Out-Loving the Orthodox

Generally I try to avoid one-upmanship, which is a very tempting way to argue when it comes to religious views.  However, this time I am going to give in a little bit, and I find defense for this in the fact that it is a common function of the human mind to recognize the most excellent thing as the most authentic thing.  For example, after a typical Sunday afternoon performance it is perfectly understandable to say “Tom Brady- that’s guy’s a quarterback.”  What this means is that Brady’s excellence, by virtue of being abnormal is somehow the rule by which the category is judged.

What happens when we evaluate Christians by the same standard?  Who, by virtue of their excellence, is a “Christian”?  The answer should be obvious: Christ is the prototype, the rule setting exemplar.  But can we call Christ, a “Christian”?

Let’s halt this line of thinking to suppose that you are a casual observer, wanting to become a Christian.  What would your standard be?  I suggest that it is perfectly reasonable to look for similar rule setting exemplars as indicative of authenticity, and here’s where the one-upmanship comes in.

If a tree is known by its fruit, then Christians should bear the same fruit as Christ, which has often been misunderstood as the same fruit as Ghandi, Buddha, and (ocassionaly) Al Gore.  This has been painfully clear to me when I hear the New Christian Radicals from the Emergent(ing) church talk about Christianity as a subspecies of monotheism, as if Islam, Judaism, and Christianity were different states of the same union.  We most decidedly are not, as we bear witness to whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer; for the Kingdom we live our lives to see on earth as it is in heaven is not the same.

With the Kingdom of Heaven in mind, let us look at the fruits of the Christian: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and selfcontrol.  Many of these look amenable to non-Christians, especially the many off-shoots of Humanism. But no matter how hard he fought for peace and love, John Lennon was not a Christian.  One might argue that he was more “Christian-like” than most Christians, and I might concede that (which I don’t) and still say that does not put him in the same league as more excellent Christians, namely the Saints.  I could just as easily say that you grandma is a better quarterback than most of us (which might be true), but Tom Brady remains a quarterback in a way that could not possibily apply to your grandma.

Here’s the point: for whomever feels that to be a Christian means to be peaceful and compassionate, and you are frustrated by what seems to be lack in Christianity…look to the Saints.  If you are Orthodox and you feel encumbered by the tools the Church uses to fight the passions and to reform… look to the Saints.  Look to St. Seraphim, hunched over and bruised, asking forgiveness from his assailants.  Look to St. Nicholas who interceded for the men who murdered his brother.  Look to St. Isaac who shows us the excellency of truly Christian compassion.

“An elder was once asked, ‘What is a compassionate heat?’ He replied, “It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person’s eyes overflow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips the heart; as a result of his deep mercy his heart shrinks and cannot bear to look on any injury or the slightest suffering of anything in creation. This is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears, even for the irrational animals and for the enemies of truth, even for those who harm him, so that they may be protected and find mercy. He even prays for the reptiles as a result of the great compassion which is poured out beyond measure – after the likeness of God – in his heart.”

Look, and you will find Christ in His Saints…

Joe Torre: Dodgers wishful thinking?

LA’s sports pundits have recently found reprieve from “the Kobe Coaster” by the move of future Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre out west to manage the Dodgers. Though every So Cal native has to be happy with LA’s ability to land a manager of such caliber, the Dodgers organization has not received praise by this development, but only flack. This makes sense of course if you believe that the Dodgers treated the kind hearted and simple souled Grady Little poorly, but the evidence is beginning to point the other way. According to both Little, and Colletti it appears that this month’s managerial turnover was more Grady’s decision that it was the seldom trusted McCourt’s. I will miss Grady; I liked him as a man, I respected him as a manager, and I enjoyed his soft and unique personality.

But Torre is an upgrade. His wit is sharper, his credentials superior, and his ability to manage in a stressful city and a boiler room for a clubhouse garners him the utmost respect. So why all the criticism being aimed at the Dodgers?

In a scathing article on ESPN.com, J.A. Adande unloads on the Dodgers for thinking that Torre will be the panacea for the club. And he would be right, except that I don’t think that anybody expects Torre to be the cure all for Boys in Blue. If that’s the extent of the Dodgers moves this year, fans will not be pleased. Nobody is foolish enough to think that Torre is the missing piece, especially Coletti and the McCourt’s. And if McCourt did think that I don’t believe that Torre would let him keep thinking it for long; Torre wants to win, and since he wants say over the player roles and acquisition its safe to say that more things will be upgraded than the coaching staff.

Personally I  would be more tempted to put false and unreasonable hope in Joe Girardi than in Joe Torre.  The same part of me that was happy when we re-signed Nomar (the better part of me knew it was a bad idea, and I took the liberty at the time of saying so) would have been much happier with Girardi; who didn’t already have his identity with another team, who did great things with a miniscule payroll, who would have the possibility of being with us for decades.  But that part of me would have been wishful thinking; Joe Torre is a better and more sober choice.

So let’s call a spade a spade, the Dodgers have a great manager who only has a couple more years in him, who is new to the NL, and who has the chops to take care of the clubhouse and the pressure of the LA atmosphere.  Is this most important and exciting Dodgers event since Gibson in ’88… I don’t see how.  Dodger fans are happy with the celebrity signing, but even in Hollywood baseball is about more than PR.  The only thing that will make Dodger fans really happy is another trip to the fall classic.  We want to say that we play this great game the right way; and after years of being close, we might be just another step closer.

Sorry Grady, we’ll miss you.

Now let’s win some games.

St. Nikolai’s “Prayers By the Lake”

For the benefit of all I have decided to link to St. Nikolai Velimirovitch’s “Prayers By the Lake.”  For those yet unfamiliar with the Blessed man and his life I recommend brushing up on it before enjoying glorious works of the Chrysostom of Serbia.  That a man who could raise an army and spend years suffering at Dachau could also write “Bless my enemies Oh Lord” gives testimony to the presence of Christ in His saints and reminds us of what it means to be a Christian.  May we all attain such a likeness to He who made the cosmos!

Happy Reformation Day!

No, I’m not being satirical – I hope you have a nice day. And I pray that the Reformation finally comes to the end of its several- century journey at its true home, The Church. Maybe then Christ-loving and Godly people can stop identifying themselves by what they protest, and enjoy the hospital where they are truly “formed.” At a certain Catholic school I know of it is common to hear the view that the “Reformation” is a logically impossible, as they are jettisoning not only the means of the formation (their bishop’s church) but also the possibility of a this-worldly formation into holiness, since the divine laws are not meant to be followed but to be failed at.

Of course this is a misunderstanding of the first intentions and purposeful oversight of the circumstances of the Reformation, a movement that became something entirely other than it meant to be when Luther walked up to those dreadful doors with those fateful nails. Many a Catholic would do well to remember this, and many a Protestant would be better of it they recalled the true events surrounding Reformation Day.

May the Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us all.