The Church and violence
Is it just me, or are Christian responses to violence getting more and more inconsistent as time goes by?
In the above photo, an Orthodox priest blesses Russian missiles intended for airstrikes against Syrian rebels. According to Reuters reporter Noah Browning, the priest is sprinkling holy water on the missile before it is put aboard a Russian plane.
The blessing of missiles comes after Patriarch Kirill, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared that Russia’s intervention in Syria, which is aimed at the rebels currently aligned against Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad, is a “holy battle.”
The picture actually shows a bishop doing the blessing, not a priest, though that, if anything, makes it worse. And then, in other news, there is this picture of Methodist, Episcopalian and other clergy blessing an aborti0n clinic:
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a pro-abortion rights coalition of leaders from different faiths, gathered at and blessed the Preterm abortion clinic, which has operated in Cleveland since 1974, last Thursday as part of its mission to show women that some religious people do support a woman’s right to choose, despite how vocal the opposition from wings of more conservative faiths is.
Perhaps one can justify these activities by saying that the blessings are to ensure that there is no collateral damage — only the bad guys will be hit by the missiles, and only the bad babies will get aborted.
But Metropolitan Audi of Lebanon disagrees — Notes on Arab Orthodoxy: Met Elias Audi: Our Church Does Not Bless Wars:
… the Church absolutely does not bless those who fight others or those who harm others. The Church does not bless those who kill others because human life is the possession of the Lord and when someone kills another person, it is as though he wants to kill God. In reality, the one who is killed goes to the Lord, while the killer’s heart is unjust. The unjust is inhabited by Satan and Satan will not enter the kingdom of God. Therefore the Church also does not bless wars and does not say of them that they are holy. That is, it does not sanctify wars and does not accept such a statement. Every church must be like this if it teaches the Lord’s teaching or if it hears His words. For this reason, we Orthodox, especially in Antioch, even as we suffer, are expelled from our homes, and are reviled, we do not fight our enemies. And as we see, our people in this region are leaving and abandoning their homes and living a miserable existence and some are even departing, but they are not returning evil with evil. Therefore, let it be clear that our Orthodox Church in which we are members does not bless and does not sanctify wars and does not say of any war that it is holy. I doubt that anyone who has said such a thing has heard the words of the Lord Jesus, “Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. Do good to those who hate you…”
Let us rather follow St John Chrysostom: