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Author Topic: American Orthodoxy and American Culture: Are They Compatible?  (Read 19454 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 31, 2006, 02:30:52 AM »

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I think the problem for protestant converts is that they have a generational connection to Christianity also.

Exactly.  A lot of converts get tired of being told their that their family history and heritage are completely meaningless and that they know nothing about Christianity since they didn't have the experience of growing up in an Orthodox family that probably went to church all of two times a year.   
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2007, 02:32:03 AM »

Exactly.  A lot of converts get tired of being told their that their family history and heritage are completely meaningless and that they know nothing about Christianity since they didn't have the experience of growing up in an Orthodox family that probably went to church all of two times a year.   

Well said.

Years ago, in my early days as an Orthodox Christian I remember one incident in particular, when an Orthodox person proudly told me that it was great that I was at last a Christian, because being English I couldn't possibly have any Chrisitan heritage. I reminded him that if what he said was true, it would mean that I have been living a lie all my life, because I most definitely called Christ my Lord and Saviour and had always trusted Him for my salvation. But of course, according to him my faith had been a charade; meaningless and Graceless. He was shocked and even more argumentative when I told him that my British Christian heritage was every bit as old as his. He simply had never heard of a Celtic/British Church. He imagined that we had always been Roman Catholic or Anglican. (And we know how lost they are!)  Roll Eyes

I have to say, that this sort of thing has only happened online. In real life, the Orthodox I have met have been wonderful, welcoming and definitely haven't judged me as a "new Christian" struggling to shake off the dark effects of paganism. I have really appreciated their kindness.

I have witnessed converts who have "become" Russian or Greek or whatever - and that's great for them. A lot of people don't have a strong sense of heritage, but I do. I honestly think that retaining my own heritage and traditions has gone a long way to keep me Orthodox. If I felt that I was under pressure to discard or denigrate all that had been precious and familiar to me, it would, indeed, be more difficult. I have converted to a new expression of faith not a new ethnicity.

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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2007, 04:16:05 PM »

As Orthodoxy spread, it adopted the culture of the country.  Now that Orthodoxy is in America, it should take on American culture, whatever that may be.  I think, at least for the time being, English is part of that culture.  Kaminetz, who is to say we won't have any saints/great minds who were born in America?  I do respect the cultures which nurtured Orthodoxy--I am a cradle Orthodox of Lebanese descent--but I was born in America as were my parents.  It's a fine line we have to walk to spread Orthodoxy to Americans without "protestantizing" it.
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2007, 05:14:19 PM »

As Orthodoxy spread, it adopted the culture of the country.  Now that Orthodoxy is in America, it should take on American culture, whatever that may be.  I think, at least for the time being, English is part of that culture.  Kaminetz, who is to say we won't have any saints/great minds who were born in America?  I do respect the cultures which nurtured Orthodoxy--I am a cradle Orthodox of Lebanese descent--but I was born in America as were my parents.  It's a fine line we have to walk to spread Orthodoxy to Americans without "protestantizing" it.


Well... It "baptized" the culture, not adopted... and America is the first instance where Orthodoxy was coming into a Christianized nation - which means that most "American" culture at the time was essentially Protestant or Catholic.  If we were preaching to the Iriquois or Sioux, then it would be different...
Add to that the staggering growth of secularism, and you see that there is very little "American" culture that Orthodoxy would like.  Methinks that when many people (not you or I neccessarily) speak of baptizing American culture, they're really talking about baptizing 2nd or 3rd generation Anglo- or Franko- cultures and philosophies that have been filtered through the "melting pot."
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« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2007, 05:29:05 PM »

Now that Orthodoxy is in America, it should take on American culture, whatever that may be.  I think, at least for the time being, English is part of that culture.

And can you tell me what "American Culture" is?  That is the million dollar question.  Once we figure out what it really is, THEN we can talk about baptizing it.
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« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2007, 06:17:29 PM »

And can you tell me what "American Culture" is?  That is the million dollar question.  Once we figure out what it really is, THEN we can talk about baptizing it.

Very well put. I think that is a serious problem because the influence of traditional western european Christian culture (think "Gone with the Wind" America) is diminishing in American society. Cosmopolitanism and moral relativism is becoming the new American culture. Buddhism and other eastern religions (the New Age) is becoming the darling religion of leftist Americans who have grown bored of ever watered down feel good protestantism.

The acceptance of homosexuality in society and culture is almost becoming a legal requirement in America's main metropolises (San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C.). Just look at how GLAAD is now constantly cited in the press as a respectable authority. Compare that to how the Serbian population "greeted" a gay and lesbian parade in Belgrade not too long ago!

Furthermore America is multi-ethnic, how are you going to get a Phillipino convert to adopt "old American" culture, which is disappearing off the face of the earth?

When Russia was occupied by the Bolsheviks, white emigre Russians helped preserve Orthodox Russia outside its borders. At the same time religious underground tradition remained in the USSR that kept the ties with the culture together, and the Soviet government was forced to tolerate this during the second world war.

There is no such similar phenomenon happening with old American culture in the United States, one reason being there is much less homogeny that would help preserve such a cultural-religious front. You can't base it on one's Europeanness, that would be construed as racism. There are many problems here that aren't easy to solve.

In the wake of this, it is natural that second and third generation children of ethnic parents living in America need to be encouraged to stick to their ethnic roots. Granted not everyone has the self discipline to learn their native tongue, to practice it, to contribute to the community, but that is not an excuse in and of itself to just give up and let people think of themselves as Americans of an Orthodox flavor.

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« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2007, 06:26:07 PM »

There are many good things about America, and American religious culture.  There are many bad things about the old world countries and the cultures the Orthodox churches in this country came from.  Take the best of both, and you will get something good.  Idealize on or the other, and you will get something bad.
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« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2007, 07:04:12 PM »

There are many good things about America, and American religious culture.  There are many bad things about the old world countries and the cultures the Orthodox churches in this country came from.  Take the best of both, and you will get something good.  Idealize on or the other, and you will get something bad.

I'm sorry, but this sounds like classical American cultural relativism. The "best of both"? Just how are you going to do that, and by who's criteria of judgement? The giraffe was an animal invented by committee...
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« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2007, 08:49:37 PM »

The meshing together of the traditional Orthodox cultures and the newly Orthodox will result in the formation of an American Orthodox culture. ......I think it is safe to assume Orthodoxy can baptize the heterodox cultures of those who join us.
I think there is evidence that attempts to "mesh cultures together" may have actually failed in the past (eg Chalcedon). And the Church did not baptize all aspects of Greco-Roman culture. Some aspects had to be rejected (eg orgies, circuses).
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« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2007, 09:33:21 PM »

George,

I agree that not all aspects of heterodox cultures will be baptized. Some things will be discarded. But my point was Roman Catholic and Protestant cultures are much closer to us in relation to the truth than the pagan and barbarian cultures from the past.
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« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2007, 11:20:03 PM »

At its heart what's being talked about isn't a convert/cradle issue or a issue of Orthodoxy in America.  Really it's an issue of what tradition is.  It's either something that moves you forward in to the future or pulls you backward in to the past.  Some people want to go one way, some another.  It's an old issue.

And discussing whether the old traditions are good are not doesn't hit the heart either - for you can hold onto old culture while still moving forward, or discard and move backwards.

I also suppose part of the debate is about focus - no matter how good your traditions are, if it seems like one is more focused on their culture than their faith, it will be a huge put off to many, even if you are moving in the right direction in your spiritual life...
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2007, 11:30:33 PM »

I wouldn't say it is an "old" vs. "new" issue.  The issue is what is tradition, and what is the tradition of the church.  The immigration of Orthodox Christians in to areas populated by Christians of other confessions, and the interactions of Orthodox Christians in societies that aren't predominantly Orthodox has just opened another chapter in this debate.  We're seeing the various answers to what tradition is here.
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« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2007, 12:42:33 AM »

Not all customs and traditions that our practiced by the faithful are exactly Orthodox. How about the evil eye bead and all the superstitions that surround it? Many middle-eastern and Greek immigrants still pin them onto their newborn baby's clothing along with a cross for protection from vaskania (the jealousy or envy of other people who may inadvertantly cast the evil eye curse on the baby.) Should the faithful be relying on the protection of glass bead to distract the attention of a possible envious look or should they have faith in the power of the cross and cast off these silly superstitions? hmmmm...



Now...on the flip side...lets look at the heterodox evangelical tradition of tithing. Will introducing tithing lead down the slippery slope to protestantism? Or could it be a one of those customs that will baptized into Orthodoxy?
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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2007, 01:03:55 AM »

Some aspects had to be rejected (eg orgies, circuses).

What a shame Wink
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« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2007, 01:28:06 AM »

I think there are two issues here, first the culture itself, which has many traditions. For instance, in America it is customary to carry the bride over the threshhold of a new house or apartment. If the guy is a klutz and trips, everyone gets nervous that it's "bad luck". That's obviously superstition, as is the "eye" and the Russian tradition of never shaking hands through a doorway, not spilling salt, never handing the salt shaker into someone's hands directly (all things that I intentionally do to buck supersticion).

But there are many beautiful traditions such as the bread and salt greeting, which the church has adopted. Just look at an Orthodox wedding, it's a church ceremony with many traditions that don't directly have to do with the Church. Also, this week Russians celebrate "Maslenitsa", once a pagan holiday that has now become an excellent way of welcoming the fast.

Outside of mere traditions/rituals, we have a deep sense of cultural heritage - literature for instance. Yes, you can read Dostoyevsky and Khomiakov in English, but there is a slight but sensible loss in translation as I can tell you personally. There is even a loss in translation from Slavonic to Russian, but let's not open up another big debate here on liturgical language, etc.

Finally there is a sense of historical legacy, which perhaps has the greatest meaning for someone coming from a millenium old Orthodox culture. The saints belong to all of us of course, but when saints come from our own ethnic background we have a certain special closeness to them. It is as if a saint were a relative of yours, who once lived in your city. It's a part of history we can almost reach out and touch, since it has a special connection to our daily experience. If you were to travel to the St. Petersburg area, you would probably not have a great difficulty encountering people who's ancestors knew St. John of Kronstadt. If you went to Moscow, you'd be able to find people who's family were moved by one of the Elders of Optino.

This historical tie also binds us to the struggles our people have fought for survival in the most difficult times, when invaders who sought to wipe out Orthodoxy entirely would attack our nations and we were forced as a group to resist them. The Ottoman Yoke, the Teutonic Knights, the Bolshevik regime, the Croatian Ustase, etcetera. We have saints tied with these historical moments, as well as bright historical figures who serve as examples and inspirations for us (General Pyotr Wrangel, Draza Mihailovic for the Serbs, Venizelos for the Greeks, etc). In Russia, there is an entire canon of saints, the New Martyrs and Confessors, who stood for Christ during Bolshevism. There are still people who exist today that took part in this struggle for Orthodoxy and were moved by these great people (the book Fr. Arseny is a great example).

It is true that any person, regardless of nationality, can understand and appreciate this history. But our nations are our extended families, and we are always closest to the ones whom we are related to by blood.

Let us analyze American history. The War of Independence doesn't carry any particulary highlights of Christian heroism or martyrdom in my view. It was all about liberty from British colonial rule - both sides Christian overall. The war of 1812 wasn't much different, Britain simply wanted to get revenge for '76. The American Civil War was a tragic clash of cultures, here again there is nothing particularly visible from a Christian perspective - both sides equally worshipped Christ. Slavery could be mentioned as an argument but most American historians tend to believe that the war was not motivated by such abolitionary altruism (citing the Emancipation Proclamation's late arrival). The Spanish American war isn't even worth mentioning.

World War I was on a certain level a noble involvment, but again, no religious conflict here. World War II is the only war that can be viewed somehow in a religious and moral context, since the Nazi's were paganists/atheists who believed in genocide.

Korea and Vietnam had a noble motive in fighting communism, so this could be a concievable point to make. But American opinion is strongly divided on that subject, with the leftists having created a whole counterculture based on anti-war activism. To them these wars were a blunder and waste of blood, and that has become ingrained in most American minds at this point.

Afghanistan and Iraq could be seen as a conflict of a (still) predominantly Christian country with Islamic fundamentalism (at least that's how the Islamists see it!), but the way the American administration spins it it's all about "democracy", so it's hard to make the Christian argument. Either way, making that argument would throw many people into a tizzy, save for Anne Coulter (speaking of which, anyone ever try talking to her about Orthodoxy? Smiley).

Now to confront a difficult question, how are we going to explain in an Orthodox way the bombing of Serbia, which was nothing less than a barbarous act of aggression against the civilian population of then Yugoslavia?

As far as American saints, I am positive there are pure "Americans" who have or are in the process of attaining sainthood. Fr. Seraphim Rose is an example of someone that select people have become recognizing as a saint. His story is particularly interesting, in an Apostle Paul type of way. There is also the remarkable St. Peter the Aleut, while not strictly an Anglo-American, was not from an Orthodox culture.

But most of the other "American" saints that I know of and which the church has recognized have come from an ethnic background, Fr. Alexis Toth of Wilkes Barre, St. John of San Francisco, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Herman of Alaska, etc. This again doesn't mean that American saints don't exist (and I am hoping more of them will come out to us), but that Orthodoxy is still quite young in America, and that Americans in general have a hard time absorbing Orthodoxy. I think it is not because Americans are turned off by ethnic culture, so much that it is the way of life in America makes it very difficult to adopt an Orthodox lifestyle.


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« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2007, 01:48:33 AM »

Well, then what is a guide line or middle way between All of a culture and "It's all bad.  Become this other one."  I wonder.  I would surmise that something like "We (culture that is already EO) don't do that, so it's wrong." is not the right one and neither is "That is Our (culture that is not already EO) customs/culture/etc so it's all to be accepted".
What I'm actually suggesting, Ebor, is that culturally diverse Churches may not necessarily a bad thing. Even the Anglican Church has cultural diversity among it's local Churches, and even among it's Parishes in the same diocese. This is particularly prominent here in Australia where the High Church/Low Church distinction is still very prominent.  Two Anglican Parishes in two neighbouring Mountain Towns (a 15 minute drive apart) here cater for two very different type of Anglican.

By the way. I had a most fascinating dream that involved yourself and Keble last night. I'll pm you!
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« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2007, 06:31:57 AM »

May I suggest that if Orthodoxy is to ever sanctify American culture and traditions, that it start by considering the extent to which it can embrace the American creed as a true expression of Orthodoxy.  For this creed is the very heart of America's Tradition, not particular expressions of tradition.  Tradition is that which binds a people together and makes them one.  America is a nation that has taken the usual notion of tradition and turned it on its head.  Whereas in "traditional" cultures the idea generally flows from the practice, in America it is the practice that flows from the idea.  To be an American is to first affirm an idea, then try to put it into practice.  The American idea is explicitly spiritual in my opinion, and so when one speaks of America one is actually speaking about a community of faith, a fractious and rambunctious one to be sure, but still a community of faith.

And because America is a community with a shared faith, either Orthodoxy will be compatible or it will not.  There is little middle ground in my opinion.  If Orthodoxy and America are compatible at the level of the idea, then there should be no major impediment in the creation of an American Orthodoxy.  On the other hand, if Orthodox and American creeds are fundamentally incompatible, then probably nothing short of the collapse of the American order would allow Orthodoxy to proceed beyond the status of subculture.

So I suggest that rather than examine modern American practices, religious or secular, and making universalizing value judgments about them as if they were a true expression of American Tradition, one would do well to first understand in depth what makes America truly America - its common creed.

I found this excellent article which addresses exactly this question.
http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20020916&s=church
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« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2007, 02:26:58 PM »

Just a note about the 'America as idea' theory: it belongs to a particular minority in American politics, and is quite recent in origin. For most of our history (and still) America was also is a particular culture, with an Old World inheritance that has reasserted rights once found in Europe. Thomas Jefferson wrote explicitly in this frame of mind. (Noting, that tradition includes Cultural Diversity - but within a broader culture, not as fragmentation.)

Kaminetz wrote:

Quote
For instance, in America it is customary to carry the bride over the threshhold of a new house or apartment. If the guy is a klutz and trips, everyone gets nervous that it's "bad luck".

I've never seen it treated as more than a joke - Americans are not particularly superstitious people, being children of the Enlightenment to some degree. The exception being some localities (such as New Orleans.) Many of those customs are also quite recent, and are not really a part of American culture. Part of the confusion stems from a misunderstanding of what is American. Appalachian/Ozark folk traditions (Anglo-Celtic, with heavy German, French, and Native American infusions) have plenty of distinct traditions and quite a bit of superstition - but one won't find those traditions outside of those areas except amongst those who migrated from the region within a few generations. (In which case, many of those customs are African in origin, or Native American, or obscured European Catholic - Protestantism having obscured the origins.)

Quote
Outside of mere traditions/rituals, we have a deep sense of cultural heritage - literature for instance.

Same here: the Scriptures in English, the Book of Common Prayer and its originals or derivatives (Breviary, Book of Discipline, etc.), Shakespeare, Milton, Beowulf, and a cultural heritage coming from ancient Greece and Rome through Medieval Western Europe, particularly the British Isles. So, all of English literature forms us (some, such as Scottish novelists and philosophers particularly strong for those of us from the South - Sir Walter Scott having nearly as much impact as the King James Bible on Southern society.) Can anyone understand us that hasn't read the Fugitives and Agrarians? And can anyone read Allen Tate or Flannery O'Connor and not see a people crying out, even if they are not aware of it, for a return to true Christianity? (Tate particularly in 'Religion and the Old South' where, still a Protestant, lamented the South turned to the Calvinism of the North rather than Catholicism after the War - too bad he didn't seem to be aware of Orthodoxy. O'Connor, interestingly enough, was given an Orthodox icon of Christ Pantocrator - she kept it at her side up til her death.)

Quote
Finally there is a sense of historical legacy, which perhaps has the greatest meaning for someone coming from a millenium old Orthodox culture.

We have this too - note how strong devotion is to St. Patrick (a Briton) or St. Valentine (a Latin) even amongst Protestant Americans? Our government was formed based on a cultural memory of the Republic of Athens, the Roman Republic and its Liberty, the freedom of the Anglo-Saxons, etc. Much of it is warped into a polemic of anti-Roman, Sabbatarian, Low Church sectarians - but even they still remember Apostolic origins, and that there were saints (they only need taught the truth those Saints held to.)

Quote
Let us analyze American history. The War of Independence doesn't carry any particulary highlights of Christian heroism or martyrdom in my view. It was all about liberty from British colonial rule - both sides Christian overall.

Yet, it was explicitly Christian in its origins. The colonization of America came about at the time of the English Reformation, and so America primarily became the refuge for those with strong religious convictions contrary to the prevailing whims of the government. In the migration records, there are many who listed reasons showing they were contrary to the Latitudinarians predominating in the Church of England, or fled the Calvinism of the Church of Scotland, or fled Catholic persecution in other places. The American Revolution had these overtones in that the colonies one by one had been forced to have the Church of England as 'official churches' (even Catholic Maryland.) At the same time, they would not allow America an Episcopate. So, there is a history there, but it is not monolithic - the shared idea though is freedom of conscience and freedom of religion (IOW, an end to coercion by violence, threats of violence, or economic warfare.)

Quote
The American Civil War was a tragic clash of cultures, here again there is nothing particularly visible from a Christian perspective - both sides equally worshipped Christ.

Historically, the South saw it as a Christian war. They were undergoing a resurgence in religious piety during the war, and their literature saw the opposing North as both harshly Calvinistic or infidel Unitarian/Freethinker (Atheist) in its nature. They didn't have an argument with the predominantly Catholic cannon-fodder of the Union war machine - likely they weren't aware of the many Catholics in the North (many Southrons were Catholic.) The big picture can be difficult to see - one has to have an awareness of the disparate American religious polities during the period. I would point out - there were Orthodox Christians on both sides, in both armies. That religious feeling still obtains in the South - I know upon meeting someone new, the first few questions will include: what county I'm from, who my people are, where I go to Church. It makes people from other parts nervous - I welcome it, as most have curiosity when it comes to Orthodoxy (and, are often willing to visit - the caveat being, if you scare them or offend them, they won't be back.)

You're probably right about the other wars though - they had no religious overtones, though religion was used as propaganda in the World Wars and the Cold War. For many Neo-conservative Catholics and Evangelical Republicans, the present wars are *very* religious (being not only a clash with Islam, but of eschatological significance.)

Quote
Now to confront a difficult question, how are we going to explain in an Orthodox way the bombing of Serbia, which was nothing less than a barbarous act of aggression against the civilian population of then Yugoslavia?

It had nothing to do with the American public. Gen. Wesley Clarke made the military decision, with the permission of the Clinton Administration (ie, the President as advised by his picked advisors.) Of those who were aware, probably more Americans were against it than for it. Remember, the concentration camps were also in existence on both sides of that war - and the American public was aware. Probably most Americans were more concerned about other things.

Quote
This again doesn't mean that American saints don't exist (and I am hoping more of them will come out to us), but that Orthodoxy is still quite young in America, and that Americans in general have a hard time absorbing Orthodoxy. I think it is not because Americans are turned off by ethnic culture, so much that it is the way of life in America makes it very difficult to adopt an Orthodox lifestyle.

Or it might just be a Byzantine or Slavic lifestyle that is difficult to adopt. Most Orthodox in America are still 'ethnic', so it is no wonder there aren't American saints yet who weren't already Eastern. Orthodoxy can be absorbed by Americans, but it isn't charitable to expect them to absorb Eastern ethnicity and culture.
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« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2007, 04:08:58 PM »

Aristibule,

First of all, I agree on you general points regarding superstition.  However, I find the rest of your post to be over-Romanticized and not in line with the reality of American culture and the body politic...

Same here: the Scriptures in English, the Book of Common Prayer and its originals or derivatives (Breviary, Book of Discipline, etc.), Shakespeare, Milton, Beowulf, and a cultural heritage coming from ancient Greece and Rome through Medieval Western Europe, particularly the British Isles. So, all of English literature forms us (some, such as Scottish novelists and philosophers particularly strong for those of us from the South - Sir Walter Scott having nearly as much impact as the King James Bible on Southern society.) Can anyone understand us that hasn't read the Fugitives and Agrarians? And can anyone read Allen Tate or Flannery O'Connor and not see a people crying out, even if they are not aware of it, for a return to true Christianity?

While the Bible, BCP, and Shakespeare have been influential and continue to be so now, I would assert that the rest of your reading list, while maybe applying to our current situation, is a) not in the general cultural consciousness (i.e. not seen as being integral), b) not necessary to understanding American Culture.  You come from a background of being well-read: guess what - most Americans are not.  The  "Cultural" Elite don't set the culture, the mob and media/propaganda do.

We have this too - note how strong devotion is to St. Patrick (a Briton) or St. Valentine (a Latin) even amongst Protestant Americans? Our government was formed based on a cultural memory of the Republic of Athens, the Roman Republic and its Liberty, the freedom of the Anglo-Saxons, etc. Much of it is warped into a polemic of anti-Roman, Sabbatarian, Low Church sectarians - but even they still remember Apostolic origins, and that there were saints (they only need taught the truth those Saints held to.)

Um, St Valentine's day and St Patrick's day are excellent examples... of how the culture keeps nominal recognition but has warped the commemoration.  See also: Christmas, Halloween.

You did fail to mention another root of the government, one probably more immediately influential: Enlightenment France, and the underground that led to their own revolution.  While the founding Fathers were indeed Christian, they also held some ideas that were certainly not Christian (remember - they, like many now, were "enlightened" Christians, and didn't see any dissonance between certain activities and organizations, like the much-maligned Freemasons, and their Christianity).

Finally, to your various analyses of the wars (to which you disagreed with the previous analysis): yes, there were Christian-religious overtones to each, but they existed on both sides.  In all those cases, it was Christian fighting Christian and each side was seeing Christian ideals at play.  But I don't think it can really be stated that the Christian reasons were the driving factors fueling the war...
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« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2007, 04:18:26 PM »

I read your post with great interest, Aristibule. You're clearly a person who knows a lot about American history and the background information you provide was edifying.

About the American war of independence, we're talking inner-Christian conflict. If we take a look at the irony of it, we're actually closer (or rather, WERE closer) to the Anglican church back then which would at the very least offer room for the argument that Britain was closer to us from a perspective of faith. The repressions some of these Christians that came to America endured were of course serious, and non-Christian, so that would certainly create more sympathy for the colonials. Incidentally, I think the film Patriot is a good example of understanding this conflict of good and evil in that era (go Gibson!).

Concerning the south in the civil war, from an Orthodox POV I do actually find them to be more conservative and closer to us than the north - slavery excepted (and there are, once again, many arguments that point to the fact that slavery was not efficient from an economic POV for northerners hence the reason they were quicker to do away with it). Actually I think the south of America is probably the ripest field for Orthodoxy because of its cultural conservatism.

However, none of these wars carries with it a clear cut Orthodox message of struggle for the faith, as Alexander Nevsky's struggle with the Teutonic knights was for example. Orthodoxy simply wasn't in the equation here, and its so much harder to draw the lines.

Let's take a look at a well known visual example of what I'm talking about. Many have probably at least heard of the film "War and Peace" that was directed by Sergei Bondarchuk in Russia, which is the most expensive film ever made to date. It was shown here in America with either subtitles or dubbed.

Despite the fact that the novel was written by Tolstoy, who's relationship with Orthodoxy is very complicated, and produced in the Soviet era, there are two remarkable scenes that immediately communicate to a person what this ethnic historical legacy feels like.

The first is when the battle of Borodino was about to begin, a grand molieben service begins. You see everyone, from the high ranking officers and general Kutuzov himself, to the simplest "mouzhiks" who were digging in the defenses, drop everything, throw off their hats, and heartfully sing out in Orthodox prayer. They make the sign of the cross, tears well up in their eyes, and you see how they are wholly giving their hearts to God. While this was all portrayed by actors, it was certainly not unlike what most likely happened at the time.

The next moment is when General Kutuzov retorts at a messenger who says that the battle is probably going to be lost. Kutuzov yells "The enemy has been defeated! And now we shall chase him off the face of our holy Russian land!", then makes the sign of the cross and begins crying.

Any Orthodox Russian who sees these two scenes is profoundly moved, I myself have to choke back tears.

Now here, the enemy is also Christian - Catholic France, which had no real intent, as far as I'm aware, of catholicising Russia. But it was still a foreign occupier who was ravaging the country and it was intense Orthodox prayer coupled with Russian patriotism and sacrifices that gave victory.

While many Americans get very emotional when they see the American flag hoisted at Iwo Jima (myself included), it cannot be quite compared to the earlier scenes I described in terms of its spiritual effect on a person. People who don't have this ethnic experience have a truly hard time understanding this, unfortunately.

Concerning your comment about Yugoslavia, I have yet to see solid evidence that proves the Serbs held Albanians in concentration camps. Have you ever seen Jared Israel's film "Judgement"? It concerns Bosnia, not Kosovo, but the principle is similar. Anyway, this is a different topic.

Concerning Americans absorbing Eastern Orthodox cultures, can you succesfully create a purely American Orthodox tradition? I think through time one shall evolve, but it will take a lot of time and it can't be exactly coerced or created by a committee. I don't quite agree with the OCA approach in this regard, they made a conscious effort to remove Russian cultural influence and my personal opinion is that this approach did more harm than good. Fr. David Moser (once OCA, then ROCOR) makes some wise observations that ethnic Orthodox culture is actually necessary to carry American Orthodoxy at this time - and even though he's a ROCOR priest he's hardly someone who became totally russified.

Incidentally, I should also point out that Russian culture is one of the more open cultures, in that it can accept in its midst people who are not Russian ethnically (Rossiyane as they are called, to translate, "people of Russia"). Georgians, Armenians, Balts, Moldovans, etc. have all been in the Russian cultural midst, there are many Russians with such a mixture in them.

I don't expect Americans to learn cyrillic and Slavonic, services need to be in English for them - that is without a doubt. But to absorb ethnic traditions and learn about the historical heritage of Orthodoxy is certainly very good for them.

I think what we really need for American Orthodoxy to attain an identity is more TIME. On top of missionary work we need to also help create a larger monastic community, for which we need more monasteries. ROCOR's headquarters are in New York City, but its spiritual headquarters really are in Jordanville where its monastery is. I think that this will tremendously help many Orthodox Americans become closer to God, and give an opportunity for people who want to live the ascetic way a better chance. Every Orthodox country has so many monastic communities, and that is where so many saints have been found.

In the world we live in, life is so easy to live that it is very difficult to attain sainthood. Even 19th century Russia life was hardly easygoing in comparison to 21st century America.


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« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2007, 05:26:32 PM »

This thread is very dis-heartening to me and I think it is quite instructive of why Orthodox Christianity has a difficult time flourishing in the United States.

In my humble opinion there is far too much wrangling about tradition and ethnicity. I was raised in an ethnic Orthodox parish where all services were in church slavonic. I learned NOTHING about Orthodox Christianity beyond the rituals and traditions. You know the old joke about the Orthodox--we don't read the Gospel, we kiss it--for those of you who attend vespers.

Five years ago I began attending an Orthodox parish where every word of every service is in plain English (not even thee's and thou's). What an awakening!!! Our parish is flourishing. We have every ethnic stripe under the sun as well as many RC and Prot converts. But the one thing we all have in common is English and the desire and opportunity to drink in every WORD.

At times I am nostalgic for the old church slavonic hymns. So I bought a couple of CD's to satisfy my nostalgia. Our parish does not look to 19th century Russia as a model. When I hear people say that ethnicity will carry Orthodoxy in America, I have only one response--it sure hasn't done very well to date! This kind of thinking will be the death knell for Orthodoxy in America.

To me, Orthodox Christianity is COUNTER-CULTURE. I do not see any need to inculcate Russian, Greek, Antiochian or American culture into it at all. We are to live out the Gospel DESPITE the cultures we live in or came from, tears of soldiers in a movie notwithstanding.

I further think that there are many Orthodox Christians who are "playing church" , trying to emulate Russian, Greek and other cultures from by-gone eras. Just look at the appearance of many Bishops- the OCA Holy Synod group picture on their website could pass for being taken in 19th century Russia. Why? Why? Why? Does a beard, long hair, hat and staff make one holy or better able to minister to their flocks? These are all vestiges of by-gone eras in their emulation of a mythical Orthodoxy from the past.

I have been to a number of parishes that look like someone put out a casting call for Fiddler on the Roof. As if one can live out the Gospel by how one dresses or by how many candles are lit. The grand shows of Piety soon give way to sniping and back-biting at coffee hour.

I am an Orthodox Christian and sinner, dying to this life (and culture), so that through the abundant mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I may have life everlasting. I do not need Russia, Greece, Antioch or America to accomplish this.

I am reminded of a line in one of Father Thomas Hopko's audio recordings where he states that his "mission" in retirement is to travel around to Orthodox Churches in the US and Canada and to remind the Orthodox people that Orthodoxy is about GOD.
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« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2007, 05:37:22 PM »

Well said Cowboy.
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« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2007, 11:30:15 PM »

What I'm actually suggesting, Ebor, is that culturally diverse Churches may not necessarily a bad thing. Even the Anglican Church has cultural diversity among it's local Churches, and even among it's Parishes in the same diocese. This is particularly prominent here in Australia where the High Church/Low Church distinction is still very prominent.  Two Anglican Parishes in two neighbouring Mountain Towns (a 15 minute drive apart) here cater for two very different type of Anglican.

Well, I have to admit that I see nothing wrong with that myself.   Smiley  People aren't all the same and do/like/practice different customs and patterns and things.  A person in one place may have as deep a faith as a person in a different place and not be used to doing the same sort of genuflecting or other "t"raditional practices. I'm probabaly not going to find the exact same level of Church in an Big City parish on the East coast as in a parish in Montana. But there will be a link and a common structure.

As you wrote there are places for different types of Anglicans close by in your area and that means that more people have a place they can worship. I have a copy of the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer on my shelf and while the same frame or "bones" are there as in all of the other BCPs I have (US, England, Scotland and several periods of history) there are also services that have meaning to people from that country and it's in both English and Maori.  It's "common" to the Communion and particular to the people who use it.

So this cultural diversity is part of the Anglican Communion and we think it's a good thing. But I know that there are people who don't think so and hold that such variation is a bad thing.   Undecided

Sorry to rabbit on like that.

Ebor
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« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2007, 12:42:33 AM »

What was the cause or reason for painting such a picture.  There could have been some real reason for his painting it.

The painting I'm thinking of I actually on second thought don't believe was by Kustodiev.  This painting was earlier, I will try and remember the name.  The painting depicts a somewhat portly monk sitting by a roadside stand having a saucer of tea.  IIRC, a blind war veteran and child in rags are begging near him, and his is paying them  no mind.  The symbolism is obvious and I assume was intended as a commentary on the state of the church in the 19th century.

There were some very good things about the church after the dissolution of the Patriarchate and up until the Revolution.  There were however many, many bad things.  The 19th century typified many of the bad, though it had some of the good.  Priests like St. John of Kronstadt were unfortunately an exception to the rule.

One figure who highlights both the bad and good was Fr. Makarii Glukharev, who was the founder of the Altai mission and worked to translate the Bible and church texts in to the Altai language.  When he proposed translating the Bible in to modern spoken Russian (which at the time it wasn't), noting that even the Koran was available the masses in Russian (and doesn't that have parallels to today), he was told not to proceed by the Holy Synod.  When he persisted he was censured and punished.  Remarkebly, part of his punishment consisted of having to serve the liturgy every day.  That this was viewed as "punishment" tells you something about the state of the church at the time.

Kaminetz,

I'll gladly disengage from the historical argument, as it has little bearing on this thread and is probably boring to most people.  I believe nowhere have a espoused moral relativism, I've simply said no human culture or group has a lock on or a greater share of holiness, and the church very much transcends all cultures (though all cultures can be part of and serve the church).  I've also nowhere advocated eradicating ethnic customs from the church, I've simply said the good ones should be retained and matched with the good ones in the cultures Orthodoxy is coming in to contact with.  One of the "good ones" in the United States for instance is that many people in this country believe in God, go to church, and give generously to their churches.  I think that's one Orthodoxy could use more of.
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« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2007, 12:59:13 AM »

Kaminetz:

Quote
Concerning Americans absorbing Eastern Orthodox cultures, can you succesfully create a purely American Orthodox tradition?

I would also say no - not 'create'. One can be resurrected out of what America is a continuation of - Western civilization (meaning: Christendom.) I think the OCA's past approach is quite the opposite of what I'm suggesting. I can't say I totally agree with Fr. David Moser either (in the past he has denied ROCOR having Western Rite). He is right, however, about why we *need* ethnic Orthodoxy as well - for the same reasons the Roman Catholics in Protestant countries like to send the seminarians to a Catholic country for a few years. The case can be over-stated either way, and I'm suggesting the middle path (and charity both towards ethnic enclaves and evangelistic missions.) That is really what the Western Rite of Orthodoxy attains to - not an archaism but a revival of true Western Christianity, union rather than hostility to the East, and a pastoral rather than separatist approach to what is really our flesh and blood. (If not 'was not X in 19th c. Russia!' then not 'was not X in 19th c. Italia!' or '9th c. England')

Quote
I think what we really need for American Orthodoxy to attain an identity is more TIME. On top of missionary work we need to also help create a larger monastic community, for which we need more monasteries.

Absolutely.


Cleveland:

I'm sorry you don't understand the American culture. This isn't a matter of 'book knowledge' for me, nor an am I speaking of 'cultural elites'. There is still an American culture of which the literature is a part - and it informs attitudes, symbols, behavior of Americans whether they are conscious of it or not (particularly in the South.) I have experienced it every day of my life in America - and I have not lived with the 'cultural elites'. You also seem to think you are in disagreement in points where you only reinforce what I've said - St. Valentine's, St. Patrick's, Christmas, Halloween - again, not paganism but a warped Christianity. We can't pretend as Orthodox that non-Orthodox Christians are the same as pagans. And, I did not fail to mention the Enlightenment either (noting, the Enlightenment was born because of the spread of Greek knowledge by those fleeing fallen Byzantium.) I'll quote myself: " Americans are not particularly superstitious people, being children of the Enlightenment to some degree." Even die-hard Fundamentalist Creationists claim to being 'men of Science'. That said, it is too easy to overstate the influence of French Society upon America (as in your case.) The French Enlightenment was only truly influential on the same 'cultural elite' you referenced earlier, as still today. Those not in the 'elite' still had their influences from their past: Western European (especially British) culture, folklore,  literature, and religion.

Being anti-Romantic, my post is of the sort combatting the Romanticism attached to the East by converts and some others who live in an 'East of the Mind' that has no basis in reality (present or historical.) Anything that you offer on our American people may also apply to 'ethnic' Orthodox - not all are read, or have a firm grasp of their own culture, religion, etc. Many are also 'enlightenment Christians', the point being again that pointing fingers at Americans means four more pointing back at the accuser.

Finally, as to the wars - yes, the religious overtones existed on both sides: which was my point. We are *not* dealing with pagans when we consider America, the West, or Western Civilization. We're dealing with separated Christians (some nominal, some schismatic, some heretical, some rebellious - but even the atheists and so-called 'neo-pagans' can't escape their Christ-haunted culture. Their own sub-cultures tend to talk about Christianity as much as many American and/or Orthodox Christians.)

You wrote:
Quote
But I don't think it can really be stated that the Christian reasons were the driving factors fueling the war...

It can be stated, and it is - reasons of governments are quite different from the reasons that the populace rally to. America is probably the most religious country in the modern world - Barna Group certainly suggests so. The fact is that religion has been a prime motivator for Americans in war (and in peace), far more so than Enlightenment principles. (Ask the average American who Rousseau and Voltaire are, then who St. Paul and St John are - I'll bet far more have no clue of the former, nor what they taught.) To ignore the impact of religious feeling upon the American public is mere Romanticism. For the War Between the States, certainly so - a survey of sermons, newspapers, and literature of the period shows that it was considered as a religious crusade for both the South, as well as by Northern Abolitionists. Pres. Lincoln said 'why should we let them go, where then would we get our tariffs?' - Union soldiers weren't chanting 'get our tariffs!', but singing Unitarian hymns like 'The Battle March of the Republic'. To recognize that is not Romanticism, but Realism.
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« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2007, 08:56:15 AM »

Cleveland:

I'm sorry you don't understand the American culture. This isn't a matter of 'book knowledge' for me, nor an am I speaking of 'cultural elites'. There is still an American culture of which the literature is a part - and it informs attitudes, symbols, behavior of Americans whether they are conscious of it or not (particularly in the South.) I have experienced it every day of my life in America - and I have not lived with the 'cultural elites'.

I'm sorry you don't understand the American culture, friend.  Maybe growing up south of the Mason-Dixon is more different from the Northern experience than I thought, for your writing isn't applicable to large portions of our glorious nation, unfortunately (although I'd love for you to be right).

Let's start at the beginning of our mutual misunderstanding: I actually agree in large part with your original post (that received what I think were poorly written counterpoints).  To wit:

I think it should be remembered that other Christians are not *mere pagans* - much in Catholic and Protestant life has its ultimate origin in orthodox (yes, Orthodox Western) praxis. They don't always remember why they do something right, but they do some things right that aren't practiced in the East simply because it was impossible to do so under the Ottomans or Soviets. The West already had everything 'baptized' centuries ago - the customs aren't pagan now, they're just either obscured or warped needing only to be cleaned off and straightened out. What we have apart from Western Christianity is a parallel Western culture which the Western Christians have always been at war with (Orthodoxy is new to the fight.) That parallel culture is not really pagan, but post-Christian from a loss of faith.

Strange thing about those blue glass eyes - a Turk pinned one on my daughter once. So, a Turkish Islamic custom is acceptable because a minority of Orthodox also do it, while anything Western is suspect even if it is merely Christian? That's just wierd, IMHO. Tithing is a wierd thing to complain about - particularly as the only reason it fell away in the East is because the Government paid for everything from taxes. Taxes and tithes were merged - however, in most places in the world that circumstance does not exist for the Church. Someone has to pay for it, and it won't be the governments. That, and the practice of paying for sacraments is a bit too much like simony (at least enough to confuse those we are trying to bring from Heterodoxy to Orthodoxy.)

However, I would add that it is possibly more difficult to "straighten" out Catholic/Protestant "traditions" because of the mere fact that they are Christian already with Christian origins, because now one has to deal with cultural history of where the Protestant tradition came from (it inevitably enters the debate) besides the various other factors of familiarity and the resistence to change within their culture (while many are open to Orthodoxy without question, many more are comfortable in the inertia of their present situation in Protestantism or Catholicism or "other" Christianity, and since we're also Christian they initally feel less inclined to make the effort at change - it's harder to push a boulder 10 feet over flat land ("Christian" tradition to Orthodoxy) than 300 feet down a hillside (Pagan to Orthodoxy)).

You also seem to think you are in disagreement in points where you only reinforce what I've said - St. Valentine's, St. Patrick's, Christmas, Halloween - again, not paganism but a warped Christianity. We can't pretend as Orthodox that non-Orthodox Christians are the same as pagans.

No, we are in disagreement, because I'm stating that for at least 3 of these holidays (excepting Christmas) that there is little if any Christianity left in the holiday - and while many claim to know the historical ties, the holidays in essence and in practice have become largely secular or pagan.  Most people who go to Mass to begin their St. Patrick's day festival have no clue about his life, the impact of his ministry, or why he's such a great saint to the Irish people.  The task then left to the Orthodox Christian trying to  restore the holiday to a Christian root is possibly harder than if the holiday was soely pagan to begin with - now they have to combat the pagan/secular celebration, and the cultural biases, and try and restore a meaning that has been lost, and make the tie between the old meaning which was inherently Christian and this "new" (to them) Christianity that was really the Christianity of that time anyway.

And, I did not fail to mention the Enlightenment either (noting, the Enlightenment was born because of the spread of Greek knowledge by those fleeing fallen Byzantium.) I'll quote myself: " Americans are not particularly superstitious people, being children of the Enlightenment to some degree." Even die-hard Fundamentalist Creationists claim to being 'men of Science'. That said, it is too easy to overstate the influence of French Society upon America (as in your case.) The French Enlightenment was only truly influential on the same 'cultural elite' you referenced earlier, as still today.

You didn't read my post, did you?  My point,

You did fail to mention another root of the government, one probably more immediately influential: Enlightenment France, and the underground that led to their own revolution.  While the founding Fathers were indeed Christian, they also held some ideas that were certainly not Christian (remember - they, like many now, were "enlightened" Christians, and didn't see any dissonance between certain activities and organizations, like the much-maligned Freemasons, and their Christianity).

Our government was formed based on a cultural memory of the Republic of Athens, the Roman Republic and its Liberty, the freedom of the Anglo-Saxons, etc. Much of it is warped into a polemic of anti-Roman, Sabbatarian, Low Church sectarians - but even they still remember Apostolic origins, and that there were saints (they only need taught the truth those Saints held to.)

So, yes, I had seen that you referenced the Enlightenment when you spoke about the masses - but I noticed that you overlooked it when you spoke about the formation of government, which by its nature may be driven by popular referrendum, but in its essence is formed by the "cultural elite," in this case the Washingtons and Jeffersons of this world.

Being anti-Romantic, my post is of the sort combatting the Romanticism attached to the East by converts and some others who live in an 'East of the Mind' that has no basis in reality (present or historical.) Anything that you offer on our American people may also apply to 'ethnic' Orthodox - not all are read, or have a firm grasp of their own culture, religion, etc. Many are also 'enlightenment Christians', the point being again that pointing fingers at Americans means four more pointing back at the accuser.

I'm not debating whether or not there is romanticism by those who don't understand ethnic culture and thus try to force it on other people.  But I don't think using an American-cultural "Romanticism" that isn't reflective of reality as a whole is the answer.  Of course, maybe that's me - I'm not "romantic" about the Church, the Empire, the Greece, or any other "the"s that we can come up with.

Finally, as to the wars - yes, the religious overtones existed on both sides: which was my point. We are *not* dealing with pagans when we consider America, the West, or Western Civilization. We're dealing with separated Christians (some nominal, some schismatic, some heretical, some rebellious - but even the atheists and so-called 'neo-pagans' can't escape their Christ-haunted culture. Their own sub-cultures tend to talk about Christianity as much as many American and/or Orthodox Christians.)

It can be stated, and it is - reasons of governments are quite different from the reasons that the populace rally to. America is probably the most religious country in the modern world - Barna Group certainly suggests so. The fact is that religion has been a prime motivator for Americans in war (and in peace), far more so than Enlightenment principles. (Ask the average American who Rousseau and Voltaire are, then who St. Paul and St John are - I'll bet far more have no clue of the former, nor what they taught.) To ignore the impact of religious feeling upon the American public is mere Romanticism. For the War Between the States, certainly so - a survey of sermons, newspapers, and literature of the period shows that it was considered as a religious crusade for both the South, as well as by Northern Abolitionists. Pres. Lincoln said 'why should we let them go, where then would we get our tariffs?' - Union soldiers weren't chanting 'get our tariffs!', but singing Unitarian hymns like 'The Battle March of the Republic'. To recognize that is not Romanticism, but Realism.

*Sigh*  Just because religion is/was a prime motivator for Americans in War doesn't mean that the war is religious or that it should be held in esteem as a religiously-motivated war.  What I was going to say here was some overly-long-winded thing about saying a war has religious undertones because people believe it to be so, but not supporting it because of the true intentions of the leadership (i.e. various world conflicts, etc.).  However, it's chapel time.  Bye.
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« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2007, 09:58:22 AM »

Good Lord. I go a way for a few hours and you busy beavers have whipped up a fire storm of a debate. For Cowboy, I liked your response. I grew up with church Slavonic and learned nothing but I do not fault language for that. I fault my nominal parents when it came to faith issues and the failure of the church to inculcate the faith. I go to an all English speaking church now and still see the wandering eyes and bored look on many kids and it disturbs me. What is wrong. Mind you I am not advocating returning to all church Slavonic.

Secondly I would argue that the Orthodox church has become Americanized. Pews. Stewardship. Church Boards. Priests with no or little facial hair. Choirs with robes. Some churches have organs. The list goes on. Keep the best of the past and then chuch the rest.

Oh, I like the counter culture reference. If you truly want to be an onservant Orthodox it's tough in this culture.
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« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2007, 12:30:44 PM »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melting_pot
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« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2007, 01:36:37 PM »

In an otherwise flawed article, Fr. Alexander Schmemann has an absolutely excellent discussion of just this issue -- Orthodoxy, culture, ethnicity, language, nation -- in "Problems of Orthodoxy in America: The Canonical Problem". Read it and then re-read it.

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For the first time in its whole history, Orthodoxy must live within a secular culture. This presents enormous spiritual problems with which I hope to deal in a special article. What is important for us here, however, is that the concept of “americanization” and “American” Orthodoxy is thus far from being a simple one. It is a great error to think that all problems are solved by the use of English in services, essential as it is. For the real problem (and we will probably only begin to realize and to face it when “everything” is translated into English) is that of culture, of the “way of life.” It belongs to the very essence of Orthodoxy not only to “accept” a culture, but to permeate and to transform it, or in other terms, to consider it an integral part and object of the Orthodox vision of life. Deprived of this living interrelation with culture, of this claim to the whole of life, Orthodoxy, in spite of all formal rectitude of dogma and liturgy, betrays and loses something absolutely essential. And this explains the instinctive attachment of so many Orthodox, even American born, to the “national” forms of Orthodoxy, their resistance, however narrow-minded and “nationalistic,” to a complete divorce between Orthodoxy and its various national expressions. In these forms and expressions Orthodoxy preserves something of its existential wholeness, of its link with life in its totality, and is not reduced to a “rite,” a clearly delineated number of credal statements and a set of “minimal rules.” One cannot by a surgical operation called “americanization” distill a pure “Orthodoxy in itself,” without disconnecting it form its flesh and blood, making it a lifeless form. There can be no doubt, therefore, that in view of all this, a living continuity with national traditions will remain for a long time not only a “compromise” meant to satisfy the “old-timers,” but an essential condition for the very life of the Orthodox Church. And any attempt to build the unity of Orthodoxy here by opposing the “American” to the traditional national connotations and terms will lead neither to a real unity nor to real Orthodoxy.

But equally wrong is the other view, which implies a very narrow and obviously distorted idea of the Church as a simple function of national identity, values and self-preservation. “National” becomes here “nationalistic” and the Church -- an instrument of nationalism...Orthodoxy should be kept and preserved not because it is the “faith of our fathers,” [i.e., biological fathers] but because it is the true faith and as such is universal, all-embracing and truly catholic. A convert, for example, embraces Orthodoxy not because it is somebody's “father’s faith,” but because he recognizes in it the Church of Christ, the fullness of faith and catholicity...It is not the task or the purpose of Orthodoxy to perpetuate and “preserve” the Russian or the Greek national identity, but the function of the Greek and Russian “expressions” of Orthodoxy is to perpetuate the “catholic” values of Orthodoxy which otherwise would be lost. “National” here has value not in itself, but only inasmuch as it is “catholic,” i.e. capable of conveying and communicating the living truth of Orthodoxy, of assuring the organic continuity of the Church.
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« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2007, 02:58:16 PM »

cleveland wrote:

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Maybe growing up south of the Mason-Dixon is more different from the Northern experience than I thought, ...

Your mistake - only my early elementary years were spent ‘south of the Mason-Dixon line’. Which is why I do understand America - I've lived across much of it.  I’ve taught youth in America as well, and I know that they are not stupid. In fact, they have much more in common intellectually with their grand-parents than their parents (though they are also more socially advanced in some ways - such as lacking racism.) That might make me more of an optimist, but I’ll bet the youth of Ohio should be given more credit, and are more likely the same as those I know in Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Florida, Missouri, etc. There are, of course, a minority who *choose* ignorance - it goes along with an adopted identity (gangsta, bimbo, etc.)

But yes, things are more different South than what you thought. I’m an Allen Tate sort of Southerner (transplanted North, and came to grips with Southerness because of Northern misunderstandings - so that coming back South, I was able to see it all in a new light.) Most Southerners younger than me are more Southern than I am in fact - more Southern than my parents (baby-boomers were those who really wanted to forget what they were, especially the ‘bad parts’.) Flannery O'Connor once said of the South: ""By and large, people in the South still conceive of humanity in theological terms. While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted." The return to Christ is all that is needed to be Christ-centered again, Christ-haunted means he still calls all men to repentance.

This issue of Orthodoxy and Southerness has been foremost in my mind of late, living in one of the most Anglo-Saxon parts of the country (Florida Panhandle) - the book I’ve found that best explains the same conundrums we deal with is “The Church, the South, and the Future” by James J. Thompson (Christian Classics, Westminster MD, 1988). The book is by a Catholic convert from Adventist - much of what he says resonates with the Southron Orthodox convert experience.

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However, I would add that it is possibly more difficult to "straighten" out Catholic/Protestant "traditions" because of the mere fact that they are Christian already with Christian origins, ...

I can’t disagree more. The analogy of ‘flat land’ vs. ‘hillside’? That only describes the situation if Orthodoxy is described to them as just ‘ethnic Christianity’ or another denomination. Really, all conversions to Orthodoxy are rolling the ball up the hill (that goes for those born in it as well.) American Christianity is far from suffering inertia - the truth is they are always seeking. They desire to know God, they desire to serve Him, etc. They change all the time because they are restless, restless because they are still looking. But, unless someone tells them, they won’t know. The idea that resistance to change is somehow more latent in American culture? That is purely laughable - Russian and Greek society are *far* more resistant to change.

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No, we are in disagreement, because I'm stating that for at least 3 of these holidays (excepting Christmas) that there is little if any Christianity left in the holiday - and while many claim to know the historical ties, the holidays in essence and in practice have become largely secular or pagan.

Nothing can ‘become pagan’. Post-Christian is not 'pagan' - it is just Prodigal. There are secular (and Christ-haunted) celebrations of those festivals, but like it or not they are indeed still Christian. The American churched majority goes to Church and celebrates St. Valentine’s day. They are aware of who St. Valentine was, though they might not call him Saint (they likely consider all Christians as saints.) They do the same with St. Patrick (every state I’ve lived in, St. Patrick is claimed as partisan for Baptist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Adventist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) Nobody is worshipping false gods on those days.

Halloween is another matter - extreme Fundamentalist Protestants came up with some absurd tales about Druids and such. Their goal was to attack Roman Catholics as being pagan. Unfortunately, some others brought that Fundy Prot polemic into Orthodoxy. So, now we have rants against Halloween every Fall that attack the Christian tradition itself, because their is no separation in their mind between a small minority of deviants (Satanists, Witches) and the majority who don’t treat it as a demonic day (but for who many celebrate it as Hallows Eve, or ‘Reformation Day’.) All of it illustrates a dark vision of everthing, a pessimism about humanity and the created world that seems contrary to the optimism that Orthodoxy actually has.

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  Most people who go to Mass to begin their St. Patrick's day festival have no clue about his life, the impact of his ministry, or why he's such a great saint to the Irish people. 

Sure they do. The reason we have the festival is we understand his impact. He defeated the pagans and brought Christianity to Ireland (ie, drove out the snakes and explained the Shamrock.) The truth is, most Orthodox have no clue - Protestants and Catholics do, they’re just still arguing the significance.

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... trying to  restore the holiday to a Christian root is possibly harder than if the holiday was soely pagan to begin with - now they have to combat the pagan/secular celebration, and the cultural biases,

Which is my point - there is *nothing* pagan about St. Patrick’s day. The only thing ‘obscuring’ the day is some public drunkenness (as if that doesn’t happen with Orthodox holidays - I’ve seen it), and some blatant nationalism (but nothing on the order of nationalism one sees with many Orthodox.) One doesn’t have to ‘combat’ anything with St. Patrick’s day but sectarianism and drunkeness - not ‘pagan’ issues.

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You didn't read my post, did you?  My point,  .... but I noticed that you overlooked it when you spoke about the formation of government, which by its nature may be driven by popular referrendum, but in its essence is formed by the "cultural elite," in this case the Washingtons and Jeffersons of this world.

I read your post, and that is a tangent - we weren’t speaking of the formation of government. The impact of the French Enlightenment on the Founding Fathers was spare - the Scottish Enlightenment was of bigger import. In fact, the same Founding Fathers you mention were already ‘enlightened’ before the French starting having their parallel movement. Upon closer inspection, our American ancestors were not very happy with the ideals or reality of French Revolution or Enlightenment.  The Enlightenment itself came about with the spread of learning out from Constantinople to Western Europe (ie, the Renaissance.) Those ideas are not ‘Western’, and not particularly American - Orthodoxy’s struggle with the Enlightenment is not a struggle against America or the West, but against something it has dealt with for centuries in the East; an engagement with science and philosophy.

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But I don't think using an American-cultural "Romanticism" that isn't reflective of reality as a whole is the answer.  Of course, maybe that's me - I'm not "romantic" about the Church, the Empire, the Greece, or any other "the"s that we can come up with.

And I haven’t presented any ‘American-cultural Romanticism’ - I’m reflecting reality: a sociological reality, anthropological reality, historical reality, psychological reality. So, you’ll have to put away that straw man. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, just say so and we can work from there. Just throwing out dismissive labels doesn’t help the discussion. Romanticism exalts the emotional over the rational, nationalism over the individual, convention over pragmatism and innovation - none of that having *anything* to do with what I’m writing about (again, I’m not a Romantic - I don’t care for emotionalism, nationalism, or convention.) That part of internet pop-culture I find frustrating - a mere mention of a ‘trigger word’ and an effusion of descriptors having nothing to do with anything flows out: ‘Romanticism’, ‘elitism’, ‘antiquarianism’, etc.

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Just because religion is/was a prime motivator for Americans in War doesn't mean that the war is religious or that it should be held in esteem as a religiously-motivated war.

Esteem? Who said anything so perverse? Esteem for war is morbid and misanthropic! If religion is a motivator for a war, that does indeed make it a religious war (what else could make it a religious war?) If you’re hunting for romanticism - there it is : “that it should be held in esteem as a religiously-motivated war”. I’ve been a soldier - no one esteems war. Its a dirty mess that someone else makes, and puts you into so humans can be destroyed (either physically or psychically.) I esteem the warrior, but not the war - America hasn’t had a war yet that was necessary, IMHO.
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« Reply #30 on: February 14, 2007, 06:04:51 PM »

Your mistake - only my early elementary years were spent ‘south of the Mason-Dixon line’. Which is why I do understand America - I've lived across much of it.  I’ve taught youth in America as well, and I know that they are not stupid. In fact, they have much more in common intellectually with their grand-parents than their parents (though they are also more socially advanced in some ways - such as lacking racism.) That might make me more of an optimist, but I’ll bet the youth of Ohio should be given more credit, and are more likely the same as those I know in Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Florida, Missouri, etc. There are, of course, a minority who *choose* ignorance - it goes along with an adopted identity (gangsta, bimbo, etc.)

But yes, things are more different South than what you thought. I’m an Allen Tate sort of Southerner (transplanted North, and came to grips with Southerness because of Northern misunderstandings - so that coming back South, I was able to see it all in a new light.) Most Southerners younger than me are more Southern than I am in fact - more Southern than my parents (baby-boomers were those who really wanted to forget what they were, especially the ‘bad parts’.) Flannery O'Connor once said of the South: ""By and large, people in the South still conceive of humanity in theological terms. While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted." The return to Christ is all that is needed to be Christ-centered again, Christ-haunted means he still calls all men to repentance.

This issue of Orthodoxy and Southerness has been foremost in my mind of late, living in one of the most Anglo-Saxon parts of the country (Florida Panhandle) - the book I’ve found that best explains the same conundrums we deal with is “The Church, the South, and the Future” by James J. Thompson (Christian Classics, Westminster MD, 1988). The book is by a Catholic convert from Adventist - much of what he says resonates with the Southron Orthodox convert experience.

As I said, things in the South are more different than I thought.  I happily stand corrected.

And my statement that you grew up in the South was not intended to pin you down as only having experience there - just an observation based on your numerous comments that led me to that conclusion.

I can’t disagree more. The analogy of ‘flat land’ vs. ‘hillside’? That only describes the situation if Orthodoxy is described to them as just ‘ethnic Christianity’ or another denomination. Really, all conversions to Orthodoxy are rolling the ball up the hill (that goes for those born in it as well.) American Christianity is far from suffering inertia - the truth is they are always seeking. They desire to know God, they desire to serve Him, etc. They change all the time because they are restless, restless because they are still looking. But, unless someone tells them, they won’t know. The idea that resistance to change is somehow more latent in American culture? That is purely laughable - Russian and Greek society are *far* more resistant to change.

*Sigh* You're putting words in my mouth again - I said that it is more difficult for a Catholic or Protestant to accept the minor changes, not that "resistence to change" is latent in American culture.

Nothing can ‘become pagan’. Post-Christian is not 'pagan' - it is just Prodigal. There are secular (and Christ-haunted) celebrations of those festivals, but like it or not they are indeed still Christian. The American churched majority goes to Church and celebrates St. Valentine’s day. They are aware of who St. Valentine was, though they might not call him Saint (they likely consider all Christians as saints.) They do the same with St. Patrick (every state I’ve lived in, St. Patrick is claimed as partisan for Baptist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Adventist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) Nobody is worshipping false gods on those days.

Halloween is another matter - extreme Fundamentalist Protestants came up with some absurd tales about Druids and such. Their goal was to attack Roman Catholics as being pagan. Unfortunately, some others brought that Fundy Prot polemic into Orthodoxy. So, now we have rants against Halloween every Fall that attack the Christian tradition itself, because their is no separation in their mind between a small minority of deviants (Satanists, Witches) and the majority who don’t treat it as a demonic day (but for who many celebrate it as Hallows Eve, or ‘Reformation Day’.) All of it illustrates a dark vision of everthing, a pessimism about humanity and the created world that seems contrary to the optimism that Orthodoxy actually has.

Sure they do. The reason we have the festival is we understand his impact. He defeated the pagans and brought Christianity to Ireland (ie, drove out the snakes and explained the Shamrock.) The truth is, most Orthodox have no clue - Protestants and Catholics do, they’re just still arguing the significance.

Which is my point - there is *nothing* pagan about St. Patrick’s day. The only thing ‘obscuring’ the day is some public drunkenness (as if that doesn’t happen with Orthodox holidays - I’ve seen it), and some blatant nationalism (but nothing on the order of nationalism one sees with many Orthodox.) One doesn’t have to ‘combat’ anything with St. Patrick’s day but sectarianism and drunkeness - not ‘pagan’ issues. 

I'm glad you've encountered more people who are in touch with the real meaning of St. Patrick's Day and St. Valentine's Day than I have - I mean that.  I've been around many Catholics who barely know the former and not at all the latter.

Not to delve into semantics (or tangential Church History), but I will also just for the record state my disagreement with the opening statement of this particular quote segment - it is not only possible for something that was Christian to become Pagan, its becoming Prodigal doesn't preclude it from becoming Pagan.

I read your post, and that is a tangent - we weren’t speaking of the formation of government. The impact of the French Enlightenment on the Founding Fathers was spare - the Scottish Enlightenment was of bigger import. In fact, the same Founding Fathers you mention were already ‘enlightened’ before the French starting having their parallel movement. Upon closer inspection, our American ancestors were not very happy with the ideals or reality of French Revolution or Enlightenment.  The Enlightenment itself came about with the spread of learning out from Constantinople to Western Europe (ie, the Renaissance.) Those ideas are not ‘Western’, and not particularly American - Orthodoxy’s struggle with the Enlightenment is not a struggle against America or the West, but against something it has dealt with for centuries in the East; an engagement with science and philosophy.

And I haven’t presented any ‘American-cultural Romanticism’ - I’m reflecting reality: a sociological reality, anthropological reality, historical reality, psychological reality. So, you’ll have to put away that straw man. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, just say so and we can work from there. Just throwing out dismissive labels doesn’t help the discussion. Romanticism exalts the emotional over the rational, nationalism over the individual, convention over pragmatism and innovation - none of that having *anything* to do with what I’m writing about (again, I’m not a Romantic - I don’t care for emotionalism, nationalism, or convention.) That part of internet pop-culture I find frustrating - a mere mention of a ‘trigger word’ and an effusion of descriptors having nothing to do with anything flows out: ‘Romanticism’, ‘elitism’, ‘antiquarianism’, etc.

a) You had made a mention of formation of government explicitly, to which I responded. I'm sorry if you feel it distracts from the main portion of our conversation - I have a tendency to strike up lots of sub-conversations within a single dialogue.  I will cease.
b) It's not a "straw man" - I interpreted your comments on the prevelance and consciousness of the various works of literature and cultural influences to be "Romantic" - i.e. an idealized description of a partial truth that elevates the dignity of the indiginous people for the purpose of showing them to be possibly more perfect than they are - which is an essential element to nationalism and its propaganda; you're not trying to be a nationalist, but you're doing a good job of giving what I was interpreting as propaganda or over-idealized statements.  I was not merely throwing out the term as some sort of internet stooge, and I resent the implication, though I understand the source considering the internet is unfortunately unable to carry tone of voice/body language/other nonverbal cues that would have led you to another conclusion if we were having this discussion live.  If you really feel that your observations are actually spot-on and not exaggerated, then that's fine - but I'll disagree based on my observations, though will admit that you've probably been exposed to more of the culture than I have (due to travel and years on this earth).

Esteem? Who said anything so perverse? Esteem for war is morbid and misanthropic! If religion is a motivator for a war, that does indeed make it a religious war (what else could make it a religious war?) If you’re hunting for romanticism - there it is : “that it should be held in esteem as a religiously-motivated war”. I’ve been a soldier - no one esteems war. Its a dirty mess that someone else makes, and puts you into so humans can be destroyed (either physically or psychically.) I esteem the warrior, but not the war - America hasn’t had a war yet that was necessary, IMHO. 

I'm sorry if I read an implication into your writing that wasn't there.  But I would only put forth that a war is religious if a) the overriding motivator of leadership is religious, and b) they actively seek the approval of religious figures as the major motivation to go to war both for themselves and for their armies.  Otherwise, it could be stated that most war is religious, because religion is used as a propaganda tool and motivator by many nations fighting war, in order to hide the intent: land, power, money, whatever.

And yes, people do esteem war, unfortunately.  Another discussion for another time, but I respect every soldier who has had to fight, and wish for their lives to be kept safe by the Lord.  I normally fall into the "necessary evil" camp on the war issue - probably best since, as someone aspiring for the priesthood, I should not and can not pick up a gun and fight (yes, GiC, I know - but this is what I believe nonetheless).
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« Reply #31 on: February 15, 2007, 10:24:58 AM »

Gentlemen,

Could we please dispense with these historical arguments and get this thread back to the REALITY of Orthodoxy in America here and now. No matter what has happened in the past we still have cradles and converts and both face challenges in the here and now. Challenges to understanding the Faith because services are not in a language they comprehend, challenges caused by expecting converts to accept and to some extent "glorify" old Russian, Greek, Antiochian, Serbian  etc. customs and traditions, many of which are "cultural" and not a part of Christ's Church.

I had to laugh when an inquirer on another list wrote that he was contemplating conversion to Orthodoxy(from reading) but his challenge was that the only Orthodox Church in his area was Greek and he was of French ancestry. He was asking if it was permissible to attend a Greek Orthodox Church if he wasn't Greek. I can't help feeling that all these "cultural" references before Orthodox in our church names (Russian, Greek, Serbian, Outside Russia, Antiochian) hinder the spread of the gospel. I think we will be better off in the long run to drop these designations from our church names, cultural pride notwithstanding.
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« Reply #32 on: February 15, 2007, 01:52:24 PM »

This thread has been split off from 5 Year 'Lifespan of a Convert." and is to continue the talk about American Orthodoxy and American Culture.  Please continue said conversation here and keep it civil por favor.
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« Reply #33 on: February 15, 2007, 03:27:55 PM »

A few notes, not necessarily as coherent as I would like:

I commend to your attention the "Valpo maps", an invaluable set of choropleth maps showing religious adherents by county. Most of those for the major bodies show the signs of immigration or emigration; for instance, Lutherans are heavily concentrated in the upper midwest, corresponding to the heavy infux of Scandinavians to that area.

American culture in the large is bound to look upon different religions as "flavors", and different Christian churches as "flavors" of Christianity. It's a combination of Protestantism and religious tolerance, and even the Catholics cannot fully escape it. Orthodoxy is going to be tagged for a long time with its Greco-Antiochene-Slavic origins, just like the Episcopalians are stuck with the upper-class-snob image.

And yet-- look at this map and those three little gray counties in South Dakota. Those are the only places in the country where Episcopalians are the largest church body. Any guesses as to why? It's because those three counties sit on top of Indian reservations, and the Episcopalians were very successful in evangelizing them.
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« Reply #34 on: February 16, 2007, 03:15:22 PM »

Dear Keble,

"Being stuck" with other folks perceptions is one thing, but our churches ACTING to keep these stereotypes fresh in everyone's mind is quite another matter. IMHO we should refer to our churches as Orthodox Christian rather than Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox or Serbian Orthodox, etc. Then we would be removing the first stumbling block hindering our efforts at evangelization. I would bet that this may be the only stumbling block necessary for most potential converts.

I know some feel that it is a good thing to have potential converts have to "fight" their way into our churches, but I feel this is counterproductive.
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« Reply #35 on: February 16, 2007, 03:42:41 PM »

Having some ethnic component in the church is not a turn off to everybody, in fact the opposite can be true.  I think the church can be like our society, and the analogy is a melting pot.
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« Reply #36 on: February 16, 2007, 04:11:17 PM »

I'm not talking about ethnic parishioners--the more the better! Just eliminating the cultural references from church names. I would also not be in favor of American Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #37 on: February 16, 2007, 04:51:14 PM »

Not just people, but I think many customs/church traditions have a well deserved place in our parishes as well.  In terms of a name, well our diocese obviously has a lot of words in it.  Our parish street sign just says "Holy <Blank> Orthodox Church" though.

What should the overall name be?  Most churches I believe are just known by their country name, such as the Church of Greece.
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« Reply #38 on: February 16, 2007, 09:23:37 PM »

"Being stuck" with other folks perceptions is one thing, but our churches ACTING to keep these stereotypes fresh in everyone's mind is quite another matter. IMHO we should refer to our churches as Orthodox Christian rather than Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox or Serbian Orthodox, etc. Then we would be removing the first stumbling block hindering our efforts at evangelization. I would bet that this may be the only stumbling block necessary for most potential converts.

I know some feel that it is a good thing to have potential converts have to "fight" their way into our churches, but I feel this is counterproductive.

I don't know if the name outside the Church will be such a problem if there is charity inside the Church.  Yes, while frequently (and mostly in this country) the name in front of Orthodox is an Ethnic moniker, historically it was rather an identifier of Liturgical tradition - which is why the Churches in the Patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria frequently have the name "Greek Orthodox" - with Greek being the successor to the name Roman in these cases.  It identifies them as being of the same Liturgical tradition as one another and with Constantinople, Athens, Cyprus, etc.  Under the same system, then, all of the Slavic Churches would have "Rus" in front of theirs (or Slav), and the Westerners (if still in communion) would have Franco (or some other title).  I think if we used this understanding instead of the Ethnic Moniker, then it would be easier to break from Ethnic cloisters while still providing a helpful piece of information.

Of course, even if we dropped all titles and just said "Orthodox" or "American Orthodox" or whatever, people will still be put off by the name alone if the people inside the Church have no love.
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« Reply #39 on: February 16, 2007, 09:50:55 PM »

How people are treated inside the church I think is the single most important factor in being able to grow.  I fully agree with that.
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« Reply #40 on: February 16, 2007, 09:56:19 PM »

Most non-Orthodox have no clue that using the terms "Greek" or "Rus" would imply a liturgical tradition. Your asking to much of an inquirer. I agree with Cowboy. Eliminating the ethnic moniker would be a way of making our churches more  welcoming from the get-go. Getting an inquirer to walk through the doors is half the battle. Obviously, if the church is not a hospitable place, the inquirer won't return. But you have to get them inside first.

FYI for anyone who is interested: The title for the Patriarchate of Antioch when translated literally from the Arabic is still the Roum Orthodox Church of Antioch. Roum=Rome or Roman because the patriarchates were originally a part of the eastern Roman empire.
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Cowboy
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« Reply #41 on: February 22, 2007, 05:21:50 PM »

I completely agree that how potential converts are treated inside the church (with LOVE) is the most critical factor in conversion.  But I very strongly believe that ethnic markers in our church names are HUGE stumbling blocks to evangelization.

When I returned to Orthodoxy as a prodigal son 5 years ago, I started with the yellow pages. The second thing I was told by the person (male) who answered the phone at the Greek church which was closest to my home was "that doesn't sound like a Greek name--you know most of the Liturgy is in Greek". I am of Slavic descent and my name sounds like it. This was after he told me the time of Liturgy on Sunday, which I sensed he regretted.

Instead, I attended an Orthodox church with no ethnic moniker in its name at all, farther from my home, and was welcomed with love and joy. And I have been a fixture there ever since. At that time I did not even know that it was an OCA church and this would have made no difference to me. The beauty of the Liturgy and the love shown by the priest and people was all that mattered. I felt like the prodigal son welcomed home with a feast!

Our parish has a continuous flow of catechumens, both RC and Protestant converts as well as a flow of returning "ethnics" like me. It is a melting pot of of many nationalities, but is united in Orthodox Christianity. One of our Serbian founders has a "Slava" each year with a big meal following to which the whole church is invited, although there are only 2 Serbian families.

We have the traditional Easter baskets at Pascha filled with decorated eggs ,sausages , bread, cheese, horseradish, slivo, etc. (the only drawback to this tradition is that the majority of ethnic people miss Holy Saturday Liturgy because of Easter basket preparation--this is actually terrible and is an example of a tradition overshadowing Orthodox Christianity). But to a newcomer with no strong ethnic ties (not me)--this ritual seems, well... Old World.. and they feel out of place because it has no special place in their childhood memories (as it does in mine). So last Pascha a convert family had a bucket of KFC in their basket and another cradle family had barbecued ribs in theirs. Yet another had pizza. Purists shuddered, but on the other hand, many commented that it was a good idea for next year.

My point here is that any parish should put Orthodox Christianity FIRST and cultural traditions SECOND and in any conflict the former trumps the latter.

Think how you would feel as a new member if on Pascha night the whole church barbecued pigs feet--how left out would you feel? (those of you who don't like pigs feet, anyway). And how could any Orthodox Christian explain to the new convert that this is part of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian. It would be absurd.

We really need to be careful to separate, and keep separate, Orthodox Christianity from cultural traditions. I think we should be cognizant of traditions becoming stumbling blocks for potential converts.

I am not saying that Orthodox Christianity needs to become "Americanized". It just also should not try to force Russian, Greek, Serbian, Antiochian, etc. traditions to be part and parcel of the True Faith.
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Ebor
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« Reply #42 on: February 22, 2007, 07:30:24 PM »

Thank you for telling of your experiences, Cowboy.  They were quite interesting.

We have the traditional Easter baskets at Pascha filled with decorated eggs ,sausages , bread, cheese, horseradish, slivo, etc. (the only drawback to this tradition is that the majority of ethnic people miss Holy Saturday Liturgy because of Easter basket preparation--this is actually terrible and is an example of a tradition overshadowing Orthodox Christianity). But to a newcomer with no strong ethnic ties (not me)--this ritual seems, well... Old World.. and they feel out of place because it has no special place in their childhood memories (as it does in mine). So last Pascha a convert family had a bucket of KFC in their basket and another cradle family had barbecued ribs in theirs. Yet another had pizza. Purists shuddered, but on the other hand, many commented that it was a good idea for next year.

I find your last line so crucial.  It was the "Purists" who shuddered.  They could not get their minds around the idea that other people had foods that were just as traditional *to them* as the horseradish and slivo and other items are to EO persons who are from a slavic background. Another culture's food seemed to them to not belong in an EO church. I think this goes along with the idea of "baptizing a culture".  But for some there seems to be no allowance for "western" traditions or customs.

Human beings come in such a great variety of customs and behaviours that are neither good or bad, but just part of their background or family or area.  I could see someone from Montana putting some fresh steaks in their basket or a cut of elk or venison, a container of chili or other casserole that had meat in it, or a sour cream lemon pie because those could be what they know and like and did not have during Lent. 

Quote
My point here is that any parish should put Orthodox Christianity FIRST and cultural traditions SECOND and in any conflict the former trumps the latter.

Well, it seems that for some such at the "purists" there is difficulty in separating the cultural traditions from the EO Christianity. They seem to be part and parcel, as it were.

Quote
Think how you would feel as a new member if on Pascha night the whole church barbecued pigs feet--how left out would you feel? (those of you who don't like pigs feet, anyway). And how could any Orthodox Christian explain to the new convert that this is part of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian. It would be absurd.

I will agree with you that it would be absurd.  But I can imagine someone insisting that if another person did not like pigs feet they were just being "prideful" or bringing along "baggage" from their past or that they would have to learn humility and like them or they would not really be EO.  I'm sorry if I sound jaundiced.  Undecided

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We really need to be careful to separate, and keep separate, Orthodox Christianity from cultural traditions. I think we should be cognizant of traditions becoming stumbling blocks for potential converts.

And is that one of the big things, to figure out just what is a cultural tradition? Then if a person converts it's OK if their cultural traditions (singing Christmas Carols, having fried chicken in the basket) come along *for them*?


Ebor
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Sarah
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« Reply #43 on: February 22, 2007, 09:42:08 PM »


I know some feel that it is a good thing to have potential converts have to "fight" their way into our churches, but I feel this is counterproductive.

I agree with the counterproductive part of that sentence.  Thank God we "cradles" didn't have to fight our way in!  I dare say that most converts are not Orthodox because they were brought up in another faith, just the same as cradle Orthodox are brought up in the Orthodox faith.  How in the world can we justify "punishing" them for searching for the true faith once they have found it?!?

Cowboy, I like your idea of just saying the Orthodox Christian Church when describing our parishes.
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« Reply #44 on: February 22, 2007, 10:05:06 PM »

Dear Friends:

Just to lighten up the discussion a bit.

A number of years ago, one the the middle age bachelors in my home parish brough an Easter basket full of Burger King coupons ! 

Everyone laughed, including the priest when he blessed the baskets.

Sometimes, it's best to relax and not take everything * so * seriously.

Best wishes to all for a blessed Fast and Holy Pascha

Francis Frost
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