Fundamentalist Anti-fragility Training

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Years ago my mom decided to stop in at the local public elementary school.  Impressed, after talking to the staff, my parents sent my older sister there and soon I would follow—along with the rest of my siblings.

This might not seem strange to most.  But, for a conservative Mennonite child this was highly unusual—or at least in the past few decades.  It bucked the trend of religious parents, afraid of secular influence, pulling their children out.  Private schools and home schooling becoming the preferred ‘safe’ options.

Anyhow, maybe as a result of my positive experience, or from inheriting my mom’s genetics, I have always thought differently than my peers.  That is to say, for better or worse, I stood apart from both my public school and Mennonite peers, basically a third culture kid or non-conformed in both settings.  So, when I had to consider where to send my own children, public school was not something I feared.

This post is not saying that everyone should follow in my footsteps nor suggesting that every child should go to public schools.  No other situation is exactly the same as mine, some schools are better or worse and every student different.  My intent in this blog is simply to give an explanation of what is now unthinkable to most fundamentalist Christians.

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Public school did not mean assimilation for me.  My religious identity was always visible enough for me to be given nicknames like “Micro Mennonite” or basically any Amish sounding name my classmates could come up with.  The small things, like wearing pants in the hot weather or the side part of my hair were enough for some to take notice.

I was sometimes subjected to what could be called microaggressions.  As in I had one or two classmates who would inform me what I should or should not do, as a Mennonite, and this often included the idea that we did not pay taxes or the assumption that we needed a horse and buggy for transportation.  This kind of banter was mostly benign, or at least taken that way, but still served as a continual reminder of my outsider status.

The end result is that I seemed to have a stronger Mennonite identity than many of my religious peers.  I learned, at a young age, that I was different and it was okay to be my own person.  I was never ashamed to be Mennonite nor stopped from following my own conscience so far as things like pledge of allegiance (I always stood respectfully) or abstaining from other activities that went against my cultural standards.  

A child private or homeschooled does not truly know, first hand, the alternative to their own community and home.  It is easier for them to believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and many of my religious peers did jettison the indoctrination they received in a pursuit of the prevailing culture.  But, being the witness of single parent homes, the chaos of the world and consequences suffered, it made me more thankful for what I had.

Exposure made my home more desirable, it also made the failures of parents my community feature less prominently in my mind.  There were many who, raised in the  religious cloister, became disillusioned with Christianity as a result of their overbearing dad or as the result of school administrators showing extreme favoritism.  Had the same thing happened to them in public school, had they been bullied or abused there instead, at least it would not come in direct conflict with their walk of faith.

No, certainly we don’t want to put children in a harsh environment so that our own home or community contrasts favorably, but some healthy perspective is good.  Not taking for granted the food or shelter over our heads by being a little exposed and feeling some hunger pains for home is not a bad thing at all.  A big benefit of my public schooling was appreciation for my heritage and a strong desire to preserve the Mennonite culture.  I could not afford to be myopic or ignorant, throwing out tradition recklessly because it didn’t suit me.

I had to weigh things more carefully rather than react and throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Many of my religious peers have this feeling of having missed out and some had to learn the hard way from their own experiences.  

Walk In Faith, Not Fragility!

Conservatives love to laugh about the ‘woke’ and their safe spaces.  They are very quick to ridicule those families still wearing face masks and call people snowflakes for their sensitivity.  The great irony is that many of these same people withdrew their children from public schools, decades ago, because they “took God out of the schools” by ending prayer led by state employees.  The reality is that it isn’t just the fringe far-left that tries to hide themselves and their children from all contrary opinions.

You may work where your employer doesn’t lead prayer, can you handle it?

The problem is that without challenge there is no growth.  Yes, part of the job of a parent is to protect and yet it is equally important to prepare a child for the real world.  I know, I know, someone out there is saying right now, “he’s saying to throw my precious darling to the wolves!”  And then we wonder why, with that kind of attitude, when we assume all of our neighbors are dangerous predators, we are not more successful reaching them with the Gospel?

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and example to follow, had no problem detouring into the Samaritan lands nor with standing on his own two feet with elders as a child.  And I, likewise, had no difficulty standing toe to toe with my high school biology teacher or with seeing through leftist propaganda even back in elementary school.  I remember scoffing, even then, at the blatant manipulation on Earth day or that faulty “haves vs have nots” construction of my fresh out of university social studies teacher.

Hint to the homeschoolers: Your neighbors aren’t demons and your children aren’t little saints either.  In fact, many of my younger home or privately schooled religious cousins were doing drugs, drinking hard and partying, even sleeping around, long before I had so much as a sip of alcohol.  As Jesus said to a prior generation of contamination obsessed religious people, according to Mark 7:14–23:

"Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them."  

We can’t save our children by sheltering them.

I know, but what about the “groomers’ and the brainwashing?  No, I’m not going to say it is all hysteria.  Indeed, the far-left is targeting children, they’re making no secret of their agenda and it is cause for concern.  We see all of those sensational headlines of abuse and it is easy to be full of anxiety and fear about this.  But, for perspective, there are over 3,800,000 teachers in the United States and the vast majority are simply doing their job.  Some extreme example, from an urban hellhole or California, is not representative of the whole.  Yes, your child going to a public school will be exposed to other perspectives and yet why would they choose lies over the truth?

It is no coincidence that the greatest Biblical examples of faith are those, who as children, faced pagan influence.  Moses, trained as an Egyptian, was bolder than his other Israelites and faced down Pharaoh.  Daniel refused to bend to social pressure, a Jewish child in the Babylonian court, and stands as an example of faith.  And who can forget that trial by fire of three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would not bow to the statue of the powerful Nebuchadnezzar II?

It is so strange that fundamentalists can read these stories to their children in their Sunday school classes and then be terrified by the thought little Johnny being away from them for a few hours a day.  It makes me wonder if they truly believe these stories are true.  Maybe they do not think that the God who called Samuel as a child or emboldened young David to slay a giant is still capable of the same today?  Apparently they think God is getting weak in old age and only they are able to save their children from the world? 

In the World, Not of the World

Part of the problem with the fundamentalist “purity culture” mindset is that they believe that Holiness is achieved through means of physical separation.  Many parents think that they will keep their children safe from harm by keeping them in their protective enclave and away from all other influence.  But, the truth is, if Adam and Eve could fall even in the garden of Eden, why would we believe that the serpent can’t find it’s way into our own homes and communities?

For as much as my religious peers would try to keep evil out, pulling their children out of even the church school to guard them from the influence of other Mennonite children, it is no defense from the most dangerous sin of all which is pride and this accompanying idea that we can be fully righteous by our own efforts.  But, in the economy of Jesus, it is better to be the woman caught in adultery or thief on the cross who repents than the rich young ruler who kept the law perfectly yet isn’t able to live in faith.

They say more is caught than taught.  We can say we believe “greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and that God is our strength, but our actions betray us.  The conservative Christian retreat from the public sphere is pretending that if they ignore the deterioration somehow the problem will go away.  They are training their children to be cowards, afraid to effectively confront the culture or fully contend with the reality that they’re losing ground.

It is true, a Christian is not to be of this world and yet this is all about the spirit in which we are approaching life.  The exact phrase “in the world but not of it” is not in Scripture, but we also see where Jesus didn’t avoid people simply because they were Samaritans, tax collectors or others that his religious peers carefully avoided.  Unlike the parachute in ‘missionary’ compassion of today, he spent his time amongst his own people, rubbing shoulders with the unwashed masses and even being touched by a woman made into an outcast for her illness.

If we go out in strength, trusting that God is still able to protect us and our children from the teeth of lions, we would possibly see the change of culture that will make the world a place liveable for a Christian.  But right now we’re teaching our children to be weak and, when the world finally does come to snatch them from the safety of their homes, many will be fragile and unprepared to stand.  This is why so many get caught in the false social justice Gospel, they weren’t properly trained to identify the counterfeit.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

(Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

Why would I send my son into the lion’s den?

Because Daniel continued to pray, despite the risk of severe punishment, and precisely as a result of his childhood faith and learning to resist peer pressure at a young age. 

Contrast that with the religious experts who had rejected Jesus for the unclean who he mingled with. Or with Israelites who prospered in their own promised land, absent of persecution, and only went through the religious motions of faith in God. They voluntarily brought idols into their homes and folded before their enemies. 

Complacency is a bigger threat to a Christian’s child than lions. 

We should not teach our children to run from the giants of our time or they’ll become king Saul.

Instead we should be helping them polish those giant slaying stones and trust God.

What Does IQ Measure and Why Does This Matter?

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There are many alt-right types who use IQ statistics to distinguish between groups of people, and yet they themselves do not seem to grasp statistics or even understand what IQ actually measures. They suggest their own lack of intelligence through this. And, given that their use of IQ is most often directed at those whom they deem to be inferior races and is what makes them feel superior, this is deliciously ironic.

Yes, certainly IQ does matter. But it matters in the same way that hitting a golf ball and bench pressing do as being a measure of overall athleticism. Sure, it does differentiate natural ability for those with equal training, and yet says very little about the inborn abilities of those coming from vastly different circumstances. In other words, I can out bench many bigger men who never saw a gym. But not because they couldn’t outperform me if they put the same time in. And, likewise, the kind of intelligence that IQ tests measure is built on practice.

So, basically, without a multi-variant analysis, the results of IQ tests tell us very little. A person can score high because they are genetically gifted. They could score high because they had a stable home, good nutrition, and high-quality education. And, like Koreans getting taller on average, lower average IQ today does not mean the same will be true tomorrow or if all circumstances were equal. In fact, IQ tests are increasing generation by generation, this is called the “Flynn Effect” and not necessarily a result of people actually getting smarter than their grandparents.

No, IQ tests tend to focus on a kind of abstract reasoning that has no practical application for prior generations or those who are raised outside of an advanced economic system. My ability to reason through engineering problems may unlock earning potential in a very controlled environment and yet doesn’t mean I would survive a day in the Amazon basin or on the streets of Rio. So this assumption that my test scores prove something about my superiority is basically nonsense.

Sure, not everyone has the mental capacity to solve differential equations. But that doesn’t mean everyone who couldn’t solve them prior to Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz was an idiot.

The really crazy thing about racial supremacist mid-wits (or at least those who I know of European ancestry) is that they will so often make fun of the pointy-headed intellectuals (those who outscore them in IQ while lacking street smarts) only to turn around and use IQ statistics to create a racial pecking order. I mean, if IQ is a reason for some to rule, why do these same people turn to wild conspiracy theories to explain why many Ashkenazi Jews are disproportionately more successful (academically) and in positions of power or influence? Why not just assume they are the next stage of human evolution?

The truth is culture and environment have a large part to play in our development. What is prioritized in homes and communities can make a huge difference in outcomes. If my dad was an attorney and I was sent to a prep school, I would probably be more likely to score higher and go further in pursuit of a professional career. Alternatively, if I was raised in a place where everyone was obsessed with track speed and achieving celebrity status, I doubt I would’ve grown up playing with Legos or visiting various museums with my parents. My own 97th percentile IQ was likely built on experience as much as anything else.

Lastly, it is worth noting that outliers do not tell us a whole lot. Interestingly enough, men are both smarter and dumber than women and this has to do with standard distribution or how the bell curve works. What this means is that there can be more or less diversity within categories. Or, put otherwise, some Kenyans being excellent long-distance runners doesn’t mean all are and this superiority of some Kenyans will tell us even less about those on the other end of the African continent. Too often we look at the cream of the crop (or bad actors) as an indication of the whole and yet group statistics never tell us about individuals.

Worse Than An Unbeliever

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But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

(1 Timothy 5 KJV)

I had to think about that verse when reading an article about terrible dating advice given out by an Evangelical superstar shared by a friend. The article itself may be a bit unfair, in that we can rip quotes from a book and make almost any point we want. But I do believe that it raises an important point. A man who does not provide for their own family (and wife) is worse than an unbeliever.

There are so many highly motivated religious men that should never be married. As cited in the article, St Paul gave this advice:

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided.

(1 Corinthians 7:32-34 NIV)

In Orthodoxy, a priest must be married prior to ordination or remain single. Bishops are unmarried. This, I believe, is to help prevent conflicts of interest and so they remain ministry focused. Of course, if someone is so completely ‘sold out for Christ’ then they should not marry at all. And yet there are some who seem to want both the pleasure of marriage and also credit for their ‘missionary’ devotion. In other words, they neglect their responsibilities at home because they must be seeking their own personal vision. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Someone is getting shortchanged:

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

(1 Timothy 3:4-5 NIV)

Red flags should go up when a church leader’s children do not respect their authority or leadership. It reminds me of the pastor that I knew, all of his children seem to be sexual addicts at a young age, they were totally wild, and most not in the church anymore. But, when this man was approached about stepping down or even taking a sabbatical, he would always find justification for not doing what Scripture clearly instructs. He reasoned that his leaving the pulpit would mean Satan win, and yet I’ll have you know that Satan won because he refused to repent or be humbled.

No, that is not to say a parent is completely responsible for the choices of their children either. However, there is influence there. And, if his example wasn’t working at home, why would he be so sure that it was beneficial to the church? He should have obeyed the word of God, that he would preach of so vigorously, and focused on the salvation of himself and his own children.

Being Truly Devoted To God

For those married being truly devoted to God means caring for those entrusted to us. The King James translation of 1 Timothy 5 may be use “he” and yet other translations do not. When men and women are too focused on career or climbing the social hierarchy, even if it appears righteous, they are betraying Christ. Even to neglect care of our elderly parents is in opposition to the word of God:

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ a and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

(Matthew 15:1-5 NIV)

This rebuke reminds me of a man that was always so devoted to beautifying the parish. An Orthodox of Orthodox, by appearances, and yet had emotionally and otherwise neglected his home. In fact, he had once bought a Christmas tree for the church and, meanwhile, left his wife fending for herself to decorate their home. I know this may seem insignificant. Still, it reflected some seriously screwed up priorities and, while his hidden infidelity was a disappointment, it was also not a big surprise. A righteous man should, first and foremost, be the priest of his own home.

So, in conclusion, devotion to the cause of Christ that results in a man who does not devote himself first to the needs of his own family is false devotion. It is the same spirit of the Pharisees (passage above) who would set aside care for their elderly parents and use it for a visible religious purpose. They would claim these resources were ‘devoted to God’ and yet God had told them to honor their parents first and foremost. In the end they were only virtue signaling and deceiving themselves, but Jesus was not fooled.

Depressed, But Not Desperate…

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It is supposed to be the most exciting time on the Christian calendar, the time when Jesus rose from the dead, and here I am. Meh. The shut down, tolerable at first, is starting to weigh down on me and I just feel a bit down.

I mean, not that anyone should worry about me, I’m fine and have a good support network. And yet the excitement of something unprecedented has worn down. My routines of work, the gym, eating out, and going to church, have all been disrupted and I barely need to leave my bedroom.

And then there’s the stupid politics, on both sides, TDS on one side and conspiracy theorists on the other, and I’m even starting to doubt my own perspective. I felt I had covered all angles. But, then, I’m no different from anyone else, I’m working with my own set of biases and blind spots like anyone else in the discussion.

So here I am, walking alone, down a windy rural Pennsylvania road, everything turning green despite the cool air, a couple cars on the road, and did I mention that I’m alone?

Today is the day that I typically (yes, even now) spend at my parents house, with my sister, and enjoy a Sunday dinner. But they decided to go to a State Park for the day and I stayed home because that’s what Charlotte wants. Well, I’m not home, actually, I’m at my parents house, for the change of scenery, the bench press, and the sandwich and pie my mom left in the fridge to show her love.

Charlotte, for her part, is doing okay in the Philippines, despite the lock down in her country (far stricter than our own) and has even found a way to get to her new job. She was tired of being cooped up in her little apartment, with Y-dran and her sister, and refuses to accept that I’m fully capable and willing to backstop her until this is over. That said, I’m completely proud of her and her determination to support herself and her son. I think I found someone even stronger willed than I am!

The bleh and blues come somewhat due to the lack of progress in bringing my little family together. With government offices shut down there, in the Philippines, the indefinite time frame of the whole process of her coming her has been stretched even longer. And, given my luck romantically, my doubts about the happily ever after loom always and even larger now. Could this pandemic be part of that invisible barrier, that impossible to overcome obstacle? For now, and as long as I am able, I will cling to my hopes.

What else can I do?

Last, and probably least, the one thing that could have brought me a little smile only left me a few hundred dollars in the hole and that’s only the first week. For the first time in my life, I decided to put some money in the stock market. There’s practically no interest earned by savings, I wanted to help along my goal of financing a kitchen remodel, what could possibly go wrong, right? Since then I’ve run into nothing but negativity, that the market may drop by another 50% and that’s just typical for me: Too little, too late. Too much, too soon.

But then again, I’ve made it this far down the road and at least I’m not going through this one alone. In a few more weeks things will begin to be a bit more normal again. My plans to visit Charlotte in December will hopefully work out and I’ll even be able to stay longer now that it is a proven fact that working remotely is possible. It does make me sad that everything seems to take so long, that those whom I love are stuck on the opposite of the world from me, but them being here with me some day soon will make it all worth the wait!

Even the economy, bad as it seems now, will eventually come back. Most of us will not die from this virus (or the misguided policies to keep us safe from it) and the world will likely come out better on the other side. There is no need to panic, no reason for despair, this too shall pass and everyone will soon find something else to complain, theorize and argue about. The world is not ending, or at least not that I know, and the sun is still shining…

My New Normal, For Now…

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It is official.

I cooked my first meal using a gas oven.

Well, that’s if you don’t count those canned soups that I heated.

Anyhow, it was in the midst of my dinner preparation that I discovered that I had accidentally purchased “angel hair” rather than my normal “thin spaghetti” noodles, which there was also a box of the latter as well and, besides that, another box of regular spaghetti.

So, apparently, in my panic buying “just buying a few things” (to use the words of a classmate I bumped into stayed a safe six foot away from at the grocery store) I had grabbed a couple of different spaghetti noodle varieties from my usual. So this apocalypse I will have to deal with the mix up and be more careful in my panic buying routine restocking for next apocalypse.

But, as a general rule, I’ve been pretty lucky throughout this Covid-19 event. First, I’m not dead yet. Second, I had purchased a pack of eighteen “mega rolls” of toilet paper before the hoarders emptied the shelves. I also got a haircut while it was still safe and legal. Add to that, my having a D-Link router installed weeks prior made the shift to working at home rather than forty-minutes drive away a smoother transition.

Truly, the timing of everything has been fortuitous, so far, and I hope that streak continues.

Things had been overwhelming at work.

Now, with an extra hour of sleep at night and some flexibility to meet obligations during the day (by making up for the time lost in the evening) I feel more productive and relaxed.

Sure, I do miss my three big screens at work. But nothing beats rolling out of bed and getting right to work. And I’m not really sure how I would’ve gotten through all of the necessary steps to get a renter into my old house had I needed to run back and forth from the office right now, it would be next to impossible and, considering my current workload, completely stressful at very least.

Oh, and did I mention that my new renters (recently unemployed) are awesome???

Yeah, they spent last week raising the value of my property and are anxious to do more. They do great work, he can do the laundry list of small items the home inspector found, and I’ll consider keeping them employed to help me get some projects in my new house wrapped up. I mean, it just so happens that they’re currently unemployed.

I honestly don’t know how I would’ve gotten everything done there without them and hope they are as happy with the arrangement as I am. It will be interesting to see how long we are off work, I’ve already told them there would be flexibility as far as move-in dates, given the current unforeseen circumstances. yet (given Congress finally did get their act together) they are set to receive a check for the US Treasury soon and their state compensation, so we should be good to go.

My anxiety-prone nature also gives me an advantage in times of crisis when the confident people are feeling lost. I mean, it is a sort of “welcome to my world” type of scenario for me. When your whole life is basically a crisis there’s no big adjustment needed for the end of the world, it’s just another day and you know you’ll figure out a way through or die.

And, so long as I don’t get a bad strain of Covid with my Dunkin coffee, I’m not dead yet!

Anyhow, it was nice to at least get a practice run working remotely, I think I might take my work on the road this winter, at least if we get that far, and make my second trip to the Phillippines to visit my bhest again…

What is a bhest, you might ask?

That is a topic for another blog…

Going Full Circle, I’ve Decided to Start a House Church…

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Life is full of strange and unexpected twists.

Upon leaving the denomination of my birth, I had joked that my two choices were to a) start “The Perfect Church of Joel” or b) become Orthodox. But, since I lacked the ambition and other qualifications for being a cult leader, the latter was my only option, and became Orthodox.

However, now, only a year and a half after my Chrismation, and due to circumstances that are beyond my control, I am currently in the planning stages of a house church.

Yes, I realize that this might come as a big surprise to many of you, it could appear like a complete one-eighty and reeks of instability, but it is a necessary step.

I know, I’ve always questioned this new house church trend where a few Protestant fundamentalist separatists, willful people who can’t agree with anyone about anything, people who claim to be copying the early church and decide they are better off doing church themselves.

Sheer arrogance, right?

I mean, the Amish do this too, I suppose, in that they do not have designated church buildings and meet in homes. Yet, they do it in a completely different spirit, they maintain a real community beyond their own immediate family and are truly accountable to an orthodox tradition that transcends them as individuals.

So how did I go completely from one end of the spectrum, from a church with two millennia of history, with ornate architecture and a strong emphasis on Communion, in a universal sense, to deciding that I need to start a church in my own home?

My Journey to the House Church…

Okay, before I give Fr. Seraphim a heart attack, I have no plans on leaving the Holy Cross family in Williamsport. None whatsoever. In fact, my decision to start a house church has everything to do with Orthodox tradition and my beginning to comprehend the reason behind a particular practice—that practice being an iconstasis.

Orthodox churches have an iconstasis, it is basically a wall with images of Jesus, Mary, various saints, and angels situated between the nave (where the congregation is gathered) and the altar where the bread and wine are consecrated. It is a reflection of how the Jerusalem temple was laid out, where the “Holy of Holies” was separated by a veil, and is symbolic of the connection between heaven and the “Holy Place” of the nave.

I had been contemplating how to incorporate an “icon corner” in my new home (a place on an East wall of an Orthodox home designated for prayer and worship) when I found out that this is also called an iconstasis.

Interesting…

As it turns out, this prayer corner in Orthodox homes harkens back to the real house churches of the early church. Every Christian home is supposed to be a microcosm of the Church, a wedding being basically equivalent to an ordination service, the parents acting as the clergy, and the children being the laity of this house church. The designated area for prayer and worship in the home mirrors that of the parish church building and early house churches.

As an aside, it is necessary to note, given currently popular notions pertaining to corporate worship in modern times, that the idea of a house church being a sort of informal affair is entirely wrong. In the early church, when meeting in houses, according to first-hand account, the priests and bishops were in a room east of the laymen (and women, who sat separately) with the deacon guarding the door and keeping the congregation in line. It was an orderly liturgical service and not a free-for-all. And, likewise, worship at home today should still be similarly structured.

The Very Protestant Problem of Division

Growing up, as a Mennonite, we would have “family devotions” and prayer before meals. This was always informal, where we were, and never really patterned as a church service. It was not called or considered a house church. Church for me then was the assembling together of the body of Christ on Sundays and on other days of the week—and that church service was a semi-formal affair, with a definite form and structure.

In decades since my childhood, at least in the conservative Mennonite circles that I ran in, it has become more and more commonplace to skip corporate worship services, on occasion, and to “have church” with just the youth, family members on a weekend retreat or what have you. There are some who have taken it a step further and ceased their mixing with non-biological brothers and sisters, and cousins (or the otherwise impure) altogether and replaced it with a casual around-the-campfire or lounging-in-the-living-room kind of house church affair that can last at least as long as their biological children lack access to transportation and a means to escape the inflated ego of their parents.

The trendline in Protestant denominations is abundantly and woefully clear. There has been a steady march away from any established order, any authority besides one’s own opinion, and Protestantism has played a key role in this development. What started as an attempt at reformation has ended as a fracturing of the Western church into thousands of competing and often very contradictory entities. From the dwindling Fred Phelps types on one side to the growing “woke” crowd on the other, it is very little wonder that this form of Christianity has led many to abandon the enterprise of faith altogether.

There is no need for a Jerusalem council in the current climate. No, in this denominational chaos, there is no longer a need to even practice a Christian love that is willing to work through differences, no reason to submit or show deference to anyone, you just stay home or start a new even smaller, more pure and perfect group and move on.

It is a classic purity spiral, it is a result of people heading their own opinions over the urging of St Paul:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3‭-‬6 NIV)

There isn’t much effort towards that end anymore, is there?

The Protestant house church, often billed as a return to the early church, is merely the next step in the direction of individualism and it is little wonder when children raised in such an environment continue down this path of division in search of a new purity on their own terms. Many will find congregations that require less of them, others will join the growing ranks of “nones” who simply stay at home Sundays, but some of the more ambitious will attempt to recreate a perfect church in their own image.

The Church That Spans Dichotomies

Fortunately, there are other options from the dichotomies of Protestantism. As it turns out, Christians do not need to choose between participation in the universal church (by attending services in a church building with other spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ) and having a “house church” primarily biological relatives, former denominational cohorts, and close friends.

There is a solution to this paradox where you can both have your cake and eat it too: You can (and should) have a house church with your families, but can (and should) also maintain the unity of the faith and be in Communion with the Church body that transcends denominationalism and has an unbroken chain of ordinations back to the time of the Apostles.

In Orthodox Christianity, every man is a priest and his wife co-ordained as the leaders of their own church/home, that is what their marriage implies. But there are also priests over priests, and everyone (man and woman alike) is still accountable to the “priesthood of all believers” (which is to say the Church) and must submit to each other, especially the elder, as St Paul instructs:

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Hebrews 13:17 NIV)

It is impossible to obey that teaching above while being your own boss.

I’m under no delusion about the Orthodox hierarchy, there are problems there like anything else people are involved. I do not submit to their perfection. I do, however, submit in Christian love, to honor my Lord, and in knowing my own unworthiness. I have no need to be the priest, at least not until God ordains it through his Church, but do see an urgent need for all Christians to submit one to another as we are told many times in Scripture.

You can have a house church and be Orthodox. In fact, you should have a house church if you are Orthodox and that is historically well-established.

But you simply cannot be Orthodox or truly Christian and refuse to acknowledge that the church is bigger than you and your own comprehension or ideas.

Orthodoxy, once again, simultaneously occupies both sides of an argument in both strongly encouraging home church while also—at the same time—rejecting the spirit of Diotrephes of those who acknowledge no authority besides their own and set about to create a new pure church in their own image.