Rightism vs. Church Symbolism: In the End, Money Speaks


The Archbishop of America’s dubious attendance at a baptism on the Athens Riviera last month caused furor. The problem had nothing to do with the children, but rather with their parents – a homosexual couple. The Archbishop’s withholding of this information related to the high-profile event drew the wrath of the local Metropolitan, and ultimately the Church of Greece formally protested to the Ecumenical Patriarchate against his actions.

Besides the ecclesiastical ramifications, the issue is also becoming political, with the New York branch of Greece’s main opposition party SYRIZA seizing the opportunity to promote its positions on rightism by issuing a statement supporting Archbishop Elpidophoros and accusing all those who s oppose him to live … by “means of darkness”. The question has also made the rounds on social networks.

It goes without saying that every child has the right to be baptized into the Orthodox Christian faith – even if his parents are heterodox, as long as his godparents meet the conditions set by the Church and undertake the spiritual education of their godchild. .

Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church has a clear position regarding homosexuality. This position is rooted in express references found in Holy Scripture – both the Old and New Testaments. What exactly are the opponents of these positions suggesting? for the Bible to be rewritten?

In fact, over the years, various circles that have sometimes been “offended” by references in Scripture have proposed just that! Also, there are many translations that modify the content of the scriptures as they see fit. However, all of this is clearly outside the Orthodox tradition and found Hellenism strongly opposed to changes being imposed to serve other agendas.

Even if the Church were to exercise “economy” – grant dispensation – and overlook the sexual preferences of interested parties, or other life choices that are clearly at odds with its ethos, this would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis in depending on the intentions of those involved. In this case, the impression given by the Chicago socialites did not seem to be that they simply wanted to baptize children in their ancestral homeland, but that they wanted to make the sacrament a social event, through which they could also make a statement. And this is where the Archbishop should have moved more cautiously.

The Church has a particular ethic and expresses it through symbolism. The famous author Alexandros Papadiamantis writes that “the Church has symbolism and symbolism speaks louder than rhetoric”. For example, although the Church provides for a second or third marriage, the celebration of the rite changes, so that it can quietly state its position regarding relationships as a “feat” and mean divorce as a last resort.

The Church places limits and limitations on certain things to manifest its philosophy. She does not dismiss anyone, but likewise, she never ceases to call on all to repent and to trace, in her unique way, the road on which she chooses to lead her children. She backs off to the point she finds acceptable, without denying herself, which in turn would leave her powerless to help her children in case the path they have chosen, outside of her guidelines, leads them to a dead end.

Bishop Elpidophoros’ decision to participate in this baptism/social event goes precisely against this symbolism and is a mistake. In doing so, he seems to place his own prerogative, or perhaps the prerogative of his (very wealthy) friends, above the perspectives of church tradition. And that is quite incoherent for someone who places so much importance on the rubrics of the Mother Church in Constantinople and who has tried to impose them down to the smallest detail from the first moment of his ascension to the archbishopric of ‘America.

The second and equally important objection to his presence at this baptism involves not so much the sexual preference of the parents as their financial situation. Let’s be honest, a poor gay couple without social and economic status would ever have the chance to get a prelate of archbishop status to come and baptize their child – especially amid all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the sacrament. Unfortunately, the New York branch of SYRIZA has chosen to ignore this reality. In their haste to proclaim the Archbishop of America a poster child for rightism, they ignore the real inequality here – the economic one!

In the past, the Church has used the same symbolism to combat financial inequality by limiting the number of divine liturgies a single priest can celebrate to one daily, to avoid dividing the congregation into rich and poor parishioners. . The common cup used for Holy Communion also reinforces the idea of ​​equality for all who participate; something that is unfortunately challenged by the introduction of the new practice of distributing Holy Communion using multiple spoons in the United States during the pandemic (and which unfortunately still continues today in some parishes, despite synodal decision to the contrary).

It is understandable that the Archbishop’s media team is trying to gloss over the negative fallout from his participation in a baptism that should have been performed quietly and discreetly, away from the public spotlight, as it concerns innocent children and not the ego or political views of their guardians and extended family; however, their actions are in vain and only make matters worse. A recent article written by an adviser to the Archbishop in RNS, containing strong criticism against the Church of Greece, is sure to add fuel to the fire and threaten relations between Constantinople and Athens.

It is obvious that in the case of this baptism, there is a double standard at play which has much more to do with money than with ideology. This is why the statement issued by SYRIZA and the recent RNS article do not help either the Church or the Diaspora. In fact, if anything, it’s reactionary. If SYRIZA is really interested in the affairs of the Church and does not wish to withdraw because of the well-known anticlericalism of some of its members, as well as the misunderstanding of the Orthodox Church by the dogmatic left, which leads many of them to conflate him with Western Christian denominations, that he at least tries to show respect and not hijack the Church to opportunistically promote his party platform. Otherwise, he seems foolish and denies himself, obsessing over rights and the “dark ages”, while ignoring the elephant in the room – money; a lot!

Unless, despite its identification as a left-wing party, it has a penchant for capitalist pockets… Of course, at present, anything goes. If that’s what excites them…

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