Archive for the ‘American Life’ Category

Heretical Knock Down

April 14, 2010

This news story is almost as good as a Lucha Libre fight, except there’s more credibility in Lucha Libre and the costumes are better.   In what can only pass for bizarro religion in America, the Fort Worth police are trying to figure out who threw the first punch in an altercation between some pushy Jehovah’s Witnesses and a hothead “priest” of the non-canonical, small potatoes Mexican National Catholic Church.   

Stay tuned – next week’s fight card features Mormons-who-want-to-be-called-Christians vs. Radical right-wing Christian militia groups and the women who love them.

Paschal Message of Patriarch Kirill

April 1, 2010

Christ’s Resurrection indeed does allow us to transcend the vanity of everyday life so that we may see the true majesty of God’s love, which for the good of the human person condescended even unto the Cross and death. It is therefore important for us to realize that by his Resurrection the Lord renews human nature by granting fortification of the inner strength of every Christian in his ministry to the Church, country, society, family, and neighbour.

His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, issued his Paschal sermon yesterday, and its message, addressed to the Orthodox faithful in a country thousands of mile away, could have easily been given to Americans living under the same pressures and stresses of modern life.  You only have to read the newspaper or watch the news today and you’ll get an endless display of the vanity of life. 

Spring at last?

March 11, 2010

I am so glad this wet, cold, miserable winter is coming to an end.   South Texas was blessed to finally have a drought busting end to 2 years of the most intense drought in a century, however, it is not possible for us to live on less than 300 days of sunshine a year.  We get awfully cranky and depressed if it’s not sunny and 70 degrees in January.

The photo above was taken last weekend in a country cemetery near Smiley, Texas, on Highway 87.  I was returning from the dedication at All Saints Orthodox Mission in Victoria and even on a cloudy day, the intense color made me do a quick u-turn, and bounce through a cow pasture to get to this beautiful spot.  As I got out of the car a Great Horned Owl flew out of an old tree in the cemetery.  In a few weeks these Drummond Phlox are going to give way to a mass of Bluebonnets and Winecups that are growing up behind them. 

Drummond Phlox or Annual Phlox (Phlox drummondii)

Porn for Bibles

March 4, 2010

Here’s another fine example of the best the angry atheists have to offer.

The Atheist Agenda student group at one of San Antonio’s local institutes of “higher learning”, the University of Texas at San Antonio, is sponsoring a “Porn for Porn” campaign this week.   Their point?  The Bible (or any religious text) is of less value than hard-core porn because it portrays violence, torture and leads to war.  Oh, I get it.  The Bible is bad because the social mores of a small nation of people living 2,000 to 4,000 years ago were so much more misogynistic and violent then the multi-billion dollar modern porn industry which exploits women and children in the most vile and debasing manner, exposing them to infectious disease, rape, violence and humiliation.  That’s progress that is.   I think I’ll stick with the “primitive” revelation of a loving God, who even cares to the point of death for young people like those at UTSA who’d just as soon spit in his face then accept Him.

(One thing that I think is rather insightful is the Express News’ use of the word “stunt” in the title of the news article.”

Orthodox Christian IPhone Apps?

March 2, 2010

Can anyone tell me why there are no IPhone apps for Orthodox Christians?  I just recently got an IPhone, and despite my misgivings about becoming so dependent on more technology, I am hooked.  Why is it I can kill hours playing  sim games or on-line poker (if I wanted), check the weather on Earth (or Mars for that matter), and buy anything that’s legal in 50 states, but I can’t download the Orthodox saints of the day, light a virtual candle at the Holy Sepulchre, or sing along at Liturgy with a downloaded service book?  Isn’t there anyone out there putting together an app for Orthodox Christians?

Fr. Moses Berry

February 2, 2010

Fr. Moses Berry, Orthodox convert, is an inspirational priest and evangelist.  He is the pastor of Theotokos Unexpected Joy Orthodox Church in Ash Grove, Missouri.  This week the New York Times published a very uplifting article   about his work preserving the African-American heritage of his hometown and the museum he founded, the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum.

For several years Fr. Moses has been presenting Orthodoxy in a unique way to a community that is woefully underrepresented in our churches.  It’s important to remember that the historical Orthodox Church wasn’t a “white” church; the Middle East and Mediterranean were filled with Africans, Arabs, Greeks, Persians, peoples of all races and nationalities, who became the first Christians.    Sadly, we’ve lost much of that cultural, and maybe never had, that racial diversity in America’s churches.  Black Americans searching for the religion of their ancestors are more likely to stop at Islam without realizing that the  original faith of their grandparents 15 centuries ago was in many cases Orthodox Christianity.   

Besides full-time priestly responsibilities, lectures, writing and museum duties, Fr. Moses had the energy and drive to found the Brotherhood of Saint Moses, an organization that sponsors an excellent yearly retreat (going on 18 or 19 years now), called the Ancient Christianity Afro-American Conference, focusing on Orthodox evangelism to minorities, African-Americans, in particular.  Ancient Faith Radio has been broadcasting the retreat lectures for a couple of years and they are in the must-listen-to category. 

Also, please see Fr. Moses’ September 2009 video lecture  at St. Tikhon’s Seminary’s Annual Lecture Series, titled “Honoring a Shared Heritage”.   His testimony and conversion story are filled with a power and conviction that I wish I could honestly say I had.  Glory to God and His Holy Church in this country, and praise God for priests like Fr. Moses.   If we had 100 more like him, can you imagine what the Orthodox Church in America would be like?  Unstoppable!

Lost Kids

January 28, 2010

Would you be a little worried if your 18 year old identified herself as a werewolf, ate raw meat, collected skulls and wore a tail out in public?   Would you be freaking out if the kid was also into bondage, wore a dog collar, and hung around with others of her kind in a ‘wolf pack’?  Did I mention the Tourette’s Syndrome, dropping out of school in 9th grade, and the supposed brain damage from a prior auto accident? 

Wolfie Blackheart, not your average San Antonio teenager, is making news this week  with the revelation that she decapitated a dog (road kill or live family pet is the  legal question right now), then cleaned and prepared its skull for display.  No one, especially the owner of the dog, might have known about this if the photos hadn’t been posted on Wolfie’s My Space page.   Dog lovers and animal rights groups are howling mad and want Wolfie’s head on a shelf, and they’re pressuring the San Antonio Police Department to file charges of animal cruelty.

I’m not at all disturbed by Wolfie’s interest in taxidermy in itself, but when it’s just one aspect of her rather bizarre life, it isn’t such an innocent little hobby anymore.  What sets off alarms for me is her involvement in  sexual fetishism, bondage, and extreme self-delusion, compounded with an incomplete formal education.  That seems experimental and edgy when you’re 18 but what are you going to do with your life at 30?

Anyone care to argue that our children aren’t under attack by demonic forces?  Wolfie isn’t the only teenager adrift in our society.  I see plenty of runaways and street kids downtown every day; they were once someone’s baby, now they are alone.  I titled this post “Lost Kids” but I have to believe that anyone is not so far gone that they’re lost forever, not while there’s the hope of Christ.   To a loving God, Wolfie Blackheart and other kids like her are children created in His image and likeness, worthy of respect and love.

Why Cool Should Not Rule

January 13, 2010

I’ve never thought of myself as particularly cool, or if I once was, a 47 year old mother who drives a Volvo and bird watches for a hobby has no hope of ever reclaiming that title.  I still might be considered marginally cool in my choice of music or my laissez faire attitude towards the horticulture of weed, but that’s just ’cause I’m an old hippie at heart.  These days I’m more apt to criticize the vanity and emptiness of trying to achieve ‘coolness’ – the pointlessness of a life lived in search of ‘the next big thing’.   It seems parenthood and mortality are the great equalizers of the hip and young. 

Recently a news piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer has been popping up across Orthodox message boards and news aggregators.  It’s the sad profile of an Eastern European neighborhood called Northern Liberties and its declining churches and synagogues, now gone to the dogs, literally, with its discovery by urban hipsters looking for things with “good bones”, dog parks and a critical mass of other like-minded cultural zombies.  The churches merely add to the neighborhood’s character.  While the more melancholy Inquirer piece gently laid out the shallow hipsters for some reproach, it was author/journalist Thom Nickels who cleanly gutted them with a  follow-up piece in the Philadelphia Weekly Press.  It was brilliant!  His commentary wasn’t merely about the loss of tradition in one gentrified Philadelphia neighborhood, but a profile of pop-culture-as-religion across the nation. 

But may I also say I agree 100% with Mr. Nickels when he rightly points out that the Northern Liberties parishes (or any Orthodox Church in the U.S.) are not without blame for their own decline.  The ethnic social club atmosphere that substitutes for real faith in some parishes has got to go.   Any Orthodox Church that preserves their Liturgy like a museum piece, is hostile to Christ’s call for evangelism, and is unwilling to adapt to the language and culture of America, is doomed and rightfully so.  I’m not talking about changing the Truths of our faith, or pushing novelty and political correctness,  but reaching out to potential converts in English, through new media, and through an active presence in the community.  And this doesn’t mean ethnic food festivals.  It means offering Inquirer’s Classes, Vacation Bible Schools, coffee house lectures on Orthodoxy, icon exhibitions during arts week, National Night Out programs to meet the neighbors, etc…   To be an evangelist is to be generous in sharing your faith.  Hipsters may not immediately come flocking in, but for those few who are looking for something deeper, they’ll recognize the real thing when they see it practiced.   The Orthodox Church doesn’t have to be ‘cool’, but maybe through a sincere desire to follow Christ and live a holy life we can change the definition. 

Orthodox New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2009

 New Year’s Day is almost here; the start of a new calendar year and a time when we all seem to give in to the cultural imperative to renew and remake ourselves.   Are you planning on losing 5 lbs?  Taking up an exercise program?  Stop (a) smoking (b) overeating or (c) overspending?  Why do we devote so much time and effort to reach our life goals, worthwhile as they may be, and fail to put the same effort into our “eternal” life goals?   By all means lose those 5 lbs, but while you’re at it, adopt some spiritual resolutions and give them the effort that our Lord and Savior asks of us – willingly, joyfully and with the assurance that this is what truly renews our lives.

  1. Attend Vespers and/or Divine Liturgy for all major Feasts.
  2. Attend Saturday night Vespers.
  3. Read the appointed scripture readings for each day.
  4. Say your morning and evening prayers faithfully.
  5. Commit to bringing your children to church school every Sunday.
  6. Pray the Hours during the day.
  7. Practice regular tithing.
  8. Pray the Jesus Prayer daily.
  9. Memorize one scripture verse a day.
  10. Phone or send a card to a parishioner you haven’t seen in a while and let them know you miss them and ask how they’re doing.
  11.  Talk to, not at, a young person in your parish.  Befriend them; learn about their interests, their life, their goals.
  12. Make a special intention to pray for the spiritual lives of our young parishioners.
  13. Volunteer for church activities; your time is a gift to God.
  14. Learn the lives of some less well-known saints.
  15. Make a point of greeting every visitor and new comer to your parish – answer their questions, invite them to coffee hour,  make them feel at home.
  16. Say a kind word to everyone you meet.
  17. Commit yourself to arriving at church before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy.
  18. Practice secret and spontaneous acts of charity.
  19. Be an evangelist; bring a friend to church, talk openly about your faith, be a witness to the truth of Orthodoxy.
  20. Pray, pray and pray some more.

The Holy Innocents

December 28, 2009

December 29th marks the date on the Orthodox calendar (New) for the remembrance of the infant boys murdered by King Herod in Bethlehem.  The accounts say there were 14,000, though I doubt there were 14,000 people in the whole town.  Whatever the true number – 140 or 14,000 – the calculated murder of children made such a deep impression on the Gospel writer of Matthew, as well as the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, that it is remembered as a horrific event even two thousand years later.  

If you are  too shocked by this incident and blame it on the Romans’ less advanced culture and obviously flawed morals, remember the one million babies who die in this country each year from abortion.   These aren’t babies murdered at the hands of a political despot, but at the request of their own mothers and accommodated by a greed-driven abortion industry and the rabid ideals of pro-abortion supporters.  Who will write stories about the millions of murdered innocents of the 21st century?