Bishop Demetrios Responds to John Vlahakis of the Greek Star

Click here to read the Vlahakis article.

Editor to the Editor
The Greek Star
4732 N. Lincoln Avenue Suite 4

Chicago, IL 60625 

Dear Editor,

In the November 17, 2011, issue of the Greek Star, it was sad to see the “ER: The Earthy Report” take not only a subtle non-Christian, racist and condescending attitude toward women in light of a serious but complicated problem facing all humanity, but also to pretend that the solution proposed was “moral.”

The author of the article rightly notes that increasing population poses numerous challenges to all of us.  Of chief concern to John Vlahakis is the environment and he notes that “the pressure to procreate without considering the consequences to the world is morally and environmentally wrong.”  He casts much of the blame, simplistically, on religion and patriarchal societies.  Of course, his implied solutions are equally wrong ethically and morally.

His main “solution” is no solution.  If every woman of the world were capable of exercising what he calls the “right” to “vote, drive, or [have] access to proper health care and birth control,” this does not mean that population would decline.  Women could choose to continue procreating at the current rate or higher.  Of course, implicit in this so-called solution is the equation of birth control to abortion.  And killing human beings for the convenience of those already alive is not only selfish, but anti-Christian.

The relative freedom for women to kill their preborn babies or to access conception control in the United States, the notable achievements of the women’s movement, and a marked decline in American religiosity, has not prevented our population from growing.  Even if this is in part to immigration, in “Christian” and “patriarchal” Europe the populations of Russian and German citizens (non-immigrants) are significantly declining.  By contrast, in China, women have been forced to abort “illegal” preborn children for that country to control its own population growth—neither for any religious reasons of  its militantly atheist government nor due to “patriarchal” social pressures.  It is simply economic.

The problems Vlahakis fears are most serious in the so-called “third-world” nations.  Economic interest and ingrained social values in the third-world certainly impact population growth.  Environmental challenges coincide with, but are not always due to population growth.  The situation is difficult and complicated, as is the relation of indigenous religion and social structure.  In the third-world, where most people do not look and live like Vlahakis, many do not have the “luxury” of considering their environmental footprint in light of the more serious and daily struggle to survive.  Still, corrupt governmental policies do far more damage to the environment than the increase in population in such areas.

If “Religion and patriarchal societies” should not impose on the freedom of women, the same may be said of white, affluent, educated males pretending they know what is best for the women of the world by suggesting overly-simplistic solutions.  Hubris is never moral.  

As we approach “Sanctity of Life Sunday” in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago (January 22), it would be better to see the problem in terms of social justice rather than a need to limit the size of society and act counter to our Christian principles.  We do not need to blame non-white, non-Christian societies for our environmental plight; we do not need to suggest that there be less non-white people in the world.  We need to fulfill what Greek Orthodox Christians have always seen as a divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28), though in a manner pleasing to God and beneficial for all human beings.  We need to respect human life in all its forms, and in all its numbers, and treat the environment in which we live as the gift from God that it is.  The two are not mutually exclusive in the Orthodox Christian faith.


+Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos
Chancellor, Metropolis of Chicago