I am in the stretch run of my doctorate, and in the process I have been going through old emails from the classroom portion of the program. During the eight classes we were usually responsible for posting reflections on a weekly basis. In the next few weeks I will post some of them; here is one, from a class called Ministry In A Secular World…
While the focus of this class is on ministering in a secular age or environment, this week’s readings from Mark – chapters 2 and 3 – deal with fanatical believers rather than secularists. This is good, because we have to deal with the problem of hateful fanatics as well as the secular culture. In fact, very often the fanatics keep people who have marinated in the secular culture away from the Church. A good example of this is on Facebook, where there are a bunch of Orthodox groups. Most of them are great. One very popular one is called, ominously, Traditional Orthodox (Canonical).
First of all, if you need to label yourself canonical you likely aren’t. In addition to this, the profile picture for the group is an icon of Jesus wielding a sword. I imagine this is in reference to the passage in Matthew about coming to bring the sword, but it is scary. The stuff that is posted is also scary. I was recently involved in a lengthy thread on the term “Papist”, which the people in the group were using. I explained that this is an offensive term, and their response was like “So? It is technically correct”. The discussion ended with people debating if I was a real priest because I don’t have a beard and I wear a “Roman dog collar”. The scariest part of this group is that non-clergy are part of it and many are new to Orthodoxy. Can you imagine investigating the faith and seeing these discussions? There is zero love in the group. I remain a part of it so I can keep an eye on what is going on and also to be a troublemaker with the haters.
Christianity’s destiny was set when Paul set his sights on the west (although we need to remember that for close to a thousand years the eastern church – the Church of the East – thrived and had missions all the way to Mongolia). But as the account in Mark reminds us, Christ had to deal with insiders who hated the truth. These people remain with us to this day, and they are an obstacle to ministering to our own people as well as to reaching out to the unchurched who live in a secular environment.