Scaring Orthodox women… and other things you can do in Bucharest
If you’re ever in Bucharest and bored, something interesting you might want to try is popping into an Orthodox Church and scaring some devoted Orthodox women by telling them you’re a “pocait.” I don’t entirely recommend this specific activity, but it will give you interesting stories to tell your friends. Pocait literally means “repentant,” and while Christians in Romania use it to describe each other, because they’ve humbly acknowledged their guilt before God and repented of their sins, it’s used as something of a cuss word to mock and criticize Believers, much like how “saved” and “born-again” are used in America.
One young woman I heard from recently said that after she became a Christian, she asked her Orthodox priest for some advice on a new church she had found. He told her, “Just make sure you don’t go to one of those pocait churches. They think they’re guilty before God and have to turn from their sins. Can you believe it?”
The other day, we went out on the streets to do some evangelism, and at one point, we walked past an Orthodox church. Since Ben (and our friend Jake Martin, who was visiting us for a couple weeks), had never visited an Orthodox church before, we decided to step inside. As in most Orthodox church buildings, the artwork was beautiful, the architecture flawless, and the gold decorations abundant.
We walked around, admired the paintings, decided not to kiss the icons or light any candles for our sins, and then went back outside. The whole time we were looking around, my heart was going out to the only other person inside, an old woman intently staring at a picture of Jesus, bobbing back and forth. I assume she had some sort of caretaker role in the church, because she seemed to fit seamlessly into her surroundings and carried herself in a way that showed she probably spent a lot of time in the building.
Anyway, after leaving, we sat down on a bench outside, waiting to meet with a young man we were going to help in finding a job and a place to live. As we sat, I kept thinking about that woman inside, how she had a semblance of religion but no relationship with God, and short of someone sharing the truth with her, she would remain lost in her religious delusion.
So I convinced our friend Sorin, a Gypsy pocait who has been coming with us to do evangelism, to come inside with me and ask the woman if we could put my personal testimony tract on a table with other literature about church events and the like. My tract is the story of how God took me from addiction to pornography, anger, depression, rejection, and bitterness and forgave me, cleaned me, gave me a new heart, and called me to spread the good news to others. It’s good stuff. I am a bit biased, though. 🙂
Sorin explained that I was a friend from America, and he said that God had changed my life dramatically, so I wanted to put my story of what happened on the table of literature. He asked if it would be OK.
The woman’s face looked horrified. “He is not Orthodox. Whatever he has to say, we do not need it.”
Sorin: “God changed his life. People need to hear this story.”
Woman: “He is not Orthodox. He is American.”
I was ready to leave at this point, being the nice, PC American that I am, but Sorin was getting bolder and bolder, so he asked her: “Do you think when you die and stand before God, is He going to care whether you were Orthodox or not? Or American or Romanian? Or will He care about how you lived your life?”
The woman looked at him with her mouth agape and frantically began making the sign of the cross over and over again. I looked over my shoulder expecting there to be a vampire behind us or something.
Sorin kept telling her about Jesus dying for her sins, and she did the sign of the cross faster and faster, hoping to drive him away with her Bruce Lee meets Orthodoxy hand movements. Finally, I think once Sorin was satisfied he had terrified her enough, he thanked her, said he meant no offense but loved her and respected her devotion, and then we both turned around and left.
I think I might make a version of my tract that has a nice Orthodox church building on the front and try to hand it out in front of some Orthodox churches in town. Biblical Christianity, the faith of us pocaits, is after all more orthodox than Orthodoxy. It annoys me that this whole church stream that has very little to do with Jesus can just call itself “Right Belief” (ortho + doxy) and announce that all others are wrong.
The reality is that I’m right and everyone else is wrong. 😉 Sarcasm warning.