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Monday, September 03, 2018

No Entry for Narcissus

A Sermon preached by Fr Emmanuel Kahn at St Aidan's Orthodox Church, Manchester on Sunday 2nd September 2018.  

The Gospel referenced is Matthew 22:2-14.


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is one. Amen.

The Gospel reading for today from the 21st chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew is about a marriage feast, to which many people are invited, but few choose to attend. St Gregory the Great points out that this "marriage feast represents the Church of the present time" [that is, in the first century] …. The Father made a marriage feast for His Son," preached St Gregory [Forty Gospel Homilies 38.1, 3-4], "by joining the Church to [His Son] through the mystery of His Incarnation." St Gregory cites Psalm 18 (19), verse 5, in which King David declares that God is "like a bridegroom coming forth from the bridal chamber." St Gregory explains that Christ, and I quote, "truly came forth like a bridegroom from his bridal chamber [and], as God incarnate, left the … womb of the Virgin to unite the Church to Himself."

That is a powerful interpretation of this Gospel from St Gregory the Great. The sixth century saint stresses that through the Incarnation, through Christ becoming a human person from the womb of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, Christ united the Church to Himself. So it is that we, as Orthodox Christians, have been united to Christ through the Church. However, there is a problem, both for the Jews of the first century and for us. The last line of this Gospel states the problem clearly: "Many are called, but few are chosen." So today I'd like to consider the question: How can each and every one of us, however old or young we are, be among the chosen ones-be among those to whom God brings eternal life?

Note that in this Gospel the king provides wedding garments, beautiful clothes, for everyone that's invited. But one person, who does actually turn up, chooses not to wear the wedding garment that has been provided by the king. What happens? The king sees him and throws him out of the wedding feast. In other words, this person was not permitted to enter eternal life, because he was not prepared for the happiness and glory of being forever with the Lord. St Augustine poses the question [in Sermon 90.6]: "What is [this] wedding garment, then?" His answer is easy to understand; and I quote: the wedding garment is the "charity [the love of God and of other people] which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith [in God]. This is the wedding garment," concluded St Augustine. So, if we wish to be chosen, we each need to wear the wedding garment of living a life of charity. How can we do this?

In answering this question of how to wear wedding garments, I found helpful a recent programme on BBC Radio 4 about reading. It was suggested that when we read, we seek both empathy and critical awareness. Empathy is the ability to identify with the feelings and thoughts of others, and to appreciate experiences and emotions outside of ourselves. I find when I prepare these sermons and read the Church Fathers I have considerable empathy with their thoughts and feelings. However, they lived in different centuries and in different cultures than we do today. Therefore, we also need a critical awareness of how to bring the insights and understanding of the Church Fathers into our own lives. As we read, whatever we read, we can follow the paths and stories that the authors have set out before us with empathy, with awareness of these stories and characters. At the same time, we can ask ourselves: Is this person, is this story, that I am reading of value for me?

Seeking empathy and critical awareness applies not only to reading, but to how we see ourselves and other people. It is good that we should love ourselves, even as we see our faults and seek to tackle particular and often private problems in our lives. However, it is important that our love does not become narcissism, excessive love for oneself, in which a person is insecure and vulnerable but acts superior to others to compensate for their own inadequacies. In Greek mythology the young man Narcissus who pined away in love with his own image in a pool of water was turned into the flower that bears his name. Anyone can be a narcissist, young or old, male or female. However, there are in fact two types of narcissist, extrovert and introvert.

The extrovert type we all recognise, arrogant, self-obsessed, manipulative, often ruthless. The introvert type is no less self-regarding but hides his true feelings from others. He cannot connect or relate, except to further his own goals.  Hidden or "introvert narcissists" are often unaware of and unconcerned about others.  They are the types who abuse social media by recruiting flatterers and presenting themselves as the focus of attention. These are they that tick "like" on the posts of their followers on Facebook to encourage others to like them in return. Unfortunately, such narcissists are often unaware of their inability to relate to and serve others. They can be quite charming, but underneath they are egotists.  Lacking empathy and critical awareness, they are naked of that wedding garment without which they will not enter to feast with the King.

To avoid these and many other deformations in the soul we need to develop critical awareness of our own soul state, whether purification is happening or contamination, just like the dust that can accumulate in our homes.  As we move through life, this dust of sin and sinful attitudes gathers within us, just as it gathers over time in the carpets in our homes. There are two ways to deal with that dust, we can deny its presence and sweep it under the carpet, or we can take a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush and clean it up. We can choose to face a challenge in our lives or to treat problems with the dust of denial, pretending the problem is not there, even when we know it is there. Introvert narcissists live a life of denial in which they pretend to themselves and others that there is no dust hidden within their personalities. Yet, with deep repentance and faithful prayer, change is always possible for all of us.

The same seeking of empathy and critical awareness that we apply to reading and ourselves also applies to how we relate to other people and to the Lord. We love other people; and we love the Lord. Yet we are also critically aware of the faults of other people and our own faults. We seek to relate to the Lord in prayer and in action, wearing the wedding garments that the King, the Lord, has given each of us.

I close with a beautiful interpretation of this Gospel reading, again from St Gregory the Great. He preached, and I quote: "Since you have already come into the house of the marriage feast, our Holy Church, as a result of God's generosity, be careful, my friends. Lest when the King [who is the Lord] enters He [will] find fault with some aspect of your heart's clothing…. The king came in to look at the guests and saw there a person not clothed in a wedding garment. What do we think is meant by the wedding garment, dearly beloved? For if we say it is baptism or faith [everyone] has entered this marriage feast [with] them. [Those who are] outside [are outside] because [they have] not yet come to believe. What then must we understand by the wedding garment but love? [Those people who] enter the marriage feast … without wearing a wedding garment … [are indeed] present in the Holy Church. [They] may have faith, but [they] do not have love. We are correct when we say that love is the wedding garment," continues St Gregory, "because this [love] is what our Creator Himself possessed when He came to the marriage feast to join the Church to Himself. Only God's love brought it about that His Only Begotten Son united the hearts of His chosen to Himself. John says that 'God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son for us" [John 3.16], concludes St Gregory.

So it is. The Lord believes in us; and He chooses us before we then choose to believe in Him. Once we believe in the Lord and have faith and are baptised and become members of His Holy Church, then we learn to wear the wedding garment of love-love of others and love of God. However, if we permit the dust of denial of any problems in the Church or in our relationships with others to dominate our lives, we do not wear any wedding garments whatsoever. We are then in trouble, because we all face challenges in our lives and in the Church. Let us all wear together the wedding garments of love and face any challenges that come to us in our lives or in the Church. Then we can live with joy with King David as we sing out Psalm 32(33), verse 21: "Our heart shall rejoice in Him because we have trusted in His Holy Name."

So be it, as we ascribe as is justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, power and praise to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, always now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Father Emmanuel Kahn

God does not Explain Things; Things Explain God

Humans have always tried to understand the world around them, if only to survive, and to value their place in it in order to enjoy life as beings conscious of death. In this context the theology of primitive animist faiths can be seen as a certain science; an early attempt to explain how things are by virtue of their familiar or indwelling spirits. By explaining natural processes both predictable and unpredictable within such a rational framework the world became safer, even tameable within certain limits. Eventually the sense emerged through observation of higher organising principles at work in the world, maybe even a “Highest Principle” and so a Supreme Spirit or High God was “born” out of an existing and enduring spirit pantheon.

Monotheist religions took these developments to their logical conclusion, ONLY the High God could serve the purpose of integrating a created Cosmos as a whole, the lesser spirits being demoted into avatars, angels and other created subordinate servants or manifestations. At this stage, however, it is still the One-God-Who-Is-One who explains how things are. If the wind blows, it is his breath. If the ground trembles and swallows you up, it is his anger. If the stars shine it is because he has provided guides both navigational and astrological for his children. At some point of mature reflection, however, most if not all monotheisms wake up to the fact that there are ways of understanding how the world works that do not involve the all too easy and, frankly, rather demeaning (to God) idea that he has to be invoked to explain the unexplained. If God only exists as a stop gap explanation for our ignorance about the world then he is no God at all. For God to be God He must be the God-of-the-Whole or no-God-at-all.

So, difficult though it may be for all of us in varying degrees to accept, God does not explain anything at all. We do not believe in God to satisfy our ignorance about the world; in short to give us a nice and comforting alternative to science with its seemingly Godless explanations and “theories.” If we are thinking like that we do not truly believe in God nor do we receive the world as it truly is. We need to start the other way round. God does not explain things, things explain God. Many fathers make this approach to the Cosmos and its Creator explicit but perhaps none more so than the great St. Maximos the Confessor. In Ambigua 33 he says:-

“The Word becomes thickened […] concealing Himself mysteriously for our sakes within the logoi of creatures and thus He reveals Himself accordingly through the visible things as through some written signatures as a whole in His fullness from the whole of nature and undiminished in each part, in the varieties of natures as one who has no variation and is always the same, in composites, as One who is simple, without parts, in things which have their beginning in time, as the One without beginning, as the Invisible in the visible, the ungraspable in tangible things.”

The key idea here is the “logoi of creatures” ... what I am referring to in the shorthand of this article as “things.” These “logoi” function for St. Maximos as written signatures of God-in-creation; the disclosure of God in the being and beauty of things. So, as we discover more about the being and beauty of things through science, poetry and mystical contemplation and in so doing we discover or “explain” God. St. Maximos is clear, however, that it is Christ the Word of God, the Logos of God who is concealed and then revealed within the logoi of creatures, the self same Christ who is the Logos Incarnate. To use the theological terminology of St. Gregory Palamas, we might say that the energies of God in creation are disclosed Incarnate in the Word.

Orthodox Christians with this faith do not suppose that science or the arts are alternative truth perceptions to theology. The more we discover and know about the world the stronger and deeper in Christ revealed in the very sinews and flesh of our humanity and in the very physicality of Creation itself; its terrible and majestic glory ... signatures of God, vehicles of God indeed.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christianity - Not Reformed but Deformed!

Feminism is such a difficult thing to define and feminists are by no means agreed on what feminism is.  For some, feminism is merely an attempt to redress inequality of opportunity between the sexes in employment and gender roles in the family and community.  For others feminism is a battle against the alleged repression of all things feminine by men, the only solution for which is all out gender war until the ground is recovered.  There are religious variants of feminism based on the first view which are content to secure interchangeability of function between men and women at all levels of Church life.  For these, working towards the first (legitimate) female Pope is a sacred task.  Other more militant religious feminists, basing their views on the second model of gender war, regard Christianity as inescapably patriarchal and oppressive.  These seek a new religion with some ties to Jesus but essentially rehabilitating the goddess cult of former times.

This talk is not seeking to address every variant of feminism both moderate and radical, secular and faith based.  I fear we should then get entangled in a morasse of social comment, half-baked theories and contentious subjectivity.  Rather, here, I shall attempt to consider the Person of the Father in relation to feminism as a whole for there are some common themes in the general feminist reaction to this basic tenet of Christianity that God is our Father.

The first person in the modern era to address this issue from a psychoanalytic perspective was, of course, Sigmund Freud.  A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Freud grappled with the tortured neuroses and psychoses of his repressed Viennese patients.  Modern psychiatry no longer doffs its cap to the "Great Master" as once before.  Nonetheless, Freud's assessment of Christian belief in God the Father is pivotal in trying to understand feminism's varying reactions against it. 

Freud argued that "Father" was a projection by us humans onto the nature of God.  We, some of us that is, have had such lousy fathers on earth, that, it is argued, we seek by way of compensation, an ideal Father in Heaven.  This projection is a reaction to a neurosis.  Deal with the neurosis, namely our half-concealed hatred for our human fathers, and the need to call God "Father" will vanish away.  In fact, for Freud, Jew that he was, much of religion was really a projection of our disappointment and pain onto the canvass of Heaven.  Now the reason why Freud's view was so popular was its plausibility at first hearing.  Clearly God is not male, (or female).  Did not Christ himself teach that:- "God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and Truth?"  Freud would not even admit that God was LIKE a father.  God was the ILLUSION of an ideal Father, made necessary by our anxieties and hurts.  The plausibility of this approach then lead many to suggest that since our experience of human fatherhood was sometimes cruel and corrupting we should hesitate before calling God Father for fear of making eternal and immeasurable the pain of knowing the divine in the hearts and lives of those abused by their own fathers.  It goes without saying of course that this made Jesus the archetypal neurotic in the eyes of Freud.  It was he who started the whole "Father-thing" off! 

At this point, along come the religious feminists, who then claim that whereas "Mother" would also be a projection, since all God-talk is symbolic and derived from our human experience, we should offer "Mother" instead as an alternative.  "Mother" is warm and kind, deeply imbued with the dark warmth and comfort of the earth, the breast and the womb.  These are much the same feminists of course who have no compunction in ripping human life from the womb in abortion and parading their sexuality in the media, (and goading men to do the same), on the grounds that this is empowering!  Earth Mother apparently, like the wolf in Little Red Hiding Hood has sharp teeth and claws.  We Christians know this of course since it was the matriarchal dominance of paganism which was so besotted with abortion, child abuse and child sacrifice.  Not much has changed, has it?

We all shrink of course from such perversions of fatherhood and motherhood and yet the logic of Freud's analysis is inexorable.  If paganism is to be resisted, (as a moderate feminist might argue), then God must become "Parent" or perhaps "It", a very unsatisfactory situation, and in Orthodox terms, of course, downright heresy.  So, as Orthodox Christians we need to force our culture to be much more radical on this issue than it has hitherto been.  We need to reach back behind the feminists' agenda at Freud's basic premise that God as Father is a projection for our pain, ever seeking to recover our ideal Father, eternally beyond our grasp. 

Notice how Freud starts. He takes something which is so obviously true, namely, that God is not literally a male person and then proceeds to deny the truth that God is Father, as if one followed the other.  God, of course, can be Father without being male but only by recognising that all religious language is refined by the conviction that God is so utterly UNLIKE anything created.  Therefore, God is not like a father, He is, in the First Person, the Father, the Source, the Fount of all that is; the Son eternally begotten from Him and the Spirit proceeding forth.  There is an "outgoingness in Love" in God which makes "Father" the most singular and apt expression.  True there is an analogy in respect of human fatherhood, but it is an analogy to human fatherhood, not from it.  This truth lies at the very heart of the absurdity of feminism's attack on God the Father.  The Father is not imaged from our human fathers, (for that would be to make God in our own image, an idol); human fatherhood in its highest expression is imaged or derived from God the Father, (in other words, we are made in the image of God).  As St. Paul says in Ephesians 3:14-15:-

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named."

Now, there is one gaping hole in this presentation.  If Genesis teaches, (which it does), that the image of God in manifest in men and women as created, then why cannot motherhood as well as fatherhood be derived from God in such a manner as to legitimise God as Mother as well as Father?  The answer to this one lies in the nature of God's creative power.  God creates without dependency on another for he is sovereign and free and acts in the first instance alone.  "Let it be" as He says, and it is.  This is not the action of a divine Mother.  Mothers, in a human sense, act co-operatively and in a receptive manner.  Motherhood is derived from the earth, not from the Godhead.  This does not make motherhood any less holy.  Orthodox venerate matter as the creative and fecund principle of life, but this life comes in the first instance from the "outside" as it were, from the Father.  To derive motherhood from the Godhead rather than the earth would be to give God a womb and to make the Universe "her" Body.  This is the very essence of paganism and it has resurfaced again recently in the works of such heretical theologians as Rosemary Radford Ruether.  For Orthodox Christians, motherhood is derived from the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the first and highest sanctified creature of the Lord who, being without form, took humanity upon Himself from her.  In so doing, the Word and the Spirit worked but never ceased to depart from the Father who remained the Father.  When God becomes Mother, however, "she" is revealed a vicious harridan bent upon destruction as well as life, a sort of sub-Christian Durga or Kali, the one who must be appeased at all costs.  The Mother of God is such an affront to feminists because her sanctity protests at this abuse of motherhood and the abominable fruit it has generated, sour and bitter to the taste; the infanticide of abortion, the trivialisation and degradation of sex, the rape of the earth. 

The only remedy for all these ills is to renounce Freud and his perversion of the Christian gospel and to return to a true biblical notion of God the Father and human fatherhood; the Theotokos, the created earth and human motherhood.

Finally, can this agenda be pursued whilst yet embracing a moderate feminism which would pursue equality of opportunity in all realms of human life and work ... a feminism which is, shall we say, religiously neutral?  I'm not sure we can even do that.  Consider equality of opportunity.  This is a good thing and to be promoted.  But what do we make of these opportunities?  Do we send women as battle hardened troops into the front line?  Do we ask men, similarly, to emasculate themselves by posing as women in Cosmopolitan and other such magazines?  Do we promote the idea that gender is irrelevant to function when all the evidence cries out that there are distinctively male and female aspects of our humanity which, if to be honoured, must remain non-interchangeable?  Do we rob a woman of her motherhood by making her a "priest?"  Do we rob a man of his fatherhood by making him feel guilty of his strength?  I think not.  Many have fed from the poisoned wells of Freud and his feminist great grandchildren for long enough and have suffered for it. 

Isn't it about time then that we embraced life rather than death?  Isn't it about time we worshipped the Father again and implored the Mother?  Isn't it about time that we become co-heirs of the Son as children of God?  Isn't it about time that the Spirit ruled rather than the bankrupt false prophets of atheism?  Feminism is dead and death dealing.  The Father remains, and waits for the return of His errant children.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Human Icon

The Human Icon: A Comparative Study of Hindu and Orthodox Christian BeliefsThe Human Icon: A Comparative Study of Hindu and Orthodox Christian Beliefs by Christine Mangala Frost

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Dr Frost has capably achieved a gargantuan task in shining a light on the spirituality of Orthodox Christianity for a Hindu audience and likewise illuminating the richness and depth of Hinduism for her own Orthodox Christian community. This has been achieved precisely because she has a foot in both worlds with insights that transcend the possible disjunctions of language, concepts and practice that exist on the surface between the two faiths. Raised as a Hindu but becoming an Orthodox Christian in later life, she speaks from within both religious traditions with an authenticity that is personally tested and encyclopaedic in scope.
In this book, Dr Frost has not simply described the major themes of each religion, comparatively and in parallel. That would have presented a relatively straight forward task. She has gone further and much deeper by identifying possible points of contact, even overlap and congruence, between corresponding themes and insights from both faiths. This has been achieved while at the same time identifying with clear sightedness possible irreducible differences that need to be acknowledged in inter-faith dialogue.
Her realism in addressing these elements of both convergence and divergence is never compromised by any personal intrusive commitments, yet her own blessings in both faiths clearly shine through. She is a critical observer who strives to be fair to both religions both on their own grounds and in dialogue. A reader of this book will be enlightened and encouraged by the possibilities that lie ahead for mutual enhancement and understanding between Orthodox Christians and Hindus alike.



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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rolling Back the Darkness



It is with a sad and heavy heart that I must comment on those terrible events that unfolded last night in the great city of Manchester, when the terrorists struck again on our soil.  

This time they targeted defenceless and innocent young people, some with friends and some in family groups, attending a pop concert in the Manchester Arena in the centre of the city. As I speak to you on the day after, there are currently 22 fatalities and 59 people injured, many of them critically. One of the children killed was merely eight years old. Our prayers go out to the grieving families of those who have lost loved ones and also to those who are suffering from grievous wounds in various hospitals around the city. 
IS/Daesh has claimed responsibility for this despicable and cowardly action but that cult of death often tries to promote itself on the back of such attacks for propaganda purposes, so we must resist jumping to conclusions before the evidence is assembled and assessed. Nonetheless, the authorities have confirmed this was indeed a terrorist attack, an improvised explosive device being detonated by a suicide bomber in the foyer of the Arena; timed to inflict maximum casualties at the end of the concert when thousands of young people would be leaving. The police know the identity of this mass murderer but are not releasing it for the time being. This is in part due to the ongoing local and national investigation which looks likely to reveal co-conspirators and terrorist cells. The attack took place just 8 miles from the church that I serve in the suburbs. This morning, just 3 miles away from St Aidan’s, the police raided two houses and there was a controlled explosion at one of them. No further details are available as of this time, but this story is unfolding so rapidly, so by the time you hear this I am sure that much more will be known.
As an Orthodox Christian priest, and together with my parish community in this great city of Manchester, I am trying to think and pray through an appropriate and balanced Christian response to such a tragedy, including how we should handle such terrorist threats and realities into the future. First and in this regard, all of us here in Manchester have already been inspired by the flawless response of the emergency services and the spirit of Manchester people who have rallied round to support those directly affected by this terrorist outrage. The solidarity of the people of Manchester, and indeed of other communities similarly affected in Britain and elsewhere, is an outstanding inspiration and example to all those peoples of any religion and background who are threatened by this evil culture of death, right across the world.
Second, as individual Orthodox Christians, the Gospel of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ calls us to embrace the cross and forgive those who would do us harm. Loving our enemies doesn’t just mean dealing with obnoxious people in daily life it means praying for, and indeed loving those who would do us actual harm. There can be no room for hate or revenge when confronting such an evil as this. Only the love of a God who justly judges and graciously saves can turn the most hardened and bitter heart toward peace, human dignity and compassion.  He usually expects though to do this through our witness, so this then is our responsibility as Christians. However, this is not the whole story.
Third, we need to make a clear distinction between personal morality and social responsibility, while seeing both as being subject to God’s sovereign will and purpose. Individual Christians, according to the Gospel, may choose martyrdom in extreme situations rather than retaliate or seek revenge. They may choose to forgive their persecutors and pray for them. However, none of us can forgive on behalf of those who have suffered at the hands of others. Only those directly affected by such atrocities, and indeed by sins generally, have both the right and the capacity to forgive their own particular enemies. As a nation, our social responsibility is to uphold the law and play our part in the democratic process through which, of course, such laws are enacted, which is why, I believe, voting in elections, notwithstanding its flaws is better than suffering a dictatorship allowed elbow room through cynicism, despair or apathy. The first duty of the State itself, however, but not of course the only one, is to protect its citizens and to ensure the defence of the realm. Passive martyrdom and forgiveness is a choice exercised by individual persons but it can never simply be translated directly into social policy and law; particularly when endangerment of life is current and critical, as it is now.
As I said, the duty of the State is to protect us all and especially the vulnerable and the weak, and to this end we need excellent and ethical intelligence services and a robust and effective police force and military. Such forces of law and order can only function optimally when they are supported by all citizens themselves. The failure to support the forces of law and order in such atrocities is a danger as reprehensible as the actual attacks themselves. The first duty of all citizens, therefore, must be to support the police and the security services in their work. With sufficient safeguards as to personal liberty, if this also involves the deepening of the surveillance trawl through electronic media, then this is something, I believe, that we should support, while at the same time denying to the authorities the opportunity to use these “all-seeing eyes” to interfere with our valued freedoms. It would be a tragedy if terrorism won by encouraging us to adopt measures that undermine the very freedoms that we are defending in opposing it.
However, the battle we are waging here against terrorism is not simply and only to be fought with intelligence and smart policing. That will be like cutting off the heads of weeds while leaving deep-seated roots untouched. There is an ideological, and indeed propaganda, war going on here for the hearts and minds of those who are especially most vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists, both homegrown and otherwise.
How then is such a war to be waged? A number of weapons are at our disposal. Always useful is a good and intelligent use of the disciplines of psychology and criminology, both in dealing with those who are recruited into terrorism (caught alive) and in the messages we promote and adopt in our society through mass media and the pulpit, not only to inform public opinion and form the Christian mind, but also to act as a counter insurgency tactic against the terrorists themselves; a counter insurgency of the heart and the mind.
Here is where religion generally has much to offer, precisely because it is religion that is being perverted and corrupted here. I say “religion” rather than simply Christianity because it is a task that can and should be embraced by peoples of all faiths, those, that is, whose basic tenets are goodness, righteousness and truth. A cult of death such as IS / Daesh may only finally be beaten through active forces of goodness in education and a re-orientation toward the light, especially at the hands of knowledgeable and skilled believers generally and co-religionists especially. Governments need to invest as much time, effort, personnel and money in these methods as in the more traditional aspects of police enforcement, intelligence gathering and military intervention. States in the West which have been accustomed to a secularism which has progressively banished religion from the public square need to develop both a more open mind and an active commitment towards cooperating with faith communities and skilled individuals in this process of rolling back the darkness of hatred and death.
None of these reflections are irrelevant to the practical situation and plight in which we now find ourselves with grieving relatives and bloodied bodies in the city of Manchester and elsewhere. Orthodox Christians need to play their part together with other men and women of goodwill who are prepared to rise up and collaborate in a generous and positive manner, fighting with the weapons of the Spirit, not only for the values and freedoms that are so cherished by us all, but also for the entrenchment of those values in the minds and hearts of those vulnerable persons for whom Daesh/IS and the devil continue to contend. This is a spiritual as well as physical battle that we shall have to face with faith, hope and love - perhaps of the next two or three generations. May the Lord be our very present help, strength and guide as we all do our part to uphold his Kingdom here on earth as in heaven.

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