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Commentary: Quo Vadimus? - 1997

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Quo Vadimus?

A Commentary by C.K. Garabed

February 1997

Dr. Vigen Guroian’s message in the Armenian Prelacy’s “Outreach” newsletter and the Armenian Missionary Association of America’s “AMAA News” reveals him to be just as extreme in his views as he alleges those to be who are the objects of his criticism. He castigates those who he says put Armenian nationalism above the church (of which it is the enemy). He laments what he sees as the tendency of the Armenian Church to move towards Armenian particularism and away from Christian universalism. He implies that the Armenian Church is without mission and therefore does not represent true Christianity. These are the views of a zealot.

Well now, the missionary zeal that fired up Christian Europe resulted in the bloody Crusades to the Holy Land. The zeal of American missionaries to convert the heathen Turks to Christianity didn’t produce one convert; but, to avoid returning in disgrace, they proceeded to convert the Armenians to their own brand of Christianity, and held them up as trophies for all to see. The zeal that currently has driven non-Armenian missionaries to Armenia and their activities there have been cause for great concern on the part of our church fathers in Etchmiadzin, including the Vehapar himself. Is he guilty of the charges Dr. Guroian has leveled at all those who don’t think as he does, those who tenaciously cling to their identity as Christian Armenians?

Whatever shortcomings exist in the Armenian Church likewise exist in other Churches. Whatever failings the Armenians display in their profession of Christianity, other nationalities equally display. Despite being driven to the four corners of the earth, Armenians have not given up their Christian beliefs, although their commitment may not measure up to some people’s standards. The same cannot be said of their culture, their Armenian identity. Outside the homeland, assimilation accelerates! While we are attending to the salvation of our individual souls, our nation vanishes.

To view the matter at a broader level, one must take a look at world history and draw the proper lessons. Imperialism is the imposition of one’s people worldview and value system on other peoples. In order to be able to do this, the former must conquer the latter. European culture, assuming itself to be superior to other native cultures, imposed colonial rule on the peoples of North and South America, Africa, India, and the Near, Middle and Far East. It imparted its cultural value system to all the conquered peoples. Religion, being an important component of culture, became a fundamental focus of missionary activity. The colonizing Europeans were convinced that it was their God-given mission to bring Christianity, which was right, to the heathens, whose religion, however ancient and well-founded, was wrong. Of course, by some queer logic, this did not rule out the enslavement of the conquered peoples.

Is this what we Armenians are being exhorted to do, drop the mantle of Armenian (mind your own business) Christianity for Universal (stick your nose into everybody else’s business) Christianity? Armenian Christianity is potentially a model for others to emulate, in its blend of culture and religion, which produces a bond difficult to dissolve. But a shining example doesn’t go around blowing its own horn, thus converting itself into an object lesson. Let the world discover the virtues of Armenian Christianity through the actions of non-Armenians. The opportunity will shortly arrive. There will surely be many in the media who will broadcast the excellence of Armenian Christianity during the 1700th anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian Church.