Clarification about my background

I've been getting a lot of emails and comments about my family background, so I thought I might offer some clarification.

I was raised in a predominantly secular home with absolutely no religious education, except what I happened to glean from neighbors and friends. My father is an agnostic/athiest who usually had little positive to say about religion, and my mother - though posessing a general belief in God would likely not characterize herself as being devout. We never went to Church (except for a brief series of ventures shortly after my parents' divorce) and religion certainly played little role in our lives. When I was in the third grade we moved from Ohio to the smoggy, brown, and congested paradise of southern California, which effectively ended all opportunity for me to have much contact with some of my more distant relatives - most of whom lived in Pennsylvania.

Following my father's example I became a bratty champion for the athiest cause - making it my business to correct the wrong-headed thinking of religious people everywhere. However, after a series of what I call philosophical-ethical-emotional crises, I came to acknowledge the neccesity of their being a God of somesort. Later I would "give my life to Christ" in the context of a pentecostal evangelical church. (Clearly I am skipping out many details, but I'll leave that for another time).

Years later I would face a new crisis that hinged upon history, authority, revelation, tradition etc etc etc. In short, I came to believe that the protestant hermeneutic was erroneous and that protestantism just didn't seem to match with what I was seeing in the writings of the Church Fathers. In the end, I would "give my life to Christ's Church" in the context of Orthodoxy.

One time while my father was visiting, I happened to be listening to a Slavonic Liturgy and he recognized the Trisagion and was even able to recite part ot it for me - though with some stumbling. I was astounded! He said, "Yeah we used to be Orthodox...I'm sure some of my family in Pennsylvania still are."

Sure enough. My family on that side immigrated from the hills of eastern Slovakia around the turn of the 20th century. When they came, they came as "Greek Catholics" but as problems arose between the Roman hierarchs and the newly arriving Byzantines, they and their entire parish left Rome and became a part of the Carpatho-Russian archdiocese.

Last summer I attended a family reunion and it was an amazing experience getting to meet all of these long lost cousins and such, many of whom go to either to an ACROD or OCA parish. Many of them expressed wonder as I related to them how it was that I became Orthodox in a way very dissimilar to how they became Orthodox.

So, you could say that yes, I am an ethnic Orthodox, but I am not a cradle Orthodox. Since discovering all of this I have been furiously doing family research and trying to learn as much as I can. In the end, I am an American Orthodox and so I have no grand desire to become a Slovak-Rusyn, but I do intend to learn more and perhaps integrate a few practices back into my family life which by my reckoning should have been there to begin with.


Luz the Magpie said…
That's kinda cool, being ethnic without being cradle.
Mimi said…
What a fascinating history, James. It's especially poignant that you found Orthodoxy.

God is good.
Pintradex said…
very interesting!

"a series of what I call philosophical-ethical-emotional crises, I came to acknowledge the neccesity of their being a God..."

At some time in the future, could you expand a bit on this?
Meg said…
That's fascinating, James, and a little spooky, too, since it somewhat parallels my journey to Orthodoxy -- only I've known for a long time that my father's surname was Russian. But ethnicity wasn't why I became Orthodox, and in his case, since there weren't a plethora of Orthodox churches in Kansas during the 1920s (read: none), I doubt he even knew that the Orthodox Church existed.

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