21 November 2006
by Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin
The jokes about different confessions:
Two autos clashed on the road, one driven by a Protestant pastor, and another with a Jesuit at wheels. The pastor feels sick, and the Jesuit is a little better. The Jesuit takes out a bottle of whiskey and offers a drop to the pastor: "Brother, I see you are unwell. Please, have some whiskey..."
Whiskey does not makes the Protestant any better, and the Jesuit offered him some more, and more, and more... So the pastor almost finished the bottle. He felt much better and said:
- What about you, Father? Have a drink, get warm!
- Why? I'm waiting for the police...
An Anglican bishop, a righteous man, dies. St. Peter greets him in Paradise and shows him around the Hell.
- Here we have murderers, blasphemers, here are robbers. Here are those who sinned against their confession. Here are Orthodox who did not observe their fasts, here are Catholics who criticized the Pope, here are Baptists who did not read the Bible.
- Do you have any Anglicans?
- Yes, we have one...
- What did he do? (Anglicans are known for their liberal treatment of dogmas and church practice.)
- He did not know how to hold a knife and a fork in the right way.
Archeologists come to see a well known liberal Lutheran theologian.
- Professor, we have found a grave of Jesus Christ!
- Oh, really? Is the burial type the same?
- Absolutely the same as in Palestine in the first century!
- Did you make a radiocarbon analysis?
- Sure. The results confirm our guesses.
- And what about face features?
- Exactly as on the shroud of Turin.
- How awful! You have ruined my creed, my world! Did He really exist?!
A Baptist is digging a deep hole in his yard. Bypassers ask him what he is doing.
- Brothers, we all need to live exactly by the Scripture. It says: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!"
Writer Dina Rubina tells the following story. A feminist asks a question to her guide in Jerusalem: "We've been around sightseeing for the whole day, and Mother Mary is everywhere shown with a boy in her lap. Where are the girls?"
May be soon we will hear the questions why the Holy Family politically incorrectly includes a man, a woman and a child...
A joke about different confessions: In a several-day dispute between Dominicans and Jesuits, neither party could win. Dominicans asked a final question: "What were the first words of Jesus after His birth?"
Jesuits thought for the whole week, and gave up. Triumphant Dominicans provided the "correct answer": "Jesus was born in the crib. He was surrounded by cows, goats and sheep. He looked around and said: "Is this the famous Society of Jesus?"
We've come not to notice stylistic mistakes... Lots of websites cited a phrase from necrology for a respected Protestant: "It was an early Sunday morning when on the 81st year after a heart attack transmitted 1,5 years ago the Lord called away his devote and inflexible servant..."
I hope this story is not true. A priest during a requiem service has omitted the Gospels. A choir master says:
- Father, and what about the Gospels?
He looks at the deceased, at the relatives, and then looks at the conductor again:
- He doesn't listen, they don't get and you chuck it!
I hope this anecdote isn’t realistic either. A priest conducts a marriage and asks the bride:
- Do you of a good, free and uncoerced will and with good intention take to yourself as husband this man, Jonh, whom you see here before you?
Both the bride and the priest are agitated, the latter drops the book down, opens it on the order of proclamation and asks again:
- Do you reject Satan?
The Biblical commandments are interpreted rather interesting at times... Once I read at an allegedly pious and enlightened web-site: "you shall not covet your neighbor's lady."
They say a new computer Inquisitor virus will soon appear. It will scan web-pages for theological impeccability and give a signal: "Alert! Heresy found! Leave the site, restart and rebless the computer."
In compliance with the Catholic confession tradition a priest usually offers a repentant to read certain prayers several times as a penance. An Orthodox American priest told me a story. He drives a car and somewhat exceeds the speed limit. He is stopped by a policeman, Irish by appearance, for certain a good Catholic. He looks at a "reverend" shirt with a white square on the collar.
-Are you a priest?
- I am.
- I won't fine you. But you should read ten "Ave Marias", five "Our Fathers" and promise to be a careful driver.
A bishop preached to students of a seminary and girls from a diocesan college. The key theme was an exposure of worldly vices.
- What kind of society surrounds us? - the bishop holds up his hands to heaven. - On the right are prostitutes! (His right hand points to the right, where the college girls are). On the left are the drug addicts. (A gesture towards the seminarians). Directly in front are racketeers, mafia. (His both hands reach forth to the clergy who stand before the pulpit and listen attentively to the archpastoral word).
Bishop Hilarion (of Vienna and Austria - IF) told me that once in the Soviet times when he was an hieromonk he came to the Kremlin's Assumption Cathedral in a cassock and asked:
- May I go to the altar?
- No, you may not.
What was it that scared self-opinioned exhibitors of the atheistic epoch?
A brass proposes a toast with a present to a hierarch in his hands:
- Your Eminence, the Lord said: God loves trinity. Here, the three of us, with my deputies have brought you a bottle. For your personal communion!
Metropolitan Kirill and me once were visiting the Presidential Administration. We disputed over teaching religion in school. Several officials started persuading us that it was absolutely premature, because 'people were not ready and would not understand it'. As usual the disputes were continued in the hall. Two men of a military poise were passing by. They listened out to our talk. Suddenly one of them said:
- I am sorry, may be it's none of our business... But all our officers think the law of the Lord should be taught, and that is all! What are we discussing all these years?
Fr. Georgy Mitrofanov was interviewed on the miracles presented to the Synodal Commission on Canonization. Among them was the following: after the prayer to an elder, the person's 'spiritual state improved and he even started experience a wish to work'. So it happens! However, seldom...
The aphorism generated in debates on Orthodox intellectuals: 'It is time to gather the stones... And put them in one's bosom'.
A priest preaches on the evil of tokens and superstitions. After another exposure he suddenly sneezes and says immediately:
- Brothers and sisters, don't you see? I am telling the truth!
Journalists sometimes write about the Gospel’s stories in the same language they used to describe yesterday’s soccer match. This is how the NewsInfor agency tells the story of the Holy Transfiguration, building on a report of another agency: ‘The voice of God the Father resounded from a bright cloud, testifying: this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye him. The apostles who heard it were scared and prostrated themselves, the RIA Novosti news agency has reported’.
Once a bearded old man in a shabby suit with a Father Frost-like stick came to me and introduced himself:
‘I am the Lord creator of the universe. I have created the world with these very hands. Now I have to save it. I will build a space center in Jerusalem for flying saucers. Nobody else can do it, only me as omnipotent, omnipresent and eternal creator’.
‘And how we of all people can help you?’
‘By money. For an air-ticket to Jerusalem for a start’.
Religiously minded people pester the life out of state institutions as well. A staff member of the Ministry of Justice told me about a person who demanded that a ‘new religious movement’ be registered with this legal address: Alpha Centaurus. The matter was settled according to the law.
‘And this star is outside the planet Earth, isn’t it?’ the official asked ‘the alien’.
‘Certainly, it is outside. Didn’t you study astronomy in school?’
‘Well, I just wanted to clarify. In general, is it outside the Russian Federation?’
‘Do you take me for an idiot?’
‘No, just a little formal discrepancy has to be removed. If your religious center is based outside Russia, please bring me a little minor reference from its place of residence. It should indicate that your center is a legal identity functioning in accordance with the local legislation.
The ‘alien’ stopped coming.
A Russian can just come to church at two in the morning and begin praying with his tongue faltering and sometimes even demanding something. One reverend father told me about some bumpkins coming to this village church by nights, sore in mind and heart.
‘Father, is there any God in there to pray to? You see, my wife is a pig. I have to do something… Now how can you, a parson, ‘sleep’?
Still it is a church they come to, not to ‘a nerves doctor’, not to their district police officer.
During a liturgy a deacon is terrified to see the communion spoon moving towards the cup and cleaving to it. Is it a delusion? No, just ordinary laws of physics. The cup simply had been used for a service in an airliner and a powerful magnet was set in its base.
German Lutherans, tied of having to do with Russian ‘church diplomats’ they always believed to be a mossy crowd, decided to invite a real ‘representative of the people’ as one who would certainly understand everything and would not pull the wool over their eyes about theological differences… So they invited a well-known archimandrite with some students from a provincial seminary. They spent much time visiting Lutheran communities together, drinking beer and commending each other: more things unite than separate us and the walls dividing us do not reach the heaven for sure… On the last day they visited with the local bishop. All-round fraternization. The archimandrite, deeply moved, suddenly says to the host:
‘You are a nice person, just wonderful! Only you live with your wife unwed. You had better be baptized…’
The Germans no longer invited him. They are looking for new ‘liberals from among the people’.
A couple of years ago I met a middle-aged petty lady literarily blazing with fury. Though I was an outsider there, she literarily jumped on me with complaints against her rector.
‘Our parish is in a revolutionary situation. The leaders have rotten through, the masses will soon take up axes. We will come to as high as the Patriarch!’
‘And how will you do the revolution’, I try to turn it into a joke, ‘Like they did in 1917?’
‘But Lenin is no match for us! We will show them enough not to ask for more!’
‘But whatever your rector has done?’
‘He is aggressive and not humble enough’.
Once I celebrated together with a recently ordained deacon. He was very clumsy. He would take up the censer as if it were ‘a bomb or a hedgehog’ and look at it with astonishment. It was really funny when he started to close the holy gates. He put out his head and caught his neck in its leaves. It is forbidden to open them back. Until I managed to extract him and put him in his place, the people in the church watched for a whole minute a terror-stricken head jutting out of the almost closed gates.
Once I celebrated Easter at an oil base in Vietnam. There were mostly Russians there but they were people strange to the Church. The liturgy was celebrated at a community center, a building surrounded by shops and summer cafes. We are marching in a procession with the cross. Men, tearing themselves from their beers, look at us as if we were en elephant walking by or a humanoid source flying by. One says to another:
‘Holy mackerel! What is it? Is it for real?’
‘I can’t figure it out at all. I wonder!’
During the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1998 in Harare I had to make a critical comment on the subject of radical feminism. I spoke about Orthodoxy’s disapproval of female priesthood and dwelt on the use of ‘inclusive language’ in reference to God when they dare call Him sometimes ‘She’, sometimes ‘It’ but never ‘He’, since liberal Protestants believe it to be a manifestation of ‘male chauvinism’. I described this practice as sacrilege as any normal Orthodox Christian would. When I uttered this word, all the two and a half thousand participants simultaneously gasped. Later one of the woman delegates said in an interview that she had never heard such an ‘anti-ecumenical’ speech. Thank God, she heard it, even if exasperated. May be she will recalled it some time or will come to think over the fact that for somebody in this world the faith is something more than pleasant emotions or abstract humanity.
A World Conference on Mission and Evangelism was held in Salvador, Brazil. As the curtain fell, one of the groups suddenly inserted these words in its document to be adopted by a plenary session: ‘God has created people different – black and white, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual. All this is richness of God’s image in the human being’. Only representatives of our Church protested. I was astonished most of all at the silence of Greek bishops…
One of our young woman delegates spoke and no reaction followed. Archbishop John of Belgorod joined her with the same result. Then I took a clean sheet of paper, wrote a few words of protest on it, rose up and said, ‘I appeal to those who don’t agree with this wording. Let us sign it and leave this conference’. Now the officers began to stir. They quickly gathered a conciliatory group with me as a member. Finally the monstrous phrase was deleted.
It didn’t end at that though. When I was coming out of the hall I saw several lesbian activists gathered outside. They came up to me and stated with tears in their eyes that those like me crucified Christ and burnt Jews in gas chambers. I tried to tell them something about Holy Scriptures and its moral truths, while they cited at me the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They were ‘Christian workers’ though. But do they really need the Bible? For them the basic criterion of faith is public opinion, sealed in law at best. In a word, the truth is what we like. And if it is accepted by society, you dare not let out a peep in protest. They wouldn’t crucify Christ. They would simply put him in prison for ‘extremism’ and forbid the Jews to wear plaits so that they may not propagate masculinity and religious fanaticism.
In the early 90s one of the Japanese sects declared another date of the end of the world. Posters indicating the day and even the hour were pasted all over Moscow. Sectarians assembled at the declared time at the Palace of the Youth ‘to rise to the heaven’. About four hundred people came. On that day we celebrated one of my friend’s defense of a thesis at a place nearby. After a series of glasses raised for the newly-fledged Candidate of Sciences, one of my fellow-priests suggested that we ‘go and look at them’. We did as we said. The first person we saw in the lobby was Father Andrey Kurayev, who preached at the hall persuading people not to join the sectarian gathering. We greeted the father deacon, but ignoring his exhortation, went in the assembly hall.
The atmosphere there was terrifying. The leaders of the assembly shouted from the stage, jumped up, fell, rolled on the floor. The audience cried and screamed. Soon the hour of ‘the end of the world’ struck though. Without the least embarrassment the chief sectarian took the microphone and declared, ‘The end of the world has come, even if not all of us have noticed it. Let us continue praying!’ My fellow-priest, who began dozing off, raised his head and grumbled in basso, ‘They have cheated again!’ The people poured out of the hall, flowing around surprised Father Andrey.
During one talk-show I was to debate with Academician Vitaly Ginzburg, a well-known and committed atheist. It was a Good Friday. After the service I asked my fellow-priests at the parish house, ‘What can I tell him that would be special?’ The answer of one of the fathers was unexpected and simple, ‘You can give him an Easter egg’. A porcelain Ester egg with a picture of a church on it was found there and then. I gave it to the academician in live broadcast after a hot and not always polite discussion. Coming out of the studio, the academician, one hand on a walking stick, carried carefully and somewhat loftily in another a symbol of religion alien to him… Admittedly, he had it broken into pieces in his pocket later when putting on his mackintosh.