Where does one even begin?
An embarrassingly problematic article appeared yesterday on the pro-life website LifeSiteNews (which, despite its problems, helps to fill in the gap left by mainstream media on abortion coverage) announcing that “The Orthodox Church is giving pro-abort Joe Biden its highest award – and these priests are outraged.”
First, some quick fact-checking on the headline itself:
- “The Orthodox Church” is not giving any such thing. The award is being given by the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is a lay organization with clergy as advisors. They are the ones giving the award.
- The Orthodox Church has no “highest award.” This is just silly. Facts, canons, history, please? Indeed, the Orthodox Church doesn’t give awards. Individual bishops and synods can and do. But (see above) no bishop is giving any award here.
And, in case you’re still reading, there’s more.
First, why exactly does the piece start out “ISTANBUL, September 16, 2015”? Is the author there? Is the award being given there? Is something happening there? Doesn’t seem like it.
The piece begins by saying that “A firestorm of controversy has erupted in the Orthodox Church.” Really? Where? Outside of this piece and the couple of spots it’s been reposted, there literally does not seem to be a firestorm about this anywhere.
It further says that this “firestorm” is “over its Ecumenical Patriarch planning to honor vice president and possible presidential candidate Joe Biden.” (He’s not. See above.)
There are a lot of other problems with this piece, which is really much more about the politics of Orthodoxy in America than about what Joe Biden is being given. The whole thing is really a bit silly, since it is little more than a kind of “book report” on a blog post from the “Monomakhos” blog (which as of this writing seems to have been taken down) and its accompanying comments.
The piece is also literally not actually engaging with anyone involved in the affair. Where are the spokesmen for the vice president, the Archons, the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Greek Archdiocese? They apparently don’t have anything to say about it. They can’t even seem to find a single priest of the Greek Archdiocese to talk to, despite the GOA being the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in America (larger than all the rest combined).
Instead, we first hear from the author of the “Monomakhos” blog (who has a long history of complaining about the Greek Archdiocese), which this article informs us is “the most popular Orthodox blog on the internet” (really?). And the “money” quote from that blog’s author pours on the errors: “I am appalled at how the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is so slavish to hear the praises of the marketplace, that they would bestow an award on the vice president of the most Anti-Christian administration in history.” Now, it’s the Greek Archdiocese which is supposedly granting this award. (It’s not. See above.)
The piece later says–in the eleventh paragraph–that it’s the Archons who are giving the award. (Which is correct. Finally!)
In case you’re keeping track, this article claims that the award is being given by (in order of appearance) 1) the Orthodox Church, 2) the Ecumenical Patriarch, 3) the Greek Archdiocese and 4) the Archons. The article can’t seem to make up its mind who’s giving this award.
The author finds other critics to give quotes (it’s not clear where he got them from; is he a journalist? I suspect he culled them from that defunct blog post; maybe these are email buddies), and as far as they are pro-life, they are fine. One can also find some grounds on which to criticize some church leaders for not being as strongly pro-life as they could be, but there is actually a whole lot about abortion on the Greek Archdiocese website, none of it promoting it, excusing it, etc. None of that gets quoted here, of course.
Yes, of course Biden can be criticized on abortion—though he has said that, as a Roman Catholic, he is personally opposed to it and believes life begins at conception though would not “impose” that view on others. (That view, is of course, sadly inconsistent. If a conceived person is a person, then that transcends differences of opinion.)
And no, I don’t think it’s a good idea for a church-related organization to be giving politicians awards like this. It mostly strikes me as a bit tone-deaf. I understand the desire to protect and promote the wellbeing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is what the Archons are for, but I think there are better ways to do that.
But, let’s be honest–this is basically a hit piece on how much the author doesn’t like the Greek Archdiocese or its mother church the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The GOA, we are told, has no “concrete concern for evangelism – just a sense of urgency to teach Sunday school children how to conjugate Greek verbs and learn the superiority of Greek cultural contributions to society.”
If you’re going to make those kinds of sweeping statements, you should really have something to back them up. But there isn’t anything. And I personally have experience with concern for evangelism in the Greek Archdiocese (I am scheduled to speak at an evangelism event for a GOA parish in November–this will be at least the third GOA parish where I’ve spoken on evangelism or for that purpose), which actually has a whole department dedicated to it. (And there are nearly 3,400 hits on the word “evangelism” available via a Google search on the GOA website.)
He also gives a list of things that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has supposedly never weighed in on. Well, here are links to the EP or the GOA and its leaders weighing in on just about all of these topics: atheism (“cultural abandonment of God”?), abortion, stem cell research, homosexuality, pornography, transgenderism, fornication. Forgive the snarkiness, but I kind of wonder whether the author is familiar with the popular Google website.
There is so much more one could say about this piece of yellow journalism, but I’ll stop there.
Normally, I would not engage in this sort of response, since I don’t think this kind of thing is worth much of a response. But I’ve seen this getting shared a lot on social media, and it’s a scandalously damaging piece that sullies the reputation of the Orthodox Church and harms our witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In short: Don’t take that piece seriously. Pray for church leaders. Criticize them appropriately, honestly and with love. Stand up for the unborn.
And please, stop biting at fellow Orthodox Christians. This doesn’t help.
UPDATE: Just to make it clear (which I thought I had, but you know–Internet), I will summarize my own thoughts about Joe Biden, the award, etc.:
I would never vote for the man, primarily because of his record on abortion (other stuff, too). I think the Archons should not give him this award.
I think that Orthodox Christian politicians (which Biden is not–he’s Roman Catholic) who support abortion and other grave offenses to our moral tradition ought to be excommunicated until such time as they repent.
I have no problem calling to task clergy who publicly support such politicians (Orthodox or not) without criticizing those politicians on such moral shortcomings.
(But none of that, of course, is what my article was about. But if I were going to write that article, the above would be its main points.)