The World is on Fire over at Fr. John Peck is in some ways specific to Orthodox beliefs, but addresses problems being seen in many Christian communities as the author points out. There is great pressure for people and institutions to conform to whatever the ideology of the day is. The author discusses what he sees as the negative consequences and the difficulty of even discussing, let along fixing, the problems.
I’m at a conference this weekend, with a bunch of academics. I spent a couple of rich hours tonight talking with old friends who teach at Christian colleges. I wish — do I ever wish! — that most of you could have been sitting in on this. These are professors who are on the front lines, and what they report ought to blast to smithereens the complacent piety of most older American Christians.
Pornography is destroying a generation. It really is. One of the profs told me that his female students can’t get dates. Young men aren’t interested in relationships. Those who do ask women out tell them at the outset that they (the women) have to be cool with their pornography habits. From what I gathered, we are dealing with a generation of males who are failing to become men. Slavery to sensory input from screens — porn and video games — is keeping them stuck at around age 14. These are young males who attend conservative Christian colleges. This is a problem so far beyond our usual categories that we can scarcely comprehend it.
We talked also about how wokeness is conquering even conservative Christian colleges. I like to think that I’m well informed about this stuff, but even I am shockable. I said to one Evangelical college prof,
“Most Catholic colleges are already lost. I get the idea that a lot of conservative Evangelical colleges are headed in the same direction.”
Said this man,
“Yes. We’re rushing in that direction.”
Agreement all around the table.
I won’t give details, because I don’t want to risk outing these professors. But trust me, this is everywhere. Pronouns, gender ideology, all of it. Being at a Christian school, even one whose identity is conservative, is no guarantee of anything. I’m serious. One of the professors I talked to had recently seen the Terrence Malick film A Hidden Life, about the anti-Nazi Christian martyr Franz Jägerstätter, which I saw this week, and absolutely adored. He too was blown away by the power of this film. We talked about how it was that Franz was the only one in his Christian village who understood exactly who Hitler was, and what Nazism was, and found the vision to grasp that, and to resist — even paying with his own life.
All of us talked about how difficult it is to read the times, and to resist the pressure to conform. You may be certain that even people who consider themselves devout, as did surely the people of Franz’s village, succumb to ideology. A different professor told me that his college’s senior administrators are good people, and faithful people, but they are blind to the power and the nature of ideology. They want to believe the best about others, a disposition that leaves them completely vulnerable to the attacks on the Christian core of the institution.
We talked further about how pervasive this is in churches too. I mentioned the recent case I highlighted on this blog, about an Orthodox parish priest who published an essay stating his “strong conviction” that the Church ought to bless gay Orthodox committing to each other as couples, and keeping their sex lives within those committed partnerships. This caused a big uproar — I wrote about it here, here, and here — and ended up with his bishop correcting him, and causing him to retract what he wrote.
Since I wrote about this case, I have received some highly critical e-mails from fellow Orthodox Christians who know the priest, and who are upset with me for being too hard on him. I don’t believe at all that I was too hard on this priest. You publish a scandalous opinion about a vital issue in the life of the church in One of the critics, himself a priest, said that the priest I criticized really had gone too far, and was imprudent in publishing. But, he said, a lot of the rhetoric attacking the priest was alarmist and vicious — I got the sense he included my writing in this criticism — and that the laity ought to calm down and trust the hierarchy to handle it.
Surely this priest is correct about the overheated rhetoric you see from Very Online Orthodox. I don’t read Orthodox blogs, because I can’t stand that kind of talk. It never leads anywhere good. It’s real easy for Christians of all kinds to cut loose behind the veil of anonymity with rhetoric they would never say publicly under their own names.
That said, in the main, I strongly disagree with this priest. I think there is a fundamental, and critical, failure on the part of many good-hearted clergy and laity to understand the nature and the seriousness of the crisis…