Monday, December 29, 2008

The Orthodox Answer-man

(This is a revision and expansion of a real, slightly tongue in cheek email posted on an Orthodox discussion list...)

Dear Subdeacon S-P,
There are so many Orthodox people on the internet with agendas these days, I think I need one too! What are my options? Help me find a good one because I'll just end up picking something lame and uninteresting.
Through the prayers of Ven. Melania of Rome, Ven. Chiriacos of Bisericani, New Heiromartyrs Thaddeus Upensky, Archbishop of Tver, Archbishop Velekii Ustiug, commemorated this day, and Barsanuphius, patron saint of me the greatest of sinners and bowing before you in all humility (but not kissing your right hand because you don't have the grace of the priesthood),

Dear xxxx,
Welcome to "Orthodoxy on the Internet"! You obviously have experienced the illumination of internet spirituality and have realized you need help in attaining blogotheosis. However, be forewarned if you are new to this: the only ultimate recognition for your efforts will be to be canonized as a martyr on the www Ortho-sphere. So if you are prepared to lay down your life for an agenda, there are several things you need to consider when picking an Orthodox agenda to give your life to.

F'rinstance, if you are constitutionally lazy you don't want to pick one that requires a lot of research, learning a dead language so no one can argue with you about your translations, or learning even a new language so you can read rare documents about your area of expertise. Also you wouldn't want to enter an area where you have no innate talents, like chanting, if you can't sight read and sing photocopies of 12th century Byzantine notation in dim candle light already. You also need to consider how much spare time you have to go through 1.4 billion google search results to know enough to sound authoritative for at least a few email rounds of arguing with someone who inevitably will have an opposing agenda before you bail out of a discussion in a huff. I would recommend that you have enough esoteric knowledge buried at LEAST past the 40 million search results so no normal Ortho-net person can challenge you readily.

But, the reality is, most newbies to agendas get passionate and excited and start tossing their newfound knowledge into discussion lists before they are well prepared. If you find yourself being Patristics-Tazed by some Ortho-geek out there who takes you on, here is what I teach the "catechumens to Ortho-agendas" as the proper way to extricate yourself from the discussion. You say something like: "This passionate discussion is not good for my soul...The Fathers were obviously illumined by "xxxxx" which I am trying to present to you. I should be praying instead of trying to PROVE my point to the uninitiated who are in bondage to the western phronema and need rational intellectual proof that I am correct. " Then lay low for a few days and post safe stuff like from the Philokalia or put up Youtube links to hidden camera videos of services on Mt. Athos and add smiley face emoticons to as much stuff as you can. This will disarm people and make them less suspicious of you later.

You might also consider that some agendas will make you look smart, some will make you seem pious, but some will just make you look goofy. It is difficult to find one that makes you look smart AND pious without knowing a dead language that only monks used. Piety and goofy are often confused, but as long as you stick with any pious praxis, dress, customs or liturgical prayer forms from an "old country" that is at least pre-1700 you are pretty safe. It is even better if the group you are imitating was oppressed by some "Orthodox emporer" or Patriarch.

A good way to beta- test an agenda is talk passionately about it with a couple visitors and one member of your parish council at coffee hour and watch for their reactions. If the priest comes and talks to you about it, you know you might be on to something. But, you want to google your agenda and see who else is on the bandwagon. If all the websites are in foreign languages, you have a good instant niche among English only converts. If all the websites/blogs/lists are in English, check out the profiles of the owners. If they are former/current members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), Star Trek Fan Club, or have a picture of Yoda, Sir Gallahad, Batman, or the Sith Warrior as their avatar, you might not want to take up the cause.

Anyway, just some suggestions. Good luck finding an agenda!


The O A-m

Friday, December 26, 2008

Speaking of Jesus...

These videos were made by a church to show people how non-Christians sometimes view Jesus because of the way Christianity is presented. The movie used for the over-dubbed voices is the perfect vehicle. My favorite line: "What in the name of me is going on here?"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nativity Thought

I was listening to the Gospel reading this past Sunday, the geneology of Jesus according to Matthew. This week we had all of our kids (and our new grandson) together all at once for Christmas for the first time in ten years. At 56 years and being far enough along to say I can look back on life, the geneology of Jesus took on some human significance for me. In years past in a way they were names, discreet points of reference like dots on history. On Sunday they were people. They had lives, futures, pasts, wives, kids and mundane things like jobs, sins, hopes and dashed dreams. And yet in the mundaneness of life and obliviousness to the working of the providence of God in a picture so big it would not be believed if God Himself told them, their faithfulness, and lack of faithfulness in many cases, brought forth the salvation of the world.

In the hands of God, nothing in our life is therefore insignificant, even to 42 generations hence.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In the Grand Scheme of Things

It seems like a catastrophe...but its really just an inconvenience.

My desktop computer stopped computing last night while I slept. I got up and went to check my email....No blue screen, no lights, just the fan running. The computer repair guy pronounced the motherboard dead. He told me I can retrieve my documents and files...5 years worth of digital pictures, 7 gigs of research and documents, 125 Our Life in Christ radio programs and 10 finished podcasts for a new program I'm doing for Ancient Faith Radio to be announced soon. So, yay for that. (I do have some backups...I learned SOMETHING from my last crash.)

New computer is being built (actually I have them built because for the most part the ones from the store have way too much stuff I don't use/need, and I get what I need for about 250.00). I just don't look forward to spending my Saturday reloading all my software and re-setting up all my accounts etc. And I have to figure out how retrieve my email address book. I never figured out how to back that up. sigh.

Until then, I have to work from my laptop. I hate the keyboard and its slower than the Cherubic hymn. Waah. Poor me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Just Plain Cool

I used to be able to juggle three balls. Now I only juggle seven liturgical books at the chanter's stand. But I can still appreciate this