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disturbed

I’ve been alternating attending a local Eastern Orthodox church with attending a Beachy Amish mission church.  I like both churches very much.  Both churches are small and intimate.  I consider myself closer, theologically to the Eastern Orthodox church, but there are some things I love about the Beachy Amish church.  I have had better experiences thus far bringing my daughter to the Beachy Amish church and I find the people closer to my ideal of what I think being a Christian should mean.

So today I had a very disturbing experience at the Orthodox church service.  I watched an older woman smack her 8 year old granddaughter across the face and scold her for not acting appropriate to her age.  This was right in front of my toddler and myself.  The girl started crying and ran to her father, ashamed.  I was shocked.

I really love the Orthodox theology and services, but so far I have felt a little uncomfortable around some of the people who attend the church I’ve been attending.  I know I don’t want my daughter exposed to violence and humiliation.  My need to protect her is paramount.

sigh.  I don’t know if I can go back.  The whole point to me in becoming Christian is to live a better life, grow closer to God, and give my daughter a safe and wholesome upbringing.

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Through the Eastern Gate

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From Buddhism to Orthodoxy

I met a man, M, at the Eastern Orthodox church who was born Jewish (although secular unlike me), spent 25 years as a practicing Buddhist (Nichiren) and even became a Nichiren priest, until coming to the conclusion that Buddhism was ultimately leading him to God and feeling called to convert to Orthodoxy.

His story really struck me and even though Nichiren Buddhism is VERY different from Tibetan Buddhism, we spoke the same language.  His story was edifying for me.  Perhaps my sudden conviction in the existence of God wasn’t the result of failing as a Buddhist, but a natural progression that many Buddhists experience.  M told me about a famous American Orthodox priest/monk (excuse my imprecise language) Father Seraphim Rose who also come to Orthodoxy by way of Buddhism and wrote numerous books.  M bought me a copy of his biography and sent me the above link (and others).  Fr. Seraphim Rose also wrote a book called The Soul After Death which I want to read.

Reading about this is fascinating.

 

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I was very moved by my visit several weeks ago to a Beachy Amish mission church.  I was doing a lot of reading the other night however and came across the Amish and Mennonite stance on divorce and remarriage.

The Beachy Amish and (most) Conservative Mennonite stance is that divorce is never valid and that even if someone has remarried, they are really married to their former spouse until death.  Most churches will not allow remarried converts to become members of the church, even if the divorce and remarriage occurred prior to converting or if the divorce was the result of abuse or abandonment.  Divorced people are expected to remain single (because spiritually they are still married) and remarried couples are often asked to separate.

I am incredibly disturbed by this.  I don’t “believe in” divorce for the sake of having grown apart or not being able to get along, but things happen, sometimes people have to separate.  Abuse happens.  One person can do everything they can do to try to save a marriage, but it takes two people to keep a relationship together.

My husband was divorced from his first wife.  It was incredibly regrettable.  It was very hard on their kids.  It causes him pain still.  And maybe it shouldn’t have happened, but it did.  And we’re here now.  And our marriage is still good and blessed and holy.  I know this in my heart of hearts.

So I hit a big roadblock… because I don’t know that I can pursue something that might draw me away from my husband… or encourage me to look upon our union as less than it is.  It seems like a cruel stance.

I wrote to a woman from the church and asked about this and she was very sensitive in her response.  She said that divorced/remarried people were very much welcome at the church and that they encourage people to develop their own relationship with Christ and come to their own understanding of scripture.  She acknowledged that it would probably be a barrier to actual membership though for most/all Amish and Mennonite fellowships she knows of.

I may still go back to worship with the mission church, but it will be with greater reservation.  Since the mission church didn’t have services yesterday, I returned to the local Eastern Orthodox church I visited in May.  This visit deserves its own post.

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revisiting my past

Last week I went camping with my daughter at a festival I used to attend.  It was bittersweet.  I had a good time, but mostly I was profoundly aware of how different I am now than from when I used to attend (over five years).  I think I mostly went as a sanity check…  I find myself growing more conservative every year, and even more so when I had my daughter.  This festival is centered around feminism and women’s spirituality.  I think I wanted to go to check to make sure that my current leanings were not the result of some sort of brainwashing in my environment.  Presumably if this was so, my “vacation” would have me feeling different… more liberated perhaps.  And that isn’t what happened.  I went and found myself thinking “You really believe that?  I remember thinking the same way you do… and now I don’t.”  So, in some ways the trip was edifying.  Its like, okay, I can cross that off my list of places I still need to explore – this is not the direction for me at this time.  And its okay that I’ve changed.

I don’t think the above explanation will make sense to anyone reading this blog, and that’s okay.  Its sort of like, 10 years ago when I was contemplating my exit from Judaism I took a trip to Israel as a sanity check.  I went on the trip to see if I would feel anything in “the Holy Land” — to see if any latent Jewish spirituality would be stirred — to see if there was anything there for me to explore.  And I felt nothing.  nothing.  So I knew it was okay for me to give up my Jewish religious identity and move on fully.

So, the same thing happened for me last week.  And now I feel like I can more on more fully and embrace my new directions.  I felt like I got some clarity.

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Noreena Hertz: How to use experts and when not to.

In short, listening to “Experts” turns off one’s critical thinking which can have disastrous consequences.

Critical thinking can be fostered by encouraging dissent and discussion.  There is value in disagreement and difference and ultimately this discussion makes us more intelligent.

We should challenge experts.  We should ask questions, even when it makes us feel uncomfortable or bothersome.  We can ask: What are the assumptions on which this are based?  What was the methodology?  What are the limitations of that viewpoint?  What are the pros and cons of that course of action?  What are some alternatives?

There are great implications here for religious institutions in addition to medicine, education, economics, and public policy.  We should listen to people with whom we disagree and hold up minority viewpoints as worth of discussion.  This is something I learned growing up in a Jewish household where discussion and debate are held sacred.  I am grateful for this.

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