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Author Topic: American Orthodoxy and American Culture: Are They Compatible?  (Read 19453 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.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2007, 09:30:35 PM by cleveland » Logged

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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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Sorry, I just went back and changed all the post titles to the current one for the thread.... All those slashes were starting to bug me Tongue  - Cleveland, GM
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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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« 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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« 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.

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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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« 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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« Reply #45 on: February 23, 2007, 02:15:06 PM »

Dear Francis,

Now that WAS funny! And IMHO perfectly fine. Burger King instead of Slovenian Sausage is a way of keeping a tradition alive without being legalistic about it. At my parish, I bet there will be a greater variety of food in the baskets this Pascha than last--it's as if some invisible barrier had been broken--kind of like--"oh, you mean it's ok to bring food you LIKE, whatever it is, to break the fast with".

Dear Sarah,

It is sometimes a little frustrating to me to see convert teens who have read, attended every service, taken special classes during their catechumen period and do actually know more about the Faith than teens of cradles. I dare say that if some of our cradles (teen or adult) were asked to put out the same effort instead of relying on a "birthright" there would be a cry heard all the way to Heaven.

Dear Ebor,

I have also found it quite difficult not to become "jaundiced" when I encounter the rigidity of some cradles especially surrounding attitudes toward traditions or customs. I know that the Pascha meal was positively ruined for a few folks (the "purists) who just could not get past the KFC, ribs and pizza. Now in their defense, I think that they truly believe that what goes in the Easter basket is a critical part of the Orthodox Faith. I of course would argue, that it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Orthodoxy. They may not know how many Gospels there are or who wrote 'em but they definitely know that KFC in a Pascha basket is blasphemy. Of course, these are the same parishioners who couldn't attend Holy Saturday Liturgy because they were too busy preparing their baskets for Pascha night. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog; tradition/custom supplanting the Faith in importance.

I found it quite easy to ignore their obvious distress until they started canvassing the hall looking for support for their viewpoints. Even our priest stepped in with a joke to calm the moment.

I think it would be a very good exercise to have board members list traditions and customs that they feel are critical or at least "blessable" by Orthodoxy and then maybe we could add in a few American twists.

Cowboy

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« Reply #46 on: February 23, 2007, 11:50:57 PM »

That's quite good about the gentleman and his Burger King coupons.  I think that he was very much in the spirit and understanding of the occasion.

Cowboy,
I have also found it quite difficult not to become "jaundiced" when I encounter the rigidity of some cradles especially surrounding attitudes toward traditions or customs. I know that the Pascha meal was positively ruined for a few folks (the "purists) who just could not get past the KFC, ribs and pizza.

Frankly, that's pretty sad.  Imho, they "ruined" their own meal by focusing on what other people had/were doing and couldn't accept those that were Not Like Them.  This seems to be a significant problem in many groups and places (not just EO or churches), the idea that "Everyone has to be/do/act/eat/dress/move etc the same as I." and if someone is different, then *they* are wrong/misguided/evil or some other negative idea.

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Now in their defense, I think that they truly believe that what goes in the Easter basket is a critical part of the Orthodox Faith. I of course would argue, that it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Orthodoxy.

Indeed.  I understand what you say and I have to say that I agree with you.  I cannot see how any food or drink is "critical" to any Christian faith (EO or otherwise) except for the elements of the Eucharist.  Cultural things are not the same as the articles of the Creeds. How can the point be gotten across then that somethings people do just don't matter. That's it's OK to do or not do something; it's just personal taste or choice.  Let me be clear here that I am not putting all things in that catagory, but there are plenty of things that do go there.

In the past there have been mentions of "T"raditions vs. "t"raditions with some asserting that any tradition is important and inviolate.  What could be examples of ones that vary according to time, place, conditions and people?

Quote
I found it quite easy to ignore their obvious distress until they started canvassing the hall looking for support for their viewpoints. Even our priest stepped in with a joke to calm the moment.

 Huh Shocked They tried to rally support to their personal opinions.  *sigh!*  It sounds like your priest was wise and handled things. Good for him. Smiley

Quote
I think it would be a very good exercise to have board members list traditions and customs that they feel are critical or at least "blessable" by Orthodoxy and then maybe we could add in a few American twists.

I think that that would be an interesting and (one hopes) fruitful discussion. 

Ebor
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« Reply #47 on: February 24, 2007, 02:12:04 PM »

Out of curiosity, I searched for and found a list of churches/denominations in the U.S. that have some sort of ethnic or national identifier in their name (apart from words like "American" or "Canadian"):

African Methodist Episcopal Church
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church  (this wins the prize  Wink)
Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
Armenian Apostolic Church of America
Armenian Evangelical Church
Celtic Orthodox Christian Church in America
Coptic Orthodox Church
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
General Assembly of Korean Presbyterian Church in America
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregations
Hungarian Reformed Church in America
Indian Orthodox Church
Italian Pentecostal Church of Canada
Mennonite Church
Messianic Jewish
Messianic Jewish Alliance of Canada
Moravian Church in America
Netherlands Reformed Congregations
Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church
Polish National Catholic Church
Romanian Baptist Church USA
Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
True Orthodox Church of Greece
Ukrainian Catholic
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

Obviously the various Orthodox Churches are well-represented on the list, and most jurisdictions have an ethnic identifier, excepting the OCA.  On the question of whether having an ethnic identifier in a parish name matters, as an economist I would have to say undoubtedly yes.  Whether this effect is seen as positive or negative depends on what the goals of the parish are, and I make no value judgment on that.  If a parish wishes to be an ethnic or national enclave, a ministry for a special niche of the Christian "market" (please forgive me using economic terms here), then calling attention to that in the parish name is an effective signal for the broader American population.  It signals to outsiders that a parish desires to remain fundamentally "Greek" or "Russian" or "Serbian" or whatever, and not just "Orthodox Christian".  On the other hand, if the goal is to attract a broad spectrum of American converts, and not just by marriage into the community, then economically speaking you need to lower non-essential barriers to entry.  The name of a parish is a brand name, a form of advertising, at least as seen from outside the community.  Even the most multi-cultural and welcoming parish will lose a lot of potential inquiries simply because it includes an exclusionary or ethnic term in its name.  This is just an unavoidable economic fact.  Everything matters at the margin, and Americans are exquisitely sensitive to ethnic identifiers at the margin.

It is often useful to imagine the situation reversed.  Let us say you are a Presbyterian of non-Asian descent who has recently moved to a new neighborhood.  In your neighborhood are two churches - "Bethel Presbyterian Church" and "Bethel Presbyterian Korean Church".  As a non-Korean which of the two are you most likely to first initiate contact with, all else being equal?  Obviously the former church sends no exclusionary signals by its name and so is likely to attract more attention from non-Koreans.  Now it may possibly be the case that the Korean church is composed of nearly 100% non-Koreans, with little or no Korean-ness to its style of worship or church life, and also very welcoming to all inquirers.  And it may even be the case that the non-ethnic church is quite exclusionary in practice or not very welcoming generally to inquirers or converts or transfers.  However, all else equal one expects the generic church to attract significantly more inquiries simply by virtue of the name difference.  Depending on the size of the effect this may possibly overwhelm the ethnically-named church's advantage in church life and attitude.  While this analysis cannot tell you which church will ultimately attract more new members, it can tell you which church will attract more initial inquiries, holding all else equal and assuming that the surrounding population is not predominantly Korean or East-Asian.  It would be very interesting to look at some hard numbers on this.

Does any of this mean that Orthodox parishes should drop ethnic identifiers in their names?  Depends on what the parish's mission is.  Is the goal to minister to a well-defined group?  Then keeping the ethnic identifier serves a positive purpose since it signals to the outside world as well as the community the ethnic character of the community.  That can be a good thing if it brings the community together in positive ways.  Just don't expect too many inquiries from outsiders, especially of the walk-in variety.

On the other hand, if a parish decides to be broad and multi-ethnic, then the emphasis should be on "Orthodox Christian" rather than "Greek" or "Russian" or "Serbian", at least in the name that goes in the yellow pages.  Dropping any explicit ethnic references in the parish name, even if the community is in truth mostly from one ethnic group, would be the better strategy given the parish's goal.  Again, there's nothing to say a multi-ethnic parish can't have an ethnic moniker attached, but one should realize that at the margins the parish is losing inquirers who will go elsewhere simply because they never took the first step to investigate the parish.  Exactly how large this effect might be I cannot be sure without seeing some data, but I suspect it may be significant, at least statistically.  Going back to the Korean church example, I know that I would hesitate to just walk into a Korean church if I were shopping around for a new community, even though I know Korean and East-Asian culture comfortably well and have many Korean friends both in America and in Korea.  [Though I admit Korean cooking might be a draw!].  Again, it would be interesting to see what economic studies have been done on this.

Anyway, I can't say anything about the way things are within Orthodox parishes, since I am not a member of any Orthodox parish (yet).  Nor would I presume to.  However, as an economist I can say a few general things about Orthodoxy as it presents itself within the broader American religious landscape.  I think ethnicity is fine generally, so long as people don't make it the end-all and be-all of religious life.  But unless a parish is Irish-Slovene-Dutch-German-British-Cherokee-American in orientation, then ethnicity won't be particularly attractive to me in its own right. Wink

In Christ,
Brian
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« Reply #48 on: February 24, 2007, 02:27:42 PM »

Excellent post, Brian.  My parish did this very thing when it dropped the "Russian" part of its name subsequent to the OCA's autocephaly in 1970.  There is still a large Slavic influence in the parish, but it has never felt exclusionary to me.
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« Reply #49 on: February 24, 2007, 02:45:32 PM »

Well, I'm going to come at this from a different angle and let me post my disclamer that I do not accept the three branch theory nor do neccesarily believe that keeping in names 100% of the time is a good thing (however, I also don't think it is a bad thing).  Anyways, why are these ethnic names in there?  To distinguish it from the other churches.  If I go to a GOA church and then a ROCOR church, then I am aware of who the metropolitan is and so on.  It also helps me to know what to expect.  Now when were these names inserterd?  2000 years ago.  In Scripture you already see Paul refering to the Church of fill in the blank.  An ethnic modifier is something distinctive of almost all churches that have some claim to apostolic succession.  The ROMAN Catholic Church, the ANGLICAN Church, the former Church of GAUL, or the Church of ANTIOCH, or MOSCOW, etc.  Now, of course, not all members in the RCC are Roman or even Italian, far from it.  However, this is the same thing with the Russian Orthodox Church.  In it there are Ukranians, Moldavans, BeloRussians, Yakuktsi, Kazakhs, Africans, etc.  You can see similar things with any Orthodox church or other Church for that matter.  Then lets take a look at Islam.  Technically to be Muslim is often to be considered Arabic with the language.  This hasn't seemed to stop converts within the United States.  Although, the reality is far from true to the theory with Islam, it provides another important example.  My point is that I highly doubt the ethnic label is the problem.  I do think in some occasions it is, and in others people use it as an excuse to not convert.  However, I am a member in two ROCOR churches.  We don't just have Russia in our name, but we have it twice!  However, both churches get about 1 or two converts a year.  Not a bad number for being such tiny parishes.  Thus, I think we're missing the historical reason for these modifiers and I also think that ethnicity is hardley the reason.  IT is a reason, but I doubt the main one.  And to even take the name off is very superficial.  They're still going to be Greek and they have every right to.  Just like Catholics may have the right to be Irish and converts to ORthodoxy have the right to be Irish, or whatever they feel like.  Anyways, I can't figure out how to give a good conclusions so I'll just offer my two kopecks for what ever they're worth.
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« Reply #50 on: February 24, 2007, 03:58:10 PM »

The historical monikers of the early church were not ethnic markers because at the time of the Roman empire there were a variety of ethnic groups living in different cities throughout the empire. The church of Antioch, was a geographical term, not an ethnic term because the church had members who were Jewish, Syrian, Greek, etc. During the development of the church of the Roman empire, one's ethnic background was not considered as important as being a citizen of the Roman empire. This point can be compared to how most Americans view their citizenship as of greater importance than their original ethnic heritage. And with each subsequent generation, this sense of identification becomes stronger as the ethnic link weakens over time through assimilation and intermarriage. I believe this is one of the main reasons so many of the 3rd and 4th generation Orthodox Christians have assimilated out of Orthodoxy.

If you went to Greece today and visited a church it would not have the ethnic title of 'Greek' in its name (ie: St. Sypridon Orthodox Church.) I would expect this fact would be true in all countries who have a history of having large Orthodox populations. The ethnic markers are only used in the western world, in other words, they are an innovation.
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« Reply #51 on: February 24, 2007, 04:36:30 PM »

Not always true, and it is partially my mistake on jumping around all in history.  Early on in Christianity, those areas outside the Roman Empire were refered to by their ethnic name.  The Churches have often called themselves by the names of the local city. However, that wasn't my point anyways.  I was pointing out that an ethnic name does not neccesarily imply an ethnic idenity.  Now the ethnic title is an innovation (if you consider 1000 years to be an innovation), but it did later on take hold in Christian terminology. .Hence the example of the Russian Church.  The same thing can be said about Rome or Canterbury.  The name, rather, implies the heritage of the Church one belongs to.  That, I would argue, is neccessary for a person to learn even if they're not of that group.  If one joins the Russian Church they have an obligation to learn of Russian history and the effects it had on the Church and her teachings.  By knowing of the reforms of Peter, the spiritual movement of 19th century Russia, and the Bolshevik Revolution, I can easier place my faith in a context and understand it better and it is only fuller.  If one is of the Antiochian Church, then they have an obligation to study the contrasting theological schools of the first millinium with Antioch being a contender, the oppression under the Muslims, and the great missionary activity from  Antioch in the 20th century.  It can only enrich one's faith.  By learning of such heritage I have not abandoned my Texan heritage or my family's.  However, by becoming Orthodox I have adopted another heritage whether wilingly or unwilingly.  I am not Russian or Greek, but the murder of the Tsar and the fall of Constantinople does affect me just as a Russian or a Greek.  IF you let it BECOME your faith, then it is detrimental.  However, if you use it as an aid then it can only help one.

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« Reply #52 on: February 24, 2007, 04:41:54 PM »

I would also have to argue that it is the reason for people dropping out of Orthodoxy.  How about the people exiting Protestant Churchs and Catholic Churches?  Many of them can be as American as apple pie.  There is also a similar exodous in those mainstream churches to either apathy or a flashier church.  Are some cradles turned away from the ethnicity?  Sure.  I doubt, however, that this is the primary reason and tends to be a good excuse.  Many people are turning away, simply due to poor catechism, the lack of faith being practiced at home, and the grabbing of secular culture.
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« Reply #53 on: February 24, 2007, 07:27:03 PM »

Not always true, and it is partially my mistake on jumping around all in history.  Early on in Christianity, those areas outside the Roman Empire were refered to by their ethnic name.  The Churches have often called themselves by the names of the local city. However, that wasn't my point anyways.  I was pointing out that an ethnic name does not neccesarily imply an ethnic idenity.  Now the ethnic title is an innovation (if you consider 1000 years to be an innovation), but it did later on take hold in Christian terminology. .Hence the example of the Russian Church.  The same thing can be said about Rome or Canterbury.  The name, rather, implies the heritage of the Church one belongs to.  That, I would argue, is neccessary for a person to learn even if they're not of that group.  If one joins the Russian Church they have an obligation to learn of Russian history and the effects it had on the Church and her teachings.  By knowing of the reforms of Peter, the spiritual movement of 19th century Russia, and the Bolshevik Revolution, I can easier place my faith in a context and understand it better and it is only fuller.  If one is of the Antiochian Church, then they have an obligation to study the contrasting theological schools of the first millinium with Antioch being a contender, the oppression under the Muslims, and the great missionary activity from  Antioch in the 20th century.  It can only enrich one's faith.  By learning of such heritage I have not abandoned my Texan heritage or my family's.  However, by becoming Orthodox I have adopted another heritage whether wilingly or unwilingly.  I am not Russian or Greek, but the murder of the Tsar and the fall of Constantinople does affect me just as a Russian or a Greek.  IF you let it BECOME your faith, then it is detrimental.  However, if you use it as an aid then it can only help one.

I would agree that if one becomes Orthodox that learning the history of the whole Orthodox church would give one perspective and would enrich one's faith. But I would argue it is not necessary for one's salvation. All one needs is the faith of a child for salvation. I would argue the only heritage you have adopted is the culture of salvation which can come in any type of package as long as that package is the one True Faith. Cultures will not follow us into the heavenly kingdom.
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« Reply #54 on: February 24, 2007, 08:38:13 PM »

I would argue the only heritage you have adopted is the culture of salvation which can come in any type of package as long as that package is the one True Faith.
Well put.
As with the example of Pascha Baskets given earlier, Easter Baskets are, themselves, not an "Orthodox" tradition, but in fact a Russian one. We do not bless Easter Baskets in the Greek Orthodox tradition. So "Westernising" the foods in an Easter Basket would simply be the Westernisation of a Russian custom, not the adoption of a Church tradition as would, say, adopting the fasts of the Church. Westernising the foods in a Pascha Basket would simply be "phoney-doxy"- a "Hollywood" version of it.
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« Reply #55 on: February 24, 2007, 09:14:35 PM »

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I would agree that if one becomes Orthodox that learning the history of the whole Orthodox church would give one perspective and would enrich one's faith. But I would argue it is not necessary for one's salvation.

And I would agree with you.
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« Reply #56 on: February 24, 2007, 09:56:02 PM »

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Easter Baskets are, themselves, not an "Orthodox" tradition, but in fact a Russian one. We do not bless Easter Baskets in the Greek Orthodox tradition.
Maybe not Greek, but not exclusively Russian, either. The Romanians also practice this custom. The content of the basket would be a bit different, though.
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« Reply #57 on: February 24, 2007, 10:23:09 PM »

Maybe not Greek, but not exclusively Russian, either. The Romanians also practice this custom. The content of the basket would be a bit different, though.
The point remains the same. Westernising the contents of a Pascha Basket is the westernising of an ethnic custom, not a Church tradition, so where do we draw the line if the West wants to really claim Orthodoxy as it's own?
Similarly, the decorating of the Epitaphios with flowers on Holy Friday, the blessing of grapes on the Feast of the Transfiguration, the different crowns used in Orthodox weddings, the different practices in anointing of candidates for Baptism...these are all "ethnic" differences as well, so which ones should an "American Orthodox Church" adopt or reject if it wishes to be "truly American"?
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« Reply #58 on: February 25, 2007, 12:35:47 AM »

The foods of pascha are indeed a "t"radition.  The Greeks serve Margaritsa, roasted lamb, and braided pascha bread. The Antiochians and  palestinians serve roasted chicken with pilaf, sweet bread, mahlmoud, and sweets.  The Slavs serve the pork and sausages, Bobkha, sweet butter and horse radish. What Americans serve has yet to be determined.

I must admit that the traditions of the Slavs with their pascha baskets has developed a certain symbolism that has embued their traditions with  meaning. This is from the Orthodox Family website and is an explaination what the items placed in the basket mean to Ukranians who have learned how to prepare these foods, and what they meant: 

"1)  Pascha, a rich egg-based bread sweetened with raisins, represents the "Bread of Life", Christ. My family always baked half a dozen paschas in small coffee cans, so they were round when you sliced them. [My Grandma always turned the pascha over before she cut it, and said, "In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit," cutting off three small pieces from the bottom as she did so. These pieces were put on the window sill to dry out, then eaten throughout the year, like Holy Bread, when one of us was sick.] 

2)  Christ's Biscuits, were small round rolls made from the same dough as the pascha, brushed with egg as they were baking so the tops were shiny and deep brown. They always had icing crosses on the top. Again, they symbolize the Bread of Life. 

3)  Pysanki, decorated hard-boiled eggs, are a symbol of the Resurrection: Jesus came out of the Tomb just as a chick comes out of an egg. My family always had bright pink eggs dyed with onion skin (like the one Mary supposedly offered to Pilate when she visited him after the Resurrection), and eggs decorated with pussy-willows, crosses, swirls, and "Christ is Risen! Christos Voskrese!" [As children, it was our job to prepare the eggs using the pysak (a "quill pen" for applying melted wax to eggs) my Grandfather had made before he died. My mother always removed the wax after the eggs were dyed, because she never scorched them! Depending on how close to "western Easter" it was, we would use an egg-dye kit for some of the eggs, so our baskets sometimes included marbleized, glittered, or Mickey-Mouse eggs as well. We never included the glossy black "Ukrainian" eggs made with toxic dyes, even though we made them throughout the year for show. Basket stuff was meant to be eaten!] 

4) Kielbasi and Ham are in the Pascha basket to symbolize the sacrifices made before Christ's perfect sacrifice; they are the basket's allusion to the Old Testament. I've recently read that meat in the Pascha basket also symbolizes the calf sacrificed when the Prodigal Son returned home; the meat is a celebration of our return to Christ. 

5) Horseradish and Spicy Mustard are included in the basket to remind us of the bitter drink given to Christ at his crucifixion, vinegar and gall. [My Grandma sometimes dyed the horseradish pink with beet juice, to symbolize the Blood shed by Christ.]

6) Butter, usually whipped and flavored with almond, was included in the basket to symbolize the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice made for the world. [Some families used a lamb-shaped mold for their butter, which made the symbolism even stronger. We leave ours in a block, but carve a cross into it.] 

7) Salt, which was traditionally used to preserve food, represents the Truth of his eternal message. [When I married, my Grandmother gave me a special crystal shaker for my basket salt as a gift; she has used her shaker for over 70 years!] 

Cool  Egg-cheese (actually called "rrrroot-KA", which might be spelled "hrutka") was the adult's favorite basket food; it was a rich, sweet scrambled-egg lump that they sliced, salted, and ate cold on pierces of pascha. [I have never tried to make it myself, but have my Grandma's recipe.]

9) Sweets: Our family's Pascha basket never included chocolate or other candies, but I plan to slip in a chocolate egg and marshmallow lamb for my 18-month-old daughter this year. The symbolism is there, and as long as she grows up knowing the meaning of the foods in the basket, the sweets will never be confused with the plastic Easter baskets filled with sugar and stuffed rabbits sold at K-Mart. 

10) The foods were prepared and loosely wrapped, then displayed in a sturdy basket so everything could be touched by the Holy Water when blessed after the Resurrection Liturgy. A decorated candle (and matches) were tucked into the side of the basket, and it was covered by an ornate cloth. The full basket was heavy, so we didn't worry about it tipping over in the car. "


To this we might add the tradition for the triple braided Pascha Bread of the Greeks representing the Holy Trinity and the One God.

These traditions  are used by people because they are meaningful to those who do it, however if the tradition becomes more important than the reason it is wrong.

Where will the American (or Canadian or Australian) Orthodox  go with their Pascha traditions who knows?  Maybe someone can figure a symbolic reason for the eating of KFC or pizza or Burger King hamburgers---oh wait there is a reason ---It is the Feast of Feasts when we no longer fast and repent in sorrow but  celebrate the joy of the resurrection of the Lord! According to St John Chrysostom:

"You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. "



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« Reply #59 on: February 25, 2007, 12:43:00 AM »

George,

Its possible that whatever ethnic customs work for Americans will be adopted and modified as needed. Did you know that the Russian pascha dessert served at Pascha was originally an ancient Greek dessert adopted by the Russians when they became Orthodox? They then made their own adjustments to the recipe. I made the original Greek dessert last fall. It is a much simpler recipe but it is delicious. It is made with Ricotta cheese, honey, sweet wine and ground almonds. I think that Orthodoxy in America will incorporate various customs from all the different ethnic groups. Maybe one day American Orthodox Christians will celebrate St. Basil's day with vasilopeta or a version of it but they may also bring baskets to church for Pascha. Probably the jurisdictions which are the most open to new comers will find their customs adopted and more than likely they will evolve over time just like the Greek dessert was adopted changed by the Russians into their famous pascha.
Many customs were started to celebrate feast days and saint's feast days (bar-bara is soupy, sweet, wheat dish served on St. Barbara's feast day by Palestinians). As American saints are recognized customs will arise to celebrate their feast days.
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« Reply #60 on: February 26, 2007, 12:31:10 PM »

Orthodoxy is most certainly “compatible” with American culture, because America is a nation of immigrants.  The ethnic parish, ethnic communities and so on are quintessentially part of the American experience.  Many Orthodox groups were also able to thrive and survive here when their own traditions or ethnic groups were threatened in the countries of origin.

It seems to me this thread is really about two basic things:

- Evangelism and how best to make the church attractive to outsiders (and really to Protestants and Catholics).
- Assimilation and how to retain 2nd, 3rd, etc. generation cradles.

Those perhaps are different subjects, but all of the same themes and ideas might apply to both.

Also, having an issue with what other people do or do not have in their Easter basket is to me a joke.
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« Reply #61 on: February 26, 2007, 02:34:28 PM »

Dear Wellkodox,

I agree with you on all counts. Let me offer three suggestions applicable to both of the missions you point out:
      1. Drop all reference to ethnic identifiers in all church names, instead opting for St. (fill in blank) Orthodox Christian Church. If one can only be attracted on the basis of ethnic pride, then one might be there for the wrong reasons.
      2. Conduct all services in English.
      3. Emphasize attendance at services as critical for salvation.

In this way all little t traditions will be automatically relegated to their proper place in Orthodox Christianity: fourth place.

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« Reply #62 on: February 26, 2007, 02:46:55 PM »

I agree with you on all counts. Let me offer three suggestions applicable to both of the missions you point out:
      1. Drop all reference to ethnic identifiers in all church names, instead opting for St. (fill in blank) Orthodox Christian Church. If one can only be attracted on the basis of ethnic pride, then one might be there for the wrong reasons.
      2. Conduct all services in English.
      3. Emphasize attendance at services as critical for salvation.

In this way all little t traditions will be automatically relegated to their proper place in Orthodox Christianity: fourth place.

Cowboy, I mostly agree, with the exception of point number 2.  The rule on lanugage should be that it matches that generally spoken by the community, rather than specifying which one.  English will probably predominate, but Spanish missions in the Southwest aren't inconceivable.  Similarly, for parishes that have a high number of members for whom Russian, or Serbian, or whatever, is their first language (think recent immigrants rather than third and fourth generation American born ethnics), those people would be best served by that language.  What does need to end is the use of a language that few in the parish actually speak.  That doesn't automatically equal English, though.  Other than that, I pretty much agree with you.
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« Reply #63 on: February 26, 2007, 03:03:47 PM »

Cowboy

Quote
1. Drop all reference to ethnic identifiers in all church names, instead opting for St. (fill in blank) Orthodox Christian Church. If one can only be attracted on the basis of ethnic pride, then one might be there for the wrong reasons.

I guess this one I don’t feel so strongly about, though I can see the point of what you’re saying.  The sign that is readable from the street at our parish says “Blah Blah Orthodox Church”.  The cornerstone says “Blah Blah Orthodox Catholic Church”.  The full name is used in some places and documents along with the name of the diocese.

Quote
Conduct all services in English.

I was going to raise the same points that Veniamin, though in the context of attracting outsiders and retaining 2nd, 3rd generation and beyond – I would agree English is essential.

When my wife and I were looking for a parish last year we did rule out a couple of places because they used another language extensively.  At our current parish a little Slavonic is used here and there, which I do like.

Quote
Emphasize attendance at services as critical for salvation.

No argument there.

One thing I think it might be a mistake to assume is that simply having all English, or having no identifiable or pronounced ethnic tradition present in the parish is a guarantee of success.  What’s important I think is a good community, a good priest and an overall healthy atmosphere.  I don’t think those things are limited to any one type of parish profile.  I also think that when the cultural traditions of a given community are given their proper place, and are optional if one chooses to accept them, then they can be greatly enriching and rewarding.
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« Reply #64 on: February 26, 2007, 08:12:41 PM »

OK I have tossed about this idea in my head but in this part of the US many older Episcopalian churches have a sign that may read as follows.

CHURCH OF SAINT JAMES
(Episcopal)

So for the Orthodox

CHURCH OF SAINT NICHOLAS
(Orthodox)

Hey we're in America.

Also, I'm for people coming to church for whatever reason. Who am I to judge their motives only God knows. Maybe something might hit them that day during liturgy that they need (I know sounds evangelical). Worst case they may dro pa few $100 in the collection plate.
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« Reply #65 on: February 27, 2007, 01:24:03 AM »

Well, why not just become Episcopalians?

Are we to reduce Orthodoxy to nothing more than a theological system? To nothing more than a few dogmatic points? If we do so we have committed the grave error of the west, we have ourselves become like the latins and the protestants.

It is not liberalism, as many here would claim, that is the threat to the Church, and it was never liberalism that was the threat to the west. The Church and culture have and should function as one organism, if culture is to become more enlightened and liberal it is only natural that the Church should follow. Rather, it is reductionism that is the threat...the reducing of the Church to abstract concepts and dogmas and by doing so both retarding her natural development and tearing from her all that is good and noble about her past. The protestants first did this, then the latins did the same in reaction, essentially becomming no different than the Protestants save in some minor differences of opinion regarding abstract theology...but they are essentially the same.

Sts. such and such Orthodox Church that claims to be free of ethnic influence is not Orthodox at all...it is a Protestant Church that perhaps espouses a few abstract theological points that are similar to those of the Orthodox, but it is not Orthodox in any meaningful way. It has been reduced to abstract dogmas and rubrics, it is devoid of Orthodox Culture and is no more Orthodox than the local rotary club or masonic lodge...not that there's anything wrong with either of these things, they're just not the Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #66 on: February 27, 2007, 08:57:17 AM »

Franky GreekChristian, I would argue that some Orthodox Churches have becomoe like the local Rotary Club and that reductionism has already affected the Orthodox church in America. It is difficult to put an abstract theological concept in say a tract published by Concillar Press, but its been done. Many people would pick up one of these tracts and read say aboyt Mary. Agree or disagree with it and then study no further. This I might add is quite American. Americans have become conditioned to sound bites, quick fast cogent, if you will, information. Maybe because we live in the information age or we're too busy or we have too many distractions to be "fully" Orthodox.
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« Reply #67 on: February 27, 2007, 10:13:07 AM »

Dear GIC and Aserb,

I very strongly disagree with you. Ethnicity has nothing to do with being an Orthodox Christian. How could you possibly equate dropping ethnic identifiers in church names, having services in English and putting greater emphasis on attending all services offered by the church--as turning into Episcopalians??

I did not say let's stop venerating Icons, revise the Liturgy, change the Apostles Creed, stop fasting, stop ceaseless prayer, stop taking up our crosses as our Lord did, stop worshipping, stop giving alms, stop loving our neighbor---THIS IS Orthodoxy. It is not abstract, it is real in the here and now. Orthodoxy and American culture will NEVER be compatible, neither is current Greek culture and Orthodoxy compatible, neither is current Russian culture and Orthodoxy compatible. In all three countries Orthodox Christianity is COUNTER-CULTURE. We Orthodox Christians must be a beacon of light and hope for those around us. I am arguing that we cannot do this as Church if we constantly put up barriers to entry in the Orthodox "club".

I agree with both you and Aserb that some of our churches do resemble the Rotary club. I my experience these are the heavily ethnic parishes (like the one I was raised in) that had a church bar, bingo, social hall for dancing and drinking, folk dancing and festivals---but no one attending liturgy or vespers except for Christmas and Easter.

I am totally against the reductionism you decry. However I have been in a couple of "bookstores" at local Greek churches that were more like being in a travel agent's office specializing in tours of Greece. This is reductionism--equating the Motherland and a long ago mythical culture to Orthodox Christianity. Greek festivals have NOTHING to do with Orthodox Christianity, in the here and now in America.

Knowledge of Russia, Greece, Serbia, Antioch is not necessary for my salvation in the here and now. Orthodoxy is not an abstract concept to me, it is a daily journey.

Cowboy
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« Reply #68 on: February 27, 2007, 10:24:34 AM »

I agree with you, Cowboy.
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« Reply #69 on: February 27, 2007, 10:41:21 AM »

Cowboy,
I'm in the midst of an effort to establish a Pan-Orthodox English speaking parish in the Community where we live, yet I have to say that I disagree with you and agree with GiC on this point.
Firstly, Orthodoxy is a Living Tradition passed on from person to person like the Holy Light at Pascha. It is a Tradition which is incarnate in real people. The Holy Spirit does not dwell in books and pamphlets, He dwells in human beings, flesh and blood. Whether we like it or not, Orthodoxy was brought to the Diaspora  carried in human beings who received it in their cultural context, and they are the only ones who can transmit it to us, and the mode of their transmission, being human, also includes their cultural context.
Secondly, divorcing or disengaging Orthodox Christianity from cultural context means that the Church can never transform society and can never sanctify the world- in other words, the Church cannot fulfil one of the the very reasons for it's existence! No one is saved alone. Either we are saved together, or none of us is saved. If the Church cannot sanctify our society and culture, then, as GiC points out, it is mere abstract theology, and not the Living Apostolic Tradition incarnated in human flesh.
George
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« Reply #70 on: February 27, 2007, 11:10:50 AM »

You know we have the luxury in the first world countries to TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK.

I agree with Cowboy, my posts were not meant to reduce Orthodoxy to Anglicanism.

Orthodoxy is about doing. doing doing.
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« Reply #71 on: February 27, 2007, 11:20:37 AM »

Out of curiosity, I searched for and found a list of churches/denominations in the U.S. that have some sort of ethnic or national identifier in their name (apart from words like "American" or "Canadian"):


Mennonite Church

I'm not meaning to be a quibbler here, but "Mennonite" is not per se an ethnic or national identifier. It is taken from "Menno Simons" a leader in the Anabaptist movement (and in the same way that "Amish" is from Jacob Amman).  While he was from a part of what is now the Netherlands, it is not a "Dutch" church as it were.
http://www.gameo.org/index.asp?content=http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M4636ME.html


With respect,

Ebor


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« Reply #72 on: February 27, 2007, 11:22:50 AM »

I agree with Cowboy, my posts were not meant to reduce Orthodoxy to Anglicanism.

Orthodoxy is about doing. doing doing.

Ermmm, ah,  Anglicans also do   Undecided

Ebor
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« Reply #73 on: February 27, 2007, 11:30:41 AM »

Anglicans also do
Well that proves the point I made in my last post! I bet that's because they have an ethnic identifier in their name which describes their cultural/ethnic origins and because they do not try to divorce Church from culture.  Cheesy
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« Reply #74 on: February 27, 2007, 11:48:18 AM »

I've been reluctant to post too much here, not being EO and all, but may I any way now?


Whether we like it or not, Orthodoxy was brought to the Diaspora  carried in human beings who received it in their cultural context, and they are the only ones who can transmit it to us, and the mode of their transmission, being human, also includes their cultural context.

Indeed, that is what human beings do, because it's what they know and have lived and cultures include lots of things like language, foods, clothing styles, art forms, stories and more. Can a problem be a 'clash of cultures' as it were?  One thinking that it is superior to others or in some way Supreme and all others are to adapt to *it*?  Please note that I am looking at this from a frame of any 2 cultures coming in contact.

There are so many varieties of what human beings do that are not intrisically Evil or Good, but just how they do things and I think that people, in general, are comfortable with what they have known and done in the cultural and folkways context.  So when they are told that they have to change/stop they tend to get ummm uncooperative or annoyed let's say.


Quote
Secondly, divorcing or disengaging Orthodox Christianity from cultural context means that the Church can never transform society and can never sanctify the world- in other words, the Church cannot fulfil one of the the very reasons for it's existence! No one is saved alone. Either we are saved together, or none of us is saved. If the Church cannot sanctify our society and culture, then, as GiC points out, it is mere abstract theology, and not the Living Apostolic Tradition incarnated in human flesh.
George

I think that thiese are some very wise words.  So how can they be applied when there have been some that I've read in the past that contend that "western" things cannot be part of EO or there is nothing that can be 'baptized' in a culture that a person has to totally adapt to another to be part. (Granted, I've seen some fairly fringe writings occasionally.)

I think what I was trying to suggest a couple of posts upstream was a discussion of "What cultural things can be adopted/adapted?"  Look at the basket situation, some people put in foods (or coupons. I liked that story alot Smiley ) that meant things to them.  That seems OK to me.  I know that a Greek Orthodox tradition is a particular kind of soup, "Mageritsa" I think it is.  If the custom traveled, could it be adapted to another cultures foodways and available ingredients (like there not being lamb available)?  

What about songs/music styles?  I know that I've mentioned a person many years ago on GEnie who wrote that the Only Music for Chanting was Byzantine, that that was what God heard and no other would do, that it was dictated by angels while all other music was from human creation.  Undecided

There are so many other areas that could be looked at.  What elements of American/Western/Australian/Canadian/ etc Culture could be transformed/sanctified?  

I apologize for being pushy or for cutting into the thead like this.

Ebor
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« Reply #75 on: February 27, 2007, 11:55:43 AM »

Well that proves the point I made in my last post! I bet that's because they have an ethnic identifier in their name which describes their cultural/ethnic origins and because they do not try to divorce Church from culture.  Cheesy

Hehehe.  Well there may be something to that, though "Episcopalian" is a polity identifier rather then ethnic  Wink.  And while Anglican may describe an origin, it's not an imposing British culture thing these days, at least not as far as I know.  My New Zealand BCP has both English and Maori as well as some rites that apply to local cultural customs.  There are Japanese Anglican churches that have tatami matting and local customs and some that are modern or gothic in style according to a book I have.

The idea of bringing parts of a culture in to the Church is not alien to me but more of an "yes, that's what we're supposed to do, isn't it?"  with a puzzled air. Smiley

Ebor
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« Reply #76 on: February 27, 2007, 12:20:59 PM »

I know that a Greek Orthodox tradition is a particular kind of soup, "Mageritsa" I think it is.  If the custom traveled, could it be adapted to another cultures foodways and available ingredients (like there not being lamb available)? 
I think, rather than simply changing the ingredients of the soup, what we need to do is look at how and why the custom developed, and what existing customs can be sanctified to serve the same purposes.

Margeritsa is a soup made from offal. The three reasons it came into practice are:
1) It uses the offal of the lamb which is traditionally cooked on the spit for lunch on Easter Sunday (ie, it reduces wastage).
2) It is a gentle way of reintroducing meat into the diet after 7 weeks of fasting from meat.
3) It can be prepared ahead of time, so that the family can attend the Paschal Service which usually commences around 10pm and concludes around 2am. So they can come home, warm the soup and break the fast together.

So, basically, any shared meal which includes a digestible form of the foods we can once again eat after the Great Fast, and which can be prepared several hours ahead would work. The benefit of Margeritsa of course, is that we know it works- it is digestible and can be prepared ahead of time, which is why it developed into a custom. And customs are also important because they mark the calendar and make days different. Imagine a birthday with no cake and candles or Christmas without a Christmas tree! Customs give us routine.
With time, customs can develop in any culture which are sanctified by the Church because they work in synergy/harmony with her. But there are certain American customs which, at present, do not work in harmony with the Church. For example, Thanksgiving in the US falls during the Nativity Fast, when we abstain from meat and eat only fish. And even on the important feasts which fall during the Nativity Fast (such as the Feasts of St. Andrew and the Feast of St. Matthew) we only relax the Fast to allow oil and wine. So if Thanksgiving were relaxed to include meat, it would be a local feast which surpassed the importance of the universally observed feasts of the Apostles. So either Thanksgiving would be celebrated with Fish instead of Turkey, or Thanksgiving would have to be translated to the day the Canadians celebrate it. This is how Church and culture work together.
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« Reply #77 on: February 27, 2007, 12:21:48 PM »

Reading over the posts I think I now agree and disagree with everyone.

The first Orthodox parishes I ever visited were very ethnic, in the sense that they still had a strong link with their immigrant past and cultural traditions.  That was my introduction to the church, and it was this initial experience that interested me (a bland Northern European ethnic American) in converting.  The services were mostly in English and there were certainly converts around, which was important too.  My parish now is a mix of cradles and converts, with many things about it that would be considered ethnic or old school (bingo, food sales, etc.).  My parish is far from perfect, but it is the environment my wife and I feel comfortable in.  She is actually non European ethnic, and said she feels at home with many of the things people in our parish do, even though it isnt her background.

There is just no one magic formula for what works in my opinion beyond what I believe are the basics  a good priest, a good community and a strong liturgical life.

Also, I have family that are Episcopalians, and I've visited several of ECUSA parishes and my wife and I went to one for a short time.  I said when we stopped, and I wasnt kidding, that the Episcopalians were way too ethnic for me.
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« Reply #78 on: February 27, 2007, 12:41:02 PM »

Dear Ozgeorge,

First let me say that I applaud your pan-orthodox, English-speaking parish community efforts.

The Living Tradition of Orthodox Christianity HAS been passed down to us here in America. It came with a whole set of ethnic culural customs and traditions which have absolutely nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity. The fact that our forebearers confused Orthodox Christianity with their own cultural norms, practices, traditions and customs has negative effects on us today in trying to spread Orthodox Christianity in the United States. The "bookstore" of one of our local Greek churches could easily be confused with a Greek travel agents office. Posters of Greece, but no Orthodox Study Bibles. What is an enquirer to think?

I am not arguing for isolationism. Exactly the opposite. Why would we put ethnic barriers before enquirers to Orthodox Christianity? What purpose does this serve? Are you saying that Orthodox Christianity is somehow inseparable from Mother Russia or Greece? Or their current cultures? Should we look to Russian and Greek culture today (with sky high abortion rates, for example) as models to emulate?

How can we begin to "sanctify" American culture (truthfully I am not sure what this means and why it is at all important)? By starting in our own parishes with worship. Common work as a community. And then as a community to let our light shine through our WORKS as a beacon of hope to those outside our community. I agree with you that we are saved together and that the only thing one can do alone is go to hell.

That is the crux of my argument for removing barriers to spreading Orthodox Christianity.  

Ebor, I feel like you might have it backwards--we are supposed to bring the Church into the culture, not the culture into the Church.

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« Reply #79 on: February 27, 2007, 12:47:56 PM »

I think, rather than simply changing the ingredients of the soup, what we need to do is look at how and why the custom developed, and what existing customs can be sanctified to serve the same purposes.

Well, I wasn't thinking of changing the ingredients, but finding something that would be a good substitute, something to fit the idea or reason for having it, and that is what you proceeded to do.   Wink  Thank you for the explanation and reason for the custom.

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The benefit of Margeritsa of course, is that we know it works- it is digestible and can be prepared ahead of time, which is why it developed into a custom.

Exactly!  People do things for reasons and if something works and is good, then they will likely make it a custom or tradition.

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And customs are also important because they mark the calendar and make days different. Imagine a birthday with no cake and candles or Christmas without a Christmas tree! Customs give us routine.

Well, unfortunately I've read some that say that a Christmas Tree is not an EO custom or tradition so it should not be done by one who converts.  Undecided  Or that marking a birthday is not EO, that it should be the saints name day that matters.  And other things along those lines.  Now *I* think that customs (family, local, cultural) can be a Good Thing. I'm not about to tell someone they shouldn't do something that they know and like (that isn't illegal or immoral that is.  Fattening otoh can be part of customary foods after all.  Cheesy )

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With time, customs can develop in any culture which are sanctified by the Church because they work in synergy/harmony with her. But there are certain American customs which, at present, do not work in harmony with the Church. For example, Thanksgiving in the US falls during the Nativity Fast, when we abstain from meat and eat only fish. And even on the important feasts which fall during the Nativity Fast (such as the Feasts of St. Andrew and the Feast of St. Matthew) we only relax the Fast to allow oil and wine. So if Thanksgiving were relaxed to include meat, it would be a local feast which surpassed the importance of the universally observed feasts of the Apostles. So either Thanksgiving would be celebrated with Fish instead of Turkey, or Thanksgiving would have to be translated to the day the Canadians celebrate it. This is how Church and culture work together.

I appreciate your thoughts on this.  Where does the idea of "economia" fit in this, as I understand that some American EO jurisdictions will allow Thanksgiving for a feast on that one day.  The question of moving it to Canadian Thanksgiving is (I think) not likely, since many people in the US don't even know that Canada has that holiday.  (I'm going anywhere near calendar issues on this, though I've seen it done).

Ebor
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« Reply #80 on: February 27, 2007, 12:54:58 PM »

Cowboy,
If Orthodox Christianity is something you think should only be done for three hours on a Sunday Morning and have absolutely no bearing on the rest of your life, society or culture, then I have to disagree with you.
Not only culture, but everything in the cosmos has to be brought in to the Church to be sanctified- just like we have to bring the Prosforo in to the Church to be sanctified. The Church is the Ark of Salvation. You don't save drowning people by throwing a ship on top of them...you help them in to the ship.
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« Reply #81 on: February 27, 2007, 12:55:16 PM »

Ebor, I feel like you might have it backwards--we are supposed to bring the Church into the culture, not the culture into the Church.

Well, what does that *mean*, bring the Church into the culture.  How are the two to be melded or not?  Is the basket with sausage and slivo a cultural thing that was brought in or did it just sort of grow out of the dim times and then became ensconced as "The Way It Has To Be" for some such as those you describe?  How do you bring "the Church" to KFC chicken as it were (I'm not trying to be flip, just having a bit of a time trying to get the idea across.)  The thread title is about being "compatible".  Someone saying "Nothing Western is allowed" would not be finding any compatibility, nor looking to find any.

I'm not trying to give anyone grief here, and I apologize for any muddled ideas.

Ebor

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« Reply #82 on: February 27, 2007, 01:18:00 PM »

George,

I don't think it is the type of food that we consume is important. The point is whether we feast and fast. Most of the people in my parish are not from traditional Orthodox cultures. But they fast very strictly using recipes they have been developing over the last 15 years. The recipes are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds that work with the fast. And some of the recipes they have come up with are original. However let me stress again, the point is not the food but the effort they put into fasting.  Fasting and feasting in Orthodoxy is the spiritual culture which will have many manifestations in the various cultures Orthodoxy meets (ie: Russian pascha that was originally an ancient Greek dessert). Changes will happen. But we don't have to worry about the changes if they promote feasting and fasting according to our Orthodox heritage.
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« Reply #83 on: February 27, 2007, 01:30:12 PM »

Well, unfortunately I've read some that say that a Christmas Tree is not an EO custom or tradition so it should not be done by one who converts.  Undecided
One of the most traditionalist Eastern Orthodox Churches is the one Anastasios belongs to. Ask him how St. Markella's Cathedral is decorated at Christmas.  Cheesy

Or that marking a birthday is not EO, that it should be the saints name day that matters. 
Great way of hiding your age! But seriously, I think you'll find that either they are new migrant to the diaspora who aren't accostomed to celebrating birthdays, or they are new converts to Orthodoxy with crazy ideas. In the modern Greek-Australian custom, you get presents on your birthday, and you give "favours" (a round of drinks, cakes, sweets etc) on your Name day.

Where does the idea of "economia" fit in this, as I understand that some American EO jurisdictions will allow Thanksgiving for a feast on that one day. 
Economia is fine, but economia which doesn't take the Universal Church into consideration can be harmful. As stated, Thanksgiving is what we could call a "local" American Feast. This concept is by no means foreign to the Orthodox Church. The feast day of every Parish and Monastery (the Feast of their Patrion Saint) is considered a local feast. But if that feast day falls on a fasting day, the most that is permitted in the jurisdiction of that Parish Church or monastery is wine and oil. On March 25th, we celebrate one of the "Twelve Great Feasts" of the Church, the Annunciation., which falls during Great Lent. Yet even on this universally observed Feast of the Incarnation of Christ, the Church will not permit meat to be eaten. So if a local American feast is given more importance than even the Universal Feast Commemorating the Incarnation of God- what is that saying about the relationship of American Orthodox Christians to the rest of the Orthodox Church throughout the world? And if an American is living abroad on Thanksgiving day, he or she is under the jurisdiction of the local Bishop, should they alone among the local Church be permitted to eat meat on Thanksgiving simply because of their ethnicity?

I don't think it is the type of food that we consume is important.
Tamara,
I think if you re-read my posts in this thread, you'll find that this is exactly what I'm saying. Smiley
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« Reply #84 on: February 27, 2007, 01:54:17 PM »

Cowboy,
If Orthodox Christianity is something you think should only be done for three hours on a Sunday Morning and have absolutely no bearing on the rest of your life, society or culture, then I have to disagree with you.
Not only culture, but everything in the cosmos has to be brought in to the Church to be sanctified- just like we have to bring the Prosforo in to the Church to be sanctified. The Church is the Ark of Salvation. You don't save drowning people by throwing a ship on top of them...you help them in to the ship.

Dear Ozgeorge,

I do not think that Orthodox Christianity is limited to 3 hours on a Sunday morning!! Orthodox Christianity is a way of life, every minute dying to this world and every minute rising again with Christ.

Regarding worship, my point is that if we, as Orthodox Christians, are to glorify God at all times, we must have a time when we do nothing else. This is  Sunday Liturgy/Vespers/Vigil/Matins/Holy Days/Presanctified Liturgies in Lent. We Orthodox Christians like to jump to the end without the hard work in the middle after Baptism and Chrismation. Our first goal as a community is to have every member of the parish attend every service that the church offers. How many of you can say in all honesty that you had packed temples for the three day reading of the Canon of St Andrew and Forgiveness Sunday Vespers last week? I only mean to say that Orthodox Christianity BEGINS with a foundation of worship.

How do we get drowning people "into the ship"? By living Orthodox Christianity daily as individuals and as communities so that those around us can see that we are different and good and holy and true. This is what will attract them.

I just don't see and have yet to hear how putting ethnic or cultural barriers in the way of our efforts at evangelization is at all in keeping with spreading the Gospels.

I really don't care about ethnic recipes that work or don't work. The fact that the Apostles ate figs is NOT a dogma of Orthodox Christianity. Recipes are a way of us having "good tasting" lenten meals--again irrelevant to the idea of fasting.

Cowboy
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« Reply #85 on: February 27, 2007, 02:15:18 PM »

How do we get drowning people "into the ship"? By living Orthodox Christianity daily as individuals and as communities so that those around us can see that we are different and good and holy and true. This is what will attract them.
OK. So, what defines "the Community" in which we are supposed to live as Orthodox Christians? Is "the Community" just a bunch of individual people that happen to worship together once a week? A community devoid of any culture? Devoid of anything sociologists call "symbolic interaction"?
And should this "Community" have absolutely no interaction with the rest of the society in which it lives in order to avoid being infected with anything as vulgar and unholy as "culture"?
And to make the point that Church and culture must never mix, should we also remove any Scriptural references to culture and ethnicity such as "King of the Jews", Samaritan, Simon the Cyrenian, Galilean,  etc.?
You enjoy your culture-less "utopia". I'll stick with the human race thanks. Wink
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« Reply #86 on: February 27, 2007, 03:06:54 PM »

Dear Ozgeorge,

I am sorry to have gotten you so worked up. Please forgive me. I said I AM NOT in favor of isolation. You put a whole lot of words into my mouth that never appeared in my posts. Interaction with the world is a GIVEN. What made you suppose that the parish community lives as hermits? As Orthodox Christians we come into contact with the world at work, at school and at play. I have no idea what sociologists call "symbolic interaction" even is. Nor do I care. Of course Orthodox Christians should avoid being infected with sin at all costs. Those parts of American culture which are sinful or lead one into temptation should be avoided. Some things are not and some are even blessable.

Your hyperbole notwithstanding, I am a full blooded Slav. This is my birthright. I could not choose it. You can call me Cowboy the Slav. Or Cowboy the American. This is merely descriptive. I can't be Cowboy the Galilean now can I? So what. None of your examples have ANYTHING to do with Orthodox Christianity.

I have no idea how you came to the "Cultureless Utopia" idea but I think that it is antithetical to Orthodox Christianity. So I'm glad you came around to wanting to stick with the human race.

Cowboy the Slav

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« Reply #87 on: February 27, 2007, 04:28:17 PM »

Okay I'm takin' the gloves off  Grin

I am tired of the arguements over "Orthodox" being too ethnic. I live in the heart of high Episcopalian country here in southeastern PA and frankly I have felf uncomfortable attending Episcopal services. Where I live the Episcopal parish is many times an extension of the nearest country club and many of the parishes are attended by very wealthy people. In both cases I do not identify. Although, I do consider myself an Anglophile, I am not Anglo-Saxon. Many of the customs practiced Anglo-Saxon in origen or northern German, Welsh or Scottish. All quaint customs but nothing I identify with. My ancestors did not run around in kilts and tams (no offense Schultz).

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« Reply #88 on: February 27, 2007, 04:36:19 PM »

Aserb,

Just because Episcopalians do it too, doesn't make it right. Maybe they have an internet board somewhere where "low churchers" are criticizing "high churchers" for this exclusionary "kilts and tams" and country club exclusionary  behavior. I think you said you feel uncomfortable with their "ethnicity". This is how I think the majority of non-ethnics (unlike you and me) feel about Orthodox churches.

Cowboy the Slav
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« Reply #89 on: February 27, 2007, 04:42:05 PM »

My ancestors did not run around in kilts and tams (no offense Schultz).

None taken! Smiley

Chances are, mine didn't either, as the Highlanders in my ancestry were in this country by the early 17th century (1632 was the latest, I think) and the latecoming Scots were either of French Heugenot stock or were lowlanders Smiley

I just wear it because it's comfy!
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« Reply #90 on: February 27, 2007, 04:51:22 PM »

I think you guys are talking past each other for the most part.

Some of you need to come out west and actually experience some of theses multi-ethnic cradle + convert parishes that do thrive. 
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« Reply #91 on: February 27, 2007, 05:54:56 PM »

hehe and in parts of the west the Episcopal Church sure isn't a a bunch of wealthy people either at least not in places like Montana and Wyoming and such.  Wink

Ebor
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« Reply #92 on: February 27, 2007, 06:03:45 PM »

One of the most traditionalist Eastern Orthodox Churches is the one Anastasios belongs to. Ask him how St. Markella's Cathedral is decorated at Christmas.  Cheesy

I recall his mentioning that somewhere, yes.  It makes a nice counter to the "It's Western so you can't ever do that!" posts.

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Great way of hiding your age! But seriously, I think you'll find that either they are new migrant to the diaspora who aren't accostomed to celebrating birthdays, or they are new converts to Orthodoxy with crazy ideas. In the modern Greek-Australian custom, you get presents on your birthday, and you give "favours" (a round of drinks, cakes, sweets etc) on your Name day.

Well, I have to say that I had noticed that it was often a person from one of the two groups you mention that would be, shall we say, giving a very vigourous declaration about such things not being EO in any way, shape or form and that they aren't allowed at all.  (sometimes with an overtone of anyone who does such things isn't Really EO).

I like the giving things on the name day.  It's like the Hobbits giving presents on their birthdays.  Wink

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Economia is fine, but economia which doesn't take the Universal Church into consideration can be harmful. As stated, Thanksgiving is what we could call a "local" American Feast. This concept is by no means foreign to the Orthodox Church. The feast day of every Parish and Monastery (the Feast of their Patrion Saint) is considered a local feast. But if that feast day falls on a fasting day, the most that is permitted in the jurisdiction of that Parish Church or monastery is wine and oil. On March 25th, we celebrate one of the "Twelve Great Feasts" of the Church, the Annunciation., which falls during Great Lent. Yet even on this universally observed Feast of the Incarnation of Christ, the Church will not permit meat to be eaten. So if a local American feast is given more importance than even the Universal Feast Commemorating the Incarnation of God- what is that saying about the relationship of American Orthodox Christians to the rest of the Orthodox Church throughout the world? And if an American is living abroad on Thanksgiving day, he or she is under the jurisdiction of the local Bishop, should they alone among the local Church be permitted to eat meat on Thanksgiving simply because of their ethnicity?

As to this, I don't know, and not being EO it's not for me to make any declarations on it. I'm just posing questions to get information since I know that I don't know.  Smiley  Thank you for answering my question.

Ebor
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« Reply #93 on: February 27, 2007, 06:11:39 PM »

Cowboy:

The difference between the Episcopal and Orthodox churches in flava, is that the Episcopal Church is viewed as American. The Orthodox Church is not.  WE are the outsiders.

Forget the Episocpal church. In my neck of the woods you can find an evangelical church to match your social standing in society (Some are blue collar dominant, some are white collar) or your race. You can even find a Protestant church to match your sexual preference.

Haven't Christians of all confessions formed clubs?

You can argue until you are blue in the face about what we (Fill in the blank Orthodox or Christian) should be doing. I have never attended a truly "integrated" church.

If I am correct Martin Luther King had a saying. The most segregated hour of the week is 11AM on a Sunday morning. This can be applied to more than race.
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« Reply #94 on: February 27, 2007, 06:13:16 PM »

I think you guys are talking past each other for the most part.

Some of you need to come out west and actually experience some of theses multi-ethnic cradle + convert parishes that do thrive. 

You don't have to go out west to experience this. My parish in Cleveland, Ohio is half cradle and half convert. Every ethnic stripe is represented also. We have about 200 parishioners counting kids. We don't consider ourselves ethnic in any way, except for the ancestry of many members. We have no ethnic identifiers in our church name and all iconography in the church is in English as is EVERY WORD of EVERY SERVICE. We have had many more baptisms and chrismations than we have had funerals in the past 5 years. We are growing and thriving.

Our converts understand and embrace tithing, which many cradles do not. This makes our church's operating budget completely unreliant on fundraisers of any kind, and we don't have any besides the annual Ladies Guild Christmas Bake Sale, the proceeds of which are donated back to the church to be distributed with other Lenten Alms money collected to help feed the poor and homeless.

I firmly believe that if we put Russian in our name (we are OCA), the rate of parish growth would be greatly hindered. We have many Russian families but they all want to and do speak English. This is why I am so strident in calling for our churches to simply be called St. (fill in the blank) Orthodox Christian Church.

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« Reply #95 on: February 27, 2007, 06:13:43 PM »

I'm not trying to cause trouble here, but I have a question about one of your points for clarification

      3. Emphasize attendance at services as critical for salvation.

When you say emphasize would this mean something like what I'm told was an RC thing of missing a Sunday or major feast was a "mortal" sin and very serious?  (I've never been RC, so I have no first hand knowledge of this.  I'm told that it was that way when people my age were children.)  That there would be penalties, as it were, for missing a service?

The reason I'm asking is because I'm thinking of an article I read in a Montana paper last year about how the pastor in one of the small towns knows that if it snows on a Sunday in the late Winter/early Spring he knows that some people won't make it to church because they'll be out saving the new calves who've been born and couldn't survive in a blizzard.  Sometimes people have things that need to be done at the same time as a Church service; I don't mean frivolous things but serious important ones.

With Respect,

Ebor

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« Reply #96 on: February 27, 2007, 06:18:52 PM »

Cowboy:

You used the word "thriving" and many years to you and your parish. Frankly, though I think that that is the desire of all people who attend church or many at least. They want to be part of something that is thriving and growing. I think, to some extent, that this is very American. Everybody loves a winner, a success story.  But to grow and thrive do we become reductionist like many Protestant churches so as to appeal on the lowest common denominator to all the masses? This is rhetorical and it is a concern. What if the Russians in your parish wanted to have "Russian dinner" not necessarily to fund raise, just for nostalgia sake?
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« Reply #97 on: February 27, 2007, 06:41:52 PM »

I'm not trying to cause trouble here, but I have a question about one of your points for clarification

  Sometimes people have things that need to be done at the same time as a Church service; I don't mean frivolous things but serious important ones.

With Respect,

Ebor



Dear Ebor,

There are of course those unavoidable situations. But the Liturgy of St Basil, now being served in Lent, even has language to the effect of praying for those who are absent "for good cause". This implies that missing Liturgy for other than good cause is sinful. I guess I really mean by "emphasis" that every Orthodox Christian should have as a first priority in their lives the attendance at every service offered by the church, except if they have "good cause" not to attend. Is soccer/baseball/NFL football game priorities "good cause"? That is not for me to judge, but I can't help thinking that these excuses do not rise to the level of saving the lives of livestock.

What if the Russians in your parish wanted to have "Russian dinner" not necessarily to fund raise, just for nostalgia sake?

The whole parish would attend and enjoy the great food. My point is that this activity is fellowship, and God knows we need as many opportunities as possible for it, but it is not Orthodox Christianity. It is an activity around the church, but not central to it.

Cowboy
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« Reply #98 on: February 27, 2007, 10:30:11 PM »

There are of course those unavoidable situations. But the Liturgy of St Basil, now being served in Lent, even has language to the effect of praying for those who are absent "for good cause". This implies that missing Liturgy for other than good cause is sinful. I guess I really mean by "emphasis" that every Orthodox Christian should have as a first priority in their lives the attendance at every service offered by the church, except if they have "good cause" not to attend. Is soccer/baseball/NFL football game priorities "good cause"? That is not for me to judge, but I can't help thinking that these excuses do not rise to the level of saving the lives of livestock.

But you claimed that attendance of churches is a 'critical' element of soteriology...so do you believe people are damned to hell for skipping liturgy to watch a game?

Even if one wishes to go by the strictest canonical requirements, there are no penalties until one misses three weeks worth of liturgies in a row, all without good cause. This pharisaic concept of missing liturgies being some grave sin is absent from Orthodoxy.

I am also surprised to see that you cannot recognize the reductionistic nature of your arguments...you present Orthodoxy as though it is a set of rules and concepts to which society must conform. When, in fact, Orthodoxy and the societies from which she comes are inseparable, to speak about the flaws in these societies is to speak of flaws in the Church and to speak of the good in these societies is to speak of the good in the Church. The Church is and is preserved in people, not abstract ideas, and, as such, the Church is as ethnic and cultural as people are ethnic and cultural. To deny the Church its ethnic element is to deny the Church its human element, it is to claim that the Church is not a living organism but an abstract concept devoid of humanity...it's ecclesiastical monophysitism.
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« Reply #99 on: February 27, 2007, 11:10:24 PM »

greekchristian:

I like your post and am going to have to use it in my next tussle with a freshly minted converted all full of himself and smug in his new faith.
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« Reply #100 on: February 28, 2007, 04:41:42 AM »

Question 1
Define American Culture
Question 2
If we define American mainstream culture as rooted in secularism, humanistic/hedonistic tendencies, individualism and consumerism, then we must remove ourselves from those facets of modern western culture.
I am not saying become a monk, rather, to be responsible and be careful of what we participate in.
One of the key signatures of both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy have always been that we are communal, we are individuals but as individuals we make the community whole.  One thing that has been noted is that we are loosing this sense of community in America in both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.  Traditionally individual members of our religious communities put others before themselves.  Spend sometime with Eastern Europeans and you will quickly notice this utter putting others before themselves, it is a trait, a standard we need to restore.  I am not saying we have lost this in our American culture, but it is fading.  We are falling into the trap of being more concerned with our individual needs than the communal needs.  Notice the increasing use of the word "I" and "me" in conversations, focused on personal feelings and needs.  We must return to putting others first. We need to pull together as a community and sacrifice our resources to support our brethren.  Christianity was founded on communities that banded together to support each other in all aspects of life.  They did not enjoy some social programmes we have today (food stamps, unemployment compensation, food for children, medical care and so on).  We need to return to the basic Christian principles set forth in Matthew 25.  So you ask is American Culture compatible with Orthodoxy? Yes and no.  What we can do is live according to the Gospels and set an example.  If we practice basic Christian values then they will become the benchmark for society.  If we curl up in a ball or ignore them or simply be "parishoners in good standing by merely paying membership fees and showing up for church" then we do not effect society, then we are not spreading the teachings of Christ.
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« Reply #101 on: February 28, 2007, 10:37:28 AM »

But you claimed that attendance of churches is a 'critical' element of soteriology...so do you believe people are damned to hell for skipping liturgy to watch a game?

Even if one wishes to go by the strictest canonical requirements, there are no penalties until one misses three weeks worth of liturgies in a row, all without good cause. This pharisaic concept of missing liturgies being some grave sin is absent from Orthodoxy.


Dear GIC,

I do not subscribe to the extreme position you you mention above. You are the one looking at this from the viewpoint of a Pharisee. Attendance at Liturgy (at a minimum--don't forget all the other services) is for the edification, renewal and spiritual strengthening of the Faithful. Attendance is for our benefit. Would your priest and bishop tell you that attendence at services is OPTIONAL? I think not. And there is good reason for this. Will people burn in hell for skipping services to watch a game on TV? I don't think so, but as I pointed out in my original post, I cannot judge this. What I do know is that such behavior is clearly not an example of following the "narrow path" described by our Lord and Savior.
I am also surprised to see that you cannot recognize the reductionistic nature of your arguments...you present Orthodoxy as though it is a set of rules and concepts to which society must conform. When, in fact, Orthodoxy and the societies from which she comes are inseparable, to speak about the flaws in these societies is to speak of flaws in the Church and to speak of the good in these societies is to speak of the good in the Church. The Church is and is preserved in people, not abstract ideas, and, as such, the Church is as ethnic and cultural as people are ethnic and cultural. To deny the Church its ethnic element is to deny the Church its human element, it is to claim that the Church is not a living organism but an abstract concept devoid of humanity...it's ecclesiastical monophysitism.

Again you are the one talking about rules, reducing Orthodoxy to them. Orthodox Christianity exists in society -yes. Does it embrace the flaws in society-no. I agree totally that the people are the body of the church. People have goodness and flaws, some are ethnic, some are not. The church is a living organism made up of its people.
I NEVER said that we should deny the Church its ethnic elements, only that this ethnicity is NOT CENTRAL to Orthodox Christianity and in fact has become a large barrier to our efforts at evangelization.

I guess for you ethnicity is the critical factor defining humanity.

Cowboy the Slav
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« Reply #102 on: February 28, 2007, 10:47:52 AM »

What we can do is live according to the Gospels and set an example.  If we practice basic Christian values then they will become the benchmark for society.  If we curl up in a ball or ignore them or simply be "parishoners in good standing by merely paying membership fees and showing up for church" then we do not effect society, then we are not spreading the teachings of Christ.


I agree with your sentiments in general here, especially effecting society by setting an example in behavior according to the Gospels. I view clinging to Russian, Greek, Arab, Serbian, etc. heritage as if it were part and parcel of Orthodox Christianity as "curling up in a ball".
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« Reply #103 on: February 28, 2007, 12:52:12 PM »

The parish I am in now is made of those who are relatively new to Orthodoxy. There are very tight bonds within this community due to marriage and godparent  ties. If someone has a baby or there is a death in the family a list is quickly put together of those who will provide dinners for the family. When there is a baptism, chrismation, wedding or funeral the whole parish is invited and attends. And most of these sacraments happen before Divine Liturgy on Sunday (not on Saturday as most ethnic parishes practice). There is one man who is recovering from a car accident and is unable to drive but several families take turns picking him up from the facility he lives in so he can attend Divine Liturgy.
People fast, attend the services, serve each other and give alms generously. The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes. In other words, the Orthodox Christian culture is very palable in this parish of newbies. All these things happen without the prescence of an Arab, Greek, Russian, etc. culture. Perhaps there is a culture of Orthodoxy that sits on top of the ethnic cultures that most of us cradles are just not aware of because it works with each of our respective folkways. For this reason, I  really get upset when some label a successful parish full of non-ethnic Orthodox 'Protestant' because they supposedly have no traditonal Orthodox culture to make them valid in certain people'e eyes. These new Orthodox parishes are living out the Christian life of praying, fasting and giving alms.
One other thought, if you are wondering what the American culture of Orthodoxy is just look at these new parishes for clues to the future. Their culture is based on unselfish devotion to one another, generosity to the church and to the poor, welcoming the inquirer to join the community, and a strong sense of community. I can't see any how any of these cultural traits work against Orthodoxy. In fact, I think they describe the church you will find in the book of Acts.
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« Reply #104 on: February 28, 2007, 01:00:14 PM »

Tamara,

Thank you for a very well written and insightful post. Many years to your parish! I agree with you that the future of Orthodox Christianity in America will look like your parish. Ethnicity is not validity.
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« Reply #105 on: February 28, 2007, 01:28:47 PM »

The zeal of the convert is admirable, but if not harnessed and guided, can lead to all kinds of problems.  That's why as much as we may like to point at all of the horrible things those ethnics do, they still have a lot to show and offer us.  They are in fact essential.

There are many good things that can come out of convert heavy communities, but lots of bad ones too.  Pride is one of the issues at the top of the list in my experience.
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« Reply #106 on: February 28, 2007, 02:05:46 PM »

Quote
The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes.

There seems to me to be some judgmentalism wrapped up in these statements.  Consider however the traditionalist who might show up at the hypotethetical convert parish.  What would they say - Do the women cover their heads?  Can women read the epistle? Have they abandoned the traditional church calendar?  Have they instituted novel and shortened services for the feast days?  Do their priests look like western clerics or wear street clothes outside of the services?  Why are there no monastics?  So on and so forth.  These type of arguments can turn on one fairly easily, and the hypothetical traditionalist may very well ask "is this the future of Orthodoxy in this country"?
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« Reply #107 on: February 28, 2007, 02:41:17 PM »

Quote
People fast, attend the services, serve each other and give alms generously. The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes. In other words, the Orthodox Christian culture is very palable in this parish of newbies.

You forget my sister that we Orthodox are a "community" of believers. We are only as strong as our weakeset link. Instead of judging you so called "ethic" brothers and sisters, pray for them.

If I sound mad I am. You forget your heritage and you forget your people!
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« Reply #108 on: February 28, 2007, 02:51:21 PM »

Andrew,

It seems have if the parishes full of converts are damned if they do and damned if they don't. On the one hand, people accuse these parishes of being Protestant because they don't have a traditional Orthodox ethnic culture. And then because they try to adhere to Orthodox cycle of services and other Orthodox traditions they are accused of being hyper-Orthodox. None of the people in my parish make an issue over any of these things (pews or no pews, organs or no organs, etc.) because that is not where the focus is. It is me, an Orthodox Christian of Arab heritage, making these observations because I am trying to point out that perhaps some of this Protestantizing of the faith is coming from some of our ethnic churches. Many ethnics only attend services once a week and do not have a tight community atomosphere. Many ethnics only drop a dollar in the plate as their tithe. Many never fast, go to confession, or even take Holy Communion. Don't get me wrong. I love the middle-eastern people I grew up with and I encourage them in their faith but I think the criticism of converts and their parishes is not healthy. I also get peeved when people think there is nothing redeeming about our American culture. I am sure the Judiazers felt the same way about the former idol worshipping gentiles joining their parishes and bringing with them their pagan cultural habits. They probably wondered how anything good from their pagan past could be melded into the faith of our Lord. LoL! Now in this case we aren't even dealing with pagans. We are dealing with people who for the most part have had a deep relationship with Christ their whole life joining Orthodoxy. And some wonder, if their hetereodox ways can be renewed by Orthodoxy. Some have such little faith in Orthodoxy that they believe converts must adopt an Orthodox culture as their own in order to be truly Orthodox. They must not have much faith to think this way.
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« Reply #109 on: February 28, 2007, 03:18:28 PM »

There seems to me to be some judgmentalism wrapped up in these statements.  Consider however the traditionalist who might show up at the hypotethetical convert parish.  What would they say - Do the women cover their heads?  Can women read the epistle? Have they abandoned the traditional church calendar?  Have they instituted novel and shortened services for the feast days?  Do their priests look like western clerics or wear street clothes outside of the services?  Why are there no monastics?  So on and so forth.  These type of arguments can turn on one fairly easily, and the hypothetical traditionalist may very well ask "is this the future of Orthodoxy in this country"?

Dear Wellkodox,

How can one be too zealous? Because they want to attend every service--as all Orthodox Christians should want to? Virtually none of the questions you pose here have much to do with Orthodox Christianity. I am not knocking ethnic people--I AM ONE--I am critical of the substitution of ethnic customs, traditions and the like for the dogmas of Orthodox Christianity. Head coverings? Calenders? Women readers? Priests without facial hair and 24 hour riassa? These are at best tangential to the Faith. The future of Orthodoxy in this country will brighten considerably when these types of questions stop being litmus tests for whether a "convert parish" is truly Orthodox Christian.

Cowboy the Slav
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« Reply #110 on: February 28, 2007, 03:22:04 PM »

Tamara

And you know these cradle Orthodox personally. You asked them or took a poll concerning their fasting practices or the amount of money that they drop in the plate. Is this any of your business? Take the log out of your eyes before you go taking the speck out of you brother's eyes.

Memory eternal for your Arab ancestors who struggled,saved and gave so that you and I could worship in beautiful temples today and invite in converts.
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« Reply #111 on: February 28, 2007, 03:38:58 PM »

You forget my sister that we Orthodox are a "community" of believers. We are only as strong as our weakeset link. Instead of judging you so called "ethic" brothers and sisters, pray for them.

If I sound mad I am. You forget your heritage and you forget your people!

Dear Aserb,

I was raised in a Carpatho-Russian church in Pittsburgh, so I have a similar background to you. I am Slovak. My parents were born here to poor immigrants right off the boat. But my "heritage" is America. I am disheartened to see you admonish Tamara for "forgetting your heritage and people". This is not Orthodox Christianity. I think we all, ethnic cradles and converts, have to stop circling each other with suspicion using standards of ethnicity or non-ethnicity. I think Tamara's posts beautifully define an Orthodox Christian and an Orthodox Christian Community and this should be the standard we all strive for.

Although I am embarrassed to say it, if not for the converts in our parish, any service in our church besides Sunday Liturgy would have 5 people in attendance instead of the usual 50 or so. Of course we usually average over 150 on Sunday and over 250 on Pascha night. I am so weary of the claims of piety by ethnic cradles.

And I totally concur with Tamara, that converts support the church financially much, much better than our ethnic cradles.

So if walking the "narrow way" means setting priorities in our everyday lives that give the highest priority to Orthodox Christianity--I'll take converts over ethnic cradles any day.

Cowboy the Ethnic Cradle
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« Reply #112 on: February 28, 2007, 05:08:46 PM »

Tamara,

Quote
It seems have if the parishes full of converts are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

No, I just don't think they are necessarily better than any other type of Orthodox Church.  Not all ethnic churches are just lackidaisical social clubs.  Not all convert churches are small tight knit communities doing nothing but positive things.  There's good and bad examples on both sides.  My only real issue is with the generalizations.

Quote
How can one be too zealous?

Many ways Cowboy.  Some people grow progressively more Orthodox.  Someone joins the Antiochians - but they're too liberal, so they join the ROCOR - but they have compromised on something, so they join XYZ church, etc.  One can be zealous in proclaiming how good their new found faith is and loudly proclaiming to all of their former church members how it is they need to immediately switch over.  I have talked to converts who can't stop talking about all the things wrong with their old church, or what it is "western Christians" do wrong.  Etc., etc., etc.  One can be wayyyyyy too zealous.

Quote
Virtually none of the questions you pose here have much to do with Orthodox Christianity.

Quote
Head coverings? Calenders? Women readers? Priests without facial hair and 24 hour riassa? These are at best tangential to the Faith. The future of Orthodoxy in this country will brighten considerably when these types of questions stop being litmus tests for whether a "convert parish" is truly Orthodox Christian.

To some people these are critical, because they view them as telltale signs of modernism; and what you may see as a healthy church they would see as a disaster waiting to befall Orthodoxy in this country because of the devaluation of traditional piety.  I bet there are some who frequent the board.
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« Reply #113 on: February 28, 2007, 05:22:46 PM »

Question 1
Define American Culture

I think that that was rather what I was asking about way up thread.  It's a complex and large area.

Quote
Question 2
If we define American mainstream culture as rooted in secularism, humanistic/hedonistic tendencies, individualism and consumerism, then we must remove ourselves from those facets of modern western culture.

That strikes me as in itself undefined, but merely a set of labels or adjectives that would seem to be meant at perjorative. What do those words mean in relation to culture and how would they likely apply to many countries and cultures not just the United States?

So if we do not define the American mainstream culture in your way, then where does the discussion go?

Quote
We need to pull together as a community and sacrifice our resources to support our brethren. 

From things I've read on this forum and elsewhere, it might be good to start within ones own group and support the priests and their families more.  The reports that have sometimes come out do not read as though there is more concern of others then self when it comes the clergy. 

I'm sorry, I was looking through some old posts here and found a thread about priest or their widows being in great poverty.  Sad


With respect,

Ebor

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« Reply #114 on: February 28, 2007, 05:26:38 PM »

Many ways Cowboy.  Some people grow progressively more Orthodox.  Someone joins the Antiochians - but they're too liberal, so they join the ROCOR - but they have compromised on something, so they join XYZ church, etc.  One can be zealous in proclaiming how good their new found faith is and loudly proclaiming to all of their former church members how it is they need to immediately switch over.  I have talked to converts who can't stop talking about all the things wrong with their old church, or what it is "western Christians" do wrong.  Etc., etc., etc.  One can be wayyyyyy too zealous.

I've seen that too, Welkodox. Many times over in something like 17 years of reading 'net religion. I've seen it happen with RC and others also.   It's like watching a ghastly rerun with the names changed at times and it's sad and depressing.

 Sad

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« Reply #115 on: February 28, 2007, 06:03:42 PM »

'net religion.
Virtual religion.....
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« Reply #116 on: February 28, 2007, 06:12:36 PM »

And you know these cradle Orthodox personally. You asked them or took a poll concerning their fasting practices or the amount of money that they drop in the plate. Is this any of your business?
How about because she IS one, cares about her parish and has observed what she is talking about.  I audit the books every year of my parish, so I can vouch for some of the things Tamara says on a general basis.

Take the log out of your eyes before you go taking the speck out of you brother's eyes.
There is "removing the log out of your own eye" and there is being completely naieve about what is going on.  Here, you are taking scripture and turning it into empty platitudes in order to avoid the issue.
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« Reply #117 on: February 28, 2007, 06:14:02 PM »

Virtual religion.....
"What kind of reality is that with a 15 amp plug on the end of it?"- Edina Monsoon.

 Cheesy That's a good quote, OzGeorge, I'll have to remember that one.  

I am very clear about 'net/virtual religion. That's also why it's sad to see the same sort of thing happen again and again without any RL religion.  Sigh.

Ebor
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« Reply #118 on: February 28, 2007, 06:31:03 PM »



Many ways Cowboy.  Some people grow progressively more Orthodox.  Someone joins the Antiochians - but they're too liberal, so they join the ROCOR - but they have compromised on something, so they join XYZ church, etc.  One can be zealous in proclaiming how good their new found faith is and loudly proclaiming to all of their former church members how it is they need to immediately switch over.  I have talked to converts who can't stop talking about all the things wrong with their old church, or what it is "western Christians" do wrong.  Etc., etc., etc.  One can be wayyyyyy too zealous.



Dear Wellkodox,

I must admit that I have experienced this as well. Last year in our parish our priest informed a catechumen that he was "not ready" for chrismation. This individual related to me that he had "issues" with going to confession. Despite the best efforts of everyone around this individual to help him understand the importance of confession in Orthodox Christianity, he left our parish, went to another Orthodox parish in our town (3 weeks before Holy Saturday) and was Chrismated WITHOUT CONFESSION there on Holy Saturday. He and his wife have gone way out of their way ever since to bad-mouth and belittle our parish and parish priest. This may be an example of reverse zeal now that I think about it.

But I kinda feel that the zeal you describe is more like the zeal of the Pharisees and this is not true Orthodox Christian behavior.


To some people these are critical, because they view them as telltale signs of modernism; and what you may see as a healthy church they would see as a disaster waiting to befall Orthodoxy in this country because of the devaluation of traditional piety.  I bet there are some who frequent the board.

The devaluation of traditional piety. This is a tough phrase. I guess you are arguing that these traditional pieties are central dogmas of Orthodox Christianity, and if not engaged in, indicate spiritual sickness rather than spiritual health in an Orthodox Christian community. I find this very difficult to accept. Tamara's parish description sounds like an "ideal" Orthodox Christian parish, which IMHO, all our parishes should strive to emulate.

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« Reply #119 on: February 28, 2007, 08:18:15 PM »

Tamara

And you know these cradle Orthodox personally. You asked them or took a poll concerning their fasting practices or the amount of money that they drop in the plate. Is this any of your business? Take the log out of your eyes before you go taking the speck out of you brother's eyes.

Memory eternal for your Arab ancestors who struggled,saved and gave so that you and I could worship in beautiful temples today and invite in converts.

Yes, I know them personally because I am one of them, grew up with them, and still personally struggle with the various issues I am bringing up. Even the bishop agrees with me because he once told me we must evangelize the Orthodox when we were discussing a problem we were having in regard to getting cradle Orthodox to attend services and retreats. One ethnic parish I know has 150 families and they can barely pay their bills. My parish has only 80 families and they enough money to help other struggling immigrant parishes and to give a significant amount of money to charity. These aren't judgements on my part. These are the numerical facts.
There are many pious Arab Christians who attend but there are many more who haven't a clue as to why they come to church. For many, Sunday coffee hour is their chance to socialize with other Arabs. Many do not show up until the Liturgy is half over. Their middle-eastern Christian culture is not saving them because they have left Christ out of the equation.
This problem can happen in any church regardless of the culture, including churches with a high convert population. We cannot rely on our culture to save us. It can be used as a tool for our salvation but if we leave Christ out then our ethnic cultures will lead us to our damnation.
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« Reply #120 on: February 28, 2007, 08:59:05 PM »


The devaluation of traditional piety. This is a tough phrase. I guess you are arguing that these traditional pieties are central dogmas of Orthodox Christianity, and if not engaged in, indicate spiritual sickness rather than spiritual health in an Orthodox Christian community. I find this very difficult to accept. Tamara's parish description sounds like an "ideal" Orthodox Christian parish, which IMHO, all our parishes should strive to emulate.

Cowboy

Dear Cowboy,

My parish had an extreme struggle with the ultra-Orthodox priest who brought them into the church. When they were finally able to have him removed by the bishop, they breathed a huge collective sigh of relief but they also had learned what not to do. They then went about nurturing an Orthodox church atomosphere which is traditional (in the right way, not in a cultic way) so you never feel like you are being judged by anyone. The priest encourages us to keep learning more about our faith, to fast, give alms and pray. Warm hospitality is what awaits the newcomers whether they be cradle Orthodox immigrants or American-born inquirers. Everything they do or any goals they set are based on what Christ commanded us to do. The church isn't perfect by any means but the people in the parish are seriously trying to work out their salvation in humility.
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« Reply #121 on: February 28, 2007, 10:14:52 PM »

But I kinda feel that the zeal you describe is more like the zeal of the Pharisees and this is not true Orthodox Christian behavior.

In the one nearly convert exclusive environment I have been in, I heard a lot of it.

Quote
The devaluation of traditional piety. This is a tough phrase. I guess you are arguing that these traditional pieties are central dogmas of Orthodox Christianity, and if not engaged in, indicate spiritual sickness rather than spiritual health in an Orthodox Christian community. I find this very difficult to accept. Tamara's parish description sounds like an "ideal" Orthodox Christian parish, which IMHO, all our parishes should strive to emulate.

I am not arguing those things are true, I'm saying there are people who would, and not all of their arguments are without merit.
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« Reply #122 on: March 01, 2007, 03:27:10 AM »

The parish I am in now is made of those who are relatively new to Orthodoxy. There are very tight bonds within this community due to marriage and godparent  ties. If someone has a baby or there is a death in the family a list is quickly put together of those who will provide dinners for the family. When there is a baptism, chrismation, wedding or funeral the whole parish is invited and attends. And most of these sacraments happen before Divine Liturgy on Sunday (not on Saturday as most ethnic parishes practice). There is one man who is recovering from a car accident and is unable to drive but several families take turns picking him up from the facility he lives in so he can attend Divine Liturgy.
People fast, attend the services, serve each other and give alms generously. The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes. In other words, the Orthodox Christian culture is very palable in this parish of newbies. All these things happen without the prescence of an Arab, Greek, Russian, etc. culture. Perhaps there is a culture of Orthodoxy that sits on top of the ethnic cultures that most of us cradles are just not aware of because it works with each of our respective folkways. For this reason, I  really get upset when some label a successful parish full of non-ethnic Orthodox 'Protestant' because they supposedly have no traditonal Orthodox culture to make them valid in certain people'e eyes. These new Orthodox parishes are living out the Christian life of praying, fasting and giving alms.
One other thought, if you are wondering what the American culture of Orthodoxy is just look at these new parishes for clues to the future. Their culture is based on unselfish devotion to one another, generosity to the church and to the poor, welcoming the inquirer to join the community, and a strong sense of community. I can't see any how any of these cultural traits work against Orthodoxy. In fact, I think they describe the church you will find in the book of Acts.


Some good points, but rather a broad and stereotyping narrow picture of what you claim as ethnic.   Every parish has ethnic components.  If you are using Byzantine Chant then you are following an Arab/Greek ethnic tradition.  If you substitute it for Russian four part, then you are using Russian ethnic traditions.  If you change that for prostopinije than you are changing to a sub-Carpathian tradition.  There is no blank slate to turn to.  Small traditions developed over time in the various parts of the world.  There is no non-ethnic music, there are no non-ethnic small traditions in any Orthodox church.   Yes it is a delicate balance and one that is very hard to pin-down and define.  Perhaps what we will see more commonly in the near future is the tradition of respecting every ethnic group in a diverse parish.  But as far as erasing everything people claim as "ethnic" there is simply nothing to replace it with that isn't ethnic. 
Another thing, the parishes that consist of people you claim as "ethnic" fast, have tight nit communities and do all the things you say the converts do at your parish.  There is an anti-cradle attitude that exists and it is rather rude. 
It is forgotten that long before the converts came the cradles kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith.  One more facet I must mention.  When my family came here from the Carpathian mountains the church was their life.  Everyone continued to live as they did in the old country more or less.  They had social gatherings at the church, they supported the church and their community, they worshipped together.  Being Greek Catholic/Orthodox was their national identity.  It was who they were.  It was a whole different concept than what we were raised with. 
I probably just made a ton of people mad at me, but I felt I had to get this off my chest! 
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« Reply #123 on: March 01, 2007, 09:36:21 AM »


Another thing, the parishes that consist of people you claim as "ethnic" fast, have tight nit communities and do all the things you say the converts do at your parish.  There is an anti-cradle attitude that exists and it is rather rude. 
It is forgotten that long before the converts came the cradles kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith.  One more facet I must mention.  When my family came here from the Carpathian mountains the church was their life.  Everyone continued to live as they did in the old country more or less.  They had social gatherings at the church, they supported the church and their community, they worshipped together.  Being Greek Catholic/Orthodox was their national identity.  It was who they were.  It was a whole different concept than what we were raised with. 

Dear Username,

To say that the cradles you refer to "kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith" seemingly also means that spreading the Gospels and evangelism
was not part of their faith. This closed door attitude is not Orthodox Christianity--it is , as you describe, a social club based on being able to live just as they did in the old country. They supported their completely closed to outsiders way of life.

Sometimes I think the anti-cradle attitude is caused by cradles who are arrogant, without having much understanding of their own Faith, who act like they have a birthright to Orthodox Christianity. They come late to services, leave for the social hall right after communion to get a jump on coffee hour, never volunteeer time, talent, or money to help the poor, give minimally (buck a week) to the church or if they give substantially expect to have veto power over all church decisions.

Converts see this and well...what would you think?

Cowboy
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« Reply #124 on: March 01, 2007, 09:57:08 AM »

I am cheering for Username and would expect that ckind of reply from you Cowboy. (I am now waiting for Tamara to chime in -- the Greek chorus). Your post was full of broad generalizations. You are missing the point. Our (since you are a cradle) ancestors brought the faith of Orthodoxy to this country, established the faith, built the temples, seminaries, monastaries, etc. You need to make peace with your ancestors and cherish and appreciate what they did so that - today - we can spread the faith. I am for evangelism but not arrogance.

Evangelism. My grandparents barely spoke English. Were viewed with suspicion outside of their ethnic ghetto. Worked 12 hour days in factories and mines. Gave of their meager earnings and bought an old Episcopal church and turned it into a beautiful Orthodox church.

You know when you plant a tree when its young you cannot pollinate it right away it takes time. I agree the Orthodox tree planted by the immigrants is now ready for pollination.

As an aside I belong to a mostly cradle parish. Many are older people on fixed incomes who worked hard all their life and supported the church in their youth with volunteerism and their cash. We just had a stewardship drive - - The first ever! The board was worried that many people, especially, the older would not participate. That said when all was done the participation rate exceeded their highest estimates.

So converts don't have a lock on participation. I welcome them and contrary to what you may beleive always have. Our church  motto is. Come once you're a visitor. After that you're family. My wife is not Orthodox and feels very at home in my church. She's not a theologian and when she does convert it will be because of the love she gets from many of the cradles, especially the babas
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« Reply #125 on: March 01, 2007, 10:17:44 AM »

You know when you plant a tree when its young you cannot pollinate it right away it takes time. I agree the Orthodox tree planted by the immigrants is now ready for pollination.
Beautiful imagery there aserb! And I agree.
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« Reply #126 on: March 01, 2007, 10:25:24 AM »

I like that, too.
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« Reply #127 on: March 01, 2007, 11:45:12 AM »

Dear Aserb,

I too think that you expressed a beautiful sentiment and I can completely identify with your experience. Further up this thread you and I agreed that our childhood parishes did not do a very good job of teaching Orthodox Christianity to us and our generation. This is why you and I fell away from the Church for many years. My grandparents barely spoke English too. And with their meager earnings in the steel mills of Homestead, Pa built a beautiful temple which is a marvel to this day(St. Nicholas--ACROD). My grandparents and parents were founders. Looking back however, the church was really as much about keeping alive the language, customs and traditions of the Carpatho Mountains from which most had come as it was about Orthodoxy.

I love and am at peace with my heritage. I view with bitter sadness the missed opportunity of Orthodox Christianity in America for the last 50 years. Fifty years is a long time to wait for pollination. I sense that many parishes that have remained fairly isolationist over the years are now ready to "reach out" because it might be the only way to avoid extinction.

Aserb, I really have no argument with you. The past is past. My primary point is that going forward we must emphasize Orthodox Christianity and not ethnicity. Our forebearers do deserve honor. They took it as far as they could.
What worked for them in the past won't work in the future, for them or anyone else.

I love the old Babas in our church. They are held in high esteem by me and all. But we must bring the light of Christ to those around us, and we shouldn't put barriers of ethnicity in their way.

Cowboy (carrying an olive branch)
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« Reply #128 on: March 01, 2007, 01:06:49 PM »

Cowboy:

You know what, I couldn't agree with you more. That was a beautiful reply.

Frankly my friend it was a shock to my system to remember a fairly ethnic parish of my youth and then to enter a mostly convert environment. I initially enjoyed it, all was in English, I learned a lot about my faith and met people from varied backgrounds. However as time went on the constant whining and at times antagonism toward any shows of ethnicity, save Pascha baskets, got old and wearying. Some converts bashed not only their former Protestant faith, but the faith of other Orthodox (namely cradles) that at best they considered sub-par and at worst apostate.  It was a real turn off bordering on rudeness and insulting to have my heritage bashed and SOC churches for being "ethnic."

I have found a home in a nearby ACROD parish, who like me, is made up of second as well as first generation cradles with a handful of Orthodox. THe SOC parish is 45 minutes from my home and is made up of recent Serbian immigrants. It meets their needs, I have no arguement with that.

That is not to say that there are thriving mixed parishes, such as your own, which I am sure I would enjoy being a member. (Or at least visiting, however, I have no reason to go to Cleveland.) Remember the old commercial that ended with the saying "... this is not your father's Oldsmobile."  It wasn't even my father's Ford.

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« Reply #129 on: March 01, 2007, 01:11:25 PM »


Some good points, but rather a broad and stereotyping narrow picture of what you claim as ethnic.   Every parish has ethnic components.  If you are using Byzantine Chant then you are following an Arab/Greek ethnic tradition.  If you substitute it for Russian four part, then you are using Russian ethnic traditions.  If you change that for prostopinije than you are changing to a sub-Carpathian tradition.  There is no blank slate to turn to.  Small traditions developed over time in the various parts of the world.  There is no non-ethnic music, there are no non-ethnic small traditions in any Orthodox church.   Yes it is a delicate balance and one that is very hard to pin-down and define.  Perhaps what we will see more commonly in the near future is the tradition of respecting every ethnic group in a diverse parish.  But as far as erasing everything people claim as "ethnic" there is simply nothing to replace it with that isn't ethnic. 
Another thing, the parishes that consist of people you claim as "ethnic" fast, have tight nit communities and do all the things you say the converts do at your parish.  There is an anti-cradle attitude that exists and it is rather rude. 
It is forgotten that long before the converts came the cradles kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith.  One more facet I must mention.  When my family came here from the Carpathian mountains the church was their life.  Everyone continued to live as they did in the old country more or less.  They had social gatherings at the church, they supported the church and their community, they worshipped together.  Being Greek Catholic/Orthodox was their national identity.  It was who they were.  It was a whole different concept than what we were raised with. 
I probably just made a ton of people mad at me, but I felt I had to get this off my chest! 

We use all types of music in my church and some ethnic customs (Pascha baskets, red eggs) have become a part of the tradition of our church. And for the record, I am not saying we need to eliminate anything. What I was trying to explain is there is an overriding Orthodox culture that rises above the various ethnic manifestations of culture so that any ethnic group in the world can become Orthodox without having to become Greek, Russian or middle-eastern. If this wasn't the case then we would all be celebrating Jewish/Christian customs. Earlier on in this thread I wrote that my guess is Orthodox parishes in the future will adopt a variety of customs which will evolve over time until they become a part of an American tradition. I also said as American saints are recognized small customs will develop to celebrate their feast days.

And just for the record, I am not anti-ethnic. I love my Syrian Orthodox heritage and I have respect for my ancestors but I also am a realist. My grandmother never wanted to return to the Syrian village of her birth because her childhood was hellish. She was grateful to come to this country and live a good life. The pastoral, peaceful, Orthodox village is a myth. Our ancestors lived hard, brutal lives in the countries of their origin. Many of them were persecuted. They came to this country to start a new life and they brought their faith with them. They did a great job of planting the churches as you say but they didn't always do a great job of catechizing their children. Millions of Orthodox Christians came over to North America in the late nineteenth and early 20th century. According to the Krindatch study there are approximately 2,000,000 Orthodox Christians total in the United States. Some of our jurisdictions are in decline. I have read of Orthodox parishes closing in the mid-west. In the bay area two Serbian churches had to combine into one because of membership loss. As a teenager I attending a Russian Orthodox church near Sacramento that was made up of the elderly. We have to accept these facts and figure out why we have lost so many of our Orthodox siblings, cousins and friends to other faiths or secularism. Many of them were raised in tight ethnic communities by devout babas, yiayias, and sitoos but that didn't seem to keep them in the church. Perhaps it was the lack of English in the services. Maybe in some cases, too much emphasis was placed on ethnicity/nationalism and not enough emphasis placed in Christ. I don't think our grandparents fully understood how much influence assimilation and inter-marriage would have on their children so they were not prepared.
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« Reply #130 on: March 01, 2007, 02:03:29 PM »

Tamara

I couldn't agree with you more. I do not think that our grandparents had to foresight to understand the impact that American culture would have on their children. I remember my father telling me that they (his generation) wanted to be American in every way. Dress, walk, talk, live and sought to distance or least put their customs in a box to brought out on Sunday's and feast days only. They were a minority. Then it got carried into religion. An entire branch of my family in the second generation became Episcopalians and not because there were no Orthodox churches around. Because they wanted to.

Maybe the converts are overzealous, but it is zeal without knowledge at times. They're experience in Orthodoxy is a world, literally, apart from our forefathers and mothers.

I pray sometimes with tears in hopes that my grandparents can see that I have come home to the  faith. I know they thought they all but lost me. It does trouble me that I have met many cradles who are apathetic towards so rich as Christian heritage as Orthodoxy.

Maybe we are not that different you and I. I know I both admire and at times have a distaste for some converts, but it does depend on the person. Not all converts have been churlish in my prescense.

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« Reply #131 on: March 01, 2007, 02:38:56 PM »

Dan, I think we have alot in common. All of my Orthodox cousins have left the church and now belong to other churches. I am sure your grandparents can sense your prayers for them. Who knows...perhaps they were praying for your return? I was never angry with you or anyone on this thread. If I have offended you please forgive me. 

I feel the same way as you do when I meet baptized Orthodox Christians who have left the faith. One time I had a conversation with a young Greek-American evangelical. When she found out I was Orthodox she tried to find out if I was born again because in her mind Orthodoxy was dead religion. How did she come to that conclusion? Another time, I met a Lebanese-American couple who were members of an Episcopalian church. When we found out we shared the same ethnic heritage they asked me what church I belonged to. After I told them I was Antiochian Orthodox they replied,"Oh, our grandmother belongs to that church." Their reply inspired me to write an article called, "My grandmother's church." I asked my priest (at that time I still belonged to the ethnic church of my childhood) to publish the article in the church newsletter. There were many young immigrant families in this parish and I wanted to warn them about losing their children to other churches or to secularism. The older Lebanese priest would not publish it. He said,"Tumra, we do not want to upset OUR people." How's that for sticking one's head in the sand? Boy, was I frustrated. I was only trying to get the young parents to think about the future.

You seem to really have had some run-ins with many ultra-Orthodox converts. I probably wouldn't enjoy their company either. Most of my experiences with those who are new to the faith have been very rewarding. My friends have open minds and hearts. They do not have any anti-ethnic prejudices. In fact, they hold the ethnics up in high regard and would like to see more of them join our church.
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« Reply #132 on: March 01, 2007, 02:48:58 PM »

I'm just thinking out loud here, so please bear with me.

I'm not sure I totally buy the idea that our forebears were not aware of how "Americanization" can affect the propagation of the faith.  My wife's maternal great-grandfather, Pietro Sartori, immigrated to the US in 1909 and spent the rest of his life being immensely proud of being an American and a Roman Catholic.  Her paternal great-grandfather, Julian Balakier, did much the same in 1906.  They were both very Italian and Polish, respectively, but they managed to assimilate their strong ethnic pride into a great American pride and managed to pass their faith along to their progeny.  Out of their descendants, which number over 100, I can probably count on one hand the number who don't go to church at all, and on both hands those who don't go every Sunday but still identify themselves as Catholics.

Both families managed to maintain strong ethnic traditions and practices, yet also remained fully American.  I think this is one area in which the Catholic Church trumps the Orthodox time and time again.  While there are exceptions (most notably the bruhaha of the closing of an historically Polish parish in Mt. Lebanon, PA (google it) a couple years ago), historically ethnic Catholic parishes evolve more organically and with far less consternation than the Orthodox ones I've seen.  

Take, for example, the recent immigration of thousands of Filipino families into Baltimore over the past 50 years.  In recent years, an historically Polish parish has taken to celebrating Santa Nino festivals due to the large number of Filipino immigrants that now attend that particular parish, yet it still has not lost its Polish character at all and you'll find Filipinos at the area Polish Festival polkaing alongside the Poles, thanks in large part to the welcome these immigrants found at their church and among the Polish-Americans, many of whom had immigrant parents themselves.

As I said, there are exceptions, but, on the whole, one does not find these ethnic squabbles amongst Ethnic-American Catholic parishes when the demographics change.  

I'm not trying to be triumphalist, but rather making an observation and putting it out for discussion.
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« Reply #133 on: March 01, 2007, 02:50:37 PM »

Aserb and Tamara,

I am the only one in my entire extended family that belongs to the Orthodox Church. Let us together mourn these losses and look to much brighter futures of common understanding. May God help us all to do so!

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« Reply #134 on: March 01, 2007, 03:11:25 PM »

Schultz:

I agree that there are always exceptions and I did not mean to paint all immigrants with a broad brush. I think some immigrants were aware and sought to inculcate pride of culture as well as faith. You can still find in Orthodox churches one, two and three generations in tact practicing the faith. It always warms my heart to see that.

Cowboy. I am also the last of the Mohicans in my family.

Tamara, I was never offended by you.

My daughter is baptized Orthodox. I so pray that she keep the faith.
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« Reply #135 on: March 01, 2007, 03:31:37 PM »

Aserb and Tamara,

I am the only one in my entire extended family that belongs to the Orthodox Church. Let us together mourn these losses and look to much brighter futures of common understanding. May God help us all to do so!

Cowboy

I think we should also keep in mind that loss of religious affiliation, disinterest and difficulty retaining young people (among other issues) are not specifically tied in to ethnicity or to Orthodoxy in general. 

I have a fairly generic Anglo whitebread background.  My family have historically been your basic mainstream Protestants.  Neither of my parents care about religion or ever took me to church.  I have one second cousin whose an evangelical, an uncle that's an Episcopalian and my Great Aunt I would assume still goes to my Mom's families Presbyerian church.  Everybody else has dropped out and is absolutely disinterested in Christianity.  Many Protestant Churches, particularly the older mainline denoms (UMC, PCUSA, UCC, ECUSA) are bleeding people out like crazy.

Ethnicity, or better yet, the cultural components of the church can help to attract, retain and bond people together.  When used to exclude people or is more important than the religion, then it's a problem.  I like the ethnic part of my church, and nobody makes or expects me participate in it.

My kids are now effectively cradle Orthodox, so we'll see how they turn out.

Welkodox, extending a Tofu branch.
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« Reply #136 on: March 01, 2007, 04:06:56 PM »

I think we should also keep in mind that loss of religious affiliation, disinterest and difficulty retaining young people (among other issues) are not specifically tied in to ethnicity or to Orthodoxy in general. 

I have a fairly generic Anglo whitebread background.  My family have historically been your basic mainstream Protestants.  Neither of my parents care about religion or ever took me to church.  I have one second cousin whose an evangelical, an uncle that's an Episcopalian and my Great Aunt I would assume still goes to my Mom's families Presbyerian church.  Everybody else has dropped out and is absolutely disinterested in Christianity.  Many Protestant Churches, particularly the older mainline denoms (UMC, PCUSA, UCC, ECUSA) are bleeding people out like crazy.

Ethnicity, or better yet, the cultural components of the church can help to attract, retain and bond people together.  When used to exclude people or is more important than the religion, then it's a problem.  I like the ethnic part of my church, and nobody makes or expects me participate in it.

My kids are now effectively cradle Orthodox, so we'll see how they turn out.

Welkodox, extending a Tofu branch.

I am not arguing that other churches are not experiencing losses but what makes our losses more dire is the fact Orthodox Christians make up less than 1% of the population. If we do not get serious about our losses and find a way to stop them, then we risk extinction. Some jurisdictions are on their way there now. Orthodox unity may come about within the next 20-50 years in order to survive.
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« Reply #137 on: March 01, 2007, 05:12:31 PM »

I guess a sense of ennui has ensued now that the three of us stopped duking it out.

Welkodox - love you buddy but I could give a rats behind about other Christian denominations losing members. I care about Orthodoxy. I know that where I live (you are familiar with my neighborhood) it appears as if evangelical churches are growing, when in fact, hard core evangelism is a thing of the past with these churches. But they are opening up new non-denominational churches every month by playing musical chairs. That is the new evangelical church feeds off of existing evangelical churches. To the outsider this is a perception of growth. But every other denom is scrambling trying new gimmicks to attract the so-called faithful

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« Reply #138 on: March 01, 2007, 05:26:27 PM »

While there are exceptions (most notably the bruhaha of the closing of an historically Polish parish in Mt. Lebanon, PA (google it) a couple years ago)

I did, skeptically, and got nothing. (I didn't expect to; Mt. Lebanon is as waspy a place around Pittsburgh as you're likely to find, and I doubt they have a Polish person there, much less a Polish parish.) Are you by chance thinking of Carnegie? The church of the Polish parish there that was closed is now owned by the Society of St. Pius X and is a thriving "trad" RC parish.
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« Reply #139 on: March 01, 2007, 05:29:18 PM »

It seems welkodox and myself are in pretty much the same boat.  I'm painfully Northern European...Niedersachsen in northern Bavaria is as south (and east) as my ancestors came from in the demonstrable past.  And I love the Slavic component to my church and, for their part, the Slavs in my parish embrace my eccentric Anglo-Celtic style (for those who don't know, I wear a kilt most every day).  I have been to parishes that have exhibited confusion upon my answer of "The Question" with a decidedly non-Slavic last name.  I definitely was not comfortable there, at least not the way I am in my home parish and at the few Orthodox parishes I've visited in the area.

I guess it really boils down to a parish-by-parish experience and, unfortunately, lots of people get turned off by certain types who put forth the attitude that one must practically become Greek or Russian or Serb or Arab in order to participate in the liturgical life of a particular church and, by extension, Orthodoxy.  Sadly, those people aren't lucky enough to have the same experience that some of us non-cradles (such as Welkodox and myself) have had.  

But it does beg the question, why do inquirers have to be lucky in order to be exposed to the welcoming arms of the Church?

It's a fine line to tread and one that we'll most likely continue to balance upon for the next few generations until the majority of Orthodox in this country are native born Americans.
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« Reply #140 on: March 01, 2007, 05:32:55 PM »

I did, skeptically, and got nothing. (I didn't expect to; Mt. Lebanon is as waspy a place around Pittsburgh as you're likely to find, and I doubt they have a Polish person there, much less a Polish parish.) Are you by chance thinking of Carnegie? The church of the Polish parish there that was closed is now owned by the Society of St. Pius X and is a thriving "trad" RC parish.

Ooops!  I meant Mount Pleasant.  I have no idea why I put Mt. Lebanon. 

In short, the diocese of Greensburg closed a parish largely due to the fact that the building itself was falling in upon itself and there really were not enough practicing Roman Catholics in Mt. Pleasant (which is not large at all) to support three parishes.  The parishoners of the closed church threatened to bolt to the PNCC at one point, but that did not save their church.  Quite literally, the roof caved in a few days after the doors were bolted shut.  I'm not sure what happened to the those who spoke of rebellion, but, in the end, they lost.

Here's the Connelsville Daily Courier story on the dissolving of the parish.

Interestingly enough, one of the priests involved in the squabble was my first father-confessor and who gave me my first Holy Communion, Msgr. Michael Matusak. Smiley
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« Reply #141 on: March 01, 2007, 05:34:43 PM »

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I could give a rats behind about other Christian denominations losing members

Let me discuss the rat's behind a little more.

A general theme I have picked up is that the church has lost people in this country or fails to attract them because of the very general issue of "ethnicity" and that it should adapt to "American culture" (whatever that is).  I pointed out the mainline denoms* not as a "see, somebody is doing worse", but to show that churches that are fully and substantially a part of American culture (whatever that is) are having the same problems.  So to me, getting rid of the ethnicity is not a panacea.  That is the point I'm trying to make.  If Orthodoxy is losing people in North America or anywhere, there's probably a different reason, and it is that reason we should look for and try to address.

There is a madness to my method here.

* The term commonly applied to the historic mainstream American Protestant denominations such as the United Church of Christ (UCC), Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), United Methodist Church (UMC), Episcopal Church (ECUSA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA).
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« Reply #142 on: March 01, 2007, 06:01:49 PM »

Welkodox - point taken counsellor

Schultz - the Polish Catholic church in Wilmerding closed as well or merged with the non-Polish Catholic church under a new name.

Ahhh kel fromage!
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« Reply #143 on: March 01, 2007, 06:48:32 PM »

Are you by chance thinking of Carnegie? The church of the Polish parish there that was closed is now owned by the Society of St. Pius X and is a thriving "trad" RC parish.

My bad. The SSPX Chapel/parish bought some other building in Carnegie. There is also a PNCC in Carnegie, which I think bought an old RC church. (There was a Polish church in Carnegie that closed but I'm not sure if it was their building the PNCC parish bought or that the closing was what prompted the PNCC parish to form.) I'll just stick to Rusyn-American religious history...  Wink
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« Reply #144 on: March 01, 2007, 07:26:05 PM »


I guess it really boils down to a parish-by-parish experience and, unfortunately, lots of people get turned off by certain types who put forth the attitude that one must practically become Greek or Russian or Serb or Arab in order to participate in the liturgical life of a particular church and, by extension, Orthodoxy.  Sadly, those people aren't lucky enough to have the same experience that some of us non-cradles (such as Welkodox and myself) have had.  

But it does beg the question, why do inquirers have to be lucky in order to be exposed to the welcoming arms of the Church?

It's a fine line to tread and one that we'll most likely continue to balance upon for the next few generations until the majority of Orthodox in this country are native born Americans.

Now that the proverbial hatchet has been buried, maybe we can give examples of things, ethnic or not, that we have experienced in our own and other parishes that we might interpret or know to be things that turned off potential converts/inquirers. Let's make a pact that that honesty will not be punished. Maybe then we can start to uncover how to make corrections, in a way that does not DIMINISH Orthodox Christianity.

Going away for the weekend in a couple hours. Talk to you all on Monday.

Cowboy
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« Reply #145 on: March 01, 2007, 07:45:37 PM »

I forgot to get the ball rolling.

How about entering the sanctuary of an OCA church and having a very stern man lunge at my wife, put a babushka on her head and attempt to wrap a long skirt over her extremely modest pantsuit. She was so stunned, she let it happen. But she boiled all through Liturgy and as an Irish, Roman Catholic convert, it was truly a BOIL. No one spoke a word to us before or after Liturgy. This happened at a "nameless" Church in upstate NY.

Have a great weekend.

Cowboy
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« Reply #146 on: March 01, 2007, 08:04:30 PM »

I forgot to get the ball rolling.

How about entering the sanctuary of an OCA church and having a very stern man lunge at my wife, put a babushka on her head and attempt to wrap a long skirt over her extremely modest pantsuit. She was so stunned, she let it happen. But she boiled all through Liturgy and as an Irish, Roman Catholic convert, it was truly a BOIL. No one spoke a word to us before or after Liturgy. This happened at a "nameless" Church in upstate NY.

Have a great weekend.

Cowboy

What was your wife doing trying to enter the Sanctuary?  Is she iconographer?  Women don't normally do this.  Just kidding...I realize you probably meant the Nave.
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« Reply #147 on: March 01, 2007, 09:34:41 PM »

1) A priest who answers an inquirers questions with "because that's the way its always been done"
2) A choir director who yells at a parent of a child making noise (not on purpose)
3) A choir director who storms out after the liturgy in protest to the way the choir was singing


None of these beats Cowboy
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« Reply #148 on: March 01, 2007, 09:40:56 PM »

4) A board member who staress at you and says "our new church will not look like a building from the Ukraine."  (and you're Ukranian)

5) A bishop who starts an homily with the words "Some people here are going to heaven (pause for effect) and some people here are going to hell. THe remainder of the sermon was one long appeal for money

6) A priest who says that we have all the money we need right here in this room. We just have to get it out of your pockets.
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« Reply #149 on: March 01, 2007, 09:50:31 PM »

I went fishing and found this. Maybe we could get back on track


Quote
     It is a day off.  I have nothing to do.  So I am going to take this time to jabber away about my thoughts on the so-called "American" Orthodoxy movement....

I believe the movement to start an "American" Orthodox Church is based on a false premise.  This premise is that the Church is supposed to be nationally relevant as opposed to culturally relevant.  Cultural relevance is important insofar as the Church's function is not only to bind believers together in Communion, but to offer the Communers a sense of heritage and historical continuity.  I do not think that the Liturgy was meant to abstract us from any cultural context.  This would create a sterile environment lacking in any sense of richness.  This is precisely what we see going on in the "mission-oriented" Evangelical Churches.  Going to one of these type of churches is like staring at a white-washed wall.  This is part of what drove me to Orthodoxy.  Indeed, how does one explain the survival of Coptic, a language vernacularly dead for hundreds of years, if not for the drive to adhere to a sense of cultural unity?  How does one explain the use of Slavonic?  How does one explain the present cultural cross-sections of the British Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church in England respectively other than that Britons want to "feel" British and Egyptians want to "feel" Egyptian?

In my opinion, the reason why so many Celtic and Anglish whites are turning to Druidism and Wicca, and why so many African-Americans are turning to Islam is because they have the inner feeling of ethnic self-alienation.  The sterile Protestant Churches did not offer them any type of cultural affirmation.  And the Eastern-mysticism phenomenon of the '60's could not keep its hold on them due to its utter foreignness to their psyches.  Now we are turning to our "roots", because our "roots" affirm us.

The recent massive influx of converts to the Orthodox Church is evidence, in my opinion, that Christians everywhere want to feel a sense of historical continuity to their faith.  And yet there is this lingering feeling that it is not our historical continuity.  It might be the historical continuity of the Greeks, or of the Russians, or of the Lebanese.....but not ours.  This is where the movements to plant "indigenous" Orthodox Churches come in.  However, it is important to know precisely what we are doing by planting such Churches.  Are we appealing to culture?  Or are we appealing to mere political boundaries?  You might retort that in the first few centuries, Churches were "naturalized" in accordance with political boundaries.  True, but this is when kingdoms and cultures coincided.  But there is no such thing as an "American" culture.  Neither is there such thing as an Australian culture.  There is the Anglo-Saxon American culture.  There is the Native American Culture.  There is the African-American culture.  There is the hispanic American culture.  But "American Culture" there is not.  In fact, when one uses the term "American culture", what he/she really has in mind is, in fact, precisely the Anglo-Saxon Protestant one.  One must not forget that Protestantism is so ingrained in this "American" psyche, that "Americanizing" the Church (or "Americanizing" anything for that matter) inevitably means "Protestantizing" it.  Furthermore, creating such an "American" Orthodox Church will alienate African-Americans (this is already evident in that I've never met a single African-American convert to Orthodoxy), Hispanics, and other minorities.

My proposal, though it sounds far-fetched is to create "culturally-based" Orthodox Churches in America.  I understand that the so-called "Irish Orthodox Church" has been somewhat successful in incorporating Gaelic/Celtic elements into their aesthetic.  I say we bring the Irish Orthodox Church into America and let Celtic-descended people join this.  Let's create a Teutonic Orthodox Church for German descendants.  Italian Orthodox Church, etc., etc.  Each Church will utilize ethnic elements proper to each culture.  It would be helpful to learn from the Druids aesthetic elements belonging to Celtic culture.  Wagnerian/Grimm mythos for the Teutons, etc., etc.  This might seem dangerously Pagan, but when we look into how the Church was formed in the first few centuries, this is not as far-fetched as it might first appear.  The Malankara Indian Orthodox Church is a case in point in its "baptisms" of Hindu rites.

Thoughts anyone?
 
 
       
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« Reply #150 on: March 01, 2007, 11:26:43 PM »

Dan,

I cannot agree with author of the article because many Americans are a mixed backgrounds. In California we have many children of mixed race. What churches would be available for these people? I have no problem with incorporating a mixture of customs from various ethnic backgrounds and letting American customs develop as American saints are recognized. Besides, I enjoy being in parish with a mixture of people of different backgrounds and races. It makes life interesting and it is part of our American culture. Segregation is wrong. The early churches were made up of Jews, Greeks, Syrians, Ethiopians, Romans etc. I also do not appreciate the criticism of the Protestant culture. It reminds me of the Judiazers
who wanted to keep the early church Jewish in culture by trying to force circumcision on the newly illumined former pagans. If the pagan and barbarian cultures can eventually meld into Orthodoxy then so can the good fruits of Protestantism and Catholicism.
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« Reply #151 on: March 02, 2007, 12:10:24 AM »


Here is a different perspective on cultural diversity and Orthodoxy

Vol. 1 No. 1 - Feast of St. Nicholas 2006

Canada: Doorway to a New Christian Commonwealth?

"They will come from the east and the west, from the north and from the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God" - Luke 13:29

Some of us long for the good old days. In the case of some Orthodox Christians, the "good old days" often take the form of the Byzantine Empire - the height of Christian life amoung the Hellenes - or Holy Russia, the age of great monasteries and spiritual elders. Others may look to other, smaller Orthodox kingdoms, east or west, such as the Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Anglo-Saxons or Franks.

For nationalists, there is something very comforting in nostalgia, the sense that the greatness of the past does not ever really pass away. Yet the earthly reality is quite different: Holy Russia crumbled into atheistic Communism, the Byzantines were overrun by Moslem Turks, and most Greeks and Russians today are not calling for a return of their Orthodox Emperors. Like everything carnal, nationalism finds its end in the dust of time - yet unlike everything carnal, something about these great Orthodox Empires lives on in the heart of every Orthodox Christian, in every prayer, in each Divine Liturgy.

What is this essential quality that lives on? It is in fact the very opposite of the narrow nationalism that characterizes much Orthodox parish life in North America: it is in fact the essence of Orthodoxy, which goes beyond culture, which embraces the whole human race in the historic, Orthodox Christian Faith, to such an extent that Orthodox Christianity becomes the culture of an individual or a nation. This was evident in the multiracial - and multilingual - life of the great Orthodox Empires. In the case of Russia, it was Orthodox baptism - not bloodline or ethnicity or language - which determined citizenship in the Empire. The European Slav, the Scandinavian, the Asiatic, the Alaskan Aleut - all were equally citizens of the same Eternal Empire, since all shared the same baptism. This was the inheritance of Byzantium, whose genius transformed the pagan Roman idea of citizenship - loyalty to a false Imperial god - into the only eternal brotherhood of all those who call God their Father. Given centuries of politics, wars, and bloodfeuds, it is remarkable indeed that this sense of eternal citizenship continues to exist at all amoung Orthodox Christians the world over to this day.

The age of states made up of a single people or language is over. Immigration, and the international economy, have made this a thing of the past. This new reality is sometimes discouraging and confusing to Orthodox people, who struggle to find an Orthodox identity in a culturally diverse world. Yet cultural and linguistic diversity are the very situations in which Orthodox Christianity has always flourished. The reason is simple: when the Church is surrounded by diverse cultures and languages, it is forced to look outward, to share the Gospel with those around it. This is the same condition that motivated Saints Cyril and Methodius to create a new written alphabet to share the Gospel with pagan Slavs (in their own day, it was as impossible to imagine Christian Slavs as it would be to imagine Orthodox Saudis or Iranians today - or Orthodox Canadians, for that matter). It was the same cultural diversity, including a complex patchwork of languages, and ethnic intermarriage, which allowed Saint Innocent and the other Alaskan missionaries relative ease in spreading the Orthodox Faith among native Alaskans. Where cultural diversity and contact was greatest, so often was mission work.

Where do we find the greatest degree of such cultural diversity today? We do not need to look very far: it's in Canada. And linguistic diversity? Again, the answer is in Canada. In particular, the city of Toronto allows an individual to encounter virtually every culture and language in the world living within a one mile area. Montreal, Vancouver, and to a lesser extent other Canadian cities, present a similar picture. This is the same picture that confronted the missionary saints of past centuries.

What does this mean for Orthodox Christians in Canada? Regrettably, many Orthodox mourn the loss of their ancestral tongue, and try to drown their sorrows in the pursuit of better heritage language and dance programs for their children and grandchildren. Neither of these has anything to do with the work of the Church. If we view our Canadian situation with the eyes of saints like Cyril, Methodius, Innocent, Gregory the Great, and others, our best investment in eternity would be time spent in the heritage language classes of other cultures, such as the Chinese and Arabs, whose numbers swell in Canadian cities, and whose children fill our public schools. Our funds would flow toward the translation of liturgical texts, lives of the saints, and writings of holy elders into Urdu, Mandarin, and Vietnamese (and for our American neighbours, Spanish, which accounts for over forty percent of the first language of all American citizens). French missions deserve special attention. Canada is blessed with freedom of movement throughout the largest national landmass in the world, and the Lord's providence has preserved us free from war on our soil since a small group of American troops were driven back to Niagrara Falls generations ago.

Canada presents the greatest missionary opportunity in the history of the world, a doorway into every culture and nation on earth, and the legal protections to offer some safety from fear of reprisals to those from every background who would embrace Christ. Even Holy Russia and Byzantium could not guarantee such security in certain of their regions - but we can, and do.

Of course, most Orthodox Christians in Canada will not pay attention to any of this, preferring to die a demographic death within their own nationalist ghetto. Yet a few will follow in the path of saints live Cyril, Methodius, Innocent, and Gregory the Great, and will grab the opportunity the Lord has presented to us. Regardless of the language or culture of a mission parish, it is in this - and only in this - that we find the true inheritance of Byzantium and Holy Russia: that outward-looking Christian love that recognizes its only real citizenship is a Heavenly one.


Father Geoffrey, (Feast of St. Nicholas, 2006)

http://www.orthodoxcanada.com/journal/2006-01-03.html
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« Reply #152 on: March 02, 2007, 10:52:17 AM »

Quote
In California we have many children of mixed race. What churches would be available for these people?

The same ones we have now.  Orthodoxy in this country is a mix and will be a mix.  Our culture is a mix.  We go to a church with a Rusyn cultural history with people of all different backgrounds.  My wife and kids are a mix of Anglo and Asian.  It's all a mix.  Our paradigm is the melting pot and that is what will make us different than the countries Orthodoxy came from.
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« Reply #153 on: March 02, 2007, 11:20:31 AM »

Although I have not been to a Canadian Orthodox church I get the impression that many are stuck in a 1950's ethnic ghetto paradigm.

In many respects the Orthodox church in America has taken on aspects of US culture both in convert dominated  and cradle dominated churches. (I spoke at length on this earlier)

To all you newbies and inquirers. I know that you can see that we get into some lively banter on this site. Do not let that dissuade you along your path to Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #154 on: March 02, 2007, 04:52:45 PM »

The same ones we have now.  Orthodoxy in this country is a mix and will be a mix.  Our culture is a mix.  We go to a church with a Rusyn cultural history with people of all different backgrounds.  My wife and kids are a mix of Anglo and Asian.  It's all a mix.  Our paradigm is the melting pot and that is what will make us different than the countries Orthodoxy came from.

Exactly. It will make us different but we may actually have much in common with the church of the first few centuries under the Roman empire.
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