Something Uncomfortable Worth Reading

The Monomakhos web-log is exceedingly silly, even by Orthodox blogging standards, but a recent comment by one Ashley Nevins is worth mulling over. I have some reservations about several of Nevins’s remarks, and I am certainly no fan of his ecclesial orientation. However, Nevins’s comments on the role of shaming in contemporary American Orthodox “spiritual circles” is not entirely off the mark. To give you some background, his son, Scott Nevins, was a monk at the Ephraimite monastery, St. Anthony’s, in Arizona. He committed suicide.

16 comments

  1. Could you excerpt the relevant portions? I have nothing against reading material critical of my faith (about half my internet reading/day is composed of former Orthodox who have returned to their previous faith – many, as in your case, I have been following since before you returned to your former faiths), but when it’s a Nevins posting I just don’t have waders deep enough to find a nugget of truth in all the crazy.

    Regarding the unfortunate Scott Nevins. He was a former Orthodox monastic novice who committed suicide outside of monastery grounds more than a year after having left the monastery. In the time between his leaving the monastery and his suicide he posted a series of increasingly bizarre screeds against the monastery and seems to have returned with the intent to kill more people than just himself. The way you worded it makes it sound as if Scott Nevins committed suicide while a monk – I don’t know if this was due to a rhetorical flourish while being in possession of the relevant facts or merely due to a quick internet search getting your news from the reports of anti-Ephraim sites which would populate the first page of results (not that I doubt that some have valid concerns regarding the Ephraim monasteries, but many anti-Ephraim sites seem to have a problem with the very idea of monasticism in general).

    Also, I believe Ashley Nevins is a man.

  2. I have never experienced Orthodoxy, so I have only a vague idea what Mr. Nevins is referring to in that context. But the stuff he describes is routinely discussed at evangelical discernment sites and bogs, such as StuffFundiesLike.com, TheWartburgWatch.com, and SpiritualSoundingBoard. The folks who run these sites raie some of the same red flags that Mr. Nevins does WRT certain cult-like fundagelical groups, such as the Neo-Calvinist networks and megachurch chains, the Independent Fundamental Baptists, et al.

    Evangelicals have devoted a lot of thought and ink to spiritual abuse and cult-like behavior, and, with the help of secular psychology, they have identified some key markers and warning signs. Sometimes I think they go over the top, but in general I think their insights are valuable.

    Oh, on the Catholic side, there’s life-after-rc.com, which identifies a lot of the same cultish behaviors and red flags.

    1. Yes, I noticed. The retired bishop is notorious for this sort of thing. He has some serious issues. He needs our prayers.

      1. I know people who had dealings with him when he had power as their bishop, he is evil. One would expect his writings perhaps to reflect that reality. But he does enjoy playing Roosky fancy dress.

  3. I wish someone had edited the entry, so that it would have been easier to read. The points were good, but they were not at all specific, and apply to all instances of an entrenched self-infatuated authority that is unassailable by minimally-cultivated ethical intuitions. The predictions about the OC may end up being on-the-money, or they may end up being over-the-top. Time will tell.

    The cash value for the rant, either way, is in whether the people in or proximate to these horror situations respond to them well. It’s amazing what people can live with, on the one hand, and it’s amazing how much the institutional site a particular trauma ends up getting projected onto the canvas of whole institution, on the other. In the end, I suppose we reap what we sow, and there’s no excuse for not knowing that, and not responding sympathetically to the injured, or decisively against the wicked and invincibly stupid. Humility is necessary –I do believe that– but it doesn’t bar us from throwing wolves into court, or banishing them from the city. (Speaking of a rant…)

    1. The cash value for the rant, either way, is in whether the people in or proximate to these horror situations respond to them well.

      Indeed.

      And it would be as unfair to single out Orthodoxy in this respect as it is to single out Catholicism WRT clerical sex abuse. Spiritual abuse and cult-like authoritarianism are out there, all over the place. I’ve read horror stories from the evangelical world that would make your hair curl. And yes, I know of horror stories from within my own (Catholic) communion, too. I’ve already alluded to the Legionaries (life-after-rc.com), but I am also personally aware of some of the stuff that went on in the Catholic charismatic renewal back in the day, especially in the so-called “covenant communities.” Fortunately the local ordinaries have either reformed or shut down these erring communities, but I must say it took them long enough. (My college roommate / goddaughter was a member of one of these communities for 23 years. She has some hairy tales to tell!)

  4. BTW, off-topic, but Lutheran luminary and First Things regular Russ Saltzman has just joined the Catholic Church. Woohoo!

    Somehow he resisted the temptation to join Rod Dreher’s ROCOR, despite DreRod’s increasingly shrill anti-Catholic potshots and bogus, tendentious, invidious comparisons between Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

    But in spite of all temptations
    To do Orthodox prostrations,
    He remains a Cath-o-lic.
    He remai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ains a Cath-o-lic.

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