Thursday, June 15, 2017

Don't taint Orthodox Christian ecumenicism with lies of omission

A June 1 article in the National Catholic Reporter demonstrates how to mislead (and therefore manipulate) an unwitting reader by either downplaying important facts, or in this case omitting them altogether.

In Orthodox not interested in reunion with Rome, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese tries to make the case that Orthodox bishops in Eastern Europe, as well as rank-and-file Orthodox Christians, are not interested in reuniting with the Church of Rome, and are therefore less ecumenical than their Roman Catholic counterparts.

One of the fundamental problems with Fr. Thomas' article is that it does not establish a frame of reference for what reunification would look like, aside from the Vatican being "open to a less intrusive role for the pope in the Eastern churches than in the West." (Does "less intrusive" mean that the Eastern churches would be exempt from papal primacy, or does it mean the pope would simply take a softer approach to how he rules over the East while allowing Orthodox bishops to refer to him as a mere patriarch?)

Fr. Thomas also neglects to mention if Orthodox Christians would be expected to budge from their own theological positions (where they differ from those of Rome), or if East and West would simply agree to disagree on such matters.

On that topic, Fr. Thomas writes that "the touchy issue has always been the role of the papacy", thus disregarding altogether one of the primary theological divisions, namely the filoque in the Nicene Creed. While to some it may seem like a matter of splitting hairs, whether one believes the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only (as the Orthodox believe) or from the Father and the Son (as Roman Catholics believe) nevertheless points to a stark difference in how one views the Holy Trinity. Neither side should be expected to "reunite" with the other at the expense of such a core belief.

It is very telling that the author employs a Reality Distortion Field worthy of Steve Jobs by writing that the two sides "accept the same Nicene Creed", and leaving it at that. Intentional or not, this amounts to a lie of omission in the service of over-simplifying (and thus distorting) the true reasons behind the appearance of Orthodox resistance to reunion with Rome. Such a lie (that being the impression Fr. Thomas creates that there is no dispute over the Nicene Creed) also makes it easier to paint Orthodox Christianity as being less ecumenical than Roman Catholicism, with the unwritten implication that the Orthodox are somehow more close-minded because of it.

One dimension left unexplored by Fr. Thomas is the possibility that perhaps Orthodox Christians, along with their bishops, feel some sort of trepidation at being a smaller fish potentially being eaten by a much larger one. Looking at it through the other end of the telescope, I suspect that to Roman Catholics, reunion with Orthodox Christianity may feel like an opportunity for expansion of their own interests. (I have a hard time believing that Roman Catholics would view their post-reunion pope as "just one of the guys" among the other patriarchs.) Likewise, for Orthodox Christians that same reunion may feel like the beginning of a typically Western incursion, albeit in priestly garb, and under the pretense of ecumenicism.

Whether this last point is a factor in the results of the Pew Research Center study quoted by Fr. Thomas is merely speculation by Yours Truly. Nevertheless, it points to an issue that is far too complicated to allow for accusations that Orthodox Christians are less ecumenical than Roman Catholics, and whatever such a generalization would seem to imply about them.

As for me, ecumenicism and Christian unity between East and West shouldn't mean the same thing as "sameness", nor should it require outright reunion between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. There are enough ideals and issues around which members of both sides can passionately lock arms in solidarity without the need to merge their respective organizational structures, and thus risk losing that which makes each unique and beautiful.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Don't burden Wonder Woman with American jingoism

The following is a letter to the editor of the New York Post.

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Dear Editor,

Maureen Callahan's appraisal of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie (Why 'Wonder Woman' is less American than ever, June 1, 2017) seems to center on the extent to which it fails to be a propaganda exercise for the cause of American Exceptionalism. In the process, she betrays the national insecurity and defeatism at the heart of mindless flag-waving for its own sake.

America is already great in many ways, even if its sons and daughters have been repeatedly deceived into harm's way in the name of (or within the highly-charged milieu of) patriotism. Think of the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" that was fabricated by elites to lure unwitting Americans into the Vietnam war (which didn't actually have anything to do with "stopping communism"), or the "pre-emptive" oil war in Iraq that was waged by George W. Bush under the false pretense of the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" that were already known not to exist.

When will more Americans realize that the sense of "patriotism" they've been trained to feel is actually a form of mind control that keeps them supporting people and causes that are diametrically opposed to their own interests? When will they stop offering themselves up for manipulation by politicians such as President Trump, whose numbskulled appeals to patriotism of the most jingoistic variety were designed to turn the crowds at his campaign rallies into arenas full of angry barking dogs?

Patriotism in and of itself is a complicated and contradictory affair, and so I do not share Ms. Callahan's dismay that today's Wonder Woman doesn't honor her roots as wartime propaganda with an hourglass figure.

Finally, Ms. Callahan concludes her piece by asking "Why can't Wonder Woman make America great again?", which inadvertently amounts to the author bashing her own country. Looking at the bigger picture, a country that is truly great doesn't need to constantly preen and flex its muscles for the benefit of the rest of the world - it simply needs to let its actions speak for themselves.

James Deagle
Ottawa, Canada

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tory leader right to give Jack MacLaren the boot

The following is a response to a news article comment on lake88.ca.

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Firstly, Patrick Brown is not the Premier, and so the Province of Ontario is not "under Patrick Brown", nor is it a "dictatorship". (By definition, the Leader of the Opposition doesn't have the authority nor ability to make the Province a dictatorship. All he can do is heckle the Premier and hope for the best.)

Secondly, the "PEOPLE" of Carleton-Mississippi Mills chose Jack MacLaren as their MPP, and in that particular job he remains until the next election. Mr. Brown has simply revoked Mr. MacLaren's party affiliation - otherwise, the same person continues to represent the "PEOPLE" in question

Although we have a party system in Ontario, you vote for the person, not the party, even if your candidate's party affiliation factors into your choice at the ballot box. (Furthermore, becoming a given party's candidate is a matter of selling more party memberships than one's competitors, which isn't quite the same thing as the "PEOPLE" speaking their mind.)

On the other hand, any party has its own disciplinary process, and any party has the right to strip any of its MPPs of their party affiliation, particularly if that MPP is conducting themselves in a way that is detrimental to the party's political viability. While some of Mr. MacLaren's comments (regarding French rights, women or sexual abuse) may be met with rounds of applause from the more redneck corners of his riding, they nevertheless hurt the party's brand overall. If Mr. MacLaren's statements are not in line with the party's own philosophy and world view, then they are right to give him the boot.

Party affiliation is a two-way street.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Surrealist Maxims

Have proof by not telling secrets.

When somebody is too silly, create adversity.

Resistance is found when somebody finally sees the light.

Be unperturbed during a crisis.

Children have deep feelings about greediness.

You'll find some understanding by challenging deceptions.

Enjoy disruptive activities even if you run the risk of being seen.

Run like hell in your living space.

Dare yourself to be a vengeful person.

Be realistic about having to save someone.

Find hidden value in your spare time.

Spill the beans with an inept pal.

Manly men admire relative strangers.

Be there for a furious fanatic.

A recurring dream is awakened from slumber.

Youthful people find ways to get into the mood.

Recluses last longer.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Orthodoxy as apostasy?

The following is an April 19, 2017 email to Jeff Maples, Editor at Pen & Pulpit, albeit slightly modified from the original, which admittedly was written in haste. For better or worse, the views expressed here are entirely my own.

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Dear Mr. Maples,

It is far too obvious that your recent post on Pulpit & Pen (Visiting Hank Hanegraaff's New Greek Orthodox Church) was never intended to be anything other than an anti-Orthodox hit piece, and that your visit to Mr. Hanegraaff's home parish was merely for the purpose of lending some color and description to your uninformed invective.

In the opening paragraph you claim that your visit to St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church was for the sake of "research", and yet nowhere in your article is there any sign of you trying to rise above some of the surface impressions common to those of the Evangelical persuasion, even one with Roman Catholic experience such as you. Of course our services may seem long to you and other newcomers, particularly as they're somewhat akin to an extended group prayer session, rather than the style of service that Evangelicals would otherwise be used to. And of course you'd notice the smell of incense, though I think your claim that it was "noxious" was for the sake of providing an extra layer of anti-Orthodox negativity, as if to infer there is something "noxious" about Orthodoxy itself.

Further to your choice of the word "noxious" to describe incense, your post is chock full of wording choices that are clearly designed to steer the reader to your point of view regarding Orthodoxy, rather than convey or at least search for some sort of objective truth about Orthodoxy, good or bad. I'd list said wording choices here but it be would at the risk of simply retyping your post.

No, your visit to the church in question had nothing to do with "research" - it was simply a narrative gimmick upon which you could hang the same old tiresome misconceptions regarding Orthodoxy, thus reinforcing them.

Rather than just drop in to perform a journalistic drive-by shooting, I would recommend that you do some actual research. For starters, there is no shortage of books out there that explain Orthodox Christianity to the uninitiated - some of them are even written by Protestant scholars and Evangelical converts. Better yet, why don't you attend a Divine Liturgy on a Sunday morning and then the coffee hour/potluck lunch afterwards and engage yourself in conversations with real live Orthodox Christians. I'm sure even the priest or deacons would be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

But let's be honest - asking questions (or otherwise searching for answers) was never your mission. Your interest was in simply propagandizing your readers, rather than educating them. If your readers enjoy being treated like children, then that's their business. Where I have a problem is in how you make statements about Orthodox Christianity and its adherents with such certainty (i.e. we're all "apostates", we've all turned away from the Christian faith, our services are somehow "witchcraft"), and yet you display such a lack of journalistic curiosity as well as an unstinting loyalty to a theological agenda. (I guess you can’t keep a good Evangelical Pharisee down.)

There is much I can (and would like to) say about Evangelicalism, particularly as I gave it (and Protestantism in general) almost a lifetime of consideration before exploring Orthodoxy. If I really wanted to go tit-for-tat, I could write a parallel Evangelicalism hit piece in which I base my written conclusions on surface impressions – and believe me, there are elements of some Evangelical denominations that would strike many outsiders as rather unusual at first. But at the end of the day, I believe that God wants to use all Christians for His higher purposes, even Evangelicals (separated by at least three or more schisms from Orthodoxy though they may be), and that grace also exists outside of my particular faith and outside of Christianity itself.

If your own faith brings you closer to Jesus, then I have nothing to say about it except “Praise be to God!”. However, please make a more sincere effort to properly inform yourself before publicly spreading misinformation about a faith that has withstood the test of time in circumstances that should have wiped it out. If Orthodox Christianity has survived severe persecution and repression all through the ages, and continues to do so today in various parts of the world, I am quite confident it will easily survive the poison pens at Pen & Pulpit.

Sincerely,

James Deagle
Ottawa, Canada

Blessed St. Xenia of Petersburg Cathedral

I snapped these pictures yesterday of Blessed St. Xenia of Petersburg Cathedral (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) in Kanata, Ontario while waiting for the bus. This is definitely an old-school Russian church, as it has no pews in the sanctuary (though there are benches along the back wall for those who need to sit), and services are mostly in Russian.

Construction began in 1996, with the inaugural service being held in February 1997.





Thursday, February 2, 2017

Denial

I recently posted an art video on YouTube entitled Denial, which is a visual meditation on the Armenian Genocide in particular, as well as religious persecution and unacknowledged genocides in general.




All work on this video was done in OpenBSD 6.0 using Blender, GIMP and Audacity.