Slaughtering the Innocents

On Friday, December 29, the Orthodox Church commemorated the slaying of the infants in Bethlehem by Herod, the puppet-king of Judah.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matt. 2:16)

This is the part of the story we don’t include in the Christmas stories we tell our children: The birth of Christ involved an act of mass murder. All hail the Prince of Peace. Continue reading “Slaughtering the Innocents”

How Not to Talk about Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church

What to do about LGBTQ individuals connected with the Orthodox Church (or who want to be connected to the Orthodox Church) is the biggest doctrinal issue we are dealing with today. The pat answers we have are inadequate to the questions we have because, while the mechanics of same-sex acts have not changed over the centuries (or so I imagine), the social conditions under which same-sex desires and relationships are lived out are drastically different. In Greek times, same-sex acts were tantamount to child abuse. In Roman times, it was about the exercise of power. Degrees of condemnation varied in Christian Europe, ranging from scolding youthful mischief to prescribing penance for marital infidelity or fornication. It was not until the Victorian era that “homosexuality” came to be considered a kind of diagnosable and thus treatable condition. Continue reading “How Not to Talk about Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church”

When Was “The Tradition” Finished?

Christ the True VineThe Orthodox Church is gearing up for the “Holy and Great Council” to meet this June. This is a big deal. We have not had a gathering like this in over a thousand years. And church leaders started planning for this particular meeting in the 1960s. That is over fifty years ago! The Orthodox Church is a bit like a confederacy. We are a bunch of different Orthodox Church-es, more or less divided along national boundaries, that agree that we are really just one church. The upside of this power structure is that it keeps us from doing anything too stupid all at once. The downside is that it can be hard for us to do anything at all. So on the one hand our polity makes us inevitably conservative, but on the other hand that conservatism can get confused with the spirit of Orthodoxy itself. Continue reading “When Was “The Tradition” Finished?”

The Blessing and Burden of Holy Tradition

Having been caught up in other projects and deadlines, I picked up Pantelis Kalaitzidis’ Orthodoxy & Political Theology last night after several weeks’ absence. The following words reminded me of how our love for “Holy Tradition” can kill our witness.

A certain version of theology…[has] turned Tradition into traditionalism and taught us to associate the identity of the church mainly – or even exclusively – with the past, making us accustomed to an Orthodoxy that is permanently out of step with its time and history in general. In fact, Orthodox theology often suffers…from a kind of inertia with regard to participating in history and the socio-cultural context…Speaking about the church’s transforming presence and activity in society, culture, and politics is reduced to nothing more than wishful thinking. Continue reading “The Blessing and Burden of Holy Tradition”

The Public Role of Church and Theology

This morning I came across six theses by Pantelis Kalaitzidis on the role the church should play in public life. They are in his book, Orthodoxy and Political Theology, which was recommended by my friend Brandon Gallaher. When the book arrived, I flipped it over and read the following question on the back cover, “Why has Eastern Orthodoxy not developed a full-throated political theological voice?” This is the same question that drove my dissertation and drives my book. (Once again, Brandon hits the nail on the head!) Continue reading “The Public Role of Church and Theology”

“Paul Evdokimov on Marriage” by Fr. Michael Plekon

The following is a brief summary and response to the final plenary paper delivered at the Sophia Institute Conference, December 7, at Union Theological Seminary.

Tjaarke Maas via Wikimedia Commons
Tjaarke Maas via Wikimedia Commons

I became familiar with the work of Fr. Michael Plekon early in my graduate work. I contributed to the (now defunct) Graduate Theological Society by following the latest articles in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly. That is where I read Plekon’s on The ‘Sacrament of the Brother/Sister’: The Lives and thought of Mother Maria Skobtsova and Paul Evdokimov.” Fr. Plekon focuses on contemporary “hagiography” – what makes someone a saint in the modern world? His work introduced me to Mother Maria Skobtsova (now St. Maria of Paris) and deepened my understanding of Fr. Sergei Bulgakov. Fr. Plekon is deeply formed by the tradition, yet also understands that the tradition is living and active. Like the liturgy itself, it takes up the world and offers it as a gift to God. Continue reading ““Paul Evdokimov on Marriage” by Fr. Michael Plekon”