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[The Creation of the Chicken]

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.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I was watching CNN the other day and I heard one of the reporters/anchors (I don't know which) babbling on and on about the "scandal" of Sarah Palin's daughter being pregnant. They even went so far as to reference a RADICAL leftist pro-abortion anti-abstinence group that would have teachers handing out condoms (if not "toys") to your grade school aged children. All in an effort to say that this is definitive evidence that abstinence education doesn't work, and thus Sarah Palin (and not a few of the rest of us) are hypocrites.

May I interject a few thoughts? Personal experiences?

I'm no Einstein, but I am fairly well educated in the realm of contraception. Three of my children came into being because of a failure of contraception education - in other words I didn't practice what I knew. And one of my children came in being because of the failure of modern medical contraceptive surgery. Oddly enough abstinence education works 100% of the time when applied...not so with contraception. Neither however will work if in the heat of the moment they are not applied. So you want to tell me that contraception education works better? Tough sell...at least to me. So anyway, I'm not sure that in our sex hyped society that contraception is going to end teen pregnancy...or even substantially reduce it. But what difference does it make? You can always kill those babies so we don't have to have our older babies "punished" with younger babies. Lord knows we don't want people to suffer from the natural consequences of adult behavior.

Fact is, and I have talked about this before, abstinence education in the secular world IS going to fail. You cannot speak with a forked tongue to kids and expect them to believe you. Out of one side of your societal mouth you say WAIT and out of the other you are bombarding them with the message that NOT WAITING is AWESOME! So what benefit is it for them to learn from their public school teacher that abstinence is the best way to go, if at the same time they are learning in far greater quantities to far greater effect from their TV shows, movies, video games, music, advertisements, and their peers that abstinence is not only impossible, but hopelessly UNcool?

But you know what, if we as Orthodox Christians deny that abstinence is a legitimate option for our kids then I think we are also denying a very huge part of our religious tradition. You know, that whole self-denial thing we like to gab about? "Take up your cross and follow me"? We believe that stuff, right? The "Unseen Warfare" and "Philokalia" and all those writings of the Fathers and Mothers? The monastics to whom we look toward for advice on curbing the appetites of our flesh? The fasting? The prostrations? These things we do do, right? Maybe it's just talk? We don't REALLY believe we can change? Become more holy? More devout? More in control of the passions?

So, if we - as Orthodox Christians - are going to join in and say that abstinence education cannot be successful, then we had better start deciding EXACTLY what we mean and in what context we say such a thing. Organizations, such as the one cited by CNN will say it's all genetic and we cannot possibly do anything about it...but I wholly disagree and I am confident the Church does as well.

So let me put it out there for you parents. What are you doing for your kids with regard to abstinence education? I am still formulating many of my own ideas, but they are certainly centered around an education that teaches about the overall bankruptcy of the world's values and thus - hopefully - when my kids see a barely dressed Paris Hilton squirming on a car with a Burger King Hamburger, they too will begin by saying: "How stupid!"

In the world and yet NOT of it. How does this get translated into everyday practical teaching and education? I simply do not trust the government to teach my kids ANYTHING of use about sex - even if it is abstinence. But what then?

As to Sarah Palin and her family? Respect. They are publicly and privately living their values (a RARE thing these days - especially for politicians), both via their son suffering from Down Syndrome and their 17 year old daughter about to become a mom. Love and support from the whole family. A good example in trying times...and such examples turn trying times into blessings. How sad that we play politics with their lives. In my mind, they give us another lesson for our kids: the easy way out is often NOT the best.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:04 AM [+]


The question you leave out is why is such education part of the school ciriculum in the first place? Fundamentally, the whole thing is misplaced. This is none of the business of the state in the first place.

By Blogger Rick, at 4:14 PM  


On the other hand, Rick, when you have parents sending kids to school without shoes, decent clothes, or even breakfast and lunch, then suddenly things that should be the responsibilities of parents (or grandparents) become the "problem" of the local schools. I'm sorry to say that our society's shit rolls down hill and strategically placed at the bottom of the hill are our public schools. I certainly think sex education should be left in the hands of parents, but so many of them fail to support their kids in the most basic aspects parenting is it any wonder that schools step in to fill the vacuum?

In our community, the public schools do a great job, but they are so shackled by federal, state, and union regulations, I'm amazed they can teach anything.

On a completely un-related subject, James, we just returned from a trip visiting the in-laws and family over your way in Hansville. Great to see everyone, but my blood must be thinning and I must confess I was cold the entire weekend despite wearing a wool sweater. The blackberries were yummy, however. . .

Best regards,

By Anonymous Mike, at 4:35 PM  


Yes, I do wonder why the schools if they are incompetent at their actual charter do move in to fill in for something that isn't their job and do an incompetent job with that as well.

Calls to child protective services are the appropriate response to unfed or unclothed children. The details of sex education are still none of the state's business.

By Blogger Rick, at 5:33 PM  


Mike! You should have called!

I do wonder why schools are teaching much of anything about sex...it seems more and more we want the state to do our jobs for us as parents.

And yes, for some kids, parents are not around to teach them anything...and I surely want them to learn SOMETHING. But what CAN the schools teach?

There is a DISTINCT worldview and philosophy behind the efforts to discredit abstinence. We as Orthodox MUST see that and reject it.

Kids CAN wait.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:13 AM  


Well, "we" (whoever that is) do NOT want the state to do any part of our job for us. But that's irrelevant. The state will encroach on private life every chance it gets, our desires to the contrary notwithstanding. It will also tell them that evolution "disproves" the Bible, which is a really stupid, non-scientific statement of philosophical materialism. It will also tell them that homosexuality is a valid alternative life-style. It will also tell them that guns are an unmitigated evil (or an unmitigated good), that all wars the U.S. chooses to start or get involved in are wrong (or right, depending on who has the bully pulpit), and that women have the right to terminate human life if it proves inconvenient. WHY, OH WHY DO WE CONTINUE TO BE SURPRISED AT ANY OF THIS? WHY, OH WHY DO WE REFUSE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE WORLD, (IN THE ETHICAL SENSE), IS UTTERLY OPPOSED TO CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH AT EVERY CONCEIVABLE LEVEL? WHY, OH WHY DO WE REFUSE TO GROW UP?

Gary Patrick

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:41 AM  


So, seriously GP I "think" I understand what you are saying but...what does "grown up" look like?

I understand that we cannot look to the state to be a replacement for real community as we understand it...but are we not yet still a part of it? In the world, but not of the world, yes? What does that look like? Is knowing precisely how to model that what you mean by being "grown up"?

Do we refuse to vote or do we wrestle with the issues and vote to the best of our abilities in understanding what "in the world but not of the world" means?

I'd love to be "grown up" (like you?), but I just need a little help here in knowing precisely what that will look like...practically speaking.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 12:49 PM  


I agree. 1/4 of my children were conceived when my wife and I were using contraceptives according to instructions.

By Blogger Matt, at 1:53 PM  


"Calls to child protective services are the appropriate response to unfed or unclothed children."

Well, that would be nice, but the bureaucracy there is huge as well, causing much delay except in case of imminent danger. Case in point: a family I know was abandoned by the father, and has a mother who is out to all hours every night doing who knows what. The twelve-year-old daughter is basically raising her two elementary age siblings. The house is filthy, and there is often no food.

The school has stepped in on numerous occasions, providing clothing and food (including house calls by the school nurse, with bags of groceries). The school has hooked them up with charitable organizations which provide clothing and school supplies.

But because the oldest child is twelve, she is considered old enough to babysit, even way past dark.

Whose responsibility is it to help these kids? Mine. Yours. If an underpaid, non-Orthodox school nurse opens her own wallet to help kids in her community, what does that say to us as part of the Church?

Basic care is not part of the curriculum, but it's hard to do math when you're hungry and cold. Thank God for our nurse.

By Blogger Liz in Seattle, at 4:17 PM  


James, I will definitely call. My mother-in-law has Parkinsons, so we stayed close by so we could spend plenty of time with her. I suspect we'll venture across the mountains again around the holidays. I will definitely give you a holler next time. . .

all the best,

By Anonymous Mike, at 4:34 PM  


Please do Mike...email me if you need my number. And try and visit us at St. Elizabeth. We'd love to have you!

PLUS...if there is ever anything we can do for your kin let us know. Hansville is just a hop, skip, and a jump from here.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:15 PM  


Well, you're the one who keeps posting stuff that demonstrates over and over how godless the basic modern American worldview is, and then you're surprised that that worldview gets implemented by those in power. Then you oscillate between telling me to get involved and telling me to take it with a grain of salt, because there are too many other much higher priorities. I've always thought the second way, just for the record. Not that you owe me any consistency (or anything else), but I'm just saying...


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:53 PM  


I don't think I've TOLD you anything GP...rather I asked a bunch of questions. Serious ones.

Any oscillation you detect I think springs from my wrestling with the overall issue. Kids do that.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 10:07 PM  


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