Eastern Orthodoxy (Part VII)

By Frederica Mathewes-Green:

6.) Can you explain why a postmodern generation might be attracted to Orthodoxy in ways that their parents and grand-parents might not have been?

Something generational is happening with Evangelicalism, and I suppose we don't yet know quite what it is. There is persistent restlessness--I keep getting books from writers who are trying to define the problem and solve it, and everyone has a different theory. So I think one of the reasons postmodern folks are more open, to Orthodoxy as well as other alternatives, is that current Protestantism is less satisfactory than it used to be.

Orthodoxy itself is appealing, I think, initially because it is visibly beautiful, and because it is rooted in something other than a Baby Boomer's bright idea. As an explorer draws nearer, he finds that it is more guileless and unstudied, less "organizational", than Roman Catholicism (Orthodox projects can be *very* disorganized, compared with Western standards. There's a saying, "I don't believe in organized religion, I'm Orthodox.") Eventually he sees that the center holding it together is a way of life in Christ, a "Way" to nourish the presence of Christ inside as it grows and overflows.

At that point of exploration, everything reverses -- the icons, chant, prayers and so forth are no longer seen as appealing accessories, but as elements, outgrowths, of an organic life, the life of Christ's people continuing without interruption from the earliest days.

The problem is that the person, a pastor or worship leader, who gathers some of these elements and places them in their own Protestant context, discovers that they immediately begin to fade. The reasons these worship elements have power in the first place is because they are rooted in an organic, continuing life. They have authority because they are part of that larger, communal, life. But when a person chooses and removes them, like cutting roses in a garden, they begin to die. The authority is no longer the living community, but the "chooser", the expert or worship leader who made the selection. He can't help but interpose himself, standing between the ancient community and the attendees at the worship he designs.

I hasten to say that of course not everyone is going to pack their bags and become Orthodox. Nor do Orthodox believe that you have to do that in order to be saved, not at all. I'm just recognizing an inevitability. You can't choose some elements of Orthodoxy without being a chooser. It's like recognizing that you can buy spices on your trip to Nepal, and try to cook the same dish when you get home, but it's not going to be the same. We are so plagued with the life-style, thought-style of being consumers. The expert chooses and removes worship elements, and each worshiper who comes in the door browses through what he offers and does the same thing. Profound community doesn't quite gel, not the way it does when you immerse in a continuous timeless faith. It remains a gathering of separate people who have chosen to be there, and who choose what they like and dislike.


Odysseus said…
LOL! It never fails. An Orthodox convert from Protestantism defines Orthodoxy as 'not-Rome'.

If only I had a nickel for every time...

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