Found this posted elsewhere and thought it seemed appropriate for here.
(Originally published here: http://www.oca.org/PDF/DOC-PUB/TOC/2006/NOV-DEC.pdf
Converts & conservatives
Fighting spiritual fatigue
By Father Jonathan Tobias
One of the many reasons why I left the Protestant community for the Orthodox Church was the latter's conservatism. It wasn't the main reason, but it was certainly one of the important ones I suspect that the same goes for many of my fellow wayfarers -- the clump of ex-Protestants that streamed into Orthodoxy from the mid-1980s to 2000. Then, Orthodoxy had that hothouse spritz of the nouveau and exotic. Now, one can detect -- amongst the convert community -- a sort of fatigue setting in, seemingly from disenchantment.
Nevertheless, we are still conservative, and we are still true. The real enchantment obtains, despite the disappointments of the flesh. Orthodox Christianity, for all the apparent faults of the present community, is the reality of the Body of Christ. It is the revelation, and practice, of the Apostolic Church.
This next thing I suggest will sound a bit garish, so I beg your pardon in advance. Let me preface the offense with an avant-propos. Since I was allowed in the door (and I mean no irony here, because I really wanted in, and I was -- and remain -- happy that permission was granted), I have wondered why the Lord has beset the Orthodox Church with so many of us former evangelicals. Truth be told, we are not easy to manage or to get along with. Some of us have transmuted our Protestant legalism into Orthodox legalism. Others of us have retained our congregationalism, and have attempted to import guitars and pastoral-search committees. Still others have complained loquaciously about ethnicity and a Balkanized jurisdictional Bayou, despite the fact that this very mess was what brought them the Gospel in the first place.
So I asked God, "Why do You punish them with us? Wherever we go, we cannot let things alone: in our wake, we spread commissions, projects, marketing strategies, growth campaigns, and even blog sites. We don't know the ways of the old country, and we bumble and stumble every time we try to trill our r's. Why have You inflicted us on them?"
Indeed, we have even cajoled some of the "cradle" Orthodox (whatever that means!) into thinking that we are a blessing. Some time ago, I read, with a heavy squint, a nice eastern European lady suggesting that the Orthodox community should jettison its old world ways and learn from the ex-Protestants -- the sooner, the better. She extolled the converts' bent toward stewardship and community outreach and evangelistic programming.
How mightily we "converts" have talked our revivalist game, and have published our glossy pages, and have duplicated our cassettes and CDs, and have advertised the wondrous invention of this dispensation: the "workshop."
But there is something that the converts have brought to the Orthodox Church, like a dowry. Despite the WASP-y awkwardness and the ever-ready (and irritating) urge to smite custom into policies and agenda items, we do have our uses. We have come to be saved, first and foremost. Let us never lose sight of that brightness. But what can we bring, we poor bumpkins, to the Great House of the Ages?
We have come to help keep you conservative. For we are time travelers, arriving haggard from a possible, and sans-Tradition, liberal future. We saw what the liberalizing elite of a central administration can do to an entire denomination Ã¢â‚¬â€œ no matter what the people in the pew want, or sing on a Sunday (after all, many Methodists still sing "Just as I am"). We know, first hand, what happens when a seminary (dressing up for the university) jerks theology out of headship, and shoves it under the tail of philosophy -- whether the tail belongs to the Arian hegemony of TÃƒÂ¼bingen, or the pandering crowd-control of the Fuller Institute. And even though we don't like to admit it, we know what happens, inexorably, when the canons mandating chastity and male ordination are shelved. Ask any Episcopalian, former or not.
We have witnessed the results of every heterodox departure, and we were blessed with big numbers at every liberalization of those stodgy rules. When tradition bound us, we paid obeisance to the bottom line: we adjusted, fudged, and dispensed with the old, and the bottom reared up, the people applauded, and we heralded ourselves as the anointed.
Sure, we had nice people, and a lot of our social needs were met. Sure, we had our thumb on the pulse of the market, we knew what people wanted (childcare, Starbucks in the Atrium, interest groups, no church on Christmas). Sure, we felt up-to-date and relevant. But we also felt devolved.
So here we are with our poor gift, but we often don't know what we have to give you -- you who are blessed more than we in the sheer fact that you are "cradle-born." I look up to you who are infant-baptized, chrismated in your godmother's arms, and taught the Sign of the Cross before you spoke. For you, Orthodoxy is second nature, if not the first, and don't you ever tell me again that I, as a convert, am better off because I am not like you. But help me, and the rest of us, give you what we have. Turn off our PowerPoint projectors. Drag us from our workshops and our book-signing tables. Don't listen to our nasal dismissals of all things ethnic. Overlook our boorishness.
But let us instead warn you of the days to come, and the Number of the Beast.
Let us tell stories of fractured faith and smorgasbord creeds.
Let us recount tales of intellects gone awry when wrenched from apostolicity.
Let us sing the dirges of reformations that spiral down into existential skepticism and fundamentalist ghetto.
Let us prove the impossibility of belief, apart from apostolicity, in the Holy Trinity.
Let us catalogue the many phases of degradation resulting from anthropology automatized and atomized, shadowed from the light of ecclesial doctrine.
Let us carefully distinguish the difference between the conservancy of Holy Tradition (which is us), and the politics of conservatism (which is not necessarily us).
Let us discern the non-conservative, consumptive character that inhabits the core of both national socialism and multinational capitalism.
Let us remind you why we came, pounding on Noah's doors, as deluvian refugees.
And above all, let us, together, discover Orthodoxy as the stalwart redoubt of humanity against the approach of Leviathan. For it comes, its golden harbingers calling for license and leveling, and a negation of all custom and tradition, and an enthusiastic embrace instead of rational, totalitarian control.
(Fr. Jonathan is pastor of St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, East Pittsburgh, PA and professor of pastoral theology at Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown, PA.)