We've Got The American Jesus

Dear American Orthodox,

The mission of the Gospel cannot be patented and sold. The Gospel of Christ is not like a product that can be duplicated to each geographical community. Each mission, to each country, starts out with small services to the native people, including prayer, education, housing the poor, rescuing the orphaned, etc. This all grows into types of cultures and communities where the love of the Church grows within the bounds of our earthly and heavenly environments. After this culture and community begins growing and thriving, it is then- and only then- that they grow into tribes and nations. This is our history!

There should be no national agenda prior to the Church growing into culture and community. Culture and community are foundational to true nationhood. Without them, we are merely giving our pearls to swine, as Christ states. Our gifts die on the vine in the cold and creepy American structures of the secular ecumenism.

We cannot take the community of Russia or Greece, with its monarchial structure of cathedrals, emperors, etc., and just transpose it to America without any cultural labor. We cannot pretend the US is an Orthodox nation and that we just have to somehow get it back on track, including the President and the rest of his political structure. No, the whole structure is ecumenistic to its core. Conversion needs to take place, and establishing grass roots community is how it has always been done!

All of the beauty that we see in these historically Orthodox nations is a result of the labor of building Orthodox culture. In America, we must do the same, lest we create a secularized "American Jesus". 

Even the Atheists See our Plunder

I remember one late night of the early 90s, in San Bernardino, Ca, I was standing by the stage of the punk rock band, Bad Religion, as they rallied a couple hundred mosh-pitting punk rockers. Dr. Greg Gaffin, a UCLA philosophy professor and lead singer of the band, knew how to pierce the souls of the American young people. With his sociologically charged lyrics and the help of his talented band members, he could get most anyone fired up for his cause.

Greg was really no underground singer. He was extremely popular in the punk and grunge scene of the 80s and 90s. He made top charts and record sales from his albums for many years. His band is very talented with a lot of catchy tunes. But here is one way he stands out the most. He writes songs from his heart in that he is disgusted by the American religious right.

Many of Greg’s songs speak of how ridiculous Christianity is to him. He mocks Christianity by singing lyrics to songs such as “American Jesus”, and “Faith Alone”. Those are actually two of my favorite songs because, well, yes they are catchy, but the words are actually true. America has created their own form of Jesus that looks nothing like the real Jesus. Christ’s name has been trashed in the USA, not just in these “chaotic times”, but also in the chaotic times of America’s foundation.

We need to step back and look at just what we are all involved with regarding our faith. Is it the ancient faith, or is it some distorted faith, twisted and manipulated by the modern politics of our times?

Time to Change

An American Jesus faith is a heretical faith. The two theologies of Orthodoxy and Americanism simply do not mix. It’s like oil and water. There is, though, an ancient philosophy of government that was actually designed to work with Orthodoxy: Holy Monarchy. Even then, emperors would often breach their vows to thrash on the Church. Nevertheless, the monarchy was designed to support the Church and only the Church as the ethical and spiritual guide of the nation. This way the Church could continue to teach Orthodoxy in its proper missional context of growing communities.

In the case of ecumemstic nations like USA and other western nations, the churches often adopt the ecumenistic philosophies of the government when teaching the faith. This is where that “American Jesus” roots its ugly head. A whole new gospel begins to be preached that separates the Church from her community while advocating particular types of ecumenistic/secular communities. This ultimately creates this blended gospel of personal political beliefs that have never been advocated by the fathers of the ancient faith. It's worse than what the fallen Russians did with Sergianism in the early 1900s. Ultimately, it was this era that began this new gospel, beginning in the Soviet Union, Greece, and other Orthodox countries that lost their monarchy for a western (non-Orthodox) form of community.

The Faith Alone doctrine of Protestantism lead the west into a faith that is indeed alone, without works, without community action. Like Dr. Graffin says, “Faith alone won’t sustain us anymore”. The “Faith Alone” doctrines of the Protestants have turned this country into what it is today. It will not sustain us anymore, as Greg says. But what will sustain us? Certainly not atheism, as Graffin suggests, but perhaps there is an Orthodox solution. Perhaps, there is a philosophy of life that is inclusive to all of creation, and not merely an intellectual pursuit such as “Faith Alone”. 

As discussed above, Holy Monarchy was the historic solution, but what about when this is not possible? This begs the question: if it is not possible, then why do we even bother involving ourselves in politics? The secularists know our history. They know we have built monarchies, and they know we are far too cowardly to advocate monarchy. So, they will continue to take small bites out of us until we are completely devoured, with absolutely no community/national solution whatsoever, and we are all balled up in our Faith Alone world. Faith Alone is not Orthodox. Our faith builds nations. It has often started with catacomb communities and monastic communities. We are not Protestant. Our faith extends past our Sunday services. It always has!

There is no time in our day, no space in our soul and mind, to give to ecumenistic worldviews. This is the very reason why most Orthodox parishes in America are not attached to a local Orthodox school, orphanage, hospital/clinic, homeless shelter, etc. There is a reason why the Church created these ministries in the past. It's because not only are these often the starting points of Orthodox community, but these are things that Christ states in Matthew 25 (we read this on Judgment Sunday) that we are judged by.

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