I was recently directed to read a brief article about the current state of Orthodoxy in America, written by Bradley Nassif. This article sums up exactly what I’ve been recently discussing with my wife and friends, and I agree whole-heartedly with the author.
For anyone who is Orthodox and has not yet read the article (I believe most of my reader(s) were sent a link to it via email) I would highly recommend the 10 minutes it takes to read. You can read it if you’re not Orthodox (this isn’t Scientology) but it might be mind-numbingly boring, unless you are experiencing the same kind of troubles in your church, in which case you will be able to identify.
I’ll highlight a few good points:
“Parishioners are coming and going in and out of church with little visible change in their lives. In short, they do not know the core content of the gospel or how to integrate its meaning into their everyday lives.”
“Bishops and priests must not take for granted that everyone in the Church is converted and has no need to hear the basic gospel message.”
“Outside of Orthodoxy, have you noticed how the healthiest Christian communities around today are the ones who preach Christ, not their own denomination? … Yet, all we seem to hear from our pulpits is “Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy!” We are obsessed with self-definition through negation. It is a sick religious addiction.”
“The Orthodox Church has such a long history and rich theology that it is easy for us to lose sight of the forest for the trees. But we must never lose sight of the simplicity of the gospel and its far-reaching consequences for everyday life.”
This is something I have been struggling with for a long time now. I do not feel like I’m getting anything out of going to church. I’m also sick of people telling me that you’re not supposed to get anything out of going to church – that it’s supposed to be work and that you’re doing it for God and not yourself. That’s silly talk. That sounds like something people under a tyrannical regime say. If that’s really what I’m supposed to believe as an Orthodox Christian, then count me out.
I think the solution starts when our priests and bishops start preaching about the life of Jesus Christ in the Gospels and how I should adjust my life to live as my Creator would have me live. Not about Orthodoxy. We’ve been saying Orthodox prayers for an hour. We’re standing in front of a tremendous iconostasis. We KNOW we’re Orthodox. It’d be nice if we could at least distract ourselves from that during the sermon and focus on Christ. I don’t care about vestments, narthexes, finances, or relics. I mean I do care about about those things, but not during the sermon.
Most Importantly, if I, as an Orthodox Christian, don’t want to hear about those things during the homily, then surely my Protestant, Catholic, or non-Christian friend that I bring along as a visitor doesn’t. Wish me luck convincing my friend to ever come back. Don’t we want to grow the church?
In short, God is not Orthodox. To hear it put much better than I ever could, read the article I’m talking about. The guy who wrote it looks pretty distinguished to me, and appears to hold influence in the church.
Here’s the link: Reclaiming The Gospel.