Besime Ab, WeWolde, WeMenfes Qidus, Ahadu Amlak
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God,
I really need your prayers and advice. My Brother-In-Law and his beautiful family have recently moved here to Mississippi. He is a Fundamentalist Baptist Evangelical pastor just out of seminary, and he has started a church here. He promotes a "faith alone" doctrine, and believes that the King James version is the only authoritative version of the Bible.
We have exchanged a few emails in which we discussed the doctrine of "faith alone." I tried to lovingly and thoroughly explain the Orthodox understanding of "salvation," using many biblical texts and notes from the OSB. But instead of addressing the points I made, he just kept repeating "faith alone." He also kept mistaking Orthodoxy for Catholicism, and refused to acknowledge his error when I pointed out that I am NOT Catholic and do not agree with Catholic theology. He also questions my relationship with Christ, since I do not subscribe to the erroneous doctrine of "faith alone."
I have prayed for God to allow us to have a healthy relationship in spite of our theological differences, especially since his children and my children love each other and get along so well. But I know that my Brother-In-Law has his fundamentalist agenda and that he is trying to "convert" my family. He is a nice fellow and is raising terrific children, but he has his head buried in the sand when it comes to true Christian theology and Orthodox doctrine.
In my emails to him I always emphasize that I view him as my Christian brother, and that I think we can both learn from one another. But he has never reciprocated those sentiments, which makes me sad. He is intent on trying to get us to come to his church, but I will never allow my children to be subjected to the false doctrines of fundamentalist evangelical Protestantism.
My wife was baptized into the EOTC with my children and me, but she has never tried to really understand Orthodoxy. I do not want to say too much about this publicly, because I don't want to criticize her. She is wonderful wife and a wonderful mother, and she loves Christ. But because she grew up in the evangelical South, Orthodoxy is completely different to her. Now her brother (my Brother-In-Law) is trying to lure her away from Orthodoxy and into his fundamentalist church. I feel like satan is trying to get to our children by causing problems in our marriage. I am really frustrated, because I have always hated to see religion be a source of conflict when it should be a source of peace. But I know that I must stand firm for Orthodox truth, and that I must fight to preserve Orthodox unity within my family.
My wife has always said that she will never get in the way of how our children and I choose to worship. But she says that all she needs is Jesus, not rituals. Our situation is even more difficult because we live 7 hours away from our Church in Atlanta. I continue to pray for God to make it possible for us to move closer to our Church, but right now it just isn't possible for us to do so.
But now I feel like dark forces are threatening to undermine our family, and I'm not sure how to deal with it. I had hoped that my Brother-In-Law and I could cultivate a respectful relationship and treat each other as fellow Christians. But he doesn't seem to desire anything but getting my family "saved," and baptized into his church. My children were sad when I told them that we couldn't go to his church, but they understood the reasons. And yet, the simplicity and innocence of children is so beautiful. They just want to be in an environment where they can learn about God and be with their cousins. So I think, "What's wrong with that? Am I allowing the differences between my Brother-In-Law and myself to interfere in the happiness of my children?"
My Brother-In-Law and his family also now live just a few blocks away from us. I was truly excited when they first moved here, until I discerned his agenda. So I decided that my children will only go visit them when I am present, because I don't want his family trying to subvert them with false doctrines. If my Brother-In-Law was more humble and open to mutual edification and learning, then I would not have these fears. But unfortunately, he has demonstrated a dangerous combination of ignorance and arrogance that makes it difficult for me to trust and respect him.
My wife is a grown woman, and I do not and cannot control what she does. But I want so badly for us to be as one in our Faith, and to present a healthy Orthodox Christian marriage in the eyes of our children. Our children love their EOTC Church. They observe the fasts and faithfully say their prayers. They always ask, "Papa, when are going back to Atlanta to the Church?" It is beautiful to see! But I know that it is so important for them to see their mother and father in agreement and accord in matters of the Faith. And this is why I'm so concerned.
I am sad, worried, frustrated, and in dire need of some wise and loving advice. As you probably know from many of my posts, I am not one to easily compromise just to get along. I stand strongly for what I believe is right, and this often causes me much heartache and pain. I have emailed my Priest about the situation, and I hope to hear from him soon.
Please give me your advice, and especially your prayers. If you perceive that I am being overly paranoid, hypocritical, or hyper-sensitive, please let me know. I only ask that you be gentle in your repsonses. I am really hurting and need strength and encouragement from my wise OO Christian brethren. I have probably already shared too much personal info; but if we can't turn to our Orthodox Christian brethren, then who? Of course I do turn to Christ Our Lord in good times and bad, and I know that He is ultimately in control.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to this. I really need you all right now. Please pray for my Brother-In-Law and his precious family as well.
"Lord have mercy."