Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Does God really care if you venerate icons, cross yourself, or be near incense? Believe me the church wants you to, church dogma and traditions want you to.... But does God?
I'm not sure.
No, He doesn't. God has instituted the Apostolic Church and the Holy Tradition to give human beings an outlet and mechanism for their worshiping spirit which dwells in a physical form. These things are a lifestyle to reorient ourselves towards God in everything we do, they are not a means to an end being salvation. Icons, incense and prayers do not save us, God alone does that, however icons, incense, and prayers bring our consciousness closer to God. After all, if people can watch TV and read books to distract their attentions, why shouldn't the Church have its own means to concentrate our same attentions?
But when I see the fruits of the Anabaptists (again disclaimer of my opinion) being far superior and greater than the Eastern Orthodox, I have to recognize that Jesus Christ said "you will know them by their fruits". For instance, I see the Anabaptist divorce rate at 2% it really makes me think about fruits.
Yes there are issues that I do see with the Anabaptists, but believe me, there is way less explanation needed with them that I hear of people having to explain Eastern Orthodoxy.
Old Order Amish with no power - "We stay off the grid to not be worldly and take our time with new technology to make sure it will not inhibit family life, our faith, or our church".
Eastern Orthodox Icon veneration - How many books, arguments, and explanations have been written on the subject?
Anabaptist no power:
We can understand why the Amish / Mennonites do what they do. We can see the evil influence many television shows have on our lives, how the internet does take time from the family, and how we can't ever "be alone" and not be bothered by a ringing cell phone. It's very clear cut, and the understanding is clear. Whether or not we still have these technologies is a different issue. But it's easy to understand and I believe most people can see their point clearly.
You are idealizing a group of Christians and should not do so, because in the process you are inherently demonizing another group of Christians. Human beings are what we are, flawed individuals, and the Amish, Menonites, Anabaptists, or EO are no different or no exceptions. You should not then get into some kind of comparison, because it is cultural and historical and inherently biased. These fruits you mentioned are everywhere, and if the Amish and Anabaptists are so perfect, why do their children grow up and marry outside and move away? Alas alas, because they are just human beings like the rest of us, even if they aspire to a near monastical culture for their whole population.
Eastern Orthodox Icon Veneration:
There are countless people who call this idol worship, and making "images of things in Earth and Heaven". There are vast debates that rage on the internet about iconography, as well as in ancient history with the iconoclasts. There are many books written on the "explanation" on why it is okay to venerate icons. "No it's not wood & paint, it's the representation of the real saint we are venerating and not worshipping". I get it. I get it....
Obviously I'm confused. Look the icon is not Christ. Period. It was painted by a man. When I kiss it I'm not kissing Christ, it's not warm as the "human nature" should be. Lots and lots of confusion here.
We have these same internal debates and you are right to have questions, but perhaps your intentions are in the wrong direction. You are going into your investigation of iconography with a chip on your shoulder against it, and so you are only seeing the flaws. We in the Church have the same gripes you do with worshipers who misinterpret icons in the Church, with those of us Orthodox who confuse worship and veneration. We are very specific in this. Again, Icons are a kind of tool, and instrument for spiritual exercise, but just like physical exercise, you need a personal trainer to properly show you how to use the equipment or the move, or you may actually hurt yourself! It is the same with spiritual exercises, if people just pick up icons with no training, it would be the same as if they just starting bench pressing with no instructor or doing wild lunges and crazy angled sit ups, what would happen, they would hurt themselves or pull something!
Anabapists have very simple and easy to understand explanations of why they do what they do.
Eastern Orthodox have books and centuries of in fighting and debates over things that many don't even find necessary.
This is why I have immense respect even if not faith in Anabaptist belief. Even my family dresses as the Anabaptists. Yes people DO point fingers here in Texas. But my wife is 100% behind it, and knows she did not exploit children overseas and is dressing as a Christian conservative. She sews all the kids clothes.
Sometimes all one has to do is look on the back of their church clothes tags to realize the irony of their Christianity.
The Anabaptist "fruit" has heavily made me consider them.
You are seeing this fruit through a biased lens, so inherently you see it one-sided. If you were a bit more experienced in a different direction, perhaps you would see the fruit in different ways. There are many in Orthodox who sincerely believe in Sacramental worship, and feel that the Anabaptists are dangerous seditionists who lure Christians away from the Sacraments, and that only Sacramental worship can bring salvation, so these Orthodox feel in their hearts that Anabaptists are in fact dangerous to the souls! I do not necessarily ascribe to this kind of thinking, God alone can reveal Himself to anyone. Orthodox Church is not there to Crusade against heresy or falsehoods, Orthodox Church is there to simply exist and offer folks the opportunity to receive the Sacraments when and where God Himself invites Christians to receive them, in God's own Time and for God's own purpose. My advice to you is to take yourself out of the study and book reading, and live in the spirit of the matter, if you believe in God, take these questions to Him and not the Canons and Law books of the Church. God knows best as you said, He will tell it you in His time..
Okay, just to clarify, this was answering the OP's question and MY opinion.
The first thing you said is that God doesn't care if we have icons and incense. So basically if God does not care about these things they do not matter.
I for one would think that God would prefer us focus on him by doing his will, by helping one another, helping the weak, helping the sick, and being charitable and kind. Something the Anabaptists are immeasurable in comparison from everything I have witnessed for years in EO. So basically what I was saying is the Anabaptists draw me away from EO because in EO, we venerate an icon, cross ourselves, bow, cross ourselves again, and sometimes re-venerate. All the incense... Pointless. I went to an Anabaptist church for one day as a visitor, and was invited to an event after church. I watched as they went and rebuilt (men, women, and children) rebuilt the roof of an old woman's home that was caving in. All for free. They even fed her dinner. She was a Roman Catholic. The next week they were bringing Mack truck of goods to poor migrant farmers. This is a little church too with less than 100 people.
So as bad as this sounds, in EO I found myself thinking I was being a true Christian.... But if one simply thinks "would God rather us cross ourselves, bow to him, cross again, bow again, cross again, bow again.... Get a blessing, kiss hand, cross ourselves. Walk away, cross ourselves, bow, then kiss and icon and re-cross ourselves...... or spend our time helping anybody. Look I don't want to sound like its EO bashing, but its a reality that I have lived and witnessed. Anabaptists have proven to me their charity more to their fellow man without all the "filler".
Understand that I'm idealizing them because truly they are worth idealizing, and their charity and how the group as a whole are contempt in what they have, should be a role model for EO Christians.
You are right, they are not perfect, and I did not call them perfect. Many of their children do grow up and move away. Some stay, some move and move back as well. You may want to ask yourself if carrying the cross down the narrow path is easy? Many are not cut out for it.
Here's my question for you. If EO is so perfect and Anabaptist is not why do the EO have a much higher divorce rate?
Greek Orthodox - 14%http://www.helleniccomserve.com/divorceperspective.html
Anabaptist - 1% (link also explains the move away rate at 15%)http://www.examiner.com/frugal-living-in-national/amish-wealth
I am not demonizing Eastern Orthodoxy, the OP asked basically how other faiths have taken a toll on the EO faith. This is how. By their fruits.
I don't have a chip on my shoulder coming into the iconography debate. I accepted it as a child, and as I child I started questioning it. The questions continued and now I see the practice as bizarre and not required by God, and not helping with anybodies salvation.
I don't agree that I'm seeing this from a biased lens. (My opinion) I believe the Eastern Orthodox are unfortunately stuck behind an opaque lens. They are so stuck that "we are right" that they can't even draw reasonable and logical questions. They accept what they were handed, and never consider how far things have come from the original church because they consider themselves the original church. Many of my questions I asked have been centered around this. "Did Jesus use an iconostasis, Did the apostles cross themselves".... Barely any of this "filler" happened before Nicea. So much centered around "doctrine and dogma", and the people in need are so often cast aside.
Are Anabaptists basically taking people away from "the sacraments". No wait, the 7 sacraments....
Who made up term "the 7 sacraments"
Who said "the 7 sacraments can only be performed by clergy"
Men did this, and they have a worldly church. In America registered under 501c3 incorporated status.
Tithing was meant for widows & orphans.... Remember that. I have been a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian for many years, and NEVER not ONCE did I see them donate money or goods to widows or orphans. Mostly the money went into enhancing the church somehow. I'm not saying it was never without charity which is good, but frankly, the Anabaptists I have seen have given astronomically to those in need in gut wrenching forms.
The question exists if the EO are wrong for "evolving". I don't know.
But I was directly answering the OP with MY OPINION. A non-Orthodox church really effected my faith by their "Good Fruits", which I have seen them produce.
The interesting thing is the EO have vast history compared to the Anabaptists, so it leaves me in limbo.
My questions are, did the Eastern Orthodox evolve so much in dogma and doctrine that they became too full of "filler"?
Do the Anabaptists have grace since they basically skipped back to the Early Christians and act so today? (pre Nicea)
Who goes to heaven, the one with the 7 sacraments with grace from a church that has an enormous history & succession,
the ones who are not of this world, give freely in charity, do not participate in the military, are non resistant, and help oogles of people?
An EO answer would be "the one with grace" of course. Because that's the easy answer when you are "sure the faith is right".
Anabaptists would not even be concerned with this answer.
Anyway, I hope the OP understands my answer.