Since Gebre frequents here, I am sure he is going to reply with something (if he replies) like I am trying to malign his character or persecuting him for his beliefs. Just so he and everyone knows, its not against his pacifist stance, its the way he tries to justify it as if the church teaches this. For a long while I have tried to nudge Gebre in the right way, and he has resisted and refused to understand me and many others, including clergy. So I am posting this everywhere so people know that he is incorrect.
This letter is a response to the teaching of my friend Gebre Menfes Kidus (Name removed)
. He teaches a pacifist stance and that this is the “true Christian teaching.” Even going as far as stating: “If the Orthodox Church were to ever condemn pacifism or officially declare that Christians cannot condemn all war and killing in this day and age, then the Church would cease to be Orthodox and I would cease to be a part of it. That's why I fight so hard to promote the Orthodox values of peace and respect for life. I won't let others misrepresent my beloved Faith by justifying violence.” (from a facebook status update) I think my dear friend Gebre has a few misunderstandings about war, violence, and murder and how it relates to the Orthodox Church. So I will quote a few things Gebre has stated and then explain them further.
“I believe with St. Basil the Great that, “Although the act of violence may seem required for the defense of the weak and innocent, it is never justifiable.”
Basil has no issue with soldiering, as his canons show (188th letter). He accepts that people will be soldiers and does not class killing in war as anything close to murder. To quote him here shows lack of knowledge on the matter. For instance canon 13 of the 92 considers war: “Our fathers did not consider killings committed in the course of wars to be classifiable as murders at all, on the score, it seems to me, of allowing a pardon to men fighting in defense of sobriety and piety. Perhaps, though, it might be advisable to refuse them communion for three years, on the ground that their hands are not clean.” Clearly St. Basil is not condemning war and in fact says “Our fathers” in terms of those church fathers existing prior to him. I cannot find the quote that Gebre posted above.
Also, our holy father St. Athanasius said: “Although one is not supposed to kill, the killing of the enemy in time of war is both a lawful and praiseworthy thing. This is why we consider individuals who have distinguished themselves in war as being worthy of great honors, and indeed public monuments are set up to celebrate their achievements. It is evident, therefore, that at one particular time, and under one set of circumstances, an act is not permissible, but when time and circumstances are right, it is both allowed and condoned.” (http://www.incommunion.org/2006/02/19/st-basil-on-war-and-repentance/
I believe with Father Stanley Harakas that: “There is no ethical reasoning for war in the writings of the Greek Fathers. The Fathers wrote that only negative impacts arise from war. Even in unavoidable circumstances, the Fathers thought of war as the lesser of greater evils, but nonetheless evil. The term "just war" is not found in the writings of the Greek
Fathers. The stance of the Fathers on war is pro-peace and an Orthodox "just war" theory does not exist.”
This is taken out of context, Fr. Harakas said: “"I found an amazing consistency in the almost totally negative moral assessment of war coupled with an admission that war may be necessary under certain circumstances to protect the innocent and to limit even greater evils. In this framework, war may be an unavoidable alternative, but it nevertheless remains an evil. Virtually absent in the tradition is any mention of a “just” war, much less a “good” war. The tradition also precludes the possibility of a crusade. For the Eastern Orthodox tradition, I concluded, war can be seen only as a “necessary evil,” with all the difficulty and imprecision such a designation carries."
thus it accepts that there is " an admission that war may be necessary under certain circumstances to protect the innocent and to limit even greater evils." So it is pretty clearly that Gebre has not only taken Fr. Harakas out of context, he selectively embraced what worked for him, while ignoring the
bulk of what he said. The full article can be found here “https://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F %2Fwww.incommunion.org%2F2005%2F08%2F02%2Fno- just-war-in-the-fathers%2F&h=mAQHXS20e)
“I believe in the admonition of St. Hippolytus: “A Christian is not to become a soldier. He is not to burden himself with the sin of blood. But if he has shed blood, he is not to partake of the mysteries, unless he is purified by a punishment, tears, and wailing. He is not to come forward deceitfully but in the fear of God.”
Gebre openly admitted to me that he does not understand the writings of St. Hippolytus, which I personally gave to him. So I find it odd that he even bothers to quote him. However, St.
Hippolytus was referring to the fact that the Roman Army was massacring Christians, so it would not be a good idea for a Christian to put themselves in that situation and possibly lose their faith by killing Christians or perhaps making an offering to the Roman gods. For St. Hippolytus an outright refusal of military service to the Roman Empire is a much better idea than joining it, mainly because of the persecutions. So this is another instance in which writings were taken out of their context, in this case their historical context.
“I believe with St. John Chrysostom that, “Christians above all men are not permitted forcibly to correct the failings of those who sin. In our case, the wrong-doer must be made better, not by force, but by persuasion. The Christian’s labor is to make the dead live, not to make the living dead.”
This quote is taken from St John speaking on capital punishment, not war, he does not write the same when speaking about war. We again must take this in its context, St. John is not advocating pacifism in any way in this verse, nor in his other writings. He is clearly saying that we should not force our teachings on to those with incorrect beliefs that we should not forcibly correct people as there are other ways of correction without force.
What it seems that Gebre misunderstands is that this issue is not black and white and because I feel he views it that way and cannot reconcile violence and Christianity, he takes a pacifist stance. However if he had read these church fathers, that he quotes, in depth I truly believe he would understand this issue. Violence is not a Christian virtue, but that does not automatically mean that violence is never a necessity. War, as terrible as it is, is unfortunately necessary in some occasions and this is clearly taught by the very fathers Gebre quotes. A great example of Gebres lack of understanding on this issue and his black and white stance is him telling me that if violence and murder are acceptable then it should be acceptable to kill in order to save the victims of abortion.
What Gebre does not seem to understand is that while abortion is horrible and unacceptable, we do know the fate of the souls of these helpless victims and therefore it would be unacceptable to kill those performing abortions because their fate is not known, obviously. Its similar to the issue of martyrdom, when being martyred for your faith, it is unacceptable to fight back as a willful acceptance of martyrdom is displaying the highest form of love in Christ and trust in Him.
When we defend our family or others from harm, we should never seek to purposely kill, but to disarm or otherwise disable the person we are defending others against. It may so happen that in defense of others we may accidentally kill the person or persons, this is very unfortunate but again spoken of by the fathers. Once again, violence is not a virtue and we should not rely on it and or seek to use it in every instance but logically in defense of those who are being victimized and even then we should only be using the proper force required to subdue the person or persons. I think that this is the real issue with Gebres thinking, to him if violence is acceptable, then it is acceptable in every situation and if murder is acceptable, then it is acceptable in every situation, same as war. He is unable, or unwilling, to look at things in a logical and rational way. Instead he has selectively embraced quotes from the church fathers which seem to be supporting his view. I have personally advised him to study the church father in the context of their time or era, then study their writings individually and try to read them in the context with which they were written.
I have no doubt that Gebre loves Christ and our Church and this may seem a bit extreme but this is purely out of love. I seek only to correct my brother who has resisted the advice of myself and others much wiser than myself. I have privately consulted him for some time now and as HH Pope Shenouda taught us, "The sin that is done in public, punish in public. And the theological error which is broadcast openly in public, should be publicly refuted... ...But what is the wisdom in all this? Why punish in public, and why correct in public? This is because something that happens in public has an effect on others, or might cause them to stumble... So we must take those other people into account." ( So many years with problems of people, vol.3, pg. 82) As much as it pains me, I feel a public admonishment of Gebres erroneous view on this particular church teaching, I feel it is necessary in correcting him as well as others who may feel this same way.
Now I must stress one more thing, if Gebre personally wishes to adhere to a pacifist point of view, as I have told him, that is his view and it his certainly his right to exercise this. But, as I and others have tried to explain to him, you cannot pass this off as a church teaching because it simply is not taught by the church.
Again this is an effort done in love for a brother and for any brother and sister who may also believe this or came to believe this through Gebre. It is done with the utmost sincerity and desire for him to correct his teaching.
In Christ, Ioa
I take very seriously the issue of any private information about the person being used. If he does not want to use his real name in public, it is something I feel obliged to warn against.Just a slight correction. You may appeal to me first, and then if I reject the appeal, you may appeal to the global mod LizaSymonenko
Please do not share private information about someone, or private messages, unless permission was granted.
Warned for 10 days.
If you have a problem with this warning, you may appeal it to Fr. George.