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Author Topic: American Orthodoxy and American Culture: Are They Compatible?  (Read 19144 times) Average Rating: 0
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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

aserb (holding up a Manhattan)
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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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