When it comes to public symbolic gestures and photo ops, the Orthodox Church in the United States gives the impression that the lives of children before they’re born constitute the one and only issue worthy of our concern. Curiously we seem to vanish when the lives of born children hang in the balance and the cameras start rolling or clicking.
As widely reported, over two dozen individuals—most of them clergy of various faith communities—were arrested in Los Angeles on Tuesday of this week during an orchestrated act of peaceful civil disobedience.
Nathan Solis writes for Courthouse News Service: Police arrested priests, reverends, rabbis and other members of the faith community outside a California courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday over a show of civil disobedience against the Trump administration’s immigration policies. They locked hands, blocked traffic and then sat in the middle of a street and waited for officers from the Los Angeles Police Department to arrest them…..
Haaretz reports (with a large number of photos): In Los Angeles, California clergy members, including Rabbis, pastors and other faith leaders, lined up outside the federal court house building ahead of a visit by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. They were later seen being taken into custody in a series of planned arrests, local media reported. Rabbi Jonathan Klein, who helped organized the protest, told the Los Angeles Times that demonstrating against U.S. President Trump’s immigration policies aligns directly with his faith….
And the Los Angeles Daily News: …[A]bout two dozen clergy members, including one from a North Hollywood congregation and three from one Pasadena church, were arrested Tuesday outside the federal courthouse on Spring Street after linking arms and defying a warning from police to disperse while protesting U.S. immigration policy. The clergy members were among several hundred protesters who had gathered with an array of immigrant advocacy groups that planned a full day of protests, rallies and marches as Sessions visited. Among the clergy arrested were also three from First United Methodist Church in Pasadena….
Are there no Orthodox bishops and priests in Los Angeles?
Imagine the powerful visual that would have been created by at least one bishop wearing his omophorion and carrying his shepherd’s staff, at least one priest in cassock, riassa, and epitrachelion carrying his hand cross, handcuffed and led away by police officers to join their fellows in pastoral ministry in the back of the paddy wagon.
Some of our Orthodox brothers and sisters will undoubtedly mock the female clergy in the photos, or those wearing rainbow stoles: yet there they are, and there we’re not, with their very bodies making a highly visible public statement in defense of some of the most vulnerable children and families on American soil today. As you did it for the least of these, you did it for Me.
On June 17 Orthodoxy in Dialogue published an Open Letter to the Church: The Humanitarian Crisis at the US-Mexico Border. We are grateful to the (too few) bishops who addressed the crisis during the following days in public statements and letters to the White House. We have published the ones of which we know, written by Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Nathanael of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, Metropolitan Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska, and Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America.
(The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America has gone silent for a full five months now: it has not posted anything at all, on any subject whatever, since January 30.)
In Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s Facebook group a member proposed a survey: On the previous Sunday (June 24), how many Orthodox or Eastern Catholics heard a sermon about the border crisis? Of the 39 respondents, only three had.
Can we, as the Church in and for this land, do better?
It seems providential that Father Theophan Whitfield chose this week to ask us to publicize his Parish as Servant research project. (The Facebook page for Father Whitfield’s project is here.) His basic premise rests on two questions suggested by Father Alexander Schmemann over half a century ago: first, how should Orthodox Christians think about the commandment found throughout Holy Scripture to honor “justice;” and second, what strategies can Orthodox parishes pursue to create “servant parishes” actively engaged in ministry to the poor and suffering in particular?
In the parable of the Good Samaritan we often overlook one detail: the man left for dead on the roadside and the man who finally came to his rescue were the wrong religion and the wrong ethnicity to each other. Let’s ponder that.
Clearly not only the individual Christian, not only the local parish, but the entire Orthodox Church in any given nation is called to become the Good Samaritan to the nation entrusted by God into her care. To the extent that the Church remains a closed religious society ministering only to our own, to that extent we fail the Gospel of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ.
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