In 1999, in the Orthodox Observer, the Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos wrote the following prescient statement as part of his review of a movie (some of his references are to a movie current back then):
The recent school-yard gun massacres and bombings are proof of what happens when absolutes are diluted and spirituality is distorted in just such a fashion. Do not be deceived. The real phantom menace is not “out there … in a galaxy far, far away” … but in the constructs of a post-modern society that has turned its light saber of deconstructionism against Truth itself.
Yes, there is a battle going on. A struggle between truth and falsehood, holiness and sin. But this battle is not going on “far, far away” nor is it the product of legend or myth.
It is the Story of mankind’s war with evil and its ultimate separation from God. It IS a battle between the realities of Light and darkness, Good and evil, God and Satan and not between subjective Eastern mysticism …
It is a battle that is waged with the Cross and not with light sabers, with humility and holiness and not with droids and supernatural powers of levitation.
The Good News is that this battle has been waged and won by Jesus Christ …
As we look at the movie theater massacre in Colorado, we can be tempted to react with the appropriate political viewpoint. Already the political talking heads are trying to make this all about gun control. The psychological talking heads are concerned about developing better ways to spot a possible future mass murderer. The legal talking heads are speaking of defenses or of tougher laws, or of less restrictive laws. It is a cacophony of sound that shuts out a sound we need to hear.
In a play called “Godspell,” from 1971, one version of the play had the sound of the Shofar, with a voice (then a choir) singing, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” over and over and over. In the play people began to gather and became Jesus’ disciples. As the various talking heads are making their pronouncements, it is the sound of the Shofar, the voice of the Gospels that we (and our nation) need to hear today.
When truth has lost its meaning; when talking heads prove over and over that almost any subject can be re-interpreted; when a couple of our generations have already grown up in an atmosphere in which post-modernism has poisoned the idea of Truth, it is no surprise that we see an increasing loss of anchorage in the souls of those around us. When we can no longer be sure what Truth is; when we are living a life in which the young have only the prospect of making less than their parents, if they even have a job; when hope is elusive for that generation; when there is only doubt about eternity or perhaps even the conviction that when you die that is all there is, then your anchors crumble and the unthinkable becomes thinkable. And, if you slip over into full mental illness, the unthinkable slips over into the doable.
However, Fr. Marangos was correct. This is not a battle that will be won with tougher laws or looser laws, or even by mankind. It is a battle that will begin to be won by clear and obvious examples of humility and holiness. Twenty Seraphims of Sarov or Mother Theresas will be worth more than one hundred new laws. It will be won as each of us hears the sound of the call of Our Lord Jesus Christ and responds to it. These current generations will not be touched first by words, because they have stopped believing in them, but by the examples that open the ears to hear the words.
The Prophet Isaiah answered God’s question about how to reach his generation. God asked, “Whom shall we send?” The Prophet answered, “Here am I, send me!” We Orthodox need to become a Church of those who are willing to be sent, the Church of those who go out and gather, the Church of those who demonstrate that Truth exists and that your life can have a secure anchor. And, we need to pray as we do so.
Let me finish with a song-prayer from Godspell, one that became rather famous in its day. It said that day by day “Three things I pray: To see thee more clearly; Love thee more dearly; Follow thee more nearly day by day.” Let that be our prayer as we commit ourselves to be those who are sent.