Converting to Orthodoxy within America? Trying to stay rooted within Orthodox America? There are some things you should know if you are coming from (or are aware of) conservative western tradition. Many Catholics and Protestants in America are involved with very exclusive church communities (not a part of mainstream society) with homeschooling, Christian schooling, homemaking for women, Spiritual leadership of the husband, and a communal life with others who are like minded. Will you get this from Orthodoxy in America?
Many parishes do have some of the above-mentioned lifestyles, but most, if not the vast majority do not teach it and promote it as the recommended way of life. This leaves the culture of the parish very eclectic and communally disjointed. Yes, this is odd, because we pray so much and read deeply spiritual books, etc. But the beauty of Orthodoxy draws all types of people, and all types of people are a part of all types of cultures that they do not want to let go of, especially within probably the most culturally diverse country in the entire world, America.
The question is begged: Do Orthodox in America want traditional lifestyles? I would say some of us do, but certainly not the majority. So, if you are converting to Orthodoxy in America, be prepared to embrace your cross and learn to live within the spiritual realm in a way that not even monks live: without the communal support and momentum that other religions have. You will find the prayers and teachings driving you right to traditional life, but there will be a roadblock at some point that you will have to be extremely careful driving around, lest you ignite serious persecution against you and your family. Now, you may be the one that cracks the ice for us. If so, Glory to God. But do not be surprised if you encounter loss for Christ’s sake.
The fathers speak of these times where the love of man grows cold, etc. Communal efforts will come to a standstill, and we must begin an even greater ascetic struggle. People are afraid to meet due to not only differences in lifestyles these days, but also the virus. Life is changing! But Orthodox Christians cannot change, right?
The unfortunate part of the new virus/tyranny culture is that America is still very new at Orthodoxy and without a lot of communal foundation. Other countries have their struggles with trying to return to Orthodox culture, but we in America are now struggling with how (or if) we can even continue building a proper foundation for Orthodox culture. This is why I advocate for a very tightly woven culture with sustainable/agrarian principles, modesty, and philanthropy, that which many monasteries have often embraced, and similar to what the Slavophiles in Russia fought for when they began seeing the infiltration of the modern west into their Orthodox communities. We need to do the same. This is the way of Orthodox evangelism that the Russian Patriarch has recently stated. He mentions the fruits of a traditional culture, not the foundational elements. Nonetheless, it's a powerful statment becuse the Protestant culture commands us to preach and debate for converts. But Orthodoxy from history shows us to live life for converts.
“The Gospel was proclaimed primarily not by priests, missionaries, or Church literature. It was proclaimed by the culture…Literally, everything that had been created during centuries of cultural development – literature, poetry, architecture, art, and music – made a witness to Christ…A Christian worldview, the Church’s wisdom, and biblical aphorisms lived on in the people’s consciences.” - Patriarch Kyrill
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