Thursday, February 07, 2008

Reactions to Protestants and Orthodox

I'm from Iowa and I like to think of myself as a prototypical Iowan. I love my state. And, to quote the music man, "...We're so by (gosh) stubborn we could stand touchin' noses for a week at a time and never see eye to eye...but we'll give you our shirt and our back to go with it if your crops should happen to die." Yep. That's me. I'm definitely at least partially the a product of the environment in which I have been raised.

I think that's why I have a tremendously different reaction to Protestants than I do the Orthodox. Most of the time, when Protestants criticize the church, it raises my hackles. I immediately want to defend the church from attack. I immediately think that there can be no truth to their accusations. I'm sure it comes down to personal bias since I've been attacked by Protestants ever since I left Catholic grade school. The crusades were taught to me in Middle School as the corrupt Roman Catholic Church trying to take over the lands of some peaceful Arab shepherds who rose up against the evil Roman Church despite overwhelming odds against them. Of course, none of that is really true but my EXTREMELY biased teacher never took the time to get into the complexities of history because that would be a violation of church/state separation. From there, I was told by evangelical protestants that I'm not a real Christian, that the church eats babies, that priests and nuns have sex and eat those babies at the eucharist, that catholic priests are either all gay or all pedophiles, that catholics blindly follow whatever the pope says...and on and on. Lies, all of them. Thankfully, I've also met some very friendly Lutherans and Methodists along the way that have helped repair some of the damage but my instinct, sadly, is always and likely will always be DEFEND THE POPE! Fight the Protestant!

The other day, however, I heard an Orthodox priest criticizing the Roman Catholic decision from two years ago to move the Annunciation because it fell on Good Friday. I listened patiently and thought, "You know, maybe he's right. Maybe we shouldn't have done that." A reaction which tends to be pretty typical when I hear a member of one of the Orthodox Churches criticizing Roman Catholicism. Why would I have such a different reaction to them? As I said at the beginning, I wonder if it's because I'm from Iowa where a member of the orthodox is about as rare of a species as you can get. Or if it's because I tend to view the Orthodox as actually caring about continuity. History is important. They are in this world but not of it. Orthodox priests still wear these beautiful garments and seek to stand out from a crowd by what they wear. Most Catholic priests have spent the last twenty years trying to figure out if they can look more like their protestant counterparts and get away with it. We wear suits all the time and mock priests that make the decision to wear cassocks, the clerical shirt is something you wear for more formal events otherwise you should wear "business casual", and the key is to get people to call you by your first name no longer "Father". Orthodox lay people even have a sense of distinction. They love their liturgy and their traditions...both of which go back hundreds of years if not longer.

Ultimately I think what plagues me is that I know that Christ wants us to be united, to be one as he is one with the Father and Holy Spirit. But I see us continually growing farther and farther away from the Protestants in such things as married clergy, women clergy, gay and lesbian clergy, true presence, etc. The Orthodox, despite being separated from them for 1200 years, are not going to give in to culture like many protestant groups have done. I just hope that my vision isn't clouded simply because I don't live in Greece or the Ukraine.

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