The Role of Men

I was delighted to be asked to write about the “Role of Men,” because I’ve read so many articles by men about the role of women. Such essays always give me the feeling that men consider themselves the standard, and women the variation. (That assumption was evident in an American magazine some years ago, when its cover offered an article titled “Why Women are Different.”)

Fr. George Calciu, My Spiritual Father

I had been searching for a spiritual father for some time when someone said, “Why don’t you ask Fr. Gheorghe Calciu? He lives only an hour away.” I was astounded; I had read his “Seven Sermons to Youth” and admired him, but I thought he still lived in Romania. I learned that he was pastor of Holy Cross Church in Alexandria, Virginia, while my church is Holy Cross Church in Baltimore, Maryland (both cities are near Washington, DC). I went to meet him for the first time on March 11, 1999. He was my spiritual father and confessor until his repose on November 21, 2006.

Dr. Ben Carson and the Vote Know Ad

In 1992 I was the Vice President for Communications of the Vote Know Coalition. This organization had been formed to coordinate a referendum campaign against a new Maryland law, one that had repealed a handful of consumer-protection laws related to abortion. (For example, this new law repealed the prohibition against paying kickbacks for abortion referrals, and another statute requiring abortion customers to be given a pamphlet listing alternatives-to-abortion resources.) We gained a record-breaking number of signatures and brought this law to referendum; we urged voters to “Vote No on Question 6.” Election Day that year was November 3. In September we asked Dr. Ben Carson, then a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, if he would tape a commercial for us. At that point he was becoming a familiar figure in Christian circles, but had not taken a public stand on abortion. He agreed to do the ad, and we faxed the script back and forth (in those pre-email days) until it said what he wanted to say.

“God Desires All to Be Saved” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Here is an immensely helpful essay by Met. Kallistos Ware, in which he traces the careful path between assuming that all will be saved (universal salvation) and praying that all will be saved—praying with yearning and tears, for “God desires that all may be saved and come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). He does this by examining the thought of St. Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938), a Russian monk with little education who became a very wise elder. St. Sophrony (1896-1993), also mentioned in this essay, was a spiritual child of St. Silouan and wrote his story. There’s a distinction that is often missed between praying that all will be saved and assuming that all will be saved. That’s especially the case in our time, when the more challenging aspects of faith are routinely played down, and God’s mercy is emphasized to the near exclusion of any other characteristic. Of course he is great in mercy, and what we say of that is true; yet in emphasizing it we can lose our balance, tipping too far toward one side. In a comfortable age such as ours, we assume God wants us to be comfortable, and we skip over the Scriptures that tell the tougher things Jesus said.

Bringing It Home

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.

Welcome – Discussion Questions

Part One: Inside the Temple Exploring the empty church 1  “Enter His Gates”        3  In the narthex, the church’s lobby or foyer 1. Icons are images of our Lord, and of our fellow-believers who are now with him. We keep these images near us wherever we pray, because they help us feel a connection to the people they depict. Do you have a photo of a loved one that affects you that way?

Open Question: Tithing

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.

Tomorrowland

“When I was a kid, the future was different.” So says George Clooney at the beginning of “Tomorrowland,” looking directly into the camera. Before you can wonder what he means, you see it: the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where everything is shiny, sunny, and rocket-shaped. Clooney’s character, young Frank Walker, has arrived with his homemade jetpack (powered by twin Electrolux canister vacuums), and waits in line for an expert’s evaluation. But the jetpack suffers from the technical flaw of not, actually, working. The sour evaluator, Nix (Hugh Laurie), sends Frank off with a discouraging word.

Welcome to the Orthodox Church excerpt (What does it mean to be unchanging?)

…Next come three short hymns known as the “Antiphons.” In the earliest centuries, these hymns were sung by people as they were on their way to worship, or waiting outside church for the official entrance of the clergy. The hymns (which, despite the name, aren’t necessarily sung antiphonally) are composed of verses from the Psalms or Beatitudes, or offer brief prayers of intercession (such as, “Save us, O Son of God, who rose from the dead”). After the second antiphon we sing a hymn attributed to the emperor Justinian (AD 483–565). O Only-begotten Son and immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation willed to become incarnate

Why I Haven’t Spoken Out — More Thoughts

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.