An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Some of you have no doubt read about the private Christian school in Ontario California that expelled a student because her "parents" were Lesbians. (The bigotted scientist in me snickers a little when the story is phrased this way...you recall that little story about the birds and the bees...the girl MUST have a father somewhere!)
Now, the most obvious question to me is this: Why would a lesbian mother even WANT to send her daughter to a conservative Christian school? But that aside, what I really want to address is this gentleman's published opinion.
In this article, the author's main point is that Jesus never said a word about homosexuality...and the logical conclusion follows that there is nothing wrong with homosexual behavior. Furthermore, the author goes on to talk about love, peace, not judging others, etc etc that Jesus DOES talk about. Of course he royally screws up interpretting this passage:
"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man."
Within this sentence, Jesus condemns bigotry and persecution in his name.
Well, no not really, read it again Bob. He's very clearly saying that you are blessed if you are persecuted (etc) for BEING a follower of HIM. But that is neither here nor there...let's consider a few other things that Jesus neglected to specifically condemn:
I think you get my point. But I don't think the rest of the world (Christian and non-Christian alike get THE point - including me and certainly not Bob.) Holiness is much deeper than a set of rules and regulations...but I think rules and regulations are the surface of it all...to those outside it may appear to be such. Holiness is a relationship with the living God that calls us to a greater and greater state of selflessness. We become less needy and more giving...we define ourselves more in the context of God and less in the context of our sexuality, our hungers, our desires, our perceived needs.
Jesus quoted the OT and said "Man does not live by bread alone" and the Church's periods of fasting are intended to remind of us this. Forcing us to surrender while those around us stand by and see silly rules and regulations - as they go on living by bread alone.
The "God hates Fags" crowd are as profoundly lost as those poor souls who are ruining both body and soul through promiscuity (gay or straight). Jesus does indeed condemn them both...but I think I'd chose not to use the term "condemn."
Recall Jesus' conversation with the woman caught in adultry: "Neither do I condemn you..." and then as she was preparing to leave - a changed person - Jesus says, "Go and sin no more."
THIS is the attitude we ought to have...not condemnation.
I've been meaning to post this, but I went and got sick and have been lounging about, with precious little to say or type.
Last week I attended Fr. Steve Tsichlis presentation on Dan Brown's book "The Da Vinci Code" which is being made into a major motion picture starring Orthodox Christian-in law Tom Hanks. One of the most interesting things about the presentation to me was that apparently the end of the book has them pinpointing the "holy grail", which by that we mean Mary Magdalene whose relics are purported by the book to be in the Louvre. Gee, all that trouble to find Mary Magdalene...when all Dan Brown could have done was asked the Roman Catholics or the Orthodox and we could have told him where to find St. Mary's relics, and it ain't at the Louvre. He could start at Mt. Athos which might have done Dan Brown some good.
Anyway, Fr. Steve also gave us this quote from the book which explains to me the nonsense Brownites have been vomiting upon me (and I will break it up with snide comments of my own since Brown saw fit to apparently let TeaBAG go on and on without anyone challenging him in the novel - except perhaps crazed religious fanatics out to kill):
“The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven” declares Teabing. “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not magically fall from the clouds.
Yeah...duh. This is an appeal to profoundly ignorant Christians and hungry and equally ignorant non-Christians.
"The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great."
Rubish. St. Constantinre did no such thing and indeed we can read that well after Nicea the New Testament Canon was not completely settled upon. St. Constantine never had anything to do with it. And really now, itsn't it a judgement (one that protestants usually like) to refer to him as a pagan at this point? I mean, has Dan Brown met and talked to Constantine? Does he know Constantine's heart and mind? But, after 1700 years we feel like we can sit in judgement of his eternal soul? Mind boggling...we are not even supposed to judge our brothers who I assume we know a hellavu lot better than a 1700 year old man we never met.
"In 325 AD, he decided to unify Rome under a single religion: Christianity. Constantine needed to strengthen the new Christian tradition and held a famous gathering known as the Council of Nicea. Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet….a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."
And on what basis is this assumption made? Got any facts Dan? TeaBAG? Fact is, besides the New Testament, we see TONS of ante-Nicene works which clearly show that Jesus was considered divine prior to this council.
"Jesus’ establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea. A relatively close vote at that."
Ummm...316 in favor, 2 against. Relatively close, sure.
"Nonetheless, establishing Christ’s divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman Empire and to the new Vatican power base."
Fr. Steve wisely pointed out, the Vatican didn't exist in 325AD.
"Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned.”
Yes St. Constantine did MANY things to help the Church, which he had given legal status to and which had until that time been persecuted...sometime brutally. Church Buildings destroyed, copies of the Gospel burned etc. What St. Constantine did was to set these things right by using Imperial funds to give back to the Church what the Empire had destroyed.
The Four gospels were firmly established by this time and this is the "new Bible" that TeaBAG and Brown are talkign about. The implication that St. Constantine funded the mass publication of our modern edition of the Bible while seeking to destroy the gnostic "bibles" is patently false. In fact, in all the history I have read I have never read of an systematic attempt at erradicating by force the many false gospels that circulated...many of which you can find online today.
When we finally did settle the New Testament canon, it was decided in the context of "those books deemed suitable for reading during divine services." As a matter of fact, another important point that Brown and his character TeaBAG miss is that Nicea did not immediately solve the Arian problem, and that through all sorts of intrigue and behind-the-scenes influence, the Arians managed to maintain power for quite sometime.
Seriously, folks, it's time to brush up on your Church History because with the movie coming out you are likely going to have opportunity to speak the truth to people who have a vested interest in the Church being the false product of a conspiracy and in Jesus being a mortal man. Part 1 of Fr. Steve's Da Vinci Sermon Part 2
The Penguin movie is apparently the newest "Christian" film?
Little do they know it, but the penguins have been seized upon by conservative Christians as a parable of family virtues, a role model for men, an argument against abortion and convincing proof that Darwin was wrong.
I've never quite understood how such an argument could arise or be maintained with any sort of seriousness. I mean do we really want to try and say that people should be like Penguins, in order either to say that traditional family values are good or that homosexuality is good?
Ahh yes, the animal kingdom, a model for the way that people should be: take for instance the mating habits of the Black Widow or the Praying Mantis...sure, why not eat your lovers head while you have sex with them?
For the secularists, like the quoted Sheerly Avni who would insult God and be just about as offensive as one could possibly imagine, I really have nothing much to say. However, I would offer that her comments are again an example of how freely the authoritarian rule of Political Correctness does not apply to things said or done to Christians. One wonders if she could have possibly gotten away with saying the same thing about Muhammed or the Dali Lama? You think we'd ever get an apology?
But to Christians who would try to argue from the example of nature: give it up. Have you forgotten the state of our world? Nature can only tell us how things ARE, not how they SHOULD be. This is often the problem with melding theology and the natural sciences, you cannot look at nature and say with certainty that God designed it this way, if for no other reason than the fact that there are some pretty horrific things in nature.
A similar problem occurs when Christians try and deny that someone could be born gay, because they are proceeding from the assumption that God is wholly responsible for who and what we are when we are born. But this cannot possibly be the case, for are we to tell the cojoined twins that God intended for this to happen? Or those with Down Syndrome (or worse)? Or those born with severe deformities? Or those with genetic ailments that will make their lives a living hell? True, God's love and light can shine through these examples, but that does not mean that God is causative of them.
No, this is simply the way things ARE, not the way things SHOULD be.
While this may seem a slam on evangelicals, it is not neccesarily so. I know I can apply it to my life even though I reject the notion of blessed assurance.
A present day monk tells the following beneficial story: I was once walking with a very pious and humble man, when we were stopped on the street by an old man distributing small pamphlets. The old man asked us, 'Are you saved? Have you accepted Jesus?'
My humble companion said, 'I only know that I am a sinner.'
The old man answered my friend: 'Jesus has saved me. I have the assurance of his salvation. I have conquered pride, lust, and sin. Praise God.'
At these words, my companion very abruptly grabbed me by the arm, saying to the old man, 'Leave us alone.' But as we walked my humble friend began to cry bitterly. Embarrassed that others were watching, he controlled himself.
'I asked him: 'Why are you crying like this?'
He quietly answered, 'As that man told us that, a strange voice in my mind translated his words, so that he said, "I have saved myself. I have assured myself. Pride, lust, and sin no longer bother me, for they have conquered me. God must praise me." The mere thought of his blasphemy and the state of his soul crushed me. God forgive us all.'
But does this mean that the winners are wrong? Maybe...but maybe not. I think there is a popular thread of thinking these days that yearns for the winners to always be wrong (either morally or literally in their retelling of history) Or at the very least, they wish to assert that there isn't really a wrong or a right and that history is wholly dependent on the teller and the listener. (Therefore I declare that Hiroshima never happened. Hey, why not, North Korea denies history all the time!)
Anyway...getting off topic here. In discussing "The DaVinci Code" I meantioned that we live in a culture that LOVES conspiracy, hates powerful hierarchies, and adores the thought of exposing them as bedfellows. Part of what is fueling a resurgence in so called "gnostic" Christianity or some odd mish-mash or Arianism is the notion that the 1st Ecumenical Council represented the hijacking of Christianity by the wealthy and the politically powerful for their own nefarious purposes.
Many Protestants buy into the same notion, albeit with slightly different conclusions (i.e. Nicea got the theology right - don't ask how - but the politically powerful then screwed up the practice of the faith and it just went downhill from there as they hijacked the simple "organic" faith of the Church.) I'm not following that vein today though.
Bad news for the modern gnostics, Arians, and general DaVinci code believers who seek to cheer for the underdog: You are cheering for the wrong guy. Questions: Who was it that was banished and exiled numerous times by the politically powerful? Who was it that is often referred to as standing "against the world"? Ahhh... Saint Athanasios, that's right! And he was (eeeeek....run away!) ORTHODOX, not an Arian! And who was persecuting him? The Arians! Hmmmm. So if you take a step back before Nicea, you get a different perspective: those asserting that Jesus was just a man were persecuting those who believed He was God.
So you see, the story of Nicea fits right into our beloved notions of the underdog winning the day and overcoming the politically powerful. And so those that adore such a victory ought to be chanting the Nicene Creed with me - it represents victory of the underdog fighting for truth. And as we all know, those who fight against the tyranny of the politically powerful are ALWAYS right, right? So, I'll see you next sunday...email me and I'll let you know when the next catechism class is.
Unfortunately, in true non-Hollywood style, the Arians still held most of the power for quite sometime after Nicea....but that doesn't make for a very good ending does it?
And you know, St. Athanasios really isn't unusual. Some of the best known Orthodox Saints: Sts. John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, and Maximus the Confessor all stood against the politically powerful and suffered greatly for it. In the end however...standing against the politically powerful doesn't auomatically make you right - as much as we might like to think so. But again, if you do think so, our doors are open - come on in.
Now, standing against the Politically Correct? AXIOS!
A presentation at the local Greek Church called "The DaVinci Code: Fact or Fiction" has inspired a lively discussion at the League of Ordinary Gentlmen. I thought I might offer one of my comments here, concerning why I think it is important that we actively engage Dan Brown's issues:
Let me further and more clearly enunciate my concern about "The Divinci Code" phenomena.
In the end, my issue isn't so much with the book or the author, except on the point that both have become the vehicle (the delivery device) by which some old and rather complex heresies and historical inaccuracies have been fed to the general public. It's akin to tossing the filique debate into an issue of People Magazine - after of course dumbing it down so that those previously reading about Jennifer Lopez and Ben Afleck can comprehend it and make an informed decision about who was right.
Whether or not Jesus was just a man who married Mary Magdalene and that his real story was hijacked by the politically powerful is a subject of rather profound importance. Mr. Brown has taken some very serious claims about the origins of our faith and is presenting them to a HUGE and largely ignorant public. As the movie comes out it will be even worse, because then we can have people who either don't or can't read be exposed to these old hereises.
So who cares if these people - most of whom were really negligable Christians (if that) to begin with - buy into gnosticism or Arianism or "Holy Grail, Goddess, Mary Magdalene, Virgin Mary" worship....(I dunno even what to call it)? Well we should all be concerned about it and we should all be up to answering the questions that the books has raised and the movie will, to a much greater degree, raise as well. You guys all know the old Bible Answer Man quote from the 1 Peter: "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
I once asked a Roman Catholic friend of mine why he made it such a point to apolgoize (in the classical sense) for his Church whenever someone criticzed it. He replied with a quote from somebody (Chesterton, Lewis, perhaps?) "Even a dog will bark when his master is attacked."
I think we have an obligation to bark, lest our silence be construed as capitulation. Protests and the like are fairly pointless...but day to day real conversation with friends, neighbors, coworkers? You bet.
Or better yet...where are the "o"rthodox artists who will do the same with the truth as Dan Brown has done with lies? Alas, it probably wouldn't sell, would it?
Christianity should have died that day...a failed religion...a failed leader. Rejected by even His closest friends and by "His people" - a man cursed...hated...despised...laughed at (I often wonder if it was a sort of nervous laughter for some)...spat upon...beaten.
It's not hard to see why. We HATE holiness. We despise it with a vicious vehemence that is nearly indescribable and even more difficult to admit to. In the presence of Holiness we are undone, even if we rebel and refuse to see it - we FEEL it. And we hates it, we hates it!
How could we not kill God? For we could not...would not suffer Him any longer.
And yet our hatred would be the avenue to give us back our life. What a paradox! Yes, for us to see those slabs of wood as being "precious" and "life-giving", well we must simply be crazy. But, it is a crazy world isn't it?
Rejection, Failure, and death...the cross: a weapon of peace.
As You were voluntarily raised upon the cross for our sake, Grant mercy to those who are called by Your Name, O Christ God; Make all Orthodox Christians glad by Your power, Granting them victories over their adversaries, By bestowing on them the Invincible trophy, Your weapon of Peace.
I really am feeling ill at the vindictive politcal spin being hammered into the general public these days. The people of the Gulf Coast have become political pawns and EVERYONE is to blame for it. I cannot even watch or listen to the news anymore because it seems all you ever hear are veiled (or not so veiled) accusations of racism and then the damage control spin doctors doing their shifty work. It's sickening that people with political agendas are using this tragedy to advance their cause...I'm at the end of my rope. A pox upon them all, I say.
Too many images of water that kills, destroys and maims...but we need to understand that, don't we? How often have I seen ignorant people float the upper Skykomish River in two innertube-like rafts (one for themselves and another for their cooler of beer) bought from the local drugstore and then when I get down to the end of my drift start looking for the S&R chopper that will no doubt be doing recovery as opposed to rescue.
Water...absolutely neccesary for life (recall that you will die of thirst long before you die of hunger - for afterall you are MOSTLY water) and yet also able to snuff your life out in an instant. It is a powerful theological metaphore and I know of plenty of examples where people have treated water without the respect it deserves and have paid dearly for doing so. (Actually we ALL know of at least one VERY big example of that now don't we?)
But these days we could all use some of the more life-giving images of water and who knows, perhaps it will help me to let go of my bitterness - over 300 new Orthodox Christians in Macedonia:
All else aside...that water looks TOTALLY fishable!
How does one "remember" that day...that event? How does one explain to one's children what happened? I am ashamed that in the past my explanation would have lent even the remotest of hints of justifications for those actions...but how to tell an 8 year old that the people who flew those planes into the buildings believed that they were doing god's work?
I suppose it is best just to leave it at "bad men"
Prayer...it is heartening to see this picture of a Russian Baba praying for the victims:
I've been a bit melancholy as of late for a number of reasons, but I believe it is the sort of melancholy that I expect is leading me somewhere...causative, if you will. Not that I should have any particular reason for this to be the case, especially given the amount of "justifiable" (if I may use that term) sorrow that makes its rounds on earth to which I am certainly a stranger.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. Ecc. 7:3
The wisdom here may take a lifetime and beyond to grasp...certainly no one but God teaches us such a thing.
But a little unexpected joy hit me when I was trying to access my work email from home. The Fred Hutch Website is found here (www.fhcrc.org), but my fingers managed to slip past the last "rc" before the "org" and I ended up here. And gee, what is the feast day coming up next week? Go figure.
Truly an example of sadness that is Precious and Life-Giving...causitive, if you will.
Hard rock complimented (as only they could do) with kick butt harmonies and thoughtful lyrics. I had forgotten how much I loved their music. King's X was/is a band that unashamedly let their faith into their songs, all the while avoiding with variable success the trappings of CCM. Former AG Bible College students (or at least Doug Pinnick was), they were a staple for me while I was at Northwest College.
Searching on the web, I was saddened to learn that in 1998 Doug Pinnick abandoned the Christian faith being unable to reconcile it with his newly admitted homosexual inclinations. This interview is heartbreaking for many reasons, not the least of which is because I think the absurdity of much of contemproary American Christian culture certainly contributed to Doug's decision. Kalomiros blames the west's sole emphasis on substitutionary atonement as being the fuel for many athiest bearing fires and he may be right. I don't know.
But regardless, I think the faith has lost a very intelligent and artistic voice, it just really saddens me to read some of the things Doug says these days. Christ have mercy.
Evangelical Chinese Church Bethel Chinese Lutheran Church Chinese Southern Baptist Chinese Assembly of God Chinese Baptist Church Filipino Christian Church Seattle Filipino American Baptist 1st Filipino American United Methodist Church Samoan Christian Congregation Church Samoan Congregational Church Samoam Community Church New Life Samoan Church White Center Samoan Assembly of God High Point Lighthouse Samoan Assembly of God Solid Rock Samoan Assembly Samoan Christian Fellowship Korean Kirkland Covenant Church Korean Catholic Church (GASP! The Catholics still have ethnic problems in America!) Korean Presb Church Korean Emmanuel Church Korean United Presbyterian Church of Seattle Elim Korean Presbyterian One Spirit Korean Baptist Church Everett Korean Church Korean Presbyterian Church Seattle Taiwanese Christian Church First Taiwanese Presbyterian Church Kirkland Chinese Church of the Nazarene Bethel Ethiopian Church of Seattle Medhane-Alem Evangelical Church Japanese Baptist Church Japanese Presbyterian Church: Office Japanese Community Church Japanese Congregational Church Japanese International Baptist Church of Tacoma Vietnamese Christian Fellowship Church Vietnamese Thien-An Baptist Church Vietnamese Presby Church Vietnamese Baptist Church of Tacoma Vietnamese Alliance Church Ukrainian Christian Center Ukrainian Assembly of God Cambodian Fellowship Haitian Christian Church Asamblea de Dios de Renton Englesia De Dios Pentecostal Evangelical Spanish Church Christian Iranian Church in Seattle Indonesian Church
This is but a small taste. For a "complete" list, check out THIS page.
Amazingly enough, I note that in their list they make no mention of "Greek" and under "Romanian" and "Russian/Ukrainian" there are no listings for Orthodox. So, you can see clearly that it is not US who have an "ethnic problem" but THEM!
Paul posts about the means by which your average Joe or Jane Christian will "Primarily" express and experience their spirituality in the near future. (Make sure to check the chart in the post.)
Now I have to admit that hearing about an article entitled A Churchless Faith (which Paul notes, but I have not read) really struck me as an oxymoron. Now I understand that my Pomo friends are working hard to get evangelicals out of the "church is a building" sense of things and this is certainly laudable...but boy it sure hits me as an Orthodox Christian right in gut. The Church being so much a part of our faith. I'll read the article and post about it later...but part of what makes it so difficult for Orthodox and "emerging church" folk to dialogue is our profoundly different understandings of the faith to begin with...case and point being ecclesiology. You cannot be an Orthodox Christian and withdraw from the Orthodox community...I cannot just "do" communion in my home for my family and friends, nor can I expect to grow in the Orthodox faith "on my own" or with a core of "like-minded" folk...because I NEED to have the pot of my heart stirred - through the communal sacraments of the Church.
One thing that struck me about the chart in Paul's post (and I'm not sure how these predictions are being made) is that the key word to be discerned is "primary." Because I think anyone who takes their faith seriously, expresses and eperiences it in ALL of these areas and so I wonder to what extent what is really being predicted here is simply a decline in what is essentially sunday morning attendance - which I might add is not neccesarily indicative of a good thing. After all we in western washington are probably the most unchurched state that is yet chock full of "spirituality."
How is the "alternative faith-based community" REALLY different (save for a lack of a building) than the "local church"? I know this is a big question that even those in such sommunities are wrestling with and I have often asked my close "alternative faith-based community" friends how they are going to stay unique and not fall into the rut which will have them become little more than a passing fad like the communities they are leaving behind.
Part of what makes "local churches" appealing to people is both doctrine and practice. When you move or travel, you seek out the familiarity you will find in a church that bears the same name as the one you attend/ed at home...and there is something to be said for this - if you find doctrine and practice to be important. Who wants to go to an unknown "alternative faith-based community" and have to worry about this weeks rotating facilitator wishing to experiment with THESE prayers and creeds or what's being served in the Kool-Aid. (A joke, yes...but there is some seriousness here too.)
So what is the Orthodox role in this future? I expect we will smile and wave kindly as people pass by...we are not going anywhere. But I pray we bear the label or arrogance humbly for it is one that is difficult for us to avoid in this ever changing world of Christendom. Our beliefs and our practices are ancient, out of date...not at all in keeping with the latest trends. By remaining in the Orthodox Church I cannot help but wrestle with the label of arrogance, exclusivity, and self-righteousness...but in a way, lest we wish to be universalists we all may be labelled such by anyone who denies that Jesus is God. (In itself a pretty arrogant claim).
Stumbled into this article which talks about a controversy amidst orthodox Jewish moms.
I am a big proponent of stay-at-home WORKING Moms, who have in my humble opinion received a good deal of ignorant discrimination and derision at the hands of the "progressive/feminist/choice" crowd. Sterotypes abound...but thankfully more and more people are beginning to grant that the overemphasis on getting moms out of the house and into "real" jobs might have been misguided....similar to the "sexual revolution" whose ideological failure now has many ramifications - not the least of which keeps me employed.
It is interesting to me that you cannot laud stay-at-home mothers without seriously ruffling the feathers of working moms...in fact you generally dare not even attempt to have an intelligent "debate" regarding the issue. It is an emotional issue and in talking to many working moms I get the distinct sense that many feel guilty about leaving their young children in daycare, while at the same time struggling to reject that guilt and even feeling guilty about feeling guilty in light of the "enlightened" feminism and progressive sensibilities they feel like they should have.
I make no judgements on working moms...that is certainly not my place - especially in regards to those who claim they have no choice but to work. But I will sing loudly the praises of hardworking and devoted mothers who consider raising their kids full-time (meaning being physically present) the highest calling and most important job on the planet - and are often willing to sacrifice materially to do just that. If that causes feathers to be ruffled....sorry. No offense intended.
It's a lie. It's not true...at least not in the grander scheme of things.
Sure we are all politically equal (for do you think someone born - e.g. - without legs feels ontologically equal to someone fully equipped?)...well, at least at birth (but certainly not before birth). And the minute we start interacting with the world we begin the process of determining whether we retain political equality - not to mention ontological equality. Commit a crime and watch some of your political rights be taken away...and rightly so.
But our culture today seems bent on believing that "ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL AND FOREVER REMAIN SO." Furthermore this ultimately translates into a need for us to deny the existance of any hierarchy, moral or otherwise. And this is nonsense.
These blogging thoughts arise from a discussion I had with my Godson about the crazy things going on in New Orleans (Christ have mercy on them!) such as shooting one's sister over a bag of ice. The PC police are making it clear that we dare not judge people who are looting TV's or committing other crimes because we simply do not understand the extenuating circumstances of poverty and oppression and racism combined with an unfathomable disaster. The implication being that if I were in the same situation I might also loot a TV, and come to think of it I am pretty sure I could get a BITCHIN Plasma TV into my driftboat.
The assumption, as my beloved atheist often likes to make, is that we are utter slaves to our genetic predisposition. Christianize this and we come up with: we are all equally sinners. I cannot say this more clearly: This notion is a steaming pile of fecal matter! Yes we are all sinners...but...
To my Orthodox friends may I ask (and please forgive the potential irreverence here in advance): Would the Theotokos loot a TV? Would St. Seraphim of Sarov kill his sister for a bag of ice? Would St. John Chrysostom score a new set of golfclubs after breaking in to the flooded Big 5? Of course not, these Holy people are holy precisely because they have overcome the passions and are we not seeking to do the same? To my non-Orthodox friends I would simply ask: If we cannot ever hope to better ourselves OR if our better behavior is simply a product of our genes or our environment then why on earth do we bother TRYING to live the beatitudes and the commandments? Do we not struggle to love our neighbors? If the popular sentiment (ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, which is read: ESSENTIALLY THE SAME) is correct then I contend we are wasting our time and we ought to give up trying to "run the race" (Heck ,what does St. Paul know anyway!)
And I'm not saying that we have a right to sit in judgment of looters, but by the same token let us not allow our recognition of our own moral failings become a shoulder shrugging excuse to refuse to call black black and white white.
The need for everyone to be equal is a big hinderance to many Protestants who examine Orthodoxy...precisely because protestantism borrowed much of its underlying thinking from the then blossoming philosophy of enlightenment. But, just because we WANT everyone to be pretty much equal doesn't mean that reality bears this out. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Jesus definately quantified sin for as you may recall he said that the Jews who handed him over committed the greater sin than Pilate.
Of course, GOD does the calculations, not us. In my own experience I have recognized that there are definately people who DO this thing we call Christianity MUCH better than I do and I am sure if we are honest we can all say this. We Orthodox endow such people with the title of "Saint"...part of the "All-Star" team if you will.
We are not equal...we are not the same...except in the context of God's love. But it is up to us to fully surrender to His love...and therein lies the struggle that we all engage in to different degrees...