Category Archives: Religious Education

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

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

A Tribute to a Maestro: Fr. Robert F. Taft, S.J.

by Ines Angeli Murzaku

I was probably in the last generation of orientalists that had the opportunity to be trained at the Pontifical Oriental Institute of Rome and taught by figures of the stature of Robert F. Taft, S.J.; Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, S.J.; John Long, S.J.; Vincenzo Poggi, S.J.; Carmelo Capizzi, S.J.; and others who by now have entered eternity. When one of your beloved professors, mentors, and friends departs, a void is left behind—an empty space—that probably will never be filled. Sharing pictures and messages with Fr. Taft’s other disciples, former students, and friends over the Internet has helped me and generated more memories and special moments. One wonders how many lives he touched and transformed.

Much has been written about Fr. Taft since his death, focusing on his life and pioneering scholarship on Byzantine liturgy and the Byzantine Church in general.

Let me look at my beloved maestro from another angle: his utmost care for the Church of the peripheries, including his gentle and gentlemanly attitude toward women and especially his women students. Continue reading

Internet Orthodoxy: Opportunities and Pastoral Challenges

by Richard Barrett 

The second International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care (DMOPC) took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Kolymbari from 18-21 June of this year. The event’s principal sponsors were Pemptousia and Vatopedi Monastery, and it was attended by Orthodox Christians from Greece, Lebanon, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Canada, Australia, the Czech Republic, Kenya, and more. Over four days, one hundred and three presenters discussed theoretical, theological, and practical impacts of technology on the Church of today.

As an American participant, what I saw very quickly was that the questions and concerns the presenters were talking about were deeply informed by vastly different cultural contexts. There were two basic categories of presentations on the Greek side; the first was academic, represented by the panel discussion “The Progress of AI as a Challenge for Theology” and the paper “Paul and the Ethics of the ‘Internet’ in the Globalized World of the 1st Century and the Post-Modern 21st Century.” The other category expressed anxieties about technology threatening the Church’s status as a majority religion. These concerns tended to emphasize the Internet as a medium by which people were exposed to other religions, perhaps even deciding to change religions as a result; in addition, the problem of webcasts of services becoming a substitute for in-person attendance was frequently referenced. Continue Reading…