The Problem of Orthodox Culture

Over the past months several Orthodox writers have taken up the topic of Orthodox culture and whether we can create one in this country.  Much of the writing flows out the pens of artists, so I am sure that this is a desire longing for an ethos where there is a richness of art seen in places like old Russia with majestic architecture, beautiful music and haunting works of literature. 

I long for this too.

What is the critical mass of people for such a culture to emerge?  Evangelicals have had this mass in America for some time, but only recently is there a serious arts movement bubbling up. 

Rather than a culture of high art, I propose we are looking for community, and this is the base where we must start. The magnet that draws Americans into the Evangelical world, robust Catholic life, and even stranger American movements such as Mormonism is not theology, but community.  This is a place where you can enter and every part of your life is infected by it. 

For these believers, opportunity is given to immerse themselves not only in the worship and in the dogma of their faith, but their life and relationships are intertwined in their “church” life.  Ministry, schools, sports, fellowship, etc. force them to live so closely together a fabric of continuity and group life is maintained and perpetuated. 

In Orthodoxy, our theology demands community.  For many American faiths, truth is disembodied, an ethereal concept or philosophy, perhaps an ideal to attain, but in Orthodoxy, truth must have flesh. 
This “truth made flesh” is where we must begin if culture is to be created.  Our faith can’t be relegated to 2hrs a week of Liturgy where interaction with other persons are minimal.  Even multiple services will fail us unless we learn to live with each other in sacrificial love. 

We must create community, and in our fragmented American suburban society this will take work.  Consistent programming must be created where we can minister together and fellowship with one another.  No longer can we rely on family, ethnic, or neighborhood connections for this to occur naturally.  We are too diverse and scattered. 

Our deepest relationships for ourselves and especially our children must be among those of our parish and the surrounding Orthodox community.  Our life must be made up of the people of our faith, and we should live with each other in the shadow of the church’s dome. 

For me culture is a problem of community and until we develop community within our own parishes and our neighboring parishes (regardless of jurisdiction) a recognizable Orthodox culture will not be seen in this land.  

What do you think?

For other blogs on this topic see the following links:

  • Melinda Johnson on No Orthodox Culture & Fracture Lines in Orthodox Culture
  • Dn Stephen Hayes of Khanya on Orthodoxy and culture
  • Jonathan Kotinek of Fixing a Hole on Orthodox Synchroblog – Orthodoxy and Culture
  • Katherine Hyde of God Haunted Fiction on Literature and Orthodox Culture

  • Theron Mathis

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