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Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Message of Hope

Christianity is a religion centered on hope.  Too often, it is presented as condemnation and legalism, which is a total misunderstanding of the Faith.

Part of that reason is that we clergy get frustrated with people is that they want 'hope' (i.e. they want to feel good) but don't want to live according to it, nor are they particularly interested in understanding why their actions really are not lining up with the hope of Christ.  So, our explanations and teaching get shorter and shorter, until they become something like, "Because I said so!"

Then Christianity just becomes a assorted assembly of 'no' with a sprinkle of exacerbation and ridicule.  Very counter-productive, and very unchristian.

The truth is that the way is narrow, and most people are not even interested in Christianity as it is, even when they come to church and partake of Communion.  But, that does not mean that the faith is an utter waste for them, because without it who knows what they'd be doing.  It would be a lot worse.

We must admit that even when Christianity isn't closely practiced, it still has an overall positive effect.  Even our enemies recognize that Christian adherence to forgiveness and morality is important for world order.  But, most importantly, its steadfast commitment to God even in the face of total opposition challenges the cowardice of immorality.

Yes, immorality is a form of cowardice.  It is about abandoning morality because it is 'too hard.'  To be honest, morality is too hard.  That's why we need God to begin with, knuckleheads.  God makes morality possible, because morality is defined by Him and it is after His Likeness.  If you take Him out of the equation, you just have human whim.  That's where immorality comes from.

The breakdown of immorality and the destruction of society is what man begets of his best thinking independent of Christian principles.  Just think of the Middle East or the insanity of Africa and you get the picture.  You may say, "What about China?"  Let's not forget that China's communism is based on Marx's rip-off of Christianity.  Ideas like human rights and equality spring from Christianity, not Marx.  That's why he attacked the Church.

AA has done the same thing for American culture in respect to drinking.  Again, a large number of participants don't work a particularly rigorous program, and a majority of people who attend a meeting are drunk five years later.  But, public drinking and alcoholism are way down in America.

Think about it: how many offices have wet-bars in them anymore?  Drinking during work hours is not only on the decline, it is almost non-existent.

Yet, we are also seeing an explosion in the number of addictions.

That's because both the Church and 12 Step programs are getting their messages crowded out by commercialism and flawed messengers.  In America, the crazy pastor has come to define the Church with his antics and heretical teachings (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Robert Schuler, Fred Phelps, Benny Hinn, and all the other clowns have debased the Gospel image in America through their rebellion against the Apostolic teachings).  AA has been squeezed into the corner by whack-job, for-profit therapy centers that so bungle the straight-forward message of AA that we have hundreds of thousands of addicts who actually believe AA teaches that a door-knob can be your God!

When we screw up the message, we deprive people of their hope.  The hope is that the Loving Creator of the world cares for each of us and is willing to transform us if we are willing to let go of our junk.  Yes, that's hard when you've grown attached to your trash, and we often think that people will become more willing if we let them 'negotiate,' but negotiating with reality means accepting percentages of falsehood.

That's where we lose the hope of the message, because the message needs to be truth in order for it to matter.  Truth mingled with lies is not enough to give us hope, because they we are never sure when we are in reality and when we are in falsehood.

Hope has to be true in order for it to matter, because guesses and dreams are just that: they are the inventions of man rather than the reality of the universe.

So long as we have God, we have hope.  But, we have to let go and accept Him as He is.  We have to let go of the trash and cling to the truth, because He is the Truth.


  1. It seems that the Council of Carthage (5th Century) contradicts a good deal of what you have just said:

    My reaction to this teaching is the same as my reaction to Calvinism: "Your God is my devil!" If a baby's first motion, even inside the mother's womb, is deterministically sinful, then Calvin was right. God is a ghoul.

    I thought better of Orthodoxy than this. Perhaps I am wrong?

    1. Hello Michael,

      I think the article is badly written, but aside from that I think he is misusing St. Maximos to prove a point that the canons do not make: nowhere in the Tradition of the Church is man seen as being made evil. Rather, man has the problem of inheriting a humanity that is dying and in need of regeneration even at infancy, but man is not wholly sinful. We are subject to corruption, but that does not make us utterly corrupt.

    2. Thanks for the reply. I note that the author is a former protestant, so I expect that he has yet to shake off that "old man" mindset.

      In general, I think that anyone who comes into the Church as an adult, should be Orthodox for a minimum of 10 years before presuming or daring to write any public commentary on theological matters. The fact that he got a theological degree from a heterodox seminary only makes his own road more difficult. not less so.