We just received this letter from our Bishops, calling for prayer for justice and peace tomorrow Wednesday June 3 at Noon EDT. It is important enough that I’m sending it out quickly. I’d suggest that you offer this short prayer from the Ancient Faith Prayer Book:
For Times of Trouble
O Lord of hosts, be with us. For in times of distress we have no other help but You. O Lord of hosts, have mercy on us.
Assembly of Bishops’ Executive Committee Calls All to Prayer for Justice and Peace during Nationwide Civil Unrest
Monday, June 01, 2020
We, the members of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the U.S.A., express our strong concern and deep sorrow for the recent unrest throughout our beloved country.
We stand in unequivocal solidarity and peaceful protest with all those who condemn racism and inequality, which betray the spirit of democracy in our nation, i.e. “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.The unjust and unjustifiable murder of Mr. George Floyd, as well as so many before him, is deplorable as anti-Christian and immoral.
At the same time, we denounce all expressions of violence and revenge, including those despoiling and detracting from peaceful demonstrations. Peaceful marches of protest are a distinctive hallmark of American freedom and progress. “Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all … so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:17-18).
Violence is a horrible and tangible manifestation of the reign of sin in our world. It is expressed in many faces, all of which seek to deny the image and likeness of God in each human person, in whom God has placed an irreducible dignity and sacredness.
Thus, as Orthodox Hierarchs, we condemn all actions and words that promote hatred and racism, but also all acts of violence and destruction.
Moreover, in a gesture of collective appeal, on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT, we invite all clergy, faithful, and people of good will – of all traditions, faiths, and walks of life – to participate in a moment of silence and solidarity for all victims of racial violence followed by prayer for peace and reconciliation in this country.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, as we kneel, invoking the coming of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, let us offer up our prayers to our loving God for the victims of hatred and racism, to safeguard us all from such prejudice, and also vengeance and destruction, as well as preserve unity and peace in our country, our common home.
A Few Personal Comments
Suddenly we seem to be back in the 1960s again. I was there, and it wasn’t pretty.
Orthodox Christians should have a special concern for human rights. Throughout our history, our rights have often been denied – during the Great Persecution, by the Saracens, the Ottomans, the Communists, and many more.
“From one man [one blood] God made all the nations.” Acts 17:26 Both the Holy Scriptures and science tell us that all human beings spring from one source. We all share the same DNA, are brothers and sisters. In the ancient world there was plenty of injustice, but there was no such thing as injustice because of the color of peoples’ skin. However, in this country we still have much prejudice against African-Americans, lingering from the horrible centuries of black slavery. It is evil, always was and still is. Find me one thing in the Holy Scriptures or the Tradition of the Church that even begins to justify discrimination against black people.
Seventy years ago in small town Ohio my parents – and also my favorite teacher, a woman who grew up in rural Alabama in the 1920s – taught me that all human beings should be treated the same, no matter who they are. I’ve never forgotten.
In the one week since the horrific murder of one black man in Minneapolis, protests against racism have spread to over 350 American cities, as well as many places overseas. Why this sudden explosion of social unrest? Has it been an evil “plot” of some kind?
Have you ever suddenly exploded? Be honest, now. What caused it?
1 Once almost forty years ago my mother was quite ill and had no family nearby to care for her. We had everything ready to move her from Ohio to Cedarburg, where we could look after her. Then I got a call. She had passed out while driving, had a traffic accident, was in the hospital, and her move had to be postponed for quite a while. I loved my Mom so much. I wanted her to be near me. I was so upset with God and the universe and everybody that I was pacing around the house, about to boil over. I tried to turn on the stove. The knob wouldn’t work right. I exploded Boom! and ripped the knob off. But the knob wasn’t the issue. It had only set me off. (I told my wife it had fallen off. I lied.)
2 When I used to do marriage counseling (always taking into consideration my limited capabilities), sometimes I dealt with couples who had major issues. But what brought it to a head was often a lesser incident. “He didn’t take out the garbage again!” Boom! But garbage wasn’t the big issue. It was only the catalyst.
…if you get the point. Tensions because of injustice have been smoldering again in America for years and have got much worse recently, partly because of the results of the Virus, partly for other reasons. All that was needed was one spark at the right time and Boom!
Evil Cops? Evil Protesters?
Two more things, and then I’ll be gone.
1 I saw a couple of signs among protesters, “All Cops are Bad”. No! Most police are good people, and we should honor them and thank them for what they do for us. I feel sorry for our police. With the proliferation of guns in this country, let somebody twitch a little, and the policeman or woman is instantly afraid of being shot – and it’s understandable why they sometimes over-react. Pray for our police. However, there are also enough bad police to convince some people they’re all bad. Anglos like me do not know what it’s like to get followed and picked up (and on occasion murdered) for the “sin” of having dark skin. And what has happened in Minneapolis and also in many other places was not over-reaction. It was intentional.
2 Should all the protestors be treated like “thugs”? No! Most are peaceful people desperately seeking fair treatment. The thugs then move in after dark and create havoc, destroy and loot – and especially destroy shops and restaurants into which minority people have invested their whole lives. It’s tragic. Pray for them. Who are the thugs? We don’t know yet.
Last Sunday from home, I Live-Streamed and participated in Divine Liturgy at a Greek Orthodox Church in a Detroit suburb. The service concluded with a fervent plea from the Pastor to eliminate the plague of racism from our lives, and then he presided at a Trisagion Memorial for George Floyd, the man who was murdered. Good!
Pray God to erase this evil, this sin from us. I think very many of us Anglos, especially we older ones, still have it in us, no matter how hard we try. So try harder.