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The Church and violence

20 October 2015

Is it just me, or are Christian responses to violence getting more and more inconsistent as time goes by?

A bishop blessing missiles to be used in Syria

A bishop blessing missiles to be used in Syria

PHOTO: An Orthodox priest blesses Russian missiles for airstrikes in Syria | Business Insider India:

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:

Methodist, Episcopalian and other clergy blessing an abortion clinic. From left to right: Rev. Dr. Shawnthea Monroe, Rev. Laura Young, Rev. Tracey Lind, Rabbi Allison Vann, Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith

Methodist, Episcopalian and other clergy blessing an abortion clinic. From left to right: Rev. Dr. Shawnthea Monroe, Rev. Laura Young, Rev. Tracey Lind, Rabbi Allison Vann, Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith

Clergy Members Say ‘Thank God For Abortion Providers’ In Ohio:

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:

warfare

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Salaam permalink
    20 October 2015 9:56 am

    Thank you.

    Forgetting the Russians for a minute, I’ve heard many good and faithful Lebanese Christians say that they should have in the past and still today defend their villages with arms. I used to be a complete pacifist, but now I find it hard to judge, so to speak. Perhaps for the same reason as one sometimes has to physically restrain a child, one has to physically defend oneself? I know the consensus of the Fathers is not quite closed on this. I think that perhaps the key is what’s in one’s heart while defending.

    • 20 October 2015 3:24 pm

      Bear in mind that the Orthodox Church is not a “peace church”, like the Quakers or the Mennonites. The Orthodox Church has soldier saints and pacifist saints, those who fought and those who refused to fight. But what the Orthodox Church does not say is that any war is “holy” or even “just”. All war is unholy and unjust, but we live in a world in which it is not always possible to escape war. Those who kill in war (or by abortion etc) need to repent. We cannot always avoid killing, but we can avoid glorying in killing and blessing it.

  2. 20 October 2015 10:09 am

    The only consistent historical Christian response to violence is inconsistency.

  3. 25 October 2015 3:05 pm

    Hi! If I may be so bold… The picture is from a priest blessing planes, etc. on Russian “Air Force Day’ back in August. I can’t find the link to the Eparchy right now, but maybe later on today. So in August, Russia wasn’t in Syria (at least officially) and the pictures were taken on a military base – of the top of my head – in Vladivostok (though this could be wrong). Shows how the media works, though. Somebody posts a “controversial” picture, attaches the idea in a tweet that it has something to do with Syria and then Business Insider makes a whole article over it.

    Also, I think the guiding principle from the Bible and such about force is in general – if someone does something to you, “turn the other cheek” applies. If someone does something to harm those who cannot defend themselves, then we are to defend them. Furthermore, there is a lot of imagery there that talks about defending ourselves as well as defeating evil, and I don’t just believe in a metaphorical sense.

  4. 31 October 2015 11:52 am

    I’m sad to say that that blessing of the abortion clinic took place right here in my hometown of Cleveland. The political group those clergy represent and the views they have espoused in quotations I have read of them are rooted in their notions of “reproductive” choice and women feeling ashamed. Would that at least something such as your facetious reading of only evil babies being aborted were true, but indeed the lives of the babies are quite irrelevant to them (as, of course, I am sure you know). Women who are subject to undue shame surely deserve a better treatment, but so does human life itself.

    To follow up on rhipsime14‘s comment, the image of the blessing of the missile reminded me when I first saw it that we do in our Great Litany pray every Sunday for those in the armed forces. Of course we do not pray for them to kill people or destroy societies, and the prayer is not specific to any conflict. Perhaps, given the actual context of the photo, we can reconcile this image with our Orthodox faith. In any event, the Russian Orthodox Church quite clearly wished to do so in response to the dissemination of this photo. Some publications published corrections. Alas, the false context of it seems to remain the dominant idea in our idiotic online society.

    • 1 November 2015 7:09 am

      Some years ago a US Navy ship was called Corpus Christi. Some Christians objected to this, and I believe it was renamed City of Corpus Christi.

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