Speaking of Reading

The most obvious question, after reading the past two posts, is: since you find popular evangelical writers to be somewhat manipulative and vapid, why don’t you read and write on writers you admire and find helpful, especially Orthodox ones, since you also agree with them? To which I have two and a half answers.

One is that Orthodox writers have a different sub-culture, and I do not yet know how to connect that with American culture — I’m not sure what our common conversation is, and am not quite sure how to go about learning that, either.

The other answer is that important Orthodox writers either are way out of my league, or present the thoughts of those other saints who are way out of my league. In other words, they’re either like St Theophan, and quite difficult, or they’re like Frederica Matthews-Green, and basically re-state people like St Theophan, or church services, in a more accessible format. I don’t really want to write on the latter, because, while Matthews-Green is good at what she does, the primary sources are better. I also don’t want to write on the primary sources because… well, because that is very difficult. Left to my own natural reactions I would either say: read this person! He’s fantastic, and I would ruin it! Or I would say: I have no idea what this person is getting at. It’s very mysterious to me, and anything I wrote on it would simply be conjecture.

There’s another side of this second reason: the most immediate affect of good Orthodox writers on me is to point out how very ignorant and vice-ridden I am. There’s only so much of that I voluntarily accept at a time. Yesterday I read some speeches by Bishop Anthony Bloom — he’s a very good and unusually introspectively observant writer, but the most obvious thing I got out of his speeches were ways in which I am personally insufficient, which wasn’t what I was enquiring about. In other words, in order to write on Orthodox ideas I’d have to write in an Orthodox fashion, which is unremittingly repentant. That requires a good deal of attention, and is difficult.

The most interesting and helpful thing to do is to apply Orthodox teaching to modern questions, but I don’t know what modern questions I might profitably become involved with, and neither do I know much Orthodox teaching — well, I know it, but not specifically. I know what “we” say, because all the priests I’ve known and the writers I’ve read tend to agree, but I don’t know who, precisely, said what.

In other words, I write on evangelicals and educationalists more than on Orthodox because I’m slothful and it’s more difficult to do. I’ll try to see if I can remedy that, but am not sure how yet.

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