Monday, May 30, 2005

Blessed Philotheos of Longovarda and the Christian Right

It appears that many Orthodox today, at least here in America, have swallowed hook, line, and sinker the secularist vision of what comprises liberty, to wit, the idea that virtually anything is permissible as long as nobody else is directly damaged (except maybe an unborn baby, whose right to life is superceded by his mother's right to convenience and comfort, or perhaps any person whose life is deemed, in view of some handicap or condition, 'not worth living' by the connivance of activist judges and adulterous husbands with ulterior motives).

It should be unnecessary to point out that this is a most unGodly and unChristian idea. Aye, it should be, but it isn't. We constantly hear this or that Orthodox Christian taking a stand for the right of sodomites to "marry", or the need for politicians to steal from the rich to support (read "enslave, by buying as a permanent-voting-bloc") the poor, or the necessity that blasphemy, graphic violence, foul language, and pornography be allowed free access to the marketplace of ideas in order to maintain that shibboleth of our modern paganism, "freedom of speech". Recently, in fact, the newly enthroned Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of San Francisco, granted an interview to the LA Times (2 April, 2005) in which he advocated "gay civil unions", and praised the vile television programme Desperate Housewives, saying "That little bit sultry TV program has so many truths in it. I'm watching it every time it's on."

And we wonder, as followers of the True Light, why our children depart from the faith? Why our parishes do not grow? Or as Americans, why our land is under judgement?

Because we are faithless. Because we are disobedient. Because our Church has become lukewarm, from the highest to the lowest. Because, even if we do not live in a markedly evil way, we stand firm in the conviction that our countrymen have that right; we lend our tacit approval to their evil deeds, and find judgement falling on our heads as well. Or as the great Elder Philotheos Zervakos (1884-1980), the clairvoyant Elder of the Greek Monastery of Longovarda, wrote "...The impiety, corruption, senselessness and lack of conscience of people, both lay-people and clergymen, men and women, rich and poor, generals and soldiers, the rulers and the ruled over has reached a high point and is speedily progressing in leaps and bounds till it reaches the greatest precipice." [1]

And instead of repenting of this wickedness, many Orthodox stand all the more firmly for the notion of Secular Pluralism in the public realm, and zealously tell us that "Theocracy" (rule by God and His Law) is outside the pale, aye, even calling the rule of God's Law "evil" (q.v. Isaiah 5:20).

Thus, it is interesting to me, as I read the Paternal Counsels of Elder Philotheos the following words about what constitutes a "good, prudent, pious and discerning government":

A good, prudent, pious and discerning Government is able to save the nation. But alone also it cannot, if the people do not cooperate, and help also, just as a captain of a ship is not able to save an endangered ship, if the sailors do not also help. But what will save the nation, the Government and the people, is God, who does and alters everything, who provides for all and for the benefit of each provides in a mankind-loving way. God saves Greece, but when? When we all return to Him. Because we must confess the truth, that our many sins have taken us far from God. "While those who go far away from God are lost" says the Holy Spirit through the great prophet David.

The first care of a prudent Government, then, is to preach repentance to the Greek people and a return to God.

1) The respected Government should publish a strict law against foul blasphemy. The blasphemers should be punished to make an example and fear.

2) During Sundays and great holidays the stores, cafes, factories, hair-dressing shops, etc. should close, especially during the time of the Divine Liturgy, so that the Christians can go to Church, and

3) Lewd theaters and movie theaters should close. Card playing, beauty contests, lewd dress and the bareness of women should stop, the publication and circulation of soul corrupting magazines with photographs of lewd women and the other such types of evil, for which the wrath of God is coming upon those who do such things, should stop. And in this manner the grace of God and His blessing will come to our nation and we shall see good days." [2]

I can hear the howls of protest already: "This is America, not Greece!" "America is not an Orthodox country!" "We neither need nor want a Theocracy!" "It is wrong to put such restraints on the freedom of people!" No doubt I will be regaled with paranoid fantasies about how the Protestants will lock us all up in gulags coming from the ostensibly Orthodox advocates of Secular Pluralism, who prefer Man's law to God's Law.

None of it, however changes the fact that both the Holy Elder of Longovarda and that broad coalition of Orthodox and heterodox Christians in this land that is known as the Christian Right are calling for the same things - repentance of the people and enforcement of God's Law in the interest of restraining the evil deeds of wicked men, and conversely, the blessings that come upon those nations which, in humility and obedience, "understand, and submit themselves, for God is with us".

As our Saintly Father Philotheos went on to say, "There remains only one hope of salvation, repentance, to restrain the evil and the most great wrath of the Lord. However signs and traces of repentance are nowhere to be found, consequently the great wrath which will make those inhabiting the earth to be few, will restrain the evil of men for a time....May God who is infinite in mercies and compassion, by judgements and manners which He knows, save us and the whole human race. Let us be ready before the gate of mercy closes..." [3]


[1] Paternal Counsels, Volume II, Father Philotheos Zervakos (Tr. Fr. Nicholas Palis), 1998, Thessalonika: Orthodox Kypseli Publications, p. 4.
[2] Ibid., pp. 3-4.
[3] Ibid., p. 7.