Celebrating Our Diversity Now Project Documentary

Readers of this blog will recall that back in February I was one of four representatives of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) at a multi-city Youth Interfaith Initiative hosted by the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church’s Canadian Diocese and funded by the Colonial Government of Canada. I just got back from camping and hiking in Grasslands, Waterton Lakes, Banff, and Jasper National Parks and am still catching up on my emails; I have been asked to share the documentary of the event on my website and social media. So here it is.

The documentary can be viewed here.

Thoughts?

Celebrating Our Diversity Now Project Documentary Trailer​

Readers of this blog will recall that back in February I was one of four representatives of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) at a multi-city Youth Interfaith Initiative hosted by the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church’s Canadian Diocese and funded by the Colonial Government of Canada. I just got back from camping and hiking in Grasslands, Waterton Lakes, Banff, and Jasper National Parks and am catching up on my emails, and so it turns out I have been asked to share the trailer on my website and social media of the documentary of the event. So here it is.

The trailer can be viewed here.

Thoughts?

The Heartbreak of Greek Orthodox​ Christianity

There is a quote attributed to Albert Camus that I shared on Instagram recently. It reads, “There is no happiness if the things we believe in are different than the things we do.” It caught my attention because recently I shared a Daily Wire article by Matt Walsh on my Facebook and Twitter, Dear Christians, There Is One Thing Worse Than Being An Atheist. When I came across the article it reminded me of St. Ignatius’ words in 4:1 of his Epistle to the Magnesians, “Πρέπον οὖν ἐστὶν μὴ μόνον καλεῖσθαι Χριστιανούς, ἀλλὰ καὶ εἶναι,” which I translate as “It is fitting, therefore, to be not only called ‘Christians,’ but rather to be.”

As I come to the end of my second year at seminary, those above are what are on my mind: Greeks do not care about Greek Orthodox Christianity. They will marry outside the Church, stay out late at cultural events and miss Liturgy the next day. I wonder about these things as I study to be a priest. God didn’t call me to be a cultural curator, he called me to shepherd His flock.

So why is this on my mind? Well, I found out today that 12 teenagers have pulled out of my parish’s Oratorical Festival. With a week to go. And Sunday School attendance is so low that it has been requested to shut down Sunday School for the older kids. This is spitting in the face to the volunteers, the donators, and the Church. religous education isn’t important? The sad irony is that Oratory and Rhetoric are genuinely deeply embedded in authentic Greek culture—Christian and pagan. So just what culture it is now that Greeks have chosen over the culture and Faith of our ancestors I do not know, but it sure seems to be a type of secular Græco-American “functional atheism,” to borrow that last part from my Spiritual Father.

It truly breaks my heart and makes me question where I am called to serve. I believe in the living Faith of Christ, not a museum display cultural daycare centre. I just don’t understand lukewarmness—especially when it is that state which Christ says will cause Him to spit us out (Apocalypse 3:16), and especially in a Faith where our ancestors in the relatively recent past died for their Faith and fought for their freedom.

To end this and thus say goodnight, I say to those who would object, who would say with their words this that and the other thing; I say your actions betray your mouth. Further, the crestfallen state of the lukewarmness of Greek Orthodox Christians is intensely absurd in light of the words of Scripture, “οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην, οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ· πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (Galatians 3:28).” But to know this one would actually have to read Scripture. We are dealing with people who have time to write nonsense for social media and essays for private Catholic schools but don’t know our Symbol of Faith in Greek nor English and have no time for the Church. We all pick our masters, and as Christ says, “Οὐδεὶς δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν· ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε Θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ” (Matthew 6:24).

Interfaith Diversity

“εἰ πορεύσονται δύο ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ καθόλου ἐὰν μὴ γνωρίσωσιν ἑαυτούς;”
-Ἀμώς 3·3 Rahlfs-Hanhart LXX

The week of February 5-9th 2018 I was one of four representatives of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) at a multi-city Youth Interfaith Initiative hosted by the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church’s Canadian Diocese and funded by the Colonial Government of Canada.

On Tuesday, February 6th, I and the other Youth representatives from the Greek Orthodox got to speak a bit. When it came to my turn, I introduced myself: I’m a second-year seminarian, a convert, married etc. and I chose to say what I felt was ultimately lacking in representation at this interfaith dialogue: Christ. Below is basically what I said.

As an Indigenous person, a Métis (as is my wife), I hear a lot about social justice in the media and the academic side of Indigenous issues. But I don’t care about “social justice.” As a Métis raised by a single mother of four, I do not care about social justice. And what is the point of interfaith dialogue? If it is just to alleviate suffering, then this is where dogmatic differences come into play. I believe that water seeks its own level, that teaching a man to fish feeds him better than giving him fish for a day.

How does that connect to Christianity? Well, Orthodox Christianity doesn’t teach you to escape suffering like Buddhism does. It trains you to endure suffering, to endure the days you don’t catch any fish, or when someone steals your fish, or when you go hungry because you gave your fish to someone else. The problem with interfaith dialogue is that our end goal is ultimately not the same because our path and destinations are different. Orthodox Christianity teaches that the point of all of this is θέωσις, to become by grace what God is by nature. Not the eliminating of suffering, the metamorphosing of suffering and our union with Christ. To be with Christ, that is the direction.

* * * * * * *

 

“As it is impossible for two people to share a journey at the same time, he is saying, unless indicating to each other where and why they are traveling, or for a lion to roar if there is no prey, or for a bird to fall without a hunter, or for all the other things mentioned, so it is impossible for any punishment to be imposed without God willing it. He calls punishment “evil,” note, by use of a general custom: we are accustomed to use “troubles” of diseases, chastisements, untimely deaths, famines, wars, and the like, not because they are troublesome by nature but because they are troublesome to human beings and the source of distress and grief.”
-Blessed Theodoret of Cyr, Commentary of Amos 3.6–8*

* * * * * * *

Further Reading/Watching:
Celebrating Our Diversity Now
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Youth Interfaith Project
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Interfaith Event in Toronto, 5-9 February, 2018, (Shoghakat TV)
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Interfaith Event in Toronto, 5-9 February, 2018, (New Horizon TV)
Celebrating Our Diversity Now – TorontoAlbumsCelebrating Our Diversity Now – Toronto 78 Photos
Youth Interfaith Gathering organized by the Armenian Diocese in Toronto

 

 

*Ferreiro, Alberto and Thomas C. Oden, eds. The Twelve Prophets. Vol. 14 of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. ICCS/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Evolution & Theodicy​

Last night I came across a recently posted question in the Eastern Orthodox Biblical & Theological Discussion group on Facebook. For the most part, the question remained unanswered, devolving into those who hold a black-and-white understanding of Scripture and the Fathers’ hermeneutics of Scripture vs. those who face no fear in approaching higher levels of comprehension. Or, as St. Paul wrote in Κορινθίους ά 3·1-3 (GNT-EPT),

“ΚΑΙ ἐγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην ὑμῖν λαλῆσαι ὡς πνευματικοῖς, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς σαρκικοῖς, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.

γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα καὶ οὐ βρῶμα. οὔπω γὰρ ἠδύνασθε. ἀλλ᾿ οὔτε ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε· ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις καὶ διχοστασίαι, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε;”

Or as he wrote in Ἑβραίους 5·12-14 (GNT-EPT)

“καὶ γὰρ ὀφείλοντες εἶναι διδάσκαλοι διὰ τὸν χρόνον, πάλιν χρείαν ἔχετε τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς τίνα τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ γεγόνατε χρείαν ἔχοντες γάλακτος καὶ οὐ στερεᾶς τροφῆς. πᾶς γὰρ ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος ἄπειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης· νήπιος γάρ ἐστι· τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή, τῶν διὰ τὴν ἕξιν τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ.”

I encourage those who might object to my position to read the Patristic comments on the above and to keep in mind regarding the topic of this post that science and our Faith were not mutually exclusive.

The question was, “I have a question for this group, does the Eastern Orthodox teaching on evil and ancestral sin require the belief in or the existence of an historical Adam and Eve as the parents of all people alive today?” It brought to mind a picture I saw on Instagram last year:

One of the better arguments out there.  #Atheist #Godless #GodisNotGreat #GodlessUtopia #Islam #GodisDead #GodIsNotDead #Jesus #Mohammed #Christian #Atheism #RichardDawkins #SamHarris #ChristopherHitchens #AlbertEinstein #StephenHawking #CarlSagan #NeildeGrasseTyson #TheThinkingAtheist #Bible #Koran #Science #Skepticism #NoGod #AntiReligion #Humanist #Scientist #Quran #Torah
To actually answer the Facebook question, no; furthermore, there is a flaw in the arguments presented above with the quote and Instagram post. I believe the argument(s) contain a formal fallacy of affirming the disjunct; the crux of the argument—and the heart of the question—is that it was necessary for Christ to incarnate, which is to place on God our fallen human view of the situation, i.e., action/reaction. But we know that God does nothing out of necessity, and from this premise, you will find among some Orthodox theologians and Church Fathers the belief that the incarnation was to happen all along and that it wasn’t necessitated by the Fall.
Further Reading