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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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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Soon to appear on your local public transportation?

"Innovative congregation helps churches reach unchurched generations"

Yes, nothing we have not seen before, I suppose...though I wonder if the iconographer was using egg tempera and saying the Jesus Prayer while writing or if he/she was using a MAC and listening to U2 on their iPod.

You know I am tired of the whole po-mo scene...like seriously yawning tired...maybe even to the point of yearning to be ridiculously cynical about it. I think in another couple of years it will all be a joke and this "planetary emergency-like" need to appeal to "a postmodern cultural shift" will be on to something new. We shall gaze upon the po-mo's and their odd little phrases and terms such as "silent generation", "re-imagine church", all manner of "pre" and "post" prefixes, "Ancient Future", "emerging _______", "inclusive forms of worship", "tribes" (TRIBES?!?!), “de-churched postmoderns”, "post-denominational emerging-church movement" (love that one), and "radical welcome" as we now joke at those who used to preach "peace, love, and dope."

This too shall pass and they shall have to devise some new way to do what they are in essence saying they most do in the last few paragraphs on the article. They say the po-mos are distrustful of "organized religion" and "hierarchy" but are they taking the time to explain why they shouldn't be? Or are they simply letting them continue in their biases? I suspect the latter because they seem to be saying: "We need to find out what these people say they need and then give it to them."

Hence Jesus has an iPOD...pretty much says it all.

Blech....I offer THIS bit of Ancient-Future Post modern inclusive worship...the Anathema service (if applicable):

English Translation:

To those who reject the existence of God and maintain that His world is self-existent, and that everything therein came into being by chance, and not by the providence of God, Anathema!

Then, the clergy shall chant: Anathema, anathema, anathema! And after the clergy, the people shall chant: Anathema, anathema, anathema! And so after each petition.

To those who say that God is not spirit, but flesh, or that He is not just, full of lovingkindness, most wise and omniscient, and who utter similar blasphemies, Anathema!

To those who dare to say that the Son of God is not of one essence and equal in honor with the Father, and that neither is the Holy Spirit, and who teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not one God, Anathema!

To those who mindlessly say that the coming of the Son of God into the world in the flesh, and His voluntary suffering, death and resurrection, were not necessary for our salvation and for the cleansing of sins, Anathema!

To those who do not accept the grace of redemption proclaimed by the Gospel as our sole means of justification before God, Anathema!

To those who dare to say that the most pure Virgin Mary was not virgin before giving birth, during birthgiving, and after birthgiving, Anathema!

To those who do not believe that the Holy Spirit made wise the prophets and the apostles, and through them hath proclaimed to us the true path to everlasting salvation, and confirmed this by miracles, and now dwelleth in the hearts of true and faithful Christians and instructeth them in every truth, Anathema!

To those who deny the immortality of the soul, the end of time, the future judgment, everlasting reward in the heavens for virtue, and condemnation for sin, Anathema!

To those who reject all the holy mysteries performed by the Church of Christ, Anathema!

To those who reject the councils of the holy fathers and their traditions, which are in accord with divine revelation and are cherished piously by the Orthodox Catholic Church, Anathema!

To those who reason that Orthodox sovereigns are elevated to their thrones not by God's special goodwill toward them, and that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not poured out upon them during their anointing for the conduct of this great vocation; and who likewise dare to rise up against them in mutiny and rebellious disorder, Anathema!

To those who mock and blaspheme the holy icons, which the Holy Church affirms to be reminders of the works of God and of His favored ones, wrought so as to move those who gaze upon them to piety and emulation; and who dare to say that such are idols, Anathema!

To the Theosophists and other heretics who dare to say and irrationally to teach, that our Lord Jesus Christ did not descend to earth and become incarnate once only, but hath been incarnate many times; and who likewise deny that the true Wisdom of the Father is His only-begotten Son; and, contrary to divine Scripture and the teaching of the holy fathers, seek other wisdoms, Anathema!

To the Masons, followers of the occult, spiritualists, practitioners of witchcraft, and all who do not believe in the one God, but worship the demons; who do not humbly submit their life to God, but strive to learn the future through sorcery, Anathema!

To those who fall away from the Orthodox Faith, embracing false doctrine to the scandal of our brethren, Anathema!

To the persecutors of the Church of Christ, ungodly apostates, who have raised their hands against the anointed of God, who slay His sacred ministers, who profane the holy things, who destroy the temples of God, who subject our brethren to torture and persecution, and have defiled our homeland, Anathema!

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 1:26 PM [+]


When the Episcopal Church is your mother, you are bound to have problems!

Seriously, the problem with anathemas is that they are of use to the faithful so that we can realize when we are crossing boundaries but to the most Americans they are better left unsaid as it is simply weird.

The problem with "po-mo" is that it is fundamentally gnosticism. It is a denial of objective reality. When reality is denied, then anyone can believe anything because it is is all the same. Thus things like anathemas are not understood at all. One is just being sectarian.

However, if there is an objective reality, then belief become important. If Jesus came in the flesh and actually rose from the dead. Then things become a little more intense.

But we don't want to deal with that. So let's have some feel good worship.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:29 PM  


They say the po-mos are distrustful of "organized religion" and "hierarchy" but are they taking the time to explain why they shouldn't be? Or are they simply letting them continue in their biases?

Why should they try to disabuse them of what is patently true? Apart from a couple of good experiences (thank God!) I've had nothing but bad ones with "organized religion" and "hierarchy".

I fail to see why this group should upset you: either a) to be generous they are reaching people with the Gospel which is good; or b) to be hyper pious (and read anathemas at them) they are not Orthodox (ie not Christian) and so it shouldn't concern you.

What is your parish doing to reach them? Probably the same as mine: nothing. My last two parishes seem to be literally afraid of this youth cuture. (I'd put that in quotes because these "youth" can be up to about 40.) Sad - because Asheville, NC, is one of the centres of this culture. Apart from a few blessed Monks with tattoos and a coffee shop, we Orthodox have got a huge beam in our eye when it comes to reaching these people. Lets not worry about the motes in the Emergent eyes.

Rick: Here's an essay by Brian McLaren on three types of Postmodernism, I'll note your version ("fundamentally gnosticism") is in the first paragraph.

By Blogger Huw Richardson, at 4:49 PM  


Ur, Huw, if we just get rid of this Tradition thing, Orthodoxy can be so much more hip and attractive.

Ya, that's the ticket, let's get rid of Lent because it puts a cramp in our modern life style. Let's instead talk endlessly about our own spiritual journey and go out and teach others because actually learning anything is a pain for us hipsters.

The problem with the Orthodox journey is that it starts with humility. That will never really be in or hip.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:42 PM  


Not into "organized religion"? Don't kid yourself: It's not that organized ;-)

Here's something I suggest keeping in mind when trying to get Americans to give Orthodoxy more than a passing nod: Unlike whomever one takes to be the "Church Fathers," Americans pretty much take denoninationalism as the norm. It's not that they've studied Church History and come to that conclusion. It's just that it's all they've ever known, and so when someone comes along who says that Christ really has a Bride, not a harem, that He's not a disembodied head (the Church has objective existence), and that there can't really be more than one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church anymore than there can be more than one Lord, it all sounds oh so undemocratic. Which is to say that most of us are Americans first, and Christians second (at best). The Christianity we embrace by default had better fit in with our nationalism, or else. And what is our nationalism all about? The melting pot: Pluralism raised to the level of an institution. So when people create "churches" in accordance with a mindset such as the foregoing, it's hardly surprising. It's more like inevitable. Even some of our own people don't get it at all, splurting such nonsense as "I want to raise my kids to know conservative values." So go be a Mormon. Heck, what's the diff?

Oh, I know that the early Church both manifested and dealt with variants (whether we want to use the "H" word or not.) However, the variants weren't in the thousands, and they weren't raised to know nothing else.

I think we live in unique times. I suppose everyone has thought the same thing. But really, when you look at Church History, it's never been like this before. There's no "one-size-fits-all" solution, but I know this: You can really get peoples' attention by saying things like, "When Jesus ascended, He didn't leave behind a book. He left behind a church, and that church gave us the book which so many of us use to deny the reality of the church. Think about it. I dare you."

By Blogger Patrick, at 6:31 PM  


Huw et al,

Our parish has done nothing, and yet they are beating down the doors. We have huge catechism groups being received every year, filled with people of just this demographic (18-35+ yo). People from literally all over the board, Christian and non, coming in, hungry and thirsty for the faith. Our church has been growing so rapidly with this demographic that we just knocked down several walls to expand the nave and bought the building next to us to make more room. Guess what? Yep, we're still overflowing. James, you'll see it when you come. The parish just 20 miles from us is experiencing a similar in-flux, and i've not noted any "gothic mass" or pub groups there either. Could we do more? Of course...and i pray we will. Pray for us.

Am i missing something?

By Blogger Munkee, at 7:07 PM  


Munkee: you are lucky! Although I will say the same was true in a couple of places in San Francisco. So... is it ok then just to sit and wait? If so, cool. Pray for the same thing to happen here in Asheville that's happening to you!

Rick- it's awesome to dismiss a discussion with rhetorical straw men. Try having a discussion tho': I never said any of those things you implied in your spin.

By Blogger Huw Richardson, at 7:15 PM  


Munkee, I don't think you're missing anything. Having been a conservative Anglican priest for 10 years, I can tell you that these things just happen. The Spirit knows what He's doing; we don't necessarily know what He's doing, nor do we have to.

My suggestions were aimed at situations in which discussion and/or friendly debate is in order, which is not nearly always the case. I've actually seen more positive results by people being loved, taken by the hand, and gently introduced to an Orthodox service, such as the exquisite Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. Sometimes, people have questions about historical/doctrinal questions of fact. Sometimes (perhaps more often), they're just awed by the beauty.

By Blogger Patrick, at 8:56 PM  


Still the most striking thing to me is that the ipod *replaces* what is there in the icon...The Gospel. In the Episcopal Church, that alone speaks volumes. That was no accident. There's nothing else to say. Ignorance replaces revelation. Fortunately these clowns don't know what the lettters in the halo represent or they'd have tagged them too; maybe an appropriate piercing for Jesus instead? Interesting how vandalism replaces worship in some places.
-- Bob

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:32 PM  


HR...it concerns me for two reasons, and two reasons alone.

1. It is implied that to reach these people we must give their preconceived notions a nod of approval. That because the "youth culture" believes something, or indeed because anyone believes much of anything, we must automatically give it validation. Their PERCEPTION and DEFINITION of "organized religion" and "hiearchy" may be true, but do we then begin defrocking our bishops and ignoring the Councils (both of which are the very symbols of organized and hierarchical religion)?

2. They have defiled our Holy Icons...yes I said OURS. Human language in order to be understood must have context. So must out worship, our theology, and our prayer. To grab a Holy Image and rip out the Gopsel to replace it with an iPod demonstrates a profound lack of contextual knowledge that is more than just annoying, I would suggest it is dangerous. Will they also begin teaching their own little version of Hesychasm? Perhaps aspects of the Jesus Prayer? Who will guide this? The notion that no one but the individual need guide it is likely straight from the mouth of the deceiver.

In the end these groups are responding to nothing more than itching ears. The Anathema service is little more than my cynicism at work, BUT, by the same token I have no doubt - given the mom and dad authors of what is happening here - that doctrine is ALSO up for grabs and open to the same inclusive fluff that might lead a person to hell.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

Naturally they may do what they want, but I have a right to reject and debate their claims to being the sole means of reaching ANY generation.

By Blogger fdj, at 9:00 AM  


Christ really has a Bride, not a harem

That's a good one.

Even some of our own people don't get it at all, splurting such nonsense as "I want to raise my kids to know conservative values." So go be a Mormon. Heck, what's the diff?

Well I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. We are a polarizing people - it's natural perhaps - but people who look at what you ARE teaching your kids will label it either liberal, moderate, or conservative...right or wrong that's the way it is. Heck to teach your kids that Christ has a bride as opposed to a harem would be viewed by some as REALLY conservative. And, by definition I suppose it is.

I imagine it is a matter of definitions, but indeed people who see me TRYING to live an Orthodox life and TRYING to teach my kids to do the same would consider I live a rather conservative life, but I'm not sure they would confuse me with a Mormom...but then maybe they would....if that be the case as opposed to confusing me with participants in the gay pride parade I guess I'm okay with that.

There is plenty of nationalism that wholly embraces the Orthodox Church as the bride to exclusion of all others (note that Anathema against those who reject the "Orthodox Sovereigns".) Can't we appreciate our freedom in this country to choose His church or not to choose Her without embracing pluralism as being true? I don't think American nationalism (however we may define that) demands that we become pluralists...rather that we understand people are free to decide for themselves?

I'm rather fond of that freedom, as surely as I am fond of many things that do not necessarily inhibit my devotion to the Church. In a way, I actually prefer such freedom as opposed to anathemas being offered to those who would "reason" against the "Orthodox Sovereigns"

Sorry Rade.

By Blogger fdj, at 9:15 AM  


Am i missing something?

Aaron...absolutely NOT! Christ and His Church do not need gimmicks to attract people. And make no mistake, that's just what all this po-mo fluff is: gimmicks.

What WILL attract people to the Church, IMHO are the interactions of people who are genuinely trying to be transformed into His Image. People genuinely living the life of humility, repentance, and illumination. Day in and Day out...that, I think, will bring lasting conversions.

Jesus with iPods will bring them in until such a time that someone has a better snake oil to sell.

Huzzah for Saint Barnabas!...we humans, despite our piercings or lack thereof or musical and political tastes really are not all that different.

By Blogger fdj, at 9:22 AM  


James, you're quite right about definitions. My point was that conservatism (at least as it's usually construed along political lines) is the same neither as Christianity in general nor Orthodoxy in particular. And I also agree that pluralism affords certain opportunities, along with responsibilities and pitfalls. But it's not the same as Truth. It just happens to be a pragmatic solution that the Church can use to her advantage. Either that, or she can drown in the shoreless ocean of relativism that pluralism creates. I'm reminded of Churchill's remark that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the alternatives. And I don't even think he was talking about the USA. I think he was referring to England's constitutional monarchy. Totalitarian states afford other kinds of opportunities to the Church, such as martyrdom and other immediately and highly visible works of sacrificial love. The point is that the Church is one thing, and the State is another, and the Church cannot and will not perish from the Earth, no matter how oppressive the State decides to be. Inevitably, someone will bring up Byzantium as the exception. Well, for one thing, Byzantium wasn't all peaches and cream, and for another thing, this ain't Byzantium, not by a long shot, so it's all moot.

I'm mostly concerned that we approach American Christians in full knowledge that they take denominationalism as normative. It's a pre-theoretical, tacit part of their inherited worldview. At the risk of sounding condescending, let's just say they don't know any better.

Regarding Orthodox sovereigns and one's right to disagree with them, I know of no one who rejects that right. On the other hand, allow me to use an analogy from the military. There is such a thing as an unlawful order, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But it must be an order, not just an opinion, and you have to be able to demonstrate its unlawfulness. You can't just cry "Foul," and it's not enough to have philosophical reservations. As for other (lawful) orders, you don't have to like them. You just have to execute them. As for situations where one's superiors voice opinions that we consider unwise, unethical, or just plain stupid, it's OK to think that or even confide it to one's buddies. However, you're not serving your country or the service well by broadcasting your superiors' weaknesses, failures, and silly opinions in public. It's disrespectful, and shows that you can't lead, because you don't how to be led. When there are real grievances to be redressed, there's this thing called the chain of command, and it works, despite the cynicism of a lot of movies about the military. In fact, nothing else DOES work.

So I'm suggesting that if the military understands this, the Church should, too. If our priest, diocesan, or metropolitan bishop says something we don't like, that's called an opinion. We might want to call him to task for it, we might want to ask his fellow bishops to come alongside him and help him see a better way, or we might want to escalate it up the chain of command, but if it's just an opinion, all this seems like a lot of trouble just to call attention to the fact that our clergys' opinions are not carbon copies of our own. On the other hand, if something doubtful or allegedly wrong is required of us by those in authority over us, now's the time to demonstrate whether we believe in the Church or a bunch of self-appointed Great Reformers who all personally possess the unvarnished Truth, which will doubtless perish from the Earth when they do.

What's funny about the responses to some of the things that have been said recently about the ME is that, even though we say we reject universal papal jurisdiction and ex cathedra infallibility, we treat our superiors as though those things were true anyway, or at least as though we wanted them to be. So let's get it straight: Orthodoxy does not have an external source of infallibility. Not the bishop, not the metropolitan, not the Ecumenical Patriarch, not the Bible. Not even the Ecumenical Councils were considered authoritative until ratified by the whole Church (cf. the Council of Florence). Even the Council of Nicaea did not enjoy widespread acceptance until 381, which is why we call in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. That's 56 years.

By Blogger Patrick, at 2:40 PM  


You want to fall under the anathema of denying the authority of God-appointed Orthodox Monarchs? Well suit yourself, Tsar Rade will be merciful and benevolent...

The problem with the Po-Mos is not gnosticism, that is just the logical result of their essential problem, which is writ large on the American psyche, and that is disobediance. In this society we will generally reject anyone who is "telling us what to do and think". How many of us in the Orthodox church get bent out of shape when our hierarchs tell us something we don't want to hear, rolling our eyes at pro-life pronouncements, or cringing at anti-war messages? So you get the spectacle of the Po-Mo or "youth culture" or whatever they are, trying to reinvent the wheel, using all sort of jargon and "in" language, just to avoid having to obey someone, just so they can continue to idolize the self-will. I'll even go a step further, even the Po-Mos "finding" Orthodoxy (God help us!) is still in a way fruitless, because the overriding attitude will still be: "I figured this out, I CHOOSE Orthodoxy."
My solution would be an Orthodox Monarch rounding up the EM-churchers, and forcing them into Orthodox worship. Then they can both learn to worship properly AND learn the fruits of obedience.

By Blogger Radoje, at 9:10 AM  


As a recovering Po-Mo, what I find so incredible about the Orthodox Faith is precisely what a few have mentioned here -- humility. The Po-Mo's seek to continue to be, as Tsar Rade notes, automonous (and to be a completely fair to the Po-Mo's, try as they might to distance themselves from their ancestors the Mo's -- I believe they learned the glorification of autonomous self-will directly from them). If becoming Orthodox is, given the context of our culture, just another reaction or personal preference/choice, just another way to be "different" or "in", then it is fruitless. But if it is based on a humility borne of a God-given grace that recognizes one's own sinfulness, then I don't know that there would be any difference between a Po-Mo, Mo, or otherwise becoming Orthodox.

By Blogger J.B., at 12:23 AM  


Yep, a good deal of these people come because their friends do, or it's exotic. Ahem, i never did mind you, it was like all of the other God-pleasing decisions in my life, out of the purity culled within my heart. I'm sure everyone here, especially after 1st week is over, can attest to the same purity for making and choosing all of the decisions we face. Man, we Orthodox had better be careful about who we let in, close the gates after me.

By Blogger Munkee, at 7:02 AM  


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