew.” It is no betrayal of our Orthodox faith to celebrate those beliefs we hold in common with people of other backgrounds. Christians, Jews and Muslims all trace their religions back to Abraham, and share

    Archbishop Demetrios wasn’t yielding to the views of people of different backgrounds or compromising the Orthodox faith, he was only recognizing that there are cetain beliefs we all share, and that we can build upon use those beliefs to make this a better nation.

    Christ wants us to continue drawing people to his message of faith, hope, love and salvation. We can do that much better with a face that is warm and welcoming, rather than a face that is unfriendly and hostile.

  7. Stop the presses! I actually agree with Dean that this seems like a good prayer given the occasion. I just hope the Archbishop or another Orthodox priest gives a benediction at the RNC. Otherwise I might be led to believe that poor Archbishop was duped to schill for the Democratic Party.

    Hey, maybe the Republicans can get the priest responsible for St. Nicholas Church that was destroyed by the collapsing Twin Towers to pray a benediction at their convention. Or would that be exploiting 9/11?

  8. Basil,

    I almost forgot about Opra’s Yankee stadium event! I believe more than one traditional Christian noted the lack of courage on the part of many Christians their, including protestant, Latin, and Orthodox. I remember reading an insightful essay, perhaps it was Touchstone. I will see if I can dig it up…

    Dean,

    What is the point of celebrating this common heritage if at the same time you deny the Lord? besides, the Holy Trinity saves, Christ saves, what does the “common heritage” do for any soul? Nothing, particularly in it’s secular and soulless form that goes by the name of “diversity”. Finally, I am not sure where you got the idea that being a Christian, just a simple Christian that acknowledges his Lord, is “unfriendly and hostile”.

    Daniel,

    I actually pray that no Orthodox Bishop bothers with such a prayer at any place, whether Republican, Democrat, or any other political or non-political event. The prayer itself and the spirit behind it is what seems to me to be troublesome. Both Democrats and Republicans deserve a robust and forthright witness from their bishops.

  9. Daniel and Dean, it would seem that a mixed gathering (i.e., of people of differing faiths and confessions) calls for the clearest possible confession. This does not mean that such a confession must be hostile or demeaning. But a reductionist prayer (such as confessing only “God, the Lord Almighty”) simply extends the Oprahfication of America. It gives the impression that we as Orthodox really do believe that all religions lead to the same God, only in different ways. It furthers the notion that the Faith really is irrelevant.

    Finally, only the most absurdly oversensitive of individuals would take offense at a different religion’s prayer for wisdom, peace, and so on. I can hear references to Allah without feeling that I am intruded upon. Surely Jews can hear a Christian prayer without thinking Kristallnacht.

  10. With the unyielding pressure to remove all references to Jesus Christ, the Holy Trinity, and the cross from public view and utterance especially from people who identify themselves as members or supporters of the Democrat party, the Archbishops, use of non-liturgical forms for his pray is an act of moral cowardice. Unfortunately, many of our bishops demonstrate the same lack of spine. We are called always to witness to the truth. The Archbishop was called before rulers and failed his calling primarily because he thought too much about what he should say rather than the truth. What would have been wrong with a variation of the The Great Ektenia including the requested blessing on the President of the United States and all civil authorities and the overcoming of all enemies and imploring peace and unity. It would have been interesting to see the reaction of the convention to a prayer for the President that many their so viscerally hate. That would have been a witness worthy of the name of Orthodox.

    We live in a world where all Christians are pressured by culture, media, secular activists, and Muslim terrorists not to express their faith. Seems to me that Archbishop Demetrios caved to that pressure. What most of the world saw was a funny man, dressed in funny clothes with pablum streaming from his mouth–not the power, compassion and witness of the faith of the Orthodox.

    The Synodikon of Orthodoxy is a clear foundation for the public expression of our faith:
    “As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have dogmatized, as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ awarded, thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach, Christ our true God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons, on one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring the true servants of the same Lord of all and accordingly offering them veneration. This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe. Who is great a God as our God? Thou our God, Who alone doest wonders!”

    How does the Archbishop’s prayer express any of our faith?

    O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, and Savior of our souls, send us worthy bishops, priests, and teachers that we may commune with Thee and witness to Thy grace, mercy, power, and love in all circumstances, times and place.

  11. When the Archbishop appeared at the DNC and gave a bland, non-Christo-centric prayer, he lent the credibility of his person, his office and his Church to the DNC. People can now legitimately state that the Orthodox Christian Faith has no problem with a party that vehemently advocates abortion because one of its Archbishops blessed the proceeding with a prayer.

    If this is not true, show me where I am wrong.

    Reminds me of my local newspaper.

    The editors of our local newspaper in my midwestern town occaisionally publish a section in the newspaper they call “Faith.” It consists almost entirely of articles urging Christians to reject the idea that Christ is the only road to Salvation. The message is “just relax… puleeze… just relax just a little.” Our newspaper editors want Christians to explore (what a mush word) other religious traditions and admit that…. well may other religions have it just a little bit right and Jesus isn’t really the EXCLUSIVE road to Salvation. After all the world would be some much more peaceful IF Christians would just relax and not adhere so closely to the tenets of their religion.

    The same editors attitude towards Slam is that we should all respect every aspect of that ideology and that anyone criticizing or questioning its tenets is…. guess what…. a bigot.

    I live in the midwest and there is a high level of religious belief, mostly Protestant Christians as you would expect. A large majority of those Protestants believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of the World and are therefore considered “fundamentalists” by the editors of our local newspaper. The local paper’s editorial board just wrote an editorial propounding the idea that “there are many truths.” This editorial addressed the Swift Boats controversy, not religion per se, but, it provides insight to their worldview.

  12. Missourian,
    Part of the problem I think is that Christianity as a whole loses its credibility when non-believers or those of other faiths see such division within the Christian faith.
    We have Calvinism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, to name just a few, and even the important concept of salvation is not even agreed upon.

    The Catholics believe Protestants can’t go to heaven because they don’t believe in transubstantiation, etc. etc.. Protestants see Catholics as idolators and Mary-worshippers. The Orthodox see Catholics as heretics for their belief in papal infallibility, among other things. I believe Calvinists adhere to the concept of predestination so it won’t matter what you believe.

    I don’t think it’s “Oprahfication” to lead a generic prayer … simply looking for a common thing to say and represent as many people as possible when there’s as little in common as there is.

  13. Islam and Judaism have similar divisions to Christianity. The world’s ire and pressure to modernize and “relax” is directed only against Christianity because the Prince of this world knows Jesus is Lord, God and Savior. When anyone of us relents and acceeds to the pressure and refuses to publically or privately confess Him as Lord, God, and Savior, we are putting not only our own soul in jeopardy, but vitiate the entire Christian witness.

    One of the great tragedies of “ecumenism” is that the movement fosters the diminuation of real Christian truth in the guise of “getting along”. Christianity is the most radical faith because it is true. Even many of those who deny the truth recognize the power of Christ at the core of their own beings and the falsity of other doctrines.

    To acknowledge Christ is to simply state our own faith, only the guilt and rebellion in the hearts of those who hear our confession causes them to be offended.

    If we are faithful Orthodox Christians, we have to demand of our bishops that they be faithful to the truth or step aside. We can no longer afford leaders who are more interested in currying favor with politicians than they are in living and delivering the message of Christ and His Church.

    The Pope, grant him many years, has never wavered in his public proclamations such as unequivocally condemning abortion while on the same platform with Pres. Clinton, a leading supporter of abortion.

    Many Protestants are quite at home with confessing the name of Jesus Christ in mixed faith and secular gatherings, why? maybe it is because they actually believe that Jesus is Lord. What about us who are supposed to be the one true Church.

    I, for one, am disgusted with the cowardice of so many of our bishops. The Greeks kow-tow to American politicians, the Antiochian’s to the Syrian politicians, etc, etc, etc.

    I am fortunate, I have the ability to talk directly to my bishop in person. I intend to do so as soon as I can so that I can express to him what I am expressing here. Knowing him as I do as a man of great love and humility, I know he will listen.

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