The Disease, an Interview with an Ordinand, Paranormal News, and Orthodox Extremism

Orthoanalytika show: 20101007


The Disease

I do not know how closely you follow the news, but there is a serious disease that is wreaking havoc throughout the world. It is destroying people, eating at them from the inside. This disease manifests itself in different ways. In fact, it probably has as many different symptoms as there are people on this earth and minutes in the day. Typical symptoms include unfulfilled yearning, loneliness, broken-heartedness, conceit, lethargy, and compulsiveness, just to name just a few. It also exhibits itself through dangerous addictions, both as the disease itself works its way through the host and as the host tries in vain to self-medicate against it.

However, the most common symptom – one that shows up in pretty much every single case – is also one of the deadliest. It is the trait that makes this disease so difficult to cure: this symptom is a growing refusal to get – and follow through on – the proper treatment. You see, the disease affects the brain, leading it towards denial and, barring that, self-medication. This moves the host farther and farther from getting real help at the very same time the sickness is tearing up his insides.

In scientific and evolutionary terms, we would have to say that this disease is very fit. This defense mechanism – the way it convinces the host to avoid real treatment – is a strong survival trait (good for the virus, but not so good for us).

Another thing that makes this disease so deadly is how contagious it is. It spreads through families, workplaces… any place where people communicate with one another. Anyone who comes into contact with an affected person is in serious danger of catching the disease and then spreading it themselves. This disease is so widespread that some doctors have actually claimed that it is genetic… an inheritance that we all share. Others counter this claim (and for good reason!), but as a practical matter, it has so infected this world for so long, that anyone born into any sort of community is sure to catch it.

There are, of course, other viruses that do a number on people and populations, but this is the one that is responsible for destroying more lives than any other.

Because it is so widespread and has been plaguing mankind for so long, there are many schools of thought on how to treat it. Some are pure snake oil and end up enabling the disease to take even deeper root; others encourage people to accept the disease as natural and actually teach people how to exacerbate and gain enjoyment from some of its symptoms! Other treatments are more useful. They teach patients how to identify certain symptoms and give them more or less effective prescriptions to diminish the impact they have on the patients’ lives. Many (if not most) people “self-medicate”, picking and choosing from various remedies; trying to find a mix that alleviates the worst of the pain without causing too many side-effects or too much sacrifice. None of these approaches are able to cure the disease itself, but they can make life bearable in the short to medium term.

Of course this suits the virus quite well; it does not mind having some of its symptoms masked as long as it can take even deeper root inside of its host. As I said before, its ability to convince the mind to avoid real treatment is its strongest survival mechanism.

It is rare to find a carrier who is willing to take the disease serious enough to actually submit to a real treatment. And submission is exactly what it takes – as the procedures and medicines begin to take hold, the virus fights back, often leading the host to reject further treatment or – something that amounts to the same thing – take it only seriously enough to mask the worst symptoms. Commitment is hard, so there are many people who try to find an easier way. They are like those people who receive a full course of antibiotics from their doctor, but stop taking the antibiotics as soon as the symptoms diminish. As anyone who has followed the news knows, this kind of willfulness (and I choose this word “willfulness” intentionally: it is the intentional refusal to submit to the doctor’s authority) ends up creating “supergerms” that are increasingly resistant to simple treatments.

Self-medicating against this disease I am speaking of is one of the things that has allowed it to grow so strong and widespread. As a result, what we have now is something that destroys lives, communities, and civilizations, but all but impossible to cure. Were it not for the intervention of the Great Physician, we would have no hope: it would consume us and our inheritance.

But the Great Physician did come. Out of His mercy and love, He moved among us, teaching us not simply how to live with or control the symptoms of the disease, but how it can be cured. Let me tell you just how dedicated and loving this doctor is: He Himself was not infected, yet He walked among those who were, bringing them comfort and hope. And as the only uninfected one, He offered Himself – His very Body and Blood – up as a cure. And when He had done this, He established a Hospital; a place where people could come and receive the treatment they needed to get well; a place whose physicians had been trained in His methods and were granted to share His cure. Many hospitals are named after their founders or benefactors, but the ties between this hospital and its founder is much stronger: He remains its head, residing in every one of its local branches so much that each branch offers up the full set of treatments, cures, and procedures. This physician is, of course, Christ-God Himself. His hospital is the Holy Christian Church. He has offered Himself up so that we might be cured of the disease that ravages us. There are many doctors and charlatans who claim this ability, but He is the only God-man, the one Great Physician. He is the only one with the knowledge, love, and power great enough to lead us to perfect health.

He offers His special treatment to each of us. He offers to begin this treatment today. Will we submit to His care? Will we accept the fullness of His grace and power within our lives?

We must know this: if we do, then the disease within us will fight back. Its very name describes the way that it resists the cure. “Pride” is the name of the disease I have been describing. It refuses to submit – it tries to convince us that we are in no need of such drastic cures; or, failing this, that we can dabble and “self-medicate”, picking and choosing from the parts of a treatment that is designed to work as a complete, holistic, and integrated whole. If we do this, if we pick and choose, we may receive temporary alleviation of the worst of our symptoms – and this is probably better than seeking no treatment at all – but the only way we can be cured is to adapt our lives to this treatment. The only way to fight Pride is through the humility of submission.

We have to admit that we are in need of a cure, we have to admit that we cannot cure ourselves, and then we have to put ourselves completely into the care, guidance, and protection of the Perfect Physician and of the Hospital which He founded and leads.

Prostrate Yourself before the God who loves you so much that gave His very life so that you might be healed. There is no greater physician, there is no greater love, and there is no other cure.



Religious News

Got Some Free Time on Your Hands? Tell Your Bishop!
He will soon be recommending priests and laymen/women to do committee work for the Episcopal Assembly.

How Should We Deal With Past Atrocities?
In America, we have the wickedness of slavery. We are a better country for having repented of this and addressed its consequences…. even if it comes at the cost of tainting the “saintly” images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and many other of our founding fathers. In Ukraine, slavery was not the issue. In fact, one of the greatest witnesses of the cossacks was the way they provided a home for runaway slaves (serfs). I daresay this openness was in part a consequence of their embrace and defense of Orthodoxy. But, like our Founding Fathers here in America, the cossack witness is not unambiguously positive. And I believe Ukraine would be stronger were her people to recognize and repent for past damages done. Failure to do this, and the continuing uncritical praise of cossack leaders provides a blanket confirmation of their policies and actions. As I said, in Ukraine, the problem was not with slavery, but there was a horrible problem that was, in many ways, even worse: the “ethnocide of Jews under Khmelnytskyi.” A Ukrainian bishop has called for national repentance for this wickedness (along with other similar cases like Katyn, Tallergof, Auschwitz, Chornobyl, Holocaust and Holodomor). That would be a step in the right direction. Calls like this tend to do a good job of separating the proud ethnophilitist goats from the humble God-loving sheep.


Paranormal (Space) News

ET’s Love Hot and Sour Soup (and who doesn’t!?)
From a listener in Woonsocket. Given the structure of their economy, Chinese probably have some pretty advanced secret projects. As we argued last week, many UFO encounters are people seeing the results of such projects. Others are hoaxes and optical illusions. Others are the result of hysteria, self deception, and spiritual delusion. But all it takes is for one to be true… We’ll get back to ET’s and Orthodoxy next week, but in terms of objectively understanding UFO sightings: we KNOW that governments and industry work on secret projects. We KNOW of the mind’s capacity to see what it expects to see. We KNOW that there are entities (people and demons) that are trying to deceive us. And yet with all this KNOWLEDGE, the one many people turn to (and hope for) in order to explain this sort of thing is something we do NOT KNOW: aliens. Worse yet, given this knowledge, people turn to UFO’s as evidence for their theology of alien salvation. Yikes!

Orthodox Theologian Speaks about Life on Other Planets
Moscow, October 1, Interfax – Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy Protodeacon Andrey Kurayev believes that possibility of life on the just opened by American astronauts planet does not contradict to the Christian teaching.

“When people discovered atmosphere on Venus in the 18th century,

Lomonosov assumed there could be people there. If they live there then there are two options: they committed sin as we did or they have not done it,” Father Andrey told an Interfax-Religion correspondent.

Thus he commented on the news that American astronomers discovered a new planet and conditions there are very similar to Earth, which gave them grounds to think that their “finding” may be inhabited.

Fr. Andrey noted that he shares Lomonosov’s opinion “that if aliens are not sinners then they do not need the sacrifice of Christ on Golgotha as they live with God, but if they are sinners that redemptive sacrifice of Christ is given for them as well as for people of Erzya who like Venus inhabitants were unknown to apostles.”

The theologian also pointed out that in apostolic times people “knew nothing” about inhabitants of Australia and America, but “it turned out that there existed entire cultures and no one of Bible people knew about them,” however, “Christianity accepted them easily and we can’t even say that it adapted to these cultures,” on the contrary, “Christianity remained the same even in Australia.”

“If aliens are people with reason, free will and flesh then everything that Christianity says about people, will refer to them,” Fr. Andrey said and noted that he “wouldn’t trust any reports about contacts with reasonable creatures.”

Any religion says that the man is not the only rational form of life in the Universe and the Orthodox teaching also says that “spirits can adopt shapes of physical flesh and contact people,” Fr. Andrey reminded.

He assumes that if in the shape of an alien there comes a spirit “who humiliates Christ, giving him a “kiss of Judas” then it is demon” and his aim is to convince us that “Christ is not God, but just a translator of someone’s “secret knowledge.”

“And no matter where these “teachers” live in Himalayan Shambala or on other planet. Such myths can be different. But they have the same anti-Christian sting,” the Orthodox theologian believes.



What about Religion is Sane? Insane?
Overall, I love the idea of supporting religious moderates (and moderation of most kinds)… but you should expect silliness whenever politics, entertainment, and theology are combined. It’s rich to see how this particular author (and I daresay his view is common) considers the call to sexual chastity to be hateful. Who determines what is healthy (i.e. “sane”?).Jon Stewart? Really?



Interview with Dn. Borislav Kroner about his upcoming (LW) ordination (10/9), Orthodox Literature, and aliens.

NOTE: Fr. Anthony (the interviewer) was WRONG when he suggested (at first) that Vladimir Lossky was a priest. He was a lay theologian. Hey: even the best make mistakes (and Fr. Anthony is about as far from the best as it gets!).



Vol’ya Moment

The Stream between the Extremes:
An Orthodox Opinion (from Fr. Anthony Perkins)


[This talk was given as part of Diversity Week at the University of Rhode Island. Chaplains of different faiths gave talks on this same theme.]


The main point of my remarks today is this: people make a huge and tragic mistake when they see faith – in this case, Orthodox Christianity – as a “religion” rather than a blessed path toward holiness, harmony with creation, and increasing unity with the very wellspring of perfection and love.

Humankind has been seeking this path throughout its history, so we should not be surprised that this path occasionally becomes all but obscured with the accumulated advice of those who have gone before. Like the person who becomes so addicted to the use of the GPS that he never learns the real lay of the land, people mistake following directions for the journey. And as it is what we do along the path – the steps of the journey itself – that draws us onward and upward, this confusion of directions for reality is a tragic mistake.

Before I describe this path – the Stream itself, let me say what it isn’t. In other words, let me briefly describe a couple of the “extremes” found among people who call themselves “Orthodox Christians”.

As I alluded to a moment ago, one of the extremes found within the ancient form of Christianity known as Eastern Orthodoxy is to mistake the institutionalized guidance of the Church – what we call Tradition [summary of the sources of Tradition?]- for the faith itself. We have been collecting this guidance for thousands of years. It includes things like how to fast; orders of prayer and worship; calls to simplicity, chastity, & charity; and the need for immersion within the Sacramental life of the Church. And while the resulting Tradition is incredibly useful and true, there is a very real temptation to think that compliance with this Tradition is the actual goal of the well-lived life rather than what it really is: a description of the path and how it can best be walked. The siren call of fundamentalism is so strong that when the great Russian writer, Lev Tolstoi wrote his own harmonization of the Christian Gospels, he used the word “Orthodox” where most Christian Bibles use the word “Pharisee”.

A Veneer to Justify Something Else
Let me describe another extreme. Whereas fundamentalists misplace their (often very sincere) effort, there are many others who do not try at all. They pick and choose the things that they like from Tradition and never really dedicate themselves to rooting out their selfishness and living a virtuous life. In other words, they call the path they walk “Orthodox”, but it does not lead toward holiness. Theirs is the endless walk from one set of self-absorbed pleasures and addictions toward the next. The veneer of Orthodoxy then comes to justify every sort of nonsense; from consumerism and radical individualism, to xenophobia and pogroms; to totalitarianism and imperialism (just to name a few). Humans have an incredibly strong ability to justify wickedness with sweet-sounding words, and it is a fact of history that these words have sometimes been wrenched out of Orthodox Tradition.

The Orthodox Path (or Stream) Itself
The Orthodox Christian path – or stream – itself is one that leads us from where we are to the very source of peace, love, and harmony. It is the path, the walking of which, first works out the accumulated impurities and sicknesses that have found their way into our hearts; and then moves us towards becoming the persons and community we were born to be. This path has been made straight and possible through the Incarnation of the God-man Christ. As one of our great Saints, Athanasius put it, God became man, so that we might become as god. The Greek term for the path Orthodoxy describes is “
theosis”, an English translation might be “divinization.” And because the Source of Perfection is outside of time, space, and all creation, this path into it never ends… it always leads “onward and upward”, from one joy to the next as we forever grow closer to God in harmony and unity with one another. As the Catholic monastic Fr. Teilhard de Chardin put it; “all things which rise must converge”. It is this convergent rising that all the fasting, prayer, worship, and the very Sacraments themselves (what I have referred to as Tradition) is designed to facilitate. All of these lead us out of a preoccupation with ourselves towards genuine love and service of those around us. By emptying ourselves, the Divine Spirit fills us and brings us peace.


To quote another of our great mystics, St. Seraphim of Sorov, “The goal of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Spirit of God. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ’s sake are merely means for acquiring the Spirit of God.… acquire that peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.”

Those on the extremes do not rise, nor do they acquire peace. As a result, they cannot bring unity and joy. In fact, they actually spread the opposite of what the Tradition they claim to follow really points towards. To paraphrase St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13) such people may speak using the words of holy men and angels, but because they do not do so out of love, it is nothing but the worst kind of noise.

Please do not join the fundamentalists and superficial believers in mistaking the extremes I have described for the stream itself.