The world that forgets God, brothers and sisters, is ruled by injustice toward neighbours and inhumanity toward the weak … Do not use force because you rule, nor commit extortion because you are able to do so, but show the qualities of justice even while the means of authority are available to you.
~ St Basil the Great, “On Mercy and Justice,” in On Social Justice (Popular Patristics Series Book 38). St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition, Loc. 1718, 1745.
Is there a “Christian approach” to the current swelling of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in response to the death of George Floyd? The issue of social inequality of non-whites is a deeply political one, especially at the moment. I want to make some observations on two questions in this brief post: should Christians get involved in politics?; and how might Christians—particularly Coptic Orthodox Christians—approach the BLM movement?
Should Christians Get Involved in Politics?
As I understand the life and teaching of Jesus and His apostles, to be a follower of Jesus is to rise above the fleeting and ever-changing political attitudes and movements that human beings create for themselves. Jesus’ Jewish listeners saw in Him a political figure, a messiah to liberate them from oppressive Roman rule and restore a Jewish kingdom under God. Jesus refused. His vision was far above this narrow human hope. The Kingdom Jesus established is certainly under the True God, but although it is in this world, it is not of this world—it is not about political or military power, or economic management, or legislating laws. It is not about Roman or Jewish rule, or political rule at all. Jesus did transform society, but He didn’t do it through political lobbying and power plays—He did it by changing hearts.
How often do you change your mind about something? I mean, really change your mind? A few years ago I had the privilege of co-authoring a book on Orthodox Christian Marriage with Ireni Attia, and one of the things we discussed was anger. My initial attitude was that anger has no place in a truly healthy, happy relationship. But working with a professional in Ireni, she helped me to realise that anger is a very normal human emotion that is neither good or bad in itself. It is how you use it that matters. The more I thought about it, the more I realised she is right: psychologically, biblically, and philosophically.
It is a basic psychological principle that merely suppressing or burying very real feelings inside us is never good. The fact is, I get angry, and to pretend otherwise can only cause harm to my own mental health, and to my relationships. Such a denial is unsustainable in the long term. But I’ll leave the psychological dimension to the experts (you can check out Ireni’s section in the book).
Biblically, I was astonished that I never picked up on this before. Our modern sensitivities tend to downplay the anger inherent in Christ’s driving moneychangers from the temple:
Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Matthew 21:12–13).
I simply cannot imagine Jesus gently strolling up to the moneychanging table, smiling and passing a few polite pleasantries, and then taking permission: “Would you mind terribly if I turned your table over now, sir?” Continue reading “On Anger”
The answer is undoubtedly YES – it is God’s will for you to prosper! … I love the fact that God actually gets pleasure from our prosperity. Think about it: it makes God happy when you prosper … let me clarify the point that wealth and riches are just one aspect of prosperity.
Being prosperous includes your health and your relationships … A completely prosperous person walking in the fullness of God has it all.
Houston, B. (1999). You Need More Money: Discovering God’s Amazing Financial Plan for Your Life. Maximised Leadership Incorporated, pp. 55–57.
“A completely prosperous person walking in the fullness of God has it all.”
That single sentence from Houston’s book captures beautifully the heart of the Health and Wealth Gospel. This distortion of the true Christian Gospel is just the extreme expression of a very human tendency that lies in the hearts of us all, the tendency to use God as a tool for getting what we want. We think in terms of what satisfies our basic human instincts: physical safety and health; avoidance of poverty, disease, humiliation, failure; etc. That is what we want God for: to make us comfortable.
We saw in the post on the importance of the Apostolic Tradition and its reflection in the writings of the ancient Fathers that the very first Christians truly believed that a miracle happened in the Eucharist, and that in a mystery, Christ became truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, so that they became His true flesh and blood. This is one illustration of the fact that the idea of the Holy Spirit working mysteriously in our lives goes all the way back to Apostolic times. When Christ ascended to heaven, He promised not to leave His followers orphaned. He sent to them His own Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Paraclete (or ‘Advocate’), the Comforter. In this way, God dwells constantly and powerfully amongst His people.
The Apostolic Churches (and a small minority of Protestant Churches) have maintained this faith in the continuous presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the Church through what is generally called in the west, the sacraments. However, the Orthodox prefer the word ‘Mystery’ (Greek / Coptic ‘mysterion’; Arabic ‘serr’) to the word ‘Sacrament’. The word ‘sacrament’ comes from the Latin ‘sacramentum’ which means an oath. It was apparently first applied to baptism, signifying that being baptised involved promising to be a true follower of Christ (until today in the Coptic Baptism rite, the baptised or their parents still make a public oath to reject the devil and all that is evil, and to follow Christ and all that is good). But in the East, the word ‘mystery’ was used, perhaps to indicate that the nature of what happened was hidden from non-Christians. But Eastern theology also emphasises the fact that what happens when the Holy Spirit works in us is something far, far beyond the comprehension of the human mind, something in the liturgical words of St Gregory the Theologian that is “more than we ask or understand”.
Thank you Bill for once again working your magic and upgrading this blog. I hope that this post turns up, becuase if it doesn’t, I’m going to have to bug you for a tutorial!
While there are many disadvantages to our technological age, there are also without doubt many advantages. Communicating via a blog is one of them! So is Skype (and things like it). As a child growing up in the era when dialling a phone number meant poking your finger in a hole and rotating an actual dial, I wondered if the day would ever come when ‘television phones’ would be commonplace. Now, it is not only possible, but you can do it from your mobile phone!
It is not the technology that is good or bad in itself – it is after all just a tool. If anything it allows us a greater ability to achieve the things we wish. If those things are evil, then it allows us to do more evil, if good, then we can do more good. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I wonder when I’ll have a flying car in my driveway…
I’m not the best at writing a blog, but I thought I would write one to test the features on the new website for Fr Antonios.
As you probably know Fr Antonios has written amazing articles in the past and youth from all the different churches are being enriched with this great spiritual resource. To enable a more users to interact and benefit from the website we have significantly improved the usability, look ‘n feel and connectivity of the site. One of the main features is the ability to interact with your facebook account and Fr Antonios’ articles. Commenting and sharing articles allows you to you to interact with your facebook friends making it more engaging.
Please let us know of any feedback or suggestions you have.