200. A Special Message from our American Orthodox Bishops on the Civil Unrest

We just received this letter from our Bishops, calling for prayer for justice and peace tomorrow Wednesday June 3 at Noon EDT.  It is important enough that I’m sending it out quickly. I’d suggest that you offer this short prayer from the Ancient Faith Prayer Book:

For Times of Trouble

O Lord of hosts, be with us. For in times of distress we have no other help but You.  O Lord of hosts, have mercy on us.

 

Assembly of Bishops’ Executive Committee Calls All to Prayer for Justice and Peace during Nationwide Civil Unrest

Monday, June 01, 2020

We, the members of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the U.S.A., express our strong concern and deep sorrow for the recent unrest throughout our beloved country.

We stand in unequivocal solidarity and peaceful protest with all those who condemn racism and inequality, which betray the spirit of democracy in our nation, i.e. “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.The unjust and unjustifiable murder of Mr. George Floyd, as well as so many before him, is deplorable as anti-Christian and immoral.

At the same time, we denounce all expressions of violence and revenge, including those despoiling and detracting from peaceful demonstrations. Peaceful marches of protest are a distinctive hallmark of American freedom and progress. “Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all … so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:17-18).

Violence is a horrible and tangible manifestation of the reign of sin in our world. It is expressed in many faces, all of which seek to deny the image and likeness of God in each human person, in whom God has placed an irreducible dignity and sacredness.

Thus, as Orthodox Hierarchs, we condemn all actions and words that promote hatred and racism, but also all acts of violence and destruction.

Moreover, in a gesture of collective appeal, on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT, we invite all clergy, faithful, and people of good will – of all traditions, faiths, and walks of life – to participate in a moment of silence and solidarity for all victims of racial violence followed by prayer for peace and reconciliation in this country.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, as we kneel, invoking the coming of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, let us offer up our prayers to our loving God for the victims of hatred and racism, to safeguard us all from such prejudice, and also vengeance and destruction, as well as preserve unity and peace in our country, our common home.

A Few Personal Comments

Suddenly we seem to be back in the 1960s again. I was there, and it wasn’t pretty.

Orthodox Christians should have a special concern for human rights. Throughout our history, our rights have often been denied – during the Great Persecution, by the Saracens, the Ottomans, the Communists, and many more.

“From one man [one blood] God made all the nations.” Acts 17:26  Both the Holy Scriptures and science tell us that all human beings spring from one source. We all share the same DNA, are brothers and sisters. In the ancient world there was plenty of injustice, but there was no such thing as injustice because of the color of peoples’ skin. However, in this country we still have much prejudice against African-Americans, lingering from the horrible centuries of black slavery. It is evil, always was and still is. Find me one thing in the Holy Scriptures or the Tradition of the Church that even begins to justify discrimination against black people.

Seventy years ago in small town Ohio my parents – and also my favorite teacher, a woman who grew up in rural Alabama in the 1920s – taught me that all human beings should be treated the same, no matter who they are. I’ve never forgotten.

Boom!

In the one week since the horrific murder of one black man in Minneapolis, protests against racism have spread to over 350 American cities, as well as many places overseas. Why this sudden explosion of social unrest? Has it been an evil “plot” of some kind?

Have you ever suddenly exploded? Be honest, now. What caused it?

Two stories:

1 Once almost forty years ago my mother was quite ill and had no family nearby to care for her. We had everything ready to move her from Ohio to Cedarburg, where we could look after her. Then I got a call. She had passed out while driving, had a traffic accident, was in the hospital, and her move had to be postponed for quite a while. I loved my Mom so much. I wanted her to be near me. I was so upset with God and the universe and everybody that I was pacing around the house, about to boil over. I tried to turn on the stove. The knob wouldn’t work right. I exploded Boom! and ripped the knob off. But the knob wasn’t the issue. It had only set me off. (I told my wife it had fallen off. I lied.)

2 When I used to do marriage counseling (always taking into consideration my limited capabilities), sometimes I dealt with couples who had major issues. But what brought it to a head was often a lesser incident. “He didn’t take out the garbage again!” Boom! But garbage wasn’t the big issue. It was only the catalyst.

…if you get the point. Tensions because of injustice have been smoldering again in America for years and have got much worse recently, partly because of the results of the Virus, partly for other reasons. All that was needed was one spark at the right time and Boom!

Evil Cops? Evil Protesters?

Two more things, and then I’ll be gone.

1  I saw a couple of signs among protesters, “All Cops are Bad”. No! Most police are good people, and we should honor them and thank them for what they do for us. I feel sorry for our police. With the proliferation of guns in this country, let somebody twitch a little, and the policeman or woman is instantly afraid of being shot – and it’s understandable why they sometimes over-react. Pray for our police. However, there are also enough bad police to convince some people they’re all bad. Anglos like me do not know what it’s like to get followed and picked up (and on occasion murdered) for the “sin” of having dark skin. And what has happened in Minneapolis and also in many other places was not over-reaction. It was intentional.

Should all the protestors be treated like “thugs”? No! Most are peaceful people desperately seeking fair treatment. The thugs then move in after dark and create havoc, destroy and loot – and especially destroy shops and restaurants into which minority people have invested their whole lives. It’s tragic. Pray for them. Who are the thugs? We don’t know yet.

Last Sunday from home, I Live-Streamed and participated in Divine Liturgy at a Greek Orthodox Church in a Detroit suburb. The service concluded with a fervent plea from the Pastor to eliminate the plague of racism from our lives, and then he presided at a Trisagion Memorial for George Floyd, the man who was murdered. Good!  

Pray God to erase this evil, this sin from us. I think very many of us Anglos, especially we older ones, still have it in us, no matter how hard we try. So try harder.

9 comments:

  1. Big difference in “civil unrest” and planned insurrection! “Very little” of this “Floyd” issue
    is grief over Mr. Floyd it’s and excuse to loot and destroy private property. Prayer? Of course,
    but many of the “rioters” are paid, they are in no way: Protesters! Protesting is protected
    under OUR constitution, rioting and property damage is a CRIME.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Yes, protesting is protected. Yes, this is no longer about the single murder. Yes, looting and property damage is criminal. But you know more about who’s doing it and why than I do.

  2. Thank you for your comforting words. I read all of your blogs and forward them to interested catacumens in our congregation.
    I am also a convert. I, too, was EUB and Methodist from Pa. Met my wife (70) in Calif. and converted and then married in an OCA parish in Oxnard, CA. (34 years ago). In 1995, we moved here to Charlotte, NC and attend St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Mooresville.
    Would you please comment on the recent show “The Chosen” , My wife and I have just finsihed the 8 episodes and were pleased with their message.

    1. And thank you. It helps to have your encouragement. I have not watched “The Chosen”. Excellent excuse: I spend almost all my time, even in retirement, dealing with “religion” – and now with keeping in touch with shut-in family and friends and Church members. So when I take a break I tend to avoid religious shows, and prefer to broaden my horizons watching nature, history, drama, music. We’re currently hooked on Henry Louis Gates’ “Finding Your Roots”. And Mary Tyler Moore and some silly stuff – are you old enough to remember “Rocky and Bullwinkle” from the 1960s? There is so much else of God’s wonderful world out there. Since you recommend “The Chosen”, I’ll check it out, but in due time. Don’t expect anything quick!

      1. Brothers and sisters, be careful. The other day I tried to mark a comment here as “spam”, and immediately it turned into a whole bunch of porn. I quickly trashed it. I hope none of it got through to you while this was in process.

        Father Bill

  3. I’m overseas. It looks to me, as someone who remembers a lot of protests since the 1960s, that this is a planned eruption. I think myself that too many young people at colleges throughout the Western World have been seduced by the political ideas of Saul Alinsky wanted to promote Anarchy in order to make a civilisation which he thought would somehow remake itself along the lines of Rousseau’s philosophy. A peaceful agrarian self governing village model . Also he was taken with the Romantic ideas of German philosophers which also influenced Marx. Marx thought societies were like organisms which just developed automatically. from primitive tribes onward.
    He had these vague ideas of Darwinian evolution current at the time he fled Germany for England.
    Saul Alinsky seems to have imbibed these ideas when he was a student of archaeology though they were very antiquated even then. Maybe he should have continued instead of becoming a community organiser.
    His thoughts were expressed in a book much loved by students in the 1970. and there have been many of these riots in European countries where there has been an undercurrent of anarchy since the 1870s and the unification of nation states.

    My personal opinion is that the devil is behind these theories . They resulted in oppression where ever they have been used in ‘changing” societies.

    My background was in prehistory. My views are influenced by a book called ‘The Idea of Prehistory’ by Glyn Daniel which is now out of copyright and can be found online.

    1. Thank you. My study in meteorology taught me that great storms happen when many elements come together at the same time. Is what you suggest one of the current elements? I’m not educated enough in that area to know. It looks to me that here in America there has never been much of an anarchist movement. However, there are many here today who would like to return to “the world as it once was”, or at least as they wish it once was, but I think it never really was! – a kind of “social fundamentalist” movement. All told, I think our big difficulty here has been with the practical matters of uniting our society: 1) Overcoming the legacy of centuries of racial slavery on our own soil. 2) Integrating peoples who have come here from many places with quite different cultures – which, going back not too far, means almost all of us. Perhaps you folks from “outside the storm” can be more objective about all this than we can.

      P.S. As you know, the devil is behind many things! and takes great delight in twisting everything out of shape.

      P.P.S. I forgot to ask: You said “planned eruptions” Planned by whom? I think there are always unsavory elements on all sides who are quick to take advantage of situations like this.

  4. I agree with most of the responses. Terriorist groups, Communististic tactics, and anti-Constitutionistists and others are using the black issues for their own purposes. These cells are in these major ciities and were just waiting for a “social injustice event to happen and are infiltrating these cities. Individuals may have racial prejudices; not our laws and not our system of government. Antifa and Communist groups are doing the planning and infiltrating these cities. The Democratic Party — national leaders are using this issue for their own purposes and are not condeming the rioting, looting, and shooting of people. Only Christ can bring peace, and it is not peace of this world.

    1. In accordance with Ancient Faith policies, I have asked a number of times that we not get into politics here. Social issues, yes. But condemning or favoring particular political parties or politicians, no. I’ve let this one go through in order to remind the rest of you: Please do not do this.

      Father Bill

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