Essay / Literature

Final thoughts on articles in the "Word"

Antiochian Orthodox Church:”Please note: Articles expressing opinions of authors are accepted for publication as contributing to a process of discussion and are not necessarily the last, official word from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.”This seems to be a new disclaimer to the site. Why? A disclaimer is a good idea, but how open should publication in official Orthodox magazines be?I would argue that some things should not be open to discussion in some forums. The “Word” is a popular news and information magazine. It has the aura of an official publication. As a result, some discussions should not be had in it. Suppose some Orthodox become entranced with the craze for Kabbalah. He decides to send an article to the “Word” hoping to start a discussion about it. He points out that some historic Orthodox, including the famed late Victorian psychic/spiritualist D.D. Hume were Orthodox. Would the “Word” print such an article?I think not (thank God) on three grounds. First, Kabbalah seems incompatible with Orthodoxy. Almost anyone commenting on it has condemned it. The burden of proof on the writer seems insanely high, so high that it would have to start with a book just to open the discussion. Second, publishing such an article might cause scandal amongst the faithful. The “Word” is not an academic journal. It is full of news and popular level articles explaining the faith. Most of us are struggling to understand the concept of the Holy Trinity. We don’t have the time or training to delve into the arcane or improbable. Third, in an age awash in occult ideas such an article might lead to actual sin on the readers. The more nuanced the reasoning in the article, the more likely the spirit of our age is to push in bad ways. Satan is attacking the church in this area, so great care must be taken in seeming (even indirectly) to support this God-denying point of view. Church leaders including our beloved Metropolitan are right to worry about censorship. It is a tool that can be abused and is in fact easy to abuse. Tools that can be abused can also be used constructively. Censorship is not always bad. Our society, the freest that has ever been, censors some materials it find too horrific to allow to be printed. Editors and magazines also “censor” by choosing to publish some things and not others. No magazine prints everything it receives as it receives it. Nations like Germany rightly censor Nazi materials. The fact that a tool can be abused does not mean it should not be used. In fact, one can be sure that the “Word” is censored. We are unlikely to see an article any time soon advocating gay marriage. If you doubt this, send the “Word” a well written article on this topic that advocates gay marriage and wait and see. We are, thank God, unlikely to ever see an article advocating monothelitism in the “Word.” Confusing freedom of speech in America with excercising over sight in a private publication is confused at best. And of course, I don’t really expect to see an article advocating Kabbalah in the “Word.” This absurd example serves as a warning against the offical reasons for printing two articles hinting (and in one case adocating) women’s ordination. I believe the Metropolitan when he says it will never happen. He is a man of courage who leads with integrity and wisdom. However, printing the two articles about “women priests” seems odd. The Metropolitan should censor such things, for the same reasons he would not print articles on the Kabbalah. It could be that their printing is an anomoly and that the response is worded so as to not cause further scandal. In other words, without further evidence (another article) the reasonable conclusion is that someone dropped the ball, probably someone of good will, and allowed a bad article through. This bad article was coupled by the sensitive in our midst, who have been abused in situations where a church places the Spirit against the Word of God, to another less bad article. No one is going to rebuke folk out loud and that is appropriate.My simple point is this: if the situation is at it is being portrayed (no chance of women priests), then there seems to me no good reason not censor articles on them in publications like the “Word.” This seems an essential role for a bishop to play.

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