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When Christianities Collide

In January 1439 the streets of Florence teemed with onlookers. A procession from the East had arrived for a Council of the Church. Historian Diarmaid MacCulloch writes in A History of Christianity [1] that “such a widespread representation of contemporary Christianity had not been seen since the Council of Chalcedon,” a thousand years before. Two spectacles in particular captured the imagination of the Latin Christians. First, there was Ethiopia’s Church, the very existence of which had been but a rumor in Medieval Europe, cut off from Western Christendom for centuries, represented at the council by two emaciated monks. Then there was the delegation from the Byzantine lands, whose emperor, John VIII Palaiologos, was the heir of Constantine and Justinian.

As the successor to Constantine, John—who rode at the head of the Greek-speaking delegation toward the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore—still bore the title “Caesar.” And like Constantine at Nicaea 11 centuries before, John’s singular focus was on ending theological disagreements that had undermined political unity. John hoped to save his dying empire from the aggressive, expanding Ottoman Turks.

The pomp and ceremony of this “despot” from the Orient, however humbled by desperate circumstances, captured the imagination of Early Renaissance Florence, and the impression left by him and his retinue influenced art, fashion, and philosophy for generations. George Gemistus Plethon, the century’s most distinguished Byzantine philosopher, lectured on pagan philosophy while in Florence, inspiring Cosimo de’ Medici to found the Platonic Academy, which informed Renaissance humanism through the reintroduction of classical Greek thought to the West.

The council, however, became mired in doctrinal disputes, ranging from the arcane (Filioque and Purgatory) to the seemingly mundane (circumcision and unleavened bread). Upon reaching an impasse, the Emperor John, once more in the manner of Constantine the Great, exerted pressure on his prelates to reunite with Rome. But John did not succeed. Internecine squabbles and external political influences destroyed what fragile unity briefly appeared in Florence. In the end, both the religious and political objectives of the council failed. Few such attempts at Christian unity would follow in the centuries thereafter, and none so ambitious.

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In 1453, John’s successor, Constantine XI, died fighting the Turks on Constantinople’s ancient land walls, and the city fell. Many Byzantine refugees fled to Italy, where they resumed the cultural encounter begun in Florence, leading to a European rebirth rooted in Hellenic philosophy and art. The Greek refugees were gradually absorbed into the culture of Latin Christendom. Those Christians who remained behind in Southeastern Europe, Anatolia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Levant endured, now without an emperor, and saw their fortunes wax and wane, increasingly a minority in the lands of their—and Christianity’s—origins.

Latin Western Europe, revitalized by its encounter with classical antiquity through Byzantium, looked now beyond the frontiers of the ocean, discovering and conquering new worlds. In America, Christianity, transplanted from Europe and strongly influenced by the Protestant Reformation, underwent successive waves of revivals and awakenings, becoming further removed from its origins among Europe’s churches and from Christianity’s origins in the Middle East.

The Council of Florence, though more than five centuries removed from us today, provides striking insights into the increasingly perilous status of Middle East Christians today. The rise of Islamist extremism in the Middle East in recent decades has driven many Christians there from their ancestral homelands. The persecution of Christians in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria—ranging from discrimination to genocide—has displaced, temporarily or permanently, millions of Christians. Those Middle East Christians who resettle in America are for the first time encountering American Christianity in its home.

Middle East Christians have, of course, encountered American missionaries; indeed, the efforts of Protestant missionaries to convert Orthodox and other Eastern Christians to Evangelical Christianity have long been a source of tension. But from the charisms of Pentecostalism to the eschatology of Dispensationalism, American Christianity in its homeland appears very foreign to those whose religious customs and culture have changed little in 2,000 years. Even Catholicism in America liturgically and culturally resembles less the Melkite or Maronite rites than it does those of Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, or Lutheranism.

Thus do two very different Christian communities encounter one another today. It is an encounter in its early stages, but its outcome may be as consequential for Middle East Christianity as the Council of Florence was for the fate of Byzantium.

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In 2014, the church bells of Mosul fell silent for the first time in 16 centuries following the onslaught of ISIS—a new and terrible evil that has engulfed Mesopotamia, driving out Christians by the tens of thousands, slaughtering countless Yazidis, Muslims, and others in its path. Against this background, several patriarchs of the ancient Christian churches came to Washington in September of that year to plead with Western religious and political leaders to save their besieged communities, including the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who was instrumental in bringing the summit about.

The patriarchs’ entry to Washington was highly publicized, and carried with it a hint of the spectacle (and politics) that accompanied the Byzantines to Florence. Unlike those in Florence, however, these ancient Christians from the East had no Caesar and no state. On September 9, they gathered in an ecumenical prayer service with their American friends as a symbol of unity. This quasi-liturgical event seemed to contain within itself much of the paradox and tension that it sought to diffuse, as protocol complicated presenting Evangelical leaders along with the patriarchs. Still more problematic, the urgent nature of the event had left insufficient time for many Evangelical leaders to participate at all. The following day, the patriarchs and other diaspora Christian leaders gathered at the U.S. Capitol, where the crowd of several hundred heard from more than 20 congressional leaders. On September 11, the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s 2001 attack on America, the patriarchs met with President Obama to plead for help against the radical offshoot of al-Qaeda that had carved out of Syria and Iraq a purported Caliphate.

The objectives of the summit were to foster greater unity between Middle East Christians living in America; to make their voices heard in Washington; to convey to American leaders the urgency of protecting their vulnerable flocks; and to lay the groundwork for greater collaboration with America’s Christians, particularly Evangelicals, in the future. Yet the cultural divides were apparent almost immediately. One cable news producer covering the story, upon seeing photos of the patriarchs from the Middle East in their traditional attire, asked why so many of the summit’s prominent guests were Muslim. It was an innocuous mistake, but one that foreshadowed miscues to follow.

A scuffle between two Middle East Christians on Capitol Hill was broken up by a tiny Assyrian nun. Shortly thereafter, the patriarchs were taken, unwittingly, into a congressional hearing on the war crimes of Bashar al-Assad by congressional staff who, also unwittingly, did not realize that the Eastern Christians’ lives could be endangered by their attendance at such a hearing. They were hastily ushered out. There were other unpleasant incidents, some highly publicized, some not.

Among those that did gain public attention was an incident in which Sen. Ted Cruz announced that the Christians of the Middle East had no greater ally than Israel, which drew a generally negative response from the audience—particularly from those who had to return to Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, where their lives and the lives of their families would now be threatened. Some believe that Senator Cruz deliberately baited the audience to capitalize politically in the lead-up to the 2016 race; others think that he stepped naively but without malice into the complexities of the Middle East, framing the issue in polarized terms that might make for good politics in the Bible Belt but that are incompatible with Middle East reality. Whatever the case, it is safe to assume that Cruz did not foresee anything like the backlash that came from Christian, particularly Catholic, and conservative journalists, many of whom were in the room. In the days and weeks that followed, uncomfortable conversations long overdue took place inside the Beltway. What to do about—and for—the Christians of the Middle East?

Initially caustic reaction to these strange Christians from the East has given way to thoughtfulness, especially on the part of many Evangelicals. This spirit was captured by the Evangelical author Eric Metaxas, who said before his September 11 keynote address at the summit, “I really just want to understand.”

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Byzantinologist Steven Runciman, writing about the essential distinction between Greek and Latin Christians, observed that the two simply “felt differently about religion; it is difficult to have a debate about feelings.” The same might be said of the encounter between American and Middle East Christians today. It is not, after all, merely theology that accounts for the cultural gap. There are fundamentally different attitudes and experiences regarding the role of institutional Christianity vis-à-vis the state, the news media, and civil society, and different perspectives on war and peace—all of which have evolved quite separately in the East and West for the better part of two millennia.

Despite a sincere desire to help, American Christians are often separated from those of the Middle East not only by language but by politics, ethnicity, heritage, and perhaps most significantly, culture. There is an inclination to regard “the other” as precisely that. Middle East Christians are often mistaken by Americans for Muslims because of their Middle Eastern appearance, names, and use of Arabic, bringing to mind the Medieval Latin Christian tendency to refer to the Greeks of Byzantium as “pale-faced Turks.” Mark Movsesian noted that “Mideast Christians have the misfortune to be too foreign for the Right and too Christian for the Left.” Middle East Christians, for their part, are often befuddled by Evangelical theology, much of it shaped by an eschatology with immediate geopolitical implications.

There are certain fundamentally different attitudes toward war and peace. Whereas American Christians, Catholic or Protestant, have comparatively little hesitation about military service or killing in combat, Middle East Christians have views more in the tradition of the Eastern Church Fathers, many of whom believed that war was essentially sanctioned murder. Saint Basil, in an extreme interpretation of this view, held that Christian soldiers who kill in battle may not receive the Eucharist for three years. By contrast, medieval Western Christians—influenced by Augustine’s just war theory, the chivalric tradition, and the Norse-Germanic comfort with mortal combat—were far more prone to engage in military action than their Byzantine counterparts, who remained deeply influenced by early Christian pacifism and a preference for diplomacy. That preference still dominates Eastern Christianity.

Where church practices are concerned, Middle East Christians have liturgies of the kind the Reformers in the West dismissed as formalisms that detracted from a personal encounter with Christ. Whether Orthodox, Coptic, or Catholic, they typically submit to a rigid ecclesial hierarchy, with patriarchs still based in the Middle East. Evangelicals, on the other hand, tend to practice a faith more individualistic, autonomous, and non-hierarchical. It is these very qualities that allow Evangelicals to mobilize movements rapidly—precisely the kind of movements Middle East Christians now desperately need. (Sweeping generalizations can be counterproductive, of course, failing to grasp the vast diversity and complexity of Christians and Christian thought. They fail, for example, to underscore a small but steadily rising demographic: Arab Evangelicals.)

thisarticleappears [2]Middle East Christians have much to learn from American Christians about engagement in their country’s public life. Whereas American Christians have highly developed notions of liberty and little patience for being exiled to the margins of the public square, Eastern Christianity never had its Canossa—that moment of emerging from the state as a rival, independent institutional power. In consequence, an essentially Caesaropapist tradition continues in variations across the Middle East to this day, sometimes leading to lurid political bedfellows. Deference to those in power is alien to Anglo-Protestant political culture, which is far more likely to push back against the encroachments of the state—a luxury, Middle East Christians will argue, that they do not possess. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention proudly noted at Georgetown University earlier last year that Baptists “have a history of being irritants.” As Middle East Christians in America attempt to organize into a more cohesive advocacy group, they may learn from American Protestants that they will get further as irritants than as supplicants.

For Greek and Latin Christians in the 15th century, cultural attitudes proved more difficult to reconcile than theological differences. To succeed where their spiritual forefathers failed, Middle East Christians living in America today must work to overcome cultural barriers by reaching out to Evangelicals in their own communities, from whom they can learn to be successful advocates for their brother and sister Christians who wish to continue living in the Middle East. Evangelicals, in turn, must come to understand the complexity and richness of Middle East Christianity, whose faith and practices have been handed down largely undiluted over two millennia from the earliest origins of the Christian faith—a vital cultural source for American Christians, akin to the classical learning that the Byzantines brought to the West at Florence.

The cultural gap that exists between Middle East and American Christians today may be wider than the one between Greek and Latin Christians in the 15th century. The means are available to close this gap rapidly, however, through communication, personal encounters, and above all good will. Many individuals and organizations are endeavoring now to bring this about, and there is much work underway to promote grassroots political organization, direct humanitarian assistance, political advocacy, and programs for long-term sustainability. But the most fundamental work consists first in seeking to understand the other.

Andrew Doran is a senior advisor for In Defense of Christians.

21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "When Christianities Collide"

#1 Comment By Michael Finch On June 9, 2016 @ 12:26 am

A very thoughtful and historically rich column that presents a critical understanding of Eastern Christians. As the West owes Byzantium a great debt, so we owe today’s Eastern Christians all of our support and love.

#2 Comment By Charles Cosimano On June 9, 2016 @ 2:32 am

For many Americans, myself among them, there is a far more pressing question that theology or history. Intervention is expensive. It requires a lot of money and sometimes lives. What case can be made that all the lives of the Middle Eastern Christians are worth the life of one American?

If you want our young people to die, you need to make a better argument.

#3 Comment By connecticut farmer On June 9, 2016 @ 8:58 am

“One cable news producer covering the story, upon seeing photos of the patriarchs from the Middle East in their traditional attire, asked why so many of the summit’s prominent guests were Muslim.”

One of the members of the “well-educated” elite no doubt.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 9, 2016 @ 10:52 am

Despite being in disfavor of no small number of christians, there’s plenty of room and sound reasons for their defense – plenty.

And while appreciated the history lesson, (sincerely, I read this article twice in the wee hours of the morning) I remain what one is being advanced here beyond followers of Christ from east and west should engage in a dialogue to foster common ground and unity.

Based on the article, that seems to be taking place despite the various mishaps and communication hurdles. I remain unconvinced to what extent the genocide exists and its relevance to a common dialogue I am unclear.

If churches desire to head east and care for Churches in need based on their views — I am all supportive — go. And I would have to admit that said churches are at risk because of our actions in 2003 and the subsequent support for toppling governments by the current admin. and as such, I could lean to some responsibility for returning (boy a someone who thought both invasions unnecessary — that’s tough pill to swallow). Some manner of return in force is for a unsettling, to say the least, but we do have some culpability for the state of things. It’s the current game interventionists of any ideology desire. make a mess and then claim we need to fix the mess — cats and dogs chasing tails. their own and each others. It is the forever trap. And one that makes liberals smile with glee. Because for conservatives it has all of the moral trappings of of embracing a common ground filled with yeast.

But I am fairly convinced that I could and will not embrace a wholesale immigration plan based on the referenced scenario. And I am remain unconvinced that christians from abroad will provide the support that so many christians think they will provide. That was the game with the Latino gambit that has never worked out. We are dicovering that the dysfunction or rejection of traditional moral foundations as as bankrupt in these places if not worse than in the US. I guess there’s not much one can expect from a people who claim to carry a cross in one hand as they steal your bread with the other and supported by christians, in god’s name no less — stranger than strange bedfellows.

So, if there’s something more you expect for supporting a dialogue, you will have to spell it out for idiots such as myself.

#5 Comment By Gregory Manning On June 9, 2016 @ 11:09 am

Charles is right. The West doesn’t give a flip about religious beliefs. Pragmatism is all that matters. What kind of return are we getting for “sacrificing” our young on some altar?
Another thing–it’s one thing to be an irritant to a bunch of politicians who just want you to get off their backs and quite another to be an irritant to people who want you to die.

#6 Comment By Michael Heraklios On June 9, 2016 @ 12:19 pm

Those who say that the West owes a great debt to Byzantium is missing a big piece of the story – true, a lot of Byzantines who fled the Turkish conquest brought the legacy of classical Greece and Rome with them, but this is not a legacy that the Byzantines openly celebrated. They were a devout Orthodox Christian society for most of their history, and the religious leadership was sure to keep the pagan legacy at bay, making sure that the ideas of the pagan philosophers didn’t cause too much trouble. That’s the reason why a Renaissance, a Reformation or even a concept of secularism did not emerge from the Eastern Christian world.

Philosophy was completely subordinated to revelation in Byzantium, and there was no conception of separation between church and state (The same cannot be said for the West). The Byzantine Empire was a unique society in its approach to the role of religion in society, and I think it is one of the many aspects of that civilization that Western historians seem to ignore, for whatever reason.

#7 Comment By Greg On June 9, 2016 @ 1:50 pm

What Americans can do is stay the hell away. Stop your prosletyzing, stop your regime changes, and stop your military actions. Unfortunately evangelicals are wedded to all three – any attempt to gain their sympathy will ultimately fail. Mistakenly believing they are co religionists will only compound the problem. Better to turn to Russia, which, while unlikely, might actually help and will certainly not be working fastidiously toward your demise.

#8 Comment By hooly On June 9, 2016 @ 2:06 pm

The solution is simple. Christians in the West should emulate their Crusader forebears and take up their AR15s and travel to the Mid East protect their Christian co-religionists. Christian young men need to more like their Jihadi counterparts and fight for their faith, put their money where their mouth is so to speak. But please, please, please don’t expect us non-Christians to waste our life and treasure for your Crusades and Jihads.

#9 Comment By Will Harrington On June 9, 2016 @ 4:44 pm

I haven’t got very far through the article, but John VIII Palaiologos did not bear the title of Ceaser. Basileus, certainly, Avtocrator as well,but Caesar/Kaiser/Czar/Tsar was a lesser title given to allied Orthodox rulers of such places as Bulgaria and Russia and to members of the Imperial family. If there was a Latin title that carried through for the Basileus it would have been Augustus.

OK, Having read the article and all the comments so far, here is my take. The article is generally good, but nothing new for this Orthodox Christian. Cruz’s belligerence or stupidity cost him my support, certainly.

I was surprised at the commenters who seemed to assume this was a call for military intervention, but for Hooley in particular I want to say You should be thankful that Christians have not felt the same about fighting America’s secular crusades and Jihads because there wouldn’t have been enough “others” left to make up a credible military. Just sayin the way things are going we may not be willing to waste our lives or treasure for non Christian America in the future

#10 Comment By George On June 9, 2016 @ 7:29 pm

For an Orthodox Christian perspective regarding the “West,” I recommend the excellent podcast by Fr. John Strickland, “Paradise and Utopia.”

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As a Coptic Orthodox Christian, I’m obligated to mention that Fr. John is wrong regarding the “Monophysites,” but he’s right about most other things.

#11 Comment By Gus Malanga On June 9, 2016 @ 9:59 pm

Superb article! As a retired judge I have recently enjoyed my free time reading independently on many of these subjects: Rome, Byzantium, Filioque, etc, and struggled explaining to my friends much of what I was learning.
Mr. Doran succinctly explains everything adding colorful historical detail and perspective without sounding pedantic. What a wonderful essay! Thanks.

#12 Comment By Bill Asbell On June 9, 2016 @ 11:17 pm

This was a very incisive, accurate and informative article on a subject far too rarely covered or discussed. As an “adoptive” Maronite Catholic of Irish descent, living in Virginia born into the Vatican II Latin Church I was particularly engrossed in the history and cultural analysis which I found to be so incisive and accurate. Eastern Christians, especially from the Arabic Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq) are so misunderstood by Western Christians even though they come from the cradle of Christianity. Because they speak the “enemy’s” language…Arabic, it is implicitly assumed that they are not wholly Christian. Evangelicals suffer from this cultural ignorance more than Catholics who come from a cosmopolitan “universal, i.e. “catholic” church. Nonetheless, American Catholics are not immune from this ignorance. Islam has indeed influenced that part of the world in so many unfortunate ways, and these poor people are always having to be careful about what they say and do in public forums, for fear of reprisals that can be fatal to them and their loved ones. They are indeed more pacifistic than we are in the West….perhaps because they are so outnumbered and their adversaries are so brutal and merciless. We need to pray for them daily and come to their aid as Christian people, societies and governments. Christianity is not morally equivalent to Islam…it is superior by leaps and bounds. And this Leftist cult of moral-relativism is very dangerous and must be rejected by rational, people of good will.

#13 Comment By Bill Asbell On June 9, 2016 @ 11:35 pm

I just have to say that Will Harrington makes excellent, salient and accurate points in his last paragraph addressed to Hooly, the Fooly.

#14 Comment By BillWAF On June 10, 2016 @ 3:50 am

In Syria, the US may not have to intervene to help Christians. Instead, it can stop supporting jihadists who oppose Assad (whom the US claims are “moderates.”

#15 Comment By Stephen On June 10, 2016 @ 9:03 am

Agree with Greg and Will on important points. Russia has clearly stated it’s commitment to defend the christians of the middle east. Russia rightly considers them co-religionists. American evangelicals, smug heretics in my opinion, are not sympathetic to any other form of christianity, content in their ignorance. Since most of them are dispensationists, they are more supportive of Israel than they are to these Christians, whose faith came directly from the apostles in an unbroken line. George W himself showed us the evangelical attitude: the persecution and exodus of Christians from Iraq began in 2003. He neither said or nor did anything in their defence. Speaking of Augustinian just war teaching, John Paul II pleaded incessantly with W not to invade Iraq, making the case that it did not meet just war criteria.

As a catholic I have to agree with Will in his comment about christians in the future being willing to send their boys to fight for this country in the future. I have a 10 year old boy, and I would not want him to join the american military, which is why really a band of mercenaries today, controlled and manipulated by a government of liars and fools. I am seriously considering relocating my family to a genuinely Christian country in south america, as this country continues it’s transformation into Sodom and Gomorrah.

#16 Comment By Dr. Robert Miner On June 10, 2016 @ 10:27 am

First a short word of introduction: I am a US citizen, evangelical, a professor of theology, working “The Program for Theological Education by Extension” (PTEE – [4]), serving and teaching in Arabic with Arabic churches throughout the Arab World. This I have been doing for the last 30 years, in nearly all the countries of the Arab.
Now to the article: I perceive one enormous negligence in the above article, “When Christianities Collide” by Andrew Doran. He completely ignores the presence of the Arabic evangelical churches.
His is simply a division between, on one hand, the various Eastern liturgical churches and traditions, and on the other hand, the scripture-oriented, evangelical, Arab churches, spread throughout the Arab World.
These latter mentioned would be the first to declare their Arabic identity and patriotism, whilst at the same time, attempting to orient their individual and collective lives on the holy scriptures of God. This attribute would be common with evangelicals around the world, despite their cultural, national, traditional, and linguistic distinctives.
In describing the Western, Roman reaction to the Eastern, Byzantine tradition, with which I would greatly agree, Mr. Doran has neglected to mention anything concerning the European Reformation, with its emphasis on “sola scriptura”, meaning basically “back to the Bible”.
Since the First Gulf War in 1991 and again since the Second Gulf War in 2003, we have been working with the Arab evangelical churches in Jordan, welcoming and caring for the innumerable refugees coming from Iraq and Syria. In solidarity with the evangelical churches of the Arab World, I would ask the author to reconsider his distinction between Eastern traditions and Western evangelicals.
Our open discussion and conversation among the churches of the Arab World are not simply based questions of antiquity, as in “the oldest is the best”, but on questions concerning the basis of our faith and our concepts of truth. In other words, what do we consider the revelation of God’s truth, simple church traditions or the Bible as the Word of God.
If the answer to this question were simply a matter of age, there would have been no need for reformation in Europe in the 16th century.
The same question is contemporary in our conversations within the Arab World, meaning as Arabs among Arabs, without any reference to East or West.
Please remember the historical events of the Old and New Testaments took place, as well as the cultural and historical origins of the Bible. These are all Eastern, and we are all trying to understand and to apply these truths to the realities of our lives, where ever we happen to reside.

#17 Comment By Ragnvaldr On June 11, 2016 @ 9:14 am

Iraq and Syria once had thriving Christian communities. Until the American Christians up and decided bombing the hell out of those countries was a good idea.

#18 Comment By William Dalton On June 11, 2016 @ 2:16 pm

“For many Americans, myself among them, there is a far more pressing question that theology or history. Intervention is expensive. It requires a lot of money and sometimes lives. What case can be made that all the lives of the Middle Eastern Christians are worth the life of one American?

“If you want our young people to die, you need to make a better argument.”

Why have we been sending young Americans to fight and die in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last fifteen years? Why did we initiate and fund new wars in Libya and Syria, in which even the lives of American “advisers” have also been lost? Was it not to protect and defend the people of those countries we believed shared our religious values, valued democracy and equality and our way of life? Was it not to defeat the foes of those values who threatened them and us alike?

If we do not send American soldiers to the Middle East today in the large numbers we did in recent years it is not because the cause of that warfare no longer exists, nor is it less of a threat to us. It is because we have learned that our fighting the “War on Terror” in the Middle East has, up until now, brought more harm than good. We have learned that the Christians of the Middle East survived and were more secure living under the rule of men like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qadafi, Hosni Mubarak, and, especially, Bashar al Asad, than under the rulers and warriors we have assisted to replace them.

We Americans owe the Christians of the Middle East, who have lost their lives and their homes as a result of warmaking, more American lives and fortune than we have forfeited as a result of the actions which have inflicted on them far greater damage. We just have to figure out a way to make that sacrifice in a way that doesn’t burden them with more and greater sacrifices of their own.

#19 Comment By William Dalton On June 11, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

“A scuffle between two Middle East Christians on Capitol Hill was broken up by a tiny Assyrian nun. Shortly thereafter, the patriarchs were taken, unwittingly, into a congressional hearing on the war crimes of Bashar al-Assad by congressional staff who, also unwittingly, did not realize that the Eastern Christians’ lives could be endangered by their attendance at such a hearing. They were hastily ushered out. There were other unpleasant incidents, some highly publicized, some not.”

Bashar al-Assad is Syria’s Donald Trump. He may be a sorry and conscienceless bastard, but right now he is the best thing available to Christians in his country to save them from forces far more threatening to them than he. If Ted Cruz had given as much concern and showed as much loyalty to the Christians of America and the Middle East as he did to the State of Israel he might be the one preparing the receive the Presidential nomination of the Republican Party today.

#20 Comment By Mia On June 11, 2016 @ 10:31 pm

Personally, I think most of the mistakes mentioned in the article have nothing whatsoever to do with theological or liturgical differences. A lot of it has to do with the news people’s general cluelessness on religious topics, and it is undeniable to see (and I say this as someone who has studied foreign cultures for decades) that we have a large number of our citizens who don’t even know where these countries are on a map let alone basic nuances of culture that anyone with a few years studying Arabic would realize, such as the fact Christians in the Middle East use Arabic just like the Muslims. These aren’t hard facts to find out, we just don’t have a lot of people interested in learning those details, so it becomes a diplomatic fail.

So tell me, how did the denominations deal with one another under the Soviet persecutions in that region of the world? Under Nazi Germany? In such situations, there really isn’t time or opportunity to worry about liturgical norms and these kinds of aspects of practicing the faith that become luxuries when it’s a life and death situation or when you are outlawed and being thrown into jail with other denominational believers. You all bleed the same color in the end, and unlike in prosperous times, denominational differences need to be subliminated to the need to survive and have allies in the faith.

#21 Comment By Joephus On June 12, 2016 @ 5:03 pm

There is an illustrative story in Boccaccio’s Decameron (I forget on which day or who told it) of a Christian (specifically a Roman Catholic) who urges his Jewish friend to convert to Christianity. The Jewish person says I’ll consider it, but first I want to travel to Rome and look into the lives of your religious leaders. At this the Christian is dismayed. No way, he says, don’t bother doing that. Look at your local priests and take your impression of Christianity from them. No, says the Jew, I’ll go to Rome. Fine, says the Christian, go, but I’m not coming with you. Now the Jewish person goes off to Rome and the Christian stays at home, confident that the Jew will never convert to Christianity because, as he knows, the papacy is plagued by all manner of foul practices; as soon as the Jew sees the air of debauchery that rules over the Vatican, he’ll come right back and rub it in my face, confirmed in his Judaism. Time passes, and the Jew returns, meeting with the Christian not long after to tell him that he has been to Rome, where he stayed with his Jewish friends, and that while there he secretly made an investigation into the lives of the Pope and his cardinals. In so doing, he made note of the following fact: they are a gaggle of sodomites, usurers and thieves, dirty, blasphemous, wanton, lustful, gluttonous and wrathful to a man! The Christian sighs. So no doubt you remain a Jew? he asks, in a tone of resignation. On the contrary! comes the response. Christianity is spreading over the Earth, converting men and women and children in nations too many to count, adding souls at a rate that would rival the patter of raindrops on the ground during a storm. As such, the only thing I could conclude upon learning that the emissaries of Christianity on Earth are so thoroughly backwards is that it really is the true religion, sent by God. What else could explain its success on the basis of so degraded a body of representatives? And so the Jew converts to Christianity in the proper way, retiring to live as a holy man in a convent, where he studies the gospel till the end of his days.