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Orthodoxy and rights.


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#1 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 05:52 PM

I have started this thread in the hope of an in depth discussion of rights in the view of the Orthodox Church. It has recently come up again another tread. And I thought a thread dedicated to this theme could give a more general look at it out of the context of the other tread.

I would like to qoute some people from the another tread to start it of.

I would argue that from an Orthodox view that rights is an ambiguous concepts & always problematic. First of all why do we so often allow this concept to occupy the entire arena of charity or dignity in regards to other human beings? Is racial prejudice unaddressed unless it is rights that is used to do so? What of general Christian attitudes over the ages by which we have been taught to see the image & likeness in everyone we meet? This is hardly without effect on a society where it has been a guiding value.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael


I have to agree with Fr Raphael here. I would be much more open to the idea that "rights" are important if one could find anything in the Gospels or in the Fathers advocating "rights" as something needful (or even beneficial) to the Christian life. Nowhere do I find anything about "rights" in the words or life of Christ. I find alot about love and compassion and mercy and humility and so on - but nothing about "rights". Rights are not a Christian concept - they are a legal concept. Rights only exist within the law as a means to force one person to act with respect towards another person. If we are Christians then our goal should not be to fight for the rights of anyone else, but rather to respect all men and encourage our society as a whole to respect others. We do not live according to the law, but we live according to the love of God (a much more stringent standard, btw).


As for rights, let me quote for St Nicolai of Ochrid:

"Our real value we never reveal through the using of our rights but through our capacity for service and sacrifice. It is easier for a man to get his own rights than to lose his pride."

So you see "rights" are not really an important part of the Christian faith anyway and may, in fact, impede the Christian life by preventing the acquisition and practice of humility.

Fr David


There is another post by Father Raphael which is too long to include here but he adds to it in a post below.

To try to clarify what I am speaking about above and the crucial distinction between rights in pre modern societies and rights nowadays.

Rights in pre modern societies were like a given set of tools in your tool shed. These given tools matched the specific life you were given and served to enable it. To use these given tools was first your responsibility and then (given resistance from some outside force) your right.

Notice though how in modern times rights have been transformed from external tools into interior barometers of what I as an individual feel to be right. In other words the whole process of discernment has been made individual according to what I believe, feel, am attracted by.

Now this has been going on now for so long and is seen as so normal that no other standard seems realistically available. But once people come to the Church then something else, that is radically different is available. I suppose that what happens is that for the first time in our lives we begin to face outwards, towards God and neighbour in a genuine way, rather than inward using this as the gauge for all things as we so often do. And once this begins then many things which seemed normal to us, the very expressions of who we really are, fall by the way as unneeded or even harmful.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael


There are many posts on that thread including the one which Father Raphael posted before the above quoted one that are of interest but I do not want to make this post too long by posting them all.

Father David quoted Saint Nicolai of Ochrid in one of his post and I think it would be good to try to find more of the Holy Fathers views on this also.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#2 Xenia Moos

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 06:02 PM

I am very interested in this topic. I think much of American Christianity is, unfortunately, "rights" based. "I said the sinner's prayer, or I was baptized, and now I have 'the right' to go to heaven."

I can only think of one place in the New Testament where a person claimed a legal right and that was when St. Paul claimed the right to appeal to Caesar, and even in this case claiming this right was not for his own safety and comfort but for the furtherance of the Gospel.

#3 Kusanagi

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 08:28 PM

I am interested to know particularly from the members of the clergy what they think about wearing the cross in public. Since in the UK 2 women are taking their case of being dismissed from work for wearing the cross in public to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.
The Russian Cathedral here in London highlighted the story on their web site but no published statement yet from their half.
The argument against wearing the cross is the Bible does not state that Christians should wear a cross so they shouldn't wear one at work.
I wear one all the time but no one so far has told me to take it off, thank God.
The women's argument are that people of other faiths are allowed to wear symbols of their religion but Christians are not.

#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 08:54 PM

In the 2010 Court of Appeal case, Eweida v British Airways plc, Sedley LJ said that wearing a cross was not a requirement for a Christian. That may be true of Protestants - I don't know about Catholics. But Mrs Eweida is a Copt. I would have thought that for Copts and for Orthodox, wearing our baptismal cross is a requirement. Any opinions on that? I have heard a few stories in Russia of rebellious children 'taking off their cross' (literally), ie cutting themselves from the Church and refusing to go anymore. Mrs Eweida is one of two women (the other is Mrs Chaplin, a nurse) taking their cases to Strasbourg. If there were clear and authoritative evidence that we Orthodox are required to wear our cross, that could have a bearing on the outcome. However, I think in some cases, there is an element of unreasonableness on the part of those involved; there is no reason why our cross should be visible, and the nurse, Mrs Chaplin, was told she could even wear her cross like a pin on her uniform but she insisted on her "right" to wear it on a chain around her neck so it was visible. Well, my cross is not visible.

The following is from the National Secular Society of the UK. Why do I quote from them? Because what this says is accurate, and the newpaper headlines are not:

The Mail announced "Minister in legal battle to STOP Christians being able to wear a cross to work." Now what would you understand from that headline? That the police would be enforcing the exclusion of crosses from the workplace, perhaps? Or that new rules were to be introduced to compel employers to sack workers found in possession of the "banned" symbol?

The Daily Telegraph – always flying on the Mail's coat tails – headlined "Christians have no right to wear cross at work, says Government."

Its story attracted something like 2,000 comments from readers – none of whom seemed to have read beyond the headline and most of whom were, of course, fizzing with indignation. You can't blame them – so would I be if the headlines bore any relation to the truth.

In fact there is no ban on crosses in the workplace. Up and down the country, in work places from Lands End to John O'Groats, people are wearing crosses of all shapes and sizes, and it isn't a problem. No-one is complaining, and it doesn't cause a problem.

But occasionally there is an issue. Such as that of Nurse Shirley Chaplin, who was working in a hospital wearing a cross on a chain around her neck. The NHS trust's uniform and dress code prohibits front-line staff from wearing any type of necklace – be that a crucifix or a lucky pixie - in case patients try to grab them.

It offered Mrs Chaplin the compromise of wearing her cross pinned inside a uniform lapel or pocket, but she said being asked to hide her faith was "disrespectful".



#5 Father David Moser

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:36 PM

I am interested to know particularly from the members of the clergy what they think about wearing the cross in public. ...
The argument against wearing the cross is the Bible does not state that Christians should wear a cross so they shouldn't wear one at work.


I would have thought that for Copts and for Orthodox, wearing our baptismal cross is a requirement. Any opinions on that? ... If there were clear and authoritative evidence that we Orthodox are required to wear our cross, that could have a bearing on the outcome. However, I think in some cases, there is an element of unreasonableness on the part of those involved; there is no reason why our cross should be visible, ... Well, my cross is not visible.


As Orthodox Christians we should wear our baptismal cross at all times. However the baptismal cross is not worn outside the clothing but rather next to the skin and thus is generally not visible. There is no requirement (except in some cases for a priest) that a cross be worn visibly.

Fr David

#6 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:47 PM

Although I agree with Fr David post, I would like to say that sometimes women are required to wear the cross on show not by the Church but by there clothing as women's clothing tends to show the neck whereas men's does not. So it is worth bearing in mind that we are required to wear our cross at all times but not to show it, yet for women a lot of the time they have little choice.

As for the argument by the court that the bible does not require us to wear a cross, they need to realize we follow what was handed down to by word of mouth as well as epistle, the courts really need to be reminded we are not protestants and neither are the copts.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:55 PM

Although sometimes women are required to wear the cross on show not by the Church but by there clothing as women's clothing tends to show the neck whereas men's does not.


Now that all depends on the style of clothing a woman chooses to wear. There are plenty of attractive and stylish, yet modest choices that a woman can make that do not involve a plunging neckline or revealing cleavage. Just because some fashions are more revealing than others does not mean that we have to choose to wear them.

If I chose to wear a shirt unbottoned to the point where my (baptismal) cross would "show" (and it was quite the fashionable thing to do back in the '70's) I think that there would be a severe modesty problem - not only for a woman, but for the man as well.

Fr David

#8 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:58 PM

Bless Father,

I understand what you are saying and I would not think it right to wear revealing cloths but most of the woman's clothing I see are v neck not that they reveal any cleavage (although some do) but the very top of the chest/shoulders is shown and thus the baptism cross.

In Christ.
Daniel,

Edited by Daniel R., 17 March 2012 - 10:15 PM.
Changed last line so that it is readable.


#9 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 10:21 PM

In regard to rights, I just had a thought maybe we need to look at two things the idea of rights in law and the idea of natural rights. Now in law rights may be needed I am not so sure but I know Reader Andreas feels they are.
As for natural rights of man I really do not agree with it even the right to breath is not a right but a gift of God which He gives and may take away. It seems to me that everything we have is not a God given right but a gift of God from whom cometh every good gift, and also a duty, a duty of love to God and to those whom God has loved for if God should love them we must also love them as a servant is not above his master. And in love there is on our Creator's part his perfectness and will, and on us the creature a duty of love, as one created and created in his image and likeness.

In Christ.
Daniel,

Edited by Daniel R., 17 March 2012 - 10:54 PM.
real to really


#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 11:01 PM

However the baptismal cross is not worn outside the clothing but rather next to the skin and thus is generally not visible.


Presumably, it is not a requirement that the cross is worn next to the skin. I know some parents of very little children pin the child's cross to the child's nightwear for safety. If this is so, it was perverse of Nurse Chaplin to insist that she could not accept her employer's suggestion that she pin her cross to the inside of the lapel of her uniform or in the pocket. She was wrong to insist her cross be visible. This might sound like excessive detail but I do not think it is, and it is the sort of detail which counts in such a case. Had Nurse Chaplin been Orthodox and had the blessing of her priest to pin her cross as her employer suggested, there would have been no case and she would still be caring for her patients. Assuming she was a good nurse, her misplaced insistence has removed her from the worthwhile job she was doing. Is that pleasing to God?

#11 Kusanagi

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 12:19 PM

This is just announced:

Russian church parishioner in London resigns after being banned from wearing cross

London, March 19, Interfax - A parishioner of the Russian Assumption Cathedral in London had to resign after being prohibited from wearing a cross.

"This morning I talked to a woman who was forced to take off her cross at work a week ago. She preferred to resign. And the cross was not even visible! The woman asked to be allowed to wear it, promising to attach it to the body with duct tape to keep it from accidentally slipping from under her clothes, but they said it's not allowed," Archpriest Mikhail Dudko, the cathedral's sacristan, said on Facebook.

He said the position of the British government, which opposes freedom to openly wear crosses, is understood by local authorities as "a total ban" and people with poor knowledge of the language and life in the UK "have virtually no chance of defending their rights."

According to earlier reports, the British authorities intend to defend the legality of the ban on public wearing of crosses in the UK in the European Court of Human Rights.

The Strasbourg court will try lawsuits involving the religious discrimination against four Christians from the UK, who have lost their cases in British courts.

The Russian Church earlier expressed surprise about the loyalty of the British authorities, who have banned wearing crosses at work, to other symbols, for example, gay symbols.

"This decision made by the British parliament is certainly alarming, especially given the existence in modern European society of other tendencies aimed at liberating human instincts," Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the Synodal Information Department, told reporters. He said he was surprised by the fact that public demonstration of affiliation with gay culture is considered normal in the UK while the wearing of crosses is not. Among the examples of double standards Legoyda named the British authorities' stance on Sikhs, saying that even London police officers are officially allowed to wear turbans, which are Sikh symbols.

Among the four cases to be tried in Strasbourg is a claim filed by a woman who was suspended from her job with British Airways several years ago for refusing to take off her cross, which she wore on top of her uniform.

The other claimants are Shirley Chaplin, who had worked as a nurse for 30 years before being fired for wearing a cross at work, Lillian Leidel, an official with a London civil registry office, who was subjected to disciplinary punishment for refusing to register a gay marriage for religious reasons, and Garry McFarlane, a resident of Bristol, a former employee of a firm providing confidential consultations to gay couples, who was fired because he had difficulty working because of his religious beliefs.

#12 Peter Simko

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 02:32 PM

Bless Father,

Regarding the topic of how we are to wear our baptismal cross, I have never heard any strict rule on whether it should be worn on the inside or outside. Beyond your thoughts, Father, I have heard an entire homily on wearing our cross so that it might be seen. The issue seems to fall into the argument of "what is the intent?", similar to the "should I sign myself with the cross in public"? discussion. Are we wearing our cross a certain way because we are ashamed to show it? Are we wearing it a certain way because we are showing off? God knows our hearts, and I feel there is a proper time for wearing it on the outside, and there is a proper time for wearing it against our skin, as close to us as possible.

As to rights, I have to agree with Daniel R.--God has given us every good and perfect gift. It makes me ask, does having a "right" simply mean being entitled to something?

#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 04:51 PM

This is just announced:

Russian church parishioner in London resigns after being banned from wearing cross

London, March 19, Interfax - A parishioner of the Russian Assumption Cathedral in London had to resign after being prohibited from wearing a cross.


It is difficult to comment on this without more information but if, as has been affirmed on this forum, Orthodox Christians are obliged to wear their cross, then the parishioner appears to have suffered constructive dismissal. As I have mentioned before, the Court of Appeal made much of the fact that 'Christians' are not obliged to wear a cross. The lawyers should be stressing that for us Orthodox, wearing our cross (not any cross but our baptismal cross) is obligatory, just as much as wearing a turban is for a male Sikh, for example.

#14 Kusanagi

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:48 PM

I just came across this today and taken the time to read it, the following is right at the end of the article:

Everywhere the Cross is the sign of Christianity. A Christian can simply not be without his cross. Amen.

http://www.johnsanid...hn-of-riga.html

#15 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 06:26 AM

I have started this thread in the hope of an in depth discussion of rights in the view of the Orthodox Church. It has recently come up again another tread. And I thought a thread dedicated to this theme could give a more general look at it out of the context of the other tread.


Recently a Protestant friend suggested having a "synchroblog" (a synchronised blog) on the topic of theology and human rights. I think that this could be an interesting topic, and we have sent a provisional date of 26 April, so if any Orthodox bloggers are interested in taking part, please contact me. The aim is that people post something on this topics on their blogs, together with a list of links to the other blogs that are participating.

I will use this thread to prepare my own contribution to the synchroblog!

Some of the questions that are raised are:

1. What do we mean when we speak of "human rights"?
2. What is the theological justification for human rights?
3. How does a Christian understanding of human rights differ from a humanist one?

#16 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:10 PM

Recently a Protestant friend suggested having a "synchroblog" (a synchronised blog) on the topic of theology and human rights. I think that this could be an interesting topic, and we have sent a provisional date of 26 April, so if any Orthodox bloggers are interested in taking part, please contact me. The aim is that people post something on this topics on their blogs, together with a list of links to the other blogs that are participating.

I will use this thread to prepare my own contribution to the synchroblog!

Some of the questions that are raised are:

1. What do we mean when we speak of "human rights"?
2. What is the theological justification for human rights?
3. How does a Christian understanding of human rights differ from a humanist one?

Dear Father Deacon Stephen,

That sound like an interesting idea I don't have a blog myself but I will look forward to reading both your and the other people involved's blogs.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#17 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:35 PM

1. What do we mean when we speak of "human rights"?
2. What is the theological justification for human rights?
3. How does a Christian understanding of human rights differ from a humanist one?


I'm not saying that a knowledge of the history of rights is absolutely essential- I think that spiritual intuition of what really lies behind rights is sufficient- but it could be helpful. For rights are a modern western phenomenon that gradually arise in medieval feudal society but then are greatly shaped by the various modern revolutions most all of our current societies rest on- whether the Glorious revolution, or the American one, or the French, or even more recent ones. For what begins in western society after the Great Schism as a gradual process of fragmentation of society, with each estate now vying in a competitive way for its 'rights' as enshrined in law, served to break down the pre modern concept of estates (eg soslovie in Russia) which entailed special liberties and responsibilities according to your class/estate. Then the various revolutions began to bring these initial changes into the modern phase of universal human rights, so that the only legal class left was the citizen. From this point on rights became a modern concept and open ended and only restricted by society's current tastes. What is seen as unacceptable behaviour today is legitimate tomorrow; what is forbidden now is due to old fashioned prejudice tomorrow. This is precisely the moral and then legal door that rights as we know it today has opened, for once legal freedom with a corresponding legal responsibility is lost, with rights limited only by what is possible for a human to want or attain, then in fact moral sense has become completely relative. Also the basis for society itself is corroded since the common bond of unified striving is also broken. The only thing which unites us is the sense of how we each strive for what we want as individuals according to taste or feeling or attraction. This again though is not really a social bond of shared striving but rather the emotional bond that society allows each of us to pursue that which we feel 'fulfills us'. Basically it is a 'society' in the image of Ophrah as Den Mother Who smiles upon each one who 'becomes what they really are', while frowning on (denying their rights?!) those who get in the way of this.

The current hypnotic trance concerning the absolute rightness of 'rights' to a great degree though arises from the modern western prejudice that rights always leads to harmony. But you don't have to travel too far in time and place to discover that rights dropped upon a more traditional society often leads to social chaos. Rights then do not necessarily establish a basic respect for humanity that we assume it does- in fact it can easily lead to the opposite, since at root rights depends also upon power, something also which we imply in our social message about rights, but do not openly discuss as to its final resting point. Instead we lull ourselves into a self justifed state of contentedness by seeing ourselves as victims now able to be who we really are, not being open about how in reality this actually means that we now hold power to dictate to society concerning what we want and who we really are.

And isn't this what lay behind this move to rights in modern society in the first place? We claim that the issue is basic human dignity, and feel justified as we make this claim. However without acquiring social power no rights could have been achieved in the first place. Therefore from a sober Orthodox angle- basic self honesty would have to acknowledge that accompanying the feeling of satisfaction that comes from achieving ones rights is also the feeling of satisfaction that comes from achieving power in society. I mean- this is what the various revolutions that established rights as a modern way of life were all about in the first place- ie each of us as individuals achieving social power in order to dictate to and carve out a space in society about who we feel we really are.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#18 Anna Stickles

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 12:05 AM

From another post by Fr Raphael

in the west, by rights we mean something that is qute open ended, which as long as I am an individual I can claim as my entitlement. In other words rights nowadays is not governed by traditonal moral parameters, but rather by the fact that I identify with my feelings, attractions, urges, or whatever. As long as these urges and attractions are legally convincing along a sliding scale of what is valid to me as a human with rights, then these become legally permitted- they are my right. What is valid to me should be my right, and what is my right should be legally permitted.


What is really sad is to see the effect this is having when parents have absorbed this and bring their children up this way. The children become unwilling tyrants, and incredibly insecure with very little self-control and hardly any real happiness or peace. They cannot sit still or concentrate. This is especially bad among boys and I have to wonder how many children classified as ADD or ADHD this is really the root of the problem.

#19 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 12:53 AM

I do believe that modern society has confused "rights" with "entitlements". Rights, as properly understood, should not exist separate from obligations. Certain "rights" imply or involve certain obligations, as in "noblesse oblige". The "nobility" enjoyed certain rights that the "low born" did not, but also had obligations that others did not.

People want the rights without the responsibilities those rights imply. Everybody wants the free lunch.

There is no free lunch.

Herman the rights and responsibilities Pooh

#20 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 08:46 AM

His Eminence Anastasios (Yannoulatos) has written a very good essay on Orthodoxy and Human Rights: on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Greek Orthodox tradition. This was published in a collection of essays under the title Facing the world by St Vladimir's Seminary Press.

I suggest that people try to get hold of this essay and read it.

There is another article by the same author on the same topic here:

http://onlinelibrary...3301.x/abstract




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