Author Topic: Western Christianity and Suffering  (Read 418 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline DennyB

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 241
  • Moving Toward Orthodoxy
Western Christianity and Suffering
« on: September 17, 2016, 06:20:08 AM »
I haven't seen this topic so I thought I would make some observations. It seems that the idea of suffering has virtually left the minds of most Western Christians,particularly in the United States, oh we know of suffering when dealing with physical sickness and death, but what of suffering when it comes to both hunger and persecution at the hands of our enemies? In the age of health, wealth and prosperity particularly that which is encouraged and preached from pulpits all across the "fruited plains", persecution and suffering are very far from most people's minds! This is not a very good place to be, and I don't think we are prepared for what WILL happen eventually.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2016, 06:20:47 AM by DennyB »

Offline Alpo

  • Dirty Finn
  • Merarches
  • ***********
  • Posts: 8,600
  • Jurisdiction: But my heart belongs to Finland
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2016, 06:42:22 AM »
It seems that the idea of suffering has virtually left the minds of most Western Christians

Santa Muerte finds your lack of faith disturbing.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 19:34

Offline mike

  • Pink Mafia
  • Protostrator
  • ***************
  • Posts: 24,238
  • Pray for Christians in Radom!
  • Faith: Christian
  • Jurisdiction: Diocese of Białystok and Gdańsk
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2016, 06:42:55 AM »
Who is persecuting you?
Hyperdox Herman, Eastern Orthodox Christian News - fb, Eastern Orthodox Christian News - tt

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who can watch the watchmen?
"No one is paying attention to your post reports"

Offline Ainnir

  • Elder
  • *****
  • Posts: 444
  • Faith: Christian
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2016, 07:11:20 AM »
I agree with you, Denny.  Suffering well is something I've looked for in a tradition.  Few have this as one of their aims.  Though there are traces of this in American Protestant Christianity; the idea is there, floating around (songs like "Sometimes He Calms the Storm" & "Held," and it has come up in my conversations occasionally).  There's just no framework for growing in this regard--no teaching or guidance.  Not that I've found, anyway.  And quite the opposite in some cases.  I have a friend who is hooked on Joseph Prince, if that is a familiar name.

Mike, no one, yet.  But it is fairly inevitable in the rise and fall of history.  What I believe Denny refers to, and I see as a future eventuality, is not cultural or political shifting but actual religious oppression, as has happened many times throughout world history.  I don't see why America would be forever immune to that.  The point is that our current mindset regarding suffering is not at all going to prepare us for that future eventuality, and indeed makes day to day life rather awkward.

« Last Edit: September 17, 2016, 07:21:30 AM by Ainnir »

Offline DennyB

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 241
  • Moving Toward Orthodoxy
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2016, 10:01:47 AM »
I agree with you, Denny.  Suffering well is something I've looked for in a tradition.  Few have this as one of their aims.  Though there are traces of this in American Protestant Christianity; the idea is there, floating around (songs like "Sometimes He Calms the Storm" & "Held," and it has come up in my conversations occasionally).  There's just no framework for growing in this regard--no teaching or guidance.  Not that I've found, anyway.  And quite the opposite in some cases.  I have a friend who is hooked on Joseph Prince, if that is a familiar name.

Mike, no one, yet.  But it is fairly inevitable in the rise and fall of history.  What I believe Denny refers to, and I see as a future eventuality, is not cultural or political shifting but actual religious oppression, as has happened many times throughout world history.  I don't see why America would be forever immune to that.  The point is that our current mindset regarding suffering is not at all going to prepare us for that future eventuality, and indeed makes day to day life rather awkward.

Some very good points! I see now that the progressive mindset and agenda, has influenced
This way of thinking for many years, the danger of this kind of thinking which basically says
That as knowledge accumulates, ever succeeding generation is wiser, than the previous, this
Of course started very early, beginning with the enlightenment, and ultimately comes to fruition
In some kind of Utopia! But it seems it's the exact opposite! Yes we are a technologically advanced
Society And are able to live very comfortable, but at what cost? Meaning socially and morally!

BTW, I'm very familiar with Joseph Prince.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2016, 10:02:37 AM by DennyB »

Offline Porter ODoran

  • Avid apokatastisist
  • Taxiarches
  • **********
  • Posts: 7,045
  • Faith: Eastern Orthodox
  • Jurisdiction: GOAA
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2016, 01:17:29 PM »
Great post, Denny.

The underlying drive of modern Westernism is to wipe out anything related to traditional understandings of Man and God. Mortality and suffering are such important parts of Man's relationship to God that it's no wonder they have become taboo.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Daedelus1138

  • High Elder
  • ******
  • Posts: 926
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2016, 03:10:44 PM »
Great post, Denny.

The underlying drive of modern Westernism is to wipe out anything related to traditional understandings of Man and God. Mortality and suffering are such important parts of Man's relationship to God that it's no wonder they have become taboo.

As Bonhoeffer said, is the point to perpetually bandage the victims crushed by the wheel, or at some point, to throw a stick into the wheel and stop the wheel crushing the victims?    The tendency of  Christians to use their tradition to praise the sacrifice and suffering of the other is problematic.  As Mother Maria said, the cross of our neighbor must be a sword that pierces our heart.

This is not a world that has any tolerance left for pious platitudes... and for good reason.  Pious platitudes went up in smoke in the crematoria of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the numerous other death camps.  It is a world that desperately needs action on behalf or our neighbor.  And the way to serve our neighbor is to let them teach us how to serve them. 
« Last Edit: September 18, 2016, 03:11:44 PM by Daedelus1138 »

Offline RichC

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 51
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2016, 10:31:45 PM »
Daedelus1138 your response did strike a chord.  I have found, by and large, Western Christians, at best conflicted about taking action, and at worst, displaying cowardice.  When I raise the issue with Christian friends and acquaintances I get a veritable cornmeal mush of a response.

Offline Daedelus1138

  • High Elder
  • ******
  • Posts: 926
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2016, 11:01:23 PM »
Daedelus1138 your response did strike a chord.  I have found, by and large, Western Christians, at best conflicted about taking action, and at worst, displaying cowardice.  When I raise the issue with Christian friends and acquaintances I get a veritable cornmeal mush of a response.

I did not mean to bash western Christians necessarily.  I was critiquing the bolded comment, that western Christians lack a "traditional understanding" of Man and God.   My point is that for many intellectually inclined western Christians, modernity poses challenges to uncritical acceptance of some "traditional understandings" (note the plural).

Among western Christians you are going to find a variety of attitudes on the question of social consciousness.  Of course Catholics and the Protestant mainline are well known for social consciousness... even though the Protestant mainline is a marginal voice in our own culture (the US).

Offline Porter ODoran

  • Avid apokatastisist
  • Taxiarches
  • **********
  • Posts: 7,045
  • Faith: Eastern Orthodox
  • Jurisdiction: GOAA
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2016, 11:21:36 PM »
Great post, Denny.

The underlying drive of modern Westernism is to wipe out anything related to traditional understandings of Man and God. Mortality and suffering are such important parts of Man's relationship to God that it's no wonder they have become taboo.

As Bonhoeffer said, is the point to perpetually bandage the victims crushed by the wheel, or at some point, to throw a stick into the wheel and stop the wheel crushing the victims?    The tendency of  Christians to use their tradition to praise the sacrifice and suffering of the other is problematic.  As Mother Maria said, the cross of our neighbor must be a sword that pierces our heart.

This is not a world that has any tolerance left for pious platitudes... and for good reason.  Pious platitudes went up in smoke in the crematoria of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the numerous other death camps.  It is a world that desperately needs action on behalf or our neighbor.  And the way to serve our neighbor is to let them teach us how to serve them.

Pious platitudes and traditional Christian understanding are not at all the same thing.

I think your "bandage the wound" allegory is ironic in this context: Isn't it the modern world that constantly wounds Man by its very system; and isn't it the modern ethos to always be offering merely to bandage the wound, that is, to offer a little bread, a little in the way of circuses, but never on any account to dismantle its system?

And, no, the Nazis did not fundamentally change Man, God, or Man and God's relationship. They did show what a bad road Man is now on, however. High time to return to the true insights of traditional Christianity.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2016, 11:22:28 PM by Porter ODoran »
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Minnesotan

  • Archon
  • ********
  • Posts: 3,316
  • Milo Thatch is the ONLY Milo for me. #FreeAtlantis
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2016, 01:16:57 AM »
The problem doesn't seem to be "the modern world", but rather specifically the American world, specifically the oddity of American politics where those who empathize most with the poor and support compassionate economic policies tend not to be as favorably disposed toward Christianity, whereas the most politically active Christians tend to be supporters of laissez-faire, I-got-mine-too-bad-for-you policies and attitudes. There is a similar irony on foreign policy (what with the religious right historically supporting scorched-earth warmongering), and other moral blind spots on historical issues such as slavery and segregation. Neither camp is really consistent in their beliefs and that seems to be the root of the problem.

This is less true in Canada (where Red Toryism is an option, albeit recently losing ground there to more American-style conservatism), and Europe (where Christian Democracy, which is somewhat similar, has a strong presence, albeit one now threatened by the rise of populist demagogues).

There may be a glimmer of hope in the US represented by things like this. There seems to be a major realignment going on in both the US and Europe right now. Partly this is because of the Internet; there is less top-down control of ideas now, which means people now have more options and don't just have to take what the old-school media or their political party spoon-feeds them. This is a double-edged sword, though (since it also allows conspiracy theories, bigotry, and harmful ideologies to propagate more easily too. Thus the same free flow of information that may give Red Toryism a fighting chance here will also do the same for alt-right and flat-eartherism).

It would certainly be ironic if Europe and Canada up becoming more like the America of yesteryear (and not in a good way), while the USA suddenly discovers Red Toryism or CD and leaves its previous "exceptionalism" behind to become more like Canada, Latin American countries and Europe.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2016, 01:22:27 AM by Minnesotan »
I'm not going to be posting as much on OC.Net as before. I might stop in once in a while though. But I've come to realize that real life is more important.

Offline Porter ODoran

  • Avid apokatastisist
  • Taxiarches
  • **********
  • Posts: 7,045
  • Faith: Eastern Orthodox
  • Jurisdiction: GOAA
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2016, 01:34:53 AM »
America is a historically heretical country and might not make a good model for studying Christianity and the world.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Daedelus1138

  • High Elder
  • ******
  • Posts: 926
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2016, 12:44:24 AM »
The problem doesn't seem to be "the modern world", but rather specifically the American world, specifically the oddity of American politics where those who empathize most with the poor and support compassionate economic policies tend not to be as favorably disposed toward Christianity, whereas the most politically active Christians tend to be supporters of laissez-faire, I-got-mine-too-bad-for-you policies and attitudes. 

The result of Calvinism.  In the US, an especially radical and individualistic sort of Calvinism.   The fear of the moral hazard of charity is more of an Anglo-Saxon and especially American thing.

Quote
There is a similar irony on foreign policy (what with the religious right historically supporting scorched-earth warmongering), and other moral blind spots on historical issues such as slavery and segregation. Neither camp is really consistent in their beliefs and that seems to be the root of the problem. 

It's not really that inconsistent as you think.  The secularists/liberals are operating on different values and myths.





Offline Ainnir

  • Elder
  • *****
  • Posts: 444
  • Faith: Christian
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2016, 08:24:15 AM »
I understand most of everyone's points, but bashing America isn't helpful.  This is where those who live here eat, sleep, and breathe.  If during the rest of the time we are more or less charitable, it would not make us more or less American.  We are American because we're here in this land.  We can discuss the current culture, the media (don't expect me to add much there), I'd say politics but not on the public fora.  Where we live is amoral.  What we're able to do in our nation and what we choose to do are more important and determine the value of being in this land--for ourselves and others. 

A note about "helping the poor" though--I'll try not to make this political because I think this thread should stay public.  Knowing that one's tax dollars have gone to provide to disadvantaged families doesn't count toward one's own charitable acts.  It just doesn't count.  Moreover, the system that delivers these is inefficient, invasive, and dehumanizing.  It artificially limits freedom in some cases.  On top of that, a family can still be using luxuries or making money and use these tax-funded services.  Because it seeks to bring everyone up to whatever standard of living is considered culturally acceptable.  If you look at nonprofits, typically a person or family has to have nothing in order to receive aid.  No income, no savings, no clothes, no helpful family, nothing.  They are aiming to help people meet their basic needs.  And they are often underfunded and understaffed.  Why?  I believe partly because many of us feel we've "done our duty" by paying our taxes, and partly because by paying all those taxes (yes I get they're historically low), we feel the pinch and feel we can't give more, after giving to Uncle Sam and our church and all the other things we have to pay for.  Several years ago I did not understand this; I was dismissive of those complaints, but am now beginning to see how that can happen. 

Another problem I see is that instead of one community-wide citizen effort, there are 27 different small charities, and not even a directory to navigate them.  Often these fall along denominational lines, each doing their own thing--some are ecumenical or secular.  We shouldn't be snobby; if it truly helps people, I think it is a worthy effort.  My county has made efforts to remedy that with a little booklet, but it's not scattered far and wide.  That should be public knowledge right up there with where you vote.  But to pool community resources (not just money) and intelligently and efficiently target the problems in our specific community??  We're too pinched, too busy working 2 1/2 jobs per household trying to alleviate the pinch, and besides, the state's got this, right?!  Sort of.   :-\

Other cultural pitfalls Christians seem to get stuck in: We don't know what a need versus a luxury is, we don't account for regional differences, we don't want to work, we think material aid can replace meaningful relationships, and we've decided that fair = same.  But this is all cultural.  Not national.  It can be separated and culture can be changed.  When "bah it's Americans, we just need to be less American" enters the conversation, it misses the point (and targets the wrong enemy).  We can be less American by expatriating or renaming the nation.  We can be better Americans by changing our own attitudes and habits.  And possibly by throwing our TV(s) in a lake.  :D  I really ought to toss my computer in there after it.  I'll crawl down off my soap box now and wander off; I'm honestly not meaning to be heavy handed.   :)

Offline Agabus

  • The user formerly known as Agabus.
  • Moderator
  • Archon
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,262
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2016, 09:32:29 AM »
I understand most of everyone's points, but bashing America isn't helpful.  This is where those who live here eat, sleep, and breathe.  If during the rest of the time we are more or less charitable, it would not make us more or less American.  We are American because we're here in this land.  We can discuss the current culture, the media (don't expect me to add much there), I'd say politics but not on the public fora.  Where we live is amoral.  What we're able to do in our nation and what we choose to do are more important and determine the value of being in this land--for ourselves and others. 

"America" is not a purely geographical term in this conversation, and I think you realize that.
Blessed Nazarius practiced the ascetic life. His clothes were tattered. He wore his shoes without removing them for six years.

THE OPINIONS HERE MAY NOT REFLECT THE ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED ORTHODOX CHURCH

Offline Ainnir

  • Elder
  • *****
  • Posts: 444
  • Faith: Christian
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2016, 03:39:10 PM »
"America" is not a purely geographical term in this conversation, and I think you realize that.

It should be, though.  Is it right to use a nationality as a label for everything we hate about a facet of the nation's culture, or even everything that is legitimately wrong with it?  I personally don't think so.  That's all.

Offline Agabus

  • The user formerly known as Agabus.
  • Moderator
  • Archon
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,262
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2016, 03:49:17 PM »
"America" is not a purely geographical term in this conversation, and I think you realize that.

It should be, though.  Is it right to use a nationality as a label for everything we hate about a facet of the nation's culture, or even everything that is legitimately wrong with it?  I personally don't think so.  That's all.

I don't see that happening here.
Blessed Nazarius practiced the ascetic life. His clothes were tattered. He wore his shoes without removing them for six years.

THE OPINIONS HERE MAY NOT REFLECT THE ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED ORTHODOX CHURCH

Offline Porter ODoran

  • Avid apokatastisist
  • Taxiarches
  • **********
  • Posts: 7,045
  • Faith: Eastern Orthodox
  • Jurisdiction: GOAA
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2016, 05:04:11 PM »
"America" is not a purely geographical term in this conversation, and I think you realize that.

It should be, though.  Is it right to use a nationality as a label for everything we hate about a facet of the nation's culture, or even everything that is legitimately wrong with it?  I personally don't think so.  That's all.

Communication requires nouns and names. I think it's about that simple.

I appreciate your post, by the way. Great thoughts. But the sensitivity to the name "American" seems a little misplaced.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline byhisgrace

  • OC.net guru
  • *******
  • Posts: 1,033
  • Memory Eternal to my Younger Brother
  • Faith: Orthodox
  • Jurisdiction: GOARCH
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #18 on: September 22, 2016, 09:11:39 PM »
Great post, Ainnir!
Oh Holy Apostle, St. John, pray for us

Offline Ainnir

  • Elder
  • *****
  • Posts: 444
  • Faith: Christian
Re: Western Christianity and Suffering
« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2016, 08:23:35 AM »
Thanks.  I've had some eye openers in the past.  I hope to always hold onto the lessons.   :-\

My sensitivity is not isolated to this thread, I'll admit.  I apologize for not compartmentalizing--that is difficult for me.  Sometimes it comes across like a loyal American can't properly be Christian unless they lose the American bit.  Perhaps I mis-perceive.  For some of us, maybe especially on this particular forum, there isn't anything else we can identify with.

And I really did not mean to derail this thread.  My apologies, Denny.  The OP question is a very good one and really deserves some exploration.   :)