Monday, October 29, 2007

There’s no such thing as the wicked witch of the west, or we are all the wicked witch of the west, etc.
Owen White the Ochlophobist’s long, enjoyable, impressive Orthodox essay on ecumenism (the real thing not the slur/swear-word of anti-Western ‘ugly Orthodox’ as Drake Adams once called them) and religious consumerism (‘spirituality’, or God is fun but I call the shots, opposed to real religion). Owen is not a knee-jerk anti-Western person.
For reunion to take place, the Holy Spirit must weave paths of the recognition of common life and unity of faith.
Or if we’re so close why aren’t we really?
This phenomenon reminds me of a RCC church were I took RCIA classes years ago. It was modernist in virtually every respect, architecture, singing, liturgy, preaching, etc., but in one of the side "chapels" there was a beautiful hand written icon of the Theotokos, true to Byzantine iconographic Tradition. The icon was so out of place, however, that it begged questions concerning fetish or religious consumerism. The icon stood in stark contrast to the rest of the church, and having seen Orthodox icons of the Theotokos in Orthodox settings, that starkness spoke worlds to me. Needless to say, I don't think any Presbyterian groups embraced an Orthodox theology of Baptism, they probably simply liked a phrase here and a phrase there from Schmemann. There is flirtation, and there is consummation.

In recent decades we have seen the comings and goings of cyclical fashions with regard to "engaging" and quoting Orthodox theologians by academic theologians who are not Orthodox. Thus Zizioulas might be picked up by a feminist theologian here and Schmemann by an ELCA liturgical theologian there, language and arguments borrowed for uses having to do with quite variant theological agendas. This is all part of the cheap cafe of ideas found in the Western world today (which is consuming the last of traditional cultures as we speak), and is a reminder that the values of pop culture have overtaken all culture, broadly speaking.
How often we hear that Orthodox is foreign, ethnic, navel gazing, and anti-Western. No. Orthodoxy offers the table in the wilderness, where those tossed about from every corner commune together. This table is at the heart of the vague myth of America; it is for Orthodoxy to take that vagueness and write over it a clear icon of salvation. Priests bless common things and they are made sacred. No matter where we are from, we are here to bless this place.

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