Dismantling The Outrage Industry

In 1986 the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association organized a conference in Amsterdam which brought together over 9000 people who came to learn how to present the Gospel in Billy Graham style to those around them, most of them from Third World countries. By all accounts, it was a resounding success in accomplishing the goals it set for itself.

And outside a large hotel adjacent to where the conference was being held sat the fundamentalist preacher Carl McIntyre, by then just over eighty years old, who had set up a booth to denounce Billy Graham and the conference. He was both uninvited and unwelcome, but perhaps not unexpected: he had been denouncing Graham for years for his disreputable practice of working with mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and (horrors!) Russian Orthodox, and had a habit of picketing and railing against those with whom he disagreed. (He had similarly picketed another such Billy Graham conference years earlier in Berlin).

Those with whom McIntyre disagreed formed a long list, including Pentecostals and the National Association of Evangelicals, which he considered dangerously apostate because they did not separate themselves from all non-fundamentalists.

McIntyre was nothing if not interesting. He suggested that a full-scale version of the Jerusalem Temple be built in Florida, and that Noah’s Ark be rebuilt and floated as a tourist attraction—the latter, he said, “would forever down these liberals”. His presence at the Amsterdam conference was like a zit on a teen-aged face—unsightly, embarrassing, but ultimately not significant. And like zits, McIntyre would fade away, which he did in 2002 at the age of 95.

I mention this historical curiosity to offer the decades’ long angry indignation and self-righteous rage of Carl McIntyre as a kind of cautionary tale. McIntyre was (absurdly) irate at Billy Graham. Other people can be (less absurdly) irate at many things. In fact the world is stuffed to overflowing with things which can legitimately be considered wrong and causes for ire. (To be clear, I do not consider Billy Graham to be among them).

For example, one can work oneself into a triggered lather over the media’s promotion of homosexuality and the transgender movement. One can lament and lose sleep over the heretical papalism of the Phanar. One can create a full-time job for oneself bombarding the media with protest over their determined blindness to the widespread martyrdom of Christians throughout the world. One can spend all one’s time searching out, documenting, and denouncing instances of alleged White Supremacism.

One can, if one likes, take a page from McIntyre’s own playbook and rage against every Christian group that transgresses one’s own narrow definition of the true faith, forming one’s own immaculately pure church jurisdiction as an alternative. The list of things to get angry over goes on and on. But one may still ask: why bother? Why spend all your time raging against your favourite abomination so that moral indignation dominates your life? (I would ask this particularly of those on the ideological left, some of whom seem to make triggered anger a way of life, and exist in a constant state of fulmination, denouncing with name-calling everyone even slightly to the right of them).

This does not mean that one should refuse to denounce error or call a spade a spade. Christians are not called to be quietists who sit about contemplating their navels in happy hermetically-sealed solitude, refusing to interact with the world. But neither are Christians called to spend all their time raging against error as if denunciation was their main job, and as if the anger of man could indeed work the righteousness of God (notwithstanding James 1:20 to the contrary).

It is all a matter of balance. We must find a way to balance speaking the truth about error and maintaining our inner peace. If we speak what we consider to be the truth while anger fills and overflows our hearts so that we forfeit our inner peace, we have lost that balance.

The fact is that the world is a lunatic asylum—one in which the inmates are usually running the place. That is why the world is not only stuffed with errors, but with errors that are mutually exclusive. People are crazy on both the Left and the Right, and everywhere in between. All the errors are—well, erroneous, and many are quite grievous.

So\ the question is: where to start? With so many errors to choose from and with so much wrong with the world, which error should I pick as my target for denunciation? Which terrible sin should I devote all my righteous energies to combat? Globalism? White Supremacy? Phanariot papalism? Creeping ecumenism? Atheistic evolution? Maybe something having to do with the church calendar? Perhaps I should toss a coin or cast lots…

As with all questions of this kind, the apostolic Tradition and the practice of the apostles provide the answers we need. St. Paul, for example, was not shy about denouncing error when he encountered it as he did his work. But his work was not battling the errors that filled the world, but glorifying Christ and building up His Church.

Denunciation was something of a side-line—he would swat mosquitoes when they landed on him, prepared to bite, but he did not go about chasing the world’s mosquitoes. Or, to vary the metaphor, he would confront the demonic when he met it in his ministry (see Acts 16:16-18), but he did not charge about in every direction like Don Quixote tilting at windmills trying to exorcise every demon in the world. Such a task would be too great for any man—and would result in the loss of one’s peace, and possibly of one’s mind.

It is this peace that we must maintain at all costs, and we must let this peace act as arbiter in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). There is a time for everything, including for measured denunciation. But after we have spoken the truth with serenity of heart, we must return to our place, rooted in the peace of Christ. When faced with grievous error and staggering stupidity,

I am often reminded of a line in Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall. In this film, Woody’s character was talking with Annie’s younger brother Duane (played by a young Christopher Walken), who was sharing with him in detail his surreal and pathological fantasy of suicide by car crash. After a moment of silent reflection Woody’s character responded, “Well, I have to go now, Duane, because I’m due back on the planet earth.”

I sometimes feel like this when dealing with the insanities of the world. After speaking my piece, I have to go, and happily leave the insanity behind. Like Woody’s character in Annie Hall, I am due back on the planet earth. Or, to quote the more stately words of St. Paul, “What have I to do with judging outsiders?” (1 Corinthians 5:12) Like the apostle, I will speak the truth about error and sin.

But I will not let self-righteous rage eat me up, or devote my whole life to dealing with them or to anything other than glorifying the Lord and helping to build up His Church. I cannot spend all my energies going toe to toe with craziness. I am due back on a saner place—perhaps not the planet earth, but the Kingdom of God, for that Kingdom is the source of all the world’s sanity and the world’s peace.

Father Lawrence Farley serves as pastor of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. He is also author of the Orthodox Bible Companion Series along with a number of other publications.

The photo shows, “The Wave,” by Carlos Schwabe, painted in 1907.

Nahum The Carpenter: The Event

The day had arrived, the boys and their families were very excited, but also very apprehensive. They had heard of more attacks by Jewish factions on the new Jesus people as well as the Romans attacking Jews and in some isolated cases the new Jesus people too.

They had prayed continuously and because of the indomitable faith were certain it would be a grand event. Time will tell!

Saturday morning arrived with a beautiful bright sunrise and a light breeze. About sixty people arrived at Ezra’s farm just after day break and the set up began. Some of the work had been done in the days before. Abraham and friends had dug a pit, brought in dried wood and Simon had built a large spit to hold the calf over the fire. The wine had been delivered and tables had been set up under some shade trees. Water, hay and some oats were stored in the shed near the field where the horses would be kept.

As arranged Joshua and Zilpah picked up Ruth and Nahum telling them they were going to spend the day with Ezra and Elizabeth.

They arrived about 10:00 am to be welcomed by over 300 guests. Ruth and Nahum were numb with the shock at seeing so many of their friends and family there and could not speak for a few minutes. Elizabeth and Hannah then took the couple to two large comfortable chairs under a sycamore tree, brought them some food and wine and set them up to receive their friends over the next eight hours.

Once they were settled Ezekiel gave a very short welcome and an even shorter blessing of the day being sure to include some Jewish blessings in his speech. The throng then settled in for a wonderful day of celebration.

This gathering was rather unique in that there were New Christians, Jews, and some non-believers who were friends and/or customers. Maybe because of the high-quality wine, or more likely because of the relationship with Nahum and family everybody seemed to each other’s company. The great food helped too!

When the children were fed, occupied and tended to by the teachers, the adults started feasting and chatting with Ruth and Nahum. Zeke and his band started playing rather robust music. Many people old and young joined in and some even danced.  Ruth and Nahum were busy chatting “one by one” of all their guests and they were already smiling more than they had for months.

The children were rounded up and brought back to their parents and Market Man’s huge fruit offering was placed strategically for everyone to partake, they were asked to take it to a comfortable spot in front of a makeshift stage.

Hannah and Elizabeth then introduced their friend Demetra and her brother. Some people had even heard of the young songstress, since some of the guests travelled to other countries for business or to visit family and friends.

The next two hours seemed to fly by, the crowd was entranced by the magical music the young couple provided. The crowd was very expressive too, as they clapped and applauded after each number. Three times Demetra said this is our final song, three times the crowd cheered them back for one more!!!

When they finally finished Samuel came on to the stage and asked everybody to please sit still for a few more minutes and to look to the field to the west.

As if on cue a team of small horses could be seen approaching, as it drew closer it was obvious that they were pulling a small carriage. The crowd was silent for a few moments as the horses and carriage approached NO ONE knew what was going on, except for the Shop Boys.

As it drew close to Ruth and Nahum, one could see the driver was Simon and then Nathan and Bart jumped out of the two doors and they walked towards Ruth and Nahum and said Happy Anniversary from your shop team. 

Nahum was so overcome he had to be helped from his chair to the men. He eyes were leaking like an overflowing dam. Both he and Ruth hugged the boys and, of course since it was a surprise to them too, Ezra and Zeke came over and said now I see what you had covered up all the time in the back of the shop. They shared a big laugh.

The carriage was a work of art. It was complete with bright red leather seats, glass windows, ertra handles and steps to make entry and exit easy. Ezra, was bothered by one thing, where did you get the horses. Samuel said, oh your friends looked after that for us, no problem. Ezra just smiled some more and shook his head.

This was the model the boys copied, but they added several features to it and made it more ornate.

This was the culmination of perhaps the most enjoyable day in the lives of Ruth and Nahum.

The only sad thing was the fact they were both so overcome with love, appreciation and emotion that they had trouble enjoying so much attention. They were shocked!

As the sun was starting its decent in the western sky, horses and wagons were brought from their resting places for the guest, it was like a Valet Service! The ladies were busy cleaning up and the men started to take down the stage, chairs and tables etc. Meanwhile Nahum and Samuel took his new carriage for a ride around the field and once again Nahum was smiling.

They returned and Samuel said I will park your carriage and let the horses out in the field we will collect them in the morning for you. Go and rest now!.

Ruth and Nahum were so tired they could hardly stand, but the excitement and pleasure they got from The Event kept them going as they helped put Paul and Mirame to bed, each of them giving a bed time story to the happy kids.

Finally, Ruth, Nahum, Ezra, Elizbeth, Ezekiel, Hannah, the Shop Men, and some other close relatives came together in Elizabeth’s home and reminisced about the surprise day they enjoyed. There was much happiness and joy at that gathering and Ezra prayed it would help in his father’s recovery.

Ezra was jokingly kidding his men for their ability to hide the carriage from him for the past two months. They enjoyed some laughs and said there were several times when he came to the shop when they were working at night that they thought he might see it, but we were able to combine it with other carriages we were working on and you never noticed. He again wanted to know more about the team of horses too, how could his buddies hide that from him.

They explained that when his horse trainers were busy with young horses and/or with customers horses, one of his friends had purchased two colts and put them into the mix and you never noticed. They received great training and are a very dependable and reliable little team. Ezra just shook his head, I guess I better start paying more attention! They all laughed.

It was a wonderful day, it turned out even better than the boys and their wives thought it would. And, with NO problems from any outsiders.

Later that evening Ezekiel led them all in a very emotional prayer of thankfulness.

They all went to bed very happy, and Nahum had trouble falling asleep as he thought of all the blessings that had been bestowed upon him during his lifetime.

One of the happiest days in the lives of Nahum the Carpenter.

The photo shows, “A Jewish Festival” by Alfred Dehodencq, painted in 1865.