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Justin Kissel
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« on: January 07, 2006, 01:43:46 AM »

Supposing that someone believes in God, but isn't sure that they want to commit to one particular religious group. What would be good evidence to persuade them that Christianity is where God wants them to be?ÂÂ  The problem, as I see it, is that unlike we already-convinced Christians, such people won't just take things like the Scripture's word for it, or an appeal to authority (even a 2000 year old authority that is supposed to be founded by God himself). Every single point would require convincing... everything that we take for granted is an uncharted region for them. So rather than bog them down in 14 volumes of apologetics and theology, what would be the simplest and most persuasive ways to demonstrate that they should be a follower of Jesus Christ?
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2006, 02:16:29 AM »

Supposing that someone believes in God, but isn't sure that they want to commit to one particular religious group.
I think they have commited to a religious group in a way- whether it be "Agnostics", "Non-denominational", "Churchless Christians" etc. In my view, no one is without a Faith, even if that Faith is Atheism. Everyone believes in something, so no one can truly claim not to belong to a "religious group".

what would be the simplest and most persuasive ways to demonstrate that they should be a follower of Jesus Christ?
I think we've got to avoid looking for the "quick fix". There is nothing we can say which will convince someone who already rejects the authorities we may appeal to. I think that there is no "simple" way, the only way I see is to live a fully Christian life ourselves in "joyful-sorrow" and being a beacon to others, or as St. Seraphim of Sarov put it: "Aquire the Spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved."
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2006, 02:32:17 AM »

Very true.  Most of the time, for me, it's proving to them that the really extremist "Christians" (the kind that blame deaths on gay people) do not represent all Christians.  After that, they take you a little more seriously.  However most of the time I get insulted and then told that I have much to learn about the oppression of the Church, or something similar.  I guess keeping in mind that all people haven't had positive experiences with their church.  Feeling shunned and rejected is quite common amoungst people who start to vocalize the questions they've had for a long time that are seemingly anti-Christian.  The opposite happened to me, and I find it useful to keep in mind that that is not always what happens.
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2006, 04:00:57 PM »

Quote
So rather than bog them down in 14 volumes of apologetics and theology, what would be the simplest and most persuasive ways to demonstrate that they should be a follower of Jesus Christ?
Some people seem to require "14 volumes of apologetics" to be convinced.  Still, others have dialed up their degree of skepticism so high they may never be convinced.   Undecided
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2006, 09:46:00 PM »

George,

Quote
I think they have commited to a religious group in a way- whether it be "Agnostics", "Non-denominational", "Churchless Christians" etc. In my view, no one is without a Faith, even if that Faith is Atheism. Everyone believes in something, so no one can truly claim not to belong to a "religious group".

Ok, but what if, when pressed, they say that their religious group is "deist" or "pantheist" or "gnostic" or something vague like that? How do we move them beyond where they are, and into Christianity?


George and Zoe,

I guess I would have agreed with you at one point. For that matter, I'm the type of guy who used to go around quoting things like St. Justin Popovich saying that ascetics were Christianity's only missionaries, and asceticism was her only missionary school. And, that approach may have worked fine at some point.  But in the West today, aren't the holiest people going to simply get lost and ignored in the hustle and bustle of modern life? And for that matter, don't most religions have people who appear to be (and probably are) very loving, giving, gentle, kind, etc.? So, even supposing that one of us, out of a million, does become holy enough to actually shine in a saintly manner, what are the chances that people will take notice among the tens of thousands of religious and philosophical options available to them, and even if they do, what will set Christianity apart from the meek or giving buddhist? I am not trying to say that we shouldn't strive for holiness, only that in often quoting the line "Preach the gospel, use words if necessary," we have become so focused on the implication that we don't have to use words, that we forget that the line plainly says that sometimes wil will have to use words, or "give an answer of why we believe what we believe," as the Scripture says.
 
Doubting Thomas, George, Zoe (you're adding up!)

Quote
Some people seem to require "14 volumes of apologetics" to be convinced.  Still, others have dialed up their degree of skepticism so high they may never be convinced.

Well, very true. Smiley But fwiw, I was just looking for a couple-few good evidences to consider (ok, I fibbed in the first post, I'm the one who needs convincing; I know lots of arguments in favor of Christianity, but none of them seem especially persuasive to me at this point, if viewed from the perspective of not taking the Scripture, Church, etc. as authoritative from the get-go... ).
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2006, 10:16:14 PM »

Quote
I know lots of arguments in favor of Christianity, but none of them seem especially persuasive to me at this point, if viewed from the perspective of not taking the Scripture, Church, etc. as authoritative from the get-go...

I think the main thesis of many of the writings of your heavenly patron address this question - it is only with Christianity, specifically Orthodox Christianity, that you can have Theanthropic life.  No other religion has that - the creator Himself being born in the flesh in order to save fallen humanity.  While the spiritual life in other religions can have many high points - particularly among certain Buddhists, Sufism and other - none of them have anything approaching the God-man and theosis.  As an aside I noticed the song playing on my iTunes as I'm typing is "O only-begotten Son and Word of the Father" in Serbian - how fitting is that for St. Justin Popović? 

Quote
I guess I would have agreed with you at one point. For that matter, I'm the type of guy who used to go around quoting things like St. Justin Popovich saying that ascetics were Christianity's only missionaries, and asceticism was her only missionary school. And, that approach may have worked fine at some point.  But in the West today, aren't the holiest people going to simply get lost and ignored in the hustle and bustle of modern life? And for that matter, don't most religions have people who appear to be (and probably are) very loving, giving, gentle, kind, etc.? So, even supposing that one of us, out of a million, does become holy enough to actually shine in a saintly manner, what are the chances that people will take notice among the tens of thousands of religious and philosophical options available to them, and even if they do, what will set Christianity apart from the meek or giving buddhist? I am not trying to say that we shouldn't strive for holiness, only that in often quoting the line "Preach the gospel, use words if necessary," we have become so focused on the implication that we don't have to use words, that we forget that the line plainly says that sometimes wil will have to use words, or "give an answer of why we believe what we believe," as the Scripture says.

Holiness and sainthood are what are needed to be a complete missionary - hence the fruitfullness of Archbishop Anastasios in Albania and Father Kosmas of Grigoriou in Zaire.  There have been missionary saints in times not too distant that are worth researching more about: St. Nicholas of Japan, St. Innocent of Alaska et. al.  And of course the great missionaries to the Slavs Sts. Kyril and Methodios.  Essentially though I think Orthodoxy sees the need for the diversity of missionary types - the humble monastic praying for the missions, the starets to spiritually father the new flock, actual preachers and translators of the pragmatic doctrines of the faith, and normal lay families to lead by example.

While not directed related to this discussion, have you read Christ the Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene?  I think you would enjoy it and find a lot of indirect overlap to these questions. 
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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2006, 10:18:51 PM »

Ok, but what if, when pressed, they say that their religious group is "deist" or "pantheist" or "gnostic" or something vague like that? How do we move them beyond where they are, and into Christianity?

If I knew them well and we were friends, I wouldn't start by trying to move them into Christianity. I would start by questioning their beliefs, that is, get them to present their apologetics for being a deist, pantheist, gnostic etc. (probably over a few beers), and then examine the validity of their position. In other words, put their beliefs of trial first.
I think if we start by putting Christianity on trial, then we don't remove the fallacies which prevent them from accepting its Truth.
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« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2006, 11:03:03 PM »

Silouan

Quote
I think the main thesis of many of the writings of your heavenly patron address this question

That's a good point. I'm trying to consider things from a non-Christian perspective for a while though and I'm not sure whether this would be any more persuasive than the types of guys that Fr. Seraphim talks about levitating, mind-reading, etc. It also doesn't help me on the more intellectual level with issues... but I suppose you have to give a question before you can expect an answer! Smiley

Quote
While not directed related to this discussion, have you read Christ the Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene?  I think you would enjoy it and find a lot of indirect overlap to these questions. 

I haven't yet, but I will try to pick it up. I've heard it recommended many times since I became Orthodox.
 
ozgeorge

Quote
If I knew them well and we were friends, I wouldn't start by trying to move them into Christianity. I would start by questioning their beliefs, that is, get them to present their apologetics for being a deist, pantheist, gnostic etc. (probably over a few beers), and then examine the validity of their position. In other words, put their beliefs of trial first. I think if we start by putting Christianity on trial, then we don't remove the fallacies which prevent them from accepting its Truth.

Sounds like a good plan! That's what I'd do as well, if I weren't on the other side of the discussion. Smiley

Justin
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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2006, 09:26:01 AM »

Sounds like a good plan! That's what I'd do as well, if I weren't on the other side of the discussion.
Being on the other side of the discussion doesn't stop you having a few beers at least....perhaps that's the part of the plan in which to make a start?  ÃƒÆ’‚ Wink
And when you've done that, perhaps look at how "being on the other side" puts you in an excellent position to question your own position and critique your assumptions...and to really start wrestling with God like Jacob, or as David often does in the Psalms. The upshot being: you need to ask God what He wants.
One of the most powerful images I;ve ever come accross was that of the young Eugene Rose before his conversion to Christian Orthodoxy getting himself drunk and thumping the ground with his fist while cursing the Almighty and screaming at God to leave him alone.
I may be wrong, but I think I've been where you are. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem, I think prayer is even more important than ever, because prayer keeps us honest- we can't be dishonest in the presence of God. Even if in prayer we wrestle with God, we still need to keep the lines of communication open. Otherwise, we are in the stupid position of teaching God theology.
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« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2006, 11:40:13 PM »

You know I think we are also underestimating the power of apoligetics in this discussion.  Everyone has mentioned "14 volumes" of apoligetics and etc. but have you ever tried using any of these volumes? 

If St. Justin Martyr can use apologetics against blood-thirsty and completely pagan Romans, and succeed, I think your friends don't stand a chance.  But hey, I don't know them how you do. 

I also completely agree with Ozgeorge's plan.  No one can say no to a beer...or a few..haha.  Asking them questions about their beliefs (as has already been mentioned) is an AWESOME way to just get them thinking.  That's all your going to be able to do with apoligetics anyway, at the begining. 
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« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2006, 01:33:58 AM »

This is a good question!  Maybe something you can say is what a visiting priest said in his sermon on January 1st.  He was from a muslim country, and used to be muslim, but converted to Christianity.  He was the ONLY priest in his land, but now there are quite a number, and many followers, praise God!  But here's what he said in his sermon, which really touched my heart:

He said, Christ is the only person in any religion who has been able to fulfill all that was prophesied about Him.  No other religion - muslim, budhist whatever - can make that claim.

That would be enough for me to believe ... why would you believe in someone who can't prove who he was or why he had come to the world?

But what would I know ...
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2006, 04:10:03 AM »

Just to add my 2 c's...

We can start with some important assumptions here for ourselves before we go on to analyzing another person.

Number one, we know that God sincerley desires the salvation of all people. Number two, we can say with affirmation that the way God wants everyone to follow on earth is Orthodox Christianity, it is The Way after all.

Now, we also know that not everyone will WANT to follow that path, for different reasons. I've shown people incorrupt relics of saints, video of the Holy Fire, and unspoiled holy water that is several years old. You'd think that with these wonderful signs of grace that God grants us any person would be converted, but surprise surprise...

One person I showed these things didn't bother to contest them, but said "You know something? I believe that this is not a lie. But I'm just not sure I even want to have a relationship with God". I've had three people say such things to me, all of them incidentally baptized Orthodox. So, in the end you can do the most brilliant apologetic presentation and it won't convince some people. Let's remember how St. George's ressurection of a man from the dead wasn't enough to convince Diocletian to believe - even though Diocletian insisted that this is what would make him believe (and it did, incidentally, make others who were present there believe, including a magician). Hence the scary side of our free will which God gives to us.

With these important assumptions out of the way we can continue to analyze how to proceed further...

Everyone feels a divine presence, but the question is how do they deal with this feeling and how they qualify it. Each and every Orthodox person has a certain path they've taken to their faith, and no two paths are exactly identical. Consequently, there really is no formula, the only thing required is that the person be receptive.

I think the very first thing we must do is to pray for a person whom we care about and want to come to faith, as well as accept the feat of missioning as a chance for us to deepen ourselves in our practice and knowlege of our own faith which we want to share. I think that if you pray, if you treat the person you want to help with love (genuine, not the forced friendly type you come across sometimes) and are patient (i.e. you don't expect that suddenly at night thanks to your heartfelt prayers your friend will be visited by a saint and its going to all make sense to him or her), you will definitely be going in the right direction. People mostly respond to good examples. To me one of the greatest "proofs" of Orthodoxy is not so much in apologetics (which western Christians tend to rely on heavily) but in the lives of saints. Real people like you and me who lived the Way to the ultimate and became saints are irrefutable examples that this is THE way to go.

Outside of that, you really have to spend time with a person, talk to them and do a lot of listening, then with prayer and some reading (Bp. Kallistos Ware's "The Orthodox Way" is a great idea) you can come back to the situation and see how to move things from there. If you feel that the door is closed to you, or you simply are too unsure of how to deal with the situation, turn your frustration into prayer, that's sometimes the only way we have to help a person and sometimes that's the best way.
 
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« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2006, 12:11:48 PM »

A helpful link for apologetics should you desire it:

http://www.fomacenter.ru/english/index.php

Also see this wonderful article on faith: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/faith.htm

from Fr. Alexander's website which has a lof of missionary materials:

http://www.fatheralexander.org/

and also: http://www.oodegr.com/english/index.htm

Also read: http://www.orthodoxwiki.org/Witness
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« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2006, 05:48:47 PM »

Great and realistic posts GeorgeS.  thanks  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2006, 06:10:32 PM »

Thank God if it was of help. Here is another thing to inspire you:

“Devote Sundays to works of charity and mercy; for example, visit someone who is sick, console someone who is in sorrow, save one who is lost. If anyone will help the lost one turn towards God he will receive a great reward in this life and in the age to come.” Platon, Archbishop of Kostroma
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2006, 07:17:15 PM »

  I tend to agree with C.S. Lewis when he wrote, "Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced the sort of facts I have been describing.  Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness.  It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need forgiveness."
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« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2006, 01:06:29 PM »

http://www.roca.org/oa/151/151a.htm

Historic Orthodoxy knows no "techniques," no special public relations' "tricks" for bringing people to her fold, other than those which are recorded in the New Testament. We must, of course, take every appropriate opportunity to witness quietly to our neighbor -"and always about spiritual profit", as we are told Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk did (Journey to Heaven). Sometimes we may be called upon to give a heartfelt witness in public; the Holy Spirit has a way of bringing such opportunities our way when it is needful. We can also be somewhat creative in our outreach. But no matter what else we do, our witness should be founded on two basic principles: FIRST, our best missionary work takes place in the quiet witness of our own example, devoid of pretense or "technique." When we live lives of quiet humility and modesty, of contentment and gratitude to God, of peacefulness in the face of adversity - then we preach a mighty sermon indeed. The Holy Fathers have told us that a good example is worth a thousand sermons. Saint Seraphim of Sarov said, "Acquire the spirit of peace, and thousands around you will be saved."

SECOND, since we Orthodox are by definition "right-worshipping," we can and must rely upon the Divine Services of the Church (which are, truly, "divine") to teach and attract those outside the Orthodox fold. The Divine Services must be the very center of our lives, around which everything else, no matter how important, must revolve. Also, we must pray, and pray, and pray, swimming in prayer and liturgy like a fish in water, praying for the salvation of our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers. Such heartfelt prayer is more powerful than we can imagine.
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« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2006, 08:05:46 PM »

I disagree with you, sort of.  I agree with everything you said but there is no 1 best way of doing things.  Having a quiet witness is good.  In fact its GREAT, but its not necessarily the best, or only, or prefered way.  St. Herman drew hundreds to him by his solicitude.  St. Innocent went and brought Christ to hundreds of people on multiple Alaskan Islands.  Did he do it through quiet solicitude?  Not really.  He did however use the services as his basis point (which you mentioned). 

We can be brought very easily into thinking that we should just keep our mouth shut and let God put the opportunity in front of us.  Maybe when we kept our mouth shut, that was the opportunity.  All i'm trying to say is that the diversity of ways is what makes Orthodoxy so awesome.  Our example can be quiet, or it can be extremely loud like Archbishop Anastasios of Albania.   Certain people need to be told, certain people need to be shown.  It depends on the situation. 
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« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2006, 12:26:40 AM »

You won't find any disagreement with me there. I was incidentally quoting this from another article.

I think the problem is that it's SO easy to turn people OFF by being too vocal. In today's day and age the image of the protestant preacher on the street with a bible is a stereotype that the leftist media has done a great job of demonizing. Its become a common joke. I've seen so many people on the train and wherever else signing "Jesus saves", handing out pamphlets, and so on.

There needs to be a more subtle approach especially in this day and age, something that doesn't make us look like protestants.

Also, few people are well equipped to mission with words, it takes not only knowledge but a keen sense of judgement, knowing your audience and being sensitive to the person you're speaking to. Its better sometimes to err on the side of silence.

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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2006, 02:40:56 AM »

There needs to be a more subtle approach especially in this day and age, something that doesn't make us look like protestants.

We must go subliminal!  Wink
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« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2006, 02:55:44 AM »

In the Chronicles of Narnia's last book "the Final Battle" CS Lewis addresses the problem of those who "do not want to be tricked again" in telling the tale of some dwarfs who were saved by Aslan and brought into the perfect realm but could not or refused to see the beauty there.  Given fine wine and delicious food in a beautiful perfect world, they could only see the dark inside of the barn they were rescued from, taste only drink that came from an animal's trough, and taste only the food one might find in a stable.  Their wittiness, their intelligence, and their proud refrain that they would never again be tricked, blinded them to the miracles surrounding them.

This is how it often is for intellectuals who, in their denial of the mystic and holy, shut themselves off from the wonders and miracles God presents to them every day. Deists and Atheist often proclaim their freedom from superstition and blind faith.  No abundance of Holy relics,  Holy Fire, or still sweet Theophany water will break their pride. The true path lies through obedience, humility, and acceptance of God's will in one's life.

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« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2006, 03:05:01 PM »

I'm glad we are in agreement.  I would have hated to have misunderstood you.  I also agree that a subtle approach is usually better.  Especially when people are bombarded with the "protestant" approach.  But a quiet example takes a lot of patience and A LOT of hope and faith that God will lead the person to see your example.  I don't know about you but for me that's just too much work...haha.  I like to just approach people.  i've found that if you can at least put ideas into people's heads God does the work.  Either way you look at it, God does the work, so maybe we should DOUBLY focus our efforts on prayer and self reflection so that we can ultimize God's work within us.  eh...just an idea. 
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« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2006, 09:12:52 PM »

Yes, it's a constant dilemma because on one end God does the work, on the other God wants us to do work too! The hardest thing sometimes is to figure out what to say when, its almost like walking on eggshells.

When talking to people there are certain things that they can grasp onto and that will increase their interest. On the other end there are a few subjects that will cause difficulty for them and might push them away. For instance say you're talking to a person who's sister is a lesbian. They might really dig what fasting is about, and repentance, but the moment you begin discussing the gay question that person might get defensive and your conversation about Orthodoxy takes a major dive into the negative. With all the gay acceptance propaganda going on in this world today, you begin to realize just what kind of a huge army of demons you're fighting against.

I mean, sooner or later the person will have to confront that question, so in a way its pointless to worry. I really don't think its a good idea when some people intentionally smooth over Orthodoxy to make it more acceptable to someone who's having a problem with some issues. At the same time you're often worried about proper tact.

You often feel this great sense of personal responsibility and in some cases you may have a particularly strong personal desire to see someone convert, especially if its someone you've grown to like. You can be subject to a lot of temptation along the way too, I think there's nothing less pleasant than when we see obstinance and stubborness. Your temper can start getting a hold of you, you almost want to scream "Don't you see how dangerous your stubborn attitude is?" or even "What are you, crazy??". Its like seeing a blind person crossing the expressway and not being able to stop him.ÂÂ  If we get this upset we can only imagine how God feels. The scariest fact of faith is that it's all about free will, you can't decide for someone else to accept the true faith.

Then there's also the temptation of pride that can behold us sometimes where we say "I'm going to be a hero and convert this person, they'll see that my way is the right way!"

Sometimes you just wish you could walk away and petition God to miraclulously convert the person just in the same way Apostle Paul was, but I feel that God wants us to labor for each other's salvation in some way, be that prayer or having a conversation, and getting the person to show up to church. We have to suffer for each other, in essence. I just feel horrible for those poor missionaries who burn over some poor soul and the person continues being as obstinate as before, even more obstinate. Its such a test.


« Last Edit: January 27, 2006, 09:21:15 PM by GeorgeS » Logged
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« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2006, 09:36:33 PM »

Oh man tell me about it.  What I do is, if someone is uncomfortable about a subject, don't talk about it.  Lets take your lesbian example.  If I were to talk about all those other things, and all of sudden at homosexuality they start getting defensive, I would just ask them, "hey do you want to talk about this?"  if they don't, move on, go back to something they liked, and make sure that they walk away with 1 point that they will like.  That way even if they obsess about you making your mistake, they still take something away from the conversation. 

I can't remember the exact parable but Christ went somewhere and healed 10 men, and only 1 man came back to thank him, a Samaritan.  He was ridiculed by the people of that place.  Did he try to make them understand, no, he sent the man to live his example (he also told him not to say anything, which he ignored).  Ultimately, that's the answer.  We just have to preach Christ's example, and live it too.  If we say "this is who Christ is...this perfect man" then its not about the church or politics or theological bantering.  Its personal and acceptable (palatable). 
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« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2006, 12:07:09 PM »

One of the worst things we have to contend with is the world around us. In the Soviet Union for example, while there was a militant atheism, it was forcefully pushed down everyone's throats. While the weaker willed people embraced it, others felt this pressure and understood it was unnatural. Some priests have gone as far as to admit that taking the mandatory "scientific atheism" class was what pushed them towards the church.

Today in America, Christianity is associated with protestantism and Roman Catholicism, and we see what a great job our media has done demonizing the adherents of those confessions.

Orthodoxy is hardly heard of and is lumped into one category with other Christian confessions, which always bothers me and is one of the reasons I'm against ecumenism, as well as the tendency of some Orthodox to try and copy western Christian fasions (shaven clergy, wearing the dog collar, celebrating the new calendar, having pews, etc). To me in the eyes of the non-believer that makes the Orthodox look MORE like the people the non believers have been conditioned to dislike. Maybe this explains why we see so many converts from other Christian confessions but not that many from atheistic/agnostic backgrounds. When someone walks into an Orthodox church, sees a priest wearing long hair with a beard, in a long black cassock, sees that people are so devoted to God that they try to stand for the whole service, when they see that we don't care about conformity to other Christian confessions and the western world at large, I can't help but imagine that elicits more respect and wonder particularly from a non-believer/skeptic.

Anyway, I know others will disagree and I don't mean to offend those from more western style Orthodox parishes, they have done a lot of great missionary work and are certainly within our Orthodox fold (unlike what some others argue). I digressed....

America's atmosphere is one of the most un-conducive to Orthodoxy. Kids are taught to question everything and not to trust anyone, secularism is considered enlightened living, multiculturalism is being lumped together with the acceptance of not just people of different races (which is fine according to our faith) but "sexual minorities" (which certainly is not). Oppression of someone for the reasons of race is the same as oppressing someone for their 'sexual orientation', something which you 'cannot change because its natural and proven by science' as all 'professional psychologists will agree'. All of this is forced upon us but its harder to see and feel that here in America than in the USSR, where the forceful method was more visible. Here you're not going to stand in front of an NKVD troika for saying 'I disagree', although they'll use every attempt to humiliate you and look like you're 'insensitive' and 'backward'.

Today Buddhism is promoted by Hollywood as being as healthy for you as tofu and ginseng tea, and it's oh so chique and other worldly - so many in America and western Europe look east for their religious inspiration without making a stop in eastern Europe first Smiley Dissolving your brain into nothingness is the only way to make yourself feel "chill" when your life's main focus is to make good money and have a nice house. Goodness forbid people should have to feel guilty over something (which psychologists feel is bad for you now) and 'repent', that's oh so bad for your self esteem. Just look at the modern 'dating and relationship guides' to see an example of what society we're living in.

This false auto-suggestive morality of 21st century is really revolting. Morality here isn't about living according to God's way, it's about self interest, the 'nicer' you are the more your 'customers will be happy', keeping in line with the capitalistic tradition of America. This, unfortunately, is what you have to fight when you're witnessing, and I think that one of the key places that we have to focus on sometimes is understanding how to counteract these ideologies, how to explain that by feeling guilty and confessing you are not hurting yourself but making yourself stronger, etc. Priests need to be a bit more educated on the modern world and use caution not to merely copy the Catholic or Protestant apologetic approaches but to make sure they're taking as Orthodox of a point of view as possible.

Sometimes I do get the impression that some clergy and missionaries simply believe in either targeting those Christians who are of another confession and getting them to swing over to Orthodoxy (which is fine), as its easier to talk to people who have an understanding of what sin is and who Jesus is, or in simply saying "go and pray, that's all", rather than charging in a head on attack with the forces of today's world. I think this is where the clergy in former communist countries are stronger and better.

« Last Edit: January 28, 2006, 12:16:02 PM by GeorgeS » Logged
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« Reply #25 on: January 30, 2006, 11:07:06 AM »

I only want to talk about a couple of your points.  But I really liked all of your thoughts. 

In terms of charging in and "showing them what we have" there is a certain inherant problem with that.  If we go into a Protestant church for example, with a cassock on, beard, the bells and the smells.  Not only are they NOT going to respect that priest.  They're going to be so shocked that they will probobly think he's muslim.  And with all of the protestant polemics with the Iraq war, this guy is going to be labeled upon entrance.  So that's one way of going about it.  Or we could go to Rome and do as the Romans.  Now did the apostles BECOME the Romans?  no, they were still Jew/Christians.  But they did as the romans, such as living, and many cultural things (the baths, art, etc.).  So where do we draw the line when it comes to "being" like the American protestants.  I think shaving your beard and putting on a collar isn't a bad way to go.  You can walk into that situation and start preaching right away.  and THEN grow your beard after you have formed your relationship and gotten somewhere in discussion.  Its a lot easier to add on things than to just walk in with everything and expect them to catch up.  Its like giving a 7 year old confession with an Athonite Monk.  yah it works, but that kid's gona be scarrred forever.  You have to approach the person with what they can handle, and not everything at once.  Your not going to give meat to a child, rather you will start with milk first. 

In terms of ex-communist clergy, well...lets just say i've had a lot of experience with those types of people, and they're not always what their cracked up to be.  I know TONS of ex-communist priests.  Now Serbian communism wasn't really anything like the other kinds (russia, romania, albania, etc.), but we still had it.  These priests are so tired of fighting with the dictator, fighting with the church, fighting with the people, that they just want to serve god (in which case most of the time they are the ONLY ones who actually care about God), and then go home.  So when you talk about these hard core priests, who have taken their experience and are pushing the rest of the Orthodox world to learn from they martyric example....those are very rare and far in between people.  More realistically, it shouldn't take communism to make a priest "charizmatic" (for lack of better terms). 

Even more importantly, there is NO ONE DEFINITION of what a priest is.  So I feel that what you described is your ideal of what should be going on.  Am I correct in that? 

Ultimately "choosing Christianity" (the title of this post) is not about one or the other, its about both balancing out in the hands of Christ, through us.  (i hope that makes sense). 
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« Reply #26 on: January 30, 2006, 02:32:35 PM »

Its like giving a 7 year old confession with an Athonite Monk.  yah it works, but that kid's gona be scarrred forever.

 Grin Grin
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