If you know anything about abusive relationships, you’ll know that the pattern is generally “Abuse >>> Buy off >>> Abuse >>> Buy off.” Kind of like “Husband beats wife, wife weeps, husband feels guilty and/or wants to get back in Wifey’s good graces, husband buys flowers and jewelry for the wife, wife agrees to “kiss and make up,” then he hits her again.” You may ask yourself why the wife would take him back even once, much less all the time, but the truth is that abusive people are oftentimes thousands of times more scintillating and attractive than The Average Joe, and are very talented at reminding their prey, I mean women, of their good points. But, like the nursery rhyme warns, “When he’s good, he’s very very good… but when he’s bad, he’s very very bad.”
That, in a nutshell, is what I’m going to be talking about today.
But first, a caveat: If you are an average, moderately religious member of the Coptic Orthodox Church, you will likely want to stone me for the title I’ve pasted on this article.
Since you’re the upstanding paragon of virtue that you are to belong to such a sterling denomination, I ask you to bear with me as I explicate the reasons I’ve chosen to use such strong language, and keep in mind that I would never say a bad word about Jesus Christ or the Bible.
I cannot, however, keep silent regarding my thoughts as to why the Coptic Orthodox Church—I said CHURCH, not FAITH, by the way—is to blame for the ills of modern-day Egypt.
As I see it, the majority of today’s clergy commit three main sins that keep the vicious circle going; in addition to this, it was actually the Coptic Church that let Islam into
You did know that the Church welcomed the Muslims in (with open arms), thinking they would save our ancestors from the Evil Romans (who were, admittedly, bad news), right?
And you did know that it was a Copt who killed Youssef Bek (the also-Christian successor of Botros Ghaly 100 years ago) right?
I believe the word for this is “Sellout,” kind of like when some black Africans sold some other black Africans into slavery, but that’s beside the point and I think I just confused myself more than you.
For now, here are the three biggest problems that so many Aboonas contribute to.
- If there is a problem of any sort, their first—and sometimes only—advice is “Ok, child, go and pray, and God will solve it.” This is not to say that there is anything wrong with praying, only that if we relied on prayer for everything and neglected to do our part, then WE, not God, are to blame for any mishaps or non-actions that come about. For example, if I pray for 5 hours that I will get an A+ on my test, and yet neglect to study for it, then is God to be blamed for my failure? Or if my husband wants to lose 20 kilos and prays daily, or lights candles around a framed portrait of Baba Kyrillos, then do you think he (hubby) will slim down if all he eats are Twinkies, Twizzlers and Moon Pies? Of course not. We have to do our part in everything—from the cessation of our 2-packs-a-day smoking habit, to making
Egypt a great place for everyone to live and thrive. Unfortunately, though, and as I mentioned above, the clergy aren’t—and, admittedly, can’t be (if they want to preserve their not-so-horrible relations with the largely Muslim government in
Egypt, or the non-Orthodox in the west, anyway)—as supportive of action as they could be. This “Settle Down” philosophy is contributed to by the second main sin of the clergy, which is:
- The priesthood are on pretty good, or at least decent, terms with the government. This could be why they counsel us to “just pray” rather than stand up and get something done. They don’t want to rock the boat. They feel it’s better to keep the peace with outside factions than it is to make a stand for once in their fat lives and make a difference! But maybe, just maybe, they don’t understand what the ruckus is all about (in
Egypt or in the west). It doesn’t hit close enough to home. They don’t go through what their parishioners go through. In other words, for the most part, the clergy don’t get attacked, they aren’t egregiously impoverished, they always have food to eat and a car to drive, and they don’t have to constantly worry about being fired. An old Public Enemy song called “911 is a Joke” has the line “They don’t care coz they get paid anyway.” I don’t mean that the clergy don’t care, just that they would be more compassionate, fight so much harder for their people if they walked for even one day in a shoe that wasn’t made of gold.
- The last main thing that I feel is problematic is the fact that the clergy (for the most part) don’t believe in the “Three Musketeers” motto of “All for one and one for all.” That is, everyone stands behind them, but they can’t—or just plain don’t—stand behind everyone. Meaning, if someone badmouthed Baba Shenouda, you know that thousands of Copts from everywhere—
Canada, the States, etc.—would be all over the badmouther. They would lodge complaints, post comments on websites, send nasty emails, and maybe even physically attack someone who cast the slightest shadow on their Baba. On the other hand, while Copts would certainly feel the situation of a fellow Copt who was in danger—praying for them, searching for them if they were lost, or whatever—how many times out of 100 would the clergy themselves band together and stand up and take action to save this poor fallen individual? It seems as though the people are doing all the work and the clergy are the ones reaping all the rewards: getting kisses on their hands, getting tons of dinner invitations, and making a great name for themselves.
A runner-up in this contest of “What’s more wrong?” is the fact that the Church always seems to act in its own best interest, in a manner that will not only preserve its sovereignty, but its financial and sociocultural well-being. And by that I mean that the church is protecting its role as “The Last Word” in every Copt’s life.
You have to know where this is going: they’re making sure people will always be beholden to them, so that they won’t lose their jobs.
Some might even say that that’s why the Orthodox church even bothers with Sacraments that need to be administered BY a priest—so they’ll always be needed. (Flashing back to the start of this article, let it be said that parishioners who think they’re in God’s good graces, as evidenced by their partaking in the solely priest-administered Sacraments, could be said to feel “very very good.”)
And if the priests were acting with the best interest of the people in mind, I would fully support this. But as I mentioned above, the main concern is with preserving the hierarchy and finances. (This is a prime example of the Church being “very very bad.”)
You know, that’s why many Copts convert: because the Muslims are generous enough to help their people and their potential people (meaning people they think are good candidates to convert to Islam), whereas the Coptic church rarely digs into her own pocket to help out a poor family or an individual who’s fallen on hard times (of any sort).
This phenomena (of the Church having to be in control) is very sad, my friends, because it allows people to think they can just “go through the motions” to attain salvation. “Oh, I did what Aboona said, so I’m good now.” But I don’t want to get into theology right now, as I have a few things left to say about the Church and her lack of good parenting skills.
Have you noticed that when the Church supports something, EVERYONE goes along with it, almost unthinkingly? And how a scant turnout is almost guaranteed if the Church didn’t put their stamp on it?
This could be because the clergy (being Egyptian) sometimes drag their feet on some things, and take ages to get back to the people who need them (apparently their family life is more important than the spiritual lives of their spiritual children. Maybe the Catholics have the right idea…?).
This could also be because the Church is smart enough to know that if they support something they aren’t going to directly benefit from, they might find themselves in a situation where they basically created a monster, a monster who might one day fight them for material resources and food (members, I mean).
I really wish that the people reading this would realize once and for all that the Church isn’t the ultimate authority for what’s ok and what’s not ok. (The Bible is!)
I wish people would understand that they have minds to think with, and that the church—while important—doesn’t always consider things from our angle, from the parishioner’s angle.
In fact, I daresay that the church doesn’t consider any angle other than the angle of “What’s good for the Church.”
And may I add that this is NOT a case of “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” where the goose is the Church and the gander is the average, run-of-the-mill, “I just want to live my life and make a difference and not get killed for wearing a cross” Copt.
By Sara Ghorab