Greek Star -- June 03, 1904The Fall of the Greek Race and the Byzantine Empire. the Church Is the Cause. Greeks of Chicago Beware. the Errors of the Past Must Not Be Repeated. (Editorial)
The meeting of the Chicago Greek community last week in regard to a new and better Church was not dignified, not orderly, not becoming to a religious cause, and above all it was injurious to the Greek community and very dangerous for the Greek race. The Church again comes to the front to divide, destroy, and retard the progress of this flourishing Greek community in Chicago as it did in the past when it let barbarian hordes enslave the metropolis of Christendom and brought on the fall of the Greek race and the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire.2
Religion and Church are divine things, but they should not be mixed with affairs of state and affairs of the community as they were in this case. State and Church do not bind. A close combination of the two is dangerous to both. Politics and Church are not built upon the same principles; therefore each should rule in its own domain and according to its own principles and fundamental laws.
Affairs of state should be governed with an iron hand, resembling the immutable laws of nature; whereas the affairs of the Church should be handled in precisely the opposite way, that is with forgiveness, tolerance, kindness, compassion, prayers, hymns, and the like. Two ideas totally opposite are the foundations of these two-politics and Church.
Greeks of Chicago and elsewhere, be on your guard! Remeber the fall of the Empire, and donot let this distructive blunder be repeated to the detriment of our race.3
Delving into the depths of history, we find irrefutable evidence to verify our assertion in regard to the cause of the downfall of the race and of the Empire, and here is what we read.
In the first period of the Byzantine Empire Justinian raised it to a strikingly lofty place by organizing a strong and powerful army and developing better economic conditions. In his reign Christendom began to establish itself.
After his death the Church became all-powerful, and began to dispute prerogatives and extra-ordinary powers with the State. This period of conflict covered about two centuries, from 600 to 800 A. D., to the detriment of the Empire. During that period all the so-called prominent public figures and emperors proved to be the most wretched of rulers devoting their time and energy to theological debates, and permitting the Saracens to seize important parts of the empire. In order to realize the depth of the downfall of politics, one has only to look at the history of that period; to his chagrin 'he will discover that everyone of the emperors bore some such cognomen as Iconoclast, Iconomachus, Proskynitis (worshipper), Theologos, and the other titles which decorate the names of Eastern prelatism, neglecting the organization of the army and navy, which were and are the vital substance and pillars of the State.4
During the reign of the real pure-blooded Greek emperors, that is from 867 to 1117 A. D., the Empire, thanks to the wisdom of its rulers in keeping state and church in their proper places, not only regained its lost territory but conquered all the lands which were dominated by Bulgarians and other barbarian hordes and made the brave warriors of Arabia, who thrice attempted to storm the Queen of cities, pay the tribute of subjugation.
Until now, owing to the wise and iron rule of the emperors, the Church had been quiet. But this good policy, the result of wise thinking, could not reign forever, for the administrators of the affairs of state could not and would not continue to think wisely. The Church again came to the fore, this time on the war-path not against the State but against itself, dividing itself into factions, rocking the boat of the State by dragging the learned into a theological disputation to wit "Whether the Holy Spirit is delivered also by the Son."5
For over two hundred years the battle of the divided Churches, the Eastern and the Western, to settle this point of "Spirit-delivery" continued in full blast, undermining the forces and the power of the Empire and demoralizing it in its dealings with foreign countries. This state of dispute continued to the year 1038, when every connection and relation between the two (Mother and Daughter) Churches was entirely cut off.
The Byzantine Empire again began to lose ground. The capital, as the economic center of the Empire, began to feel the attacks of the heterodox West and onslaughts of the Turks. The latter seized many countries which were left unprotected by the Empire, enslaved their inhabitants, and forced them to accept Mohammedanism. And by this time the whole of Thrace, Macedonia, Sterea, Peloponnesus, and the islands had become the prey of the Latins, the Venetians, and the Franks.6
The Empire at this time resembled a pilotless boat in turbulent waters, driven hither and thither by the furious waves. In this predicament the emperors known as Paleologh, sprang up and took hold of the Church-sick.
Empire from 1204 to 1453 these last emperors kept the Empire alive but not in flourishing condition. Many of the old wounds were healed, and Turkish invasions were frustrated, but the soul and the body of the Empire were sick with too much Church and too little organization. The ferocious Turk had gained ground, for throughout this period experience had taught him to be well organized, and he was impelled to fall upon his enemies by his zeal for spreading his religious doctrine. That the Byzantines were not match for the Turk is revealed by this comparison:
"The Turk was distinguished for his devotion to his country and his readiness to die in its defense, whereas the Byzantine was devoted to his Icons and left the defense of his country in the hands of the archangels.7
O foolish emperors of Byzantium! Why did you not utilize your Greek education and enlightenment? Your wise progenitors used to say, Syn Athena Kai Cheira Kinei-'When Athena helps, withhold not your hand. God helps those who help themselves."
Thus the defense of the city was left in the hands of divine entities and on May 29, 1453, Constantinople fell, as later fell the all Greece, into the hands of those who did not play with church, archangels, Holy Trinity, and speculations on "how the Holy Spirit is delivered."Nations are really nations when enthusiasm and devotion are felt by all the people equally, and the capital does not monopolize things which all the whole nation ought to share. Constantinople was stormed by barbarian hordes, and neither Sterea nor Peloponnesus knew anything about it.
"O foolish and over-churched emperors ! The world knows of your religious blindness. The world is shocked by your neglect to defent the safety of that huge Empire. Were those 10,000 soldiers of yours enough to fight Mahomet's horde 200,000? Why were not the other Greek nation's notified to come to the rescue of the capital?8
Your Icons and your archangels brought about the fall of the city, but the Byzantine Empire, which was everywhere, could not have been subdued by the Turks if the organization of the army had been extended into every part of this huge domain. The political organization was neglected for the benefit of the ecclesiastical organization, and thus the great Greek race went into oblivion. "O foolish Emperor Paleologos! No one disputes your bravery in dying sword in hand fighting the infidel, but emperors serve their empires best not by fighting side by side with the army but by ruling wisely. Emperors are supposed to use their brains, not their swords. The emperor is neither a soldier nor a warrior; he is the governing head.
Now, brother Greeks, clergymen and laymen alike, let us not drag the dignity of the church in the mire and cause the downfall of the Greek community in Chicago. Our community here is prospering, progressing, and expanding. Let us not reverse its upward progress. The Church is our own creation to serve the spiritual needs of the community. The Church is not the community; it is an institution of it.9
If we want a new and a larger Church, let us all decide upon it, not a few of us who are preoccupied with religion. If we are enthusiastic and interested, the thing will be done quicker and better. The Church is not the property of the few.
And above all , brother Greeks, clergymen and laymen, remember that Chicago is not the exclussive territory of the Greeks and their Church; it is the territory of a commonwealth composed of many nationalities and many crude. So be it, then let us follow the wise axiom, "When you are in Rome, do as the Romans do," try doing in America as the Americans do. Let us have peace and attend to our business like Americans may rightly and justly classify us as barbarious.
Greeks the world over, beware! The blunders of the past must not be repeated. The Church is an institution of spiritual ministration and is not for the administration of the affairs of state.
If we heed the historical facts above mentioned, the life and progress of this Greek empire, the Chicago Greek community, will become great.
III C, III H
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