On Halloween



  • @baempi,
    Laymen who choose to share in Ramadan festivities do not have an obligation to do so. I didn't mean to say clergy are exempt and laymen are not. The fact is saying "Ramadan kareem and having an agape meal with Muslims (whether you are clergy or not) is not practicing Islam. Just as much as I don't think it would be wrong to have dinner with a practicing Jew (even though there are canons that forbid it). The reason is intent. The intent for having a regular dinner with a Jew is out of agape love, as is congratulating someone for their feast. Halloween is different because it has become internalized into practical Christianity. It is no longer someone else's feast. It has unfortunately become part of the Christian ethos that is in itself antithetical to Christianity.

    Yes Islam is antithetical to Christianity. But no Christian can convincingly argue that Christianity is the same as Islam (unless you're a Christ for Muslims or something like that). The bulk of the corpus writings on Christianity and Islam shows a very high divergence, making the two religions antithetical. It is and always be two different religions. Incorporating demonic Islamic customs into Christianity is not excusable. Neither should Halloween customs. 

    Now I can understand a child to dress as an angel, fireman or doctor seems benign, different from the witches and goblins of Halloween proper. But this does not change the fact that we are encouraging or condoning a child to wear a costume, a mask that hides his real identity and his Christian role to remove masks. 

    I also can accept a child dressing as an angel to remind the world of heavenly figures. In fact, His Grace's comments encouraged this. Before you, no one has ever considered or claimed dressing as an angel to preach Christ in a world bent on celebrating wickedness and death is an act of love. In this case, there is a spiritual benefit. But if we loose sight of this and claim that Halloween is simply a secular holiday (or even a Christian holiday) with customs done out of fun, then we are back to walking in the darkness, and not in the light. 

    Yes, I have kids. No they do not wear costumes. Since we told them that Halloween was demonic from an early childhood, they are actually appalled to wear costumes. In fact, when my son was three or so, a women at the grocery store line wanted to give him a Halloween treat. Without hesitation he said, "Halloween is the devil's." And she, apparently Christian, actually appreciated our devotion to separate ourselves from anything non-Christian. No one has ever asked him to a Halloween party. No one even knocks on our door at home since they know we will not answer. Standing by your beliefs is a good thing. And I think God has shown us that he approves. 
  • Were masks and wearing costumes related to an affirmation of Resurrection? Ie that Death has no dominion, that perfect love casts out fear?
  • I have no idea what your question is Cyril. 

    I am not saying we should avoid Halloween because we are afraid of death or that we have no love. Christ tells us plainly to walk in the light and not in darkness. Masks, costumes, witches, evil etc are all signs of darkness associated with Halloween. 
  • Yes I understand your point about your son.  Does he go to school? Or is he home schooled? I'm sure his daycare or school had halloween treats on friday. Did you write a note to excuse him from it last Friday and have him read in the library or keep him home that day?

    How about on valentines day? People exchange treats and cards. Its a holiday that started as a greeting card sales scheme, and now is associated with "cupid". Does he give or receive candy and cards on that day? It's associated with a mythical figure now.

    How about our lives on earth? It started off all fine and dandy til that sneaky snake slithered in and death entered the world. Should we be like the Amish now and isolate ourselves?

    Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven, not run and hide from every little thing. "The ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in Me". So we should take this verse to mean, the world is ruled by the devil right?  Therefore we should leave the world right? It's a slippery slope. If we slide far enough we will all be monks and nuns living in the desert.

    Of course, this doesn't mean to seek out Halloween or Valentines or other things, but this fearfulness of it is a little too much in my opinion.

    I hope you sense my sarcasm, because it is just that, sarcasm.

    Just as some are cordial and polite when it comes to ramadan, I think the same can be done with halloween done tastefully. Just as one considers the ramadan meal an agapy meal, why wouldn't the schoolchild do the same with his school party?
    Maybe Coptic culture is just used to Islam and not used to American culture as much, so we make exceptions for one and not the other.
  • I am with @baempi on that one, I believe ramadan meals are wrong especially when done in churches. Some liken them to charity but I don't think so
  • My son goes to Catholic School. There are no Halloween treats. They have a saint project and they have a procession around the school singing "The saints go marching on" with the icons they made in the saint project. I'd prefer if they sang Eporo but minasoliman will shoot me for that. :) At least the word "saint" is used on a feast that is supposed to be for saints. For Valentines day, they simple give presents and crafts to each other. This is also a school project that has nothing to do with mythical figures. This has nothing to do with fear. This has to do with light and darkness. Even if I did keep home from school on these days, it would not be for fear of defilement. It would be for following the gospel and walking in the light without making excuses or exceptions. Luckily, I didn't have to keep him from anything because they are ways to keep our stand without isolation. What is never acceptable is compromising our stand for some false notion that Halloween has nothing to do with demonic power. The fact that one takes this stand is evidence of the demonic power associated with Halloween.

    There is a difference with being cordial with someone who is different and actively participating or justifying the incorporation of anti-Christian customs within Christianity. This is not about indiscriminately making exceptions. It is about being clear in our stand independent of culture. If we have erroneously given an exception, it doesn't justify doing it again. Two wrongs don't make a right. 
  • Atleast you admitted that you allow him to indulge in one pagan (non-christian and in some instances linked to mythical beings) holiday being masqueraded as a suitable one in catholic school.  This masquerade is no different than what some churches do with halloween too.  They remove the mythical figures and goblins, just as your son did, and celebrate a nice time together. Valentines maybe just hasn't been condemned yet as much as halloween so you are more agreeable, but we are again at a slippery slope.

    Anyway, I am not a proponent of halloween, or valentines, or ramadan for that matter.  I just think the argument is silly that halloween is bad and ramadan feasts are ok.  That was the point of my original post that was usurped into a long discussion. I think both ramadan and halloween are wrong and in a sense equivalent. Why ban one and not the other?
  • Fine, Ophadece, if you think ramadan meals in churches is not appropriate Christian behavior, then address with the priest or bishop. But be prepared to explain why ramadan meals are not charity. I have shown why Halloween is not Christian and why a compromised view of secularism in the church is wrong. If people want to rebut by claiming my view is discriminatory in nature and based on fear, when I have already shown how it is not, then we can discuss that. It seems to me that claiming my view is based on fear is only another example how some cannot take off a mask their subconscious wants to keep on - which can be attributed to the whole Halloween philosophy. (Maybe this applies to myself also and I have a mask I cannot take off. May God help me if that is the case. I think I have given sufficient logical and scriptural evidence to support up my view.)
  • I also second baempi's practicality on the issue.  The "mask theology" I'm reading is a first to me.  Children from young age act out in certain manners.  Whether a physical mask or engaging in play roles, it makes no psychological difference.  I can understand hesitating giving candy for health reasons, but I can never understand why such a overzealous reaction over something mostly innocently done.  It's not even religiously related as Ramadan is, and yet here we have our bishops who openly sit in their tables for peace's sake.  If we take the same overzealous approach, one can argue attending Ramadan feasts is akin to burning incense to the gods.  No one is forcing Christians to worship the gods.  They can continue with their own practices, but just join everyone else in the Roman empire who normally and culturally burns incense to the gods.  But Christians say no, and they died for that.  So Ramadan festivities have a much greater propensity to towing a fine line on that end because that is congratulating a heterodox belief system.  However, Halloween is akin to 4th of July celebrations, Valentine's, Thanksgiving, Groundhog's day, etc. all of which have no connotation to any religious belief, but just a cultural gathering of sorts.

    I'm confused about the reference to St. Shenoute.  Is it a reference to St. Shenoute's erroneous assumptions about people taking relics, but nonetheless a correct underlying principle?  Then I agree!  I think HG Bishop Youssef rightfully condemns anything demonic, and he has the duty to do so.  The problem is that Halloween is not demonic.  So then, one can ask, "what about all that dark stuff that people engage in?"  There's two ways of looking at this.  Either we have the maturity to brush it off as people engaging in some sort of culturally feigned spook (which is controversial, since many people would rightfully disagree with this) or we see this from a perspective that people introduced something into Halloween that did not exist.  

    IN FACT, this latter argument is especially important for Satanists.  There is nothing more gratifying for Satanists (who are really most of the time atheists in real life) than to aggravate Christians by bastardizing cultural and religious holidays into a Satanic element.  And I fear that's what happened for Halloween.  What was an innocent candy-giving, costumed holiday became a spooky and scary and demons and monsters holiday.  The example for this does not include just Halloween, but Christmas and Easter are also some of the most important Satanic holidays as well.  Satanists are like parasites.  They feed off the good to scare us with the bad, so that we may react and say, "Halloween, Christmas, and Easter are all pagan holidays, and we should not participate in them."  That is chick.com theology, and we as Copts will not forgo Christmas or Easter because Satanists ruined them, but when it comes to secular Halloween, that's when we apply chick.com theology.  I think we need practical discernment and correct understanding of the history of something so that we do not look like fools when we try to preach people more burdensome restrictions on a genuinely non-Satanic and really non-religious celebration.  

    Would it preferable for people to not go to the beach so that we do not engage in the temptation of others in the beach?  Perhaps, it's more appropriate to say choose your beach wisely.  That's how I deal with Halloween.  As for the candy, I say candies are not knives, but they do need to be tamed and moderated in children, yes!  I would recommend that the parents take the candy, and encourage the children that it belongs to them only and no one else, and they get to eat it every time they do a chore, or homework, or whatever other responsibilities you teach them.  Anytime they go bad, they are not allowed to have that candy they took.
  • Removing the pagan mythical beings is evidence that the Catholic school (and myself) are not indulging in any masquerade. The issue here is not that these holidays have had a mythical or pagan origin. This is where I differ from Bishop Youssef's message. The issue here is that we are justifying and incorporating into Christianity a watered down version where the goblins and mythical figures of demonic origin remain but we simply don't consider it anti-Christian. There is where the demonic power lies. This is where I conform to Bishop Youssef's message. 

    Ramadan feasts, in my opinion, should have a clear stand that people who attend them are not automatically Muslim. I think this is at least implicitly known. The intent for Ramadan feasts are different than what is happening with Halloween. Maybe it is the same thing. I don't think so. At least we should agree that whatever is not ok, should be banned regardless of cultural influence.

    One last thing. If what we are doing in churches is also a masquerade of Halloween in sheep's wool, then we should take a stand against that too. I think I made my position clear that this is not acceptable either. The only right way to celebrate All saints day is a spiritual feast. There is no such thing as Christianity in this corner and secularism in that corner. (Or using the popular Arabic proverb, "One hour for your Lord, one hour for your heart"). 
  • edited November 2014
    I don't mind epouro. I love epouro! I'll teach my kids that! ;)
  • I sense a different conversation going on, but nonetheless I'm gonna answer Rem

    Remnkemi said:

     We can never forget the Church is NOT the place for fun. The Church's purpose is NOT to make sure the kids/teens are having fun instead of sinning. The Church IS the place "for the forgiveness of sins" (as we say in the psalmody). The Church's purpose IS to make sure kids/teens have salvation. 

    I see why you say that but for the churches I go to, that's not the case at all. Yes, the main purpose of our coptic church is to lead us to closer to God, but the doesn't mean that we dont have fun there too. We have summer camp, sleep overs, on easter day we bring those jumpy inflatable things, egg hunts, christmas plays and activities, conventions, soccer/basketball teams, what do you call those? Professional meetings? No, they're all fun activities. And this thing we do on halloween is no different. 

    And we're not bribing them, we're giving them a choice of coming.

    Remnkemi said:

    If Halloween celebrated as it is today was actually seen as the abomination because it really does cause desolation as spoken by Daniel the prophet, then no one would say "how come we can't do that?" Just like the knife thing. Giving a knife to a child who ask for it is considered an abomination that causes desolation. Even if the child says "How come we can't have knives?", you wouldn't justify an answer much less actually consider giving them an alternative to knives. No you would continue to give them what you know is holy. In reality, if every Christian saw Halloween for the abomination that it is, then no one would even see the need for an alternative. 

    This - I fully agree with. No question in that

    Remnkemi said:

    You wrote, "But having activities at church totally eliminates that."
    No it doesn't and it never will. I have been to a lot of these Church Halloween events. There are fun activities, but then there is mayhem. A lot of it. People literally fight for candy. I have seen a bunch simply steal the candy from servants. The noise level is way beyond any legal limit. And on occasion, some parent still manages to think they can bring their child dressed in costume. Did having these activities on this night prevent people from going trick or treating? Just look at Facebook where all these parents dressed up their kids and went trickortreating and not Church. I even saw a priest's child dressed in a costume. It's true more people went to Church than those who didn't. But we didn't eliminate anything. I don't think we even put a dent in the problem. We simply replaced one problem for another, instead of using the solution that has worked for thousands of years: prayer, fasting, fellowship in theology. 

    Lol, Im not sure what church you go to, but I dont see any of that here 

  • edited November 2014
    Removing the pagan mythical beings is evidence that the Catholic school (and myself) are not indulging in any masquerade. The issue here is not that these holidays have had a mythical or pagan origin. This is where I differ from Bishop Youssef's message. The issue here is that we are justifying and incorporating into Christianity a watered down version where the goblins and mythical figures of demonic origin remain but we simply don't consider it anti-Christian. There is where the demonic power lies. This is where I conform to Bishop Youssef's message. 

    I'm not going to belabor the Ramadan point.  I think that's enough for that, and we'll leave it as is.  I personally am not comfortable, but in general, I don't disagree with your arguments about Ramadan.  I just feel it does walk a fine line, since it is very clearly a religious occasion.

    Regarding goblins and monsters and ghouls and all that stuff.  I think I might have had a bit of a liberal childhood.  I did attend Catholic school when I was younger, ever since nursery until the 5th grade.  And I remember times when my Catholic school allowed us to dress up for Halloween.  I remember liking to dress up as clowns, ninja turtles (I heard that's popular again this year), and one year as I got older I do remember dressing up as a vampire.  As a child, none of that really scared me.  I went with the attitude of treating them like I would a Looney Tunes cartoon (at least when I was younger than that and was scared, that's what I was taught, and I was also taught to pray to Christ to protect me and give me courage and wisdom), as fake.  So the attitude does make a difference.  And this was in a Catholic school as well.

    As I grew older, I did realize that all that dark stuff is not appropriate for certain younger children, and that is something I would advise against.  I do not like it when very very young children are taken to haunted houses or corn mazes.  And if more people feel the need, I don't mind advising against wearing anything dark at all.  If a comical version, perhaps, but even then, perhaps not.  But you know how when you go to Disney Land or Universal Studios, and you're transported into this technologically advanced perceptive-changing rides? I tend to see some of those spooky stuff as that. Is it right?  I think that's for each person's discernment again.  And I certainly understand and support if a priest or any Christian speaks out against that particular issue of Halloween.  So I'm not really arguing against that either.

    But at the same time, if you live within a suburban community, and there is obviously nothing religious about it, but just a way to communicate with other families in that community, I personally think it should be encouraged as such, so that we do not look like we are isolationists.  Yes, we are not of this world, but we still engage in the world, and try to transcend our behaviors within the world, so long as our religion is not compromised.  As the epistle to Diognetus writes, "For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor 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 or deliberation of inquisitive men; 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 method of life.".  I have not seen anything remotely close to say how ancient Christians are asked to burn incense to the gods of the community.  What I am asked is to look over some children or to share in the community by giving the cute little kids the candy they so desire, with the hope that the parents can bridle the children's use of the candy.  It is nothing more than a harmless societal custom.  If I was asked to give candy for the sake of Satan or witchcraft or Samhain, then by all means, I will take a strong stand against it.  If there was even a hint that that's what this is all about, then the condemnation of Halloween would be so clear, it would be deafening.

    There are other obvious things that we should condemn, not just in Halloween, but in any secular or religious holiday.  Debauchery, explicitly revealing clothes, mischievous actions like egging houses, trick or treating in dangerous neighborhoods, going past curfews, all of these need to looked out against absolutely.  And this could happen in any day, even Christmas, sadly.  If you're going with some "friends" who want to play "summon the spirits", then that also should be clearly spoken out against as well.  But for the most part, this candy-costume celebration is nothing more than an Irish/German/Scottish culture that slowly evolved into the American movement we have today, mixed with the Satanic panic of the recent decades of our nation that lead to sensationalized Christian reactions.
  • @Remenkimi,
    Please don't take my posts as personal replies to you. And also there are things other members have explained better than I can.
    In addition to what's been said St Paul instructs not to participate in tables set for others and I guess that's exactly why the ramadan thing doesn't sit right with me although one side of the argument is indeed As you alluded to a charity.. but then again everything can be argued for and against..
  • Zoxsasi said:

    What could I have said to this STUPID woman bringing kids to my door at 8 pm?? 

    You could have said you have some nice hash brownies, if you like. That's proper English. :D
  • We hand candies to the local youths. You're only young once.
  • Of course by "we" I mean me, myself. Joe 6pack.
    Also its a National Holiday in Mexico. Whereas in the US it's also a National Holiday.
    It's a curiosity to me, and I lived in San Luis Obispo, CA.

  • I think the more important point here is beer.
    As in why are we talking about this, rather than brewing beer in Mexico?\
    Why aren't we brewing beer right now in Mexico?
  • edited November 2014
  • remnkemi,

    i agree with nearly all of your points.

    good work!


    i'm sure you'll agree that kids should have fun at church, but that 'fun' should not mean running up and down screaming and demanding sweets.

    I have had friends and neighbours who were involved in 'occult' activities, and i can assure that telling fortunes, setting curses on people and trying to contact the dead (only demons actually appear, not the real dead people) does go on, and it's very bad for you.

    i would prefer my 'harmless fun' not to based (however loosely) on something that is bad for my soul.

  • First let me clarify that I personally would not attend a Ramadan meeting in a Coptic Church. Heck, I don't even partake of one of my favorite childhood customs (eating hotdogs from street vendors in NYC) because all the hotdogs are "halal" meat. Maybe this also is hyper-religiosity. I would hope that everyone sees how halal meat is "sacrificed food to the gods". (We discussed a few years back). My point is, I think it is better to keep the lines distinct - lines of light and darkness, right and wrong, allowable and edifying, etc. We do more harm blurring the lines in the name of solidarity.

    I guess this is why I have such a problem with Halloween. From what I see from you guys is that deep down inside there is a conflict where you know dressing in ghosts and goblins is really not becoming of Christians. I think we have begun down a path where it's ok that those lines are not so distinct. I think being comfortable with blurry lines is in fact a sign that the power of darkness is winning. 

    We all agree we should not be isolationists. We are not leaving the world, we live in the world. However, at some point, everyone is an isolationist. We encourage everyone to communicate and have fellowship with "neighbors, friends and countrymen". But not every neighbor is your friend. Not every friend shares everything you do. Not every person cares at all for their country. If they did, then there would be a 100% turn out for voting and town/city meetings, block parties, friendly meetings. Everyone you know would be sitting in a bar like "Cheers" or 100% of your friends would be sitting at a cafe every day like "Friends". But this is not reality. The reality is everyone has a bit of isolationism (consciously or unconsciously). I think the real issue is not whether we should be isolationists only when we are asked to sacrifice to the gods, but that if anything done in public is not a confession of Christianity, then we should consciously isolate ourselves from it. 

    Even your quote from Diognetus corroborates. He ends with "they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life." The important word here is "confessedly". If something does not confess our striking method of life, we should isolate ourselves from it. Otherwise, if we run with current and when in Rome do as the Romans all in the name solidarity, then how are we confessing our method of life? All we are confessing is that we don't want to be different. Now if that current is doing something that can realistically call wickedness, what are we confessing if we conform? It is NOT the good confession before Pontius Pilate that we hold in high honor that we also should be confessing. 

    In addition, how do you define this part of Diogentus' passage "nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines."? Christians are not advocates of human doctrines. Are not secular festivities part of human doctrines? Are not Christians supposed to be advocates of divine doctrines only, not proclaiming or joining in human doctrines? As I said before, there is no such thing as partly secular and partly Christian. And it seems Diogentus' passage corroborates this.

    Finally, I disagree with your conclusion. "But for the most part, this candy-costume celebration is nothing more than an Irish/German/Scottish culture that slowly evolved into the American movement we have today, mixed with the Satanic panic of the recent decades of our nation that lead to sensationalized Christian reactions."
    Even if this is fact, you are separating the candy-costume celebration from the Satanic panic of recent decades. If in fact, what we call Halloween today is a friendly Irish/German/Scottish festival mixed with Satanic panic, we can't simply say, "we'll just ignore the Satanic part because that's not really Halloween." The reality is Halloween today is integrally united with Satanic elements. If you want to simply celebrate a candy-costume celebration apart from Halloween, then you have to do it in a way that actually removes the Satanic parts. Wishing it away does not remove any Satanic/demonic element. Invalidating Christian reactions to Halloween does not remove any Satanic/demonic element. When Halloween is only a candy-costume celebration that cannot include elements of darkness and death, celebrated in a way that does not include "debauchery, explicitly revealing clothes, mischievous actions like egging houses, trick or treating in dangerous neighborhoods, going past curfews", potentially harming children, then we would be confessing our Christianity. But if that ever happens, can we call it Halloween? I don't believe so because the two elements are so intertwined now they cannot be separated. In the same manner, we should not walk down that blurry line now either, thinking it is ok to celebrate a secular feast while turning a blind eye on the satanic elements. 
  • I believe I understand what you were trying to say and what you did say does play into the conversation. Correct me if I am wrong. A Google search revealed 4 different meanings for Joe Six-pack festival. I was not able to find any national holiday in Mexico or the US for Joe 6 Pack. What I did find was 
    1. Joe Six pack is a generic name for the average male. It is a synonym for Joe Shmo or John Q. Public.
    2. Joe Six pack is a beer column writer (real name is Don Russell) in Philidelphia.
    3. An annual nudist and beer festival in the Poconos. 
    4. A type of firework display.
    Now apparently, you mixed definitions #1 and 2 into one event. Assuming there actually is a national beer holiday in Mexico or CA for the average person, it reinforces my concept that we cannot simply associate with secular holidays for fear of becoming an isolationist. One can argue that some nudists took the early meaning of Joe six pack (a beer festival for the average guy) and turned it into something else. We would consider it wickedness but they (the nudists) consider it pure and natural. Of course, unequivocally there is now wickedness involved (that annual festival in the Poconos is now consider a wild party, not an expression of freedom and beauty and enjoyment of beer for the average person). 

    So suppose a Coptic Church in the Poconos has an annual beer festival (let's leave it at that), to prevent Coptic youth from attending the annual nudist beer party, would we even have a conversation about individual discernment? Or would we have a conversation that beer is a secular, popular beverage that is fine in moderation but is abused like candy on Halloween? Or that beer is a beverage that has been demonized by Islam and Middle Eastern societies? Or that we should engage in our community (even if it is a nudist community) so that we do not become isolationists? Or that we can have a community party and filter out the beer, the nudity and all other debauchery and call it a Joe Six Pack festival? Or that it is ok to blur the lines between good beer and bad beer, good nudity and bad nudity? Or that we would actually be witnessing Coptic Christianity to the Pennsylvania community? Somehow I don't think this would happen. Why are we arguing this for Halloween?

    This Joe six-pack festival compared to Halloween is comparing red Fuji apples to red McIntosh apples. :) The Ramadan thing maybe a comparison of green apples to red apples (but I still think it is apples to oranges). 
  • edited November 2014

    I think an annual beer festival in a top idea for all of those reasons. Everybody gets a buzz. :D
  • @mcarmichael,
    I was trying to use your previous comments for productive and spiritual benefit. It is not ok to joke around like this. Please remember this is an Orthodox site. Everything we should do and say here is for the glory of God.
  • edited November 2014
    Remnkemi said:


    I was trying to use your previous comments for productive and spiritual benefit. It is not ok to joke around like this. Please remember this is an Orthodox site. Everything we should do and say here is for the glory of God.

    (used Mina's style of agreeing with things)

  • @Remnkemi - I mean it would be one thing, if we were a public institution, a church or something. That would be awkward.
  • @Remnkemi - Duly noted. It's a fine line.
  • Sister Vassa Larin: Orthodoxy Is Not a Religion of Fear


    "Be that as it may, I would nonetheless agree that history is generally a “matter of faith.” Especially because there is no such thing as completely impartial, objective history. However, a knowledge of history requires education. And in the past the Church has hardly been self-sufficient in matters of education, utilizing not only non-Orthodox, but completely secular and even pagan institutions/systems of thought when needed. Beginning at least with the Gospel of John, the Church turns to the terminology developed by pre-Christian philosophers to formulate her own dogmas. An openness toward secular education – with a firm grasp and love for one’s own faith – characterized later apologists and teachers of the Church as well. Saints Gregory the Theologian and Basil the Great took pride in having been educated in a pagan school at Athens. The great Chrysostom was taught by Livanius and Theodore of Mopsuestia – the one a pagan, the other a heretic. Although these Holy Fathers lived in times of rampant heresies and dogmatic confusion, they did not cultivate an Orthodoxy of fear. It was rather an Orthodoxy of responsibility and dogmatic awareness, inspired and fortified by a thirst for education.

    Many centuries later the Russian Church had no formal system of theological education until it was imported from the Roman-Catholic West via Kiev around the middle of the 17th c. It is an historical fact that St. Peter Moghila organized his theological schools according to Jesuit models, and it was this educational system that was instituted in Muscovy. The reason for importing our educational system from the West was very simple: this was not only the best educational system at the time, it was the only one at the time. The alternative to learning from the West was remaining uneducated. Should the Russian Church have rejected Western education and preferred to remain uneducated? Let me put it differently: If given a choice, would any of us prefer for our children to remain uneducated rather than giving them an education? So the Russian Church chose to learn from the West, demonstrating common sense and, I might add, humility.

    Today we have a similar situation. Many Orthodox families in the West send their children to Catholic schools and universities, or to non-Orthodox public or private schools. In these institutions our youngsters are taught, among other things, history, literature, philosophy – subjects that could involve “matters of faith.” In school the children have contact with non-Orthodox in religious matters: for example, they recite the Pledge of Allegiance, pronouncing the name of God together with non-Orthodox, Muslims, Jews, and perhaps atheists. Many of us allow our children to watch movies such as “The Passion” by Mel Gibson, a non-Orthodox. Indeed, we allow ourselves and our children to have contact with non-Orthodox in “matters of faith” on various levels and on a daily basis.

    Is it the will of God that we find ourselves in this situation, surrounded by this non-Orthodox world? The Church has never taught us otherwise. The Founder of the Church left His disciples in this world, having said, “Take heart, for I have defeated the world.” And so the Church sings, “Take heart, ye people of God, for He has defeated the enemies… (Derzayte lyudie Bozhii, ibo toy pobedi vragi…).” This is not a religion of fear.

    Of course the faith of the Church is exclusive, and we owe our loyalty to her alone: we embrace one faith, and not many different faiths at once. But this does not mean that we have no contact with people of other faiths. Marriage is also exclusive, but a married couple does not lock itself in a closet, excluding all contact with other men and women. That would be absurd and unhealthy, and the same would be true of the Church if it ghettoized its everyday life."
  • I know I haven't replied yet to this thread for some time.  So I bookmarked this, and will hope to resurrect this next year in October ;)

    God bless.
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