Christianity and Patriotism

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues

I came across the following reflection on the ancient faith radio website on the topic of "Christianity and Patriotism." I thought it was beneficial to share this reflection considering the times we live in today and the issues we're facing in Egypt and in the Diaspora. I also thought it interesting considering how the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches are strongly ethnocentric, and this reflection is coming from an Eastern Orthodox priest.

I also thought it would be nice to type out the whole quote mentioned at the end of the podcast, which is from the Epistle to Diognetus, written by an unknown Christian author in the second century:

"For the Christians are distinguished from other people neither by country, nor language, not the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation of deliberation of inquisitive people; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking way of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.... They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven."

(Trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Church Library, Edinburgh 1897, Vol. 1, 307).


  • Thanks for posting this Biboboy.

    yes it's true that often, many Orthodox churches in general are ethnocentric. From my experience, this is both good and bad. It's good in that people from another country can come to their new country and still be able to share what they had growing up, and what their ancestors have been passing down for generations...its a shame when cultures die out. At the same time, the church is not meant to preserve our cultures ethnically speaking.
    The Church of Christ as we all know is here to help us on our path to salvation, on our path to being with God in His Kingdom, which obviously transcends any country or heritage we have here on earth. The 'ethnocentricity' in this regard can be bad; where we only use the church *just* to come together for cultural aspects or to meet our fellow Egyptian, fellow__etc friends.

    Worse is when we ban other from joining us because they do not share the same culture/language as us. As we know from the book of Acts, the Apostles in the upper room on Pentecost day had people from all over who spoke many languages. So it is possible to 'be the church' and not necessarily united in culture. This is one aspect I truly admire about the Roman Catholic Church here in North America.

    Looking at some Orthodox parishes here in Canada and the U.S. we find some simply titled "St. Mary Orthodox Church" or St. Elias Orthodox Church" etc. rather than St. Mary Russian Orthodox Church or St. Elias Antiochian/Coptic etc Orthodox church. These parishes might have had roots in Russia or the Middle East or Greece but eventually as generations passed, more and more U.S. culture is gradually incorporated into the church as needed. This will eventually happen with us as Copts as well. We cannot expect to remain a solely Egyptian based church in North America for too long. Already, we are losing the Arabic language and our youth are becoming more and more Americanized quickly...whether this is good or bad is another topic...The hope is that we can also reach out to the culture around us and offer the hand of Christ to those around us, not just those Egyptians or Arabic-speakers around us.

    At the same time, we do have many people coming from Egypt and the Middle East who are still very Egyptian, so what do we do? Thankfully, we have parishes for everyones needs in most cases. St. Mary's church in Kitchener Ontario is an example of a parish that (afaik) is nearly 100% english, which makes sense for the parishoners there, as many are 2nd, 3rd generation Egyptians or are married to non-Egyptians. Other parishes I know of hardly use any english. While this may seem confusing and not standardized, I think it makes sense since we as people are not standardized. We all have different needs and we need to be sensitive to that. The hope is that while keeping our Coptic *traditions* alive, we can embrace people from all walks of life and eventually be simply called "St. Pishoy Orthodox Church."
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