Two of my favorite modern Orthodox authors, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom and Fr. Sophrony Sakharov have a peculiarity in common that make them “work” for me. Both include in their personal stories their own search for God, including the confession of dealing with modern Atheism. I never personally became an Atheist – that was a faith journey that I never needed to make. I well understand that someone could come to the point that they felt the need to launch out into their own abyss. I understand, too, the fact that some people are so angry with Christians and other religious sorts that they prefer to have nothing to do with it – God and all. Unbelief is not a contradiction of our age – it’s one of its symptoms. When I listen to my youngest child, a sixteen year-old daughter, I hear a teen who prefers not to make strong distinctions between people. I forget that the experience of television and radio (at least when an adult has had control) have largely been to listen to talking heads not talking, but yelling at each other. She has seen two election cycles or more in which people were so polarized that they could hardly discuss the subject civilly. If young people seem to say, “We would simply like to get along,” it may not be that they are “relativists” for whom there is no truth. They have rarely encountered anyone professing truth who wasn’t at the same time bludgeoning someone with it. They’re gun shy (literally). What they would like is a little peace. For my children, probably the most profound experiences have come as they gathered with other Orthodox kids – either at Orthodox summer camp, or at an All American Council. In either place the celebration was of a common faith – not an argument.
I suspect that the age of civility has passed us by. Certain issues are worth arguing about (like the life of an unborn child). It is also true that we have religious enemies who have stated world domination as a goal. That does not bode well for a peaceful, quiet future. But it doesn’t mean the end of a genuine search for God. Every age has its torments, every age its challenge. But every age is in the hands of God whose purposes are not thwarted. I pray for our children – most especially that they will see enough genuine Christianity that they will perservere in their faith. It is interesting to me that one of my sons-in-law, now an Orthodox priest, was deeply drawn to Orthodoxy by his encounter with St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai as a young teen. I know of member of my parish, as well as a catechumen and one of my inquirers, all of whom first came to hunger for Orthodoxy beginning in a visit to Russia.
America needs its monasteries. It needs parishes. It needs practicing Orthodox families. It needs people who believe in God and live their lives as if that belief matters. Christ raised the question, “Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth when He comes?” (Luke 18:8)
Will our children find faith on the earth even before He comes? May God make it so.