What Should We Do About The Great Reset?

What should we do about the Great Reset?  About once a week I get a message from one or another of my parishioners with a link to a video that I “have to see.”  Many of these videos are of a monk on Mt. Athos (or a monk from some other place reputed for holiness), or it is a video by a conservative religious or political commentator decrying the loss of religious freedom that is or will be brought about by the secular powers that be.  The not usually spoken but very strongly felt subtext of these messages is that if we are true Orthodox Christians we should do something to stop it.  What that something is, is generally left for us to decide.  Which is probably why my parishioners are wanting me to tell them what I think after I watch the video they sent me, a video decrying the Great Reset and the terrible loss of religious freedom that is taking place and will certainly get worse. 

Now lets just lay aside for the moment the fact that according to the canons of the Church, the bishops are the ones who lead and teach the faithful, not random monks, not even very holy monks.  That is not our Tradition.  You or I may visit a holy monk and receive advice if we like, but for anyone to broadcast a message for the faithful into a diocese without the blessing of the local bishop is a violation of the most basic and oldest canons of the Church.  And as far as trusting the reliability of media, left or right, I will leave that to your common sense.  Can you really trust a news source that increases its revenue precisely by making you angry or frightened enough to stop what you are doing and listen to them—again and again, all day and night long?

But like I said, let’s lay that aside right now and just assume the worse case scenario.  Let’s assume the monk on Youtube or the political commentator who has gotten you all worked up in a sweat of anger and fear and righteous indignation, let’s just assume that they are 100% bang on.  Let’s assume that it’s the beginning of the End, that the Great Reset will create a world in which Christians will be persecuted and traditionally Christian cultural values will be wiped out.  Let’s assume that this is what is happening right now.  

Dèjá vu.

Hasn’t this been the experience of Christians since the beginning?  Whether it was the pagans of the ancient world, or the Muslims or the Communists or the western secularists, it’s all the same thing.  Didn’t Jesus say that the world would hate us because it hated Him first?  What’s new here?  Perhaps what is different here is that too many of us have gotten so accustomed to an easy life in bed with the world that when the world wants a divorce, we fear the loss of our cozy place more than we fear God.  Perhaps not.  Maybe this is how it has always been.  God saves His people as He knows how.  

Thinking about this has brought to mind a passage from St. Sophrony Sakhaov’s book, We Shall See Him As He Is (p.69).  

Formed of the dust of the ground, we make up a tiny fraction of the massive body of mankind from which it is not at all easy to escape, especially in our day when practically the whole universe is under the control of officialdom in general.  One cannot appeal to the princes of this world for help: a small good turn from them and we risk losing our liberty.  Our best ‘gamble’ is a childlike trust in God’s providence in the pursuit of a life where first place is given to Christ.

St. Sophrony then goes on to quote the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate what “a life where first place is given to Christ” looks like.  Particularly what caught my attention are Jesus’s words, “do not resist evil”  or “an evil person.”  What a radical response.  You are slapped on the left cheek and what does Jesus tell you to do?  Turn the other cheek.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies.  Jesus tells us to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us.  

But I am reminded here of a story in the Life of St. Isaac the Syrian.  He had just been made bishop of Nineveh, and was asked to settle a dispute between a creditor and a debtor.  When the case had been explained to St. Isaac, he suggested that according to the Gospel the creditor should forgive the debt.  The creditor then said, “this is business, let’s leave the Gospel out of it.”  St. Isaac then said, “if we are going to leave the Gospel out of it, then why am I here?”  That’s when St. Isaac went into the desert to pray for the world.

I get it.  I don’t want to be persecuted.  I don’t want be slapped on the face economically or socially and certainly not physically.  And I’m pretty sure that I would not turn the other cheek—at least not without a superabundant outpouring of Grace in that moment.  I like being cozy and comfortable in the world.  

But if history is a reliable teacher of what’s to come, then we can be pretty sure of at least one thing: the world will change.  Regimes come and regimes go.  The Church finds favour and the Church loses favour in the eyes of the world.  If it’s not the current Great Reset that brings severe persecution on the Church, it will probably be the next one.  But whether it’s here or there, now or then doesn’t really matter much.  If we love the world and the things in the world, then any change in the world will be traumatic.  If we are comfortable in the world then an economic reset or political upheaval will evoke fear and anger, and if we are able to frame it as a religious war, it will evoke righteous indignation.   

But if this world is not our home.  If we are but salt and light, sojourners in a strange land, then we will adjust.  We will find a way.  We will carry on, looking for a City whose foundations and builder is God.  

20 comments:

  1. Well, I’ve been agonizing over my role as an Orthodox Christians on the reset and actually came to the same conclusion as you have here.
    Put not our trust on princes and sons of men, and do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of their success.
    Easy for me to say, harder to put into practice. My wife won’t allow the news on in the evening anymore, robs us of our peace, so , going into the desert of my mind I’m watching the Music Man with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones on TCM, It’s a very happy show, I recommend it.

  2. Thank you so much, we need to hear this. Any time we trust politician more than God we are, as Christians in great trouble. A good look at history and a reading of the Scriptures should remind us of this. Thank you and I hope as these videos and blogs threaten to overwhelm your day, you find the delete button and use it! We need to be very careful what we let into our minds and hearts today. Thank you so much!!

  3. Thank-you for this article! This part stood out to me:
    “If we are comfortable in the world then an economic reset or political upheaval will evoke fear and anger… But if this world is not our home. If we are but salt and light, sojourners in a strange land, then we will adjust. We will find a way. We will carry on, looking for a City whose foundations and builder is God.”
    I think to a certain extent we are all comfortable in the world. Our daily life is full of worldly tasks and concerns: work, finances, extracurricular activities, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with these tasks, but they do redirect the mind to our current life and the world cannot help but feel like home. We find comfort in the familiar and in the hope that our children have a future ahead of them. So how do we find a balance? How do we plan and live a life in the world without getting attached to the comfort that comes with this?

  4. Thank you, Father,
    This is to me a very helpful summary of the key issues that plague our minds, and your reminders are comforting to hear, as they me back to the basics of God’s providence.

  5. While I agree with this article, the thing I find missing – and maybe it’s because opportunity to resist as Christians is not obvious, how we would do it – is that Constantinople fought hard not to be defeated, Russian Christians didn’t see the gulags coming, etc. We have clear warnings but there is not much seemingly within our control, there’s no resistance path that seem viable. The best offense may be the best defense in this case, because, the goal of our asceticism, in part, is to prove ourselves worthy when tested. Knowing that we will be tested – this has largely not be on the radar – means preparation is key. Maybe this Lent will have the warfare mentality it already should have had for some of us. But if the preparation was taking place, and not the lying in bed with the world who wants to divorce us, we might get answers on how to resist effectively while not also being lulled back to bed with the world.

  6. Father Michael, could you explain more about the bishops leading us rather than a holy monk or monks? What about St. Maximos the Confessor, the Studites and other monks during iconoclasm, St. Gregory Palamas before he was a bishop in his arguments with Barlaam who were all laymen or monks speaking against bishops? I have heard that there are two golden chains of authority running through history: the apostolic through the bishops, and those with a spiritual authority by virtue of their lives, or something like that. Thank you for this wonderful article! I would love to hear more of your teaching on this.

  7. Thank you Father. This is an important message and we should also keep in mind it is not what *we* do that matters, but what God does. Thy will be done, after all.

  8. Thanks Fr Michael. It’s very useful to get your take on this.. and to have your words reflect those of Christ. I believe you’re right, and that Jesus might have handles this same situation in a similar way.

    In his ministry, he didn’t resist or topple Rome.. he took up his cross and carried it, and took on the burden of our sin.

    You could say that there is nothing new under the sun and that the scriptures and tradition have all the answers we need, but voices like yours contextualizing them for a new and fearful circumstance is more valuable than you might know. Thank you.

  9. Thank you for this great article Father Michael! As our Lord said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

  10. Fr. Michael you are man after my heart!
    Of course if I wrote a blog decrying anxieties about the great reset I’d be far more heavy-handed! I simply have no patience, at all, with conspiracy theories and persecution envy. It’s probably better that you wrote this instead of me!

  11. My husband and I just read these wise words and are in agreement with you. There is nothing new under the sun and our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

  12. Dear Father Michael,

    If gravest injustice is unfolding, with the de-facto large-scale expropriation of independent businesses and sending countless people into destitution, and scientists, doctors, lawyers and journalists of other faiths or no faith at all speak up while bishops and priests remain silent, we know who our neighbour is. It is not the priest passing by.

    “Do not resist evil.” – St. Alexander (Schmorell) of Munich did resist evil. Would you claim that he was mistaken?

    1. Dear Irenaeus,
      I quote also a saint, St. Sophrony, who himself is quoting Jesus (Matthew 5:39). Most English translations give “resist not an evil person” but the word “person” is not in Greek. It could be evil person or situation or thing or one, or just plain “the evil”. St. Alexander of Munich did resist evil, and the Church has vindicated him. I would not suggest that political action is wrong, if one can pursue it with peace and prayer in their heart. However, to act out of anger or fear is not Christ’s way nor the way of the saints.

      1. Dear Father Michael,

        1. In your original post, you state that you probably would not turn the other cheek because you want to be cozy and comfortable in the world.
        – Who, in your judgement, displays less attachment to their own coziness and comfort in the current climate: Those who remain silent? Or those who go public with their concerns and doing so risk severe repercussions for their reputations and careers, and (at least in my country) also personal safety?

        2. In your reply to my first comment, you state that “to act out of anger and fear is not Christ’s way nor the way of the saints”. – If one reads the leaflets co-authored by Alexander Schmorell, one will discover a certain angry tone. Would it have been more Christ-like and saintly to report the mass-slaughter of Jews and forced prostitution of the daughters of the Polish nobility in a more dispassionate way? Is anger always inappropriate? Is it inappropriate now? If so, on what basis are you able to discern and publicly pronounce that it is inappropriate now?

        3. You quote “Do not resist evil” as a justification for not resisting the “Great Reset”. “Do not resist evil” cannot possibly be a general rule; if it were, that would mean that we are not to intervene if we happen to witness that someone is about to commit arson. I remember that Father Thomas Hopko, in a totally different context, quoted in one of his podcasts some elder (whose name I have forgotten) to the effect that whether we proceed in direction X or direction Y, it should be done out of love. Not resisting evil can be an expression of love. It can also be an expression of laziness, cowardice and cold indifference to the suffering of others.

        1. Dear Irenaeus,
          Regarding your first point, I think you misunderstood what I wrote. I argue that those who are angry are the ones who don’t want to lose their comfort (especially in the 4th paragraph). And I didn’t say anything about being silent. For goodness sake speak, but speak with peace in your heart. Yes, it is possible to be angry and not sin feeling compunction on your bed for what you say in your heart (Psalm 4:5 LXX). Apparently, St. Alexander could be angry and not sin. Unfortunately I have not read St. Alexander’s tracts.
          Did not the Saints face slavery and forced prostitution? Persecution is an ugly thing. However, the advice Jesus gives is not to fight, but to flee. It is true that we often find ourselves in untenable situations where the least evil thing we can think of doing is to fight. But let’s not dilute the words of Jesus just because in our sin we cannot think of a less sinful response to evil than to respond with evil.
          And most of all, let’s not let fear of what might happen and anger at what is happening drive us.

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