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OrthoDixieBoy
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Or is there?

I assure all readers and forum members that this post springs from a heart of bewilderment and as such is an attack on no one.

I ask very simply...is there nowhere on this planet where a man may be simply a faithful Christian and have access to the sacraments without being forced to adopt non-inspired "traditions" as part and parcel of his faith?

I love the Church and all of her traditions...both east and west. But I feel revulsion at the idea that I MUST integrate myself with some "tradition" in order to be accepted into the social life of the Church.

To be clear, I have no problem with those who are native to a given tradition (unless you think your tradition is THE tradition and superior to all others). My problem is that I was raised as an American. Not as a Greek, Romanian, Russian, Italian, Spanish, etc... From the heart of the deep south, I'm sorry but neither Latin nor Byzantine tradition appeals to me as a lifestyle choice. I am a southerner and I do not wish to become anything else.

The issue is not a theological one. On that I fall squarely in the Apostolic Tradition favoring the eastern expression. But on lifestyle choices I am firmly entrenched in Dixie.

To be totally honest, I am put out with the anti-americanism on this forum. It rarely becomes blatant but it is always present latently. I am an American and have no desire to be anything else. I am not ashamed of my country and my heritage. This is not to say that I am an American before I am a Christian. That is CERTAINLY not the case. However, I am an American before I am a *Greek* Christian or *Russian* Christian or *Latin* Christian etc...

I am quite unwilling to go it alone. I am an Apostolic Christian. That gives me little choice but to associate with a Church that has the authority to administer the sacraments and preach the gospel. So, unlike a Protestant, I can't just up and move to the wilds and separate myself from all who disagree with me. On the other hand I refuse to give up my identity. It is who I am and under which I am freest to hear the voice of my conscience.

Does ANYONE understand where I am coming from or am I simply going to be a hermit by default?

Jason

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There are a lot of Americans in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese (ACROD) jurisdictions who feel the same way you do and who have requested that the Divine Services be held in English for the benefit of their children.

Many converts who are non-Greek, non-Slavic, non-Romanian, and non-Middle Eastern also desire the English Divine Liturgy celebrated with a southern drawl.

Yes, I was born in Dixie too.

However, in heaven, as on earth, I go to the Divine Liturgy and I delight in hearing the Divine Praises being sung in many languages. I am also a linguist.

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Hey, I know where you're coming from. The same happens up North, too. Americans have their own "traditions". My traditions I learned from my parents, and Europe is 4 generations back for me. I just remember the quote from St. Augustine: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity".

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It is also part of 'overcoming' our Protestant heritage. I was on too many years ago. It is the beauty of the word in the many languages that helps one to understand in a greater way where we have come from and where we are going. For our God is not a God of one person (no pun here), but a God of people. It is in comeing together in the 'oneness of self' yet with the 'oneness of his body' that we see the glory of the written word in the Liturgy - the language of many people becoming one body in Christ.

I too was raised southern, born in Texas - high school in South Carolina - lived in Alabama for over 20 years now. My northern years - if you call Ohio north, were really limited. What I saw in the beauty of the Slavonic and Greek of the Ruthenian DL was the beauty of the 'ethenicity' of God. I saw a humble people gathered together in a worship offering to God in the greatest possible LOVE. Now, being in a Melkite parish - I have once again seen this love of God transformed into languages that are amazing. YET, we all worship as one, no matter what Byzantine Church I enter, I know we are one. The words may be a bit different, yet they are all the same.

frown Sadly those litrugies I have worshiped in that were all in English - well - they were just missing something. That too, is a complaint I hear from people against the revision of the Ruthenian resencion which I have read so much about. So, my advice/suggesstion I guess, is to rejoice in the oneness of our Lord with his people through the many forms of the written word. We in the south have so much to learn about our heritage and our people. God loves us all!

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Does ANYONE understand where I am coming from or am I simply going to be a hermit by default?


JASON:

The issue of ethnic friction does not apply only to the Eastern Churches. In the Latin parish I grew up in there was constant friction under the surface between the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, the French, the Slovaks, and the Poles. One of the groups thought they should dominate the parish because they held the most dinners as fundraisers, but no one outside that group was welcome to help. Some of the earlier immigrants were upset because the pastor had let in the latecomers.

My inlaws who are Italian could never understand how anyone could be a Catholic if they weren't Italian, though my German ancestors were faithful Catholics for centuries and even have a period when they were under persecution for the Faith. In the meantime, my inlaws could only boast of being "culture" Catholics at best. They also cannot believe that anyone can be a good Catholic without having been in Catholic school. And they cannot accept that anyone would think he is a Catholic if both his parents were not Catholic.

Recently my pastor let me know that my talents, gifts, and time are no longer needed or wanted in the parish. It's probably because I've challenged many of his heterodox statements and I refuse to study the New Age books his book club have studied for the past number of years.

The struggle to be faithful to God and to His teaching is the struggle of every man in every place and in every time. It is a struggle to be what and who God has called you to be. So be confident in who you are as a man and be content. Find and stick like glue to a sound spiritual father.

The Desert Fathers have three sayings in the book I constantly reread that pertain:

"In all places there is a need for struggle and for patience and above all for the help of God."

"Wherever thou goest, have God ever before thine eyes: in what thou doest, hold by the example of the holy Scriptures: and in whatever place thou dost abide, be not swift to remove from thence. These three things keep, and thou shalt be saved."

"What therefore thou findest that thy soul desireth in following God, that do, and keep thy heart." (be at peace)

In Christ Who has made us brothers,

BOB

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You're preaching to the choir here, but we are a minority, and usually an unwelcome one at that.

At least, that is my experience.

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Jason,

I hear the cry in your post and, in part, I have no answer to your question. That being said, you make a point that causes me some concern. Sometimes when we write we reveal more than we intended and sometimes someone (like me) reads into what others have written what is not there.

You say:
Quote
I am an American before I am a *Greek* Christian or *Russian* Christian or *Latin* Christian etc...
This troubles me because the word "Christian: is omitted from the "American" qualifier and added second after each of the other qualifiers.

I would hope that you are a Christian who happens to be an American. If that is not the case, if your Southern American heritage is of greater importance than Christianity (and you are not saying that, I am reading that) then there is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed.

On the other hand, if you are simply speaking of cultural issues within Christianity, then there is another dimension that we need to address. Assuming I have misread your post and you are dealing only with the cultural issues, let me address that.

The first issue that we have to come to grips with is that Christianity is an Eastern religion. It is not Western (in spite of a persistent position from the Latin Church to insist that it is a Eurocentric faith. Yet the truth of Christianity is that it can be expressed in many different cultures. It happens that the formal traditions of the Church were expressed in the various Eastern traditions and in the Latin tradition. There simply isn't a separate "American" tradition found in Catholicism or Orthodoxy. In fact, the "American tradition" of Christianity is best expressed in congregational churches where the people "vote" with their donations and shop for the preacher who says what they want to hear.

I strongly disagree with the idea that particular churches need to retain an ethnic identity to be authentic. That is, we Melkites do not need to be Arabs to be authentically Melkite (I'm not, my pastor isn't, most of the priests and deacons in California aren't). Yet the identity of the Church is Arab and that simply affects the use of tones and language (we mix English and Arabic with some token Greek tossed in).

So, having said that, perhaps you could elucidate on the "traditions" that you feel are being forced upon you so that a) I can get a clearer understanding and, b) we can work toward a resolution (if, indeed, one is possible).

Fr. Deacon Ed

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Jason: I pulled this quote entirely out of a different thread. I can't remember where it came from, but the quote looks as if they were discusing the same thing as you are. The quote said:

"St. Augustine addressed this question when his mother, St. Monica, was visiting Rome and wrote to him asking whether she should follow Roman liturgical customs or continue following Eastern customs. His oft quoted reply? "When in Rome, mother, do as the Romans do"."

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Fr Deacon Ed,

Thanks for your comments.

I thought the qualifying statement:

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This is not to say that I am an American before I am a Christian. That is CERTAINLY not the case.


made my point clear that I am referring to the adoption of cultural norms foreign to my own.

You wrote:

Quote
The first issue that we have to come to grips with is that Christianity is an Eastern religion.


This is true. However, it is true in the sense that Christianity came from the East. I do not believe it is true if we take it to mean that Christianity is *inherently* Eastern and that Eastern perspectives are the norm. Man as man is imago dei. It matters not if he is Eastern or Western. The very fact that "western" culture exists at all is testimony to the fact that as imago dei, man can, does, and will express himself differently under different circumstances. I find it hard to swallow that God is Eastern. For that matter, I find it hard to believe that there is ANY Christian culture that "best" embodies or illustrates authentic Christianity.

The "culture" of the intertrinitarian Communion transcends all times and all cultures and is the goal toward which all of history is speeding. Only in the eschaton will that eternal and divine culture of the Godhead be realized by the entire human race.

In space-time there are many expressions of culture even though the Truth is One. This is because every man is unique. It is impossible that there can be homogeneity in this world regarding culture simply due to the fact that every man is unique and apprehends the Truth from a different perspective than anyone else. Thus his expression of conformity to Truth will not precisely equivocate to anyone elses...even if all things are otherwise equal. There will be more or less of this and where there is LESS a particular culture develops. Where there is MORE, there is cultural divide.

I am not suggesting that anyone give up their native or chosen cultural expression. One need not be Protestant to be an American. On the other hand, I fail to see why I need adopt the culture of another race to Glorify God.

It is clearly true that one need not be an Arab to be authentically Melkite. All one has to do is adopt a certain amount of Arab culture. But I am not an Arab. I don't want to be an Arab. And I don't want to do as the Arab's do. I do not want to think in Arab modes of thought...nor do I wish to sing as an Arab.

The history is missions is fraught with the problem of imposing ones own culture on the people of another. Is this not a common criticism against Protestant missionaries? And it is TRUE. It is also true of Roman Catholic and Orthodox missionaries. Not in every instance, but enough to make my point worth considering.

When Naaman came to Elisha he was not told to become a Jew. He was sent back to his homeland with a blessing and a pile of dirt.

At this point there are no traditions that are being forced upon me because I am in a state of flux and have not decided what Church to affiliate with. But as I look around it appears that I have little choice but to give up my cultural identity or at the very least, take on a second one if I am to affiliate with any apostolic Church.

I have enough mental problems without taking on a cultural schizophrenia.

Jason

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I was raised by Scottish American Strict Calvinists. I became Catholic at age 24.(That is a cultral change as well as a religious one) I married into a German Catholic family.My husband became a Ruthenian. We now split our time between the Melkite and the Russian Catholic.

At first I had a hard time going to the Melkite. It is very ethnic. In time I could see that these folks had alot to offer.
I got used to the music and now I could care less if it is in Arabic or English. The point is that the message is the same no matter which ethnic group you go to. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. You just have to try and look past it. Yeah sometimes it is hard but stick to the message and try not to look

Many things in the Liturgy are manmade. So what? The Church has put them in to teach something.

I do get the anti Americanism from some on the forum. My feeling is America has done some bad things but show me another country that hasn't.

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Originally Posted by RomanRedneck
I ask very simply...is there nowhere on this planet where a man may be simply a faithful Christian and have access to the sacraments without being forced to adopt non-inspired "traditions" as part and parcel of his faith?


I would hope that the answer is (not speaking for others) any Catholic Church. In some you may find a lot of "non-inspired" -- ethnic -- "traditions" that are the properly cherished heritage of the community, that support the faith; but they should not be a necessary (nor are they a sufficient) condition for anyone's Christianity.


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Originally Posted by theophan
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Does ANYONE understand where I am coming from or am I simply going to be a hermit by default?


JASON:

Recently my pastor let me know that my talents, gifts, and time are no longer needed or wanted in the parish. It's probably because I've challenged many of his heterodox statements and I refuse to study the New Age books his book club have studied for the past number of years.

...

In Christ Who has made us brothers,

BOB


WOW! What must it be like, I wonder, to have such a huge congregation of active participants that a priest can afford to tell someone to go away??!!

How sad for you, and for your church.

Dave

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Originally Posted by Priest's Grandson
Originally Posted by theophan
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Does ANYONE understand where I am coming from or am I simply going to be a hermit by default?


JASON:

Recently my pastor let me know that my talents, gifts, and time are no longer needed or wanted in the parish. It's probably because I've challenged many of his heterodox statements and I refuse to study the New Age books his book club have studied for the past number of years.

...

In Christ Who has made us brothers,

BOB


WOW! What must it be like, I wonder, to have such a huge congregation of active participants that a priest can afford to tell someone to go away??!!

How sad for you, and for your church.

Dave


Don't think it is only possible for this to happen in a "huge congregation"...I have seen it and experienced the same in smaller Ruthenian Churches...

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I am a southerner and I do not wish to become anything else.


From a non theological standpoint (since you mentioned you don't think that's an issue), what exactly is it that you think you "are"? What I mean is what do you think your tradition is that is different or distinct that would set you apart from the other traditions you're talking about?

Quote
I am put out with the anti-americanism on this forum. It rarely becomes blatant but it is always present latently. I am an American and have no desire to be anything else. I am not ashamed of my country and my heritage. This is not to say that I am an American before I am a Christian. That is CERTAINLY not the case. However, I am an American before I am a *Greek* Christian or *Russian* Christian or *Latin* Christian etc...


I sort of go back and forth on this one. At a personal level I sometimes feel as though I feel a little weird having adopted a culture that surrounds church that isn't my own. It's like I've picked something up mid-stream that everyone else just knows and accepts. Things the rest of my extended family doesn't know about or share. That is somewhat difficult. It's balanced with the fact that I do like the culture we've in part adopted, and it's not forced on anybody in the parish.

In the bigger picture, I do find myself at odds with many things I read from overseas Orthodox sources. These are more along the lines of socio-cultural-political than they are theological, but they are there. I am certainly not ashamed of being American, and think there are many great things about our country, but by the same token I think there are deep issues in our country and the way we interact with the world. I do think my religious faith is more important than my national identity.

Lastly I guess is the question of what is it to be "American" or "Southern". One could say the immigrant Orthodox experience for instance is a quintessentially American one and part of the tapestry of our culture. It certainly is, but does that mean one can comfortably go from being an Anglo American from a different religious culture, go to an Orthodox church, and totally fit in. Maybe, maybe not. Everyone is different.

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PJ:

In the past we were isolated and might feel abandoned. In the cyber age we have places like this to reach out to others like us who care and feel alone and isolated.

I think it relates to my thread on suffering. God is stripping us of attachments to things, places, and other attachments that divert our focus on loving and serving Him first and foremost. I pray for all of them and expecially take comfort in the holy prayers posted here by those who have suffered in concentration camps. I love this one:

PRAYER FOR MY ENEMIES

The following is a prayer composed by +Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, who was imprisoned in Dachau by the Nazis:

Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have.
Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.
Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.
Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having enclosed myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.
Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.
They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.
They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.
They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.
They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.
Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.
Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they wakened me from sleep.
Whenver I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.
Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.
Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
so that my fleeing to You may have no return;
so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;
so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;
so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;
so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;
ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.
One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.
It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.
Therefore, bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.
But a son blesses them, for he understands.
For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.
Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.
Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.
_________________________________________

If I get out of this life with a pinch of this man's faith, I'll thank God and consider myself somewhat on the way to being a true follower of Christ.

BOB

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