Rod Dreher posts a piece by an Orthodox nun warning potential converts…

Rod Dreher posts a piece by an Orthodox nun warning potential converts… March 26, 2014

that if they are converting in order to flee the pathologies in their own tradition, they are going to find exactly the same pathologies in Orthodox believers.  So they had better realize now that there ain’t no perfect Church and learn to live by (and extend to others) the grace of Christ.

I recall writing something similar a few years back when a writer for Beliefnet decided to flee the Catholic communion for Orthodoxy and offered some not-very-well-argued rationales that were identical to those this fine Orthodox nun warns about.

There Ain’t No Pure Church.  You cannot build a life on protest.  If your reason for becoming Catholic is to extend the middle finger to the last group you were involved with, or because you think you have finally found the perfect Church that is going to be the suitable accoutrement for your misunderstood and unappreciated greatness, you are in grave danger.  Because the Church is going to have all the pathologies you think you are leaving behind and it is carefully engineered by God to surround you with people who don’t think you are All That and who are both far greater than you and far worse than you–and you are gonna have to cope with both those realities.  If you don’t get through your head from the outset that your purpose in becoming a Catholic is not to grace the Church with your awesomeness, nor to tell the Church how she can be improved to suit you, nor to finally escape human sin and imperfection, but to be the latest slob and loser God has gathered up in the great Net with all the other stinky fish and to begin the process of saving your sinful undeserving hide, you are just asking for trouble.  Because the Church is a herd of cats.  Always was.  Always will be in this world.  That ‘s not a bug.  That’s a feature.  Its purpose is to teach us humility.  Receive your Church as she is, not content with her sins, of course, but refusing to despair of her either.  Cuz you’re not so hot yourself and yet God keeps coming to you every day with love, mercy, and hope that you and I will do a little bit better today.  And you know what?  We do.  Thanks be to God.

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  • Rod Dreher posts that piece? *sigh*

    • Heather

      Well, just because it’s the pot pointing it out, it doesn’t mean the kettle isn’t in fact black.

      • Non disputandam. (Or whatever. I’m no Latinist.)

        • ivan_the_mad

          “I’m no Latinist.” ANATHEMA SIT.

  • Irony is fun!

    I like Dreher’s writing a lot, but his theological justifications for jumping to the Good Ship Orthodoxy were always retrofitted bushwa.

  • John

    Mr. Dreher is an hyper-emotional and, apparently from his writing, unstable individual who is attempting to work out some rather banal (though I presume they are important to him) personal issues through participation in public life.

    People who change their religion with the same or greater frequency they change their socks are not good sources of advice on spiritual matters.

    • I certainly hope Dreher’s changed his socks more than twice in his life.

    • Lorenz

      I agree. Speaking of changing religions, Dreher has done so 4 times. He started off Methodist, then converted to Episcopalian, then converted to Catholicism, then converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. Any bets on where he will end up next?
      In regards to the topic, Beliefnet still has Dreher’s hissy fit after his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy about the flaws of Catholicism and how almost every priest is a sexual abuser and how almost every bishop is either a sexual abuser or an enabler. He gave not one but 2 middle fingers on his way out as well as various other cusses and explicitives.
      Dreher is an anti-Catholic and this comes out through most of his boring columns. I am surprised Mark still links to him.

      • Rob

        So what, I changed “religions” more than that. Pretty common among Protestants.

      • Within American Protestant evangelicalism, going from Methodist to Episcopalian doesn’t count as a “change of religion.” It’s analogous to deciding you’re done with the balloon-and-banner liberal parish you were raised in and attending a TLM somewhere in your town.

        However, even counting that move, that’s still only three “changes-of-religion”, if he was raised Methodist. As a former Protestant, however, I stand by counting it all as two big “changes”.

        • Eerie de Veré

          Some would also argue that going from Catholicism to Orthodoxy is not that big of a change since, historically, the border between the two communions has always been rather porous, and has become much more so since the mutual lifting of the excommunications at the Second Vatican Council.

      • Warren

        Rod (whose posts I’ve enjoyed from time to time) entered the Orthodox Church of America when he left the Roman Catholic Church. After encountering problems/scandals in that Orthodox jurisdiction, he joined another jurisdiction: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Not a change of religion, per se, but a change…

        • Oh, good grief. Did he really? If this is true I might have to revise my opinion of Dreher. I was beginning to talk myself back into liking him / not being hugely frustrated with him – again.

      • Moving Along With Style

        How do we list the flaws of Catholicism? Bad, Protestant-style liturgy, denuded hymns, awful Protestant-style church architecture, lay people distributing communion and TOUCHING the host! On and on. Orthodoxy would never allow this scandal. Period.

  • anna lisa

    I don’t want to be a stinky fish.

    • said she

      Just what I was thinking! Of course, we don’t notice our own stink… just everybody else’s.

      • anna lisa

        The irony of ironies is that I can’t give up my two showers a day either…and we’re having a terrible drought here. My first grader was given one of those 3-minute -shower-hour-glass-thingies to stick to the shower wall. It’s like a single blue eyeball, staring accusingly at me, twice a day.
        I am a well-scrubbed stinky fish.

  • Thomas Boynton Tucker

    Rod is a good man. As a journalist, he was so close to the inside stories of the Scandal that it tore his faith apart. We should not judege him for that. There but for the grace of God… He was able to find faith again in Orthodoxy. Having said that, I suspect that he now is able to remain there because he doesn’t analyze certain theological positions too closely. And that’s okay for him. We are not disembodied emotionless minds. I have no doubt that God understands. Again, he is a good man, and a courageous fighter in the fight for traditional Christian conservatism.

    • Ignatius

      And “a courageous fighter in the fight for traditional Christian conservatism”? Is that good? We should seek God, not an ideology with the trappings of religion, like “traditional Christian conservatism” (and a stinky one at that, as explained in Gilbert Meilander’s “Hold the granola” at First Things).

      Best regards

      • Thomas Boynton Tucker

        Yes, I think it is good. We should seek God first, but we are involved in the world, and ideology is important in setting and advancing concrete agendas, which may incorporate the good or which may incorporate the bad. To the extent that traditional Chrisitan conservatism incorporates the good better than other ideologies do, I think it should be supported.
        btw, in his final paragraphs in the article cited, Meilander admits that there is much to support in Dreher’s crunchy conservatism and that it is the tone that he dislikes more than anything else.

  • Mark R

    We are all so perceptive analyzing and interpreting anothers motivations and actions, are we not?
    Is it possible that some may actually grow after some struggling, picking themselves up after falling…many times?

  • Elmwood

    Great post Mark!

  • Stephen Sparrow

    Erasmus Disederius (friend of Luther & St Thomas More) was invited by ML to ditch the Catholic Church and join with him in the Reformation. By reply Erasmus said “I stay with the Church (Catholic) in the hope that she will improve and the Church stays with me in the hope that I will improve.”

  • AquinasMan

    Good to know I’m not the only one who forgot to bring deodorant. Sorry everyone.

  • The Deuce

    So, I’m admittedly not Catholic, but isn’t Rod Dreher about the last person who should be making this argument?!

    Also, while there ain’t no pure Church, and while trying to find a church without sinners is foolish and futile (particularly since they’re going to have at least one sinner if they take you), leaving a church like the Episcopalian communion for mostly negative reasons, where the apostates have taken over and Christ crucified is essentially abandoned, seems like a pretty good idea to me. In that case it’s not about being unwilling to put up with human imperfection and weakness, but with the church in question essentially serving on the side of the Evil One, and being ruled by the world it was meant to oppose and redeem.

    • chezami

      Yes. But it still remains vital to come into the Church for a reason larger than “Screw you!, Apostate Piskies”. I’ve seen many an angry convert enter the Church primarily because they wanted to tell off the people they were leaving behind. They often remain in that mindset, encounter the sin in the Catholic communion, and then head out the opposite door in yet another revolt. You can’t build a life on protest.

    • Ironically, Dreher’s never been more Catholic than now, when he’s realized that there’s nowhere else to go and still follow Christ. Once he really looked into the “purity” of Orthodoxy, he realized how flawed the church was and refused to walk away – I expect because he realized that walking away would mean walking away from Christ. While he was Catholic he was still Protestant enough to expect a purer church and the right to leave to go find it.

      • B.E. Ward

        Eh… I’m going to take him at his implied word that he actually finds Orthodoxy to be the true church. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who finds it difficult to admit they’re wrong.

        • Well, I didn’t mean to imply anything about Dreher’s own intentionality or conscious thinking. I just mean that a person who sees these particular brothers and sisters of Christ as people he can’t “get away from” is closer to the kingdom of heaven than one who still thinks he’s got an escape hatch.

      • Diane Kamer

        More Catholic? No, he isn’t. He’s just a hypocrite with a double standard, still desperately trying to justify his defection from Catholicism. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt if he weren’t a professional anti-Catholic engaged in relentless, ongoing Catholic-bashing. But he is a professional anti-Catholic, and he is engaging in relentless Catholic-bashing.

        Sorry. When Dreher stops bashing the Catholic Church at every opportunity, then I might conclude that he has mellowed, learned, whatever. In the meantime, nope. I’m not buying it.

  • Diane Kamer

    As far as I’m concerned, Dreher can convert to Whirling Dervishism, and I hope he has a nice day for it. Seriously.

    Do I think he has imperiled his soul by leaving the Catholic Church, even for something as close as Orthodoxy? Yes…and this is still Church Teaching, BTW. (People born into schismatic communions are one thing. People defecting from Rome for such communions are another matter altogether.)

    Do I pray for Dreher’s return? Absolutely. Every Sunday I pray before the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe for all those who have left the Catholic Fold. La Guadalupana always gets her man!

    But, in the meantime, if his present communion floats his boat, more power to him. All I ask is that he stop bashing the Catholic Church.

    And that is precisely what he seems utterly unable to do. Stop bashing, I mean. When he defected to the OCA, he claimed he would not become a professional anti-Catholic. But that is precisely what he has become.

    And no, the Scandal does not justify his relentless Catholic-bashing. It doesn’t even justify his defection, for crying out loud. So, it certainly doesn’t justify his continuing over-the-top animus against Catholicism, expressed at every possible opportunity.

    This segues into the other thing that disturbs me about Dreher: his double standard. OK, so he posts this cautionary note from an Orthodox nun warning that all is not gas and gaiters in Orthodoxy. That’s nice. But when does he get specific…when does he BASH the way he bashes Catholicism? Never. Not that I want him to bash his own communion. But, if he’s going to keep bashing Catholicism, then, well, turnabout is far play. Fair and balanced, right?

    The fact is that Orthodoxy absolutely teems with scandals exactly like ours. Every once in a while Dreher may mention one, usually just briefly, in passing. Most of the time he is mum. Even when the case is egregious. For example: the recent conviction of Canada’s Archbishop Seraphim Storheim. The guy was actually convicted of sex abuse / molestation. Convicted. You’d think that would be pretty newsworthy, right? I mean, considering that this is the highest OCA hierarch in Canada. But somehow Dreher’s nose for news was all congested that day. Result? Crickets.

    If Storheim had been Catholic, Dreher would have been all over it like a bedspread. We would NEVER have heard the end of it.

    This double standard is inexcusable, IMHO. It is sick-making.

    Bottom line: Dreher can church-hop to his heart’s content. That’s fine. It’s a free country. All I ask — and I think it’s a reasonable request — is that he stop bashing the Catholic Church at every conceivable opportunity.

    • B.E. Ward

      Soooooo.. I take it you haven’t seen Dreher’s post expressing disdain for the fact that Storheim hasn’t been defrocked yet?

      • Diane

        No. Have not seen it. Thank you. Let him multiply it by 1000 to the nth power, and maybe he’ll even the score WRT his Catholic bashing. (And I suspect you are well aware of this disparity.)

    • Thomas Boynton Tucker

      I don’t know where you see all this bashing going on. I read him all the time and I don’t see it. Unless by “bashing”, you mean justified criticism; that I do see.

      • Diane Kamer

        “Justified criticism.” Oh brother.