St John’s Martyrdom and Ours

August 29, 2013: The Beheading of the Holy Glorious Prophet,Forerunner, and Baptist John 

St Ignatius Orthodox Church, Madison WI

Epistle: Acts 13:25-33

Gospel: Mark 6:14-30

Beheading_John_the_BaptistReflecting on the threats to religious liberty in America, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago Francis Cardinal George has said in several public forums that while he expects to die peacefully in his bed, he believes his successor will die in prison and that the man who follows him will die a martyr. The Cardinal’s assessment may or may not be accurate—only time will tell—but his words do remind us that in many parts of the world, Christians live daily under the threat of a violent death. In Egypt and Syria, in Iraq and Iran and in many places around the world, men, women and even children are being persecuted and even killed because they are Christians. And these new confessors and martyrs Christ are Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Latin and Eastern Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical; in them we see a substantive ecumenism, a true reconciliation of divided Christendom (more here).

While Christians in North America and Europe are not currently facing martyrdom in any systematic fashion, we find ourselves increasingly marginalized. This isn’t, I hasten to add, because we live under secular forms of government. It is rather because cultural elites and members of the ruling class are becoming more openly hostile to Christ and the Gospel. While the slights we suffer are typically minor—especially compared to what our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering in the Middle East—we would do well to keep in mind how quickly rudeness can escalate into violence.

Today we remember the beheading of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John.  The hymnography for the day tells us that John’s death was so that he could preach “even to those in hell the good tidings that God Who had appeared in the flesh takes away the sin of the world and grants us the great mercy” (Troparion for the feast). God called the cousin of Jesus not only to prepare the way for His Son in this life but also to prepare the way for those righteous men and women who died before Christ. It was John’s calling to announce to those Hades the Good News that their liberation from the powers of sin and death was at hand. Continue reading

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Christians are being slaughtered by Wahhabi Islamists all over the world: who is their Stephen Fry?

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Source: Cranmer.

In April 1996, Pope John Paul II attacked the intransigence of ‘followers of other religions’ who were persecuting Christians. He didn’t specify Islam, but everyone know who he meant.

In his Easter message Urbi et Orbi, he said Christians in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe had “legitimate aspirations” to jobs, housing, social justice and religious freedom which were “hindered” by other faiths. The Times continued: ‘The Pope recently condemned Islamic persecution of Christians in Sudan and will travel to Tunisia next weekend to plead for Islamic tolerance and Islamic-Christian dialogue.’

Nothing has really changed in almost 20 years. Indeed, the situation for Christians in these regions has actually become an awful lot worse. Continue reading

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Met. Hilarion: the West is trending towards dictatorships

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Moscow, July 24,(Interfax) - Moscow, July 24, Interfax – Modern Western states move to absolute dictatorship, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion believes.

“Nowadays state sets a principle of secularity, independency from any outside authority that is authorized to point out to violations of morals or rights,” the metropolitan writes in his article published in the Pravoslavnaya Beseda magazine.

People are declared the only source of authority in a democratic state, and people should realize this authority through free will of citizens participating in elections and referendums.

“Free will of citizens is a preconditioned, not absolute characteristic of a democratic state. For example, two European states – the Great Britain and France – have recently legalized unisex marriages. For comparably short time, after the parliament approved this law, France has become a stage for protest demonstrations with millions of people participating. However, the state consciously and demonstratively ignored demands of people and used tear gas to disperse them,” the author of the article says.

According to him, “secularization in disguise of democratization” released “colossal energy of subordination to power” in European states.

“This powerful energy today strives to finally break with Christianity, which controlled its totalitarian impulses during seventeen centuries. Eventually, it unconsciously strives to set up an absolute dictatorship that demands total control over each member of society. Don’t we move to it when “for the sake of security” we agree to obligatory electronic passports, dactyloscopy for everyone, and photo cameras occurring everywhere? All these things can be easily used in other purposes that can also be interpreted as “strengthening security measures,” Metropolitan Hilarion notes.

He believes that latest developments in the world is “constituent restoration of Pax Romana, global international supremacy.” The metropolitan also says that if Roman authorities were in certain periods indifferent to immorality, today they strive to make “immorality normal.”

h/t Byzantine, TX

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Nature or Will? A Final Look at the Marriage Debate

Here’s the last of my posts on the same-sex marriage debate. You can read parts one and two here and here.

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Contemporary discussions about marriage (and sexuality more generally) have largely abandoned the conjugal model in favor of one that focuses on consent. We have seen a shift from a conversation rooted in human nature—and the moral norm of conformity or obedience to nature—to a radical emphasis on the will as the sole source of what is humanly meaningful. These are strong words on my part I know. And I don’t mean them to suggest that I would reject out of hand the consensual dimension of marriage. It is however to say that while consent is an element of the traditional, conjugal view of marriage, it is not the whole of it. We must attend not only to the human will but to human nature which is its proximate source.

The real social and pastoral problem is not  same-sex marriage (SSM) but  that both popular culture and many Christians have abandoned a morality based in human nature in favor of one based in the human will. Though serious the SSM debate is an adoption and application of a truncated view of marriage to the needs and desires of same-sex couples. The ease, indeed the eagerness, with which some Christians have taken up the cause of SSM would suggest that for a significant number of Christians the classical biblical and natural law understanding of marriage simply doesn’t matter.  For all that they may affirm the Creed in matters of dogma, when it comes to matters of personal morality (and public policy) many otherwise orthodox Christians are estranged from, and even hostile to, their own moral tradition. Continue reading

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What caught my eye…

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George Will writes:

Abraham Lincoln rejected the argument of his rival Stephen Douglas, who favored “popular sovereignty in the territories.” Douglas thought slavery should expand wherever a majority favored it. Lincoln understood that unless majority rule is circumscribed by the superior claims of natural rights, majority rule is merely the doctrine of “might makes right” adapted to the age of mass participation in politics. The idea that the strong have a right to unfettered rule if their strength is numerical is just the barbarism of “might makes right” prettified by initial adherence to democratic forms. Egypt’s military despotism may be less dangerous than Morsi’s because it lacks what Morsi’s had, a democratic coloration, however superficial and evanescent.

The rest is here.

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What’s caught my eye…

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Helen Alvaré, a Professor of Law at George Mason University writes:

…according to the powers-that-be, supporting killing unborn human beings is “heroic,” supporting natural familial bonds for children is “demeaning,” and forcing religious employers to insure (and really to pay for) services for their employees that they cannot in good conscience support is “respecting religious freedom.”

“Without Words to Describe | Public Discourse” http://feedly.com/k/18REG5Z

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Egypt: ‘The first popular overthrow of an Islamist regime in the Middle East’

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By John Couretas

English: A modern Coptic monastery

English: A modern Coptic monastery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Acton PowerBlog) Writing for National Review Online, Andrew Doran looks at how Christians have become “convenient scapegoats” and targets of violence for Islamists in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. A consultant for UNESCO at the U.S. Department of State, Doran says that “had the Muslim Brothers not been stopped, they would have continued to radicalize and Islamicize Egypt, further isolating and persecuting their enemies — secularists, liberals, and religious minorities, especially Christians.” More:

 

The peaceful rising of the Egyptian people against the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi constitutes the first popular overthrow of an Islamist regime in the Middle East. Beyond revolution, it was a restoration of Egypt’s heritage of secular moderation. Had the Muslim Brothers not been stopped, they would have continued to radicalize and Islamicize Egypt, further isolating and persecuting their enemies — secularists, liberals, and religious minorities, especially Christians. Egypt is the largest nation-state in the Arab world, with strong traditions of secular governance and a Christian minority that constitutes approximately 10 percent of the population. That this was the site of the first revolution against an Islamist regime is of inestimable significance, not merely for Egypt but for the Arab world, whose moderates look to Egypt as the standard bearer. If moderation fails in Egypt, it bodes ill for moderates elsewhere.

As Joseph Kassab, a Chaldean Christian and human-rights advocate, has observed, Christians are vital to the Middle East because they are a bridge to the outside world. Without Christians and other minorities, the entire Middle East would soon come to resemble the uniform extremism of Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most brutal and oppressive regime in the world — a state sponsor of extremism, anti-Semitism, and arguably terror. According to Amnesty International, crucifixion still occurs in Saudi Arabia. The fact that such regimes do not advance American interests ought to be self-evident. Apparently it is not.

 

Read “In Solidarity with Egypt’s Christians” by Andrew Doran on NRO.

 

 

 

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