Sunday, 10/11/15

  1. Unity and Schism
  2. Twixt Culture War Sermons and Unspeakability
  3. Where Democracy’s a Pathogen
  4. Christian Celebrity Culture
  5. A parable for our age


Those who stand outside of Orthodoxy and point to the schisms between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, or the schism with the Roman Catholics, fail to understand what they see. Those schisms are real and they are indeed problems. But in each case, those involved have not renounced the reality of the One Church, nor the sacramental life of the One Cup. The schisms are something to be healed and are treated with great seriousness. But there can only be a true restoration of communion and union in the One Church. It is the very nature of that one life is being preserved and proclaimed, even in the face of schism.

If you will, the language and grammar of the One Church is spoken fluently in those ancient groups. Conversations are therefore possible. If, for example, a path of union were found between the Oriental and Orthodox Christians, it would not involve re-teaching the entire nature of what it means to be a Christian and what the character of that life looks like. Both speak the language of union.

It becomes virtually impossible, however, to have such conversations with those who reject the very notion of a visible Church that is One, or with those who have reduced the sacraments to statements of private devotion.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)


I have never, to my memory, heard a priest deliver an anti-gay sermon or preach publicly about homosexuality. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because unlike many of my Evangelical friends I never grew up having to endure homilies based on the culture wars, but it is also bad because I grew up feeling like my personal struggles were so far out of the norm that they were unspeakable. Apart from a few summer camp priests at Antiochian Village, my priest at the Greek parish during my undergrad was my first confessor who knew about my gay orientation and who I felt safe with.

(Gregg Webb, emphasis added) Mr. Webb has four suggestions to begin more constructively ministering to the sexual minorities in our Orthodox midst.


A few years ago, there was a preposterous fad called The Jesus Project. Oh, excuse me: The Jesus Project®.

When the Jesus Project was still in the pre-natal stage, sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism of Amherst (Buffalo) New York, it was clearly presented as a new investigation into Christian origins which would fearlessly encompass the very question of Jesus’ existence …

As it turned out, even before the opening meeting (delayed almost a year beyond the initially scheduled time) the possibility that Jesus’ existence would be questioned by the Project apparently created difficulties, leading to the refusal of some scholars to take part and to a degree of backtracking by those in charge, until it became reduced to little more than another “Quest for the Historical Jesus.”

Accurately or not,The Jesus Project® quest got derided for taking votes on whether Jesus did or didn’t say this or that thing attributed to him. Making history by democratic vote — after the fact.

The press, poor fools, seem to be expecting something like that from the current Roman Catholic Synod:

If you pay careful attention to the way that the secular media – who generally know little and are not very curious about the Church – report on Catholic matters, you will very quickly see that the world regards Catholic teaching as a set of “policies,” not revealed truths given us by God to which we must be faithful. Whether by design or not, the Church has given the impression in its way of conducting to this Synod that the bishops of the world can just decide, after a couple of weeks of discussion in Rome, to permit what amounts, in real-world terms, to Catholic divorce or acceptance of homosexuality.

Robert Royal, whose blog is evocatively title A Synod is Not a Democracy.

“Poor fools,” by the way, is a bit of whistling past the graveyard. There appears to be a cabal that wants pretty much what the press anticipates and Royal says can’t happen.


It took me a while to tune into their insight, but my parents (R.I.P.) were skeptics of Christian celebrity culture.

Back then, it was stuff like Pat Boone being a Christian star, but gosh, don’t you think that latest movie he was in (which we couldn’t watch because celluloid was taboo) was a little edgy (according to reliable reports from our evangelical censors liborum, those lucky dogs)?

Well, Christian celebrity culture lives, even in ecclesial Christianity. Grown men and women in my Twitter feed — people who should know better — are breathless over Kirsten Powers:

Take that, Evangelical Powers Adulators! And how ’bout Francis J. Beckwith, too!

My team has Troy Polamalu, who mercifully has not crashed, burned or swum the Tiber to my knowledge. Forrest Gump, too.

I still don’t like it, especially when it involves putting novices on a pedestal. I remember especially how well Eldridge Cleaver did as a “born-again” trophy.


The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree,‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

I don’t normally favor interpretations of the Bible that make prophecy predictive of the 21st Century, but gosh, who can deny that this has the 2016 election run-up written all over it?

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.