Monday, June 24, 2019

The Challenge of being Orthodox in a Secular Society


  1. It's good to have conversations and efforts like this. However, the conversation has this disconnected and incomplete feel for a very good reason: They don't actually ever get to what secularism actually is. So they come across as people describing symptoms (which are many and varied) that thus those who are on the surface, not really getting to the essence that is underneath.

    They fall back to what they know - the whole "structure" (to choose an inadequate word) of Orthodoxy, from the building into the Church unto the altar to the sacraments, and say "all will be well, all will be well - with the Grace of God and you working out your salvation and with Church's boundaries and the.....". The Church as a door, "method", praxis and life. There is of course truth in all of this.

    It is also the status quo. It is the diagnosis that secularism is just another sin, or a collection of sins or circumstances "in the world" and that we have all seen before and we have all that we need.

    A crucial missing piece of the puzzle IMO is that secularism is something that works *within the Church* - it is not a mere pressure or "tribulation" from the outside. It is not "the world" or even "a culture" that is a kind of external rival to a "Godly culture". It is the presupposition *before* "I believe in one God..." to put it in an overly epistemological frame.

    I am not convinced that this status quo, this culture, has the "healthy boundaries" and praxis that is sustaining because I don't believe it *sees* secularism...

    1. I watched this discussion with some interest, found my self becoming somewhat critical of the content. On further reflection it appeared to me 3 priests beginning to engage the people with elements of our cultural war, a war of very divergent moralities. I would be very interested in see any follow up presentations by the 3 fathers.
      Over a period of time I have gone to blogs by representatives of various Christians groups who are trying to spread a more authentic sense of the Gospel of Christ. This does include Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Missouri Synod Lutherans, and even some secularists. What stands out in all the blogs is that the challenge isn't so much what the world is selling as propaganda, but what some within these church bodies are espousing. Look at the article above to get my point. We must stand firm on our Faith and praxis,- Bishops, priests and deacons, and the laity as witnesses to the Truth of Orthodoxy. Why some of these discordant voices are not being corrected by our Bishops is a matter for another time. But if the Orthodox Church wishes to evangelize we must have a consistent proclamation of the Gospel, both dogmatic and in the area of lived out genuine morals.
      Worrying about wanting to be more American is of little value; rather being more authentically Orthodox in our preaching and living out of our preaching is what will touch hearts.

    2. "What stands out in all the blogs is that the challenge isn't so much what the world is selling as propaganda, but what some within these church bodies are espousing. "

      Well stated Fr. Gregory. What Fr. Fr. Panayiotis do not appear to see and understand is that secularism is not "out there", in the world (it is but that is not its power). Rather, secularism is *within the Church*. Fr. Panayiotis seems to relies on a rather idealized view of Church and the "Godly Culture" within her.

      Yes, the 3 priests seem to have a shallow almost "culture war" discernment (of secularism), however in their defense that too is a symptom of secularism. The Evil One wants us to stay on the surface and the "political" and in the 3 priests have used this language and imagery to a certain extant. However I think they are capable of more and digging deeper...perhaps they will.