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THE 7 STAGES of MY PHILOSOPHICAL and SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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1. BECOMING A CHRISTIAN (age 19): As a 19 year old college freshman I had a Damascus Road experience. I was literally about to lose my mind when I cried out to Jesus and begged Him to enter my life. And in His mercy He did. I would like to say that I subsequently became a faithful, devout, unwavering Christian disciple from then on; but alas I did not. I probably committed greater sins after I became a Christian than I did before. Yet Christ refused to betray me even when I betrayed Him.

2. BECOMING A PRO-LIFE ACTIVIST (age 29): Even before I became a Christian, I believed that abortion was wrong. As a child my heroes were Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., men who courageously fought for peace and justice and respect for human life. So even though I didn’t fully understand what abortion actually entailed, I had always recognized it as an assault on basic human rights. But it was the Lord who had saved my soul and renewed my mind that led me to become proactively involved in the fight for human rights and justice for the unborn. Rather than viewing abortion as a mere moral or political issue, I now realized that the unborn and their desperate mothers were my brothers and sisters who needed my love and intervention.

3. BECOMING A PACIFIST (age 29-31): My Pro-Life activism forced me to deeply wrestle with and confront the issue of violence. Because of my love for Dr. King, I was always sympathetic to pacifism; but my fundamentalist evangelical theology led me to believe in the false doctrine of “Just War Theory.” So I had to face an existential choice: Is it right and holy and good to use violent force to save innocent unborn babies? And if not, then why not? How is it justifiable to kill people in war on the other side of the world and unjustifiable to use violence to protect the innocent unborn babies right here in America? Within the Christian Pro-Life community there seemed to be a collective cognitive dissonance – too many people praising the American military while refusing to take up arms to rescue the unborn. So I had to prayerfully discern the will of God. And thankfully, the Holy Spirit led me to revisit the writings of Dr. King, which showed me that not only is violence unchristian and immoral, but that it’s also ultimately ineffective and self-defeating. The Holy Spirit showed me that affirming the sanctity of Life means refusing to kill or do violence to any human being – born or unborn, ally or enemy. Therefore the Christian must fight injustice, evil, and oppression wherever and whenever he can, but only and always with spiritual rather than carnal weapons.

4. BECOMING A RASTA (age 33): As I became increasingly involved in Pro-Life activism, and as my pacifist convictions began to take shape, I moved away from evangelical fundamentalism and found camaraderie in the Rastafari worldview. Through the conscious reggae music of Bob Marley and others, I encountered a “livity” and mindset that was comprehensively pro-peace, pro-justice, and thoroughly Pro-Life. For Rastas, abortion is not even an issue. All life is sacred and no Rasta would ever consider violently destroying the fruit of the womb. Within Rastafari I found a more consistent and holistic Pro-Life consciousness than I ever did in the various evangelical churches that I had previously been a part of.

5. BECOMING ORTHODOX (age 40): Through the teachings and “livity” of Rastafari, I became aware of Emperor Haile Selassie and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. I dove in head first and discovered the purest, soundest, oldest, and most authentic Christian doctrine and theology in the world. I had struggled for 20 years to find the true Church with the truest Christian teachings. So I drove to Atlanta to meet with an Ethiopian Orthodox Priest who gave me some books to read and agreed to catechize me. I wanted to be baptized immediately, but our wise Priest waited until I was certain about my decision. Finally, two years later in June of 2008, on the Day of Pentecost, our family was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Our Priest gave me the baptismal name, “Gebre Menfes Kidus,” which means Servant of The Holy Spirit – a blessed name that I struggle to live up to.

6. BECOMING A CHRISTIAN ANARCHIST (age 50-52): My pacifism and my Orthodox faith led me to inevitably embrace Christian anarchism. And the “Christian” qualifier is extremely important here. Far from espousing chaos and violence, Christian anarchism is resistance against all earthly political systems that perpetuate chaos and violence. As Jacques Ellul wrote: “By anarchy I mean first and foremost a rejection of violence.” And as I wrote in my second book: “Christian anarchy is the rejection of all human governments that seek to usurp the peaceable governance of Christ and His Kingdom. We honor no states, no flags, no swords. We bow to one King, One God, One Lord.”

7. BECOMING A CHRISTIAN UNIVERSALIST (age 52): The beautiful Orthodox Faith radically transformed my view of God, my view of myself, and my view of the world. As I read and studied the writings of the saints and Church fathers and mothers, I saw a consistent emphasis on humility, hope, and divine mercy. A far cry from the “turn or burn!” mindset of evangelical fundamentalism, the theme of Orthodoxy is to work out your own salvation as you extend the unconditional love and mercy of God to others. Although a minority voice within Orthodoxy, I discovered that there were and are indeed Orthodox Universalists. While the Church condemns teaching Universalism as a dogma, there are nevertheless saints within the Church who believed that in the end all volitional creatures will ultimately be saved. Over time I finally came to understand that my Christian faith, my social convictions, my Pro-Life activism, and everything else could only make sense in the light of God’s irrepressible love. The Cross truly has conquered, and I believe the infinite love of Jesus will woo and win all souls in eternity.

So these are the primary transformative philosophical and theological events in my life, up until now. It’s a bit frightening to think about what may lay ahead. Radical philosophical and theological changes require radical changes of one’s heart and one’s lifestyle. At the age of 52 I feel old and tired, and I’m not sure how much more transformation I can take. Each and every one of these changes in my life was met with radical opposition and resistance, often from those who were closest and dearest to me. But what Orthodoxy has taught me above all else is that focusing on prayer and humility, and emphasizing the love and mercy of God – both for myself and for all others – is all that really matters.

So keep praying for me dear friends and brothers and sisters. I won’t get to heaven by being right, I’ll only get there by clinging to Our Jesus. And even if I lose my grip on Him, He'll never lose His grip on me.

Selam,
+ GEBRE MENFES KIDUS +


 

LizaSymonenko

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I commend you on your struggle and progress. However, I have a question...

7. Universalism.
Yes, God is LOVE. No doubt. His love is eternal... and so great that we cannot begin to fathom the depth of it.
  • However, what of the olive tree that was cursed for not baring fruit?
  • What about the sheep and the goats?
  • What about the wedding guest who was thrown out where there would be gnashing of teeth?
  • What about those who accept the Mark of the Beast and drink of God's wrath?
  • What about those who remain unrepentant?

God is LOVE... but, it is not a kumbaya kind of love.

You, as a father, love your kids unconditionally... however, you (I hope) do not give them everything they think they want, and permit them to do whatever they want... nor simply feed, house, etc with no effort on their part.... because true love has limits for the sake of the one being loved.

I will differ with you in opinions on this. It is on us to be saved... and to do so in this lifetime... not once we are dead.
Yes, we may realize the error of our ways once we repose... but, it is too late for us at that point. Where were we sooner?

We need to be like the wise virgins... the time is now.... not later.
 

biro

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“It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” - somewhere in Maccabbees
 

LizaSymonenko

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So why we are praying for the dead then?
That is different than us, ourselves, somehow working out our salvation post-death.

In the end it is God's decision... and we pray that He show the dead mercy... realizing they are in a state where they can no longer improve their own situation.

The dead can no longer give alms, help anyone in need, give a hug to a stranger, feed the hungry, or give water to the thirsty.
They can no longer preach the Word, attend services, or receive the Eucharist.
They can no longer tell their families how much they love them. They can no longer sacrifice of their own time to nurture a need of someone else's.
They can no longer tithe, donate to orphanage funds, or help out at a soup kitchen.
They can no longer visit the sick, can no longer open their door to admit a stranger.
They cannot ask forgiveness for yelling at someone, they cannot return what they had stolen, they cannot take back angry words.

Even though they may now realize the error of their ways... there is little they can do.

That is why we are charged with praying for them. That even though, they may be lacking in some good deed, or perhaps they committed an unrepented of sin... that through our prayers, which we pray because we love them, because they taught us well, because they once helped us, because they were not all bad and left us with a good impression, good memories, good lessons.... we pray that God forgive them... because they no longer can help themselves.
 

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LizaSymonenko

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Has anyone suggested that?
u·ni·ver·sal·ist /ˌyo͞onəˈvərsələst/
noun
1. CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY - a person who believes that all humankind will eventually be saved.

If a person is to be saved (while having lived an ungodly life, not repenting even at the 11th hour)... how will they be saved if not post-death?
 

Alpo2

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LizaSymonenko

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Probably the same way we all do. God forgives their sins.
...and yet God also split up the sheep from the goats. Go figure.
 

Ainnir

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I take the universal hope approach. I hope all will be saved, and try to pray to that effect, but I stop there. Anything beyond that is above my pay grade.
 

mcarmichael

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Probably the same way we all do. God forgives their sins.
At tremendous cost, ie. throught the blood of Christ, and then what? Maybe he's had a change of heart? Maybe Christ died for nothing? No you need to reconsider because by dying for sin he's also condemned sin.
 

LizaSymonenko

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At tremendous cost, ie. throught the blood of Christ, and then what? Maybe he's had a change of heart? Maybe Christ died for nothing? No you need to reconsider because by dying for sin he's also condemned sin.
Christ did not die for nothing... He died for us. However, as in anything... He gives us this gift... but, we have to do our part and accept it.
 

J Michael

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I take the universal hope approach. I hope all will be saved, and try to pray to that effect, but I stop there. Anything beyond that is above my pay grade.
I tend to concur with you on taking the "universal hope" approach. That way, all possibilities are covered :). I am more and more leaning, though, to at least wanting to side with the universal salvation approach. I'm looking forward to reading David Bentley Hart's That All Shall Be Saved when it comes out in paperback in Sept.

Either way, we won't know 'til we get there, will we?
 

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When we do, I'll be way more afraid for myself than for the rest of the world.
 

J Michael

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Here and now (well...sometimes...)
1. BECOMING A CHRISTIAN (age 19): As a 19 year old college freshman I had a Damascus Road experience. I was literally about to lose my mind when I cried out to Jesus and begged Him to enter my life. And in His mercy He did. I would like to say that I subsequently became a faithful, devout, unwavering Christian disciple from then on; but alas I did not. I probably committed greater sins after I became a Christian than I did before. Yet Christ refused to betray me even when I betrayed Him.

2. BECOMING A PRO-LIFE ACTIVIST (age 29): Even before I became a Christian, I believed that abortion was wrong. As a child my heroes were Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., men who courageously fought for peace and justice and respect for human life. So even though I didn’t fully understand what abortion actually entailed, I had always recognized it as an assault on basic human rights. But it was the Lord who had saved my soul and renewed my mind that led me to become proactively involved in the fight for human rights and justice for the unborn. Rather than viewing abortion as a mere moral or political issue, I now realized that the unborn and their desperate mothers were my brothers and sisters who needed my love and intervention.

3. BECOMING A PACIFIST (age 29-31): My Pro-Life activism forced me to deeply wrestle with and confront the issue of violence. Because of my love for Dr. King, I was always sympathetic to pacifism; but my fundamentalist evangelical theology led me to believe in the false doctrine of “Just War Theory.” So I had to face an existential choice: Is it right and holy and good to use violent force to save innocent unborn babies? And if not, then why not? How is it justifiable to kill people in war on the other side of the world and unjustifiable to use violence to protect the innocent unborn babies right here in America? Within the Christian Pro-Life community there seemed to be a collective cognitive dissonance – too many people praising the American military while refusing to take up arms to rescue the unborn. So I had to prayerfully discern the will of God. And thankfully, the Holy Spirit led me to revisit the writings of Dr. King, which showed me that not only is violence unchristian and immoral, but that it’s also ultimately ineffective and self-defeating. The Holy Spirit showed me that affirming the sanctity of Life means refusing to kill or do violence to any human being – born or unborn, ally or enemy. Therefore the Christian must fight injustice, evil, and oppression wherever and whenever he can, but only and always with spiritual rather than carnal weapons.

4. BECOMING A RASTA (age 33): As I became increasingly involved in Pro-Life activism, and as my pacifist convictions began to take shape, I moved away from evangelical fundamentalism and found camaraderie in the Rastafari worldview. Through the conscious reggae music of Bob Marley and others, I encountered a “livity” and mindset that was comprehensively pro-peace, pro-justice, and thoroughly Pro-Life. For Rastas, abortion is not even an issue. All life is sacred and no Rasta would ever consider violently destroying the fruit of the womb. Within Rastafari I found a more consistent and holistic Pro-Life consciousness than I ever did in the various evangelical churches that I had previously been a part of.

5. BECOMING ORTHODOX (age 40): Through the teachings and “livity” of Rastafari, I became aware of Emperor Haile Selassie and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. I dove in head first and discovered the purest, soundest, oldest, and most authentic Christian doctrine and theology in the world. I had struggled for 20 years to find the true Church with the truest Christian teachings. So I drove to Atlanta to meet with an Ethiopian Orthodox Priest who gave me some books to read and agreed to catechize me. I wanted to be baptized immediately, but our wise Priest waited until I was certain about my decision. Finally, two years later in June of 2008, on the Day of Pentecost, our family was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Our Priest gave me the baptismal name, “Gebre Menfes Kidus,” which means Servant of The Holy Spirit – a blessed name that I struggle to live up to.

6. BECOMING A CHRISTIAN ANARCHIST (age 50-52): My pacifism and my Orthodox faith led me to inevitably embrace Christian anarchism. And the “Christian” qualifier is extremely important here. Far from espousing chaos and violence, Christian anarchism is resistance against all earthly political systems that perpetuate chaos and violence. As Jacques Ellul wrote: “By anarchy I mean first and foremost a rejection of violence.” And as I wrote in my second book: “Christian anarchy is the rejection of all human governments that seek to usurp the peaceable governance of Christ and His Kingdom. We honor no states, no flags, no swords. We bow to one King, One God, One Lord.”

7. BECOMING A CHRISTIAN UNIVERSALIST (age 52): The beautiful Orthodox Faith radically transformed my view of God, my view of myself, and my view of the world. As I read and studied the writings of the saints and Church fathers and mothers, I saw a consistent emphasis on humility, hope, and divine mercy. A far cry from the “turn or burn!” mindset of evangelical fundamentalism, the theme of Orthodoxy is to work out your own salvation as you extend the unconditional love and mercy of God to others. Although a minority voice within Orthodoxy, I discovered that there were and are indeed Orthodox Universalists. While the Church condemns teaching Universalism as a dogma, there are nevertheless saints within the Church who believed that in the end all volitional creatures will ultimately be saved. Over time I finally came to understand that my Christian faith, my social convictions, my Pro-Life activism, and everything else could only make sense in the light of God’s irrepressible love. The Cross truly has conquered, and I believe the infinite love of Jesus will woo and win all souls in eternity.

So these are the primary transformative philosophical and theological events in my life, up until now. It’s a bit frightening to think about what may lay ahead. Radical philosophical and theological changes require radical changes of one’s heart and one’s lifestyle. At the age of 52 I feel old and tired, and I’m not sure how much more transformation I can take. Each and every one of these changes in my life was met with radical opposition and resistance, often from those who were closest and dearest to me. But what Orthodoxy has taught me above all else is that focusing on prayer and humility, and emphasizing the love and mercy of God – both for myself and for all others – is all that really matters.

So keep praying for me dear friends and brothers and sisters. I won’t get to heaven by being right, I’ll only get there by clinging to Our Jesus. And even if I lose my grip on Him, He'll never lose His grip on me.

Selam,
+ GEBRE MENFES KIDUS +


Thanks for posting that, Gebre! It's always fascinating to hear/read the stories of other people's spiritual journeys--and we all have them!

Your manner of expressing yours in clear, succinct steps is admirable, because, at least judging from my own convoluted journey (and I'm now almost 72 and still journeying), identifying the salient and significant and interesting parts to tell and leaving out the dross can be a huge challenge. Well done!
 
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Probably the same way we all do. God forgives their sins.
Because it's the tradition of the Church. Now I don't think I'd consider myself a universalist, though I have a hope for it, certainly the Orthodox Church has not proclaimed this idea though. However, I know many Orthodox do hold to this position based on the writings of the Church Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa in particular. I used to ask these kinds of questions: Why does the Church do this? What is the logic of it? Why does the Church do that? etc. Now I've learned that these shouldn't be that important since these are the traditions which the Church has always done, they don't always need a deep seated reason as it's not necessary for salvation, but we know we've received them from the apostles down to today, that is what matters. That kind of thinking leads to the kind of theological legalism we see in western Christianity, particularly in like Calvinism. Not saying the Church should be flexible on its teachings, don't mischaracterize what I'm saying here, rather the Church doesn't always need to present reasons for its Orthodoxy. As long as its Orthodox then I will practice it because this is my faith, my faith in the Orthodox Church.
 

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"And here I must be specific: by “Universalism” I do not here mean the hope that everyone will be saved or the view that perhaps everyone will be saved. One can hope for the eventual salvation of all and entertain this is a possibility or even a probability without being a Universalist. As I use the term, for example, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is not a Universalist, for he simply believes that we are allowed to hope for the salvation all."
 

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"For a Christian, the instruments are the Holy Scriptures, as interpreted by the Church throughout the centuries and accessed through the consensus of the Fathers. Today, possibly more than ever, we need to fly by these instruments and not trust our own subjective feelings. Our age is becoming increasingly crazy, and it is easier than ever to fly upside-down while feeling that we are flying rightside-up. I mention two examples out of many: the Church’s teaching about eternal punishment and about sexuality."
 

JTLoganville

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6. BECOMING A CHRISTIAN ANARCHIST (age 50-52): My pacifism and my Orthodox faith led me to inevitably embrace Christian anarchism. And the “Christian” qualifier is extremely important here. Far from espousing chaos and violence, Christian anarchism is resistance against all earthly political systems that perpetuate chaos and violence. As Jacques Ellul wrote: “By anarchy I mean first and foremost a rejection of violence.” And as I wrote in my second book: “Christian anarchy is the rejection of all human governments that seek to usurp the peaceable governance of Christ and His Kingdom. We honor no states, no flags, no swords. We bow to one King, One God, One Lord.”
I'm not there...perhaps I should add "yet ?"

"Trinitarian Theocrat" would be my best political self-description.

"Preserve, O God, the holy Othodox Tsar....."

And at the present moment there is no one to fill that office; although there is one who comes close.
 

Asteriktos

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Please stop.
Stinky, I can't Private Message you, but I regret posting the "please stop" thing, it was mainly from frustration, not at you but just at how I was feeling about the situation in general. Besides my having misgivings now about discussing universalism generally, I also felt like there was no way to respond to Fr. Lawrence's words without it causing more harm than good. At best I think it just would have come across as "know-it-all rando on the internet disagrees with well-respected priest." I realise now that I shouldn't have said anything at all.
 
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