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Orthodox Christianity?

May 13, 2017

Tonight’s topic is the Orthodox form of Christianity..

There’s one form of Christianity I have not yet explored (ok, not technically true, there are probably over a thousand different Protestant denominations out there, but most of them are quite similar to others, and I’ve been to many different types of Protestant churches).

The form I have not yet explored is Orthodox Christianity. From what little I’ve read so far, and have learned from youtube videos. their style of worship is the most ancient still in practice, having not changed in over a thousand years, except to make the change in language of the service (for example.. services in English and other languages) and the most challenging. The services last for 90 minutes, and almost everybody stands the whole time!

Also, the Orthodox churches have the most strict dietary laws of any I have encountered in Christendom: about half the year, Orthodox Christians avoid certain foods on certain days.. fasting is an ancient spiritual discipline that pre-dates Christianity.

Almost the entire liturgy is sung, but there are no instruments. I tend to like services with both instruments and singing. I like hymns and liturgical singing (I do not like praise bands that most Protestant churches have.. not saying praise bands are bad, just not my thing). Also, I like to sit down some of the time.

Catholic services, as well as high church Protestant denominations, such as Episcopal and Lutheran, also have the same style of service, as far as I know.. With some variation.. stand up, sit down, kneel, liturgy, etc. I am drawn to a high church style of worship. Very formal, dignified, ancient, and with some beauty, pageantry, candles, incense, liturgy..

The Orthodox churches are divided amongst ethnic lines, though they all believe the same things, and practice the same kind of service.

In case you are wondering where these churches came from.. for over 1,000 years, there was one Christian church. Then,in 1054, there was The Great Schism, and the Church split in two.. Catholicism in Western Europe (including the nations of conquerors of the New World, such as the French, Portuguese, Spanish, and even the British, until 1534, when Henry VIII split from the Catholic church, because the pope would not grant him a divorce.. so King Henry formed the Church of England.. also called the Anglican church.. or Episcopal Church, in America.. there’s an American-Anglican splinter movement too).

Wonder why there are so many Catholics? The European conquerors, who spread out to the Americas, Asia, Africa, etc., mostly were from Catholic nations. They brought their religion and their priests with them.

The Orthodox went East.. Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Yes, there are Christians in the Middle East. They are a persecuted minority, and tend to go to Orthodox churches. I know a guy from Iraq who is an Orthodox Christian. He was raised speaking Aramaic.. same language Jesus spoke.. fascinating, I think. I thought Aramaic was a long-dead language. Nope.

Ok then..

Here in the Boise area, there is an Antiochian church (Middle-Eastern ethnicity.. though people not from that area of the world go too. This group has a great and very helpful website. It is located in Meridian, and is called Holy Transfiguration.

The two Orthodox churches in Boise are located less than two miles from each other.. in the Whitewater Park/Westside Drive-Inn neighborhood. Neither of these have very helpful websites.

I think a helpful website with lots of information for newcomers is a good sign, and kinda the opposite if the websites are minimal.. but the people in these two other churches might be very friendly.

The Russian church in Boise is called St. Seraphim of Sarov, and the Greek church is Saints Constantine and Helen.

Here’s a concern I have.. I am not part of any of the ethnic groups .. I’m of Dutch descent. Not that anyone would know that by looking at me, I guess, except for people who are aware that Dutch folks tend to be tall.

But once I get to talking with people, if I go, it will soon become apparent that I’m not a part of the particular ethnic group the church is affiliated with. And that could be.. awkward. I’m sure some of you have seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

Why not attend a high-church Protestant service? I read up on a Lutheran church nearby.. went to their denomination page. It is the view of the particular Lutheran denomination I read about, one based in Wisconsin, that the antichrist is not a person who will show up during the end times, but rather is an institution, the Roman Catholic Church.

I live with Catholics (my mom, dad, and aunt are converts. Mom and Nancy are very much into Catholic teachings and practices. My dad has gone back to having a more Anglican-style appreciation of Christianity) I don’t want to be taught that the RCC is the antichrist.. and besides, I don’t believe this.

The Episcopal church is very progressive. I”m somewhat liberal, but not that liberal.

The American Anglican denomination, which split off from the Episcopal church due to the Episcopal church becoming more and more liberal, is tiny.. the one is Boise.. that church meets in a building downtown.

I’ve been to the American Anglican service twice.. pretty good, except it lasts for an hour and a half. Liturgy plus a Protestant-style lengthy sermon.. I don’t like Protestant-style lengthy sermons. I like short, pithy, Catholic-style homilies. Maybe I will try the American Anglican church here in town again.. maybe not.

Why not just go back to attending mass at Catholic churches, like I did off and on for awhile last year? (No, I never converted).

Good question.. I really like Catholic services. I especially like two parishes out here, St. Mark’s and Sacred Heart.

But the more I’d read about the Catholic church, the more I didn’t like.. no offense to Catholics. I did some serious digging into old manuscripts found online, read about all sorts of rules most Catholics don’t likely follow, or even know about.. I’m concerned about so much doctrines and teachings added through time..

And things that seem very weird to me, considering I have a Protestant background (of course, this will also be an issue for me if I attend an Orthodox church).. relics.. do we really need finger bones of saints put into special compartments of church altars?

Pilgrimages some people go on so they can shorten their time in purgatory, the sex abuse scandals, the shockingly brutal history of the Catholic church, the celibate clergy (which for quite awhile was not a rule), the astonishing opulence of the Vatican.. (Jesus was born in a stable and spent his time of ministry homeless and wandering.. I don’t think he had the Vatican and all its finery in mind), yeah I got some serious concerns regarding the Catholic church.

No Vatican-type extremely opulent headquarters of the Orthodox church that I’m aware of, no belief in purgatory (at least according to what I’ve learned so far), nothing mentioned about relics or pilgrimages or all those apparitions of Mary.. but again.. I haven’t learned much about Orthodox churches yet..

So far, I’ve not been able to be like many Catholics.. they don’t sweat things like a lot of the rules or teachings.. they go to mass, some try to stick to at least some of the rules (though some Catholics I’ve met certainly DO NOT). Could I become an average Catholic who likes going to mass, takes communion, but who doesn’t bother much with confession or the mile high pile of rules and doctrines?

So far, no.

Perhaps the Orthodox Church is closest to what the ancient Christians practiced? If so, does that matter?

(Interesting side-note for Protestants.. Hank Hanegraaf, Mr. Bible Answer Man himself.. one of the most popular personalities of Protestant radio, became an Orthodox Christian, and was booted off the air).

I don’t know if I’ll ever go to an Orthodox church, besides the food festivals. (I love food festivals!) The Russian church has one coming up on the 19th, and the Greek church has one early next month.

The biggest things stopping me from attending? Worrying about not feeling welcome.. doesn’t help that these churches are really really tiny, and perhaps quite insular.

Like Catholics, Orthodox Christians are expected to go to confession. As a former Protestant, that really really bothers me.. not the tradition in which I was raised.

Also, I usually can’t get to sleep until at least 5 am (here I am pounding away at my keyboard and it is almost 4 am). If I get up at 9 am or even earlier the next morning to go to church, I might not even be functional enough to drive, due to lack of sleep. So this is perhaps a non-starter.

One great thing about Catholic churches is lots of services, including evening services. I can get to those no problem. Another great thing about Catholic services.. ethnic diversity.. I very much like seeing people from many parts of the world at Catholic services. Highly unlikely I will see such ethnic diversity at any tiny Orthodox church, especially since ethnicity is part of each church’s name!

But, I am curious.. maybe I will attend at least one service at each Orthodox church this year.. maybe.

Your thoughts?

I’m now going to include a video about some differences between Catholic and Orthodox teachings and services:

And lastly, a rather interesting comment I found on youtube.. pretty balanced:

“Some differences include: 1) Roman Catholics only allowed Latin for a long time, while the Orthodox allowed the scriptures in native languages from the beginning. That’s why Catholics score low on religious knowledge tests (Pew Research). 2) In Orthodoxy, dogmas have to have scriptural backing, while in Catholicism the pope can declare non-scriptural elements dogma, like the immaculate conception, purgatory, etc., without Biblical backing. 3) Orthodoxy allows for mysticism which is natural for what is fundamentally a mystery. The Catholic scholarship, while excellent, gives rise to legalism and all kinds of protestant claptrap. 4) Geographically, the Roman see backed oppression from the Crusades to WW2 to today against the East, and generally has a condescending attitude towards them, while the Orthodox have reacted by making the religion into a nationalist past-time. 5) Before Rome made Christianity the sole legal religion, several Orthodox states had already adopted it as the state religion (Armenia, Ethiopia), so Catholic claims of being “first” are weak. Saying early Christians were Roman Catholics is similar to Muslims claiming all prophets starting from Adam were followers of Islam. Kind of absurd. 6) The Roman Catholic church ignored the agreement not to make statues of the saints and stick to two-dimensional icons. They also ignored the convention of always portraying St. Mary with her son Jesus, as that was her function in the Good News: being the bearer of the Savior. They elevated St. Mary to such a level that it confused the Muslims to the point where they claim we worship the Father, Jesus and Mary. The Orthodox are also guilty of this excess. Many kids believe she’s semi-divine at the very least. 7) The Orthodox are often guilty of aligning themselves with nationalism, while the Catholics usually align themselves with fascists. It’s a good thing God will judge us and not them. The schism only goes to show that neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Orthodox churches, as they stand now as institutions, are the exclusive claimants to the universal catholic church that Jesus founded. “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, “Look, here it is,” or ‘there is is.” So all of you claiming the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church is the only “true” church are trying to tell God who Christians are. He knows who’s who. If the churches unified, then I would support their claim of exclusivity, but that would require setting aside their sin of pride, of which there is an abundant supply, so I won’t hold my breath.” – from a person with the user name hect190-909.

Alright then, as always, thanks for reading! Goodnight. Or good morning.. or whatever.

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