Eastern Christianity and Orientalism

Eastern Christianity and Orientalism March 22, 2018

How might this relate to conceptions of Eastern Christianity? First and foremost, we’ll need to understand “Convertodoxy,” a term that typically refers to converts to Eastern Orthodoxy from fundamentalist Protestantism (or, less typically, Catholicism). One could pull from many accounts to better define this group, but they tend to be characterized by a deeply anti-Western, anti-Papal (sometimes carried over from Protestantism) bent. Many who are ex-Catholics seek the salvation of the Christian World, seeing an enemy in Francis (and hope in Orthodoxy). The most extreme version might be someone like Matthew Heimbach, though less-extreme sorts also exist. Typically they say things like “Augustine ruined the West.” “There is a big and substantive difference between Original Sin and Ancestral Sin” (not necessarily so). “Scholasticism is wrong; it over-rationalizes the Holy, Orthodox, and Catholic Faith.” “The West doesn’t believe in theosis” (this is just patently wrong—looking at any Western mystic for more than five seconds will show this). They often uphold re-baptism for converts from non-Orthodox Churches (including other Apostolic ones). In truth, every convert gained is seen as a triumph, as points scored against the much larger Catholic Church (and it is hard not to be Freudian about all this). T.J. Humphrey summarizes this issue well:

In the end, it wasn’t the theology or the worship which soured me. What soured me was an elitist attitude that several Orthodox embody and what these particular people expected of me. I recall Frank Schaeffer saying in a few of his lectures that “salvation is a mystery” to the Orthodox. Many of the Orthodox that I have known agree with this notion…as long as you are becoming Orthodox. If not, then salvation is no longer so mysterious…because you aren’t acquiring it. As I mentioned before, Kallistos Ware is known for saying that Orthodoxy is a “fuller version of the faith.” Again, many of the Orthodox people that I know would agree as long as you are on your way to becoming Orthodox. If this is not the case, the lesser version of the faith is actually no faith at all. As Metropolitan John Zizioulas notes, “As the late Fr Georges Florovsky likes to repeat, the authentic catholicity of the Church must include both the West and the East.4” Many of the Orthodox that I have known would, again, agree with such a statement as long as the “West” mentioned here is Orthodoxy in the West, not the actual Western Church itself.

At this point I want to iterate a very important caveat. I am not seeking to critique all Orthodox Christians here. This is not a reaction to the whole of Orthodoxy, but to my very limited interaction with it. Many people who have interacted with Orthodoxy or even converted in this community have stories that are vastly different from my own and I fully acknowledge that. I am not looking to mount a critique against the Eastern Orthodox Church but against an attitude within parts of the Eastern Orthodox community that I have had direct personal contact with. I also know that Orthodox readers will react in a few different ways. Some will truly believe that I am a heretic and am doing nothing more than spouting off a bunch of delusional rubbish. Others will understand where I am coming from (even if they disagree with me on several points) because they have seen similar trends within the Orthodox fold and they lament such tendencies. They will say, “This is unfortunate because this is not the way Orthodoxy is meant to be.” Let me be clear, again, I am not seeking to launch a full-on attack of the Eastern Orthodox Church. I am simply seeking to share my own story because I think it is good for Eastern Orthodox readers out there to hear it, whether they agree with me or not. I also write this for my Western Christian friends who have been shamed by our Eastern brothers and sisters for finding Christ in the Western Church, and for choosing to continue to pursue him there. I know people who have been hurt very deeply by the dismissive and spitefully elitist attitudes of loved ones who have converted to Orthodoxy.

With all that I have said so far, you can probably imagine that some of the recent happenings within the Orthodox world have been fairly unsettling for me. I have been reading about all of the controversy leading up to the recent Council in Crete and the subsequent aftershock which followed it. The reaction towards Crete within the Orthodox world, especially in terms of section 6 of the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” really bothers me. Here is what I am talking about. (Conciliar Post)

I’d like to reiterate what Humphrey said: this is not about all Orthodox. I seriously considered becoming Eastern Orthodox myself at one point. I have great love for my brothers and sisters on the other side of this Schism. This post is about a very specific sort of convert to Orthodoxy (it likely exists among some cradles as well).

"This is so old, the original article is gone."

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