Monday, May 25, 2015

Why My Activism Is Inextricable From My Religion

One of the (many) things that I love about the Orthodox Church is that it doesn't require me to be a pacifist. We have saints who protected the innocent and vulnerable even when it meant the loss of lives of those who were attacking. Many of them even lost their own lives while protecting others or speaking out against the injustices perpetrated on others.

For me--I'm not saying this is what it should be for anyone else--this religion demands that I speak out when I see exploitation. Hey, if a person isn't doing anything to others, I have no business commenting on their life or spirituality! But, I am to be a radical truth-teller and advocate for what is considered the "dregs of society", those least valued and least heard from and most vulnerable to harm from those with relatively more power.

I'm not supposed to be concerned about whether I am highly regarded in this world, even by other Christians. Often, the most highly regarded Saints were considered absolutely insane by fellow Christians while they were alive (e.g. Desert Fathers and Mothers, other Holy Fools). If the other Christians thought they were insane, one can only imagine what outsiders probably thought of it all. Still, they continued to struggle for the sake of others. Whether some people felt their behavior was odd, unloving, a disturbance of the peace, a disruption of social niceties, or anything else, they continued to be radical truth tellers and advocates for others, even at their own expense.

It should be noted that the "fools" in "Holy Fools" refers to the way that they were viewed by others. It is an acknowledgement of ableism in society, not a true reflection of who that person is.

St. Isidora the Fool of Tabenna,
Troparion in Tone VIII

In thee, O mother,
that which was created according to the image of God was manifestly saved;
for, taking up thy cross, thou didst follow after Christ;
and, praying, thou didst learn to disdain the flesh,
for it passeth away, but to care for thy soul as a thing immortal.
Where­fore, with the angels thy spirit doth rejoice, O venerable Isidora.

Blessed Xenia,
a homeless wanderer of the city of St. Peter
Troparion to St. Xenia, in the Fourth Tone

Having renounced the vanity of the earthly world,
Thou didst take up the cross of a homeless life of wandering;
Thou didst not fear grief, privation, nor the mockery of men,
And didst know the love of Christ.
Now taking sweet delight of this love in heaven,
O Xenia, the blessed and divinely wise,
    Pray for the salvation of our souls.