Greek Orthodox Church

'It Is Well With My Soul': Grieving Santa Fe, Texas, sings, prays and seeks answers after school shooting

'It Is Well With My Soul': Grieving Santa Fe, Texas, sings, prays and seeks answers after school shooting

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

— "It Is Well With My Soul," one of the hymns sung at Arcadia First Baptist Church of Santa Fe, Texas, on Sunday

• • •

Two days after the nation's latest school shooting claimed 10 lives, residents gathered for worship Sunday — and reporters, not to mention Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, were there.

Given the location of the shooting, that's no surprise: Grief-stricken Santa Fe, Texas, is a "deeply religious community," as NPR described it. 

The people of the small town south of Houston "turned where they always do when they are troubled: their faith," the Dallas Morning News reported on its front page today.

Already today, tmatt delved into news coverage of the Greek Orthodox heritage of the 17-year-old gunman, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who characterized himself on Facebook as an atheist.

But beyond the religious beliefs — or lack thereof — of the shooter, religion is a crucial angle of the story in Santa Fe. Here's why: It's impossible to understood that community or its response to this heart-wrenching tragedy without considering residents' faith in God. 

Given that, the New York Times deserves kudos for emphasizing the faith angle even before Sunday rolled around.

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Young Greek atheist in a trench coat: The matrix of symbols on display at Santa Fe High

Young Greek atheist in a trench coat: The matrix of symbols on display at Santa Fe High

No doubt about it. It's hard to get more Greek than the name "Dimitrios Pagourtzis." So, yes, I was not surprised to receive emails asking me the significance of the Greek Orthodox heritage (and ethnic dancing skills) of America's latest young student with guns and a mission.

Once again, we face questions about the contents of a gunman's head and heart, as journalists (and law officials) try to answer the always painful "Why?" question in the mantra, "Who, What, Where, When, Why and How."

The Orthodox connection is mentioned in most background stories about Pagourtzis. Here is a TMZ reference with a link to video. You will not, when viewing it, be tempted to shout, "Opa!"

The student arrested for gunning down 10 people at his high school appeared to be nothing more than a church-going dancer mere days before the shooting.

TMZ has obtained video of 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis participating in a choreographed dance for his Greek Orthodox church the weekend before he allegedly shot and killed 8 of his peers and 2 teachers.

Sources connected to the event tell us the dance was part of a larger Greek festival in a town about 30 minutes away from Santa Fe, TX where he went to school. 

In traditional, even elite, media this Greek Orthodox information is more likely to look like this -- care of The New York Times.

Investigators, meanwhile, are scouring his journal, a computer and a cellphone that Mr. Abbott said showed the suspect had been planning the attack, and his own death. ... 

In many ways, Mr. Pagourtzis was a part of the Santa Fe community. He made the honor roll. He played defensive tackle on a school football team that was the pride of the town. His family was involved in the Greek Orthodox Church.

As always, in this digital-screens world of ours, what a person does with his or her time in analog life (like dancing in an ethnic dance team) may not be as important as what the person expresses in social media.

It's interesting to note that the Times team did not include the following piece of social-media information about Pagourtzis -- which did make it into print at The Washington Post.

In the Facebook account, he described himself as an atheist and said, “I hate politics.”

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New York Post probes Greek tragedy at ground zero, while asking few Orthodox questions

New York Post probes Greek tragedy at ground zero, while asking few Orthodox questions

To be perfectly honest, this is a story that tears my heart out.

I have been reporting and writing about the destruction of the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in lower Manhattan ever since Sept. 12, 2001. This was, of course, the tiny sanctuary crushed by the fall of the south tower of the World Trade Center.

I have also written columns about the long and complicated efforts by Orthodox officials to obtain a site near ground zero so that a new St. Nicholas could be built as a memorial and sanctuary. When I am in Manhattan, l live and teach nearby and pass the new construction site almost every day. My favorite pub is 50 paces away.

Now there is this, a recent headline from The New York Post: "How a church destroyed on 9/11 became mired in controversy." The overture states the basic facts:

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was to be a “beacon of hope” at the World Trade Center site, glowing at night as a symbol to the faithful and those seeking solace on hallowed ground.

Thousands of visitors were to walk through the church doors on Liberty Street to worship, light a candle or just sit quietly in a nondenominational meditation room overlooking one of the 9/11 Memorial’s reflecting pools.

Now the church is a half-built eyesore, and when those doors will open is uncertain. The project has been stalled for five months and become a quagmire of accusations and millions of dollars in missing donations and cost overruns. What was to be the proud symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, and the only house of worship tending to the masses at Ground Zero, is now mired in controversy. ...

GetReligion readers will not be surprised to know that the main thing missing from this long and detailed report is (wait for it) religion. And here is the big irony in this story: If the Post team had probed the religious elements of this story if would have been even more painful to read, especially for the Orthodox.

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Did Charlotte Observer miss key questions linked to Hank Hanegraaff's move to Orthodoxy? (updated)

Did Charlotte Observer miss key questions linked to Hank Hanegraaff's move to Orthodoxy? (updated)

Controversy and questions have dogged Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff since at least 1989, when he announced, at funeral services for Christian Research Institute founder Walter R. Martin (who originated the "Bible Answer Man" radio program now hosted by Hanegraaff), that Martin had designated him as Martin's successor.

Martin's family later disputed that claim, as Jill Martin Rische, the late apologist's daughter, has documented on her own apologetics website.

People like to argue about the work of outspoken apologists. So it's no surprise that Hanegraaff's latest move -- from an unspecified evangelical Christian affiliation to being received as a member of the Orthodox Church -- would garner media attention and controversy. After his conversion into an ancient, non-Protestant branch of the Christian faith, Hanegraaff's radio program has lost a significant number of radio stations, The Charlotte Observer reports:

On Palm Sunday, [Hanegraaff] and wife Kathy and two of their 12 children were “chrismated,” or confirmed, at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in southeast Charlotte. During the sacramental rite, a priest anointed them with oil and invoked the Holy Spirit.
And then ...
A photo of the April ceremony started popping up on evangelical news sites. Within a week, the “Bible Answer Man” had lost many of his listeners.
His sin in their eyes: Converting to Eastern Orthodoxy, the world’s second largest Christian denomination and one steeped in rituals, icons and mysticism – aspects of faith that seem foreign to many evangelical Protestants. Instead of tradition, they look to the Bible as the only infallible guide and the final authority on matters of Christian faith and practice.
As the news about Hanegraaff spread on social media and the Internet, between 100 and 150 radio stations dropped his nationally syndicated show from their daily lineups.
“That picture of Hank kneeling before a Greek Orthodox priest -- that was hard for many evangelicals to see,” said Mike Carbone, chief operating officer at The Truth Network, which booted the “Bible Answer Man” show from six of its stations, including those in Charlotte and Raleigh. “Hank is as likable a guy as you’ll find, but we were not able to go where he was going.”

Of course, the Bible Answer Man is not kneeling before a priest, although priests are praying over these converts. He is kneeling before the altar of the church, with icons of Jesus Christ and the Holy Apostles.

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