by Chris Banescu –
Perpetual crises and suffering, societal unrest, financial emergencies, institutional dysfunction, governmental tyranny, murder and mayhem, wars, riots, terrorism, and the persecution of the righteous and innocent continues to be the “normal” state of affairs for people and countries around the world. Despite the constant assurances from most secular governments and politicians who promise us “utopia on earth” in exchange for surrendering more of our freedoms and embracing their atheistic and progressive “solutions”, things are getting worse, not better. This seems to be a persistent problem of all human civilizations throughout history, not just a defect particular to our own age. “Terrific energy is expended — civilizations are built up — excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top, and then it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down,” observed C.S. Lewis. What is the real source of this suffering and is there any hope for a cure?
It is foolishness to believe that the turmoil, economic devastation, social corruption, and societal instability happening in Greece, Egypt, England, France, Romania, other European countries, and even here in America is simply about economics, politics, education, financial mismanagement, or religious, ethnic, or cultural differences. What it is about is the catastrophic moral failure of individuals with power and influence across many organizations and institutions, especially politicians and government leaders. The immorality, vanity, arrogance, hypocrisy, selfishness, corruption, cowardice, envy, greed, and reckless disregard for the long-term safety, liberty, and well-being of the people – whom they have sworn to serve and protect – that we see in the conduct of our leaders are symptoms of what always happens when man rejects God’s truth and wisdom and tries to setup for himself an earthly “utopia” separate from Christ’s teaching. C.S. Lewis described this tragedy of the human condition in his writings. “What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
Jesus Christ, the Word of GOD, revealed to man the fullness of God’s Truth and the wisdom of His laws. The Gospel embodies the principles and lessons from God that – if followed in all aspects of life and human relations both in and outside the home, in our communities, and in all areas of government, scientific inquiry, education, economics, culture, politics, even religion – can repair (not fully, only Christ’s Second Coming will accomplish that) the rift between man and God and bring the human machine into true and real communion with our Creator. Only the Word of God can restore man’s humanity! The solution to all our problems, all our strife, to all our suffering, all the abuses, political or otherwise, are there for the taking in the message of the Gospel. But that Gospel must be applied and made relevant to the current day issues and problems in all aspects of society. That’s what Jesus Christ and all His Apostles and Disciples did!
The Good News is not a philosophical construct, a manual for religious rituals, or a history lesson. The Gospel is living water, divine revelation of everything man needs to know, follow, and do in order to have life, and “have it abundantly”, to become the real creature in full communion with God that he was meant to be from the beginning. The Good News is the ultimate medicine, physical and spiritual that can cure mankind. But it MUST be preached and taught, continuously and fearlessly, to everyone, everywhere. It cannot be a light hidden under a bushel, or in our case hidden in our liturgical practices, mystical languages, conferences, or inside our churches, seminaries, and cathedrals.
Unfortunately, some Orthodox Christian bishops and priests preach the Gospel as if it was meant to apply only to our ethnic enclaves and “religious” or private lives, with little relevance to our professions, “secular” careers, businesses, political offices, and any other aspects of our public lives. Others, drown out the timeless and clear message of the Gospel by wrapping it into traditionalist language that sounds “mystical” but is actually confusing and fails to connect with their parishioners. Fr. Hans Jacobse describes this phenomenon as “Orthodo-speak,” the tendency to “drown the uncomfortable and difficult questions (they are painful so we avoid them) in endless Orthodox verbiage.” He calls this process a kind of “flight into abstraction. It sounds holy, but actually it deforms the holy into the profane.” This distortion attempts to avoid all real controversies, leaving the faithful defenseless in face of the relentless attacks of the enemy and susceptible to believing and embracing all sorts of falsehoods, secular ideologies, and heretical ideas. It hides the true meaning of Christ’s teaching and contradicts His Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Our duty as followers of Jesus Christ and preachers of the Good News, is to “present that which is timeless (the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow) in the particular language of our own age,” wrote C.S. Lewis many years ago. “The bad preacher does exactly the opposite: he takes the ideas of our own age and tricks them out in the traditional language of Christianity,” warned Lewis.
The mission of the Orthodox Church is not only to go “into all the world and make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all [things that Christ has] commanded”, so that everyone may come to the knowledge of the Truth and find salvation in Christ, but also to attract, educate, and support teachers and preachers whose teaching must be “timeless at its heart and wear a modern dress.” The Church must seek out and prepare real shepherds who can bring Truth and Christ to the people, help them apply the Gospel message to all aspects of theirs lives, and bring them into closer communion with God and each other.
The Orthodox Bishops, as direct descendants and representatives of Christ in the world, are the guardians, preachers, and teachers of the Gospel, the fullness of the faith, and the moral teaching of God. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” Christ commanded. They have a duty to speak to all these moral failures of the people and their leaders (secular or religious) and bring light and truth into their lives, all aspects of their lives, not just their “religious” lives, personal lives, or their behavior while in church on Sunday or a council meeting. The Bishops must condemn the constant rejection of Christ in all aspects of human relations and society. They must refute the lies and immorality that is tolerated, enabled, and even celebrated across the companies, organizations, public institutions, and governmental bodies where the people work, learn, and live. They cannot be silent, complacent, politically correct, or worse, busy seeking favor from the very corrupt, unethical, greedy, power hungry, and abusive politicians and other secular leaders who are leading the people astray and endangering the peace, security, and stability of their own societies.
What were are witnessing in Europe, other countries around the world, and more and more here in America, is a failure of too many Christian leaders to read, heed, and apply the Gospel, practice what they teach, fully embrace the moral tradition, forsake worldly acclamation and acceptance, pick up their crosses and follow Christ, and preach the Truth to the faithful. The suffering, crises, and turmoil we continue to endure can be traced to the lack of courage, conviction, and ability of too many Christian bishops, priests, and lay leaders to speak, preach, and teach the Gospel and warn, guide, and lead the people, all of the people.