UFOs, Jersey Shore, and Freedom

Orthoanalytika show: 20101109



Lesson: Nothing Need Divide Us

Ephesians 2:14-22; St. Luke 16: 19-31

Unity: a source of peace and joy
Both readings reinforce the consistent message of the Gospel: there are no divisions in love. Pride, meanness, apathy, lust, addiction, greed, jealousy… these things pull us apart; and while they are easy and come naturally in this fallen world, there is a greater power that can overcome them and bring us back together. God is the perfect and eternal source of that power. If you submit yourself to that love; if you let its power transform your life, you will never be alone. And the relationships that grow around you will become less a burden to be carried – a cross to be born – and more an opportunity to be surprised by joy. Instead of increasing your stress and uncertainty they will become a source of peace and happiness.

Your life will change
It is true that your life will change if you submit yourself to becoming perfect in unity and love. You will have less time, money, and energy to spend on things that pull you away from serving others. To the extent that you have allowed your habits to be determined by the world around you, the change may be great. If you do not pray for your neighbors and enemies, then you will have to make time for that. Ditto if you are not spending time uniting yourself to the source of perfection through daily adoration, thanks, and supplication. But since you are wasting less time on self-satisfying distractions, there should still be plenty of time for the other things that need to get done. As with someone who finally puts ever dollar to work (and eliminating superfluous spending) through intentional budgeting, when you submit all your actions to love you will finally recognize how much of your lives you have wasted in foolishness.

Yes, your life will change. It will be directed towards something worthwhile; something lasting; something that brings peace and joy to you and the world around you. This is the life of love, made possible through Christ through whom “you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

The Problem
The problem is that we reject that power. We prefer to sustain the divisions that fracture our unity. We prefer the comfort of old animosities, apathies, and habits to the challenge of a new and better life. The psychology of the thing stacks the deck against us: unless we are really trying hard we will get our cues from the people around us. Everyone else is selfish, wastes time on trivialities, and takes love for granted. We are social creatures, so unless we pay attention, the same will come naturally to us. The matrix of the world’s indifference will become our reality.

This is what happened to the Rich Man. He allowed the world to tell him what to do with his time and his money. He allowed it to turn his love inward and thus pervert it. He allowed it to tell him that the suffering of the man at his gate was not his concern. He was comfortable with this way of life. I am sure his family and friends considered him a good person. But he was neither good nor really even a person. How can one be good while being indifferent towards another’s pain? How can one be human while living such a lie?

The Solution
It may seem callous in the parable that Father Abraham does not send agree to send Lazarus to go and warn the rich man’s family. But the point is that they have already been warned. They have already seen the suffering of their neighbor – what more is needed? They have been told again and again what love requires. They were told, and they rejected it. They preferred comfort and the illusion of control to doing what was right. And they, and those like them, will continue to do this even were one to “rise from the dead”. How do we know this to be the case?

Because Christ did rise from the dead. He continues to tell us that we are wasting our time and that we need to earnestly repent of this and dedicate ourselves to serving those around us. But people are so caught up in the matrix of this world that they pay Him no heed. They are so caught up in their own selfishness that they don’t even recognize their opportunities and obligations to do real good.

God has torn down the wall that divides us. We can live together with Him in joy and perfection. In His body we can all be one in purpose and destination. Will we reject this in favor of own divisions, our own purposes, and our own destinations?

No. We will not reject this. We will submit ourselves to His purpose. We will submit ourselves to this new way of life. We will submit ourselves to the demands of virtue. We will work with it to transform our relationships, to transform our families, to change our habits. We will not allow the world to determine what we value; we will not waste our time, money, and energy on foolishness; but devote everything we are, everything we know, and everything we have to the wonderful logic of love.



Mail: We always hear that God is love, but what are we to make with His seeming love of violence in the Old Testament?

There are many explanations for this. Some (such as the demiurge of the gnostics) are wrong. Others are more helpful. Here is the Orthodox explanation that I have found the most helpful. The Truth is one and unchanging. Humanity is not. God speaks to us through the language and events we understand. Even transcendent visions and prophecies must be put into words that the prophet can utter and people hear/read. The pre-Incarnation economy of salvation is a story of the preparation of Israel – and indeed the entire world – to become the bearers of the Word. So we must always be sure to read the Old Testament with Orthodox eyes; it would be a mistake for us to shrink our understanding to the anthropomorphisms of the early Hebrews. This is why people who are interested in reading the Scripture should NOT start with Genesis but with the Gospels.


Local News:

UOC of the USA Sobor; Joint Seminary Session of St. Sophia and Christ our Savior seminaries; start of a new series here on “Orthodoxy and the Paranormal”. I have a lot more news that I want to cover, but it must wait for a future show so as to get fit in the feature you’ve all been waiting for: Orthodoxy and Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life.


Orthodoxy and Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life

Review: The gauntlet was thrown down; “Christianity and the existence of intelligent aliens are incompatible.” In previous shows, we have responded to this bit of nonsense using history, scripture, and theology. Today, I want to share what some specifically big “O” Orthodox theologians have said about this. I will be using C.S. Lewis’ analytical flowchart to guide this presentation.

Orthodox Responses to the Challenge

[Note: it seems that many serious theologians think the whole discussion is a waste of time (e.g. Fr. John Romanides and Ihumen Andrew (Wade). This must be taken seriously. We must be careful not to chase crazy people all over the place, trying to clean up the messes they make. If you chase crazy too long, you look pretty crazy yourself. The Intelligent Design movement smacks of this, IMO].


Having said that, let’s see what happens.


Are there animals anywhere other than earth?

If so, are they rational/spiritual?

  • For Fr. John Romanides, this is the million dollar question; “For the Orthodox discovery of intelligent life on another planet would raise the question of how far advanced these beings are in their love and preparation for divine glory.”
  • Very difficult to determine, especially given the expected differences in their mode of perception, culture, etc. (imagine how different the religion of a race of autistics or blind people would be!)

If so, are they fallen?

  • Not all the angels fell, but all of creation groans in agony.
  • Again, this would be all but impossible to determine. Fr. Dn. Andrey Kurayev admits that this is a theoretical possibility.
  • The literary examples of Malacandra and Perelandria (Lewis) and of Pandora (Cameron)
  • Orthodoxy admits that sin is a choice (not a genetic inheritance); but a fallen creation makes living perfectly hard for its inhabitants. Is the earth quarantined? Or is everything fallen? Orthodoxy tends to see things in cosmic terms.

If so, would they be redeemed by Christ?

  • Yes: the effects of His Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection are universal.
  • Lossky: Not clear and perhaps impossible to know. “It is [not theology’s] business to be concerned over the question of the salvation of the inhabitants of Mars. Revelation remains for theology essentially geocentric, for it is addressed to men and confers upon them the truth as it is relative to their salvation under the conditions which belong to the reality of life on Earth.” (MT, 105)
  • Fr. Dn. Andrey Kurayev (Theologian) provides an unequivocal “YES!”: “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…If aliens are people with reason, free will and flesh then everything that Christianity says about people, will refer to them,”

If not, could they be redeemed by some other method?

  • Probably unnecessary. All creation will be redeemed and perfected in the Great Remaking.
  • But Fr. John Romanides writes this; “Man was created according to the image of God, which means that his destiny is to become like Christ who is the Incarnate Image of God.
  • Thus the possibility of intelligent beings on another planet being images of God as men on earth are supposed to be is not even a valid question from an Orthodox point of view.” This suggests that aliens would be made in God’s image according to their own making.
  • According to him, such distinctions [and improvements within them] do not disappear, even in the age to come; “the categories of change, motion and history belong to the eternal dimensions of salvation-history and are not to be discarded in some kind of eternal bliss.”
  • It seems that Fr. John Romanides might say “that’s not our business”… or at least that it wasn’t important enough to worry about.

The great danger of getting too wrapped up in this question of ETs and salvation is that:

  • We KNOW that there are creatures (human and demonic) that want to deceive us
  • We KNOW that our minds are extremely susceptible to deception (even by itself)
  • There MAY be aliens, but so far alien “communications” have run contrary to the Gospel (e.g. aliens as messiahs) and “encounters” (i.e. abductions) have closely resembled demonic encounters and satanic attacks/rituals.

In this context, aliens may be (or become holy), but Fr. Seraphim’s warning is primary: do not be deceived! Also take Rev. John Wesley’s advice on the topic: “be not so sure.”


Conclusion to this series on the Paranormal

  • Orthodoxy provides a context for understanding everything
  • But Orthodoxy does not itself explain or describe everything
  • Our attitude (wonder/awe, confidence, humility, and love) is at least as important as anything we say



An Interview: Fr. Anthony Ugolnik. Parish priest of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Coatesville, PA; Dr. Elijah E. Kresge Professor of English at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA; and author of, among other things, The Illuminating Icon. He took some time at our recent UOC-USA Sobor to share some thoughts with us.



Vol’ya (Freedom) Moment

Orthodoxy and Citizenship

Big Civic Holiday. No, not Halloween: voting day. Celebration of freedom from political tyranny. For me, its significance has very little to do with policies, but with the opportunity for people to replace their leaders. It is also an opportunity to do something else, perhaps even more important: to grow in unity with perfection and love.

No political advice. Spiritual advice.

Why is this necessary? Cannot segment lives. Everything we do affects our souls and our relationships (examples). Also true for voting. Three points.

  1. Vote as a Christian citizen. Separation of Church and state cannot mean separation of morality from our civic actions!

  2. Voting is another opportunity to express the Christian virtues (Faith, Hope, Love, Wisdom, Justice, Patience, and Chastity) and the Seven Bodily Acts of Mercy (feed hungry; drink to thirsty, clothe naked, shelter the traveler, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead)

  3. Does not necessarily mean voting for the party that promises to use the government to do more: figuring out the one that will actually end up doing the most good in the long term is up to you.

  4. Either way, recognize that you are making compromises: there is no party that perfectly expresses the will of God. Unintended consequences. This means that our support for a candidate or party is going to do harm as well as good (confession!)


  1. No hagiography or demonization of politicians. Christian charity towards enemies includes politicians. Must pray for whoever wins. And must love even those with whom you disagree. This means that you cannot judge them and should be charitable regarding their intentions.

  2. Do not let politics become your religion and government your church. Government is blessed by God, but it is not the mechanism of our salvation. As a citizen, you vote in hopes that the government will pursue policies that will alleviate suffering and bring about greater prosperity. Good policies can make the world a better place to live in; but the Church – not the government – is the only way to make it perfect.