In the face of modern chaos, priests need ancient symbols and truths – no more politics – GetReligion


Chaos is coming, so brace yourselves.

This was the warning that four years ago iconographer and YouTube master Jonathan Pageau issued to Orthodox Church leaders in the South American diocese.

The French-Canadian artist was reacting to the cracks in “cultural cohesion” after Donald Trump came to power, with crazy reactions left and right. And business leaders, especially in big tech, threw their “awakened” weight in battles over gender, racism, schools, religious freedom and other issues. Fear and angst boiled in media messages about zombies, fundamentalist maids, and angry demands for “safe spaces.”

Pageau did not predict a global pandemic that would lock church doors.

But that’s what happened. Thus, several weeks ago, he redoubled his message of “chaos”, while addressing the same body of priests and parish leaders of the OCA.

“If some of you didn’t believe me then, I imagine you are more willing to believe me now,” he said.

Pageau has focused, in part, on the waves of online conspiracy theories that have rocked many herds and the shepherds who rule them. Rumors and wild questions, he said, often reveal what people think and feel and, most importantly, whether they trust authority figures.

“Even the craziest conspiratorial fools, what they say is not arbitrary,” he said at the Southern Diocese meetings in Miami, which I attended as a delegate from my parish. in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

“It’s like a wake-up call. It’s like a wake-up call that you can hear, and you can understand that the person sounding the alarm maybe doesn’t understand what’s going on.… They may think they have an internal lead based on what they’ve heard and think they know what’s going on. But the alarm isn’t necessarily a false alarm. “

The chaos is real, Pageau said. There is chaos in politics, science, schools, technology, economic systems, family structures and many issues related to sex and gender. It’s a time when conspiracy theories of vaccines containing tracking devices echo decades of sci-fi stories, as millions of people navigate everyday life with smartphones in their pockets that allow for Big Tech leaders to research their every move.

This chaos will lead to change, one way or another, he said. The goal for church leaders is to listen and respond with Bible pictures, themes, and stories – as opposed to more acidic gossip about politics. The pandemic has been particularly difficult for the bishops and priests of the old liturgical churches, as life in their parishes is built on intimate sacramental acts of confession, communion and anointing of the sick.

In the Eastern Orthodox herds, the rulers also try to make sense of two contradictory tendencies. A census for 2010-2020 (.pdf here) found that the number of Orthodox Christians in America fell by 17%, with the great Greek Orthodox Church falling by 22%. Other jurisdictions, including the OCA, posted slower declines, while the number of new parishes increased.

Meanwhile, Father Andrew Stephen Damick, an Antiochian Orthodox priest specializing in online ministries, recently contacted priests across the country about the Facebook accounts of a growing number of “applicants and catechumens showing up” in their homes. parishes during the pandemic. Only three said this was not the case, while 28 affirmed these reports.

“A number said they noticed the newcomers were younger,” Damick said on his Ancient Faith Ministries blog. “Several said it was more than they had ever had – in some cases double.” In his own parish in Pennsylvania, the number of newcomers last year topped the previous decade’s total.

The great majority of the priests of the meetings of the diocese of the South reported the same phenomenon. Several reported a trend commonly seen online, with young men turning to orthodoxy after following the writings and YouTube posts of University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson. This led them to online dialogues between Peterson and Pageau, which then led them to the iconographer’s “The Symbolic World” YouTube stream and other Orthodox online channels.

“It’s the guys, it’s all these guys.… These young men in their twenties and early thirties, they’re out there looking for something urgently,” said Pageau. “I sympathize with the mad, aggressive warlike energy of these young men – this mad ball of warlike energy.

“You can change the world with 2000 guys like that. It’s happened before.”

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