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Ethnic themed festivals

Jibrail Almuhajir

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Mods: I wasn't sure where to post this, but 'Convert Issues' seemed relevant because it poses a lot of concern and questions to those who are, or have recently, converted. 

To begin, I kindly ask that y'all read the entire post and accompanying article before commenting. 

Let me say from the beginning that I am not at all opposed to having festivals at our churches.  I appreciate  that they're one way to draw in folks who otherwise might not consider darkening the steps of a church.  I also appreciate the fact that they're huge revenue generators for our churches, particularly here in America where we cannot rely on the State for financial help. 

Additionally, I want to assure y'all that I'm not opposed to anyone's pride in their heritage or culture.  Immigrants have, and continue, to enrich our great country. 

My one and only concern is pairing of immigrant culture with Orthodoxy through these festivals to the point where the line between introducing Orthodoxy and immigrant cultures are so blurred that it's difficult to tell what's being celebrated.  I'll use my church as an example for what I'm trying to communicate.  Every year we have a "Greek Fest", as do many churches throughout the nation.  Our background is OCA, though we have many cultures represented.  To draw in the folks we do, we have Greek dancing lessons with bazouki music, Greek food, Greek beer and coffee.  One of our recent Facebook adverts explains that, "Zeus, Apollo, Athena, etc would be proud!"

A lot of folks that that I speak with, after learning that I'm Orthodox, ask me about the Greek festival and whether or not they can attend since they're not Greek.  They continue with this line of questioning such as, "Are you Greek?", "Does your church speak English?", "Do y'all sing Greek hymns?"  Understandably, it's really confusing to those who are unaccustomed to our faith as many see it as an "Ethnic" thing.

Additionally, many 2nd and 3rd generation folks end up leaving our faith due to the over-emphasis on immigrant culture that, once they've assimilated into the larger American culture, no longer identify with their grandparents' culture. 

So, my question is, are we doing any harm by having festivals that are centered on immigrant culture? 

www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/why-are-so-many-greek-orthodox-leaving-church/comment-page-1/
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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Porter ODoran said:
Maybe you could describe the alternatives as you see them?
Perhaps we should curb our over-emphasis on immigrant culture or as Mr. Dreher explains,

"If you acculturate your people to think that the Liturgical life of the church is pretty much the Tribe At Prayer (his emphasis), you shouldn't be surprised when they're loosening of tribal bonds ... results in a falling away of the Church."
 

xOrthodox4Christx

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I understand the criticism. My question is, what's your alternative? I don't have any trouble with ethnic pride. That's separate from spiritual religious affairs.
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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Porter ODoran said:
What fundraisers and church lingo do you envision?
That's the question, isn't it?  Are we turning a blind eye to the issue or should we consider using non-ethnic names for our festivals, such as "Fall Festival" or the like.
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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xOrthodox4Christx said:
I don't have any trouble with ethnic pride. That's separate from spiritual religious affairs.
Me either.  I'm proud of my Scots-Irish heritage.  I'm proud of my wife's Korean culture, too.  But I wouldn't want to have a "Scots-Irish Festival" or "Redneck Festival" at our church as this would tend to invite a lot of questions of what's being celebrated.

Maybe those of us who are concerned are seeing problems that aren't really there.  Can't say for sure, but there does seem to be a modicum of validity.
 

TheTrisagion

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I can see both sides of this issue. On one hand, I know people who are very surprised to find out I'm Orthodox because they just assume that is for Greeks because they go the the Greek festival and its, well... Greek. On the other hand, I do think it is a good way to get exposure in a fun, non-proselytizing way. I tend to think on the whole that they are a good thing. There are a million "fall festival" type things that churches host. Greek or Slavic festivals are somewhat unique and I think attract more people to come than would a simple generically named event.
 

Porter ODoran

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GabrieltheCelt said:
Porter ODoran said:
What fundraisers and church lingo do you envision?
That's the question, isn't it?  Are we turning a blind eye to the issue or should we consider using non-ethnic names for our festivals, such as "Fall Festival" or the like.
You're asking me? I don't see an issue. Different folks have different backgrounds. Ever heard of Oktoberfest? St. Patrick's Day? Cinco de Mayo?
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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Porter ODoran said:
GabrieltheCelt said:
Porter ODoran said:
What fundraisers and church lingo do you envision?
That's the question, isn't it?  Are we turning a blind eye to the issue or should we consider using non-ethnic names for our festivals, such as "Fall Festival" or the like.
Ever heard of Oktoberfest? St. Patrick's Day? Cinco de Mayo?
No, tell me about them...
 

Porter ODoran

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Maybe you could expand on your fragment from the Dreher author, since by itself it makes very little sense.
 

Justin Kolodziej

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GabrieltheCelt said:
Porter ODoran said:
GabrieltheCelt said:
Porter ODoran said:
What fundraisers and church lingo do you envision?
That's the question, isn't it?  Are we turning a blind eye to the issue or should we consider using non-ethnic names for our festivals, such as "Fall Festival" or the like.
Ever heard of Oktoberfest? St. Patrick's Day? Cinco de Mayo?
No, tell me about them...
Oktoberfest: A period of time in October to get drunk on German lagers, and secondarily wear lederhosen and eat bratwurst and weinerschnitzel.
St. Patrick's Day: A day to get drunk on green-dyed beer almost certainly not from Ireland, which is celebrated on the date of the Feast of St. Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland according to the New Calendar.
Cinco de Mayo: A day to get drunk on margaritas, tequila and/or cerveza, eat Mexican food, and forget about the Mexican Revolution.
 

Luke

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About thee years ago a bank teller, who either was Serbian Orthodox or used to be, found out I belonged to the little Greek Orthodox Church in town and what she asked about is whether we had any Greek festivals -- not a good priority.
 

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I do wish to clarify -- I only mean to skewer what those festivals have been degraded to in the American blender, not the cultures that originated them.

Back to the original problem. I would have to admit that from time to time it seems like I joined the Greek Cultural Center that happens to have a church attached, rather than the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. On the other hand, they are making an effort to preserve their heritage, and present it to the public. And at least Orthodoxy is included somewhere, which I suppose is better than a Greek Festival with no information booth at all.  Growing up there never was Polish dance, PUA meetings, a Polish festival, etc., but then Catholics have had more time to mix together.

I wouldn't say not to do the Greek festival, just that not everything the parish does has to be Greek this or that since other nationalities do exist. Even my godfather is a convert of French-Canadian descent!
 

Porter ODoran

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Please don't believe the silly lie that McChurches have the magic formulas for keeping youth. American churches' numbers have never declined so fast.
 

Dominika

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Justin Kolodziej said:
Growing up there never was Polish dance, PUA meetings, a Polish festival, etc., but then Catholics have had more time to mix together.
Even in Poland (both in Catholic and Orthodox churches) you don't have any Polish dances and festival, maybe a few regional ones. While in Serbian in the Orthodox churches it's prettey normal to have some dances on some feasts, a barbecue pork on a grate, singing and drinking rakija etc.


Anyway, a basic question to the OP, actually Porter asked it: if not ethnic festivals, what in their places? People (parishioners, Orthodox Christians from other parishes, inquirers) do need something more than just services andd theological meetings. An ethnic/food/dance festival or just a party before/after fasting period (the last is pretty common in Polish Orthodox parishes) is one of the ways to fullfill this need. I don't think there is a typcial American culture: it would be selling/giving out humbergurs to the rhytms of ccountry or popo music?... I perceive the American society as  a mash made up of various ethnicities. So, maybe a better way is to do multi-ethnic festivals? E.g each parsioner having another descence makes typcial food for it.

Now, the example from Poland. My parish is quite homogoneous one, made up mainly of Polish people, but there are a few Serbs, Japenese, some Belarussians etc. so e.g we always have Serbian kolivo for st. Theodore Saturday, from time to time workshops of making sushi, some Belarussian fol dances groups on some parish events (but not held at parish, to the first sentence of this post is not a lie ;) ) ....
 

Ainnir

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I've gotten similar reactions about both the Greek and Antiochian parishes I've attended/am attending.  I've heard a lot of reasons why I can't/shouldn't be Orthodox though, ethnic differences was just one category.

It was my experience with GOAA that there's a blind spot there.  The general impression I got was that the only two ways to really become Orthodox were to be born into it or marry into it.  I knew that wasn't right, but couldn't find any resources or support for a while there that allowed for my situation.  I think the individual parish priest was trying to be much more inclusive, than that, though.  He was just really, really busy.

I don't think adjusting perspective requires ceasing or even renaming Greek Fests, though.  Like with many things, I think the root is more to do with attitude/perspective, not activity.  Changing such a thing would be slow and difficult work, because it's essentially how people think about and interact with other people.


Justin Kolodziej said:
I do wish to clarify -- I only mean to skewer what those festivals have been degraded to in the American blender, not the cultures that originated them.
No you did quite well.  :laugh:
I'm pretty sure they don't even celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico.
The concept of a culture festival is sort of a sticky one to me, as it has the very real potential to flatten a 4-dimensional thing.  Is that worth the exposure?  I can't say.

Porter ODoran said:
Please don't believe the silly lie that McChurches have the magic formulas for keeping youth. American churches' numbers have never declined so fast.
But isn't it just the same thing?  The McChurches are peddling culture, too; it's just pop culture.  Starving and dying people don't want culture!
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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Porter ODoran said:
Maybe you could expand on your fragment from the Dreher author, since by itself it makes very little sense.
Maybe Vladimir Lossky can do a better job than me;

"The view which would base the unity of a local church on a political, racial or cultural principle is condemned by the Orthodox Church to be a heresy." 
~Vladimir Lossky "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
 

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I don't think changing the name or theme of the festival is going to fool anyone. Now, if they could make it clearer that it's for everyone, that's one thing, but denying where they come from is another. But I'm surprised to hear that anyone would think a publicly advertised Greek festival is only for Greeks, anymore than the aforementioned Oktoberfests and Saint Patty's festivals are only for their respective group. Think of Greek festivals as not being for Greeks, but being a gift of Greeks to the world; likewise Greek Orthodoxy. It's true that Orthodoxy should not be based on an political, racial, or cultural principle but all these things are inseparable parts of being human, so it doesn't erase them either.
 

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GabrieltheCelt said:
Porter ODoran said:
Maybe you could expand on your fragment from the Dreher author, since by itself it makes very little sense.
Maybe Vladimir Lossky can do a better job than me;

"The view which would base the unity of a local church on a political, racial or cultural principle is condemned by the Orthodox Church to be a heresy." 
~Vladimir Lossky "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
Yeah I'm sure he was talking about gyros. ::)
 

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Ainnir said:
I've gotten similar reactions about both the Greek and Antiochian parishes I've attended/am attending.  I've heard a lot of reasons why I can't/shouldn't be Orthodox though, ethnic differences was just one category.

It was my experience with GOAA that there's a blind spot there.  The general impression I got was that the only two ways to really become Orthodox were to be born into it or marry into it.  I knew that wasn't right, but couldn't find any resources or support for a while there that allowed for my situation.  I think the individual parish priest was trying to be much more inclusive, than that, though.  He was just really, really busy.

I don't think adjusting perspective requires ceasing or even renaming Greek Fests, though.  Like with many things, I think the root is more to do with attitude/perspective, not activity.  Changing such a thing would be slow and difficult work, because it's essentially how people think about and interact with other people.


Justin Kolodziej said:
I do wish to clarify -- I only mean to skewer what those festivals have been degraded to in the American blender, not the cultures that originated them.
No you did quite well.  :laugh:
I'm pretty sure they don't even celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico.
The concept of a culture festival is sort of a sticky one to me, as it has the very real potential to flatten a 4-dimensional thing.  Is that worth the exposure?  I can't say.

Porter ODoran said:
Please don't believe the silly lie that McChurches have the magic formulas for keeping youth. American churches' numbers have never declined so fast.
But isn't it just the same thing?  The McChurches are peddling culture, too; it's just pop culture.  Starving and dying people don't want culture!
The Greek church comprises thousands of converts. I'm the region where I live, the majority are converts.

As for your last paragraph, it's very perceptive while also missing a key realization. There is no American culture, just pop culture, political culture, and the Old World human cultures from which everyone derived. The former is artificial and fruitless. To deny the later in Christians is to abstract the Gospel which in turn is to deny the incarnation.

I think inquiries such as Gabriel's come from a basic blindness to what truly is God-and-Man.
 

DeniseDenise

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Wow....that was a quick jump from 'maybe we could make some changes' to 'he doesn't understand God at all....poor dear'


 

Mor Ephrem

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GabrieltheCelt said:
I'm proud of my Scots-Irish heritage.  I'm proud of my wife's Korean culture, too.  But I wouldn't want to have a "Scots-Irish Festival" or "Redneck Festival" at our church as this would tend to invite a lot of questions of what's being celebrated.
Would it really? 
 

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I'd go to a certain kind of party/festival.
 

DeniseDenise

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hecma925 said:
Redneck festivals are a lot of fun.

This is true....alas they are generally not run as fundraisers, which is what the Orthodox Ethnic festivals are. 

Which leads me to .....who the heck wants to go pay for food they could make at home, devoid of any sort of 'oooh that would be fun to go to!'

The festivals are not FOR the parishioners....but for the parishioners to earn money off the heterodox....
 

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DeniseDenise said:
hecma925 said:
Redneck festivals are a lot of fun.

This is true....alas they are generally not run as fundraisers, which is what the Orthodox Ethnic festivals are. 

Which leads me to .....who the heck wants to go pay for food they could make at home, devoid of any sort of 'oooh that would be fun to go to!'

The festivals are not FOR the parishioners....but for the parishioners to earn money off the heterodox....
Which leads to the issue of funds.  If a festival is the only thing keeping a church afloat, why?
 

DeniseDenise

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hecma925 said:
DeniseDenise said:
hecma925 said:
Redneck festivals are a lot of fun.

This is true....alas they are generally not run as fundraisers, which is what the Orthodox Ethnic festivals are. 

Which leads me to .....who the heck wants to go pay for food they could make at home, devoid of any sort of 'oooh that would be fun to go to!'

The festivals are not FOR the parishioners....but for the parishioners to earn money off the heterodox....
Which leads to the issue of funds.  If a festival is the only thing keeping a church afloat, why?

 

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My first experience in an Orthodox worship space was through a Bazaar on a Saturday morning - it was a welcoming opportunity to have a discussion with a local Orthodox who was supervising the book and icon table.  It was a great introduction. I came back the next day for the DL.

Many people I know have had positive impressions of the beauty of iconography after being given a tour of the local Orthodox Church during the Greek Fest.

I grew up in a Reformed denomination established by Dutch immigrants 100+ years ago . . . people still jokingly say "If you ain't Dutch you ain't much." There are many converts, non-Dutch descendant in the denomination but the core is still Dutch American. TBH though this doesn't mean much culturally as people no longer speak Dutch even if they still have imported mints for church candy and have an annual banket pastry sale.

 

DeniseDenise

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Hinterlander said:
My first experience in an Orthodox worship space was through a Bazaar on a Saturday morning - it was a welcoming opportunity to have a discussion with a local Orthodox who was supervising the book and icon table.  It was a great introduction. I came back the next day for the DL.

Many people I know have had positive impressions of the beauty of iconography after being given a tour of the local Orthodox Church during the Greek Fest.

I grew up in a Reformed denomination established by Dutch immigrants 100+ years ago . . . people still jokingly say "If you ain't Dutch you ain't much." There are many converts, non-Dutch descendant in the denomination but the core is still Dutch American. TBH though this doesn't mean much culturally as people no longer speak Dutch even if they still have imported mints for church candy and have an annual banket pastry sale.

Absolutely it can be a great outreach.  Many people at least see that those nutty <insert ethnicity here> are Christians. Many others come back

Just saying the point isn't socializing for the parishioners
 

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DeniseDenise said:
Wow....that was a quick jump from 'maybe we could make some changes' to 'he doesn't understand God at all....poor dear'
Almost as tho different posters are different people.
 

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hecma925 said:
DeniseDenise said:
hecma925 said:
Redneck festivals are a lot of fun.

This is true....alas they are generally not run as fundraisers, which is what the Orthodox Ethnic festivals are. 

Which leads me to .....who the heck wants to go pay for food they could make at home, devoid of any sort of 'oooh that would be fun to go to!'

The festivals are not FOR the parishioners....but for the parishioners to earn money off the heterodox....
Which leads to the issue of funds.  If a festival is the only thing keeping a church afloat, why?
Because we're poor?
 

hecma925

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Porter ODoran said:
hecma925 said:
DeniseDenise said:
hecma925 said:
Redneck festivals are a lot of fun.

This is true....alas they are generally not run as fundraisers, which is what the Orthodox Ethnic festivals are. 

Which leads me to .....who the heck wants to go pay for food they could make at home, devoid of any sort of 'oooh that would be fun to go to!'

The festivals are not FOR the parishioners....but for the parishioners to earn money off the heterodox....
Which leads to the issue of funds.  If a festival is the only thing keeping a church afloat, why?
Because we're poor?
How do you figure?
 

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At our festivals, two great things happen besides funding. One, Greeks learn there's a church here, which out West is far from guaranteed. Two, locals tour the church and gain interest for and comfort with our worship. It's always been a good thing. The food's great too. Never seen a young person converted to agnosticism by it, but I guess maybe that happens after they get home?
 

DeniseDenise

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yep...and those are all great reasons to have such festivals, no doubt about that at all.

I am not disapproving of such things at all, just being honest that if it wasn't a funding thing.....I bet parishes wouldn't always have them.  i.e. if it became 'Come to the Greek church and eat a free meal, have some free entertainment and a tour'.....and it cost the parish $ to do it.....would they?

 

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I know Protestant churches who have free breakfasts and the like year after year, but then they're genuinely interested in evangelism...
 

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Asteriktos said:
I know Protestant churches who have free breakfasts and the like year after year, but then they're genuinely interested in evangelism...
Hold on there, I'm pretty sure our sign says "All welcome" or something.
 

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GabrieltheCelt said:
...Let me say from the beginning that I am not at all opposed to having festivals at our churches.  I appreciate  that they're one way to draw in folks who otherwise might not consider darkening the steps of a church.  I also appreciate the fact that they're huge revenue generators for our churches, particularly here in America where we cannot rely on the State for financial help. 

Additionally, I want to assure y'all that I'm not opposed to anyone's pride in their heritage or culture.  Immigrants have, and continue, to enrich our great country. 

My one and only concern is pairing of immigrant culture with Orthodoxy through these festivals to the point where the line between introducing Orthodoxy and immigrant cultures are so blurred that it's difficult to tell what's being celebrated. 

... One of our recent Facebook adverts explains that, "Zeus, Apollo, Athena, etc would be proud!"....

... A lot of folks that that I speak with, after learning that I'm Orthodox, ask me about the Greek festival and whether or not they can attend since they're not Greek.  They continue with this line of questioning such as, "Are you Greek?", "Does your church speak English?", "Do y'all sing Greek hymns?"  Understandably, it's really confusing to those who are unaccustomed to our faith as many see it as an "Ethnic" thing.

Additionally, many 2nd and 3rd generation folks end up leaving our faith due to the over-emphasis on immigrant culture that, once they've assimilated into the larger American culture, no longer identify with their grandparents' culture. 

So, my question is, are we doing any harm by having festivals that are centered on immigrant culture? 
I didn't read your article.

Yes, have had this discussion with a cousin who insists that I'm "Greek Orthodox" when she darn well knows I'm not Greek because we work on our genealogy project together.  It is completely stuck in her head that being Orthodox is being Greek. 

I insist, I am Orthodox, not Greek, or Russian, or anything else, just Orthodox.

A priest came to visit from Montana and suggested that for better evangelizing we take off cultural references from the signage and documents.  It shuts people out.  It confuses people.  You have to reach the people where they are at, and Montana is a lightly populated state.  I could see the Greeks shifting in their seats. 

The big Greek festival in our nearby city is a huge affair and well attended, but it is an overly loud, just horribly screaming loud party.  Can't even have a conversation with someone a foot away without yelling.  Our Muslim friend who went along really like the food.

They have vendors who sell the belly dancing jingle skirts that are an affront to the memory of Greeks who lived under the Turkish yoke as a reminder of an abusive regime.

The one Serb festival I went to was the same, except not well attended.  It's a milk people for money endeavour.  Hardly anyone spoke English, no one was reaching out to the guests.  The music was so loud and raucous it was painful.

Our parish did them for awhile, and tried to be inclusive of all the nations represented.  I don't  see a bunch of people suddenly becoming Orthodox.  There is a lot of entertainment competition around these parts, so the first on the list for a random person would be more likely a Jazz fest or Beer fest or Highland Games or go to the beach.  Kind of hard conveying one's culture in a chicken shawarma in a hot asphalt parking lot in a 30 year old city.  Although I am completely down with the Ethiopian food, but you can buy that in the city and not have to convert.  ;)

I understand people feel naturally drawn to their heritage, but a lot gets dumbed down and lost in translation here in the US.
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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DeniseDenise said:
Wow....that was a quick jump from 'maybe we could make some changes' to 'he doesn't understand God at all....poor dear'
Yup, but I'm used to this sort of intellectual snobbery on many Christian forums.  Rather than take a charitable and long-suffering approach of "Come, let us reason together", the 'behind the monitor' safety can bring out very uncharitable ugliness.  Can't say for sure that that's his usual M.O. as I don't know him, but as I said (and you probably already know this), that's just the way it is these days.  The old Gabriel would have shot back with some witty but unChristian comment, but nowadays it's best just to shrug it off.  "Water off a duck's back" as we say down here.
 
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