The Common Good?

By dogcatcher on April 13th, 2013

 

The “Common Good”, is a phrase often discussed by religious scholars but how does it apply to our own faith? The “Common Good” calls upon us to take the needs of others into consideration when making decisions rather than do what is best for us individually. When the late Archbishop Iakovos of Blessed Memory walked with Martin Luther King, he did so because it aided and promoted the “Common Good” for all. He did not avoid his personal destiny by carrying out his Hierarchical office as a religious politician. Instead he acted to promote the “Common Good” in spite of the temporary damage he endured. After this historic walk, there were an embarrassing number of Greek Orthodox faithful who called his leadership into question for just this one act. Fortunately, history has preserved his legacy, vision and wisdom.

Unfortunately, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese currently cannot make the same claim of preservation. The fundamentalist Ephraimite movement is tearing at the fabric of our beloved Church. This movement is emptying our Parishes. Time and time again, the Editors of this website have asked the Hierarchs to rise above the voices of extremism and proclaim the faith protecting the next generation of the Greek Orthodox faithful in the United States. The Editors maintain that the current conditions within the Greek Orthodox Church of America fail to promote the concept of the “Common Good”.

What does a simple concept like the “Common Good” mean within the model of the Greek Orthodox Faith? Is it represented in our Faith? Is it a tenet of our Faith? Do we Greek Orthodox Christians “love our neighbor as we do ourselves? Are we taking care of each other? Didn’t Jesus reach out to many in need? We will examine the “Common Good” in the context of a few incidents reported to the website by members of the Laity who are worried about our church.

We have received several emails containing inquiries, comments and questions from parents whose children have either visited a monastery or attended a retreat, a G.O.Y.A., a Young Adults or an OCF meeting. The discussions were centered on prayer, a common topic. The question would often be “who do we pray for?” To most Christians, the answer would have been simple enough, anyone or even everyone. When asked who the children prayed for, the answers were mixed and varied. Among the multiple answers given, the children or young adults responded family, friends, relatives, leaders and our troops.

The parents reported to us that on several occasions, the Priests have told these children that they only pray for Orthodox Christians. The different Priests who held the position that they only pray for Orthodox Christians often cited Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries as their authority. Unfortunately, we have heard these words so often “I learned this at the Monastery”. If we have heard these words over and over again, we must believe that so have our Hierarchs. Mainline Christian Faiths believe that we are all called upon to live a life where the “Common Good” is not only expected, but a tenet of the Faith. Many of us have friends and relatives who are not Orthodox and we know our faith does not have such a narrow view of the “Common Good”.

The emails about prayer are not isolated. On Friday, December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Before driving to the school, Lanza had shot and killed his mother Nancy at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived, Adam committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. This tragedy was so overpowering that it made many turn to their own Faith for comfort and understanding. On Sunday December 16, just two days later, many of our editors attended church in a Parish in Chicago. It was at that service at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church where the Priest, Father John Kalomas sermonized and prayed for all the victims and their families. It was a beautiful and uplifting message. It did not draw a line between those who are Orthodox and those who are not. The message was not “that we only pray for the Orthodox”.

Yet in another Parish to the north of St. Andrew’s there was another message, one of complete and utter silence about the tragedy. It is the similar silence befallen on the faithful of our faith when we ask our Hierarchs to proclaim the faith. Ask yourselves are we led by religious statesmen concerned about the future generations of Orthodox Christians in America or do we have religious politicians who are primarily interested in their ceremonial roles and protecting their positions for power and personal aggrandizement?

How does the current state of our leadership reflect upon the Church and the GOA? The answer is simple: we now have a Faith governed by religious politicians. The era of the religious statesmen within our GOA is gone. The late Archbishop Iakovos was just that, a Statesman. He thought not in the moment, he thought about future generations, the Greater Good of the Church and its people and the Common Good of all. Now we have Church politicians whose main concern is participating in the ceremonial roles and enjoying the pomp and circumstance that accompany their offices.

Those who lead us believe they have absolute power. Yet, those who proclaim to lead us are not leaders. Leaders have an awareness of the needs of its members and their organization and can, with careful study, identify those needs. True leaders would quickly become aware of the need to circumvent the hidden agendas of dangerous movements like the Ephraimite movement. Leaders have long-term vision preserving the “Common Good” of its members and its institutions. In several articles on the website, the Editors have identified the leadership vacuum which exists in the Metropolises and in the Archdiocese. This vacuum has resulted in a lack of respect for our Hierarchs and worse, people leaving the faith in droves. When you ask yourself why is the Church suffering with this cancer brought upon it by this fundamentalist movement, clearly there is a void which the Ephraimite movement fills. The radical and extremist Ephraimite beliefs and the actions of its hardcore members demonstrate the depth of this void.

So now you may be asking yourself if there is any hope. Can this train wreck be stopped before it is too late? Well there is some hope and a few things that could change this declining course set before all of us. Our website had over 80,000 hits during the month of February 2013. The visits to our website continue to increase telling us there is a substantial audience and they are interested in educating themselves about our faith and eager to learn what we have to say about the clearly evident dangers to our Church. There is evidence that a growing number of members of Leadership 100 see the decline. Leadership 100 is an example of an organization within the body of the Church that has the potential to create goodness . Among many of the younger members, there are those who dislike the “rubber stamp” actions of Leadership 100. There are those who believe that real accountability by our leaders both ecclesiastical and lay is desperately needed. Should these insightful members of Leadership 100 have their voices heard, we may finally have a group within the Church that uses its power to help stem the growing tide of the fundamentalist Ephraimite movement.

Again, we urgently call upon the Hierarchs, Priests, Parish Council members and the laity to act as responsible leaders of our Church, which is after all, a human institution. As leaders, the Hierarchs, Priests and members of the Parish Councils need to rise above the voices of extremism promulgated by the Ephraimites and that they need to protect the “Common Good”. It is an ideal of Christians everywhere, to live and behave as Jesus did, to reach out to everyone, insiders and outsiders, and to preach that we take care of and pray for each other and not just Orthodox Christians.