fragments of an attempted writing.

conversion, reversion, diversion, aversion, and texts - post Gillguist reflections; religious ephemera.

In the last year or so I have read or heard a remarkable number of stories from people (via blogs, emails, phone conversations) who started out as Protestants of some sort, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy or Catholicism, and then ended up leaving their new faiths, either to return to Protestantism or give up on faith altogether.  It started with word that a fellow I knew of who had studied under my former mentor (a liberal Evangelical of sorts) and converted to Orthodoxy ended up at St. Vlad's only to decide there to return to his native Lutheranism.  I've known plenty of people who had left Orthodoxy, and heard of many more, but this one struck me because this fellow had a fairly similar intellectual background to mine, and had been formed by the man who has influenced my thought more than any other person.  Then some new media threads turned into what are now year+ long email threads, not to mention phone conversations and facebook messages, and now I honestly think that if I put all this info into one coherent package I'd have enough to write a 400 page book on reversions and various losses of faith.

I'm not a religion blogger anymore (though maybe I should be, as I can't seem to avoid it), but because of my former blog I still end up talking with a lot of people about religion and religious trends an awful lot, and I guess I still more or less have opinions about these matters and think about them a fair amount.

Some years ago when I wrote the überfromm posts over at the old Ochlophobist blog I discussed the often not talked about phenomenon of Evangelicals converting to Orthodoxy and then either losing their faith altogether or reverting back to Evangelicalism.  This prompted a fair amount of discussion in that thread.

I remember reading Mark Noll around that time in some article he wrote about the brain drain of better Evangelical students to Roman Catholicism.  I think we may have discussed that in that thread.  There is no doubt that Evangelical converts to Catholicism and Orthodoxy tended to be among the more intellectually inclined in Evangelical circles.  The all too common vacuity and banality of Evangelical worship, typical pastoral practice (from your usual youth ministry cringeworthy campishness to pastors wearing hawaiian shirts to preach in), and normative intellectual life surely is a contributing factor.  Noll listed these sorts of obvious things, and worried about the long term effects for Evangelical and Protestant communities.

Though I have no hard data, I wonder if there is not something of a swing back going on, or about to go on.  There had been a fair amount of energy and even a feeling of trendiness to the Evangelical conversions to Orthodoxy and Catholicism in the 90s and into the 00s.  My sense now is that that energy has subsided.  Conversion levels have at very least peaked and stabilized, and there is no indication that there will be notable upswings in the future.  If I were to somewhat arbitrarily pick a moment of time when things started to swing back, or perhaps gave a hint of a coming swing back, it might be with the conversion of Evangelical philosopher Francis Beckwith in 2007.  That riled up the First Things crowd, but I remember thinking then that it didn't carry the sort of intra-conservative-religious intellectualdom momentous weight that Robert Wilken's conversion had had, and Beckwith being one of Evangelicalism's top thinkers certainly meant more in terms of potential influence (though it seems to me Wilken actually influenced a lot more intellectuals to follow him than Beckwith has).  From Jaroslav Pelikan's 1996 conversion to Orthodoxy to Gabriel Bunge's 2010 conversion to Orthodoxy (grant it he came from RCism, which is different than the phenomenon being discussed here, but still) there seems to be the creeping mass intuition that these are much more matters of personal narrative than some general narrative of conversion trends among intellectuals, despite the occasional media story one finds in some Pittsburgh or Chicago paper that mentions startling conversion numbers and is obviously written by a journalist who doesn't have a damn clue concerning the subject of her writing.  I suppose if a Mark Noll or a Tom Oden in intellectual circles, or, on popular fronts, a Michael W. Smith or a Rick Warren converted to Catholicism there would be a flash of brief frenzy generated by such an event, but I don't know that it would mean as much in terms of "movement" as it would have in the late 90s or early 00s.  

Even though most actual conversions are a mix of "personal" and intellectual factors, when considering public conversions you can somewhat neatly lump public converts into the purely intellectual set and the more personal sort.  A Beckwith or a Wilken might have very personal reasons for converting but they are largely seen as intellectual converts.  Conversely, even though he is a professor and writes all sort of purportedly academic things, Scott Hahn's will always be a more personal sort of public convert because of Rome Sweet Home.  Gillquist is very much in the personal camp as well.  Among Orthodox you can take a blogger like Perry Robinson and categorize him as an intellectual convert, and take a blogger like John at Notes from a Commonplace Book and put him into the more personal camp - this has everything to do with how they write and how they present their conversions publicly.  Both are intelligent, keen writers, but their focus is very different.  The actual reasons for converting were mixed in the case of both.  

I note this because I hereby predict that there will be two subcategories of a genre of literature which will develop in the next few years - in the new media as well as in traditional media venues.  Both personal and intellectual reflections on why a given person converted to Catholicism or Orthodoxy, and then reverted back to their original faith or gave up on faith altogether.  I think the personal will be the more common sort of text, but the intellectual sort will be present as well.  

I'm willing to concede that the drive to write such texts is not as strong as the drive to write typical convert literature.  When one is in the honeymoon phase with a new religion (a phase which can last years, sometimes even a decade or longer it seems), the excitement and newness and sense of gratitude and awe and all that jazz can provide all sorts of motivation to go and tell the world about the truly true so-much-truer-than-anything-else trueiness that you have found.  When you end up back where you started, or you give up on faith altogether, there just isn't anything like the sort of buzz and drive as you had when you converted to Orthodoxy or Catholicism.  

But, there is, it seems to me, a great deal of drive on the part of readers to read such texts.  And not to sound like a free marketer, but I think this consumer demand will eventually result in products being taken to new and traditional media markets.  The demand isn't just coming from other folks who are former converts.  Often times the demand is coming from people who have converted to Catholicism or Orthodoxy (or are cradles) and have no intention of leaving their faith but are quite interested (at first I found this surprising - the intensity I often noted in this interest anyway) in the reasons other people have for leaving it.  Some people are people who are past the honeymoon stage in their conversion (or are cradles who have grown past 20something or 30something religious romanticisms), and now carry gripes toward their faith, perhaps minor gripes, perhaps more substantial ones, and don't plan on leaving Orthodoxy or Catholicism but gain what appears to be some sort of catharsis by reading the words of people who, after following a trajectory of conversion like their own, have left it and are willing to put forth their reasons why, whether more personal or more intellectual.  And then there are the seemingly fair number of reading people out there who like to read loss of faith memoir type writings for reasons similar to slowing down to watch an accident scene.  

In the past I've noted an old friend of mine, a Baptist pastor, who wrote his MTh dissertation on Baptist hymnography in a manner that attempted to incorporate the methodology of Gregory Dix.  I noted that Schmemann's application of Dix's model (generally speaking) to Orthodox liturgy could be used by just about anyone to present their own liturgical traditions in a manner that had more apparent gravitas than other methods provided.  I think this sort of thing can happen with far more methodologies.  And there is motivation for this out there whether people know it or not.  I think that the personal and intellectual reasons people usually have for converting have a lot more to do with the sociological and methodological trappings involved in their conversion subculture of faith than the faith itself had to do with the conversion (this isn't always the case, sure, but I think it usually is).  What I am suggesting is that often the very thematic and ideal-oriented elements which brought you to a faith can take you back to a prior one (or to some other one altogether, or even to none at all). 

For instance, I've long thought that given a year of time to write I could write a book which takes the (supposedly) James Joycian "here comes everybody" socio-iconography of Catholicism, and argue that today the most "here comes everybody" worship style and functional missiology is that of Evangelical/charismatic praise & worship (which is now found in Mainline Prot, Evangelical Prot, some Catholic, and even until somewhat recently a couple of Orthodox churches) and in the newer Evangelical missiological models (yes, having gone to a missions school years ago, I still follow Evangelical missiology - it ain't that time consuming).   One could write a reflection that insists that there are all sorts of abuses and perversions within Evangelical praise & worship but that it still constitutes the most catholic expression of communal faith in Christ operative in the world today (indeed, one could note that plenty of Catholic convert writers & happy cradle writers also contrast the presumed perversions of actually existing Catholic worship with a nonetheless functioning "here comes everybody" missiological ecclesiology).  I could quote any number of Catholic writers to make my point that Evangelical/charismatic praise and worship is (when "properly" done, or in potentia, or despite flaws, whatever) the fully developed or most fully developed Christian expression of a Catholic "here comes everybody" missiology.  It's not like such a rhetorical move is even original - since Miroslav Volf used positive and affirming interpretations of Ratzinger and Zizioulis texts to argue for an anabaptist ecclesiology.  The door is open and waiting for ex-Catholic converts to take advantage of it.  

In the manner that converts often argue that Catholicism or Orthodoxy is the fulfillment of their former faith tradition, the revert could note ways in which her foray into Catholicism or Orthodoxy caused her to more fully appreciate and assimilate her faith upon returning to her old faith tradition.  She could argue that she has a greater awareness of the importance of ecclesiology, or of eucharist, and/or so forth, and she could write about how this awareness heightens her experience having returned to her old faith.  

This model works in the negative as well.  The writer could summarize things in Evangelicalism that he came to believe were wrong (perhaps he still does).  He could go on to write about how he found the same sorts of problems in different trappings within the converted-to-faith.  For instance, he could describe the emotional roller coaster and the emotional exhaustion he experienced when trying to get worked up into a spiritual high during praise & worship (and/or during daily devotions) as an Evangelical, and talk about how he embraced the rhetoric of leaving all that behind him when he came to Orthodoxy, but then he could note that he found that getting through fasting cycles and that his experience in confession involved many equivalent sorts of attempts at forced spiritual accomplishment or a forced sense of heightened spiritual experience.  He could note, say, that the intense seeking of dispassion in liturgy during his more fervent convert years corresponded rather neatly to his former intense seeking of passion during praise & worship.  And from this he could go in any number of directions - perhaps going a more nominalist route and stating that certain spiritual insecurities and affects are more or less present in any spiritual tradition and there is perhaps no substantial use finding one as a better at dealing with them than another.  Perhaps he could argue that in Evangelicalism the psychological dangers are more overt and thus less dangerous, and he could point to the already large and swiftly growing self-critique within Evangelicalism of the emotional and psychological dangers of the overuse of catharsis in Evangelical worship.  Perhaps he could reflect on how spending years in Orthodoxy allows him to return to Evangelicalism and take part in the worship without any need for anxiousness about the cathartic elements, and thus feels more free and "honest" when engaged in that praise & worship now than he ever did before, etc., etc.  

Around the time I started thinking about these matters I found myself reading Bethany (formerly Torode, now) Patchin's blog a year or so ago and reading about some of the mess involved in her return to Protestantism from Orthodoxy (grant it now she is a liberal Mainliner and not a conservative Evangelical, which as I recall was what she came out of originally).  Around the same time Daniel Nichol's Caelum et Terra blog ran this post on problems with NFP, (which just restarted a couple of weeks ago and has since died down again) and the stories shared there in the thread were quite provocative.  I've discussed that blog post with probably 25-30 people in the last 13 months, and it has generated far more stories in email threads than the already remarkable number in the thread of the post.  People who converted to Catholicism and then left, or remain but no longer consider themselves the same sort of Catholics that they used to think of themselves as - that sort of thing.  And conversations with Orthodox about the thread - some who want to convert to Catholicism but plan on ignoring the contraception teaching, some who were told by their Orthodox priests that artificial contraception was bad and tried NFP during their more pious years only to give up on it later, and some who of course used that thread as an apologetic proof that Catholicism is the singular great evil in the world.  

Perhaps the most interesting conversation I had about that thread was with my wife.  You have to understand - my wife and I rarely, as in maybe twice or three times a year, discuss anything related to theology.  She doesn't care much for theology, or perhaps more precisely, for theological conversations or for theology nerds.  My wife noted that in the exchanges between the people sharing their NFP stories and their struggles with faith and making a life that worked for their family and the defenders of NFP with their rote truebelieverisms, she saw classic manifestations of mental illness on both sides, though the side that disturbed her the most was the true believer side - flat affect, hyper-rationalization (much of mental illness isn't an overt rejection of rational thought, but a misuse of it - everything is rationalized in a manner that allows no nuance or unresolved tensions, and so forth), asperbers like fixation on simple rhetorical patterns and structures and an inability to find humour, even dark humour, in the exchange because a dogmatic narrative is being questioned (and the questioning was for the most part quite restrained, even on tip toes when compared to how NFP is usually trashed by those who find it wanting), and a hyper sola scriptura style literalistic hold on authoritative texts - with little room for interpretive breathing.  I realize that second to using the term 'Protestant' to dismiss your interlocutor on a Catholic or Orthodox blog thread is the ease with which we pull out the mental illness card, but this is probably more on my wife's radar because she works at a mental health clinic and has to deal with crazy people all day.  As well, truth be told, my wife looks upon those who suffer from authoritarian hyper-literalist religious structures with some empathy - she views herself as having misspent a lot of late teen and 20something and less so into her early 30s years of her life being too concerned with religious scruples - in a manner that she would describe as essentially toxic (she also sees some good in those years and in those efforts as well, and would correct me if I painted too disparaging a picture).  So yes, the caveats about pulling the psych card.  But I also think it safe to say that religion attracts a disproportionate number of mentally unsound persons to it (for obvious reasons, they need help, and religion purports to offer help, sometimes at a price far less than what therapy usually costs, and without all of the stigma associated with therapy, and the rubber stamp of divinity ain't bad either).  I think probably one of the most sane religious decision making methods one can use is this one - which group of people would I rather have watching my kids?  That's exactly how my wife finally parsed the NFP thread on Daniel's blog.  If she had to pick one side or the other to watch her kids - it would be the no-longer-using NFP side, at least among the writers on that particular thread.  

This last point gets to another aspect that I think reversion and give-up-on-faith texts bring to the reader.  When a convert converts there is often a great deal of analysis as to the why.  And this sometimes involves psychological factors.  But the emphasis is usually on intellectual reasons, or aesthetic reasons, or complaints about the old faith, or narrative trajectories, or even existential hungers that were reported to have not been fed.  But with the revert or the no-longer-a-believer, you often get a fair amount of psychological introspection.  You get a lot of questioning about the interior reasons that come to be articulated after spending a lot of time asking the questions "why did I do that?" and "what happened?"  The focus shifts from a "what is truth?" orientation to a "what do I really believe, and why?" orientation.  That may be a lot less noble, but it is also more circumspect, and it is a lot easier for the reader to appropriate in a visceral or empathetic manner.  

For these reasons I think we can expect to see a notable rise in the sorts of reversion/aversion texts I describe.  

There are other factors I could touch on here.  For instance, I have noted among the more intellectually inclined converts that those coming into Catholicism and Orthodoxy tend to be more politically conservative than those reverting out.  I wonder if the increasingly politically conservative convert subcultures in Orthodoxy and the increasingly politically conservative white American Catholic cultures are too stifling for converts who simply aren't going there in terms of political orientation.  That may be a factor, but I don't think it is a decisive one in the overall phenomenon under discussion here, as I have known and heard of plenty of conservatives leaving as well.

I don't know how much I intend to get back into publicly blogging on religious trends, but this particular topic is of interest to me, and I plan on revisiting it from time to time.  


  1. Damn fine post. Please revisit religious themes as frequently as you please because I enjoy your writings on them!

  2. I'm surprised there haven't been more comments on this excellent post. I guess the so-called blogosphere really has been replaced by Facebook.

  3. Thanks gentlemen.

    Aside from noting this post on Facebook, I haven't done anything to promote this blog since beginning to write again here. At the moment I just don't have the motivation to do so.

  4. You point out two different reasons people are interested in reversion/loss of faith literature: a cathartic sharing in the words/experience of the authors and the same reason people slow down at accident scenes.

    I think the reason I would read this type of literature would be a bit of both, but also a third. That would be the chance that one could grow from past mistakes and make sure that if there is substance in either the intellectual or personal reasons one could at least try to better these areas in ones own parish to prevent a future revert/loss.

    1. Indeed, and along those lines if I were in the business of growth/evangelism/marketing/snakeoilsales/missions for Orthodoxy in America I would be paying a lot more attention to the narratives of people who come and leave than I would the convert narratives of those who come. It's not as important for Catholicism in America as they don't have the demographic crisis that Orthodoxy does, but were I a catechist or priest or RCIA leader doing evangelism in the American RCC, I'd probably still find this sort of lit more useful than watching convert stories on EWTN.

      Of course, for people whose brains work only in rote fideistic didacticism, it doesn't really matter. Some people reject the truth, end of story. That's all there is to when leaving narratives are parsed by that sort.

  5. Great post, Owen. It would be interesting to see some numbers, supposing they existed. At what point do we have a “trend?” Personally, I’m wary of generalizing my experience, but though my own conversion to Orthodoxy in 2003-2005 wasn’t necessarily driven by these things it certainly coincided with: 1) becoming a parent, 2) a brief dalliance with social conservatism, and 3) a lack of appreciation for the Western and specifically American cultural inheritance. My personal loss/renegotiation of faith over the past few years has coincided with: 1) the overcoming of my initial fears regarding parenthood, 2) a rediscovery of my native political instincts, such as they are, and 3) a renewed appreciation for my cultural inheritance, including the dreaded Enlightenment.

    1. I have never seen numbers wherein there is a tracking of the numbers of adult converts compared to those who convert and leave. The best I am aware of are numbers concerning total number of baptisms/chrismations and total number of communicants subtracting the number of funerals. Some better numbers of that sort of thing have come out in recent years, but they are still what one would expect from American Orthodox and thus sketchy at best.

      I'll say this for anecdote - American Orthodoxy, especially American convert Orthodoxy is a very, very, very small pond. I doubt there are many parishes in this country (wherein more than a handful of converts are found) which are such that I don't know someone who has been to that parish and talked to people at a coffee hour. I think that it is possible to have a fairly accurate sense of trends in convert Orthodoxy without hard numbers, or with a combination of anecdote and the numbers we do have.

  6. I think Elizabeth Esther is writing something on this subject. She was raised fundamentalist, became Catholic, and now she's leaving the Catholic Church but staying Christian. Anne Rice also converted to Catholicism and then left; although, my husband theorizes that her conversion was a commercial move to sell her Jesus books. Nevertheless, she is an author who could likely write a conversion/de-conversion book.

    I find it interesting that you mention Dr. Beckwith. He converted after me, and we attended the same parish. I think part of his conversion can be attributed to a certain faculty sub-culture at Baylor that is very pro-Catholic, philosophically anti-Modern, and well known in the small world of liberal arts Christian scholarship. Much of my own conversion is connected with this particular group of professors, not all of them Catholic, but all respectful and admiring of the RCC.

    Although I still respect many of the professors in this group, it was a particularly sobering experience to see one Catholic professor leave his wife and 7 children to marry another faculty member. It was also very telling to see how Dr. Beckwith responded to questions posted on his Catholic Thing Blog. Let's just say they were not of the sort of academic rigor one would expect from someone with his credentials.

    This led me to believe that the only questioning allowed in this group, were the sorts of questions pre-framed within the confines of their understanding of orthodoxy. I couldn't help but wonder why some of the American Catholic Church's best scholars no longer had satisfying answers to my questions. For me, the intellectual and the personal reasons are very much tied together and hard to unravel, perhaps due to the personal friendships I developed with these Baylor professors, friendships which I lost after dropping out of graduate school to raise my children.

    1. Thanks for venturing over here Kacy!

      I'm imagining a very wealthy very white Catholic parish that you and Beckwith went to.

      I had a very similar impression of his blog in years past. I didn't know his work well, but had read something or other of his in print in years past, and when I read his blog I couldn't believe how pop and trite it was.

    2. Actually, it was mostly a working class parish. The Baylor professors there were the exception and went there because the priest was very theologically conservative. He's no longer there, and I know a lot of the Baylor crowd has since moved on to the more wealthy parish in town. It would make sense if Beckwith left too. I mean if you have a full private basketball court in your backyard, you'd likely want to be around others who appreciated your conspicuous consumption.

      And no need to thank me for venturing here. I've actually been lurking around your blog(s) for about 7 years. I just never commented because I found your intellect a bit intimidating. Your religious analysis posts have always been some of my favorites, so I'm glad to see you're considering doing more of this.

  7. A few thoughts, in no particular order:

    The larger conversion narrative should, I think, be read in light of the last couple of decades of the history of American Protestantism, which is seeing a realignment of sorts, with more authoritarian/literalist evangelicals making alliances with fundamentalists and conservative Pentecostals, while radical evangelicals find new sympathies with a reemergent fideism in the mainline - especially the UMC, ELCA, and PCUSA. (Then there's the emergence of the ACNA, to boot). Add to that the ascendancy of the Dukies and the RO folks in the Protestant academy, and all of a sudden it's a lot easier than it was twenty or thirty years ago not only to be a thinking Evangelical, but to find a worshipping community which shares your approach. (And let's be honest - if you're at all interested in cultural issues or the problem of religion in post-industrial society, you'll have a much easier time in most cities finding a young, evangelical urban church which shares your concerns than finding an Orthodox one). These trends go a long way toward explaining declining conversion rates (if there is a decline), and I wouldn't be surprised if they, tied to mobility, explain something about reversion, as well.

    There's also something significant about the financial captivity of so many evangelical intellectuals. I mean, if you're a serious member of, say, the Conference on Faith and History, jobs outside of the evangelical academy are both harder to find and less attractive, and converting while at your present job can get you fired pretty easily. (Not to mention that evangelical faculty often tend to cluster at a few (disproportionately Anglican/Episcopalian) local churches, which insulates them from some of the negative pressure). All that to say we may just have reached the point of diminishing returns as far as that goes.

    I'll say, also, that my experience with recent converts has been very different than my experience with folks who converted a decade or so ago. Lots more skepticism about faith in general now, lots more appreciation of the social benefits of being Orthodox (the difference in response in academic circles when you say you're evangelical vs. when you say you're Orthodox is neither insignificant or unhelpful - the default reaction to Orthodoxy is more respectful, perhaps because it's got more of a quasi-world-religion status and fewer negative associations for most people). I have no idea how representative my experience is, though.

    BTW, I read the Volf book while I was converting, and it's made me much less willing to be dismissive of Protestant theological traditions.

    So I don't have much to say about reversion as such, other than that I'd love to read the narratives, but I suspect that part of what's going on is that Protestantism is more appealing now.

    1. Adam, I think that is excellent analysis.

      I was going include a bit on the resurgence of liberal Evangelicalism (and what a turnaround that amounts to - 10 years ago it seems liberal Evangelicalism was all but dead), as well as the strengthening of magisterial Protestantism, and note that this might have something to do with some of the reduced energy in convert circles.

      When I was in MN there were quite a bit of converts to Orthodoxy from liberal Evangelical backgrounds. Schmemennite / liberal SVS Orthodoxy is quite a logical place for them to go, or rather, it was. Even with the loss of +Jonah, the liberal elements within the OCA are strained more than ever now, and with convert culture taking a decidedly conservative swing nationally and in Ortho media, and as GOArch so often is uninviting to anglo converts, I don't think American Orthodoxy is as welcoming to former liberal Evangelicals as it once was. Plus there is the increasing Evangelical recognition that convert orthodoxy shares conservatism with mainstream Evangelicalism (as in ). Of course this only explains things from the liberal Evangelical side. On the other side you have the loss of +Jonah and an increasing desperation on the part of Americanist conservatives who seem fearful that a proper conservatism will ever become institutionally normative in American Orthodoxy, and the idea that it won't soon seems to really piss them off. Then, of course, you have people for whom the politics/cultural stuff doesn't matter at all.

    2. Adam, you're definitely right that within academia being Orthodox is better for one's personal brand than being Evangelical, though I think this is less true once one is a heavy-hitter. Someone like Volf, I think, gets a lot of mileage out of being one of a handful of living, (semi-) intelligent (European) Evangelical intellectuals.

      I also think that American Orthodoxy is at the beginning of a serious organizational reshuffling-- the OCA is committing slow, sleazy suicide; ROCOR is becoming more like Putin's Russia than czarist nostalgia-park Russia; the Antiochians will probably maintain their numbers much more from immigrants than converts over the next decade and in any case live in permanent anticipation of their own postregnum... In these circumstances I'm inclined to think that the Episcopal Assembly is going to actually have some effect in terms of drawing all jurisdictions closer to Constantinople's orbit, maybe with the exception of ROCOR.

      I'm not sure what this will mean in terms of ideology. The awful small-pondedness of it all means that a great deal is determined by a very small number of personalities. I mean, the fact that Rod Dreher's joining the OCA had an immediate, if convoluted, institutional impact says a lot. Healthy small ponds don't let that sort of thing happen. But even on the academic or intellectual level, I think that the old SVOTS generation has sort of played itself out and there's not necessarily anything out there to replace it or even any broad consensus about what issues Orthodox intellectuals should be concerned with. I do think, though, that Fordham will probably have as much a role as the seminaries in determining where things go... I have the feeling that now Orthodox academics are currently more interested in responding to issues in Orthodox countries than they are in engaging with American religion as such.

    3. Samn!

      I think that the old SVOTS generation has sort of played itself out and there's not necessarily anything out there to replace it

      Is that true? I mean, of course, the old SVOTS generation has not so much played itself out as died off: Schmemann, Meyendorff, Verhovskoy (sp?), and (I think) Kesich have all died, so the only ones left of "the old generation" are Tarazi (whom I think no one takes seriously) and Hopko (whom I have always liked, but who wasn't and isn't in the same league as the Schmemanns and Meyendorffs of the world). But is it true that there's not necessarily anything out there to replace it? I think rather highly of the present Dean, Fr John Behr; am I wrong in that? And what I have read from Fr Andrew Louth (not at SVOTS, but certainly seems to be a confrère of Fr Behr) I have liked quite a bit.

      I suppose the Behr/Louth axis, even if they are as intellectually admirable as they appear to me to be, cannot equal the influence of the Schmemann/Meyendorff juggernaut back in the day. So in that sense it is true that "there's nothing there to replace it."

    4. What I mean more is that it was an ethos that played itself out. That is, the SVOTS of the 70's had an ethos and an agenda that no one is really continuing. I think Fr. Behr is a better scholar than either Schmemann or Meyendorff, but he's also a little bit intellectually on his own trip, as are pretty much all major Orthodox scholars in some way or another. I think Fr. McGuckin has been trying to create a particular Orthodox intellectual scene with a distinct ethos through his Sophia Institute, but that's never really gelled for a variety of reasons (including its being, within Union/Columbia, a one-man-show). The reason this is relevant to the discussion about conversion/reversion is that, as Owen points out above, in the past the ethos of Schmeman-era SVOTS was strongly attractive to liberal Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants. That's no longer the case...

  8. I can't personally can't image being anything other than either (E) Orthodox or (R) Catholic. Those are the only ones that hold water. (except perhaps the non-chalcedonian bunch, they have some incorrupt monks bodies after all!)
    I also know that I'll never lose faith in God and will always find protestantism absolutely ridiculously silly (my deep understanding of history plays a role there).

    I think this is interesting analysis, fine to do, but some what superficial.

    God does work miracles in peoples lives. If they are opened to it, and experience it, this will help them be happy where they are most likely.

    I do think that only traditional elements of Orthodox or Catholicism are going to be thriving in the future. If you are a liberal/modernist church or organization, you are going to die off sooner rather than later. People like Michael Voris or Kevin Allen will see to it personally. (I admire both these men!!)

    I think that ROCOR is positioning itself to be more welcoming and growing for converts than ever before, especially with it's own "Western rite vicariate" which does things a bit differently than antioch's. One may call this crazy and unlikely, but if they can make "anglo-catholicism" more bonafide orthodox, and welcoming to those who are not anglo too, that will be a beautiful accomplishment and potentially thrive over time.

    I think there's much to be said about the people who are happy in traditional latin mass churches, whether FSSP or SSPX as well as people in the so-called "unwelcoming" Greek churches (They always welcomed me!!).

    I guess I always found the greek church appealing because it was NOT full of converts, but primarily had "non-cradle" people to came there for more practical reasons such as "inter-marriage" or "great food and great jokes".

    A lot of people would say that you are thinking too much.
    Thanks for the fun.

    1. Och,

      Thanks for all of this, and thanks for picking up the religious threads again. I come from a long line of lapsed Orthodox (Greeks)--baptized, married, and buried in the Church. Those three things--and that's it. This is the one thing that those who were born in the ghetto understand: there simply is no leaving because one's identity, one's family is in the Church. To leave the Church is to cease being Greek (Russian, Romanian, etc.). Period. Even if one officially leaves the Church and does so rebelliously ns loudly, no one takes you seriously, and still throws blessed water at you (to ward off the evil eye and all). And you will be buried in the Church--like it or not.

      This will never work in America because ethnic Orthodoxy (or ethnic Catholicism--my Mexican friends identified their mexicanness very much through their Catholicism and vice versa; I always felt right at home saying prayers over meals with them) is strictly taboo and seen as spiritually bereft.

      I think much of your Marxist meditations will serve you well in your various analyses. To wit: my friends never understand why I pay more for feta from a local Greek restaurant--who probably buys it for half the price from Wal Mart--than I ever would from Whole foods (which imports theirs FROM GREECE). Because he's Greek, and we're just ghetto like that. I don't really need some yia yia's feta from a farmer's market; buying wal mart feta from Gus is just as good, maybe even better, because I get to see the gold chain and cross, the gold rings, the gold bracelet, and he hits on my wife. The world just seems right at those times.

      Good to read your words again, Och.

    2. Atychi, This is probably one of the best synopses of ethnic religiosity I've ever read.

  9. I don't get ethnic religiosity. Perhaps it has something to do with being raised in an atheist/agnostic home.

    1. Nonna,

      I too was raised in an atheist/agnostic home; it's just that we were Greek, which means Orthodox, which means correct.

      I doubt you'll find a more mesmerizing expression of agnosticism (with a healthy dollop of superstition) than you will in an ethnic Christian household. Oh, that my family had the faith of Nietzsche.

  10. Yeah, I'm feeling pressed by the swell of what you describe as an increasingly politically conservative convert Orthodoxy. As a woman who is neither mother nor wife nor widow, nor conservative politically the landscape's a bit of a desert.

  11. Fascinating post!

    I used to hang out at a now-defunct message board that attracted a lot of Protestant converts to Orthodoxy. Back in the day most of these guys were rabidly anti-Catholic Ortho polemicists and triumphalists who seemed to live on the Internet, where they routinely engaged in some of the most vicious Catholic-bashing I've encountered outside of a Jack Chick convention.

    Today those same Orthodox polemicists are:

    ** atheist (one of 'em)
    ** agnostic (several of 'em)
    ** Lutheran (one of 'em -- actually one of the nicer ones, less bash-prone)
    ** Continuing Anglican (this guy and I are now best buddies)
    ** Mega-church (at least one of 'em)

    Two are still Orthodox. And still pretty nastily anti-Catholic.

    Then there are the folks I've encountered in other Internet venues: one Justin Kissel (now atheist) and Eric Weiss (a Dreher acolyte, who has abandoned Orthodoxy for an evangelical house church).

    As for converts who abandon Catholicism: That's a whole 'nuther post. The most infamous example I can think of offhand is Bill Cork, who reverted to Seventh-Day Adventism. Of course there are many other examples. But I sense that Catholics decamp for different reasons than Orthodox do. More on this later.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.