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September 26, 2003



Reading an article by Ms. Matthewes-Greene in praise (or at least, not critical of) of "Western" spirituality/theology would really be a change...


Man, it says a LOT about this guy that he cites The Last Temptation of Christ, the Scorcese film, as a f'r instance of how Jews shouldn't be ticking off Christians cuz Gibson is marketing his film to Christians.... because it ticks off Jews. (huh? But that's the truth -- and it's a literal translation of the Rabbi's reasoning.)

I remember a few years back, when the Wall Street Journal editorial page cited Scorcese as an example of Hollywood's anti-Christian, anti-business, politically-correct culture, using The Last Temptation as an example. To his credit, Scorcese simply called the Journal editorial page, and asked to talk to the editorialist. He recounted the conversation in a letter to the editor which -- to their credit -- the WSJ ran.

Scorcese asked the guy if he went to church regularly. The guy said no. Scorcese said -- I do.

Which one of these guys is against religion?

In case folks in this thread haven't seen the Last Temptation, it's simply an elaborate version of the Agony in the Garden, transposed onto the cross -- Christ decides, the hell with this, climbs down, goes off, has a life. But -- after Judas, among others, intercedes with him -- he changes his mind, and it was all simply a temptation, ON the cross.

Hardly a blast against Christianity. But why let the truth interfere with playing to the crowd? Everybody knows "Hollywood" hates religion, hates the free market, loathes democracy: right?

So then Scorcese asked the guy -- did you ever start a business? No. Did you ever WORK in a business, except part-time and summers, while you were in school? Nope. Ever find investors, meet a payroll? Nuh-uh.

And Scorcese said, look: I'm an independent filmmaker. That means every couple of years, I have to find investors willing to risk tens of millions of dollars on my ability to find actors, writers, shooters, locations, etc., to produce a product that enough people will spend money to see that the investors make a profit. Basically, every few years I have to start a good size business from scratch -- and we only make ONE product, and we only make it ONCE, then I have to start all over -- and yet, Scorcese noted modestly, his investors have made a fair amount of money from his films over the past couple of decades.

Which of these guys actually knows about free market economics?

By contrast, the guy who wrote the editorial had gotten his job on the WSJ because of his political beliefs, with no experience in business and no particular expertise beyond ideology.

The good rabbi has literally nothing to say about the merits of Gibson's film, much less his marketing, except to argue that somehow other intensely criticized movies were... um, intensely criticized.

This is a talk show host, playing to his audience.

Why DO y'all fall for this?

Christopher Jones


In American culture, Western spirituality and theology have no shortage of advocates. The Eastern Christian perspective has very few, of whom Mrs Matthewes-Green is one of the most eloquent. Why does it bother you that she should explain and argue for her own theological and spiritual viewpoint?

The Orthodox Church has long regarded the Anselmian explanation of the Atonement as one-sided and incomplete. Mrs Matthewes-Green did not come up with this perspective on her own. I would not be surprised if you, as a Roman Catholic, were to criticise Eastern Orthodoxy for its deviation from Rome. Why are you surprised that Mrs Matthewes-Green criticises the Western Church in a way that her Church has always done?

If you believe she is mistaken, then say so, and say why. But do not suggest that it is somehow illegitimate for her to faithfully represent the teachings of the Church to which she belongs.

Mark Shea


Because we're all idiots, except for you, of course. How kind of you to stoop down and slum among such an ignorant rabble that is so unworthy of your greatness.

Please. Do that "LOL" thing again. We love it when you heap derision on us puny humans. It helps keep us in our place.


The guy is like whack-a-mole.

Tell us: have you SEEN the Last Temptation of Christ? Kindly explain just what was so anti-Christian about it.



Mr. Shea, I fail to see what remarks like yours contribute to the discussion. Do you have anything substantive to say?

Mark Shea


About the Lapin piece? Nope. I know the good rabbi. Lives here in Seattle. Nice guy. I'm just weary of the "puny humans, I mock you" tone of Americanist's posts ("Why DO y'all [all of you little people, even though there was exactly one reply to the post] fall for this?"). So I registered my bleat. Not to worry, Jen. It will have no effect.


LOL -- and HAVE you seen the Last Temptation of Christ?

Kindly explain just what was so anti-Christian about it that Jews should have felt a special obligation to condemn it.


Chris, we've discussed this before. I'm all for faithful and accurate explanations of Eastern theological and spiritual viewpoints. Since, as you know, the Catholic Church is not exclusively Western, a better appreciation of its Eastern riches reinforces its catholicity, as HH John Paul II has repeatedly stated. But Ms. Matthewes-Greene does a little bit more than explaining what she believes in this article since it seems that for her -and, sadly, for the majority of Orthodox theologians and apologetes too- explaining her beliefs amounts to smack Western theology/spirituality, not just "Rome". You say "I would not be surprised if you, as a Roman Catholic, were to criticise Eastern Orthodoxy for its deviation from Rome". Well, you see, this shows a difference of approach. It is not a common Catholic attitude to describe our beliefs pugnaciously, as if they were some sort of "weapon" against the Orthodox churches. Certainly, we have our differences but we are not prone to constantly criticise deviations from "Rome": to highlight what we have in common is better and this is our way of relating to Orthodox churches.

As for Ms. Matthewes misconceptions of Anselmian theology, you must remember a previous exchange we had over a specific article of hers on precisely this issue, not so long ago. Some other participants in that dialogue and I showed then that her representation of Anselm was unfaithful to what Anselm actually wrote and that his spirituality, particularly regarding the influence of the Devil on the fall of our forefathers and in our spiritual struggle had also been misrepresented by her. She was debating a straw man.

Robin Rau


Although I don't have enormous familiarity with Mrs. Matthew-Greene's writings, my sense of her generally is that she is an ex-Episcopalian who sought the true Church, but was willing to go "ANYWHERE but Rome"; and now she spends her time justifying that "anywhere but there" attitude and decision.

Christopher Jones


If you were broadly familiar with Mrs Matthewes-Green's writings, you would realize how unfair your characterisation of her is. She has a tremendous amount of positive things to say about her own Church, and a great deal to say that orthodox Catholics should agree with. Her writings shine with a genuine love for Jesus Christ, and a great love for the Orthodox Church - not out of hostility to Roman Catholicism, but because of the genuine merits of Orthodoxy.

She does strongly contrast the attitude and content of Orthodoxy with that of Western Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant), but that is in large part because most of her readers will be most familiar with the categories and controversies of Western Christian thought. So, if she is to be understood, she must present the ideas of Orthodoxy in terms of Western Christianity - even if that inevitably means that Orthodoxy will come across as a stark constrast. It's a rhetorical necessity, given the task that she has set herself.

She has written extensively on many matters both theological and otherwise (she is a powerful writer on pro-life topics - one of the movement's great intellectual assets). I don't believe that she harbors any hostility (as distinct from honest theological disagreement) to Roman Catholicism; but even if she did, it plays so small a part in the overall scope of her work that you are mistaken to say that she "spends her time justifying her 'anywhere but there' attitude and decision".

Christopher Jones


That was a fair and forthright response to my questions. I thank you. You may be right about Anselm, and I certainly don't have the knowledge to debate it.

I do think, however, that much of what you object to in Mrs M-G's writings is a result of the rhetorical considerations that I talked about in my reply to Robin. I believe that she is committed to the truth of Orthodoxy, but not hostile to Catholicism. Again, I believe that one may honestly disagree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church without being hostile to her in any way. That certainly describes my own stance.

Finally, I think it's unfair for you to extend your antipathy to her writings (even if justified) to the majority of Orthodox theologians and apologists. I don't think what you say is true of Georges Florovsky, Vladimir Lossky, Alexander Schmemann, Kallistos Ware, or John Meyendorff. (I'll agree with you about John Romanides - he seems to me to be fanatically anti-Roman. But I think he's the exception.)

Any Orthodox theologian will be "anti-Roman" when he's specifically discussing points at issue between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, such as the filioque or the Papal claims. But not when presenting Orthodox theology generally.


Actually there seem to be two schools of thought within Orthodoxy - a "moderate" group that is willing to consider Catholics as being "separated brothers," and a more hardline group that considers us heretics totally berift of God's grace. The abode of the latter tends to be the monastic world within Orthodoxy, especially on Mt. Athos, where the monasteries once wrote a joint letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch condemning his ecumenical work.
My perception is that within Orthodoxy as a whole there does tend to be a preoccupation with setting off their contrasts with the West, although this may be simply a result of the size and influence of the Western church. You often encounter this sort of sentence in Orthodox writings: "We do X, which is the right way, as oppposed to Y as the Roman church does." IMHO it is a weakness in their approach since it says more about what they are not than what they are. My most amusing encounter with this was a book called "What the Orthodox Church owes the West." Within its covers was an explnation of how the Orthodox Church "owes" the west its version of the truth!

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