An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Never again will I let someone get away with claiming that they are not religious. I simply do not believe it is the case. Now, I'm not just talking about the Dylan proclamation: "You gotta serve somebody" (though I think this true), but rather I believe that humans have a natural inclination towards being religious.
Some will say: Oh you mean religious as in doing something repetitively. No I do not. What I mean is a faith-based devotion to something - which I suppose is akin to what Dylan meant, but allow me to elaborate: Many times this devotion is directed towards one self, I suppose to a large degree we all worship at this altar, but the extent to which we believe in this god varies as much as does our individual ability to recognize our devotion to this world view as such.
Watching the selections of lectures, talks, forums, and debates over a FORA.tv it has become clear to me that prostelyzation is a major feature that betrays people's religion. Associated with every religious world view (to varying degree, again) is the need to spread the "good" or sometimes "bad" news. Compare and contrast: "Jesus conquered death" to "You are going to hell if you don't repent" or "You are destroying the planet and will kill us all if you don't repent."
Yes, environmentalism is a truly viral religious belief system that has taken the world by storm. His Emminence Al Gore has done much to further the cause of this apocalyptic religion and dissent has been largely and bloodlessly quelled from the mainstream to an extent that would have made the medieval church jealous. The coming environmental apocalypse , true or not, inspires a system of belief that has all the trappings of a traditional religion. Watch this:
I am sure many of us have met their true believers...their green thumping fundamentalists ready even to tell us how many children we SHOULDN'T have. Don't get me wrong here...I'm not passing any judgment on this issues at all except that I betray my bit of agnosticism with regard to its coming apocalypse. I'm merely pointing out that for many it has certainly taken on religious-like proportions that truly do exceed verifiable facts.
You see, everyone loves and NEEDS a good cause. And causes such as these abound and I found them over and over again at FORA: organic foods, gay marriage, poverty, social justice (like gnosticism this one is huge and overarching and often consumes a variety of other belief systems), racism, MMORPG's, local economies, agrarianism, consumerism, Workers'unions, boycotting Walmart, Darwinism and on and on the list can go. Now all of these causes and issues (and games) can be debated (just like religion), but I really think there are a growing number of people who take up these causes like Knights took up the cross for the Crusades centuries ago. No less devotion, no less blind faith, and no less giving meaning to their lives. People seemingly NEED a sense of missionary zeal.
Politics, as I see it, plays a two-fold role in all of this. At once it is a new religion in and of itself (actually this an old experience, but new for Americans) and it can also be a church-like institution in which all of the above objects ("causes") compete for altar space. The latter is rather self-explanatory and obvious (think religious right, PACS, and so on), but the former is a rather new revelation (to me at least) and I think it was made more clear in this last election cycle.
There is clearly a phenomena particularly surrounding P-E Obama that I think is worth noting. He, like Environmentalism, has his true believers and fundamentalists. In him, I think we have seen the personification (the enfleshing) of people's growing faith ("HOPE") in the state. Perhaps through no fault of his own (and indeed probably to his benefit in getting elected) Obama has brought to a visible head the faith and provision that people have sought to have in and delivered by their government. A friend recently told me how odd he found it that the flurry of emotional responses to Metropolitan JONAH's election was so similar to Obama's election. I thought it odd that the latter's was so similar to the former's. Perhaps now I better understand the latter's enthusiasm? But again...where does religion begin and end? I think the divisive line is ever more fleeting.
If I may quote a good friend of mine in a recent posting to the LOG list:
"Given the rise of atheism, what can people hope for? In such a world the best that one can hope for is the state creating heaven on earth. This is really the religion of Marx if one cuts out the pseudo-economic ideas about how wealth is created. When religion was respected by the state, this was an admission that the state could not provide everything. In fact, it was an admission that the state could not even provide justice."
Indeed, if one is a strict materialist and yet retains what I believe to be the natural human inclination towards a belief in some sort of transcendent utopia, the secular state is a natural object for such faith. I would add that one needn't be an atheist to look to the state as an institutionalized article of faith. We have in some ways become so dependent on government that it is difficult for us to fashion in our minds a time when we did not expect the government to be the judge and upholder of justice - keeping in mind that the term justice is pregnant with many variable applications far beyond just crime.
What I perceive here is something not at all different from the old school and much maligned religious right that seeks to have government uphold its values - though now the values are different, but additionally what appears to be the literal religious-like trust in the state or at least the inspired leadership of the state. While I am by no means a person of extensive electoral experience, I have never seen so many faith-like expressions in the political arena as I have in this election cycle. Iconic T-Shirts with a candidates face and the word "BELIEVE" written beneath, non-material political mantras, children's choirs singing songs decidedly reminiscent and expressing hope as seen in old spirituals, and an emotional energy often only seen at rock concerts or pentecostal church services.
I happened upon this advertisement awhile back in Seattle for an Obama rally:
On Sunday, October 12, Washington State kids and families will parade around Seattle's Green Lake. "Kids for Obama Parade" will illustrate one of Barack Obama's core beliefs: Everyone's voice counts. Join us as Obama's youngest supporters rally their families and call for change, for a better America. At 2 pm, rain or shine, children and teens will express with words and drawings their hopes for the future of America on "wish flags" that will be mailed to Obama. The first 300 kids will be given a helium balloon, an expression of solidarity. At 3 pm, the "Kids for Obama Parade" will skip, toddle, stroller, rollerblade, pedal, and red-wagon clockwise around Green Lake in a cloud of red, white, and blue balloons and a garland of kid-made wish flags. How to prepare? If possible, bring home-made signs and wear red, white, and/or blue clothing. That goes for moms, dads, big brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents too. Please spread the word.
Is it just me, or does anyone else garner a sense of religiosity in this event? A procession, "wish flags" that I take to be derived from Tibetan prayer flags to beseech someone (thing) , and balloons as expressions of "solidarity"? To my kids (admittedly a flawed sample) balloons are either just pretty colored bouncy things or an instrument to beat one another with...I'm not sure they have any concept as to how they might be expressions of solidarity - whatever that is. Come to think of it, neither do I.
Anyway, I really do not believe we are becoming a more secular nation or world. If anything we are perhaps more and more becoming secularists and devout ones at that. For truly, you're gonna have to serve somebody or something. So, the next time someone claims not to be religious, I'll just point to their T-Shirt that may display an icon of a politician or it may say simply: "Love your Mother, Earth Day 2006" and suggest to them that nobody is without religion.
What's the point? Well for me, I think I need to look at areas in my own life and see where such leaning toward religiosity has perhaps led me into forays of idolatry. Orthodox Christianity is primarily a religious faith that exhorts us to be conformed to the Image of God. In other words, the Prime Directive is to root out the idolatry in my heart - oft centered upon the altar of self, but also to see where I have allowed causes and issues to usurp the more important work of transforming myself. Change? I need to change! Hope? Christ is Risen! There are millions of differences I could make without leaving my house, blogging, donning a T-Shirt, voting, recycling, or even getting out of this chair. That's the religious zeal I need to find. The rest may follow...but it must follow.
Astute. Everyone believes in a "heaven and hell" whether we create it here or a "god" creates it "there". Everyone indeed has a "gospel" that calls for a form of repentance. The interesting thing is that Christianity properly understood actually includes all other "gospels" whether it is environmentalism, care for the poor, being wealthy without sin, etc. etc.
Such an enlightening post. I will definitely link to it from my blog this week.
I don't know where to begin my commenting. I simply agreed with just about everything you said, and I must admit, I am guilty of the same when it comes to politics.
I'm coming to see, and I've noticed this little by little in recent weeks, that there are many "beliefs" swarming about that, if questioned, puts someone in a very uncomfortable position. To voice any doubt about homosexuality being appropriate or to declare oneself pro-life can quite easily put a person in a state of being hated and judged by most people they come in contact with. And this is completely acceptable to our society as a whole. But if someone voices against Christianity, that's their right, and if I say something in disagreement, I'm in the wrong.
Either way, according to society, I'm in the wrong.