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Greece: Island of Faith

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    An Island of Faith By Israel Shamir I write on a balcony overlooking the azure sea and a fresh red rose shares my company with a few cats. Mt Athos, this green
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 15, 2004
      An Island of Faith
      By Israel Shamir

      I write on a balcony overlooking the azure sea and a fresh red rose
      shares my company with a few cats. Mt Athos, this green wooded island
      stretching into Aegean Sea, an independent Christian nation under
      Greek protectorate, home to twenty massive abbeys is a tranquil
      paradise; the place where hundreds of monks and thousands of lay
      pilgrims pray to Lord, work the land, grow heavy olives and red
      apples. Esoteric Orthodox Christianity is a well hidden secret of
      Greece - people are aware of Zorba the Greek and of sunny islands,
      but if they would know they would come here with their spiritual
      search, not to Sufis or Zen Buddhists; as besides being wonderful
      this faith is easier accessible for a Westerner. The monks are
      learned men; some hail from Australia and Russia, France and
      Palestine. The abbot Vasileios studied in Lyon; he appreciates Pindar
      and Dostoyevsky.

      This is a good place to recognise an unknown victim of the Iraqi war:
      Christianity. Its reputation is besmirched by people who take the
      name of Christ - and of fundamentalism - in vain. From the NY Times
      to the FrontPage magazine, various Judaic publications provide an
      outlet for anti-Muslim rant, for calls to war in the name of Conflict
      of Civilisations. As the result, some Muslims began to answer by
      counter-attacking Christianity; and the European and American youth
      learns to think of their faith as of danger to mankind. However, this
      victim is innocent: true Orthodox Christendom, as fundamentalist as
      it can be, firmly rejects the creed of Mammon and the US war on Islam.

      Fundamentalist is one who follows the traditional teaching of the
      Church. The sacred texts have no meaning outside of tradition. The
      adversaries try to appeal to the texts by taking them out of
      tradition, but the tradition is alive and it can't be deconstructed
      into composite elements, de-contextualised and used at will; the
      elements can be understood in context only, being fully
      contextualised by Church tradition.

      There are no stricter fundamentalists than the monastic community of
      Mt Athos in Northern Greece, where I write these words. Athos is a
      great reservoir of spirit, and many people come to partake of its
      waters. (Charles, the Prince of Wales stays in an abbey, too.) The
      monks keep the fire of Christian faith as it was kindled by Christ
      and his apostles. They do not expect their salvation will come from
      Jews, as it already came in the person of Christ. They feel no need
      to seek Rupture for they were given a plan of their own: to try and
      bring the Second Coming by means of prayer and spiritual
      enlightenment. For them, the Second Coming is the mystic experience
      of seeing Christ in his glory, and it is attainable by divine
      grace. The church is a device that helps believers to see Him. She
      also guards the believer from being misled by cunning sophisms and

      The roots of the Greek Church go beyond the first mission of St Paul
      to Athens, for he recognised the religious zeal of the Hellenes. They
      did not need to be converted, but enlightened. Simone Weil wrote of
      Hellenic premonitions of Christ so apparent in the Iliad. In her
      view, the Greeks were Christians before Christ; and their influence
      on Christianity was paramount. Even today, Greeks are devoted to
      Christ, to His Mother and to their own Mother Church, the ancient
      Orthodox Church established by St John and Paul.

      Their church stays out of politics, but exercises moral influence.
      Guided by her church, Greece does not participate in the Iraqi war,
      her sons do not die on the streets of Baghdad; and this most
      religious, most Christian nation shares the view of good Muslims and
      ours, that the world including Greece is threatened - not by Islamic
      terrorism, but by the US fight against terrorism. Greece is a rare
      place where a Western dissident feels spiritually at home, as your
      average Greek thinks the thoughts known to rare Western
      intellectuals, readers of Chomsky and Baudrillard. Their immensely
      popular Archbishop Christodoulos correctly stated that terrorism is
      caused by the "injustice and inequality that pervades the world."

      In The Wall Street Journal, a Zionist Greek Takis Michas, in a piece
      called Is Greece a Western Nation?, complains that only 10% of Greeks
      think that Greece should give military support to the US in its
      attack "against states harbouring terrorism"; majority thinks that
      Osama bin Laden is a creation of CIA propaganda. The Zionist
      concludes with horror: "Such views seem to have more in common with
      public opinion in Cairo or Damascus than in Berlin or Rome." So much
      for the silly concept of conflict between Christendom and Islam
      promoted by these guardians of the Christian faith, the Wall Street
      Journal and the New York Times!

      As opposed to the West, the Greeks knew neither hatred nor fear of
      Jews. They saved many of their Jews during the German occupation, and
      treated them fairly. As they had their own national church, they did
      not transfer their spiritual values to Jews for safekeeping; and thus
      had no reason to bewail the loss of them. Where is no guilt, there is
      no fear, either. The renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis was
      sarcastically asked by his Israeli interrogator whether, in his view,
      the Jews pull the strings from behind George Bush. He dashingly
      answered: "No. They are in the front." "America, the great
      superpower, is actually controlled today by the Jews?" - asked the
      inquisitor before pronouncing his verdict. "Yes", replied Mikis, the
      man who has more Jewish friends than an average American.

      Where is no fear of Jews, there is no automatic support for the US,
      either, and Theodorakis' view that "the root of evil today is the
      policy of President Bush" rather than the Muslim world is shared by
      many Greeks. Greeks know Muslims not from books - they lived in close
      quarters with them for a millennium. They are aware that their long
      and troubled relationship with their Turk neighbours reached its
      nadir under the anti-Islamic rule of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, while
      Islamic Sultan Selim the Grim spent a fortune restoring the
      monasteries of Athos. Muslim communities are well integrated
      in Greece, as the national church is quite tolerant to religious
      minorities and to its big non-religious population.

      Now, both the Greek Left and the Greek Right are united in their
      rejection of the Judeo-American drive to conquer the East, to enforce
      multiculturalism and to separate the Church and the State. They
      support the Palestinians and wish the Jews to come to their senses.
      They are a good example for US fundamentalists. Indeed, Greece is the
      proof that fundamentalist Christianity is not that of George Bush,
      and that the alternative to him is not monopolised by the First
      Lesbian Synagogue of New York.

      In his 'thought police' report in the Wall Street Journal, Takis
      Michas describes the sins of the Greeks: "in the 1980s, they harboured
      organizations perceived as terrorist in the West, and opposed the
      Reagan administration's deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles in
      Europe. Following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the
      anti-American narrative came to be adopted by the political Right.
      American policies in Bosnia and Kosovo were widely seen as aiming to
      destroy the church, while the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic -
      celebrated all over the world - was seen as a CIA plot."

      Michas' report on Greeks appeared soon after the much-anticipated
      book by Diana Johnstone,
      >http://www.monthlyreview.org/foolscrusade.htm> Fools'
      Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions which demolished the
      faked "evidence" of Serb atrocities in Kosovo. Today we know that the
      world had no reason to celebrate the overthrow of Milosevic - or
      indeed, of Saddam Hussein. But the Greeks understood this earlier,
      when it was the opinion of only a small enlightened minority in the
      West. How come -- why were the Greeks better than the Western
      intellectuals at recognising these media lies for what they were?

      The reason, in my view, is the traditional character of the Greek
      Orthodox Church and of its connection to the people and to their
      state. Separation of Church and state, this much vaunted
      accomplishment of the French revolution and even more of the US
      founding fathers, cut off the anchors of the Western society and it
      drifted straight towards the rocks. While in France the national
      Catholic Church still occupies an important and exclusive place,
      the US, the country without a state church, became a victim and a
      servant of Mammon. The small, independent churches of the US had no
      ability to form the mind of the nation; they competed for an outlet
      in the Jewish-owned media; they were forever threatened by tax
      authorities; they broke with tradition and became prey for the wolves.

      This absence of one church further undermines the underlying concept
      of unity-in-God, elaborated by T S Eliot in The Christian Idea of
      Society (1939). People live together united by an idea; this idea may
      (or indeed should) be their common worship and uniting communion.
      This need for one national church that unites its people by a single
      communion was manifested in Eliot's decision to remain a member of
      the national Anglican Church while adhering to the Catholic dogma. In
      Palestinian context, Eliot would prefer an 'Islamic state' to a
      secular one.

      The US was a first experiment of a large scale: what will happen to a
      society that is built on the pursuit of profit, instead of on the
      rock of faith. The fathers-founders could read the story of the
      Chinese sage Mencius (372-289 BC). He went to see the King Hui who
      said: "Old man, since you dared the distance of 1000 li to come here,
      you may know of a way to profit my state." Mencius replied: "why
      should you ever mention the word 'profit'? What counts is benevolence
      and righteousness. If the King says 'How can I profit my country?'
      the high officials will say, 'how can we profit our fiefs?', and the
      intellectuals and the commoners will say: 'How can we profit
      ourselves?' If the upper and lower classes strive to snatch profit
      one from another, the state will be endangered."

      Indeed, this is what happened in the US, and under its influence it
      increasingly happens elsewhere. Whether nationalist or socialist
      constructs were far from perfect, they offered some semblance of
      solidarity, denied by profit-seekers. But Greece convinced me: none
      could improve on the national church, which is fully national and
      fully integrated in the ring of churches.

      Photos: 1. Mt Athos; 2. Theodorakis and Shamir, in Athens 2004



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