Perhaps my greatest struggle as an Orthodoxy Christian, indeed as a Christian in general, is the role of the church in politics. I have been thinking about this a lot in the wake of the refugee crisis and the Daesh attacks on Paris. Part of me wishes my church had a more cohesive response to these poignant issues. Yet another part of me is glad it does not.
I think prayer is one of the greatest gifts the church can give to politics. I mean that. Prayer is disruptive. The divine voice interrupts our egoism and selfishness with a still small whisper to remind us that we are not the center of the universe. I remember one of my earlier visits to the Orthodox Church. The Sunday happened to be an anniversary of 9/11, and the response of the church was offer special prayers for the departed, which included both the victims and their murderers. Yes, as the church, we pray for our enemies and those who mistreat us. That is what I mean when I say that prayer disrupts. Egoism makes us seek revenge. Prayer reminds us that, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”
But I do not want Orthodoxy, or any church for that matter, to confuse the politics of the gospel with the politics of a political party, and this is something that is very hard to do. Conservative churches think that the gospel means stopping abortions. Liberal churches think that the gospel means securing gay marriage. I believe in both of these things, in a way, but as important as something like voting is (which in our plutocracy is not all that important), it is still not how one practices the gospel. I saw a friend of mine’s post on Facebook recently in which he advertised a spare room to any Syrian refugee who wanted to live there. This person votes, or at least I think he does, but as long as he is doing things like that, I do not think the way he votes matters very much. Taking in the alien and the stranger is a greater act in the name of the kingdom of God than pressing a button at the ballot box.
I do not have a good answer for this. I appreciate how my priest is very good about keeping his politics close to his chest. There are some issues where I think I know where stands, but he rarely gets political from the pulpit, and when he does, he tends to speak in generalities.
Prayer is more specific. I think maybe, in the absence of clear directives about how to vote or protest or something, we can just keep praying. We can pray for the victims of aggression and violence, committed both in the name of a false caliphate, in the name of freedom, and in the name of Jesus Christ.
Photo from syrianfreepress.wordpress.com.