When I was an undergraduate, and wrestling with whether or not I believed in Christianity, and had Chartres, The Seven Storey Mountain, and Kierkegaard on my mind, it occurred to me one day — I remember exactly where I was when the thought struck me, standing in front of the LSU Student Union, under a crepe myrtle tree, on a warm day — that all the artists, writers, and philosophers I was coming to admire and to think had something important to say about life and how to live it were Christians. Isn’t that interesting? I thought. Till that point, I thought Christianity was simply the dull middle class at prayer, or something militantly anti-intellectual, like the Swaggartarian Bible-thumpers who preached in front of the Student Union. But no, it’s not like that at all, I realized.
That these great men and women believed in Christianity did not make it true, but I had to confront my own prejudice here. If Christianity was nothing more than something needy people used to shield themselves from the truth, then how is it that people like Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Solzhenitsyn, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Merton, and others, were cowards and fools? I didn’t think they were fools. I thought they were on to something. Maybe, I thought, I am the coward and the fool for not joining them in the search. That was not a thought I tendered, but I couldn’t banish it, either. I knew, deep down, that I hesitated not because I doubted in good faith, but because if Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, et al. were correct, then it was going to cost me more than I was willing to pay to follow their path. The truth was, I was using my skepticism to hide from the possibility that these men and women might have been right about Jesus, because if they were, then I would have to change my life.
I couldn’t hide from that forever, and in time, I joined them. The point is, it wasn’t arguments that ultimately made a Christian of me. It was witness — the witness of those Christians of different ages and traditions, who seemed credible to me. Again, to use the Percian line, they were on to something.
I wish Robert Inchausti’s book Subversive Orthodoxy had been around back then. I stumbled onto something that Inchausti identifies and explores in the book: that faithful Christians — Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant — have been among the wisest and most radical critics of modernity. You wouldn’t see this from looking at many churches today, or popular Christianity. But it’s there. It really is.FT - Putin and the monk
Father Tikhon Shevkunov looks a little too polished to fit the image of the Orthodox Christian monk branded into the western imagination by Dostoevsky. The beard is just unkempt enough, but his chin is a bit too sculpted, his mane of shoulder-length hair too full and flowing, and his TV delivery too flawless to belong to any crazed, self-flagellating anchorite from The Brothers Karamazov. Father Tikhon is a picture of movie-star self-assurance – with a passing resemblance to Russell Crowe.
While Dostoevsky’s monks stuck to their unheated monastic cells, Tikhon is no recluse...