file is being compiled from articles that have come our way during the
year A.D. 2007. The first has just been sent to me by Fr Ambrose,who
found it on the NY website. I am including it as many, like me, will
enjoy renewing acquaintance with the brilliant mind of the late Bishop
Gibran. Having been written in the year that he was appointed Bishop in
Australia (1969) it has his slightly quaint style of written English
rather more noticeably than in his later writing and sermons. This
will, I think, endear it to us all the more. And the subject matter has
not dated much either....
From the web site of the
Orthodox Research Institute:
Nationalism, Man and Orthodoxy
By Fr. Gibran Ramlaoui (later
Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand)
St. George's Church, Cleveland, Ohio
Ancient problem, yet still fresh and relevant, stands as an
unsurmountable wall in the face of the process of Orthodoxy in America.
This problem is ethnic nationalism.
Nationalism is not an empty word. It is as true as the individual
who is seeking himself outside himself. There is nothing authentic
outside man, who is the image of God. However, the individual-wrapped
up in his limited self-has the illusion that he might find his SELF
where there is no real SELF; in the nation or the mass to which he
belongs. The nationalistic man might be honest in putting his hope in
his nation, because he is trying to establish his identity and find
security for himself. Nevertheless, his point of departure is
erroneous. Whenever we build the roof before the foundation, then the
house is liable to fall. . .And the eyes cannot be placed in the back
of our head, if we expect to move ahead and reach forward. Therefore,
when we discuss NATIONALISM, we ought to pose the real problem, in
order to find the real answer; The problem is the meaning of Man. And
any attempt to solve this problem outside this man-perspective is
condemned in advance to failure.
Then, let us put the picture within its real frame. We shall
essay in this short paper to establish the fact that man is not only
more important than NATIONALISM; but we shall state with assurance and
certainty that Man is both the source of every meaning, and the end of
When God created Man in His image, He gave him both meaning and
the force to grant meaning to every thing that is in existence. On one
hand, man is not complete in himself; on the other, the world has no
meaning without him. He is not complete because he receives his
fullness in God; and the world was created for him, consequently, he is
the meaning and the purpose of the world.
And Christ did not come to save the world, nor the nation - (what
did His own nation do to Him?), but rather He came to save the Man.
Thus He confirmed that which was already established by His Father: Man
is the king of all creations. Not only is Man preferred to things, but
also he is above even his own social ideas and political concepts.
Which means he is preferred to Nationalism.
Man, as he is the meaning of the world, does not however create
his own image, nor his own value. He receives it from God. Therefore,
when he (Man) rejects God, he is, at the same time, rejecting his own
meaning and superiority to all other creations. If Man is the meaning
of the world, still God is the meaning of Man. In this perspective,
Nationalism is a false shelter under which Man tries to take refuge in
order wrongly to secure his being.
In Nationalism, Man loses Christ. Or rather, Christ ceases to be
the prototype after which we are to become. Because, in baptism we put
on Christ. And then we become the dwelling-place of the Trinity. And
this gives us our meaning as human beings; consequently, if we search
for meaning outside ourselves we would be denying the existence of God
in us. Rather we feel the dreadful emptiness from which we try to
escape; then we fall into the hades of Nationalism. Man can never be
empty. If God does not fill us, then something else has to make us feel
full. But are we really full when we replace Christ with Nationalism?
Are we not then doing exactly that which the atheists do by denying God
directly and completely? Are not we then denying our real self? What is
left of us if our real Self is gone? And what is our self without
Christ? Therefore, the danger of Nationalism is far more destructive to
our Faith than what we normally think it can be.
One might think that I am eliminating the loyalty that one has to
have for his country or nation. God forbid! I am not treating here the
relationship of Christ to the State or Country. This is a topic that
can be handled from another scope. All that I am saying here is that
Christ comes first and before my Nationalistic feelings. The matter is
one of order or preference and not of exclusion. Christ is. My nation
is. Which one is first, not which one should eliminate the other. What
is a Nation? It is-in a very simple expression-a group of human beings.
Now, what is a human being? He is the image or the temple of God.
Hence, God is first, not the Nation or the national structure.
To what am I leading? To this question, I answer: I am a
Christian Orthodox. Ultimately, Christ only is the meaning of my
being. Therefore, I say I am Orthodox, then I mention my nationality as
a frame, a social structure, no more. I can be without a country,
without nationality. But, I can never be without being. And in being, I
am the image of God, not of a nation. I am the temple of God, not of a
nation. I, with other beings, form a nation. So the nation acquires its
existence and identity by me-and thou, and he- not from itself. A
nation does not exist in-itself, for-itself. I give the nation meaning.
And I draw my own meaning from God. Therefore, God- and I - we come
before Nation, and we are more important than Nation.
If we, Orthodox, want to be really Orthodox, we have inevitably
to consider Orthodoxy in its authentic context: Jesus the Christ. Then,
you are Russian and speak Russian, I am Lebanese and I speak Arabic,
but, we are both Orthodox. Then no language, no nationality, no
customs, no traditions can divide the one Faith that you and I have in
When Jesus sent out His Disciples to preach the Gospel, He did
not limit them to any nation nor race, nor language, nor country. "Go
ye to all nations, preach to them and baptize them in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." This is Christianity that
Christ wants. And this is the Orthodoxy that we ought to establish all
over the world, especially in America. We Orthodox in this great land
are scattered and dispersed like sheep without a shepherd, like lost
little children in the wilderness. Empty we are of Christ, because we
do not adopt Him as our unifying power. We do not want to be Christian
first, and Americans second. As a matter of fact, we could not yet
become Americans, because we are still hanging and
clinging to our former nationality. Two things are required of the
Orthodox people in America:
1. To integrate ourselves totally and integrally in the American
Nation. 2. To give up, consequently, our former concept of
But, and before these two requirements are fulfilled, we have to
be committedly aware that we are Orthodox. Because, to be a good
American one has to be a good Orthodox (I am speaking as an Orthodox):
but the reciprocal is not necessarily true.
What Orthodoxy, in America, needs now and right now, is that all the
Orthodox become Orthodox.
Who is going to do it, and how to do it?
I leave the answer to our faithful and to our spiritual leaders.
Are they willing to perform this magnificent task?
From Word Magazine, Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox
Christian Archdiocese of North America
June 1969, pp. 18, 21.