The monk who left the Holy Mountain to destroy a statue of Neptune in the Ministry of Education with a sledgehammer! (1976)

250px-Poseidon_Penteskouphia_Louvre_CA452
Poseidon holding a trident. Corinthian plaque, 550-525 BC. From Penteskouphia.

NOTE: The following article is taken from “Time Machine,” July 23, 2015. Poseidon (Greek: Ποσειδῶν) was one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain was the ocean, and he is called the “God of the Sea”. He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard. Poseidon was a major civic god of several cities: in Athens, he was second only to Athena in importance, while in Corinth and many cities of Magna Graecia he was the chief god of the polis.

http://www.mixanitouxronou.gr/o-kalogeros-pou-efige-apo-to-agio-oros-gia-na-katastrepsi-me-variopoula-to-agalma-tou-posidona-sto-ipourgio-pedias-ton-oplise-to-pirino-arthro-mitropoliti-gia-ta-edia-tou-idololatri-theou/

 

 

An unprecedented incident of religious fanaticism made headlines in April 1976.

The protagonist was a monk from Mount Athos, who went to Athens in order to destroy the statue of Poseidon that stood at the entrance of the Ministry of Education.

Poseidon

It all started from an article by the Metropolitan of Florina, Augoustinos Kantiotes, “concerning the genitals of the pagan God and the shame of Athens,” which enraged the monk. In the article, Kantiotis mentioned—among other things—the plaster copy of the Poseidon statue that adorned the entrance to the Ministry of Education. The monk was furious and decided to act. He got a car and traveled from Athos to Athens to eliminate what he believed was the Ministry’s shame.

He invaded the building early in the morning and started hitting the statue with a large sledgehammer. The Ministry officials tried to stop him, but did not manage.

The monk was furiously beating Poseidon shouting: “Down with the idols.” 

The monk broke the statue’s hands and feet. Police officers arrived at the Ministry and arrested him before he could shatter the head. “It was a corruptive idol; disgusting and shameful. Those who set it up in the Ministry of Religious Affairs are not Christians,” the monk said to justify his action. Reporters gathered and submitted questions at the police station where he was led.

“What bothered you most about the Poseidon statue? Perhaps his nakedness? -That too. Why do they have the idol in the ministry? Do they want to restore paganism, as did Julian the Apostate? No, they will not succeed in that.”

The monk was not penitent. Rather, he said to himself: “Oh I did not have the honor to also break its head with the hammer.” The monk even threatened to return to Athens at night with two cases of dynamite and turn Poseidon to ash. According to his plan, he would break the glass and enter the Ministry with the wicks ready for firing. In an emergency, as stated, he would be killed together, like Samuel in Kougki.

The case was brought to justice. People who supported the monk had gathered in court. When the accused asked the chairman what he had to say about the matter, he replied calmly: “I accept. I broke the statue because it was the shame of the city and caused the indignation of Christians.” When they asked him if he sought exemption from the charges, he categorically said no. The court sentenced the monk to prison for eight months, but he appealed and was released.

boyana-temple-sm
St. Nicholas destroys idols, 13th c. fresco

 

Saint George topples the pagan idols (Decani, 14th c.)
Saint George topples the pagan idols; Decani, 14th Century
Saint Abraham of Rostov destroys a statue of pagan god Veles (11th century)
St. Abraham of Rostov destroys a statue of the pagan god Veles (11th century)

 

 

Orthodox Fundamentalism (George E. Demacopoulos, 2015)

NOTE: This article is taken from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s blog, January 29, 2015. This blog site is labeled as “An internet ministry tool of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.” At the end of the article is a link to a critique of this article by Fr. John Whiteford (the author of Sola Scriptura: In the Vanity of Their Minds).

George E. Demacopoulos
George E. Demacopoulos

One of the cornerstones of Orthodox Christianity is its reverence for the great Fathers of the Church who were not only exemplars of holiness but were also the greatest intellectuals of their age.  The writings of men like St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. Maximos the Confessor have been and will always remain essential guides to Orthodox Christian living and Orthodox Christian faith.

Thus it is alarming that so many Orthodox clerics and monks in recent years have made public statements that reflect a “fundamentalist” approach to the Church Fathers.  And unless leaders of the Orthodox Church unite to repudiate this development, the entire Orthodox Church is at risk of being hijacked by extremists.

Geronda Ephraim of Arizona
Geronda Ephraim of Arizona

Like other fundamentalist movements, Orthodox fundamentalism reduces all theological teaching to a subset of theological axioms and then measures the worthiness of others according to them.  Typically, this manifests itself in accusations that individuals, institutions, or entire branches of the Orthodox Church fail to meet the self-prescribed standard for Orthodox teaching.  For example, when the Theological Academy of Volos recently convened an international conference to examine the role of the Fathers in the modern Church, radical opportunists in the Church of Greece accused it and its bishop of heresy.

Warning sign near St. Anthony's Monastery
Warning sign near St. Anthony’s Monastery

The key intellectual error in Orthodox fundamentalism lies in the presupposition that the Church Fathers agreed on all theological and ethical matters.  That miscalculation, no doubt, is related to another equally flawed assumption that Orthodox theology has never changed—clearly it has or else there would have been no need for the Fathers to build consensus at successive Ecumenical Councils.

The irony, as identified by recent scholarship on fundamentalism, is that while fundamentalists claim to protect the Orthodox Christian faith from the corruption of modernity, their vision of Orthodox Christianity is, itself, a very modern phenomenon.  In other words, Orthodoxy never was what fundamentalists claim it to be.

Dead snake at St. Anthnony's Monastery
Dead snake at St. Anthnony’s Monastery

Indeed, a careful reading of Christian history and theology makes clear that some of the most influential saints of the Church disagreed with one another—at times quite bitterly. St. Peter and St. Paul were at odds over circumcision.  St. Basil and St. Gregory the Theologian clashed over the best way to recognize the divinity of Holy Spirit.  And St. John Damascene, who lived in a monastery in the Islamic Caliphate, abandoned the hymnographical tradition that preceded him in order to develop a new one that spoke to the needs of his community.

It is important to understand that Orthodox fundamentalists reinforce their reductionist reading of the Church Fathers with additional falsehoods.  One of the most frequently espoused is the claim that the monastic community has always been the guardian of Orthodox teaching.  Another insists that the Fathers were anti-intellectual.  And a third demands that adherence to the teachings of the Fathers necessitates that one resist all things Western.  Each of these assertions is patently false for specific reasons, but they are all symptomatic of an ideological masquerade that purports to escape the modern world.

2 Jackrabbits clash at St. Anthnony's Monastery
2 Jackrabbits clash at St. Anthnony’s Monastery

The insidious danger of Orthodox fundamentalists is that they obfuscate the difference between tradition and fundamentalism.  By repurposing the tradition as a political weapon, the ideologue deceives those who are not inclined to question the credibility of their religious leaders.

In an age when so many young people are opting out of religious affiliation altogether, the expansion of fundamentalist ideology into ordinary parishes is leading to a situation where our children are choosing between religious extremism or no religion at all.

"The sheep and the mirror."
“The sheep and the mirror.”

It is time for Orthodox hierarchs and lay leaders to proclaim broadly that the endearing relevance of the Church Fathers does not lie in the slavish adherence to a fossilized set of propositions used in self-promotion.  The significance of the Fathers lies in their earnest and soul-wrenching quest to seek God and to share Him with the world.  Fundamentalist readings of both the Fathers and the Bible never lead to God—they only lead to idolatry.

George E. Demacopoulos: Professor of Historical Theology; Director and Co-Founder, Orthodox Christian Studies Center  at Fordham University. @GDemacopoulos

For a long debate about the pros and cons of this article, see the comment section at http://blogs.goarch.org/blog/-/blogs/orthodox-fundamentalism

For a critique of this article see:

Fr. John Whiteford and family.
Fr. John Whiteford and family.