The Orthodox faith is a communal faith, established from the very beginning as a communal faith (Acts 2) and transpired throughout history as a communal faith (see Edict of Milan and Byzantine Empire). As the west departed from the east in the 11th Century, a much more dogmatic/intellectual movement began to evolve within the western faith, with the motivation of spreading the faith easier. The west wanted to achieve what they thought was the great commission of Christ by this new perspective of the gospel, a perspective that is now known as scholasticism.
As the Protestant and Roman faith finally reached America they found themselves surrounded by a new atmosphere, one in which the communal aspect of their faith would finally take its last breath! This was likely a relief, for Protestants, especially. The Catholic and Protestant scholastic doctrines worked well for America as far as gaining converts, but what were the people being converted to? Were they being converted to a new community, as conversion was happening, even in the west, for hundreds of years prior? Or were they being converted to a doctrinal position of sort, a new type of intellectual pursuit? Again, the scholastic format worked for intellectual purpose, but the existential purpose was meanwhile being consumed by secularists. Secular America was absorbing the communal aspect of Christianity, sinking the west in to a type of anti-material Gnosticism (Part II of this series shows how important matter is to the faith).
The Orthodox Church is now experiencing the American communal challenge as well. Now that we have began growing within America at a rapid pace within the past few decades we are faced with the challenge to conform to what the Protestants and Catholics have created in this country: A secular community! A new type of country has been formed where beliefs such as Christianity are at the community’s disposal.
Christianity helped the state in the beginning but it has steadily been outmoded by the efficiency of secularism…its modern industry, science, philosophy, etc. Orthodoxy has to make a decision: Will we leave the belief and work of Christian community and create a new type of Orthodoxy for America? We can pick and pluck from the fathers to manipulate this change, no doubt. We can even put our hope in politicians to make up for the loss (letting go) of our philanthropic and overall communal aspect.
Despite what has happened to western Christianity within secular culture, the intent of this series of articles is not to juxtapose Orthodoxy to western Christianity’s ill pursuit. On the contrary! The intent of this series is to show what we have always been doing through the centuries, supporting through the fathers and the means of Holy Scripture, and giving meaning and life to Orthodoxy as a community. Here are the links to rest of the series:
- Orthodoxy and Matter
- The Early Church and Community
- Liturgy/Prayer and Community
- Ascetic and Philanthropic Foundation
- Philanthropy as Community
- Nation and Community