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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Thursday, October 24 2002 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster "Personal" religion

Though I began this topic by saying no religion is viable without being somewhat "organized," I do not hold that the more or even better organized it is, the better the religion or the better off are its adherents. Who said—Harry Truman? Will Rogers?—"I don't have any organized religion; I'm a Baptist"? I concur with that sentiment and am convinced the same could be said, only a little tongue in cheek (as it is also said of Baptists), for Orthodoxy.

One of my profs at the Cathedral of Learning (that's the official name of the University of Pittsburgh's main building, for anyone looking at this from afar), espoused a religion that seemed to me widely held, a highly personal naturalism. "I'm most in touch with God or the Ground of the Universe when I'm out in one of the national parks communing with Nature," he confessed. He also expressed a strong antipathy to Pittsburgh's longtime most influential formal religion, Presbyterian Calvinism. He found unacceptable the idea he heard in one of "their" sermons that God chooses some over others. "Thank God I was born Scottish," the professor quoted the preacher, because God had chosen the Scots.... But I'm digressing.

I believe and Orthodoxy (and Baptists, and most evangelical Protestants) teach that the more "personal" the religion is, the better it serves its followers and more likely it is to work their salvation, so long as it's understood in the orthodox biblical way. Though Orthodoxy has printed prayers in all languages for all occasions, it advocates personal prayer from the heart above all others, except in the formal worship setting. Even in that setting, at the personal level, many of its most highly regarded teachers allow that personal quiet confession-from-the-heart of the Jesus Prayer* may be more effective than the liturgical (service book) prayers.

Though the sacraments or mysteries (baptism, chrismation, communion ...) of the church are vital and salvific, unless they are internalized and realized personally by those receiving the forms, they remain inert. Though the Orthodox Church is highly organized with levels of clergy from subdeacons to priests, bishops, metropolitans, and patriarchs, it has for over a millenium and a half professed that a converted harlot living alone in the desert for 47 years and having had the sacrament of holy communion only twice* may have more authority and experience of God than the most highly honored patriarch in Constantinople. Nor is this extraordinary; bishops routinely pay homage to saints whose authority is only their relationship with God as demonstrated by gifts of the Spirit.

So I'd say that though one's religion should not be so personal that no one else shares it, it should be experienced in ways only you apprehend.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

*The Jesus Prayer ="Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (cf. Luke 18:13). | **St. Mary of Egypt, c. 344-421 A.D. The Orthodox Church designates one of the Sundays of Lent as "St. Mary of Egypt Sunday."

Dealing with trouble

A rookie police officer responded to a report of a barroom disturbance. The "disturbance" turned out to be well over six feet tall and weighed almost 300 pounds. What's more, he boasted that he could whip the cop and Mike Tyson too.

Said the rookie, "I'll bet that you're also an escape artist—probably better than Houdini." The giant nodded.

"If I had some chains," the deputy continued, "you could show us how strong you really are. But all I've got is a set of handcuffs. Why don't you see just how quickly you can break out of them?"

Once in the cuffs, the man puffed, pulled, and jerked for four minutes. "I can't get out of these," he growled.

"Are you sure?" the deputy asked.

The fellow tried again. "Nope," he replied. "I can't do it."

"In that case," said the cop, "you're under arrest."

—Sent by Bob Kennedy

Thought for today

The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.

—Albert Ellis

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