Religious Freedom

Today’s assignment in the blogger challenge (and make sure to check out the other participating blogs here) is Eden.  Eden, if one thinks of it as having been a real place, has traditionally been associated with Mesopotamia – the land between rivers.  Tonight we had our annual Marlborough-Hudson Interfaith Association’s Thanksgiving service.  Normally at this event I do a prayer or hymn from our Orthodox tradition but I did something a little different this time.  In light of what has been happening in Iraq and the Near East with ISIS, I thought I would talk about how we should be thankful that we are free to worship, talk about our faith, and gather with people of other faiths.  To this end I read Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was a predecessor of the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Authorship of it, along with of the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia, were the three of his many accomplishments that Jefferson chose to put on his epitaph.  I went to UVa and so I have a natural affinity for Mr. Jefferson, as we ‘Hoos are supposed to call him.  He was also a philhellene and a supporter of the Greek revolution (although he considered the Orthodox Church to be monkish tomfoolery).  Here is the complete text of his Statute:

An Act for establishing religious Freedom.

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;

That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;

That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,

That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;

That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

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November 20th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Day 36: Hats

The most recent blogging topic is hats.  I am going to stay away from blogging about hats in Orthodoxy because there is some controversy, especially in the Orthodox blogosphere, about the status of the kalimauki – the black hat you see some priests wear – as liturgical garb for priests.  So I figured I would talk about a very cool hat from the past.

There is probably no time where a guy wears a hat more than when he is in college.  Rolling out of bed and heading to class, going out, whatever – hats, at least when I was in school, were part of the uniform.  At UVa, there were two very popular hats beyond the usual Virginia ones.  You would often see University of South Carolina hats, largely due to what was thought to be a clever abbreviation of the Gamecocks nickname.  There was another hat that I could not figure out until someone clued me in.  The hat featured the logo below, and I would rarely go a day without seeing someone wearing one.  The hat turned out to be the official cap of the Carolina Mudcats, based in Zebulon (in the Research Triangle of North Carolina).  It turns out the current incarnation of the team is recent – the original Mudcats moved to Pensacola and became the Blue Wahoos.  UVa’s teams are nicknamed the Cavaliers, but no on involved with the school calls them that.  The nickname for the nickname is Wahoos, or ‘hoos.  A wahoo is a fish that supposedly can drink many times its weight, so you can imagine how the nickname developed.  So we have come full circle with college hats…


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December 23rd, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Sprouting Celery

Today is the third day of spring, but who’s counting?  I grew up in New England until the age of 18 and then spent ten years in Virginia; my body has never adjusted back to the weather up here.  After picking up gardening a few years ago I found a new frustration – the seemingly endless winter compounded by the desire to get back out there and garden.  My coping mechanisms this time of year include planning the garden as well as sprouting seeds or roots with the hope of planting them in May.  The picture below features one of these sprouting attempts that doubles as a project for the girls – the bottom of a celery plant, normally discarded, was put by the girls in a shallow plate with water.  You can see the results; our next step, once the sprouts have grown, will be to plant it in a pot and then ultimately transfer it outside, perhaps in a cloche before the weather truly warms up.  The picture also shows a ginger root (on the left) which is also starting to sprout.  Just out of the picture on the right are lemon seeds that have sprouted, and by the window in the garage I have an onion which we discovered with a shoot coming out of it.  I planted the onion and put it by the window, and after a day or two of sun the shoot turned green.  As always, stay tuned…


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March 22nd, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Pastor Johnson And A Story Of Integration

I often refer on this blog to certain clergy as mentors, and today I was thinking of a mentor whom I knew only fleetingly but who made a tremendous impression on me in my Virginia days and I think of him from time to time.  I knew him as Pastor Johnson, a preacher who had been a client of the law firm I worked at for many years before my seminary days.  Pastor Johnson (who has been deceased now for some years) was a client of the firm back in the day when blacks and whites lived separately in Charlottesville, and few attorneys would represent blacks.  I remember meeting him and he asked me my interests.  I mentioned theology and said something about how it was not a real science or something like that; he responded “it is the _only _ exact science.” He was diminutive in stature but everything he said was a supreme profundity – I remember another great quote – “I study hermeneutics, the study of that which is not there”, as he put it – a very intriguing definition!

When I told him I was Greek Orthodox, Pastor Johnson told me a fascinating story.  Back in the day a black couple (parishioners of Pastor J.)  had gone to a Greek-owned restaurant for a meal.  The proprietor told them that he was sorry but he couldn’t serve them because he would get in trouble with the law.  As the pastor told it, he emphasized that the restauranteur was nice and apologetic – he was not some demented racist – he just didn’t want to get in trouble.  Pastor Johnson went to visit the Greek priest and told him what had happened.  The priest at the time – I think this was the early to mid sixties – told him to tell the couple to return to the restaurant tomorrow at the same time.  They did, and received service with a smile.  And so integration in Charlottesville, it seems, got its start with a heart-to-heart between two good Christian men, Pastor Johnson and his colleague at the Greek church.

There is a bit more to the history here.  While blacks were discriminated against by whites in Charlottesville back in the day, so were Greeks.  Greeks were not allowed to own property and had other limits put on them – perhaps this commonality also played a part in this drama.  God bless the memory of Pastor Johnson.

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December 13th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Peanuts And The Gospel

This is a very cool article by Lee Habeeb (UVa grad!) on A Charlie Brown Christmas and how this beloved program almost never happened.  It is an interesting story, but the most surprising thing for me was that the (I imagine) typically square and unadventurous TV execs and sponsors were scared that Linus’s recitation of a passage from the gospel of Luke was going to be controversial and a disaster.  I first saw the show in the late ’70s as a little kid, and I recognized even then that there was something old-fashioned about Snoopy and the gang, and that the program was very different than much of the other kids fare on TV.  I always figured the Christian message was something from the past – who would have thought that it was controversial in 1965? I understand things were changing at that point but I would have thought the networks would not be swept up in the cultural change until well after that.

One of the reasons that I think Mad Men (which I thoroughly enjoy watching) gets so much buzz is because it depicts a 1960s that has largely been forgotten.  The ’60s in popular mythology conjure up Woodstock, hippies, protests, colorful art and music, and other such things.  Mad Men captures the early and mid-60s and indeed what much of mainstream America was like in the late ’60s.  Woodstock was one thing, but take a look at baseball cards from 1970 (which feature photos from the year before).  Not an afro or long hairdo in sight.

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November 25th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Class Ring Story

Guest blogger Nia:

I guess when it’s all said and done, it’s a good thing it happened.
Because for upwards of 8 years now (we’ve reached the point in the story when the author dates herself), my class ring has been accompanied by the standard disclaimer: “they got it wrong! It’s an MT, Master’s in Teaching, NOT MS!!! I don’t have an ‘MS’!”

and I guess it’s also a testimony to what happens when you and your spouse are too busy attempting to continue a meaningless and overly noisy conversation 3 blocks past the bar, when you should be noticing the quiet, pure white snow gently fluttering above you and around you.

But no, the pressing preoccuppation with the pointless and inflammatory motivates you to fill the dense winter air with your noisy voices.

And in a passionate conversationally oriented gesture, you throw your hand into that night…and down goes….your precious…class ring. Athena/Minerva graces its face, which flies forward into the snow. Goddesses aren’t used to such low temperatures.

You are distraught. This is mildly ameliorated by the fact that your husband orders a $60 metal detector the next day, as the snow continues to fall, and the the snow plows responsibly shove the snow, and everything that rests beneath…up against the sidewalk.

Eventually you and your husband venture out to track down that precious gold circle. As he peers over the snow through his new electrified contraption, you cry, “I found it!!!” and hold up the crushed, mutilated, once-glorious golden rendition of Wisdom’s deity, which you have found on the clean snowless pavement.

You needed a new one anyway. The old one was wrong. You don’t have an MS. What IS an MS anyway??

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March 11th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Lt. Col. James Christopulos

A dear mentor of mine, “The Colonel”, as we always called him, has passed away.  He was responsible for getting me involved in AHEPA and was always one of my favorite people to see at church in Charlottesville.  He was the best…his obituary is below.  May his memory be eternal…

Lt. Col. (Ret.) James L. Christopulos, 93, a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, died December 31, 2010. In addition to his many professional achievements, he was a man who always placed family first, a loving husband, father and grandfather.

Jim was the son of the late Louis and Helen Christopulos of Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was a civil engineer and a career military officer. He attended the College of Engineering at the University of Wyoming, the Engineering School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and the Graduate School of Engineering at Harvard University. He studied atomic weaponry and radiation at Air University (USAF). Jim served in Europe as a combat engineer with VIII Corps and with the 28th Infantry Division when it was overrun by the Germans during the “Battle of the Bulge” in December 1944. He also served with the 24th Corps in Okinawa and Korea.

Upon returning to Cheyenne, Wyoming from service in Europe and the Pacific after World War II, he met N. Beth Wilson, who was on the staff of the Wyoming State Adjutant General. They were married in Cheyenne on May 23, 1947.

Christopulos transferred his Army Engineer Commission to the Air Force in 1949. During his tenure with the Air Force, he served in various capacities. He was Chief of Engineer Planning at 12th Air Force Headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany from July 1950 to July 1953, where he directed the planning and design of seven new air bases in West Germany. He served in a similar capacity with Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado from July 1953 to July 1956, where he was responsible for the establishment of the Command’s “Radar Umbrella” in the continental United States and Canada, up to the Arctic Circle.

From 1956 until 1961, Jim was the Chief of the Strategic Missile Branch at Air Force Headquarters in the Pentagon, establishing the sitting of the ICBM arsenal, which included the Atlas, Titan and Minuteman ICBM launch complexes. From July 1961 to July 1964, he served as the Director of Engineering Projects Division at Pacific Air Force Headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii. From July 1964 until his retirement in July 1966, he was director of the Facilities Maintenance Division at Strategic Air Command (SAC) Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.

Following his retirement from the Air Force, Jim received an appointment as Chief Engineer and Senior Environmental Engineer Advisor on Environmental Hazards at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He served in this capacity until he retired, for the second time, in 1986. During his service with HUD, he developed explosion and thermal radiation safety standards which were used in determining the safe siting of the HUD projects near operations handling chemicals and petrochemicals of an explosive or fire-prone nature. He developed departmental construction standards for locating HUD projects in the vicinity of toxic wastes and radioactive materials such as radon; and he represented HUD on the White House Radiation Science Panel under the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Amongst Jim’s military decorations are the Combat Infantry Badge, Air Force Missile Badge, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, European Ribbon with 4 combat stars, Army Commendation Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal.

Following Jim’s retirement from HUD, he received 8 awards, including a letter of commendation from President Reagan. He is listed in Who’s Who in Government.

Jim was a member and an officer of the AHEPA, a National Greek American organization; the American Legion, the Retired Officers Association, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, and an active alumnus of his college fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE).

Survivors include his beloved wife, Beth, of Charlottesville, his daughter, Dr. Diana K. Christopulos, of Salem, Virginia; his daughter, Joyce Christopulos Almarode, and her husband, Mel, of Orange, Virginia; his son, L. Michael Christopulos, of Orlando, Florida; his granddaughter, Malaika Almarode Rogers, and her husband, David, of Madison, Virginia; his grandsons, Shaun Michael and Jonathan James Christopulos, of Florida; his great-granddaughter, Alexandra Nicole Rogers, of Madison, Virginia; his great-grandson, Shaun Michael Christopulos, Jr., and his great-granddaughter, Kaitlen Christopulos, both of Florida. He is also survived by his brother, Tony Christopulos, and his wife Ann, of Waukegan, Illinois; his brother, Mike Christopulos, and his wife Jan, of Brown Deer, Wisconsin; his sister, Iris Christopulos Pilafas, of Atlanta, Georgia, and his brother-in-law, Jack C. Wilson, and his wife, Mary, of Largo, Florida. He was predeceased by his sister, Kaye Christopulos Kachavos, and his brothers, Nick Christy, George Christopulos and Bob Christopulos. He is also survived by numerous beloved nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends at the Trisagion Service to be held at Hill and Wood Funeral Home, in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday, January 7, 2011, at 7:00 p.m.

Funeral services will be held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 119 Caroline Street, Orange, Virginia, on Saturday, January 8, 2011, at 1:00 p.m., with the Reverend Lin Hutton and Father Louis J. Christopulos officiating.

Interment will follow at Riverview Cemetery, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The family has suggested that memorial contributions may be made to St. Catherine’s Greek Orthodox Church, 5555 S. Yosemite Street, Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111 or St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 119 Caroline Street, Orange, Virginia 22960.

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January 3rd, 2011 by Fr. Greg