It is, at times, costly to be an Orthodox Christian.
Christ the Lord calls His followers to humble repentance. The Faith instructs us to seek Christ Jesus, and Him alone. Don’t expect to be a superstar. Don’t even seek the gifts that He can give. Love only Him, desire only Him. All things pass, only Love remains. But just around the corner, one can learn to be an “anointed one,” or give improv “words” from God over a cup of coffee. I discern in these coffee grounds …. So convenient, and “I” feel special too.
Orthodoxy is not cool. We are guarded and guided by a very ancient Christian way of life. It calls one to simplicity, constancy, and steadfastness. But a few blocks away one can jump on all the latest bandwagons of religious and philosophical fluidity. Smoke machines and disco lights (are they even still hip?) and rock music (or whatever floats your boat). “God is good” on a repetitive loop multiplied times one hundred. Feel the beat. No need to think too deeply because God is not into doctrine and all that stuff. Feel the beat. Easy power and shallow pools, everything can be quite well known and comfortable.
The Church Fathers; saints? Aren’t they just quaint old folk of yesteryear? Charming grandfathers and mothers who speak of times past. How cute. I mean, they do add a hue of credibility and stateliness. But we need the vigor of the modern! Psychology will save us! After all the Father’s did not live in our times, they don’t really understand the problems facing us. Let’s sit around and talk about how we feel; then we’ll turn and give our neighbor a massage. Hip Jesus can be the group facilitator! He is so relevant and unoffensive. Fall backward into a quilted mass of comforting arms. Do you feel safe now, is this a safe place? Warm and fuzzy. I’m so special. God loves me just the way I am. Do you accept me, am I accepted? Orthodism: just want to be one of the guys; it is neither hot nor cold, and it will never be as sensational as the pulsating mass of mutability that it seeks as its guru. Teach us. We also desire to be hipsters. We are important too … do you approve?
True Orthodoxy calls us out of the self-approved masses into the depths of God, where our human intellect fails. My feet cannot touch the bottom. How deep is it? What is down there, in the depths? Where does it end? No one knows. As far as the eye can see, there is no land. What if I drown? I am helpless. Who will know that I have sunk down into the depths? I am in such great need of God. Our humanity recoils in fear. All earthly safety has fled away. Our self is shuttering at the revelation of its own decrepitude. It will die in the depths. Only death bears resurrection.
No! Give me the comfort of the kiddie pool where I can get wet, touch the bottom, and be the master of my own domain. Here, so many choose to dwell.
True Christianity calls us to take up the cross and follow Christ, to lose our life and thereby save it. The way of the True Christ is the way of the cross. Modernity instructs us to exploit Christ as a means of self-aggrandizement. The gospel of Me says, seek self-fulfillment, seek spiritual power and anointing, seek to be recognized as special, seek comfort, seek safety, be nice. “Contemporary Jesus” has come to save the self. Twisting, flashing, mesmerizing, and fluttering like an enormous multicolored neon sign. So shiny. Did Buddy Jesus just wink at me from his technicolor aura? What is that catchy tune he is humming? Follow me, I’m all-powerful, and you can be too! Repentance, what the heck is that? I’ll empower you in twenty seconds flat … Feel the beat. How grand it seems!
How drab the humble cross, only dull brown wood after all. Will I get a splinter? It’s not even electrified, and with no wifi!?
We may muse with a character from Fahrenheit 451, “I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.” Ah, the magic sugar daddy in the heavens, who’s one job it is to cater to my every desire!
As a lamb to the slaughter despised and rejected, so went our Lord and so must we. Leave the glimmer of show-time christs. Come, follow Me, says the Lord, take up your cross, which is foolishness to this world and its christs. It will cost you your self; be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.
(This is a post that I wrote a while ago for my church’s website.)