This post is worth reading by every single Orthodox in America–really by anyone in the West–as much as it is worth reading if one is evangelical. Here in Lutheran Land, it would do Lutherans well to read it, too, as in too many places, I’ve seen Lutherans emulate Evangelical approaches to things. For those of us who are Orthodox, we should read this because we have a fair number of Evangelical converts.
His warnings to fellow Evangelicals might not seem to apply to us, but in some ways they do. Now, certainly, Orthodox could get triumphalistic–see, we have services for all ages and we don’t try to reinvent the wheel with market-driven feel-good fluff. Ok, fine, fair enough. Good us! Yay us! Go team! The problem is that this is reminiscent of cheer leading at a football game or, worse yet, is downright arrogant and bigoted. What we should do with such warnings is respond with the following exclamation and two questions:
1) Keep bringing the children to the entire liturgy! This can be a struggle in some of our parishes where we have adopted the “cry room” approach, not simply as a place to change diapers or breastfeed or something, but as a place to hang out during much or all of the liturgy. Alternatively, this could be because of “Orthodox time.” Yes, a nice joke, but really? What do we say if we bring our children but there’s consistently around 20 minutes left to the service? This can and does happen in some of our parishes. It’s one thing to be running fifteen or twenty minutes late that day. Purposely loafing and showing up an hour late is another matter.
2) How have we handled the influx of Evangelical converts who want to stamp icons and Orthodox phrases on everything from coffee mugs to keychains to anything else that has a surface area equal to or greater than an inch square? I think there is work to be done on this front and certainly, there is enough of this occurring that before we get triumphalistic, we should ask how we’ve handled this within our own midst. When is it allowable? What is appropriate?
3) What are the reasons we have lost the maturing youth we have lost? We have Orthodox youth grow up, go to college, and then maybe attend church for the wedding and when they’re forced to at their funeral. Is this what it should be? We also have youth who simply leave the Orthodox Church, some of them not even joining a non-Orthodox parish somewhere. This happens. Are we addressing it?
I think Matt Marino has hit on some real problems in Evangelical parishes and yes, I am thankful that Orthodoxy does not fall prey to such an extent of ridiculousness, but being thankful is not being triumphalistic. Being thankful does not omit being open to further needs for repentance and self-critique, and that is something Mr. Marino’s post may allow us to do yet again. My three points are hardly the only ones applicable, but they are worth considering and discussing.