[Update: 11/28/18. It’s been almost five years since I wrote this one angry night after driving 30 miles round trip to a church event that didn’t happen after confirming the time over email. I posted the article to one of those Facebook groups for about an hour as a kind of prank to watch people get angry. Five years, five thousand views, and 352 Facebook shares later, this post still regularly attracts readers and angry commenters for reasons I can’t understand, as it’s not really that great of an article and I don’t understand why people would share information on the basis that they disagree with it. I still agree with most of what’s in it, but I don’t think it’s anything particularly brilliant or insightful.
Perhaps the draw is just that it’s something different, because most things written about the Orthodox Church by Orthodox Christians are positive, or at least lovingly critical with lots of hope for the future, and this article was just cynical resignation. Perhaps also people enjoy being angry, and this article seems to give them something to be angry at without feeling like they are sinning.
My prediction that this article would repel people was obviously wrong.
You are free to leave all the angry comments you want, but it just kind of proves my point about the weird kind of political correctness and lack of humility I see endemic in Orthodox Christianity. We aren’t so different from American secularism as we would like to believe.
I generally try to avoid posting things beyond the scope of my readers, but this really needs to be said, and nobody on the internet will do it. Here are 25 things wrong with the American Eastern Orthodox Church. Offensive and likely to repel people away, yes, but I’d rather tell the truth on the front end than lie to people to bolster our numbers.
- Parish websites are often poorly designed and do not provide adequate information about service times.
- Bible reading and active evangelism are often explicitly discouraged because they appear too protestant. When debating with someone, quoting saints has a strong effect but quoting the Bible will do little to convince someone. However, only the latter of the two is infallible in doctrine and morals.
- There is a great shortage of priests because there is not sufficient incentive to join the priesthood. The priesthood is so overloaded with politicking and work hours that men who would otherwise make good candidates run from it.
- Bishops found tiny missions in storefronts that have no substantial growth after 20 years. The priests complain or get a victim complex about not being able to draw a paycheck from the church, but often these priests will not get off their lazy asses and do some evangelism (see point 2) (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Timothy 5:18).
- Bishops ordain new converts or people with little formal Orthodox study. These priests often have cult leader complexes. Notable offenders are Archbishop Demitri (OCA) and Metropolitan Philip (Antioch).
- Seminaries do not adequately prepare priests because of weak curricula and incompetent professors. This is broader than Holy Cross.
- Converts accuse cradle of playing ethnic politics, but they the converts do it even more.
- Lay people have strong opinions but have no desire to explore Orthodoxy beyond their diocese and the internet. They want an echo chamber.
- Priests shame the Church for its lack of pan-Orthodoxy while taking strong pride in their own jurisdictions.
- Sermons can usually be boiled down to “be good” and do not focus on doctrine, often even among otherwise admirable speakers like Fr Andrew Damick. If a priest is bad at preaching, he can conveniently look up what a Church Father has written about it and regurgitate it. However, many priests are too lazy to do so and therefore should not be priests (1 Timothy 3:2, “able to teach”).
- There are many celebrity priests like Fr Stephan Freeman who preach a lot of sensationalism and historicity but have little to say about doctrine, discipline, or spirituality. These priests generally quote few Church Fathers and very little Scripture. The information they share is often inaccurate. Nobody calls them out on it, and the priests likely get angry if someone does, whether that person is clergy or lay. The celebrity priests have a rock star complex.
- Organizations like Ancient Faith Radio believe that people will not convert if Orthodoxy says something offensive, when in actuality it is this warmness that is causing people to flee from Western Christianity to Orthodoxy. People want a religion that is an anchor, not something that will give them social credit. Praying for reunification with the Catholics is like praying for it to rain chocolate.
- Catechumens are told half-truths, and later people wonder why converts are so strange. For example, “The bishops are accountable to each other and to the people,” instead of, “This is a medieval plutocracy, and your opinion really doesn’t matter to the organization you should donate money to.”
- People believe their strong opinions are absolute Holy Tradition. This is bad even if that opinion is a good one. For example, “Churches should do services in the vernacular.” That’s probably a good idea, but you can’t call it absolute Holy Tradition.
- People claim they want pan-Orthodoxy, but they want all the other jurisdictions to conform to their standard. The reality is that nobody wants pan-Orthodoxy. What they actually want is pan-OCA, pan-Antioch, etc (see points 7, 9).
- There are several different translations of the Liturgy, but we’ve yet to come up with a single complete translation of the Scriptures.
- There is no menaion in a format where small parishes can legally afford to hold services as often as they would like.
- There is a subtle but draconian insistence that everybody get along at any cost (see points 12, 13). Criticizing individuals by name is taboo, even if that individual chose to publish things.
- Monasteries spiritually abuse their guests and followers, both lay and clergy. This is a problem far beyond the Ephraimites. It is a systemic issue. (The monastery I wrote about at the end of my book was not Ephraimite.)
- There is a tightly controlled narrative (see point 13) about the history of the Church that is often inaccurate. For example, “Augustine of Hippo isn’t a saint,” “The Church Fathers only used the Septuagint,” “The Church has never done much evangelism. It’s outside our Tradition.”
- The Church put on a bad face to the world by having an Orthodox SciFi Convention. Ancient Faith Radio had no problem advertising our man-child syndrome to the world. The OCA is a magnet for these people, but they are not the only ones.
- Nearly all of the media influence is controlled by the Antiochian Church, which in turn is not controlled by a synod but an individual Metropolitan who is basically pope.
- People do not come to church on Christmas. They do not keep the “mass” in Christ-mas.
- People deny that the Church is anti-semitic. They do not realize that to be ethnically Jewish is to be religiously Jewish. Should a Jew leave Judaism, he is cut-off from the Jewish people. This ignorance of the American Orthodox Christians is a product of the modernism that the priests are unwilling to confront.
- Converts hate the Greeks and slander them constantly. They criticize them for holding bake sales, having the sign say “Greek Orthodox,” and teaching language classes which convert adherents can easily ignore with no detriment or inconvenience to them. These converts are also indignant if 5% of the service is sung in Greek, even though every one of those words are repeated in English. This mentality is often explicitly encouraged by non-GOA priests.
That should cover the basics, although there are plenty others I’m sure I missed.
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