Friday, 19 February 2016

Clarifying Remarks on a Post

Abcd Efgh” has posted a comment on “Love as a Spiritual Lens Through Which to View the Gospelwhich reads:
Why is a person who leaves the family, having been brought up badly, wrong? I don't get it, isn't it better for the person to leave? (signed Abcd Efgh)
Here is the passage that “Abcd Efgh” is commenting on:
Let us take another example. A young person has been brought up badly. They have left school and family and are living on their own. This is not an ideal Christian life. They have made an effort to resume their education but spiritually they are among lost ones. Perhaps, however, less lost than many still in school. They have spiritual interests. However, the first obstacle to their conversion is the notion of sin.
Will they find someone with love in their heart to guide them to Christ? For let us look at such a young person’s encounter with the notion of personal sin. A young person sins—in this day and age, who knows how? But they have spiritual interests. In some way God is calling to them, to their heart. God is calling them to Life. But the first thing they hear is, “Repent!” In the hands of the unloving preacher this is the road to an authoritarian judgmental Christianity; in the hands of the loving Elder or confessor, this is the beginning of a conversion to an Orthodoxy that is not formalist but a mystagogy of Life and Truth.
What “Abcd Efgh” thinks we mean is not what we mean. In saying that the person in question has left school and family and is living on their own and that this is not an ideal Christian life, we are not saying the person was wrong to leave. We are being descriptive. We do not know why the person left.
What we meant is that for a young person to leave school and family and live on their own is not ideal. It’s not the best situation for someone to be in. An analogy might make this clear. Someone has gangrene—let’s say they were caught in a blizzard and got frostbite. So the doctor cuts their leg off and gives them a motorized wheelchair. This is not an ideal personal situation. People should have two legs and walk around like everyone else.
Similarly in the ideal situation a young person needs their family, needs school. Circumstances may have been such that the person really had no choice but to leave—we are not judging—but the new situation is not ideal from a Christian or even from a psychological perspective. Indeed if you look at traditional cultures, not only is it the norm that the child stays with the parents until fairly old, but that child is even inserted within the extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles and so on). Now sometimes this leads to intolerable situations—in Indian Hindu culture the bride goes to live with her husband who remains in the family home, where bride’s mother-in-law is often harsh with the bride—but it has to be recognized that although adolescence is a time of breaking away and establishing one’s own identity, it is also a time when the child needs emotional support, and in the case at hand, schooling to be able to take up a role in society. Moreover, as a practical matter for an adolescent to be living on their own is certainly opening them to sin.
Now as we pointed out, the person has spiritual interests and might even be in better shape than many still in school.
The person is where they are. God knows why they left and how intolerable the situation was. We don’t. But everyone on the face of the earth sometime has to turn to God. God meets us where we are.

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