Weaponized Compassion

by | Jan 18, 2022 | Videos

In this video I discuss the aspect of Antichrist that is weaponized compassion. I use the examples of Judas in Scripture and the 2016 film called ‘Silence’ as stark demonstrations of this pattern, that can help us to recognize it in our world today.

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  1. Janine

    I have reached the point where I am fed up with ethics and ethicists. I just want to know what my religion teaches me, and then let me figure out how I think I can live that best. The rest is politics, at least that is what it seems to come down to. And “politics” covers a lot of selfish ground.

  2. Ronda Wintheiser

    Jonathan, I have a question about this idea.

    You say that the purpose of weaponizing compassion is power. And that makes perfect sense in speaking about the state as the authority that has been demanding that we mask, social distance, lock down, and get vaxxed out of compassion.

    But I wonder what you think about the hierarchs and clergy in the Orthodox Church who have been weaponizing compassion. Do you think they have done this for the sake of power?

    The priest in the parish we were attending at the beginning of 2020 is beloved to me and my daughters. He is probably the most wonderful human being I have ever met. But he has taken the restrictions imposed by city and state government here in MInnesota far beyond what was required. He said he did not want to leave anyone behind. He did not want any of the vulnerable people in our parish to be shut out of participating. So he made the mask requirement absolute, even though both the governor and the Synod and our own bishop had made exceptions, and he limited the number of people attending a service even more than the state did. He also had large rectangles drawn in something like black marker set at 6 foot distances throughout the nave where whole households were required to stand. Even if you were one single person, you had to stand in one block of space. I don’t know if people were allowed to kiss icons, but children were (are still) required to mask, and he used multiple spoons to serve the Eucharist.

    I did not see any of this as I never did attend a single service after the church was shut down in March of 2020. Or ever again. I never attended, so all I am describing is what I heard from him via his Youtube or Zoom announcements and homilies, and what people who did attend told me.

    These restrictions effectively prohibited at least 4 individuals that I know of in our parish who have disabilities from attending because they cannot mask. There could be others; I only know of those because they are friends. One of those individuals is my daughter who has autism. Another is a teen boy who has autism. And the others are two sisters who were sexually abused by a stepbrother when they were very small and who are also on the spectrum of autism.

    Fr. J and I had become close friends over the years and we had a very frank, open communication. So all during 2020, he and I were writing email back and forth. Ultimately, the point I want to make here is that he said and I knew already from knowing him that he did not do these things out of obedience to his bishop, which some people used to excuse him, if you will. He said he would have done those things no matter what. He has equated these requirements as part of the Gospel.

    When the shots became available, he and the bishop spoke about them in terms of Christian duty. They encouraged us to get vaxxed as part of our Christian duty.

    So, why do you think he would do that? I can’t quite wrap my head around him doing it for power, per se.

    What do you think?

    • Janine

      Hi Ronda, I don’t know what Jonathan would reply, but I wanted to tell you that my own priest, whom I love very much and have a good relationship, was also strict about this. Our fellowship hours were cancelled, and that was hurtful to our older generation who depend upon them for socializing.

      However, my priest suffered a very bad reaction from the vaccine due to his own ongoing healthcare concerns. I appreciated that he used several spoons for communion, as I personally think it is good to take precautions. We don’t use moldy bread, for example, in the Eucharist. There are already precautions like that; our faith is not magic, it is mystical.

      It seems to me your priest was using a great deal of precaution. Perhaps he genuinely felt it was safer for the congregation as a whole. I know my priest was afraid of what covid would do for our older generation and possibly even for himself. As clearly he is suffering now, I do not in any way find this blameworthy. It is just the very difficult way things are now due to this terrible affliction. I do not think an act of true conscience is what Jonathan is talking about; these are not acts designed only to highlight their power or rank. Genuine compassion may be expressed in many different ways even if we disagree strategically or politically with an action. That is simply a matter of differing opinion, not of judging compassion.

    • Ronda Wintheiser

      Hi Janine!

      Thank you so much for responding.

      I absolutely believe — and I tried to express this — that Fr. J did this completely sincerely. I do not blame him for that, and I have not taken personal offense. As I said, he is beloved to me. I believe he acted out of concern for his flock.

      However, I do believe he and our bishop and our Synod have weaponized compassion. They put public health at a higher value than worshiping God, which is the point of this particular video from Jonathan Pageau. I do not fault them for caring and worrying about vulnerable people in our parish, however, it seems a bit ironic that in Fr. J’s desire not to leave anyone behind, he did, in fact, leave behind a group of human beings who are particularly vulnerable. He left behind a group of people who are peculiarly vulnerable. As if physical vulnerability to illness gives one more value than an intellectual or emotional vulnerabilty as someone who has autism or has been a victim of sexual abuse.

      All of us who have family members with these disabilities have had to leave that parish. We have no choice. That absolute mask requirement is still in place. So since March of 2020 to the present, no one who is unable to mask has been allowed into any church building for anything, nor even to any outside services.

      It puzzles me that anyone who is Orthodox thinks that there is any precaution necessary to protect us from our temples, our spoons, our icons, etc., anyway. There have been many times in history when there were diseases running rampant, haven’t there? Are we really so afraid of sickness and death that we would avoid worship?

      I would prefer to risk illness to worship in an Orthodox manner and receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox manner.

      Beyond that, surely you realize at this point in time that this particular disease is deadly to a very small percentage of people who can be protected from it quite easily. Perhaps the precautions taken at the beginning of the spread of Covid 19 when no one knew anything about it, shutting the doors of the church, etc., could be excused. But even then, shouldn’t people be allowed to decide if they want to take the risk of physical illness in order to worship God and receive the Eucharist?

      You wrote “I do not think an act of true conscience is what Jonathan is talking about; these are not acts designed only to highlight their power or rank.”

      That is why I asked the question. The story of the missionary sent to Japan is the example Jonathan used — and of course that act of true conscience was not designed to gain power.

      I do not believe that Fr. J has been (or continues to) attempt to exert power. Not political power, anyway.

      Is it possible, though, that a person engaging in acts like this out of true conscience, could be doing so to exert power to gain a certain kind of personal goal? I think that is what happened. Fr. J made it his mission to attend to public health. To make sure — and he said this — that not a single case of Covid would come out of our parish.

      I think that is one way of exerting power over others.

    • Ronda Wintheiser

      Hey, Janine.

      I had another thought. I don’t think not using moldy bread is the equivalent of using multiple spoons to serve the Eucharist, or whatever else is meant by “taking precautions”.

      You said our faith is mystical, but not magical. I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that comparison, so I won’t try to respond to it. But isn’t the reason we don’t use moldy bread the same reason the woman who purchased precious nard to anoint Jesus’ feet and didn’t just go out and grab some oil from a handy oil lamp instead?

      Using moldy bread would be to dishonor God. It seems to me that to place the public health at a higher value than our worship of God is similar to using moldy bread in the Eucharist.

  3. Janine

    Hi again Rhonda, thanks for responding. I appreciate all the things you’re talking about, and also the frustrations and sadness that must be involved. But off the top of my head, I just want to point out that there are several aspects to what you are discussing — I mean it’s not a clearly black and white discussion of one topic.

    There is, for instance, the issue of what Orthodox worship is, properly speaking. For many centuries (don’t quote me, but I think it was until the 10th century), we were not using a spoon. This issue did not exist. The practices changed with concerns that elements were being dropped. But my point is that yes, there are ways we worship, but I personally don’t think multiple spoons changes or defines Orthodox worship.

    You clearly already understand and have thought deeply, perhaps more than I have, about compassion. I think your question about prioritizing health over worship is a very important one, and it is one people have to think about and struggle with. Maybe that is the crux of the matter. I ask myself, if there were bombs dropping on a Sunday while we worshiped, an attack by vicious enemies of weaponized drones, would we evacuate the church? Would we stop worship to get children to a basement or shelter? What would be the priority? Could we make do with what we could grab and take to a shelter and still have true Orthodox worship? These are important questions. I am cradle Orthodox, and I feel my faith is not based on the forms alone, but the whole Body of who we are and what we believe, and that is strong enough to withstand a temporary change in form, which does not diminish our church. It is “economia,” an application of mercy for what we have to deal with at a particular time. It’s an important distinction to understand that the church accepts there are things we don’t know, but we make do as best we can with compassion.

    This brings up the sense that you had other Orthodox churches to which you could go (at least that is what I am assuming from what you wrote; perhaps I am wrong!). This brings up the point that although practices were different from church to church, we don’t say they aren’t all Orthodox. I agree with you, and I can find some examples from my own region, that every effort should be made to do outside services (I have my own gripes about that!) and so forth. The stringent requirements I also agree became overblown in a lot of cases, and frankly not scientific. There are all kinds of ways in which things done out of precaution were unnecessary or possibly more effort should have been put forth. But in the end, these are disagreements about what to do in a bad situation with unknown elements. Maybe your priest felt far more responsible for causing a death than for someone to miss a Eucharist, which does not directly endanger a soul or condemn someone. That is just a guess on my part.

    At any rate, you bring up some very important points. I also think that fear is a paramount problem, and that fear brings the “bad one” into everything, creates chaos and confusion, shuts things down. This is maybe the greatest struggle and problem with covid, and has led to all kinds of bad things no matter where you look, not only in our churches.

    i am really sorry that things were very difficult for you and for your child. In my own parish, many of our older people are now placed in home; the lack of fellowship was extremely damaging to them, and this makes me very, very sad. That is beside the effects on our young people in lockdown.

    Perhaps one thing that would help us all to feel our communion with one another and compassion would be more open discussion of all of these elements. So many decisions seem to be made while many are in the dark and feel excluded. I don’t know how exactly that would be done. But clearly the answer is always going to be more compassion and good teaching in the faith, even when we aren’t happy with what is happening. You have my prayers and thanks for the discussion, which is important.

    • Ronda Wintheiser

      Hi again, Janine. Sorry; our messages were ships passing in the night. 🙂 I posted that last one before I saw yours.

      I find it somewhat puzzling when people begin to question what Orthodox worship is. Yes, it evolved over time. But the crux of the question of spoons is whether or not we think we have to be afraid of receiving the Eucharist from a common spoon.

      If we haven’t been afraid before, then why start now?

      And if we should be afraid, again I say, as a convert, that I would prefer to take the risk of illness over giving up worship and receiving the Eucharist.

      As for having other parishes available, I live in the Twin Cities, so there are many churches to choose from. But loved my parish. I love that priest and those people. I waited. I was patient. The last straw for me was this past spring when Fr. J announced that Forgiveness Vespers would be via ZOOM.

      Also, even though I was waiting patiently, I did contact a number of other parish in the Twin Cities, from several jurisdictions. Most of them did not even respond; perhaps they were jealous of their own ability to limit the number of worshipers and wanted to reserve that for their regulars. I don’t know.

      Others, in the same jurisdiction as mine, told me things like this: our clergy would not require you to mask, but our people would.


      What was I to make of that?

      There was only one parish, one priest, who finally responded last spring and said “please come! Bring Jessica! You are all welcome as you are.”

      Isn’t that how an Orthodox priest should behave?

    • Ronda Wintheiser

      Janine, I do love this paragraph of yours, although it scares me:

      “The stringent requirements I also agree became overblown in a lot of cases, and frankly not scientific. There are all kinds of ways in which things done out of precaution were unnecessary or possibly more effort should have been put forth. But in the end, these are disagreements about what to do in a bad situation with unknown elements. Maybe your priest felt far more responsible for causing a death than for someone to miss a Eucharist, which does not directly endanger a soul or condemn someone. ”

      Absolutely to the first sentence, a vehement yes to the second, and yes, for sure for the third.

      It’s the last sentence that scares me. That, to my mind, is not a call for any human being to make, it seems to me. To my mind, it is not a priest’s job to protect my physical health or protect me from death. His job is to protect and nurture my spiritual health via the Eucharist, and leave the responsibility for my health where it belongs. With me?

  4. Janine

    Hi again! Sorry, Ronda, I misspelled your name before.

    Yes, regarding the clergy not requiring a mask, but the parish, this also happened at a parish near me. It was a very difficult struggle for them; they had many older people in the parish. It became a question of people feeling endangered by mostly a small set of younger people in their 20s who did not want to mask. What were they to do? Essentially the parish decided masks only. But eventually this changed very quickly and they just let people do what they thought best. But I can’t fault people for being afraid for their health when something may easily be deadly for them. It becomes a question of the greater degree.

    By the way, there was another parish nearby where many of those younger people (some very strongly anti-vaccination as well) went. Many in that parish became ill, and some died.

    I think the worry about causing a death would depend upon how strong the threat was, and therefore how strong the correlation of death with the action of the priest. To take a life, even in self-defense, is still a grievous sin; in the past even emperors who participated in entirely defensive wars were excommunicated for a time. It is possible the priest felt his actions may, in fact, be akin to killing some in terms of the risk factor. But again, I couldn’t answer that question. And it would also depend upon the instructions of his bishop as well.

    It would be good if I knew what had been done in the past during plague, but I don’t know that. What I am wondering, however, is about the difficulty of administering communion individually, even by traveling to meet those who cannot gather in church because of restrictions.

    I visit a monastery near me frequently. They do not mask inside the monastery and I don’t believe they are vaccinated. I wear my mask to protect them when I come in from the outside world, and I am also vaccinated. But again, I understand you have a special case where that is not possible.

    • Ronda Wintheiser

      Hi, Janine.

      Ah, masks.

      You mentioned science. 🙂

      It was known — shown, proved, studied, known — long before Covid 19 that cloth or surgical masks do not prevent the transmission of a virus. ANY virus. Viruses are very very tiny! Wearing a mask to contain a virus is like using a shopping cart to transport sand, or erecting a chain link fence to keep mosquitoes away.

      Masks were designed to prevent the transmission of bacteria. Bacteria are much larger than viruses, so wearing a mask does nothing except make people feel a certain way.

      And by now is it not obvious that getting vaxxed is not a protection?

      That is the thing I find so alarming in the Church. Are we so blind; do we have so little access to the internet; do we rely only on certain media sources for our information that we don’t know these things?

      And if we know this, then how can we go on lying to each other by wearing a mask or getting these very, very dangerous injections?

      This is what I found most difficult in my parish. That these facts — that real science — is not what we follow. This is the truth that our hierarchs and clergy should be alerting us to.

  5. Janine

    Well, we are at a subject now that is not religious but scientific. And my doctor has given me a chart that actually shows the effectiveness of different types of masks. A lot depends, according to this chart, on the length of time exposed, what type of mask, what the distance is between people, etc. So, I’m not an expert in this, I just know what my doctor and others have told me about that.

    Also, I do think the intensity of illness is quite correlated with vaccination in terms of statistics. But again, this is a scientific debate. That is just what I have observed from what I read or what my doctor tells me.

    One thing I will say is that everything, healthwise, is just a question of trying to measure risk. If I’m going to have an operation, it really depends on what kind of health I am in already, what risk factors i have like age or other chronic conditions, etc, and what risk I take by not having the operation — all of these things go into the decision. I think it’s the same with this illness. Everything is a question of case by case risk assessment, combined with so much that is not known, and all the confusion caused by politics on all sides. In the end, everything becomes a risk assessment with a lot of unknowns and a lot of confusion and other motivations. You can’t believe how the health authorities in my area failed in so many ways, probably mostly because of politics.

    • Ronda Wintheiser

      Well, Janine, I can’t argue with any of that. 🙂

      But you and I have got a bit far afield from the point of the video, I think. I am not at all surprised by our public officials’ behavior, but I a truly puzzled by how our hierarchs and clergy have behaved, generally speaking.

      I’m not speculating that all of them have weaponized compassion, but some have, and I wonder why.