September 11, 2014

An Orthodox Interpretation of the Results of Terrorist Actions on 9/11

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

It is known that journalists report on contemporary events, and they analyze them according to their beliefs and their ideological positions. Therefore they offer knowledge, which is then transmitted and creates for many a pseudonymous knowledge of things. Of course, later, after a lapse of many decades and centuries, history corrects things a bit. However, the personal approach to these events, even if it is incorrect, creates many problems.

Lately I received a letter from an American, a convert to Orthodoxy, who interpreted the events that took place on September 11, 2001 and what followed, through her own Orthodox perspective. Born in America and living in a humanist dominated climate, she came to know Orthodoxy and became acquainted with Greece, not for its philosophers, but for its saints and traditions, and in this light she saw the dramatic events. It is worthwhile to look at the analysis.

"I wonder why the disaster in New York caused me to feel so little. The people here are passionate. People have forgotten their lives and are pegged to their televisions. I feel closer to you than those in my own country, or to fear or anger. I do not understand the political aspects, only the fact than Bin Laden is against the western way of life, which he considers a threat to his life. When I heard about the attack the only thing I felt was the need to pray for the people who could do something like this. I am sure that God will take care of the innocent victims. Moreover, so much good has resulted from the destruction of our country! The people's hearts have opened, they have emerged from the 'cold culture of money', and have found a new perspective on our fragile lives. It seems that there is more 'heart' in people, a greater bond. I believe that for this reason smaller countries that have been oppressed, such as Greece, have such strong people. The families are fortresses. We have never felt threatened and as a result we have become arrogant, we're lost. No one has really felt the need to pray, because the fear of death does not exist. People believe that security is only economic and physical, to the point that such an event came and destroyed both. Only spiritual security exists, and this is faith, that is, prayer and for one to live simply."

I think that this text is eloquent enough and one fears to comment on it lest it be destroyed. But if I could, I would like to make a short commentary to highlight two specific points.

The first is that the American way of life is quite fragile, because it is based on the culture of money, and there people believe in the security offered by economic and physical comforts. But in reality this creates a terrible insecurity, because with the first shocking event everything collapses. There is no sense or memory of death, which is why there is in fact the fear of death.

The second point is that this American was so spiritually altered by Orthodox Tradition that she felt closer and more closely related to the Greek Orthodox, which is why she felt this terrorist attack as offering something good, despite the disaster. She saw that in Greece, because we have been oppressed many times, there are strong people who are inspired by their faith. And she lives as an Orthodox in that she prays even for the terrorists to repent and be saved. This is a magnificent way to deal with things. And I thought that if Greece has something important to offer, that can play a big role in the contemporary scene, it is not that it has many beautiful beaches, nor because we have great philosophers from antiquity, although they in their time played an essential role. Rather, it is that it has Orthodox Tradition and the Romaic way of life, and this inspires people and makes them feel secure in their insecurity.

Finally, for one to be a Romios does not mean that they have to have Greek origins, but rather that they are Orthodox in the fullest sense of the word, and follow the teachings of the Apostles and Fathers, wherever they live, whether in Europe, America, Asia, Africa, Australia or New Zealand. A Romios can face various things, with an existential reference and in a meaningful way.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Μιά ορθόδοξη ερμηνεία των αποτελεσμάτων των τρομοκρατικών ενεργειών", November 2001. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.