Saturday, August 25, 2007

Evangelicals Turn Toward ... the Orthodox Church?

Jason Zengerle, "Evangelicals Turn Toward ... the Orthodox Church? The Iconoclasts" in the August 27th issue of The New Republic.

The New Republic, a generally left of center magazine of opinion, focuses on an interesting phenomenon: the conversion of former evangelicals to Orthodoxy. Movement from such a non-liturgical, even anti-liturgical religion to quintessentially liturgical Christianity is interesting. Jason Zengerle chronicles the journey of Wilbur Ellsworth, once pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wheaton, Illinois, the heart of evangelical Christianity. This journey ended with Ellsworth a priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Antioch is one of the Patriarchal sees. Antioch was where we were first called Christians. Peter was the first bishop.

Zengerle writes, "Ellsworth's story is hardly unique. Most of the approximately 150 members of the Orthodox parish he now leads are former evangelicals themselves. Even Ellsworth's transition from evangelical minister to Orthodox priest is not uncommon. Of the more than 250 parishes of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, some 60 percent are led by convert priests, most of whom are from evangelical backgrounds. And, according to Bradley Nassif, a professor at North Park University and the leading academic expert on Evangelical- Orthodox dialogue, the Antiochian Archdiocese has seen over 150 percent church growth in the last 20 years, approximately 75 percent of which is attributable to converts.

While it's unlikely that the Orthodox Church--which, according to the best estimate, has only 1.2 million American members--will ever pose any sort of existential threat to evangelical Christianity in the United States, it is significant nonetheless that a growing number of Southern Baptists and Presbyterians and Assemblies of God members have left the evangelical fold, turning to a religion that is not only not American, but not even Western. Their flight signals a growing dissatisfaction among some evangelicals with the state of their churches and their complicated relationship with the modern world."

At the First Baptist Church, the church's interior holding the minister, choir, and congregation is called "the sanctuary." Zengerle reveals either his own Evangelical background or limited knowledge of other traditions. I would be most surprised to hear the Orthodox refer to the part of the church in front of the iconostasis as "the sanctuary."

Thanks to Robin Moroney of the Wall Street Journal for the lead.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Film "Once": See it

Amy Welborn has mostly praise for "Once," a new film that you may have a hard time finding in the movie houses. Once is "[r]emarkable because it is about the ability of art to impact us, to change our lives, to reveal what is true about our lives - the real truth, which is all about calling us to be the best people we can be."

Barbara Nicolosi, chair of Act One, screenwriter, and movie critic writes, "Hey! I finally saw a good movie this year! And it's sad that I'm kind of in shock because it is such an odd feeling these days to see a really good movie. But the sadder thing is that most of you who read this blog won't get the chance to see this rare good movie, because it has a teeny weeny little distribution, meaning it will play in NYC and L.A. and that's probably it. So, keep an eye out for the DVD. It will be worth a rental.

Once is one of those dramas in which not a lot happens exteriorly, but something huge happens in the soul of the main character. This makes the project, in my book, a very good dramatic film. I really enjoyed it in a way that I rarely enjoy movies anymore because it had such solid craft. My only criticisms came down to matters of taste. It has remarkable creative control, and a profound humanity at its core that has you leave the theater wanting to be kind, and wanting to commit yourself to whatever creative passion you have.

Once is less of a traditional narrative and more of a kind of rock opera...although the music in the film isn't rock as much as poetic pop crooning. But still, with the movie completely built around the sound track, the movie manages to pack in more of a story - and a profound one - than 90% of the movies that are out there right now." Read on....

Amy Welborn's "[s]hort synopsis: a street performer in Dublin, who repairs vacuum cleaners to make money, meets up with a Czech emigre, who turns out to have some musical ability herself. There are surprises along the way, which I will not reveal, but by the end of the 83 minutes, you have seen a change in the soul of the main character and even a subtle re-commitment, a firming up of resolve, on the part of the emigre, and it is all for the good."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Did Thera's Blowup Knock Out the Hittites?

The historical origin of the Atlantis legend is the destruction wrought by the volcano on the island of Thera or Santorini three thousand five hundred years ago. The actual event had gotten dislocated in its transmission from the Egyptians through Solon to Plato (our source of the legend.)

This catastrophic explosion fatally damaged the Minoan civilization and apparently damaged the ruling elite' grip on ancient Egypt. Watch a video from the National Geographic society about it.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Is Harry Potter Christian?

One of the most popular articles on, the website for the Wichita Eagle, is by Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News. "Final chapter of 'Harry Potter' clearly Christian" will no doubt add more fuel to the controversy of whether good Catholics and Christians should let their children read Harry Potter (Click on this link to get my and other's viewpoints.)

I will not read Weiss's article until after I read the book: I have an embargo on all reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows until I read it myself. I also have an self imposed embargo on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows itself until I finish some crucial tasks around the Harris household.

Check back!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Deep-brain stimulation offers hope for minimally conscious patients.

From Nature:

"Brain function has been improved in a patient who was in a minimally conscious state, by electrically stimulating a specific brain region with implanted electrodes. The achievement raises questions about the treatment of other patients who have been in this condition for years, the researchers say.

"Patients in a minimally conscious state, often the result of severe brain trauma, show only intermittent evidence of awareness of the world around them. Typically, they are assumed to have little chance of further recovery if they show no improvement during their initial 12-month rehabilitation programme.

In the latest case study, neuroscientists describe how they implanted electrodes in the brain of a 38-year-old man who had been in a minimally conscious state for more than six years following a serious assault. By electrically stimulating a brain region called the central thalamus, they were able to help him name objects on request, make precise hand gestures, and chew food without the aid of a feeding tube"