Dr. Alfred Kentigern Siewers has a Ph.D. in Medieval English literature from the University of Illinois and M.A. in Early British Studies from the University of Wales at Aberystwyth. He teaches English and Environmental Studies at Bucknell University, where he is incoming Chair of the English Department and Associate Professor. His research includes work on nature in early literature, especially in the writings of John Scottus Eriugena, and in modern fantasy and nature writing, drawing in part on Estonian ecosemiotics. He is the author of Strange Beauty: Ecoritical Approaches to Early Medieval Landscape, editor of Re-Imagining Nature: Environmental Humanities and Ecosemiotics, and co-editor of Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages, and he is a co-editor of the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley project. He was baptized into the Orthodox Church in 1999. His wife Olesya is originally from Russia and they have two sons. They are members of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit mission (OCA) in central Pennsylvania, regularly visit Agia Skepi Monastery (GOARCH) nearby, and are also long-distance member-supporters of St. Herman of Alaska Church mission (ROCOR) in northern Virginia. He studies in the Pastoral School of the ROCOR Midwest Diocese and serves on the Steering Committee of the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration. Formerly he worked as urban affairs writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and Midwest correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. He prays that his unworthy views here are Orthodox and do no harm, but they otherwise are his own.
The Orthodox writer Rod Dreher has popularized the Law of Merited Impossibility, as applied to Christians: “It’s absurd to say Christians are persecuted, and boy do they deserve it.” But then there is this from Britain’s Independent today:
According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.
In our homes and churches, let us step up our prayers for those persecuted around the world for Christ’s name, as well as all those oppressed and in need, and let us also consider practical ways to support and to help them. In particular, let us appeal to the martyrs of the Church to intercede on behalf of Orthodox Christians and churches beset by this persecution. Those of us in places where we are not physically threatened or hard pressed may remember, as we face cultural and social stress on a much lesser level, the words of Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, in speaking of the New Martyr Hilarion Troitsky, in preparing ourselves:
How very different we are from those new martyrs and saints who overcame the world! When we stand before God to repent of our evil and sins, our confession from year to year becomes less and less like a confession and more and more like a faint-hearted cry and complaint against life. The great power of Christianity is forgotten; we have forgotten that we must be conquerors in this world—conquerors of evil. Constant complaints about our neighbors, about our life circumstances, endless depression and despair—these things are woefully conquering the Orthodox Christian today. Faintheartedness instead of courage is becoming a major quality of the soul of modern man. In your patience possess ye your souls (Lk. 21:19). Many people, even in the Church, are forgetting about this patience and courage, forgetting that everything on this earth is sent from the Lord, even in these particular circumstances that God has called us to be in; forgetting that we must labor and force ourselves patiently and courageously. People seek a compromise, an easy path and self-justification, and as a result the Christian spirit is lost. However, a fearful Christian is not pleasing to the Lord. The spirit of God departs from such a person and leaves him one on one with his helplessness, his frailty, his terrible despondency, when instead he should be gaining at long last the wisdom to thank the Lord for all the trials He has sent; thank Him, because a true knowledge of God comes only through thanksgiving. Fallen man cannot come to know God in any other way.
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