Speaking in Captain Gulliver style (from Swift’s "Gulliver’s Travels") I came ashore from a perilous journey and greatly rejoiced to find my family, my oldest and dearest friends being well off.
And we are glad to see you safely back, from your perilous journey. =)
I can't but agree with you, Ben.
I live in a provincial town of Vyazma (half way between Moscow and the Byelorussian border). What is amazing about Vyazma is that it has so many churches. Before the WW2 there had been 32 churches plus one cathedral! (the population of the town was not more than 30 – 35 thousand). Nazis destroyed all Orthodox shrines here.
Good news – many of the churches and chapels in my town have been restored. Half of them are now functioning. At the same time (and that is bad news) we have got 6 or 7 houses of worship of Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults bearing biblical names.
In the parable of the wheat and the tares, both the good and the bad grow side by side, both growing stronger and stronger, till the day of the harvest, when they're all cut down and the tares separated and burned up.
That's what I see when I look around. The bad things are getting worse, and will continue to get worse. But those who are faithful, are also getting stronger, their desire and hunger for God is increasing, and they will find Him, when they seek Him. For those of us who are already in the Church, we shouldn't slack off, just because we're 'in', but we have to work hard, and make sure we're ready to answer anyone at anytime, the reasons for our faith. Shrugging our shoulders and saying "That's how we've always done it," just isn't going to cut it. We need to know why. We need to understand - to the best of our abilities.
After my introduction to the two JW women, a friend told me of a book that was recently printed at St Anthony's monastery - about two JW Greek men, who became orthodox. It was joyful and sad at the same time. Joyful, that they were truly seeking the Truth and found it. Sad, because the reason for their joining JW could've been avoided, if the orthodox church had been able to statisfy their deep spiritual hunger. They were asking questions, and no one, not even a priest, could answer them. There was one orthodox man who was able and willing to answer, but after 6 hrs, when the JW man still had doubts left, the orthodox man gave up on him, got angry, and left. But the seed he planted, eventually sprouted. Thank God.
We need each other. We need to reach out to others - not just strangers, but even our own. I saw my children going from loving the church to hating the church, in the space of 3 years, because there were no other children in the parish we went to. Their parents didn't bring them, except when it was their turn to host coffee hour. We moved to a different parish. There are more families there, who also bring their children to every single service the church has. In just six months, my children have come back to life. When they make plans for what to do on a saturday, they include vigil in the evening, as a part of their day, and dont' complain anymore that they have to stop having fun with their friends, in order to go to church.
The protestants and those from heretical cults, know this already. They make sure they don't lose their children. That's how i grew up. On sundays, the only thing on the calendar was church. And I was happy to go, because all my friends would be there too. It has made me very very sad, that for many orthodox, this is not so.
While I understand the need to protect ourselves and our children from cults and other false teachings, I think part of that protecting process involves equipping them to defend themselves - with sound teaching, and making sure that they feel like a part of the church community - yes, relationships are important. They may seem small and insignificant next to all the prayers and liturgies and so on... but I think everyone should be able to say: "This is were I belong, this is where I am loved" - and for that we truly need each other to care about each other.
When I was in Ethiopia earlier this year, it was during the Dormition fast. I told my family what it was about, and they were interested. They said they'd asked some of the Ethiopian orthodox friends whom they knew, what the fast was about, and they did not know. When someone is interested enough to ask a question about what we're doing, should we not be ready to answer? If we have no answer, they think they are right in believing that we're following man-made traditions. And Jesus had a lot of harsh things to say about those who followed man-made traditions.
From Ben's post - is 'resentment' the right kind of response to have towards protesant and other cult 'missionaries'? It seems to me that resentment of any kind is wrong, because it isn't a fruit of love, is it? Just asking... I have heard of 'rightous anger' - like the kind that Jesus displayed when he chased the money changers out of the temple, and probably when he was preaching all his "Woe-to-you sermons" as well. But I've never heard of 'righteous resentment'.