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Archbishop: Orthodox Christians can’t riot for ‘equality’

Orthodox Christians cannot participate in riots, revolutionary movements, or violent protests in the name of “justice,” according to a statement from an archbishop. Instead, they should promote “civil evolution” through a commitment to personal virtue—financed by private philanthropy and church charity for the poor.

The appeal came after nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent, leading to widespread looting, arson, and the murder of at least 10 people, including several police officers.

“Now we are experiencing great turmoil in our United States. Attempts are made to destroy all foundations of law and order,” wrote Archbishop Peter, who leads the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)’s Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America. “In the name of ‘justice’ we see looting, destruction, and mayhem.”

“The Holy Church was always against such actions, and Orthodox Christians cannot participate or support them,” he added.

A tentative estimate of the damage stands at $400 million—and climbing. California and Minnesota spent a combined $38 million merely deploying the National Guard. Yet riots in dozens of cities destroyed businesses that Christians considered their personal “ministry,” and looting disproportionately harmed poor and minority communities.

Historically, Christians have opposed revolutions and “supported civil evolution,” suffusing society with virtue that transforms the nation from within, he wrote. The archbishop cited the way the Church “peacefully, without any riots, changed the course of the pagan Roman Empire, having completely regenerated it.”

Violence in the name of social justice leads to destruction, he warned. He invited readers to “look at the history of Holy Russia and compare by what means the Bolsheviks planted ‘equality.’”

In the 100 years following the Bolshevik Revolution, Communism caused 100 million deaths—a number that continues to climb in nations like North Korea, Cuba, and China. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was founded by emigres fleeing Communism after the October Revolution.

Instead of increasing the welfare state through entitlement spending, he pointed to private charity as the Church’s historic ministry to the broader community. “Since the day of Her foundation, the Holy Church always defended and cared for the oppressed, widows, orphans, and homeless,” Archbishop Peter wrote.

“Besides, all charity was of free will and non-compulsory,” he continued. “And so it was throughout the ages.”

His letter cited numerous Bible verses on the voluntary nature of true Christian charity (Acts 3:4-5; 4:34-35; 5:1-3 and Acts 5: 4).

“State social services appeared rather recently,” he noted.  

The Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate used pagan state social services to undermine Christian charity. Before and after his brief reign, the Church supplied the physical and spiritual needs of the community, including education, healthcare, and charity for the poor. However, as socialism gradually replaced Christianity as the dominant paradigm in the 20th century, bishops in many parts of the West praised the welfare state for displacing church ministries.

The archbishop’s statement underlines the importance of voluntary charity and Christian engagement to truly transfigure society through the seed of the Gospel, while maintaining the bond of peace.

His full message, which begins with the date on both the Julian and Gregorian calendars, reads:

May 22/June 4, 2020
Righteous Melchizedek, King of Salem

 

Dear in Christ Clergy, Brothers and Sisters of our God-loving Diocese of Mid-America,

 

I greet you all with the great feast of Pentecost — the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and establishment of the Holy New-Testament Church of Christ.

 

Since the day of Her foundation, the Holy Church always defended and cared for the oppressed, widows, orphans, and homeless. (Acts: III, 45; IV, 34-35; VI, 1-3) Besides, all charity was of free will and non-compulsory. (Acts: V, 4) And so it was throughout the ages.

 

State social services appeared rather recently.

 

The Holy Church was always against any kind of revolutions or forceful overturning of power. Instead, She supported civil evolution. For example, being persecuted, She peacefully, without any riots, changed the course of the pagan Roman Empire, having completely regenerated it.

 

The same was done by Orthodox Christian missionaries, who spread the Holy Gospel among different nations.

 

Look at the history of Holy Russia and compare by what means the Bolsheviks planted “equality”.

 

Now we are experiencing great turmoil in our United States. Attempts are made to destroy all foundations of law and order. In the name of “justice” we see looting, destruction, and mayhem.

 

The Holy Church was always against such actions, and Orthodox Christians cannot participate or support them.

 

Apostle Paul writes that we should pray for the land we live in and its authorities. If there is peace in the land, so will the Church and Her children live in peace and prosperity.

 

Therefore, we should enforce our prayers for our American land and its peace and tranquility.

 

“O Lord Jesus Christ our God, do Thou calm the agitation and discord in our American land, banish from us slander and conflict, murder and drunkenness, bitter disputes and scandals, and burn out of our hearts every impurity, conflict and evil, that again we all may love one another and abide, as one, in Thee, O Lord, our God, as Thou has commanded and directed us. Grant peace to Thy Church and to Her children, that with one heart and one mouth we may glorify Thee, our Lord and Savior, unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

 

Peter, Archbishop of Chicago & Mid-America

(Photo credit: Chad Davis. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.