Category: Articles in English

Helpful Hand

Alexandru Nagy, a Romanian Canadian born in Romania and raised in Coquitlam/Vancouver, BC, Canada, won the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival & Radcliffe Foundation Refugee Stories competition for his film “Helpful Hand. This accomplishment is absolutely remarkable  considering that Alex had a month-and-a-half to go from concept to finished product. He recalled the history of his arrival in Canada, which was not an easy and comfortable one at all.


The Postmodern Social Exorcism

“We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.” (Frank Clark)

We are extremely busy … keeping our biases alive!

The Social Exorcism is not a “Dark Middle Age” paranoid activity, but a postmodern business as well, even a more effective one, considering the powerful mass-media/propaganda tools. What we are studying now on Fascist and Communist social exorcism, others will study on our own group biases/irrational group favouritism e.g. the Brexit controversy, the 2016 US elections, the conservative-progressive cultural war, etc. (The “us” vs. “them” mentality keeps us captive to favour our own biases and stereotypes as self- fulfilling beliefs – see the minimal group paradigm by Henri Tajfel).


One of the history’s ironies is how easily change the labels of “us” vs. “them”, of “victims” and “executioners”, of those who are “revolutionaries” and “reactionaries”, keeping in place the same mechanism of group labelling and bias favouritism. Showing a “conservative fist” is a sacrilege and considered a homophobic and disgraceful act, while a “revolutionary/socialist” fist is a powerful message and Robert de Niro’s or Pope Francisc’s punch are valued as being cool, an aesthetic happening and a moral duty!  In the last few years I have studied a lot about how young Romanian Evangelicals are seduced to change the generational baggage, labels and biases they discover to their parents/church leaders, as a therapeutic exercise to claim their own identity. Unfortunately, what they blame to their parents’ generation is intrinsically inherited and put in value as a new virtue (subscribing to the new and fashionable biases). Not too much hope for the future! …

Armed neutrality makes it much easier to detect hypocrisy. (Criss Jami)

There is a better way! 

Jesus tells a story in Luke 18 about a Pharisee and a tax collector.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14, NIV)

Judgemental people take on an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. And not everytime it’s about “religious people” being “the hypocritical Pharisee” and “vicious” people being the “humble and honest tax collector”. As I said above, nowadays “the proud sinners” are those in charge with Moral Inquisition and religious (especially Christians)/Conservatives are those kept at the distance for their sins. 

Jesus Christ transcends this “us” vs. “them” mentality. He is not offering a Miss Universe type discourse of universal love that dissipate all barriers and polarisation (as many progressive sophists do), but instead He is operating with a painful and uncomfortable reality: we are all guilty, biased, violent, worthy to be blamed. Ironically, Jesus does not praise the Pride/Share love! self-deceiving  and self-justified movement at all: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:14). When someone is offering “love” without accepting the fact he is one of those who are worthy to be blamed for our world’s disorders and pain, then he is selling just another painkiller, a surrogate, but not medicine to cure.

Our sociopsychological  disease of “us” vs. “them” is a reminiscence of a violent tribalism and no matter how “evolved” and “civilised” we think we are, we have it engraved in our brain and in our social relations. To project this problem to one sort of public, a convenient one, is not a solution, but a prolonged disease. The only solution I see effective here is the way Christ showed us: to humble ourselves, to repent for our moral status, our kitch love we poison our brain and just abandon ourselves into the arms of the God who makes His sun rise on evil and good and He sends rain on righteous and unrighteous:

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

Alabaster – The Instagram Bible 

wp-1474826044120.jpgGoodness and truth are two values often used to describe the character of God. In addition, Christian theologians have long described beauty as a third inseparable reality which together with goodness andtruth, paint a full picture of who God is. The Church was once the center of beauty – cathedrals, Renaissance paintings, stained glass windows – all helped people both experience God and describe Him. 

Our modern society is looking to re-engage in these questions of beauty.

Today in our growing visual culture people are creating beautiful content through images more than ever before. Instagram allows anyone to craft and curate beautiful photography, and we share our everyday moments through platforms like Snapchat, Vine, or Tumblr.

We’ve become a culture that cares about beauty and is visually engaged. 

 When we look at bible design though, it has remained relatively the same. There have been few attempts to integrate imagery, typography, and layout design within the biblical text to engage with our rapidly growing visual culture. Similar to old master Renaissance artists, who looked at the Scriptures and created these beautiful pieces of art from them, we wanted to do the same – and asked ourselves, “What would that look like today?” 

Alabaster aims to give the reader a fresh visual experience and heightened level of contemplation while reading this ancient text, that ultimately points to the beauty of God. (Alabaster)


The hypocritical humility of the pointing finger

True humility is being able to accept criticisms as graciously as we accept compliments. (Sabrina Newby)

A lot of my fellow Romanians who are still living in Romania have an impression (caused by some cultural and theological prejudices) that almost all Christians living in North America are

(1.) pure consumerists,

(2.) with a victimization complex when they lose some political power and privileges,

(3) egocentric and

(4.) with a serious lack of compassion and charitable spirit.

The Oedip circus

I must confess that I had too these prejudices before coming to Canada – a vicious mix of Romanian subconscious Orthodox Nationalism/supremacy, filtered now as an Evangelical purism, was combined with a lot of my lectures from the French postmodern deconstructionism. The result: America is evil due to her capitalist and political interventionism and has a rotten spirit – narcissist, individualistic and a judgmental self-righteousness. Maybe the anti-West antipathy and hypocritical humility of some East Europeans can be traced in an historical nerve/fury that comes from the Communist era and ethos: the lack of  our virtues is easily compensated by the furious unveiling of others’ vices! 


The boring good news

Well, I cannot deny that many of these vices are fictional, but I really doubt that all this decadence it happens because Christians and Churches are too serious with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the contrary! Churches in the West are in danger of consumerism, some of them are in peril, some are visible hypocritical, some too political and militant (and it’s not about the Right fundamentalism only, but also leftist Mainline and Emergent Protestants, etc.). The problem consists in our unbalanced critique apparatus, our obsessive eye for evil that minimize those things are good, sees virtues as boring, commits oversimplification, generalization, lack of empathy, pointing finger attitude without seeing that many North American Christians have struggles, the humility to correct themselves, their hospitality, the joyful spirit to accept others, the celebration of diversity through the Spirit of Christ who made us one in his love. We, Romanians, are struggling to learn some of these virtues, not to mention in putting them into practice.  (sometimes “controversy is a last resort for the talentless” – Criss Jami.)

I think a period of time living regular lives (not just for a short period of time for conferences or summer camps), studying and professing a living faith here, in a hyper-liberal/post-Christian context, will offer a better chance to test their general impression:

1. Consumerism is a real plague of our times, and we must realize that a spiritual consumerism (aka idolatry) is a crude reality. My question is how many Christian Romanians acknowledge this real struggle, the avant garde spirit not of the high or mass-culture (because every avant garde  product tends to become part of an industry and is easily incorporated in the mainstream culture), but of Christians who have to teach themselves and their children that we are not flesh, bones and liquids only, but also spirit.

2. My experience as a student at two public universities here, in Canada, showed me the immense pressure a Christian must support in order to have the same amount of freedom of thinking and expression that non-Christians have. And it’s not a victimization complex, it’s about an historical revenge of the 1968 /hippie generation who are in charge now in politics, academia, media, public institutions. When you are bullied by those who “fight against bullying and let’s spread love!”, when your child is systematically bombarded with anti-Christian attitude, curriculum, peer-pressure, media content, etc., when your job is depending on hiding or even denying your personal religious and moral views, well, it’s not about “incidental” and marginal oppression, it’s about systemic refusal, isolation, mocking, discrimination, as the first stage of intended persecution. Christians should be prepared for these, but as long as they live in a society that claims to be inclusive, democratic and humanistic, they can have a voice! Of course, these things appear to be a good source of satire and artistic happening for some East-Europeans, known for their bohemian lifestyle, but sometimes reality is ahead us, no matter how far beyond we hope this reality is (the human tragedy derives from the fact that our ego’ sense of advancement cannot compensate the real distance we left between us and others/reality).

3. Despite the fact that a “fine spirit” will consider this an industry, I am thrilled and really impressed to see so many Canadian and American missionaries (and even regular students, for a short period of time) spending their money, time, energy, their own comfort (and sometimes endangering their own health and safety) in places that almost nobody will go, live and help others. And it is not about only those who go overseas, but it applies to those Christians who get involved in a dangerous neighborhood, take care of poor people, go into prisons and support those without hope, help single moms, adopt orphans, etc. And yes, even here, in North America, there are Non-Christian amazed and changed by this gentle spirit of love, service and devotion. There are people who can sense that Christians have a totally specific/different flavor in this world!

4. Speaking of general impression, despite the furious secularization and oedipian complex, the West still has some good habits inherited from the era when Christian ethics and values were public values. If we look carefully to CAF WORLD GIVING INDEX 2015, USA is ranked 2nd (CAF World Giving Index 5 year ranking). Analyzing specific charitable behavior, USA is ranked

– 3rd on Helping a stranger

– 12nd on Donating money (note : the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals at $268.28 billion, or 71% of total giving; followed by foundations ($57.19 billion/16%), bequests ($28.72 billion/9%), and corporations ($18.46 billion/5%).

– 6th on Volunteering time.

Romania is falling short, being on 93rd place on CAF world giving index:

– 56th place on Helping a stranger

– 84th place on Donating money

– 137th on Volunteering time.

Let’s not speak about how many Americans/Canadians/British/German – Western missionaries lose their lives in our world, being on the first line of persecution and helping brothers and sisters who are persecuted in countries all around the world…

The starving Ego

Having said that, while I appreciate the living spirit that has the freedom and the duty to observe and draw attention to inconsistencies, hypocrisies and not so Christ-like habits/interests of the North American Christianity, a critique worth to be consider is one that shows a way to repair damages, is able to confess its efforts to be consistent with the ideal that is offered as an alternative, has respect for those who fell under your criteria and does not consider them sub-human species, etc. Actually, this is one of the main problems of our times: the inability to find that temperance and gentle spirit of critique. Without negativity there cannot be any change/improvement and without a positive and open-minded  attitude there cannot be hope/something to wish for. From this viewpoint, Western Christianity, with all deserved criticism, still has something to show to this world!  And those who did not reach its experiential standards, can learn from it all the good things while keep away those who are not consistent with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Contradictions of Socialism in America

Oleg Atbashian is a Ukranian artist who worked as a propaganda artist for Communists in the Soviet Union. He moved in 1994 in the US, where he saw the delusional affection for Left and socialism of the most American intellectuals.  He saw the worst of both worlds and lived to tell the tale in his book Shakedown Socialism: Unions, Pitchforks, Collective Greed, The Fallacy of Economic Equality, and other Optical Illusions of “Redistributive Justice, Greenleaf Press, 2010. I’ve found very amusing some thoughts that might be helpful in understanding some socialist fallacies .

ShakedownSocialism cover web

The six dialectical contradictions of socialism in the USSR:

  • There is full employment — yet no one is working.
  • No one is working — yet the factory quotas are fulfilled.
  • The factory quotas are fulfilled — yet the stores have nothing to sell.
  • The stores have nothing to sell — yet people got all the stuff at home.
  • People got all the stuff at home — yet everyone is complaining.
  • Everyone is complaining — yet the voting is always unanimous.

American version of old Soviet “6 contradictions”:

  • America is capitalist and greedy — yet half of the population is subsidized.
  • Half of the population is subsidized — yet they think they are victims.
  • They think they are victims — yet their representatives run the government.
  • Their representatives run the government — yet the poor keep getting poorer.
  • The poor keep getting poorer — yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.
  • They have things that people in other countries only dream about — yet they want America to be more like those other countries.

Hollywood clichés:

  • Without capitalism there’d be no Hollywood — yet filmmakers hate capitalism.
  • Filmmakers hate capitalism — yet they sue for unauthorized copying of their movies.
  • They sue for unauthorized copying — yet on screen they teach us to share.
  • On screen they teach us to share — yet they keep their millions to themselves.
  • They keep their millions to themselves — yet they revel in stories of American misery and depravity.
  • They revel in stories of American misery and depravity — yet they blame the resulting anti-American sentiment on conservatism.
  • They blame the anti-American sentiment on conservatism — yet conservatism ensures the continuation of a system that makes Hollywood possible.

People’s power:

  • Liberals believe they’re advancing people’s power — yet they don’t believe people can do anything right without their guidance.
  • People can’t do anything right — yet the government bureaucracy can do everything.
  • The government bureaucracy can do everything — yet liberals don’t like it when the government takes control of their lives.
  • Liberals don’t like it when the government takes control of their lives — yet they vote for programs that increase people’s dependency on the government.
  • They vote for programs that increase people’s dependency on the government — yet they believe they’re advancing people’s power.

Bush and the media:

  • The media said Bush was dumb — yet he won over two intelligent Democrats.
  • He won over two intelligent Democrats — yet the media said his ratings were hopeless.
  • The media said his ratings were hopeless — yet the 2004 electoral map was red.
  • The 2004 electoral map was red — yet the media said his policies failed.
  • The media said his policies failed — yet the economy grew and the war was won.
  • The economy grew and the war was won — yet the media said we needed “change.”

Public education:

  • Liberals have been in charge of education for 50 years — yet education is out of control.
  • Education is out of control — yet liberal teaching methods prevail.
  • Liberal teaching methods prevail — yet public schools are failing.
  • Public schools are failing — yet their funding keeps growing.
  • Their funding keeps growing — yet public schools are always underfunded.
  • Public schools are always underfunded — yet private schools yield better results for less.
  • Private schools yield better results for less — yet public education is the only way out of the crisis. (reference: Old Soviet-era jokes have become disturbingly applicable to the U.S.)

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