Monthly Archives: January 2019

Why I Am Not Orthodox

(Insofar as it is traditional for Catholic converts to explain why they entered the Church of Rome instead of one of the Orthodox churches, I offer the following.)

As I neared the end of my Deist period, I began doing research into various religions. I knew that I didn’t want to return to the Evangelical Christianity of my youth; I had too many problems with it. I didn’t want Mainline Protestantism, because of its lax stance on moral views that were important to me. I had encountered Islam, but it never seemed that convincing. Since I was coming from Deism and had admired the social ramifications of certain Eastern religions, I briefly considered Buddhism, but that didn’t last too long.

Ultimately, I found an internet quiz that promised to suggest the best religion for me based on my answers to various questions. I plugged in what made the most sense to me, and the result what that I should be: a Sikh!

Sikhism is a vaguely monotheistic Indian religion that (like other Eastern religions) emphasizes right living as the greatest spiritual good. Its understanding of God is vague, which I appreciated, since I had come to believe that the true God would be utterly beyond our ability to comprehend Him. Significantly, Sikhism doesn’t emphasize separation from the ordinary to become holy, rather using the events of ordinary, everyday life into order to achieve holiness (which is a concept found prevalently in Catholicism). It is also very accepting of other religions, which was also important to me. Overall, Sikhism is a very admirable religion, and I was excited about the possibility!

This is going to make me sound super shallow, but here’s why I didn’t immediately run and find a Sikh Gurdwara: Sikhs are never allowed to cut their hair. Additionally, the long hair requires that all Sikhs constantly carry a ceremonial wooden comb, and the dedication to righteous battle means that they all wear a symbolic metal bracelet, sacred undergarment, and a mini sword!

Truthfully, these things aren’t all bad, and if I had come to be convinced that Sikhism was the one true religion, I would have overcome my reluctance to engage in these things. But as it was, to become a Sikh would have required a significant departure from my own cultural background, language, and customs.

Fundamentally, what I learned from my brush with Sikhism was this: I believed that the one true religion (if there was such a thing) would be equally accessible to people from ALL cultures, not just ones in certain places, at certain times, with certain social and technological norms. It would be, in fact, katholikos — universal.

And THAT brings me to the Orthodox Church (having spent most of this post on Sikhism).   When I looked at the various Orthodox Churches, the primary thing that struck me was that they were almost all linked to a specific nation, ethnicity, language, or culture. In fact, that seemed to be their most defining feature! They would agree on theology, then break down the one “true” faith into which language was spoken in the liturgy. That, to me, was the enormous red flag that none of the Orthodox Churches were God’s fullest revelation to mankind. I firmly believed that, if God was going to reveal Himself, then that revelation would be equally accessible to all people, everywhere. It wouldn’t require you to speak or read a certain language (so the Muslim requirement that the true Koran is ONLY in Arabic disqualifies that). It wouldn’t require that you be able to read and study the Scriptures for yourself, like Protestant Christianity! (Good thing, because for most of history, most people were illiterate, and couldn’t afford books, anyway.) You wouldn’t have to move to a certain place to practice your faith, or eat only certain foods, or wear only certain clothes.

I will say that had I already been living in a culture that was primarily (some kind of) Orthodox, I would have been much more open to the idea. If I lived in Russia, and that was the only historically and geographically feasible option, then I could have gone that direction. As it was, though, the universal Catholic Church, which happens to be based (but not necessarily!) in Rome, and that has been in the process of taking the Gospel to people in every time and culture for the last two millennia, was where I found the fullness of truth.

 

 

 

 

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