Orthodox Christian Voices in the Public Square
For the last several years members of the SVOTS community have joined other Orthodox Christians in Washington D.C. for the March for Life. Two things caught my attention this year that are worth some reflection. The first was the youthfulness of the participants. The second was the large numbers of clergy.
The presence of so many young people was testimony to the fact that the Pro-Life message is not passing with time. Young people, with much thanks to modern technology, understand more than ever that human life is precious and that it begins at conception. Many European Christians will remark that the battle is lost on that continent. Not so in America, where a vocal Pro-Life youth movement carries the message that Roe v. Wade is a national disgrace. This issue will not simply fade away.
One of our seminarians noted in his homily at matins in our chapel today that two businessmen observing the march were overheard wondering why the people come every year to the March for Life. They were amazed to think “these people” believe that legalized abortion could be reversed. I am sure that William Wilberforce heard similar comments as he continued his efforts to abolish the slave trade after so many defeats in the British Parliament. In the end, through the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, it was truth and righteousness that prevailed.
Clergy have always been at the forefront of the resistance to immoral practices that are either legal or culturally accepted norms—or both. A perfect example is the participation of clergy in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. We Orthodox Christians are very proud of the issue of LIFE magazine that has Archbishop Iakovos on the cover with Dr. Martin Luther King. So much for those who say: “Our people don’t go in for such things”!
It is true that we Orthodox have a tendency to avoid putting our own voice into the debates found in the public square. Sometimes it takes immigrant populations time to recognize that in America this is how we do our business. If we need an example from our own recent church history to give us the courage to speak up, then I would cite the Orthodox Christian clergy who have—since the beginning of the missionary efforts to America in 1794—been defenders of Alaska Natives, who often suffered terrible abuses and were without a voice in situations that no authentic Christian could observe and accept.
The March for Life is one way to find an ecumenical Christian witness that is large enough to get the attention needed to highlight this most repugnant moral issue of our day. We also need to lend financial support to Orthodox Christians for Life, ZOE, and ministries such as the Tree House in Wichita, Kansas. We should do our part to bring healing to all victims of abortion, including parents of aborted pre-born children. What we must NOT do is remain safely out of the picture in silence and inaction. In short, we Orthodox must do something within the Pro-Life Movement, as our faith demands of us.