Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Most Unique Orthodoxy EVER

In light of Erica's blog, I bumped up reproducing this important post. It is particularly significant for my Orthodox convert friends who insist on defining Orthodoxy in contradistinction to every other form of Christianity in history. (Cough, Frederica!, cough.)
One of the things I tend to notice Christians doing is trying to make Christianity "completely different" from everything else. I also seem to see some Orthodox Christians trying to do the same thing...Having something be "completely different" doesn't make it true. In fact, it may indeed lend credence to the idea that it is not true at all. There are many many ways that Christianity is very similar to other religions (and Orthodoxy to the rest of Christianity). You can't go around basing your faith in Christ on the ability to hang on to a 'difference' between Christianity and something else...

Here are some examples of how 'Completely Different' thinking works:
  • Some New Agers agree that the kingdom of God is within you. Some scholars, wanting Christianity to be 'completely different' from New Age thought, go to the Greek and decide that it says "among you' instead of 'in you.' Voila. Now we don't agree with the New Agers. However, we are now no longer in agreement with the Fathers.
  • Someone makes a convincing argument as to why religion is bad. We want to be 'completely different' from other religions, so we claim that Christianity is not a religion.

This type of thinking has to stop. First of all, it ends up distorting the faith, because we keep feeling that in order to combat culture, we have to make changes to the faith itself. Also, it causes us to be failures at evangelism because we end up developing a "view" of other religions and of Christianity that is distorted. (Emphasis added.)

This may explain why so many converts develop a foreign (to Orthodoxy) ethos of self-loathing, rejecting anything remotely akin to the experience of Western Christendom over the past 2,000 years. Rather than seeking to transform and sanctify the culture in which they were reared -- a culture with a venerable history at times sustaining Orthodoxy itself -- they demand Byzantinization in every respect, including personal habits. They are often among the first to adopt exotic cultural practices of Eastern ethnics in a misguided attempt to become "more Orthodox." One blogger has called them the "Orthodox Taliban"; I coined the term "Convert Fanaticism Syndrome"(TM). An interested Anglican, Lutheran, or Roman Catholic dare not try to engage in conversation with them. These converts virtually shout, "It's a Byzantine thang, ya'll wouldn't understand."

This is not the Faith of our Fathers; it is ethnic fetishism. Leave it to the '60s generation to give us Noble Savage Christianity.



Blogger Ille said...

I am an ethnic Orthodox and I cannot but only agree with your comments. I have noticed that growing an impressive beard seems to be a special mark of one's orthodox faith among many (especially younger) Westerners- turned- Easterners (i.e. Orthodox).
This quite amuses me since this custom
has never been thoroughly observed (and certainly is no longer, even if it had been) in the Orthodox East itself, but only among certain Orthodox peoples.
On a more theological level, blaming St.Augustine for all "Western evils" and calling him a "heretic"
is also a token of orthodoxy, while in our parish, back in my country, our priest was blissfully unaware of the new heretical status St. Augustine had gained among certain Orthodox Christians. And equally unaware was he, and still is, of the
supposedly "Orthodox" rejection of the dogma of the original sin. This new brand of Western Orthodoxy, more Eastern than the East itself,truly amazes me.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Fr. Matthew said...

Part of what is problematic about this trend is for converts (and some of the more zealous convert clergy) is to reject any baptism performed outside of the Church. Because their version of Orthodoxy is so incredibly unique, baptisms outside of the Orthodox Church are considered mere pagan rituals that have taken place in outer darkness. They insist that any convert coming into the Church must do so via baptism, even if they have been baptized with a Trinitarian formula before coming to Orthodoxy.

Their insistence on rebaptism stands in direct contradiction to what their respective hierarchs have affirmed as a standard for accepting such converts--via chrismation.

As a result, they essentially end up only "playing Orthodox" while still acting like protestants in the worst sense--picking and choosing what they think is "Orthodox" without regard for the clear teaching of their hierarchs/jurisdictions.

7:49 PM  
Blogger seth said...

i'd just like it known that i grow an impressive beard because it makes me feel like a mountain man, not really more orthodox. plus i feel like i look smart when i pull it with a contemplative look on my face. :)

11:16 AM  

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