How to Help Your Children Become Active Learners in Their Orthodox Faith

by Katherine Demacopoulos

Teenagers have more activities competing for their attention and time than in any previous generation. Sports teams are expecting year-round commitments along with extra training if the student athletes want to stay competitive with their peers. The pressure to attend the best college possible or secure academic scholarships, means that students are loading up on difficult homework-intensive classes (sometimes even opting out of lunch so they can fit in more academic subjects) while also finding time to serve in leadership positions in clubs. Activities like Driver’s Ed and SAT / ACT classes need to be squeezed in somewhere. This is also happening at a time when these teenagers are bombarded by constant reminders on social media that “while you were out with one group of friends, another group of friends had a fantastic time doing something else…without you.”

It’s not surprising that anxiety levels have been on the rise. In a recent study by the National Survey of Children’s Health, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012.

In this type of environment, I know it is a struggle just to carve out the time to bring your teenagers to church and to make them attend. Most families are bringing their children to church less often than they had been brought to church when they were the same age their children are now.

But we need to avoid the temptation to excuse ourselves. Continue reading

How to Respond to Religious Pluralism? Orthodoxy and the “New Comparative Theology”

by Kerry San Chirico

How should Christians engage other religious traditions? Today religious diversity has never been closer to home. Our uncle might be Jewish, our neighbor Muslim, and our sister engaged in sincere Buddhist practice. Then there is the fact that Americans are increasingly willing to borrow religious beliefs and practices deemed beneficial—yoga from Hindus, mindfulness from Buddhists, and the Jesus Prayer from Orthodox. Whether we like it or not, in the wake of our Baby Boomer parents, we do in fact live in a spiritual marketplace. Such eclecticism does not in itself make one a Buddhist, Hindu, or Orthodox, of course, but it does demonstrate an increasing permeability between religious traditions. Yet for all this admixing, some seventy-percent of Americans still identify as Christian, while seven percent identify as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist. Meanwhile, according to The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, no less than one fifth of Americans are now religiously “unaffiliated.” These so-called “nones” cause scholars, clergy, and pundits to scratch their heads or wring their hands. We move, as ever, into uncharted waters.

How to respond? We can pine for simpler times. We can try to batten down our hatches, attempting to be “untainted” by such religious difference, remaining polite but fundamentally uninterested in the religious lives of relatives, friends, or neighbors. Such difference can be frightening, after all. Many who converted to Orthodoxy have experienced this same attitude from our closest relatives, who responded to our conversion with a combination of bewilderment, fear, or even repulsion.

Yet Christian love compels us to a different response. Continue reading

The International Orthodox Theological Association: Conciliarity from Below

by Paul Gavrilyuk  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

The Holy and Great Council of Crete (2016) demonstrated that pan-Orthodox gatherings are possible in our time. The Council also made manifest global Orthodoxy’s enduring tensions and divisions. The delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch did not attend the Council primarily because of its broken communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church did not attend the Council because of its tensions with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which have now escalated into the Moscow Patriarchate’s unilaterally breaking the communion with Constantinople.

Our geopolitical quarrels have turned us inward; they have drained our financial resources; they have distorted our spiritual compass and diminished the potential of the Church’s salvific mission. Nevertheless, the Holy and Great Council has awakened a desire for a more connected global Orthodoxy in the hearts of many. Despite our divisions, the conciliar spirit is afoot. It is time to become the Church of the Councils not only in theory, but also in practice.

Responding to the call of the conciliar spirit, in February 2017 a group of Orthodox scholars and professionals created the International Orthodox Theological Association, or IOTA. Continue reading

The Audacity of Converts

by George Demacopoulos

Several months ago, a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity with the online handle “BigSexy” launched a Reddit thread decrying Public Orthodoxy because, he claimed, it is an affront to Christian teaching. My first impulse was to mock the absurdity—are we supposed to believe that “BigSexy” has a monopoly on theological insight!?!

I realized, of course, that I should not be surprised that people say silly things on the Internet—especially about religion. Nor should I be surprised that some converts come from traditions that encourage certitude rather than faith. An academic forum, like Public Orthodoxy, is threatening to this kind of Christian (and others) because it complicates simplistic understandings of the Church and its history. At the time, I told myself that no one encounters a faith tradition without the hermeneutical baggage of their past. Indeed, if a Christian as remarkable as St. Augustine was unable to move fully beyond his Manichean experience, could I really expect a convert with Fundamentalist tendencies to eschew the entirety of his former world view?

But the more I’ve thought about this episode over the past few months, the more I have realized that the problem isn’t the converts, their past, or their zeal. The problem is us—those of us raised in the Church. Continue reading