Friday, March 23, 2007

Arturo Vásquez goes nuclear on the Orthodox convert boomlet
I wouldn’t go as far — repudiating the rite and denying that this tradition has any future in the West — but he and his commenters touch on many things I’ve observed, thought and remarked on over the years: the boutique aspect, the annoying anti-Westernism... essentially Catholics who don’t want to admit they’re Catholic thanks to their residual Protestant prejudice. They look for and quote the most obnoxious xenophobic junk from old-country Orthodox to reinforce that... which is why for the most part I stay away from Orthodox stuff online. (As Daniel Mitsui writes, ‘I believe it a bad idea to seek religious guidance on the Internet instead of in reality’.) To be fair most of this rubbish seems to come from converts, rarely from Russians for example. (An example given by Fr Andrew Phillips and others: the convert jerks celebrate ‘Nativity’; the ethnics celebrate Christmas.)

But earlier he beautifully described how people in this tradition aren’t necessarily like this.
"So, where do you fellowship on Sunday mornings?"
I know there’s the dangerous phenomenon of cultish charismafundygelicals getting holy orders, icons and a Mass and turning into a little Ortho-cult parish or even sect (a type Owen White the Ochlophobist, another online debunker of, frankly, convert-boomlet crap, calls überfromm) but unlike Arturo’s reaction this in itself doesn’t offend me. As I wrote to Chris Tessone recently my general rule about church is ‘decorum in the sanctuary; friendly “come as you are” for just about everything else’. I think I appreciate what Arturo’s getting at — I don’t want to see the Orthodox protestantised in a bad sense either — but this could be ‘the best of both worlds’ not the worst.

(In Arturo’s earlier example linked above, Archimandrite Anastassy is a traditionalist but not überfromm nor sectarian.)
The soul of the West speaks Latin, prays to statues, and fidgets with rosaries. The soul of the West is covered with side altars, wears lace, and sports a lop-sided biretta. And the soul of the West doesn't particularily care what was done one thousand years ago, or whether such-and-such a practice was precisely what the early Church did. A lifetime ago is more than enough for it, since the Holy Ghost was there too. Whether or not the West has been faithful to its own soul is another post altogether....
Of course Arturo isn’t being literal or precise with ‘praying to statues’ (which isn’t what Catholics do of course) but subjective and impressionistic, describing how Joe Bloggs perceives these things. His point stands.
We will refuse to be a small boutique next to the Hare Krishnas and Scientology.
Yes but this is a nasty swipe at the Byzantine Rite (even xenophobic in its own way) and the sad fact is, though I hate the surrender-monkey term ‘post-Christian’, the centre, the heart of the historic Catholic mainstream is now sidelined in mainstream society including modern mainstream religion. ‘Give up that artsy-fartsy old-fashioned stuff and be a nice politically correct social worker who supports having gay weddings’ it says to us Catholics, whether we pray in Latin, Slavonic or Coverdale’s and Cranmer’s English. (Other conservative Christians who take a swing at the Orthodox this way risk being hoisted by their own petard.) No, thank you.
Not taking this in its most integrist reading, we can say that the West does not need Eastern Orthodoxy to restore it. It can surely help, but the West itself has all that is necessary for the restoration of the Church
It surely can help because it is a working model of much of what the West can, should and even must do.
We will not build our small churches with twenty converts singing kontakia in bad King James version-style English.
As annoying, pharisaical and spite-Rome anti-Western as these types can be (but not always of course) I’m touched that by trying to translate into the idiom of, yes, liturgical English (after the example of Isabel Hapgood) they have more regard for my native tradition than most mainstream RCs or even some Anglicans now.

Being a remnant (‘twenty converts’) by default is honourable, not the same as a cult. ‘Give up that stuff and go to the megachurch with the praise band like a normal person’? No, thank you.
...we refuse to place in doubt the Faith of our Fathers. Our ancestors were not heretics, our saints were saints, and our churches were the Houses of God and the Gates of Heaven, and we will fight to keep them so.

I would wonder if the Orthodox converts who read this blog have really given Western Christianity a shot.
And:
Though I'm not supposed to say so, I think you've hit the nail on the head.
Subdeacon Benjamin Andersen

Fr Gregory Jensen, an Orthodox priest, acknowledges the problems Arturo points out:
...in the main, and Schmemman points this out as well, we prefer to define ourselves in opposition to the West in general and often (as in the case of the Jerusalem Patriarchate church, St Lawrence, in Felton, CA) in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church in particular. This is certainly not a right thing to do, and it is not even helpful.
Charley Wingate writes in his own blog:
...the Orthodox [online] forums are littered with serial Cyprianists who move from one true church to another, until they are completely cracked.
Here’s more from D. Ian Dalrymple.

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