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The Lord of Spirits podcast jumps the shark

I suppose it was inevitable.  Even the most engaging concepts eventually run out of steam.  Some last longer than others, of course, but that depends upon the subject matter and the genre.

It also depends upon fidelity to the subject matter.  For example, Magnum p.i. had four solid seasons before it started to flag.

Miami Vice got into season three before it was mostly played out, and I'm sure the fathers on the Lord of Spirits podcast will appreciate the symmetry of their show topping out after about the same amount of time.

As with both of the detective shows, the initial concept of the Lord of Spirits was interesting and provided excellent opportunities to engage and entertain.  The first year or so of episodes really did blow my mind.

However, one can only go over the core concepts of the spirit world for so long.  Once angels, demons, giants, vampires, etc. had been explained, the show had to ranger father and farther afield. and in the process, the focus of the show changed, just as it did with Miami Vice.

Whereas Miami Vice went from a slick, cool blend of music, actions and aesthetics to a gritty cop drama, Lord of Spirits went from an offbeat but informative discussion of the spirit realm to a blatant recruiting pitch for the Eastern Orthodox Church with strong anti-Catholic overtones.

That's just not as interesting.  It's one thing to sit through nearly three hours of explaining Giants, Behemoth and Leviathan and quite another to get a long lecture on why Catholics Do All The Sacraments Wrong.

Throughout the show there has been an anti-Catholic bias, particularly on the part of Father Stephen.  Both he and Father Andrew are former Protestants who converted to the Orthodox faith.  For a certain type of Protestant, the Orthodox Church has a lot going for it: you get the apostolic succession, the writings of the Church Fathers, the sacraments yet you don't have to give up hating on Catholics.  That's particularly important to Father Stephen, who never passes up an opportunity to take a cheap shot - even if he's wrong.

During the first few years, this was not that important because the Catholic and Orthodox views on the spirit world are functionally identical.  One can tease out some cultural differences in terms of vampires and werewolves, but both follow the same system of looking at angels, demons and read the Bible in the same way.  Every now and again Father Stephen would say something snotty, and it was sad because it was often out of place and a little embarrassing that he had this compulsive hatred of people who don't hate him back (the Catholic Church considers all Orthodox clergy to be part of the apostolic succession and all of their sacraments are valid).

However, the farther one gets from spirits, the more room there is to cast those different historic and cultural practices in a negative light. And that more that happened, the more strident and petty these attacks became.

For the last six months the shows had been getting tedious, and  the last episode I listened to was the May 11 live Q&A.  This was really dull because most of the questioners were known to the hosts, either repeat callers or their friends and family. 

Near the end an authentic caller brought up the seeming abundance of Eucharistic miracles in the Catholic Church and the response - which I could not believe I was hearing - was that miracles really don't mean all that much, certainly shouldn't be cited to show God's favor or that one is becoming holy.  I guess the Orthodox Church will be shutting down Mount Athos and destroying its relics, then.

Father Stephen went farther and suggested that because so many Eucharistic miracles were reported during the tumult of the Reformation, that suggested that they were inauthentic because it was a bit too convenient.  Maybe they came from demons.

I'm used to hot takes, but that one's a real scorcher.  I'm still not sure what he was driving at.  If the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ, one might well expect miracles demonstrating that and calling people to repent and return to the true faith.  Was he implying that the miracles were sent by the devil to keep people away from the true faith of Calvinism, or was he going full Mormon and insisting the Catholic Church was built by the devil to keep people from God?

Now I'm sure there are people into hating on Catholicism, I'm just not one of them, and I can't continue to recommend a show that I no longer enjoy.

It's sad, because I really enjoyed the it and I would still recommend the first two years of podcasts to people who want to learn more about the spirit world.

Ironically, on June 7, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church issued their first statement in seven years.

If the work of the commission bears fruit, I can't help but wonder if it will lead to a crisis of faith for the more extreme Orthodox clergy.

At any rate, I remain grateful for those first two years and how they opened my mind to the spirit world.  That is why I'm walking away, because I sense that if I stick around or try to engage the hosts, the whole experience could be tainted.  Instead, I will simply take the good things with me.





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Delbert Clement

I think the purpose Fr. Stephen was trying to highlight in bringing up the Reformation miracles is that miracles do not serve as “proof” that God is on anyone’s side. Miracles happen everywhere no matter what beliefs we have about the world. No single world religion has a monopoly on miracles.

It may have been cheap to attribute the miracles in the Catholic Church to demons - I’ll grant that. But honestly, I’m sure there are demonic miracles that take place in everybody’s religious community to include the Orthodox community. Just read the Synaxarion from time to time: you’re going to stumble across Orthodox monks tricked by demons to do miracles for ulterior purposes. I wouldn’t take it that personally. And they certainly don’t target Catholics as much as they do Calvinists.

A.H. Lloyd

The problem with your argument is that earlier in the same episode they talked about how drawing closer to God meant that all of creation aligned with you, and gave examples of various saints who could command and understand animals, which did not fear them because they were so close to God. Up to that point in the podcast, miracles showed divine favor.

They also talked about how miracles are there to call people back to God, and specifically talked about a Eucharistic miracle in Communist Romania that was almost identical to Reformation-era Catholic miracles.

To put it another way: how can a miracle affirming the holiness of the Eucharist possibly serve the devil? Why was it so hard for Father Stephen to accept this? In a podcast about the spirit realm, why are they suddenly so skeptical of the extraordinary?

That is when I reached the point of no return. I could tolerate shade being thrown on Catholics, but the intellectual dishonesty completely turned me off. They were completely inconsistent, and it was all because "Catholics bad," not any cohesive theological argument.

This is because there is no substantive theological Orthodox argument against the Catholic Church. Both East and West were united until a series of cultural and political clashes a thousand years ago, and politics and culture remain the only obstacles to returning to full communion (well, until the recent silliness by the Pope...).

And it should be pointed out that Father Andrew has often cut off Father Stephen in mid-rant by noting that 1.5 percent of Catholics are Eastern Rite, using the exact same liturgy that they do. It's not an Orthodox thing, it's a Father Stephen thing.

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