What should we do about the Great Reset? About once a week I get a message from one or another of my parishioners with a link to a video that I “have to see.” Many of these videos are of a monk on Mt. Athos (or a monk from some other place reputed for holiness), or it is a video by a conservative religious or political commentator decrying the loss of religious freedom that is or will be brought about by the secular powers that be. The not usually spoken but very strongly felt subtext of these messages is that if we are true Orthodox Christians we should do something to stop it. What that something is, is generally left for us to decide. Which is probably why my parishioners are wanting me to tell them what I think after I watch the video they sent me, a video decrying the Great Reset and the terrible loss of religious freedom that is taking place and will certainly get worse.
Now let’s just lay aside for the moment the fact that according to the canons of the Church, the bishops are the ones who lead and teach the faithful, not random monks, not even very holy monks. That is not our Tradition. You or I may visit a holy monk and receive advice if we like, but for anyone to broadcast a message for the faithful into a diocese without the blessing of the local bishop is a violation of the most basic and oldest canons of the Church. And as far as trusting the reliability of media, left or right, I will leave that to your common sense. Can you really trust a news source that increases its revenue precisely by making you angry or frightened enough to stop what you are doing and listen to them—again and again, all day and night long?
But like I said, let’s lay that aside right now and just assume the worse case scenario. Let’s assume the monk on Youtube or the political commentator who has gotten you all worked up in a sweat of anger and fear and righteous indignation, let’s just assume that they are 100% bang on. Let’s assume that it’s the beginning of the End, that the Great Reset will create a world in which Christians will be persecuted and traditionally Christian cultural values will be wiped out. Let’s assume that this is what is happening right now.
Hasn’t this been the experience of Christians since the beginning? Whether it was the pagans of the ancient world, or the Muslims or the Communists or the western secularists, it’s all the same thing. Didn’t Jesus say that the world would hate us because it hated Him first? What’s new here? Perhaps what is different here is that too many of us have gotten so accustomed to an easy life in bed with the world that when the world wants a divorce, we fear the loss of our cozy place more than we fear God. Perhaps not. Maybe this is how it has always been. God saves His people as He knows how.
Thinking about this has brought to mind a passage from St. Sophrony Sakharov’s book, We Shall See Him As He Is (p.69).
Formed of the dust of the ground, we make up a tiny fraction of the massive body of mankind from which it is not at all easy to escape, especially in our day when practically the whole universe is under the control of officialdom in general. One cannot appeal to the princes of this world for help: a small good turn from them and we risk losing our liberty. Our best ‘gamble’ is a childlike trust in God’s providence in the pursuit of a life where first place is given to Christ.
St. Sophrony then goes on to quote the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate what “a life where first place is given to Christ” looks like. Particularly what caught my attention are Jesus’s words, “do not resist evil” or “an evil person.” What a radical response. You are slapped on the left cheek and what does Jesus tell you to do? Turn the other cheek. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Jesus tells us to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us.
But I am reminded here of a story in the Life of St. Isaac the Syrian. He had just been made bishop of Nineveh, and was asked to settle a dispute between a creditor and a debtor. When the case had been explained to St. Isaac, he suggested that according to the Gospel the creditor should forgive the debt. The creditor then said, “this is business, let’s leave the Gospel out of it.” St. Isaac then said, “if we are going to leave the Gospel out of it, then why am I here?” That’s when St. Isaac went into the desert to pray for the world.
I get it. I don’t want to be persecuted. I don’t want to be slapped on the face economically or socially and certainly not physically. And I’m pretty sure that I would not turn the other cheek—at least not without a superabundant outpouring of Grace in that moment. I like being cozy and comfortable in the world.
But if history is a reliable teacher of what’s to come, then we can be pretty sure of at least one thing: the world will change. Regimes come and regimes go. The Church finds favour and the Church loses favour in the eyes of the world. If it’s not the current Great Reset that brings severe persecution on the Church, it will probably be the next one. But whether it’s here or there, now or then doesn’t really matter much. If we love the world and the things in the world, then any change in the world will be traumatic. If we are comfortable in the world then an economic reset or political upheaval will evoke fear and anger, and if we are able to frame it as a religious war, it will evoke righteous indignation.
But if this world is not our home. If we are but salt and light, sojourners in a strange land, then we will adjust. We will find a way. We will carry on, looking for a City whose foundations and builder is God.