Orthodox Christians in a Feel-Good Society

Just as no one mistakes a Marine drill instructor for an entertainer, no one should mistake us for people-pleasing consumers.

This article originally appeared on Beliefnet in Spring 2000.

As Orthodoxy develops an ever-higher profile in America, and in the processconfronts temptations it hadn't known before, we have to make decisionsabout identity--about who we really are. Are we the "Marines" or the "Army"?

I believe that we Orthodox are largely unaware of how profoundly out of stepour tradition is with the surrounding culture, and even with our Christiancontemporaries in other churches. We assume we can have our cake andeat it too, be both good, consuming secular Americans and good Orthodox. Wewant salvation--and we want the world to love us.

Let's illustrate the point by contrasting two alternative military "styles":the United States Marine Corps, and the U.S. Army.

The Marine Corps, with its clarion call "Always Faithful," andits exhortation to young recruits to uphold honor, courage, and commitment,resembles the traditional Orthodox Church more than most other Christiangroups do.

A Marine Corps drill instructor (DI) on Parris Island, who has abandoned thepleasures of this life in order to train up "a few good men and women" forselfless service to Corps and country, is like a traditional Orthodoxpriest, nun, or monk dedicated to self-discipline and self-sacrifice. Likewise, an Orthodox monk, nun, or priest is more like the DI than he or she is akin to the typical Protestant minister or post-Vatican II Roman Catholic priest. No onemistakes a Marine DI for an entertainer, or a touchy-feely psychologist or counselor. No one mistakes Parris Island Depot for Disneyland. The DI is there to do a job that does not involve making recruits "feel good about themselves." Rather, the goal is to inculcate the self-discipline needed to survive thebattlefield and win wars.

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Are we Orthodox an ethnic club bent on succeeding within our soft materialistic society? Or are we the Body of Christ on earth, unique, ready to sacrifice, ready to be different if need be?
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