||FIRST, THE NEWS:
THE POLITICS OF PRAYER IN KOSOVO
(5 Oct.) Pristina’s newest cathedral is not just a religious monument; it’s a political symbol. In the rectory of Kosovo’s Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa, a few days ahead of the consecration ceremony in September, Father Lush Gjergji can hardly contain his excitement. Casually clad in shirtsleeves and clerical collar, the diminutive but ebullient priest eagerly hands me an English translation of one of his many books about Mother Teresa.
Gjergji is something of an expert on the region’s most famous Catholic, who was born in Skopje, now the capital of Macedonia, when it was still a part of the Kosovo province of the Ottoman Empire. He met her more than 20 times — in Kolkata (then Calcutta), Kosovo and Albania — and accompanied her to Oslo when she was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize.
And so it’s only appropriate that Gjergji is the general vicar of a Catholic diocese dedicated to her memory. The cathedral is the first to have been built in the capital of Kosovo since the city was sacked by the Ottomans in the late 1600s.
An outsize Italianate building at the heart of Pristina’s concrete cityscape — whose consecration was attended by Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaçi, and an Albanian representative of the Vatican — the building is not just a religious monument; it’s also rich in political symbolism in a Muslim majority country. [read more...]
TWO CHRISTIAN BOOK TITLES BANNED IN RUSSIA
by Victoria Arnold: Forum 18 News Service
(29 Sep.) It appears that almost any negative portrayal of another religion or its adherents can lead to a text being declared "extremist", regardless of whether this is accompanied by the incitement of violence or discrimination.
Bryansk Region Military Prosecutor's Office requested that all copies of Hearts of Fire: Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Costly Faith and Islam: a look beneath the mask be outlawed as extremist. Judge Viktor Rukhmakov of Sevsk District Court upheld the two separate suits on 12 April 2016, and the Justice Ministry added both titles to the Federal List on 20 April 2017.
According to the written verdicts, seen by Forum 18, the FSB border service had seized the two books "as part of a planned operation" from two men travelling to Russia from Ukraine, after being tipped off by customs officials who had seen "signs of incitement to extremist activity on religious grounds" in the texts. Igor Balashov and Venyamin Yakubovsky, from whom the books were confiscated, do not appear to have been prosecuted on any administrative charge. It is unclear how many copies of the book the FSB seized.
The books were subjected to psychological and linguistic analysis by the Justice Ministry's Bryansk Laboratory of Judicial Expertise. According to both verdicts, "experts" found them to contain "a combination of linguistic and psychological signs of the incitement of religious enmity and hatred." The verdicts give no further details of the "expert analysis" and quote no parts of the texts which were deemed "extremist." No representative of the authors, publishers, or owners of the books appear to have been present in court. [read more...]
(3 Oct.) "We find ourselves this day filled with compassion for the families of the victims who perished in the worst massacre of human life in the history of our nation. We find within ourselves this day an insatiable desire to pray for those victims, that our Lord will grant them a place of rest where the Light of His Countenance shines upon them as they await the great and final judgment.
"And oddly, we find ourselves this day in a state of shock that such a horrific attack can take place once again without any warning, without any obvious reason and without anyone who will really be capable of explaining. We will hear theory after conjecture, after just plain guesswork on the part of pundit after pundit after pundit. We will, however, probably never fully comprehend why such a horror as this Las Vegas attack can happen or how man can be so cruel to man," reads the statement issued by bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States of America.
They addressed the faithful with the appeal about prayer. "We need this day, dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, to fall down on our knees before that God of Love. We must pray fervently that the Lord will “deliver us from all blindness, forgetfulness, despondency and all hardened insensitivity”
It is by this common prayer on the part of each and every one of us – each and every day or even more than once a day – that the terrorism of this modern age can be crushed. Bigger and better weapons of mass destruction, huge numbers of them, have failed to crush it. The power of faith and trust, however, is beyond and above the power of those man-made weapons.
The God of Love, a God Who will not allow us to completely destroy His Creation or ourselves, can and will respond to our prayers – prayers, which we must not consider to be strictly the domain of Orthodox Christians, but those of all mankind. Faith and trust in that God, dearly beloved brothers and sisters, will bring His intervention and healing to a suffering world. [read more...]
RUSSIA: SOCIALISM, THE OPIATE OF GODLESS PEOPLE
from: Daily Caller
(5 Oct.) Socialism begins with a premise that is antithetical to Christianity: there is no God. Fyodor Dostoevsky observed this connection between atheism and socialism long ago: "Socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism today, the question of the Tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to Heaven from earth, but to set up Heaven on earth."
In other words, socialism is much more than an economic or political question. It is a spiritual question if only because it denies the very existence of the spiritual. A former socialist revolutionary, Dostoevsky knew his subject well. Upon his conversion to Christianity, he did more than renounce his atheism; he renounced socialism, because it was, in his view, atheism masquerading as political philosophy.
In his great novels Demons (also known as The Possessed) and The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky predicted that if Russia’s communists (think, socialists) ever gained control of the levers of power, it would lead to the expulsion of Christianity from public life, and with it, the annihilation of morality, the rise of totalitarianism, and the proliferation of state-sponsored genocide. He would prove prophetic.
[T]here are many who confuse socialism with Christianity. Such people usually have only a cursory understanding of what one or the other really is. Typically, this is predicated on the erroneous notion that Christianity’s chief purpose is in meeting physical needs. This is not so. Christianity’s main object is the regeneration and development of the soul. That Christianity and socialism are often confused, however, has not escaped the attention of socialists who have frequently sought to capitalize on the misunderstanding. As for "Christian Socialism," it is only a name. One may be a Christian or he may be a socialist; but he can no more be a Christian and a socialist than he can be both a Yankees and a Red Sox fan. At least, he cannot be simultaneously faithful to each party.
Indeed, far from being compatible with Christianity, socialist regimes have historically sought the expulsion of Christianity from public life. Christianity, by its very nature, is subversive insofar as it teaches that there is a God whose laws supersede those of man — any man. [T]his goes far to explain the antipathy of communist and fascist regimes to Christianity. They well understand that Christians do not recognize the power of the state as absolute. Moreover, where temporal law and eternal law are in conflict, the Christian may, in good conscience, violate the former while clinging to the latter. [read more...]
A GODLESS SOCIETY WILL NOT CONQUER EXTREMISM, SAYS VATICAN REPRESENTATIVE IN RUSSIA
(6 Oct.) The Roman Catholic Church believes that the religious factor is necessary in fighting terrorism and extremism. "It's impossible to conquer fundamentalism, extremism and violence while betting on secularism and ignoring religion,"Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's apostolic nuncio to Russia, said at a meeting of the committee of representatives of Orthodox Churches in the European Union in Moscow. The Vatican representative said that the responsibility of members of religious communities needed to "save of extremist ideas in religion" increases in this situation.
Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the external church liaison of the Moscow Patriarchate, said that the Russian church "gives special attention to the development of dialogue with traditional religious communities and is actively working in the Russian Inter-Religious Council to counter the terrorist threat and thanked local churches for supporting the canonical Orthodox Church which is being persecuted in Ukraine," saying he hopes that they will continue supporting it. [read more...]
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SENDS LETTER TO TILLERSON OVER RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT
from: Sputnik News
(29 Sep.) The Moscow Patriarchate has sent a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with the regard to the recently published report of the State Department suggesting that religious minorities faced discrimination in Russia, the deputy chairman of the Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations (DECR) said Friday.
"The letter has been sent to the US Embassy to hand over to the addressee," archimandrite Filaret said, stressing that it was not an open letter. According to Filaret, the department's website would publish the main arguments of the Russian Orthodox Church, in connection to the report, after the letter has been received.
Dmitry Safonov, the head of the sector for interreligious contacts in DECR, said Tuesday that the Russian Orthodox Church was preparing the letter in connection with the report, which it consideres "quite subjective and obviously biased."
According to Safonov, the paper did not adequately report on the problems of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), a self-governing branch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Safonov said that the document "does not mention multiple cases of churches set on fire, priests beaten up and the draft laws that are being prepared for adoption in Ukraine, completely discriminatory toward all religious groups that do not have centers in Ukraine." [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
DOES MODERNIZATION MEAN SECULARIZATION?
from Ukrainian Weekly
THE POSITION OF UKRAINE’S PROTESTANTS IS DIFFERENT THAN RUSSIA'S
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
REFORMATION AND MODERN WORLD DISCUSSED AT ODESSA INTERFAITH CONFERENCE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
COMPASSION MINISTRIES HELP FAMILIES IN NEED
from Mission Network News
LUKASHENKO SUGGESTS ORGANIZING MEETING BETWEEN PATRIARCH KIRILL, POPE IN MINSK
DISPUTES WITHIN RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ACTIVIST COMMUNITY
from RIA Novosti
PRIMATE OF RUSSIAN CHURCH CELEBRATES CONSECRATION OF DORMITION CATHEDRAL IN TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
ZULFIYA’S STORY: RESCUED FROM DRUG ADDICTION
from Mission Eurasia
BACK FROM THE OTHER WORLD: VASILY LAZAREV DIED, SAW CHRIST AND CAME BACK TO LIFE
from Orthodox Christianity
MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE’S FAILURES HAVE OPENED WAY FOR ORTHODOX RADICALISM
from Eurasia Review
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH TAKES AIM AT FILM ABOUT LAST TSAR'S AFFAIR
from Hollywood Reporter
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
This issue is highlighting the consequences of secular humanism for society: when a man has no spiritual foundation, he can resort to mass murder as easily as eating a pizza. Our news articles BISHOPS OF THE UOC OF THE USA PRAY FOR THE VICTIMS IN LAS VEGAS and RUSSIA: SOCIALISM, THE OPIATE OF GODLESS PEOPLE as well as A GODLESS SOCIETY WILL NOT CONQUER EXTREMISM, SAYS VATICAN REPRESENTATIVE IN RUSSIA and our headline DOES MODERNIZATION MEAN SECULARIZATION? all point to the moral morass modern society finds itself in.
Every society needs to have an anchor, a central belief or ideology that provides its raison d'etre, its reason for existing. When the idea of modern democracy was introduced a few hundred years ago, Western society held a basically Christian worldview. But the democratic ideal opened the door to other belief systems: very soon sub-Christian beliefs such as Deism, Christian Science, Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses sprouted up that denied basic Christian doctrines. These were allowed to spread in our "tolerant democratic" society.
Then came Darwinism and Scientism, the ideas that man has no need of God or gods because random chance and human knowledge of the material universe can supposedly explain everything. However, as I wrote in my last essay "Dark" or Unseen Matter and Energy, only a very tiny portion, 0.4% to be exact, of the universe is luminous matter that we can comprehend. The other 99.6% of the universe is unseen and unknowable by us humans.
But just as a multi-polar world in politics does not last long, so also a multi-polar "tolerant" mix of mutually contradictory belief systems cannot last long. Sooner or later one belief system will become the dominant center, the anchor. We have moved from a basically Christian to a sub-Christian to a post-Christian now to an anti-Christian core of politically correct beliefs and behaviors.
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Our Post-Christian Society
This article, "Our Post-Christian Society," appeared on 14 December, 2014, with the subtitle "Christianity, post-Christianity, and the future of the West" on the National Review website. The topic was perhaps somewhat prescient because much of what it told was coming has now come to be; in fact, we could say that we have now moved to an anti-Christian society. The author, John O'Sullivan, writes:
"It is often said that we live in a post-Christian society. That is true, but its meaning is generally misunderstood. A post-Christian society is not merely a society in which agnosticism or atheism is the prevailing fundamental belief. It is a society rooted in the history, culture, and practices of Christianity but in which the religious beliefs of Christianity have been either rejected or, worse, forgotten.
"In other words a post-Christian society is a particular sort of Christian society. It is quite different, for instance, from a post-Muslim or a post-Buddhist society (if we can imagine such things). At an emotional level, its Christian character explains why many agnostics and atheists nonetheless find Christian hymns suitable and comforting at occasions such as funerals and weddings.
"Intellectually, its dormant Christian beliefs — notably those about the nature of Man — underpin our ideas on politics and foreign policy, as for instance on human rights. Even the Enlightenment — which strong secularists like to cite as the foundation of Western liberal polities — is an extension of Christianity as much as a rejection of it. In short, though much of what Christianity taught is forgotten, even unknown, by modern Europeans and Americans, they nonetheless act on its teachings every day.
"But there are consequences to forgetting truths. One consequence is that while we instinctively want to preserve the morals and manners of the Christian tradition, we cannot quite explain or defend them intellectually. So we find ourselves seeking more contemporary (i.e., in practice, secular) reasons for preserving them or, when they decay completely, inventing regulations to mimic them. When courtesy is abandoned, we invent speech codes, which are blunter in their impact and repress legitimate disagreement along with insults. When female sexual modesty and male sexual restraint are discredited as puritanical, we draw up contractual arrangements to ensure that any sexual contact is voluntary on both sides."
I encourage you to read the whole article. We are repeating the cycle of Prosperity-Complacency-Corruption that occurred over and over with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament:
"You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you. Make certain that you do not forget the LORD your God; do not fail to obey any of his laws that I am giving you today. When you have all you want to eat and have built good houses to live in and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; be sure that you do not become proud and forget the LORD your God who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. ...So then, you must never think that you have made yourselves wealthy by your own power and strength. Remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to create wealth. He does this because he is still faithful today to the covenant that he made with your ancestors." (Deut. 8:10-14, 17-18)
Even with the warning "be sure that you do not become proud and forget the LORD," the Israelites did exactly that: time and again they fell into idolatry and depravity, borrowing pagan customs from their pagan neighbor nations. We too are prone to repeat the same cycle of Prosperity-Complacency-Corruption, thinking we have it made with our prosperity, only to fall into complacency by forgetting that it is God Who gave us the ability to create this wealth. Then we turn away from God and end up in the corruption of depravity that brings us to the edge of destruction. Lastly, like the Israelites, we call out to God for help, He comes to the rescue, and we begin the cycle all over again.
How can we break out of this cycle? Israel tried to escape the domination from Assyria to the north by forging an alliance with Egypt to the south, but that effort failed. Fleeing from the demon you know to the demon you don't know just doesn't work. The solution is to go back to the basics, to return to the fundamentals of our Christian faith. What are they?
God is a caring Father Who loves the whole world: He is not an angry demi-god who hates you and has a horrible plan for your life. We reject the idea of a god who would damn 95% of humanity to burn in hell forever. God loves all of humankind so much that He sent His only-begotten Son so that anyone and everyone who believes in and receives Him will have eternal life.
We believe that God's Son is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One promised to Israel, born of the Virgin Mary. He lived an exemplary life doing good: healing the sick, feeding the poor, driving out demons, teaching His followers how to do the same... and then the authorities, the jealous powers-that-be, arrested and executed Him by the cruelest method of torture known to man: crucifixion.
We believe that Jesus Christ then rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent us the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit now fills us with divine power to purify us from our depravity and transform us into the likeness of the glorified Christ.
We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins that joins us into the Body of Christ on earth, the Church. We believe that by partaking of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ mystically enter into us and we into Him - we regularly renew our participation in the Body of Christ. By this we are members of one family, we vow to love one another and build up each other in the faith and in practical good works.
These are the basic Christian truths that undergird Western civilization. We need to forge alliances not with the latest passing political fad; rather, with those who can honestly confess the above truths as found in the Nicene Creed, the only statement of faith that is accepted by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and most Evangelical Protestants.
This month marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther began by attempting to bring about reform within the Roman Catholic Church, not to lead a rebellion against it. Then he appealed to the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople with the plea that he was returning to the original Orthodox faith. After many centuries, the Roman Catholic Church is recognizing that many of Luther's complaints were legitimate. So it's time to stop fighting and to see what we agree on, instead of what we disagree about. This is how we can restore our post-Christian society and rebuild it on its foundational truths!
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Bob & Cheryl
Family values: "He who does not engage in propagation of the race is as though he had shed blood." - the Talmud