About Me

About Me

My name is Commini, and I am an Orthodox Christian serving in the National Guard. I enlisted over 12 years ago and I had planned to stay in until I retired or they kicked me out; it seems they have chosen the latter option and I am now waiting on my appeals for medical benefits to be approved. I have been Orthodox for just over six years. What follows is some of my story.

I was born into a very conservative Southern Baptist family; both of my grandfathers were preachers as was my father. I was taught the Bible was the only source of doctrine that any true Christian needed – though one could not have enough concordances or commentaries. I was taught that Roman Catholicism was akin to the whore of Babylon and was vile and corrupt; stay away from the Catholics! They didn't even worship the same God we did, but some made up “wafer god”!

I was happy living in my ignorance, being baptized when I was 5 and calling myself a Christian with out really knowing what that term even meant. One thing I did know and that was because I said a little prayer and was dunked under water I was going to Heaven. The only problem was that the older I became the more I started to question this way of thinking. I had been taught that before one could accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior that they had to reach the Age of Accountability (or the age when they realized the difference between right and wrong)... Was I old enough at 5 to know the difference between right and wrong? Was I old enough at 8? I ended up saying that little prayer (also known as the Sinner's Prayer) a lot because of all my doubt. I never told my parents of my doubts because I thought I would be punished.

I ended up learning about my faith, but not as much as I wanted. When I expressed an interest no body ever took me seriously. Those who did take me seriously didn't for long after my extensive questions. I would ask questions like “Why do we need to pray to God if He already knows what we are going to say?” “Does predestination exist in the most basic form since God already knows who is and is not going to become saved?” “Can I ever lose my salvation, especially for really bad or repeated sins?” I usually got laughed at and told “Because the Bible says so.” I usually replied with “But x denomination says the Bible says this about x topic.” I was told they were wrong, when asked how we knew I was given the answer “Because the Bible says so.” Apparently the Bible said a lot off stuff, but not any of the important stuff I wanted to know, like which denomination was the true one?

I was repeatedly told, as I grew older, that the true denomination was the one that most closely followed the Bible. Oh? Great! Only problem was that every denomination claimed to be that one that followed the Bible most closely, and some even said the other denominations were going to Hell because they believed differently. When I would try to figure out which one followed the Bible I found so many verses “backing” that particular denomination that I was convinced that all denominations must have enough truth to them that all believers therein were going to heaven. After all, they had said the Sinner's Prayer so they had to be good to go, right? Well, everybody but those evil Catholics – they never said the oh so important prayer, nor did they worship the same God as we did.

When my parents divorced I had even more questions. Top on my list was how could such a self proclaimed godly woman and her self proclaimed godly family endorse such a situation? They had been the ones who had taught me that divorce was never an option, excepting the case of adultery. How could they keep on acting like they were such great people whilst going against what they taught me? They tried to explain to me that my parents had been divorced in God's eyes well before my parents actually split. When my mother remarried I asked how she was not committing adultery as according to the Bible, again with how my parents were divorced in God's eyes. What Bible were they reading (KJV apparently, but that has nothing to do with this paragraph)?

To say that I was confused would have been an understatement! All of this was happening at a very pivotal time in my life... Puberty. Great! I didn't really believe in God much any more during the ages of about 9 to 14. I would play the game, go to church every Sunday and go to youth meetings, but to say that I actually believed in God would be going too far. He had failed me. My family was so faithful to Him and He failed us by letting my parents divorce. How could I believe that God was all powerful if He could not even answer the prayers of a little boy? I spent the next couple of years bouncing back and forth between my parents, I really had no stability and it was really my fault as I got tired of one parent and went to live with the other one. However, the whole time neither one (to my knowledge) knew of any of my spiritual turmoil. Sure there were plenty of times that I lashed out and my mother took me by the arm and forced me to stay in the room with her while she prayed for the demons to come out of me, but I don't think that either parent fully understood where I was spiritually. They thought dead, I thought confused.

Eventually I just learned to live with my questions; they would be answered on God's time, not mine and there was no point in forcing the matter (so I had been told). For a while I was content in just chilling with my friends and going to different Christian church camps. I was having fun! I left my questions behind me, after all, I was saved so who really cared about the rest of the stuff? We would find out when we got to Heaven! One thing that nagged at me though was of all the people I heard about that were backsliding. I was told that they were not real Christians or they never would have backslid. When I asked how we were to know they were not Christians because they confessed that Jesus was their Lord and Savior, they said the Sinner's Prayer, how could we rightly know that they are not “real” Christians. Answers varied from “Not all who cry Lord, Lord shall be saved,” to “They were not really sincere when they prayed,” and even some “Because “real” Christians do not sin like that after they are really saved...” Now I had this fear that I might not have been sincere enough in my prayer. I can not count how many times I rededicated my life to Christ for fear of not being a real Christian due to my sin.

When I went to Basic Training I was determined to lead others to Christ. It did not matter to me that I didn't have all the answers, I could at least lead some one to Christ, right? All I did was make an ass of myself! People thought from the get go that I was one of those holier-than-thou types, and to be honest I really came off as one. I tried evangelizing to my battle buddy who was a Roman Catholic Buddhist. I tried evangelizing to the atheist who slept across the bay from me. I tried evangelizing to the Mormon after making fun of him for wearing “holy underwear.” None of my efforts worked. In fact every time I did something “unChristian” some body would say, “Commini, aren't you supposed to be a Christian?” I left Basic Training very humble, but due to my training I was ready to take my spirituality to a whole knew level.

I was no longer a follower of men, but I was a leader! I was going to lead myself to the answers to all of my questions, and damn anybody who stood in my way! Just because you were a deacon, music minister, youth minister or pastor in the church did not mean that you were right. So you went to school for training, good for you, then tell me why out of  40,000+ Protestant denominations none of them agree 100% with the others? How am I to believe that your translation of the Bible is the correct one when there are so many different manuscripts to translate from? I was actually going old school with my Bible; I was going to learn Latin so I could read the Latin Vulgate (I never actually learned enough Latin for that...). Sure, they had answers, but none of their answers actually held any weight. Too many believed that either Jesus actually spoke King James English and thus the Bible was translated word for word or that the KJV descended from Heaven and was given to man in that form. I found myself fitting in with the non-denominational crowd, it looked to me like they were fighting against the standard (which in my eyes was a good thing at the time). But I still did not get my answers...

After graduating from high school I started dating this really beautiful girl. We fit great together, we had been friends for a few years and we both kind of had the same idea about mainstream churches. We were in love and thought we knew everything and that the mainstream churches were leading too many people astray because the pastors were not actually preaching the Gospel. Too many times I had heard an altar call pleading with people to come know Jesus after a sermon on marriage where coming to know Jesus was never mentioned. I often heard prosperity sermons, you know the type, “Jesus doesn't want you to be poor, He wants you to be able to take care of yourself and your family. If your are not pulling in enough money to take care of your family and your church then you are not really a Christian as Jesus would never let this happen to you. Send me $100 and I'll pray for you and you will be financially secure. Just pray and Jesus will take care of all your monetary needs, but be sure to send me money too!” We were both sick of the church and held to the idea that all that was necessary was to have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We were tired of the fakeness that is still oft times found in your big mainstream churches.

I spent that summer taking care of my girlfriend as she got into a terrible car accident shortly after her summer had started. I was really the only person who could take care of her as she lived with her grandparents who were too old to take care of her. We really did fall head over heals in love with each other. All too soon I had to go away for the rest of my training. Eleven weeks of Advanced Individual Training (AIT). While at AIT I went to an actual Protestant church service twice, and the second time I got up and left in the middle. I usually went to my Jewish friend's Friday night services and actually got more out of that than I ever had in any Protestant church. I was thinking of becoming a Messianic Jew because I was convinced that the Jews still had something right with all of the old traditions and the way they worshiped but I was not going to fully give up on Jesus – as far as I was concerned Jesus was still the Son of God and still God. At the end of AIT my girlfriend came up for my graduation and afterwards I proposed to her... She said yes, I was 18 and she was 16; we were going to wait for her to turn 18 before we got married...

When I returned home it seemed that the people at my church really had nothing to say to me. It was like they knew I no longer thought that their church (which very often got mistaken for a clubhouse for the golf course directly behind it) was all that great. They were right. I was starting to see through the nice facade everybody was putting on. I wore t-shirts and jeans to church every time I went and my Sunday School teacher always fit in a lecture about how it was appropriate to wear your best clothes to church whilst staring at me for emphasis. I got the message; the rest of the week go about your business, what ever it may be, act however you normally act, but on Sunday you had better dress up and play nice and give the appearance of a good Christian. Not me, I was the same in church as I was out of church. Every time he would say something about dressing up I would do what I could to dress down. Eventually I starting wearing a kilt to church, yes a kilt. All things Celtic interest me and wearing a kilt was a way for me to get in touch with my Scottish roots.

What had happened at AIT is that I got a deeper respect for tradition. The Army was full of heritage and tradition, and so was I. I joined my unit's Military Funeral Honors team after AIT, it was, and still is, a good program to be in. I got to be traditional while honoring those who had served before me. I was very honored to be serving my country and fellow soldiers in this capacity. This program, plus what I had been ingrained with at AIT started off my tradition kick. I wore a kilt because my forefathers from Scotland wore kilts, it was tradition. I wanted tradition in everything, including my religion; and I could not find tradition in the Protestant churches. Suddenly the Roman Catholics were not so bad after all, they had a form of tradition, but still many things I did not (and do not) agree with.

The summer after AIT my fiancée and I got married (she was 17 and I was 19, we got married early because her grandparents wanted her to get married right out of high school). It was and still is great. One of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. Then after a great summer together we both started college at Lipscomb. There I met an elderly gentleman who was trying to start a Celtic club. I signed up on the spot. Later that fall I became an ordained Independent Christian minister. I did this because I had been to a few funerals where the veterans had no family and no body to say any last words for them; instead it was just my team and I doing their final honors. I did a few funerals during my tenure as a minister (and one wedding!) and one of my buddies from the Celtic club got ordained as well. We started talking of making an Celtic church. I used Google for a lot of my research on what a Celtic church would entail.

One day while I was Googling I came across the Celtic Orthodox Christian Church and I was blown away by how traditional it was! They used the Lorrha-Stowe missal for their services which included prayers to the saints and even Mary. At this point I did not mind that it looked and felt a little Catholic; I felt like they might not have been that wrong in so many things (I even had gotten some free rosaries and prayed the rosary from time to time). I told my buddy about what I had found and he was game. We threw the idea around a little bit, but we never actually got around to starting a church. One thing led to another and I had to drop out of school, but it was during this time that my eyes were opened to some possible answers that I was looking for. While researching the Celtic Orthodox Church I found that they used the Septuagint (LXX) version of the Old Testament, so I went searching for an online copy that I could get (for free of course, I was newly married, working part time with the National Guard and in college, I had no money). I found one at ecmarsh.com and it was there that I started to see what could potentially be the answers to some of my questions; I saw a program that was free to download that had a collection of writings from the Early Church Fathers (pre and post-Nicene). I downloaded the program (as well as the free LXX program they offered) and started reading. Soon I realized that much of what I thought about Christianity was wrong, especially the translation of the Bible that was used.

But this joyful research was cut short as my wife enlisted in the Navy and shipped off to Boot Camp. I was a nervous wreck because I hardly ever got to hear from her. I was worried about her and I was sick a lot. I went to Chicago for her Boot Camp graduation and we decided there that when she went to Pensacola for the remaining six months of her training (A-School) that I would be going with her. Next thing I know I'm moving to Pcola... Things only went down hill from there. I hardly ever saw my wife, and when I did see her we argued. My interest in the Church wained for the time being as I concentrated on keeping my marriage together. I failed. Near the end of my wife's A-School we had a very big argument which resulted in me moving back to Nashville where I crashed with an Army buddy of mine. My wife moved out to California after her training in Pensacola for more training. I found out that she was pregnant just before she moved out to San Diego. I was absolutely heart broken; I cried and prayed, followed by more tears. But I did not stop with Christianity.

I decided to start my own web site that did weekly devotionals and was also a Christian chivalric order. It was called Knights of the Living Flame. It stayed up for a while and I updated it a lot, but I never got very many people to follow it, much to my dismay. But then my unit started to get ready for deployment. There went updating my site. I was also considering becoming a Benedictine monk at a place in Ireland (the only time I every really considered going Roman Catholic), because some of the friends who got me through the time my wife and I split were Catholics and they put me in touch with one of the guys out in Ireland (I can not remember if it was the Abbot or not). I was thinking about going out there after my deployment was up because my enlistment also would have been up.

The closer I got to deploying, the closer my wife and I became (again). I even went to go visit her for the 4th of July out in San Diego. Things were much better after that trip . My wife ended up getting out of the Navy just before I deployed due to her being pregnant and not being able to be on a ship once her training was done. I was sorry that she had to give up her dream. And my wanting to go to Ireland to be a monk went out the window.

My daughter was born about a month after my unit got to Iraq. Due to how soon this had happened I was unable to even start the paper work for paternal leave. Many babies were born while we were over there, and unfortunately many marriages also destroyed. One of my buddies was one such of the later case. His wife left him and he did a complete 180. I knew he was looking for some kind of religion as we had that discussion many times before. I tried to lure him over to Christianity, not forcing my beliefs on him, but in an actual debate format. The one question that always got me was how can good people go to Hell and really bad people go to Heaven? I always told him because of the magical little prayer, but he never believed me. Bad people had to go to Hell, it was just fair. How could a God that was supposed to be good let even murderers go to Heaven.

Well I understood to a point the saving grace of God. I have always believed that if you truly repent for a sin then it will be washed away like it never happened. But what about those sins that you kept committing? Were you not supposed to be a new creature when you became saved? One thing I was sure of now: it was possible to lose your salvation if you kept living like the chief of sinners and not really being that repentant. I started searching for more answers.

When I went home on leave I attended a church that my wife had found. It was a non-denominational church that was very laid back in style (everybody wore t-shirts, jeans and Chuck Taylors). They did not use a hymnal, rather the songs that their Christian rock group made (or secular songs that had to be stretched to have any spiritual meaning). All in all I thought it was a very good church, they had a great community out reach ministry as well as a homeless ministry and a few other things. They were really on fire for Jesus, and really laid back which was something that I had been looking for in a church – something that wasn't mainstream. But something was bugging me, I was getting the impression that while these people may have been on fire for the Lord that their faith was not that mature. Maybe it was how they used Linkin Park and Foo Fighters songs during worship, or maybe it was how they didn't seem to have many questions about their faith and just trusted the guy behind the pulpit for everything he said. Now, I am not in any way knocking this church; they were doing a great thing in their community and in the lives of the members, but for some reason it seemed off to me, like I needed to put that behind me and be a real Christian, a mature Christian.

When I returned to Iraq I did some serious studying. I was looking for a church, but not any church, the true Church. Enter the Eastern Orthodox Christian Catholic Church. I had heard about the Orthodox Church when I lived in Chicago, but thought that they were just another form of Roman Catholicism. My dad had wanted to attend a few times, but every time he mentioned it my sister would talk him out of it saying that he would be putting his soul in danger of going to Hell if he went to that papist church. My sister did not approve? I had to be on the right track (long story there)! The first thing that I learned about Orthodoxy is that it is not Roman Catholicism! There is no Pope like there is in the Catholic Church; there is no one man who leads the Church, but all of the bishops come together to decide on any Church issues, just like it was done with the Apostles and like it was done with the Ecumenical Councils. So I repeat: The Eastern Orthodox Church is not Roman Catholic! At this point I know that this whole post probably seems very anti-Catholic – it's not, for the most part I have been expressing views that I grew up believing and this last bit about clarifying some things.

I learned many other things about the Orthodox Church, such as prayer to the saints (to include veneration as well), and salvation is not by faith alone (James 2:14-26) were biblical. I also learned that the liturgy was taken from what was used by the Jews in the day of Christ with things added to pertain to the now fulfilled religion of Judaism (i.e. Christianity) and actually contains more scripture and references to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit more than any Protestant service. The Tradition used by the Orthodox Church can be seen by the earliest of Church Fathers (such as Irenaeus, Ignatius, Clement and Polycarp) and the use of Tradition is backed by Scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:15) those people who were the disciples of the very Apostles themselves. Paul even tells us to use the Tradition given to us in verbal and written format. This means that the Bible is not the only source for doctrine, but that Tradition plays an important role – before there was an accepted cannon for Scripture there was Tradition. A cannon for the Old and New Testaments did not come around until a couple of hundred years after Christ! Included in the Old Testament is what is commonly known today as the Apocryphal. Many Protestants today try to say that the Roman Catholic Church added the Apocryphal at the Council of Trent in the 1530's when they were really reconfirming their place in the cannon that was being attacked by the Protestants. Even the Church Fathers quote from these Apocryphal books!

The Protestants claim that the Jewish cannon does not contain these books and therefore have no place in the Bible, but they base their cannon off of the Masoretic Text which came into being almost 1,000 years after the Septuagint (and about 700 years after Christ)! This text has been shown to have alterations, even the rabbis of the time admit to making alterations to this text! Protestants believe that the very people who denied Christ, and then tried to change the Old Testament are correct in their cannon; this could be due to the fact that Martin Luther thought the Hebrew Text was the more ancient and therefore more correct, but even the Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the Septuagint more than they do the Masoretic. When Jesus and the Apostles quoted Scripture 2/3 of what is quoted is from the Septuagint. So here was my first problem; the Protestants were using the wrong Bible.

My second problem was that the Protestants completely threw out the first couple of hundred years of Christian history. I have heard some say that the Church fell into error soon after the last Apostle died and it took the Protestant Reformation to get it back on track. I have even heard that after the Edict of Milan “true” Christians saw the big scam being put on and went into hiding until it was safe for them to come out during the Protestant Reformation. But there it was staring me in the face, the disciples of the very Apostles themselves writing in agreement of what is taught today by the Orthodox Church. And the only break off groups mentioned through out history and the Church Fathers were the heretical groups such as the Arians, Nestorians, and Gnostics. It seemed to me that the Protestants were making many revisions so their versions of Christianity could stand a chance.

My third problem was the doctrine of the rapture. No where in the Bible or the Church Fathers does it even suggest any thing such as the rapture where all of God's children will be swept away before a Great Tribulation (or even during for that matter). The doctrine of rapture did not come about until the mid 1800's when it was suggested by a Scottish girl and her pastor (Darby) took it from there, now you have so many different denominations believing this later revelation added to Christian doctrine when so many Protestant groups (especially those that cling to the rapture) claim that no more revelations could be made after a certain date (usually after the last Apostle died). Amazing how they can break their own rules.

My fourth problem was with the Roman Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, papal supremacy, and the Immaculate Conception (to name a few). None of the Church Fathers ever seem to claim that the Bishop of Rome held supremacy over the other Bishops. He was given the honorable title of “First among equals” but he was equal with the other bishops. Think like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, all Knights, including the King were equals. No where do the Church Fathers suggest that the Pope is infallible, a doctrine which does not show up until much later in Roman Catholic history; and it wont because none of the Scriptures or Church Fathers thought that the Bishop of Rome was the head of the Church. And the Scriptures and Church Fathers never mention the Immaculate Conception in regards to Mary, ever; again a much later added doctrine and one the early Church did not hold to.

My fifth problem was communion. The Protestants (with the exception of a few) view communion as merely symbolic. But Christ never said, “This symbolizes my body,” or “This symbolizes my blood,” NO! He said “This IS my body,” and “This IS my blood,” The Bible even says that who ever does not eat of His body nor drink of His blood will not be saved (John 6:53), the Scriptures are not talking about symbols here! None of the Early Church Fathers believed that Jesus was speaking symbolically here, nor did any Christian until the Protestant Reformation!

My sixth problem was denominations. So many! So many claiming to be the correct one. Who was to be believed? All of them? None of them? What about Orthodoxy? They have different denominations don't they? What is with the Greek, Antiochian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and Alexandrian Orthodox, are those all separate denominations? The Orthodox Church dos not have denominations, but jurisdictions. All of the jurisdictions (such as Greek, Antiochian, Russian etc) believe the same thing, they only difference is the language they worship in and who their head Bishop is. The jurisdictions in the United States come from the different self governing churches that make up the One, Holy, Catholic and Orthodox Church (catholic there is used to mean universal, not submitting to Rome). But what about the Coptic and Oriental Orthodox, or even the Celtic Orthodox mentioned above? They do not fall into the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Coptic and Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox broke away after the 3rd Ecumenical Council (and those schisms are on the mend as both churches have realized that they were speaking past each other). The Celtic Orthodox Church mentioned above, I believe broke away from the Antiochian Orthodox Church here in the US (or at least the Bishop did). So, no denominations believing different things in the Orthodox Church, but jurisdictions that speak different languages but worship the same (you can go from one church to the other and know exactly what to expect).

My seventh problem was scholasticism. The Western Church seemed to have a need to explain away every thing that was not understood in the Church. The bread and wine at communion became the real body and blood of Jesus through a process known as Transubstantiation. But the Orthodox were content to explain what it could and leave alone what it could not. Remember, we can never fully understand God and His ways (Isaiah 55:8). The Orthodox might not be able to explain something, it is ok, humans can not fully understand the Divine, and we never will be until we are with Jesus.

The last problem that I am going to write about is sin. I was taught that sin is such a despicable thing. If you sin you had better repent because all sorts of bad juju will happen if you don't! HOW DARE YOU AS A CHILD OF GOD SIN?!?! If you sin and it is seen people will never stop talking about how sinful you are... Whereas in the Orthodox Church sin is seen more as missing the mark. It is not ok to sin, but its going to be ok if you do sin. You are only human, and humans are prone to err. It's fine, just go repent and do better to live your life as a Christian. We don't condone sinning, but we understand that it happens, especially to humans.

I would like to point out here that I am not anti-protestant. They are very well meaning while not so very well informed.

I had so many questions that were being answered by the Orthodox Church. I found that all of my questions had already been answered hundreds of years ago by the Church Fathers. I also saw that the problems in the Protestant and Roman Churches had also been answered by the Church Fathers. Every problem and question I had, had already been answered. I had finally found the Church I had spent most of my life searching for! But when I told my wife she was not so thrilled, she was actually quite upset that the church she had found me was not good enough... I tried to explain to her the best I could, but it took a while.

When I came home I told the rest of my family about my desire to become Orthodox and it was then that my mother informed me that my oldest brother was also inquiring into Orthodoxy. I was blown away! I had not talked to my brother in years and I come to find out that we are both on the same spiritual journey! Simply amazing! We even ended up going to our first Orthodox services within 24 hours of each other with no prior planning. Coincidence? I think not. I emailed the priest at the closest parish and told him of my interest in the Orthodox Church. He welcomed me, but cautioned me as it was a Greek Church and some of the service would be in Greek since a majority of the congregation spoke Greek. It was not really a problem for me.

Eventually my brother ended up moving in with my wife, my daughter (who I got to meet when I came home on leave!) and me and we both continued our journey to Orthodoxy together. After a few months as catechumens (more than 6 but less than 12) my brother and I were accepted into the Orthodox Church by chrismation and were able to take our first communion (those outside of the Orthodox Church can not partake of communion since it is the real body and blood of Jesus Christ and reserved only for those in the Church such as has been done since the time of the Apostles).

In January of 2012 my wife and my daughter have become Orthodox. I was and still am so excited for them as I truly do love my wife and my little girl. They are both very precious to me. To top it all off I was home on leave when they came into the Church!

So there you have it, my life pretty much summed up on one page of the internet. Please check back often as I may or may not continue to update this page.
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