June 2009

Last night, I ran across this piece of insight from Serge, a western rite Orthodox guy.

Stay away from online Orthodoxy, from Orthodox message boards to ‘Barsanuphius Jones’ convert-testimony rah-rah blogs where ‘Are you saved?’ becomes ‘Are you Orthodox?’ (Blah blah, an icon, blah blah, church-father quotation, blah blah, ecumenists, blah blah, graceless heretics, blah blah, see how un-Roman I am, blah blah, I’m fasting. In this game ‘ecumenists’ are Orthodox they don’t think are good enough and ‘graceless heretics’ other Christians.) […] Also, as Charley has said, a lot of these people are ‘serial Cyprianists’ converting from one true church to stricter one true church until they go completely barking and/or burn out and lose their faith. In nearly 15 years online I’ve been attacked by several such; they seem to change parishes and denominations as often as I buy shoes whilst I’ve stayed put.

Ironically, I found this through a message board, but he has a point. For some reason, the internet seems to attract attack dogs for whatever tradition you’re looking for, whether they be Catholic, Southern Baptist or Pentecostal. Theoblogs can, for some reason, be quite nasty.

Watch, with minor editing I can take Serge’s characterization of Orthodox rah-rah blogs and make it about someone else:

Stay away from online Calvinism, from Reformed message boards to convert-testimony rah-rah blogs where ‘Are you saved?’ becomes ‘Are you Reformed?’ (Blah blah, John Piper, blah blah, Spurgeon quotation, blah blah, Federal Visionists, blah blah, semi-Pelagian Arminians, blah blah, see how un-Roman I am, blah blah, I only sing Psalms.)

Wait, wait, here’s another one:

Stay away from online Catholicism, from Catholic message boards to convert-testimony rah-rah blogs where ‘Are you saved?’ becomes ‘Are you Catholic?’ (Blah blah, Mary, blah blah, Peter Kreeft quotation, blah blah, Protestants, blah blah, Novus Ordo, blah blah, see how super-Roman I am, blah blah, I attend an SSPX chapel.)

Ok, only one more:

Stay away from online Emergent-ism, from Emergent message boards to disenfranchised Evangelical-testimony rah-rah blogs where ‘Are you saved?’ becomes ‘Are you Conversant?’ (Blah blah, narrative theology, blah blah, church-father quotation taken out of context, blah blah, people who hold to traditional moral theology, blah blah, Republicans, blah blah, see how un-Roman, Protestant, Evangelical or Orthodox I am, blah blah, I voted Obama.)

Enough of this. I’m going to bed.


By some strange alignment of the stars, the music of my father’s youth was also the music of my own youth, and when I saw Ken Mansfield’s book Between Wyomings, I thought it might have some resonance with me — after all, he worked with the likes of the Beatles, Waylon Jennings and James Taylor, and he partied with members of Buffalo Springfield and Willie Nelson.

The book follows Mansfield on a literal and metaphorical journey across the country and through his memories of show business. It chronicles his spiritual highs, lows and eventual conversion to Christianity, and — unlike many Christian memoirs — doesn’t get preachy about his life pre-conversion. (He is fairly critical of his time as a New Ager, but most of his commentary about his pre-Christian life can be summed up in his statement at the end of the chapter about novelty-album screecher Mrs. Miller: “When I get to heaven, I will apologize.”) By the end of the book, Mansfield — who is 10 years into incurable cancer — deals with some personal baggage, but — even though he is a decent enough writer — the reader never really feels a connection with him. 

The book has its interesting moments, but it has some serious flaws. It (annoyingly) jumps from present-tense-first-person to past-tense depending on the narrative, and the passages on spirituality can for at times be church sign cheesy. Perhaps the biggest problem with the book is that, while it deals with memorable characters, it is not memorable itself.

(Thomas Nelson Publishers provided a review copy of this book.)

“Prayer is an activity becoming to the dignity of the mind, or rather, is its real use.”
St. Nilus of Mount Sinai



Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit – through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of Man, glory to Thee! 

Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; and when He divided the tongues of fire, He called all men into unity; and (because of this) with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit.

American Family Radio has been airing an ad recently pimping their DVD special “Speechless: Silencing the Christians.” (There’s also a book that accompanies the DVD.) I’m not 100 percent certain, but I think the content is about how government officials and political activists are stopping Christians from speaking out about gays and other boogey men.

Normally, I wouldn’t bother gracing such an ad with an eye roll, but something about this particular one has gotten under my skin lately. Approximately three-quarters through the ad, the spokesperson says, “At 22 minutes in length, each episode is perfect for your Sunday School, mid-week service or small group discussion.” (I paraphrase, but Sunday School is explicitly mentioned.)

Here’s my problem: the aim of Sunday School in most evangelical circles is, ostensibly, discipleship. The same goes for mid-week service. I’ll grant a little leeway for discussion groups, but my point is that participation in the culture war is being implicitly sold as discipleship.

And that’s a problem. Someone can take a strong stand against gay marriage, abortion, sex education, evolution being taught in schools, violent video games, Hillary Clinton’s 2012 presidential campaign, ad nauseum, and still not know a lick about what it means in real world terms to be a follower of Christ.

I am sure that the examples of nasty government and corporate action against Christians that the American Family Association dug up are truly appalling. But I am also sure they are not, in any real sense, persecution. If they are persecution, well, Christ promised us just that (though he didn’t spend nearly as much time talking about homosexuality as these folks).

I actually believe real anti-Christian legislation and culture is coming, but this kind of crying wolf doesn’t help it, and I suspect the whining might even make it worse and bring it a little more quickly. I’m tired of the harping about anti-Christian bias in science textbooks every time someone’s child comes home with a book from the public school library that says dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago. I’m not saying we should sit back and take it, but American Christians need to pick their fights wisely and rely more on truth and love and less on hysteria and propaganda. It’s no wonder the Homeland Security office wrote a memo about the possibility of right-wing terrorists who would be focused on single issues like gay marriage — when you talk about a war long enough, though they might laugh about it at first, the perceived enemy just might take you up on it.

But the trick is, the real enemy knows that the best way to distract someone is to take a little truth, twist it a tad, and then let them run with it. (In this case, crusading for what a person thinks is righteous rather than pursuing righteousness.)

My other thought is this: would the martyrs and catacomb Christians look at what is going on now and think, “Man, they’ve got it rough?”