Keble: excellent post!
"Nothing about my religious life is ideal. I'm a member of a church that is about to engage in a profoundly self-destructive act. My priest irritates me and peppers his sermons with bogus statistics. People in the choir with me don't show up to rehearsals. We sing too many hymns I'm tired of singing and never liked all that much anyway. My two eldest fidget in church and the youngest can't be taken into church at all, which means that if there isn't a babysitter one of us can't go. I don't pray enough and I spend too much time on forums. I'm a know-it-all without enough education. I'm selfish, lazy, and full of dispair.
And you know something? That is what life is really like. It's not like sitting in one's room fantasizing about living in a monastery that's hundreds of miles away, when the actual monks, however holy they are, are also often peevish and petty and probably fart a lot because their diet includes a lot of beans."
Considering your comments, though, and the great truths therein about all of us aspiring Christians, are we not judging Joe and his fellow ROAC parishioners too harshly? "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." How about Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that ye be not judged." And Luke 6:37 "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." It seems to me that our judgements of Joe and ROAC will be applied equally to ourselves at the end time. I'm certain that I fart as often as Keble's monks, but probably louder, smellier, and more often (not that I'm bragging...Canadian beer, you know). And, I'm certain that in God's eyes, there are Lutherans, Anglicans, RCs, Copts, and YES ROACs who are far more worthy of his Grace than I am.
Should we not try to get along with each other as Orthodox bretheren (and sisterthen?) If the Antiochians can identify the "Orthodoxy" in a few thousand evangelical protestants, and accept them into the fold of the Church, I am astounded by the amount of bickering and fractious behaviour between Orthodox factions who hold dear the same canons, accept the same teachings of the same Fathers and Mothers of the Church, venerate the same saints, and have the same liturgical practices! Surely we should all identify our common ground, and work closer toward that "unity of the Church" that we pray for (or should I say we give lip-service to) each Sunday during the Liturgy. Perhaps we can identify the "Orthodoxy" in these, our closest bretheren!
In conclusion, I'd like to quote from "The Pilgrim Continues his Way" While preparing himself for confession, the Pilgrim, after consulting with his spiritual Father, is admonished thusly: "You did not acknowledge or write down the fact that you do not love God, that you despise your neighbour, that you do not believe in the words of God in Scripture, and that you are filled with pride and ambition. The entire abyss of evil and all our spiritual corruption reside in these four sins."
If you have this book, find this passage, and read the elder's explanation of these four points. We can all use a dose of humility.
You have my prayers, Joe Zollars, that God grant you his Grace, that His Will be made transparent to you, and that he has mercy on your soul, as I also beg these same things for myself and for all Christians and non-Christians alike.
an aspiring Christian...