Changes in the Orthodox church

Metropolitan Jonah, the evangelical convert who became the head of the Orthodox Church of America (one of several Eastern Orthodox denominations in the U.S.), has been ousted from his office.  The reason, reportedly, is his aggressive public stands against abortion, homosexuality, and other controversial moral issues.  (Metropolitan Jonah was one of the signatories of LCMS president Matt Harrison’s open letter opposing the Obamacare contraceptive/abortifacient mandate.)

I realize that Eastern Christianity is more quiescent on cultural issues than that of the West.  Metropolitian Jonah is being accused of being political, but I suspect that’s more on the other side, since far more Orthodox are Democrats than Republicans.  But then I read that part of the conflict has to do with a movement within the Orthodox Church, including some bishops, to change the teaching about sexual morality, including accepting same-sex marriage.

Now wait a minute.  One of the major arguments I keep hearing from advocates of swimming the Bosporus is that Orthodoxy never changes.  Has never changed.  Can’t change.  Has an uninterrupted universal doctrinal agreement among its members that goes back to the early church.  Can it be that Orthodox Christians have theological liberals among them just like other traditions?

Some people convert to Catholicism because of the glories of Medieval theology only to find in their local parish feminist nuns, leftist priests, and treacly guitar masses.  Or to Lutheranism only to find that the local congregation has sold out to the worst excesses of the church growth movement.  Such disillusioning experiences do not invalidate the conversion.  Inconsistencies, misbehavior, and doctrinal indifference do not mean that the underlying theology is necessarily wrong.   It does, though, perhaps prove the Lutheran distinction between the visible and the hidden church.  Though attacking that doctrine in favor of the notion that the church must be fully manifested in the visible institution is another major argument of both Catholics and Orthodox.

Covering warfare in a Byzantine maze — literally » GetReligion.

What are some good songs?

I really enjoyed yesterday digging up those old songs on YouTube, not just those that shed light on the article we were blogging about but also the ones you suggested in the comments.  I was also trading songs back and forth off line, with my assistant Zach showing me a tune by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and me coming back with Roy Acuff’s “Wreck on the Highway.”

Let’s do that for its own sake.  Given that YouTube seems to have virtually every song anyone has ever heard of, post a YouTube link in the comments to a song that you would like to share with the present company of Cranach readers.  Pick ones that you think the rest of us would enjoy or find edifying or find interesting.  Obscure songs–ones that most of us probably are not aware of–would be especially welcome.

I myself, for all of my high culture pretensions, am pretty well-versed in rock ‘n’ roll circa 1950-1980, as well as folk and classic country music, but I am way out of touch with popular music today.  So I would appreciate learning about some contemporary artists.  I have been critical of contemporary Christian music, but I suspect there are some good songs in that genre, so if you know of some, I’d be glad to learn about them.

I suspect others of you are sadly ignorant about musical geniuses such as Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, and Hank Williams.  Or cutting-edge musicians like Django Reinhardt or Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.  Perhaps someone could complete your education.  All genres are fair game:  bluegrass, jazz, classical, even rap and metal as long as the lyrics don’t transgress the PG-13 standards of this blog.  Everything from opera to the op’ry.

Get the idea?  A word of introduction would be helpful–why do you think this is so good and what do we need to know to appreciate it?–followed by a link.  Take it away. . .

TV’s most powerful moments

The Nielson ratings people and Sony surveyed just over 1,000 Americans to determine the top 20 “most universally impactful moments” on television.  Here they are:

1. Sept. 11 tragedy (2001)

2. Hurricane Katrina (2005)

3. O.J. Simpson verdict (1995)

4. Challenger space shuttle disaster (1986)

5. Death of Osama bin Laden (2011)

6. O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase (1994)

7. Earthquake in Japan (2011)

8. Columbine High School shootings (1999)

9. BP oil spill (2010)

10. Princess Diana’s funeral (1997)

11. Death of Whitney Houston (2012)

12. Capture and execution of Saddam Hussein (2006)

13. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech (2008)

14. The Royal Wedding (2011)

15. Assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963)

16. Oklahoma City bombing (1995)

17. Bush/Gore election results (2000)

18. L.A. riots (1992)

19. Casey Anthony verdict (2011)

20. Funeral of John F. Kennedy (1963)

via TV’s most powerful moments: 9/11, Katrina, O.J., Nielsen study finds | The Lookout – Yahoo! News.

I’ll grant 9/11, but what about the Cuban Missile crisis? The early space launches?  The Moon landing?  The Watergate hearings?  Ronald Reagan getting shot?  The Berlin Wall coming down?  Operation Desert Storm?

Those compelling moments of watching history unfold didn’t make it but the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton did?  The Casey Anthony verdict?  Whitney Houston?

Sex and the single Christian

My colleague Marvin Olasky is writing pastors for help with a story.  I thought I’d share it with those of you who are pastors in case you could help him and also for our more general discussion:

Dear Pastor,

I’d like your help in developing a story for WORLD.

The National Association of Evangelicals says 80% of single evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 have been sexually active, and 64 percent have had sex during the past year. The NAE also reports that nearly 1/3 of single evangelicals have been pregnant or made someone pregnant, with nearly 1/3 of those pregnancies ending in abortion.

Some dispute those statistics, but even with lower numbers the situation is grave. The NAE, concerned about abortion, applied for and received a $1 million grant from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which promotes contraceptive use by unmarried individuals. (The NAE has helped the National Campaign communicate its message, but the NAE itself does not endorse contraception.)

Should we accept the world’s wisdom and recommend contraception for the unmarried? If not, how have you and your church promoted a biblical sexual ethic, and how has that worked out? How have you dealt with this question in your sermons, in Sunday school, in discipleship programs, or through church discipline? What effect have abstinence movements, promotion of earlier marriage, or counseling had?

I hope you will give me specific suggestions and stories, withholding specific names (or giving only first names) as you wish. Please email me (molasky@worldmag.com) by Wednesday, July 11.

In His grace,

Marvin Olasky

Editor-in-chief, WORLD

via WORLD Magazine’s Marvin Olasky Appeals to Pastors: We Want Your Help.

How Christianity, for awhile, became cool

The 1970s was a time of hippies, free love, psychedelic drugs, and cultural revolution.  But it was also a time of major religious revival, with the “Jesus Movement” gaining headway in that very counter-culture.  How could that be?  Baylor professor Philip Jenkins credits the Byrds, who popularized a recovery of American roots music, much of which is explicitly Christian.  He explains:

At least part of the explanation lies outside the religious realm, in quite secular musical trends of the late 1960s, and the rediscovery of American musical roots — originally, without any religious intent whatever. As a driving force in the new cultural/religious upsurge I would point to one group above all, namely the Byrds. Through the mid-1960s, the Byrds moved ever more deeply into psychedelic experimentation, culminating with the 1968 album The Notorious Byrd Brothers, but at that point, things changed radically. David Crosby left the group, which now added Gram Parsons, with his enduring passion for country and western music. In 1968, the reformed Byrds began recording at Nashville, where they even played the Grand Old Opry. (The audience had no idea what to make of them).

In August 1968, the Byrds released the album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which pioneered a new style of country rock. It also initiated a revolutionary change in the country music world, which was at the time very conservative musically and politically, and where long hair was strictly taboo. (Merle Haggard’s Okie From Muskogee became a huge hit the following year, and a confrontational conservative anthem). At first, country listeners assumed Sweetheart was meant as a mocking retro parody, while the rock audience was bemused. Over the next few years, though, the two genres increasingly coalesced, with all sorts of fusion styles inbetween — country rock, Southern rock, outlaw country, and the rest. (John Spong recently published a terrific history of this synthesis as it developed through the 1970s in Texas Monthly, but subscription is required).

Suddenly and shockingly, “country” culture became fashionable, as part of the Southernization that historian Bruce Shulman described as one of the key social trends sweeping America in the 1970s. This shift was greatly strengthened by the demographic and economic trends of these years, and the shift of wealth and population from Rustbelt to Sunbelt states.

Quite unintentionally, the Byrds also revived and legitimized Christian themes in music for an audience wholly unaccustomed to them. If you want to revive America’s roots music, it’s hard to do so without incorporating hymns, gospel and Christian songs, and Sweetheart of the Rodeo featured such evocative classics as I am a Pilgrim and The Christian Life.

In 1969, they recorded the Art Reynolds Singers song “Jesus is Just Alright with Me,” which became an anthem for the emerging Jesus People. Plenty of other artists jumped on the bandwagon, recording or adapting Christian roots — and that is quite distinct from the contemporary emergence of avowedly Christian contemporary music. (Christian rock largely dates from Larry Norman’s 1969 album Upon This Rock). The language of pilgrimage, redemption and sin entered rock music, as did Satan himself: in 1970, the Grateful Dead issued Friend of the Devil.

Suddenly, young people who knew nothing whatever about the American religious heritage were exposed to this music, in highly accessible rock/country fusion styles, played by hip musicians with long hair and beards. Along the way, they also heard key evangelical messages, which suddenly became cool and contemporary.

And that, I suggest, is a major reason why those Christian movements were suddenly able to find young audiences open and receptive to their messages.

via RealClearReligion – When Evangelicals Were Cool.

I love the Byrds!  I heard them play.  I do remember marveling at all of the Christian references I was hearing in their music and in other albums of that day.

And yet, I’m not sure I’m convinced by this analysis.  Why did those old hymns and gospel songs resonate with people like Gram Parsons and record-buyers the way they did?

I think a better explanation is that where sin abounds, grace breaks in.  Which means that we may be in for another spiritual awakening soon.

But this gives me the excuse to post some Byrds music. (“Jesus is Just All Right With Me” comes from 1970, though there is nothing particularly rootsy about it. Gram Parsons joined the group in 1968, but the far better “Turn, Turn, Turn”–a setting of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 by Pete Seeger–came out in 1965. This YouTube version is stellar, but it is more recent, from 1990.)

UPDATE:  Thanks to SK Peterson for bringing up this STUNNING song by Gram Parsons (with harmony by co-writer Emmylou Harris AND Linda Rondstadt):  “In My Hour of Darkness.”  This is what the original article is talking about, not just with the coolness factor (though the accompanying pictures of these three performers are very, very cool) but with the way Parsons is taking that old-time gospel hymn structure and using it in a highly personal and expressive way.  (I think we will all need to purchase the two-album set GP / Grievous Angel.)

I would add that the difference between this and what passes for most contemporary Christian music in the pop vein, in addition to facing up to “darkness,” is that Parsons is drawing on the past, on the Christian musical tradition, rather than repudiating it.

If you have no electricity, check your computer

My nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for letters to the editor, if there were such a thing, in the aftermath of the great power outage:

Monday, July 2, my third morning in the heat without power (and no power at my workplace), imagine my relief when I saw on the middle of the front page of my print version of the paper, topics listed with potentially helpful information about “The commute,” “Government workers,” “Summer school,” “Weather” and, most importantly, “Heat survival.” Then imagine my utter shock when we were directed to find this information at washingtonpost.com! Was I supposed to turn on my fan to cool off, and listen to my radio while I looked this up on my dead computer? I looked through the paper’s articles about the storm for any references to what seemed available only online. Not a trace. I was aghast. Was it a joke?

It was incomprehensible to me that those of us struggling with power outages were told to use our computers to find this much-needed information. Please use your heads.

Sharon Dodd, Rockville

via Without power, help online is lost – The Washington Post.


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