The Saghmosavank Monastery located in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia (image via flickr.com/waltercallens)

The Saghmosavank Monastery located in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia (image via flickr.com/waltercallens)

We and Our Churches

by | November 14th, 2011 | 19 comments
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We Armenians are rightfully proud of the architectural heritage of our churches and monasteries throughout all of the Armenian highlands. We marvel at their variety and, at the same time, their faithful allegiance to the distinctly Armenian ecclesiastical architecture. We promote them as our country’s most visible gem and we are incensed when Armenian churches in other countries become easy targets for misguided development, chauvinism, or appropriation by other churches. It would be difficult to find an Armenian who is indifferent to Armenian churches, their skyward direction, and their austere beauty.

And yet, there is something else. Something that we might unconsciously feel, something for which we have a strange longing stirred by a visit to a monastery or a church in a remote corner of what is left of historical Armenia, but something that, by and large, we can’t quite substantiate or describe. What is it? Is it the fact that these sacred buildings are in such communion with the landscape around them and the skies above them? Is it because, made of stone, they have withstood the ravages of time, foreign invasions and our own neglect? Is it because their ruins remind us of what once was but is no longer? What moved our ancestors who designed and built them by hand, one stone at a time, often at times when these hands and stones could have been put towards other, more down-to-earth uses?

Other nations throughout the two thousand years of Christian history have also built beautiful churches that express their own national Christian character. Many of them have been lavishly decorated by world-renowned artists, and some of them are still visited by many from around the world. Why then are we so attached to our churches, aside from the simple reason that they are ours? The answer to this question, as frequently happens, raises many new ones. The answer is that they are signs — enduring signs of stone, signs that many wanted to erase but largely failed, physical signs that still point to something despite the centuries of power games, lost battles, redrawing of maps, creation and abolition of made-up countries.

The signs point to faith. The signs point to belief that moved the hands of the architects and the builders. The belief that made people — poor and rich, high and low — donate funds and resources towards the construction of these churches. The belief that made men renounce worldly opportunities and dedicate their lives in the knowledge that they might well be deprived of their lives as a consequence of their calling when the next horde of marauding invaders arrived. In our day and age it is difficult to comprehend why one would risk natural and man-made dangers, spend astronomic (for their times) amounts of money and engage in decades of work, building a church or a monastery high in the mountains away from the crossroads. The answer yet again is faith. The faith they had, the faith that compelled them to build the tangible and create the intangible riches that we have inherited to actualize the outward signs of what they fervently believed. The sacred buildings we see today are shells — beautiful shells of something that inhabited them and brought them to life for centuries, but shells nevertheless, unless that something dwells in them and gives them life; unless that something is put back in these shells so that they can come back to the life that was intended for them.

But somewhere along the tortuous path of history we, their descendants, their flesh and blood, seem to have lost that something. Like most of the Western world, we marvel at the creation of their hands but ignore the passion of their hearts, the reason of their minds. We complain when others don’t respect us, yet we don’t respect ourselves. Incensed by the world’s apparent indifference to our plight and our culture, we are the ones who frequently know next to nothing about the faith that created our culture and made our people survive, and not just survive but live, and not just live but create too. To marvel at the shell while ignoring what created it and sustained life within it is, at best, short-sighted. Yet many of us are comfortable aggrandizing ourselves with statements like “we are the first Christian state,” without asking whether we ourselves believe in anything, and, if we do, what exactly is it that we believe in?

The interior of the St. Gayane Church in Etchmiadzin, Armenia (image via flickr.com/sjdunphy)

That is a hard question that we cannot evade. The tumultuous events of the last century seem to have dimmed our nation’s guiding light, not unlike most of the Western world. To the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, militant atheism, ravaging consumerism and other-isms we have only our absence of faith to offer. The myth of progress has veiled the fact that the human species and their good and bad, worries and aspirations, haven’t changed at all. We are the same as what we were two thousand years ago. Today we are distracted by the superficial and the superfluous and misled by scientism, whose claims are easily rebuked by many prominent scientists of our day who see no conflict between faith and the progress of science correctly understood in its proper context. We all believe in something, even if vaguely defined, and the question is, what do we believe in?

Unfortunately, answering the question is more difficult than asking it. What we know better is what we don’t believe. Depending on where we come from and when we were born, variously we don’t believe in communism or capitalism, globalism or nationalism, materialism or consumerism, this or that, one or another. We are more comfortable, perhaps in a now- discredited post-modernist style, to be defined by what we don’t believe rather than by what we do believe. We think we know who we are not but not who we are. Empty rhetoric of pseudo-patriotism won’t do, self-referential definitions won’t suffice. We need to discover what we believed in the past to stand a chance of knowing who, where and why we are today. Not everyone will agree; not everyone has to agree.

The Western world, especially in the last few centuries, has produced many prominent secular or atheist thinkers who advanced the natural sciences. These thinkers, while unquestionably great in their own domains of thought, have also contributed to the various movements and tendencies that brought the world to where we are now. One cannot but recall the words of the Book of Job: “He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.” How indeed the schemes of the wily are swept away we all have seen over and over again.

What about the Armenians then, you ask? Who are our great atheist giants of thought from the earlier centuries, the stalwarts of reason that “had no need for the hypothesis” of God, like Pierre-Simon Laplace, the great French mathematician? Why not wheel them out for national admiration and celebration? The reason is that there aren’t any. Our nation that gave birth to great philosophers, writers, composers, artists, theologians, leaders, architects, builders — the list can go on and on –  hasn’t brought forth a single great atheist comparable to the likes of Laplace. This little fact should perhaps give us a reason to pause and think.

* * *

At the end of the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, consecrated bread, known as mas (portion), is distributed to the faithful, who respond by saying “God is my portion forever.” Perhaps it is our destiny that we stand with our faith or fall without it. Perhaps it is time we started admiring our churches not as beautiful shells, but as houses of faith, signs pointing to God, calling us to listen and to come back to where we belong.

Comments

  1. christopher atamian says:

    This piece is so misguided and simplistic that I do not even know where to begin. Maybe its author can begin by reading Christopher Hitchens’ last book on religion. There are plenty of Armenian atheists, including myself and several friends who happen to be amongst our leading diasporan writers and intellectuals.
    Here is an answer regarding why Armenians may seem so religious overall: they have been brainwashed by the Armenian church for centuries, a church that is still meddling in politics and areas it simply does not belong. Why does the author resent islamic fundamentalism but not see the same roots in the nationalist religious dross that our church leaders and others often spout?
    And it would be nice if the author didn’t continue to propagate this demeaning “the list goes on and on” mentality, as if every other culture in the world didn’t also have great writers and scientists–by the way when was the last time an Armenian won a Nobel Prize?
    Finally, perhaps if the Armenian nation in the early 20th century had been less pious and its church less corrupt, maybe it would have responded earlier to the Ottoman plans to annihilate its very existence.
    And maybe if in this country we had built ONE SINGLE world class cultural center or museum instead of 1000 wasteful churches that are mostly empty, our culture might progress even faster and we be able to showcase our secular acccomplishments.

  2. Vazken Khatchig Davidian says:

    Christopher I couldn’t have put it better.

    Since when has Ararat started publishing such reactionary, backward dross devoid of any intellectual content?

  3. Edgar Danielyan says:

    I thank the individuals who have spent the time to comment on this short article. Strongly held views and personal abuse are not a replacement for coherent arguments or informed reasoning – neither have been offered in defence of their position, and unfortunately do not leave much room for meaningful discussion. Nevertheless I would like to address just two questions which are of some relevance to the subject of the article and to suggest that fundamental questions deserve a more careful and informed inquiry, not restricted to writings of Mr Hitchens or hurling uninformed abuse in response to an article. These two questions are the new atheism promoted by Hitchens, Dawkins and others and the role of the Armenian Church in the history of Armenia.

    One of the commentators seems to suggest that Mr Hitchens has somehow answered all the big questions that philosophers, scientists and theologians have grappled with for millenia. I am sorry to inform that that is not the case as can be demonstrated by an introductory course in philosophy of religion in general and the following scientists in particular:

    A Princeton mathematician, Dr David Berlinski, in “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its scientific pretensions” (ISBN 9780465019373) takes the misinformed and aggressive brand of atheism preached by
    Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others and subjects it to devastating analysis, which lays bare the category mistakes and willful machinations needed to project the false idea that science has
    somehow misplaced the concept of God and completely explained everything that is there to be explained.

    Dr Gavin Hyman’s “A Short History of Atheism” (ISBN 9781848851375) traces the appearance and development of atheism in modern history and demonstrates that the God that the so-called new atheism rejects is its own deformed creature, and is not God that has been the subject of philosophical and theological reflection for thousands of years (and who is unfortunately largely unknown outside narrow academic or ecclesiastical circles) but a straw man created by atheism and then unsurprisingly shot down.

    In “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” (ISBN 0745953719), Professor John Lennox, professor of pure mathematics at Oxford, answers the question in the negative, and examines the claims of the
    “new atheists” and exposes the fact that atheism is a worldview – one of the possible worldviews – but certainly not the only one nor an answer of science; in his own words, “Not every statement by a scientist is a statement of science, and therefore worthy of respect”.

    Rev. Professor Sir John Polkinghorne, Dr Francis Collins, and Professor Georges Lemaître are just three examples of world-class scientists that come to mind who see no conflict whatsoever between
    their theistic (more specifically Christian) belief and their scientific work. To the ill-informed, caricaturist portrayal of religious belief offered by the new atheists, sometimes malicious but mostly just aggressively ignorant, they respond with integrity and scholarship, engaging with arguments and respecting their opponents. The message is clear: one can of course hold an atheistic worldview, but do not be deceived assuming that the atheistic worldview equals science or is a necessary and direct product of science.

  4. Edgar Danielyan says:

    Let us now turn to the Armenian Church and ask ourselves what was the role of the Armenian Church in the history of the Armenian nation? Unfortunately we are not in possession of a crystal ball, and
    therefore are unable to answer “what-if” questions but what we can and should do however, is to state the facts of history as they relate to Armenia and the Armenian Church, and some of these hard facts are as follows: the fathers of the Armenian Church gave us our alphabet, taught us to read and write, creating the possibility of native literature, national identity not decided by Hellenic, Persian
    or Byzantine decree, not to mention distinct art and architecture. It was the Armenian Church that linked the Armenian nation to the Greek and Latin worlds of scholarship, it is through the Armenian Church
    that ancient works, lost in their original languages, are now available to the world by way of Classical Armenian translations, it is the Armenian Church that kept the remnants of Armenians together after the last Armenian kingdom was destroyed, and it was the Armenian Church that went to Armenian Golgotha and back with the rest of the nation. From Battle of Avarayr to Battle of Sardarapat, the Armenian Church existed for, defined and coalesced the Armenian nation in extreme and hostile circumstances. One can blame the Armenian Church, the only real institution we have that has been around for more than few years, for all misfortunes Armenians went through, or one can thank her for creating, sustaining and preserving what is left of value. Does this mean that the church hierarchy is spotless or that the church is beyond civil debate and criticism? Of course not. So do we blame and destroy what defined us and kept us together for over 15 centuries or do something about it?

  5. catamian says:

    If Danielyan knew anything about Armenian history, he would know that Christianity was actually imopose don Armenians against their will by Syriac, i.e foreign Syrian priests and not Armenians, that Armenian pagan temples were razed to the ground as elsewhere, its priests murdered and people forcible converted. Sound familiar? He is part of that churchy and largely ignorant diasporan Armenian community that does nothing but talk about church and shish kebab while others In America for example-Jews-Europeans build hundreds of cultural centers that promote their culture and cultural producers to the largely secular world. The Armenian churches remain mostly empty and the diaspora continues to assimilate. Quite frankly, I could not care less what Danelyan has to say in general, I would just rather not have to read it in Ararat Magazine.

  6. Edgar Danielyan says:

    It is unfortunate that a potentially interesting discussion has sunk to the level of unwarranted false and uninformed personal attacks seemingly fueled by hate – in response to an article about our nation’s spiritual and cultural heritage grounded in Christianity – like it or not…

  7. Oh dear, Mr. Danielyan says:

    Your article … falls prey to the ludicrous romanticization and nostalgia that does a disservice not only to your work as a writer, but also to the Armenian diaspora. What is more jarring, though, is your ridiculous claim that the above comments, though vitriolic, are “fueled by hate.” No, Mr. Danielyan, people disagreeing strongly with the flawed perspective and “facts” you present cannot and should not be equated to any sort of hatred of your person.

    For an Armenian writer, who truly should know how loaded the word “hate” is historically, especially in the context of the Christian Armenians and their churches, you are the one effectively ending what you deem to be “a potentially interesting discussion.”

  8. catamian says:

    Trust me Edgar no hate involved….just look around at what is left in most of the diaspora of our culture…empty churches and a few schools. It is sort of sad. I went to the Scandinavian cultural center last week and then to the JCC –amazing huge vibrant cultural centers–and by the way at the JCC I am pretty sure that although it is technically secular, most people there were observant Jews–and was amazed at the beauty of the centers, the level of discourse. I read recently that another octogenarian donor donated 20 million dollars for ANOTHER church in the USA: should one rant, cry, or convert/leave “the faith”? I wonder? The museum we have in Watertown is so badly curated and funded that many of my friends will not exhibit or talk there. Reasons? Educational level/lack of knowledge and domination of church and 1/2 organization of all of our community funds. And the latter are not even teaching the language well to our kids, so…

  9. christopher atamian says:

    oh edgar, edgar:
    You DO know that there are Armenian Jews and Armenian atheists and Armenian Catholics and Protestants, and that religion does not anymore define a people anymore, unless they are the worst sort of extremists, as in certain parts of the Muslim world that I cannot imagine we want to emulate? But since you seem surprised by the response to your piece, let me add on to it:
    Every time I see an opening of a new center or school in Armenia, accompanied by those ludicrous priests in their silly cone head cassocks mumble their inanities that no ones listens to and I wonder:
    -Where is freedom of religion in Armenia? Imagine if 4 Catholic priests lined up at every American University or Orphanage or hospital opening and blessed the new buildings-we’d have a riot,lol, I am pretty sure.
    -Who are these Diaspora donors who can build all these churches and feed these priests (they should get real jobs as far as I am concerned–when was the last time, for example an Armenian priest made a visit i NYC to an Armenian’s sick bed or to encourage youth at risk?) but who can’t raise enough money to print quality textbooks or provide basic health care for the regular Hayastansi population or for the mentally disabled, GOD forbid (see the piece today on Hippotherapy)
    My original point was that I found your piece intellectually lacking and un- rigorous and wondered when Ararat Magazine started publishing such writing? Nothing more. But yes if you must know, the clergy-Armenian or otherwise-fairly makes my skin crawl, with a few exceptions, most of them Buddhists (but not all). An that is not hatred of any sort, just an informed opinion and feeling.

  10. Edgar Danielyan says:

    Dear Ms Narine Atamian (aka “Oh dear Mr Danielyan”), Thank you for your charitable intercession. Leaving anonymous comments to an attributed article does not add weight to one’s opinions and does not really warrant a response but I am happy to offer one, primarily to address the incorrect assumptions, namely – I do not consider myself a “writer” nor a member of the Diaspora (having been born and raised in Yerevan). I am merely a student of theology and philosophy of religion, a former agnostic who values his nation’s only real institution that defined the said nation for almost two millennia, as well as the Christian faith and thought that gave birth to much of not only Armenian but also European culture, literature, science and art. Seeing the many imperfections and shortcomings in the church hierarchy (as well as the society) we fundamentally differ in our responses: my desire is to see them addressed and healed in the spirit of the Christian revelation which our forefathers were privileged to receive centuries ago – not to ignore the profound teaching of the gospels and destroy the legacy of Narekatsi, Mandakuni, Siunetsi, Shnorali, and many others. You may find that your approach to this subject may change if you spend a little time studying and researching what you find so easy to dismiss. You may be surprised by what you find.

  11. Edgar Danielyan says:

    It is pretty clear from your comment (“But yes if you must know, the clergy-Armenian or otherwise-fairly makes my skin crawl”) that you simply hate the church and the clergy, no matter what and no argument is going to change your feeling and for that I am sorry. I, and many others – perhaps even most Armenians, do not share your hate – or if you will, extreme dislike. There is a difference between the failings of some individuals and the role of the only national institution. I am happy for the Buddhists though.

    Surprisingly there are some things we agree upon, believe it or not – the sadness of half-empty churches, second-class schools, lack of world-class cultural centres, funds wasted by hyper-inflated egos of donors on their own aggrandizement. I could add a long list of problems in Armenia where I was born and raised. I agree with you that the Church should be more involved in social and humanitarian work, acting and not just preaching the Gospel, visiting the sick and guiding the youth, etc, etc. There are many things that the Church should be doing – but if your a priori attitude is one of extreme dislike no matter what, it is irrelevant what the Church does. You are not saying “the church should be doing this and that”, you are saying the church makes your skin crawl – and therefore leave no room for change.

    Now to address some of your other comments. You refer to Armenian Catholics and Protestants. You do well – though this indicates that you didn’t quite get the point. What you don’t seem to appreciate is that both Armenian Catholic and Protestant communities grew out of and separated from the national church, and relatively recently, and indirectly are heirs to the tradition of the Armenian Church, so you are back to square one. The Mekhitarist fathers, having left the Armenian Church and joined the Roman Catholic Church, still kept the heritage of the Armenian Church – within restrictions imposed by Rome. Even these communities that have formally left the national church live in the shadow of history and legacy of the national church.

    “Religion does not define people anymore”. Of course it does not define people – it constitutes the whole background and reference framework of discourse, it gives rise to culture, literature and art and so many other things that you presumably value regardless of whether the society or individual at a particular point in time shares the tenets of the religion. The atheistic fiction of society without religious background – a kind of tabula rasa – is just that – fiction. Who of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Mersenne, Pascal, Newton, Leibniz, Bach or Mozart were atheists? Many of the ideas and concepts that you might consider modern or secular have their roots in Judeo-Christian monotheism – from the laws of nature to the freedom of individual etc. Don’t take my word for it – do some research and see for yourself. The very atheism that you espouse is defined as antithesis to theism; to be an atheist you first need to know what theism is; atheism as a concept only has meaning when defined in relation to theism that it denies. I find it entertaining when atheists without elementary knowledge of theistic doctrine, history or philosophy feel their opinions are informed and reasonable – to deny something you need to know what you are denying.

    Freedom of religion in Armenia? I am not happy with the extra-close relationship of the Church and the government in Armenia, for a number of reasons, moral, practical and theological, however to claim that there is no freedom of religion in Armenia simply because the national church participates in national life is false. Are you not aware of the many Catholic universities, hospitals and orphanages in the US? Have you not noticed prayers and references to God in American institutions? Are you not aware of religious roots of Yale and Harvard and many others?

    It is not wise to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The Church has many issues to address; it is a miracle we still have a national church despite best efforts of many powers from Persians to Byzantium to Arabs to Mongols to Ottomans to Russians to Communists; we need re-discovery and renewal – and not destruction.

  12. Hi folks—

    This thread may already be stale, but I thought I’d add my two cents. The discussion the article raises has been really interesting to read, based as it is in architecture. As an architect I’ve been deeply moved by the intrinsic, hypnotic, mysterious power of the stone churches of Armenia.

    That said, I’m more inclined to side with those who believe that our contemporary life outside of religion can and must inform Armenian culture if it is to survive.

    The core argument the other Edgar makes rests the belief and faith that circumscribed the creation of architecture, and according to him somehow we’ve lost that spark, and that, I make the extension, we must build ever greater and thicker walls around ourselves to protect the religion/culture.

    The beautiful Armenian churches, in defensive arrangements in situ (like the culture itself – often turned inward instead of inculcating itself in our multicultural modern society), reflect a tremendous amount of work and effort, for certain – and of course reflect faith.

    Truthfully, the churches in Armenia the other Edgar admires could have been dedicated to the Zoroastrian or some Martian religion, and still would be wondrous to look at. Because, I’d argue, they were built by Armenians within an amazing, vibrant culture enmeshed among other amazing vibrant cultures in the region that it both took from and established unique distinguishing features in contrast.

    The article really brings to the fore a crisis among Armenians today: is there some kind of culture without the church? Isn’t there an Armenian secular life? Isn’t Ararat magazine in some way trying to promulgate this notion? I can recall a contentious meeting at the local Armenian church here in Oregon about whether or not the cultural wing-organization should be under its umbrella or not. The church won.

    I think we’re all to some degree stymied by the genocide, and haven’t quite culturally moved on. There’s a certain uneasiness about the concept of an Armenian secular culture on the part of a lot of Armenians. The Armenians were singled out for their religion in the genocide and now that’s been confused with the only thing we should be identified with culturally.

    Obviously, there is a culture without the church. I think for the future of the culture in a modern, western context, this is critical, for our contemporary relevance to others and ourselves. A lot of people with Armenian genes, who can decide whether or not they identify as Armenian, find the church off-putting and irrelevant to their lives (anecdotally, in my experience). What exactly can Armenians can be known for, what can they inject into our society in the USA these days, other than mafia stereotypes and victimhood? How can we turn outward and embrace the world, instead of hole up in a mental ghetto? I really want to make whatever that is happen. Someday, you might not even need be Armenian by birth to be Armenian by culture – I love that idea. Maybe I’m hopelessly naive.

    Can there be Armenian architecture that is not ecclesiastical? Undoubtedly. Should we still build churches? In my own experience, American churches based on Armenian precedent are mostly architectural failures, neither close enough to the original prototypes nor representative of the way we build today. They are both steroidal and unheimlich. But that doesn’t mean we could do some amazing new ecclesiastical architecture. Why close the door? Maybe the church can evolve too.

    We must beware the romance of the ruin. The churches the other Edgar is writing about have a certain beauty to them because many are in ruinous state, and are not well maintained. For example, Sanahin in Armenia is falling apart, plants growing on its roof, slowly destroying the place, as has happened in Turkey for the past century. Etchmiadzin does little. Buildings that are not maintained die just like people. Beautiful and tragic. Just like we like to think of ourselves as.

  13. Edgar Danielyan says:

    Dear Edgar,
    I am very grateful for your informed and thoughtful contribution to the debate. My intention in publishing this short opinion piece was to invite reflection and thought about this important, in my opinion, subject and it is only natural and welcome that different informed opinions should be voiced and debated in atmosphere of goodwill and mutual concern for past, present and future of our people. Your opinion as an architect is especially relevant and welcome.

    Your summary of my core argument is a true one: “The core argument the other Edgar makes rests the belief and faith that circumscribed the creation of architecture, and according to him somehow we’ve lost that spark”. However the extension of my argument you stated (“we must build ever greater and thicker walls around ourselves to protect the religion/culture.”) is emphatically NOT implied nor expressed in my article, and I would totally disagree with that suggestion. The way to “re-discover the spark”, the way to live (and not just preserve) one’s culture and religion is certainly not to build thick walls – not least because thick walls have long ceased to be effective protection against physical attack or differing opinions if they ever were. In fact the history of Christianity in Armenia is characterised not just by determination and tenacity but also by readiness to hear and engage and respond to other cultures (Persian, Byzantine, Latin, etc) and religions (other branches of Christianity, Islam). Therefore the extension of my argument would be to learn, remember, reflect, re-live, re-discover and share our culture and our understanding of Christian faith. No walls involved at all.

    I also fully subscribe to your opinion that our churches “still would be wondrous to look at. Because, I’d argue, they were built by Armenians within an amazing, vibrant culture enmeshed among other amazing vibrant cultures in the region that it both took from and established unique distinguishing features in contrast.” – very true and very well put, couldn’t say it better.

    Indeed, the question as you have stated is “is there some kind of culture without the church?” And the answer of course is yes, there is SOME kind of culture without the church [or Christian faith, or concept of God, etc]. My argument however is that such life would be spiritually, morally and culturally impoverished, much less than it could be.

    I also agree with your opinion that “we’re all to some degree stymied by the genocide, and haven’t quite culturally moved on.”. The Armenian Genocide was a horrendous crime – crime in law, crime against humanity, and for those who believe in God – crime against God. But it wasn’t the only or the main or the most important event in our long history. Those who focus on the Genocide and forget or ignore everything else before or after that Great Calamity do a great disservice to our nation. We were not created by the Genocide; we were not (totally) destroyed by the Genocide – we have survived and we can and should do more than that.

    I would like to ask with you the same question – albeit from a perspective centred on Armenia as I am not American Armenian – “What exactly can Armenians can be known for, what can they inject into our society in the USA these days, other than mafia stereotypes and victimhood? “. A very important and timely question. Different opinions should and do exist. My humble suggestion is that we should be INFORMED but not COMMANDED by our past, we should VALUE our Church but not IDOLISE her, we should KNOW the fundamentals of Christian faith as lived by the Armenian Church but not be FORCED to hold the same opinion. And we must reflect on all that living in a globalised, challenging 21st century.

    “Someday, you might not even need be Armenian by birth to be Armenian by culture” – I love that idea too! But before that idea can be an option, we Armenians ourselves need to recognise, be aware of and value our culture – and my deeply held belief is that Armenian Christianity and Armenian Church are essential, inseparable, part of that culture. Only by destroying the culture and ripping open her chest we can remove Christ and His Church in Armenia from the Armenian culture and history.

    Let me finish with another agreement with you: “Buildings that are not maintained die just like people.” Poetically and very truly put. I’d only add that people and cultures die just like people too when they are deprived of that spark that animates, gives life and creates.

  14. Kevork K says:

    I always have a good laugh when the average run-of-the-mill Atheist trash talks against Christianity, and proceeds to use words like “intellectual”, “education”, “knowledge” and the likes. It reminds me of Turks who claim Armenians committed genocide against them, or Azeris which say the Armenians stole their culture.

    Now I would simply like to ask a question to you self-described “intellectual” Atheists: If not for Christianity, where would you be today and what language would be your mother tongue?

    Answer this honestly through your “education”.

    • Your comment doesn’t make much sense. I don’t understand how you can compare this to Turks denying the genocide? Perhaps you don’t have a clear understanding of scale. The church didn’t invent education, unless of course you think the Ancient Romans, the Chinese, or other cultures without it were uneducated.

  15. Kevork K says:

    On the contrary, after I explain to you what I meant, my comment makes a tremendous amount of sense.

    If Armenia had not become Christian, in all likelihood today you would be living on your (former) ancestral land… as a Muslim Turk.

    Do you self-inflicted Atheists actually understand the importance of the church in our history?

    Why do Armenians have their own alphabet?
    -Because of the Christian Armenian Church

    Why did our golden age of literature take place?
    -Because of the Christian Armenian Church

    Why do the Armenians have their own unique Architectural style?
    -Because of the Christian Armenian Church

    Why has a good portion of our folk music been saved?
    -Because of the Christian Armenian Church

    From a non-Armenian, worldly perspective there are even more points… which I do not care to go into because It is too much to talk about.

    I will say though the funniest part about an Atheist is that he practices what he accuses Christianity of – ignorance and lack of a proper education.

    An Atheist who attacks Christianity typically does so out of contempt and for that reason alone. And in my opinion much of Atheism’s tenets are based on selfishness.

  16. Hagop DerHayrabedian says:

    Hay ches yete Krisdonia ches [Editor's translation: You're not Armenian if you're not Christian.]

    Park Asdoudzo

  17. anne chung says:

    I remember, three years ago, I visited ANI in Turkey on a Sunday. In one of the ruined churches I said the Lord’s prayer and sang ‘Amazing grace’. I wondered, at that moment, when it was the last time a service was said there but anyway i made a little ‘service’ there that morning. I pray that Armenians wouldn return to see Ani and the neighboring Armenian churches which are all in ruins except perhaps on Lake Van which I haven’t been to yet. From Ani, the electric fence separate Turkey from Armenia but you can see Armenia.