Follow Me on oKyrios!

I am at a monastery now, and one hieromonk early on explained that the monastery was trying to act on the problems that I tried to document in The Seraphinians: "Blessed Seraphim Rose" and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts. He explained to me how Protestants were coming with questions that were perfectly respectful, appropriate, mature and so on. Perhaps the deliberate example he gave was an outsider's question, but not a bad question for a respectful outsider to be asking. And they are getting harassed and blasted to smithereens by axe-wielding Western converts.

And what the monastery is trying to do is provide a more wholesome alternative: a social network among other things, but a social network, run by Orthodox Christians, specifically not designed to be addictive, nor to sell advertising, but to serve the genuine interests of its members. The email account they provide is specifically intended to protect your privacy, as is the site as a whole. There is a $5 a month charge to cover costs, so we can serve it without ads.

The network is called oKyrios, Greek for "the Lord," and you can support me by creating an account at at https://lavra.okyrios.org?aff=CJSHayward. After you have created an account, you can log in at okyrios.org.

If you have not already joined, I invite you to do so.

A word to the wise

I am the author of The Luddite's Guide to Technology: Beyond the Black Mirror, and I hold Jean-Claude Larchet's The New Media Epidemic: The Undermining of Society, Family, and Our Own Soul in high regard, and some people who know me might be surprised I am recommending a social net.

I would, however, like to recommend using some of the lessons learned from Facebook. Like, for instance, the people who enjoy Facebook most are those who dip in and out quickly, not people who languish in depression, from others' happy posts, for hours. If you're going to use the social aspects of oKyrios, do so in limited moderation.

Besides social aspects, oKyrios has for instance a radio stations, a schooling system and recordings of bishops and other leaders offering really good lectures. About the lectures, which eclipse my own offerings, I would say this: Listen to one lecture and then stop for the day. Let it sink in; let it mingle with silence. This is not because I have any real concern about the lectures being anything but excellent, but one lecture sinking in is a good thing. An intravenous drip of noise is not a good thing, and that's true even if the intravenous drip of noise is an intravenous drip of some of the best Orthodox lectures you'll find anywhere on the web.

If you are not familiar with Humane Tech, at very least read their "Take Control" page, and apply its lessons to getting the best out of oKyrios. Consider setting a 15 minute timer and only stay on oKyrios for those 15 minutes.

You can get much better results from online services by making and following deliberate decisions, than if you just do whatever is easiest.

oKyrios is a wonderful resource, and all the better if you use it well!

Will There be a Place for Me?

Buy Happiness in an Age of Crisis on Amazon.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Do not worry for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Do you think you can add one single hour to your life by worrying? You might as well try to worry your way into being a foot taller!

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

The Sermon on the Mount (COB)

The year was 2006 and I was studying at Fordham. A doctor made a mistake that let me be stressed to the point of uninterrupted waking nausea for weeks.

Part of my attendance at Cambridge, and then Fordham, was to get a PhD, the unofficial union card to teaching at university level, and the issue was not whether I would have the superhuman honorific of "Dr. Hayward." Or rather that was a secondary issue that did not help, but my fear was of something much worse: "Will there be a place for me?"

Before all of that, another physician had prescribed medications that made for a year of idleness, lying on my bed, staring at my light bulb, and thinking "This is worse than watching television." When the idleness ended, I found that my interests in the humanities came back quickly, computer work came back more slowly and perhaps not quite as well, but my discipline, mathematics, never came back. I had reconnected with math after four months away from math once before, and that was when I was significantly younger.

My study of academic theology was meant as retooling; since the door to mathematics was closed, information technology work had been a square peg in a round hole, and I looked for what next. I inquired about interdisciplinary PhD, and was told to pick a single academic discipline as his department had tremendous difficulties placing "American Studies" PhD's whose skills were divided between American history and literature: history departments wanted to hire a proper history PhD, and literature departments wanted to hire a proper literature PhD. And advised to pick one discipline, I picked the one that mattered to me most: theology.

And when things were turning ugly around Fordham, the question "Will there be a place for me?" was a question of what Providence I would be given. I've made a couple of forays at trying to teach theology without a PhD and without an Orthodox seminary degree, but no one has nibbled, and that may be just as well. But that left me with the square peg, round hole, and strong personalities who consider it disrespectful for a subordinate to be smarter than them. And I was going ahead, flailing.

Part of what I had worried before Fordham was how I would handle the daily grind, but for me a day's worth of daily grind is doable one day at a time. And after my parents explained that they were not going to keep the house indefinitely for me, I was able to retire on disability, and when Section 8 housing would have required injections I am not morally comfortable with, a door had been open and I have been a welcome guest at the little gem of St. Demetrios Skete.

There has always been a place for me. I don't know if I will die in a FEMA camp, but Paradise is wherever the saints are, and I am with (s)aints now. There has always been a place for me, and I believe God always will provide for me if I am faithful. I would recall the Akathist hymn "Glory to God for All Things:"

Glory to God for All Things

ODE 1

Everlasting King, Your will for our salvation is full of power. Your right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give You thanks for all Your mercies, seen and unseen: For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Your praises, both now and in the time to come. Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

IKOS 1

I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Your angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now, Your love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity. From birth until now the generous gifts of Your Providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give You thanks, with all who have come to know You, who call upon Your Name:

Glory to You for calling me into being.
Glory to You, showing me the beauty of the universe.
Glory to You, spreading out before me heaven and earth, like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom.
Glory to You for Your eternity in this fleeting world.
Glory to You for Your mercies, seen and unseen.
Glory to You, through every sigh of my sorrow.
Glory to You for every step of my life’s journey,for every moment of glory.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 2

O Lord, how lovely it is to be Your guest. Breeze full of scents — mountains reaching to the skies — waters like a boundless mirror, reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing depths of Your tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Your love. Blessed are you, mother earth, in your fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last forever in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, rings out the cry: Alleluia!

IKOS 2

You have brought me into life as if into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavor and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on your earth. It is a pleasure to be your guest.

Glory to You for the feast-day of life.
Glory to You for the perfume of lilies and roses.
Glory to You for each different taste of berry and fruit.
Glory to You for the sparkling silver of early morning dew.
Glory to You for the joy of dawn’s awakening.
Glory to You for the new life each day brings.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 3

It is the Holy Spirit Who makes us find joy in each flower–the exquisite scent, the delicate color — the beauty of the Most High in the tiniest of things. Glory and honor to the Spirit, the Giver of Life, Who covers the fields with their carpet of flowers, crowns the harvest with gold, and gives to us the joy of gazing at it with our eyes. O be joyful and sing to Him: Alleluia!

IKOS 3

How glorious You are in the springtime, when every creature awakens to new life and joyfully sings Your praises with a thousand tongues! You are the source of life, the destroyer of death. By the light of the moon, nightingales sing, and the valleys and hills lie like wedding-garments, white as snow. All the earth is Your promised bride awaiting her spotless Husband. If the grass of the field is like this, how gloriously shall we be transfigured in the Second Coming, after the Resurrection! How splendid our bodies, how spotless our souls!

Glory to You for the warmth and tenderness of the world of nature.
Glory to You for the numberless creatures around us.
Glory to you for the depths of Your wisdom–the whole world a living sign of it.
Glory to You: On my knees, I kiss the traces of Your unseen hand.
Glory to You, enlightening us with the clarity of eternal life.
Glory to You for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of immortality.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 4

How filled with sweetness are those whose thoughts dwell on You: how life-giving Your holy Word. To speak with You is more soothing than anointing with oil, sweeter than the honeycomb. To pray to You lifts the spirit, refreshes the soul. Where You are not, there is only emptiness; hearts are smitten with sadness; nature, and life itself, becomes sorrowful. Where You are, the soul is filled with abundance, and its song resounds like a torrent of life: Alleluia!

IKOS 4

When the sun is setting, when quietness falls, like the peace of eternal sleep, and the silence of the spent day reigns, then in the splendor of its declining rays, filtering through the clouds, I see Your dwelling-place. Fiery and purple, gold and blue, they speak prophet-like of the ineffable beauty of Your presence, and call to us in their majesty. We turn to the Father:

Glory to You at the hushed hour of nightfall.
Glory to You, covering the earth with peace.
Glory to You for the last ray of the sun as it sets.
Glory to You for sleep’s repose that restores us.
Glory to You for Your goodness, even in time of darkness, when all the world is hidden from our eyes.
Glory to You for the prayers offered by a trembling soul.
Glory to You for the pledge of our reawakening on the glorious last day, that day which has no evening.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 5

The dark storm-clouds of life bring no terror to those in whose hearts Your fire is burning brightly. Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, there is light and peace, silence. The heart sings: Alleluia!

IKOS 5

I see Your heavens resplendent with stars. How glorious You are, radiant with light! Eternity watches me by the rays of the distant stars. I am small, insignificant, but the Lord is at my side: Your right arm guides me wherever I go.

Glory to You, ceaselessly watching over me.
Glory to You for the encounters You arrange for me.
Glory to You for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends.
Glory to You for the humbleness of animals which serve me.
Glory to You for the unforgettable moments of life.
Glory to You for the heart’s innocent joy.
Glory to You for the joy of living, moving, and being able to return Your love.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 6

How great and how close You are in the powerful track of the storm! How mighty Your right arm in the blinding flash of the lightning! How awesome Your majesty! The voice of the Lord fills the fields, It speaks in the rustling of the trees. The voice of the Lord is in the thunder and the downpour. The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. Praise be to You in the roar of mountains ablaze. You shake the earth like a garment; You pile up to the sky the waves of the sea. Praise be to You, bringing low the pride of man. You bring from his heart a cry of penitence: Alleluia!

IKOS 6

When the lightning flash has lit up the camp dining hall, how feeble seems the light from the lamp. Thus do You, like the lightning, unexpectedly light up my heart with flashes of intense joy. After Your blinding light, how drab, how colorless, how illusory all else seems.

Glory to You, the highest peak of men’s dreaming.
Glory to You for our unquenchable thirst for communion with God.
Glory to You, making us dissatisfied with earthly things.
Glory to You, turning on us Your healing rays.
Glory to You, subduing the power of the spirits of darkness and dooming to death every evil.
Glory to You for the signs of Your presence, for the joy of hearing Your voice and living in Your love.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 7

In the wondrous blending of sounds, it is Your call we hear. In the harmony of many voices, in the sublime beauty of music, in the glory of the works of great composers, You lead us to the threshold of paradise to come, and to the choirs of angels. All true beauty has the power to draw the soul towards You and make it sing in ecstasy: Alleluia!

IKOS 7

The breath of Your Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets, scientists. The power of Your supreme knowledge makes them prophets and interpreters of Your laws, who reveal the depths of Your creative wisdom. Their works speak unwittingly of You. How great are You in Your creation! How great are You in man!

Glory to You, showing Your unsurpassable power in the laws of the universe.
Glory to You, for all nature is filled with Your laws.
Glory to You for what You have revealed to us in Your mercy.
Glory to You for what you have hidden from us in Your wisdom.
Glory to You for the inventiveness of the human mind.
Glory to You for the dignity of man’s labor.
Glory to You for the tongues of fire that bring inspiration.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 8

How near You are in the day of sickness. You Yourself visit the sick. You Yourself bend over the sufferer’s bed; his heart speaks to You. In the throes of sorrow and suffering, You bring peace; You bring unexpected consolation. You are the Comforter. You are the Love which watches over and heals us. To You we sing the song: Alleluia!

IKOS 8

When in my childhood I called upon You consciously for the first time, You heard my prayer; You filled my heart with the blessing of peace. At that moment I knew Your goodness, knew how blessed are those who turn to You. I started to call upon You, night and day, and even now, I call upon Your Name:

Glory to You, satisfying my desires with good things.
Glory to You, watching over me day and night.
Glory to You, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing flow of time.
Glory to You; no loss is irreparable in You, giver of eternal life to all.
Glory to You, making immortal all that is lofty and good.
Glory to You, promising us the longed-for meeting with our loved ones who have died.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 9

Why is it that on a feast-day the whole of nature mysteriously smiles? Why is it that then a heavenly gladness fills our hearts, a gladness far beyond that of earth, and the very air in church and in the altar becomes luminous? It is the breath of Your gracious love; it is the reflection of the glory of Mount Tabor. Then do heaven and earth sing Your praise: Alleluia!

IKOS 9

When You called me to serve my brothers and filed my soul with humility, one of Your deep-piercing rays shone into my heart; it became luminous, full of light, like iron glowing in the furnace. I have seen Your face, face of mystery and of unapproachable glory.

Glory to You, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love.
Glory to You, making wonderfully sweet the keeping of Your commandments.
Glory to You, making Yourself known where man shows mercy on his neighbor.
Glory to You, sending us failure and misfortune, that we may understand the sorrows of others.
Glory to You, rewarding us so well for the good we do.
Glory to You, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love.
Glory to You, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 10

No one can put together what has crumbled into dust, but You can restore a conscience turned to ashes; You can restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope. With You, there is nothing that cannot be redeemed. You are Love; You are Creator and Redeemer. We praise You, singing: Alleluia!

IKOS 10

Remember, my God, the fall of Lucifer, full of pride; keep me safe with the power of Your grace. Save me from falling away from You; save me from doubt. Incline my heart to call upon You, present in everything.

Glory to You for every happening, every condition Your Providence has put me in.
Glory to You for what you speak to me in my heart.
Glory to You for what you reveal to me, asleep or awake.
Glory to You for scattering our vain imaginations.
Glory to You for raising us from the slough of our passions through suffering.
Glory to You for curing our pride of heart by humiliation.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 11

Across the cold chains of the centuries, I feel the warmth of Your breath; I feel Your blood pulsing in my veins. Part of time has already gone, but now You are the present. I stand by Your cross; I was the cause of it. I cast myself down in the dust before it. Here is the triumph of love, the victory of salvation. Here the centuries themselves cannot remain silent, singing Your praises: Alleluia!

IKOS 11

Blessed are they that will share in the King’s banquet; but already on earth You give me a foretaste of this blessedness. How many times with Your own hand have You held out to me Your Body and Your Blood, and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Sacrament, and have tasted Your love, so ineffable, so heavenly!

Glory to You for the unquenchable fire of Your grace.
Glory to You, building Your Church, a haven of peace in a tortured world.
Glory to You for the life-giving water of baptism in which we find new birth.
Glory to You, restoring to the penitent purity white as the lily.
Glory to You for the Cup of Salvation and the Bread of eternal joy.
Glory to You for exalting us to the highest heaven.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 12

How oft have I seen the reflection of Your glory in the faces of the dead. How resplendent they were, with beauty and heavenly joy; how ethereal, how translucent their faces; how triumphant over suffering and death, their felicity and peace. Even in the silence they were calling upon You. In the hour of my death, enlighten my soul, too, that it may cry out to You: Alleluia!

IKOS 12

What sort of praise can I give You? I have never heard the song of the cherubim, a joy reserved for the spirits above. But I know the praises that nature sings to You. In winter, I have beheld how silently in the moonlight the whole earth offers You prayer, clad in its white mantle of snow, sparkling like diamonds. I have seen how the rising sun rejoices in You, how the song of the birds is a chorus of praise to You. I have heard the mysterious murmurings of the forests about You, and the winds singing Your praise as they stir the waters. I have understood how the choirs of stars proclaim Your glory as they move forever in the depths of infinite space. What is my poor worship? All nature obeys You, I do not. Yet while I live, I see Your love, I long to thank You, pray to You, and call upon Your Name:

Glory to You, giving us light.
Glory to You, loving us with love so deep, divine, and infinite.
Glory to You, blessing us with light, and with the host of angels and saints.
Glory to You, Father All-Holy, promising us a share in Your Kingdom.
Glory to You, Holy Spirit, Life-giving Sun of the world to come.
Glory to You for all things, holy and most merciful Trinity.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 13 (Repeated three times.)

Life-giving and merciful Trinity, receive my thanksgiving for all Your goodness. Make us worthy of Your blessings, so that, when we have brought to fruit the talents You have entrusted to us, we may enter into the joy of our Lord, forever exulting in the shout of victory: Alleluia!

IKOS 1

I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Your angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now, Your love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity. From birth until now the generous gifts of Your Providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give You thanks, with all who have come to know You, who call upon Your Name:

Glory to You for calling me into being.
Glory to You, showing me the beauty of the universe.
Glory to You, spreading out before me heaven and earth, like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom.
Glory to You for Your eternity in this fleeting world.
Glory to You for Your mercies, seen and unseen.
Glory to You, through every sigh of my sorrow.
Glory to You for every step of my life’s journey,for every moment of glory.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

ODE 1

Everlasting King, Your will for our salvation is full of power. Your right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give You thanks for all Your mercies, seen and unseen: For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Your praises, both now and in the time to come. Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

This song was composed by a high-ranking Orthodox bishop, a few days before death, in a concentration camp.

The song and the beauty in Fr. Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father is paradise, wherever the saints are—even in a concentration camp. And the two most beautiful passages in The Soul's Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation are from concentration camps.

I do not predict that either of us will die in concentration camps, but God's bard said, "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." And my delightful monastery has blessings that I hadn't even had before going on; one of the fringe benefits is a sweet cat, who is very outgoing, and astonishingly enough doesn't irritate my allergies. The men at the monastery are like the St. Anne's company in C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (though, perhaps, without saving the rest of the world, and perhaps without Merlin).

And on a note of "I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know Who brings tomorrow," I believe that I have a chance, and have really always had the chance, to complete my life in triumph (or be subtilized by the returning Christ). I have in the mean time every grace that I need, and really quite a few niceties I do not need but are something to be grateful for.

Some people, learning that I have not been worrying, seem to think that I am fundamentally better at having my ducks in a row. I deny the charge. What I have learned, besides that trying to solve a life's problems on a day's research is a ticket to overpowering despair, is how to make peace with a life that will never be under control, or at least not my control. It is a wonderful world that way.

"Will there be a place for me?" is a serious question, but I've had places for me come out of the blue. If we trust God, he has every ability to make a place for us. And trust is possible, and more than that is trust, when we trust what we cannot see.

As St. John Chrysostom said as his very last words, "Glory to God for All Things!"

"Why?" (A Look at Matthieu Pageau, "The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis")

Great Expectations

“I am a star at rest, my daughter,” answered Ramandu. “When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire-berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall take my rising again (for we are at earth’s eastern rim) and once more tread the great dance.”

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as quoted in "Physics"

The reader is now thinking about evolution. He is wondering whether Genesis 1 is right, and evolution is simply wrong, or whether evolution is right, and Genesis 1 is a myth that may be inspiring enough but does not actually tell how the world was created.

All of this is because of a culture phenomenally influenced by scientism and science. The theory of evolution is an attempt to map out, in terms appropriate to scientific dialogue, just what organisms occurred, when, and what mechanism led there to be new kinds of organisms that did not exist before. Therefore, nearly all Evangelicals assumed, Genesis 1 must be the Christian substitute for evolution. Its purpose must also be to map out what occurred when, to provide the same sort of mechanism. In short, if Genesis 1 is true, then it must be trying to answer the same question as evolution, only answering it differently.

Darwinian evolution is not a true answer to the question, “Why is there life as we know it?” Evolution is on philosophical grounds not a true answer to that question, because it is not an answer to that question at all. Even if it is true, evolution is only an answer to the question, “How is there life as we know it?” If someone asks, “Why is there this life that we see?” and someone answers, “Evolution,” it is like someone saying, “Why is the kitchen light on?” and someone else answering, “Because the switch is in the on position, thereby closing the electrical circuit and allowing current to flow through the bulb, which grows hot and produces light.”

Where the reader only sees one question, an ancient reader saw at least two other questions that are invisible to the present reader. As well as the question of “How?” that evolution addresses, there is the question of “Why?” and “What function does it serve?” These two questions are very important, and are not even considered when people are only trying to work out the antagonism between creationism and evolutionism.

The Commentary, on Genesis 1

I was enthusiastically introduced to Matthieu Pageau, The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis, and enthusiastically looking forward to posting a review saying, "I speak of answering the question, "Why?" as is neglected in science, but in occasional hints and riddles. This is a full and direct treatment of the matter."

The snake in the ointment

I viewed a podcast with the author, and on rational grounds this looks interesting. The best books to me are ones that challenge me enough to cause culture shock, and this did cause culture shock, and was as different and concerned with the question, "Why?" as I respected.

About two thirds of the way through the book, though, I put my finger on something I'd been ignoring to be able to see other things: reading the book was not prayerful. When my abbot loaned me a manuscript he asked feedback for, the most vital feedback I could give him was that when I began it reading was deliberative information processing, but well before the end reading was prayer, and good theology leads you into the presence of God. As a relatively minor symptom, the comments on divination were all secular in character, and though forbidding divination was mentioned at least once, it was never discussed as an evil sin and a shameful error that opens a gateway to demonic possession. The concepts of 'space' and 'time', put in quotes in the text itself to indicate a usage very different from any mainstream usage, brought the kind of interesting culture shock produced by good science fiction and fantasy, a bit like The Dark Tower that C.S. Lewis wisely refrained from publishing. Also somewhat unusual for an author presented as Orthodox is a claim to "carves Eastern Orthodox and other traditional images." And the book freely refers to later parts of the Old Testament, but never the New Testament or the Church as realities shadowed in the Old Law.

A more serious problem is that the book tastes to me too much like Jung, and was recommended to me by a good friend in the process of leaving Jung behind. Carl Jung has been called the greatest threat to the Church since Julian the Apostate, and some people have said that at the beginning of every failed clerical career known to the speaker came finding insights in Jung. I do not object to a portrait of archetypes as such; I trade in archetypes myself and would never want to leave them behind. But whether this is a fruitful engagement... it is a hint and a riddle to point out that the book briefly mentions alchemy as something you'd never guess by studying today's chemistry. It doesn't mention alchemy as offering a shortcut by technique for inner transformation that all of the major world religions are inclined to answer, "Sorry, kid. You need elbow grease." Even if conservative Protestants may be very eager to clarify that they believe you are sanctified by faith alone and not by elbow grease, they are also usually quite clear in a belief that if you have a living and a healthy faith and relevant opportunity, you had better be producing elbow grease. (Possibly Taoism is an exception? The Buddha left an interlocking eightfold path of ways to produce elbow grease.) But Pageau's book never talks about alchemy as a cheap shortcut, and if you are going to declare that alchemy is different from anything you'd guess from looking at chemistry, you would do awfully well to say its techniques for producing spiritual transformation are shallow and flat next to any proper religious tradition.

There was one conversation I had with a famous egalitarian when I mentioned enthusiastically about John Eldredge's Wild at Heart, and he pointed out how the book was Jungian. And that was the hook when I swallowed a bait of quasi-traditional teaching about men and women at a time when live proponents of the position were few and far between.

I don't want to repeat that error here, and I speak no words of ill-will if my friends fell for something I fell for hook, line, and sinker. But the book pulls off a reconceptualization big enough to provoke culture shock, and a many-layered understanding of symbol, but for all that it I found very little, if anything, that constituted a specifically patristic way of opening up the Old Testament to unhide the New, and while the book mentions details like alchemy and Tarot, I searched and failed to find mention of "Jesus," "Christ," "Church," and so on.

I deem this book a failure, but I would really like to read another book that would succeed where it had failed.

Orthodox Affirmations

Buy Happiness in an Age of Crisis on Amazon.

All Orthodox theology is positive theology.

Nothing can harm the man who does not injure himself.

I can do all things I am charged with through Christ who strengthens me.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.

Only God and I exist.

God and the Son of God became Man and the Son of Man that men and the sons of men might become gods and the sons of God.

Trying to become god, Adam failed to become god; Christ became man, to make Adam god.

God did not only become man that I might become divine. He also became man that I might become man.

Make peace with yourself, and ten thousand around you will be saved.

Save yourself, and Heaven and earth will make peace with you.

Banish two thoughts and live two thoughts: banish "I am a saint" and "I will be damned," and live "I am a great sinner" and "God is greatly merciful."

All the world will be saved and I will be damned.

In humility consider others better than yourself. It is the key to truly enjoying them.

Keep your mind in Hell, and despair not.

The vilest of sins is a smouldering ember thrown into the ocean of God's love.

Our social program is the Trinity.

The Orthodox martial art is living the Sermon on the Mount.

Could We Pursue a Profoundly Gifted Humility?

Cover for Profoundly Gifted Survival Guide

Could we pursue profoundly gifted humility?

The gay community's emphasis on pride is a matter of applying poison to a wound. But I want to take a long, and I hope fruitful, detour.

Revisiting the Philokalia

I have generally found efforts to improve a backwards Philokalia of themselves backwards, not to mention a bit stupid and arrogant. The Seven Deadly Sins are what became in the West of the Philokalia's eight demons, and I have read an official from my own theology department frankly ridicule the Seven Deadly Sins because it does not explicitly list hypocrisy. But in the Philokalia at least, the eight demons are the eight gateway sins, eight gateway drugs to other sins, and hypocrisy falls at least partly under the heading of pride, unreservedly condemned as the worst of the lot. The list of eight sins is not an attempt to catalogue each and every sins; another passage of the Philokalia attempts a catalogue and the list weighs in at over 100 named sins. However, this exercise is exceedingly rare compared to the efforts to warn us of gateway sins, of which a few the reader is warned about repeatedly. People who consider themselves to know better than the Philokalia have my suspicion and ordinarily seem to never have really gotten their feet wet in what is quite arguably the #1 Orthodox written treasure after the Bible.

I was surprised when my abbot (at least for now, and I hope it doesn't just last for now and evaporate), Metropolitan JONAH of St. Demetrios Monastery, proposed an update as part of his Reflections on a Spiritual Journey. However unstintingly poor classic monasticism may have insisted on being (one passage gives a short list of allowed items and beyond them "not even a needle"), those who became monastics came from privileges that not only included a great deal of wealth and being born into the Old Boy's Club, but could assume loving and healthy extended families. And maybe the spoiled rich could and should have regarded forms of pride as the nadir of human defilement, and perhaps such it is. In both East and West, in for example St. Seraphim of Sarov or G.K. Chesterton, fornication and drunkenness are considered the sins of men, and pride and rebellion are considered the sins of devils. And the little future St. Seraphim did not need to be cleansed from all human sin, but he absolutely needed to overcome the sin of devils.

However, Metropolitan JONAH points to certain differences today. The extended family has not stayed together but disintegrated into isolated nuclear families, and nuclear families have had a meltdown too. And so many people today have grown up with a broken childhood, with a whole array of situations that were abusive even if squeaky-clean legal (like Mom and Dad outsourcing most of their parenting to a series of daycare centers so they can both bring home the bacon), and the effect of suchlike abuse is a profound shame, a shame that people discover can be anaesthetized, at least temporarily, by engaging in various sins. Addictions, and things like addictions such as various sexual sins, anaesthetize a shame that says, "You're worthless. There's nothing left to love. You are horrible through and through." And so my beloved Metropolitan, whom I am positive understands the Philokalia profoundly, has offered the first update to the Philokalia that I have found to even make sense—and it is a lot of sense that it makes.

A visit to Fr. John

Fr. John Whiteford, whom I have had the privilege of taking two classes with, is another figure I respect profoundly. He is something like a bulldog for Orthodoxy, with topics such as "The anus is not designed for the penis," and he defends Orthodoxy in something like the fashion of previous bulldogs like G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. (While he writes well, I don't know if he is as epically good as a writer, but I have no hesitation in making the comparison in outlining the type of work by which he serves.) And he called to point an Orthodox Matushka ("Mommy"), meaning a priest's or deacon's wife (which in Orthodoxy is a real office), for saying that the cure for shame is empathy without whispering a word about repentance. And I have shouted a great many words about repentance as Heaven's best-kept secret, but while the Mommy may have left out something important, she also kept in something important.

What was she right about?

There is an absolutely ancient image that has been repeated across centuries for the image of God in us, an image that cannot be damaged or destroyed. Our heart of hearts is like a mirror at the base of a fountain. The waters may be dirty; they may cloud or hide the mirror at the bottom, but there is a real and authentic mirror, and it will shine if the water is cleared up.

John Calvin is perhaps a most extreme example of Western abandonment of this understanding. His successor's formulation of the essentials of Calvinist Christianity opens with a 'T' for "total depravity," that we are profoundly corrupt all the way down to our very core. And Orthodoxy says no to this: in our very hearts is the image of God which is absolutely incapable of being deformed, dissolved, or destroyed. And to pull one example, St. Maximus the Confessor briefly speaks of adding to "the natural good of image" with "the voluntary good of likeness." The term "human nature" as I encountered it as an Evangelical was always seen as something fallen; to admit "human nature" is to admit weakness, fallenness, sin. But the nature of human race was never created as fallen, and the natural good of image is incorruptible. It is not a spark of God, as in Origenism and Hinduism, but it is something created which is incorruptibly good, and thinking it is a spark of God may represent an understandable confusion. It is an image, a symbol, in which the whole God himself is indelibly present. Not even in Hell can this be undone: "Hell," said Fr. Seraphim of Plantina, "is immersion in the love of God."

Now the dirt in the water may hide the mirror to a profound degree. St. Maximus's counterbalance to "the natural good of image" is "the voluntary good of likeness," and the voluntary good of likeness is of water that is limpid, pure, and allows the mirror to shine gloriously. It is a life's work to clear the water, and the clearer the water becomes, the more sharply people become aware of how much muck is still in the water, and the purest consider themselves the most defiled. But nonetheless even their defilement rests exclusively in the water above the mirror. The mirror remains as undefiled as the mirror that shone from Lord Adam in Paradise.

And where does gay pride fit into this? Or disability? Or, for that matter, topless?

The essential draw to all these spiritual diseases is that they self-medicate, and provide some degree of respite to the shame of being utterly worthless and having nothing good in you. And when the effect wears thin, it is possible that the sins of men can't sear away the pain as strongly as devils' sin.

And what about the profoundly gifted? What do we have to be humble about?

Let me bring one rabbit trail before getting on to my real point. If, in history, something goes wrong that leaves over a million murder victims, it is the fruit of profoundly gifted effort. Like Hitler, for instance, or the gospel of "St. Marx." The whole singularity in which the whole world is sinking has the achievements of the profoundly gifted as instrumental. No intellectually disabled individual in history has created a black mirror. It is Steve Jobs who does it. Profoundly gifted can and do things with such good intentions as pave the road to Hell and lead legions down with them. There is something in this that we should be very humble about.

But let me talk about humility for an instant.

G.K. Chesterton says, "It takes humility to enjoy anything—even pride."

Humility is the spiritual wine that opens the eyes to the beauty of the universe, and humility is the spiritual wine that can let profoundly gifted look at IQ normals and see the glory of the image of God at work.

"In humility consider others better than yourself" (Phil 2:3) has got to be one of the least palatable texts in the Bible (or at least unpopular for us to apply it to ourselves), but "In humility consider others better than yourself" is another way of saying, "In humility be surrounded by other people who fascinate you, whom you admire, respect, and enjoy." The Biblical text is more than that, but it really is an opening of the eyes to the glory of the precious other people in your life.

I do not know how to say enough about humility, besides saying in shorthand, "Read the Philokalia" as a shorthand quote. Humility ranks high on the Ladder; it is with discernment one of the two great virtues the Fathers in the Philokalia simply cannot stop talking about or praising enough. Humility is a powerful contributor to God-shaped love, a mother to joy, and it is a Heaven on earth. Heaven is where the saints are, and Heaven is where the humble are.

I don't wish to condemn too strongly people who reach for devil's sin when the sins of men cease to sufficiently anaesthetize pain. But really, even if we allow queers (or whatever they are called this week) to try to feel good on a lasting basis for pride, we might be able to think far enough the box to pursue humility.

And oh, by the way, people are less hostile if we are genuinely humble.

Could we pursue a profoundly gifted humility?

Read more of Profoundly Gifted Survival Guide on Amazon!

Avoiding Needless Liabilities: "Crank Magnetism" for Orthodox

The militant Rational Wiki's article on crank magnetism isn't pretty. It shows a singular lack of sympathy for fellow human beings and one gets the impression that camps the authors don't agree with are classified as cranks. For instance, its preppers link sounds like people making preparations for a political meltdown are complete crackpots for doing so. The more our present singularity unfold, the less plausible it seems to me that survivalists or preppers are complete kooks. The more things unfold, the more it looks like preppers were right the whole time.

Nonetheless, while I believe some beliefs tarred and featured in that article are right, including intelligent design (thus qualifying myself as an IDiot), and suspicion regarding how much vaccines and post-vaccine genetic therapy really help us, I was dismayed at seeing Young Earth Creationism 2.0 at an otherwise wonderful monastery where Fr. Seraphim of Plantina is held in high esteem, but entirely without the emotional toxicity I tried to document in The Seraphinians: "Blessed Seraphim Rose" and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts. These people, some of which are converts, are none the less emphatically not "Axe-Wielding," and have a profound respect for other human beings. None the less, I was sad when I realized that people living in Fr. Seraphim's wake are embracing flat-earth theory as a method of virtue signalling. (Thus, perhaps, qualifying myself as a stopped clock, allowed to be right twice a day, but the term is still extremely pejorative.)

I do not say that one should necessarily disqualify a perspective or political or religious opinion on the grounds that it is tarred as "crank." However, I regard crank theories as a liability, and the sort of thing one should prefer to avoid, and not try to seek out. Enough truth is labelled as crank that we need not scrape the barrel of theories that are labelled as "crank" that are just ridiculous. As far as flat earth theory goes, please, no. As far as the moon hoax theory goes, please, no. I do not trust the government and I can readily believe the U.S. government could and would have hoaxed a moon landing if a bona fide genuine man on the moon was not in reach or for some reason less politically expedient than going to all the trouble to make a real moon landing. I don't trust the U.S. government, but in this case I trust the U.S.S.R. government to have every technical competency and obvious vested interest to expose a hoax. It would have been a coup for them to catch the U.S. with its pants down. As things stand, no matter how mainstream belief in a moon landing hoax may presently be in Russia, the U.S.S.R.'s silence about any unmasked hoax in the U.S. praising itself for landing a man on the moon is really quite deafening.

As far as intelligent design issues go, I'm unhappy with the new Protestant Creationism, but as someone with an M.S. in math, evolutionists approaching me apologetically to try to convince me of the truth of "evolution" repel me. I use the term "evolution" in scare quotes because Darwin's theory of evolution, of a slow and gradual change over time, has not been live in the academy for ages; you're not in the conversation now unless you believe, as my University Biology teacher at IMSA said, "Evolution is like baseball. There are long periods of boredom interrupted by brief periods of intense excitement." Meaning that "evolution" is not an evolution in any older or non-biological use of the term, and "evolutionists" believe, along with old-school and new-school Protestant Creationists, that major new kinds of organisms appear abruptly and without preserved intermediate forms among the fossil record. The assertion of such evolutionists as I have encountered entails that it is statistically easy for a breeding pool to acquire and sustain a large number of beneficial mutations in a geological eyeblink, and I have met as an argument for this a claim that Indian prostitutes have evolved HIV resistance in a single generation. This is unlabelled crank theory in fifteen feet high blinking letters, but no one on the "standard model" raises a whimper about it.

And C.S. Lewis was over the time aghast about people failing to see how the assertion of evolution was self-referentially incoherent [though C.S. Lewis might not have put in these terms, it gets failing marks from the Retortion Principle. Romantic love is explained away as a biochemical state produced by evolution, but this explanation does not only neuter romantic love; the explanation explains away all explanation, including evolution. Evolution can explain why we should have good enough brains to find food, avoid being food, procreate, and other things animals with brains seem to be able to do. It does not in any sense explain, however, why we should have brains good enough to formulate a true theory of evolution. It has been suggested that there is survival value in brains that could find truths, but if that is true, very, very few people have the kind of brains that evolution selects for. (Less than 1% of people who have ever lived have ever seen a printed word, and far less than that have even had even the chance to believe Darwinian evolution. Most of them have believed that life is spiritual in some form, rather than a by-product of mindless forces that did not have any life form in mind in any sense.)

There is also the other intelligent design argument, an argument not addressing biology but physics. I've met evolutionary apologetics who denied that any information needed to be, so to speak, "injected" for the formation of new life forms. I have never met a physicist to deny the physics intelligent design claim that the physical constants have been unimaginably tightly fine-tuned just to allow our life forms to be possible. The more time has passed, the more we recognize the fine-tuning, and we have long passed the time when we realized that the fine-tuning is much more closely tailored just to allow us to exist than, for instance, shooting a particle of light from somewhere around one end of the universe and having it hit the dead center of an atom somewhere around the other side of the universe. The only other way I can state in non-technical terms how low the odds that randomly generated physical constants would let us live are to winning a fair multi-million dollar lottery prize by buying just one ticket at a time many, many times in a row. (It's almost as bad as evolving a new life form by having a breeding population acquire and sustain enough beneficial mutations to make a new life form.)

I will not shy away from truth just because it is tarred as crank. However, I would say that each crank theory you embrace, and there are some I believe you should, is a liability in dealing with people on the "standard model" and you should believe them despite the fact that they are labelled out as crank.

Virtue signalling by seeking out additional crank theories represents serious philosophical and theological confusion. Defining oneself as different by seeking out crank theories represents serious philosophical and theological confusion. Counterculture for the sake of just rebelling against the common culture represents confusion. And both crank beliefs and counterculture represent a liability: one that should not be eliminated, but perhaps treated with some economy and recognizing that you are coming across as crank if you embrace crank beliefs.

And crank beliefs that are genuinely true should be treated with mystagogy: they should not be pushed on people not dislodged from the "standard model." "I will not speak of Thy mystery to Thine enemies:" if you know a truth, and you know that another person will reject that truth if you say it, you do not say it. This is standard Orthodox mystagogy. Come Judgment Day, it will be better for that person not to be judged for hearing the truth and rejecting it: and it will be better for you, too, because you did not set that brother human being up for a greater degree of condemnation.

An adaptation of scientism's much-loved "Ockham's razor" may be helpful. Ockham's razor, "Do not needlessly multiply [explanations]," is however sharp a tool intended to create better explanations by virtue of having fewer explanations. The same might apply to using crank theories to truth and edification.

Think about it. And maybe scale back on crank theories that are inessential.

An Author Interview by... the Author Himself!

Cover for Orthodox Theology and Technology: A Profoundly Gifted Autobiography

Interviewer: You're interviewing yourself? Some of your opponents might say that's a bit odd and egotistical. I'd like to give you a chance to respond to what your opponents are saying.

C.S. Hayward: Um, well, yes, I have plenty of ego, and this is a bit unusual, and some people who know me might find it a surprise, if perhaps a believable surprise. But may I comment?

Interviewer: Certainly. What do you have to say for yourself?

C.S. Hayward: As far as denying that I am proud, I'm not interested in defending myself. If I am to be defended, and I am not innocent, my defense would best be spoken by others' lips. But as for a reason, I do have a particular practical reason for such an odd process.

Interviewer: What's that?

C.S. Hayward: Awesome Gang offers a free interview for an author to promote his book, and I can only call that a work of mastery for all kinds of authors offering all kinds of books. But there is a weakness in such a master-stroke: the cookie cutter allows discussion of the Scandal of the Particular, but I wished something almost entirely driven by suchlike scandal. I want questions that allow me to speak, and at times much more particular questions, even if (for instance) my website's author biography is very unusual for a personal biography:

Who is Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward? A man, made in the image of God and summoned to ascend to the heights of the likeness of God. A great sinner, and in fact, the chief of sinners. One who is, moment by moment, in each ascetical decision choosing to become one notch more a creature of Heaven, or one notch more a creature of Hell, until his life is spent and his eternal choice between Heaven and Hell is eternally sealed.

Man, mediator, midpoint, microcosm, measure: as man he is the recapitulation of the entire spiritual and visible creation, having physical life in common with plants and animals, and noetic life in common with rank upon rank of angel host, and forever in the shadow of that moment when Heaven kissed earth and God and the Son of God became Man and the Son of Man that men and the sons of men might become gods and the sons of God.

He’s also a writer with a few hobbies, but really, there are more important things in life.

Interviewer: What would you respond to people who say that's not really the scandal of particular!

C.S. Hayward: It draws attention to something overlooked in a standard statement of what makes your uniqueness, as marketers would have it. I claim for myself the glory and the shame of being human. And I stand indebted to one monk who had managed some prestigious obediences, but as far as the story of his coming to Orthodoxy, wrote, "The story of _________'s coming to Orthodoxy was told to the priest who received him, under the seal of confession, and he received absolution for his sins." And I can't really do better than that. Or rather, I have only said anything much better and much more specific than that under the seal of absolution. I've had an interesting life story, and other aspects are told in my autobiography, Orthodox Theology and Technology (my first impulse was to mention The Luddite's Guide to Technology, which I consider my work most likely to be significant). But the distinction I seek is in repentance, both in the sense of something all Orthodox are called to, and as a term for monasticism.

Interviewer: "Orthodox Theology and Technology?" Do you consider yourself a theologian?

C.S. Hayward: The story is told of a liberal scholar who went to the Holy Mountain and told a monk that he was a theologian, and the monk suddenly acted very obsequious and began kissing his feet. The academician asked why on earth the monk was acting that way, and the monk explained, "We had St. John the Theologian, and then some centuries later we had St. Gregory the Theologian, and then some centuries after that we had St. Symeon the New Theologian, and now, we have... you!

It is not a respected affirmation that one is the fourth in that series, but if I may speak for the "underdog perspective" (Fr. Seraphim of Platina said it is noble to defend the underdog), the standard Western use of "theologian," especially without the idea that you bracket any religious beliefs you have and work in theology in an atheistic approach, is a concept that has legitimate use, and in a devout Western setting the claim to be a theologian is not meant or taken as a claim to be the fourth of that august company that directly experience God. For that matter, the Philokalia talks about people engaging in "theology", meaning the direct experience of God and not the accumulation of the more usual kind knowledge concerning God.

Orthodoxy in recent years, to fill the gap of someone who works to understand God without the claim to be the fourth in that august company, has developed the term "patrologist" to mean someone who devoutly studies what academics trade in, and is the general term for someone who has not specialized in something with a more specific term. And I would claim to be a patrologist lite, perhaps not the best out there even in my interests. It's kind of a way of answering a Westerner's question of whether I study what a Westerner would consider theology, but without the implications of a claim to be the fourth Theologian in the Orthodox Church's history.

I was studying at an Orthodox seminary, but that seemed to get derailed because my need-based financial aid was not registered, and my strong hope is to get to St. Demetrios's monastery in Virginia whether it takes one trip or several, insofar as I am able to. I'm not sure if you've read Everyday Saints and Other Stories, but the words are fragrant with the fragrance of Heaven yet simple such I have rarely, if ever, pulled off myself. In that book, Orthodox seminarians tend to be arrogant and clueless, enough so that a seminarian who should know enough patristics to know that thC.e Orthodox Church claims a wealth of only three Theologians, introduces himself as a theologian and is surprised when he is asked, "You're the fourth?" And I wonder if having introduced myself as a seminarian I have introduced myself as arrogant and clueless in like terms.

Interviewer: Um, you're introducing yourself as "C.S. Hayward."

C.S. Hayward Yes, and may I say a few things about that?

First, I owe C.S. Lewis a greater debt than perhaps any mortal writer. I've read 90% of all he has written, including some of The Neglected C.S. Lewis, and he shaped me enough as an author that I've been told, "You write like an Englishman."

And there's also what Graham Clinton, founder of International Christian Mensa, said.

Interviewer: What's that?

C.S. Hayward: I asked him, in perhaps inexusable vanity, if I might be the next C.S. Lewis. His first reply could be taken as a very diplomatic "No." He said, "Sure, you could be, but why would you want to?"

But the next major point he tried to make was really about how the World Wars emphatically "killed off all our talent." He said simply that all the A-level talent in England got killed off, leaving B's like C.S. Lewis to be promoted when they would otherwise have had to work for a living (his term). The implication was that I was A-level talent wanting to be compared to B-level talent.

And on Facebook, which isn't too keen on having people known by initalism, entered my name as Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward, expecting it to be collapsed and yield "CJSH." Readers found enough kindness and affinity to condense to "CSH" meaning, "C.S. Hayward." So why not?

Interviewer: So what has life been like? I noticed that you are applying, at 46, to a monastery that's looking for novices in their 30's.

C.S. Hayward: Yes; may I say a word about that?

Interviewer: Certainly.

C.S. Hayward: That is not simply an arbitrary or superstitious requirement; they are presumably looking for people who still have a certain flexibility to be able to adjust to monastic ways. And may I speak about that?

Interview: Yes.

C.S. Hayward: The mainstream understanding of learning languages is that languages are best learned as a child, and not as an adult. However, this is a rule of thumb and not an unyielding principle. The usual course of language development is to learn one's first language, and then redeploy the grey matter that can learn languages once no new languages are being learned. But I've continued to learn languages, if not always very well, and at Cambridge I was told I was learning Greek as a child did. And when I took the modern languages aptitude test, as an adult, I scored (mumble) and was told for instance, "I've been scoring this test for thirty years and I've never seen a score this high." I have master's degrees in math and "theology." Both were interdisciplinary, and both were from a world-class institution: UIUC and Cambridge.

I don't want to mindread or psychologize what would motivate a monastery to make such a request, since retirees have become successful monks, but the obvious concern is a rational one: the monastery may prefer candidates who are not too set in their ways to adapt to monastic life.

And I have continued to have changing life circumstances: studying and returning to school, ineptly fitting recruiter roles in information technology, and retirement on disability. I was able to survive for two years studying theology at Fordham, and I have continued to make major adjustments every few years ago. So I believe I could age-wise be accommodated to monasticism. I've kept alive the ability to adjust to different circumstances as I've kept alive, at least badly, the ability to learn languages (and have read the Bible in English, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Slavonic, and modern Russian and just dipped into Ukrainian). I have a T-shirt that says, "Я ез США. Говорите медленное пожалуеста" ("I'm from the USA. Please speak slowly.").

Interviewer: Who made it?

C.S. Hayward: I did, and I've been clearly advised not to wear it to a Slavic monastery. I might still use it as a night mask or as an undershirt.

Interviewer: I've just taken a look at Profoundly Gifted and Orthodox at Fordham. Eek! What sense did you make of that?

C.S. Hayward: The biggest is that the forces of evil only have a hand on me so far as I disobeyed. The first time they needlessly endangered my life, it was strongly in my conscience to complain to the President of the university. I failed to do so; had I obeyed, I might have had a channel open when things went really wrong. Also, I tried the hardest of my life to befriend the great Fr. John Behr, identified as A____ in the document. My conscience was to give him a wide, wide berth. My faults ratified others' decisions and failings.

But there is one thing I would like to clarify.

Interviewer: Yes?

C.S. Hayward: I haven't ever really been off-track except as... I may have tried plan A to get a Ph.D., and then a plan B, and then a plan C, and so on down the alphabet, but my as my spiritual director told me during one of our first meetings, God is always on plan A, even if we think we're going down the alphabet. Even if I never succeeded at further entering a doctoral program or getting an academic position, even a community college adjunct professorship at a large College of DuPage.

Interviewer: You think you're on a Plan A?

C.S. Hayward: Bookmark and read God the Spiritual Father sometime. I am not on my own Plan A, but God is on Plan A. The International Christian Mensa Founder's unfailing, ever-polite requests for me to wake up, said, "Your job is not to write the books that PhD's write. Your job is to write the books that PhD's read." And I have written books for scholars and nonscholars, gently suggested that Fr. John's St. Vladimir's Seminary can stop sucking Fordham's staff, in more ways than one. (I've gone through that discipline myself).) I have also had a whole lot of being in the right place at the right time. My website is enormous, with a print "Complete Works" series that occupies eleven volumes of four to six hundred pages, and that's a dense four to six hundred pages per book. Not all of it is excellent, but some are pretty good.

Interviewer: Sounds like you've shined through some pretty rough stuff.

C.S. Hayward: I have a lot to be grateful for, and not just in relation for my writing. I have a covered dental visit coming up where I'll end up with a root canal, crown, and partial being paid for. You may say that a root canal is little to be excited about, but really, having dental work covered is something to be grateful for.

Interviewer: And you are grateful.

C.S. Hayward: I am not worthy or capable of thanking God adequately for all the good he continues to show for me. But I give praise, even when I am unworthy to give praise.

And I am glad to be visiting the monastery. I don't know if they will require multiple visits, or whether they'll follow a practice on the Holy Mountain and allow me to come as a pilgrim and stay as a novice. But in any case, the abbot's decision will be part of God's Plan A, even if I am not allowed to join. All that's really left to me is due diligence. And I'm working hard on the "due diligence" part, such as having a collection of pants with varying waist sizes so I'll have pants that fit me as my waist shrinks on a monastic diet. I'm really looking forward to it, I've been told the abbot is kind, and even if he makes a decision I don't want him to make, God will still be on Plan A.

Onwards and Upwards, as we said at Avery Coonley School!

Why Tithe?

Own C.J.S. Hayward's complete works in paper!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

One priest I know, former Evangelical Orthodox, said that a youth in the parish had asked him for a pastoral reference. When the priest got the form, it asked, "To your knowledge, has this person received Christ as his or her Lord and Savior?"

The priest said that what he wanted to write was, "Yes, almost every single Sunday!"

Protestant converts to Orthodoxy can take some things to excess, and The Protestant Phenotype tells of problems with converts I've never seen in other Orthodox. However, it is sad if tithing is only really done by Orthodox who were Protestant and when they were Protestant they recognized and practiced the Biblical necessity of tithing.

A financial advisor said, "I have never seen a person driven to financial ruin by tithing." Neither have I.

One question which is asked is, "What do we get if we tithe?"

My answer to that question is as follows:

Every good thing you have was given to you from God. Your money, your possessions, your friends and family, the saints and angels' care for you from Heaven, your life, God himself is in your life because of God's generosity. And God does not owe you any of this.

And this generous God who has given you so much, said (Mal 3:10, Classic Orthodox Bible), "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.")

Proverbs says a lot about money, and in it is the promise, Proverbs 19:17, "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." And this comes from the same source as tithing.

As my own dear Vladyka has said, "The Lord never remains in debt." The Akathist to St. Philaret chants:

To thee, O camel who passed through the eye of the needle, we offer thanks and praise: for thou gavest of thy wealth to the poor, as an offering to Christ. Christ God received thy gift as a loan, repaying thee exorbitantly, in this transient life and in Heaven. Rejoice, O flowing fountain of Heaven’s treasures! (Repeated thrice.)

Giving to the Lord and the poor is something we owe... but God does not receive any of our gifts. He receives them all as loans, to be repaid at heavy interest.

Besides the fact that giving feels wonderful, it builds us a character of bubbling up generosity, like a fountain, a fruit of the Spirit, that is the very opposite of a tight fist. God wants you to live his own overflowing and abundant life. You get a character that is healthier and experience more of the abundance of Heaven itself.

And what may come with all that is that tithing may transform you into eternal life, where God himself repays you for all eternity with riches we cannot even imagine on earth.

Incidentally, this is the one point in Scripture where we are all called to put God to the test. The general rule is not to tempt God. And here we are not merely permitted but abundantly invited to tempt the Lord and find in it an occasion where God will give you good things you cannot even imagine now.

Ten percent is a baseline; God never remains in debt if you give him more, and if you give more than 10% you are entering a blessing.

But I do not want to go into that here.

God has given, and continues to give, everything we have. If we salute God with our tithes, his every blessing is on the 90% we keep.

Tithing is too good a treasure to only leave for converts.

Don't miss out on the blessings of tithing!

And if you're really not used to it, try this. Start giving just 1% of your income with your parish. Then, with each fast, increase it a little more, maybe another 1%, until you reach 10%. It's easier than you think.

Why I'm Glad I'm Living Now, at This Place, at This Time, in This World

Four flags of a United States in distress.

Buy Happiness in an Age of Crisis on Amazon.

First Things, in a column by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, muses,

The clock is ticking, and many in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are counting the days, the hours, and even the minutes before Archbishop Rembert Weakland has to submit his resignation at twelve noon on his seventy-fifth birthday. I am told that the champagne bottles will be popped at 12:01 p.m. upon receiving the fax from Rome that the resignation is accepted. Truth to tell, I’ve always had something of a soft spot for the Archbishop. He’s liberally daffy but more amusingly candid than most of that persuasion. Of course he has a very high opinion of himself, but he’s never tried to hide it. I particularly liked his public statement that he would have made a great Bishop of Salzburg in the time of Mozart but ended up as Bishop of Milwaukee in the time of rock and roll. There’s something perversely refreshing about a bishop who doesn’t mind saying that he’s too good for the people he’s called to serve.

If I had been meant to live in Salzburg at Mozart's time, God would have done that. If I had been meant to live in the Middle Ages, in the desire that underpinned my second novel, God would have done that. And if I if I had been made to live in the age of many Church Fathers, God would have done that too. As it is, God's providence has placed me here and now... and God may make of me a Church Father anyway, without a time machine. To nostalgic Romans, it may be a sadness that the door to the Middle Ages is closed, but to Orthodox living at the corner of east and now, the door to being patristic remains ever open, and I may die (or be subtilized by the returning Christ) a Church Father anyway. As things are, God has given me a whole lot of being in the right place in the right time, and put me in the days of... myself! I got onto the web by accident (or rather by providence that I did not see as significant) and I have multiple major websites and a big bookshelf on Amazon.

As I write, incidentally, the majority of U.S. flags I've seen are black and white with a strip of color, the old "Don't tread on me" rattlesnake flag is seen not infrequently, and when I popped in to LinkedIn turned up a friend reflecting on a news item that grandmas are buying shotguns. I did not expect that, but I am not in the least surprised.

And one other thing: I can't meaningfully prep apart from measures I have taken that have been unfruitful. I am on maintenance medications, and if I stop taking them, I'll die within days. And as I write I seem to have COVID.

And in all this, I am grateful. St. John Chrysostom's final words were, "Glory be to God for all things!" and I echo them. I have food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and really quite a lot of things that I do not need and I am not entitled to. I only need to be faithful today with what I have today. God will bring tomorrow, and not knowing what tomorrow may bring i s much less important if you know Who will bring tomorrow.

And my death is, basically, non-negotiable. God, in his great mercy, does not let us know ahead of time when we die, because we would put off repentance and be incorrigible sinners in the hour of death. A few saints know ahead when they will die. They are so secure spiritually that they will not be less faithful for knowing. For the rest of us, it is mercy that we do not know. I could, possibly, die within days. I could for that matter die sooner: when I got my first COVID injection, a blood clot formed in my leg and dislodged to make trouble in my lungs, and the doctor said I was lucky I got to the hospital when I did, because it could have killed me. I think COVID injections are the greatest breakthrough in human health since DDT, but I digress. I could die an old man, like my grandfather who lived to be 95. I could live to see the returning Christ. And which of these, or other possibilities, hold, is not my concern. Each day has enough trouble of its own—and I have found solving a life's problems on a day's resources to be an entirely preventable ticket to despair.

Some people think that this life is only a preparatory life and is therefore unimportant St. Nikolai, in Prayers by the Lake, talked (I forget exactly where) about how birth and death are only an inch apart, and the ticker tape goes on forever.

This makes what we choose in this life incredibly important. We can only "save for retirement" between birth and death. We can only repent between birth and death. After death, improving the lot we have eternally chosen in this life will be impossible. I wish to live in repentance for the rest of my life, but I have not gotten to monasticism yet, but if death cuts short my attempts, that matters less than you might think. God treats an active intent as if the person had done what is intended; I do not see I can rightly stop seeking monastic repentance, but if I am faithful and fail, I am in the same position as martyrs said to be "baptized in their own blood" because they were martyred before they could even reach baptism.

And, to borrow from a childhood favorite, A Wind in the Door (my esteem is much less for it now), the heroine "felt as though fingers were gentle fingers pushing her down," I sought to stay when I visited Mount Athos and was told that the conditions for being made a saint are in America, and implicitly reminded that monastic "white martyrdom" is an artificial surrogate to the "red martyrdom" of the Church in a hostile world.

I would like to quote a unicorn in C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, though I'm not sure it applies to our world:

He said that the Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve were brought out of their own strange world only at times Narnia was upset, but she mustn't think that things were always like that. In between their visits there were hundreds and thousands of years when peaceful king followed peaceful king till you could hardly remember their names or count their numbers, and there was really hardly anything to put in the History Books.

As to the question of why God did not create Narnia and bring me to it, I reply that every excellence is incomparably excelled in what "eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor any heart imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." I can't get to a real Narnia, but I'm trying to get to a real "better than Narnia," a "better than Narnia that begins on earth, as I discuss in A Pilgrimage from Narnia:

A Pilgrimage from Narnia

Wardrobe of fur coats and fir trees:
Sword and armor, castle and throne,
Talking beast and Cair Paravel:
From there began a journey,
From thence began a trek,
Further up and further in!

The mystic kiss of the Holy Mysteries,
A many-hued spectrum of saints,
Where the holiness of the One God unfurls,

Holy icons and holy relics:
Tales of magic reach for such things and miss,
Sincerely erecting an altar, "To an unknown god,"
Enchantment but the shadow whilst these are realities:
Whilst to us is bidden enjoy Reality Himself.
Further up and further in!

A journey of the heart, barely begun,
Anointed with chrism, like as prophet, priest, king,
A slow road of pain and loss,
Giving up straw to receive gold:
Further up and further in!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,
Silence without, building silence within:
The prayer of the mind in the heart,
Prayer without mind's images and eye before holy icons,
A simple Way, a life's work of simplicity,
Further up and further in!

A camel may pass through the eye of a needle,
Only by shedding every possession and kneeling humbly,
Book-learning and technological power as well as possessions,
Prestige and things that are yours— Even all that goes without saying:
To grow in this world one becomes more and more;
To grow in the Way one becomes less and less:
Further up and further in!

God and the Son of God became Man and the Son of Man,
That men and the sons of men might become gods and the sons of God:
The chief end of mankind,
Is to glorify God and become him forever.
The mysticism in the ordinary,
Not some faroff exotic place,
But here and now,
Living where God has placed us,
Lifting where we are up into Heaven:
Paradise is wherever holy men are found.
Escape is not possible:
Yet escape is not needed,
But our active engagement with the here and now,
And in this here and now we move,
Further up and further in!

We are summoned to war against dragons,
Sins, passions, demons:
Unseen warfare beyond that of fantasy:
For the combat of knights and armor is but a shadow:
Even this world is a shadow,
Compared to the eternal spoils of the victor in warfare unseen,
Compared to the eternal spoils of the man whose heart is purified,
Compared to the eternal spoils of the one who rejects activism:
Fighting real dragons in right order,
Slaying the dragons in his own heart,
And not chasing (real or imagined) snakelets in the world around:
Starting to remove the log from his own eye,
And not starting by removing the speck from his brother's eye:

Further up and further in!

Spake a man who suffered sorely:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time,
Are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,
and:
Know ye not that we shall judge angels?
For the way of humility and tribulation we are beckoned to walk,
Is the path of greatest glory.
We do not live in the best of all possible worlds,
But we have the best of all possible Gods,
And live in a world ruled by the him,
And the most painful of his commands,
Are the very means to greatest glory,
Exercise to the utmost is a preparation,
To strengthen us for an Olympic gold medal,
An instant of earthly apprenticeship,
To a life of Heaven that already begins on earth:
He saved others, himself he cannot save,
Remains no longer a taunt filled with blasphemy:
But a definition of the Kingdom of God,
Turned to gold,
And God sees his sons as more precious than gold:
Beauty is forged in the eye of the Beholder:
Further up and further in!

When I became a man, I put away childish things:
Married or monastic, I must grow out of self-serving life:
For if I have self-serving life in me,
What room is there for the divine life?
If I hold straw with a death grip,
How will God give me living gold?
Further up and further in!

Verily, verily, I say to thee,
When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself,
And walkedst whither thou wouldest:
But when thou shalt be old,
Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee,
And carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

This is victory:
Further up and further in!

And for our world, I would quote C.S. Lewis in saying that "humanity has always been on a precipice." Such study as I have had of Byzantine history leads me not to wonder that Constantinople fell, but that over a millennium after Constantine, after many times the Empire should have resolved, it took modern cannons to break through Constantinople's walls and subdue the great city. "Humanity has always been on a precipice"--and it seems to be increasingly more of a precipice.

It is believed by some Orthodox that Hinduism has room for the demonic and OrthoChristian.com describes Orthodox mission in India as “Perpetual Embers,” but do not speak ill to a Hindu of Krishna and the milk-maids. However, it is not provocative to call Kali demonic: a goddess of death who wears a necklace of skulls and bestows madness as her special blessing. Or at least I don’t see why it need offend a Hindu.

I have what I would call an "unintendedly kept loan" in that I was loaned a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita ("Song of God") by an Indian woman, and then lost all contact and don't see how to return it. Nor was the loan small; the Bhagavad-Gita was accompanied by commentary, as is Hindu tradition to unpack their greatest classic, in a beautiful two-volume boxed set. And the front matter talked about our being in the "Kali-yuga," or age of Kali. I don't know or understand what exactly a Hindu would mean by the Kali-yuga, but I can take a guess. And I have had some contact with the movement called "Traditionalists," which find certain underlying themes in many world religions that are threatened in the modern way of life and are sympathetic to Hindus who would see a Kali-yuga:

There is a singularity which has developed over past centuries, was present in decisive breaks made in the scientific revolution that paved the way to hard science as we know it, and has been unfolding and accelerating, and now crassly has vomited TV's and cellphones on Africa, the poorest continent. One obvious question is, "Do you mean the Book of Revelation?" and my answer is an emphatic "Yes... and No..." There are certain things which I believe we have been told will pass as Revelation is fulfilled. These include great tribulation, the coming of the Antichrist, and the return of Christ in glory to judge the living and the dead, and the glorious resurrection. But trying to pin down Biblical prophecy down in detail is essentially an attempt to get a crystal clear view into deep waters that are impregnably and unfathomably murky. Don't, at least not before the prophecies have been fulfilled.

However, while I have extreme suspicion for detailed point-for-point pinpointing the events in Revelation, I think it is a much more possible and profitable measure to study the singularity we are in as a singularity, a point I explore with some video in Revelation and Our Singularity.

A student of World War II may be able to pinpoint a linchpin in German manufacturing. There was a single point of failure in a ball bearing factory. If that factory had been taken out, it would all but destroyed Nazi Germany's capability to produce cars, trucks, tanks, and airplanes. Now let me ask: where is the linchpin in our technological society? Trick question! There are so many that no one knows how many there are. One of the most Luddite statements I've read is from a computer programmer: "If builders built buildings the way computer programmers write programs, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization."

At Honey Rock, there was a delightful place called "the Web" that used World War II cargo netting to make a great amusement for kids. It, after several decades, fell beyond safe use, and the camp's people tried hard to find replacements. There were none to be found, came the conclusion from their research. Furthermore, it is now a respectable number of decades since technological museum curators have computer media that they believe to likely be intact but which they have no idea how to interpret. Cryptanalysis can break all sorts of very well-engineered codes. However, storage media produced with neither the desire nor attempt towards secrecy cannot straightforwardly read media that was intended to be straightforward to read.

To put things in miniature, like almost any at least half-serious website I have switched from sending unencrypted HTTP to confidential HTTPS. This was a right decision, I believe. However, to do that I need to get a stream of certificates, and if someone by any means shut down my ability to obtain certificates, my website would practically be dead in the water. Search engines would now be linking to security error pages; even bookmarks wouldn't work. I might be able to get the word out that my website was served via HTTP, if I wasn't blocked from social media by that time, but my use of the recommended practice of serving webpages confidentially via HTTPS introduces one more single point of failure. (That's why I'm revamping and roughly doubling my "Complete Works" collections in paperback. Amazon believes it has a total right to delete anything from a Kindle any time.) We are going from fragile to more and more and more fragile, to an effect like that in The Damned Backswing.

In a homily a few weeks back, my priest said,

Let us go to the Egyptian desert, and overhear a conversation taking place between a group of monks led by Abba Iscariot. This took place in the third century and the conversation went like this.

Abba Iscariot was asked, "What have we done in our life?"

The Abba replied, "We have done half of what our fathers did."

When asked, "What will the ones who come after us do?"

The Abba replied, "They are doing the half of what we are doing now."

And to the question, "What will the Christians of the last days do?"

He replied, "They will not be able to do any spiritual exploits, but those who keep the faith, they will be glorified more than our fathers who raised the dead.

We live in an exciting time.

My spiritual director said, "We think we are not on Plan A any more, not on Plan B, not on Plan C, and so on down the alphabet, but God is always on Plan A.

If you wonder how that could possibly be, I invite you to read God the Spiritual Father.

Risk Management, for Orthodox Parishes, with Church Mutual

Own C.J.S. Hayward's complete works in paper!

Risk Management,
for Orthodox Parishes,
with Church Mutual

C.J.S. Hayward
Orthodox Pastoral School
MGMT001: Parish Management and Operations
Risk Management
July 24, 2021
Fr. George Temedis, Fr. Vladimir Pyrozhenko, Nicholar Hantel, Esq.

This paper was written as an assignment for the Orthodox Pastoral School. I am not affiliated with Church Mutual and I do not speak for either Church Mutual or the Orthodox Pastoral School. I received no consideration or request from Church Mutual outside their availability for an interview.


1. Introduction: Speaking with a live human

When I was being received into the Orthodox Church, I was asked if I had questions and I said I was comfortable researching on the Internet. I was fairly strongly advised not to do so; I didn’t ask why not but this was presumably because a catechumen’s research on the web would quickly turn up non-canonical “information.” This is not a concern that affects the topic of this paper so far as I can tell, but something of the principle still applies.

I worked briefly in the insurance agency, and one of the first tasks my boss had me was ask me to read a book that outlined the basics of insurance agencies. One standard feature of insurance is risk management, also called loss prevention or risk control: a principle that, at least some of the time, it is cheaper to have a risk management agent spend time explaining practical ways to play things safer than to pay easily preventable claims (“losses”). Giving your customers a complimentary ounce of prevention is cheaper for insurance companies than paying for a pound of cure. Insurance isn’t just able to help you recover after something has gone wrong. Insurance is also able to help you make less things go wrong in the first place.

I called Risk Management at Church Mutual, available by phone at
(800) 554-2642 (Option 4) Extension 5213, then hit #. If someone else like Claims answers, ask nicely to be transferred to Risk Control. (Risk Control is also contactable by email at riskconsulting@churchmutual.com or on the web at https://www.churchmutual.com/8441/Contact-Risk-Control-Central). I was brielfy on hold before being warmly greeted. I explained my purpose in calling as regards this paper, and was told warmly and plainly that Church Mutual’s Risk Management department is happy to speak with customers or non-customers.

I intend in this paper to cover some of the basics of risk management. However, I would suggest that something like the Orthodox attitude of “Speak with your priest or spiritual father” is appropriate; if you wish to reduce risk for your parish or diocese, check in with a risk management expert. And Church Mutual is willing to talk whether or not you’re a customer.

I provide in section 4 a “feature walkthrough” of basic offerings from the Church Mutual website. I might comment that their website is well-done, and so you may be able to find just what you want from exploring https://churchmutual.com.1

2. Background research on Church Mutual

There are 91 reviews on Church Mutual at https://www.usinsuranceagents.com/reviews/church-mutual/ at 3.91 stars.2 The most common review appears to be five stars. There were multiple disgruntled reviews, one of which stated that the person posting the reviews was almost killed and they denied that person’s claim for one month of compensation. There are multiple reviews written by people who had filed a claim for a significant amount of property damage and were very satisfied with Church Mutual followup after the damage.

There was a Yelp entry, but it was an unclaimed stub with 0 reviews.3

Glassdoor has 78 reviews averaging 3.3 stars, with 57% saying “would recommend to a friend” and 79% saying they approved of the CEO; the company has an A (Excellent) rating by A.M. Best Co.4 The upshot I would take of the reviews were that of a mediocre work environment; there were some contradiction in the reviews (several reviews state that they have a 37.5 hour workweek, while a few people complained about out-of-control overtime), and top complaints were of a cliquish work environment, that mainly hired recent college grads, and was behind the times technologically. But honestly, speaking as someone who worked in information technology (and has written about humane use of technology5), if one of your top complaints is antiquated technology, you’re doing well!

By comparison in terms of ratings, Glassdoor’s page has a sidebar indicating “Top companies for “Compensation and Benefits” Near You” indicating State Farm had 3.6 stars, a BCBS / HCSC at 3.8 stars, “Liberty Mutual Insurance” at 4.0 stars, and “Travelers” at 4.1 stars.

The overall impression I would summarize is that it’s not an excellent workplace, but it’s also not the end of the world. It has been suggested that you don’t get excellent external customer service without excellent internal customer service,6 and the internal customer service raises concerns about how spectacular external customer service will be at difficult points.

However, I would expect it would make sense for parishes to go with a niche insurer who focuses on religious and nonprofit organizations than to go with secular, general insurance providers who don’t “get” nonprofit. The impression I get from the Glassdoor reviews is that working there is halfway to the work environment at a nonprofit, and that would suggest that the corporate culture is that of a place that “gets” religion and nonprofits.

And life at a Church Mutual insured parish can be a benefit. Fr. Gregory Finlon commented in a class discussion,7

[Our rector] has high praise for our insurance company Church Mutual, They give regular updates to keep us aware of changes in law or issues that effect churches. A risk report the addresses both building and personal issues that need to be watched is sent to us regularly. He has regular contact with our agent, who is always available to talk or visit when we have a question or need.

Possibly (I speculate) Church Mutual has made a decision to be unique by freely giving four or five ounces of risk management where a lesser company would stop after one.

2. An interview with Church Mutual Risk Management

The interview below was conducted 07/21/21 with Jordan Mikunda.

Please provide an overview for what Church Mutual offers an Orthodox parish in terms of risk management.

“A plethora of resources, various different topics of resources on the website, anything from COVID-19 response recovery to workplace management and safety. We offer live service; if we don’t have what you ask, we will try to find it.”

What do you most wish Orthodox parishes would understand about risk management?

“Probably the biggest hurdle is that as a religious motif that they want to see the good or the best in people, however as far as risk management concerns, there are people who would take advantage of religious understanding, and understanding that there are people who do have ill will and are looking to do bad things.”

What are your top sources of preventable losses [claims paid for incidents that never needed to go wrong in the first place, driving up prices] with Orthodox parishes?

“Water and temperature losses. We have a free program for our customers we call our CM Sensor 24/7 temperature and water monitoring program. The sensor actually alerts the insured to reduce the damage or prevent damages altogether.”

What can Orthodox parishes do to make your life as an institutional neighbor easier?

“We aren’t specifically looking to make our lives easier, just to serve your needs and your interests.

“We’re here for you.”

Is anything of this different for Orthodox dioceses as well as parishes?

“No. Not necessarily. A lot of this information is pretty universal, and I think it would be applicable to a wide variety of organizations.”

Is there anything else you would like to say?

“Not specifically. Risk and safety are important at organizations where safety is often overlooked, and sometimes there is inadequate staffing. Maintaining adequate safety and risk scenarios could be challenging. We want to have adequate procedures and protections.

“We’re always here to help you.”

Risk Control Agent Jordan Mikunda talked to me. He didn’t have to. But he welcomed me when I explained what I wanted to do, and allowed me to interview him, and really gave 110% of practically everything I asked. Within one minute of our call beginning I sensed that I was dealing with a top-notch communicator. Within two minutes I understood that I was being met with helpfulness, generosity and WIN-WIN negotiation.

4. Resources on the Church Mutual website

Church Mutual has an extensive and well-constructed website at https://www.churchmutual.com that includes multiple blogs and resources related to house of worship (and other) needs. “Risk Control” is the fourth item in the top red menu at their site, and it has subsections including a blog (https://blog.churchmutual.com/), with a “Houses of worship” topic on their blog at https://blog.churchmutual.com/topic/houses-of-worship. Their resource collection is well worth perusing whether or not you are one of their customers.

The “Safety Resources” section at https://www.churchmutual.com/98/Safety-Resources includes:

  1. “COVID Response and Recovery” at https://coronavirus.churchmutual.com/.
  2. “Armed Intruder Preparedness” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/6421/Armed-Intruder.
  3. “CM Sensor 24/7 Temperature and Water Alert System” at https://www.churchmutual.com/sensors/.
  4. “Sexual Abuse Prevention” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/169/Sexual-Abuse-Prevention.
  5. “Wildfire Preparedness” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/17523/Wildfire-Preparedness.
  6. “Cybersecurity” at https://www.churchmutual.com/13474/Cybersecurity.
  7. “Fire Preparedness and Prevention” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/17521/Fire-Preparedness-and-Prevention.
  8. “Injury and Illness Prevention” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/17520/Injury-and-Illness-Prevention.
  9. “Security and Crime Prevention” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/170/Security-and-Crime-Prevention.
  10. “Severe Weather Preparedness” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/179/Severe-Weather-Preparedness.
  11. “Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/17522/Slip,-Trip-and-Fall-Prevention.
  12. “Transportation Safety” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/178/Transportation.
  13. “Allergy Bands” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/6412/Allergy-Bands-help-keep-people-safe.
  14. “Food Safety” at https://www.churchmutual.com/174/Food-Safety.
  15. “General Risks” at https://www.churchmutual.com/182/General-Risks.
  16. “Playground Safety” at https://www.churchmutual.com/182/General-Risks.
  17. “Volunteer Safety and Management” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/volunteer-safety-and-management.
  18. “Workplace management and Safety” at https://www.churchmutual.com/180/Workforce-Management.

The “Safety Resources for Houses of Worship” page at https://www.churchmutual.com/17529/Safety-Resources-for-Houses-of-Worship includes the following. I am specifically including the same sex marriage / transgender / “marriage equality” entries after reviewing the first one and finding that it was largely informational and treating what issues congregations, specifically including Orthodox, should be aware of:

  1. “Self-inspection Safety Checklist for Worship Centers and Related Facilities” at https://cmgroup.widen.net/s/z8jmcbvlz9/cm0117-2020-04-rc-self-inspection-checklist-for-how8
  2. “Protecting Your Congregation Against an Active Shooter” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=3140.
  3. “Crime Proof Your Worship Center” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=38.
  4. “Make Activities Safer for Your Congregation” at
    https://cmgroup.widen.net/s/cpjgjp8z9x/cm0126-2020-04-rc-make-activities-safer-for-your-congregation.
  5. “Youth Safety and Your Congregation” at
    https://cmgroup.widen.net/s/cpjgjp8z9x/cm0126-2020-04-rc-make-activities-safer-for-your-congregation.
  6. “Safety at Your Playground” at
    https://cmgroup.widen.net/s/smgqsz2pb2/cm0123-2020-04-rc-safety-at-your-playground.
  7. “Playground Safety and Maintenance” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/7428/Playground-safety-and-maintenance
  8. “Join the Band” (food safety) at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/6423/Join-the-Band.
  9. “Avoid food contamination” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/avoid-food-contamination-in-the-kitchen
  10. “Key liability risks for Religious Organizations” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=3135.
  11. “The Legal Responsibilities of Your Board” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=4178.
  12. “Faith and Law: Understanding Same-Sex Marriage and Transgender Law” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=5188.
  13. “Involvement of Religious Charities in the Political Process” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=5194.
  14. “Marriage Equality Decision Webinar Series – Part 1 Featuring Richard Hammer” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=5195.
  15. “Marriage Equality Decision Webinar Series – Part 3 Featuring Mark Chopko” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=5197.
  16. “Social Media: Best Practices for Congregations and Teen Ministries” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=3138.
  17. “Safety During Services” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=43.
  18. “Preventing Fraud and Embezzlement at Your Worship Center – Attorney and CPA Frank Sommerville” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=3137.
  19. “Fraud in Houses of Worship (from Fraud Magazine)” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/media/pdf/FraudInHousesOfWorship.pdf.
  20. “One Burglary Occurs Every 14 Seconds” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/one-burglary-occurs-every-14-seconds.
  21. “Crime Proof Your Worship Center” at
    https://cmgroup.widen.net/s/rqwvsjdh67/cm0125-2020-04-rc-crime-proof-your-worship-center.
  22. “Best Employment Practices for Houses of Worship – Attorney and CPA Frank Sommerville” at
    https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=3141.
  23. “Volunteer Safety and Management” at https://www.churchmutual.com/6426/Volunteer-safety-and-management.

The “Houses of worship” section of the blog at https://blog.churchmutual.com/topic/houses-of-worship has, at the time of this writing, the following articles. (Please note that I have deliberately not filtered out e.g. guidance for COVID-safe ways to handle Halloween; I prefer to let you decide what is relevant and I think the historical dimension is valuable.)

  1. “Personnel aerial lifts require special care, regular maintenance, and training” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/personnel-aerial-lifts-require-special-care-regular-maintenance-and-training.
  2. “Preventing injuries to employees” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/preventing-injuries-to-employees.
  3. “Sexual abuse series: Do you have adequate insurance for sexual abuse allegations?” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/sexual-abuse-series-do-you-have-adequate-insurance-for-sexual-abuse-allegations.
  4. “Recognizing the importance of slips and falls on steps and stairs” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/recognizing-the-importance-of-slips-and-falls-on-steps-and-stairs.
  5. “Hurricane safety” at https://blog.churchmutual.com/hurricane-safety.
  6. “One burglary occurs every 14 seconds,” possibly the same as above, at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/one-burglary-occurs-every-14-seconds.
  7. “Working with the media” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/working-with-the-media.
  8. “15-passenger vans require extra care” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/15-passenger-vans-require-extra-care.
  9. “Enter into safety” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/enter-into-safety.
  10. “Risk alert: Lending a hand in hard times” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/lending-a-hand-in-hard-times.
  11. “Spring safety series: Indoor maintenance” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/your-blog-post-title-spring-safety-series-indoor-maintenance.
  12. “Spring safety series: HVAC maintenance” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/spring-safety-series-hvac-maintenance.
  13. “Risk Alert: Catalytic converter theft continues to rise” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/catalytic-converter-theft-on-the-rise.
  14. “A clear path to slip-and-falls prevention” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/a-clear-path-to-slips-and-falls-prevention-1.
  15. “Armed security and your insurance coverage” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/armed-security-and-your-insurance-coverage.
  16. “Planning for the summer at your house of worship” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/planning-for-the-summer-at-your-house-of-worship.
  17. “Protect stained glass windows” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/protect-stained-glass-windows.
  18. “Amazing people doing amazing things” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/amazing-people-doing-amazing-things.
  19. “Stay safe when using social media” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/stay-safe-when-using-social-media.
  20. “Exercise caution with holiday worship” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/exercise-caution-with-holiday-worship.
  21. “Reduce your risk from wildfires” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/reduce-your-risk-from-wildfires.
  22. “Avoid food contamination in the kitchen” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/avoid-food-contamination-in-the-kitchen.
  23. “CM sensor protects you” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/cm-sensor-system-protects-you.
  24. “Avoid frozen pipes this winter” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/avoid-frozen-pipes-this-winter.
  25. “Volunteer safety and management” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/volunteer-safety-and-management.
  26. “Religion and politics: Nonprofits should not endorse political candidates” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/religion-and-politics.
  27. “Trunk-or-treat is an alternative to trick-or-treat” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/trunk-or-treat-is-an-alternative-to-trick-or-treat.
  28. “Cybersecurity infographic” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/cybersecurity-infographic.
  29. “Risk Alert: Proper use of cleaners and safe disinfecting techniques are key” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/risk-alert-proper-use-of-cleaners-and-safe-disinfecting.
  30. “Keep wildfires at bay” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/keep-wildfires-at-bay.
  31. “Don’t let a hurricane devastate your facility” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/dont-let-a-hurricane-devastate-your-facility.
  32. “2020 Supreme Court civil rights case ruling” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/2020-supreme-court-civil-rights-case-ruling.
  33. “Coronavirus – What you need to know” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know.
  34. “Unsafe ladder use can pose serious risk of injury” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/unsafe-ladder-usage-can-pose-serious-risk-of-injury.
  35. “Tips for building projects” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/tips-for-building-projects.
  36. “Insurance terms” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/insurance-terms.
  37. “A clear path to slips-and-falls preventions” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/a-clear-path-to-slips-and-falls-prevention.
  38. “Armed intruder preparedness” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/armed-intruder-preparedness.
  39. “Weather preparedness” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/weather-preparedness.
  40. “Maintenance tips to protect your roof systems” at
    https://blog.churchmutual.com/maintenance-tips-to-protect-your-roof-systems.

5. Conclusion

In this litigious day, nothing can replace checking with your insurer and your counsel. If you think some of my suggestions are helpful, great! Run it by your legal counsel.

I have taken serious effort to make a useful article. There are topics that Church Mutual’s website does not address or does not address fully enough. It is my own opinion that their cybersecurity articles on passwords, for instance, miss some low-hanging fruit. Making a password that you can remember but criminals won’t guess is hard, and the password article(s) I have read that they link to9 do not seem to address either using a password generator such as at https://cjshayward.com/passwords/, or finding and using a good password manager such as mSecure10 for mobile, Mac, or PC; or the free and open source KeePass for desktop (https://keepass.info/).11 The guidance I have been able to find is not enough to get people using one different, good password for every login.

Nonetheless, Church Mutual has worked hard to provide a “plethora” of helpful, useful, and understandable resources, free to use whether you are one of their customers or just an interested member of the general public. In my opinion, it shows, and I am glad that the parish I belong to is insured by Church Mutual.

THIS ARTICLE AND ALL OF ITS SUGGESTIONS ARE FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND ARE PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS ARTICLE AND ADVICE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

1All churchmutual.com links, and links outside of churchmutual.com from the feature walkthrough of their pages, are as seen on 07/20/21 or 07/21/21.

2US Insurance Agents, as seen on 7/21/21.,

5C.J.S. Hayward, The Luddite’s Guide to Technology: The Past Writes Back to Humane Tech!, Wheaton: C.J.S. Hayward Publications 2012-2021, https://www.amazon.com/dp/1731439539.

6Christine Churchill, “Customer Service Institute of America,” https://www.serviceinstitute.com, https://www.serviceinstitute.com/external-customer-service/external-customer-service/, “How External Customer Service Begins with Internal Customer Service”, as seen on 7/21/21.

8As seen on 7/21/21. The expected homepage at https://cmgroup.widen.net gives a not found (404) error, as does https://widen.net; my educated guess is that widen.net is a file hosting service “cmgroup” is owned by Church Mutual in some form and that URLs under https://cmgroup.widen.net are static non-webpage resources such as media files.

10mSeven Software, LLC. 2017-2020. mSecure, version 5.7.2, retrieved from https://apps.apple.com/us/app/password-manager-msecure/id1063795594.

11As seen on 7/21/21.