I teach seventh- and eighth-graders at the St. George Orthodox Church School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, a purely volunteer task that takes 45 minutes out of my Sunday and two hours out of the rest of the week. The school, which extends from kindergarten to grade 12, is attached to St. George’s Church, the Antiochian Orthodox parish for Greater Boston, numbering nearly 1,400 souls. At this, the junior high level, the kids study Church history, a subject for which my degree in Byzantine history qualifies me.

My youngsters are typical American teenagers. Well, maybe not. They go to church every Sunday, and they are active in such church-sponsored programs as Teen SOYO (Society of Young Orthodox) and Antiochian Village, the jurisdiction’s largest summer camp. So, while their religious activities distinguish them, they are like other Christian teenagers in America. They like their pizza parties and their rock music, even as they also enjoy their Byzantine chant.

We had just begun discussing the missionary activities of the Church to the barbarians during the early Middle Ages when President Clinton committed American forces to Bosnia. By the time you read this, we will have a pretty good idea of how that military action is going to go, whether the occupation will be peaceful or combative, and whom Americans will be fighting if they must.

At the time of this writing, however, these were still mysteries, and, responsible for the welfare of my students as Orthodox Christians, I faced a problem. Should I mention that imminent armed intervention of the United States in the affairs of an Orthodox people, namely, the Bosnian Serbs? I decided I must.

But how to handle it? Should I aim not to editorialize, hewing closely to official propaganda that Americans were there to keep the peace and that there would be equal treatment for all Bosnians by American forces, regardless of religion or ethnicity? Or should I tell the truth, that the Bosnian Serbs are portrayed by the American press as ferocious savages, killers of mothers and infants, rapists of teenage girls like those in my classroom, all to justify the violent suppression, by American and NATO internationalist imperialism, of the Serbs’ right to national self-determination?

Or should I take advantage of this event to illuminate Orthodox history for these kids? That is what the American intervention in Bosnia is, another typical stage in the history of the Orthodox Church and of the Byzantine Christian civilization it created. I knew that these 13- and 14-year-olds were hearing in their public school classrooms and on television that their church cooperated in the past with Bolsheviks and fascists and now with baby-killing thugs, and I knew that I might be the only adult they will meet in these formative years who could tell them the other side, our side, of that story.

It has been the gift of the Orthodox Church and of Byzantine Christendom to stand as the bulwark of civilization against the onslaughts of the barbarians since the time of Christ. It has also been the gift (if you want to call it that) of the Church and Byzantine Christendom to be misunderstood and misrepresented by our brothers in Western Christendom, who have regarded our Church as schismatic, and our culture and traditions as “Oriental” and therefore suspicious.

Always, when that has happened. Western Christians have learned to regret their attitudes toward the Byzantine world, such as after the Fourth Crusade’s pillage of Constantinople led to the invasion of Eastern Europe by the Turks, or after the West’s failure to confront Stalin in Orthodox Eastern Europe at the end of World War II led to the communist subjugation of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany.

The West is repeating the error. Drawn in by the secularism of Bosnia’s cultured elite, Western diplomats are certain that it is the Bosnian Serbs who are fighting for a return to the Dark Ages and against “modernity” and “progress.” Western diplomats ignore such signs of future mayhem as the large numbers of Iranian and Afghan fundamentalist Muslims fighting alongside the Bosnian government’s forces. Apparently, only when the Bosnian Serbs are crushed, when Bosnia becomes the European headquarters for Islamic anti-Western terrorism, and when to stunned Americans (and to secularist Bosnians exiled by that time to Pans or New York) CNN broadcasts images of fundamentalist Muslims demonstrating in the streets of Sarajevo, will the U.N., NATO, et al, say “Oops!”

But, even if it is Orthodox history in the making, why should it matter to these kids in our country what is going on in Southeastern Europe? I see the answer in who these kids are.

First, they are Orthodox Christians. To advance the New World Order, American propaganda necessarily has played down the Orthodox role in overthrowing communism and rebuilding a free Eastern Europe. While it is safe, for instance, to call attention to the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the liberation of Poland (because the Roman Church’s organization centers on the international Magisterium), attention cannot be paid equally to the participation of Russian Orthodox monastic clergy in the downfall of the Soviet Union, or to the tangible support given by Rumanian Orthodox priests to the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu, because Orthodoxy is fundamentally nationalistic; that is to say, fundamentally at odds with the agenda of the New World Order.

My teenagers will hear in their schools that it is good for people to live in peace, which, of course, it is. But, in the tongue of internationalism, the meaning of “peace” is opposed to what inspires the Orthodox hymn which reads, “Grant victory to the Orthodox people over the barbarians” (a hymn, by the way, which provides the melody for the first section of the “1812 Overture”). International peace requires the marginalization of all religions, to remove them as a casus belli.

Orthodox peace is peace for Orthodox people to live according to the precepts of the Orthodox Christian religion, which is not different from the claims made for Zionism. Historically, this had meant frequent war for its attainment, such as that of Emperor Heraclius against the Persians in the seventh century, or of Tsar Alexander I against Napoleon in the 19th century.

Second, they are Americans. In 1995, Orthodox Christian Americans were presented with a serious problem: our Easter Sunday was proclaimed by President Clinton to be a day of mourning for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. Church bells were ordered to knell for the dead that afternoon. Ours did not. It is expressly forbidden for Orthodox Christians to mourn on Easter Sunday. I hesitate to say that the coincidence of the national day of mourning with Orthodox Easter was calculated. However, the spectacle of clergy of three of the four major American faiths participating in that day’s memorial service in Oklahoma City without the presence of the Orthodox does appear to dovetail nicely with the ongoing demonization of the Bosnian Serbs.

Three generations of Americans have been conditioned by Moscow-based television journalists to associate onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square with Soviet dictatorship. I do not believe for a second that the convenience of once again identifying Orthodoxy with “The Enemy” is lost on either our media or our government. Perhaps the average American did not notice that there were no Orthodox clergy at the memorial in Oklahoma, but if that average American only sees Orthodoxy in relation to Red Square, Russian anti-Semitism, and ethnic cleansing, can he be blamed for concluding that Orthodoxy is not American?

Is it possible, then, in the event of bloodshed involving American troops and Bosnian Serbs, that Orthodox Christian Americans might be forced to choose between their country and their faith? Public defense of the right of Orthodox Serbs to national self-determination has, through the work of the American media, become a defense of rape, pillage, and slaughter. If but one American is killed and his death pinned, rightly or wrongly, on the Serbs, then any defense of our coreligionists would amount to sedition.

That might be extreme, even for 1990’s America, but not so extreme would be the lies and insults of my kids’ fellow Americans who are not Orthodox Christian. I have already been excoriated on the Internet for being a member of a Church that has had its priests shown on the evening news blessing Serb soldiers. That priests blessing men going off to war is an ordinary occurrence did not matter, because these were Serb soldiers, perpetrators of atrocities, according to Peter and Dan and Tom.

I lost count of how many times I pointed out that Roman Catholic priests and Lutheran ministers served as chaplains to Nazi Wehrmacht units during World War II, without besmirching the reputations of those Churches. Then again, however, during that war, the American government took extra care to emphasize that fidelity to Roman Catholicism or Lutheranism did not condone the massacre of Ethiopian villagers-or the extermination of the Jews. The Clinton administration sees no need for like care in regard to Orthodoxy and the Bosnian Serbs, despite Mr. Stephanopoulos’s presence. Thus, it is not even possible for an American of Orthodox faith to say, “I support the Serbs’ right to national self-determination on religious grounds, although I mourn the atrocities.”

So, with the Serbs’ struggle in Bosnia, I am showing my class that the Orthodox are once again locked in combat for the freedom of the faith, just as the Orthodox were in the seventh century against Islam, and in this century against socialism and fascism. I am warning them that this conflict once again discomfits the world, which has always opposed anyone, be it an individual or a race or a nation or a faith, who has refused to go where the world was going and do what the world was doing. I am also teaching them that a government does not always tell the truth to its people. This was true when Nero said that the Christians burned Rome in the first century, and it is true for 20th-century Washington, when Clinton lies and blames the Orthodox Christian Serbs for having shelled the Sarajevo marketplace.

Finally, I am teaching them that while wars and governments do not endure, the Church will. They must be loyal to their country and their President, but not at the expense of God or His people.