A recent newsletter from the Russian Church Abroad’s Fund for Assistance included a story about the summer boys’ camp at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville: “Jordanville ‘Summer Boys’ Then and Now.” The article mentions how alumni of the camp have gone on to serve the Church in a variety of ways. A fine program, indeed—honest, hard project-oriented work, fellowship, typical summer camp fun, specialized religious instruction, and worship in such a hallowed place. Like Capra’s Jefferson Smith, I wish that all our boys could have that opportunity. However, we should not assume that the men’s experience at the camp as boys caused them to devote their lives to supporting Christ’s flock. For the type of boy who attends the camp probably has already felt such a calling or is at least open to it, and it is likely that the attending boys come from families that cultivate the religious and moral formation conducive to a vocation of ministry. In addition, Orthodox priests tend to sire future priests, and alumni who have become priests send their (to-be-ordained) sons to the camp. Still, such a program allows these boys to begin to actualize their formation in a significant, concrete way away from home—a foretaste of a freely chosen adult commitment to Christ and to his Church.
While reading the article, I sadly thought of how such a program has become nigh impossible for many religious confessions in America due to the malfeasance of the few. In learning of a program like Jordanville’s Summer Boys, many Americans would immediately think of child molesting monks and/or Jonestown-style brainwashing. Our irresponsible, sensationalist, and theomachic media have achieved their goals quite successfully. Thankfully, in this case, at least, the “ethnic” Orthodox in America have continued to maintain their distance from contemporary American culture. When assimilation begets apostasy and madness, then assimilation be damned.