Some folks who've read my profile have commented on the fact that I did, indeed, graduate from Oral Roberts University, a non-denominational, charismatic, private university in Tulsa, OK. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š It's intimately associated with all the lovely people you see on TBN, so the question's come up a couple of times: how did I get to the Orthodox Church from ORU? ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Well, here goes, for those who'd care to read:
I grew up Southern Baptist, but I had had some exposure to the charismatic movement in high school, ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š so ORU was a wonderful thing, I thought, in terms of all the charismatic stuff. I liked the upbeat, energetic thing that was happening...finally, it was all right to be emotional in worship instead of just tolerating dry, stuffy ritual! But after about a semester and a half...well...all of a sudden I was having second thoughts about emotionistic worship. I saw the weird excesses that emotional experiences can drive Christians to. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š These included falling on the ground a la Benny Hinn (who used to be Orthodox, BTW), barking like dogs, "manifestations"of the "Spirit" like speaking in tongues (nonsensical babbling), "prophetic words" from God (appeals to the law of averages for getting something accurate about a total stranger--either that or wonderful, positive messages that the receiver WANTED to be true) and bizarre mantras we were expected to chant ("MONEEEEEEEEEY COMETH! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š TO ME! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š NOW!"). ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š It made me realize that this could not be authentic, original, New Testament Christianity -- at which point I realized I didn't even know what original, NT Christianity was. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š So I started looking into early Christian history towards the end of my freshman year, for two reasons. One, I wanted to compare the spirituality of the early Church with all the prosperity, all-healing-all-the-time, and/or everything-is-all-good-between-me-and-God sprituality that goes on today in American Charismaticism. Two, I wanted, to borrow a Southern Baptist phrase, "to get back to the New Testament Church."
So I looked at the earliest documents outside the Bible in order to get some context going...specifically, I read the Apostolic Fathers (i.e., Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp), followed by Ireneaus, Cyprian, Tertullian, Origen. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š To make a long story VERY short, I ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š got more than I bargained for. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Not only did I quickly find condemnations of the things that went on at ORU (which was pretty much Montanism revisited), I found my own Baptist upbringing being uprooted by things like strictly liturgical worship, an elevated role for Mary, prayers for the dead and to the saints, confession to a priest, the Eucharist being the actual body/blood of Christ, baptismal regeneration, the absence of "Eternal Security," and adamant anti-denominationalism.
So I couldn't stay were I had been. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š I went from Episcopalian masses to Roman Catholic masses, to see what they had to say. I loved the worship; this was my first taste of apostolic Christian worship, or "heaven on earth," as it's been called. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Due to things I was finding in the Fathers (and things I wasn't finding), I stopped going to masses and attended an Eastern Orthodox liturgy at St. Antony's Antiochian Orthodox Church. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Hated it the first time I went; much preferred the Western confessions' worship. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Nevertheless, after a while I was amazed to see such similarity in doctrine between what the early Church said, what Scripture said in light of her interpretation, and what this Orthodox priest was saying. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Several liturgies (which began to grow on me), books, prayers, questions, answers, and all-nighters later (I did so much research on this that my studies suffered!), I decided to become a catechumen.
Something was happening at the time at ORU, unbeknownst to me, in terms of Orthodoxy; I found out that I was not the only one to be moving in on this train of thought. I was shocked (yet again) to find ORU grads already in St. Antony's ! More than that, there were a few folks here on campus who were beginning to ask similar questions! And more that that, the priest himself was an alum from ORU, and said that back in the late 70s or early 80s, when he was in seminary there, he and about 20 other people converted to Orthodoxy (about 6 of whom became priests). Something similar apparently started up again, as I can think of about 30 to 40 other people from ORU right off the top of my head that either have become Orthodox already or are seriously considering becoming so. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
I don't know if the faculty at ORU really knew what to do with all this; letters were circulated, professors started bringing it up in classes--some of which had nothing to do with theology!--even the president of the university mentioned during the chapel service that ORU was in complete agreement with the early church Fathers! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Why I would want to look to the past was lost on many there--My RA one year actually said I was crazy to look to the past for my belief. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š I blame what I call the "chosen generation syndrome" for this. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š This horrible mindset is VERY attractive to teenagers and young adults, and even to some adults who haven't grown up yet! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š The idea, basically, is that our parents' generation has dropped the ball (along with that of our grandparents, and so on) regarding taking Christ to the nations, bringing healing and a change to the political climate of the US, but never fear, because God is doing A NEW THING, which (of course), we were on the front lines of! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š WE were the ones who would CHANGE IT ALL, and the power of God would be evident in this. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Which basically gave us license, in our eyes, to let happen whatever we wanted or deemed necessary, because we were on the verge of some "breakthrough" that would require something the world had NEVER SEEN BEFORE--certainly nothing a 2,000-year-old liturgical, man-made religion could provide. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š So we were left to either swallow what they gave us or suffer the guilt trips of "Don't touch God's annointed!" if we questioned what someone said in chapel. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š No wonder we all left. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š No wonder ORU is now jokingly dubbed the "St. Vlad's of the South"; I think more Orthodox come out of there than any other school that's not an Orthodox seminary than any other school in the country.
So that's it. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Hope you enjoyed it; if there're any other questions you have, don't hesitate to ask! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Peace.