Saturday, January 21, 2006

Morality and the Family: New Developments

A judge in the state of Maryland struck down a Maryland law that limited marriage to the union of a man and a woman on the basis that it violates the equal protection clause of the Maryland Constitution. The law, enacted 33 years ago, is similar to laws adopted in a number of other states as well. The judge then issued an immediate stay to allow the decision to be appealed to the Court of Appeals, which is the highest court in Maryland. The lawsuit was filed in 2004 by the ACLU on behalf of 19 plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, the Family Pride Organization and other activist groups are planning to focus their efforts toward obtaining tickets to the national Easter egg roll at the White House, to showcase their campaign, "Love makes a Family," on behalf of gay and lesbian families. Tickets to the event, which are free, are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis two days before the event, which takes place this year on April 17th. According to the news report, some 16,000 tickets were distributed last year. Apparently, the Family Pride Organization is urging its supporters to "camp out" in line the day before ticket distribution begins; and now some conservative groups are pondering taking the same action.

Of the two situations noted above, the Easter egg event seems almost childish on the part of both the liberals and the conservatives. What's next: "Love Makes a Family" protests at Little League games? "Love Makes a Family" signs in the end zones at NFL games? Of course, love makes a family -- but there is more to it than that -- at least, from an Orthodox Christian point of view.

The decision by the Maryland judge -- admittedly, only one judge (so far) in the system -- has much greater implications. After all, the situation in Massachusetts was triggered initially in just about the same way, if I recall correctly. Among other things, the trend for state legislatures to adopt laws restricting the definition of marriage, only to have these laws struck down as unconstitutional, has led many states to amend their constitutions to place the restriction at that level; and to calls for doing the same in the U.S. Constitution.

Even as groups organize themselves on either side of the issue, it seems that public opinion is being swayed, and it is moving toward the more permissive position. After all, can anyone have imagined that courts would be legalizing same-sex unions as marriages by judicial order twenty years ago? For that matter, although this is admittedly a poor point of comparison, when the 1999 movie "Wild Wild West" first aired on television, the line spoken at one point by Will Smith (starts with a "d"; rhymes with "ham"...) was bleeped; but not today. When that line was used by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler at the end of 1939's "Gone with the Wind," what an uproar took place! ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a ...") It's a small piece of the puzzle; but it shows, I think, the movement of our culture from them until now in the more permissive direction. What once was shocking is now, all too sadly, routine...

Here's the point: The appeals being made by those who oppose the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages ultimately rest upon a Christian foundation; and, as that foundation loses its place in our culture, as it is eroded by the increasingly permissive morality of our culture, we will see the state part company with its heretofore Christian-derived position. Same-sex unions will be legally recognized as marriages; perhaps even in a generation, or less. It's a "brave new world" ahead for the faithful...

We must not lose heart; and we must not ever contemplate surrendering what we believe and practice. If the state chooses to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, and same-sex households as "families," we must continue to hold to the Truth that has been revealed to us.

But let us pray now that that day is long in coming...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Taking God into Space

"During Soviet days, religious celebrations in the city were forbidden. But as soon as Kazakhstan declared its independence, a small group of people at the spaceport petitioned the Russian Orthodox bishop of the nearby city of Akmolinsk to open a parish and send an ordained priest.

"The bishop consulted with church officials in Russia, and in June 1992 they sent Father Sergey to Baikonur. With the Russian space program nearly bankrupt, the situation wasn’t the easiest. The congregation grew rapidly, however, and soon there were too many attendees to fit into the small store during services.

"Easter 1994 marked a major turning point for the congregation, when about two thousand people crowded the street outside the makeshift church and city officials approved a live TV broadcast of the services."

(read the full story at

The newly-consecrated church building in the city of Baikonur (formerly known as "Leninsk") was open for services for the Nativity of our Lord, just ten days ago.

How is it possible that a congregation of 2,000 people could grow so quickly? How is it that they could raise the funds necessary to build a temple? After all, their priest was sent by a bishop of the MP.

Can any of us say that our congregation has 2,000 people? Does any congregation in our entity have that many people?

There will be some who will say, "Numbers aren't what is important." Numbers alone are not a good indicator one way or the other -- but something must be said for a people who had been denied an opportunity to express their faith to have responded in such a way when given the freedom to do so.

"Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." (Luke 3:8) And, no doubt, His own children from the stones of atheist Soviet Russia...

unworthy Priest John McCuen

Is This Happening in Your Town?

"While conservatives work to add a gay marriage ban to the state
Constitution, many Arizona cities are rolling out the welcome mat to
gay tourists, marketing the state as a cosmopolitan, tolerant place to

"Tempe is in the midst of a sophisticated campaign to lure gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender travelers. The Tempe Convention &
Visitors Bureau launched a Web portal for GLBT visitors on its Web
site, and the city plans to usher travel writers from gay publications
around town in the spring.

"It's not the only Valley municipality eyeing a slice of the estimated
$65 billion gay travel market."

(Read the full story at

While we are quick to pronounce judgment against those with whom we
share the Orthodox faith and way of life, the world around us is going
to hell -- and the realms of business and government are often leading
the way.

We are called to be salt and light. We are called to be messengers of
the Gospel to those who dwell in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
But we seem to be straining at gnats, while swallowing the camels of
the advancing immorality of the world around us...

Battle Lines are Being Drawn

"AN ISLAMIC campaign group has called for a Catholic primary school to
be based on the Muslim faith.

"The Campaign for Muslim Schools said 90 per cent of pupils at St
Albert's Primary, in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow, are Muslim,
yet children are having to take part in Catholic rituals like saying
the Lord's Prayer and attending mass."

"The call came just days after Scotland's most senior Catholic,
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, sparked controversy by stating that Scotland's
core faith was Christianity and that other faiths should recognise
they were 'living in Scotland as a Christian country'. A spokesman for
the Catholic Church in Scotland was not available for comment tonight."

(The full story is available at

This has implications for every Christian nation (including the USA);
especially given both the demographics involved, and the fact that the
fastest-growing religion in western Europe and North America is the
Islamic religion.

We probably all know the joke of the two Russians who meet on the
train, and begin comparing notes on their church and faith; and find,
at about the 17th element, that they finally disagree; at which point,
the one says to the other, "You're nothing but a filthy heretic!"

Our enemies aren't going to make the distinctions that are often made by those who are all too quick to say that such-and-such a group is not part of the Orthodox Church.

We can focus on what separates us; or we can focus on what we have in
common.... the Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox faith.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Christianity, Islam and Global Demographics

While some people are debating whether or not the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Patriarchate of Antioch, and who knows who else, are "legitimate" Orthodox Churches or heretic, schismatic, or just plain unsavory, the larger context of what is happening in the world could, just possibly, be passing by, unnoticed. There are developments taking place that could, on one level, render these questions moot. Take a moment to read the article by Mark Steyn, entitled, "It's the Demography, Stupid: The real reason the West is in danger of extinction."

Here are two quite relevant quotations:

And yet the world is utterly altered. Just to recap those bald statistics: In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30% to 15%. By 2000, they were the same: each had about 20%.

And by 2020?

So the world's people are a lot more Islamic than they were back then and a lot less "Western." Europe is significantly more Islamic, having taken in during that period some 20 million Muslims (officially)--or the equivalents of the populations of four European Union countries (Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia). Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West: In the U.K., more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week.
A decade and a half after victory in the Cold War and end-of-history triumphalism, the "what do you leave behind?" question is more urgent than most of us expected. "The West," as a concept, is dead, and the West, as a matter of demographic fact, is dying.

What will London--or Paris, or Amsterdam--be like in the mid-'30s? If European politicians make no serious attempt this decade to wean the populace off their unsustainable 35-hour weeks, retirement at 60, etc., then to keep the present level of pensions and health benefits the EU will need to import so many workers from North Africa and the Middle East that it will be well on its way to majority Muslim by 2035. As things stand, Muslims are already the primary source of population growth in English cities. Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?

"In the U.K., more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week." This should give us all pause; as should the author's noting that, in the most rapidly growing countries in Africa, where there is a Muslim majority, the legacy of democratic rule left behind by the Western colonial powers is rapidly being displaced by the imposition of shari'a law. Those who fail to note that the groups largely responsible for the violence and destruction (burning cars, among other things) in France a few weeks ago were, for the most part, largely young men of Muslim background ignore the shift of the population base in many of the European countries, such as Germany (as well as France).

Where will the jurisdictional questions be then?

This posting has been made at several Yahoo! discussion groups. I felt it should also be posted here. My thanks to Jamesofthenorthwest for calling the article by Mr. Steyn to my attention.

There is, Of Course, No God

Judge Orders Priest to Prove Existence of Christ

A judge in an Italian court has ordered a priest to prove that Jesus Christ was a real person. The case involves an action brought against Fr. Enrico Righi by Luigi Cascioli, a retired agronomist who once studied for the priesthood, but then became an atheist. Mr. Cascioli wrote a book entitled, The Fable of Christ, which Fr. Righi challenged in his parish newsletter for questioning the existence of our Lord Jesus Christ in history.

Cascioli asserts that there is no reliable evidence for the existence of Christ, apart from the Scriptures – and, therefore, no historical basis for the Christian faith. He adds that all other works cited for the existence of Christ, such as the histories of Josephus and Tacitus, were written “long after” the period in which Christ lived as an earthly man, and so are not reliable witnesses, but rather merely report hearsay evidence. He has also said that the Gospels themselves are full of inconsistencies – for example, they do not agree on the names of the 12 apostles. He claims that early Christian writers confused our Lord with someone he calls “John of Gamala,” supposedly an anti-Roman activist in first century Palestine.

Cascioli said that he would withdraw his legal action if Father Righi came up with irrefutable proof of Christ’s existence by the end of the month.

Where is the proof for the claim that “John of Gamala” was a real person, with a “real” basis in history? It’s a wonder – and another bit of evidence of the hatred that exists against our Lord Jesus Christ to this day – that the judge only ordered proof of His existence. What about the proof of the existence of Moses, or Abraham? (But that would be anti-Semitic!) What about proving the existence of Lao Tze, or Gautama Buddha? Did Mohammed really exist? Prove it!

And how, one wonders, will Cascioli or Judge Gaetano Mautone, prove their existence 100 years from now? Or 2000 years from now? Assuming, of course, anyone (beyond their families and friends) cared to even ask…