Yesterday I received an email from a priest in Australia, who said he is reading my new book, Welcome to the Orthodox Church. He likes it, but notes that it is aimed at people already familiar with Christianity. In his case, he said, he dealing with two generations of nonbelievers. He said something next that I’m not sure I agree with. He said that he thinks in the future we will need to be like John Wesley, who went out directly to the people, preaching in towns and fields to preach. But, he said, we’ll need to reach them in different ways, through the internet or mass media.
Q. Is it robbing God to tithe on your after-tax (not gross) income? A. My husband and I were in seminary and still newly-Christian when a friend told us about tithing. She stressed the importance of giving the full 10% before taxes, before anything else, so that we would be giving God the “first fruits” of our labor. We recoiled at the thought of such an unexpected expense, but she said that, in her experience, it had given God room to work miracles in her life; once she and her husband had put their last dollar in the plate, only to have the pastor turn around and give them the whole collection.
Here are some other points, which didn’t find a place in the main essay. They are just random thoughts, and not arranged in any particular order. (I’ve included here the main points from three rambling essays on the topic that I posted in 2013, and taken down the latter.) 1. After Rod Dreher posted a link to my essay, “Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage—Till Now,” a flood of comments flowed in to his blog. Several people rejected my statement that gay sex is damaging to the soul, saying that there was no reason people in a gay marriage couldn’t have a close relationship with God.
With some kind of genius for stupidity, I said on my Facebook page recently that I am not particularly opposed to gay marriage. No, it was worse than that; what I said was, “I was asked why I don’t oppose gay marriage, and I’ll try to make this brief. It’s because I don’t agree that gay marriage harms society, or harms marriage.” I’m no big-time writer, but it caused an outsized stir. My readers are mostly Christian and conservative, and the comments overflowed. Clearly, I struck a nerve.
I recently received an email from a young man, an Orthodox catechumen, who is concerned about his best friend. This friend recently came out as gay and, after being scolded by family and church friends, has joined an “affirming” church that will endorse his choices. The young man writing to me said he was encouraged by something in one of my podcasts. I had said that there is room in our faith for people of the same sex to form loving relationships. This kind of love is called “friendship.” It has always been held in honor, and appears in the Bible and throughout Church history.
[Leadership Journal; Fall 2012] Shoppers are funny. We want our tech purchases to come with all the bells and whistles, but once we bring the product home, we don’t do as much whistling and bell-ringing as we thought. One study showed that, when offered a hypothetical cell phone, consumers wanted every possible feature to be included; when queried about their actual cell phone use, they admitted they were not using most of the features they already had. So it’s worth thinking about what you really want, in a comprehensive bible software program. I’d used a previous version of BibleWorks some years ago, then made a leap to a much more complicated program. Never did hang of it. I was glad to give BibleWorks 9 a try.
Well, good for her. I’ve often thought what Karen Armstrong states in her new book, “Fields of Blood”: that people don’t go to war for religious reasons, but for property. If there’s no property to be seized from another people, there’s no motive to fight. (I’ve read James Fallows’s review in the New York Times, not the book itself.)
My son Steve (Fr Steve Mathewes, pastor of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Bluff City, TN), was putting the kids to bed, and Ruthie (who turned 7 yesterday) asked him how many psalms are in the Bible. He told her that there are 151 in the book of Psalms (according to the numbering in the ancient Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint). Ruthie said, “I bet I could make the 152nd Psalm.” She wrote the following.
[St Seraphim Prison Fellowship; Winter 2013] Are there crimes that cannot be forgiven? Apollo was a shepherd, and had been hardened by his rough life. One day he saw a pregnant woman alone in the field, and was seized with curiosity to know how the unborn child lay in the womb. So he killed her; there was no one there to help her. He opened her body and looked upon the dying child.
Surprisingly, the Bible treats the heart as the place where we do our thinking—we think in our hearts, not our heads. And, as Matthew 15:19 shows, those thoughts are not always noble. In our culture we regard our ability to reason as one of the highest aspects of human personhood, but forget how often we employ that faculty in less-than-noble pursuits. The biblical Greek word for thinking actively, like when you’re thinking something through, is dianoia, and it includes selfish fantasies, plotting, and scheming: “The imagination [dianoia] of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21) “He has scattered the proud in the imagination [dianoia] of their hearts” (Lk 1:51)