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The Optimism of Orthodoxy

by Dr. Alexander Kalomiros

“Don’t be pessimistic,” say the false shepherds. “Orthodoxy is known by its optimism. God won’t abandon His Church, and ‘the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’” Truly, Orthodoxy is optimistic, but only regarding things that pertain to God and come from Him. God is omnipotent love itself. He shall never abandon us. Rather, the fear is that we could abandon Him. The pessimism of those who do not willfully shut their eyes to reality is confirmed by man’s retreat from his Creator. Nothing shall ever happen to the Church of Christ, even if it is left with only two or three people on earth. It is not the Church that is in danger. We are in danger. The question is how many of us finally shall remain in the eternal and immortal Church of Christ which, like Him, is synonymous with the Truth.

Earthly prospects were never optimistic. Christians never expected the conditions of life to improve, spiritually or materially, in this decaying world. The course of history near the end times has been described in the darkest colors, as much by the Lord as by His disciples. Christians always foretold and anticipated the advance of sin and corruption, which shall reach their peak in the days just before the glorious Second Coming of Christ. The millenialists’ optimistic expectations of a thousand-year earthly kingdom in this world of corruptibility were condemned by the Church as soon as they first appeared in the early Christian centuries. It is not possible for the kingdom of God (where every true Christian lives in the depths of his heart as a betrothal of the Spirit) to prevail and shine forth in its glory on this corruptible earth. “New wine is not put into old wineskins.” “We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). Without the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of all things which the Lord will bring with His Second Coming, it is not possible for us to speak of optimistic outlooks. Quite the contrary. “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the faith upon the earth?” (Lk. 18:8).

A Substitute for Paradise

The expectation of an earthly paradise is characteristic of religious and even political sentiments, which essentially become confused with each other. We Christians “have no abiding city here, but we seek the coming one” (Heb. 13:14). But the devil doesn’t want us to work for the future city but to be content with this corruptible earth as if we are to stay on it forever. This is the world we try to improve, as much as possible to make more lasting and comfortable. He fools us with the deception that a Paradise is possible without the resurrection and renewal of all things, without incorruptibility; in other words, without the risen Christ. We tried to replace the Paradise we lost with civilization. We departed from God and His creation and worshipped the works of our own hands to the point of being enslaved by them and allowing them to destroy us. The whole of men’s activity, the blood and sweat they spill have but one purpose: to make life more accommodating in our dark and gloomy prison. They didn’t believe in Christ because He offered heavenly, not earthly riches, and even asked them to deny themselves earthly and tangible riches in order to attain heavenly and intangible ones. But those who believed also expect that Christ will give them earthly riches in exchange for their faith and obedience. They expect Him to make everything easy in their lives. They want the law of God to be followed by everyone so an earthly happiness will cover the world. They seek a substitute for the kingdom of God and not the kingdom itself. Each substitution makes man lose the ability to live the real thing itself. When the devil tempted Christ in the wilderness, it was exactly this earthly happiness he asked Him to give to men, because it would have meant their eternal death. They use Christianity as a means to a better world and deceive themselves that they are Christians.

The Need for Tyranny

“What is truth?” The tired, agnostic question of Pontius Pilate is repeated by spiritual and political tyrants in every age. “Intangible truth doesn’t concern us,” they say. “What’s important is a solid administrative structure. What you say about internal unity which the truth supposedly brings, wherever it may be, we regard with ‘tolerance.’ We care about outward, tangible unity which all can see. They respect and fear it but it can’t exist without discipline and enforcement. The free and willing obedience of love you speak of is comical, and it’s for comical people. We want effectiveness. We’re not working for the soul of this or that person, but for the masses, for the whole world. We don’t tolerate schisms. You say the sheep must separate from the wolves. And we answer that the sheep need, if not the wolves, then at least sheepdogs and shepherds who herd them to slaughter and eat them. No, sirs, if the truth exists, it must always be mixed with untruth to render it harmless. The plain truth is a very dangerous thing. And these are not the times for dangers; the age of valor is past. We are pacifists! Down with war! Leave us in peace and let us live our little lives on this earth as comfortably as we can. Please, no naive zealotry.”

When Christ is present, no one perceives a need for administrative unity. Love for Christ is true unity. “That they may be one as We are one.” It is when we leave Christ that we feel the intense need for a monolithic structure and even for tyranny, e.g., the Papacy. In Orthodoxy there was never a monolithic structure; there were only paternal and familial relations. The Great Hierarch and King of Kings was not of this corruptible world even though He is omnipresent. The kingdom of God “is not of this world” even though all those who live in the kingdom began to taste of it in this world. This world belongs to the leader of this world, the devil. He is the first tyrant, the leader of all the tyrants of the earth, political and religious.

Only Christ binds people together, because only He binds them ontologically with God in His own Person. But Christ doesn’t force people to accept Him. When He is not present, the need for external continuity raises its head automatically, likewise the need for compulsory discipline and political or spiritual tyranny—democratic or oligarchic, it makes no difference. The granting of a monarch to ancient Israel was a concession that God made to a stiff-necked and unbelieving nation that wanted a visible and tangible king and wouldn’t let Christ dwell in its heart. He gave them a king so the devil wouldn’t give them his own; but He did so because of their hardness of heart and their little faith.

The same is true of the New Israel, us Christians. Even if by divine economy there’s some margin for state rule, there’s no margin for spiritual and ecclesiastical tyranny, because it undermines Christ and intrudes on territories that are His alone in the kingdom of heaven. The Papacy and other ecclesiastical tyrannies cast out Christ from the lives of the people and took over in His place. They “sentenced” Him to remain in heaven and to leave us alone here on earth. Ecumenism is characterized by its indifference to the truth (Christ) and its great concern for a monolithic continuity and structure they call “the unity of the churches,” a unity in the midst of doctrinal confusion and vagueness, a unity with global visions and religio-political dimensions.

The universal state is being built before our eyes. It will unite all religions and nations under its absolute power. Its underpinnings are essentially complete. It will be a state in the absolute sense because subjugation to it will not only be outward and material but, above all, spiritual. The world awaits it with nostalgia and yearning as the only hope of the millenialist dreams of all the ages for an earthly “paradise” in the midst of death and corruption.

Electronic Rule

The present-day computerized state is incomparably more effective than any tyrant mankind has known up to now. Its strength lies in its ability to know each citizen in depth and to seize hold of him from within, not only externally, as it always was until yesterday. And, as powerful nations unite, coordinating and multiplying their strength, their ability to impose their rule increases vertically. The super-effective means governments have today for exercising their authority over people were never even dreamed of by tyrants of the past. Beneath an innocent veneer of democracy, citizens are bound with fine and invisible yet superstrong threads. We are in the age of electronic brains and electronic information and mass communication. Very few understand this kind of tyranny because man’s subservience to contemporary government is mainly ideological. A centuries-long cultivation of thought has prepared man and made him desire such a subjugation. The state which is coming will be the realization of universal human desires. We expect from the state today what the pagans asked of their gods. We want it to be our wet nurse, protector, and god. We ask it to provide our food, clothing, housing, recreation, education, and health. And the state slyly accepts the invitation and fosters our expectations. It asks us to give only one thing in return: the freedom of our mind and heart.

We give our birthright for a bowl of lentil soup. We gave the state the right to come into our homes and our family relationships, to influence our thought, and to mold our children. We gave it our acceptance and the right to know whatever it needs to alienate us from one another. It channels our disputes into false quarrels so it can maintain the impression that we are free and able to express our views on such supposedly major conflicts as marxism and capitalism, the two facets in our times of the ancient worship of Mammon. Everything has become uniform today—people’s mentality, their lives, appearance, habits, desires, and expectations. That uniformity, which even extends to a common worldwide language, is the backbone of our subjugation to a single universal state mechanism which encloses us like a net. And like fish we don’t see it. In subtle psychological ways, they guide us to want, to agree, and to believe what we must do, what we must accept one way or another. The striped uniforms we’ll all be wearing on the global prison ship are already sewn. The changing of mankind into herds and masses has essentially been achieved. The “mystery of iniquity” has arrived at its final phase because people have “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:7, 10).

[Source: The Ark. Number 13, July 1988. Ridgewood, NJ: George Gabriel. pp. 1-4.]

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