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OrthoDixieBoy
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AMM,

You ask:

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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?


I'll have to think on this. From a practical point of view it's always easier to tell how *others* are different from oneself. It's not always easy to define one's own redeeming qualities...if they even exist. I don't need to look through any special glasses to see that a Greek community is quite different from my own. On the other hand, BEING a Southerner, being accustomed to this culture I must admit to being somewhat blind to what sets it apart from others. To me it simply is home.

Again, I want to be absolutely clear that I not only respect other cultures, but enjoy participating in them and learning from them. I simply do not wish to abandon my own for another. I do not think this is unreasonable at all.

Quote
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.


I agree with you here. In one regard America does not have a particular culture of it's own. It is, as you say, a tapestry of cultures woven together in a single national identity. On the other hand, this is much more true in the North than in the South. Those of you who are from the North may not be able to appreciate what being a Southerner means to a native of the South. While the North has almost always largely been a melting pot of various European influences, with no single one absorbing all the rest, this is not the case with the South. The southern states are largely, English, Irish and Scottish stock, traditionally Anglican in religious sentiment. Here in the south developed a genuine culture. Flawed yes, but a unique culture clearly discernible as such. Unlike most Northerners who's "roots" lie in the "old country" native southerners roots lie here...in the south. We do not look to an "old country" for cultural identity. We have our own. It is true that there are "others" among us. Such as the Eastern Europeans who immigrated to the coal fields of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee...bringing their Orthodoxy with them. And the Roman Catholic's of "French" Louisiana and the Gulf coast bayou country. As well as the remnants of Spanish Catholicism in Texas and Florida. These and other groups kept their cultural identities while being assimilated into the over arching culture of the South. And, in their own ways, contributed to Southern culture. But the fact that they remained distinct...in their own neighborhoods and churches...highlights the fact that they were strangers in another culture. This simply was not the case in the North where there WAS no dominant culture. LOL I even know Chinese who have been in the south for over 150 years. They talk like southerners, cook fried chicken, eat grits and sit in rocking chairs on the front porch in the summer.

In the south, we talk to people we don't know in the grocery store. We wave at people we don't know who drive down our street. When we visit friends we stay late and expect them to do the same when they visit us. We think that someone who comes for dinner and leaves right away is rude.

I guess to answer you question, AMM, about what sets Southern culture apart as unique...what about it is "different" is that a southerner, at his best, will bend over backwards to make someone new, or different feel at home and will go out of his way to welcome them. He will not hesitate to invite that person home for dinner...even if he's only met them once or twice and he's "nice" to a fault. Off the top of my head that's all I can come up with at the moment.

Jason

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Jason,

I feel your pain, sometimes. As a fellow Georgian and proud Southerner, I sometimes yearn for the days of my simple, Southern, familiar and friendly Methodist service where everyone's family goes back generations and everyone speaks with an accent.

No matter how beautiful a Divine Liturgy or how splendid a Mass, there are times when all I want is to be singing Wesleyan hymns and listening to a good 40 minute sermon.

It is human nature to yearn for the familiar. But it's not worth excluding yourself from the the Holy Church founded by Christ. I don't think non-Southerners realize the culture shock that most of us Dixieans go through in the Mass or Divine Liturgy. We don't feel 100% comfortable at Mass with all these people who dress so casually and don't have Southern accents and don't sing well (sorry, guys), etc. It is a sacrifice that I live with daily, but it is worth it.

Prayers,
Alexis

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So much of what is a part of us and our personal identity are those benign aspects of our social and religious cultures..whether it is Byzantine chant (I sometimes think that my husband just wouldn't feel Orthodox without it), or Southern charm and good old fashioned Southern Protestant religion, it is all part of what makes us feel comfortable.

There is nothing wrong with that...and perhaps the best thing to do is to not give it up completely, no matter where our lives and paths, spiritual or otherwise, take us. 'Comfort food' doesn't only take the form of food that reminds us of home and fills our stomach and psyche with good memories, but it can also be spiritual and cultural memories which fill our souls with happiness and nostalgia ....(one might call it 'soul food'-- LOL!!) wink

Alice

P.S. Jason: Genteel, hospitable, charming Southern culture is indeed unique and I am proud, as an American, that it is a part of our greater United States, and you are lucky to be a part of that distinct culture--worshipping in a church which is not a traditional part of that culture should not change who you are, and I bet that you will find alot of the traits that make the South wonderful adapted by those ethnic 'others'!! I once attended a Greek Orthodox wedding in Mobile, Alabama. The people were ethnically Greek, but very Southern in every other way...I was even bowled over by how the Bible Belt had conformed them in their Orthodoxy to be just as spiritual as their Protestant neighbors. It was interesting to hear Jesus mentioned and credited so often at the speeches in the reception, in casual conversation, etc. Why, I have been to GO priest's wedding receptions here in the North that were nowhere near that spiritual in feeling!!



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Originally Posted by RomanRedneck
BEING a Southerner, being accustomed to this culture I must admit to being somewhat blind to what sets it apart from others.


I guess I'm asking what is it that you think you would have to give up or set aside in order to be Orthodox. What is it about yourself or your identity that you think would change? What would you as you say have to abandon?

Quote
I agree with you here. In one regard America does not have a particular culture of it's own. It is, as you say, a tapestry of cultures woven together in a single national identity. On the other hand, this is much more true in the North than in the South. Those of you who are from the North may not be able to appreciate what being a Southerner means to a native of the South. While the North has almost always largely been a melting pot of various European influences, with no single one absorbing all the rest, this is not the case with the South. The southern states are largely, English, Irish and Scottish stock, traditionally Anglican in religious sentiment. Here in the south developed a genuine culture. Flawed yes, but a unique culture clearly discernible as such. Unlike most Northerners who's "roots" lie in the "old country" native southerners roots lie here...in the south. We do not look to an "old country" for cultural identity. We have our own. It is true that there are "others" among us. Such as the Eastern Europeans who immigrated to the coal fields of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee...bringing their Orthodoxy with them. And the Roman Catholic's of "French" Louisiana and the Gulf coast bayou country. As well as the remnants of Spanish Catholicism in Texas and Florida. These and other groups kept their cultural identities while being assimilated into the over arching culture of the South. And, in their own ways, contributed to Southern culture. But the fact that they remained distinct...in their own neighborhoods and churches...highlights the fact that they were strangers in another culture. This simply was not the case in the North where there WAS no dominant culture. LOL I even know Chinese who have been in the south for over 150 years. They talk like southerners, cook fried chicken, eat grits and sit in rocking chairs on the front porch in the summer.


It's difficult to completely generalize. There is a common element to our culture that ties us all together, but there are probably things that make one Southern or Northern, and within those are distinct micro cultures. One thing I've always felt in the South is one can more openly and freely express religious conviction. My family are pretty much Scots-Irish Presbyterians from Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma; though I lived most of my life in California, Florida and the Mid Atlantic. I guess I have sort of a generic American background in reality. I don't see myself as Southern or Northern. Even though the culture of my parish is not my own, I have to say in some odd ways I find some parallels between my own family background and that of the Carpatho-Russians. Ultimately though I'm not interested in being Carpatho-Russian, and the people in my parish are completely removed from that experience; the majority now being third generation. The parish is definitely American and Orthodox.

You noted correctly that the South isn't even one thing. Acadia is not Northern Mississippi, Savannah is not Tuscaloosa, Newport News is not Little Rock. Nothing is like New Orleans. Even within the South there are very distinct cultures and outlooks. All of them are of course completely American.

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Jason, I can't tell from your posts, are you basing your comments about not wanting to take on an identity that isn't yours from real life situations or from the ethnic chatter here? Because I have no clue what they're talking about half the time, either with the ethnic stuff or the advanced theology and stop reading when my brain hurts.

With regard to ethnicity in churches, I don't view Roman Catholic churches I have attended as ethnic despite the ceremonial use of Latin; however, the churches that seem "normal" to me have traditional buildings(here is the church, here is the steeple...) and are fairly traditional in their practices. I haven't been to a wide range of Catholic churches but rejected my college's Newman Center because they did strange things there and have read about other Catholic churches that sound far to liberal for me.

I don't see a major difference between English and Scottish immigrants retaining their own culture and bringing their own churches and traditions here and any church you would describe as ethnic, save for the recency of the immigration. The problem seems to be that you want the Church to conform to your normal. That ship sailed with HM King Henry VIII.

I don't see the problem with ethnic churches, but that could be because Minnesota is a more recently settled state, which continues to have large populations of new immigrant groups. I have attended DL at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which is very nice, and at the Byzantine Ruthenian Church (it is Ruthenian, isn't it?) when it was in Old Church Slavonic. It was perfect. While I've been told I'm Rusyn and have had relatives who were members of both those churches, they're not my tradition, from either a liturgical or ethnic perspective. I have also attended DL at the Maronite church, which in some ways was easier since some of the elements of the liturgy are familiar to me. Not that I understand Arabic or Aramaic. At each church there was someone sitting near me who tried to keep me on the right page. I didn't have the sense that ethnicity mattered at any of these churches.


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I don't know, at St. George, the DL is sung mostly in English, with parts in Arabic and Greek. However, the majority is English. It is beautiful!

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Wow! I too am a Georgia peach.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia.

When I was a young college student, my aunt took me to the Maronite Catholic Church in Atlanta, introduced me to the married priest and his wife and I was in culture shock. A married Catholic priest with children. Wow. Then she told me that I was of French Lebanese heritage and that these were my people too. Double culture shock. My native born American parents never informed me that I was Irish-German, French-Lebanese, and 1/8 Cherokee. Triple culture shock. In fact, they did not know that themselves because their parents had kept it a secret in the pursuit of the American Dream.

I got over it and then joined the Melkite Church in Los Angeles where I lived. From then I went over to the Orthodox Church, this time a Russian one. Now I am a linguist and appreciate the different languages.

God provides.

Originally Posted by Logos - Alexis
Jason,

I feel your pain, sometimes. As a fellow Georgian and proud Southerner, I sometimes yearn for the days of my simple, Southern, familiar and friendly Methodist service where everyone's family goes back generations and everyone speaks with an accent.

No matter how beautiful a Divine Liturgy or how splendid a Mass, there are times when all I want is to be singing Wesleyan hymns and listening to a good 40 minute sermon.

It is human nature to yearn for the familiar. But it's not worth excluding yourself from the the Holy Church founded by Christ. I don't think non-Southerners realize the culture shock that most of us Dixieans go through in the Mass or Divine Liturgy. We don't feel 100% comfortable at Mass with all these people who dress so casually and don't have Southern accents and don't sing well (sorry, guys), etc. It is a sacrifice that I live with daily, but it is worth it.

Prayers,
Alexis

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Elizabeth Maria,

I'm originally from Atlanta too, although my mother's family is from the small town west of Atlanta where I spent most of my youth and my parents still live. I was born in Piedmont Hospital, how about you?

In fact, my house was in Inman Park on Euclid, which as you know is a mere 50 yards from St. Joseph's Maronite Church of which you speak.

Small world!

Alexis

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Yes, good old St. Joseph's Maronite Church. I visited there during Christmas of 1973 during my winter break. I remember that the patio in the inner courtyard was filled with tables laden with delicious Middle Eastern foods. I was really surprised because I fully expected the people to be speaking Arabic or some strange language because the Liturgy was entirely in Aramaic. They spoke fluent English to my delight. The khouria was encouraging me to eat all these different foods because I looked skinny to her. It was a wonderful visit.

Since I left Georgia when I was six months old, I am not familiar with the city. However, everytime I visited Atlanta, I had to relearn the landmarks because of all the new construction. I think some of my relatives lived in Piedmont Park on Peach Tree. I will have to ask my mom.

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Haha! They might very well live on Peachtree near the Park, but not in it...unless they're geese or something. wink

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Originally Posted by Logos - Alexis
Haha! They might very well live on Peachtree near the Park, but not in it...unless they're geese or something. wink

Alexis


Well, of course, they lived on PeachTree, not in the Park. smile

Which park had a very large swimming pool that was circular (not the typical rectangular swimming pool)?

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Avoiding all the jargon I have stated in my earlier posts...what I'm saying is there is no reason why there should not be an native expression of Orthodoxy in the US. That said, and no offense intended to anyone, I don't think the OCA is the answer. Please do not ask my reasons for this opinion of the OCA. I will not share them.

IMO, if Orthodoxy is to ever FLOURISH in these United States, it's going to have to do this. I just don't see us Americans sticking with foreign customs for very long.

Jason

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Originally Posted by RomanRedneck
... is there is no reason why there should not be an native expression of Orthodoxy in the US.


There is every reason there should be such an expression. Even more specifically, in the "South" it might become, eventually, (by analogy) something along the lines of "The Dixie Recension".


Originally Posted by RomanRedneck
I just don't see us Americans sticking with foreign customs for very long.


A valid point to consider, but realize it is made from the perspective of one's own -- "us Americans" ... "foreign customs" -- particular "ghetto".

Dn. Anthony




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A valid point to consider, but realize it is made from the perspective of one's own -- "us Americans" ... "foreign customs" -- particular "ghetto".


Fair enough. But, I hope my comments, heretofore, have been clear enough that I don't consider anyone else's traditions or customs to be inferior...just not my own.

Jason

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Originally Posted by RomanRedneck
Avoiding all the jargon I have stated in my earlier posts...what I'm saying is there is no reason why there should not be an native expression of Orthodoxy in the US.
Now this is a point on which I think we can agree. The United States is an exception to the normal development of the Eastern Churches.

Technically, the Russians were here first (from an Eastern perspective), so they should get "first crack" at the development of the Church. The problem is that this "new world" is a place where many different traditions came together without merging. Each retained its own language and traditions.

Even today it is virtually impossible to think of a single church for the United States, let alone the Americas. And that's both a good thing and a bad thing.

It's bad because it violates the early Church's principle of "one city, one bishop." It's bad because it does not develop a local tradition. Clearly the Melkite and Russian traditions are examples of movement from one tradition to another so it's not as if that were impossible.

At the same time, it's good because people who have come here have sought out their own traditions, the things that make them feel comfortable (and that's not always a good thing), that make them feel 'at home."

Since the United States has such a wide variety of traditions, it's unlikely that it will ever develop its own flavor (in spite of attempts by the Antiochian Church).

But there is nothing in what I've seen that requires you to adopt a particular culture to attend a given Church. You will, however, have to adopt particular expressions of the faith whtehr it be in the form of greetings, singing, ways of going to communion or whatever -- but that is true of every Church and faith tradition!

Fr. Deacon Ed

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