12/12/08

Catholic answers...

From time to time as I commute to work I listen to the local radio station, they call themselves "Relevant Radio", broadcasting Roman Catholic programming. More often then not I want to hear something at least reasonably uplifting, something somewhere between the intelligence insulting hijinks of morning FM radio and the cheery pop music gospel of the local evangelical station. The folks at South Park were dead on right when they lampooned Christian contemporary music by having the characters form a Christian band that wrote songs by simply replacing the word "baby" from current pop songs with the word "Jesus".

Anyways, I enjoy the alternative Relevant Radio provides, although I, of course, have disagreements about some of the theological underpinnings. What I enjoy about it is the practicality. People can call up on the phone and get answers for real questions rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition. Again, I don't always agree with the answers but I do agree with the idea that the faith should speak to not just some theoretical world but rather the world, for better or worse, that most people inhabit.

Now we're getting better at this in Orthodoxy, largely, I think because we've had such an influx of people from outside of Orthodoxy who take the idea that faith should matter for everyday life as normal. But we have a long way to go. We have to face the fact that our people, about ninety nine percent of them, are never going to be monastics and that the information, the truth, the help they need is not so much going to be about how to live in the desert for decades but rather how to survive in their ethically challenged cubicle farm today.

That would seem simple enough, take people where you find them and help them become what God would want them to be. But it seems to elude us because we want not just to have answers but to also control the kinds of questions we face as well. The result is that too often we talk right past people and use high sounding words that manage to completely avoid dealing with what really matters to those in our embrace. Out of politeness, or habit, or loyalty they will travel with us for a while but on that one occasion someone pays attention they'll be out the door.

The truth is that we don't necessarily need more dissections of the Fathers, more papers on so and so and their relationship to the post modern dynamic. Those things are not bad in themselves but we should always ask "To what end?" What our Orthodox people need are answers to questions like "How do I talk to my kids about sex?" and "How can my faith help me in my job as a plumber?" Now we as Orthodox have, in my opinion, the best resources around to draw on for answers to such questions. But they need to be in language people can understand, milk first then meat.

The folks at Relevant Radio are at least making an attempt to do this. Now it's our turn.

4 comments:

Matthew M. said...

Father, Bless,

It's weird to read, "we don't necessarily need more dissections of the Fathers..." At first I cringed but upon reflection it seems that we must be down-to-Earth or else we aren't much help to anyone.

Asking, "To what end?" is an apt question and a very practical one. In fact, one of the things that first drew me to Orthodoxy was how practical I found it to be. In the words of Father Seraphim Rose of Blessed memory,

"Orthodoxy is life and if you aren't living it you simply are not Orthodox no matter what form of beliefs you might hold."

And you are right about Christian Radio and South Park... but I don't believe any Christian should watch South Park, since they make fun of our Lord. It doesn't seem right to laugh at an ill-natured joke about Jesus Christ and then go and pray to Him.

Matthew M.

Fr John said...

Yes, you're right about South Park in that it's commentary and language can be harsh. They harpoon the church sometimes and some times its not fair but other times it hurts because its true. Needless to say I'm not a regular watcher and probably caught it on one of my bored flip throughs.

My larger concern is not that we abandon the ancient wisdom of the church but rather that we help people understand how it works for them in the real world. Is that crass and consumerist? In a way it is but Americans have to see how it matters before we want more.

I think a classic example is sexuality where we can talk on and on about the higher things of the union of Christ and the Church and others, all of which are true and good, but we may have to start with "If you follow the historic Christian sexual ethic your chances of getting a really nasty dose of VD will basically go away." From there we can move to the higher and better things but teenager in the back seat of a car may just need to know "If I don't give in I'll be more likely to avoid a lot of pain..." to start.

Fr John said...

One more comment about South Park. I think the program is not a good idea for children and I certainly wouldn't want adults to make a constant diet of it. But sometimes shows like this function as a cultural barometer and its good to drop in once in a while to see what folks are really thinking as comedy often speaks truths in a way that wouldn't normally happen in polite society. Some people who attack the church, like Bill Maher, are just folks with an angry axe but many times people really do zoom in on our hypocrisy and expose it, and that can hurt sometimes.

Matthew M. said...

Father, Bless,

That all makes a lot of sense. Thank you!

Matthew M.