Archive for August, 2008

Jesus wept {enhanced interrogation techniques (torture)}

Open your mouth for the word of God, and judge all men fairly; open your mouth and judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 30:8-9, The Orthodox Study Bible) Photo on the right: Khaled el-Masri, made in the image of God

I recently read Jane Mayer’s “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror turned into a War on Americal Ideals.” It was horrifying. That in the name of security some of us would send detainees to other countries that are known to torture prisoners, would detain people rounded up by bounty hunters without evidence of their complicity in terrorism, using “enhanced” interrogation methods (simply a euphemism for torture) on them for years, taking a program designed for American POW’s to help them resist torture (SERE – Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) and using its principles on detainees to obtain “information” (which under the circumstances by which it was obtained- great duress- is known to be factually doubtful) – it leaves a stain on our soul. We reap what we sow.

Many of these detainees have been disabled mentally, emotionally, and physically by the sustained application of various combinations of these “techniques.”

My father- Nicholas Gall- served in the army in World War 2. Our nation at that time led the way in establishing the Geneva Conventions, which were meant to prevent this sort of thing. But now, the Geneva Conventions against abuse of prisoners have been deemed “quaint” by people in power who have put security above our basic principles. Frankly, I feel betrayed. As I wrote to my Senator, Senator Bob Casey Jr., “I want America back.”

A while back I submitted the post Jesus Wept (Roe vs. Wade) because the risk of being aborted for unborn children with disabilities is so great nowadays. Detainees also face circumstances that should not be. This must not be swept under the rug.

Some pro-life organizations have established principles by which they adhere to what they see as their one, single, overriding goal- to end abortion on demand. But doesn’t defending life demand more than this? In protest of this narrow way of defending life, I write this post. I do not mean to get into the political implications of it- I simply feel that being an Orthodox Christian and pro-life requires a person to stand up for the full meaning of “life.”

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (St. John 1:4-5, The Orthodox Study Bible)

The book: click on The Dark Side by Jane Mayer – Hardcover – Random House

Khaled el-Masri, a victim, is now “reportedly beset by emotional problems.” (The Dark Side, 334) click on Khalid El-Masri – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Photo source: Democracy Now! | German Arrest Warrants for CIA Kidnapping

see also Democracy Now! | Extraordinary Rendition Victim in U.S. to Appeal

History of Orthodox Christian Philanthropy (Rev. Dr. Demetrius Constantelos)

From Round Table: Education for Change and Diaconia

Origins of Christian Orthodox diakonia: Christian Orthodox philanthropy in Church history (informing our present service)

(An excerpt: )

Perhaps no better person exemplified in theory and in practice the philanthropic spirit of the Church than Saint Basil of Caesarea. In a profound and moving prayer, incorporated in the liturgy that bears his name, Basil called upon God to remember all officials and authorities; to nurture the infants and educate the youth; to support the elderly and comfort the fainthearted;

… liberate those who are troubled by illnesses; sail with those at sea; accompany the wayfarers; plead for the widow; defend the orphans, free the captives; heal the afflicted. О God, look after those who are on trial, or condemned to the mines, or to exile and bitter slavery, or in any way hard pressed, in want, in extremity and all who plead for your boundless compassion. Remember О Lord those who love us as well as those who hate us … for you, О Lord, are the help of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, rescuer of the tempest-tossed, safe haven for sailors, healer of the sick. Be all things to all people, for you know each of us and what we would ask, our homes, our needs.

The Church, in the Byzantine era, including its monastic communities often provided the essentials of social security for a large segment of the population of the Empire throughout its existence. As already indicated, it took under its aegis orphans, widows, the old and the disabled, the stranger and the unemployed; it saw to the release of prisoners of war and of those unjustly detained. In time of pestilences, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes the Church played a major role looking after the needs of all. In addition to Basil, the father of institutionalized philanthropy, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Attikos of Constantinople, John the Eleemosynary of Alexandria, Theolyptos of Philadelphia, Athanasios of Constantinople are brilliant examples of the Church’s social teachings and service.
for a picture of the Rev. Dr. Demetrios Constantelos, click on:

fulfilling the law of Christ

St. Nikolaj Velimirović

St. Nikolaj Velimirović

Sts. Paisius and Isaiah were brothers from Egypt who became monks; one of them withdrew to the desert to purify his mind and heart by devoting himself to fasting and prayer. As St. Seraphim of Sarov says, “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” The other brother built a monastic hospital near a town for needy people of all sorts. When both of them reposed in the Lord, their fellow monks disputed concerning which one fulfilled the law of Christ. They put the matter before St. Pambo, who replied, “Both are perfect before God; the hospitable one is similar to the hospitable Abraham and the ascetical one is similar to Elijah the Prophet, both of whom equally pleased God.” This did not settle the matter, and St. Pambo fervently prayed for an answer that would bring resolution to the matter. To discover how the matter was resolved, scroll down to read the Reflection from St. Nikolai Velimirovich‘s Prologue of Ohrid (July 18 ) here: Prolog: July 18

And if St. Seraphim of Sarov’s words seem puzzling to you, access Fr. Stephen Freeman’s explanation here: What St. Seraphim Meant « Glory to God for All Things

Prayer is the priority in the Orthodox Church, for as our Lord Jesus Christ said, “without Me you can do nothing.” (St. John 15:5)

As St. Nikolai writes in the Prologue of Ohrid in his August 21 homily on Isaiah 28:16 (on the wondrous stone in Zion),

If we observe the Lord Christ within us, He is the Cornerstone that binds and ties our various spiritual capabilities in unity and wholeness, so that all work toward one goal, toward God and the Kingdom of God.

So just as some are called to a singular focus on prayer- such as St. Siluoan of Mt. Athos, who prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us and on Thy whole world“- others are called to other forms of service such as helping and enabling persons with disability. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip in 2005 spoke at Antiochian Village of plans for a monastery there. And he called for it to be the kind of active monasticism that would respond to the dire needs of people, such as those whose homes and livelihoods were swept away by the floods that accompanied Hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast.

St. Basil the Great also advocated for this kind of monastic life, which could respond to other kinds of need- havens of hospitality (see ), homes for the persons with physical disability (St. Matthew House ), and community living arrangements for persons with developmental disability- alas, there are currently no Orthodox Christian prototypes for this in North America, to my knowledge. Lord have mercy! May Thy Good Spirit lead us in the land of uprightness!

As St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter twelve,

4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

. . . . 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.

on washing feet

on washing feet:

by Jean Vanier, of the L’Arche communities

a short biography:

Here is his home page:…index.htm

a L’Arche community, with links to the others:

L’Arche was started by Roman Catholic Christians. Jean Vanier is Roman Catholic. But that is not a reason to dismiss their vision; it has roots in the teachings and works of the Holy Fathers: St. John Chrysostom’s social teachings and St. Basil the Great’s city come to mind as foundations for the kind of loving effort that L’Arche exemplifies. The day-to-day life at L’Arche, I’m sure they will admit, is often the struggle toward their ideals, rather than their seamless realization. And there are real differences between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. But when all that is said, L’Arche remains a challenge to the Orthodox Church to show forth the Incarnate Word more fruitfully in the realm of ministry to persons with developmental disability.

independence or interdependence? (some resources for residential options)

As the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, “There is a time . . .” for one option, and there is a time for its seeming opposite: to give birth, to die, to plant, to pluck up, etc. This is true of movements toward independence and and back to interdependence in our individual and personal lives as well.

But still, one may question the emphasis on independence as it is defined nowadays. “Independent living” and “self-determination” are all the rage now, especially in regard to residential issues. Its true, we must respect everyone’s free will, including persons with disabilities- yes, especially persons with disabilities, given the “we know best” tendency to make decisions for them that has been the general rule.

But Orthodox Christian theology defines personhood according to Trinitarian life: the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three Persons, and yet One. This is personhood defined in terms of unity and openness to others, finding one’s identity not in oneself alone, but in relation to others.

The term “Interdependence” expresses certain aspects of this understanding of personhood; but it does not seem to be an approach that is appreciated as it should be in American society or in the disability community at this time- surely because it is not understood according to its ultimate context, the Kingdom of God- which we are striving to realize in the Church. But if hard times come, perhaps more appreciation will grow for interdependence, life together, dwelling in mutual love- out of necessity.

Anyway, here are some online resources- far from complete, and admittedly lacking in residential options tailored to the specific interests of Orthodox Christians- on residential options for persons with disability:

(independent living/ supported living):

An Orientation to Independent Living Centers:

Prayerful discernment, and consultation with one’s spiritual father is crucial for a God-please use of these websites.

It would be great if I could give some websites of Orthodox Christian group home systems in America, but I think that may have to wait until the various Orthodox Christian jurisdictions can find a way to work together to create this kind of ministry. There is a great need for real movement toward united Orthodox Church jurisdictional governance in our country- for many reasons, and this is one of them.

Of course there are ministries like the Eastern Orthodox Foundation EOF Home Page & St. Matthew House and some others, such as the Raphael House in San Francisco which provide housing for people in need (the first two focus on or explicitly mention persons with disabilities in their mission statements) but they are widely scattered. And none of them focus on persons with developmental disability. I believe the Challenge Liturgy Ministry has mentioned a goal of working with an already existing group home system to provide a home specifically for their people but I don’t know if they have realized this goal. All in all, these ministries show that a beginning has been made, but when the efforts are widely scattered, many Orthodox Christians who would like to participate in such ministries cannot. Even if they would move nearby, the ministries cannot handle the influx. Lord, my these good beginnings multiply! & the

Patricia E. Bauer: disability commentator

Patricia E. Bauer: News and Commentary on Disability Issues

Patricia E. Bauer is a veteran journalist, a wife, and a mother “of two young adults, one of whom has Down syndrome and is a survivor of leukemia.” Her disability website includes faith perspectives and offers news and commentary on disability issues on her website. She’s a professional writer, which shows in the quality of her writing. She seems to be sympathetic to the same kind of concerns as pro-lifers.

This website doesn’t focus on religion; it focuses on concerns of interest to the disability community, religion included, though not necessarily with the specific concerns and values of the Orthodox Christian Church. So exercise discernment as you read. That said, I commend to you her well-crafted posts.

An example of a post sympathetic to pro-life concerns:

healing our disabled wills

icon of Christ\'s Transfiguration on Mt. TaborWe are all disabled in very basic ways, just as we all also may be enabled by God’s Grace to contribute to the realization of His plan on Earth (as it is in Heaven).

This inclusive understanding of disability is not meant to minimize the challenges that people with more obvious functional disabilities have in this life; rather, it is to enable the rest of us to realize our kinship with them in this matter. This is from the articleDo I Really Need to Fast? Why?” in the March/April 2006 bi-monthly newsletter of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Anchorage, Alaska:

The Church is a hospital and the believer abides within the Church and by its traditions in an effort to heal one’s disabled will and become whole once more, the ultimate aim being union with God. This is the mystery of the working out of our salvation to the glory of God. This mysterious transformation takes place by the Divine workings within the believer and through the believer cooperating with God’s energy (synergy) that he or she may be healed from the wounds of sins and ragings of the passions that cause us to fall into diverse temptations along the way.

for the complete article, click on: DO I REALLY NEED TO FAST ?



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