Well, here recently I have been pondering going back to school. I have gone from wanting to do something online in the Mental Health Field to an online degree in the New Testament to an online degree in Human Services Counseling. After much thought and despair, along with wisdom from my priest, I have decided to move on in life as if seminary does not exist. For me, seminary is going to be a long off endeavor if I am even called upon by the Church to go to seminary and become a priest.
For now, I have options. I have been considering and looking into the chaplaincy programs offered and really want to work on pursuing that route and working on the gift of pastorship I think I have. The great thing about chaplaincy is that one can pastor outside of being ordained. The great thing is that it can be a fulfilling calling (I recognize a calling or vocation cannot fulfill you, so I mean that I can take joy in what I do) and if I became a priest provide me bi-vocational opportunities as well.
I would enjoy getting to work in a hospital setting and getting to help people by counseling them and being with them. However, it is a little tricky to work this out. I called University of Tennessee to inquiry further about what my steps would be. The Rev. in charge said that their extended part time program is for just one unit of CPE and is not going to be offered this year.
That means i’d have to drive to Chattanooga, the closest place offering it, every Monday and Wednesday from 8am to 12pm and then do 12 hours of pastoral time every week on top of that, so 3 days a week basically. That seems like a bit much for us at this time with a one car family and with having to work full time to make ends meet. It may be that just doing one unit isn’t going to work. It may possibly not open that many doors.
The next thing is to pursue an M.Div or something equal to it. i’m going to see if i can us my undergrad background and do a Masters in counseling or something online. I really don’t want to do an M.Div online nor at a non-Orthodox school (no offense to non-Orthodox, but if an M.Div is required to strengthen your theology then it is right to have it be in your own Tradition). However, there are some online M.Div programs like the M.Div in Practical Theology that gives basic grad level theological studies, but focuses on counseling/psychology as well for those pursuing chaplaincy.
I do not know what will become of this, but there are some options. In the coming days, I will be exploring what the options are and what will/will not work for me to pursue the vocation of chaplaincy full time as a career. The good thing about an M.Div is that it would allow me to attain a year long residency that is paid at UT if I were accepted to it. That would be a wonderful opportunity.
If any of you read this and have advice, know some good online M.Div or counseling programs, or wish to talk with me about it please feel free to do so. I would be open to any and all suggestions, opinions and advice. I hope to hear from you. And above all, I ask for your prayers and God’s mercy and guidance as my wife and I discern what’s next.
Following the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1860, many political theorists and opportunistic politicians applied his findings to human society. In the 20th century, these ideas were put into practice — and it nearly destroyed us. Here’s why Social Darwinism was one of the worst ideas ever.
Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection was unlike any that had preceded it, the shockwaves of which are still being felt today. Even Copernicus’s terribly upsetting notion — that the Earth revolves around the Sun — only mildly perturbed our sense of the universe and our place within it. The same could be said about Newton’s clockwork physics and Einstein’s relativistic interpretation of the cosmos. These axiomatic shifts certainly changed the way Western society looked at itself, but not to the degree that Darwinian natural selection did.
God is Dead
Indeed, Darwin’s dangerous idea penetrated deeply into a hypersensitive realm that had stubbornly languished beyond human understanding: The origin of life.
Darwin’s theory served not merely as an explainer for life on Earth — it was also a veritable God killer. What’s more, it “reduced” humanity to the level of animals, forever disrupting the Judeo-Christian notion that humanity existed in an exalted place between God and the natural world. Humanity, it was suddenly realized, was not privy to the whims of God, but rather to the laws of nature. Moreover, the human species wasn’t static.
For the 19th Century intelligentsia, this further reinforced burgeoning notions of materialism, the sense of social change and progress, and the inexorable struggle for survival. Feeding off earlier notions posited by the likes of Thomas Hobbes (who argued that the original state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short), Thomas Malthus (whose theories on human population growth served as a kind of proto-sociobiology) Auguste Comte (a positivist), and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (who presented an earlier, but inaccurate, theory of evolution), many thinkers began to apply Darwinian notions to human individuals, society, and races. In the absence of God, went the argument, humanity needed to act to ensure its fitness and ongoing survival. Darwin’s thesis seemed to provide a blueprint on how this could be done.
And thus began the transference of Darwinian theories from animal species to social groups and races — a development that would lead to catastrophic results.
The Right Idea At The Wrong Time
As a term, “Social Darwinism” was used sparingly in the 19th Century; it was only popularized in the United States in 1944 by historian Richard Hofstadter. And indeed, it’s a term that casts a wide net, encompassing several different areas as it pertains to the extension of Darwinism to the social realm.
Indeed, its wide interpretation led thinkers to a number of different conclusions, including the reinforcement of individualism and minimalist government, theories about racial and societal “hygiene” and eugenics, notions of racial superiority and the justified use of force, and the idea that the human species could be moulded by the state.
Part of the problem is that Darwin’s theory arrived at a dangerous time — a time when Western cultural and scientific sensibilities were not entirely ready for it; it was an idea ahead of its time, and by consequence, was misappropriated to realms into which it didn’t belong. The acceptance of Social Darwinism was not only a symptom of an emerging and overly enthusiastic scientism, but also the result of poorly developed conceptions surrounding race, ethnicity, and biological diversity. It appeared during a time of deeply embedded and unquestioned racism, where the conditions of under-developed nations and poverty-stricken visible minorities were attributed to racial inferiority.
It was also driven by a fallacy that exists to this very day, namely the Naturalistic Fallacy. Social Darwinism was often justified on account of evolution being a “natural” process — a very dangerous proposition, to be sure.
During the latter half of the 19th century, Darwin’s biological ideas began to influence not just political theorists, but politicians as well. His theory — which described the process of variation and selection, the struggle for existence, and the need for adaptation and improvement — were applied to human society, primarily to reinforce and rationalize aspects of competition and struggle. It was also used to justify political control by a minority (e.g. imperialism and colonialism) and the capitalistic system itself. What’s more, because Darwinism was (and still is) often misunderstood to imply an evolutionary trajectory, evolution was also equated with social progress.
An Individualist Order
The chief advocates of Social Darwinism during the 19th century included Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. Interestingly, Spencer’s highly influential work, Progress: Its Law and Cause, was released three years before the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, while his First Principles was printed in 1860. So while Spencer was not immediately influenced by Charles Darwin, the subsequent popularization and legitimization of his ideas were most certainly a direct consequence.
Both Spencer and Sumner asserted the value of the struggle for life which resulted in improvement, a natural consequence of the “survival of the fittest” doctrine. This early form of Social Darwinism had a distinctive laissez-faire character to it, whose supporters advocated for an individualist order of society.
Herbert Spencer in particular was an ardent individualist. He firmly believed that the functions of the state should be limited to protection, and that no restrictions should be placed on commerce, and no provision made for social welfare or education. This individualism was a clear consequence of his application of evolutionary biology to social relationships.
All existence, Spencer argued, grew through a series of transformations from the simple to the complex by successive variations. He saw civilization as an ongoing process in which humans adjusted to an increasingly complex world. This evolutionary process, in the absence of interference, led inevitably to social improvement — an idea that now resonates with modern libertarians.
He also saw the poor as being biologically “unfit.” Public efforts to help them, be it through legislation, charity, and social reconstruction, were undesirable because it might allow them to mature and pass on their weakness. He suggested that the whole thrust of nature was to get rid of the inefficient in order to make room for the superior. The way he looked at it, if they weren’t fit enough to live, they would die — and it was probably for the better.
Other evils, no less serious, are entailed by legislative actions and by actions of individuals, single and combined, which overlook or disregard a kindred biological truth. Beside an habitual neglect of the fact that the quality of a society is physically lowered by the artificial preservation of its feeblest members, there is an habitual neglect of the fact that the quality of a society is lowered morally and intellectually, by the artificial preservation of those who are least able to take care of themselves.”
Similarly, Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician, argued in 1876 that born criminals were essentially proto-humans — a throw-back in evolution. Similar sentiments were also used to justify slavery in the United States.
These ideas would go on to influence the eugenics movement, an early 20th century initiative designed to prevent those deemed too unworthy to pass their deleterious genes to the next generation, lest the overall health of human society be compromised.
Additionally, the burgeoning Social Darwinism of the time would go on to influence such politicians as Otto von Bismarck, Joseph Chamberlain, and Theodore Roosevelt. It was often used in the political arena to justify eugenic or racial differences, imperialist expansion, colonialism, and war. These politicians, whether they did so opportunistically or sincerely, used these sentiments to stress competitive relationships and struggles between nations and groups in order to ensure the survival of the physically and mentally worthiest people.
And to further the cause of their nation.
The Totalitarian Tragedies
Without question, the most infamous application of Social Darwinism was in Nazi Germany. By the early 20th century, the pseudoscientific generalities of Social Darwinism remained popular in Europe — and it spoke to those advocating for racial purity.
Indeed, Social Darwinism served to heighten race consciousness to a greater degree; anti-semitism during this time was justified on biological grounds.
Historian Alan Cassels writes:
Above above all, German Volkish cultists excoriated Jews as “a pestilence and a cholera” which threatened to pollute the race. To accomplish this corruption, Jewish males were supposed to lust perpetually after Aryan women. A logical recommendation to be drawn from this view was the destruction of German Jewry in order to preserve the purity of the German race — a proposal made by some fanatics before 1914 and ultimately implemented by the Nazis.
Using such thinking, Jews could then be persecuted not for their actions or beliefs, but simply for who they were.
Adolf Hitler further articulated these beliefs in the first volume of Mein Kampf. He essentially saw the world as one gigantic struggle among the races — a struggle that would ultimately be won by the strongest.
And therein lay one of the most nefarious ideas to take root in modern politics — the notion that force could always be justified in this context, with no room for ethics, law, or humanitarian scruples. The acceptance of Social Darwinism by the Nazis goes a long way in explaining the intense brutality meted out during the Second World War. It not only motivated them to unite the Teutonic peoples, but to decimate races altogether, and to claim other lands as the conquerors of more primitive races — including the Slavs who Hitler described as being subhuman, a race suitable for both colonization and, eventually, annihilation (Hitler’s Hunger Plan, which was never put into practice on account of stubborn Soviet resistance, called for the deliberate starvation of tens of millions of Slavs in preparation for the colonization of Ukraine and parts of Russia).
So severe, was Naziism, that its political opponents deemed it an existential risk. It had to be wiped out lest its tentacles spread to all corners of the Earth, spawning a culture-crushing and science-stifling Dark Age. The resulting war — the first to feature apocalyptic weapons — was the greatest human-instigated disaster to befall our civilization.
But fascists weren’t the only totalitarians to be influenced by Darwin. The misapplication of biology to politics was also committed by the communists. Karl Marx read On the Origin of Species and absolutely loved it. Not only did it speak to his materialist sensibilities, it also affirmed his theory of class struggle — an agenda that was put into full force by Joseph Stalin during the Great Terror period, a time when millions of people were murdered by the Soviet apparatus as a means of self-colonization.
Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle…Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, ‘teleology’ in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.
Sadly, Darwin never intended for this to happen. For the most part, he limited the theory to the biological realm (though he did delve into speculative sociology in his later work, The Descent of Man).
But like so many things in life, it takes only a few people to ruin it for everybody else. To this day, Darwinism has its detractors, including Creationists who wrongly blame Darwin and his theory for the travesties committed last century. Quite obviously, equating natural selection — a remarkably potent theory that’s accepted wholeheartedly by any serious biologist — with the ills of Social Darwinism is a tragic mistake. The science is still science, while Social Darwinism, with its gratuitous generalizations and misreadings of how natural selection works (e.g. it completely fails to account for group selection theories and the rise of such characteristics as empathy) will forever remain in the realm of pseudoscience.
What’s more, the application of Darwinian processes to human morality is about as facile an exercise as it gets. As a moral maxim, “survival of the fittest” is as unenlightened as it gets. If anything, the general tendency of human society is remove itself as far away from possible to this process. If anything, Social Darwinism is anathema to civilized society.
And the fact that it nearly destroyed us should serve as a potent lesson.
[Other sources: Alan Cassels: Fascism; Michael Curtis: The Great Political Theories]
On Sunday night, I wrote a short post soliciting stories from my readers about how Obamacare has already immediately impacted their lives. I asked that all of these emails be directed to ObamacareMakesMeSick@Yahoo.com. I expected a response; I didn’t expect it to be quite so overwhelming.
Over the last 24 hours, my inbox has been flooded with hundreds of emails. What you’ll read in this post represents a portion of them. I’m only one guy (with a fulltime job and twins) — I wasn’t able to go through every single message just yet. Some, I left out because the information was too specific and personal, to the extent that it would reveal the identity of the person who sent it. Some, I couldn’t include because they are simply (well written and accurate) editorials about Obamacare, but they don’t speak to the personal, physical impact of Obamacare on American families. Others…
3) Watch online videos about faith or spirituality: 54 percent of practicing Christian millennials, vs. 31 percent of all millennials.
4) Research a church, temple, or synagogue online: 56 percent of practicing Christian millennials, vs. 34 percent of all millennials.
But the most interesting finding: Nearly 4 out of 10 practicing Christian millennials are fact-checking their pastor’s sermons. Notes Barna:
The one-way communication from pulpit to pew is not how Millennials experience faith. By nature of digital connectedness, Millennial life is interactive. For many of them, faith is interactive as well—whether their churches are ready for it or not. It’s an ongoing conversation, and it’s all happening on their computers, tablets and smart phones. What’s more, many of them bring their devices with them to church. Now with the ability to fact-check at their fingertips, Millennials aren’t taking the teaching of faith leaders for granted. In fact, 14% of Millennials say they search to verify something a faith leader has said. A striking 38% of practicing Christian Millennials say the same.
The Orthodox Church shares a very similar view of contraception with the Roman Catholic Church. We practice a little more grace and economia with the issue and would say it is between the couple and their spiritual father, however, we do see pretty much eye-to-eye on the issue as far as I have observed. I found this article to be fantastic:
Painting the Catholic Church as “out of touch” is like shooting fish in a barrel, what with the funny hats and gilded churches. And nothing makes it easier than the Church’s stance against contraception.
Many people, (including our editor) are wondering why the Catholic Church doesn’t just ditch this requirement. They note that most Catholics ignore it, and that most everyone else finds it divisive, or “out-dated.” C’mon! It’s the 21st century, they say! Don’t they SEE that it’s STUPID, they scream.
Here’s the thing, though: the Catholic Church is the world’s biggest and oldest organization. It has buried all of the greatest empires known to man, from the Romans to the Soviets. It has establishments literally all over the world, touching every area of human endeavor. It’s given us some of the world’s greatest thinkers, from Saint Augustine on down to René Girard. When it does things, it usually has a good reason. Everyone has a right to disagree, but it’s not that they’re a bunch of crazy old white dudes who are stuck in the Middle Ages.
So, what’s going on?
The Church teaches that love, marriage, sex, and procreation are all things that belong together. That’s it. But it’s pretty important. And though the Church has been teaching this for 2,000 years, it’s probably never been as salient as today.
Today’s injunctions against birth control were re-affirmed in a 1968 document by Pope Paul VI called Humanae Vitae. He warned of four results if the widespread use of contraceptives was accepted:
General lowering of moral standards
A rise in infidelity, and illegitimacy
The reduction of women to objects used to satisfy men.
Government coercion in reproductive matters.
Does that sound familiar?
Because it sure sounds like what’s been happening for the past 40 years.
By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.
Instead of two parents being responsible for the children they conceive, an expectation that was held up by social norms and by the law, we now take it for granted that neither parent is necessarily responsible for their children. Men are now considered to be fulfilling their duties merely by paying court-ordered child-support. That’s a pretty dramatic lowering of standards for “fatherhood.”
How else are we doing since this great sexual revolution? Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted 72 days. Illegitimacy: way up. In 1960, 5.3% of all births in America were to unmarried women. By 2010, it was 40.8% [PDF]. In 1960 married families made up almost three-quarters of all households; but by the census of 2010 they accounted for just 48 percent of them. Cohabitation has increased tenfold since 1960.
Is this all due to the Pill? Of course not. But the idea that widely-available contraception hasn’t led to dramatic societal change, or that this change has been exclusively to the good, is a much sillier notion than anything the Catholic Church teaches.
So is the notion that it’s just OBVIOUSLY SILLY to get your moral cues from a venerable faith (as opposed to what? Britney Spears?).
But let’s turn to another aspect of this. The reason our editor thinks Catholics shouldn’t be fruitful and multiply doesn’t hold up, either. The world’s population, he writes, is on an “unsustainable” growth path.
The Population Bureau of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations sees (PDF, h/t Pax Dickinson) the rate of population growth slowing over the next decades and stabilizing around 9 billion in 2050…and holding there until 2300. (And note that the UN, which promotes birth control and abortions around the world, isn’t exactly in the be-fruitful-and-multiply camp.)
More broadly, the Malthusian view of population growth has been resilient despite having been proven wrong time and time again and causing lots of unnecessary human suffering. For example, China is headed for a demographic crunch and social dislocation due to its misguided one-child policy.
Human progress is people. Everything that makes life better, from democracy to the economy to the internet to penicillin was either discovered and built by people. More people means more progress. The inventor of the cure for cancer might be someone’s fourth child that they decided not to have.
So, just to sum up:
It’s a good idea for people to be fruitful and multiply; and
Regardless of how you feel about the Church’s stance on birth control, it’s proven pretty prophetic.
A Short History of the Liturgical Location for Preaching: The Ambo, the Pulpit and the Lectern
Throughout history, the place occupied by the preacher has changed based on liturgical and theological need.
Primarily of course, the purpose of changing the location was of necessity – to be seen and heard by those listening and looking. Our Lord Himself ascended a mountain for the “Sermon on the Mount” (hence the name) and often spoke where more to could hear and see Him more clearly.
This is a study, a very humble study, of how the Church liturgically and architecturally has provided a location to proclaim the message of salvation in Christ Jesus.
In most contemporary Orthodox Churches, the preacher usually delivers his homily from the ambo – the semicircular extension of the area in front of the Royal Doors. Without too much difficulty, it is done here so that most everyone in the Church can see and hear him.
From the earliest days of human history, those who speak publicly stood in a place where they could be both seen and heard better. Proclamation of the Gospel has fared likewise, and architecturally this has been born out in our Churches in different ways throughout history.
We see it even now in the mini-mega-Churches whose sanctuaries are bereft of any Christian imagery or symbolism, yet the pastor or speaker (or drama ministry team or praise band) is on a stage. Where everyone can see and hear them easily.
In Orthodox Christian architecture and liturgy, this has classically followed secular solutions to the problem and adjusted these based on liturgical need.
In all cases, the purpose was not to separate the speaker or preacher from the crowd of listeners, but to unite them, and bring them closer to each other, able to see and hear each other with greater acuity.
“Why bother with places to preach? The principle liturgical action of the Church is the Eucharist.”
The truth is, the liturgy is not all about the Eucharist.
It’s about the Gospel and the Eucharist.
On every Orthodox Christian altar is the Gospel Book and it remains there. The Chalice is only brought forward and placed upon the altar during the Great Entrance, but the Gospel book remains.
The Liturgy of the Word comprises the first part of the liturgy, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Eucharistic Anaphora, the second part. It has been this way from the beginning, and this is because in the Christian service of worship there is one fact which underlies everything else:
The Gospel proclaims the Eucharist, and
the Eucharist proclaims the Gospel.
Either without the other leads to distortion of the Gospel message and vision of the Church. Together, they provide earth with a place where heaven has invaded the earth.
In Orthodox Churches for some time, preaching the Gospel of Christ has taken a serious backseat to the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist. (this is evident in the lack of homiletics preparation available, let alone mandatory, at contemporary Orthodox theological seminaries). However, in this context it is easily forgotten that the word is preached in a liturgical setting.
Secondly, some priests have taken it upon themselves to wander around the Church while preaching, or walking to and fro, up and down the aisles. Several blog articles by Roman Catholic authors have addressed this; here, here and here.
Among the comments was this, by “Fr. Z”‘
“I suppose the roving preacher in the Catholic Church comes from the imposition of the man’s own personal quirk on the people of God. This may be in imitation of Protestants, who almost by the very nature of much Protestant preaching need to impose their own personality on the sermon.
In my opinion and experience, the preacher who does this is a narcissist. He is drawing attention to himself. He imposes himself, overlays himself, for his own needs, on the rite, the Word of God, and the people. His needs first… every else? Forget it.
Are there exceptions? Of course. But not many.”
I could not agree more.
The reason we chant the Scriptures is to remove our own personality from the reading – to let the words of the Scriptures speak for themselves. Likewise, the imposition of our own personalities – drawing attention to ourselves during preaching – is a disaster, and not the Orthodox theological tradition.
We must return to a vibrant and dynamic liturgical setting for preaching. The Church has always made provision for this in the past, and this is the purpose of this article – to describe how the Church in history has provided, architecturally, for one of the two most important liturgical events in the life of the Christian. It was considered important enough to be a central fixture of any Cathedral, permanently installed, intricately and expensively adorned. It was not to be overlooked, ignored or accidentally ‘missed’ in the flurry of liturgical action.
Form is determined by function architecturally (I will, of course, cede any statements about architecture to architects, but none that I contacted wanted to write an article), and Church space is no exception. In the Orthodox tradition, Church architecture is significant and unique, being formed by Incarnational theology.
“In the beginning was the Word,”
– after all.
In this series of articles, though these terms are often used interchangeably, for clarity’s sake we will adhere to some specific definitions, and point out that there is a basic difference between an ambo, a pulpit, and a lectern.
An ambo is elevated, freestanding, and rectangular in shape, and is approached from the side or from behind by stairs.*
A pulpit is attached to part of the building (such as a pillar), is elevated, and surrounds the preacher except from behind where the stairs connect.
A lectern is a freestanding, portable device which is often placed on a freestanding podium.(A common faux-pas: a podium is not synonymous with a lectern, but is simply a portable box designed to elevate a lectern. That is, one stands on a podium but stands at a lectern.)
*The ambo of most Orthodox Churches has been reduced to the hemispheric projection of the bema or soleas which faces west in front of the Royal Doors. In contemporary usage, the bema itself is composed of the altar or sanctuary (the area behind the iconostas), the soleas (the pathway in front of the iconostas), and the ambo (the area in front of the Holy Doors which projects westward into the nave).
By these definitions, what are sometimes called pulpits are actually lecterns, and what are sometimes called pulpits are actually small ambones. These terms are often used interchangeably, and we simply want to set some particular definitions for the purposes of this article.
So, if you have a small ambo and it has always been called a pulpit, that is fine.
If you have a lectern, and it has always been called a pulpit, that is fine, too.