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Author Topic: Update on trevor72694  (Read 8755 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #90 on: August 20, 2012, 07:38:45 AM »

Thanks for posting about this, Trevor. A lot of other posters have given you advice. I would only say that in a year or two or more, whenever you feel a longing for beauty, stillness, liturgy, the sacred, you shouldn't hesitate to visit the Church for worship. The existential problem is not really that you don't *think* God exists. The fundamental problem is that you no longer *love* Him, and can't feel His love for you.

The English word "believe" comes from the Germanic word "love." We are commanded to *love* the Lord our God, not acknowledge he exists. But as soon as that love weakens or disappears, when we undergo trials and separate ourselves from the sacraments, we quickly lose even the sure knowledge of God's presence and existence. And, then, as TS Eliot said, "After such knowledge, what forgiveness?" No proof, no thought, no discourse will ever bring that love back. First, somehow, in someway, we have to learn to *love* again. For most people, that means the love of stranger, or beauty, or the sacredness of worship. You have to start small, with heart and tongue, or with neighbor.

Anyway, something to keep in mind. In the next few years, things will change even more for you. But, as Heraclitus said, you can never step in the same river twice. So, at some point in the future, the very same river of God's love in Christ, now seeming a crusty puddle, if that, may appear a life-giving stream once again but in a different way. Just don't expect anything other than love, longing, or sacrifice to make it seem so. And don't discount the power of words: When the time comes that your spirit longs for God, say it out loud; recite Scripture; bless the Lord; sing a hymn.

Finally, a general thought for the board, especially the clergy: I have known many cases like Trevor's, where a young teenager converts against the will of his or her parents. Often, the situation at home is less than ideal. When in high school myself, I played a critical role in five such conversions. Every one of them left the Church within four years or less and have not returned. Conversion at that age, under those circumstances, is too much for most young souls to bear. It is unnatural, I have come to believe. We are, whether we like it or not, a product of our home, and we cannot make a sure and healthy decision on the magnitude of religious conversion before developing autonomy and perspective on our own place in the world, not merely following but also not at adolescent war with whence we came.
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« Reply #91 on: August 20, 2012, 07:56:39 AM »

In a certain sense it is about us. Christ came to redeem us after all. We are unique in the fact that we are the only created things that have been created in the very image of God. So, we can't be so pious as to pretend that we don't matter. However, we can't be so narcissistic as to think that the universe revolves entirely around us. I can only speak for myself, but if I am honest then I must confess that I often think and act as if my feelings and opinions are of paramount importance. Hell, if I didn't think that, I wouldn't have presumed to write a book. lol!

Anyway, I will offer my humble thoughts on your OP:

First of all, feelings come and go. Sometimes God indeed allows us to feel very close to Him, and often it is when we least expect it or least deserve it. But we can't base our faith on feelings. After all, if our faith was based purely on feelings then it wouldn't really be faith.

I haven't been to Liturgy in a few weeks. It bothers me, and I really miss it. I have very bad insomnia, and I usually stay up all night and go to sleep at about 6 or 7 in the morning. I tried to stay up 24 hours so I could sleep Satrurday night and make it to Liturgy Sunday morning. But I still missed it. But you know what? My wife and I went out to lunch Sunday afternoon and had a wonderful time. I felt closer to her that I have felt in a long time. As we ate and talked, I felt the presence of God. It didn't make me think, "OK, Divine Liturgy isn't that important." Instead, it made me realize that God's mercy and grace are ever present. He knows my heart and my struggle, and where man judges and condemns God does not.

So, the key is to continue struggling. Keep striving to be a part of the life of the Church. Keep praying, reading the Bible when you can, attending Liturgy when you are able, and availing yourself of the Sacraments. But whenever and wherever you fail, do not despair. God truly is everywhere, and if we seek Him we will find Him in all circumstances, in all places, and in all people. And when we do experience His presence and His love, it will inspire us draw nearer to Him through the means of grace which the Church provides.

If you fast and feel far from God, the eat and rejoice in His love! Then struggle some more.


Peace to you my friend.


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« Reply #92 on: August 20, 2012, 09:11:22 AM »

Thanks for posting about this, Trevor. A lot of other posters have given you advice. I would only say that in a year or two or more, whenever you feel a longing for beauty, stillness, liturgy, the sacred, you shouldn't hesitate to visit the Church for worship. The existential problem is not really that you don't *think* God exists. The fundamental problem is that you no longer *love* Him, and can't feel His love for you.

The English word "believe" comes from the Germanic word "love." We are commanded to *love* the Lord our God, not acknowledge he exists. But as soon as that love weakens or disappears, when we undergo trials and separate ourselves from the sacraments, we quickly lose even the sure knowledge of God's presence and existence. And, then, as TS Eliot said, "After such knowledge, what forgiveness?" No proof, no thought, no discourse will ever bring that love back. First, somehow, in someway, we have to learn to *love* again. For most people, that means the love of stranger, or beauty, or the sacredness of worship. You have to start small, with heart and tongue, or with neighbor.

Anyway, something to keep in mind. In the next few years, things will change even more for you. But, as Heraclitus said, you can never step in the same river twice. So, at some point in the future, the very same river of God's love in Christ, now seeming a crusty puddle, if that, may appear a life-giving stream once again but in a different way. Just don't expect anything other than love, longing, or sacrifice to make it seem so. And don't discount the power of words: When the time comes that your spirit longs for God, say it out loud; recite Scripture; bless the Lord; sing a hymn.

Finally, a general thought for the board, especially the clergy: I have known many cases like Trevor's, where a young teenager converts against the will of his or her parents. Often, the situation at home is less than ideal. When in high school myself, I played a critical role in five such conversions. Every one of them left the Church within four years or less and have not returned. Conversion at that age, under those circumstances, is too much for most young souls to bear. It is unnatural, I have come to believe. We are, whether we like it or not, a product of our home, and we cannot make a sure and healthy decision on the magnitude of religious conversion before developing autonomy and perspective on our own place in the world, not merely following but also not at adolescent war with whence we came.

A great comment, my dad was 'old school' and approached such cases carefully and with a dose of patience and understanding of family conflicts - even in cases of mixed marriages without initial conversion by the non-Orthodox spouse. You should not be surprised by the number of lasting relationships and ultimate conversions that arose from such an approach. A dose of compassion, understanding and a lot of 'economia' supported by one's Bishop goes a long way in the real world of pastoral administration. Some seminaries ought to deal more with pastoral prudence and less in didactic dogmatics - we actually might have a more embracing culture within our Orthodox world.

Now, in anticipation of a negative response to my comments - I am certainly NOT suggesting that dogma, tradition etc... are to be ignored - to the contrary - but for every excessively rigid Saint or excerpt from the Rudder you may cite in these matters, others of us can trade comments by Saints and commentaries of a more open, and equally Orthodox, approach.

I pray that Trevor may come to embrace Our Lord in his heart as he goes on in life's journey. If not on our terms, I hope that his experience with us has left him at least with some insight and room in his own heart to take the positive things within the Faith with him in dealing with experiences yet to come.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 09:13:48 AM by podkarpatska » Logged
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« Reply #93 on: August 20, 2012, 09:22:03 AM »

Finally, a general thought for the board, especially the clergy: I have known many cases like Trevor's, where a young teenager converts against the will of his or her parents. Often, the situation at home is less than ideal. When in high school myself, I played a critical role in five such conversions. Every one of them left the Church within four years or less and have not returned. Conversion at that age, under those circumstances, is too much for most young souls to bear. It is unnatural, I have come to believe. We are, whether we like it or not, a product of our home, and we cannot make a sure and healthy decision on the magnitude of religious conversion before developing autonomy and perspective on our own place in the world, not merely following but also not at adolescent war with whence we came.

This.  My own experience is that a tremendously low number of these high school age conversions end well.  In most of these cases (my own included) the pastoral advice given left a lot to be desired.  Why insist that a teenager who doesn't prepare his own food fast when all throughout the writings of the desert fathers it is constantly written that external fasting isn't particularly important.  That was always a huge conflict with my parents.  How does eating a PB and J sandwich contain the least bit of spiritual value (especially with Oreos for dessert!) when doing so creates a serious family conflict?  There are a million other little things that are similar, but they all boil down to bad pastoral advice causing young converts to burn out.

I wonder what motivates priests to receive converts that are still in high school.  I'm also surprised there aren't guidelines from the synodal level at dealing with these issues.  From what I can tell it seems that every priest does whatever he wants in this regard and there is no unified policy of sorts.  When you have anarchy and a patchwork of ad hoc solutions it shouldn't be a surprise that the results are less than stellar.  
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« Reply #94 on: August 20, 2012, 09:32:04 AM »


What should the priest do?

Deny this young person eternal salvation, because he "might" drop out?

...in that case why baptize young babies?  They might grow up and decide to leave the Church.

I think it's great, that with proper preparation/catechumenate, that people  of whatever age, who think they are ready, and the priest agrees, get accepted in to the Church...with the hopes that they will remain in the Church and a part of the body of Christ.




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« Reply #95 on: August 20, 2012, 09:45:44 AM »


What should the priest do?

Deny this young person eternal salvation, because he "might" drop out?

...in that case why baptize young babies?  They might grow up and decide to leave the Church.

I think it's great, that with proper preparation/catechumenate, that people  of whatever age, who think they are ready, and the priest agrees, get accepted in to the Church...with the hopes that they will remain in the Church and a part of the body of Christ.






I am not suggesting that at all. What I am commenting upon is the approach used in dealing with all converts - not just the young ones.

An overly rigid approach to instruction, coupled with a mind eager to embrace external manifestations of extreme praxis can be a toxic stew.  For many young people, this is a means to express rebellion - whether it is being 'punk', 'Goth', following Kabbala or, sadly - turning to us. For many rightly turned off by innovationist liberals in main-stream Protestant churches, the conflation of the religious conservatism of our Orthodox faith with that of contemporary political conservatism can be equally toxic.

Frankly, we have far too many ill-prepared priests who, it seems to me,  are more interested in external presentations and less with a long-term plan for salvation.
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« Reply #96 on: August 20, 2012, 09:48:57 AM »

That may be true.

Therefore, the responsibility lies with the seminaries to ensure that the priests are prepared to handle these situations and are willing to dedicate the time to their flocks.

Personally, I am always surprised to read that people have gone to their priest and told them they just "aren't happy" and will start skipping Liturgy....and the response is "OK".

Huh

That just baffles me.  It's not okay.  Perhaps the person needs additional attention and care.  I can't believe the sheep is leaving the flock and it's okay.  This has occurred more than once, as multiple posters have posted pretty much the same response given them from their clergy when told they were leaving.

Even if they can't convince the person to stay....don't sugar coat it and say it's "OK".  Don't make them feel it is all good to leave the Church and become less than what they have been called to be.  Don't be mean, but, perhaps a follow up or a show of concern would be of benefit.

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« Reply #97 on: August 20, 2012, 09:49:49 AM »


What should the priest do?

Deny this young person eternal salvation, because he "might" drop out?

...in that case why baptize young babies?  They might grow up and decide to leave the Church.

I think it's great, that with proper preparation/catechumenate, that people  of whatever age, who think they are ready, and the priest agrees, get accepted in to the Church...with the hopes that they will remain in the Church and a part of the body of Christ.

Your god sends people to eternal damnation based on factors beyond their control?  Somebody has some anger management issues.

A reasonable approach would be to give a high schooler something pastorally appropriate.  A long catechumenate followed by reception into the Church as an adult isn't unreasonable.  After all, three years is the traditional length of the catechumenate.   What's appropriate?  Try to live an ethical life, pray, read the scriptures and try to make an effort to attend liturgy when possible.  In all cases take the path of least resistance and eventually add the other bells and whistles (icons, prayerropes, "fasting" and other decorations) once one is an adult.  
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« Reply #98 on: August 20, 2012, 09:55:18 AM »


See?  Here you go again.

Am I not Orthodox enough for you, that I can't express an opinion on Orthodoxy?  Really?

I think you have some issues that perhaps you need to deal with, so you can tolerate other's right to expression.

What did I say that was so "angry"?  That I wish everyone to have salvation?  Really?  That's bad?  How so?

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« Reply #99 on: August 20, 2012, 10:03:43 AM »

I havent read the whole thread, but to the OP, I think we all appreciate your honesty.  Sometimes, if I am honest with myself, there are days where Im not sure I believe any of this stuff either. Maybe other people feel the same way. Maybe its good for Christians to admit that they dont believe in God every now and then as many of them, especially myself, probably feel that way at times. However, even when we struggle with believing, we can still have faith and hope that these things are true even though there isnt any logical "proof."  It seems to me that doubt and faith go hand in hand.  As many have pointed out, others have been where you are and we can certainly relate. Raising questions and figuring things out for yourself can certainly be a healthy thing.

Even though I dont really know you and havent spoken to you much here, my thoughts are with you.
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« Reply #100 on: August 20, 2012, 10:08:16 AM »


What should the priest do?

Deny this young person eternal salvation, because he "might" drop out?

...in that case why baptize young babies?  They might grow up and decide to leave the Church.

I think it's great, that with proper preparation/catechumenate, that people  of whatever age, who think they are ready, and the priest agrees, get accepted in to the Church...with the hopes that they will remain in the Church and a part of the body of Christ.

Your god sends people to eternal damnation based on factors beyond their control?  Somebody has some anger management issues.
  
God, not our god, doesn't send anyone to hell.  People do that all on their own.  It's called choices, which are not beyond our control.
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« Reply #101 on: August 20, 2012, 10:26:06 AM »


What should the priest do?

Deny this young person eternal salvation, because he "might" drop out?

...in that case why baptize young babies?  They might grow up and decide to leave the Church.

I think it's great, that with proper preparation/catechumenate, that people  of whatever age, who think they are ready, and the priest agrees, get accepted in to the Church...with the hopes that they will remain in the Church and a part of the body of Christ.

A long catechumenate.

If the priest is personally responsible for those who approach the Holy Gifts, he is most certainly responsible for those he receives into the Church.

What about the salvation of all those people who waited years to get into the Church in the early days?  Some people waited YEARS before being baptized, even on their deathbeds.  Were the priests of the sub-Apostolic age lax in not accepting people?  Even after Nicea, people were given long catechumenates.  Some were not. 

Podkarpatska is correct, I believe, in saying that priests should be taught at seminary to discern the readiness of a convert. 

As for the OP, I am very sad to see Trevor leaving the Church, but I hope and pray that he will learn to see and feel God around him.  Take care of yourself, buddy, and I hope to see you back in church before long. Smiley
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« Reply #102 on: August 20, 2012, 10:33:00 AM »

Even if you don't quite believe all that Church stuff it doesn't necessarily follow you leave the Church or you have to. You might as well stay for a myriad reasons not that much connected to the dogmas etc, just like the majority of Orthodox do. I think it's a sign of maturity, actually.
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« Reply #103 on: August 20, 2012, 11:04:29 AM »

People need to be careful of what they say in threads like this.  We don't want to say things that will cause others to stumble.

Everyone goes through times of doubt.  Many recover from it and return to the faith.

Trevor,
Earlier you mentioned sexual orientation.  I'm not in a position to speak to you about this, but I know others on this forum have struggled with this and stayed in the faith.  I know this sounds cliche, but did you go to the new priest at your church and have a good long talk with him before deciding to leave?  If not, you may want to do so.  Just a suggestion.
Yes, I did.  He was so wonderful about it, too.  I don't struggle with it, but merely being in Church made me feel as though I did.  I mean, it's one thing to say "yes, celibacy for me, please!" in Church surrounded by faithful parishioners, icons and the body of Christ.  At my school and out in the "world", being other than heterosexual is becoming more and more acceptable.  I really needed time away from Church to deal with this, as I had to accept it in myself.  Not go out and do sinful acts, but just sit alone and think about what my feelings meant and all of that.

I have to say that I really admire what you say here. May I give you some advice? Please know that one thing leads to another and before you know it, you may end up in a place that you do not want to be. Therefore, remember always your experience "in Church surrounded by faithful parishioners, icons and the body of Christ." Let that memory be your anchor, lest you are torn from your moorings and perish in the storm.
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« Reply #104 on: August 20, 2012, 11:07:39 AM »


Great advice!
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« Reply #105 on: August 20, 2012, 11:15:47 AM »

Lord have mercy.

Obvious implications aside, I'm a bit troubled that this all seems to be based on, of all things, a worthless high school standardized test masquerading as psychological insight.

I was afraid of this.

Lord have mercy!

He's, what, 18?

I'll worry in about a decade. He's got years of university ahead to mess with his mind.

I think FatherHLL's point on this is that we aren't guaranteed decades, university, etc.

Indeed.

Are you sure it's based on that, or rather was it not instigated by that?
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« Reply #106 on: August 20, 2012, 11:15:47 AM »

I am sooooooo sad.....

This just proves that modern "therapy", quizzes, tests, etc....are all designed to make you doubt your faith....and fit "in" with modern social norms.  



This is just patently false.
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« Reply #107 on: August 20, 2012, 12:28:23 PM »

Lord have mercy.

Obvious implications aside, I'm a bit troubled that this all seems to be based on, of all things, a worthless high school standardized test masquerading as psychological insight.

I was afraid of this.

Lord have mercy!

He's, what, 18?

I'll worry in about a decade. He's got years of university ahead to mess with his mind.

I think FatherHLL's point on this is that we aren't guaranteed decades, university, etc.

Indeed.

Are you sure it's based on that, or rather was it not instigated by that?

It seems that way, based on what Trevor wrote. Now, it's possible that he was feeling this way for some time and that was just his "moment of clarity" or whatever. Regardless, a person should not place any value in a psychological assessment from anyone but a psychologist. Certainly not a multiple choice quiz.
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« Reply #108 on: August 20, 2012, 12:29:48 PM »


See?  Here you go again.

Am I not Orthodox enough for you, that I can't express an opinion on Orthodoxy?  Really?

I think you have some issues that perhaps you need to deal with, so you can tolerate other's right to expression.

What did I say that was so "angry"?  That I wish everyone to have salvation?  Really?  That's bad?  How so?

I didn't say you were angry, rather your god was angry.  If your god sends people to eternal damnation due to the actions of a different person (i.e a priest not allowing someone to convert) that is an angry and spiteful entity.  Within Christianity I guess that would be closest to Calvinism but not so close to at least the traditional view of Orthodoxy.  

I don't understand your personal rant about "I think you have some issues that perhaps you need to deal with, so you can tolerate other's right to expression."  That is an ad hominem.  If I am not mistaken the point of a message board is discussion.  Posting that I agree with you constantly would be rather dull.  I'm not sure you really understand the meaning of the idea of right to expression.  How have I (or for that matter could I) in any way prevent you from expressing yourself here?  Not agreeing with your opinions doesn't mean that you are persecuted and prevented from expressing your ideas.  But it is nice to know that you believe I have issues.  Thanks.  

Going back to the substance of this thread, I agree with others that longer catechumantes, better application of economy and overall better discernment are in order.  As far as I can tell it is a fairly ad hoc process with each priest creating his own little system.  What ends up happening is that priests seem to be willing to accept anybody under that person's terms (make me Orthodox NOW!).  The results are clear...most converts burning out in a few years and moving onto the next thing.  
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« Reply #109 on: August 20, 2012, 12:35:08 PM »

I am sooooooo sad.....

This just proves that modern "therapy", quizzes, tests, etc....are all designed to make you doubt your faith....and fit "in" with modern social norms.  



This is just patently false.

Indeed.  My wife's therapist often told her to go back to church more often. 

And he was a Jewish atheist.
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« Reply #110 on: August 20, 2012, 01:29:04 PM »

A couple of points to add:

1.  Should a child be baptized even if neither of the parents are Orthodox and have no intention to actively raise the child Orthodox? 

2.  For the parents on the forum, how would you feel if one of your high school age children developed an interest in a foreign religion, say Islam?  Would you be happy if the local imam tried to convert a 16-year-old, stir up tensions with the parents and otherwise exploit natural teenage rebellion and curiosity for his own ends? 
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« Reply #111 on: August 20, 2012, 01:48:30 PM »

While I admit I don't necessarily know what to say concerning these types of things, I will say this: while it may seem that you have your whole life ahead of you to work out your salvation (or lack of), no one really knows how long they have. Flirting with unbelief is literally playing with fire.
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« Reply #112 on: August 20, 2012, 02:18:27 PM »

A couple of points to add:

1.  Should a child be baptized even if neither of the parents are Orthodox and have no intention to actively raise the child Orthodox? 

2.  For the parents on the forum, how would you feel if one of your high school age children developed an interest in a foreign religion, say Islam?  Would you be happy if the local imam tried to convert a 16-year-old, stir up tensions with the parents and otherwise exploit natural teenage rebellion and curiosity for his own ends? 

There's a huge difference of a kid converting to Orthodoxy or to Islam.  Like night and day.

Besides, his father followed him to the Church and converted, as well....therefore, it's not like he didn't have any Orthodox support at home.

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« Reply #113 on: August 20, 2012, 02:34:24 PM »

To a lot of parents it'd probably be the same: a foreign based religion that is deeply counter cultural to US-culture.  Some of the more extreme wings of Orthodoxy, like the Ephraimite monasteries, really aren't that far off.  But that is beside the point.  Were I a parent, I'd be a bit miffed to say the least at the idea of a cleric from another religion budding into my family life. 
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« Reply #114 on: August 20, 2012, 03:12:58 PM »

To a lot of parents it'd probably be the same: a foreign based religion that is deeply counter cultural to US-culture.  Some of the more extreme wings of Orthodoxy, like the Ephraimite monasteries, really aren't that far off.  But that is beside the point.  Were I a parent, I'd be a bit miffed to say the least at the idea of a cleric from another religion budding into my family life. 

These are some really great points.
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« Reply #115 on: August 20, 2012, 03:15:24 PM »

Trevor, Asteriktos, James, and others I can understand what you're going through.  Just remember you're not the only one..  as far as Achronos' mention of atheism, I've heard that's never an easy process.  It takes many years before most people finally come to that point, after a lot of painful questioning and observations.  The hardest part is where your emotions have to come into alignment with your logic or reasoning, and that takes awhile.   Not saying everyone is destined for that road, but it is a path that some end up taking. 

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« Reply #116 on: August 20, 2012, 03:23:50 PM »

Trevor, Asteriktos, James, and others I can understand what you're going through.  Just remember you're not the only one..  as far as Achronos' mention of atheism, I've heard that's never an easy process.  It takes many years before most people finally come to that point, after a lot of painful questioning and observations.  The hardest part is where your emotions have to come into alignment with your logic or reasoning, and that takes awhile.   Not saying everyone is destined for that road, but it is a path that some end up taking. 

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« Reply #117 on: August 20, 2012, 03:29:05 PM »

To a lot of parents it'd probably be the same: a foreign based religion that is deeply counter cultural to US-culture.  Some of the more extreme wings of Orthodoxy, like the Ephraimite monasteries, really aren't that far off.  But that is beside the point.  Were I a parent, I'd be a bit miffed to say the least at the idea of a cleric from another religion budding into my family life. 

These are some really great points.

I agree.  Some liberal interpretations of Islam would be far less of a shock to a family--praxis wise and aside from reactionary views--than Orthodoxy can be.

The teachings about leaving your family for faith are important, but I think it's dangerous to apply them to children.  Sorry young'ins if that sounds offensive, but it's a reality.  Some of you are extraordinarily mature and insightful, but you are still children.

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« Reply #118 on: August 20, 2012, 04:01:44 PM »

2.  For the parents on the forum, how would you feel if one of your high school age children developed an interest in a foreign religion, say Islam?  Would you be happy if the local imam tried to convert a 16-year-old, stir up tensions with the parents and otherwise exploit natural teenage rebellion and curiosity for his own ends? 

I know high school-aged people who converted. They simply educated their parents and it was fine. That won't work in all cases, but comparing it to Islam? That's a bit much. I mean, Jesus is God, we believe in the Trinity, and we read the Bible. Those three tidbits should be enough for most.

Were I a parent, I'd be a bit miffed to say the least at the idea of a cleric from another religion budding into my family life. 

It's not a different religion. And churchgoing teenagers hang out with pastors/youth pastors/youth group leaders all the time. What's the big deal?
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« Reply #119 on: August 20, 2012, 04:14:53 PM »

2.  For the parents on the forum, how would you feel if one of your high school age children developed an interest in a foreign religion, say Islam?  Would you be happy if the local imam tried to convert a 16-year-old, stir up tensions with the parents and otherwise exploit natural teenage rebellion and curiosity for his own ends? 

I know high school-aged people who converted. They simply educated their parents and it was fine. That won't work in all cases, but comparing it to Islam? That's a bit much. I mean, Jesus is God, we believe in the Trinity, and we read the Bible. Those three tidbits should be enough for most.

Νεκτάριος was purposefully using a harsh and extreme example to make his point, but his point is a valid one.

On a more 'real world' basis, I know how upset many clergy and Orthodox parents become when they are dealing with high school kids being 'courted' by friends of pastors  from other Christian denominations - usually with trips, sleep-overs, encounters, films etc... This goes on all of the time and we all know of young people who were seduced by the siren call of friends and peer pressure to join another Church. A good priest will use discernment and be on the alert for signs of trouble - excessive zeal, excessive outward appearance changes, constant questions coming out of the blue on esoteric, theological issues, excessive knowledge about Patristics, Bishops, Church politics and so on.

Please - I am NOT suggesting that any of the items I suggested are bad per se - surely what one of us may view as 'excessive' may be viewed in a different light by another.

I view this as a cautionary tale for all of us and we ought to pray about it and learn from it. Whether we are convert, enquirer, sceptic or cradle - or anything in between - we all need to recognize that things are not always as they seem.

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« Reply #120 on: August 20, 2012, 04:22:03 PM »

A reasonable approach would be to give a high schooler something pastorally appropriate.  A long catechumenate followed by reception into the Church as an adult isn't unreasonable.  After all, three years is the traditional length of the catechumenate.   What's appropriate?  Try to live an ethical life, pray, read the scriptures and try to make an effort to attend liturgy when possible.  In all cases take the path of least resistance and eventually add the other bells and whistles (icons, prayerropes, "fasting" and other decorations) once one is an adult.  

Amazingly, I more or less agree with Nektarios here. This is what my priest has me do.
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« Reply #121 on: August 20, 2012, 05:04:43 PM »

hi, most things i would have said have been said, but i think bytania's post was special, thanks for sharing.
i know some people who have had the same experience.

also i want to repost the video linked by dzheremi as it is so good:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Vx1uZxXd0

and it's only 10 mins long, so not difficult to listen to.

i am also praying for u, trevor72694, may God give u light and peace.
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« Reply #122 on: August 20, 2012, 09:02:58 PM »

At the risk of being judgemental, which I probably am, what FatherHLL mentioned is the first thing I thought when I read "Update on trevor72694." Not that you had become an atheist/agnostic, but merely surprise that someone would make a thread "updating" everyone on their own personal life. I suppose I can see why you've gone the direction you've gone, because that direction was being traveled even when you were still a believer, it's merely manifested itself in a different way now that your interests have changed. It seems that trap that the fathers warn about the most - self - has proven again its power to guile.

Please forgive me if I am assuming too much, but my conclusions are drawn only from what you've said outright. As others have noted, it was nice having your kindly presence amid all of the pessimism and negativity.

I remember a conversation we once had about St. Parascheva, wherein I told you about the shroud that covered her relics being placed over me. When it entered the church, the fragrance immediately filled the building. I know you felt a connection to her, and I hope through her and your patron's prayers you may see the Light of Holy Orthodoxy.

For some of the others in the thread, I myself am 16, and it is ignorant to say that intelligence leads one to atheism. If I were honest with myself and used my intelligence, I would be insane to doubt my faith, given the many miracles I have been blessed to see and experience. It instead shows a lack of intelligence on my part, as despite these many obvious signs from God that even I must be forced to notice, I still occasionally doubt.

Again, for those others in this thread that have fallen away from Orthodoxy, you may have lost faith or gone a wayward path, but I encourage you to do as Trevor does, and not seek to drag those struggling faithful down with you by insensitive and cruel comments.
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« Reply #123 on: August 20, 2012, 09:08:41 PM »

A good priest will use discernment and be on the alert for signs of trouble - excessive zeal, excessive outward appearance changes, constant questions coming out of the blue on esoteric, theological issues, excessive knowledge about Patristics, Bishops, Church politics and so on.

Please - I am NOT suggesting that any of the items I suggested are bad per se - surely what one of us may view as 'excessive' may be viewed in a different light by another.

I agree. And a good pastor will discern whether these outward displays are outgrowths of real faith, or if they are just facades. I also agree that care must be taken with converts who are a little too eager and a little too unstable to undertake the actual spiritual work that it's all about—as some say, it's more important to remain Orthodox than to become Orthodox.

I guess I just dislike the comparison with Islam, as I've never met anyone who had such a bizarre impression of Orthodoxy as to conflate the two. Point taken though.
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« Reply #124 on: August 21, 2012, 12:47:12 AM »

Orthodox parents, maybe think of this. How would you like it if your teenager wanted to convert to Baptist Fundamentalism, and afterwards they viewed your version of Christianity as somehow "less" than theirs?
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« Reply #125 on: August 21, 2012, 02:35:26 AM »

Dear Trevor,

There are some very good bits of counsel in the tread above. If I may leave with you a few points to consider based upon what you have shared so far, and let me add my own hope that you will keep the memory of Church in your heart and at least an ember of faith…or a hope for faith burning and that you will from time to time return to the Divine Liturgy and to the fellowship of Orthodox Christians at your parish.

1. Growing up more, being more comfortable in your own skin.: On the whole a good thing. However being able to be honest with yourself about who you are is not the same thing as being willing to take up the burden and responsibility of becoming who you should be.

2. Faith being in the head.  I must disagree here. Belief in God is not an activity of intellection. There is a question perhaps you are ready to explore in more depth…and hopefully your exploration will include what the Fathers and Saints have to say on the matter.  The question is this…how do we know what we know? What are the "organs" of knowledge.  The modern materialist world view acknowledges nothing as being real that is not rooted in sense knowledge and intellection about sense knowledge. Our thoughts and emotions are only so much biochemistry.  We only know via our senses and through the neural activity of our brains. As Fr. Tom Hopko might put it…in this view we are essentially no more than copulators and calculators. Orthodoxy though teaches we know some things via our heart…not the blood pump, but a part of us which might share the same geography, but lie much deeper in our non fleshly bodies. Just as our bodily senses correspond to the world they are designed to interact with and are a part of (light, sound, taste, touch, scent) so the heart corresponds to and perceives spiritual things, particularly it perceives God. In the estimation of the fathers this perception is superior to the rational mind which is naturally it's servant not it's master. Unlike the natural mind and our natural sense organs, it doesn't "figure things out". It experiences and in that experience…knows. It is directly perceptive.

If our heart is hardened, closed, asleep, scattered, deluded…our perception is muted or even nonexistent…like being blind or deaf. Consider this by way of analogy.  

If you had to describe the taste of honey to someone who has never seen or tasted honey before how would you communicate that knowledge.  How many books on sugars and nectar and micronutrients and viscosity would communicate the taste of honey? How many lectures? How many slide shows? How many testimonials? How many spoonfuls? The taste of honey is only communicated though tasting. Only the organ dedicated to tasting conveys that knowledge. Now, having tasted honey, all the books, lectures, notes, videos, slideshows, and testimonials have meaning…have a context in your experience that permits you to understand and be part of that circle of knowledge a part of that conversation. Now it is possible to trust the reports you've read about the existence of and sweetness of honey without having tasted it yourself.  It is possible to parrot a great deal about the taste and sensation of honey without having sampled it at all…and just as easily you can come to doubt, because on both sides of the issue only your mind has been engaged…like flipping a switch +A or -A but still |A| still just a bit of intellection…still just sifting and evaluation one bit of abstraction against another.  

This whole realm of "how do we know" is called gnosiology. The problem with limiting gnosis to our material senses and rational mind is that there is no honest way to account for the honey tasters.  If you feel up to it read the lives of people like St. Seraphim of Sarov, Fr. Arseny, Elder Porphyrios, St. Silouan, St. Paisos…just to name a very few. You have to deal with accounts (many of the witnesses of which are still living) of the uncreated light, miraculous healings, knowing a person's heart in great detail…their whole life even,unfailing prophecies, seeing hidden things in the earth, bending space and time (Elder Porphyrios). How do you explain these people? What lengths do you have to go to interpret their narrative in such a way as to dismiss these things as varieties of mass hallucination, psychosomatic healings, trickery, and pure fables. How many accounts have to be dismissed as lies or delusions in order to deny that these people were in touch with and communicative of depth/kind of reality that most were routinely oblivious to?

Do these people, their lives, and what they meant cease to be real and have meaning because we have changed our opinions on theology…on the reports of sugar science and honey tasting that we only know in books and articles and not in experience. What do we do with the honey tasters…for they no longer fit our preferred model of the universe?  Here…make sense of this life…explain it if there is no God…or at best as distant uninvolved one. Consider who you will have to call a liar, what you cannot "believe" because it is not "rational" even though the witness to these things present you with their testimonies.  There is more to us than intellection and sense knowledge.  There is the heart and what it can see and know if opened in the light of God's grace. http://www.oodegr.com/english/biblia/Porfyrios_Martyries_Empeiries/perieh.htm

3. I don't feel it anymore so it must not have been real.  So…is rain not real because you find yourself walking in the desert and no longer in the rain forest?  Many saints and father's speak of seasons dryness and doubt.  It is an ancient affliction. We are all keen and swoony over the breads and fishes bits and the sermon on the mount. The walking on water parts are pretty cool too. However Jesus instruction did not center on our undertaking the creation of bread and fish, walking on water, or making cool insightful speeches. He said His followers were expected to take up their cross to follow Him.  Crosses have only one purpose…to kill us. Moreover no man can crucify himself, another must do it for us.  That's not pretty talk that makes therapists all misty eyed.  To the modern world such notions are barbaric and masochistic (and not in the current cool it's ok if its consensual kind of way). Are we to love God only if He give us candy and makes everything easy for us and supplies us with a constant barrage of novelty and self actualization?  What about when He gives us dryness, suffering, hardship? What if for His sake we become as the very offscouring of the earth? Though we are crushed and demoralized, do we not still find our knees and stretch our our hands and say "The Lord giveth, the Lord, taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." What kind of love is it that only loves when its easy breezy? How do we come to the place of revelation where we can lift up our eyes to God and say, "I know that my redeemer liveth, and I shall see him in my flesh," unless we are cut off from all but God in the desert of our lives? What can the world offer you that will enable you to pray with St. Nicholas, "Bless my enemies O Lord and multiply them." I do not say this to "guilt" but to have you consider that after 2 years or so of "feeling good" maybe the Lord thought some time in the desert would be helpful sorting things out…maybe the problem is not that "it was all in your head" but in the story…the confabulation you have created to "explain" why your feelings changed and now see faith as a head trip and no longer a heart journey.

4. I think there is grace in your journey…even in this. It is good to be able to soberly evaluate your life and your choices. It is good to be purposeful in what you follow as your guiding light. One thing I think you've seen is that perhaps a significant portion of your earlier religious life was rooted in a sort of novelty. At 15, part of the natural course of adolescence is to separate from one's parents to search out and forge your own identity by such lights as you have. One modern expression of that is changing religions to something that suits you better (I did it).  "You find the truth" and it its great truth until the new novelty "truth" comes along. I think part or your current mode is as much a novelty to you as your faith was a few months back. It will get likely get old and your feelings towards it will change too. Will you go back to Orthodoxy, to something else, a non Christian faith…to spiritual but not religious (whatever that is besides narcissism with a yoga mat and a bouquet), or a new found enthusiasm for atheism (either sweet tempered or ill tempered…whichever is the best fit)? God knows?

At least now, God willing, that you return to the faith, it will be a sober decision rooted in a deeper experience of life and a deeper knowledge of yourself…not just of who you are, but who you hope to be.

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« Reply #126 on: August 21, 2012, 08:02:42 AM »

^ Thank you Seraphim. Post of Month, maybe the Year!
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« Reply #127 on: August 21, 2012, 08:24:02 AM »

^ Thank you Seraphim. Post of Month, maybe the Year!

I agree !

Great post Seraphim !
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« Reply #128 on: August 21, 2012, 08:56:07 AM »

^ Thank you Seraphim. Post of Month, maybe the Year!

I agree !

Great post Seraphim !

Agreed!
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« Reply #129 on: August 21, 2012, 09:29:58 AM »


Excellent post!!!

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« Reply #130 on: August 21, 2012, 12:37:51 PM »

Well ther might as ll be a "spiritual organ" or there might be none but even if there is one the way it perceives the "spiritual reality" is in no way analogous in to the way taste buds percueve honey. Tibetan monks as well as athonite mOnksalong with some Pentecostal preacher on TBN they all would assume their spiritual sense and organs are sharp, yet the things thei percueve arent quite the same.
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« Reply #131 on: August 21, 2012, 01:49:01 PM »

Shoot. I sent this message from my phone, without actually being able to see what I was typing. It's not that bad at all considering the circumstances of its birth.
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« Reply #132 on: August 21, 2012, 01:49:58 PM »

The limits of analogy. I agree the honey analogy is limited…but it's essential point is correct, I think, that the taste of honey is communicated experientially not discursively or through intellection. That point is analogous to the heart being the part/aspect of us as human beings that perceives and experiences spiritual things. Having experienced them they can be thought about, talked about, and otherwise handled by our rational mind…but the mind is not able to initiate or perceive such things until introduced to them by that part of us which can communicate/participate in such things.  This, I think, at least in part, is why the fathers teach us to reunite the mind and the heart. One could probably draw the same analogy using the perception of the color red.

With respect to Tibetan monks and the like Fr. Seraphim Rose spoke on this point of what we may call psychic phenomena. He said that there is an experience which the holy ascetics call "the opening of the senses" this is generally tied to ascetic practice, and as such it is a capacity 'wakeable" by any sufficiently ascetical tradition. This is the shamanistic state, the state of deep awareness of the world and many of it's normally invisible interconnections is often confused with the spiritual. It is not spiritual though. Rather Fr. Seraphim said it is simply an awakening to/perception of the higher more rarified aspects of physical creation. It is essentially material not spiritual.  It is also extraordinarily dangerous for the uninitiated and unguided for this is the playground of demons, the "place" where they do their more subtle works of delusion, appearing as angels of light, etc.  In this state of awareness a man might perceive a certain luminosity of his own heart and created being and mistake that for spiritual light having not beheld spiritual light by way of comparison. He thinks he has arrived at something and which point the snares of vainglory await the slightest twitch of egotism to insinuate and overwhelm him. Fr. Seraphim said the man who experiences such things should pray earnestly for God to deliver him from it, especially if he is without an experienced spiritual father.


An ascetical man will often pass through this "realm" on the way to that which is spiritual. The Athonite monks are well aware of this state and it's dangers. However they have truly spiritual, truly holy spiritual fathers to guide and protect monastics who begin to experience the world with this heightened perception…to get them past it, above it, and beyond it to genuine spiritual depth and perception which is the gift of God Who opens the eye of the heart, and not the fruit of discipline and technique.
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« Reply #133 on: August 21, 2012, 01:54:28 PM »

^ Thank you Seraphim. Post of Month, maybe the Year!
Ditto.
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« Reply #134 on: August 21, 2012, 07:51:30 PM »

Even if you don't quite believe all that Church stuff it doesn't necessarily follow you leave the Church or you have to. You might as well stay for a myriad reasons not that much connected to the dogmas etc, just like the majority of Orthodox do. I think it's a sign of maturity, actually.

I agree with this. Certainly frantically hopping from one religion or parish to another is a sign of immaturity. On the other hand, there's a lot of really beautiful stuff in the Orthodox Church (and in other traditions), and it takes maturity to appreciate it. I've come to grips with the fact that even if I didn't believe, I would still come to church because I love it. A lot of people are like that.

Unfortunately, I'm witnessing the rapid massacre of everything beautiful in the Orthodox Church in the name of misguided evangelistic zeal and ethnic-phobia. Perfectly spititual people are being alienated from the Church by this.

I will pray for Trevor. His recent posting makes my intuition think that he's still got a long ways to go, even if he's come a long way. With God's grace, he will get his faith back.
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