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I am reminded of a meeting I attended a long time ago, when I was an Anglican. I was asked by the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town (then Bill Burnett) to be one of four Anglican representatives to a consultation called by the South African Council of Churches to evaluate the World Council of Churches "Programme to combat racism" after ten years.

After one session of high-flown academic gobbledegook one guy from Swaziland stood up and asked why we were using all these big words, when what we were talking about could be summed up in one small word -- sin.

All the sophisticated academics at the meeting sniggered at the naivety of this country hick, and Desmond Tutu, who was chairing the meeting, rebuked them, saying, "We are supposed to be meeting as Christians, and if we are ashamed of our Christian vocabulary then we have nothing to say to the world as Christians and we might as well pack up and go home now."

Thank you, Father, for your blessing.

Orthodox thinking continues to astound this recent convert. Perhaps, I lived in the Protestant world so long that protesting, rather than repenting, always seems the answer.

If Islamic Jihadists are like the Assyrians, then we should expect captivity, right? Repentance would identify those who survive captivity and reap the produce of the land.

To continue the allegory, would not judgment come regardless of repentance? God must purge "the land," right? Would you agree that repentance wouldn't preserve the status quo?

I'm agreeing that repentance is the order for the day, but I'm wondering if we should change the expectation that I'm sensing. Are we expecting repentance to beat back the hordes?

May I suggest Habbakuk for a helpful allegory here? Nothing could stop the Chaldean advance, yet repentance was the order of the day--as here.

Can we liken this to the fall of Rome? Will we see or have we seen--as Christians did then--pagans blaming Christians for the nation's woes? You reminded us of Christopher Hitchens, whom I heard on the radio yesterday debating Dennis Prager, who is Jewish and a theist. Hitchens blames all religions for the human problems in the world.

I support your prophetic call for repentance. May I add that we should repent with no worldly expectation or presumption from God? Shouldn't we look for our deliverance in the Holy Spirit's work to prepare us as witnesses and martyrs for the faith?

Does this sound Orthodox to you? Did I think through this according to the Orthodox Way and according to the Patristic Tradition? I thought I would stretch my newly forming Orthodox mind.

Thanks for thinking with me.

Dear Fr. Jonathan:

I enjoyed your article and agree with you wholeheartedly regarding the toothless use of words such as "ethics" by implied responsible clergy and self-styled moral academics portrayed in your article. I support your call for us to name actions and behaviors for what they really are, and to place them the direct light of the Gospel. Pro-life is no life when in the next breath one supports state mandated "murder" for those very same "poor" who will always be with us. At least until we have executed enough of them to no longer worry about the poor.

God Bless your honesty,



I'm always troubled when Orthodox talk politics using the language and categories of the surrounding culture. But I know it's an easy trap to fall into as I fall into it occasionally myself. Thanks for the reminder.

Your comments about the new Islamic Jihad stirred up a few questions in my brain box though. Is there a historian out there who knows about the spiritual temperament of the Eastern (half of the) Roman Empire before its fall? Or early 20th century Russia before the Revolution? And if this prophetic interpretation of history holds up in NT times, what does that say about Islamo-Fascism being used to judge non-Orthodox Europe and America?

Another point well taken, Eric. The prosecution of the Abu Ghraib crimes revealed one order, and the crimes themselves revealed another.
While I'm not so sanguine about such an interpretation, there have been those, within the Orthodox Church, who have said that the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople was exactly that: divine judgment.
My intent here is really not to spill the discussion out into Iraq or historic events like the falls of Constantinople and Kievan Rus (in my mind, the two greatest tragedies of Byzantine Christian history).
Neither is my intent to advance a pacifistic position, as our history is replete with figures like Sts. Boris and Gleb, but also St. Sergius of Radonezh, who blessed the spears of Prince Dmitri Donskoi before the Battle of Kulikovo.
I simply believe that the best (and perhaps sole) defense against the Islamic advance in Europe and in America is repentance and Orthodox faith. Clearly, the secularism of Hitchens, the materialism of Dawkins, and the modernism of mainline Christianity will do nothing but invite the crescent, and hasten its arrival.
It seems to me that the current wave of Islamization is judgment of the West today. I do not think this is always the case with Islam. But it is certainly the case with the current program of sharia law, and plans for dhimmitude. Perhaps there may come a day when St. Sergius will need to, once again, bless the spears.
Today, however, especially in Europe, what is needed is catechism, prayer and fasting. That may sound a tad doughty and daft, perhaps. But, after all, we're Christians, and we do not put our trust in mortal princes, don't we?
A Europe that goes to Church (not quasi-Church, either), and an America that believes the Apostolic Witness, instead of seeking enthusiasm, will become a Europe and an America that will give little succor to Islam.
Until that day, however, churches are turned into mosques, for the simple reason that the churches are empty, because the children are playing soccer, and the parents are doing brunch.

I'm curious. Do you regard the Islamic conquests that eventually consumed Byzantium as a judgement?

Also, Abu Ghraib has been many times magnified by the lens of the media. The actions of a few criminals were revealed to the public, investigated, and prosecuted. There is certainly something paradigmatic in this incident, and it speaks to the order with which Western societies deal with that sort of evil behavior.

Father Bless!
You have given my eyes a new paradigm in which to view the Islamicists. A prophetic paradigm! Thank God for your wisdom! I stumbled across this blog around the VT shootings and was very thankful for your words. God grant you many years!

Dear Caryl,
Your point about Abu Ghraib connoting the West as the Assyrians is well taken.
Nevertheless, I mean by "Assyrian" the Islamic jihad, and I utilize that term to defeat the notion that individual Muslims are our "enemies." If they are regarded as such, then Abu Ghraib would become a paradigm governing our interactions with them not only in Iraq, but also in Europe and here in America.
It is better to understand the Islamic crisis prophetically, as Amos did of Assyria, in recognizing that their increase on the world stage, and their invasion of the "immuno-deficient" West is more a result of judgment, than it is a mere product of cultures and socio-economic structures in conflict. This, I think, is the rather truncated argument of Christopher Hitchens and Niall Ferguson.
My argument calls not for guns, but, like Amos recommended, repentance.
Thanks for your (and everyone else's) thoughts.

Dear Father-I love the way you bring out the incompatibility of ethics and holiness-this reminds me somewhat of Simone Weil's saying that it is not just a question between good and evil but between supernatural good and evil.
The only false note for me was the Muslim "jihad." Are they the Assyrians or is the West the Assyrians? The picture from Abu Ghraib prison of the prisoner leashed to a dog was a living reproduction of the torture practiced by the Assyrians - so many thousands of years ago. Are these ancient darknesses arising now because of the dechristianization of the soul of modern man?
It seems to me more accurate to say that Europe, spiritually weak, has had its "immune system" taken over, and the result is a foreign invasion.
I would be interested to hear your response to this.

This is an awesome post! I agree wholeheartedly. I don't keep up with politics much, but I have the same reaction as you against "ethics". I don't understand why Christians want to talk about "ethics" as if it's some sort of separate category with its own reasonings, apart from the right teaching and worship of the Orthodox Faith.

It is a very good thing that you are not a good ethicist. It is that very difference that you laid out in this post that speaks to what first got my serious attention about Orthodoxy - what seems an age ago (in reality just a little under 8 years).

Very good post, Fr. thank you.

That's exactly what I thought. Thanks for the commendation.

I'm sorry I wasn't clearer, Father, but, yes, I intended a compliment. I've just recommended your post over here:

Err, thanks, I think.

You are certainly a mediocre ethicist, Father. Thanks be to God!

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