Saturday, July 05, 2008

Icon New Media Interview

Hello Gentle Readers,

Well, the never ending quest to share the wonderful events and people in the Orthodox Church marches on!

Here's the premise: There are so many good things happening and so many wonderful and dedicated people working in the Orthodox Church in this present day that it is a shame that more people don't know about this! The result is that while all these wonderful things are happening, many of our Orthodox faithful are under the false impression that our Church is doing very little and they fall into such self criticism that they despair for the future. They are misinformed!

I have never been more positive and more excited about the Church and Her future here in America than I am today!

That doesn't me an that I have my head in the sand about the real and difficult challenges our Church faces here. There is entirely too much wasted effort in duplicating ministries across different jurisdiction and not enough cooperation and collaboration. There are still far too many strong pockets of Orthodox people who confuse particular nationalistic practices for the heart of Orthodox faith. There is a need for strong servant leadership in our Church that is far more committed to the Lordship of Jesus than the protection of religious "turf."

In spite of all that, I am convinced the Holy Spirit is both active and moving in our Orthodox Church. In spite of scandals, leadership weakness, uninformed and (sometimes) uninspired laity, there are a lot of good things happening. Unfortunately the old saying holds true: Bad news travels around the world before good news can even get its coat on.

One such ray of light and hope is Icon New Media. Jacob Lee, a former Calvary Chapel pastor and now Orthodox Christian, has started what I believe is just one more example of what we can do as Orthodox Christians to make our faith available to more folks. Icon is a wonderful place to hear interesting podcasts and see the new media use of the Internet that reaches out to a generation of young people who are more Internet savvy than most of their parents. This is the wave of the future of communications.

Not only that, but Icon New Media has just partnered with the SCOBA agency OCN to cooperate in creating and sharing in this media outreach to both Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

By way of full disclosure, your intrepid seminarian was recently interviewed by Jacob for a future podcast. We talked primarily about my conversion story and the unique journey of Pentecostals to Orthodoxy. If you get the chance, listen in.

Regardless, go to Icon New Media and check out their blogs and podcasts. I am especially excited about the daily reports of an Orthodox ministry team and their work at the huge Christian Music festival called Cornerstone Music festival.

Brethren, good things are happening! Let's do our part to share this news far and wide. Get on your blogs, facebook and myspace pages, email your friends, but don't be silent! SPREAD THE WORD!


Lucian said...

The Evil Eastern Orthodox Octopus spreading its cunning tentacles to lure in the unsuspecting souls of innocent American Protestants into its deceiving embrace, using the latest state-of-the-art techno-logical advancements to fulfill its wicked purpose in the most machiavelical of manners. >:) Ah, such craftiness can come only from true Masters of Deception! >:)

Our mischievious motto shall be:

Orthodoxy: where the Truth lies. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the interesting post. Very thought provoking.

sober living

Michael Bauman said...

Not to invade your privacy or disturb your joy, but I think your sobriety has temporarly left you.

I am an old, fat crumudgeon, an unworthy sinner, but to put much hope in electronic media to spread the truth of the Orthodox faith is dangerous. Electronic media has the effect of de-personalizing despite its frenetic attempts to allow everyone to participate in their own space and manner. It does not build community, it isolates and atomizes while disuading us from genuine thought. Electronic media debases language. We are regressing to the hieroglyphic stage of communication. Everything is forced into two dimensions, humor and the transcendent are quite difficult to communicate, yet it can seem as if you are having the experience. It is essentially Gnostic in form.

A false sense of intimacy is fostered, barriers that often need to be maintained between people as part of our growth and maturation frequently are ignored. While we don't have any privacy before God, we should have some before other human beings. Even your blog tends to obliterate such proper boundaries.

A false sense of spiritual strength can also be the result. It is quite easy to say without believing or practicing.

As a result the reality of the Church cannot be communicated by electronic media. The best that can be done is to lay a little bait.

The Gospel and the Church are all about living in communion in community with one another and the personal living God. Electonic media distort, disrupt and falsify such encounters, counterfeiting the real thing--not unlike fornication.

So I am not much buoyed by the expansion of electronic projects when so many people in our parishes are in great pain, many choosing to abandon the Church or at least the form it has taken in the United States. I am not much encouraged by virtual reality when our bishops for the most part act as cowards, corrupt CEO's or foreign satraps. Microsoft icons are no substitute for the real thing.

The Church has to engage OUR culture not pretend to be Greek, Russian, Syrian, etc., etc., etc. I see little evidence that we are doing so and a great deal that we are running from our task, afraid of the American secular beast or worst simply adopting the secularism and calling it Orthodox.

It is much easier to stuff our stomachs with tasty ethnic food, our minds with undigested sayings of the Fathers, and our souls with hubris.

For all the wonderful riches and depth of healing we have to offer, we more often than not are Pharisees. I could not in good conscience recommend anyone attending an Orthodox parish right now that I have not personally experienced. That is arrogant to be sure, but if it is a parish infested with either legalistic clericalism or its evil twin, legalistic anti-clericalism concerned more with being Greek, Serb, or even American than with being Christian, I don't feel I would be doing an interested friend any favors or fulfilling my responsibility to the Church.

All of this is nothing new, the Church will prevail but, in my opinion, the Church in North America is entering a time of testing. We have to decide whom we serve, the world or Jesus Christ be we bishop, priest, monastic or lay. Computers are not sufficient to meet the challenge and, in fact, can create the delusion that we are meeting the challenge when we are far from it.

If we live the life of the Church, we won't need the Internet. If we decide to use it we must do so with great discretion. God help us though if we use it simply because it is the latest thing, or as the only way to reach our youth while ignoring them and debasing them in our parishes.

Participation in the Holy Sacraments, prayer, fasting and almsgiving is what is required. Your joy stems from your immersion in such tasks and sharing the community of fellow seminarians. Many of us lack such opportunities or feel them being taken from us by shepards who have become hierlings. Unfortunately, for many 'authentic' Orthodox the 'dress-up' extends even into the Church herself, the form of righteousness without the power. Approached uncritically, the internet and other electronic media will merely be more dress-up.

May God bless you strengthen you and increase what you offer to Him in love.

Barnabas Powell said...

No invasion at all Michael. In fact, I agree with most of what you wrote!

Truth be told, media is as much an enemy as a value. I realize that and that is why we can never see media or technology as ends in themselves, only tools to be harnessed and used well. It is much ike the C.S. Lewis story "The Great Divorce." In his story there is a man (or better yet, a spector of what use to be a man) who has travelled from hell to Heaven (if he wishes to stay in heaven, he s allowed to call where he was "purgatory!") On his shoulder is a lizard constantly wispering lude fantasies to him. He is a slave to the lizard and the only way for him to become a man again and begin his journey into deep heaven is for the lizard to die.

An angel asks permission to kill the lizard with his flaming swordand the man finally relents. The angel strikes the lizard with the sword, and, after a loud howl of pain from the spector and the lizard as well, both fall to the ground as if dead.

But soon both begin to stir. The lizard actually transforms into a beautiful wghite steed and the now more substantial man mounts the steed and rides off toward deep heaven.

The lizard was the evil use of physical passion, but now subdued and tamed, it becomes a vehicle to help the man enter paradise.

I see media and technology much the same way.

As tools we must always be on our guard against them becoming ends in themselves, but as a person who lives in the reality of todays mediasaturated world, I see these emerging technologies as opportunities for communication, but not at the expense of the very hard work of physical communion and actual church life.

Your criticism of our current state of church life in many Orthodox parishes is accurate and false at the same time. It is accurate that there are far too many who see the Church as a social club where their cultural identity can be reaffirmed and suported.

But how is that different than any Christian group that contains people there who are only there for the social aspect of the religious life? I can say I have seen the same shallow adherance to Christianity in all its deniominatonal forms across America.

I can also say your observations are false. I have just spent a week at youth camp in the Metropolis of Atlanta St. Stephens cam program where I watched at teenagers from freshmen to seniors were confronted to make their faith more than simply a cultural decoration. I watched as priests I had never met taught these young people about the centrality of Christ in their lives.

Michael, the wheat and the tares are going to grow together until the Last Day. The Lord of the Harvest will judge well. Our job is to ignore the sins of others and focus on our own sins to become the men Christ has called us to be.

So, let's use media well. Let's take off the rose colored glasses of our expectations and look at the needs of the Church frankly and fairly, and let's rejoice that for every story we hear about the tares, there are multiple stories about the "wheat" growing in the Church.

Just a few thoughts.


Michael Bauman said...

"Our job is to ignore the sins of others and focus on our own sins to become the men Christ has called us to be."

I don't think you mean that quite the way it sounds, at least I hope not.

A good part of what we are called to be involves community, not just me and Jesus, but you and me and Jesus to over simplify. Community is not just the sharing of common ideas or ideals or roots or practice of even faith although each of those can be part of it. Community is bearing one another's burdens. I think it is quite wrong to say, "ignore the sins of others". We have done that too long. When we do that our communities die and we fail as Christians. In such ignorance lies the twin evils I mentioned anti-clericalism and clericalism. It is like the wrist thinking it can do without the elbow or the shoulder.

The paralytic whose sins Jesus forgave and whom He healed was healed not because of his own faith, but becuase of the faith of his friends who brought the man to Jesus. They had so much faith and loved their friend so much that they tore the roof off someone else's home to get their friend to Jesus when their friend was completely unable to do so himself. They refused to ignore the pain of their friend or to allow ceremony or convention or anything else to get in the way. That is just the opposite of ignoring the sins of others.

Now, what we should not do is use other's sin to excuse our own or as a justification for not doing what Christ calls us to do. We cannot require the perfection of others before we act, or demand the repentance of others while we remain arrogant. We must ask oursleves all the time, "Am I wheat or tares?" Psalm 50 does say, "...Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and steady me with a guiding spirit. Then will I teach transgressors they ways and the impious shall be converted unto Thee...."

Living in community is certainly a personal reality, but not an individualistic one. Living in community means living with each other person in your heart, especially if that person hates you. Otherwise why would Jesus command us to pray for our enemies? It means sharing one's gifts and ones wounds. That is not ignoring sin, it is battling sin in the only way that is effective. Indeed in a way that is what we offer to Christ for transformation as we participate in the Divine Liturgy, not our own pain only, but the pains of all in our life.

We also have a responsibility to call each other to account as long as we do it in love. The Scripture tells us this also.

Jesus went to the Cross bearing the sins of all the world as the icon of Extreme Humility and the Bridegroom icon powerfully illustrate, He calls us to the same task.

I would say to you your joy is meaningless if it is just your joy (and I don't think it is). It is only meaningful if it is forged in the Resurrectional healing of the sins of many, and the opportunity to bring that healing to many more. Likewise, the pain of sin born alone in isolation is impossible, indeed it is the depths of hell.

If I fall, I won't take many with me but when a priest or bishop falls many tumble. That is one reason why St. John Chrysostom said, "The road to hell is paved with the skulls of priests and bishops."

That is why I cry out because there are so many who have the keys to the kingdom who are not using them, knowing at the same time that I would be even worse if I had those keys.

You have embarked upon an awesome task, God grant you the grace to complete it. Please never forget the folks such as I who need the gifts you will bring just so that we may touch the hem of our master's garment.

Both of us must never forget that both wheat and tares are present in our own heart and it is difficult to discern the wheat from the tares with just a cursory glance. We must do the work to discern which is which in our own hearts and in the life of the Church. We must pray for the courage to act in truth especially when it is painful, even disruptive so that our brothers and sisters may partake of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We need to tear off a few roofs to get to Jesus and carry with us any who are paralyzed. Certainly I've been the paralytic often enough and likely will be again.

By your prayers....

Barnabas Powell said...

Again, Michael, hard to disagree with you!

Community is really the point of all this. the old aying holds true "No one goes to heaven alone, but everyone goes to hell alone."

I ghuess the point of my comment is that the best way to earn the right to speak honestly into someone else's life is after they have seenmy own life work diligently toward holiness. Only then will my loving observations and exortations hold any real authority and hope to have any authentic impact.

But I can't be concerned about changing the world until I am honestly willing to confront my own poverty and darkness. Valid and needed prophetic voices speaking the truth in love are absolutely necessary in the Church, but those prophets must be willing to be misunderstood, hated, and probably killed.

But no prophet can hope to have any impact at all if his own life is not subject to the ascesis of the faith. Only then can a prophets voice be "heard."

I agree the Church needs cleansing, but when has that not been the case. There is no "goplden age" of saints. there is only the honest revelation that we hold precious truths in very earthen vessels. Mine being one of the most earthy I know!

Let us then use the tools at hand always with the humble knowledge that the arm of flesh will fail us unless it is His Arm that saves.

Valid criticisms are easy. Solutions and the ever hopeful confidene that it is the Lord Who builds the Church must always temper our criticisms so as not to fall into the trap if despondency and hopelessness.

I thank you for your comments and your passion. These all-too-true observations you make are genuine "spots" on our love feasts. May God the Holy Spirit cleanse His Church of these sicknesses, starting with me.