One of the first – if not the first – steps that we should take in building an Orthodox culture in any country, is the implementation and growth of Orthodox education. If we lose this battle, we lose the future stability of our parishes. The universities in America (and in many other western nations) are geared against us and have many sophisticated arguments against the Christian worldview.
To create Orthodox schools is not only for our children to carry on and battle the world, but for the nation’s Orthodox ethos in general. Orthodox education produces both culture and community! Secular education does the same, and so it is crucial for us to enter this battle with vigilance.
The Fathers of the Church teach us that falling away from God is as simple as forgetting God. When we are no longer able to carry the momentum of God’s energy and take every thought captive to Christ, we drift. How much drifting does it take to end up in a place that is inescapable? Is it possible that we might one day wake up realizing that we are completely surrounded by a hostile environment that demands either complete submission or withdrawal? Perhaps this has already begun to happen and we Christians are in a state of contemplation, wondering and debating on how to get out of the current social conundrum.
It’s not completely clear how this all began happening — how we lost traditional community and culture within America. There are theories of how it has all culminated, everything from serious error in our historical founding to the uncontrollable flux of immigration. But within the many theories is one underlying element of how humanity has always operated as a community, which many of us will agree that we need to correct: Education
We live in the most convoluted culture of all history, with radical amounts of information being pitched to us on a daily basis. When we turn on the TV we are being educated. When we read our Facebook feed we are being educated. When we get trained by our company we are being educated. Even when we listen to the radio or Pandora, we are being educated.
It is key for an Orthodox Christian in a secular society to shape our lives so as to hear more Orthodox perspectives, and fewer secular/agnostic perspectives. This requires a disciplined and perhaps ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ way of life. We will look at this in the later part of this article.
Russia’s Educational Holocaust in the 19th Century
America, from the beginning, established her education through her Church. But as secular influences grew, schools were given up to secular organizations. When Christian education began to disappear from America, no second revolution needed to happen, simply because Revolutionary America never intended to maintain a Christian culture. Russia, on the other hand, is a different story.
During the times of the catacombs in Holy Russia, the Soviets would often pick Christians out of various families and groups to send them off to the gulags or simply execute them as an alternative. These Orthodox Christians had to make daily choices as to what they would be bold about and what they would keep quiet about. Hardship and death were at stake every day for these people.
In America today, as in 20th century Russia, we are surrounded by people who hate our Faith. We, like the Russians, are often very careful of what we say. But so far, a lot less is usually at stake. For the most part, we are not yet being imprisoned for defending the Truth, and we are not yet being executed in the streets.
But the Russian Orthodox people did not just wake up one day to an Atheist takeover. What was gradually happening back in the 19th century, was a steady infiltration in schools by secular intellectuals from the West. Many atheistic and cultic philosophies were being taught by professors in the universities, and many of the priests were beginning to buckle to these teachings. The universities, rather than the Church, became the centers for worldview and community.
Education had previously been an extension of the Church, but this was an early step towards the secular modernization of Russia. Other political and industrial factors preceded. But when the universities changed, so did the minds and hearts of the people.
Had the Church been able to retain the ministry of education, perhaps there would have been a different outcome of Russia entering WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution. How can we learn from this?
Heaven and Earth
A hallmark of the Orthodox faith is that it is holistic. Our faith, unlike any other spin-off group of the Church, embraces every aspect of life. Nature is not our enemy. In Western Christianity, nature is suspect. The material world is considered “fallen” and unredeemable in many aspects. This is why Gnosticism thrives in those groups. Orthodoxy is much different, because we understand the Incarnation of Christ to be a supernatural agent within the material world.
Because this world is so mystical, because we are surrounded by so many spiritual and physical variables within life, the Orthodox Church has created distinctions, but not so many distinctions so as to confuse ourselves. One historically important distinction is that of symphonia. This is such an important aspect of our Faith. Symphonia (symphony, in English) occurs when secular powers and ecclesiastical powers cooperate. Symphonia is the Church and the State working together. This is what the double-headed eagle represents: one eagle for the secular power and the other for the ecclesial power.
The secular power of society is not evil in and of itself. But it does gravitate toward evil (unlike the baptized soul, which gravitates toward heaven). Secularism, however, is evil.Secularism has to do with limiting or barring the Church’s influence, creating an existential environment that has historically led to disastrous societies.
When the secular society gives birth to an idea, it must be compatible with the symphonia of our Christian community. If it is not compatible, then it must simply be rejected! Thankfully, as we will see below, many secular subjects are within the bounds of the Church’s symphonia.
Orthodox Symphonia Requires Cooperation
Orthodox education, unlike secular education, revolves around a particular view of mankind: How we are created and what our purpose is in life. Without an Orthodox Christian view of mankind, intellectual subjects become stripped of their true purpose and meaning, training our minds to think in secular rather than spiritual terms. To think in secular terms is to adopt the historical and medieval philosophy of Scholasticism, which lends to a worldview of hardened logic and moral construct.
Orthodox Christians are called to think in mystical terms, because we live in a mystical world. Formulating life — to the extent of systematizing everything we do — goes completely against the energies of God. Nature is relatively unpredictable, and like the Psalmist says, God’s energy and Spirit moves like the wind. St. Paul says that God “works all things together” for the benefit of God’s people. This is a cornerstone for Orthodox theology and worldview, allowing us to explore this world without the fear, legalism, and overly complex systems that the Old Covenant people of God had to wrestle with for so many generations, eventually opposing Christianity (the Truth) when it was presented by Christ.
If we take out the mystical value of education, we will cease to think in mystical terms. Even Hollywood understand this. There are a number of problematic science fiction movies now, demonstrating how we submit ourselves to overly systematic environments where no true love and joy can exist. A prime example might be the movie The Giver, with Jeff Bridges.
St. Theophan the Recluse
Secular Paths Lead to a Final Secular Community
Every single subject in life needs to be embraced through the Orthodox Christian Faith. If it is not, each unattended subject will give birth to a new hybrid of thought, a new secular path to travel away from the faith and into what St. John the Apostle calls “the mark of the beast,” where no man can even “buy or sell” without it. The secular paths all lead to this “replacement community” — this final entrapment of the Church — where all people trapped within will have sealed their eternal destiny, estranged from God’s gift of eternal life. As a well-known Orthodox Saint has pointed out:
“It should be placed as an unfailing law that every kind of learning which is taught to a Christian should be penetrated with Christian principles and, more precisely, Orthodox ones.”
– St. Theophan the Recluse
Orthodox Symphonia with Contemporary Subjects
Math – This is an absolute necessity, even if there are some people who don’t happen to like it much. Is there such thing as secular math? Indeed there is! A secularized subject is stripped of its application, so as to become an intellectual pursuit of its own (raw data with no application), or else it is used as a catalyst for non-Orthodox worldviews. Intellectualizing any subject is a pursuit of pride and often a complete mental burnout for many people. Math can be, at a very high level, a strict intellectual pursuit for those who want to be mathematicians. But for most of us, math is an applied subject that is a tool for greater things in life. Let us build great hospitals, schools, rehab centers, and temples — with the help of mathematics — but let us not put math in a cage and send our young people in to this cage for burnout, nor cultivate within them a mind that operates merely scientifically rather than spiritually.
Technology – Technological advancements that protect nature, including mankind itself, can be encouraged. Perhaps we can steer away from the pursuit of artificial intelligence. This just an example, and there is room for debate. But that is what makes Christian education so exciting! There are discussions that needs to take place . . . often.
Engineering – Building structures that give glory to God was a common practice in both Eastern and Western Europe. Domes, arches, and iconography have influenced the world throughout the ages. There are even sectors within America that have been positively influenced.
History – How could history be properly taught aside from a Christian worldview? The first civilized society was the Orthodox (Byzantine) Empire. St. Justinian the Emperorimplemented law based on the Christian faith, and all civilized societies in the modern era owe much to this great work. For centuries, nations were led by the Church, or by an offshoot of the Church. To secularize history is downright dishonest, and is a complete misrepresentation of historical truth.
Philosophy – For instance, St. John Chrysostom was a great Christian philosopher. Chrysostom, in Greek, means “golden mouth.” Many of the Church Fathers and ascetics are greater sources of wisdom than any pagan philosopher could ever be. Many of the Fathers, including St. Paul the Apostle, challenged Pagan philosophers and converted them over to Christian philosophy. When we study ancient philosophy, whether it happens to be Christian or not, it should be studied in light of its spiritual context — how it was being influenced by the Church and how it was challenging the Church.
Medicine – St. Luke, one of our Holy Apostles, was a doctor. There were a number of doctors throughout the Byzantine Empire, and in fact, the Orthodox Church invented the hospital itself. Proper and ethical medical care within the environment of priests and deacons is absolutely necessary for an Orthodox worldview. We do not have the holy mystery of healing just so we can have an extra prayer service. We have it to actually heal people. The hospital is ours, and we should begin taking them back and building more of our own. Abortions, transgender surgeries, pharmaceutical and insurance companies dictating procedures . . . all of this must be eradicated!
Criminal Justice & Law – This is an easy one! There is no law without spiritual input. The question is: Which spiritual source shall we choose? Certainly, we can choose secular spiritualism, which amounts to radical ecumenism and moral relativism. Where is the order or peace in that? To say that all religions can mesh and cohabit peacefully is a most ignorant thing to say. They can cooperate with each other, but only if they each have the freedom to build their own communities to cooperate within.
Art – Take a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, or to Greece, and you will see the Christian meaning of art. It’s everywhere. As the Russian Orthodox author Fyodor Dostoyevskysaid, “beauty will save the world.” Iconography (Orthodox Christian art) is a sacred art which gives a proper foundation for all art. Not everything must be painted as an icon, though. In fact, it must not be! Iconography is sacred and set aside for the communication of the Gospel. But all other art should glean from it and become its own form of Christian beauty. This can extend to anything from home décor to entertainment. Also, Christian art is modest! Pornography and other forms of crudeness are simply not Christian.
Food – The Orthodox calendar includes many fasting guidelines on certain days of the year. Orthodox countries have thousands of recipes that presuppose the fasts.
Theology – Most importantly, the study of God and his people must be embraced via the Orthodox Christian Faith. Without proper theology we can know very little about how man and community, in general, operates effectively. Our theology helps us strive between creation and eternity, and understand how the two operate and create harmony with each other.
A community that treats Christ as one of many gods, is a community that is destined to fail. We have seen this throughout all history. Pluralism is a recipe for cultural collapse.
If American leadership does not want a community that recognizes Christ alone as the cornerstone, then let us build sub-communities that will. Let us abandon the false ecumenism of the secular state, so as to overcome the enemy and uphold the true Faith!
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Sex education: The creator of CLIMAX: ‘Good sex is like cooking, but there aren’t recipes for female pleasure on the internet’ | Society
Our ways of watching television have changed. No longer do we sit down to see what’s on TV, instead subscribing to platforms where we can watch our favorite content. But can that formula translate to content beside series, documentaries and movies? Can it be used to change the way we experience sex education? CLIMAX, a platform of sex education videos, is trying it out.
The platform started as an explicit educational series dedicated to female pleasure. Far from pornography, it was particularly directed towards women and sought to give advice and ideas for greater self-knowledge and sexual enjoyment. But that was just the beginning. As Camille Mariau, CLIMAX’s director of projects, explains, they are currently working on “a monthly membership platform dedicated to sexual wellbeing. The users will ahve access to periodic new content, ordered by topic (pleasrue for people with vulvas, for those with penises, tantric sex, oral sex, post-partum sex, etc.). We really want to create the perfect guide to help our users deconstruct their ideas about sexuality.” Currently, the platform has partnerships with educational and healthcare institutions, in order to bring education about female sexuality to all parts of society.
Laurène Dorléac is an expert in the technology market and co-creator of CLIMAX. “Not only is female pleasure little understood, but I also realized that taboos around the subject are still very present.” That’s why, despite her lack of experience in the area, she decided to venture into the topic. “Good sex is like cooking: it’s a creative process that requires practice, experimentation and care to have a good flavor. There are plenty of recipes and cooking classes, but we can’t find anything satisfactory about female pleasure on the Internet! That’s what led me to create the platform, so that we can all have access to better sexual education.”
The project brought together international studies, advice from psychologists and sexologists and over 100,000 testimonies. “Pleasure is a very serious thing, and it deserves a very rigorous approach,” she says.
CLIMAX comes to Spain
While the project was founded in France, currently, 40 percent of its subscribers are outside of the country, largely in the United States and United Kingdom. The team is optimistic about the Spanish market. “The market seems to be ready for a project like this. More than talking about pleasure, we really want people to have easy access to safe information about sexual education,” says Camille Mariau. Since the project launched in Spain just a few months ago, most of its users are between 28 and 45 years old, and, surprisingly, they are divided 50/50 between men and women.
To spread the news about the project, they have the help of Teresa Riott, known for her role as Nerea in the Netflix series Valeria, who narrates the videos. “It seems to me like a new idea in education, and it’s very necessary in order to better understand all the possibilities of our pleasure. CLIMAX has also had success in other countries. I’ve learned a lot about female sexuality in the process,” the actress explains.
She emphasizes that “they are videos that you can watch alone, in private, and you can experiment,” which “gives people confidence to explore their bodies without concerns.”
The platform’s content is explicit, but tasteful; obvious, but well-presented. It repeats explanations we have read in plenty of books, but which acquire a new dimension when we can see them on a screen: without drawings, diagrams or taboos, simply showing how to stimulate a vulva. The videos are meant to educate, not to excite, and they have no resemblance to porn. The images are accompanied by Riott’s voice, which explains each step in a clear and simple way, adding touches of scientific information. It explains not only how to stimulate the vulva, but also how and why the stimulation works.
We’ve learned that it’s much easier to exercise at home, or even to do home improvement projects, with the help of a Youtube tutorial video that shows us each step. So it makes all the sense in the world that we can use tutorials to learn how to excite our bodies, moving step-by-step over each part of our anatomy.
The platform is also notable for its diversity, not only in the appearances of the vulvas on screen, but also in the techniques proposed. It includes videos of 19 different masturbation techniques. In Spain, female masturbation has experienced a revolution in recent years. The brand Lelo, specialized in clitoral suction toys, increased its sales by 440% in 2019. The Satisfyer toy was even more popular: it registered an increase in sales of 1,300% in 2020, to the point that it had to resort to European countries to restock the toys during one of the busiest months of the year. Those toys finally normalized female masturbation. Vibrators themselves have also experienced their own revolution. Their technology and shapes have become more sophisticated, and they have become more effective and discreet. And Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop now features Viva la Vulva, an “extra-silent” vibrator model that can be used at any time without making any noise. Such devices are proof that manufacturers have taken pains to innovate their products for female pleasure, until recently a forgotten sector. Gone are the old dildos and penis replicas.
Beyond masturbation, with or without the help of toys, the content of CLIMAX “is like an encyclopedia of ideas that you can choose and use to enrich your sexual life. It can help you be more creative, learn moves that women with vulvas might like, etc. It can also be used as a basis to start a conversation with your partner about what you like, what you want to try or not. We want to give people the opportunity to get to know their own body or the body of their partner better,” explains Mariau.
To that end, the first two seasons are entirely scientifically based. To develop the content, 74 international scientific studies, widely referenced and accepted by the scientific community, were consulted. “There is one study that I find special: Shere Hite’s ‘The New Hite Report,’ a bestseller that has sold tens of millions of copies, which describes how women feel during different sexual activities and when they orgasm with greater frequency,” Mariau says.
In addition to a surge in vibrator sales, women have been consuming more porn than ever in recent years. According to a study by Pornhub on porn consumption in the pandemic, women increased the amount of porn they consumed by 17.5%. Audio porn, one of the latest developments in the industry, is particularly popular among women. And websites for pornographic content aimed at women, taking into account the tastes and aesthetics that female arousal requires, have proliferated in recent years.
Mission: equality in pleasure
The work of Shere Hite is one of the great sources of inspiration for CLIMAX. The late writer and sexologist was especially interested in the female orgasm. She interviewed some 3,500 American women, from prostitutes to former nuns, to create ‘The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality’ in 1976. Among her conclusions stood out two ideas: first, that few women reached orgasm through intercourse (only 30%), although they did through masturbation. Secondly, the clitoris was the key to climax.
CLIMAX is organized into several themes, which are available in different subscription packs: external pleasure (10 episodes), internal pleasure (11 episodes) and tantra exercises (7 episodes).
“Our mission is to equalize pleasure in a world where women report being less satisfied than men in their sexual activities, feeling less pleasure and having fewer orgasms. Education will make it possible,” the expert concludes.
Sonny Barger, founder of Hells Angels, dies at 83 | USA
Sonny Barger, the founding member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, died on Thursday in California at the age of 83. Barger was the face of the biker gang that became one of the main counterculture movements in the United States in the 1960s. Barger’s family confirmed his death in a message on Facebook. “Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer,” the message stated.
Sonny Barger – whose real name was Ralph Hubert Barger – was born in northern California, and taught himself to ride a motorcycle when he was 11 years old. It was an American-made Cushman scooter. From that moment on, he tried to only assemble motorbikes with parts made in the US, a task that became increasingly difficult as the world became more open to international trade.
In 1957, he founded the Hells Angels chapter in Oakland, California. This chapter was founded nine years after the first one opened in Fontana, in the same state. Barger was the national president of the Hells Angels, a group that became notorious for its links to violent and organized crime. Barger was arrested more than 20 times and spent 13 years of his life in prison for different crimes. In November 1992, for example, he was released from federal prison after spending four years behind bars for organizing to kill members of the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club. When his parole came to an end in 1994, 700 bikers came out to celebrate the news.
But the darkest chapter of the Hells Angels took place on December 6, 1969. That night, the biker members were hired as security guards at the Altamont Free Concert in California, where the Rolling Stones performed. Representatives of the band reportedly offered the Hells Angels $500 worth of beer in exchange for providing security. Members of the biker gang had worked without incident as security at concerts for bands such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But at the Altamont Free Concert, which brought together 300,000 people, the situation became violent. During the Rolling Stones’ performance, fights broke out in the audience. Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old concertgoer, was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels after approaching the stage. The incident was caught on camera and became a central scene in the Maysles Brothers documentary Gimme Shelter, in which Barger admitted the bikers did not have the training to do security work. A few days after the concert, in a call to a local radio station, he said: “I ain’t no cop. I ain’t never gonna police nothin.’”
The incident stained the image of the Hells Angels and Barger – who had the name Hell’s Angels Oakland tattooed on his right shoulder – struggled for several years to change the gang’s violent reputation. “Catholics probably commit more crimes than we ever thought of,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994 after being released from prison on parole. “Probably politicians commit more crimes.”
Writer Hunter S. Thompson compared the biker gang to the student protesters of the 1960s, who paved the way for civil rights in America. “The difference between the student radicals and the Hells Angels is that the students are rebelling against the past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo,” he wrote in his book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.
The Hells Angels were one of America’s most striking subcultures, and their influence can be seen in many areas of society. In one of his books, Barger claims that Harley-Davidson – the motorcycle brand favored by the group – adopted the gang’s ideas into its models. Barger played himself in the 1967 film Hells Angels on Wheels, where he appeared alongside Jack Nicholson. He also had a small role in the TV show Sons of Anarchy.
Barger was a difficult character to define. He got up at 4.30am to feed his dogs and horses, then worked out for three hours, doing weights and going jogging. By 8am, he was on his motorcycle and driving down an off-beaten track. Unlike the stereotypical biker, he wore a helmet that covered his entire face. This was due to the fact that he had his vocal cords removed in 1982 after suffering from throat cancer.
Art fakes: Disputed ‘Basquiats’ seized by FBI shake the US art world | Culture
While New York surrenders once again to the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat with an exhibition of unpublished work curated by his family, in Orlando (Florida), there is considerably more controversy over the work of the artist who died at the age of 27. An exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art dedicated to the former close friend of Andy Warhol, entitled Heroes & Monsters, has cost the head of that gallery his job, while the FBI investigates the authenticity of 25 of the works, not to mention the threats made by the director against an expert who had been commissioned to evaluate the authorship.
Although the scandal began to take shape in February, when the exhibition opened, the FBI raid took place last Friday with the seizure of the paintings with a contested attribution to Basquiat. Aaron De Groft, director and chief executive of the museum, has relentlessly defended that these are genuine works, while emphasizing that it is not a museum’s role to certify the authenticity of the works it exhibits. “[The paintings] came to us authenticated by the best Basquiat specialists,” he told the local NBC television station in February.
De Groft had for months championed the importance of the paintings, asserting that they are worth millions of dollars, until an expert showed up who’d been hired by the owners of the paintings and she began to question his version of events. The director was fired on Tuesday, just two business days after agents seized the 25 suspicious works. The museum’s board of trustees met for hours that day, but not before warning employees that anyone who dared to discuss the matter with journalists would suffer the same fate as De Groft. Hence, it is impossible to know the version not only of the former director, but of any worker at the center. Nor can any information be gleaned at the New York exhibition, a mixture of unpublished work and memorabilia, where organizers are fearful of the devaluation caused by the Orlando scandal.
“It is important to note that there is still nothing that makes us think that the museum has been or is the subject of an investigation,” Emilia Bourmas-Free told the local chain on behalf of the art gallery. Cynthia Brumback, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, expressed itself in similar terms in a statement, saying that the board of trustees is “extremely concerned about several issues related to the exhibition Heroes & Monsters,” including “the recent revelation of an inappropriate e-mail correspondence sent to academia concerning the authentication of some of the artwork in the exhibition,” as reported by The New York Times.
The statement refers to a disparaging message sent by De Groft to the specialist hired for the expert opinion, cited in the FBI investigation as “Expert 2″ but who the New York Times has confirmed is Jordana Moore Saggese, an associate professor of art at the University of Maryland. This expert, who received $60,000 for a written report, asked the museum not to have her name associated with the exhibition, according to the FBI affidavit. Angry, De Groft threatened to reveal the amount of the payment and share the details with her employer, the university.
“You want us to put out there you got $60,000 to write this?” wrote De Groft, according to the affidavit. “Ok then. Shut up. You took the money. Stop being holier than thou. Do your academic thing and stay in your limited lane.” The board said it has launched an official process to address the matter. The scandal was precipitated a few hours after the closing of the exhibition, which had originally been meant to travel to Italy.
The mystery of the cardboard box
But how did the paintings get to the Orlando Museum? The museum and its owners maintain that the paintings were found in a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The New York Times reported that questions arose over one of the paintings, made on the back of a cardboard shipping box with FedEx lettering in a typeface that was not used until 1994, six years after Basquiat’s death, according to a designer who worked for the company.
Both De Groft and the owners of the paintings maintain that they were made in 1982 and that Basquiat sold them for $5,000 to a famous television screenwriter, now deceased, who deposited them in a storage unit and forgot about them.
Sex education: The creator of CLIMAX: ‘Good sex is like cooking, but there aren’t recipes for female pleasure on the internet’ | Society
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