Has Orthodoxy the Doctrinal Basis for Addressing Racism?

The recent online uproar over Matthew Heimbach, once featured on national TV as a rising white supremacist, led to some discussions concerning phyletism and whether that applied here.  This is an important question.  What happened back then and does it at all provide a basis for combating racism when found within Orthodoxy today?  To get a snapshot of the ruling from 1872, I would recommend this link at orthodoxhistory.org, a site I was once directly affiliated with, when we were starting it up, and a site that has some helpful materials.  In 1872, a confrontation occurred between Greeks and Bulgarians and the Ecumenical Patriarch and Bishop Anthim.  Matthew Namee provided a six part series on this, using the Methodist Quarterly Review but the reason I have linked to the fourth part in the series is because Matthew provided the translation from the Quarterly in his post.  There are some notable things in that 1872 ruling.  First, it does not get into tit-for-tat politically but seeks to focus specifically upon racial differentiation.  That makes the synod’s statement more useful in future settings.  The main concern is the establishing of churches on the basis of race.  That is slightly narrower than simply making racial judgments and remarks.  So, does it at all help when encountering people who believe the Orthodox faith supports a racist view (whether “pro-white” or otherwise)?  I think it can and does.  For although the ruling itself may have referred to the establishing of a church on the basis of race and/or nationality, it seems to me that one cannot even seek to establish a church in this manner if one hasn’t already concluded that racial lines are worthy of excluding people, a priori.

The kicker in all of this is that we have Orthodox who believe precisely that.  I have met Orthodox across this country (including here in Fargo) who believe converts should not be entering the Orthodox church and/or that they are not “really” Orthodox because they do not have the “right” heritage.  Moreover, there are Orthodox who are sympathetic to Heimbach.  Heimbach, although told via his parish’s website to repent, has issued no such statement and yet is now a member of the Traditional Orthodox (Canonical) group on Facebook.  No one on that group has seemed to object to this.  Another example might be found in a rather well known Orthodox priest linking to an article that argues against an alleged discrimination against old white men (no I’m not making up the rhetoric here, that is the point of the article).  The article, though admitting white males have been privileged, then goes on to highlight only a few radical cries against white males in order to conclude old white men are under siege.  I don’t think anything is gained by responding to but a few examples from the extreme left by championing old white men is helpful, really, and it can send the wrong message to people such as Heimbach, his friends, and those in the Traditional FB group who are OK with such attitudes.  A better response would not be for an Orthodox priest to state he’s an old white man too and so are many others who will be celebrated on Father’s Day, but to have pointed out that a handful of extreme views from the left does not drown out the fact that people from all races and of either gender should be treated respectfully.  That’s all that needed to be said.  Whenever we play the role of victimization against a radical view, we risk encouraging radicals from the other end of the spectrum.

Orthodox clergy and laity need to make a clear stance on this.  We need to do so when encountering a rising white supremacist star.  We need to do so when discussing the relations between Orthodox internationally.  We definitely need to do so here in America, where we have jurisdictions that still hearken back to certain ethnic beginnings in ways that allow some of us to say converts aren’t welcome and/or aren’t “really” Orthodox.  A clear stance would be consistent with the ruling from 1872, even if the context is quite different.  The question is whether we’re willing to be consistent with that, whether we’re willing to say there is neither Jew nor Greek.

Enter by the Narrow Gate for Wide and Easy is the Path to Ecclesial Decline?

Following up, somewhat, to Fr. Oliver’s last two posts about ecclesial decline (particularly in PECUSA) I want to throw out an idea here that has become rather less fixed and certain in my mind over the last several years.

In 1997 as I was leaving the Anglican Church, I gave to several of my still-Anglican friends, who had a hard time understanding what I was doing and why, a copy of T.S. Eliot’s 1930 essay “Thoughts After Lambeth.” Eliot, an Anglo-Catholic, wrote in the aftermath of the 1930 Lambeth Conference which gathered the Anglican bishops of the world together in their decennial meeting. The 1930 conference is remembered for one thing only: it marked the first time that a major ecclesial body gave, albeit grudgingly, support for the use of artificial contraception.

After that decision, Eliot wrote:

There is no good in making Christianity easy and pleasant; “Youth,” or the better part of it, is more likely to come to a difficult religion than to an easy one. For some, the intellectual way of approach must be emphasized; there is need of a more intellectual laity. For them and for others, the way of discipline and asceticism must be emphasized; for even the humblest Christian layman can and must live what, in the modern world is comparatively an ascetic life. Discipline of the emotions is even rarer, and in the modern world still more difficult, than discipline of the mind….. Thought, study, mortification, sacrifice: it is such notions as these that should be impressed upon the young…. You will never attract the young by making Christianity easy; but a good many can be attracted by finding it difficult: difficult both to the disorderly mind and to the unruly passions.

17 years ago that seemed exactly right to me, and it was a handy heuristic for trying to understand the appeal of Catholicism and Orthodoxy to the many new converts to both who were among my friends: we were tired of the constant cultural capitulations of Anglicanism (and other forms of Protestantism) and their endless, vulgar huffing and puffing to keep up with the Zeitgeist. We want a Church that scorns the easy road that leads to perdition. We want a Church that challenges us vigorously and unapologetically in everything–the bedroom, the boardroom, the workplace, the kitchen, the public square. As the Jewish theologian David Novak reportedly put it, “Any religion that does not tell you what to do with your genitals and your pots and pans is uninteresting.”

Such an approach, I was convinced, is precisely what the world needs, and was, many said, part of the real appeal of Pope John Paul II in his World Youth Days that reached scores of millions around the world with full-throated Christianity. Such an approach, I once thought, explained the appeal of Orthodoxy to those who entered in the 1980s with the late Peter Gilquist and others. Such an approach, I was confident, would lead to Catholicism and Orthodoxy experiencing explosive growth–in the event of the latter, the Gilquist-led conversions would be but the beginning of a flood that would go on and on until Orthodoxy overtook many Protestant denominations in size and influence in North America. As proof that Eliot was right, I looked to Dean Kelley’s sociological study, Why Conservative Churches Are Growing.

But I’ve since come to see that the picture is rather more complicated, as it almost always is. Fr. Oliver’s own book on converts to Orthodoxy has been tremendously illuminating here, as has Amy Slagle’s earlier book on coverts. So too have conversations been with my friends, the Orthodox priests Michael Plekon and Bill Mills, as well as the Orthodox scholars Nicholas Denysenko and Brandon Gallaher, and others involved in pastoral ministry. Finally, my own students have been deeply challenging here. When I started teaching my introductory course on Eastern Christianity in Indiana in 2008, I very romantically assumed that my students, who were required every semester to attend at least one Orthodox Divine Liturgy and then write about it, would all leave the church staggered just as the embassy of Grand Prince Vladimir was: “we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, but we know that God dwells there. We cannot forget that beauty.” I have been depressed, but no longer surprised, to report that at most 10% of my students have that response. Many others leave unmoved. Still others, the most vocal group, can’t get out of the church fast enough because it’s the strangest thing they have ever encountered, and don’t you know all that incense will give you cancer, all that fasting will make you diabetic, all that kissing of icons is unhygienic, and all that sharing of the same communion spoon is the most unspeakably gross thing in the history of the world and will surely be responsible for the next pandemic?

All of these interlocutors of mine have forced me to re-think Eliot’s idea that a vigorous, strict, ascetically demanding form of Christianity is not only the way to staunch ecclesial decline, but is precisely the means by which to build up huge parishes full of zealous converts who fast twice a week; become vegans during Lent; tithe; do missionary work; attend Matins, Vespers, Akathists, Pre-Sanctified, and Liturgy on every feast and its vigil and post-feast; work in the local soup-kitchen; serve on six parish committees; and lead exemplary lives of holiness with saintly families who are all heavily involved in the church. Strictness, in other words, equals “success,” where success is defined as having millions of new members every decade.

Now I’m not so sure about this because the evidence seems lacking. Have we seen massive growth in Eastern Christianity in North America? No. Are most people today really interested in a strict, demanding form of Christianity, or are such folks a distinct minority (and not always the healthiest of minorities, either)? Is there a balance somewhere between a latitudinarian approach of extreme laxity, on the one hand, and a quasi-monastic approach of hyper-strictness on the other?

I still deplore the tendency to try to make Christianity seem “relevant.” I still refuse to countenance the changes made by Anglicans and others in many areas. I still think an easy Christian life is indeed a betrayal of the gospel in crucial ways. But is strictness the answer? Will that bring the masses back, or keep them in? I have no clear answers here.Thoughts?

Mainline Decline: What Lessons are There?

In my last post, I shared an article highlighting the Protestant Episcopal Church’s struggles to pay off budget and retain members.  Although I’m well aware that the internal struggles of the PECUSA are not the same as the various Eastern Christian Churches, I thought that article made sense to share in light of the recent posts on Matthew Heimbach.  Why?  Well, because the Heimbach scandal suggests there is something in Orthodoxy that has allowed him and his friends to latch onto Orthodoxy as supportive of their views.  So, what would happen if the Orthodox responded by knee-jerking in a completely opposite manner?  The PECUSA struggles suggest we’d lose members.  Now, numbers are not everything–quality is more important than mere quantity, as every mission plant pastor/priest knows, but they can be indicative at times and I suspect they might be in the case of the PECUSA.

There are some reasons to treat the drastic reduction cautiously, though.  Michael Hout, Andrew Greely, and Melissa Wilde, in “Birth Dearth: Demographics of Mainline Decline” Christian Century 2005, argued that the falling birth rate has hist the mainline churches as is the main cause.  In addition, Mark Chaves,American Religion, 2011, has argued that every major religious indicator has been trending downward, across the board, except diffuse spirituality (e.g. “spiritual but not religious”).  If Chaves is correct, we’re all in a world of hurt.

So, do these cautions undercut the previously posted article on the PECUSA?  Not entirely, but it should help put it in a larger context and perspective.  Yet, even with that context and perspective, it is clear that some people, and even parishes, are leaving the PECUSA over the discarding of traditional church positions on certain key issues.  I believe this ought to remind us that the response to one extreme (the TradYouth guys) might not be best performed as an extreme turn in another direction.

This brings me to one of the main lessons I think we Eastern Christians, especially we Orthodox, should learn from the PECUSA:  dividing the church too rigidly into the “liberals” and the “conservatives” hurts everyone.  Orthodox Christianity needs to find a way to express her faith such that it can transcend such divisions.  This is not easy, not at all.  I’m not claiming to have the silver bullet here but I would argue that one starting point would be to tackle each issue on its own, struggling against the temptation to reduce those who differ to stock arguments/positions.  For instance, I believe married bishops should be allowed again.  Am I a leftist?  I do not believe our church can perform “gay marriage.”  Am I a rightist?  Our Orthodox Church is too small to handle what is happening in the PECUSA.  We have erred in creating an environment that encouraged TradYouth to believe Orthodoxy supports them.  Yet we cannot err simply in going the route of the PECUSA.  That can’t be the answer either.  We need our own answer–one that seeks to be a transcendent voice.

When Liberal Means Broad, it Queries Liberal as a Willingness to Discard Traditional Values

Some of our posts have tended to challenge prevailing “myths” and/or viewpoints common to certain Orthodox sectors.  In this post, I thought I’d raise something that may challenge yet another sector.  A recent article reveals the difficulties faced in the Episcopalian Church as it struggles to come to terms with the loss of more conservative elements.  Note, these elements that are leaving cannot be dismissed simply as fundamentalists, for the division is deeper than that.  This isn’t a mass exodus of people leaving because they’re merely upset over incense swinging, facial hair, Book of Common Prayer editions (though sometimes this is raised), etc.  There is a real deep division over moral issues at least.  And this should be viewed by Eastern Christians (Orthodox or Catholics) as an opportunity to pray and view and learn (and notice I said pray not prey).  I think the recent decline and troubles in the Protestant Episcopal Church questions whether the future of American Christianity will be liberal, mainline Christianity.  Of course, this runs counter to those who would argue the “spiritual but not religious” group will eventually become affiliated with mainline Protestant Christianity.  I’m not sure which side is right, but I am willing to suggest that the Episcopalian situation needs a close examination but one honest and open, so that we Eastern Christians can make sure we’re learning the right lessons (admitting the right lessons might not always be the obviously apparent ones):

Why is the Episcopal Church Near Collapse?

Atheist-Orthodox Dialogue Post 3

In this post, we continue our discussion of “origins,” turning now to the origin of the Bible.  I argue that there are many human authors behind the texts that make up the Bible and highlight the development of those texts into the Bible as we know it today, noting that the Bible is a product of the Christian Church: Origins of Bible  John also highlights that many authors are responsible but notes that given that authors were not always present at the events they depict and the exceptional quality of many of the events themselves, we should be skeptical that much weight should be given to such a collection of writings: Where did the Bible come from

Statements Concerning the Antiochian Archdiocese’s White Supremacy Scandal in Bloomington, IN

Well, I have to say, things have not died down since I saw things explode on Facebook and received the essay from Inga Leonova.  I fully expected that her essay would cross in the blogosphere with a large, robust outcry from above and it would be quashed.  That hasn’t happened, which has only allowed things to fester and, from what I can tell, grow worse.

There is now at least a statement on the webpage of All Saints Orthodox Church:

http://www.allsaintsbloomington.org/important-message/

It is good to read this.   There is also another on the TradYouth’s website.  I won’t link to it because frankly, I don’t think people should be pandering their site.  The group is racist through and through.  The reason I mention their statement, though, is because it is a response to another post and in their response, they note specifically that Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist knew of their views prior to chrismation.  If you read the statement from Fr. Peter Jon, it seems TradYouth is telling the truth on this one.  Father admits to not understanding.  That’s not the same as denying any knowledge.  Subtle distinction.  Additionally, many threads on Facebook have comments that state Fr. PJG was forewarned, in person by concerned individuals, prior to chrismation.  That seems to back up TradYouth’s story.

So, what to do now?  That’s not an easy question.  On the one hand, it’s disappointing the bishops (or at least their bishop) and the parish didn’t coordinate to make a bold, clear response, especially if it would mean apologizing for not realizing how deeply the attitudes were held.  That didn’t happen.  So, we’ll see how it plays out.  For now, we have a statement on the parish website and a flurry of give and take on Facebook.  Please note the statement does insist that Mr. Heimbach cease and desist from racist activities.  That is good.  Also good is the acknowledgment that this is a public issue (I’d say scandal).  As other important statements are made, I’ll keep readers informed (to the best of my ability).  Until then, keep the faith (once for all for ALL) and pray that our Church seeks the kind of healing needed to prevent this from happening again.

Is there an Orthodox Bishop in the House? Or, will the Antiochian Archdiocese Address this Scandal?

I was asked to post the previous guest post not merely as a PDF but also as a full text article, so I’m doing that here.  I stand by my earlier introduction that I trust Inga’s work on this and I stand by my point that the irony is deep and abiding.  To that, I’d simply add that no one with this kind of public track record (Nightline called him an up and coming leader in the White Supremacist movement?) should be brought into the Orthodox Church without a similarly public repentance.  This is not simply a private pastoral issue.  This is a scandal.  Priests and bishops ought to know the difference.

 

Orthodoxy for the Whites?

Inga Leonova

 

At the end of Bright Week, a firestorm hit Facebook Orthodox pages. It has become known that a young white supremacist by the name of Matthew Heimbach has been received into the Orthodox Church on Lazarus Sunday in the parish of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Bloomington, IN. Mr. Heimbach has wasted no time utilizing his new religious association. On Bright Monday he and a fellow member of the white supremacist group called Traditionalist Youth Network used an eight-bar wooden Orthodox cross to beat up a protester at a hate counter-rally organized by TradYouth on a campus of Indiana University. Photos of this episode with celebratory write-ups were posted on TradYouth blog and their Facebook page.[1]

 

Matthew Heimbach, as it turns out, is well-known in the circles both sympathetic to white supremacist cause and opposed to it. In January, he was profiled by Nightline as “a rising star on the white nationalist scene” and “the next David Duke, with Duke’s blessing”. He is an activist with considerable flair for fame and public exposure. As more details of his reception into Orthodoxy had come to light, it became apparent that his activities had been made known to the priest prior to his reception, and moreover, that other members of his movement also identify themselves as Orthodox.

 

The issue of how to deal with this case from the perspective of church discipline remains with the local Antiochian bishop who is aware of the situation. However, it presents a wider challenge to the American Orthodoxy. It is no secret that we have long attracted a population which confesses bigotry and xenophobia, and that our very jurisdictional setup supports ethnic and even racial division.

 

In his young life Matthew Heimbach has moved from one church to another, seeking a spiritual home for his racist ideology. His prior affiliation was with the infamous Society of St. Pius X, a schismatic Roman Catholic sect known for its extreme bigotry and anti-semitism. He has finally found his spiritual home in the Orthodox Church. In one interview, he lists as his inspirations the leader of Romanian ultra-nationalist organization “Legion of St. Michael the Archangel” Corneliu Codreanu, and St. John Chrysostom (the latter for his homilies “Against the Jews”).[2] His Facebook page and the TradYouth page have multiple posts dedicated to the Russian “Black Hundred” (a general term describing several ultra-nationalist monarchist Orthodox organizations in early 20th c. Russia), and to St. John of Kronstadt, a popular Russian saint who unfortunately provided considerable spiritual support to this movement. He asserts that the fascist political principles are completely in accordance with Orthodoxy as far as they outline the social structures. He also uses the ethnic structure of the Orthodox Church as proof of the legitimacy of racial segregation that he preaches:

 

“As an Orthodox Christian I believe in the separation of races into ethnically based Church’s. That is why even in Orthodoxy there is for instance a Greek, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, etc. Orthodox Church. Regional and racial identity is a fundamental principle of Christianity, must to the dismay of Leftists. I believe black Christians should be in their black Church’s, with black priests, having black kids, going to black Christian schools, etc.”[3]

 

Can we say in all honesty that all this is but a caricature? Nationalism dressed up in Orthodox garb is on the rise in the Orthodox countries in the Old World. “Golden Dawn” in Greece and ultra-nationalist movements in Russia not only position themselves as fundamentally Orthodox but enjoy considerable support of local and even foreign Orthodox clergy and hierarchy. Orthodox Church has never had its Nostra Aetate. Our hymnody is replete with anti-Jewish sentiment, and our inter-jurisdictional relations are plagued by ethnic strife. Just recently the Episcopal Assembly in America was shaken by the démarche of the ROCOR representatives demanding that the ethnic jurisdictional status quo be inviolate. Our official stance on contemporary social issues is firmly aligned with right-wing politics. We have no involvement in human rights movement aside from a still-controversial stand taken by the Greek Abp. Iakovos alongside Martin Luther King in 1964. Is it so surprising that we present a welcoming appearance to the likes of Matthew Heimbach and his comrades? According to the researches from Southern Poverty Law Center who monitor white supremacist group communications, the appeal of the Orthodox Church has been spreading in those circles for a while now, and certainly not for the good reasons. Even a cursory look at the Orthodox online discussions demonstrates, for instance, a wide-spread support for the Russian President Putin as a “righteous defender of Orthodoxy” against “degenerate liberal Western values” – the exact rhetoric of the Traditionalist Youth bloggers and their enthusiastic commentators.

 

In a paradoxical way it can be said that by asserting that Orthodoxy supports his racist, anti-semitic, xenophobic politics, Mr. Heimbach has accused the Orthodox. It seems to me that it is upon the American Orthodox to stand condemned or to rise to the challenge. The public exposure of this case presents Orthodox bishops in America, regardless of the jurisdiction, with an opportunity to begin honest soul-searching of how we manage to appear as a natural haven for people who stand against the message of the Gospel in their very core. For these are people who call Christ as their witness: “But we as so-called “right-wingers” could not be right-wing without the existence of Jesus Christ, for it is Jesus Christ that makes us Right Wing. His message of a top-down authority system originating from God’s Sovereignty over mankind and having it manifested into a divinely ordained order of natural hierarchy, contracts and covenants, universal and natural law that all must obey is the coroner stone of what defined our ideological ancestors when they sat on the right side of the General Assembly in revolutionary France.”[4]

 

Or we can do nothing and sweep this under the ever-bulging rug, as has long been our custom. What will it be?..



[1] http://www.tradyouth.org/2014/04/tradyouth-on-a-mission-fighting-for-faith-folk-and-family/

[4] http://www.tradyouth.org/2014/04/pascha-and-nationalism/#more-10472

Is Orthodoxy Christian Enough to Call White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Her Midst to Repentance?

Yes, the title is serious.  This week we have been blessed with an essay from Inga Leonova who raises this real problem, a problem that has, unfortunately, come to light across Facebook and so is now a real, live issue.  Given how preposterous this might sound, I should note, here, that  although I cannot verify every detail,  I have seen the threads that indicate she is correct and I trust her work here–and pray that something is going to be done about this soon on behalf of the Orthodox Church, for this is now a scandal.  As a church historian, I must admit that there is a real deep and abiding irony here.  Think of Desloge Missouri.  Or Greeks in Nebraska.  Or any other number of events in the history of American Orthodoxy when the KKK and others caught up in anti-immigration and racist sentiments ran Orthodox out of town and committed atrocities.  Perhaps I should post on such things in the future.  For now, though, I prefer not to side track us.  Everyone is made in the image of God.  Maybe not everyone will pursue the likeness of Christ, but everyone is made in God’s image.  Leonova’s essay brings home that point if nothing else (and that’s under selling it–I hope you read it).  I present it here in PDF for easier reading and dissemination:

Orthodoxy for the Whites-1

Small Orthodox Parishes in Focus

An upcoming forum dedicated to helping small Orthodox parishes navigate reality will occur later this year in July in Ohio.  I think this could well be a good thing.  I haven’t had a chance to articulate my thoughts on this fully, but I think small Orthodox parishes are the growing trend and I also think we need to rethink how we’ve been doing “mission” and “chapels.”  Some things work well, but times are changing demographically and we need to prepare for them.  Lately, I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing an article proposing what I would call a “Neo-Ignatian” approach to Orthodox parish life for the future, excepting the larger cathedrals and larger Greek parishes.  Perhaps, some day, I shall.  I won’t make the forum this year, as I have some obligations come July, but I hope those who are willing and able to go will.  If you’re interested, read more here.

The Internet and Religious Demographics

Christ is risen!

Today I thought it might be worth jumping back into a blogging presence by raising the question of whether internet usage is inherently “bad for religion.”  Recently, an article claiming precisely this has been receiving some attention.  Since we did not blog during Holy Week and not for a bit after Easter, the question seems appropriate.  Weren’t we, here at RRO, implicitly acknowledging this very fact?

To give the short answer, no, we weren’t, but I think if we turn to investigate what the article is explicitly addressing, we’ll find the point isn’t so much about behavior in terms of how we treat people, but behavior with respect to church attendance.  The author, Downey, cautions that although correlation cannot equal causation (for the cause-effect might work the other way around, or other factors could be involved), it seems to him that an increase in internet usage leads to a decrease in church attendance.  That is, a cautious conclusion may be drawn from correlations if one is unable to account for other likely causes.  Two other correlations to keep in mind are that religious upbringing affect people’s later commitments in life and that college education is correlated with a drop in church affiliation (though to a lesser degree than internet usage).  BTW, if you don’t have time to read the original article in pdf, you may try this piece, which reflects on it.

What is interesting is that even Downey acknowledges this doesn’t account for all loss of attendance and affiliation because younger people are less likely to be affiliated but being born at a later date, in itself, isn’t causal.  That is to say, there seems to be a trajectory here.  This is where I believe reflections such as are found here on RRO (not to mention other sites) can be a positive first step.  There is a serious problem in America and anyone who thinks his/her church is unaffected simply is not living in reality.  More than that, it is important for us to get at what is good and what is bad about the internet itself.  After all, it’s not going anywhere, so we need conversations and discussions centered on what can be “baptized” and used and what should be avoided.

I realize Downey’s article is centered on whether internet usage itself isn’t inherently a problem, but I suspect most of us realize we cannot avoid it and that behavior toward one another online is of consequence.  I certainly believe it is and, in fact, I am currently working on a short book that uses a virtue ethic (derived from iconography no less) that explores cyberethics.  It’s not being written in ivory tower fashion, either, so hopefully, it will be usable to the rest of us in the church building.  But even without that book being finished, I have no trouble admitting there are people who use the internet in better and worse ways toward one another.  There are a few people who have had comments not see the light of day here, for example, because they simply hurled an insult or two.  Ad hominem need not apply.  Likewise, in a medium in which it is easy to talk past one another, we have likely all experienced someone who purposely chose not to read what we typed but simply kept rejecting our first point, as though we hadn’t added any qualifiers.  We also have seen church leaders use the internet to tear down other church leaders.  For example, one bishop who claimed (whether truthfully or facetiously doesn’t matter) that he he typed his rapid-fire attacks at others on OCANews.org while on the toilet certainly didn’t help increase the respect people have for clergy.  The point isn’t clergy disagreeing or having different views, but the ways in which we disagree and share those views.  We can also probably each name an internet “troll” or two (or more!).

So in light of that, and Downey’s article, can one still make an argument for a beneficial use and engagement with technology from a Christian perspective?   I think so, and though it will be arguing that some expressions are not virtue-producing, I hope my book will become one very very small pastoral example of how this could be.  Nonetheless, Downey’s article presents a real challenge.  If the church is to survive the internet age, it must find a way of navigating this new technology.  The fact that this is, at best, only half the problem, is likewise sobering but anyone following American Christianity has known something is not right for some time.