Saturday, March 2, 2013

"Strict Orthodox"

Someone earlier this week commented, in my daugher's hearing, that I was "still a strict Orthodox".  That phrase struck me as very strange.  Not offensive, mind, but weird.  My daughter said it expressed her view of me, as well. 

The strangeness of it, I think, is another example of how the same words can sometimes mean different things, East and West.  For us Orthodox Christians ourselves, a "strict Orthodox" is one who is in church at least twice a week, every week, keeps the fasts perfectly or nearly so, perhaps takes on other ascetical practices; in short, one who is strict with himself.  Unfortunately, I am not a strict Orthodox.

Being a "strict Orthodox" does not mean what Westerners usually mean: thinking, believing, and doing exactly as you are told, because those who tell you are God's appointed authorities and deviation is spiritual shipwreck.  No, emphatically no!  If we toe the doctrinal line, that is not why.  Rather, it's because we have come to understand that every practice, every teaching, turns out to be a tried and true way of guarding, nourishing, cultivating something infinitely precious:  the  life of Christ in us.

To be "strict Orthodox" doesn't mean we don't "think outside the box" (except when that means making up our own religion) or that we are not freethinkers.  I was raised to be a free-thinker and always have been.  I have wrestled with and once or twice rebelled at things within Orthodoxy - only to understand, eventually, that I was wrong, and why.

It doesn't mean we do not ask questions, even tough questions.  It just means that in Christ, we have found answers.


elizabeth said...

this is very beautiful - thank you for writing it - I esp. loved the ending. Thanks again! so nice to hear you here again! :)