Lord’s Day – Orthodox Vignettes – 11/25/12

    1. Good without God?
    2. Bad religion?
    3. It’s here. It’s dear. Get used to it.
    4. Prayer for a Bishop.


It was a busy week of work for me, while Father Stephen Freeman was having a busy week of blogging I couldn’t keep up with.

First, he opines on the question “Is it possible to be moral without believing in God? I would venture to say that moral is pretty much all there is without God.”

I was intrigued last night by a small news story in which a study at Yale’s “Baby Lab,” demonstrated that even young infants have some sense of right and wrong. I do not find this in the least surprising though some might conclude (yet again) that we have a “God gene” and are biologically wired to be religious.

I am convinced that we are indeed “wired” to be religious, both by nature and nurture. I am also convinced that such religion has nothing to do with God.

To say what I’ve said above is troubling for some. How can a priest be opposed to morality? Why would a priest say religion has nothing to do with God. Is he using the words and giving them special meanings?

I am indeed giving very specific meanings to the words “morality” and “religion” – though offering these re-definitions is not my private idea. It has become something of a commonplace in contemporary Orthodox writing ….

If that does not whet your appetite, then you’ll presumably not want to read the rest of “Godless Morality” here.


It certainly whetted the appetites of some who were disturbed by Father Stephen’s use of the term the extremely equivocal and even controversial term “religion.” So he revisited the topic.

He first quotes the late Richard John Neuhaus, a friend and admirer of Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

Throughout Fr. Alexander’s books, and especially the journals, is a running polemic against religion, as distinct from authentic Christianity centered in the revelation of God in Christ. The unspeakably tragic error, he insisted, was to think that Christianity is a subcategory of “religion,” when in fact Christ explodes from within history all human constructions of reality, religious or otherwise, thus illumining with the divine the world of which we are part … He clearly had no use for the proponents of “religionless Christianity” who had their fifteen minutes in the 1960s, but he just as clearly wanted to distance Christ and Christianity from what he viewed as the stifling habits and thought forms of “religion.” Even “piety” is regularly dismissed as a distortion ….

Then Father Stephen jumps in:

Those who take time to read Fr. Alexander [Schmemann]’s journals discover the heart of a true priest, one who longed always for the reality of Christ’s Kingdom, and was sometimes privately dismayed by how quickly others settled for something less. He was particularly impatient (within himself) with those who substituted the trappings of religion for the true pursuit of God. Throughout his years as a priest he served as a professor and later a seminary dean. He was responsible for training priests. He communicated the fire of his heart and much of his vision to those around him. Most of the Church has been unworthy of the vision that was shared and settles too often for the comforts of the religion of which he warned. But this is to say that we become spiritually lazy, content with so much less than the Kingdom and with the spiritual poverty of our half-measures.

There’s a bit more here that I haven’t quoted.


Gary Summers was smitten by Orthodoxy when he went to Russia to adopt a child. Years later, back stateside and still haunted, he was surprised to learn there was an Orthodox Church near him. He’s now part of it.

I wasn’t smitten with Orthodoxy (apart from Russian liturgical music). I thought that Peter Gilliquist and company, who I’d heard had kind of wandered their way into Orthodoxy, were enthusiastic dilettanti airheads. I wasn’t unhappy in my Church.

But I, too,  was surprised to learn there was an Orthodox Church in my town, so I set out to be a good Protestant Elder by figuring out how Orthodox wrongness was different than Catholic wrongness so I could dissuade any of my co-religionists who might have a little dilettanti in them, too. Now I’m Orthodox.

There’s an Orthodox Church in Lafayette – not remote, but a bit off the beaten path: 1418 S. 24th, near the intersection of State and Earl and down the street south from the closed Osco on Main at Kossuth. If that surprises and intrigues you, pay us a visit today at 9:30.

If it surprises and alarms you (we’re stealing your children, you know 😉 ), pay us a visit so you can try to figure out why we’re wrong. But do yourself a favor: learn what we believe firsthand. There’s not a lot of secondary information about us, and maybe half of it is reckless or deliberate lies.


My diocese gets a new Bishop Tuesday, 20 months after the repose of Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko, who tonsured me a Reader (whence “Reader John,” John the Merciful being my patron saint).

If our diocese has a de facto poet laureate, it would be Fr. Jonathan Tobias, like me a convert, who offers up a prayer for Bishop-to-Be Gregory Tatsis.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.