Father Oliver has provided documents related to the upcoming Episcopal Assembly of the Orthodox Churches in North America. I would like to make a few observations regarding at least the first one, which I have just read.
In “Orthodox Christian Leaders meet at Ecumenical Patriarchate-” from Oct. 2008, I notice that the OCA was not represented. Perhaps this contributed to Metropolitan Jonah’s controversial speech where he pretty much said, the American Church doesn’t need the old world Churches (either). According to appearances, especially since Chambesy 2009, he has backed down from this position. I’m not too worried about the 2008 slight because it reflects the controversial standing of the OCA’s autocephally, which the Metropolitan has also since presented a more nuanced view on, stating the OCA as it was initially drafted, was meant to disappear anyway. This is my understanding at this point. If the Moscow Patriarchate had not been represented, I wouldn’t consider the 2008 meeting pan-Orthodox. Since Metropolitan Jonah has such a close relationship to the Moscow Patriarchate and the Valaam monasteries, I consider the OCA represented somewhat.
This statement captures my attention more than the others which are a little more politically oriented than I am at this point. I feel that the Church and her people need to get themselves right before we tackle the rest of the world. Part of this statement seems a little more to that end.
5. Under such circumstances, the contemporary witness of Orthodoxy for the ever increasing problems of humanity and of the world becomes imperative, not only in order to point out their causes, but also in order to directly confront the tragic consequences that follow. The various nationalistic, ethnic, ideological and religious contrasts continuously nurture dangerous confusion, not only in regard to the unquestionable ontological unity of the human race, but also in regard to man’s relationship to sacred creation. The sacredness of the human person is constrained to partial claims for the “individual”, whereas his relationship toward the rest of sacred creation is subjected to his arbitrary use or abuse of it.
These divisions of the world introduce an unjust inequality in the participation of individuals, or even peoples in the goods of Creation; they deprive billions of people of basic goods and lead to the misery for the human person; they cause mass population migration, kindle nationalistic, religious and social discrimination and conflict, threatening traditional internal societal coherence. These consequences are still more abhorrent because they are inextricably linked with the destruction of the natural environment and the entire ecosystem.
I think the Orthodox Church provides the key balance between the individual, the group, and the environment. The Ecumenical Patriarch seems to tilt a little more towards protecting creation over humanity, at least that what I hear when I read his statements.
Which brings me to Shamu (who recently went from Shamwow to Shamboo), Sigfried and Roy, Timothy Treadwell, and Elsa the lion.
Born Free was the most popular movie when I was born. All my childhood, the theme song sung by Andy Williams was my favorite song. I still like it. What was controversial was the domestication of wild animals. My impressions of the movie looking back were sadness that Elsa had to be separated from her humans (but pride that she learned to make it on her own), whom I believe she loved – that’s another issue, do animals love us? I wrote elsewhere of my childhood romantic view of animal stories where the human has a special connection with usually a wild animal like The Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague, the colt in The Man from Snowy River, or Buck in Call of the Wild. People who hunt for sport were all the villainous “Man” in Bambi. I believed that the otherwise untamable animal could sense the special person’s specialness, until a horse threw me when I was 12 years old. I landed in the hospital for almost a month with a crushed elbow.
During my childhood, I liked rodeos, not knowing what they do those bulls and bronks to keep them wild show after show after show. It’s been 20 years since I’ve watched one. I also enjoyed zoos back in the day before natural habitats, amazed at the creatures in and of themselves, then learned with the rest of the world that it damages animals to make them live in metal cages. That this is important to avoid. I’ve even watched the Shamu show all misty-eyed at the sweet relationship man can have with killer whales. Oh, and I thought that the ungrateful tiger that bit Roy was wrong, but that Roy probably had a lapse. Until recently I believed that a more professional approach to wild animals, such as Sea World uses, was fine. Just don’t try it at home.
Now I’m rethinking zoos and Sea World. In God’s command to “subdue the world”, perhaps he meant us to tame domestic animals that serve man like horses, cows, goats, chickens, dogs and cats, and then to manage the wild ones like wolves, lions and antelope by keeping their lands hospitable to them. This is complicated given how crowded the world is today. It wasn’t until I read about Orthodox saints that I saw that my romantic view towards relationships with wild animals has some basis. But the requirement for living peaceably with lions is holiness, not selfish romantic attachment which can seem to be based in loneliness and disenfranchisement with relationships. It is only through purification and a right attachment to God that this relationship can happen. But it is not one of dependence and self-fulfillment. Appreciating God’s creation properly comes when one worships the creator first. Then one can be a priest to that creation, which even wild animals need. They shouldn’t be treated cruelly, or out of a selfish desire to possess and dominate, but they should be provided for and protected.
My uninformed theory is that Tilikum either wasn’t treated well when he was captured off the coast of Norway, or that his being a breeder in the Sea World environment made him too aggressive for human dealings. Suddenly those Sea World tanks look way too small. Animals are dangerous, but I think the fault usually lies with the higher human form. Just like there may be wild children, the responsibility to protect that child and the people and property around him lies with the adults.
I intend to write about why I think Orthodox unity in North America is important later.