The five poems of Lamentations are some of the most graphic and evocative passages in the Old Testament, which seem to raise more questions than they answer. Who wrote it? When? Why? Even these are disputed, although it is commonly agreed that the event described is the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586BCE.1 Beyond these are deeper questions: How can such suffering be tolerated? How can a just God allow it? These are the real issues at stake in a book that is not only about the fall of a city, but about the privileges and consequences of a covenantal relationship with YHWH God.
In his commentary, Provan asserts, "Perhaps the most immediately noticeable feature of the poems in the book of Lamentations ... is their alphabetic nature."2 However, surely the most immediately noticeable feature is the pain.3 Written as laments,4 they are filled with suffering of every kind: grief, despair, abandonment, guilt, desolation, anger. The descriptions of torment and starvation are horrifyingly vivid, and the need to explain what has happened leaps off the page. Nevertheless,
Provan is correct in the sense that the first step towards understanding these laments is to examine their acrostic composition.
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1. For example, see Delbert R. Hillers, Lamentations: A New Translation with Introduction and
Commentary (New Haven: First Yale University Press, 2009), 9-10; or David M. Carr, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible (Chichester: Blackwell Publishing, 2010), 171. One notable exception is Iain Provan, who insists that insufficient information exists to form any conclusion. Iain Provan, The New Century Bible Commentary: Lamentations (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 11-15.
2. Provan, Lamentations, 4.
3. Provan's assertion specifically refers to readers of the Hebrew text, but the same point stands.
4. Tremper Longman III and Raymond B Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nottingham:
Inter-Varsity Press, 2007), 345.
The question of how to relate to society around us has been an enduring challenge for the Church; Docetism and exclusivism have been common postures. It is difficult it seems to relate to the world as God did in loving the world so much that he intervened with sacrificial love. Of course as human beings we are limited in our creaturely capacity to establish the absolute truth of life around us because we are ourselves a part of that very reality, its environment, culture, language, and dominant thought forms that inform our actions. Especially impressionable are our earliest, years and the mental constructions (schemata) learned in our early family life and in our community of origin. It is a mistake to think that as an adult we can objectively, quickly, transcend the truth of our life and its social formation influenced by the powers that be in our lives simply from a literal read of scripture. We read the scriptures through lens of our subjectivities. With contemplative perception and sensitivity to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we humbly progress and develop insight into our schematic life of developmental years and understand the biases, twists, and turns of our own cosmology to the extent that we can. One challenge is that of understanding the truth of Justice, of its “worldliness” and of its eternal goodness. In our world of change and generational disconnects, each generation again will need to reflect on accepted public truths, internalize and take ownership of its own worldview; to be world affirming and yet not conformed to this world, specifically in terms of doing justice.
Reciprocity and suffering
Probably most of us learned as children, and children learn what they live, that bad behaviour is reciprocated with punishment, and if you are “good,” you might get rewarded…”one good deed deserves another,” It is said. Themes of social (social exchange theory)l and juridical reciprocity play out through life in our culture and in the forms institutional justice has taken. Justice as reciprocity is virtually wired into our genes. “That’s just the way it is”, I was told when young, “don’t ask so many questions.” Prisoners will easily confess as truism, “You do the crime, you do the time.” It has become to be perceived as a universal law, as gospel truth. The world universally manifests a dominant belief in justice as reciprocity and that this reciprocity code is God’s design for justice in this life. Modern actuarial, consumerist, models of life, see public justice as reciprocity primarily through primitive levels of moral development as well as reciprocity in mathematical terms of simply “what’s in it for me In terms of risk.”
Increasingly, my experience in life, with a close eye on God’s revelation, gave the lie to the assumption that this is a just world created by God to be governed by the code of reciprocity. Bad things do happen to good people, and often the evil and powerful flourish in this world.
THE OLD TESTAMENT IS ABOUT YOU
(Series on www.vladikasblog.com)
by Archbishop Lazar
The Story of Jonah:
Dare we hate those whom God loves?
The story of Jonah presents a quandary. The history of Nineveh and the Assyrians is well known and documented. The Assyrians left their own records and the nations around them had much to say of them. They were hated by all and proud of it.
Nineveh, however, never accepted the God of Israel and certainly never repented "in sackcloth and ashes." So what is the story of Jonah about?
This story unfolds at a time when Judah and Israel had become particularist. They were turned in on themselves and not even attempting to engage other nations with the worship of the true and living God. Indeed, the population of the two kingdoms had not been fully converted and they were much in need of repentance.
As the story opens, God has commanded Jonah the son of Amittai to go up to the great city of Nineveh and preach repentance to them. Remember that Nineveh was the capital of the savage and brutal Assyrian kingdom. Jonah does not want to go. Instead, he boards a ship sailing to Tarshish (Spain). In the ancient world, Tarshish, at the far end of the Mediterranean Sea, was at "the other end of the earth." Was Jonah afraid, or just filled with hatred of the Assyrians? Perhaps both.
We all know the story. Jonah is cast overboard and swallowed by a "great fish." He is carried back to Palestine and regurgitated by the fish on the third day. Thereupon, he yields and goes up to Nineveh. He suffers several things largely because of his attitude. It appears to us that Jonah did not want Nineveh to repent, but rather wanted them to be punished for their beastly brutality. Nevertheless, the city does repent.
We said before, we know that the Assyrians never accepted the God of Israel, and never showed any signs of repentance. So what was the story about? Just this: God commanded Jonah to go to the most hated people on the face of the earth and tell them that God loves them, and will receive them with an open heart if they will but turn to Him.
Is this not a prophecy about the Christ, the Messiah? Is this not also a "sign of the prophet Jonah," along with his third day "resurrection" from the great fish? Does not Christ send his disciples to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel, baptising them in the name of the Godhead?
What about us? What does this story have to say to each of us? Simply this: we are prone to want to see our enemies suffer and be punished. God, on the other hand, "desires not the death of sinners, but that they should turn from their sins and live." Ultimately, the teaching is simple. The person that we hate is someone that our Master loves and shed His blood for.
Whoever has ears, let him hear.
A screed is a lengthy bit of writing that most readers generally find tedious. And tendentious. But today this has become a common genre among evangelicals of a certain tribe who are keen to shore up Christian support for the state of Israel at all costs. John Hagee is joining voices with Glenn Beck, and a host of evangelical bloggers who might benefit from a graduate-level course in theology or a refresher on the current political scene has joined in.
But today they are raising a new alarm: Evangelicalism’s historic support for Israel is slipping. This is such a concern that they’ve seen fit to name names and condemn institutions that apparently are contributing to this slippage. The well-known Willow Creek Community Church is on their list. But so are World Vision, Youth With a Mission (YWAM), the Mennonite Central Committee, the Telos Group in Washington, DC, Sojourners and Relevant magazines, Eastern University (Philadelphia), and my own Wheaton College (Chicago). And that’s just the beginning. Popular conferences such as Catalyst and Q are also indicted, not to mention Christian groups like Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.
Anyone who simply raises troubling questions about Israel’s 47-year military occupation of millions of Palestinians (including many Palestinian Christians) is suddenly labeled “anti-Israel” or in some cases “anti-Semitic.” And their institutions are condemned in a convenient gesture of collective incrimination. Consider the case of Tom Getman of Washington, DC, an evangelical who was a legislative aide to the late Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR). Getman has worked tirelessly for the cause of justice for Israel/Palestine for decades. But you can’t be the country director of World Vision in Israel/Palestine, see what the Israeli occupation is really doing, and not ask tough questions.
So what do we know?
First, it is clear that a robust community of evangelicals is firmly and inflexibly in support of the state of Israel. This is easy to demonstrate simply through polling in the last 12 years. In 2006 the Pew Forum found that 70 percent of white evangelicals agreed with the statement, “Israel was given by God to the Jews.” In 2013 that same question yielded 82 percent agreement. In 2005 the forum asked, “Has Israel fulfilled Biblical Prophecy?” Sixty-three percent said yes. In July thousands of evangelicals gathered in Washington, DC for the annual summit of Christians United For Israel (CUFI). Speakers include pastors, senators, and yes, Binyamin Netanyahu. In the words of one of my students now home for the summer: “I struggle to discuss theology with my family members who grew up and still reside in a very conservative town. I have tried to discuss Israel-Palestine with them but it’s like talking to a brick wall.”
I hear dozens of variations of those sentences from people all over the U.S.
Originally published in the UFV Cascade -- by Christopher DeMarcus (The Cascade)
Dart’s book Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism was published on the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, a moment in time that also marked a distinct change in Canadian and American relations: the 1962 election in Canada was highly influenced by the Kennedy administration, and the end result was further assimilation of Canada into the American empire.
Q: Why have you done a book about the red tory tradition?
RD: In one sense there is a counter to cultural amnesia in my work. I’m putting the historical pieces of the drama back together again, replaying the play. I was contacted by a press in Quebec and asked to cobble together a variety of essays that tell the red tory tale.
Q: In the manifesto section of the book you lay out an ideal political ideology for the problems we face in modernity. Why don’t more people embrace red toryism as a political view?
RD: I tried to condense the ideas in the manifesto because I’m often asked, “can you compress what this tradition is all about?” In doing a manifesto I’m thinning out a very complex tradition by giving people a teaser, an entranceway in.
The dominance of the blue tories and the cultural amnesia of the past has resulted in the red tory tradition being scattered like a broken Ming vase. Parties pick up elements of it; the Greens have the ecological and environmental elements.
If you read high English romantics like Wordsworth, Coleridge, or Southey, they were at the forefront of ecology and they were all high tories. As poet laureates of England, they had a great impact on Canadian thought. But when people study those poets they often only study their literary side, not the political.
In recent months, I have been receiving more and more inquiries from friends expressing interest in joining the Orthodox Church. One factor drawing them is increased exposure to the way Orthodox theology represents God as more compassionate and restorative than they had previously understood. So too, they find the Orthodox account of the Cross to be very healing, especially seeing how the God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself through self-giving love. Further, they've grown interested in the openness of some of the early church fathers to alternative interpretations of divine judgment such that eternal conscious torment is not a required dogma. Some find the combination of mysterious and tactile worship aesthetically alluring. The cool beards also contribute. And of course, when a credible witness seems to be flourishing in that context, post-evangelicals think of Orthodoxy as a potential option. Hence the interest among those who've watched my journey. I'm glad for this.
So if you're thinking of joining the Orthodox Church, here are some suggestions that others gave me which may help you avoid wasted time, frustration or disappointment. These are gleaned from hierarchs, priests, teachers and lay people who've guided others along. There's a healthy order that benefited me greatly.
That's right. We're not in a rush to sign up members (especially from other churches) or join the church growth movement. There is no rush. There is no pressure. If you're meant to become part of the Orthodox Church, God will draw you along. It's better to let God ripen you for the move until you feel you'll 'go to seed' if you wait any longer. But many stages precede that decision.
If you've visited an Orthodox service, that's excellent. But it's more important initially to befriend an Orthodox priest who is willing to walk you through the endless 'what about this?' questions that you certainly should have. This relationship will be vital because by the time you're chrismated, you'll want to love and trust this person as your spiritual father and shepherd. If your priest is hospitable to you, patient with you and can provide answers to your questions that satisfy, then you're on your way. From his point of view, this may be the beginning of your catechism ... not in some stiff kind of discipleship course, but over coffee chats and prayer retreats and through whatever reading he recommends.
This period of investigation is not the time to set aside your struggles with elements of Orthodoxy you resist.
Definition: MASHUP (n.) -- a musical track comprising the vocals of one recording placed over the instrumental backing of another.
I love mashups. The definition above tells you what they are, but doesn't tell you what they do, which is to say, how they function. And how they function is often the funnest and most clever part. When a melody is very familiar, we will come to associate a message with the melody itself. If, then, someone does a mashup with lyrics from a song that carries a very different message, the incongruity can be very striking. The combination then acts ironically or satirically to provoke thought, to drive home an inspiring message or even provide prophetic-social commentary. When you add video to the mix, the effect is amplified even further.
Allow me to give you two examples that are not only ingenious but also quite moving. After these examples, I want to introduce you to the oldest known mashup in history (thanks to Dr. Matt Lynch for directing me to it). But please walk with me through the two modern samples first, because each carries its own forceful point.
Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun
Well, there is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I'm one.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see.
Tears came as I saw that prodigal, stooped in shame, returning home to a father -- God -- to receive grace rather than condemnation, hospitality rather than punishment. Where there was ruin, there was restoration. I knew the song and thought I knew about grace, but amplified by the original melody, the gospel truly felt ... AMAZING! This is the power of great mashup. And that particular arrangement has been a powerful combination in venues that increase the effect even more. For example, I read about the tragic death of a disreputable biker whose friends played this version at his funeral. Imagine a congregation of gnarly hog-riders in leather blubbering along without shame? Actually, I've seen it ... and it was a rare beauty!
If you'd like to pause here and listen to that arrangement, let me introduce you to 'The Blind Boys of Alabama,' who really nail it.
When I was first introduced to the idea of a liminal experience it was in the reading of a book by Richard Rohr. Admittedly, I had to look the word up in the dictionary, but truth be told, I do that a lot anyway.
The word liminal means a threshold and liminal experience means an experience that takes you to that threshold.
Having a liminal experience is to find your breaking point.
As of recently, my personal encounter with this would be doing the Ironman (an iron distance triathlon) in 2013. Between working full-time, traveling, having three kids, adopting our fourth child – a baby boy – and my wife working full time, it was a little bit crazy and at times pushed me and my family to the threshold. Said another way: we felt like we were going to fall apart at the seams; we found our breaking point.
In some church circles you hear the term “break through” a lot. More often than not, I think the cultural definition of this is: a deeper or higher level of personal relationship with God. It’s a longing to have God break through your circumstances and make changes. He is completely capable of this and the pursuit of this is worthy, for sure.
Because words set things in motion and have premium value in God’s economy, it’s important that when we are using the term “break through” we are grounded in the biblical prophetic tradition and in way of Jesus. Our definition and understanding often shape our expression, so “remembering” – getting back to the basics – is a vital component to discipleship and orthodoxy.
Eleven years ago, in response to the second Iraq war, my friend Brad Jersak created T-shirts with the logo pictured to the left. I bought one immediately and wore it proudly wherever I went. One time it even got me into a bit of trouble when I (stupidly) wore it while getting onto a plane. Lesson learned.
Once it began to show some wear, it became my workout shirt, my running shirt, my “under my hockey gear” shirt and finally my paint shirt this summer when I transformed the trim on our house from green to white.
Last night while transferring my clothes to a new armoire we inherited from my brother-in-law (we inherited a dog from him around this time last year, so who knows what next October will bring), I concluded it was finally time to retire the shirt for good. Too worn, too hole-y, and too covered with paint.
I have a hard time letting go of old clothes at the best of times, but this shirt is particularly difficult to part with. In fact, as I write this, I realize it’s still sitting downstairs in the garbage, and I’m more than a little tempted to pull it back out.
It seems a particularly inopportune time to throw it out, seeing as we’re back at it again in Iraq (and Syria), but perhaps this ode to an old shirt will prompt a few more people to ask the question it poses.
READ MORE FROM KEVIN MILLER at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hellbound/
News of jihadist brutalities in establishing an Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria has impacted me deeply. Beheadings of American and British prisoners, reports of violence against Kurds, Christians and even fellow Muslims with differing views is appalling and invites response. How do we respond to the current climate of terror and unrest in the Middle East that is in alignment with Jesus’ teaching and example of suffering, saving love?
Retired US Marine Corps General John R. Allen’s recent call to arms must be recognized as incompatible with Jesus’ way:
“The execution of James Foley is an act we should not forgive nor should we forget. It embodies and brings home to us all what this group represents. The Islamic State is an entity beyond the pale of humanity and it must be eradicated. If we delay now we will pay later.”
Many who value tolerance and peacemaking are at a loss as non-violent approaches appear impotent before those imposing a fundamentalist theocracy in the Middle East, and their military opponents led by the United States.
President Obama’s strategy to build a broad alliance to destroy the Islamic State enjoys broad support—especially since drones and bombing campaigns rather than ground troops are killing with reputed accuracy.
Yet these airstrikes are taking the lives of growing numbers of young men and women from many countries drawn to Islamic State in the prime of their lives—each one a beloved child of the God. This growing “human sacrifice” is empowering an escalation of hatred that will lead to far more death and destruction in the Middle East, Europe and beyond. Might we be on the verge of a Third World War? What might those who follow Jesus offer as an alternative approach to resisting violence on all sides?
When the chaotic and violent world tempts me to despair, Pascale’s Wager: Homelands of Heaven is a light in the darkness that revives my spirit.
Anthony Bartlett, Girardian theologian and hope-timist extraordinaire, is the author of this eloquent, riveting story of rebellion against conformity, compassion in the face of cruelty and hope in the midst of despair. In a future world that has been brought to the brink of destruction by global warming, life is sustained in a technologically-engineered frozen wasteland by a system of rigid order. Religion is a control mechanism, and dissent is forbidden and deadly. In this stifling atmosphere, Poll, an inquisitive troublemaker, and Cal, a perspicacious seeker, dare to pierce through the façade of the cultural myth that holds their tenuous society together. Pulling back the veil of lies incurs the wrath of the powers that be, but also tests the courage, resolve, and creativity of our two heroes in astonishing ways. Inspired by one-another, Poll and Cal are each thrust onto separate but parallel journeys of survival and self-discovery in which a kernel of faith is nourished and grows in accordance with their unique personalities. Amidst their perilous circumstances, each of our heroes push the limits of their potential, defying odds, encountering love in surprising places and people, and changing their worlds permanently and inexorably.
Editor's Note: Derek Vreeland serves at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri and is the author of Primal Creedo. Herein, Derek responds to Trevin Wax's critique of Richard Hays' book, The Moral Vision of the New Testament. Wax's critique can be viewed HERE.
Three responses to your three-point critique of Hays’ view on violence.
First, the application of Romans 13 into our modern American context is indeed complex. I agree with Hays that the church (since Constantine) has struggled with the sin of nationalism. American Christians (in general) have to acknowledge the idolatry of nationalism, repent of it, and begin to form an identity in Christ separate from our national identity. Once we define ourselves by Christ first and foremost, then we subordinate our love for the nation below our love for Christ. Some will see this as hate, but it is just a subordinate kind of love (see Matthew 14:26). Only within this critical distance of identity can we clearly apply 1 Corinthians 13. Yes God has given the sword to the State, but how would Jesus speak to the US Government, the pentagon, or the industrial military complex (the masters of war)? Would he not preach to them enemy love? Should the ruling authorities who are represented by the citizens they govern defeat the weak and innocent by thwarting evil-doers? Yes, of course. The question is how? How would Jesus instruct them? Would he instruct them in the ways of war or would he instruct them in ways of making peace using the utmost consideration for the loss of life including the life of the enemy? It seems to me he would instruct them in the latter or perhaps he would instruct them in some other way?
Second, where do we see the “righteous anger” of Jesus resulting in violent killing? We don’t. Jesus had the option of zealotry, the Maccabean-approach to embodying the kingdom of God, but he rejected it. When James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan (enemy) village, Jesus rebuked them. Indeed anytime Jesus was tempted by violence he refused it. The just war theory is based more in reason and experience, than a synthesis of New Testament ethics. A theological question that I find helpful in synthesizing NT ethics on the matter of violence is this: “Will there be war in the age to come?” Answer: no. Granted we live in the overlap of ages, but aren’t we (the church freed from nationalism) called to embody the values of the age to come? In this overlap of ages we understand that SOME acts of violent force will be necessary to thwart “evil-doers,” but shouldn’t the church be the voice of moral constraint, when the state wants use war-like tactics to thwart “evil-doers?” If God has given the sword into the hands of the State, then the church should be the voice of Jesus to Peter saying put away the sword? Yes the State has the metaphorical sword, but wouldn’t Jesus lead the State towards constraint? After all, according to Isaiah, in the rule of Messiah we will beat our swords into plowshares and learn war no more. The fullness of the kingdom of God is no sword, no war. So is Jesus leading humanity towards this kingdom-come, teaching us the ways of peace, or is Jesus teaching humanity how to use the weapons of war in order to kill?
Third, the self-giving love of God is in no way contrary to the justice of God, but what we mean by justice is to be interpreted by what we mean by love. God’s love is not the co-dependent kind of love allowing human beings to do whatever they want to do and saying, “It’s all ok.” God’s acts of judgment (both present and eschatological) flow from his love. God is not a mixture of 50% love and 50% anger/wrath/hate. God is 100% love. Indeed God cannot be perfectly loving and not hate evil, but does this hate of evil mean his judgment includes the violent killing of God’s enemies? Jesus didn’t say “Love your enemies *wink* *wink* because I am coming back to kill them.” He said “Love your enemies because in doing so you will be sons of God who is kind to evil-doers” (Luke 6:35-36). Kindness to evil-doers does not mean we allow them to perpetrate acts of violence. We do everything we can to stop them, using force when necessary, but not trying to kill them. Revelation shows us the reigning Christ who rules and judges not by slaying his enemies but by being slain. He judges by the words of his mouth not the violence of his hands. The sword in Revelation 19 is in his mouth; not in his hand. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead and there will be those who go into eternal punishment and those who go into eternal life, but again this act of judgment flows out of God’s love not the petty human emotion of anger we too often want to thrust upon him.
I realize these comments do not answer the heart of the question: “Is it ever God’s will for Christians to employ violence in defense of justice?” I suppose my answer would be far too complicated because “God’s will” and “violence” are too broad of categories for a concise answer.
What I would like to do is take a closer look at one of our most-used prayers, “O heavenly king,” giving special attention to the words, “cleanse us from all impurity.” But first please stand up for a moment and let’s say the “O heavenly king” prayer together, using the New Skete translation:
O heavenly king, consoler, spirit of truth, everywhere present and filling all things: treasury of blessings and giver of life, come dwell within us, and cleanse us of every stain, and save our souls, O good one.
Not many words — less than forty. This is one of the oldest Christian prayers. It’s a prayer especially associated with Pentecost — the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, on the Apostles — when at last Christ’s followers understood what they had witnessed and what Christ had prepared for them to do. It’s a prayer most Orthodox Christians know by heart, used in the home even in the shortest offices of morning and evening prayer. It’s also placed at the beginning of the Office of Oblation that precedes the Eucharistic Liturgy. We say and sing the words so often that they recite themselves. I am guessing that all of us who use the prayer have moments when one or another phrase hits us like an arrow shot into the center of our heart. And because it’s the prayer connected with every liturgy as well as morning and evening prayer, it is a prayer of prayers, a prayer that creates community.
The prayer does two things.
First it expresses the focus of all our prayers. It names names. In addressing the Holy Trinity, we are reminded that the Holy Trinity, the community of three Persons within the One God, is the focus and center of our lives. This is what our Christian lives are all about. This is a prayer that puts us all on the same page.
Second, it’s a fervent appeal that sums up all we are seeking. We want God to come and abide in us, to cleanse us from every impurity and to save our souls. It’s a prayer for a deep healing. We cannot cleanse ourselves or save our own souls, not without God’s help.
The first part can be broken down into three points: The first phrase — “O heavenly king, consoler, spirit of truth — answers the question: Who are we praying to? The second — “everywhere present and filling all things” — answers the question: where are you? The third — “treasury of blessings and giver of life” — answers the questions: what do you do?
The beginning of the prayer reminds us that we are not people lacking a ruler. We have a ruler — a heavenly king — to whom we are uniquely responsible and whose demands on us have absolute priority. God has given us — not laws, in the usual sense — but a few commandments.
For example there is the Sermon on the Mount. It opens with the Beatitudes, which the Russian Church refers to as “the commandments of blessedness.” The Beatitudes are in fact a very brief summary of the Gospel. Each Beatitude has to do with aspects of living a Paschal life — that is a life not shaped by death. One way of reading each Beatitude is to use the phrase “Risen from the dead” at the beginning of each verse — for example, “Risen from the dead are the poor in spirit.”
There is also the command to forgive, and not just once but seventy times seven. Even once is rarely easy.
I am an unworthy man, unworthy to be called an Orthodox Christian, not to speak of the priesthood, and I write, admittedly, from the comfort of my Mount Pleasant, SC, home. There is no Mount nearby, but it is, indeed, a pleasant seaside community on the East Coast of the United States.
As such, I ask myself: how to deal with ruthless, pitiless, pitiful souls who are so darkened that their life is spent taking the life of others—and worse, thinking that they are doing this at the direction of and with the blessing of God himself, with eternal reward?
Perhaps I will be criticized for my suggestion, sitting in my pleasant, mountless town, but we read recently that we must receive the Gospel as a child; and even a child will ask how could murder be returned by murder. Is violence—individual or large-scale—a possible Orthodox response?
What were the apostolic and post-apostolic, and later saint’s reactions to such vicious, vile, demonic actions?
How did the disciples respond to the beheading of John the Baptist, which we commemorated on August 29?
On the precipice of martyrdom, St Stephen, the Proto-martyr begged God to forgive his killers. Was there an apostolic uprising following that?
Hieromartyr Eutychius, disciple of St John the Theologian, was beheaded after starvation in prison, an attempt to burn him alive, and cruel beatings with iron rods…which were made to cease by his prayers. There is no account of retribution.