As I type, many tens of thousands of Americans committed to the sanctity of human life are traveling toward Washington, D.C. for the March for Life today, including my brother, Aaron. On this anniversary of Roe versus Wade, I hope that they all arrive safely in town, and I wish them well in their attempt to raise awareness about our national scandal. However, I doubt that they will arrive warmly—it is supposed to be a cold, sleety day. Thirty degrees is not bad when one is dry, but it is miserable to have cold, wet feet. Still, I imagine that the mirth of the crowd will make it bearable, perhaps even pleasant.
Last night, I attended the vespers service at Saint Nicholas Cathedral, where the O.C.A.‘s Metropolitan Jonah addressed the crowd and spoke at length about the importance of the family and of a loving spirit of inclusion. He warned about the isolating power of judgment and condemnation. Instead of condemning, we should love and embrace—for many keep from repentance and salvation due to the fear of being condemned by Christians in the Church.
As usual, I have a hard time understanding this aspect of Christianity. I understand the old cliché of hating the sin but not the sinner, but how does one not judge a man? It just seems absurdly mad not to judge everyone and everything. For we have to use our practical wisdom in every decision that we make, and most of those decisions involve other people and our assessments of other people. When Christians begin saying warm, fuzzy, theological pop, I become quite agitated. For I do not know what they mean, as it is so ambiguous.
My friend Andrew tends to assuage my fears by interpreting such advice in an intelligent and rational way, but it is clear that many or most people fail to understand things intelligently or rationally. I know that there is sometimes rhetorical power in using vague language, but when such ambiguity is so open to misunderstanding, it seems to me that a better course would be to articulate more clearly what one means. What does it really mean to refrain from judgment toward others without being reckless in one’s actions?
I have to credit traditionalist papist intellectuals for their distinctions and clarity. Perhaps, the West’s experience with scholasticism has trained its traditionally educated intellectuals to delineate their arguments with precision. I wish that Orthodox hierarchs used such careful language more. Metropolitan Jonah seems like a good and sincere man, but his sermons frustrate me. Somewhere in the words, his love of God and man shine through. He invites us to follow the higher road, and, as Christians, we have a pretty good idea of where that road begins and whither it travels. However, the messiness and apparent nonsense of much of what he says leaves a lot of potential for misunderstanding by the masses and for exploitation by ideologues. I suppose that I want a mixture of John Chrysostom and Thomas Aquinas. Does that count as avarice?
There was a flock of O.C.A. bishops at the vespers service—far more than in previous years. I am not sure if flock is the appropriate collective noun. For bishops are shepherds, not sheep. Perhaps, a brace, bevy, or brood of bishops? I do not think that any other jurisdiction’s episcopate was represented, though I recognized priests from various jurisdictions. Such is a shame. For it seems that the march would be a great opportunity for inter-Orthodox ecumenical cooperation and fellowship. That is certainly the case with the clergy and laity—there are Greeks, Antiochians, Russians, Serbs, and all the rest there marching with the O.C.A. hierarchs, along with the hundred thousand or so other Christians who come faithfully every year in the worst of winter to remind the nation that our laws should be just, that the innocent should be protected, and that God will not be mocked.
Of course, God is mocked—but for how long?
Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
I might just see you at the march. If so, thank you for marching. Stay warm. Valete!