The Unpardonable Blasphemy
of turning the Church into a National Institution
With the fall of communism, some nations with a history of Orthodoxy would seek to establish the Orthodox Church as a State Church, something that history tells us can be a big mistake. When the Bolsheviks defeated Imperial Russia, the former government's close ties with the Church led to the wholesale murder of countless bishops, priests, monastics, and faithful, all seen as an inseparable part of the government. The institution of the Church was seen as so closely tied to the former government, the new government sought to completely destroy the Church.
When we behold the Church in the light of how the Church sees herself, we realize as Christians, our true nation is not the country of our birth, but the Church herself. We Orthodox Christians belong to Christ and His Church. Our true nation is therefore the Church.
Whether we are Australians, Russians, Greeks, or Arabs, by birth, our second birth in baptism has made us members of the nation of Orthodoxy. I am an Australian by my first birth, but in baptism my nation is Orthodoxy, and I am of one nation with all Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
This unity of Faith is based on a personal relationship with Christ, who is the head of His Church. Our true nationality is not based on political ideology, be it democratic, socialist, or monarchical, but on our common baptism that has united us to Christ, and to each other as the Body of Christ, the Church.
Saint Justin Popovich wrote, "The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy — an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Spirit — to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata."