So What’s Wrong with Us?


I’m sitting in the Jacksonville airport with a couple of hours of free-time, and a kind airport that actually has free wi-fi. Some airports, such as Detroit (as I learned last week) charge you to use wi-fi. Ouch!

I’ve been thinking some as drove around northern Florida today (definitely not Detroit or Tennessee) on the general topic of “what is wrong with us?” I was using as my starting point the death and resurrection of Christ. For it is Christ who is the answer and thus also Christ who reveals to us the nature of the problem. Whatever is wrong with us, Christ is what it looks like to be right.

I have written on the loneliness of modern man, and think of that as one of the modern manifestations of our disease. We can always think of the universal themes of corruption and death.

But today I was thinking more about modern man. Even though we are fallen and do not get things right, our instincts are still rooted in the logos of our nature. Even our wrong choices often reflect right choices if only we knew. I suspect that as globalization continues (this is a real hot topic in Europe, btw) we will react by becoming more tribal and nationalistic. People are not created to belong to everything and nothing, but to Someone in a very specific way.

Thus young people, in the little global communities of our high schools (they are really fascinating places to visit) strive mightily to create a place to belong. Sometimes they literally have to nail themselves to an identity, driving spikes through their bodies to create an identity.

Last year I was invited to speak in my youngest daughters’ Civics class. They were having “mock court” and the subject was separation of church and state. I argued in favor of a free for all. Let everyone speak, including the pagans and satanists. I do not fear the comparison of Christianity to anything. So the debate went on.

After class (I was wearing my cassock as usual) a ninth grade girl shyly approached me and said, “I think you’re cool.” That’s just about the highest compliment I’ve had in the last few years. But the hunger is so deep among our nation’s young.

But what is wrong with us? The same thing that has always been wrong with us. We have separated ourselves from the only source of life – and particularly life in its fullness. All we see today are modern manifestations (and post modern manifestations) of the one human illness.

What we must do above all, is not condemn the world – Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world – but we must be sure to be light to the world. I know, and must know in my heart, that everyone I meet is hungry for what Christ has done. They may not know it yet. They may yet be preferring the darkness to the Light. But the universe (as created through Christ) is on my side.

The enemy may do all he can to confuse and confound, but I stand on the side of victory in Christ. We should have this assurance in ourselves – not as a sense of superiority – but in a sense of service. I am a servant of everyone I meet, and I have what it is he truly needs.

It is our daily journey to enter more fully into the truth that is given to us in Christ that we may more truly be servants of the answer that the world hungers for.

Airports are interesting places. They are the crossroads of the world.

Last summer, waiting in Gatway airport in London, I was wearing my cassock (again as usual) when a woman approached me at our gate. “Father Stephen!” she greeted me and asked my blessing. Turns out she was a Bulgarian parishioner of the Church where my parents attended in South Carolina. She recognized me.

But my son, James, was overwhelmed. “Everybody knows you! We’re not even in America!” The truth was much smaller than he thought, the odds much closer that I should meet someone at the gate for a plane bound to Atlanta. But the impression remained. The world is hungry for this truth. May God give us grace to state and preach this truth in terms that the world can hear. May they all be drawn to the union of His cross.

Glory to God for all things!

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





3 responses to “So What’s Wrong with Us?”

  1. Tia Avatar

    Oh, I’m just a wee bit homesick to hear the names of the streets you were on and what you saw. As you walk through the cooridors of the airport, there are lighted panels on the walls with wood frames; my dad built those frames a few years ago when they redid the airport. I’m feelin’ a bit like walking around down there myself.

    Ah. Back to the regularly scheduled programing and the point you were making ;-).

  2. Kyra Avatar

    I will never forget my first trip down here after I became Othodox. I figured I might be able to find a parish…maybe if I got lucky. Low and behold, I found St. George’s. I was thrilled but I got there extra early to make sure I was able to tell the priest who my bishop was so that we could arrange to take communion. Don had told me that I would need to let them know.
    Upon my arrival I was greeted by a very sweet man who asked me if this was my first time, I stated that I attened a church in Pittsburgh.
    “Pittsburgh!” he said, “Oh my which one?” I thought it was quite odd that he should ask about a particular church..the bishop..yes…but the church?
    “Why, Holy Cross?” The man’s face lit up.
    “Oh you must tell Father John and Father Michael I said hello.” I almost fell over at this point…what were the chances?

    Two months later when Don flew to California for the Christmation of our Godson it was almost the exact same set up…as soon as our church was mention, the priest expressed his joy and asked about Father John and Father Michale…and did we know Father Tolumous? Well, yes…we did. Just so happen, his wife’s cousin was the priest in that church.

    We began to get this eerie inner-breeding feeling like we had just stepped into the Ozarks and could hear banjo music playing in our minds.

    But no…it is Orthodoxy…a thread that combines us all. Now I am no longer surprised by people and our connections within the Orthodox faith.

    What the cradle Orthodox do not understand is how protestants do not have each church is inclusive and an entitity unto itself.

    We have only just begun to wrap our minds around the six degrees of seperation that exist within Orthodoxy. If you do not know a person…I promise you I can connect you within 6 hops. 😉

  3. Janine Avatar

    Just discovered this article. I am thinking about family burdens and survival. I have inherited from both my family and my in-laws, a long, long history of the will to survive which meant to cling to our faith in the face of murderous opposition. Sometimes you have to do that alone – even in the family at times. But in our faith, we are never alone.

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  1. Greetings, Father Stephen, Thank you so much for this reflection and all of the tremendous amount of work you have…

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