Wednesday, November 26, 2008


At our church services tonight, we had Small Compline with the "Akathist of Thanksgiving." I found this akathist to be incredibly beautiful and moving. These lines, in particular, hit home:

Kontakion 10
No one can put together what has crumbed into dust, but Thou canst restore a conscience turned to ashes. Thou canst restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope. With Thee, there is nothing that cannot be redeemed. Thou art love; thou art Creator and Redeemer. We praise Thee, singing: Alleluia!

Frank Schaeffer and some things that need saying

Frank Schaeffer is not for every one's taste. He can sometimes be, I suppose, a bit polarizing. But then, can't we all? Schaeffer is generally not one who needs any encouragement when it comes to speaking his mind. I respect that. His Dancing Alone was one of the first books I read when I began my investigation into Orthodoxy. For someone of my background, and at that initial stage of the journey, the book made quite an impression. You might say it jolted me out of my complacency. Not everyone needs that, but I did. So, I owe Schaeffer a debt of gratitude.

He is now an occasional contributor to The Huffington Post. The following recent article, copied in its entirety, falls in the category of "Things That Need to be Said." Enjoy.

Changing the Failed Strategy of the Religious Right Into a Winning Formula That Helps Heal Our Country

Along with my late evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer for a time in the 1970s and early eighties (long before I became a "secular left wing back-sliding" novelist) I was an instigator, propagator and founder of the anti-abortion hard right of the Religious Right. Today I am one of President-elect Obama's most enthusiastic supporters and wrote dozens of articles, blogs and opinion pieces supporting his candidacy. As a result I'm getting a daily dose of hate mail from the same people who used to regard my family as royalty within evangelical subculture.

Long after I left that evangelical/hard right subculture I converted to the Greek Orthodox Church (in 1990) and so I'm also getting to a few "how can you support the abortionist Obama" hate e-mails from some of the more right wing and politicized members of the Orthodox community. (Most of them are converts who brought their former evangelical and/or Roman Catholic right wing politics into their new church.)

All the hate e-mails have one thing in common: a disdain for President-elect Obama (some with vile overt racist overtones) and all refer to him as "an abortionist," or "in favor of infanticide," or "wanting to force gay marriage on America," etc., etc., etc.

Every single one of these hate e-mails assumes a basic premise: President-elect Obama has -- through some nefarious underhanded means -- tricked our "Christian nation" into following him so that he can secularize our God fearing people, impose "anti-Christian" laws, and generally drive the goodhearted, moral and Christian American people over a cliff of socialized sexual decadence.

Aside from the absurd inaccuracy of this oddly paranoid vision, stoked by the likes of talk radio's village idiots, half-truths, exaggeration and outright "he's a Muslim isn't he?" lies, there's an even more basic problem: the evangelical right wing, Roman Catholic right wing and their Orthodox, and Mormon counterparts circulating these hate emails don't seem to have noticed that--

A), We live in a pluralistic democracy that never was a Christian nation, in the sense that, say, Byzantium was when ruled by an Orthodox emperor in league with the Orthodox Church hierarchy of Constantinople, or that the papal states were in the Middle Ages, or even the way that the Massachusetts Bay State colony was under Puritan rule.


B) Have any of these folks noticed that today they are in a distinct ideological numerical minority now whatever our historical American beginnings were?

America is a country with Hindus, Muslims, tens of thousands of splinter group Protestant denominations all over the map, both theologically and politically, a Roman Catholic Church split when it comes to politics, where some Catholics love Vatican II and want further liberation, and others regard the Middle Ages as a golden age. Then there are the Jews, divided into dozens of subsets, and many non-believers and on and on it goes. Whatever the argument about America's "Christian heritage" was there's no argument about the fact that today we are a polyglot, diverse society.

Let's suppose for a nutty moment that the evangelical/Mormon/conservative Roman Catholic/ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Muslim view of such issues as abortion, homosexuality, marriage (gay or otherwise) is correct. For one crazy instant let's even assume that God wants everyone in America to live as if all the injunctions of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran, when it comes to sexual moral behavior or not eating shellfish, are to be practiced literally, up and to including the stoning to death of homosexuals. How then to best get back to some sort of Promised Land of rectitude and God-pleasing ways?

Clearly the election of our new the pro-choice, tolerant, progressive President-elect, represents the sweeping aside of the Republican majority in Congress and their triumphal neoconservative American exceptionalism. It is also an utter repudiation of the evangelical right and their fellow travelers.

The Republican/evangelical right's world view has been replaced by a battered, it's-the-economy-stupid!, state of mind. Economic collapse and perhaps worse awaits us. We are losing one war, and the other war was clearly a mistake. And the fools who got us into this mess need not apply for any post higher than dog catcher for years to come. Most American know all this.

This knowledge signals not just a loss for the Religious right but a resounding and permanent defeat. It also signals (to anyone sane) that even if you except the Religious right's view that, for instance, all abortion is murder, gay marriage an affront to God's natural law and so forth, a change of tactics is in order. Obviously no one is getting convinced, but rather the culture is moving in the other direction. In fact the Religious Right has made its case so badly that with friends like them the right's causes need no enemies.

What might a change of tactics be? How to effect change at the same time as practicing love for one's neighbor without which love -- by Christ's standard anyway -- everything else becomes mere sound and fury signifying nothing?

Here's the answer. (Yes, I said the answer.) First, admit that the traditionalist view of matters sexual, reproductive and moral is now the minority view. Statistics on teenage sexuality and pregnancy, divorce, single parenthood, polls on how Americans view gays, statistics on premarital sex, multiple serial monogamy "marriages," the number of children being raised by stepparents (including in many so-called conservative evangelical homes), all point to the fact that trying to close the "barn door" on these issues through legislation is futile.

Take abortion. Polls show that most Americans feel that abortion should be legal but somewhat more restricted, in comparison to the permissive license for all abortions at any time and for any reason provided by Roe v. Wade. Therefore if Roe was ever overturned by the Supreme Court (which has been the stated aim of the 30-year futile pro-life effort), every serious student of this matter says that abortion would remain legal, if somewhat slightly more restricted in most states. That doesn't even account for the availability of abortion through the abortion pill.

Fact: abortion is going to remain available in America, with or without new appointments to the Supreme Court by President-elect Obama.

Fact: It doesn't matter one way or the other what any president says or does "about" abortion. It is here to stay, unless the population has a change of heart. So it boils down to changing hearts and minds, not laws.

The same goes for laws related to easy "no-fault" divorce.

The same goes for legal rights for gay men and women, whether those rights are called "marriage" or something else.

The horse is long fled, the barn door permanently open. There are no short cuts to change. It boils down to each heart and mind.

Religious conservatives should stop pretending that they are living in 13th century Rome, or 11th Century Byzantium, or 21st-century Saudi Arabia. Where conservatives, and especially religiously conservative people, are actually living is in the American version of Babylon, or, for that matter, on Jefferson's Monticello estate while he's busy with a pair of nail scissors cutting out the bits of the New Testament he doesn't like.

Deal with it!

That being the case what strategy can people who wish to change their culture to a more traditional one employ? Is it to, for instance, spend millions of dollars on California's Proposition 8 to outlaw gay marriage? Will this win long term when the whole of society is becoming more and more tolerant of gays? Or is that just a good way to make most Americans disdain and/or fear the Mormon Church and other conservative religious people and to make the gay community hate them and everything they stand for forever?

Note to my old friends on the American Religious Right:

Your new winning strategy begins by you acknowledging where you are living. Do you want to just talk to yourselves or change America? This is not the Bay State in the1600! Therefore writing the kind of political screeds that might have passed into law in 17th-century New England, is a dead end. All Prop 8-type overtures will eventually loose. Trying to overturn Roe, or roll back the acceptance of gay marriage by the force of law is futile. What makes sense is an entirely positive campaign of hope rather than negativity.

Rather than telling lies about your fellow believers, such as President-elect Obama - that he's a " secret Muslim," a "Manchurian candidate," a "Communist," a "child molesting, sex pervert," "that he will ban talk radio..." and so on and on, how about telling the truth? The truth is that President-elect Obama is a born-again Christian (just like you evangelicals are) but with progressive social views on certain social issues that you conservative Christians (Mormons) and other religious folks disagree with. However Obama has shown that he is sensitive to those who disagree with him, for instance on abortion, by saying that there ought to be government programs to help women and babies in a way that makes abortion far less frequent. Do you want that to happen or not? If so get on board.

Having once told the truth about those with whom you disagree you evangelical right wingers, and all your fellow travelers, should concentrate on providing both the inspiration for, and the means for, positive change of heart. You could do this in a way that would actually advertise religious faith as an attractive alternative to secularism, rather than making it seem that you are the sort of ignorant rubes who are about to pull a hood over your heads and burn a cross on somebody's lawn.

Positive action could change the dynamic of the American political debate. Instead of being labeled as professional haters you on the Religious Right would be seen as agents of compassion, consistent with what you say you believe.

What if right wing Christians, Mormons and others volunteered to work with the Obama administration in helping to set up programs to provide women with the means to have and keep their children? How about evangelicals leading the cheering section for Obama's health care reform? What if those same Christians set up programs to make sure that gay men and women in their communities are not discriminated against and protect them if they are? What if these same Christians work to welcome, care for and protect immigrants, instead as portraying them to as enemies and the "other?" What if instead of being against gay marriage you were for keeping all marriages together and worked to reduce the numbers of evangelicals getting divorced?

If the fight for the rights of the unborn became a positive effort to hold President-elect Obama to his word when it comes to health and welfare programs for mothers and babies, if the fight against gay marriage took the form of outdoing all other groups when it comes to fighting for the rights of gay men and women to be treated with dignity, and for all married people to find ways to make their relationships work, if the fight against illegal immigration took the form of reaching out to the immigrant community, both legal and illegal, with compassion care and love, educational programs and with the welcome Jesus commands us to have for the stranger in our midst... the entire enterprise of the Religious Right would turn from a bitter hate-inspiring (and now massively politically losing) effort, into what has always been the actual business of the best of Christian faith from time immemorial: missionary outreach to "the least of these" in the name of the Christ who, according to the Scriptures, "desires the salvation of all humankind."

I have a question: if your idea of fighting for moral change via political means is so great, how is it working out so far? Roe was 30 years ago. Closer to overturning it our we? Did the nation fly to Sarah Palin? How many abortions have you stopped since W. took office? How many gay men and women love Jesus more because they met your groups? And, by the way, why did you all give us 8 years of the worst presidency in our history, being that without your votes W. would be running a ball club now instead of running America into the ground.

Your born-again president has bankrupted our country, destroyed the Christian community in Iraq, and killed tens of thousands of innocent people, including over 4000 of our men and women? If you don't learn from these failures what will you learn from? Do you think America will ever trust your judgment again unless you change? And now you are putting yourselves on the wrong side of Obama, a man who is going to be one of our great presidents.


Members of the Religious Right wouldn't have to give up one iota of their principles, moral or otherwise if they took the advice set forth above. But rather than relying on the political and legislative process to force other people to comply with the right's American version of Sharia'h Law, their effort could be to make converts through generosity and love.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. Now in paperback.

The link can be found, here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What it Means to Lead

It is not often that the Orthodox Church makes the Sunday op-ed page of a major newspaper (and that is a good thing, actually.) But in today's Dallas Morning News, editorial columnist and Orthodox Christian Rod Dreher comments on the recent election of Bishop Jonah Paffhausen as Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America. Dreher commends Met. Jonah and quotes from his remarkable Tuesday night speech at the All-American Council. He then applies Met. Jonah's admonitions to the current crisis within American society as a whole.

Dreher writes:

Moreover, leaders must understand that they and their institutions serve a mission more important than anyone in it. Mistrustful followers must know that holding tight to cynicism is an abdication of their responsibility to care for the common cause. At every level, only active love – that is, selfless stewardship – can restore what has been broken.

The column, found here, is well worth reading.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three Years

A glance at the calender today reminded me that it was exactly 3 years ago tonight that I was received into the Holy Orthodox Church. What a blessed journey it has been so far--3 years on the way to my own "Many Years!"

Those Wacko 'Love Thy Neighbor' Christians

I may be a Christian, but it's not like I'm one of those wacko "love your neighbor as yourself " types.

Funny stuff, this. Read it here.

More on Metropolitan Jonah

Those following the recent selection of Bishop Jonah as the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America will be interested in a collection of his articles published in Divine Ascent, found here. They are excellent, and also show why he was such an obvious choice (after Tuesday night's speech) at the All-American Council.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rudderless Christianity

I could be wrong, but I suspect the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, on the mega church movement. Seems to me it is time again for The.Next.Big.Thing in American religiosity. In a recent Touchstone article, S. M. Hutchins comments on the implications of Willow Creek Community Church's recent and exhaustive self-analyzation. The findings are published in "Reveal." Some of the conclusions are not at all what the WCCC marketers were expecting, and their willingness to publish anyway is to be commended. What they may find troubling, I find encouraging. Unfortunately, Hutchins' article is not available online. I have copied it in its entirety (emphasis mine.)

Up A Creek: S. M. Hutchins on the Dangerous Success of Rudderless Christianity

The most disturbing and widely publicized finding of "Reveal," Willow Creek Community Church's years-long exercise in consultant-directed self-analysis, was that a significant percentage of the members who have profited most from its ministry, have moved forward along its continuum of measurement for spiritual growth (tithing, serving, and evangelizing), are dissatisfied and thinking of leaving.

A more amenable result to the church, of course, would be that the dissatisfied are the less rather than the more mature Christians, but Willow Creek has discovered that the more advanced a person becomes by its own measures of spirituality, the more likely it is he is thinking of going elsewhere.

This finding not only shook the church's leadership, but caused significant disturbance in the larger Evangelical world, since the model provided by the huge congregation in the Chicago suburb has in the last generation become almost paradigmatic for the movement of which it is a part.

The principal mission of Evangelicalism being to evangelize, the methods used by Willow Creek, representing the most advanced and sophisticated applications of market analysis and Church Growth technique, have been so successful that they have not only formed the basis for a large connection of churches, but are widely studied and imitated among Evangelicals as the best modern example of what they are in the world to do.

Since the criteria used by Willow Creek to measure spiritual growth are by and large the same as those used by other Evangelical churches, if this study is valid the entire movement has been confronted with the question of whether the deeper one ventures into the Christian faith--the better he knows his Bible, the more faithful he is in the service of Christ, the more concerned he is for the welfare and mission of the Church--the less of a modern Evangelical he must perforce become. I have not heard it articulated this way, but think the conclusions inescapable.

Willow Creek's ministry deserves praise for two important virtues. Its critics, I believe, should allow that if its more advanced members can become dissatisfied with the form of Christianity they have found, it is more than likely they have been there provided with criteria against which to measure it. (This, I am bound to say, is one of the well-recognized dangers of turning people loose with their Bibles: There is nothing, as a famous English Chancellor once correctly observed, more apt to alienate them from their churches.)

While, if this book represents it well, its leadership's attitude toward the Church appears to be self-referential, still something has been learned at Willow Creek that allows the most advanced member to understand he is in a spiritual nursery and can no longer live satisfactorily on its lactations. This means, however, that there must have been a competence of nourishment to begin with, with all this implies about the effectiveness of its ministry of the gospel as far as it goes--and this is no small thing.

The second commendation is of its willingness to look seriously at itself, both naming and making public findings that not only reflect faults in its ministry, but tend to cast doubt upon the validity of the entire project. If the more mature members, whose normal task is to lead the church into a more perfect faith, are instead finding that their church cannot accommodate it, this cast the character of the whole into serious question.

It appears to me that this church, while professing a high regard for Jesus, does not think nearly as well of the apostolic ministry which formed, supposedly under his direction, the Church of the New Testament, knowledge of which is a principal part of what long-standing members of Willow Creek are expected to gain from the teaching of their church and their private devotions. Its enthusiastic adoption of the egalitarian heresy is the most notable sign of this deficiency.

I do not see evidence here (although perhaps it may be found elsewhere) of the conviction that any of these problems are due to sins that need to be forsaken. Rather, they are treated as ineffectiveness, the result of ignorance from which the church claims to desire relief.

Since the story whose beginnings are chronicled in "Reveal" is not yet over, this writer is not willing to write Ichabod over the portals, but must note the lack of promise in the mixed message of its concluding parts: While on one hand, it desires the aid of others to make the necessary corrections and improvements, on the other, one senses the probability that whatever advice it receives, to be found useful, must be domesticated to the small corner of Christendom where it lodges, a place dominated more by marketing experts who ask people what they want than by Christian leaders who tell them, with the authority of apostolic teaching and tradition, what the Church believes and does.

Willow Creek seems to be cheerfully maintaining and listening to its business-school pastors while losing--not cheerfully, to be sure--those who may be beginning to understand what the Church is all about.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Back from 15th All-American Council

I returned last night from 4 days in Pittsburgh, as a lay delegate to the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America. I will not soon forget the events that transpired there. Without going into specifics, suffice to say that the last few years have been trying ones for the OCA. Members and others who follow this sort of thing will know what I am referencing. Consequently, this council always had the potential to be a bit dicey. And yet, the gathering took an altogether different course, in ways both mysterious and wonderful. Fr. John, our parish priest, described the experience much better than I:

It is safe to say that, while some perhaps foresaw that anything could or might happen at this Council, no one could have predicted this. And yet it all happened in the most spiritual and natural of ways. We all went to Pittsburgh with some fear and trepidation, hoping for a spirit of healing and relief from the burden of the financial scandal of the past several years; fearing the release of pent up anger amongst many. We also came with hope that Our Lord would bring about a new day for the OCA and allow us to move forward in our mission for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, unburdened and empowered by Grace. This is what we got. On Monday night and the whole of Tuesday the Council plenary sessions dealt forthrightly and openly with the scandal. We heard reports, had floor discussions, and penned questions for the Hierarchs (bishops) to consider. One thing became very clear from the outset - our Hierarchs were participating in the Council to a much greater degree than they had at previous Councils, and in general seemed more expressive. As Tuesday went on there were some tense moments as people asked difficult questions, and while nothing got out of hand it was clear that to most that many questions and a spirit of doubt and distrust continued to hang in the air. There was a general temptation to read anything and everything in the context of the scandal. Towards the end of Tuesday disappointment was expressed that the Holy Synod had yet to formally address questions that were collected from the delegates and that could be on any subject. Their silence on this was purely a procedural matter - they had not received the full questions and had not had time to consider them. It was decided that they would be addressed on Wednesday, but it was at that moment that it was announced that Bishop Jonah would speak for a few minutes after the end of the plenary session. This was not planned - it was a spontaneous decision. I am sure I was not the only one thinking that the junior bishop of the synod who was not involved in any way in the scandal faced a measure of peril in speaking to such a topic. But as he began to speak, everything began to change. For the first time a Hierarch stood and spoke with spiritual authority and pastoral compassion to a gathered body of the OCA. He spoke very openly, almost too openly, on certain aspects of the scandal. But he also made it clear that our spiritual task involved laying down our anger as a spiritual cancer, and abandoning any negative energy or feelings we still bore to the whole subject, and begin to look at tomorrow. You can listen to this speech here: At the end of the speech, which was frequently broken by applause and standing ovations, the whole gathering exploded in applause. It was a truly significant moment, and far beyond the actual words used, it was the sense of a spiritual father speaking to spiritual children with genuine, God given spiritual authority. I have never heard anything like it on that scale, and it was clear that ten days of being a bishop meant little - Bishop Jonah bore a standing all his own - a Grace of the Holy Spirit, and no doubt the fruit of a genuine monastic life removed from the world of ecclesial politics and compromise. Only he could have made that speech.
The next day we began the process of electing a Metropolitan. Delegates are not supposed to talk about potential choices. It is an entirely open process and any name meeting the minimum canonical requirements (a celibate male member of the Orthodox Church) can be voted for. Bishop Jonah led the first ballot over Archbishop Job by a few votes. On the second ballot that lead grew. The Holy Synod took those two names into the altar for consideration. They had the freedom to choose either one or even someone entirely different. It still seemed unlikely that Bishop Jonah could rise so fast to the responsibility of Metropolitan. But as the synod came out and Archbishop Dmitri spoke, "It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." it suddenly became clear. The announcement of his name again brought thunderous applause and realization that in one fell swoop so much about the OCA suddenly changed. That night, after a beautiful address from our chancellor Fr. Alexander Garklavs, His Beatitude again addressed the banquet, and again a spirit of euphoria and joy swept the room as he laid out his vision - again one that was not unique in many senses, but he just said everything that so many had been waiting a long time to hear. He was connected to the Grace filled future of our autocephalous OCA in a way that no other hierarch seemed to be. He was truly our Metropolitan.

The official OCA announcement can be found, here.

Ancient Faith Radio has links to all the major addresses, here. I particularly recommend any of the talks by now Metropolitan JONAH. The Banquet Address of Fr. Alexander Garklavs is very good, as well.

While we were busy at the Council from 7:00 AM until late at night, I was still able to squeeze in a bit of Pittsburgh sightseeing, here and there. I was favorably impressed with the the city, actually--friendly people, interesting neighborhoods and significant, classic architecture. Approximately 400 priests at a downtown hotel made for an interesting street scene in central Pittsburgh--for OCA priests always wear their cassocks. At any given time--and particularly around dinner--one might see a couple of dozen Orthodox priests, monks and hieromonks on the sidewalks of downtown Pittsburgh. As they've seen it all in Pittsburgh, everyone seemed to take it in stride. I'm afraid the sight would have been a traffic-stopper in Dallas. The first night there, several of us ended up at a small Greek joint nearby for a gyro (and I might add, the best rice pudding I've ever had). There were probably 6 to 8 priests in there at time. A policeman came in and joked with the priests--pretending he was calling in reinforcements because the cafe had been swarmed by Orthodox priests. Another short side-trip involved walking down "the Strip," a few blocks of fish markets, sausage markets, macaroni markets, etc. and Wholey's Supermarket. Wholey's is, shall we say, unique. They also have a talking cow--a fuzzy, mounted cow head that talks to you as you walk by, welcoming you to Wholeys. The talking cow sounded a bit too much like Marty Moose to me--cheesy as all get-out, but a lot of fun, nonetheless.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Markus Urek's "Letters from old Civilizations"

Mustafa Akyol is a young Turkish journalist who writes for the English language Turkish Daily News. I have found his observations to be some of the most reliable on the situation there. His blog, White Path, is linked here. In a recent story in the TDN, Akyol references a series of articles penned by Markus Urek, a Turkish citizen, currently a Fulbright scholar in the New School of New York. Of more significance, in my view, is the fact that Urek is Suriani, an Oriental Orthodox Christian from southeastern Turkey. The TDN published 7 installments of Urek's observations from recent travels in Syria, Jordan and Kurdish Iraq. His unique background gives him an interesting slant. He has quite a bit to say about Turkey's evolving relationship with it's neighbors, democracy and/or secularism in the Near East, and the status of the indigenous Christian communities within these 4 countries. I quote at length from his last installment, but the entire series, linked below, is well worth reading.

The taxi left me in Ankawa, which is the most modern vicinity of the town. In everywhere in Ankawa, all kinds of drinks from Turkey and from all over the world are sold and are consumed by the pools in a great enjoyment.

At night I sat with two people from Ankawa by the pool and we had steak and Turkish Efes Pilsen beer to drink and started to speak about the life in Iraq. They were curious about the life in America and Turkey, but I was bombarding them with my questions about Iraq. As everyone there these two young men too wanted to go to America or Europe. I said your situation is very good. Look you have BMW cars, whereas I cannot use this car in the U.S.

“Yes, I own a BMW,” says one of them. “But we don't see the future. We cannot have a serious enterprise. There is no proper legal system. There is no proper education. Everything is bound by the words of the leaders. If one goes out and gets murdered, who can you go to to enquire about the murder? No one you can ask to enquire about it. That means you will die for nothing. This is not so in the U.S. and Europe. I don't know because I haven't lived there at all, but I think it is so there,” he continues to say.

The younger man was curious about the life in Turkey, especially in reference to the Turkish women who appear in the tabloid news. He asks whether that is the real life there. “Yes, it is true but that should not mislead you, it is not so all over Turkey. Look, the ruling party and the main opposition party in Turkey have divided the country into two groups – the believers and unbelievers – i.e. those from us and those from them. Both sides do not trust one another; this is why politics in Turkey is sensitive,” I said.

The BMW owner was not satisfied with the answer I gave, and said, “There is at least democracy there; there are efforts for the EU membership.” Agreeing with him I drank a bit of my Efes beer to cool myself from the enormous summer heat there.

Leaving the place after we had our meals, two villas that were protected by armored vehicles and barriers drew my attention. I asked the people there about who owned them and why they need so much protection. The answer I received surprised me: The houses were owned by American diplomats and businessmen. Wondering about this I asked a passerby why would the Americans built their villas in the Christian vicinity rather than Kurdish vicinity. The answer I received was as I guessed: “They are afraid to live in the Kurdish vicinity,” said the passerby.

Here I recalled the words in my fourth letter by the American commander who said we have come here for the Kurds not for the Christians. Even though they may have come for the Iraqi Kurds, they still could not live among them. Whereas the Iraqi Assyrian Christians are being threatened and murdered just because the Americans who although have no relations with them are considered to be co-religious and co-operatives. This has forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Assyrians to flee Iraq.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7