Fr. Hans is available to speak on: Culture and Faith, Orthodoxy and Spiritual Growth among others. Learn more »
Fr. Johannes Jacobse always had a keen eye for politics and culture and employs it well as an Antiochian Orthodox priest. Born in Holland and raised in a culturally European home, Fr. Hans has first hand experience growing up in two cultures. It helps him understands how ideas shape our society. He also knows that in order to preach the Gospel of Christ effectively, you have to know how your hearer thinks and what he believes.
Fr. Hans studied history and humanities at the University of Minnesota. Wandering in the library one afternoon he came across Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address that would prove to be decisive in his journey to the Orthodox faith.
“I could tell that this man’s reading of our cultural decline was so thorough, so deep, and so accurate that I had to find out what well he was drinking from,” Fr. Hans said. He did a bit of research and found out about Orthodoxy Christianity. Six months later he met a Greek Orthodox girl. He ended up marrying her and the rest is history. That was twenty-seven years ago.
Fr. Hans edits the website Orthodoxy Today that discusses social and moral issues from an Orthodox Christian and the larger Judea/Christian framework. “American society is in deep crisis that only a moral renewal can heal,” Fr. Hans says. “I started Orthodoxy Today to show interested readers how many of our social problems are really moral problems at their core. I also believe that grasping this moral dimension is a crucial part of bringing healing to those problems,” he adds.
The success of Orthodoxy Today led to the founding of the American Orthodox Institute, a research and educational organization that engages the cultural issues of the day within the Orthodox Christian moral tradition, which Fr. Hans heads. No longer content with Orthodoxy as “America’s best kept secret,” AOI is designed to raise credible Orthodox voices to greater prominence in the public square. You may be interested in reading his article “Orthodox Leadership in a Brave New World.”
Fr. Hans is convinced that Orthodox Christianity has an important role to play in American moral renewal (see his essay “Orthodoxy and the American Awakening.” He holds a deep love for America and is grateful for its opportunities (see his essay “Liberty”) but believes that the secular drift of the culture is a grave danger – especially to our youth. “Grasping this moral dimension and hearing the Gospel work hand in hand,” says Fr. Hans. “No healing can occur apart from God. But proper healing requires a proper diagnosis. If we want to bring light into the world, we must know how and where to bring it.”
Any proper analysis of who we are and where we are going requires a recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Fr. Hans writes that everything in life must be referenced to God. But it is important to know that the God we reference is indeed the God of scripture, and not some idea of God we have picked up elsewhere. “Only in the recovery of the Gospel, only when that Gospel is properly preached and heard, will any renewal of the person, the family, and ultimately society last and endure,” he says.
His editorials and essays have been published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Duluth News Tribune, International Herald Tribune, Hellenic Voice, Breakpoint website, Front Page Magazine website, Institute for Religion and Democracy website, Discover website, and more. His podcasts can be heard on Ancient Faith Radio.
Fr. Hans has been a priest for twenty years. He has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, an M.Div. from St. Vladimir’s Seminary, studied the Greek language at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and is a fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. He is married and has one daughter.
- Secular vs. Sacred – What’s this all about?
There is a culture war waging in American that touches everyone. It’s often defined as a battle between the secular and the sacred, but in fact the battle is between competing moral visions that determine how we see and live life. Secularism is the diminishment of the sacred dimension of life, a darkening of moral vision that radically alters how we value life and the choices we make regarding it. This lecture examines the antecedents of the secular tradition and discusses how Christians should understand it and respond to it, and how we can bring healing to a fractured world.
- Why do the most contentious issues in American civic life involve life and death?
Everyone is familiar with the arguments for and against abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and such that creates great strife in our civic discourse. Why is this? The answer lies in the moral visions that inform both sides of these issues; visions that draw from different sources but are often confused since both sides employ the same language and vocabulary. This lecture touches on anthropology – the theological definition of what it means to be a human being – and how our stand on these issues reveals what we believe about who God created us to be.
- What the Book of Genesis tells us about what it means to be a human being.
This lecture was first developed for a teenage weekend retreat. I wanted to bring the teens into a deeper understanding of who and what God created them to be. The theme of the retreat was moral purity, but telling them, “don’t have pre-marital sex” and the like, while true, was clearly not breaking through the secular clutter that occupied their thoughts. Knowing that the scriptures have an inherent power because they are the Word of God, I designed this retreat around Genesis, particularly the creation of Adam and Eve, so that they would see what the Scriptures say about who they really are. Response to the retreat was very good.
- Do we preach Christ or Orthodoxy?
I contend that some of the confusion in our Orthodox parishes arises from a conflation between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Orthodoxy. While I believe that within our Orthodox Christian faith and tradition the full measure of the Gospel can be found, teaching people about Orthodoxy should not precede preaching the Gospel of Christ. The Church is constituted by persons in obedience to Christ who is revealed through the preaching of the Gospel. And, just as the Gospel constitutes the Church, so must it reconstitute the Church every generation – from Sunday to Sunday. This presentation looks at some of the pitfalls of conflating the two, and how a restoration of the Gospel may lead to more dynamic life in Christ and renewal of the parish.