Against Gebredoxy, the error of (name removed) (AKA Gebre Menfes Kidus)

Ioannes

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Since Gebre frequents here, I am sure he is going to reply with something (if he replies) like I am trying to malign his character or persecuting him for his beliefs. Just so he and everyone knows, its not against his pacifist stance, its the way he tries to justify it as if the church teaches this. For a long while I have tried to nudge Gebre in the right way, and he has resisted and refused to understand me and many others, including clergy. So I am posting this everywhere so people know that he is incorrect.

+++

This letter is a response to the teaching of my friend Gebre Menfes Kidus (Name removed). He teaches a pacifist stance and that this is the “true Christian teaching.” Even going as far as stating: “If the Orthodox Church were to ever condemn pacifism or officially declare that Christians cannot condemn all war and killing in this day and age, then the Church would cease to be Orthodox and I would cease to be a part of it. That's why I fight so hard to promote the Orthodox values of peace and respect for life. I won't let others misrepresent my beloved Faith by justifying violence.” (from a facebook status update) I think my dear friend Gebre has a few misunderstandings about war, violence, and murder and how it relates to the Orthodox Church. So I will quote a few things Gebre has stated and then explain them further.

Gebre said:
“I believe with St. Basil the Great that, “Although the act of violence may seem required for the defense of the weak and innocent, it is never justifiable.”
Basil has no issue with soldiering, as his canons show (188th letter). He accepts that people will be soldiers and does not class killing in war as anything close to murder. To quote him here shows lack of knowledge on the matter. For instance canon 13 of the 92 considers war: “Our fathers did not consider killings committed in the course of wars to be classifiable as murders at all, on the score, it seems to me, of allowing a pardon to men fighting in defense of sobriety and piety. Perhaps, though, it might be advisable to refuse them communion for three years, on the ground that their hands are not clean.” Clearly St. Basil is not condemning war and in fact says “Our fathers” in terms of those church fathers existing prior to him. I cannot find the quote that Gebre posted above.
Also, our holy father St. Athanasius said: “Although one is not supposed to kill, the killing of the enemy in time of war is both a lawful and praiseworthy thing. This is why we consider individuals who have distinguished themselves in war as being worthy of great honors, and indeed public monuments are set up to celebrate their achievements. It is evident, therefore, that at one particular time, and under one set of circumstances, an act is not permissible, but when time and circumstances are right, it is both allowed and condoned.” (http://www.incommunion.org/2006/02/19/st-basil-on-war-and-repentance/)


Gebre said:
I believe with Father Stanley Harakas that: “There is no ethical reasoning for war in the writings of the Greek Fathers. The Fathers wrote that only negative impacts arise from war. Even in unavoidable circumstances, the Fathers thought of war as the lesser of greater evils, but nonetheless evil. The term "just war" is not found in the writings of the Greek

Fathers. The stance of the Fathers on war is pro-peace and an Orthodox "just war" theory does not exist.”
This is taken out of context, Fr. Harakas said: “"I found an amazing consistency in the almost totally negative moral assessment of war coupled with an admission that war may be necessary under certain circumstances to protect the innocent and to limit even greater evils. In this framework, war may be an unavoidable alternative, but it nevertheless remains an evil. Virtually absent in the tradition is any mention of a “just” war, much less a “good” war. The tradition also precludes the possibility of a crusade. For the Eastern Orthodox tradition, I concluded, war can be seen only as a “necessary evil,” with all the difficulty and imprecision such a designation carries."
thus it accepts that there is " an admission that war may be necessary under certain circumstances to protect the innocent and to limit even greater evils." So it is pretty clearly that Gebre has not only taken Fr. Harakas out of context, he selectively embraced what worked for him, while ignoring the
bulk of what he said. The full article can be found here “https://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F %2Fwww.incommunion.org%2F2005%2F08%2F02%2Fno- just-war-in-the-fathers%2F&h=mAQHXS20e)

Gebre said:
“I believe in the admonition of St. Hippolytus: “A Christian is not to become a soldier. He is not to burden himself with the sin of blood. But if he has shed blood, he is not to partake of the mysteries, unless he is purified by a punishment, tears, and wailing. He is not to come forward deceitfully but in the fear of God.”
Gebre openly admitted to me that he does not understand the writings of St. Hippolytus, which I personally gave to him. So I find it odd that he even bothers to quote him. However, St.
Hippolytus was referring to the fact that the Roman Army was massacring Christians, so it would not be a good idea for a Christian to put themselves in that situation and possibly lose their faith by killing Christians or perhaps making an offering to the Roman gods. For St. Hippolytus an outright refusal of military service to the Roman Empire is a much better idea than joining it, mainly because of the persecutions. So this is another instance in which writings were taken out of their context, in this case their historical context.

Gebre said:
“I believe with St. John Chrysostom that, “Christians above all men are not permitted forcibly to correct the failings of those who sin. In our case, the wrong-doer must be made better, not by force, but by persuasion. The Christian’s labor is to make the dead live, not to make the living dead.”
This quote is taken from St John speaking on capital punishment, not war, he does not write the same when speaking about war. We again must take this in its context, St. John is not advocating pacifism in any way in this verse, nor in his other writings. He is clearly saying that we should not force our teachings on to those with incorrect beliefs that we should not forcibly correct people as there are other ways of correction without force.

What it seems that Gebre misunderstands is that this issue is not black and white and because I feel he views it that way and cannot reconcile violence and Christianity, he takes a pacifist stance. However if he had read these church fathers, that he quotes, in depth I truly believe he would understand this issue. Violence is not a Christian virtue, but that does not automatically mean that violence is never a necessity. War, as terrible as it is, is unfortunately necessary in some occasions and this is clearly taught by the very fathers Gebre quotes. A great example of Gebres lack of understanding on this issue and his black and white stance is him telling me that if violence and murder are acceptable then it should be acceptable to kill in order to save the victims of abortion.

What Gebre does not seem to understand is that while abortion is horrible and unacceptable, we do know the fate of the souls of these helpless victims and therefore it would be unacceptable to kill those performing abortions because their fate is not known, obviously. Its similar to the issue of martyrdom, when being martyred for your faith, it is unacceptable to fight back as a willful acceptance of martyrdom is displaying the highest form of love in Christ and trust in Him.

When we defend our family or others from harm, we should never seek to purposely kill, but to disarm or otherwise disable the person we are defending others against. It may so happen that in defense of others we may accidentally kill the person or persons, this is very unfortunate but again spoken of by the fathers. Once again, violence is not a virtue and we should not rely on it and or seek to use it in every instance but logically in defense of those who are being victimized and even then we should only be using the proper force required to subdue the person or persons. I think that this is the real issue with Gebres thinking, to him if violence is acceptable, then it is acceptable in every situation and if murder is acceptable, then it is acceptable in every situation, same as war. He is unable, or unwilling, to look at things in a logical and rational way. Instead he has selectively embraced quotes from the church fathers which seem to be supporting his view. I have personally advised him to study the church father in the context of their time or era, then study their writings individually and try to read them in the context with which they were written.
I have no doubt that Gebre loves Christ and our Church and this may seem a bit extreme but this is purely out of love. I seek only to correct my brother who has resisted the advice of myself and others much wiser than myself. I have privately consulted him for some time now and as HH Pope Shenouda taught us, "The sin that is done in public, punish in public. And the theological error which is broadcast openly in public, should be publicly refuted... ...But what is the wisdom in all this? Why punish in public, and why correct in public? This is because something that happens in public has an effect on others, or might cause them to stumble... So we must take those other people into account." ( So many years with problems of people, vol.3, pg. 82) As much as it pains me, I feel a public admonishment of Gebres erroneous view on this particular church teaching, I feel it is necessary in correcting him as well as others who may feel this same way.

Now I must stress one more thing, if Gebre personally wishes to adhere to a pacifist point of view, as I have told him, that is his view and it his certainly his right to exercise this. But, as I and others have tried to explain to him, you cannot pass this off as a church teaching because it simply is not taught by the church.
Again this is an effort done in love for a brother and for any brother and sister who may also believe this or came to believe this through Gebre. It is done with the utmost sincerity and desire for him to correct his teaching.

In Christ, Ioa

I take very seriously the issue of any private information about the person being used.  If he does not want to use his real name in public, it is something I feel obliged to warn against.

Please do not share private information about someone, or private messages, unless permission was granted.

Warned for 10 days.

If you have a problem with this warning, you may appeal it to Fr. George.

Mina

Just a slight correction.  You may appeal to me first, and then if I reject the appeal, you may appeal to the global mod LizaSymonenko

Mina

8/30/2013
 

rakovsky

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You should change the title of the thread at least, because it sounds like a personal attack, using his full name instead of his username, for example.



Micah 4:3
And he will judge between many people
and reprove the mighty nations far away;
and they will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Neither will a nation lift up a sword against nation,
nor will they learn anymore war.




Isaiah 2:4
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

There were many famous early martyrs for Christ who were Roman soldiers and decided they would no longer fight when they became Christian. They were martyred as a result.
 

Ioannes

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rakovsky said:
You should change the title of the thread at least, because it sounds like a personal attack, using his full name instead of his username, for example.



Micah 4:3
And he will judge between many people
and reprove the mighty nations far away;
and they will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Neither will a nation lift up a sword against nation,
nor will they learn anymore war.




Isaiah 2:4
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

There were many famous early martyrs for Christ who were Roman soldiers and decided they would no longer fight when they became Christian. They were martyred as a result.
I will consider that certainly, but, I did that to make a distinction between him and the saint of the same name.

quoting tags editted - MK
 

Kerdy

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I have been in "the fight" in some way all of my life.  I am a born fighter, it’s part of who I have always been, but if Gebre doesn't want to be involved in violence, he has that right and I will support his choice and defend his actions.  

Every man must live with his conscience and follow his path with Jesus.  Gebre feels his path is proper and for him it certainly is and for others who are struggling with certain issues he may be able to provide the information and guidance they need which will make it their path as well.  

I doubt there will ever be a point in my life I would not fight if it was required, but I can say in all honestly I wish I were more like Gebre when those moments arise and to be even more honest, I am a little tired of people talking down to him for his views.  If everyone acted like Gebre, do you not think the world would be a better place?  I do.  So, how about everyone get off his back.
 

TheTrisagion

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Kerdy said:
I have been in "the fight" in some way all of my life.  I am a born fighter, it’s part of who I have always been, but if Gebre doesn't want to be involved in violence, he has that right and I will support his choice and defend his actions.  

Every man must live with his conscience and follow his path with Jesus.  Gebre feels his path is proper and for him it certainly is and for others who are struggling with certain issues he may be able to provide the information and guidance they need which will make it their path as well.  

I doubt there will ever be a point in my life I would not fight if it was required, but I can say in all honestly I wish I were more like Gebre when those moments arise and to be even more honest, I am a little tired of people talking down to him for his views.  If everyone acted like Gebre, do you not think the world would be a better place?  I do.  So, how about everyone get off his back.
+1

Poor form, Ionnes.  There are better ways to debate this topic than this.
 

genesisone

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Kerdy said:
I have been in "the fight" in some way all of my life.  I am a born fighter, it’s part of who I have always been, but if Gebre doesn't want to be involved in violence, he has that right and I will support his choice and defend his actions.  

Every man must live with his conscience and follow his path with Jesus.  Gebre feels his path is proper and for him it certainly is and for others who are struggling with certain issues he may be able to provide the information and guidance they need which will make it their path as well.  

I doubt there will ever be a point in my life I would not fight if it was required, but I can say in all honestly I wish I were more like Gebre when those moments arise and to be even more honest, I am a little tired of people talking down to him for his views.  If everyone acted like Gebre, do you not think the world would be a better place?  I do.  So, how about everyone get off his back.
+2

I may not always agree with GMK, but I appreciate his gentleness and sincerity.

Undoubtedly anyone of us here who posts regularly has said things that others believe to be wrong and we could be subject to another's cry of "nameodoxy".
 

Asteriktos

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I think there is a discussion to be had here, though perhaps it got off on the wrong foot. Naming names is... well St. Paul and St. John do it in the Bible, as do the Church Fathers... yet was it the best course here? Perhaps. I don't know. Judging by my initial reaction and that of others, it seems to be a misfire... but now we are focused on something besides the main point. I think? I assume the point was to critique the position itself. Anyway...
 

Luke

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Can the moderators remove the name and just leave the post as a "whether pacifism and absolutely no violence is the teaching of the Church?"
 

Iconodule

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If it could be demonstrated that pacifism was the Orthodox Christian position, I would be delighted, as I am sympathetic to such a position. However, I cannot find in history and church tradition any justification for such an assertion, and I haven't seen Gebre or other proponents of it produce such evidence.
 

rakovsky

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Iconodule said:
If it could be demonstrated that pacifism was the Orthodox Christian position, I would be delighted, as I am sympathetic to such a position. However, I cannot find in history and church tradition any justification for such an assertion, and I haven't seen Gebre or other proponents of it produce such evidence.
My understanding is that Gebre is talking about the Church banning pacifism. I don't know the answer, but I sympathize with his position. Monks and priests I think are not allowed to fight in wars, although some of them have encouraged it. I could easily see someone saying that based on the prohibition on (or discouragement of) fighting monks, this avoidance is inspiring and they believed it would be good if no one fought, even if attacked. Although pasicifism is not the only Orthodox opinion, I don't think the church should ban it- and in its thousand year history the church hasn't banned pacifism nor made it obligatory, and there is something to be said for that I think.
 

TheTrisagion

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How exactly would one ban pacifism?  Make it mandatory for all Christians to start wars?  ???
 

Iconodule

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rakovsky said:
Iconodule said:
If it could be demonstrated that pacifism was the Orthodox Christian position, I would be delighted, as I am sympathetic to such a position. However, I cannot find in history and church tradition any justification for such an assertion, and I haven't seen Gebre or other proponents of it produce such evidence.
My understanding is that Gebre is talking about the Church banning pacifism. I don't know the answer, but I sympathize with his position. Monks and priests I think are not allowed to fight in wars, although some of them have encouraged it. I could easily see someone saying that based on the prohibition on (or discouragement of) fighting monks, this avoidance is inspiring and they believed it would be good if no one fought, even if attacked. Although pasicifism is not the only Orthodox opinion, I don't think the church should ban it- and in its thousand year history the church hasn't banned pacifism nor made it obligatory, and there is something to be said for that I think.
It seems like a false dichotomy. It's not like the only alternative to making pacifism mandatory is to ban it. Pacifism has been an option in the Church, as has been (defensive) war. What I have seen Gebre and others suggest is that pacifism is the only consistently Christian stance on the matter. The implication seems to be that certain saints who fought (e.g. Saint Tsar Lazar of Serbia) thereby fell short of the Gospel.

Re: the ban on clergy and monks fighting, even there, there have been exceptions, as when St. Sergius of Radonezh blessed one of his schemamonks (Alexander Peresvet) to fight at the battle of Kulikovo (he fought one-on-one with the Mongol champion, and they killed each other).
 

Punch

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Kerdy said:
I have been in "the fight" in some way all of my life.  I am a born fighter, it’s part of who I have always been, but if Gebre doesn't want to be involved in violence, he has that right and I will support his choice and defend his actions.  

Every man must live with his conscience and follow his path with Jesus.  Gebre feels his path is proper and for him it certainly is and for others who are struggling with certain issues he may be able to provide the information and guidance they need which will make it their path as well.  

I doubt there will ever be a point in my life I would not fight if it was required, but I can say in all honestly I wish I were more like Gebre when those moments arise and to be even more honest, I am a little tired of people talking down to him for his views.  If everyone acted like Gebre, do you not think the world would be a better place?  I do.  So, how about everyone get off his back.
George Orwell, in his 1945 "Notes on Nationalism", wrote "(It is) grossly obvious (that) those who ‘abjure’ violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf."  I do not mind those that pretend to be peaceful, as long as they do not criticise and make life difficult for those of us who allow them the luxury of their beliefs.
 

rakovsky

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Ioannes said:
its the way he tries to justify it as if the church teaches this.  
He teaches a pacifist stance and that this is the “true Christian teaching.”
The point is arguable.

Even going as far as stating: “If the Orthodox Church were to ever condemn pacifism or officially declare that Christians cannot condemn all war and killing in this day and age, then the Church would cease to be Orthodox and I would cease to be a part of it."
This is arguable based on the fact that Orthodoxy has not banned pacifism in its history, and there were martyred Christian soldiers who put down weapons when they became Christian.

Gebre said:
“I believe with St. Basil the Great that, “Although the act of violence may seem required for the defense of the weak and innocent, it is never justifiable.”
Basil has no issue with soldiering, as his canons show (188th letter). He accepts that people will be soldiers and does not class killing in war as anything close to murder. To quote him here shows lack of knowledge on the matter. For instance canon 13 of the 92 considers war: “Our fathers did not consider killings committed in the course of wars to be classifiable as murders at all, on the score, it seems to me, of allowing a pardon to men fighting in defense of sobriety and piety. Perhaps, though, it might be advisable to refuse them communion for three years, on the ground that their hands are not clean.”

Clearly St. Basil is not condemning war and in fact says “Our fathers” in terms of those church fathers existing prior to him.
Likewise, the topic is arguable either way. St. Basil says violence is never justifiable, killing in war isn't murder and is pardonable, but warriors' hands are not clean.

Perhaps in Greek justifiable means righteous. In English it means "make just". So while he is not condemning war as murder, he sees a problem with it. In his opinion killing in war is not itself a righteous act, ie a "good work"), and it is unclean.

Perhaps you would be able to find a way to refute St. Basil's position, and it isn't clear to me St. Basil considers it sinful, but there is also a basis in it to support Gebre's position, eg. you should be able to oppose wars as unclean.
 

PeterTheAleut

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Kerdy said:
I have been in "the fight" in some way all of my life.  I am a born fighter, it’s part of who I have always been, but if Gebre doesn't want to be involved in violence, he has that right and I will support his choice and defend his actions.  

Every man must live with his conscience and follow his path with Jesus.  Gebre feels his path is proper and for him it certainly is and for others who are struggling with certain issues he may be able to provide the information and guidance they need which will make it their path as well.  

I doubt there will ever be a point in my life I would not fight if it was required, but I can say in all honestly I wish I were more like Gebre when those moments arise and to be even more honest, I am a little tired of people talking down to him for his views.  If everyone acted like Gebre, do you not think the world would be a better place?  I do.  So, how about everyone get off his back.
Do people really talk down to Gebre for his pacifist views? I don't. I once spent four years taking classes at a Quaker college and attending a Quaker church (not of the silent worship variety), though without ever becoming a Quaker myself, so I've come to appreciate the pacifism Quakers and Gebre share. I don't agree with it, but I respect it. Where I challenge Gebre is on his repeated assertion that pacifism is the authoritative teaching of the Gospel and the Fathers and that one cannot live an authentic Christian life without being a pacifist. Though I think Ioannes's decision to reveal GMK's legal name was in bad form, I agree with Ioannes that the intellectual dishonesty and dogmaticism by which GMK presents his pacifist views merit a public rebuke.
 

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So now I understand who the narcissist brother from a couple of weeks ago was. Not that I disagree but really publishing someone's name for expressing private opinions on FB or here is even worse I think than being a narcissist. We all are anyways.
 

Iconodule

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Regardless of St. Basil's actual position, it's not enough to say, "these saints said x, therefore that is the Church's stance." One also needs to consider the universal practice and teaching of the Church, keeping in mind whom she has canonized and for what reasons, as well as the various wars in which the Church has involved herself spiritually, such as the struggle of the Russians against the Mongols or the Greeks and Serbs against the Turks. The Battle of Kosovo, for instance, is such a central, pivotal event in the Serbian church's tradition that it would be impossible for a Serbian Orthodox to assert absolute pacifism without alienating himself from his own tradition.
 

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Punch said:
George Orwell, in his 1945 "Notes on Nationalism", wrote "(It is) grossly obvious (that) those who ‘abjure’ violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf."
I can understand where he is coming from, and others share this belief about pacifists, but this is not the case. Monks for example are not supposed to fight in wars, even if it would be needed to protect them. Monks and some pacifists are so convinced in their beliefs that they are willing to go to jail or otherwise suffer for them- and sometimes they do, not regretting it.

That being the case, it doesn't count to say that the army is protecting them so they can be pacifist, and that otherwise the enemy would come in and abuse them- after all, the pacifists have shown themselves willing to be abused by a militarized society, so why wouldn't they be willing to be abused by the enemy for their beliefs?

I do not mind those that pretend to be peaceful, as long as they do not criticise and make life difficult for those of us who allow them the luxury of their beliefs.
I'm not sure what you mean about "pretend to be peaceful", but maybe it depends on the situation. Even in "good" wars, like the Civil War that freed the slaves, perhaps it is still beneficial to have the voice of people who are against all violence, in order to avoid going overboard, and in order to be realistic about the situation. WWI was pretty needless and more pacifist voices would have helped, even if the pacifists were not making an in-depth anti-imperialist analysis, etc., of the war.
 

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I remember reading a letter by one of the Elders of Optina once where he clearly argued against pacifism (someone refusing to take up arms or enroll in the Russian imperial army because of Christian scruples). If only I knew where to find it again...
 
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