Evangelical Sainthood and the American Prime Directive
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:19 AM [+]
A couple of Sundays ago I was pleased to meet a new inquirer at our Parish who, coincidently enough, attends the same evangelical college that I (and at least two others in our Parish also) attended. Mind you, stepping into Orthodoxy from this denomination is about as close to changing one's religion as one can get without really technically doing so - though I suppose argument could be made that one is in fact actually changing their religion! (See, now I babble!) Anyway, I applaud this person for their courage, because I KNOW that they must be facing a good deal of "attention" from friends, classmates, and perhaps family who thus far "don't get it!"
Anyway, as is typical for those of us "coming out" of the evangelical movement, this person has brought up to me the issues surrounding the Theotokos and (somewhat by default) our understanding of the Saints. Something they said to me really stuck out and got me thinking (the exact wording escapes me but it was in essence: we are really not used to giving much honor to other people.
Sad, but true. I suppose it is part of our "enlightened" mindset that is ingrained with: "all men are created equal", which we too often extrapolate to imply: "and they stay that way too!" But really, I don't think all men are created equal - at least not in the fullest sense of the word. We all bear different burdens and gifts since being formed in the womb I believe. But I am getting way off track here. Anyway, the problem I see is that we tend to take this political statement and apply it to our entire existence, such that no matter what we do, or others might do, we believe that no one is "better" than me!
And so we have a tendency to "level the playing field" and we askew honoring people. Well, let me just be blunt here: I know a host of people who are frankly better human beings than I am. They love more, and hate less. They pray more and talk less. They speak kindly and well of everyone and most everything as opposed to being negative, bitter, and full of spite. Dang-it, they are just more in touch with what being a Christian is all about than I am. The United States Constitution or any size dose of enlightenment philosophy doesn't change this fact...only I (me, myself, and I) can. Does God love them more than me? Don't be asinine!
But, in my recent thinking, I am beginning to see that perhaps the evangelicals really do know how to honor people in a way not ALL that different than we Orthodox. We used to toss a particular term around and place it upon the heads (like halos) of people we thought REALLY do/did a bang up job of Christian living: "Godly"
Now think about what that word REALLY implies! "God-Like", no? If I am "beastly" am I not being "beast-like"? Geez, one would almost think they were affirming our understanding of Theosis! So, where is the REAL difference, the REAL stumblick block? Of course, while we (in our ev-days) might honor such people - sometimes to a very great extent - (I can remember us saying some pretty lofty and laud full things about particularly "godly" folks) we would tend to back away from physically expressing that honor. We would be very quick to isolate ourselves from any notion that such people might be "better" than we are - retreating to that safe and illusory haven where everyone sins just as much as we do!