More Ramblings on Culture and Church

I am really enjoying Fr. Schmemann’s essay, which I understand is actually adapted from a lecture he gave in 1968! He points to two extremes (he calls them both a sort of neurosis) to be weary of for us Orthodox. The first, to which I am particularly susceptible, is to fully and wholly reject American culture and the second is just the opposite, which Fr. Schmemann calls a “pathological Americanism,” that should like to conform the faith to all manner of western thinking and perspectives. We are wise to remember that Christianity arose in a decidedly Eastern Culture and that the western world as we perceive and know it today developed since then.

And who knows it may not be the real mission of Orthodoxy in America to change the American culture which has never really been challenged by a different set of values? No doubt Orthodoxy has an understanding of man, life, world, nature, etc., radically different from those prevailing in American culture, but this difference itself is a challenge to Orthodoxy rather than a justification for withdrawal, negativism, and fear.

One thing that really struck me was Fr. Schmemann’s first item in which he sees conflict between Orthodoxy and American culture – that being change. Orthodoxy, Fr. Schmemann advises, ought to “denounce and resist” the concept of change being an ontologically and necessarily good thing. “We must openly confess that there are things which do not change, that human nature, in fact, does not change; that such realities as sin, or righteousness, or holiness do not depend on the changing pattern of culture.”

It seems to me that this is NOT only Orthodoxy’s responsibility but all of those who call themselves Christians. In many circles, our faith is being diluted and diluted in order to make it more attractive to our culture. An example would be former Episcopal Bishop Spong’s New Reformation. Numerous denominations are heading down the same path wherein a leader of their group is allowed or even encouraged to advance such theological non-sense as this.

So how do we engage a culture that seems to be barreling down the hill of pluralism and relativism? Well, I am still reading, but one thing that strikes me: Let’s just continue to BE and when they reach the bottom of the hill and realize the valley is in reality one of despair we’ll invite them to climb back up.


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