Posts Tagged ‘Rod Dreher’

Metropolitan Philip’s Latest Poke at Orthodox Americans

August 15, 2009


“Every thing that is right or natural pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, ‘tis time to part.”     Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

There is a character and spirit which defines America and Americans, that imbues their souls, whether they are 6th generation or newly arrived.  It is a sense of self-determination, fairness and individuality.  Not content to blindly follow, they value the freedom to criticize and analyze without fear of censure or violence.   In our Orthodox ecclesiastical structures we do give up a certain amount of our independence, but it is a willing and sacrificial obedience to the teachings of Christ and his Holy Church.   In return we expect our hierarchs, chosen in concert with the Holy Spirit, to lead us without self-interest, malice or pride. 

Sadly, it now appears that Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese of America has stooped to extortion and heavy-handed vindictiveness to silence his critics and keep the sheep in line.  

It is absolutely shameful to see a spiritual leader act this way.    Is the Metropolitan willing to harm the Church and its inter-jurisdictional relations by playing tit-for-tat with the lives of poor seminarians who aren’t even involved in this affair?  Is the Metropolitan so afraid that the accusations of Mark Stokoe hit too close to home?   Is Metropolitan Philip willing to continue tarnishing  40 years of leadership with these Old School/Old World tactics?  What he continues to do is act like a petty tyrant lashing out at mosquitoes with a full military assault.  It displays paranoia and overblown pride.  The sheep won’t be quiet much longer.  As I’ve written before, the mood surrounding  the whole mess in the Antiochian leadership has the feeling of revolutionary discontent  to it.   Things will reach a tipping point from which there is no going back.

Metropolitan Philip, learn from the British.  They didn’t fare too much better when faced with American resolve.    (Read Metropolitan Philip’s explanation of the seminarians’ move here and make up your own mind whether this “explanation” sounds reasonable.)

Summer Doldrums

August 6, 2009


Why the light posting the last two weeks?  Well, I guess you’d call it the summer doldrums.  The South Texas, hot-as-hell, bone dry, dead and dying summer doldrums to be exact. 

I’m a firm believer that snow is very clearly mentioned as one of God’s biblical curses; that any Christmas I can’t celebrate in shorts and Birks is too cold; and Seasonal Affective Disorder is plain medical proof that not enough sun is gonna kill ya.  But come on now!   Enough is enough even for me.

If you’ve been ignoring the news lately, you wouldn’t know that since June 1st, San Antonio has busted 40 days of temps 100 degrees or higher with no real measureable rain.  (We’re actually about 28 inches short on rainfall since January 2008)   It’s so hot that when it cools down at night to 90 or 91 (by about 10 pm), I put on my sweat pants.  It’s so hot, my car’s outside thermometer reads 133 degrees in the grocery store parking lot.   And, it’s so hot, I was web-surfing today through the real estate listings in Alaska, fantasizing about relocating somewhere with green grass and other living things.  (Rod Dreher actually got me thinking about Alaska since he’s lecturing at the Eagle River Institute this week and posting really annoying things  about the beautiful weather.   Smarty pants – ya gotta get on that plane sometime Rod and Dallas is juuuust waiting for ya!)

If you’re planning on a little trip to SA this month, be prepared, ’cause August is traditionally our hottest month.   But it’s true that once you hit 102 or 103, temps higher than that just don’t feel too much worse.   Try and tell this to the tourists I see on the river boats cruising down the San Antonio Riverwalk everyday.  They have a grim look that says “why am I spending $250 per day on a hotel room in the ante-chamber of Hell?”   On the other hand, the street preachers are making a powerful impact expounding on the fire and brimstone of Revelations.   The wages of sin never seemed so manifestly real as they do in the Texas Summer of 2009.

Metropolitan Jonah in Dallas

November 19, 2008


Metropolitan Jonah served a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at St. Seraphim’s Orthodox Cathedral last weekend (I guess it was his goodbye to his short-lived tenure in Fort Worth/ Dallas and a chance to pack up stuff he’d just finished unpacking).   Parishioner and journalist Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con has posted two short videos of the service. 

What a service that must have been.  I can only hope and pray that Met. Jonah finds some reason to visit San Antonio.  As I understand, he’s very, very fond of good Mexican food, so I’m sure we could manage to find one or two good restaurants around town. 

Here’s a thought I’ll leave you with after hearing from one priest about his experiences at the All American Council.   This priest has been around long enough to know the way church politics works, and he stressed that Metropolitan Jonah is an excellent choice but he is still a man and we should never place our trust in anyone else but Christ himself.   He is absolutely right of course.   So…I guess once all the high emotions, praise and adulation of the past couple of weeks wear off, we’re all going to have to get back to reality.

(BTW, Rod mentions Metropolitan Jonah’s promise to come back and bless his backyard chickens.   That’s the kind of video that could quickly go viral with Orthodox Christians!)

The People Have Spoken

November 5, 2008


It’s 2 am here, the polls closed hours ago, but I suspect the partying will go on long into the night for many people.  I picture President Elect Barack Obama sitting in a quiet corner while all the frenzy goes on around him.  He’s calm, reflective and has a slight smile on his face, letting this all soak in.  He is pondering the past and takes a deep breath as he realizes the huge and awesome weight of responsibility that has suddenly settled onto his shoulders.  Inside, I hope he’s jumping up and down and shouting “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy”, or at least something a little more emotional than his calm, beneficent demeanor has ever shown.   No matter how you voted, you just can’t help but appreciate what this means personally and historically, both for him and this country.

At every Orthodox Divine Liturgy we ask God to grant mercy and hear our petitions for many earthly concerns, including our government.  In the historically monarchial countries where Orthodoxy was formed, these petitions were for the protection of emperors, kings, and czars.  In America, we ask for the same blessing on our president and all elected officials.

“Again we pray for the President of this country, for all civil authorities…”

In response the people affirm the petition by singing “Lord have mercy”.   Now I’ll be honest – my response to this petition for the last eight years has usually been with the tonal emphasis and rolling of eyes that only one from the South can give to that phrase.  I asked a priest once about what it means to pray this petition for a president that you do not support.   He advised me it doesn’t mean you have to sincerely like the person in office or believe in their policies,  but you do have to pray that he or she will make wise decisions.  So for the past eight years it’s been very easy to pray for our president to make good choices in the same way I ask my kids to eat healthy and play nice.  (‘Dubya’ doesn’t seem to listen any better than my 6 year old though.)  I will certainly not be agreeing with President Obama on everything he does, in particular abortion and other socially conservative life issues, but I can say wholeheartedly that if ever a president needed our prayers Obama will have mine.   

At this point I feel I can disclose how I voted, and why my support of Barack Obama has been so divided.  This year has tested everything I thought I believed in about politics and my political positions.   For one, I have found myself acknowledging that I am more of a Crunchy Con than I thought.  But, I have never supported W and his cronies (is detest too strong a word?).  I believe in the depth of my soul the Iraq War is wrong and I believe Bush will leave office in 2 months still retaining the blind arrogance and self-delusion that he has been right about everything.  And yet, I have had reservations about Obama’s experience and age (at least I did until McCain the Bush Clone chose Sarah Palin).  I have no doubts now after seeing his obvious talent for rallying support and inspiring people to believe in something.   But rather my biggest remaining stumbling block has been his position on abortion and life issues.    So as I stood in that electronic voting booth on Halloween, I just didn’t know what to do.  I filled in all my choices but left the presidential box unchecked.  That red light kept flashing, ‘Vote, Vote, Vote…’  and all the months of indecision came down to one push of the button – vote conscience or vote politics.   I said a prayer and quickly pressed the button before I could change my mind, and just like that I had not cast a vote for either candidate. 

A wasted vote some would say.  But this time I felt I had to follow my conscience on the issue of abortion.  Did I have such an ethical urge four years or eight years ago?  No.  I’d like to think it’s because I have become more conscientious as a voter and as an Orthodox Christian.  Was it fear of the unknown and closet bigotry?   I pray to God it wasn’t.  But passing on the vote wasn’t something I’d considered before I read Rod Dreher’s views on the subject and realized it is an option, not a cop out.   There’s no political analyst out there who’s suddenly panicked because TinaG in Texas chose not to choose.  But God knows.   I just wonder if my principals would have been so cherished in a tightly contested race.  In Texas my choice to not vote had less consequence than in some battleground states, so thank you Lord for not testing me that much!

Let us all pray that the next four years will be a blessing on this country.  Let us pray for our new President and the many difficult decisions and burdens that come with this office.  Let us pray for peace and security and the safe return home of our troops.  And let us pray that our new President’s heart and mind will be enlightened towards the unborn and the evilness of abortion.   Lord have mercy.

The Peak Oil Church

October 1, 2008

I had never heard of Peak Oil Theory until I started reading Rod Dreher’s blog at Crunchy Con .   He’s a tree-hugging, granola conservative that has started to make this pro-life, green Democrat think I might be more Crunchy than I want to admit.   Mr. Dreher has a few pet interests that he very persuasively puts forward, peak oil among them.  Peak oil theory has been around since the 50’s and envisions a scenario where the production of oil has maxed out the bell curve of consumption – and we’re now on the slip-n-slide ride to hell.   Falling oil production + economic instability + rising consumption = world economic collapse.  Cheerful.

I was 11 at the start of  the Arab Oil Embargo in ’73 and clearly remember the national hysteria, long gas lines and solemn vows to end our dependence on foreign oil and switch to alternative energy sources.  Well, that lasted, oh, about as long the popularity of crocheted maxi-skirts and mood rings.  

This time seems different though.  Maybe it’s because I’m older, have children of my own, and think their future seems, at best, incredibly complex; at worst, hopelessly screwed.  And, I cannot get over the feeling that I’m living through a time that is a turning point in history.    The words “meltdown”, “total economic collapse”, “depression” sound apocalyptic to my ears.  It could easily become overwhelming to live day-to-day with the knowledge that our lives are on the brink – the brink of what?  These unknown changes will effect every corner of our lives, even the practice of our religion.  Add the current bailout crisis to this mix and you’d either have to be an incredibly perky optimist or a heavy drinker.

Picture the scenario of $300 or even $500/barrel oil.   (Impossible you say?  Read what Matt Simmons has to say about this at Fortune Magazine).   I’m still naive enough to think that Americans are so addicted to their cars they’ll find some cheap, clean energy substitute.  That isn’t going to happen overnight though.  Those of us living today are going to be the generation that played cards and sipped champagne while the Titanic sank.  We’re still trying to live our normal suburban lives, but I think we’ll be feeling the icey water of reality soon enough. 

What will be the picture of the Peak Oil church, specifically, smaller, more spread out churches that  draw their congregants from a geographic area requiring commutes of 10, 15 or even 20 miles?  In our parish, I would estimate the average commute is more than 8 miles, with many folks coming from distances close to 20 miles.  We even have one parishioner that drives from near Houston, Texas. That’s 175 miles each week! You don’t think $8 per gallon gas is going to change her church-going habits?

This is the reality that clergy, parish councils and national church organizations must reckon with even now.  I am a member of a parish  council and we’ve already heard the quandary of our parishioners who want to be in church for mid-week feast day services or special events, but just can’t afford the gas.   We’re located in an area of town that is not accesible by reasonable bus routes or anything requiring less than two transfers.   This is a commuter church, and I suspect many churches are in the same boat.  The days of the local, neighborhood church serving the needs of residents within walking distance disappeared years ago.  The suburbanization that killed the local church is now going to affect the commuter church in the same way.

Will this change the attendance and tithing levels at our churches?  Absolutely.  Will our children attend youth events regularly?  Not likely.   Will there be weekday bible study classes for stay-at-home moms and seniors?  Fat chance.  What about Sunday?   Sunday may become the only viable service and folks will make the sacrifice to attend that one weekly service.  But for Orthodox Christians and other faiths oriented around a sacred, year round cycle of services, one Sunday, however important, isn’t enough.   Orthodox Christian worship doesn’t even begin on Sunday.  It begins the night before with Vespers and confession.  What does it mean to our faith when economics dictate our participation in the life of the Church?  God help us if we ever get to the point of “attending” online worship services.  There goes the entire meaning of what it means to worship as a sacramental community.  Christ did not say “where two or three are virtually gathered in my name”.  

So what is the solution to the Peak Oil Church?  I’m sorry if read this far with the idea that I was smart enough to actually have an answer.  I think at this point we can speculate but the vision of the future cannot be completely understood while the pieces are still in play.   We know change is coming and it will probably be even worse than we can expect.   The only certainty I have is that the Church will survive.  The Gospel of Christ is unchanging, and that is a comfort when so little else seems to offer  hope.