The Dangers of Repenting in an Orthodox World
I haven’t blogged in forever. Let me offer a lame excuse. We’ve been so busy with regular meetings, unannounced events, language learning, and simple survival as a big family in an even bigger foreign city that by the time I sit down to write a blog post, a million other things seem way more important. It happens every time.
I’ve got tons to say, as always. I just haven’t made the time to sit down and say it.
Today we visited Elim Pentecostal Church with our friend Andrei who’s known as Kaze. Before he met Jesus, everyone called him Kamikaze because he was, well, a little bit crazed. Now that he’s mellowed out, the shortened version has stuck with him. I’ll have him tell his whole story on here sometime, but as we were talking and he was sharing some of his testimony, it reminded me of the dangers of repenting in an Orthdox-dominated society.
In America, when someone becomes a Christian, we’ve got all sorts of terms we use. We say, “I was born-again,” or “I got saved,” or “I became a Christian,” or “I found Jesus,” or “I asked Jesus to come into my heart.” Or, conjuring up disturbing images of Freddy Krueger and Jason, “I’ve been washed in the Blood.” You can argue forever which one you like better, but each comes with an amount of baggage.
Here, the loaded term is “Repentant” or “Repenter.” Pocait, in the Romanian language. Christians bear the name proudly because, yes, they’ve repented of their sins and been forgiven by the blood of Jesus. Non-Christians and Orthodox churchgoers cast it around as an insult, mocking the Christians for thinking they need to repent. “We’re Orthodox,” I’ve heard so many people say, “We don’t need to repent. We were born Christians.” Trusting for their salvation in their Orthodox heritage (which is rich indeed) and in their infant baptism, they mock the very truth that could set them free.
I’m sure there are genuine Believers in the Orthodox church, but I have not yet met one, and from what I’ve witnessed, I don’t think the Orthodox church would suffer to share communion with a dreaded Pocait for very long.
I’ve heard stories that remind me of what’s coming out of the Muslim world when someone turns to Jesus. Not every story is as sinister, but I’ve heard of fathers beating their daughters for repenting of their sins, mothers driving their children out of the house, extended families holding secret meetings to pressure new converts to give up their hopes of repentance… When a friend of mine repented, he was told by his mother, “You are not my son. You are dead to me if you become a Pocait.” Another was told that he was an embarrassment to his entire family, that his dead relatives were shamed because he had abandoned their faith. Another that she was wasting her life and would amount to nothing because she had chosen superstition and rebellion over conforming to the family’s desires.
When another friend of ours was first considering going to a Christian church, she asked her Orthodox priest for advice. “Be careful,” he told her. “They’ll turn off the lights during the service and have wild orgies.”
This is one of the main rumors I’ve heard spread about Pocait Believers, and not just from a couple of people. Whether they’re talking about Baptists, Pentecostals, or some other flavor of Christian, Orthodox churchgoers seem to genuinely believe we have mass orgies at every service. Now, I can’t vouch for every church in Bucharest, but I’ve visited quite a few, and though I may have missed something, I don’t think I’ve noticed any mass orgies going on. Heck, not even small ones.
And, for the record, we do not currently have and will not in the future be having any mass orgies at any churches we’re planting. But we are Pocaits.