Is Orthodoxy American?

Cradle Orthodox don't leave Orthodoxy for no faith but for an American faith. Orthodoxy's journey to America was a blessing from God. However, we have struggled to incarnate the body of Christ in American clothes. Our people have become thoroughly American in character. Outside of the Church they act, think, and speak like Americans, but their life inside does not reflect this transformation. This is our great challenge. We must answer the question, "What is America?", and incarnate the body of Christ in American clothes if we are to impact the nation where we have been planted.

The Church has always done this task. The most obvious example of this is the communication of truth in the language of the people to whom the Church entered. Many nations and peoples can thank Orthodox missionaries for creating an alphabet and giving them the gospel in their own tongue.

Yet language is not the only way the Church has incarnated herself among the nations of the earth. The character and culture of a people are embodied by the Church. The Church embraces those things that were intrinsically good and beautiful among a people and transforms the bad.

The Greek missionaries to the Slavs did not impose Greekness but allowed the Slavic character to become Christian. The Russians coming to the native peoples of Alaska did the same. One beautiful story regarding this cultural embrace is over Orthodox fasting rules. A missionary to a Northern tribe in Siberia found that Caribou was the primary staple in these people's diet. This created issues for times of fasting when abstinence from meat was the rule. The missionary wrote to his bishop for advice and the bishop wrote back, "Have the people eat less caribou."

Today each traditional Orthodox country has a unique character that is expressed in cultural traditions, food, songs, stories, and styles of music. For Orthodoxy to enculturate and become indigenous in America the same must happen. Too often we have remained "old country" rather than Americanize.

So what is American? What is the character of our nation that is true and beautiful? Can you name those things that are unique to soul of this country?


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