Friday, July 24, 2015

OCA All-American Council: 'AAC delegates express solidarity, support for suffering in Middle East'

Council statement another missed opportunity for a strong Orthodox Christian stance against Islamic jihad and Muslim persecution of Christians.

While a welcomed gesture, this statement could have been so much stronger, and could have, thereby, provided an inspiring example of the very theme of the AAC: "How to Expand the Mission." As worded, it projects a cautious image of timidity and uncertainty of the Orthodox Church's voice and role regarding the challenge posed by the global resurgence of Islamic jihad.

Read the report from the OCA website, then see my comments below.

AAC delegates express solidarity, support for suffering in Middle East
OCA, July 23, 2015
After the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy early Thursday morning, July 23, 2015, and during the AAC’s fifth Plenary Session, delegates to the 18th All-American Council adopted a resolution expressing the Orthodox Church in America’s solidarity with Christians suffering persecution in the Middle East and calling on governments to do everything possible to ensure their safety. 
Presented by Dr. Paul Meyendorff and adopted by acclamation, the text of the resolution reads as follows. 
“Whereas recent developments in the Middle East have caused great suffering to Christians in the area, leading to numerous deaths, desperate living conditions and mass movement of refugees, we, gathered at the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, Georgia, express our solidarity and support for all suffering peoples in the area, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we call on our respective governments to take vigorously all possible political and humanitarian measures to ensure their safety and the survival of Christianity in the lands where it first took hold.”

What is missing?  At least three key truths:

1. No mention of the 21st century's first genocide — committed by Muslims against Eastern Christians — as a direct result of an emboldened Islamic jihad.  
2. No mention of the militant, supremacist ideology behind this genocide, an ideology enshrined in the Quran and in the example of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. 
3. No mention of the undoubted age of martyrdom we have entered, in which Christians are being killed precisely and solely because they are wearing or displaying a cross, because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Savior, and especially because they refuse to convert to Islam to save their lives. 

Even the ever restrained and sober Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Church Relations for the Russian Orthodox Church and Moscow Patriarchate, openly refers to the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East and Africa as a "plague" and as "genocide." His Eminence, like most Orthodox hierarchs and clergy (with the notable exception of Archbishop Mark of Berlin), also declines to squarely confront the Islamic foundation of Muslim jihad and terrorism, but his words are somewhat stronger than the AAC resolution.

In my estimation, Orthodox Christian reference to the global Muslim persecution of Christians as "genocide" is itself nowhere near strong enough, and the term should be thought of as a condescension to human frailty, and not as any especially bold stance. "Genocide" is a worldly, secular term, not a Christian one.

Rather, to truly honor the new confessors and martyrs of the 21st century, who are suffering loss of livelihood, homes, families, churches, and their very lives — all for the sake of Jesus Christ — DEMANDS of the rest of us that WE STAND WITH THEM in ABSOLUTE SOLIDARITY.

This means condemning Islam as a false religion, and to do so by using the same texts of the Quran as are used by the Islamic State and all Muslim jihad groups to justify their atrocities. Indeed, Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. reference these same Quranic passages in justifying their open persecution of Christians. 

This also requires condemning Muhammad as a false prophet, as it is the example of Muhammad, who is held up by Muslims as "the ideal pattern of conduct," which amplifies and gives concrete expression to the murderous commands in the Quran. The hadiths (sayings by and about Muhammad) and the Sira (the life of Muhammad) are as important as the Quran; the three form the foundation of Islam.

The failure of any local Orthodox Church council to present a definitive, clear teaching on why Islam is a false religion, presenting a false and blasphemous image of God, founded by a false prophet, is a sin by omission which must be corrected, and quickly, or we will be called to account before the judgment seat of Christ for remaining silent when presented with a false teaching about God.

But at the same time and always, it must be strongly emphasized that by denouncing Islam and Muhammad, we are by no means denigrating or rejecting Muslims themselves. Rather, we open our arms and our hearts to sincere Muslims truly seeking to be pleasing to God, and we hold out for them the words of Life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Search for yourselves what is true and good: a "prophet" who tells his followers to "Smite the unbelievers on the neck," and who boasts, "I have been made victorious through terror," or the One who says, "Love your enemies," and, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."

When the OCA can issue a statement burning with evangelical zeal and solidarity with the new "cloud of witnesses" of this dark age, then she will clearly see before her the shining path of the confessors and martyrs, by which alone she may "expand the mission."

Forgive me for writing so boldly.