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